Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Second Baby Shower

Red Carpet Entrance -- It's how I roll. 
Having been inaugurated into the world of baby showers last year, when I attended Big City Moms’ L.A. Biggest Baby Shower, I had a more focused mission in mind for my second go-round. While last year I didn’t know what to expect before it arrived, kind of like when I first became a father, this year I was much more prepared, like the second time I became a father, and my goal was to scope out which new parenting essentials might be of most interest to Dude-Fathers.  

The 2014 LA Biggest Baby Shower was held recently at the picturesque Skirball Center in Bel Air, CA, where the last time I visited I did an archaeological dig with the Little Dude. For this visit I also explored with unknown expectations and I left pleasantly surprised by the results. (Much better than that decoy clay pot we found last time.)

Just to make sure I had the energy to make it through a 3-hour-long event after another very short night of sleep thanks to the Junior Dudes, immediately upon entering the venue I jumpstarted my system with some Sprinkles Cupcakes that were sweeter than my kids while at a toy store. Their triple-cinnamon cupcake was epic, BTW.

Since the Junior Dudes seem prone to simultaneous chronic runny noses, allergies and any other conditions that I can classify their nasal leakage as, I was quite intrigued by the new Clearinse Nasal Cleansing System I discovered. My guess is that my boys’ condition likely stems genetically from my own sinus issues, and I know that saline irrigation helps better than anything else since I use it every day myself. As a result, I am eager to try out the Clearinse system the next time they are congested to see how it works, especially since it was created by a Pediatrician who is also a father. Here’s hoping it’s nothing to sneeze at. (Sorry.) 

After checking out the vast selection of stroller and car seat brands from around the world like Peg Perego, Orbit and Quinny at the Shower, and learning about their myriad unique bells-and-whistles, I was most interested in Britax’s new collection of boosters and car seats that are supposed to be super easy to install. Especially since I have never actually installed a car seat, but would like to learn how. Someday. Seriously. 
Britax: Cool gear and smiling faces. 
Daddy and Company was showing another great gift collection for both expectant and experienced fathers. Their Daddy Scrubs remain the one elusive item I wish I’d had before we went into the hospital when Mrs. Dude gave birth, since the hospital-issued scrubs were as comfortable as cardboard covered in paste and made an already nerve-wracking day even more stressful. I also saw some great gift items for Dudes’ Day Fathers’ Day, that I’d like to receive. (Hint, hint) 

I saw some cool new products from Ergo, updates of some items my family doesn’t use anymore and that (briefly) made me want to have another kid. Also, a magical homeopathic elixir called Camilia that is so good at helping relieve teething pain that my Littler Dude, who’d just gotten like 6 teeth in a month when I attended the event, was immediately cured the day after I got home…and I hadn’t even given him the medicine yet. That stuff is nails.

There was one brand at the event which I was both very familiar with and most eager to meet, because I’ve used their product since roughly the day I became a father. When Mrs. Dude was first pregnant, I was totally clueless as to what we actually needed for parenting beside a baby. I told her to register for whatever she wanted and the one thing I’m grateful for is my Diaper Dude diaper bag. Unlike most diaper bags it’s not covered in flowers, paisley or teddy bears and is designed with Dudes in mind. Sold.  I got a sneak preview of some of their new Major League Baseball licensed diaper bags and Dude-and-son matching gift sets. Seriously, these bags are rad and made with Dads in mind, and briefly made me want to have triplets, just for all the new bags.  
The Dude of the House and the Diaper Dude finally meet. Dude!
Now with 2 Biggest Baby Showers under my belt, I can say that there truly is a place at these events for Dudes/Dads both to-be and already-are. There is no shortage of great gear, and thankfully there is a vast enough assortment of vendors to really gain an objective view of the market, which is really the most important thing, IMO. Just because one stroller is great for me, it might not be for you. That’s why the Biggest Baby Showers are truly valuable, because you can meet the people who truly know the ins and outs of the products, because in many cases they created them! Every baby is different and so are their needs. Go spend a night with the Big City Moms when they hit your town and find what’s right for you and yours.  

