Less Cheese in 2015

280.

If that was my score in bowling I’d be thrilled. But, since that’s the number I saw when I stepped on the scale at the YMCA today, I’m not exactly thrilled. IMG_8416I’ve never weighed that much in my entire life. Since I’m not blind I know that I’ve added several (dozen) pounds over the last few years but hadn’t stepped on a scale in a while. Heck, my own 10 year old son even told me (in November), “You look like Mama when she has a baby in her tummy. Only you’re not pregnant, Dad.” Gee, thanks, son! I’ve allowed my once bean-pole skinny self to slowly transform into a 6’8″ version of Homer Simpson, only not quite as yellow.IMG_8426

Same hair, though I’d like to believe I’m a little bit smarter. I guess know that it’s time for me to take a serious look at myself and begin the process of getting back into shape. Even though I have lots of excuses like the arthritis in both knees and left foot, messed up (interior meniscus, who needs it?) right knee and other ailments that come and go with being 42, I need to get over myself and shred some cheese this year. Instead of some nebulous plan that involves eating less and exercising more I’ve decided to go public and make myself vulnerable and accountable to you, my dear readers. Here’s my plan as of now, January 3, 2015.

  1. Stop drinking soda. Again. I quit it for 16 months from January 2013-May 2014. But then I was weak when Mt. Dew began to sing its Siren song to me again. No more. Too many empty calories from the nectar of the gods.
  2. Drink a gallon of water every day. I’ve been doing that for about a month already and it’s been going well. Only, there’s a serious side-effect of drinking that much water. You have to pee. A lot. (God bless you pregnant ladies and your squished bladders.)
  3. No more junk food stashes in the car. As a Stay At Home Dad one of my many roles is taxi driver. I like to eat while driving. Not conducive to losing weight. I’m going to pack healthy and delicious snacks like fruit, nuts or Mountain Muesli bites for when the urge strikes. No more of those peanut butter M&Ms or random donut stops. Now, if only my car would stop driving to all those donut shops.
  4. Daily exercise. I used to be pretty good about taking my dog for a 1-2 mile walk every night. Surprise surprise, I wasn’t very consistent with that this last year. My goal is to walk with my dog for 400 miles this year. Already have over two miles done. Speaking of walking, when I was in Europe this summer with my daughter I actually lost some weight despite eating really well every evening. Why? We were doing so much more walking than here in the States. I need to step my game up.
  5. Monthly challenges. I’m competitive by nature. Just ask my kids if I show them mercy on the air hockey table. I’m going to channel that into following some of the monthly challenges that I find online. My challenge for the month of January is the burpee challenge. Until a couple of days ago I had never done a burpee in my life. After this 30 Day Challenge I will have done over 1,300 of them. I know I won’t win any style points but I’m hoping to win the battle of the bulge. 30-day-burpee-challenge-chart
  6. Get more sleep. I naturally don’t require a lot of sleep. I’m good on 4-6 hours every night. I like the quiet of the night when everyone else is asleep. It’s my only “me” time that one of my kids (or wife) isn’t asking me to get them something. It’s also a dangerous time to have some Oreos and ice cream or chocolate or potato chips right before bed. I’ve read studies that have even shown a link between weight gain and lack of sleep.
  7. Eat better and wiser. Force myself to eat a healthy breakfast each morning. Hm…maybe if I sleep more I’ll wake up earlier and eat better instead of grabbing something unhealthy as I begin the morning school taxi service. Again, if I have healthier fruits, veggies and other snacks out during the day my kids and I will automatically eat better. And, since I’m no longer 18, I need to be smarter and stop taking seconds! Or thirds! One reasonable serving and be done. Let it digest. There’s plenty in reserve.
  8. Continue to be active with my family. More outdoor family activities. We love to kayak on Puget Sound, ride bikes, explore caves and hike at Mt. Rainier National Park. Explore new things to do and places to see. Less screen time and more outdoors.

