Hot Dogs Are To Be Bitten

A great thing about kids is their innocense and goofyness. They say and do pretty much whatever without much awareness of what they are doing, and therefore have not yet developed a sence of what should be embarassing. In a way, it is wonderful. They do their thing in their own world and don’t care what anybody thinks. In another way, sometimes they do inappropriate things with their dinner.

The other day, my two-year-old daughter, Evie, pretended her hot dog was a popsicle.

I don’t know if I can pinpoint what the most awkward part of my life a parent so far has been, but right now it’s hard to think of anything worse than watching your precious little girl hoover a Ball Park. I always figured the worst thing my kids would to with a hot dog is put ketchup on it. This had never entered my mind.

When she started doing it, my wife and I immediatly locked eyes across the table, sharing a stare that was half horror and half trying not to laugh. Its one thing when your kid accidently uses profanity not realizing what they are saying, its quite another for that profanity to turn into a game of charades. Adding a layer of difficulty to the attempt not to laugh, you must keep in mind I have the sense of humor of a middle schooler. The next time somebody at work talks about thier duties and I don’t giggle will be the first.

“It’s a popcicle!” she joyfully blurted.

I died a little inside.

“Why don’t you take a bite?” I encourage her.

“No. I’m pretending!”

Part of my soul is perminently blacked.

“Show me a good bite sweetie,” I implore.

“It’s a popsicle!” She said with complete disregard for my risk of stroke.

“Evie….bite the hot dog.”

I don’t know how long her game of pretend went on, but it felt like roughly an hour and half.

I have to say, I am pretty proud of myself for how I handled it. I didn’t laugh. I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I simply informed her that was not the proper way to eat a hot dog, and kept her innocent imagination completly intact. Wish I could say the same about how I will forever view my daughter, but hey, that’s parenting. I’m sure I’ll be able to look her in the eye at dinner again eventually, but just to be on the safe side I’m going to stop buying bananas and cut up her hot dogs for her until she moves out.

Fighting Dad Stereotypes: Dad Clothes

In my ongoing attempt to address harmful Dad stereotypes head on, I next take on the issue of dressing like a Dad.

Close your eyes and picture what a Dad wears. What do you see?

A t-shirt – it’s probably from a vacation destination. Could be from a civil war battlefield, might just say Arizona. It’s definitely tucked in.

Shorts – likely khaki, though maybe denim, with a number of pockets totaling more than four.

Socks – going at least a third of the way up the calf, yet never so low as to stop right at the ankle or go so high as to reach the knee.

Shoes – white. Tennis shoe by name, walking shoe by defined purpose.

Other accessories may very. A hat that that was a free give away item at some event being worn too high on the head, more perched on the head that actually covering it. Belts of various materials, but most likely woven. Sun glasses that spend an equal amount of time tucked into the neckline of the previously mentioned Smokey Mountains t-shirt as they on the face.

I’m sure it is generational, but if you are in my generation that is what you see, and that is the fashion stereotype that seems to be unfairly placed on the modern dad. And I wonder how this started? Was some secret council convened in 1988 and the dress code for Dads was set in place for the next quarter century? Or did somewhere in Nebraska a Dad woke up one day and randomly picked out a pair of jean shorts, a t-shirt from the San Diego Zoo, and his most sensible pair of shoes and the trend just spread across the nation from hardware store to hardware store? And we thought COVID was the worst thing to sweep the country. Zing!….Too soon?

Actual top Google search results for “dad clothes”

Anyway, are there actually Dads out there that dress this way – yes. Perhaps these are the also the guys who don’t buy their own clothes and rely on their wife’s discretion and corporate swag to assemble their wardrobe. I ask for my wife’s input on clothes from time to time, but outside of Christmas and birthdays, I am fully in charge of what clothes end up in my closet.

I own no t-shirts serving as billboards for states, cities, national parks, casinos, or restaurants. 99% of the time I don’t even tuck in button up shirts, so I certainly have never, and will never tuck in a t-shirt. My shorts and pants are not defined by somebody else’s occupational use – no cargo, no carpenter. I’ve not owned a pair of white shoes since high school, and the shoes that I do have are never grass stained. I wear fitted hats that I purchase on purpose.

