Daddy Cookies: Snitching Sisters

Last Saturday morning my two and a half year old daughter woke up and came downstairs to find me in the kitchen, where I had just emptied the dishwasher and was enjoying a moment of peace and quiet before everyone else would wake up. She climbed up into my lap and happily announced that she wanted to make cookies with me. But, not just any cookies, Daddy Cookies. As a rookie SAHD back in 2001 I realized that I really enjoyed making cookies with the help of my kids. I stumbled upon a recipe in a Betty Crocker cookie recipe booklet for oatmeal-peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies that were an instant hit with both my kids and me. I’ve tweaked the recipe ever so slightly (extra vanilla is yummy!) and added the secret ingredient, The Mixing Dance. My kids named them Daddy Cookies because it was much shorter and easier to say than the official full name. At any rate, I eagerly agreed and we started to gather the necessary ingredients and the mixer.

After she pushed a chair to the counter by the mixer we began to add our ingredients, starting with the two eggs fresh from our backyard chickens. My daughter is learning to crack eggs and does a pretty nice job for someone so little. (In a related note, her tiny fingers are excellent for picking out tiny pieces of shell.) Just after we added the sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, butter, salt, vanilla and peanut butter and mixed them all up, my five year old arrived downstairs and asked if she could help. My loving two year old excitedly told her big sister that she could help us before I even had a chance to respond. I was really enjoying the fact that she was willing to share this baking experience with her sister and wasn’t feeling threatened by her sister’s presence. I suppose it’s what she’s always been used to, being the sixth of six kids in our family. Well, after we added the next two ingredients, the flour and oatmeal, my girls realized that they needed to snitch some dough. I don’t mind it but I do ask that they use spoons and that they wait until the mixer is turned off. (I know, I’m so mean.) I’ve been snitching raw cookie dough my whole life and have never gotten sick so please spare me any comments about that. I will admit that eating dough is one of my favorite parts of making cookies. All that was left was to add the chocolate chips and we would be set to scoop and bake the cookies. Except there was one small problem.

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My helpers

The can of chocolate chips wasn’t in the cupboard where it was supposed to be. With two teenage daughters and an 11 year old son in the house, I figured that there was one of three places it could be. Since my son was already gone hiking with my wife, I figured that we would check his room first. So, I told my girls that whoever found the can of chocolate chips first would get the first snitch with chocolate chips. My five year old declined, of course. My two year old, however, literally jumped at the chance to go into her brother’s room without him there (usually a no-no). As my two year old started to climb down from her chair by the counter, my five year old decided that it would be fun, after all, to get the chocolate chips and because she would be able to run faster than her little sister. As they ran through the living room I could hear their shrieks: delight from my five year old and dismay from my two year old. It grew quiet as they went upstairs into his room. I was already mentally preparing myself to not overreact or come across as harsh when the inevitable screams would resume in a few moments when one of them would have won the battle for the can of chocolate chips.

So, you can imagine how my heart delighted when those screams never happened and instead I heard giggling. I turned my head just in time to see my two little girls both carrying the jar of chocolate chips. I wish I could have captured a picture of them as they were both beaming broadly and were practically hugging each other and the can at the same time. It was so stinkin’ cute! My five year old told me that she didn’t want her sister to feel sad so she suggested that they both hold the cookies so they could both get the reward. Choking back tears of gratitude for such a kind and generous daughter, I knelt down in front of both of them and wrapped the two of them in a great big Daddy Hug. I told my five year old how proud I was of her for making such a kind and compassionate choice with her sister. They brought the chocolate chips to the counter and each put a scoop of chips in the steel bowl and we finished the final mixing as we danced one more time. As I spooned the dough balls on the baking sheet I noticed that my girls were both grinning and trying to “sneak” additional snitches from the bowl of dough. I feigned a growl as they both giggled some more and we all laughed. While my kids continue to get older I love knowing that they all have very fond memories of Daddy Cookies. 

