Newton’s Laws of Parenting?

Before I became a Stay At Home Dad I was a teacher. I taught fifth grade for one year and then seventh grade science for five more years. I absolutely loved my teaching job as I was paid to get hormonally-challenged 12 and 13 year olds excited about science. Why would I love that? Because I got paid to blow things up and/or light stuff on fire. Okay, there was also a lot of actual scientific stuff but that’s not the point. Despite my love for fire (safety, of course!), my favorite unit of the year was the six weeks we spent on Physics, studying Newton’s Laws of Motion, among other things. I’m guessing that many of you are having trouble reading this because your eyes are starting to glaze over at the mere mention of science. Please, stay with me. I promise I’ll try to make it fun. You might even recall learning about Sir Isaac Newton, that famous guy who is credited with “discovering” gravity when he observed an apple fall from a tree. Sadly, it didn’t actually fall on his head like those Saturday morning cartoons portrayed it.

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He also contributed mightily to the Scientific Revolution of the 17th Century in the fields of mathematics, physics and philosophy. You might also remember learning about Newton’s Laws of Motion. Words like inertia, force, mass, acceleration, rest, motion, action, reaction. I’ll wait for you to rub your eyes. Ready? Here’s where I hope it gets fun. It dawned on me recently that Newton’s Laws of Motion could easily be applied to parenting, especially if you happen to have teenagers in your house. So,buckle up! (Yeah, that was a nerdy Newton reference. Seat belts.)

Newton’s First Law, also called the Law of Inertia. Simply put, a body at rest stays at rest and a body in motion stays in motion, unless acted upon by another force. This could be renamed the Law of Sleeping In. Or the Law of Not Helping With Chores. Or the Law of Netflix. If you have teenagers in your life then you know that asking them to do anything before noon during the summer or weekend is pretty much not going to happen. Unless it’s something that they want to do, in which case they can be up and at ’em by 7 am or earlier. Trip to Six Flags leaves at 6:30 am? No problem. Could you please take out the trash by 8 am? No way. I’ll be sleeping. The motion part of this applies to toddlers/preschoolers. Once they’re awake it’s GO TIME! There is no slowing them down. They run (or crawl) everywhere. Sit down to eat? Maybe for a couple of minutes but they’re going to be squirming the whole time. Stop playing and go use the potty? Not a chance. And don’t bother trying to get them to wash their hands. And don’t get me started on bed time. Ha! Of course, Newton understood something that we as parents often forget. We have power. Use the force! (Wrong force, but I had to drop that in there.) Amazingly enough, we can help direct our children to change what they’re doing through a variety of methods, hopefully more creative and kinder than using actual force. Unless you lick your hand…it’s a joke my 10 year old taught me. Be the force that changes lives for the better.

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His Second Law states that Force = mass x acceleration. You unknowingly apply this truth whenever you drive your car or even toss a ball to your child. If you want your car to go faster you need to press the gas pedal giving it more force. If you want to throw the ball down the hall so your kid has to go farther to retrieve it so you can play several turns on Candy Crush (shame on you, pay attention to you kid!) then you know that you have to use a small ball (less mass) and throw it with enough force. Hopefully you have good aim. But how does this apply to parenting? It doesn’t. It’s about motion. Kidding. Really, though, I like to think of this as showing that you don’t always have to use a lot of force to be a good parent. Sometimes being strong and forceful isn’t what’s needed. Maybe your kid needs you to lighten up a little bit and change the pace from the usual big bad wolf parenting that’s easily assumed. Run around with them. Have a sense of humor. Keep them on their toes. Be quick-witted. Push them to succeed without being oppressive. It’s a delicate balance that may need to be tweaked daily. If you’re too heavy-handed in your approach then you might force your child away. By the same token, you can draw your children to you (think of it as a reverse force or gravity) if you’re full of love and joy and patience.

The Third Law is the Action-Reaction Law. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” It’s rocket science. Really. Balloons whooshing through the air if you let go of the untied end after blowing it up. It’s that toy that you see with five steel balls in a row suspended by string. One of my favorite toys from my grandparents’ house when I was a kid. This one is pretty easy to apply to parenting. Ever try to tell a toddler or teenager “no”? What’s the usual response? They do the opposite. Please don’t eat the dog food. Chomp. Chomp. Please set the table. Please leave your brother/sister alone. I suppose it’s all part of the push for independence in our kids. At some point they’re probably going to have to make decisions on their own and they won’t always be the ones we would choose for them. But, here’s the thing. As parents, we can help guide the direction of our young “rockets”. They don’t have to be like the aimless balloon going crazy all over the place. With some self-control and perhaps a fair amount of tongue-biting we can help give some direction to our children, starting when they’re young and innocent and continuing on all they way into their teenage years and beyond. My oldest is 19 and moved out two days after graduating from high school about 14 months ago. Yet, my parenting with her is not finished. She still calls and texts me (almost daily!) to ask for advice or simply to talk. Just because she’s not living at home now doesn’t mean my job is finished. My influence may not be as evident with her now as it is with my toddler, preschooler or my school-age children still at home, but it’s still significant. And all six of my kids are watching my actions just as much as I’m watching their reactions. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, our actions influence the lives of our children.

I hope my nerdy application of Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion to modern parenting was as entertaining for you as it was in my mind. If you like my action here, please give me some reaction by commenting, liking or sharing this across social media.

