Dress For Success?

A few days ago I was at a local children’s museum with two of my children when I witnessed something that is still pervasive among parents, even among those of us who might consider ourselves liberated from traditional gender stereotypes. A little boy, probably around age 4 or 5, emerged from the costume area of a theater area in the museum wearing a ballet tutu around his waist. He proudly pranced about the stage while his mother started to say something to him, but then caught herself mid-sentence. His father, however, appeared horrified at the sight of his son wearing a tutu, much less frolicking about the stage where someone might see him. To the father’s horror, as he glanced around the room to see if anyone else was witnessing his son’s behavior, he and I made eye contact. He immediately shrugged his shoulders and dropped his head while looking away. He spoke no words to me but certainly seemed embarrassed by his son’s innocent play. I returned his embarrassed look with a huge grin and told the boy’s mom that I thought it was great that her son was dressing up as it reminded me of my own son doing something similar when he was younger. She mumbled something that I couldn’t understand and moved toward her husband in a different area. This whole encounter took maybe 15 or 20 seconds but it’s been on my mind a lot these past few days. Why are we so hung up on the gender roles and stereotypes for our boys and girls?

It’s 2015 and most of us agree that boys and girls can pretty much play all sports and play with all toys. Some stores (such as Target) have even dropped gender labels in their toy departments because such labels were deemed “unnecessary”. Yet, many parents lose their minds when their sons want to do anything that’s even remotely feminine. When I was a child growing up in the 1970s and 80s I never tried on any girls clothing or makeup. For one thing, I was the second of three boys and my sister was born when I was 9 years old. And the neighbor girls who lived next door never shared their dresses with me, although I can’t remember either of them ever wearing a dress when we were out playing in our yards. Well, times are much different now. At least in my house. I’m blessed to be the dad to five girls and one boy. Yeah, my son, who is now 11, has three older sisters and two younger ones. From the time that he was born he’s been surrounded by girls. Dresses. Princesses. Nail polish. Barbies. All of that stuff. And guess what? When he was little, he even (gasp!) played with those items. I’ll admit that for a fleeting moment I was a tiny bit worried about what others might think if they saw him. But then I saw how much he enjoyed playing and being creative with those so-called “girl” toys and I realized that it really wasn’t a big deal. In fact, it was no deal at all. That realization for me as the parent of my son created an incredible amount of freedom for my son to be who HE wanted to be. To do what HE wanted to do. To play with what HE wanted to play. So, from about the time my boy was able to crawl around he played with Barbies. Did you know that Barbie loves to ride on trucks as much as in her Barbie car? She also loved to go flying…down the stairs and off the back deck!

Little Mermaid birthday cake

Little Mermaid birthday cake

Thanks to the influence of his older sisters, my son fell in love with a pink-haired mermaid Barbie that he often carried with him when we were out and about doing life. It’s worth mentioning that he also loved wearing a magenta Lion King dress more than any other piece of clothing. It was, of course, from an older sister, but he insisted that he be allowed to wear it because he LOVED lions. So, imagine the looks that we would get when this boy with beautiful blond hair, wearing a Lion King dress and holding a pink-haired Barbie.

The Lion King dress

The Lion King dress

And the comments from others were something else when I informed them that his name was “Frank” (not his real name, though). It got to the point that I just nodded and didn’t bother correcting them. When he turned three he wanted a Little Mermaid themed birthday cake, complete with an Ariel candle. And guess what? We made him a Little Mermaid themed birthday cake and found an Ariel candle that he loved so much that he carried it around the house and played with for weeks months after his birthday. I’m pretty sure that my son has had his nails and makeup done by his older sisters more times that he could count on his hands. In fact, just two years ago when I attended my first NAHDN Convention I received a text picture from home showing my boy all dressed up in an older sister’s dress, complete with makeup and hair decorations. (He said I could write about these things but declined to allow any photographic proof for your viewing pleasure. He’ll have no such luck if he should ever get married!)

The thing is, this is so NOT a big deal. Kids are naturally curious and I believe such curiosity should be encouraged. I remember when my two nephews were younger (about 4-7 years old, maybe), they would come over and be excited to play dress-up with the plethora of ballet and dance dresses that my girls wore when they were younger. I once took a picture of them all dressed up and their mother made sure to tell me to never show those to their father, as he would be mortified. She thought they were funny and didn’t have a problem with it but wanted to keep it quiet all the same. Not surprisingly, none of our boys were scarred from the experience of wearing a dress or playing with Barbies. As a dad, I want my children to be able to have as many experiences as possible. As long as they’re making safe choices, I don’t really care what clothes they’re wearing or with what toys they’re playing. It seems that more often than not, the hang-ups of parents are limiting the opportunities for their children. At the risk of making a Frozen reference, I would suggest that parents just Let It Go!

Badgers and Packers and Cubs…Oh, My!

Four games in four cities in three days. Two thousand miles away from home. Easy as an Aaron Rodgers touchdown pass. Sometimes everything just falls into place and a simple trip to see a football game turns into an epic guys weekend. Here is the story of how my buddy Eric and I shared an unforgettable 96 hours together in mid-September. Back in 2011 I moved with my family from Wisconsin to Washington state. Despite moving into the heart of Seahawks territory I remained true to my Green Bay Packers. I can say “my” Packers since I’m an actual team owner, one of the thousands of people who purchased a share of stock to support the Packers. Well, in 2012 the Packers had a visit to Seattle scheduled for a Monday Night Football game. My oldest daughter and I wanted to go to the game, but tickets online were pretty pricey. On a whim I called the Seahawks ticket office and found out that I could get a half-season ticket package (four games) for about $25 more than it would cost me to buy the ticket online to the one game. While I’m no math major, that decision was pretty simple. Even though the now infamous “Fail Mary game” ended on one of the most controversial calls in NFL history, I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the Clink (CenturyLink Stadium). I was able to bring my friend Eric to the final two home games at the Clink. He’s a native of Tacoma and a life-long Seattle sports fan. During one of those games together I told him that we should plan a trip to Lambeau Field in Green Bay the next time the Seahawks played there. Eric was concerned that we wouldn’t be able to find reasonably priced tickets to the game, but I assured him that I knew people who had tickets. One of the perks of growing up 35 miles south of Green Bay, I guess. I also knew that one of my long-time friends from college days had access to his mother-in-law’s tickets, as she had finally gotten four of them after waiting on the season ticket waiting list for nearly 40 years. One way or another, I was confident that I could get us tickets to the game.