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Fisherman’s Friend in Pike Place Market

 

I grew up in Wisconsin, not far from the legendary Frozen Tundra of my beloved Green Bay Packers and Lambeau Field. Until I moved to western Washington with my family just over four years ago I thought winter meant snow, sub-zero temperatures, ice, biting wind and all that goes with those nasty elements. Growing up in the Midwest created a certain toughness in me that I brought with me when we moved to Washington state just over four years ago. Winter here in the Pacific Northwest is vastly different than the icy, snowy and freezing-cold that I grew up with in the Midwest. One of the biggest differences is that the snow rarely comes to my doorstep in Western Washington, but rather to the mountains two hours away. In the four winters we’ve lived here, it’s snowed maybe three times, with a total accumlation of maybe 12 inches. Probably less. Despite the lack of snow and really cold temperatures, winter still presents its challenges. Instead of flakes that need shoveling we’re showered with rain. Lots of rain, which, when combined with the cooler temperatures, can make even the toughest person beg for some sunshine and warmer temps.

With that in mind, I was approached a few months ago by my friends at Life of Dad to partner with Fisherman’s Friend to promote Fisherman’s Friend throat lozenges. whiteextrastrengthMy first reaction was along the lines of Me? I don’t live in a cold-weather state? How could I contribute to this campaign? Yet, I was told that they had chosen me and my blog, so, could I please try their product and take an epic photograph with the product, pretty please? Okay, they didn’t beg, but the rest is true. I had grand plans to head up to Mount Rainier with my kids and take an epic picture up there with the package of lozenges. That almost happened. We made it to the mountain, but my 16 year old daughter bruised her ankle on a snow-covered rock and we had to leave before I had a chance to get my pic. Interestingly enough, though, my throat stayed nice and healthy while breathing the cool and dry mountain air thanks to the soothing cherry flavored lozenge. But, alas, no picture. In the following weeks the weather here didn’t cooperate with our schedule as the only days available for us to return to Mt. Rainier were rainy or too snowy in the mountains (meaning high avalanche danger).

A couple of weeks ago my 16 year old daughter and I made our way to Madison, Wisconsin, for her official college visit and tour of UW-Madison. During the 90 minute walking tour I managed to experience a coughing fit while our tour guide was telling the group about the Business School.

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Promoting Fisherman’s Friend with Bucky at my alma mater.

Thankfully I was prepared with a handy resealable pouch of Fisherman’s Friend throat lozenges in my sweatshirt pocket and popped one in my mouth. Within seconds my throat was soothed and my cough disappeared. Later on that day we met up with Bucky Badger, the Wisconsin mascot, who was out on State Street. We posed for a picture on a bench at Library Mall, and I managed to casually slip the package of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges out of my pocket in the hopes of capturing an epic photo for this blog. While I think the photo is nice, it falls short of being epic. You can judge for yourself.

 

Then, just last week, a couple of days before Valentine’s Day, some of my kids wanted to head up to Pike Place Market in Seattle. My 14 year old brought her friend and my 5 and 2 year old daughters also made the trip.

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Glittery hearts on my dome.

We were hoping to find it less crowded than usual since it was a weekday afternoon (yay for early release days!). What made the trip slightly uncomfortable was the dozens of glittery heart-shaped stickers that my little girls had happily put on my freshly-shaved bald head only hours before, thanks to the brilliant suggestion of their older sister and her equally brilliant friend. My little girls were excited that I was going to wear their decorations out in public at the market. My older daughter was slightly amused and mostly mortified, I think, at the notion of being seen in public with a giant (I’m 6’8″ tall) walking, talking, goofy, glitter-headed guy. That’s probably why she and her friend split off just after we arrived.

 

Well, I’m happy to say that I rocked that look. My girls and I received many compliments and even more strange looks. Several tourists tried to take my picture without me noticing. It was fun. My girls loved it. They were proud of their artwork and I will admit that it actually kept my noggin a little bit warmer than if it hadn’t been decorated. IMG_4053Sure, the 50 degree temps were not exactly extreme winter weather conditions, but it was raining! I’d like to think that I proved my Midwestern toughness by only wearing my Dads Don’t Babysit t-shirt and cargo shorts (of course!) with sandals (no socks) while most of the native Washingtonians were bundled in their fleece-lined jackets and long pants and Uggs boots. And, once again, my throat stayed soothed as I had popped a couple of lozenges in my mouth while we were walking. As my girls were sitting atop the brass pig that graces an entrance to the market, the epic picture that I had been searching for seemingly came to me in that moment. Fisherman’s Friend, after all, was invented in England in 1865 for, get this, fishermen! And, what is Pike Place Market most famous for? The Pike Place Fish Company and their fishermen who toss the fish! Guess what was in the background of the picture of my girls on the pig? You guessed it.