My goal for the end of the year is to lose 30 pounds, which would put me at 250. I would love to exceed that by additional 10-15 pounds. I haven’t seen less than 240 in years. Maybe a decade. Yikes! I imagine that I would look and feel a lot better. Maybe my snoring would decrease (or disappear!). My balky right knee might be slightly less balky given the reduced load. I wouldn’t have to grunt every time I bend over to pick up something. I could be more active with my children. I’m sharing this with you in the hope that this “public” knowledge of my plan to “get lean in 2015″ will motivate me. Nothing like a little accountability to help push me in the right direction.

What about you? What is your plan to make positive change with your health for this year? Anyone else need to lose some weight? Who wants to join me in the 30 Day Burpee Challenge? It’s not too late to join as I’ve only done 15 over the first two days. Thanks for reading and I’ll keep you updated on my progress.

Dad, what’s Ferguson?

“Dad, what’s Ferguson?”

Wow. Talk about a loaded question from my ten year old son. We were driving in the car last week and he asked the question after hearing the news on the radio. I was glad to discuss it with him and even happier that we had about 45 minutes more to our destination. I was tried to formulate in my mind how to present the facts to him about the events in Ferguson in a way that he would understand. I started to talk about racism in America and he asked a second question. “What’s racism?” Huh? How could he not know about racism? I realized that my son’s innocent image our country and people in general was going to be changed when he learned about racism in America, in 2014. I tried to put it in terms that he could understand without sounding preachy. Our conversations went something like this.

Me: How would you like it if I told you that you couldn’t be friends with your friend X any longer?

Son: Why not? He’s one of my best friends. I just went to his birthday party yesterday.

Me: Too bad. I don’t like him. He’s not a good influence on you. You can’t be friends with him.

Son: What? That’s not fair. I like X. He’s funny. He’s smart. He’s my friend.

Me: Son, I like X. I like his parents. I’m glad he’s your friend. I said that to show you about racism. But there are people in our country who would not let their kids be friends with X because of the color of his skin. Because it’s different than theirs. That’s an example of racism.

Son: But that’s not right. Why would that matter?

Me: You’re correct. It’s not right and it shouldn’t matter. But people still act like that.

Son: Really? That’s not nice. It’s really not fair.

I wish that I could have given my son a response that would satisfy him and his desire for fairness. It made me sad, really, that my generation hadn’t done a better job of making real changes to eradicate racism. Unfortunately, racism is still alive and well in our country. If the events happening almost daily don’t convince you then take a look at the comments on almost any article related to these events. The hate-filled language is disgusting. Embarrassing. Sadly, I’ve seen it from people on both sides of the issues. People should be ashamed of themselves for thinking, much less actually writing, such awful words. I tried to explain to my son that one way to try to stop the racism and intolerance was to be kind. Always. Be. Kind. I know that it sounds simplistic, but could you imagine what would happen if everyone, I said everyone, was actually kind to everyone else all of the time? The “Golden Rule” isn’t too radical, is it? Treat others how you’d like to be treated. Kind of revolutionary, right? I was able to tell my son that part of the reason I discipline him and his sisters is because I’m trying to prepare them for a lifetime of treating others with love and kindness because it’s the right thing to do. Being loving and kind never goes out of style.

 

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The second thing I told my son he could do to help stop racism in America is to be bold, like a lighthouse on a cliff.  To speak up when he sees and hears racism and to not tolerate it among others. Ever. Not even a little bit. I shared with him an example of when a close friend made a derogatory remark about someone working in a drive-thru and I called him on it. Right there in the car. He tried to justify it because a person of that same skin color had attacked his family one time when he was a kid. He claimed he was scarred for life. I called B.S. on him and challenged him to change that attitude for the sake of his kids. I wish I could say that my words caused an epiphany in my friend and that he did a 180 from that moment on. Even so, he knew that what he did was wrong and he knew that I wasn’t going to put up with it. Social media and the web in general have combined to give all of us a voice that can be used to build up and tear down. I’m disgusted by how many people make awful comments about what’s going on in the world. Spend five minutes online and the comments about pretty much any news article turn downright nasty pretty quickly. And it’s not just one side or the other of the political spectrum. It’s rampant among liberals and conservatives calling each other names and spewing hate. It’s got to stop. And it’s up to each one of us to decide that we’ve had enough and make sure that we each speak up boldly for the truth. Are you willing to be the light that not only exposes the hate of others but leads them to a better place?