Part of this is conscious choice – to purposely not “dress like a Dad.” But part of it is not changing my style just because I’m a Dad now. I didn’t throw out my Chucks and replace them with a pearly white pair of New Balance when my first daughter was born. I didn’t swap my slim fit jeans for cargo pants when I had more baby things to carry. Dad Tip: you don’t need more pockets when you have kids, because you know what has a ton of pockets? Diapers bags, back packs, strollers. You don’t need to sacrifice your style so you can have quick access to the back up pacifier.

The only noticeable change in my wardrobe after having kids is an increase in golf apparel. Which is more a reflection of my change in hobbies as I get older. Though now I wonder, is that what my kids’ generation will picture when they think of somebody dressed like a Dad? Brightly colored Under Armor polos? Or maybe graphic t-shirts? While I don’t have any t-shirts that announce I once went to Nashville, I do have t-shirts letting people know what TV shows and movies I watched in the 90s. Will my kids some day roll their eyes at me in my Boy Meets World shirts and jeans? Will neon Asics be the new white Nikes? Will Hawaiian shirts be the new…well actually those will still be Hawaiian shirts – good style never goes out of style. Wore them when I was 15, wearing them now at 35, and you better believe I’ll be rocking luau casual at 55 and beyond.

But regardless of what my kids will think of how I dress, my Dadness will not be a factor in my fashion choices, and surely there must be others out there like me. Sadly we are are the unnoticed majority, blending in with all the normally dressed people with our cell phone in our pockets and not in holsters. Just dudes with kids dressing like dudes, with kids. I mean, if my kids get a t-shirt that says “World’s Greatest Dad”, you bet your ass I’m wearing that thing. But I will won’t tuck it in to jorts, and God as my witness I will never wear a woven belt.

Summer is Officially Over. Good.

However you choose to mark the end of summer, mark it. Kids are back in school (virtual or otherwise), Labor Day weekend has past, and the weather is cooling off. For some this change of the season comes with a sense of melancholy. They are closing their pools, packing up their cottages, and already longing for the days to get longer and hotter. Well I don’t have a pool or a cottage and hot weather is uncomfortable.

This summer in particular was a complete waste. Between having a little baby and going through a pandemic, we really didn’t get out much. We thought of a few things to do next year, and looked forward to things we’ll do in the fall, but the list of summer time activities that didn’t take place in our own backyard begins and ends with going to get ice cream. Which, isn’t that the best part of summer anyway? Any other good part about summer can also be done just as, if not more, enjoyably in the spring or fall with the simple addition of a sweatshirt, but not the mom and pop ice cream shops. I don’t know that there is a wrong way to eat ice cream, but if you’re getting ice cream in July from a place that is also open in January, you sure ain’t doing it right.

We didn’t get to the beach at all this year, and while I do think that it would have been a good experience for the kids, I don’t think they missed it. Granted, they are young, but they never once asked to go. They were perfectly content to have their aquatic experiences be playing in the water table in the back yard and running around with the hose. And I was certainly happy not lugging a car full of kids and stuff to the beach, all of which will inevitably come back packed full of sand. Didn’t miss the frantic rush to get a kid out of their wet bathing suit and onto the potty in time either. I’m not sure what’s more difficult – getting a dry pants onto a still slightly wet kid, or getting a wet bathing suit off of a slightly dry kid. Either way, skipping the beach helps avoid both. Also didn’t have to worry about the amount of sand a drooly fisted five-month-old will consume. The more I think about it, not going to the beach was a great parenting decision cloaked in the excuse of pandemic related safety.

I did blow up our little inflatable pool a few times for the kids to splash around in, and what a treat that was. Like any lazy modern dad, I have an air compressor to blow it up with, but the necessary tip to adapt it to the little tube on the pool was missing. I had to do it the old fashioned way of pushing my lungs to the bring of passing out face down in the grass. Just like dads of days gone by. Except they did half way through a pack of unfiltered Camels. Greatest generation indeed.

