What’s In Your Garden?

It’s raining again today where I live, which isn’t surprising given that I live in Washington state, which is part of a region known for its amount of rainy days each year. But, this post isn’t about rain as much as it is about what the rain produces: green grass. As I was sitting alone one recent morning enjoying a cup of coffee before my kids woke up, I realized that the rain was responsible for turning everything varying shades of green, even through the winter here. During the long dry summers the lush grass goes dormant and turns brown if not watered. My neighbors, however, have a sprinkler system that waters their yard every evening at 10:27 pm. Rain or shine. The lesson, though, isn’t that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence (even if it’s true in this example), but, rather, that the grass is always greener where you water it!

All too often in life it’s easy for me to forget to express my appreciation to the people in my life who love me. As a husband and father I try my best to use my words and actions to encourage my wife and kids, and I know that is music to my ears when they do the same to me. I can’t help being an incurable romantic, so I love it when my Facebook newsfeed contains posts by friends who are publicly expressing their appreciation for their spouses, children, parents or friends. I’ve especially enjoyed reading posts from a husband or wife that is bragging about something that his or her spouse did, said or accomplished. It’s such a simple act that has profound meaning. Genuine kindness and appreciation are the showers that bring life and health to relationships.

Just last week my kids helped me to prepare a small section of soil next to our driveway that we use each year to grow sugar snap peas.

PeasSprouting

Rows of Sugar Snap Peas sprouting

We carefully removed the weeds and then planted the rows of seeds. In about 10 weeks we’re going to be enjoying some delicious sugar snap peas because you reap what you sow! The same is true in relationships. If I’m on the lookout for opportunities to tell my wife and kids how thankful I am for them or how much I appreciate something that they did, that’s going to not only strengthen our relationship but also help me to focus on the good in them. As a bonus, it will likely be encouraging them at the same time. It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, I suppose. I have a friend who posts three things for which she is thankful every Tuesday, calling it GratiTuesday. I love that attitude of gratitude that she intentionally writes about each week. I want to be a husband, father and friend that is known for cultivating kindness and gratitude in his garden of life.

Unfortunately, I’ve learned that the opposite of the attitude of gratitude is also true. The saying “the grass is always greener on the other side” probably happened because the people involved didn’t take the time to notice or appreciate what they had right in front of them all along.

BloomingFlowersinGarden

What’s in your garden?

I firmly believe that if we each spent a small fraction of the time that we usually use to complain about people and instead used that to water own yards or gardens, then we would see some beautiful grass, plants and flowers right in front of us. I know that I can complain about things to my kids or wife, but that only comes off as nagging or pestering and ultimately hurts our relationship. The reality is that if I’m looking for ways to be hurt or things to complain about, I can find them (or manufacture them) pretty easily. Yet, all that does is feed the negativity and create distance and hurt and separation in the relationship because I’m filling myself with contempt for my loved ones. On the other hand, when I choose to focus on the good and to communicate my love and appreciation, our bond is strengthened. I’m finding that looking for the good in my wife and kids is important when I’m not feeling in a particularly appreciative mood. I want my kids to see and feel what it’s like for their dad to love and appreciate both them and their mother, no matter the circumstances. My attitude of gratitude isn’t dependent upon receiving thanks and appreciation from others. It’s a choice that I get to make daily. Sometimes even minute by minute. In the end, though, I choose to be loving and kind instead of critical and ungrateful.

This notion of choosing an attitude of gratitude is actually based in scientific research by people much smarter and more educated than I am. I recently came across some articles from famous psychologists Gottman and Gottman that really confirmed what I had already been feeling and inspired me to be more intentional in looking for the good in my wife and kids (and others, of course). What follows is an excerpt from their findings.

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there.

People who give their partner the cold shoulder — deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally — damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner’s ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.