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Thirdly, I had to tell my son that sometimes the police treat people differently because of the color of their skin. He was incredulous. I told him about the experiences of some black men that I know who recently shared experiences of being stopped and questioned by police simply because of their skin color. These guys are college-educated, middle/upper class, married and employed. Yet that didn’t stop the profiling. I’m trying to build empathy in my children so that they can begin to understand that everyone has a unique story to tell based on their own experiences. I’m obviously not black so I cannot ever fully understand what it’s like to grow up black in America. I can, however, listen to the stories of others and come along side them to stand up for what is right. I had to explain that we, as white men in the United States, enjoy a freedom or privilege that black people, and black men in particular, do not share with us. While we have a responsibility to obey the government and the authorities in a respectful manner, we also have a responsibility and a right to disagree with it when necessary. I grew up in a very white area of northeast Wisconsin and only knew one black person my whole childhood. I didn’t even know about the concept of white privilege until I learned about it in a School of Education class as a senior in college in 1994. I was 22. At that time I bristled at the notion that I enjoyed privilege simply because I was a WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) male. I didn’t think I was racist or that I should have to apologize for my race because some people of my race were racist, either currently or in the past. I always thought that if you worked hard and obeyed the government and the police that you would succeed in the U.S. Over the last 20 years I’ve come to a better understanding that there is, actually, inherent privilege in being white. It’s sad that this is true.

We still have a lot of work to do. We cannot ignore this any longer and pretend that it’s a only problem within the black community. We need to work together. Not just black people. Not just white people. All of us. Together. After all, we’re all part of the same race. The human race.

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Below are several articles that I’ve found interesting, informative and enlightening over the last couple of weeks. I don’t necessarily agree 100% with each author but feel that it’s important to consider other perspectives than only my own. Be warned, though, that some of them are difficult to read because of the content and/or language used.

Ferguson, race and voices  http://www.morethancake.org/archives/8604

Dads Behaving Dadly

At the National At Home Dad Network Convention in Denver last year I met many fellow Stay At Home Dads from around the country. Two of the guys that I met, Al Watts and Hogan Hilling, shared their dream about a book they were writing together. They were soliciting submissions from dads who were willing to share stories about being dads. At that time I hadn’t really written very much since my college days. I hadn’t even started my blog yet and, to be completely honest, wasn’t sure if I had anything to offer them. Well, I started my blog a few weeks later and realized how much I enjoyed writing about my life as a SAHD of six kids. Then, shortly after the calendar flipped to 2014 I received an email from Hogan asking if I’d consider submitting something to their book project. I still didn’t know what to do as I didn’t think my writing was really worthy of consideration. After a few months of mulling his offer over I got over my own insecurities and emailed him my blog post from February, entitled Bad Dad: Seeking Forgiveness. Amazingly, I received word that they liked it enough to include an edited form of it in their book. I was going to be a published (contributing) author! Never in my wildest dreams did I think that would ever happen. Yet, they sent word that the book was going to be released in June.

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Dads Behaving Dadly: 67 Truths, Tears and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood is a collection of stories from dads around the world. But they’re more than just stories. They collectively show how modern dads are dealing with every day life in a more hands-on manner than ever before. Gone are the days where dads went off to work and returned home to read the paper while having a mixed drink before dinner was ready. This isn’t your grandfather’s book. From the very first entry clear through to the last one I was moved by the honesty and raw emotions in this book. Be warned. Have a box of tissues nearby. This isn’t a collection of feel-good stories that paint an unattainable picture of the perfect father. These 67 stories run the gamut of real-life experiences: the joy of birth and the agony of miscarriage; depression; divorce and blended families; parenting wins and parenting fails. The book stands on its own as a great representation of what it means to be a father in the 21st Century. As I read this book I was amazed by the many great things my peers are doing in their families and was inspired to be a better husband and father as a result. This is not a book just about SAHDs. Many of the men who contributed to the book work outside of the house. The common thread we all share is being a dad. While I’m proud of the overall book I’m humbled and honored to be a small part of it as a contributing author. It’s truly a dream come true to see my name in print.