Despite the heartbreak of the NFC Championship Game in January, in which the Packers practically handed the game to the Seahawks, Eric and I remained friends and continued to discuss the possibility of a road trip to see a Packers-Seahawks game in Wisconsin. While the dates were not set, the NFL had released the opponents for the 2015 season, and, sure enough, the Seahawks were slated to visit Green Bay. I emailed my buddy, Todd, to see if we could stake a claim to two of the tickets for the Seahawks game, whenever it would be. His MIL graciously gave us access to all four tickets, and the NFL released the date for the game in April. The Seahawks would travel to Green Bay for a Week Two matchup, on September 20th. Eric was relieved that it would be early in the season, as he didn’t relish the prospect of a freezing cold December game. After checking with our wives one more time, we bought tickets to fly in and out of Chicago. Other than one layover at O’Hare Airport, Eric had never been in the Midwest in his life. He told me that I was in charge of pretty much everything since I had grown up there and knew what we should see and do. Challenge accepted.
Over breakfast this summer we were discussing our upcoming trip and I mentioned that my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin, might have a home game in Madison that weekend. A quick glance at the schedule confirmed that there was a game that Saturday afternoon at 2:30 pm. Since it would be a non-conference game against Troy I figured that we could secure tickets for less than face value. So, that pretty much would take care of our plans for Saturday, but we still had to figure out what to do on Friday. I suggested some of the tourist sites in Chicago (Millennium Park for the Bean, Navy Pier, Michigan Avenue, Ed Debeveck’s, Sears or Hancock Tower tour) and then casually asked if he’d be interested in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. That perked him up right away. As a former college baseball player, It’s on Eric’s sports bucket list to attend a game at every MLB park. This would be a perfect opportunity to cross another one off his list IF the Cubs were home that day. Thanks to my handy iPhone I was able to see that the Cubs would be hosting their long time rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, that afternoon at 1:05 pm. Bingo! This was shaping up to be a pretty fun weekend if we could manage to pull it off. Cubs. Badgers. Packers. Three games. Three iconic venues. Three days.
A few weeks before our trip I made a hotel reservation for our first night after our cross-country flight at a cheap Super 8 motel that provided a free shuttle from the airport. I also reserved a car. It was nice not having to worry about having enough space for car seats and luggage. Just two guys and two bags. My mom, who still lives in my hometown in Wisconsin, was gracious enough to agree to host us Saturday night. Everything was falling into place as we met for breakfast a couple of days before our trip. As we were eating, it occurred to me that we might be able to sneak one more game into our trip. About 75 miles north of Chicago is Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the home of the Brewers. Turns out that the Brewers were hosting the Cincinnati Reds that evening at Miller Park at 7:05 pm. If we left Wrigley around 4 pm we could probably make it to Milwaukee for the Brewers game. Eric and I were pretty stoked at the idea of a two-city, four team, MLB doubleheader. Cubs. Cards. Brewers. Reds. We could do this.
Day One, Thursday-Travel

Armed with a pocketful of cash, a couple of reservations and a carry-on bag, Eric and I made the short drive to SeaTac airport. Of course we were each wearing the shirts for our respective teams while we walked through the airport, so we looked like an odd couple, I’m sure. I, the Packers fan, endured a fair amount of ribbing as we passed through security. Once in the waiting area for our plane it became apparent that we were not alone in our plans for the road trip. There were a lot of Seahawks AND Packers fans waiting to board the flight to Chicago. High fives and fist bumps and good-natured smack talk flowed abundantly. “Hey Packers fan, how about that onside kick?” “Yeah, how about that goal-line pass in the Super Bowl?”

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On our way!

Once on the plane one of the flight attendants quietly came by and gave me a fist bump, telling me that she was a life-long Packers fan. Eric and I ended up talking sports with a mega Seahawks fan seated in front of us, a woman who was going to the game with a relative who’s a Packers fan. They had had a wager on the NFC title game, in which the loser had to buy tickets for the game in Green Bay for the two of them. Nice how sports brings us together like that! Once on the ground in Chicago, we found our hotel shuttle and made it to the Super 8 about 20 minutes later. Thanks to the kindness of the gentleman checking in after us who swapped rooms with us, Eric and I got a room with two beds instead of just one king. (Thanks for nothing, Hotwire.com.) Because of the three hour time difference we had a little trouble falling asleep. Either that or the cheap beds which weren’t exactly comfortable. I guess we got what we paid for. Eric had astutely commented on our way to our room that his wife wouldn’t have stayed in this kind of hotel. I agreed that mine wouldn’t have either. But neither of us particularly cared. $74 for a room and breakfast was pretty cheap.

Day Two, Friday-Baseball Doubleheader

Friday morning was a little overcast, as the storms from the previous night cleared off to the east. I got our rental car and we hit the road just after 9 am, headed to downtown Chicago. We had fun counting the numerous Dunkin Donuts stores along the way, although we didn’t stop.

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View north up Lakeshore Drive from Hancock Tower-Chicago

Eventually we made it to Lake Shore Drive and parked at the Hancock Tower ramp. We made our way to the basement of the tower to buy tickets to go to the observation floor. Several of the attendants gave me some grief for wearing my beautiful Packers shirt less than a week after the Pack had come to Soldier Field and beaten the Chicago Bears to open the season. Eric tried to join in the ribbing until the guy taking our tickets informed us he was a Patriots fan. Ouch! Those Super Bowl memories are so painful! Even though it wasn’t a super clear day, the view from near the top of the Hancock Tower was still pretty impressive. I suppose it was the short and sweet tour of Chicago from above. It was pretty cool to see all the roof top pools and lawns and gardens. After about 30-45 minutes we made our way back to the car and drove toward Wrigley Field, arriving in that neighborhood just after noon. I dropped Eric off to work his ticket-scalping magic while I parked the car. He managed to find us a pair of upper deck tickets on the first base side for $50 and we made it to our seats with 20 minutes to spare before the first pitch. It was enough time for us to get some Chicago dogs for lunch.

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Wrigley Field-Chicago

I know it’s upsetting to you purists, but we put ketchup on our dogs. The game was fun even though neither of us had a rooting interest. The Cards jumped ahead early and the Cubs came back and took the lead for good. We stayed through the 7th Inning Stretch and sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” along with (a video of) Harry Caray and the packed stadium of fans. We got back to our car and started making our way toward I-94, which would take us to Milwaukee. Of course, Chicago traffic on a Friday afternoon isn’t known for going particularly smoothly, and this was no different. We finally made it to the interstate only to find it slow down again a miles later. We passed a bunch of signs for “Golf Parking” near the Six Flags exit in Gurnee, IL. We had no idea that there was a PGA tournament there that same weekend until one of Eric’s former colleagues texted him later that afternoon. His friend had seen pictures that Eric had posted of Chicago and wanted to know if we were still in town. His buddy happens to be the caddy for a popular young player and would’ve been able to hook us up with tickets to the golf tournament if we had been able to use them. It’s probably a good thing that we didn’t know about the golf tournament until it was too late, otherwise we might have tried to fit that in our already-packed schedule.

 We arrived at MIller Park about 15 minutes before the first pitch.

