Sunday, August 31, 2014

Your Kids are Growing Up...Believe It or Not

While skipping past my Facebook Timeline’s myriad “I need coffee!” grumbles most mornings and “I need wine!” laments later in the days, I’ve discovered another type of social media declaration that has even more of a nails-on-a-chalkboard effect on me: when parents denote their child’s birthday by saying things like “I can’t believe it’s been 9 years since my hilarious, mischievous, handsome and effervescent Little Johnny was born”.

No, I’m not a Grinch who hates birthdays, children or adjectives. Rather I’m a father who is totally enamored with and constantly amazed by my children, as I’d hope my friends and acquaintances would be by theirs. My two boys leave me in a perpetual state of awe. The Little Dude is 4 ½ years old and I can believe that because I’ve lived it. Day-in and day-out, through better and worse. 

4 1/2 years in the blink of an eye
His almost-2-year-old brother, the Littler Dude, started walking recently, which is one of the most incredible early developmental milestones for a parent to witness. Watching your child trying to figure out how to graduate from being a totally immobile food-recycling lump into a quasi-self-sufficient-being in a matter of months is magical. It seems like eons ago when we watched the Littler Dude eagerly observing his older brother running around outside, while grunting to express how badly he wanted to join him. Willing himself to accomplish that goal, that mission to keep up with his idol, in such a relatively short amount of time was a look into the soul of hope.

2 years
So when people compose a status update like “I can’t believe my bubbly, clever, generous, ornery Tatiana is 8 months old today!” I always think of the preposterously named I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. If you can’t believe that oozing yellow goop is not butter, either you’ve never actually tasted butter or your taste buds have been brainwashed into thinking that some artificial faux-dairy product tastes better and is healthier for you, when in reality its ingredients are nearly as plastic as the container it comes in. In order to believe, we must open our mind’s taste buds to savor the complexity of our intellectual manna.


Being a parent is easily the greatest gift in the world (beside a Ferrari), but what makes it incredible is actually experiencing the emotional hills and valleys that make a life lived. Of course those journeys happen at breakneck speed to make us appreciate how fortuitous we as parents truly are. As a wise man once said “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller yearned to maximize every moment of his journey and I strive to do the same with and for my family. I’m wistfully aware that my 4 ½ year-old son has already used up about ¼ of his time at home with Mrs. Dude and me before he hopefully heads to college. It’s that rapid changing of the calendar that frequently makes me reminisce about some of my own life’s adventures that seem like they recently occurred, yet it’s only when I stop to reflect that I realize they were really 10 years ago. Or 20. Or 30.

For me, parenting has been challenging, stressful, messy, sticky and infinitely more. And that’s just in the last hour. I’m beyond lucky to have my Junior Dudes and their wonderful mother as my companions for the odyssey that comprises the story of our family, wherein time is merely a subjective factor in the grand equation that is our life. As parents we often watch the clock for things like “is there really still 20 weeks left of this pregnancy?” or “will my child ever sleep that extra hour so I’m 3% less of a zombie tomorrow?” But the reality is that time is what we make of it. Everyone is allotted the same 24 hours per day, yet those 60-minute blocks seem to move supersonically as we age. Since there is no way to slow them down we must Carpe the hell out of our finite number of Diem to make sure we savor each treasured moment before they slip away.

Just when I’ve gotten used to the Little Dude going to preschool, he’ll soon move up to Pre-Kindergarten while his brother starts at the same school, coincidentally where their grandmother took their mother over three decades ago. I understand the disbelief so many friends claim to feel regarding their children’s growth and empathize. Time does move fast.  Certainly much faster than desired through these prized early moments. That’s why I attempt to savor each one, for though we don’t know what’s coming next we must buckle our seatbelts and be ready for the adventure.  

I can’t believe there’s anything better than that.  


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Monday, July 7, 2014

My Lack of Independence Day


July 3rd, 7:12am
It’s going to be July 4th again tomorrow so I should probably compose some brilliant reflection on the 3 years that have blazed by since I launched Dude of the House. Which angle should I take though? I could write about how when I started this blog on a whim I’d never even read a blog before. I had no master plan, just excellent source material from my 20-month-old Little Dude and plenty of time to write. Too much time, it seemed, and major concern about how would I ever fill it. That’s all changed. 