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I bought several copies when Dads Behaving Dadly was released earlier this year and have been giving them away as gifts to family and friends. If you’re looking for a gift for any dad (or dad-to-be) this would be a fantastic idea. It’s available on Amazon (click here to order) for $17.28. (Free shipping if you have Prime membership.) This past weekend the New York Times published a wonderful article about the brotherhood of the Stay At Home Dad. Their reporter/photographer was at the convention in Denver this September to interview several of the conference attendees and book contributors while we had a book signing. The photo below appeared in the NYTimes and showed me signing the book. I was in the New York Times! How cool is that?

That's my bald dome in the lower right signing the book.

That’s my bald dome in the lower left signing the book. Hogan is in the middle and Al is next to him.

With Hogan at the book signing.

With Hogan at the book signing.

I'm honored to call these guys friends. They're also SAHDs and contributing authors to the book.

I’m honored to call these guys friends. They’re also SAHDs and contributing authors to the book.

Since I have enjoyed this book so much I want to give you, my readers, a chance to win your own autographed (yeah, I’ll sign it!) copy of this book. Simply enter through this Rafflecopter giveaway. Contest ends at midnight on December 1, 2014.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Please share this post with anyone you know who would benefit from and be inspired by a fantastic book about modern fatherhood.

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Disclosure: I was not paid or compensated by Hogan or Al in any way for this post. The views represented are 100% mine.

Happy Birthday to Me! (42 Things For Which I Am Thankful)

It’s almost 1 am here in Washington and my four year old is still going strong thanks to a long late-afternoon nap. If you’re a parent you know the double-edged sword of such a nap. My wife told her that she could watch a movie if Daddy stayed downstairs with her (um, thanks?). She unloaded the dishwasher and practiced writing her name (part of the deal) and ran to the sofa, requesting me to get Netflix on for her viewing pleasure. While she’s snuggled in her sleeping bad watching My Little Pony I decided to make some late-night Mt. Dew lemonade out of these here lemons. Oh, and it happens to be my birthday today. Thanks, Mom, for having me on this date in 1972, just a few miles away from where I now live. Crazy how life works like that! Back to my lemonade. I’m going to try to stay awake to compose a list of things for which I’m thankful, one for each year I’ve been alive. The order is going to be pretty random as it’s now past 1 am.

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Just past midnight birthday selfie. That’s our family’s birthday hat. (Obviously.)

Forty-two things for which I am thankful.