Thanks to it being a slow day (remember, it was a weekday in winter) I was able to casually engage one of the guys working there in conversation. Okay, he talked to me first about my awesomely decorated dome, but I steered the conversation to my need for an epic photo and wondered if he would be willing to help me out. Well, Nick, they guy’s name, was more than willing to help me. He suggested that I hold one of the King Salmon up as if I were preparing to throw it and he would stand next to me prominently holding the package of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges while one of his co-workers snapped a few pictures. Just before he handed me the large fish he casually mentioned that I had better not drop it as it would sell for about $300…yikes! At any rate, Nick was awesome and I think we got the epic shot that I had been looking for all along. After all, what else could show the tough relief of a throat lozenge invented over 150 years ago for fishermen better than an actual fisherman and a giant fish fresh from the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean from Pike Place Fish Company in the iconic Pike Place Market?

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Fisherman’s Friend and my epic photo!

You can purchase Fisherman’s Friend lozenges in pretty much any store that sells cough drops or sore-throat lozenges. I’ve found it at grocery stores and drug stores alike. There are several flavors although I only tried cherry and menthol. You can check out their website:  http://www.fishermansfriend.com/en-us/ or Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/FishermansFriendUSA for more information.

Obviously this needs to be stated clearly. Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Fisherman’s Friend for this promotion. The thoughts expressed above and pictures shown are mine, except the Fisherman’s Friend pouch picture, which came from their website. 

Here are some additional photos from our fun time at Pike Place Market that afternoon.

 

 

Dining With A Homeless Man

If you’ve ever been to Seattle you’ve no doubt encountered one of the Emerald City’s biggest social challenges. Of course I’m referring to the homeless crisis. Recent data collected in late January estimates the current homeless population in King County to be well over 10,000, up 19% from last year

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(this graphic is from last year since the totals from the count on 1/29/16 were not released yet).

Like many major metropolitan areas in the United States, Seattle has tried to address this issue. In 2005 the city and county leaders annannounced a joint plan to eliminate homelessness in the area within 10 years. Unfortunately, the economy tanked and resources decreased while many people lost their jobs, driving up the need. (Check out these websites for much more information. 10 year plan and One Night Count) Anyone who visits Seattle has likely been approached by panhandlers or has at least seen people standing with signs asking for food, money or work. There are many tents visible underneath some of the overpasses and several homeless tent camps in the area. The most famous one is called the Jungle and was in the news last week because there was a shooting there that resulted in multiple homicides. Police believe that it was not a random attack and the investigation is ongoing. Sadly, the shooting took place while the Seattle mayor was making a speech about the homelessness problem facing the city.

My youngest three kids and I were in Seattle at that very time last week, having spent the afternoon at the Seattle Center, which is where the iconic Space Needle is located. We spent most of our time at either the Pacific Science Center or at the outdoor playground next to the EMP museum in the shadow of the Space Needle.

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Even though my kids, ages 11, 5 and 2, learned a lot of cool things in the science museum and had fun climbing at the playground, the most important lessons were learned when we stopped for lunch and dinner that afternoon. My kids had requested a lunch date at Pagliacci’s to get their amazing pizza. It’s pretty much become a tradition, if not an expectation, for us to eat there whenever we go to Seattle. It’s also located in an area that many homeless people frequent, hoping to cash in on the kindness of tourists. As we pulled in the parking lot near Pag’s I saw a man holding a sign indicating his need for help. As we walked past him I pulled my kids aside and asked them if they wanted to invite this homeless man to come inside the restaurant and share a pizza with us. They enthusiastically agreed and we turned around to extend our invitation. At first the man didn’t seem to understand our offer. But once he did, he eagerly picked up his small backpack to follow us up the block to the restaurant. I extended my hand to him and introduced myself and my three kids to him. Will (his name) smiled and walked along with us. I noticed people looking at us a little bit more than usual as we entered the restaurant and approached the cashier to order our food. As we sat down at our table Will started to sit at one next to ours. I invited him to sit with us as he was our guest. My ever talkative and outgoing 5 year old daughter took to him right away, trying to tell him about the fun she had playing Minecraft with her brother. She had taken to heart my admonition to treat him as just any other dinner guest. Over the next 30-45 minutes we chatted with Will and learned that he had been born in Norway, grew up in Texas and moved to Seattle to work on fishing boats, which had caused his knee injury that made him lose his job three years ago. He said he has a wife and four kids living in the San Diego area but didn’t really explain why he wasn’t living near them and I didn’t press the issue. He was polite, well mannered and soft spoken. As we parted ways after our meal ended I shook his hand again and wished him well.