We didn’t take any trips, camping or otherwise. I would someday like to get the kids into camping, but this wasn’t the summer for it. The fun thing about camping when you’ve got a baby who is completely reliant on breast milk is nothing. So we’ll aim for next year. But again, camping in the fall is better than camping in the summer. A camp fire is better when it is an actual source of warmth, and sleeping in a sleeping bag is more comfortable when your tent isn’t transformed into a sweatlodge with the first ray of morning sun.

I feel the only things we really missed out on were going to the zoo and going to a baseball game. But all things being equal, I’d rather do those things when the heat isn’t making parts of me stick to other parts of me. Next year we’ll go to lots of early season and late season baseball games. I’ll get my kids team hoodies, we’ll get hot chocolate, it’ll be great. Also, those places are less crowded outside of the peak summer season, so no having to take turns hoisting my kids up so they can see over the rows of kids crammed against the glass to get a good look at a monkey. Side note, if your kids are the kids who squeeze thier way past everybody else who is waiting so they can get right up to the front to see the monkey, I hope the monkey throws poop on your kid.

I get what summer has going for it – no school and good PR. But my kids aren’t old enough to be in school so they don’t appreciate not having to go, and I can see through all the pro-summer propaganda. Summer is the third best season behind fall and spring, but pop stars sing catchy party songs about summer and indie bands sing sad bastard songs about autumn so there you have it. We’ve been sold summer the same way we’ve been sold Pepsi. Well you know what, pumpkin spice is the taste of my generation!

I Must Protect This House. And These Garbage Cans.

So there I was working from home, sitting in my basement on a Slack call when I hear a sustained car horn – at least a solid four seconds of honk – followed by three or four muffled sounding booms. I’m intrigued.

My house is on a corner, so my first thought is car accident. I go upstairs to have a look, but when I look out the window I see no cars. I scan the intersection and see no debris or evidince of any vehicular foul play. What I do see is a lady walking down the sidewalk appearing to be gesturing at somebody down the block. I can’t hear what she’s saying, but she is definitly yelling. I try to look down the street to see who she is yelling at, but from my vantage point I can only see two or three houses and there is nobody else in sight. Perhaps she is yelling at the person who honked and has since driven away? Well she keeps walking so I keep watching, though I move to a different room in the house to get a better view of the street.

She is now four or so houses from when I first saw her and she is still yelling at what appears to be nobody. At this point I assume she was yelling at the person in the car and is now just venting some very public frustrations. This is a good time to give a bit of important informaiton – it was garbage day, so several houses had their garbage cans out. One such house, was the house she was approaching, and at this point she turned the focus of her anger from nobody in general, to garbage cans in particular. She shoved over all three that were sitting out in front of this house. Luckily the trash and recycling had already been picked up, so no strewn garbage.

The guy who lives at this house now comes out to confront her, but before he can get off the porch his dog runs out barking. Between the distance from me to them and the barking dog I still can’t really make out what is being said, but I can get the gist that this lady is quite certain that this guy is going to hell. It seems that this row is a dispute between neighbors. Good old neighborhood drama. I continue to be intrigued.

So the dog is barking, she is damning the guy to hell, and he is telling her to go away. Now that the garbage cans have felt her fury, she needs a new outlet for her rage. She walks from the base of the driveway over the side of the yard and finds her target. A medium to large sized landscaping rock. Actually, I’d safely say this thing was a downright stone. She bends down and picks it up, and my immediate thought was “oh my God she is going to crush his dog!” She did not. She gave a heave and it landed maybe two feet infront of her. I have to say, she was never going to get much distance given her lifting form. This is why its so important to lift your legs people.

Needless to say, this really set the guy off. He came down from his porch returning his own promises of hellfire back to her and encouraging her to leave. And she sort of did. Rather than go back from whence she came, she crossed the street, apparently still looking for more objects to rage upon. Luckily for her there is a bank of mailboxes right across the street from the guy’s house. Now, these are burried, if not cemented, in the ground, and she’s is a lady in barefeet with fury to dispence and not a teenager in an F-150 with a baseball bat to swing. These mailboxes are not in immenent danger, but rage on them she must. With all the hate-filled force she could summon she flung open every last mailbox door! Take that! You know, a good angry door slam is great. An angry door open? I guess it depends on the kind of door, but a tiny mailbox door sure ain’t it.