Though I was not compensated for this post, I was given complimentary admission to the Big City Moms’ L.A. Biggest Baby Shower and I thank them for hosting me. All opinions expressed in this post are mine alone, for better or worse.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Why I'm Not Afraid of The Shamrock Shake

You know it’s going to be an off-kilter day when you wake up with a neck kinked so badly that you can’t turn your head and it’s not even the worst thing that happens before you get out of bed that morning.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day for some people and plain old Monday to others. And for those of us who live in Los Angeles, it’ll be remembered for The Shamrock Shake earthquake that jolted hundreds of thousands awake at 6:25AM and started our days and weeks off a little more frightened than normal.

This summer marks 15 years that I’ve lived in Los Angeles and I’ve experienced my share of quakes during that tenure. But today’s quake was a bit different than every other I’ve experienced, and if you haven’t lived through one, it is definitely an experience. And not the kind you want to unnecessarily have.

Before today I hadn’t actually felt an earthquake in many years, maybe five, probably more. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Ohio where earthquakes occur only slightly more frequently than Halley’s Comet appearances and its more novelty than anything else when they do. Or maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up here in LA, as my wife did, and wasn’t forced to live through the destruction of “the big one”, the Northridge Quake, which celebrated its 20th anniversary just a few weeks ago, as she did. It’s not that I don’t take tremblors seriously, but I’ve just never let them burrow into my psyche. Until today.

Living in fear is a difficult way to make it through calendar flips and not something I like to propagate. But now that I have my two boys I guess my view is a bit askew.

You see, this morning when I felt that first telltale shake, my 4-year-old Little Dude had just woken up and was in the bathroom for his morning pee. It took me a second to calculate what was happening when I felt the ground’s movement and I’ve been through quakes before. Imagine being a toddler whose life awareness is expanding exponentially on a daily basis. To him, everything is still new and as he reminds me several times per day, “Everything is Awesome!” Thankfully my son doesn’t yet know about the reality of natural disasters. To him, this was like his first time in a bounce house again. After a minute of curiosity, he just wanted to watch Chuggington.  

But what if we hadn’t been so lucky as to only suffer a few tipped picture frames today? The quake’s epicenter was about 10 miles from where we live, which is not very far in earthquake terms. How do we explain these things that no one wants to talk about to our kids, these mysteries of the unknown that appear in our realties usually only after affecting us in very destructive ways.

These local anchors were not expecting this today. 

The first inclination might be to move. I knew that was where Mrs. Dude’s mind was headed as soon as I felt the first big wave. But no place in this country, or any other, is perfect. Just yesterday L.A. had cloudless blue skies and 95 degree “winter” weather despite much of the country still being buried waist deep in snowdrifts despite Spring’s commencement just a few days away. The South has hurricanes, North has blizzards and Midwest tornados, not to mention dust storms, thunderstorms, drought and other plagues that Mother Nature unexpectedly confronts us all with to keep us on our toes and insurance companies in business.

As parents we don’t have time to freak out about everything that could happen. We must be prepared for those freak instances when they actually do occur, inevitably at the worst possible times, like the infant who desperately needs a new diaper the moment you pull out of the driveway. Managing adversity and predicting the unpredictable are instincts that parents must possess for our children are our most valuable assets, the kind worth sacrificing everything for if need be.

So as the ground shook, and my older son finished his business, my next thought was where’s the baby and should we go grab him? Checking the video monitor next to my bed he was sound asleep in his crib and had somehow missed the whole event, true irony considering how light of a sleeper he usually is. Though the grass may always seem greener on the other side after one of these incidents shakes us up, we regrouped as a unit and moved forward with our day. Unafraid. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why I Hate the Winter Olympics

When the Seattle Seahawks annihilated the Denver Broncos earlier this month in the Super Bowl, among other things it meant that self-proclaimed “Football Widows” received their spouses back until training camps begin over the summer. What I personally didn’t anticipate was becoming a Sports Widower myself less than a week later.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I’m a big sports fan. I’m also a long-suffering one as I grew up a Cleveland sports fan. If you’re not a sports fan, I can best explain being a Cleveland sports fan like being the punchline in a nightmare. Anything that could go wrong inevitably does in the most publically embarrassing way. But I’ve grown to live with that. And now that I live on the West Coast with two young sons I seldom make time to sit through many games these days that aren’t Go Fish.  