50 More Things That Are More Offensive Than Nursing In Public

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August 1-7 marked World Breastfeeding Week and there were numerous articles that shared a variety of viewpoints about breastfeeding. As a 13 year Stay At Home Dad of six I’ve been my wife’s biggest supporter in her desire to breastfeed each of our children for as long as they choose. She has received many dirty looks or sideways glances from people who somehow think her choice to nurse our child is somehow offensive when done in public. The reality is that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and not at all offensive, even in public! In fact, there are many things in life that are truly more offensive than a woman nursing in public (NIP for those that like acronyms). Almost two months ago I came up with a sarcastic and light-hearted list of 50 Things That Are More Offensive Than Nursing In Public. It quickly became the most-viewed post of my fledgling blog, Big Cheese Dad. Many people added suggestions and I held on to them in anticipation of this post. So, thanks to the collective creative genius of my friends and readers, I am happy to present, 50 More Things That Are More Offensive Than Nursing In Public. As always, please like, comment and share if you enjoyed this list.

  1.  People who have no idea what they want when the get to the register at Starbucks. In store or drive through.
  2. People who drink all but the last couple of swallows of milk and put the jug back in the fridge instead of rinsing and recycling.
  3. People who don’t know how to merge or won’t let you in when you’re trying to merge. You’re supposed to use the gas pedal to merge, not the brake! Ever hear of the “zipper method”? I’m just getting started with drivers. Ugh.
  4. People who congratulate women who aren’t pregnant on their pregnancies (just fat, thanks). <<—her quote, don’t get mad at me!
  5. Backwash. If you’ve ever given your toddler a drink of your water or juice you know exactly what I mean. And exactly what they were just eating. It will be floating in your beverage. Drink up!
  6. Helicopter moms (or dads) at the playground. Let your kids play and explore and have fun. They can do it without you hovering.
  7. When my kids complain about being bored while on summer vacation. Really? I can find you a chore or 50! And, adults who complain about being bored. Really? You’re an adult. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
  8. People touching your baby. DON’T! She just got better after a week of a runny nose and you’re not going to start that again. Do you know how hard it is for a baby to nurse that has a plugged nose?
  9. Wearing socks with sandals. I thought that was standard here in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Ask my kids. Actually, don’t. Nothing I do is cool by them.
  10. Guys who think they’re really funny and could do stand up comedy because of that one funny “that’s what she said” joke made by the water cooler that one time.
  11. People who think a pregnant belly in public is an invitation to touch it. When tempted to reach out and touch a belly, channel your inner MC Hammer and think: U CAN’T TOUCH THIS!
  12. People who leave grocery carts in parking spaces instead of walking the 20 feet to put it away. Lifestyle exercise is okay.
  13. Hitting or slapping a child. Disturbingly ironic when done to punish that child for crying or hitting or slapping someone else.
  14. School. Especially math. Who needs it really? Can’t I just ask Siri what 25% off is instead of actually using my brain?
  15. Smokers who think the world is the trash can for their butts.
  16. The Detroit Lions. Submitted by a Michigan resident. This Packers fan won’t disagree. I purposely made this one #16.
  17. Flossing teeth in public. Really, any personal hygiene in public. That includes mining for gold while driving. And, please, don’t eat that booger. Unless you’re a toddler, and even then it’s gross.
  18. Drivers who don’t respect pedestrians or bicyclists.
  19. People who don’t pick up after their dogs. On walks in the neighborhood or at the dog park. You’re giving the rest of us a bad reputation.
  20. Public selfies. At every single tourist spot. Stop already.
  21. E-cigs. And the rude people who try to push them on you at the mall.
  22. Cell phone usage while in the bathroom. We can tell where you are by the echo. Dead giveaway.
  23. Guys texting while standing at the urinal. Put it down and wait. And by it I meant the phone.
  24. Parents who leave their young kids alone in the car. No matter the weather. It’s not worth it. I’m going to call 911…and I probably won’t wait even five minutes if it’s really hot or really cold.
  25. Parents who smoke while their kids are in the car.
  26. Parents who are louder than their kids. Just because we’re bigger doesn’t mean we have to talk over them.
  27. Victoria’s Secret. If you think Nursing In Public shows too much breast then you MUST have an issue with this company. Walk through a mall and you’ll see what I mean.
  28. When people in the back of the plane stand up as soon as the seat belt sign is turned off. You’re in back. You’re not getting off this plane for at least 10 minutes. Sit down. And stop sighing so dramatically.
  29. Saying the F-word and other vulgarities in family-friendly places like grocery stores, parks and swimming pools. My kid doesn’t need to hear that.
  30. Neighbors or relatives who make rude insinuations about your parenting choices or abilities without coming right out and saying it. Passive-aggressive anyone?
  31. This is for my wife…When the new TV show that you discovered and think is really cool and decide that you’re going to follow gets cancelled after only one season. Talking about you, Journeyman and Alcatraz. Yet, we have how many reality-TV shows and game shows?
  32. Candy Crush Saga notifications/invitations. Or Farmville. Or whatever game you’re playing. Waste your own time. Not mine.
  33. People who don’t follow the “walk left, stand right” concept on escalators and moving sidewalks. Or those who stand in the middle, clogging it for all.
  34. Wisconsin drivers in Illinois. (from the Illinois guy, of course)
  35. FIBs driving in Wisconsin. You know you’re from Wisconsin if you understand the reference. Mom, don’t click that link. It’s rude. No, I don’t use it. 🙂
  36. Traffic circles. No. Actually, people who treat traffic circles like a stop sign and always stop.
  37. People who wear yoga pants or sweats or sweaty workout clothes to the store. Too much. Or too little, I guess.
  38. People who show up late for something holding a Starbucks (or other establishment) bought coffee.
  39. People on their phones at cash registers. Or at the doctor’s office. Whatever happened to common courtesy?
  40. People who throw gum on the ground or in urinals. And it’s always the nice or new shoes that attract the gooey gum.
  41. People on their smart phones while at a red light who wait an extra 5-10 seconds to go once the light turns green. And they’re always in front of me. BEEP!
  42. People who try to outrun emergency vehicles. Or those too oblivious to see/hear them to get out of the way.
  43. People who are ungrateful for their jobs in this tough economy. So it’s not your dream job. At least you have a job.
  44. People in restrooms (public or my own house!) who don’t flush. Related, why must people be so nasty in public restrooms? Feces on the walls and TP everywhere? Give me a break.
  45. The South’s obsession with the Confederate Flag/Pride. Y’all do understand the meaning behind it, right?
  46. Waiting rooms. Snotty kids. Loud cell phone talkers. Old and germ-infested magazines. TV on a station no one wants.
  47. The price of gasoline. Which pretty much affects the cost everything else.
  48. The rapid decline of manners in most people. Saying please and thank you and being pleasant is just as easy as being pushy and demanding and patient.
  49. Our general obsession with boobs that fuels multimillion dollar plastic surgery and lingerie industries while at the same time interfering with the primary and most important function of said boobs.
  50. Anyone who thinks that a woman breastfeeding her child is flaunting her breast or her sexuality in everyone else’s face. She doesn’t need to cover up. Maybe it’s too hot. Maybe her baby won’t eat properly with a cover. It doesn’t matter. Ultimately, it’s none of your business. Look away if you’re so offended. But don’t harass the mom and her baby. She’s feeding her child the way God intended. Leave her alone.