Once we had returned to our car I asked my kids if they wanted to do that again on our next visit to Seattle and they all agreed that a repeat was in order. In fact, while we had been eating my 5 year old had tried to tell our new friend that he should come live with us because we have a nice home and “my daddy will make you whatever you want to eat”. I love her compassionate heart and generous spirit.

A few hours later it was time for dinner, and my kids wanted to grab burgers from another Seattle tradition, Dick’s Drive In. It’s located a block from Pagliacci’s and there are usually several people panhandling just outside the doors. In the past I have ordered extra food for them and this time was no exception. Just before I reached the door a man called out to me, asking if he could have my change on my way out. I asked if, instead, he would like anything to eat or drink. So, on my way back out to my car I gave him a hot chocolate and a handshake, during which I found out that his name is Greg. He and his buddy were together there in front of Dick’s, and while my kids and I ate in our van we watched the two men share whatever food they were given with one another.

While our actions will not solve the problem of homelessness in Seattle I would like to think that my children learned that homeless people are people, not just some problem or statistic that needs to be solved or moved somewhere else. Also, I want them to know that being kind to others doesn’t require a great deal of time or money. I think that it was also good for them (and me!) to hear that these people have families and hopes and dreams just like anyone else. I loved that this experience was so positive for them, particularly after they witnessed a scam artist in the parking lot when we were out shopping just a couple of weeks ago. Of the many values I hope to cultivate in my children, kindness and compassion for others are right near the top of my list.

Can You Help Me, Sir?

“Why did that crying lady talk to you, Daddy?”

Oh, the precious innocence of childhood. My five year old was sincere in her question after I had been approached in the parking lot after completing our purchases at Petsmart.

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(Photo found via Google search)

As my son (age 11), two daughters (5 and 2) and I neared our van a woman rushed up to me and through well-rehearsed gasps, sobs and tears, explained that she had just been released from jail and was desperately trying to get back home to Everett (a city north of Seattle, about an hour from where I was in Tacoma), but her car needed gas and she didn’t have any money. “Could you please help me out? That man over there (she gestured at someone) gave me $5. The police gave me a quarter (she opened her palm to show me the shiny coin). But I don’t want to get arrested for panhandling and go back to jail. Please, sir, anything would help.”

Thanks to my son’s maturity and good sense, my little kids had gotten into their car seats while this charade played out in the parking lot beside my van. I told the woman (truthfully) that I didn’t have any cash on me and before I could say anything more she walked off in the direction of some other people in the parking lot.

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Brazenly approaching her next target.

My kids have observed me helping out some of the plethora of people who panhandle in our area. They’re frequently standing at a busy intersection at the exit from that very shopping area (there’s also a Target, Hobby Lobby and a dozen other stores there) and at the end of exit ramps. On more than one occasion we have brought hot food and coffee to them. We’ve prepared bag lunches and had them in the van to give out during our excursions. Last year my oldest daughter wrote a song describing some memories she had of us helping homeless people and I blogged about it (read it here). Some might say I’m a sucker for trying to help those who appear to be in a rough spot. I’m guilty of giving a dollar or two to people at times because I choose to believe that people can actually be good and that it’s okay to try to be kind to others. I try to model compassion and kindness for others so my children will grow up with similar values and a willingness to help out others.