So how did I come to find myself in the position of asking my non-sports fan wife approximately every 15 minutes every night for the last 2 weeks “is this almost over?” Two words: Winter Olympics.

Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be any more pro-American if I had a pet Bald Eagle named Uncle Sam. I just can’t get into the Winter Olympics, no matter how half-heartedly I try. As I mentioned, I grew up in the Midwest, about 20 minutes from a place where I could have gone skiing every winter for 20+ years and opted to never do so. Intentionally. Unlike Elsa from Frozen, the cold always bothered me anyway.

Over the decade-plus my wife and I have been together, I’ve tried watching some of the Winter Olympic Games with her. However, beyond that I have a hard time recognizing it as a sport, spending time watching sequined couples “Ice Dancing” just doesn’t do it for me.

From what I’ve seen the primary objective of at least half of the Winter Olympic events could be listed as “not dying”. Hell, there’s a sport where the “athlete” lies face down on a tiny metal sled going 80+mph down a curvy icy chute, which is actually called “Skeleton”. Foreshadowing much?
This Skeletoner is laying still like a corpse.
How is this a sport?
Then there’s the Biathlon which combines that natural duo of skiing and shooting a rifle which so many people seemingly do every day. I’d call that Polar Military Training before I’d call it a sport. What about Cross Country, which most people who live in cold weather places refer to as “walking on snow”.

And don’t even get me started on Curling, a “sport” which my housekeeper could likely medal in based on her expert-level proficiency at removing piles of Cheerios from the floor with a broom.
As if their "sport" didn't make them look silly enough...
I was sitting with my wife the other night while she watched the 1st of something like 86 rounds of some skiing event and kept hearing the announcers mention Rosa Khoutour, which I assumed was some sort of Russian fashion brand. Turns out it’s a mountain. Who would have known?

The centerpiece of the Winter Olympics is always the Figure Skating events, and those have eaten up a big chunk of my TiVo for the last 10 nights. No interest. I didn’t even like Blades of Glory and that starred Ron Burgundy and Napoleon Dynamite, two of the funniest dudes from the last decade.

Part of my ancestry actually stems from Russia and I still couldn’t be less interested in a “Homeland vs. Birthland” story line if NBC created one specifically about me, like the packages they show about athletes suffering from hangnails, misplaced iPhones and other tragedies.

The truth is that the most interesting part of the Olympic coverage to me so far has been Bob Costas’ Pink Eye, which would be a great name for a punk-rock band. Bob’s Oozing Oculars (another good band name) has kept me wondering what kind of medical attention he’s getting that he couldn’t work at an event he’d probably be preparing 6 months to a year in advance for. Who is his MD, Dr. Frankenstein?

The good news is that the games will be over in a few more days and I’ll get 4 glorious sequin-less years until they resume. How long until baseball season begins?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dad 2.0: Quest for the King

Shuffling zombie-like through the damp cloud-covered streets of the French Quarter, I had one last critical goal to accomplish before heading to the Louis Armstrong Airport in New Orleans last Sunday morning. After an inspirational and aspirational weekend at the 3rd Dad 2.0 Summit it was going to be a race against the clock to complete my mission. 

As one of only a few dozen attendees of all three Dad 2.0s, I had different objectives this year than during the two previous. The first year I was just a newbie blogger who really had no clue why I was there. The second year I went seeking something intangible and as a byproduct stumbled onto something quite tangible. For this go around, though, I had two key objectives and I knew neither would be easy.

New Orleans has special meaning to my family, even though I’d only been there once before this trip, as that’s where Mrs. Dude went to grad school. Just a few months after she graduated and moved back to L.A., we met and 11 years later, here we are now. So when I learned the location of this year’s conference it was with great hesitation that I dared even mention going to her favorite place without her. And being the saint she is, she knew there was a greater purpose and encouraged me to go.

The most unique aspect of this 300-person congregation, unlike any other I’ve ever been to, is the warm inviting feeling conveyed by every single person there. I got to reconnect with old friends and finally meet face-to-face friends whom I’d only known online before. That’s what this conference is all about. Camaraderie. Brotherhood. Empathy. Everyone at Dad 2.0 is in the same boat, even though some are dinghies and some are yachts: every person there wants to be a better parent. Honestly.