Please do yourself a favor and take the ten or fifteen minutes needed to read the articles which describe their findings in greater depth. (Links to the articles are here: Business Insider article, Masters of Love-Atlantic article)

Perhaps your reaction will be like mine, both convicted encouraged and inspired by what you read there. I hope that your loved ones will appreciate the changes that they see in you and that you will notice how much better they also look once you’ve consistently been showering them with your kindness and generosity. After all, we reap what we sow. So, what’s in your garden?

Daddy Cookies: Snitching Sisters

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

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

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My helpers

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

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

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.

Sultan of Swat

This is a tough post to write but I’m going ahead with it because one of the reasons I started this blog about being a Stay At Home Dad was to use it as a way to be reflective about what I’m doing as a parent. To learn from both the successes and the failures. Over the 14 years I’ve been a SAHD (and the six years before that as a middle school teacher) I’ve done a pretty decent job of keeping my cool. I’m a pretty laid-back guy and I try my best to be patient with everyone, especially my children. Any parent knows that kids can really test you and pester you and do stuff that shouldn’t get on your nerves, but it still does. It’s my experience that this is exacerbated for the at-home parent of small children who often deals with the seemingly endless requests to do this or that from the moment the little ones wake up until the moment they (finally!) go to sleep. Sure, I try to get my little ones to learn patience but, well, herding cats sometimes seems like it might be easier.

Well, rewind to a few days ago, Thursday, to be exact. It was a routine Spring day for us that was highlighted by a trip to a local park to enjoy some of the nice weather.

Playing at the park

Playing at the park

We had an early dinner without my wife, who stayed late to work, so we could be on time to meet her at my 15 year old daughter’s high school water polo game at 6:20 pm. Even though my M, four year old, very thoughtfully served some spaghetti to J, her 22 month old sister, while I finished cooking dinner (yeah, that onesie may not ever come clean), we were on target to leave the house to be, gasp!, ten minutes early for the game. The final hurdle to conquer was changing the J’s diaper. Piece of cake for this seasoned veteran. Or so I thought. As I laid J down on the changing table I noticed M trying to climb up the end of it. I asked her to please get down. Moments later M was standing bedside me at the changing table, trying to tickle her sister. I asked her to please stop. (I’m patient and well-mannered, thankyouverymuch!) Within the next 30 seconds as I was trying to wipe J’s butt and place the clean diaper under her I must have asked M three or four more times to please stop poking, tickling or otherwise prodding her sister because every time she did that her sister would twist her body impossibly as only toddlers on changing tables can do and I’d have to rearrange the diaper all over again. Exhale. I could feel myself getting a little worked up as I asked, for the sixth time in about a minute and a half, for M to Please. Stop. Touching. Her.

SWAT! 

8d8718e763a4a1392f460e9efec731ed35ea1a2eThat’s what I did to her hand as she reached to poke, tickle or prod her sister that one last time. It wasn’t a “hit”, but it might as well have been. And in that moment of frustration I lost my patience with my adorable four year old and violated one of my cardinal rules of parenting: never, ever, under any circumstances, lay a hand on my child in anger or frustration. I felt like smelly poo. How could I have done this to my child? She pulled her hand back and looked into my eyes, giant tears already forming in her eyes. Not as much from the physical pain but more from the fact that I’d swatted her hand out of frustration. I dropped to a knee to be at her eye level and immediately told her how very wrong it was for me to do that to her and I asked her earnestly to forgive me. Through her tears she nodded yes and, as we embraced, hot tears flowed from my eyes as they burned my cheeks. We talked about it some more right then as I finished getting the diaper on J and while we headed to the car.