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Miller Park-Milwaukee

It was just beginning to rain but that didn’t matter since there’s a retractable roof to keep everyone dry. We didn’t see anyone scalping tickets but found a “Goodwill” special for $12 bleacher seats right next to the bullpen in left center. Cheap is good. The game itself was pretty forgettable as the Brewers and Reds were basically fighting for the basement of the NL Central division. About the only remarkable thing was the three homers that were hit to the bullpen right next to our seats. The people-watching was pretty fun as both Santa and Elvis made an appearance in the stands and there were a lot more people wearing Seahawks gear at the ballpark than I had anticipated. We obviously were not alone in our idea of taking in a Brewers game in advance of the big Sunday night showdown. We moved around the stadium and were allowed to sit in the lower level for a couple of innings before taking off after the 7th inning. After we left the game I took Eric for a true Midwest experience. Frozen custard. The FroYo in the Pacific Northwest is nice and all, but I really miss the deliciousness of frozen custard. We decided to make the 90 minute drive to Madison that evening so we could sleep in the next morning.

Day Three, Saturday-Madison

Saturday morning was bright and beautiful. It was Badger game day. After a hearty breakfast we drove to pick up the tickets from a dear family friend who had given us a pretty sweet deal. We visited for a few minutes before heading toward downtown Madison. On the way there I drove Eric through our old neighborhood on the near west side,

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Abe Lincoln statue in front of Bascom Hall

the beautiful and sprawling University of Wisconsin campus and State Street. Our destination for lunch was The Old Fashioned, a well known establishment across the street from the state capitol building. Despite living in Madison for nearly 20 years of my life, I had never been to The Old Fashioned. We were heading there on the advice of Russell Wilson, the quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks and a former Badger. Eric and his kids had met Wilson during training camp in August and Eric had asked for a recommendation of some place to eat on our trip to Madison.

The

The “Wurst Platter”

Without missing a beat, Wilson’s rapid response was “The Old Fashioned”. If the star QB of your team tells you to go eat somewhere then you know you’re going to go there. We weren’t alone in our desire to eat there and had to wait 45 minutes for a table. Eric got the “wurst platter”, an artery-clogging collection of four German sausages on top of a bed of some greens. The best part of our trip downtown was the sideways glares glances Eric kept getting for wearing a Seahawks jersey. At least he was smart enough to wear the #3 of Russell Wilson, who is pretty much adored by all Badger fans for his one season in Madison.

After finishing our lunch we drove toward Camp Randall Stadium and parked in the driveway of the co-op house I lived in as a freshman.

Pre-game at Union South-Madison

Pre-game at Union South-Madison

Yeah, I helped park cars there back in the fall of 1991-92. Fun memories. We walked to Union South where we watched the first couple of songs of the UW Marching Band’s pregame performance before walking over to the stadium. The game itself was only memorable for two Badgers being ejected for “targeting”, yet the home team still won, 28-3. The UW student section is (in)famous for having a lot of fun, and I’m pretty sure they did not disappoint. They did their vulgar take on the old Miller Lite “Less Filling, Tastes Great” commercial by chanting “Eat (Poop)” and “(Firetruck) You” at each other. Eric was proud to point out that the “Wave” had started at the other UW, the University of Washington in Seattle,

Camp Randall-Madison

Camp Randall-Madison

although he had never seen it done like they did at The Camp: regular speed, super fast, slow-motion, reverse and split. I bragged to Eric that the students would also join in singing the songs that blared over the PA during time-outs, so we were entertained when the students sang heartily along with the Foundations’ classic Build Me Up (Buttercup). What was impressive was how they continued on for an additional thirty seconds or more after the music had ended. (Check out this clip from a game a couple of years ago to see/hear what it’s like.) Of course, no Badger experience is complete without the famous end of Third Quarter Jump Around, during which the entire student section (and thousands of others who don’t care how silly they look) literally become a thrashing sea of red and white jumping to the music. I find it particularly fun to see how the visiting players on the field are watching the students and joining in the fun, even though they’re on the field. We left the Stadium just after the 4th Quarter started and right before a fire-alarm went off. Apparently an oven in one of the kitchens inside the stadium overheated and triggered the alarm, which delayed the game for a few minutes. I was glad that we were already out of the stadium. Before we left Madison for good I had to take Eric to one last truly Madison place. Michael’s Frozen Custard on Monroe Street, just a mile or so from Camp Randall. It’s probably good for my waistline that I live 2000 miles away from the decadent Turtle Sundae. My mouth is watering just thinking about the delicious concoction of creamy vanilla custard, rich hot fudge and caramel topped with amazing fried and salted pecans. Ok, I’m done.

I headed the car northeast from Madison as we were destined for my hometown of Neenah, about an hour and forty five minutes away. My mom still lives there and had graciously offered to let us stay with her that evening. As was the case for the entire trip, Eric was in charge of tunes so I could concentrate on driving. Since we both had iPhones we pretty much had an endless supply of songs. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that we listened to some Justin Bieber during this trip. Eric’s excuse was that his youngest son really likes the Bieb’s music. My excuse was that I had to attend a Bieber concert in Tacoma with two of my daughters in 2012. (Eric and his family also attended that same concert.) We jammed with Taylor Swift and belted out some old-school Phil Collins and Chicago. It was fun being crazy and not having to listen to one or more kid whining about what song was playing or that it was too hot or cold or queasy. We just drove. Since we had the frozen custard after the game instead of dinner, I decided that another midwestern treasure was in order for our dinner so we met my mom at the Neenah Culver’s where I enjoyed a Deluxe Butterburger with cheese (of course!) and some crispy onion rings. Thankfully my mom lives about five minutes from there so we were able to relax at her place and digest for a bit. But our night was not yet over, as we had decided to take advantage of our guys’ weekend and go see a late movie at a local theater. Our bodies were still on West Coast time so the 10:45 pm start felt more like 8:45 pm to us. We opted for Straight Outta Compton, which, for those of you that know me in real life, is not exactly in my musical wheelhouse. Eric, on the other hand, grew up on the West Coast and knew a lot of the songs and events portrayed in this musical biopic about the rise of N.W.A. and their influence on rap and hip-hop music and culture in general in the late 1980s and beyond. It was certainly an eye-opener for this Midwestern native, yet somewhat sad in that a lot of the depicted experiences of racism and police brutality in the film felt all too familiar. At any rate, we were glad that we hadn’t taken our wives to see the movie as it wasn’t exactly a date-night kind of film. We returned to my mom’s house for our final night of sleep before returning home on Monday morning.
Day Three, Sunday-Green Bay
We woke up “early” to go to church with my mom before taking a quick tour of the sights of my hometown. Much of the older historic part of town was closed to traffic for the day because of the Fox Cities Marathon that was being run that morning.

Thanks for hosting us, Mom!

Thanks for hosting us, Mom!