For me, the last year has been both wonderful and exasperating. As a result some facets of my life have suffered, like my blog. Trying to compose 700 pithy words when I’m falling asleep in my reheated dinner at 9:00pm has been much more difficult than I expected. Since the Littler Dude arrived, I’ve had a very hard time juggling all the chainsaws I have in the air. It’s a wonderful problem to have, but also uber-challenging. So my chief mission at Dad 2.0 this year was finding that inspiration again, that spark that helped me spit out witty blog posts like peanut shells at a Dodgers game when I started Dude of the House nearly 3 years ago. Little did I know that I’d get my mojo back within 2 hours of the event’s kickoff.

The first morning opened with an inspiring video showing the progress Dads have made in the media over the last 1000 days since Dad 2.0 was first conceptualized:
Jim Higley and Jason Katims

That video was followed in short succession by a welcome from Rob Candelino of Dove Men+Care, one of the few mainstream brands that truly gets us; then an opening keynote conversation with Jason Katims, Executive Producer of NBC’s Parenthood and Bobblehead Dad himself, Jim Higley. The insight into Jason’s creative process and how his own challenging experiences as a father greatly shaped the direction his show has taken was inspiring to a wannabe TV writer like me. 

At last year’s conference in Houston, Brene Brown spoke about vulnerability. This year in New Orleans, Lorne Jaffe exemplified it. It’s hard to put into words how inspiring he truly was.

It was later that first afternoon when I was able to cross Critical Mission #1 off my list: an intimate roundtable discussion with Carter Gaddis of DadScribe, where I learned more about writing in 25 minutes than in the last 2.5+ years I’ve been blogging. I won’t divulge Carter’s storytelling secrets here, rather I hope they’ll add life and color to this blog in the very near future.

Among other important lessons I learned in ‘Nawlins:
  • Getting my butt sketched was much more cool than I thought it would be.
  • Lee Jeans not only still exists, they actually are pretty awesome.
  • Holding an alligator is not something I hope to do again anytime soon, even though my having done so totally delighted the Little Dude.  
  • It’s possible to be away from 2 sons for 3 nights and sleep even less than I would at home.

Feeling guilty about leaving my wife with 2 kids meant I could not return home empty-handed, which is why I was roaming the Quarter’s broken beer-scented cobblestone early last Sunday morning. I was on a mission to bring Mrs. Dude a King Cake as a token of appreciation and a fond reminder of her, and now my, time in NoLA.

After consulting Yelp for the best/closest King Cake joint open that early, I headed out for breakfast at Café Beignet, only to discover they had just sold out which meant I was likely going home empty-handed. Thankfully a kind eavesdropper who’d overheard of my quest guided me to a local market about a half-mile down the street.

Speedwalking down the blocks as my glasses fogged up from the mist, I searched frantically for the correct address and prayed they’d have one little King Cake with my name on it. Entering Rouse’s nervously, I was back on the street in 30 seconds with a giant frosted cinnamon sweet under my arm and 8 hours until home. Mission Complete.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Day Hope Arrived in my Mailbox

A piece of mail.

So often overlooked today, what is now frequently called “snail mail” for its lack of immediacy in a world that demands timeliness, I believe that Postal mail still has its strengths. And today a simple piece of mail gave me hope.

The truth is that I look forward to bringing in the mail every day, for who knows what wonderful surprises may be hiding in a pile of soon-to-be-recyclable bills and their antithesis, credit card offers. The mailman frequently drops off a stack of stress but I cherish the days when he doesn’t.

Sometimes the mailman brings greeting cards meant to elicit smiles, though the ones I received recently just made me feel another year or ten older. Another year has passed me by. It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all good either. Our financial tide is starting to turn, though a long road to recovery will come first.

I glance at the glossy postcards for European cruises that I’ll probably never take my family on and toss them quickly toward the recycling bin. I don’t want to torture myself over what I can’t give them today, no matter how badly I wish I could. The Little Dude turned 4 years old recently. His life is just beginning. I want him to have every opportunity in the world to make his life as personally fulfilling as possible, though I know my resources will limit him to some degree.  