It’s been just over 48 hours since I became, in my own mind at least, the Sultan of Swat. And I’ve been beating myself up over my lack of self-control and momentary lapse the whole time. It cannot happen again. Period. There is no room to justify my actions by thinking, “If she had listened in the first place…” Nope. Not even remotely an excuse. Yet, I have to be able to forgive myself in order to move on. M forgave me so now I need to do the same. Yet, I can still learn from this experience. While I am a pretty patient parent, I need to realize that I do, indeed, have a breaking point. If/when I feel myself approaching that point I need to do an internal “lemon squeeze” like my kids were taught in elementary school or slowly count to ten. Looking back on this particular incident, I should have counted M using the 1-2-3 Magic discipline system that we’ve used with all of our children for the last 15+ years. (I think I’m going to reread that book this week.) Had I done that, the situation would not have escalated and there would have been no swat. In the end, I have to learn from this mistake, forgive myself and remember that I’m not perfect. After all, imperfection is part of the human condition.

She shoots…she scores!

Please permit me to brag about my 15 year old daughter in this proud papa post. Tuesday evening was my daughter E’s first Junior Varsity water polo game of her sophomore season in high school. While she’s always been a swimmer and started on a swim team early in grade school, last year was her very first time ever playing water polo. By her own admission (and with her permission to share here) she was pretty clueless last year. The few minutes that she played last season were mostly a jumbled mess of mistakes along a pretty steep learning curve. Her lone highlight came in the end of season tournament in which she took a shot on goal only to learn the pain of hitting the crossbar. I remember telling her then that I was proud of her because at least she had taken the shot. Despite not experiencing much success in the sport last year, E refused to give up. In fact, she made it her goal at the end of her freshman season to be starting JV in her sophomore year. She played and practiced water polo with a club team over the summer and winter seasons. She continued to show up with a desire to learn and improve. She swam on her high school’s swim team again in the fall season. She gained confidence in herself as she began to increase her strength and sharpen her skills. She watched as her time trials improved and her coaches approved.

The 2015 season began in early March and E was excited to compete for a starting JV spot. I can admit this now, having seen her improvement from last season, that I was a little leery of her ability to attain this goal. I supported her 100%, but there were doubts in the back of my mind since I had not seen her play at all of those practices from last summer and winter. Still, after just three practices during that first week she proudly announced that her coach had selected her (along with a few other girls) to continue to practice with the Varsity girls, to compete for a spot on the varsity squad. WHAT?! Needless to say, E was ecstatic and I was blown away at the news. I’m pretty sure she was somewhere around cloud nine dreaming about the possibilities. After a few more practices it became apparent to her that she wasn’t quite ready for the varsity level and she was feeling a little down about that after one practice. It was at that moment, while driving her home from practice, that I told her just how proud I was of her. We took a little stroll down Memory Lane and reminisced about her freshman season. I reminded her that her goal had been to crack the JV, not varsity, lineup. I felt that she needed to know how much she had grown and improved from the end of last season to the beginning of this one. She had to know how impressed I was by her dedication and perseverance. I finished my pep talk by reminding her that she had already accomplished something that her old man never would. She had already played on not one, but two, high school sports teams.

E is #12, playing some stellar defense

E is #12, playing some stellar defense

Well, last Thursday was the Intra-squad Scrimmage and E played one quarter. She was on defense from the very first play and her aggressiveness and tenacity were remarkable to everyone there and her coach even pointed it out to all of the parents in attendance. It was a marked change from the timid player E was during most of her freshman season. While she wasn’t in for a long time I was pleased to see such obvious growth and improvement in her game. Those hours shuttling her to and from practices at the different pools were beginning pay dividends. All of this buildup set the stage for the first game against another team.

I didn’t know this but E didn’t make the starting lineup for the JV squad. Even so, she was among the first subs for her team, unlike last year when she was among the last to get in, if at all. Her first game action was the start of the second quarter and I noticed immediately her aggressive confidence as she played swarming defense and swam harder than I remembered her doing last year.

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Pass to #9 or shoot on goal?