After a stop at Starbuck’s (Eric is native to the PNW, after all) we returned to my mom’s house for brunch and the start of the early NFL games. We both managed to change into our game-day jerseys just in time to get a picture with my mom before heading north again. This time we were headed to Pulaski, a small town west of Green Bay by about 15 miles, where my friend Todd lives with his family. We had been invited there to spend the afternoon with them and to indulge in another fine Wisconsin tradition: grilled brats! Even though Eric and Todd had never met before in person, we all enjoyed a relaxed afternoon of conversation as if we were old college buddies seeing one another after years apart. After we finished dinner and said goodbye to Todd’s family we made the short drive to Green Bay. Destination: Lambeau Field.

We found a place to park in the driveway of my friends Keith and Karel, who live just a few blocks south of the stadium. I’ve known them since I first started going regularly to Packers games in 2005 and parked in their yard on a whim. Even though I hadn’t seen them since moving to Washington four years ago I was greeted with a hearty hug from each of them. It was here that the fourth and final member of our group met up with us: my buddy Gene, who I met back in 2005 when we moved to the area where he was living and our daughters became friends. As the four of us walked toward Lambeau, I had to keep from grinning too much from thinking about the fact that here were three really good friends of mine all in one place at the same time. How cool was that?

Behold, Lambeau. The foursome (L-R): Gene, Todd, Eric , Carl

Behold, Lambeau. The foursome (L-R): Gene, Todd, Eric, Carl

We made our way through the throngs of people outside the stadium, taking in the sights and smells (bratwurst, again!). Eric even managed to meet a Minion who seemed a little perturbed at his outfit.

Packers Minion

Packers Minion

I also ran into an old high school friend who was in the area on a business trip and was able to use his company’s luxury suite to take his parents to their very first Packers game. Once in the stadium we made our way to our seats and watched the players go through their final warm-ups before the 7:30 pm kickoff. While I’ve never been to an actual NFL playoff game, the atmosphere inside the stadium is what I would imagine it to be like. The setting sun gave way to the bright lights which made the green on the field seem that much brighter. The fans for both teams cheered as their teams entered the stadium for the national anthem, which was wonderfully performed by a former Packers player, Esera Tuaolo. Then it was game time!
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Lambeau Field-Green Bay

The Packers dominated the first half but only led 13-3 at halftime. There was a bit of unrest among the Packers fans and a certain degree of smugness among the Seahawks fans; like we’ve seen this before but don’t want to think about it or say anything. As such, when the Seahawks came out and scored two touchdowns in the 3rd Quarter their fans became really loud and obnoxious again. Thankfully, this time Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers dominated the 4th Quarter and sent the Seahawks back West with a 27-17 loss. Despite wearing “enemy” gear into the heart of Packers territory, Eric made it through unscathed. He wasn’t alone in his assessment that Packers fans were really quite nice. Green Bay is not like Oakland, where you literally fear for your safety and well-being if you wear the opponent’s jersey to the game. Once we made it back to our cars we gave final goodbye hugs to Todd and Gene and started our drive south to Chicago. We left Green Bay at 11 pm and our flight was scheduled to leave less than 12 hours later from O’Hare.

Day Four, Monday-Travel
We stopped once for a bite to eat somewhere between Green Bay and Sheboygan. The farther south we went the more the traffic thinned out until I drove right through Milwaukee with almost no traffic at all. At some point along the way Eric drifted off to sleep in the passenger seat while I enjoyed the post-game show on the Packers radio network. At about 2:45 am we pulled into an oasis/rest stop on the north side of Chicago. After a quick bathroom break we both fell asleep in the front seats of our car. After three short hours of “sleep” I woke up and a short while later we were back on the road to return our rental car before heading home to the airport.

Welcome back to Washington!

Welcome back to Washington! This view of Mount Rainier never gets old.

Even though our flight was delayed in Chicago a little bit we made it back to Washington just fine. For some reason the flight home was a bit more subdued than the flight just a few days before. I know that gloating isn’t supposed to be celebrated, but you have no idea what it’s been like to be a die-hard Packers fan living near Seattle for the last four years as the Seahawks have risen to prominence at the expense of my beloved Packers. So, yeah, this was a pretty sweet plane ride home for me, proudly wearing my green and gold.

Now that a few weeks have passed since we had this epic guys’ weekend, I marvel that we were able to pull it off so smoothly. The long odds that all four of those teams (Cubs, Brewers, Badgers and Packers) would have home games that all lined up like that for us to attend in just three days was pretty fortunate. The fact that we were able to pull this off and pay only face value or less for any of those tickets was also pretty sweet. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how grateful we both were to our wives for encouraging us to go on this adventure while they stayed home and took care of our kids.

A Look In The Mirror

Felicia

Student/Blogger Felicia Czochanski

I was talking on the phone with my 20 year old daughter this morning and asked her what she thought about an idea I had for an upcoming blog. I told her about Felicia Czochanski, 20 year old, a junior at Fordham University in New York City who recently wrote an article for Cosmo magazine entitled “People Judge Me Because I’m Pretty“. Her main point was that she wants to be appreciated for more than just her looks and to be respected as a person for who she is and what she’s accomplished. I read the article and, like many of the commenters, thought that even though she had a decent message, she came across as pretty self-absobed and bratty. As you might expect, there has also been a very significant and unfortunate nasty backlash against this young woman, with far too many commenters crossing way over the line and attacking her in very inappropriate ways. When I read her article I thought that it would be pretty funny to write a parody of her post, calling attention to either my height or career choice as a Stay At Home Dad. I even got about half way through a draft. Here’s the first paragraph I had drafted.

I’m a Dadly Dad. I’m 6-foot-8 with blonde no hair, blue eyes, a Dad Bod, and six kids. You can typically find me in sandals and shorts and t-shirt. You can also find me glaring at cashiers and old ladies at the grocery store who feel compelled to call me “Mr. Mom” or that it’s clever to say, “Does Mom have the day off today?”. Cut to me dumping the rest of an icy cold Mountain Dew down my throat and putting on my biggest smiley face until I reach my destination.

So, I asked my daughter what she thought of my idea. Should I write about being judged for being tall or for being a SAHD? She paused for a few moments. “Dad, can I be honest with you? I don’t think that you should write it at all. You don’t understand what it’s like to constantly get stared at and catcalled because you’re pretty. I don’t think you should write it even if you’re not bashing her. She’s getting enough harsh responses already. Even if what you write is funny, would it be kind and uplifting to her if she were to read it?”.