If you agree that women need to feel empowered to nurse in public please share this list across social media platforms. I’d love to be a small part of the growing support for all moms (and dads!) to care for their babies as they see fit and without public scorn.

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Special thanks to the following people (listed in order of appearance, some with multiple entries) who contributed ideas to the list above: Josh Gloer, Kathleen Cleg, Allison Tedford, David Wallach, James Ward, Scott Posey, Benjamin Mullen, Jonathan Criswell, Dawn Rubbert, Cuda Mitchell, Marty Josephson, Bryan Alkire, Laura Hargis, Kelly Berg, Kathy Robinson, Kathy Lehman, Marty Josephson, Trish Sheikh, Tony Hernandez, Jeff Tepper, Eric Williams, Michelle Swank, Jessie Johnson, Janet Crum.

10 Lessons from Two Weeks in Europe

I’m typing this from my comfy Eurostar train seat in the Chunnel under the English Channel, heading for London. My daughter and I have been away from home since 25 June and we go home again 15 July. We’ve had an amazing trip with stops in Brussels, Munich, Salzburg, Venice, Rome, Florence, Milan, Paris and London. Being a long time fan of a certain late night host (don’t want to name names in case it’s a copyright infringement), here are my Top Ten Lessons Learned from Two Weeks in Europe.

  1. Mass transit is awesome. We’ve used trains to get all over Europe and it’s been a pleasant and efficient way to travel. There’s no way we could’ve traveled to so many countries if I had been trying to drive us all over the place. While it’s not cheap, it’s nice not to have to drive or worry about finding parking. It’s also great to be able to take a short nap on the train, which is generally frowned upon while driving. Getting used to the nuances of each city’s system was another story, but we usually got the general hang of it by the second day.
  2. I really appreciate the availability of bathrooms in most restaurants and stores in the U.S. that are clean and free. Having to pay to use a Water Closet is overrated.
  3. Europeans smoke. A lot. Everywhere. It’s really annoying. Ok, let me put this in a positive light. I am so thankful for the “no smoking” laws in the States. While there are still many instances in the US where I encounter second-hand smoke it’s nothing compared to here.
  4. Holy cow is Europe ever expensive! Or, maybe the US Dollar just sucks. Either way, YIKES! How much would you expect to pay for a 20 oz. bottle of Coke in the US, maybe $1.75 or $2? Try double that (or more) over here. Drink water instead. Except…there are not very many drinking fountains (bubblers for some of you) to fill up water bottles. There were a bunch in Italy, but not so much in the other countries we visited. And I really don’t care for buying bottled water for my daily travels or even when dining out. Speaking of dining out…
  5. Ordering a meal from a waitress who doesn’t speak English is a bit difficult. And I wish it wasn’t so awkward to ask if the tip is included in the bill. I did find out from a restaurant employee in Florence (on our last day in Italy, of course) that “Italians never tip” since it’s included in the bill. Yet, in France it wasn’t. Or was it? I really don’t know because I got two different answers from two workers in the same Irish establishment in Paris. Come on Europe, make up your mind. I don’t want to be rude but I also don’t want to be a sucker and tip when it’s already been included.
  6. Tourists are easy marks. We stick out even if we try to blend in. There’s no way around it. Embrace it and be prepared to get asked for money by every beggar in every Metro station. And whatever you do, don’t accept flowers from a nice guy in a public area. He’s not being nice. He’s going to expect you to pay him for his, um, “niceness”. Same for the girl in the train station who will find you wandering in the station and ask you sweetly if she can help you. If you let her help you out then you can expect she’s not helping you simply out of the goodness of her heart. She’s going to expect to be paid for her 5-10 minutes of assistance. Although, if you look at it as a chance to skip the long lines at the ticket counter and a learning opportunity (how to use the automated ticket machine) then it’s not such a bad deal. Be warned.
  7. Sandals might not have been the best idea for a three week trip. Not because there’s so much walking. Nope, they’ve been just fine for all the walking. Because they stink. Literally. Probably doesn’t help that I’ve gotten them wet from the rainy places and they’ve never fully dried out. My shoes and feet are so smelly every evening that I have to wash my feet with soap and water and put the offending footwear as far away from my daughter as possible. I also douse them with baby powder nightly. Still doesn’t fully cover the smell. Oops. I’d consider buying some shoes but doubt I could find anything in a size 16.
  8. Basketball is a universal language. I saw some teenagers playing hoops at a park near our hotel in Paris and watched them for a few minutes. A few of them approached me and invited me to play with them. They were enamored with my height (over 2 meters!) and ability to dunk without much effort (yay 9’ rim) despite wearing my stinky sandals. One boy gave me the nickname of “Easy” because I kept making so many mid and long range jumpers without much (apparent) effort. They also wanted to know if I knew LeBron James because we’re both from America.
  9. Sometimes after waiting in line for an hour or two to enter a specific tourist attraction (that happens to be historical) it doesn’t live up to expectations. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Vatican/Sistine Chape, Mona Lisa and Palace of Versailles. Sometimes it does click (Eiffel Tower, Venice, David statue) and it makes it all worth it. You just never know.
  10. I’m pretty sure that people taking selfies EVERYWHERE is just about as annoying as all the smokers ruining the nice clean air I want to breathe. Of course, if you can’t snap your mug in front of whatever thing you’re seeing and post it on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter then it didn’t really happen, right?