A short time later E received a pass and advanced it toward the goal. As the defenders closed in on her she deftly passed to an open teammate who buried the shot for a goal in the wide side of the net. While I was cheering her for making the pass and garnering an assist I could only marvel at the growth from last year. But the best was still to come as E was just getting going. A minute or two later the other team turned it over and E swam hard into the offensive end where she received a perfectly placed pass. She swam the ball forward on a 2-on1 break and surveyed her options: try a risky pass over a defender to her teammate or take the shot on goal herself. All of this happened in a matter of only seconds as the defenders were closing in and her coach was shouting instructions from across the pool.

She shoots...she scores!

She shoots…she scores!

As I held my breath (and snapped pictures!) E made her choice and took the shot. Her powerful toss beat the goalie to the near post and she had the first goal of her career. As she swam back toward the center of the pool she looked up at me, absolutely beaming. If I could have leaped over the railing and jumped into the pool to hug her I would have (but that would’ve been a bit awkward and a tad embarrassing for her).

I’m such a sucker for feel good stories and this one ranks right up there for me as a parent. I’m blessed to be with my children 24/7 as a Stay At Home Dad. I get to witness some pretty amazing things like first words, first steps, first crushes and so on. Now I get to add to that a first goal in water polo. But, more than the physical first-goal itself, it is the sense of accomplishment for my daughter that comes from working hard to improve herself and seeing firsthand the fruits of her labor. I’m so proud of her for sticking with it and for finding the resolve to push herself even when others doubted her. I look forward to watching many more of her games…as well as how it will inspire her younger siblings.

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.

Dad book cover

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.

book page

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.

Do you play basketball? Tall Tales from the world’s tallest SAHD

“Do you play basketball?” is probably the second most common question I’ve been asked in my life. I guess it’s just part of the territory that comes with being a giant in the eyes of most other people. I’m 6’8″ tall. 80 inches. 2.03 meters. “Five-foot-twenty” if I’m feeling snarky when asked the most common question. This is my 14th year as a Stay At Home Dad and the one year anniversary of being a “dad blogger” and I’m laying claim to the dual titles of “Tallest SAHD” and “Tallest Dad Blogger” in the world. I’m friends with a couple of SAHD/DB guys who are 6’7″ but have yet to meet a guy who is taller. Please, prove me wrong. (Actually, don’t. I like my self-proclaimed titles!) At any rate, now that I’ve established my stature for you, let me tell you about some of the joys of being tall that you might not have ever considered.

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I didn’t fit under the eaves at this tourist spot in Germany, much to the delight of the rest of my tour group.

How tall are you? Seriously. I get asked this question a lot. Maybe not every single day, but a lot. Complete strangers will see me and and feel free to inquire. I’m not ashamed of my height. In fact, I love being tall. But, could you imagine if people felt compelled to ask or comment about other bodily traits as freely as they do about height? How much do you weigh? How short are you? How big are your feet? Oh, wait, I get that last one a lot as well. Size sixteen if you’re wondering. It’s not that big considering how silly I would look with tiny feet. Makes going as a clown for Halloween much easier. I remember when I was 18 and at Opryland USA, a now-defunct theme park in Nashville, Tennessee, having my first experience of a complete stranger tapping me on the shoulder to ask about my height. I ended up chatting with the elderly couple for a few minutes while we waited in queue. Afterwards, my friends who were there with me (we were part of a Spring Break trip for our high school symphony) were incredulous about that exchange. Little did I know that it was the first of thousands of such experiences. It even transcends languages and cultures. Just this last summer, while on a three week trip to Europe with my daughter, a man came wandering through the platform in the train station in Munich, Germany, asking everyone for money. When I responded no (pulled the “I don’t speak German” excuse) he moved on but a moment later came back to me and gestured wildly about my height with a silly grin on his face.