I should probably jot this down --  the boys are up and since they share a bedroom, if one is up, both are. I'll start at lunchtime.

July 3rd 12:40pm
Working full-time from home is both a gift and a curse. Hearing the joy occurring on the other side of my closed office door often leaves me despondent, since there’s nothing I’d rather be doing than rolling on the floor with my boys instead of paying someone to do it for me. 

Sounds like Mrs. Dude has both boys in the pool. Are they calling me? Better go check...

July 3rd 5:12pm
So much for finishing work early before the holiday. I’ll just start with a couple paragraphs before leaving the solitude of my office to join the group eager for dinner. Where to start?

Ooh, something smells good. Is that chicken? I’ll definitely begin after they go to bed.

July 3rd 8:43pm
Honestly, can two kids ever just go to bed easily in the same room? Just when I had the Littler Dude asleep, his brother got out of bed to lay on both of us in the rocking chair, rebooting the countdown for everyone’s trip to dreamland. I think they’re both out now. Have to get out of this chair. I think my butt fell asleep, which I didn’t even know was possible.

July 4th, 7:07am
Now I’m certain that my kids think it’s illegal to sleep in on holidays. Not sure how to teach them otherwise beside a serious investment in industrial-grade earplugs, door locks and soundproofing. My eyelids feel like they’re made of concrete today. Opening them is going to be a rough one but unlike my other, this job has no days off. I’ll take some time to write my post after breakfast. 

July 4th, 9:22am
Mrs. Dude made plans for us to head to the park with a couple other families for an hour? OK, I’ll start this afternoon.  

July 4th, 1:39pm
Wow, that park was so hot that even the sweat rolling down my forehead was sweating, too. That’s summer in LA, for swelter or curse.

July 4th, 2:11pm
Just got the Littler Dude down to nap & Mrs. Dude is taking his brother to the market. Here’s my chance to finally collect my thoughts. Oh, there are still lunch plates to scrape and a sticky mess on the floor. I’ll just get that stuff out of the way first, then jump back to my abandoned laptop. 

July 4th, 2:33pm
July 4th party begins at 4:00? I guess we better get moving.



July 4th, 10:22pm
I just need to rest my eyes for a second.

Zzzzzzzzz.

July 5th
All day at the beach.
More fun than sun, which was a ton.
I wrote a poem?
My first one.

July 6th, 3:03pm
Ahhhh, silence. Now where do I begin? 

I could write about how I just realized that my 21-month-old Littler Dude is a month older now than his brother was when I started Dude of the House 3 years ago. He wasn’t even a glint in my eye then, yet now he and his brother consume more of my bandwidth, and paycheck, than anything else on earth. Not having time to actually write about parenting because I’m parenting, or working, is a good problem to have. 

How my new friends, the impossibly talented group of Dads I’ve met over the last 36 months, do it is a mystery to me. I’m still in awe of the relationships I’ve built that were beyond inconceivable when I wrote my first post, 200-something ago. Fortunate doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about the things I’ve been able to do for, with, and most importantly, because of my children over the last few years.

Writing has opened up doors I’d never imagined existed, both socially and professionally, but even more significantly it’s made me more aware.

Aware of myself.

Aware of my children.

Aware of the power of what comes out of my mouth and my keystrokes.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I do what I do here and the reality is, I’m not the most organized Dude in the world. Papers and notebooks get lost over generations, though my assumption is that the Internet will be around for a while. Maybe my boys will stumble upon this someday and remember their first baseball game or a crazy day at the beach. That will have made the sum of this labor of love worthwhile. 

Until then, 3 years down and infinity to go.

Thanks for being a part of this journey with me. 

And thank you to the three people who make this, and everything in my life, consequential:




Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sometimes the Best Gifts are Free

I’ve never been someone to have a long birthday gift request list. I’m not a techie eagerly awaiting the new iGizmo and I’m not a golfer dying for a new putter or driver. Gifts are wonderful to receive, but I’m a big believer that the best gifts aren’t bought at the mall, or even on Amazon, but come from somewhere inside. They don’t have to be wrapped in fancy paper with shiny ribbon and a bouncy bow. They should simply be real.