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Note: I typed this on 10 July but neglected to post it until now (14 July) because we were having so much fun in London.

A Chance To Pay It Forward

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I started blogging about nine months ago. During that time I’ve shared a lot of stories about my family and how being a full time Stay At Home Dad has challenged me to be a better man, husband and father. I’ve blogged about some of the triumphs and some of the failures that I’ve experienced as a parent. I’ve written about some current events and even shared the story of the Frehley, the eleven year old daughter of my friend AJ who has inoperable brain cancer. Frehley’s story really gave me pause, as it is a parent’s worst nightmare, to see your child get sick and hear the terrible words, “There’s nothing more medically that we can do other than to keep her comfortable.” Well, unfortunately, at the end of May, the founder and creator of a dad-blogger group/community that I’ve been a part of was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer. My friend, Oren Miller, happens to also be a SAHD. He has a wife and two young children. The “normal” life expectancy for his diagnosis is roughly 12 months. That hit home for me in a big way. Here’s a guy who gave up his career to be Daddy and, barring a miracle, his children are soon going to be without their Daddy. Just typing that makes me choke up at the very thought.

So, why am I telling you this? Here is an opportunity for you (yes, YOU!) to get involved. Oren and his wife, Beth, have not asked anyone for help. In fact, shortly after receiving his devastating news, Oren wrote one of the most beautiful and moving pieces I’ve ever read. It is because of the love and courage that Oren has always shown – even in the face of such adversity – that one of the guys in the Dad Blog group thought it would be cool if our group of roughly 800 guys could raise $5,000 to send Oren and his family on a nice vacation this summer. That goal was reached within 12 hours. So, the bar has been raised several times and now donations have surpassed $25,000, with a new goal of $35,000. This money is going to help pay for Oren’s medical treatments, to put some money away for his kids and to help pay for some memorable family experiences this summer.

Often there’s a stigma attached to people who ask for help or need help. Let’s put that aside and realize that this is simply a chance to make a difference for a hurting family. Even if you don’t know Oren personally (I haven’t met him, but I’ve still been impacted by his friendship and leadership), chances are pretty good that you have a friend or relative who had cancer. Maybe you could make a donation as a way to honor the memory of that loved one. Or, maybe, just do it out of the goodness of your heart. Every bit helps. In this case, the GiveForward site has generously offered to donate an additional $25 for every blog about Oren that links to his donation site, up to 40. That’s an additional $1,000 just for taking the time to write. Think about how much more we could help if we actually got involved. Don’t be afraid to step out and give. There’s this phenomenon that’s commonly called bystander apathy.

This  phenomenon refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. –Startups and Burritos blog

If you’re willing to step out from the crowd and share your blessings with Oren and his family please click here to donate at the GiveForward site. If you’re unable to give financially at this time, I know that Oren and his family would welcome any and all prayers and healing thoughts. As always, please share this with others who might be willing to help make the magic happen.

No Thanks, Hallmark

Sunday marked the 20th time that I was fortunate enough to celebrate Father’s Day as a father. It also marked the lamest Father’s Day that I can recall. But that’s okay. I’ve come to accept that reality. All day long my Facebook newsfeed was filled with dozens, if not hundreds, of friends writing beautiful posts that honored the men in their lives as wonderful and amazing fathers and husbands. Many of my friends in the blogging community wrote marvelous pieces about their own dads in the weeks leading up to this Hallmark holiday. If you’ve read my blog you know that I’m not much of a fan of these contrived holidays that try to guilt people into buying Mom or Dad expensive stuff or cards as the way to express their love. Instead, I’m all about actually telling your loved ones how you feel and spending time with them. Gifts are not necessary if you’re showing your loved ones how much you care more than just one day a year!

That said, I think it’s nice to recognize moms and dads and to make them feel extra special and extra appreciated for all that they do for us. Again, it’s not about the commercialization of it, but rather about meaningful and purposeful interactions. The commercial lead-up to Mother’s Day is all about giving Mom a break, pampering her with a trip to a spa, showing her how much she means to her family. By contrast, it seems as though Father’s Day is all about Dad spending time with his family. Grilling. Going to a ball game or the beach. Hanging out at the pool. Doing “manly” stuff with the family. What’s interesting to note, though, is how we Stay At Home Dads are treated on Father’s Day. For many of us, Father’s Day is just another day. We still do our regular day-to-day things. Cooking. Cleaning. Laundry. Childcare. Same old same old. My wife remembered that it was Father’s Day shortly after we woke up and wished me a happy Father’s Day while waving our one year old’s hand at me. My other kids each verbally told me the same when they saw me the first time that morning. But that was pretty much the extent of any “celebration” at home. Lots of people at church wished me a happy Father’s Day and said some very nice things about me as a person and as a father. And then it was back home, where I fed the kids lunch, changed more diapers, unloaded the dishwasher and finally sat on the sofa, holding my baby in my arms as she fell asleep for her afternoon nap. My wife arrived home from work mid-nap so we chatted for a little bit, which was nice, considering it’s not often that all the kids are quiet at the same time and we’re awake and able to converse. Once my baby awoke I loaded and started the second load of dishes in the dishwasher. Then I made a spectacular dinner of cedar plank grilled Alaskan salmon and noodles to go with freshly-picked sugar snap peas from our garden. As we were eating our dinner the kids were discussing the tasty salmon.