  1. My parents. Duh. They had me! Thanks.
  2. My wife. She’s put up with  loved me for over half my life.
  3. My children. All six of them. They fill every day with so much love and laughter.
  4. Being tall. Usually a pretty good thing. Except when I hit my head on a door frame. Or take out a light fixture on a cruise ship.
  5. My English teachers (I must be tired) who told me that I wrote well and encouraged me to write. Even if it took me over 20 years to heed their advice and start writing regularly here.
  6. Netflix. I’m too tired to actually parent right now. Thanks for the small break.
  7. Headphones for my iPhone so that I can listen to my music instead of the awful music and dialog of My Little Pony.
  8. Sunshine. You won’t hear me complain about the sun and heat (even now in mid-September) because I know the cloudy and rainy season is coming soon enough.
  9. Rain. Seriously. I don’t have to shovel it like all that snow that I had to take care of when we lived in Wisconsin.
  10. Football. I know, there’s been a lot of bad press lately about some awful actions by some players. But, I still love to watch my Green Bay Packers. Glad my kids like to watch with me as well.
  11. Christmas music. Guess what I’m listening to right now? Pentatonix PTXmas. Amazing any time of year.
  12. Trains. Just heard one blowing its horn. Reminds me of growing up in Neenah, Wisconsin, and hearing trains at all hours of the day and night.
  13. My bed. Where I should be now. It’s so comfy and warm. And long enough for me. Unlike this comfy sofa.
  14. My sense of humor. I crack myself up daily. I’m hilarious. Seriously. (See what I did there?)
  15. My church. I look forward to going every Sunday and am so glad that my kids also are excited to go with me. Speaks volumes about the kind of community and ministry there.
  16. Leftovers for dinner. That means that we are so blessed to be able to have extra food from a previous meal. It also means that they kids are guaranteed to complain about the menu of “leftovers for dinner”.
  17. The dishwasher. It was broken for six weeks when we first moved here almost three years ago. Enough said.
  18. Dishes, pots, pans, or knives that can’t go through the dishwasher.
  19. FaceTime. It’s not the same as in-person, but it’s a great and affordable way to catch up with family and friends.
  20. Indoor plumbing. I cannot imagine how horrible it would’ve been to have to use an outhouse every day. I mean, where would I find any private time to read? (I’m laughing. Told you I was tired.)
  21. Camping. Ususally at a state park. Although, my son is currently in our large family tent just outside our house. For the 10th night in a row. Accompanied by our dog.
  22. Sleep. Yeah, I went to bed. Well, fell asleep on the sofa while my child watched My Little Pony. Woke up at 4:39 am and trudged up to my comfy bed for two more hours. Hopefully the crink in my back and neck from sleeping on the sofa goes away in a day or two. At least I made it halfway through my list of 42 before crashing.
  23. Reliable transportation. I take it for granted that my car will start every time I turn the ignition. Except that one time that one of the kids left some of overhead interior lights on overnight.
  24. A pile of laundry that needs folding and a dish full of dishes that needs to be loaded into the dishwasher. Even on my birthday, I’m thankful for these things because that means we are blessed enough to have a dishwasher and clothes washer/dryer.
  25. Safe travels. Driving my daughter to school this morning we saw an SUV blow through a stop sign at about 35 mph. Had we been about 5 seconds farther along on our way to school that vehicle might have ended my life. Thank you, Jesus.
  26. The National At Home Dad Network (NAHDN) and the upcoming convention in Denver later this week. Looking forward to seeing my fellow SAHD brothers again. The support and friendship from that group of guys this past year has been nothing short of amazing. My only regret is not knowing about such a network for the first 12 years as a SAHD.
  27. Mountains. I love going to the mountains for recreational purposes. I also appreciate their beauty on clear days as we have a beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains across Puget Sound from our house. I love how the rising sun wraps them in a blanket of pink.
  28. Siri. Yeah, that sometimes annoying iPhone/iPod voice. She’s hilarious. Especially when she mistakes a request to play Jingle Bells and states, “I’m sorry. I’m not familiar with Vagina Bells.” Actually, neither am I.
  29. Good health. Ever since I was a child I’ve been blessed with a strong immune system. Even now, as a long-time Stay At Home Dad who gets exposed to all sorts of germs and such I seldom get sick. I joke that I have a deal with God. In exchange for not complaining about caring for or cleaning up after my wife and kids when they are sick, I don’t get sick.
  30. Computers and technology. Sometimes it seems like we depend on them too much, but overall I enjoy having them in my life. And I’m not even that tech-savvy. I’m sure I’m just using the tip of the technological iceberg, but it sort of works for me.
  31. Credit cards. Really. I use them for most everything that I don’t carry much cash around. So convenient.
  32. Airplanes. Making long-distance travel so much easier. Even if I often feel like a sardine squished in my seat I still don’t mind it.
  33. America. Or ‘Murica. Despite being a flawed Republic with a messed up political system that can’t get out of its own way, there are still a lot of great things about our country. We enjoy a lot of freedoms and privileges that the rest of the world envies.
  34. Being a SAHD. Despite basically working 24/7/365 I love my job. And, for the love of everything, don’t call me “Mr. Mom“. Really. It’s not as funny as you think.
  35. Words With Friends. Scrabble. I enjoy playing word games. Keeps my brain working. I think.
  36. The Bible. God’s word. I’m constantly challenged and encouraged by His words. They’re just as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago.
  37. Music. I love to sing, play/perform and listen to music. Still cannot dance. And I’m okay with that.
  38. Facebook. Yeah, they keep making those annoying changes. Why can’t we just go back to the 2007 settings? Really, though, I enjoy keeping in touch with all of you. Okay, maybe not all of you, because of the weird metrics that screws up my newsfeed so that the sponsored stuff gets shown more. But you know what I mean. The love I’m feeling today from all of the birthday greetings is so uplifting. Yeah, that was a little cheesy, even for me. I really do appreciate the friendship,networking and support from social media.
  39. Netflix. Thanks for the quality shows to watch when I’m cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry after everyone else is asleep. Did I mention that I finally watched LOST last December? Only a few years too late.
  40. The silly humor that my kids inject into my daily life. Like my 10 year old son. This morning he came into the kitchen (while I was making his lunch sandwich) and sat at the table. He set his iPod down and asked Siri, “What is my name?”. Her reply made me laugh until I cried. “Your name is Cornelius. But since we’re friends, you asked me to call you Junio Ten Why Cheo.” WHAT?! (I might still be a little slap happy from the lack of sleep. But that was crazy.)
  41. Perspective. Counting my blessings instead of my shortcomings. Over the last year or so I’ve known far too many people who have gone through some tough times, losing loved ones to cancer, car accidents, and other causes. Life is too fragile and short to focus on anything else.
  42. Friendship. Not just the virtual kind but the people I see in real life. Just this summer I was able to reconnect with a few friends that I had not seen in years, in one case it was a friend who I hadn’t seen since 1991. Even if I have not seen my friends in person I love being able to call or virtually reach out, knowing that our friendship remains. And, I do not mean to ignore the new friends I’ve made since moving here almost three years ago. My life is so much richer for knowing all of you.