Do you play basketball? Not every tall person is also gifted with coordination. Or a competitive nature. Or coordination. Or desire to play sports. Or coordination. But, yeah, I do play basketball. And thanks, to my older brother who was always older (duh!) and a little taller than me (at least until I was 16 or so), I developed a decent outside shot. Which means I’m that big man who thinks he should step outside and shoot three-pointers instead of staying in the lane close to the basket where I belong. I really do enjoy playing basketball. But, due to a back injury from 7th grade football, I couldn’t play competitively in high school. In fact, I never played any sports in high school. Yet, while in college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I played pick-up games several times a week with and against many of the guys who were on the Badgers basketball teams (men and women) as well as football players. I love to play hoops. I even used to be able to dunk before I got arthritis in my knees and left foot. One time I even broke both my arms after making a dunk. (I’ll have to blog about that. It’s a good story.) But, back to the question. If you ask me if I play basketball, is it okay for me to ask if you’re a jockey or if you play mini-golf?

School. Just because I’m tall doesn’t make me blind or deaf. I especially love walking into schools with my kids. The reactions of the other kids is hilarious. They see me and immediately start to point and then realize that might be rude. So, then they start to whisper to one another. He’s soooo tall! How tall is he? Is he (name of my kid)’s dad? Look! He had to duck under the door! It cracks me up because middle school kids are many things, but quiet isn’t usually one of them. Even high school students have weird reactions. Years ago I was a football game, waiting in line for concessions behind two girls who were getting their food. Upon completing their purchases they both whirled around quickly and started to walk only to notice that I was standing there. Instead of saying “excuse me” or something like that one of them exclaimed “Holy S#%& you’re tall!” and then ran off. I looked at my buddy and we both laughed it off. I’m mostly immune to it now, but if you’ve never walked next to a freakishly-tall person before you’d be surprised at how many people point and gawk at you as if you had a unicorn horn protruding from your forehead. Before my SAHD career I was a teacher. During my first day teaching 7th grade, a girl name Celia, a self-confident redhead, proclaimed that I looked just like the BFG. Since I hadn’t read the classic book by Road Dahl I didn’t know that the BFG was a “Big Friendly Giant” and that she meant it as a compliment.

How’s the weather up there? Yeah, that’s original. How’s the weather by my armpits? I’ve been tempted to spit and say it’s raining. But, I’m not mean. When riding trains and buses in which I need to stand I am reminded that being tall can have its advantages. In many of those instances there’s a slight breeze of fresh(er) air that I can enjoy because I’m literally a head taller than everyone else. I remember a bus in Rome this summer that had one of those air vents on the ceiling and I got to stand directly underneath it. Actually, it was because of the extra few inches of that vent that I was able to actually stand up straight without hitting my head. Headroom is really a major issue for us tall people. When I’m driving I have to lean forward sometimes to see if the traffic light has changed since my eyes are much closer to the roof of the car than you normal-sized people. Doorways. Standard door frames are 80 inches. Yeah, I’m 80 inches tall. Without shoes. So, I pretty much have an automatic head-bob whenever I walk through a door. I’d rather bob and look silly than not bob and whack the top of my head. One time, about 10 years ago, I was bringing a basket of laundry to the basement when I forgot to bob. I literally scalped myself on the exposed beam. After spending a few minutes on the floor I finally stood up and saw a nasty collection of skin and hair that had previously been on the top of my head moments earlier. I wish that was my only story of head whacking on door frames or beams.

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Standard “legroom” for me when riding in an airplane. This was before the person in front of me leaned their seat back.

Public transportation. Not designed with the freakishly tall in mind. Buses. I cannot sit on a standard school bus and face forward. The length from my hip to my knee is usually greater than the distance to the back of the seat ahead of me. Coach buses are not much better. And those seats recline. And you’d better believe that I’m calling shotgun if we’re taking a car somewhere. Unless there’s a bench in back that offers more leg room. And don’t even get me started on airplanes. Headroom? No. I usually have to walk to my seat hunched like Quasimodo so I don’t whack into the EXIT signs or overhead storage doors. I will always check to see who is seated in the emergency exit row seats and it seems like it’s almost always people who are short. And by short I mean anyone who is less than 6’3″. There should be a rule that tall people get the exit row seats before anyone else.