So how can I enrich their lives without being rich? Sometimes amazing experiences fall into my lap. Just as this autumn began, I received an unexpected invitation to an LA Dodgers game. What used to be a several times per year activity that I took for granted suddenly hadn’t occurred in several years. The games start at challenging times, it’s too far to easily get to, it’s expensive – those are some of the excuses I’d conjured over the last year or two for why I hadn’t gone.

“Bring your family”, they said. “There’s nothing better than a father taking his son to a baseball game” they said, and my only response was “sure there is, it’s bringing two”. As the Los Angeles air began to turn crisp, I would take my family of 4 to our first baseball game.

After navigating through torrential LA traffic and parking headaches, we made it to Chavez Ravine. Dodger Stadium, home of so many legendary moments. Kirk Gibson’s home run off Dennis Eckersley. Orel Hershiser’s scoreless streak and so many more that I want to share with my sons. In due time, I told myself.

Sitting close enough to hear the catcher’s mitt pop as it swallowed myriad blazing fastballs, my sons’ eyes widened at the largess of what surrounded them. 50,000-plus people wearing blue and cheering toward a common goal, another victory for the good guys. We sang while we stretched and cheered every time the ball screamed off the long pine “toothpicks”. I was enamored by watching them take in the sights and sounds of the experience. Their first Major League experience. Those moments were joy.

The Little Dude wearing his Rally Cap.

Though the home team lost 1-0, my family won 4-0. And not only because of the Dodgers Snuggies the team distributed to all fans in attendance. The Little Dude was hooked on America's pastime. He sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame repeatedly for weeks afterward until I introduced him to John Fogerty’s Centerfield. He asked questions about the players and the game and eagerly wanted to learn more. All in due time, I told him.

With the year ending soon and rare frost in Los Angeles, I look forward to a new year filled with promise, joy and new experiences with my boys. As a frequently let-down fan of my hometown Cleveland Indians, we are often told to “wait ‘til next year”, for hope springs eternal and next year will surely be our year.

Today the mailman brought a catalog. Not for clothes or plumbing supplies or stereo equipment. For experiences. And in a few months the Little Dude will get one of his own when he steps onto a baseball diamond for the first time. Wait ‘til next year? I hardly can.

Disclaimer: The fine folks at Dove Men+Care offered me tickets to a recent LA Dodgers game as part of their "Big League Dads" campaign and it was epic. All opinions expressed in this post are solely mine, for better or worse. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lets Talk Bums and Make You The Biggest Winner

Throughout my life, I’ve never been a big winner. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t classify myself as a “loser”, per se, either. I’m referring to winning things*. It could be track meets or class presidencies or even the lottery. None of those things has ever brought me the big prize. My brother, on the other hand, was always a big winner growing up. He had such a knack for winning radio contests, (you know the type, “be caller 9 and win a pair of REO Speedwagon tickets…”) that he had to make up fake names to collect the myriad prizes he somehow won. But not me.

In the last couple of years, however, my luck has changed and I have won things. In 2012, I won a free pass to the Dad 2.0 Conference in Austin and in 2013, I won a free stay at the Four Seasons in Houston for the Dad 2.0 conference.  Oh, and did I mention that going to those two events changed my life?

Why am I telling you this? Because this is the final week for you to write a hi-larious haiku for Cottonelle’s Let’s Talk Bums contest. 2 more finalists will win $200 Amazon gift cards next Monday, November 4. They’ll be added to a pool with 5 others for a shot at the Grand Prize: an all-expenses paid trip to Dad 2.0 in New Orleans next January31-February 1, 2014. Even better than that, you’ll get to meet me there. What could be better than that, you ask? I know — REO Speedwagon tickets. 

Seriously though, here are the 5 winners so far. Think you can match wits with the best and the brightest of the Dad Blogger world these Dudes?:  

Please keep in mind that some of these winners are veteran bloggers and some are rookies just called up from the minors. Experience doesn’t matter. Humor does.

Keep the Haiku(s) clean, like the Cottonelle Care Routine does for your bum.  What’s that again, you ask?  The rad double wiping system to keep your bum fresh and happy. You start with dry paper and then cool down with some Cottonelle Fresh Wipes. Like Colt .45, they work every time.