“But, Daddy, why didn’t you help her? Why didn’t you give her any money?” My sweet girl just wanted to help that woman. Unfortunately, I had to gently tell her the harsh reality that not all people are honest or trustworthy. In this particular case, this very same woman had approached me as I had returned to my car after shopping at Target with my 14 year old daughter and our exchange student. She told me the exact same story, only this most recent time had been more polished with emotion and tears and that shiny quarter. That previous time I had chosen to give her a couple of bucks (I told you I’m a sucker sometimes), even though red flags were there. I remember that I told her “God bless you”, wished her well and shook her hand. She seemed to be sincerely grateful and warmly returned my hand shake while I gave her the small amount of cash. I remember saying a quick prayer for her as I climbed into my van. After that exchange my 14 year old daughter and I talked about the issue of panhandlers and how there were multiple reports of people scamming and earning crazy amounts of money by playing off preying on the generosity, goodwill and kindness of strangers. Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me. I thought about confronting this scam artist and getting all up in her business. Maybe I would have if I hadn’t been in a time pinch to get my van from the repair shop before it closed in 20 minutes. It’s probably better that I just left it alone. I’m sure it wouldn’t have mattered to her or been the epiphany that turned her life around. I likely would’ve come off as just another sanctimonious white guy. In reality, I wasn’t really angry. Rather, I was filled with sadness for this woman who was essentially stealing from others. I don’t understand the mindset that one must have to choose this type of behavior, but, ultimately, I feel sorry for her. Still, the next time someone asks me for some help I’ll think about it. I’m less likely to reach into my pocket for any cash because of these kinds of experiences although I’m still willing to look for a meaningful way to help others. I wish there was some sort of happy ending to this story, a way that I could neatly wrap it in a bow that makes us all feel better. But that’s not the reality of this situation. Instead, I’m left with a heavy heart that I had to explain to my five year old that not all people tell the truth and that they are willing to lie to others to get some money. But, I’m glad that she could begin to learn that lesson in a safe environment with me to help her process it.

As we pulled away from our parking spot I noticed the woman walking across the parking lot toward her next Target. Literally and figuratively.

Why does Serena have to be sexy?

Earlier this week Sports Illustrated magazine announced that they had selected tennis star Serena Williams to be their Sportsperson of the Year. The SOY award is given to “the athlete or team whose performance that year most embodies the spirit of sportsmanship and achievement.” As a dad with five daughters, I was really pleased to hear the news the SI had finally chosen another female athlete as this award has been dominated by men since the award’s inception in 1954. Serena Williams’s selection was only the third time that a woman had been selected for the prestigious award without sharing it with a man. Chris Evert won it alone in 1976 and Mary Decker in 1983, several have women “shared” it with a man, and the U.S. Women’s Soccer team won it as a team in 1999. The name of the award even changed this year to be more inclusive of women. All said, it’s a pretty big deal for her to win this award. It was a topic of conversation on sports talk radio shows and was all over the internet. As a sports fan myself I would be the first to admit that I don’t follow tennis much at all. Sure, I know who the Williams sister are and knew that Serena had nearly won the Grand Slam in 2015 but fell short in the U.S. Open in September. I also knew that Serena and her sister, Venus, have been surrounded by controversy over their long careers but that they have overcome so much adversity because they’re strong, athletic and outspoken individuals who happen to also be black in a very white sport. Yet, I didn’t really know that much about either of them because, quite frankly, I didn’t really care. I don’t really watch much tennis and it’s barely on my sports radar. After hearing the few minutes of talk on the radio I was actually looking forward to reading more about Serena Williams and sharing her story with my daughters once my copy of SI arrived. My copy arrived on Wednesday and I was beyond disappointed the moment I pulled it out of my mailbox and glanced at the cover.

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SI Cover

Serena Williams graces the cover of SI sitting on a throne-like chair, wearing a lacy bodysuit, sheer stockings and heels, while staring directly into the camera. It’s a look that one might expect on the cover of the annual SI Swimsuit magazine or Cosmo. I get it that she has strong and sexy legs. But what does that have to do with this award?  What hit me the moment that I saw the cover was how the cover was the ultimate disrespect to her as an individual and to women as a gender. Why does she have to be sexy? I want my daughters to be strong, smart, confident and compassionate people. Their value as women is not at all dependent on their sex appeal. And, just as much, I want my son to respect all women because of who they are as human beings not because of their looks. Yet, this photo pretty much reduces Serena to being a sex symbol, posing provocatively on the cover under the proclamation Sportsperson of the Year. Can you imagine how ridiculous it would have looked for any of the previous 61 years’ worth of winners to have had a similar cover photo? The thought of Brett Favre or Tom Brady or Tiger Woods sitting on a chair trying to  look all sexy like Serena makes me laugh and cringe at the same time. In all of the years of this award the cover has never ever been so disrespectful. Check out the screen captures of all of the previous covers from SI’s website.