Yeah, I know I could pay extra so that I could get that seat. But, I’m too cheap. Besides, it’s fun to sit on the aisle seat with one leg blissfully stretched out into the aisle…until it’s rammed at full speed by that bloody beverage cart. Excuse me, sir, please put your legs under the seat in front of you. How much time do you have? Since my leg won’t fit under the lowered tray table I have some rearranging to do. And those bathrooms. Do you have any idea how hard it is to try to pee standing almost sideways because some genius engineer thought it would be a brilliant idea to have the bathroom ceiling slant like that. And no, I can’t sit. My legs are too long to fit with the door closed. Good thing I don’t need to go #2.

Theme parks. I waited with one of my daughters to go on a ride several years ago at the Mall of America. I think it was called Paul Bunyan’s Axe, but I’m not sure. Don’t even know if it’s still there. At any rate, for this particular ride, you had to sit down and a harness of padded metal bars came down over your shoulders and locked into place. Only, not for me. My torso was too tall. The bars hit my shoulder and there was no way for me to slouch down so the harness would fit. In countless roller coasters I’ve had the pleasure of contorting my legs uncomfortably so that the lap bar would hold me in place. None of that is as terrifying as riding a roller coaster and feeling the need to duck every time the coaster goes into a tunnel. Even though I know it’s not going to happen, it feels as though I’m going to get my head whacked off when the track goes under and through the wooden trestle. You better believe I’ll keep my hands in the car at all times. It was also pretty uncomfortable to ride some of the small kid rides at DisneyWorld with my daughters when they were younger.

Hiking. You want me to be the leader. Not because I’m blessed with some superior skills. Nope. One word. Spiders. Okay, maybe two words. Spider webs. I clear the path of all spider webs. I catch the ones that most of you miss. You know, the big ones that drape across the trail between trees, about 75″ above the ground. I call that eye level. Nothing quite like walking through the woods and having to wipe off spider webs from my face and head. And, no, it doesn’t taste like cotton candy. On the other hand, spelunking may not be the best activity for me. I recently went with two of my kids to Ape Cave, a lava tube near Mt. Saint Helens in Washington. At several points during the hike I realized that I almost didn’t fit through some of the openings in the rock. I’ve been in other caves that had similar pinch points and/or low ceilings, which are far less forgiving than wooden door frames. I think caving is cool (cool, get it?) but I realize my limitations.

Around the house. I’m your go-to guy if the lightbulb needs replacing. Or you need something from that top shelf. Or anything that would require a ladder or step-stool. Just call the tall guy over. He’ll be more than happy to assist you. I normally don’t mind helping you vertically-challenged people out. Just don’t be offended if I ask you to get something from a lower shelf, okay? I will admit that painting can be pretty fun because I don’t need a ladder to reach the ceiling of standard rooms. That said, I once broke a ceiling light fixture with my head. I mean, who puts a light directly outside of an elevator? I ducked my head to exit the elevator only to raise it into the fixture. Granted, it was on a cruise and not at home, but, still. If I recall, the cruise staff were pretty impressed by how I broke the light and several even posed for pictures with me. Counters are too low. Kitchen and bathroom. Cutting food for meals means that I either sit on a stool or risk making my lower back sore from bending over so much. And yes, like many tall people, I have back and knee issues. It’s the blessing and curse of being tall. My wife, a physician, says so sympathetically, “The human body wasn’t designed to carry such a large load.” Um, thanks, honey?