I love the fact that my daughter had both the conviction and courage to be honest with me at that moment. That was a perspective that I really hadn’t considered in response to this young woman’s story. It made me sad to think that I was so close to possibly contributing to the public backlash against this lady without even knowing it. But, it also made me proud that my daughter would call me out on it in such a loving and respectful manner. (She must have some amazing parents!) Seriously, though, it makes me really consider what I think, say and do. Immediately a favorite verse (Philippians 4:8) came to mind:

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

I’m going to try to use this brief look in the mirror as motivation to refocus my energies and efforts on lifting others up and encouraging them. Life is hard enough and I’m sure we would all benefit from the unexpected kindness of others, even when we don’t deserve or expect it. If I want my own children to be compassionate, kind and considerate human beings then I need to make sure that they see and hear that being modeled consistently at home. I’m pretty sure that my daughter knew that truth when she shared with me her honest opinion on the phone earlier today. I hope that I can continue to be the positive change that I want to see in the world. As for me, I’m going to reach out to Miss Czochanski and try to encourage her to ignore the nasty people and embrace her inner beauty.

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Public Apology

As the author of this blog I try to write about topics that are relevant to my everyday life as a Stay At Home Dad. A couple of days ago I shared a post that reflected on some of my experiences as an athlete in Junior High School in the mid-80s and as a basketball coach in the mid-90s. I used two examples from the experiences of my oldest two daughters to make the connection to my current role as SAHD and parent. It was never my intention to focus only on the negative or to bash the coaches personally or to passive-aggresively complain about the playing time that my children received. Unfortunately, it was received that way by some of the parties involved. Even though my intent was good and no malice was intended, I completely own my comments and stand by them as such, although out of respect to those involved I took the post down. I have always told my children that their actions are theirs and that they need to take responsibility for them, even when there are unintended (negative) consequences to them. This is another opportunity for me to practice what I preach.

To the coaches, players and parents on my daughter’s team, I am truly sorry that my words hurt you. Please accept my apology and I humbly ask for your forgiveness. My daughter had an enjoyable experience playing club water polo on your team and is a better player for it. She made a lot of new friends and increased her skills as a player. If she hadn’t played for you this summer she wouldn’t have learned what it felt like to hit the game-winning shot in a tournament game a few weeks ago back in Washington. If she hadn’t played she wouldn’t have gotten to travel to California to play against some of the best players (of her age) in the country. I look forward to seeing how she applies these positive experiences to her high school water polo team next spring and hope that her new friendships will continue. Personally, I’ve come to think of the other water polo parents as friends and I would hate to think that I put those new friendships in jeopardy because of my words. I guess only time will tell if I’m a quick learner or a slow learner.

As a parent I tell my kids all the time that they’re going to make mistakes simply because we’re all afflicted by the same condition. The human condition. But, I also tell them that it’s how we respond to our mistakes that reveals our true character. I hope that this will serve as the needed reminder to me that my words do have power and that I need to be sure choose them carefully so that I do not hurt others.

No Bad Blood for Taylor Swift

Dear Taylor Swift,

I never would have thought that, at age 42, I would be writing an open letter to a famous person, much less a 25 year old young lady who is one of the most popular performers in pop culture right now. Yet, here I am, trying to not sound like an anxious 13 year old who can’t figure out how to say his own name when the pretty girl at school says “hi”. I’m writing you today to tell you how much I appreciate you. You see, I have six kids who are currently 20, 16, 13, 10, 5 and 2 years old. (The 10 year old is the only boy.) They are all T. Swift fans. When we’re in the van driving somewhere and there’s nothing good playing on the radio all I have to do is ask one of my kids (or do it myself) to put on some Taylor Swift songs. Doesn’t matter which one. They’re all popular with my kids. Within seconds everyone is singing along, belting out the songs with smiles on their faces. The thing is, I’m belting it out right along with them! As a 14 year veteran Stay At Home Dad I’ve had to put up with scores of artists who are questionable in their musical talents or abilities or taste in what passes for music. Please don’t get me started on the ridiculously raunchy and revolting nature of the lyrics of many of the Top 40 songs over the years. One of the things I love about your music is that it’s not only pleasant to listen to from a musical standpoint, but the lyrics are able to tell a story without being graphic or unsafe for my children. Thank you! Being classy never goes Out of Style.

On a road trip a few months ago my youngest daughter (then 21 months old) was having a tough time and was really fussy. As soon as I asked my 15 year old to put on some Taylor Swift she stopped her fussing. Everything (has) Changed as the first measures of “22” filled the airwaves as my baby’s mood became a State of Grace. Seriously. 0708_taylor_swift_autographs_970-630x420Your tunes also provided some fun bonding with my 15 year old just a couple of weeks ago on a hour road trip from our house in Washington to Multnomah Falls in Oregon. We decided it would be fun to learn the lyrics for your current hit Bad Blood (featuring Kendrick Lamar). At first I tried to learn the rap but couldn’t quite get the rhythm down, so my daughter learned the rap while I did my best T. Swift impersonation in my falsetto. I think that we may have permanently scarred my 10 year old son who had to endure hearing us (mostly me!) singing that lovely song over and over again at least a dozen times in a row. I’m going to think of that fun car ride every time Bad Blood comes on the radio from now on.

Two years ago when you came to play your Red concert at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington, we were lucky enough to score a pair of tickets from one of my oldest daughter’s friends. My then 14 year old daughter chose me to attend the concert with her and we both had a great time. I know that 40 year old men are not your target audience, but I’ll happily admit that it was a fantastic experience. Having attended several other concerts with my girls over the years I can say that yours was by far the most enjoyable experience for me. No offense intended to Lizzie McGuire Hillary Duff or Justin Bieber. I left the concert thinking that we had actually gotten our money’s worth and was glad that my daughter liked your music so much.

My family’s love of your music began at least 5-6 years ago when my oldest daughter, now 20, discovered you and your music. At the time she was just learning to play guitar and was also going through some of the difficulties associated with being 14 and tall. You inspired her by simply being you. You publicly embraced your own quirkiness and awkwardness and height while putting out some incredible music. She was tremendously inspired by you and recorded covers of several of your songs on her YouTube channel. swift14f-1-webBut even more inspiring than your music has been how you have used your success and stardom as one of the most popular artists in the music industry. While I can’t possibly pretend to actually know who your are, if your long list of good deeds is any indication, it appears that you have A Perfectly Good Heart. Many famous people seem to forget the rest of the “common” people once them achieve their stardom. It seems that you’ve been able to buck that trend by showering countless people with your kindness and generosity. (Click here for an article about some of Taylor Swift’s good deeds.) Sure, the monetary gifts to help people in need are nice and attract a lot of attention, but the fact that you interact with people on social media to encourage them shows just how much you care, especially because those interactions don’t receive the same fanfare. As a father of five girls I hope that they will use their lives to build others up and encourage them in whatever ways they can. Thank you for showing my daughters and my son that it’s cool to be kind.