At this point, she is in the street and clearly not satisfied by her assult on the mailbox doors, and really, how could she be? This is when a car pulls up and stops next to her. Could this be the original horn honking car? The driver rolls down their window, and while I can’t hear what is said, it clearly doesn’t go over well. The lady open-hand slaps the car and the driver the floors it to get away. Perhaps she gave a brief thought of giving chase, or was just looking for more inanimate objects to unleash herself upon, but she now started making her way down the other street that forms the intersection of which my house is at the corner. So my view is only getting better.

*Picture of my actual garbage can replaced to protect the victim.

I don’t know if she has a plan, but it’s clear she has garbage cans on the brain. And also probably meth. The house across the street from me has their garbage cans out too, and she makes a beeline for them. She quickly topples them and is looking to move on. She looks across the street to my house, where all three of my garbage cans are sitting out. Of all the days for it to be trash, yard waste, and recycling on the same day.

At this point I shift from guy-watching-from-between-the-blinds to Man Protecting His House. I walk to my front door and as I’m opening it she is dropping my garbage cans like bad habits. I feel the need to say something, but I also don’t want to escalate this lady. I need to be firm yet respectful, so I ma’am her. “Ma’am, can you pick those up?” I ask.

She doens’t respond.

I hit her with it again, “Ma’am, can you pick those up?”

I’ve got her attention now. She pivots and starts heading right toward me. As she gets closer I can see that she’s got the crazy eyes. I stand my ground though, and ask again, “Are you going to pick those up?” She gets closer, almost up to my porch now. I decide to treat her like some kind of wild puma, and I stand firm and look right back at her in her crazy eyes. Mind you I actaully have no idea what to do should you encounter a puma. I have read a book on bear attacks, but waving my arms in the air and screaming “Hey lady! You get out of here! You get!” doesn’t seem like a great option.

Just a few steps from my porch now she is staring at me with a mix of rage and total mental vacancy. And now that I have a good look at her face, I know that I have never seen this lady before. Not that I know everybody in my neighborhood, but I am fairly certain I could pick the people that live within a few houses of me out of a line up. “Do I even know you?” I ask.

“God knows you!” She replies. “And you’re going to hell!”

Plot twist! Turns out she’s not overflowing with rage from a run-in with a neighbor, she’s overflowing with the holy spirit! And also probably meth.

Now that I’ve joined the guy across the street in a sentense of eternal damnation, she’s decided I should also join him in having my landscaping feel her fury. I have no rocks, but I’ve got plants. She reaches down and grabs a handfull of leafy green growth and throws it at me. Much like the mailbox doors incident, this does not have the effect I’m sure she was hoping for. The leaves gently flutter to the ground without making it even half way to me. Clearly unsatisified from her leaf throwing, and again, who could blame her, she finds a more substantial target – a planter. Now, this thing is pretty heavy and awkward to grab, so she gives up hope of chucking it pretty quickly and settles for tipping it over. Apparently this satisfies her and she walks away.

I watch her go back to where she was coming from originally and back into a house which I assume is hers, though like I said, I have never seen this lady before. I take a mintue to wrap my head around what the hell just happened, and to keep an eye on the house to see if she stays in there. It seems her path of destruction has come to an end so I go back out to pick up my garbage cans. It is then that the thought enters my brain -what if she comes back out with a gun? I’m out here with no cover tending to my fallen cans. I wonder what the odds are she has a gun. She’s a middle aged white person with anger and/or substance abuse issues. Of course she has a gun. I go back inside and make sure all the doors are locked.

EPILOGUE:

I keep looking out the window peridically to see what happens next. Pretty quickly the cops show up. They knock on her doors and windows, and I can hear one cop say to another that he can see her sitting at the kitchen table. They keep knocking and trying to talk to her through the window, which apparently she finds annoying because she gets up, pulls down the blinds, then goes and sits back down. Bold move.