In the bedroom. Not like that. Don’t be rude. I’m talking mattress size here. At 80″ tall I’m too long for a King size bed, which is also 80″. Instead, we have a California King, which is 84″ long. And we still don’t tuck in the sheet on the end so our feet are free from pinching. You can imagine the fun whenever I sleep in a bed not my own. I barely fit diagonally across a queen. Standard twins are a joke. The funniest was just last year when I volunteered as a cabin leader for my church’s week long junior high camp. Thanks to a triple mattress stack I was able to hang my feet over the end of the bed despite a short footboard. A close second was our wedding night. We were gifted a stay at a lovely old B&B mansion and were excited to check out the in-room jacuzzi and King size bed. Only the jacuzzi wasn’t really long enough to actually get my whole body in the water and the beautiful “sleigh” style bed frame meant that it wasn’t long enough to sleep in. No big deal, it was my wedding night, after all. (nudge-nudge, wink-wink…)

Dating. When I was in high school I was researching for a report at the local library. (For those of you not old enough to remember, before the internet and Google and computerized everything, students had to actually go to a library to do research. We used things like card-catalogs and actual books and note cards. And microfiche machines.) While I was quietly minding my own business an elderly man (guessing mid-70s) approached me and looked me up and down and leaned in real close and half-whispered to me, “I suppose you go for tall girls, right?”. I kid you not. I didn’t know this guy and he was really asking me about my preference for tall girls. I think I stammered some sort of “Yessir” response that was enough to send him on his merry way, chuckling to himself for being so clever. I also recall the awkwardness of dancing with girls who were not very tall. At one camp in particular, a week-long co-ed camp for high school seniors-to-be who were interested in becoming teachers, there was a dance on the last evening. Of the nearly 100 attendees that week there were only about a dozen of us guys. Talk about the odds being ever in my favor! Needless to say, I had girls asking me to dance with them. And anyone who knows me knows that I can’t dance. I’ll try. I’ll embarrass myself. But. I. Can’t. Dance. But I can slow dance. That’s relatively easy and hard to mess up. Except if the girl is 5’1″ and the guy is 6’6″. (I grew 1 1/2 inches in college.) Then it’s a little on the weird side. Tough to dance without looking inappropriate. I love that my wife is 5’11”. Interestingly enough, people that knew her before we started dating thought that she was tall. Until they met me and saw me next to her.

Guess what? I'm in the very back row!

Guess what? I’m in the very back row!

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One of these is not like the others!

Pictures. I’m always in back. I could probably wear only underwear and no one would ever know by looking at 95% of all group pictures in which I’ve been a participant. (Why can’t I write like I talk and not care about using a dangling participle?) “Line up shortest to tallest” is the easiest directive for this guy. Walk to the back and laugh at everyone eyeing up who is taller/shorter. I’ll be in back. Always. I also sometimes forget just how big I am compared to “normal” sized people. Just last month at the NAHDN Convention in Denver I had the opportunity to mingle with over 100 other SAHDs from around the U.S. and Canada. My buddy Chris (SAHD and blogger at DadNCharge) is 6’7″ and we decided to take a picture with our friend Lorne (SAHD and blogger at Raising Sienna) at the request of his family. Lorne isn’t tiny as much as Chris and I are really, really tall. We literally dwarfed poor Lorne. After more than 20 years of being so crazy tall, I guess I sometimes forget that I’m probably the tallest person most people actually know. Sure, you might see a random really tall person somewhere or on TV, but to actually be right next to that person and interact with him/her is a bit different.

I hope you don’t get the wrong message about being tall. I absolutely love it. Sure, there are challenges in being crazy tall. I didn’t even discuss stuff like buying clothes, driving cars, finding “hidden” junk on top of people’s fridges, accidentally crashing into others with my long limbs, having tall kids, and the expectation of leadership just because I’m tall. It comes with the territory, I suppose. As a people-person I love that my height can serve as an ice-breaker and I often see the humor in such encounters with people I might not otherwise interact with. (I left it dangling!) I know that this post was really long, but, considering the source, you would’t expect anything shorter, right?

If you made it this far and found this post even remotely entertaining and worth your time, please consider leaving me a comment, liking it or, gasp, sharing with your friends. Thanks!