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This is really good. Almost as good as a restaurant. Don’t you agree?

My wife actually indicated that it might have been even better than any salmon she’s ever had from a restaurant. It was as close to a compliment that I was going to get, and it made me feel so much better. Of course, running through my head moments later was the long list of stuff that still needed to get done before I went to bed. Among them was unloading and reloading (for the third time in 24 hours) the dishwasher. Putting away the dinner leftovers. Doing the hand-wash dishes. Tidying up the rest of the clutter on the main floor. Oh, and helping my daughter put the finishing touches on her World War I diorama. And, I really wanted to find some time to write since it had been a week since my last post. I was actually starting to resent the fact that no one was making a big deal about me today. I working up some seriously (self-) righteous indignation about my “perceived” injustice of this lame Father’s Day. It was after helping with the diorama that I showered my baby and then snuggled her to sleep on the sofa (again). Since I was immobile then, I checked in on Facebook. I read a thread to a group of SAHDs, some of whom were also having to cook and clean and take care of their kids on this Special Day. Then I read a post from Chris Routly of Daddy Doctrines blog, a fellow SAHD and blogger, a guy I’m fortunate enough to call a friend. Here are his words, used with his permission.

Just want to wish all of you, my stay-at-home-brothers, a huge Happy Father’s Day. I hope you’ve been spoiled and showered with encouragement and recognition for the important role you play.

That said, I know that for many of us, today is a bittersweet day, where what we contribute EVERY day of the year is mostly overlooked while we see dads get honored for being breadwinners and providers, not for their ability and willingness to put the needs of their child before their own. For some of us the only difference today was we maybe got a card, but not a lot of specific thanks of recognition. Somehow many of us still ended up cooking and cleaning and minding the kids.

And so I just want to let you know that WE all see what you do. WE appreciate your hard work and sacrifice and the often thankless nature of this role you’ve taken on.

The truth is, we’re a lucky bunch. Many, many working dads look forward to Father’s Day not so much for a gift or a steak or maybe a little action between the sheets, but because it means he gets to unabashedly delight in his kids for a day.

Us? We get to do that every day.

Happy Father’s Day, brothers.

There is was. TRUTH. PERSPECTIVE. I needed the reminder that I don’t do what I do for the recognition from others. Not even my own family. Yet, I do it for my family. It’s the role that I chose 14 years ago and choose to continue to choose now and for the foreseeable future. I am blessed with a hard-working wife who has a great job which allows me the opportunity to be home with our children. I get to be active and involved in the lives of my kids. I am exponentially closer to them because I’m a SAHD than I would be if were going off to work every day outside of the house. And the reality is, I do delight in my kids every single day. We laugh and love all the time. I am constantly entertained by them and their silly senses of humor. So, Hallmark can keep its cards. I don’t need any card or t-shirt to tell me that I’m the “World’s Greatest Dad” or “#1 Dad”. Nope. All I needed was right in front of me the whole time. I just wasn’t seeing it properly. Snuggling with my baby like that while she napped was exactly where I needed to be at that moment. Truly, I’m blessed beyond belief to be called “Daddy” by my six wonderful children.

Five Days in June

At 7:29 am, on June 5, 2013, our sixth child entered this world and officially became a part of our family. Five days later, almost to the minute, our oldest moved out. What happened in between was a flurry of emotions and pomp and circumstance. Literally. That fifth day in June, a Wednesday, was our oldest daughter’s last day of school at Stadium High. She was excited to be finishing this chapter of her life even though she didn’t have definite plans for her future. But before her final day could even begin my wife began having contractions at 4:30 am. She woke me at about 5:00 to inform me of the immediate change of our plans for that day…and if I wanted a shower NOW was the time to take it. After getting dressed I helped her pack the bag for the hospital, alerted my sleeping mom (who had just arrived the previous day from Wisconsin) and escorted my wife to the car for the drive to the hospital. That drive to the hospital was supposed to take about 12 minutes. It took us closer to 30 minutes because I had to pull over every 2-4 minutes so she could get out of the car and endure the next set of contractions. I’m pretty sure her shrieking really freaked out some guy sitting quietly at a bus stop about 20 feet away during one of the stops. Being a doctor herself, my wife didn’t want to go through the “normal” route to Labor & Delivery, instead choosing to park in the doctor’s lot and walk through the basement to the elevators. Several contractions and concerned looks from hospital employees later we found ourselves at the L&D desk. After a few minutes in the waiting room, where we shrieked out another family, we finally got roomed. Baby J didn’t wait very long to make her appearance once we were settled there. In fact, the doctor on call barely made it back to the room to catch her. Even though I’d been blessed to be a part of five other deliveries, I teared up when she was born and thanked God for the health of mother and child. There is something truly beautiful and miraculous about childbirth. Amazingly enough, this was the first and only delivery in which it was only the two of us in the room with our new baby (and medical team, of course). For each of the other five births we had a gallery of family and friends in the delivery room with us. Pretty sure one of them was standing room only. So, there was something particularly tender about sharing this moment with just my wife and our new baby daughter.

Baby J only a few minutes old.

After a few minutes of gazing at this new child, I called home to tell the good news of Baby J’s arrival. I texted a picture of her and our almost three year old was rather unimpressed with the “cheese” on her new baby sister. We assured her that it would wash off and that made her feel a little bit better. The rest of the morning was spent resting in the room, recovering from the early start and the physical exertion of shoving out delivering a 10 pound baby! After lunch, my oldest (remember, she was at school) texted me, wondering if I was going to pick her up at 2:15 as usual. Since her school was visible from the hospital, I told her that I could drive the few blocks to get her but that she’d have to come back with me to the room. She was excited to meet her baby sister and pleased with the knowledge that she would be the first sibling to make her acquaintance. Her friend Blanca wasn’t too upset to be along for the meet and greet. By about 4 pm we had been given the clearance to go home, so we slowly made our way back down to the car and packed our baby in for the much shorter ride home.