Finally, thank you for making the transition from teenage break-out star to full-fledged superstar without going through any embarrassing public spectacles like other recent stars have done. I appreciate the fact that you’re not drinking and driving, on drugs, in and out of rehab and other stuff like a lot of stars who make that trip from teenager to adult along a very bumpy path. It’s refreshing to see someone remain true to herself. Your parents should be proud of their hard work in raising you because you seem to be comfortable in your own skin doing what you want to do, not what others think you should do. I hope that my girls will be as strong as you as they mature into young adults. Thank you also for taking the time to remember where you came from professionally. My oldest daughter has been impressed by your willingness to confront Apple and other recording industry giants over their greedy business practices which don’t hurt you as much as they do the smaller artists. Again, thanks for living your life with such integrity.

1418267354-taylor_swift_1989I know that you’re coming to Seattle in a few days to play at Century Link Field. We live 45 minutes away to the south in University Place, near Tacoma. If you have the time in between your arrival to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and your concert duties my kids and I would love to show you around. The famous flying fish at Pike Place Market or the Space Needle or eating fish ‘n chips at Ivars. Maybe my daughter and I could even regale you with our rendition of Bad Blood. Thank you for being you, Taylor Swift.

Sincerely,

Carl, a.k.a., Big Cheese Dad

PS-In 1989 I was a junior in high school. Ha!

Up To Onaway Island

Camp Onaway. Just typing those two words stirs memories in my soul from six magical weeks of my childhood, spent one week at a time each summer from 1985-1990. Those of us who were fortunate enough to go to camp as a kid know exactly what I mean. For me, it was Camp Onaway, a camp in central Wisconsin on an island in the beautiful Chain of Lakes near Waupaca. Yes, an island! The entire island is owned by the Boys and Girls Brigade, a youth organization in Neenah, Wisconsin (my hometown), that runs a program during the school year for youth in grades 6-12. Onaway is the location of their week-long summer camps, alternating weeks of boys and girls camps, as well as some leadership and family camps.

Onaway Island

Onaway Island

My first week there was in 1985, just after finishing 6th grade. I don’t remember a lot about the specifics of the camp now, 30 years later, other than that I had a lot of fun playing games, swimming, wrestling with fellow campers and leaders on the rough raft (think “King of the Hill”, but on a raft in the water), canoeing, singing, Chapel and campfires. And morning dip, cross country race, tribal competitions, skits and watermelon feed. Okay, I guess I remember more than I thought. But, what really stands out in my mind is the memory of the leaders at Onaway. A bunch of men who willingly gave up a week of their summer to spend it with someone else’s kids, away from the comforts of their own homes and families. Probably spending a week of their own hard-earned vacation time in the process. As a young camper, I loved being around these guys each summer. For one week, those guys were my family. It wasn’t until years later that I began to comprehend the sacrifice and dedication that these men made each summer to be at camp.

After finishing high school I wasn’t able to attend camp as an adult leader since I moved away to attend college and ended up getting married and starting my own family. I did, however, get an opportunity in 2006 and 2007 to return for a few days as a leader. Despite not seeing many of those men for the better part of 15 years I was welcomed with open arms and hearty hugs. There was no judgement about why I hadn’t been back sooner; just joy that I was back. There were lots of new faces among the leaders there but there were plenty of guys who had been so integral to my development as a young man. Men who I thought of as family despite not knowing them personally outside of camp or even seeing them much since 1990.

DickandChrome

Two of my favorite leaders from Camp Onaway. Dick and Chrome.

I woke up this morning to read the news that one of my favorite leaders, Chrome, had passed away last night. It turns out that he actually had a real name, but I knew him as Chrome. To be honest, I didn’t know that much about him outside of camp. I did know his real name and I did see him a few times outside of camp when I was still living in Wisconsin.

But Chrome was the epitome of camp to me. I funny guy with a heart as big as the ocean. I remember when I returned to Onaway after my 15 year absence Chrome was one of the first to see me and he came running to greet me with the biggest, most heartfelt hug. And he’s not a big guy. He literally grabbed my cheeks with his hands and held my face, telling me, “Carl, it’s so good to see you again, young man. Welcome back.” I’ve been crying on and off all morning since learning of his passing, just thinking of the good memories I have because of men like him. The last time I saw him was in 2011, at camp the summer before we moved west to Washington.

It’s extra special for me this week to know that my third daughter is at Girls Camp 2 at Onaway this very week, making her own magical memories. My older two daughters have also been to Onaway in previous years. I know that my son, who will be in sixth grade in the fall, is already thinking about going there next summer. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to join him as a leader. That’s the thing about camp. Once you go, you always want to go back, even just for a moment. One of the best parts of each day at camp is the daily chapel. While Onaway is a Christian organization it’s not a “church” camp.

OnawayChapelChapel is more of a time for reflection with a very short talk given by one or more leaders. It’s often in the early evening as the sun filters through the tall pine trees, giving all in attendance the opportunity to think about their day. Chrome was kind of famous for giving his “sands of Onaway” talk each year at chapel when I was a kid. It’s the notion that no matter where you go, the memories of Onaway will be with you. Thank you, Chrome, for your years of service to countless young men like me. Without him and the many men and women like him, Camp Onaway wouldn’t be as special.

I’m a Christian and I love gay people.

My name is Carl. I am a Christian. And I love gay people.

gay-marriage-imageIt’s been almost 48 hours since the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional. Unless you live under a rock you’ve heard the news and have been able to read all about it. If you’re like me you have many friends who changed their profile pictures on Facebook to show that they’re celebrating this victory. I also have friends who are angry and upset by this ruling. This post isn’t about trying to convince anyone about gay marriage or the constitutionality of it in the United States. If you’re looking to pick a fight about either of those topics it’s not going to happen here. (I will delete offensive comments should anyone leave one here.) 1425699888986This post is a reaction and response to the many articles that I’ve read over the last couple of days which were authored by people who identify themselves as Christians and are against gay marriage. As a Stay At Home Dad I’ve been able to have some great conversations with my two teenage daughters about this topic as they’ve matured and begun to understand the complexity of this issue.

First of all, let me state that I am a Christian. I don’t hide that fact. I’ve been a follower of Christ since I was able to make that decision for myself as a 5 or 6 year old child. It’s an integral part of who I am. I am not ashamed of it nor do I blast it in others’ faces. I am not the “Christian right” or the 700 Club/Pat Robertson or Duck Dynasty or the Duggars. I am me. There are many times that I have been saddened by the actions of people who identify themselves as Christians because it seems as though their actions are not very Christ-like. While I cannot know their hearts I can see what kind of an impact their actions are having on their witnesses. As a father, I am acutely aware of how my actions must match my words when I’m interacting with my children as my actions speak so much louder than my words. This holds true for all of us, whether we identify as a Christian or not. My word or my reputation is only good if my actions back it up. If I claim to be a Christ follower then I should speak and act like one, right?