I look forward to whatever God has in store for me this coming year. In parting, I leave this passage I just came across last night while finishing my Bible study. I hope it encourages you as much as it did me. It’s from Isaiah 43:1-4, paraphrased by me.

This is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze…Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you.

If you’re bothered because this is a “religious” quote from the Bible, I would encourage you to reread it, but this time think of it as a father (or mother) talking to his (her) child. The love that drips from that passage is what I’m striving for with my own family. While I’m certainly not perfect, I am trying to be the best husband and father that I can be for them.

Dear Kids…A Letter About Ray Rice

My dear children,

You kids know that I love to watch football, both college and the NFL. It’s something fun that we do together, cheering on our favorite teams and players. I’m so thankful that my passion for football is wearing off on you. Most of the time this is a good thing. Well, on Monday something bad happened in the world of football that spilled over into the “real” world in a messy way. You see, last February this football player named Ray Rice and his then fiancée, Janey, were at a hotel and got into an argument. As they got into an elevator their argument escalated and they got physical with each other to the point that he punched her with his fist and knocked her out. Cold. After she fell to the floor, he tried to carry her limp body out of the elevator into the hotel lobby. The police were called and they both got into a bit of trouble. Mr. Rice avoided legal problems by agreeing to undergo some counseling for his anger. The two of them got married a short time later.

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Ray and Janey Rice and their daughter, Rayven

The guy in charge of the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell, suspended Mr. Rice for the first two football games of this season. When the story first broke it generated a bunch of negative publicity as many people thought that the two games wasn’t enough of a punishment for a crime that violent. There was even a security video from the hotel that showed Mr. Rice dragging her limp body from the elevator. On Monday morning TMZ’s website obtained the entire video of the couple’s altercation, showing them entering the elevator, their ride down and their exit (which was already published). It was very difficult to watch the two of them in that elevator, clearly upset with one another, knowing what was about to happen. Seeing it unfold like that was simply shocking and disgusting. It unleashed a whole new level of public outrage against Mr. Rice, the NFL and his team, the Baltimore Ravens. Seeing what had happened removed any doubt about how it all went down. By the end of the day, the Ravens had fired Mr. Rice and the NFL announced that he was suspended indefinitely. Even the White House released a statement about it.

“The President [Obama] is the father of two daughters. And like any American, he believes that domestic violence is contemptible and unacceptable in a civilized society. Hitting a woman is not something a real man does, and that’s true whether or not an act of violence happens in the public eye, or, far too often, behind closed doors. Stopping domestic violence is something that’s bigger than football – and all of us have a responsibility to put a stop to it.”