Bringing Baby J home to meet the excited family.

We were greeted at home by four extremely excited siblings and two equally excited grandmothers. It was certainly fortuitous timing that they both arrived (one from Wisconsin and one from Florida) the previous day in advance of my oldest daughter’s Saturday graduation. It’s mostly a blur for me, but I know that we ate an early dinner before departing for my daughter’s softball game about an hour later. It was kind of odd to be watching her play not even 12 hours after watching my baby make her grand entrance. I’m pretty sure I slept well that first night. Thursday and Friday passed without major events. In order to give my wife and baby quiet time together, I took my toddler and our visitors out for much of each day to see some of the local sights. I felt a little bit guilty, that somehow I was neglecting my duties as a SAHD, but my wife assured me that peace and quiet were much appreciated so that she could nurse and nap, uninterrupted. I guess the biggest event was the gradation dress rehearsal for my oldest at the Tacoma Dome. We were spoiled by the presence of both grandmas, who took over cooking, cleaning and childcare while they were visiting. That allowed us to focus on bonding with our new baby. I believe I bonded with her a few times in the form of her napping on my chest while I napped on the sofa. Even now, she’s still Daddy’s girl. Don’t tell my wife.

Saturday was sunny and warm, perfect weather for an indoor graduation ceremony. We arrived at the venue all dressed up and ready to cheer on our graduate. After finding 10 seats together (no small task) we sat down, unprepared for the emotions that were about to seize us. It was quite surreal for me to watch my oldest walking with her friend into the arena while holding my three day old baby almost literally in the palm of my hand.

The graduate holding her baby sister

The graduate holding her baby sister

It was like two worlds colliding. Both filled with so much hope and excitement yet at such different places in life. At some point during the ceremony I made eye contact with my wife and noticed that she, like me, was quite teary. For me, it was a combination of relief and pride and hope. Relief that our daughter had graduated. It’s no secret that her math class (which was needed for graduation) was a major challenge that wasn’t fully resolved until a few days before graduation. And pride. Pride knowing that our daughter had made it this far and pride in successfully raising and guiding a smart, secure and talented young lady to this point in her life. And hope. Hope for her future, as uncertain as it was a year ago. Hope and a belief that she would successfully find her own way in life. After the graduation ceremony we took lots of pictures and then went out for dinner at our favorite local Mexican restaurant to celebrate our daughter’s accomplishment.

Since both grandmothers were in Washington at the same time and our oldest daughter was still “home”, we were allowed a special baby dedication ceremony at our church on Sunday morning. It was a special opportunity for our church family to meet our tiny bundle of joy and rejoice with us. After church was over we said our goodbyes to Florida Grandma and her husband and returned home for more rest and relaxation for mom and baby. I took my mom (Wisconsin Grandma) and three of our kids to Northwest Trek wildlife park. We had a great time learning about and observing the many animals. Perhaps the highlight of the visit was my almost three year old losing her Croc shoe in the water of the bobcat exhibit. It was retrieved for us by a park ranger and returned with the warning, “This should be sterilized before anyone touches it.” But, I digress. While we were at NW Trek, our graduate was busily gathering her belongings and packing what she was taking with her in some large canvas duffel bags. Her plane was scheduled to leave the next morning. It was getting real. My oldest was moving out. There was no stopping her. No last minute change of heart. I don’t even remember what her “last supper” was but I do know that we finished off that evening with s’mores over the campfire in the backyard fire pit.

We hit the road relatively early on Monday morning to get my oldest daughter and Wisconsin Grandma to SeaTac Airport on time. I was determined to not lose it until she left. I almost made it. As I was unloading the last of her bags on to the curb I could feel the tears start to build. We posed for a couple last pictures together before she headed into her future.

So long. Farewell.

So long. Farewell.

It was not lost on me that I dropped her off at almost the exact same time that her baby sister had been born five days earlier. As I pulled away from the curb my emotions washed over me like a wave crashing on the shore. I pulled off at the end of the drop off area and cried. Just. Cried. Through the tears I had the presence to thank God for allowing me to be her Daddy for those first 18 years. And now, with her leaving the safety of our home, I was releasing her into God’s care. While I know that she’ll always be my little girl and that I’ll always be her daddy, there was such a fierce emotion that was released when the finality of her life at home came to be a reality. After a few minutes I had gained my composure enough to drive home where I held my baby and kissed her head.

Fight Like A Girl: A Matter of Perspective

Monday night I opened up the laptop and sat down to write a blog entry. I’d been kicking around a few ideas for a good rant. I thought about writing my thoughts about the terrible shooting in Santa Barbara, California last Friday and the related issues of misogyny, mental illness and gun control. I also considered going off about my lousy backyard neighbor whose puppy escaped his yard and attacked several of my chickens in my backyard earlier in the day. I even considered unloading some thoughts about parents who shout and scream at their children in public as their form of discipline. Yet, nothing really worked for me as I sat there. My heart and mind just weren’t in it. Instead of trudging onward I closed the laptop and went to bed. As I laid there, I realized what I needed to write about; what was bothering me. It was the status update of my friend, AJ.