The same goes for Hanukkah, Father’s Day and even my Wedding Anniversary. For example, Father’s Day was last week and I didn’t even have to tell Mrs. Dude what I wanted to do that day. The only present I wanted was to spend the day with the three people who made it possible for me to be an honoree: my wife and two sons.

I didn’t want a fancy brunch at some overpriced restaurant. In fact, I wanted the opposite, a brown bag lunch, and I wanted it at my favorite place in Los Angeles. It’s possibly even the place I moved to LA for, even though I’d never been there before I actually moved: the beach.

I slept in last Sunday morning until 8:30am (which is better than a gift – it’s practically a miracle) and joined my family for cereal and milk, just like every other day whose name ends in a “y”. We loaded the car and traversed our favorite canyon toward the beach. The weather was due to be perfect, as I knew the company would be.


We arrived before noon and played ‘til after 4:00. Hard to imagine anything better than running down the shoreline, holding hands and having fun with my boys. Actually “fun” doesn’t even do justice to what we shared that day. Perhaps bliss or perfection is more accurate. Whatever it was, it was all I wanted and needed. As the sun began to fade, we packed up our gear and headed back over the canyon to reality.

There was one more thing I wanted that day, to show the Little Dude how to throw a slab of meat on the BBQ. A tri-tip that weighed in at a hair over a kilo was going to be my carnivorous treat for the day. We’d already prepped it, so grilling didn’t take more than a half-hour.


Still, I showed him how to baste, flip and rotate the slab that was making my eyes jealous of my mouth. We’d used a special rub and sauce from Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City, which I’d heard raves about forever, but never actually tasted until that day. It was worth the wait. The tri-tip came out perfectly and my day was complete. I had everything I wanted, which was really nothing at all. Just a day with my favorite trio, at my favorite place, followed by an amazing meal. I couldn’t have asked for a better gift.

Oh, and to cap the perfect day: Mrs. Dude made my favorite dessert: a ginormous homemade cookie cake slathered in buttercream frosting. Boom. Mission Complete.



Special thanks to Lee Jeans, who sent these matching Smoke Camo Compound Cargo shorts (and that awesome BBQ sauce!) for the Little Dude and me to rock together.  I’ve hardly taken them off since. 

Daddy & Toddler Motorcycle & Big Wheel tee shirt set by Daddy & Company.

Disclaimer: We received these clothing items complimentary and were not compensated for this post. 
All opinions expressed within are my own, for better or worse. The beach rules. Seriously, 


Friday, June 13, 2014

You Don't Know Dads, Mila Kunis

In our media-crazy world filled with snarky humor (of which I am sometimes a guilty participant) and relentless cynicism (also sometimes me) it is unfortunate that when we see something in the media that is the exact opposite it comes as a surprise. Something that is pure unadulterated innocence and perfection that drills down to the core of humanity and the meaning of life. This week I saw just that and I also saw the opposite.

Though I’m an engaged part of the Dad Blogger community, I will admit that when I see a commercial, TV show or movie that portrays modern fathers as bumbling idiots it doesn’t ruin my day. I may find it obnoxious and think about it briefly, but my mind is constantly scattered in 300 different directions between my kids, my job, laundry, bills, etc., so I don’t have the bandwidth to dwell. I have pasta to boil for two hungry dudes.

12 hours later we'd become parents
Actress Mila Kunis made a joking proclamation to all expectant fathers earlier this week on Jimmy Kimmel Live to not say “we’re pregnant” in reference to their expectant wife/girlfriend/partner, since men aren’t the ones physically carrying the baby. She rapid-fired several other lame clichés influenced by her own current pregnancy, but the truth is if a man wants to feel engaged and a part of the 40 week process which he is half responsible for creating, she should realize that that’s actually a good thing.