Do you notice how nearly every single previous cover was of the athletes either in their sport’s uniform or a head shot? Again, I ask, Why does Serena have to be sexy? Why couldn’t the SI cover have been an action shot of Serena from one of her matches? Or a pose of her in one of her tennis outfits? Or a head shot? The article itself is a compelling because it goes into great detail to explain why Serena Williams is and was such a deserving recipient of this award. S.L. Price really educated me (and, I’m sure, countless others) about what a wonderful person Serena is and how much she has changed and matured over the course of her prolific career. I’m now a Serena Williams fan because of what she has done with her talents off the court more than here amazing success on it.

Indeed, in 2015 Williams hit this rare sweet spot, a pinch-me patch where the exotic became the norm. She danced with Donald Trump on New Year’s Eve. She spent a night telling bedtime stories to the children of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Growing up, Williams had devoured every Harry Potter book, marveled at the business empires of Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart. Now J.K. Rowling was tweeting against a critic of Williams’s body, now Oprah was hustling to watch her at the U.S. Open, now Stewart was calling Williams “the most powerful woman I know.” President Barack Obama, the most scrutinized man alive, told her how great it was to watch her.

[In 2015]…Williams, 34, won three major titles, went 53–3 and provided at least one new measure of her tyrannical three-year reign at No. 1. For six weeks this summer—and for the first time in the 40-year history of the WTA rankings—Williams amassed twice as many ranking points as the world No. 2; at one point that gap grew larger than the one between No. 2 and No. 1,000. Williams’s 21 career Grand Slam singles titles are just one short of Steffi Graf’s Open-era record. Such numbers are reason enough for Sports Illustrated to name Serena Williams its 2015 Sportsperson of the Year.

excerpt from Sports Illustrated article

I would encourage you to follow the link above (or click here) to read the entire article about Serena Williams. It’s lengthy but worth the time to begin to understand and appreciate her as a person and as a celebrity who has truly embraced her power and celebrity status to help others in real and meaningful ways. Like all of us, she has her faults (tennis pun fully intended!), but in overcoming them, it also shows her determination to make herself better; to right some of the the wrongs of her past. She is a remarkable person and a role model for young women like my daughters. Serena Williams is such a worthy recipient of the 2015 SI Sportsman of the Year award because of her many accomplishments on and off the tennis court. I only wish I wasn’t left with one nagging question, though. Why does she have to be sexy?

Oh, Crash-mas Tree!

There are a handful of sounds that will wake me up and get me out of bed almost instantaneously. Among them are a dog dry-heaving, a cat hacking up a hairball, my kid telling me she might be getting sick, and the thud of my kid falling out of bed. Maybe. That’s really about it. Or so I thought. I can now add crashing Christmas tree to that list. I was still asleep at 7:15 am (My kids sleep in, who am I to complain?) when all of a sudden I heard the unmistakable sound of glass shattering on a wood floor. As I jumped out of bed and into some clothes I knew that the tree had fallen over. We got our tree a couple of weeks ago and, despite my best efforts, it never really was perfectly vertical. It was our Christmas tree version of the leaning tower of Pisa. It leaned a little bit. But it was sturdy enough (or so it seemed) to stay upright and the kids had gleefully decorated it with their ornaments once I had finished stringing the lights. Sure, it was slightly quirky that, from one angle, the angel atop the tree seemed to be tilted. But after a few days I stopped noticing how it leaned and pretty much forgot about it. It was pretty and it was upright.

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Trees can’t hold their egg nog very well. 