Well, results of Frehley’s MRI last Friday have shown that the tumors are continuing to grow…. It was our last visit at children’s hospital today, there is nothing more they can do on a medicine point of view. We will truly miss the oncology team at Childrens, they have been our saviors for the last 2+ yrs. They did say they may come for a home visit. As of today we will discontinue chemo meds and continue with just keeping Frehley comfortable. Lisa is taking the summer off of work to be with Frehley, She is doing ok….. we are working on a bucket list of things to do this summer. We will keep you posted on all our adventures. We continue to be in awe of all the support we receive from our friends, family and community. Please STAY STRONG FOR US we are going to need it.
Frehley is his 11 year old daughter. For more than two years she’s been bravely fighting a brain tumor. Her family and friends have rallied around her as she has received many treatments. Her friends started a Facebook page called “Stay Strong Frehley“. T-shirts were sold with the slogan “Fight Like a Girl” across the front. She even got to meet her idol, Selena Gomez. All in an effort to give Frehley encouragement and strength in her battle. While I’ve never met Frehley, I can tell you from following her story these last few years that she is one tough kid. Along with countless others, I’ve been praying for her to beat this. But, barring a miracle, she’s not going to win this battle. I cannot begin to imagine the wide spectrum of emotions AJ and his wife, Lisa, are experiencing right now as they are coming to terms with the fact that there is nothing more that can be done medically for their daughter. For me, as a father of six, I couldn’t imagine anything worse. I guess it took reading this terrible news about Frehley to shake me a bit, to help give me a little perspective. Those other blog topics can wait. They’re not really that important. I can write about them another time, if at all. But, for me, what really matters right now is thinking about what’s important in my life. It’s far too easy to take things like health and loved ones for granted. Sure, we’ve all lost loved ones, maybe even watched them die. We’ve all experienced times of sickness, maybe even extended sickness. But, for the most part, we’ve recovered and moved on with life. It would be easy to get depressed thinking about how sad it is that this young girl is going die way before her time. Instead, I’d like to challenge each of you, including myself, to use Frehley’s story as inspiration and motivation to shake out of the day-to-day routine and refocus yourself. Live. Love. Laugh. Appreciate. Make a family bucket list and start crossing items off as you make memories together.
While I’m not going to pretend to be close friends with AJ and his family, I can assure you that I’m going to continue praying for them as they go through this difficult time. Please note that I asked for and received permission from AJ before sharing Frehley’s story with you. Please share this story with others so that Frehley and her family may be encouraged. I’m sure that they would appreciate knowing that you’re staying strong for them, as well.

Water into Wine

I witnessed a crime before it happened but I didn’t do anything about it. Okay, maybe I’m getting the cart a little ahead of the horse, but not by much. Let me explain. On the way home from a doctor’s appointment I stopped at a market to pick up some locally-grown apples and pears. As we (my two youngest children and I) were driving out of the parking lot I happened to notice a man standing next to his car opening a bottle of wine (probably purchased at this market). What made this unusual sighting almost criminal was the empty water bottle sitting on the roof of his car next to where was standing. It didn’t really hit me as to what he was doing until I was almost a block away waiting to turn into traffic. Putting two and two together, I surmised that this guy was going to get behind the wheel of his car and drink from his water bottle while he was driving. Only he wasn’t going to be drinking water. This realization made me really mad as I immediately thought of my childhood friend Beth, who was killed by a drunk driver when she was only 12.

Sitting at a red light a couple of blocks later I thought about going back to confront the guy before he started driving. I decided not to go back for several reasons: he might already be gone; he could react violently and maybe pull out a gun; I had two young kids in the car with me; I had a lot to do in the next 2 hours before heading to the airport to get my brother; blah blah blah. But it didn’t feel right. As I thought about it more on the rest of my drive home I started to question why I chose to not say or do anything…and what that might say about me. I consider myself a person who is able to distinguish right from wrong and who is action-oriented. If I’m at the park with my kids and some teenagers come and start behaving obnoxiously or inappropriately, I don’t hesitate for a second to speak up. I do what I need to do to protect my kids. This situation was no different, really. While I didn’t technically witness any crime being committed, that man’s actions could have potentially injured others, including my kids. And yet, I was silent. Inactive.

I posted this scenario on my Facebook page and talked about it with my brother later on that afternoon. I think the consensus among them was that I should have intervened discreetly. Simply drive by him a second time, take a picture or video of him and his car and license plate, drive away and call 911. Inform the police and let them choose to get involved or not. It’s times like this where I find myself being more reflective as a parent and a human being. I’m not beating myself up over this situation but I’m learning from it. Hopefully it will better equip me for action down the road. What would you have done in this situation?

(This happened about six months ago and I wrote this post that evening but saved it as a draft…until now.)

Funerals Are Fun

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Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen several friends post on their blogs or Facebook pages about funerals and it caused me to think about my own experiences with them over the my 41 years of life. For me, funerals are fun. I mean, if it wasn’t for someone dying, I love enjoy going to them. Before you think I have some sort of weird and darkly morbid personality, consider my reasons for such a statement. First, it’s a family reunion of sorts. Nothing brings family together like a wedding or funeral. It’s an unfortunate chance to see and visit with many relatives who live in other parts of the country. In most of the funerals I attended in small towns in Wisconsin the actual ceremony was followed by a meal in the church’s fellowship hall. It was then that the gathered family (and friends) started to reminisce about the good old days with the dearly departed. Which is my second point. The sadness of death becomes a celebration of life as people share why or how they remember the “guest of honor”. I’ve learned so much family history from just listening to long-lost uncles from Milwaukee or Manitowoc tell their stories, each one trying to top the other. The amount of laughter was almost inappropriate considering it was at a funeral. I guess it was an early lesson about how to remember that a funeral doesn’t have to be a sad and somber time if you can use it as a chance to tell the story of the one you loved and miss. By the way, I don’t mean to diminish anyone who is sad and somber at a funeral. People grieve and mourn in different ways and speeds.

Third, you get to see how many lives are impacted by just one person. When my dad died seven years ago, I was amazed and a little surprised by how many people showed up for the visitation and funeral. I expected the family and friends…but I was blown away by the number of people who knew my dad professionally through his career working as a city employee in the public works department. Several guys came through the line and shook my hand, telling me that they never worked with someone who had such integrity. Others praised his tireless work ethic. Even former neighbors that hadn’t seen him in 20+ years showed up and shared nice memories of him. During the luncheon that was held after the ceremony, there was a microphone available for anyone to share a memory about my dad. It was moving to see people stand up and tell how he had impacted their lives.