There are plenty of men today who are thrilled to play an integral role throughout both pregnancy and their children’s lives, which is a big change from the Ward Cleaver-ish preceding generations. When Mrs. Dude was pregnant the first time I attended every single OB/GYN visit that she did, which was close to an hour in the car each way through LA traffic. I could have skipped some and she wouldn’t have minded, but I wanted to be involved. I was excited to be involved. I was determined to be involved. 

The second time around I attended a few less, but that was primarily because we had a toddler at home who needed his own time and 2 hours in a car plus an hour in a tiny room with his mother in stirrups was not the ideal place for it. Fatherhood is fatherhood and men should be able to say “we’re pregnant!” if they want to. I don’t know that I personally ever used Ms. Kunis' least-favorite phrase while in that situation, but to me any man who is excited to become/be a father should be recognized positively, for fatherhood is just about the best gift possible.
Why we do what we do...
Though she was funny in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I wouldn’t look to Mila Kunis for political, legal or medical advice just as I wouldn’t for parenting and/or pregnancy guidance. To me the irony of the situation is that her fiancée/baby daddy Ashton Kutcher used to refer to his step-daughters (from ex-wife Demi Moore) as “my girls” and “my kids” in interviews while they were together, even though he married the girls’ mother while they were teens and he wasn’t much older. Though Kutcher is most famous for playing dumbbells in That 70s Show and Dude, Where’s My Car?, he’s a savvy businessman and clearly an eager and engaged father. Selling out your guy for a cheap laugh, Mila? Dude, where’s your clue?

Coming full circle, take 60 seconds to check out the aforementioned Father’s Day video put together by Dove Men+Care, a brand that not only gets Dads, but encourages and supports us through thick and thin, in real situations just like the video shows. 


Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post, but I do think it's a rad video nonetheless. 


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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Life is a Beach: The #PowerOfDad

There are an unlimited number of incredible things that you can only do in Southern California, (Disneyland anyone?), though without a doubt my favorite chill-time activity is spending time at the gorgeous beaches. You might be surprised to learn that growing up in the Midwest I didn’t have a lot of high quality beach time. Of course I didn't have poor quality beach time either because there are no beaches there, or at least not the kind you’d want to hang out on.


Over the last 14+ years I’ve been a regular at various beaches throughout the LA area. For me it’s about the serene infinite rolling waves, clear blue skies that seem to extend forever and, my favorite thing, the feel of sand between my toes. Trying to describe the sensation, beyond terms like “perfection”, would be like trying to explain music to a person born without the gift of hearing. Spending time at the beach is pure magic and always brings a big smile to my face.

Naturally, that passion is one that I was eager to instill in my boys. We first took the Little Dude to Malibu when he was about 7 months old and for the last 4 years, we’ve been summertime regulars. Adding his brother to our beach-going clan last summer was a bonus for everyone and this year it’s even better now that he can walk.


Looking for sand crabs, building sand castles and running along the shoreline always makes my boys’ faces light up with pure bliss. It’s hard to tell if their love of the beach is inherent or inherited, but really it doesn’t matter. Their euphoria derived from running down the coast while pulling 10-foot-long strands of seaweed (in a game the Little Dude created, appropriately titled “Seaweed”) would make even Oscar the Grouch smile from cheek to cheek. And I’m man enough to admit that that can be me some of the time. Life is hard. Parenting is harder. But my boys make all of it worthwhile, day in and day out.

The joy we share on our bi-weekly trips to Zuma and other quiet spots on Highway 1, is a pleasure that I look forward to from the moment we get home from our last visit until we arrive for our next. Knowing that I now have the ultimate beach playmates, for whom this sandy retreat is second nature, makes our outings so much more rewarding than I ever could have imagined while growing up in my beach-less childhood. Even typing this warms my heart, brings a smile to my face and makes me look forward to Sunday, our next family beach outing.



With Father’s Day on the horizon, I’m partnering with Oral-B and Life Of Dad as part of their #PowerOfDad campaign. They are celebrating fatherhood’s little moments, as I’ve been doing on Instagram over the last few weeks, and the dads that bring smiles to their families every day. Check out this great video they made and share your favorite fatherhood moments, videos and pics on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram with the #PowerOfDad hashtag.   