Well, as I came down the steps to assess the damage, my wife was already standing next to it, trying to keep the water from flowing all over a cardboard puzzle that my two year old had left out near the tree the previous day. I promptly retrieved some towels from the kitchen and continued to clean up the water, silently wishing I hadn’t refilled the reservoir right before I had gone to bed that night. Oh, I should mention that I at least had the presence of mind to unplug the lights before I touched the tree or started cleaning up the mess. My wife gave one more look at the fallen tree and informed me that some people refer to this as a tree fainting. And, with that tidbit of knowledge imparted to me, she happily left for work, knowing that I would get it all taken care of before she returned home that evening.

 

Three towels later the water was all sopped up. A quick tour of the Christmas carnage revealed only three broken ornaments: two glass balls and the foot of a Cinderella ornament. She might need to be renamed The Unbreakable Cinderalla because that same ornament suffered the same injury on her other foot just last year. I gently removed all of the other fragile ornaments from the tree and set them on the window seat.

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Naughty tree, go stand in the corner!

Then I took the tree stand off of the tree so that I could try to get it on there again, only straighter this time. I think this tree secretly doesn’t like me or is just plain naughty, because, try as I might, I couldn’t get it to stand perfectly upright. So, being the resourceful guy that I am I carefully slid it over to the corner so that it tilted ever so slightly toward the corner walls. Mission accomplished, O Tannenbaum!. A few sweeps of the broom collected all of the needles that had fallen off the tree and that was it. Our Christmas tree was back in business, although there will be no rockin’ around the Christmas tree this year in our house. Just in front of it.

When my 14 year old daughter walked into the room a few minutes later she asked me why the tree was in the corner. Upon hearing my story about the crashing tree and its subsequent new placement in the corner, she tried to sneak a Dad-joke past me, asking, “Aren’t you concerned that it might catch fire there in the corner?” Dad-its-so-cold-in-here-Go-stand-in-the-corner-Why-The-corner-is-90-degreesDespite it being relatively early in the morning and still pre-coffee, I got her reference to this meme. Without missing a beat I told her that I wasn’t remotely concerned, because the kindling point or autoignition temperature of wood was much higher than 90 degrees. She rolled her eyes at me which  pretty much affirmed that my work there was done, even if, technically speaking, that corner was more obtuse than right. I may or may not have walked into the kitchen after her, searching on my iPhone the exact KP for wood (572* F). Hey, once a science teacher, always a science teacher! I actually taught this exact stuff years ago during the always-popular FIRE unit. I’m not sure who loved it more, my 7th grade students or me!

I shared this light-hearted story with you all so that you, too, can get a small taste of what my children have to endure get to enjoy every single day with me as their dad. I’m literally the gift that keeps on giving. Every. Single. Day. Merry Christmas from my cheesy corner of the interwebs.

 

Chabee Diaper Bag Review

I never thought I’d be writing a product review for a diaper bag. As a parent for over 20 years and as a Stay At Home Dad over the last 15 years I’ve used an wide variety of diaper bags and backpacks to get the job done for schlepping around diapers, wipes, spare outfits, snacks, toys, kleenex, Cheerios and an assortment of other necessary items when out and about with my kids. I was never really very particular about the style of the bag. Anyone that knows me understands that I can rock a purple or pink bag just as comfortably as a blue or brown one. I just need the bag to hold everything that I need and to be comfortable to wear. And easy to clean. And durable. When my five year old was born my wife thought it would be nice to get me a more manly diaper bag since most of the previous ones had been what would be considered more girly, for lack of a better term. She found one that had been created by dads and looked manly. Only problem was that one of the shoulder strap buckles (made of plastic) broke a week or so into my use of it. For the next few months that diaper bag worked pretty well, but it irritated me that I could only use one shoulder strap instead of being able to wear it like a backpack. I actually replaced it with a backpack a short while later. When my two year old was born I didn’t even bother with an actual diaper bag. I grabbed my favorite Jansport canvas backpack from the closet and filled it with the essentials. I suppose that’s what having my sixth kid meant. Forget the formality of it all and just go with my old reliable backpack.