Please pay attention to what I’m telling you here, kids. Hitting another person is wrong. Whether you’re a man or a woman, you have no business hitting another person. That is why I’m so serious about you not “playfully” hitting each other when you’re at home. It is a big deal. There has to be zero tolerance of physically violent behavior and it starts at home. I know that I’m not a perfect parent and that sometimes I even raise my voice and get impatient or irritated with something you’re doing. I’m sorry for that lack of self-control at times. But you’ll never see me hit you or Mommy or anyone else. And I won’t tolerate you doing that either. Hitting is not okay. Not even pretend. This isn’t just a “real men don’t hit women” kind of statement. While that is certainly true about men, I also want you, my daughters, to not hit other people when you’re angry. Don’t do it.

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Mr. Rice is a strong man. He is not very tall like I am, but he is very, very strong. While I may not be as strong as him, I am a foot taller than his 5’8″ stature. That said, I have to always be very careful of my body because I could injure someone with it because I’m so big, even if I’m not trying to hurt that person. Ask your mother how many times (mostly when we were first married, but still happens once in a while) I would “bonk” her with my arm or leg because I’m so freakishly large. I sometimes forget how strong I am compared to others. I’m not bragging. It comes with being a “giant” among “normal” people. I have to be careful not to hurt other people, especially little kids when I’m with you at the park or the YMCA. You kids are not small people. To my son, at age 10 you’re taller than many adults. By the time you’re fully grown you’re likely going to be close to my height. You’re going to have to show a lot of self-control with your strength. It is not okay to use your strength and bulk to intimidate other people. That would make you a bully and I won’t allow it.

To my daughters, I want you to know that it is never okay for your boyfriend or husband to hit you. Ever. Not even on accident. If that should ever happen I want you to get away from him right away. Call me. True love will never motivate someone to hit you. If he hits you he does not love or respect you as a person. He is toxic and will end up hurting you. He is not the kind of man you want to be the father of your children. Run away. Far away. Never look back. Don’t fall for his “Oh, baby, I’m so sorry. I promise it will never happen again. I love you.” If he really loved you he wouldn’t have ever laid a finger on you.

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Finally, let this awful incident be a reminder that our actions have consequences. Both Mr. and Mrs. Rice have made public apologies for their actions. Mrs. Rice even went online to defend her husband the day after this latest video surfaced. Yet, it is really a case of too little, too late. There is no amount of apology from either of them that can change the public perception of Mr. Rice as a violent man who knocked his wife unconscious with one punch. He may well be a good guy. He’s probably involved with charities. He even has a young daughter. Heck, he might otherwise be a good husband. But, right now, none of that matters. What matters to the public is that, in one awful moment back in February, Mr. Rice lost his cool and hit his wife. He lost all that he had worked so hard for over the years in just a few minutes. Let it be a lesson to you about the importance of always having self-control. All it takes is one moment out of control for you to experience some truly awful consequences.

Love,

Dad

Back to School Blues

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Today is the big day. It’s been written on our family calendar for months. It’s a day of anticipation and dread. It’s the first day of school. As a Stay At Home Dad it means the return of taxi driver to my daily routine. As well as alarm clock and lunch-preparer for my kids. Today is a day that I both dread and celebrate, but not for the reasons many parents do. As a former student (a long time ago) and former teacher (not as long ago) I loved the first day of school. There was a sense of optimism and possibility and freshness. A new year with a new teacher and mix of old and new friends. Getting to see friends and colleagues again after the summer break. It almost made the chore of getting everything ready worth it. Almost. After all, it was still school. It also meant the end of staying up late and sleeping in. Playing at the park, hiking at Mt. Rainier, going to week-long camp, and vacationing in Europe, to name a few. Doing nothing and enjoying it. Replaced by getting up early (rude alarm clock) and homework or lesson planning and correcting papers.