So give it a shot. Tweet your Haiku now through Sunday morning, November 3 and it could be you flying the freebie train to NoLA, with extra cash in your hand to buy all your new friends Beignets at Café du Monde. I’ll take two.  

For full contest info, visit (Make sure your Tweeted Haiku have both the #LetsTalkBums and #Haiku tags to be entered!)

Disclaimer: I need to come clean (see what I did there?) and tell you that I was compensated by Kimberly Clark to participate in this campaign, but all opinions expressed in this post are entirely mine, for better or worse. 

*I did win a Chaka Khan album on a radio call-in once, but the winner had to pick the record up from the station and I was only 12 or so and couldn’t drive. No record for me. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Privatizing Public Pooping or How Cottonelle Saved My Bum

Many moons ago I worked for a very large company in a very tall building. It was one of those buildings where you needed a keycard to access different floors for security reasons. It was also the building used as Nakatomi Plaza in the original Die Hard movie.  And on more than one occasion after a greasy lunch in the commissary, I had a feeling that I might literally die hard if I couldn’t find some relief, pronto. 

But the awkward thing about handling your business in your place of business is that everyone around is all up in your business. On the long hikes to and from the restroom, one’s privacy can quickly dissipate. And given the odds that your cubicle-mate could also be your stall-neighbor, it can lead to very uncomfortable situations.

As someone looking to maximize the value of a job that I was bored with by noon on my first day, after a couple of these potentially embarrassing episodes I figured out a creative workaround to relieve my literal and figurative levels of discomfort. I started using my keycard for afternoon jaunts to the 14th floor. Being a dozen levels above my colleagues led to much more pleasant expulsion experiences for me. I intentionally chose a floor where I wouldn’t have to worry about running into anyone I might have to deal with professionally, and felt much more comfortable with my afternoon delights.

Speaking of comfort, public restrooms rarely leave you feeling either well-rested or entirely clean. The cheap perforated balsa wood they try to pass off as TP is something our military wouldn’t even use to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay because it’d be considered cruel and unusual punishment. One thing that I think the next Presidential campaigns should call for is mandating the Cottonelle Care Routine in all bathrooms.

 In case you forgot, the Cottonelle Care Routine is the way to maximize your post-poop comfort level via a two-step method of dry wiping with Cottonelle toilet paper and then wet wiping with Cottonelle Fresh Wipes. Your bum will thank you. No, I don’t mean Larry the guy wearing footie pajamas and suspenders hanging out in front of your local Starbucks. I mean your built-in bum that you use as a portable seat cushion every time you sit. It treats you well and you should reciprocate. Keep it nice, clean and fresh. I wish they’d had the Cottonelle Care Routine when I worked at Nakatomi Plaza. Then I truly would have been comfortable in the lap of luxury.

To help make you even more comfortable with this touchy subject, the rad folk at Cottonelle suggest we break down the toilet-talk taboo and are sponsoring a Haiku contest called Lets Talk Bums.

Three people have already won $200 Amazon gift cards for Tweeting a haiku about their bathroom habits and four more will win over the next few weeks. Here are the winners so far:
Winner #1: @dad_strangeland
Did you wipe? I ask 
/ My four year old shakes her head / Pants already raised.
Winner  #2: @jesteram
Cottonelle sheets, wipes— / like yin and yang for your butt: / Two forces, one whole.
Winner #3: @DeadTurkeyBlog
Please try Cottenelle. / Like wiping with a pillow. / Without the divorce.
As if that’s not enough, those winners are being entered into a drawing for the Grand Prize: An all-expenses-paid trip to the Dad 2.0 conference in New Orleans, February 2014.  And to top that, they (or you??) will get to meet me there.

Tweet your haiku (make sure to keep it clean, like your tush) and be sure to use the #LetsTalkBums and #Haiku hashtags to be entered. Visit for all the details, awesome haiku and more. Then come visit Cottonelle on Facebook and Lets Talk Bums. Larry won’t mind.   

Got any good bathroom misadventures to share? Please leave 'em in the comments below. 

Disclaimer: I need to come clean (see what I did there?) and tell you that I was compensated by Kimberly Clark to participate in this campaign, but all opinions are entirely mine, for better or worse.