This is where I have a huge issue with the “Christian” responses to the SCOTUS decision that I’ve read the last few days. There seems to be a lot of energy and effort being put into fighting for the sanctity of marriage as one man and one woman. I’m reading about how the Bible condemns all gays because of this verse or that verse in the Old and New Testaments. Gay marriage is an abomination. Gays are going to hell. I’m in tears reading this judgemental garbage and hatespeak disguised as speaking the truth in love. Seriously. The Christian right LOVES to tell others just how right they are while missing a pretty big point. Their message is being lost because the very people they’re judging don’t care about what the Bible says. Moreover, the tone of the message is not one of compassion or love. It’s one of condemnation, judgement and condescension. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually like being on either end of such conversations. I feel like we as Christians have a great opportunity to show love to others here instead of hate and judgement. Christians love to throw around Bible verses to prove their points about the evils of homosexuality but seem to overlook the numerous verses that instruct us to not judge others and to “not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs…get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice…be kind and compassionate to one another” (Ephesians 4:29-32)

WHOA! What? Where is the instruction to judge and tell others that they’re going to hell because of their sexual orientation? As a dad, husband, and man, I don’t have all the answers. But I do know that as a Christ follower, the person that I follow and try to be like, in both my words and my actions, is Jesus, my role model. When the religious rulers of his time tried to trick him by asking him what was the greatest commandment, his response was twofold. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40) It’s worth noting that there was nothing in his response about judging others. It was about loving God and loving others. In fact, Jesus had already spoken at length with his followers about NOT judging others because we are all guilty of sin and it’s hypocritical to point out the sin in others when we’re full of it ourselves.

That’s my second big beef with the “Christian” response to the SCOTUS ruling. Why or how does this ruling really affect the sin that is rampant within the church today? While Christians are busy judging others they’re overlooking the fact that there is a lot of sin happening that they’re not protesting. I could list all of the sins that the Bible talks about but that’s not the point. If Christians put just a fraction of the energy and efforts being expended now into an inward look they would see that there is a huge problem within the church community in areas like gossip, divorce, pornography, adultery, vulgarity, gluttony, lying, cheating, stealing and so on. The fact is that we’re all sinners. God doesn’t look at sins on a weighted scale. Sin is sin is sin. But we Christians love to look down our noses at others and smugly think to ourselves “I’m not as bad as him. I didn’t cheat on my wife.” Yet, how guilty would we be if our internet history or Netflix queues were made public? I have a hard time trying to tell others that they’re terrible people just because their sin is different than mine. We’re all sinners. And, as a Christian, I believe that Jesus died on the cross for all of us. We need to get over ourselves and thank God for his grace and mercy instead of judging others.

Finally, I love gay people. I love gay people because I believe that God made all people in His image and therefore they deserve my love. I’m no better than anyone else. I might be different and I might sin differently, but that’s not the point. I don’t have to agree with someone’s politics or beliefs to be kind and compassionate to that person. In fact, showing kindness and compassion to people who are unlike me is a way to put my faith into action. What good is my faith in God if it doesn’t influence how I behave 24/7/365? It’s not just a thing I do on Sunday morning from 10:00-11:15 am. My wife has an aunt who is gay. I’ve been married to my wife for over 22 years now and I can say that Aunt Eileen is one of the kindest and most compassionate people that I know.

Promise Keepers "Stand In The Gap" Rally, 10/4/1997

Promise Keepers “Stand In The Gap” Rally, 10/4/1997

She is generous with her time and money and love. When she lived near Washington, D.C., she allowed me (and 3-4 friends) to crash at her place in Maryland before and after we attended an evangelical rally on the Capitol Mall in October of 1997. Even though our beliefs were not exactly the same she and her partner chose to open their home to us, feed us and even bought Metro tickets for us before we arrived to make our travels easier the next day. I wonder how many Christians would lovingly open their houses up for a relative (and guests) who wanted to attend a GAY PRIDE event in a nearby city? Oh, she even socialized with us after we returned from the event, grilled some steaks for dinner and made sure we could watch ESPN. Yet, somehow, she managed to not lecture us about how our beliefs were wrong because they were different than hers. It’s really not that hard to treat other people with love and kindness and compassion.

In conclusion, as I’ve discussed this with my daughters and written about here, I’m disgusted with the very un-Christlike judgement and hate being spewed by people who call themselves Christians upon hearing of the SCOTUS decision about gay marriage. I’m sure that the enemy (Satan, not supporters of gay marriage) loves to see such divisive and angry comments being posted in social media sites all over the web. I don’t see how this ruling affects my calling to love God and love others in any way. My faith isn’t in the United States government or its ability to decide about gay marriage. My faith is, and always has been, in God. His grace and forgiveness grant my salvation and it’s more than enough for me. I know that I’m not perfect and yet I hope that others will know me as a man, husband, father and follower of Christ for the person that I am by my “fruits” of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. (Galations 5:22-23)

****I would love to hear your thoughts about what I’ve written here. This is certainly a departure from my “normal” blog posts but it’s something that has been weighing heavily on my heart for a while, even before the SCOTUS ruling. Please keep your comments positive and constructive. If you liked this please share it with others. Thanks, Carl****

Book Review and Giveaway: Dads Behaving Dadly 2

I’m pleased to announce that I was one of my blog entries was included as part of the book Dads Behaving Dadly 2: 72 more truths, tears and triumphs of modern fatherhood.

Tallest SAHD/blogger in America!

Tallest SAHD/blogger in America!

You might recall that last year I wrote about being included in the first Dadly book. Co-authors and fellow Stay At Home Dads Hogan Hilling and Al Watts enjoyed the book writing process so much that they did it again and were gracious enough to include my story among the 72 in this second book. Both of these books were written by dads about pretty much anything and everything that relates to being a father. I’ll give you fair warning, though. Have some tissues within reach because the stories these guys share can will evoke some pretty emotional responses. We all had different experiences with our own fathers, some good, some bad, but the submissions in both books will move you and motivate you to be a better dad (or mom, I guess). While this book can be read in short bursts, if you’re like me at all you’re going to have a hard time putting it down once you start. Right from the Introduction by Al Watts, the President of the National At Home Dad Network, you will be drawn in as he shares about what happened to his then 11 year old daughter on a horse trail ride at Yellowstone National Park. Then the 72 stories are divided into seven parts as follows.

  1. Our Fathers
  2. Becoming Dad
  3. Built Dad Tough
  4. Do It Yourself Dad
  5. Imperfect Hero
  6. The Good, The Dad and The Ugly
  7. Proud Dads

My submission was placed in the last section and it’s entitled Actions Speak Louder.

It’s an edited and expanded (hopefully even improved!) version of one of my blog posts from 2014 in which I shared about my oldest daughter who is talented singer and songwriter. The very condensed version is that she wrote a song, recorded it on her phone and sent it to me across the country since she moved almost 2,000 miles away after high school graduation. The song moved me to tears because it helped me to understand how my actions as a father had impacted my daughter a few years prior as well as at that moment. (I’m purposely not telling the full story here because I really want you to get the book for yourself.)