I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m telling you all of this when the title indicated that this is a product review. Well, almost a year ago some guy I had never met in person but who was, like me, a member of a Facebook group for SAHDs, asked us dads for feedback regarding a diaper bag he was in the process of making. This guy, Jesse, seemed nice enough, so I responded and told him much of the same stuff that I shared in the paragraph above. I figured that was it. Well, a couple of months ago, he contacted me out of the blue to thank me for the help and encouragement from earlier in the year and to ask for my address so that he could send me a diaper bag to review. Two days after I responded with my information a box was delivered to my front door. My kids excitedly helped me open it up and were slightly disappointed to discover that it was “only a diaper bag”. I examined it for a few minutes before setting it aside to finish making dinner. The next day I decided to start using it so that I could get a good feel for how it would perform over the course of a few weeks. Well, that was about six weeks ago now and here’s what I found.

First, this bag is made of waxed canvas. Unlike the cheap plastic of many bags or even regular canvas like many backpacks, this bag feels different.

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Pouches designed to hold smart phones and tablets

Jesse told me over the phone that he’s passionate about honesty in his life and in his company. He said that there’s only one company in the U.S. that makes such high-quality waxed canvas and that’s the one he uses, even though it’s a little pricey. He didn’t want to get it from overseas where it’s the product of unethical labor practices, even if it would be cheaper. The quality of the material is obvious from the very first touch. It took a trip to the Tacoma Children’s Museum two weeks ago for me to realize how important the quality of the material is. You see, it was pouring rain (I live in the PNW after all) and once my girls and I got inside the museum I looked down to see how soaked the diaper bag would be only to discover that the water had beaded up on the outside of the bag. I gently shook the bag and the water fell off like when a duck ruffles its feathers. I was so relieved that the cloth diapers and clothes inside the bag were still nice and dry.

 

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Inside of the bag

Another nice aspect of this bag is the design. As I used it more and more I noticed that it wasn’t too big and bulky yet it still comfortably held 3-4 cloth diapers, wipes, wet bag, spare clothes, snacks and such. There are small pouches on the inside as well as ones on the outside that fit my iPhone. Jesse mentioned that during the course of his bag design (he went through five prototypes) he made sure to include spaces for smart phones. Yet, because the bag is made from canvas it’s flexible, which I appreciated greatly on that trip to the museum because, unlike my backpack, this bag fit easily in the locked cubby storage unit. There are small details that I noted about the bag that set it apart from others I’ve used. The buckles and snaps are brass, not cheap plastic.

 

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Changing mat (banana for scale)

There’s even a changing mat that’s attached on the back on the outside. I didn’t realize how convenient this would be until last week, when I had to make an impromptu diaper changing station at the Washington State History Museum. The bathroom had no changing table yet my two year old fit on it with room to spare, which is no small feat given that I’m 6’8″ and my kids are all tall.

 

The final thing I want to highlight about this bag is that it comes from the passion and experience of a real, live person. Jesse and his family recently relocated to northwest Wisconsin, just about an hour from the Twin Cities of Minnesota. He’s been a SAHD since his oldest daughter was born four years ago and he and his wife now have three kids. He started Chabee Outfitters on his own and has worked hard to get to this point.

Chabee is a mash up of the words “change” and “be”. The name was formed to encompass the beautiful Gandhi quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.” While many attach this quote to grand changes in the world, we at Chabee are obsessed with how it applies to the intimate details of life. Our greatest goal is to create a company we would want to do business with. We carry this concept in our name because we want to carry it with us in all our business relationships and decisions. -from ChabeeOutfitters website

I appreciated talking to him on the phone for about 30 minutes because it was good to hear him describe all the joys and frustrations that he has experienced in designing and making this bag. Interestingly enough, it’s made in Tacoma, Washington (such a small world because I live nearby) with all American-made materials.  As is the case with many things in life, you often get what you pay for. The same is true with this diaper bag. Because of Jesse’s attention to detail and desire to deliver a high-quality diaper bag this bag is currently listed at $225. But, if you’re looking for a bag with a 100% lifetime guarantee that will be durable enough to be used for multiple kids and then as a pretty nice messenger-type bag after that, this might be the bag you’re looking for. If I could go back 20 years to when my eldest child was born (and if we had the money then!), I would’ve gotten this bag in a heartbeat. As a special promotion for readers of my blog, Jesse has graciously agreed to a 15% discount if you enter the coupon code “BCD” at checkout. The website is www.chabeeoutfitters.com. Find them on Facebook here.

Disclosure: I was given the diaper bag (pictured) to review. I received no other compensation. The words and opinions above are mine.