In their second year of this Father’s Day program, P&G Oral Care has partnered with March of Dimes, a leading organization for healthy, happy families that celebrates mothers and fathers every day.

P&G Oral Care is also joining forces with members of “Football’s First Family,” New York Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning, his father Archie and his daughter Ava – to celebrate fatherhood’s little moments.

And because things like gingivitis and plaque don’t make for good Father’s Day gifts, check out the brand new Oral-B 7000 BLACK power toothbrush. It oscillates, rotates and pulsates, which are 3 of the most important “-ates” in dental care today.

You’re probably wondering by now how many oscillations and pulsations per minute the Oral-B 7000 Black provides. If you guessed 8,800 & 40,000 respectively, you are correct. And since you are supposed to brush for 2 minutes per session, that’s 17,600 oscillations and EIGHTY THOUSAND pulsations per brush sesh. Your teeth could be shining like Danny Torrance after you use this for a while.

Plus, they had me at “Tongue Cleaner Mode”.

And if you click here, the kind folk at Oral-B want you save some dough on your new brush with a coupon that will bring the price down. Your father would be proud of this act of financial responsibility.

Disclosure: I partnered with Oral-B and Life of Dad, LLC for the #PowerofDad Father's Day promotion and was compensated for my involvement, though the truth is that I really do love the beach and tongue cleanliness. 


Hey, I'm all about Instagram these days.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My Life as a Dad

Because I write about parenting, I often get asked questions by parents unsure how to handle various situations with their own kids. While I would never claim to be a parenting expert, mainly because I’ve only actually been a parent for 4 ½ years, I’m flattered when asked for advice. That being said, advice is a slippery slope so I tend to give answers based on my experiences and let the questioners figure things out based on their unique family situations.

I’m happy to tell you which car seats, pacifiers and diaper bags I like best, if you ask, but those are my opinions. My parenting experience is different from yours, your neighbors and a random Eskimo in the Yukon’s.  Just as no two snowflakes are alike, just ask that Eskimo, no two kids or family situations are either. What I do love to share is stories about my experiences with my kids. The wins and losses, highs and lows, trophies and boo-boos – the meat of parenting. 

Because of this, I was excited to learn recently about a new parenting show called “My Life as a Dad” (MLAAD). On it, Robert “Daddy” Nickell, the man behind Daddy Scrubs, interviews well-known men, who also happen to be fathers, who discuss their takes on parenting. Did I mention that Daddy Nickell has 6 kids of his own? The man knows his way around a nursery.  

MLAAD is fascinating because while the public knows how great of a basketball player LA Clippers star Chris Paul is, he is much less known for how he regrets missing his own son’s basketball games while traveling during the NBA season. There’s a common misconception that celebrities lives are easier than “regular” people’s because they might have more money or cars or bigger houses.  MLAAD pulls back the celebrity curtain to reveal the human side of athletes, actors and other famous dudes.

So why am I telling you all this? Beyond the fact that it’s a really enjoyable series that debuts new episodes on their YouTube channel every week, I was asked to be a guest on the show.

Me.

The Dude of the House.

Can you believe it?

Mid-interview, me and Robert Nickell
I’m (at least slightly) less famous than former NFL star Eddie George, despite the fact that he and I took an Economics class together at The Ohio State University shortly after he won the Heisman Trophy.  But as you’ll see on the show, we are both dedicated fathers who are passionate about being good parents and role models for our kids.

My episodes of MLAAD were just released and I want to share them with you first. I’ll call it The Dude’s 
broadcast debut. In the 4 video clips, you’ll hear about my experiences with potty training, the challenges caused by letting my boys watch TV and movies and more.

It’s not advice unless you want to take it that way. I consider it to be reflections on how I’ve chosen to parent my family. Sometimes the decisions work out great and often they are disastrous, but I have to keep trying. With 4 ½ years down and hopefully dozens more to go, that’s My Life as a Dad.



The Dude On Work & Family



The Dude on Kids and TV



The Dude on Potty Training



The Dude on Teaching Moments



Note: I was not compensated for my appearance on MLAAD, though I was given this rad Camo Daddy Diaper Pack filled with sweet Daddy & Co. gear for me and my boys. 