Look, do yourself, or any dad in your life, a favor and get this book. If you’re looking for a meaningful and motivational gift for Father’s Day this is a great book to get. If you didn’t get the first Dadly book then grab both of them. You can go to the DadsBehavingDadly website and buy the book(s) directly from Hogan and Al or through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. There is an e-book version available through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The links are all on this page. If you buy directly from the Dadly website you’ll get $5 off the regular price of each individual book or even more savings if you buy both books at once.

GIVEAWAY: If you have read this far (THANKS!) then please leave a comment here on my blog page or my BigCheeseDad Facebook page to be entered to win a copy of this book. I will select one winner at random at 10 pm (Pacific time) on Father’s Day (June 21, 2015) to receive a signed copy of Dads Behaving Dadly 2.

Five Photos, Five Stories. Day Five: Prom

I was recently nominated by my fellow Stay At Home Dad and Dad Blogger friend R.C., who writes at Going Dad, to participate in a challenge called Five Photos, Five Stories, in which I post a photo and story (fiction or non-fiction) daily for five consecutive days. (Note: I had good intentions to do a post on five consecutive days but I chose time with my kids and sleep over blogging. And I’m okay with that.) It sounded like something that would be a fun to share with my loyal readers here on my blog.

Day Five: Prom

I really enjoy seeing when my kids show true kindness and compassion simply because they know it’s the right thing to do. My daughter E, whose water polo exploits were documented on my blog first in March and then a few days ago, put this into action a couple of weeks ago when she went to prom.

Ready to dance

Ready to dance

But this isn’t some romantic story of first love; nope, not at all. This is a story of friendship and being there for a friend in a moment of need. E, a sophomore, and her friend, C, a senior, bonded over their shared love of water polo. While they didn’t really hang out in real life outside of water polo they managed to become pretty good friends thanks to the long practices and social media. C had been planning to attend prom with a few other girls but her plans fell through just days before the event. E told me about her friend’s disappointment after water polo practice that day and she wanted to know if it would be okay to offer to be C’s “date” for the event so that she wouldn’t have to be alone for her prom. Of course I supported E and I told her how pleased I was that she would do that for her friend. It would’ve been easy for her to blow it off without trying to actually do anything to help out her friend. Instead, she stepped up and put her words into actions. Even though the two of them looked beautiful on the outside, I was more taken with their inner beauty; that which comes from the kindness and compassion within one’s soul.

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”
Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

I enjoy catching my kids doing something good and recognizing them both privately and publicly for it. Even more, I love seeing them grow into people who do not need to be told to do the next right thing…they just do it.

Five Photos, Five Stories. Day Four: Badger Mom

I was recently nominated by my fellow Stay At Home Dad and Dad Blogger friend R.C., who writes at Going Dad, to participate in a challenge called Five Photos, Five Stories, in which I post a photo and story (fiction or non-fiction) daily for five consecutive days. (Note: I had good intentions to do a post on five consecutive days but I chose time with my kids and sleep over blogging. And I’m okay with that.) It sounded like something that would be a fun to share with my loyal readers here on my blog. Today I nominate my friend and fellow SAHD Mike, who blogs at AtHomeDadMatters.

Day Four: Badger Mom

My mom is one of those cool moms who loves football. She’s also one of those smart moms who cheers for the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers. She’s obviously one of those amazing moms because she had me! (That was a joke. You’re supposed to be chuckling to yourself right now.) To cut (through) the cheese here, my mom is pretty awesome and I love her dearly. While she is pretty cool, smart and amazing, this story is about the first time that she returned to her Alma Mater to watch a football game since her days in college. Like me, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, only a few years before me. Unlike me, after she finished her studies at the UW she moved away from Madison and never attended another Badgers game at historic Camp Randall Stadium. Until 2010. My lovely wife received a pair of tickets to a Badgers game and kindly gave them to me because she doesn’t care at all about silly stupid football sports but knew that I would love to take them off her hands. When she told me that she had the tickets she said they were for a game against Ohio State…”are they any good?”. Seriously. In October of 2010, the Ohio State Buckeyes were the #1 ranked team in all of college football. And they were coming to Madison for a Saturday night showdown against the Badgers on national television. It was being hyped as the game of the year in the Big Ten Conference. As I recall, the price of tickets for that game on the secondary market skyrocketed. Yet, as soon as I finished profusely thanking my wife for her amazing act of love (the tickets, remember?), I called my mom to invite her to the big game which was set to take place in five days. After thinking about it for about a tenth of a second, my mom excitedly accepted my invite and we talked about plans for her upcoming visit.

As the day of the game drew closer the fans in Madison grew more and more excited as the anticipation of the showdown for the conference title and inside track to the Rose Bowl reached a fever pitch. (I’ve read way too many sports articles in my time, can you tell?) Decked out in our Badger red we arrived to the stadium area early and grabbed a quick bit at the house of  friends who lived across from the stadium and had invited us to their pregame party. (I’m pretty sure I could eat brats for every meal and never grow weary of it.) As we walked up the steps into the stadium I could sense my mom’s anticipation and enthusiasm growing, much like a kid on Christmas morning. Only this present was going to be shared with over 75,000 loud and probably drunken fans, unlike our family Christmas experiences. Following my lead (it helps that I’m 6’8″) through the crowds we found our seats in the south end zone and watched the players finish their warm-ups before the famous Wisconsin Marching Band put on a spectacular pre-game show. If memory serves me right, there was a fly-over by some sort of military jets after the national anthem, which sent the crowd into another loud round of cheering. The game hadn’t even started and the atmosphere was completely electric. My mom’s face was one HUGE grin and she gave me a quick hug as the teams lined up for the opening kick.

Badgers fans know what happened next. The Wisconsin player (David Gilreath, and no, I didn’t have to look it up) caught the ball at the goal line and returned the opening kickoff all the way back for a touchdown. Right in front of us!

On Wisconsin!

On Wisconsin!

Since no one in the stands was yet seated we all erupted in even more cheers and high-fives and hugs as this was the most unbelievable start imaginable. The Badgers dominated the rest of the first half and withstood a rally by the Buckeyes in the second half to win one of the biggest and most memorable home games in recent memory. As the final seconds ticked away the fans rushed the field and began to dance and celebrate with the players. I love how this picture captures the joyful celebration on the field behind us and the fun moment and memory that we shared that night at Camp Randall. After watching the thousands of people on the field for a few minutes my mom and I eventually headed down there ourselves. It was pretty wild and crazy scene with a lot of people running all over the place and getting pictures and just soaking in the good feelings from a great win by our Wisconsin Badgers. We still reminisce about that great game from time to time, mostly whenever Wisconsin faces Ohio State in football. On Wisconsin!