Fourth, one word. HUGS! In case you missed it, I’m a big hugger. Literally and figuratively. I suppose it took the deaths of the two most important men in my life, my grandfather in 2005 and my father in 2007, for me to realize the power and importance of human touch, particularly the hug. For some reason, people don’t approach tall guys like me for hugs very often. But, hey, giants are people, too! Hugs are good for the body, mind and soul. Don’t wait for a funeral to give someone a hug, though.

Finally, funerals are inspirational. Hearing the stories and seeing how many people are impacted by just one life inspires me to be a better person. It makes me consider what I’m doing with my life and why I’m doing it. And any time I take to look inward and reflect for a few minutes is time well spent. It also gives me a chance to look around and see how many blessings I have in my life and to remember to not take them for granted. After all, you never know when your time is up, so say what needs to be said and live your life!

Honestly, Do The Right Thing

While at a local park last week my three year old daughter learned the hard way why it’s best to leave her toys in the car. Not even 15 minutes into our time there she had her purse full of goodies (lip stuff, a wooden fan and some hair things) stolen. She had set it down while playing on the swings with her friend and it was gone when she looked for it again a little later on. I’m assuming that another chid took it out of curiosity or envy. That doesn’t bother me as much as the idea that her parent was willing to basically condone that behavior by allowing the child to keep the purse that didn’t belong to her. If my child had done that, you can bet that she would have returned that purse the moment I discovered what she had done. Along with an apology. I’m a good teacher when it comes to apologizing. Lots of practice. Just ask my kids. Or my mom.

A friend of mine, Adrienne, posted on Facebook last week that the cashier at the gas station accidentally put her $45 in the wrong pump. No big deal, except that the person who benefitted from that mistake gladly pumped the extra gas before taking off. $50 of gas for only $5! Merry Christmas, right? Thankfully, my friend kept her cool with the cashier (way to go!) and eventually got reimbursed, so at least her story has a happy ending. During the two and a half years that we’ve lived here in Washington my wife’s car (a small SUV) has been hit three times by hit-and-run drivers while her car was parked. And there was not even as much as a note left. Just the calling card of the hit-and-run artist. I could go on and on, as I’m sure all of you readers could as well, sharing stories of times that we’ve been wronged, victims of other people’s inability unwillingness to do the right thing.

So, what’s the big deal? Why is it important to be honest and do the right thing? Does it really matter? I would argue that it does matter if we live lives of integrity and honesty. In general, as a society we depend of the decency of others in order to make it through our daily lives. Following traffic laws is a pretty easy example. Sure, I go 27 in a 25 zone (not in Fircrest, WA or Rosendale, WI, but that’s another story!) or slightly over the posted speed limit when I’m driving. But I stop at red lights and stop signs and such. You get the idea. And, for the most part, so does everyone else. And as a result, we can get around without too many problems. But I’d rather focus on the opportunities we have, as parents, to show our children how to live and how to do the right thing. After all, they’re always watching us, whether we like it or not.

One time a few years ago while out to eat, my son took his water cup up to the soda fountain to get more water but came back with a cup full of lemonade. Instead of looking the other way, he and I went to the cashier and he explained what had happened and paid for his drink. Once we got home he paid me from his own money for the drink. He no longer swipes drinks from the soda fountain unless it’s been paid for. Lesson learned. There have been numerous times over the years that I’ve been a Stay At Home Dad when I’ve received too much change back (on the rare occasions that I pay with cash) and I always give it back. Even if that means hauling the kids back into the store if I don’t catch it right away. There was one instance, back in 2003, when I was early in my SAHD gig that I bought two items on my way to the airport to go out of town for five days. Problem was, when I got to the airport, I looked at the receipt and realized that I had only been charged for one of the items. The day after I returned, I brought the items and the receipt (along with two young kids) and explained to the customer service rep what had happened and wanted to pay for the item. She looked at me like I was crazy and told me that she didn’t know how to do that; that I should just keep the item for free for being so honest. I insisted that I rightfully should’ve paid for the item in the first place and didn’t want to contribute to price mark-ups to make up for stolen items. She shook her head and got her manager, who exclaimed that she had never seen anyone ever! return an item trying to pay for it. After several minutes of furious typing something into the computer at the checkout they finally took my money. I still think of that experience every time I wear that Packers hat or my kids toss that talking Packers football. While it did cost me a few bucks, doing the right thing wasn’t too painful or costly. But that’s not always the case.

A few months after moving here I took an out of town guest and some of our kids to play in the snow at Mount Rainier National Park. While leaving the mostly empty parking lot I managed to back into the rear quarter panel of an unoccupied car that was parked in the lot. It would’ve been easy to check it out and leave. But that thought never crossed my mind. Once I calmed my kids down I wrote a note with my contact information and left it on the person’s car. Later that evening I received an email from the car’s owner. She was very upset (understandable) and a little bit rude to me about my accident. I kindly responded that yes, I did hit her. But she should be thankful that I was raised well by loving parents who taught me good values. So, instead of leaving the scene I owned up to my mistake and did the right thing. I explained that we had been hit-and-run victims multiple times in the first four months of living in Washington, so karma clearly wasn’t working for us in that situation. While it was an expensive mistake to make, the fact that I was able to keep my composure, be honest and do the right thing in front of my children was a priceless lesson for my kids to learn.

Every day we’re faced with situations that are often unpleasant and sometimes even out of our control. I’d encourage you to try to be honest and do the right thing. Even if your kids are not there to watch you, chances are that someone else is. Besides, it feels good. So just do it. (Sorry, Nike.)