Subscribe here to the My Life as a Dad YouTube channel to keep up with their latest videos.


Hey, I'm all about Instagram these days.
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Conquering Parental Anxiety, with a Car Seat

In my almost 5 years of parenting I’ve changed thousands of diapers, fed a comparable number of bottles, lost incalculable hours of much-needed sleep and had myriad Pixar movies’ images permanently burned into my corneas after perpetual viewings.

Parenting the two Junior Dudes has introduced me to activities that not only had I never done before, but many that I didn’t even know existed before I became a father. Siphoning the snot out of their congested little noses, anyone?

There is one invaluable parenting exercise, however, which I had intentionally avoided doing since even before Day 1: I never learned how to install a car seat. Though I’ve never acknowledged it before now, I admit that not knowing how to do something as vital as this has been a source of guilt. So you’re probably wondering why an extremely hands-on father like me never learned how to install a car seat and the answer is simple.

Insecurity.

Not wanting to fail as a father has been an ongoing fear since long before I actually became one and I don’t think that’s abnormal. I frequently tell my boys, and myself, that my primary objectives are making sure they are always fed, healthy & safe.  

When we went to get our first infant seat installed a week before the Little Dude was born, it was my 37-weeks-pregnant wife maneuvering in the back seat of her Prius watching the Installation Guru finesse the intimidating harnesses and straps into place. I was afraid that when called upon to install a car seat in a real setting, I would do it wrong and my son would somehow get hurt as a result. So I strongly encouraged my wife, who is much better with attention to detail than I’ll ever be, to learn the process. And for 4 ½ years, she’s moved the seats in and out of our cars like a professional.

So I decided to finally do something about it.

When the Britax people asked if we wanted to test out their Advocate "UltimateComfort Series" car seat*, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally learn this skill I desperately wanted but had long avoided. Since we’ve used Britax car seats for years, and I felt confident that they’ve been keeping my boys safe, this was my golden opportunity to finally practice what I preach.


I opened the box and read the instruction booklet cover to cover. I felt comforted knowing Britax’s patented HUGS Chest Pads would be hugging the Littler Dude safely in his seat, since I can’t do it myself while driving. The technology Britax created to minimize the force a child encounters in the unexpected event of an accident is vital and the seat’s Integrated Steel Bars lock its connection to the car, reducing forward movement during a crash. There are countless features Britax includes to make sure that kids stay safe in the (Heaven Forbid) event of an accident. Those are the nightmares no parent wants to think about, but I feel better knowing Britax is looking out for my kids like they are their own.


Since both of my boys are near the top of their respective growth charts, it’s reassuring to know that the 19-month-old Littler Dude can stay in this Advocate until he’s 65 pounds (and 49” tall), which should be at least another year (hopefully 4).  

When the moment of truth finally happened, when it was time to personally ensure my son’s day-to-day safety, I brought the owner’s manual and one more essential asset out to the driveway to help me install my first car seat: my wife.


I expected a barrage of obstacles and challenges, but the truth is the actual installation took less than 10 minutes start to finish. Like a child afraid to try a new food, only to discover it’s delicious, I conquered a critical piece of self-doubt that had plagued me for 4 ½ years. Knowing how safe and well-built Britax products are, I have no doubt that the Littler Dude will be safe in his new Advocate. Plus, now that I know first-hand how LATCH connectors and the Five-Point Harness work, I feel extra confident that my sons are in good hands…and comfy seats. (Did I mention that it's called the UltimateComfort Series partly because the headrests and seat itself are Memory Foam?)  

Though I’m still a car seat novice, I can rest assured knowing that the Littler Dude clearly appreciates at least one essential feature of his Advocate: Britax’s True Side Impact Protection, or as he likely views it, a cozy place to rest his head.
I think he likes it. 

Disclaimer: Though I was given an Advocate UltimateComfort Series car seat by Britax for review purposes, I was not compensated otherwise for this post. All opinions contained within are 100% mine, for better or worse. Also, I wish they made these in my size so I could sit on Memory Foam whenever I'm in the car. 

*= The Advocate Ultimate Comfort Series is available exclusively at Babies R Us. 





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