What I don’t understand, though, are the parents who are celebrating that their kids are finally out of their hair. Fruit of the Loom (makers of fine underwear) even started a #TGIBTS (Thank Goodness It’s Back To School) campaign to capitalize on this sentiment among parents (although it was aimed at moms). It makes me sad that there are some moms and dads who genuinely celebrate the absence of their kids. I’m going to miss my kids while they’re at school. It’s going to be quiet(er) with only a four year old and one year old at home all day long. What ever will I do with all of my newly-found free time? HA HA HA! As much as the teasing and such between my kids is a little bit annoying, I love having them at home. They bring so much joy to my life on a daily basis. I’m going to miss the fun that we have just doing life together. Yet, I love that they get to go and learn and be with friends and teachers and experience things that I cannot give them. I loved being a student (even though at times I had to work hard) and had a lot of fun in school. While I wasn’t a fan of the significant homework and studying in high school and college I understood it to be a part of my “job” as a student. I hope that my kids will view their educational opportunity in the same way. If anything, I celebrate the new and fun things that my kids will learn this coming year.

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The only bit of dread that I have is in wishing I had done more with my kids during their time off. Did we do enough fun stuff to make up for the days where we did basically nothing? Did they get to do something memorable enough that they can write about it for their first assignment in English class? Will they look back on their Summer 2014 as fondly as I do? I hope that they each can answer yes to all those questions. But, in the minds of my kids, I’m sure they’re probably already starting the countdown. 180 school days to go. June 11, 2015 can’t come soon enough.

Honesty, Always The Best Policy

I was listening to American Pie on my iPhone while driving three of my kids the final 75 miles to our home in Washington from our four day road trip to Northern California. The traffic was light and the sky was blue when out of the blue the music stopped and my phone rang. Even though I didn’t recognize the number I answered it since I already had my headphones in my ears. I’m glad I did. It was the manager of the La Quinta Inn & Suites we had stayed at the night before in Eugene, Oregon, calling to inform me that the person who had cleaned our room after we left found a blue iPod touch. He wanted to know if it belonged to us. I knew that my daughter had one like that and a quick question in her direction confirmed it. She didn’t even know that she had left it behind, thinking it was in her bag. After I told the manager it was, indeed, our device, he told me that he would get it in the mail to us later that day. I thanked him again for his call and hung up.

I glanced over at my daughter who was looking kind of sheepish, not knowing if I was going to be upset with her or lecture her. I wasn’t and I didn’t. I told her that I wasn’t at all upset with her. Accidents happen. Heck, I’d even given the room one last visual inspection before we left that morning and I hadn’t seen her forgotten iPod. There was no need for a lecture. She felt bad enough and there wasn’t anything that I needed to say. I just told her she was fortunate that the person cleaning the room was so honest. She smiled knowingly and I put my headphones back in and listened to some more tunes as we continued toward home. As I drove, I thought about how interesting it was that I was so surprised that the hotel employee had been so honest with my daughter’s iPod. After all, that device cost her several hundred dollars (she saved up for it and bought it on her own) and could have easily been sold on eBay or Craigslist for a nice “bonus” for that person who is likely making near minimum wage. But, instead, that person chose to do the right thing. No one would’ve known if he or she had pocketed that device. Instead, that person had integrity. You know, doing the right thing even when no one else is around. Seems like that’s a lost character trait these days. This particular employee, however, got it right. I believe that is a reflection on the company and the management that hired him or her.

I’m not getting any compensation from La Quinta for writing this blog post. They don’t even know that I’m a blogger or that I’m writing this. I’m not even going to make this into a formal review of the hotel, although it was nice. I got a clean room and my kids and I enjoyed the pool, hot tub and comfy beds. The hotel held up its end of the deal. Enough about that. But what really struck a chord with me was how this cleaning person had taken the iPod to the manager who then called me. My daughter learned a lesson without the pain of losing a valuable device while I was encouraged that there are still good, honest people still out there. I’m grateful for their honesty and integrity and will happily bring my family back to La Quinta Inn & Suites on future trips because of this positive experience. Ultimately, the reason I want to share this story with you is that a good report that is publicly shared on social media is the best way that I can say “THANK YOU” to the people involved whose actions ensured a “touching” reunion for my daughter and her forgotten iPod.