Over the next hour or so, a total of three cop cars, one paramedic unit, and one fire truck show up. There is also an industrial food supply delivery truck parked outside at one point, which I assume is either unrelated or a family member came from work to check on the situation. Which, of all the times to borrow a company car, you choose this one? “Hey boss, I gotta go check on a public disturbance my sister is causing, and I’m parked way out back. Is it cool if I take the giant cube truck with our company name on the door?”

Eventaully the paramedics wheel her out on a stretcher. Her hands and legs are strapped down. Did she have a mental breakdown? Was it drug induced? I don’t know. But I do know this – my kids are sure as hell skipping that house at Halloween.

Time Is a Traveler

Maybe it is part of being older, or maybe it is part of being a parent, but the value of my time is something I think about more now than I did a few years ago. Actually, I don’t think value is the right word – you can’t put a price tag on time, and you can’t buy more of it. Importance maybe? Though is time itself important or what we do with the time we have that is important? I’d argue the latter. The paradoxality of time. I think that’s probably accurate. Time is both limitless and limited.

It’s been a big week in our house. My oldest daughter is going back to pre-school in a few days, my younger daughter is nailing potty training, and the baby boy is adding oatmeal to his diet. All milestones and achievements worth celebrating, all happening so fast – at least it feels that way. I mean, wasn’t my oldest just in diapers? Wasn’t the baby just born? How can I even have three babies, wasn’t I just in high school? What the hell is going on here?

Also this week, I had a terrible client give me an excellent reminder of the importance of how I should perceive time. Some technical glitch in his iCalendar (though I am not 100% sure it wasn’t user error on his part) didn’t adjust the meeting invitation for time zone differences and he showed up to a conference call three hours early. In the angry phone call to me that followed, he reminded me no less than three times that he bills $650 per hour, and that his time is too valuable to have to rearrange his schedule. I had two immediate thoughts. First, his clients are getting absolutely robbed. Second, his time is in no way more valuable than time, nor mine any more valuable than his. If he wants to tell me the services he provides during his work day are more valuable, sure. But if he wants to tell me that the time he spends on this Earth is more valuable than mine, then I have some suggestion on what he can do to himself with some of that time.

I’ve been reading a lot about Stoic philosophy the last new months, and a central tenet is that we are all going to die. Some uplifting stuff, am I right? But the point is that we don’t control how long we get to live, and that dying isn’t anything to fear or even avoid. Death is a natural occurrence, and as such it can’t be bad, because it is part of the natural (and therefore good) course of things. The most powerful Roman emperor is just as dead as poorest slave, and some day my most arrogant client will be just as dead as me. Time went on before us, and time will continue to go on after us. And in my moment of frustration, I found a small measure of comfort in that.

Whether time feels like it crawling or flying by, I want to challenge myself with making more intentional choices on how I spend my time. If my kid wants five minutes my attention, is that an annoyance or something worth way more than $650? Time spent with my wife, time spend with friends, time spent running, time spent eating some cake, it all must be time spent on purpose. Otherwise it is time that’s gone without being taken full advantage of. So when one of my kids asks for Daddy for the thousandth time when they should have been asleep an hour ago, is that waste of time or is that exactly what my limited amount of time is for?

Time will keep going no matter how much of it I choose to utilize wisely or waste. Now that I am at a point in live where I am thinking about these things, I can’t help but look back at time I’ve wasted. I mean, sure it was fun in the moment playing so much NCAA Football on my PlayStation, but in the grand scheme what did I get out of my twenty consecutive national championships?

Time is a traveler. It will keep on going. It is up to me to make the most of my trip.

The Best Disney Dad Is Not Mufasa

Previously, I shared my thoughts on the who the worst father in Disney movies was, and I was asked who I thought the best Disney dad was. Like many of my generation, the first one that came to mind was Mufasa. The voice, the death, a very iconic character to be sure. However, the more I thought about it I realized that however iconic he may be, the best dad to come from a Disney movie was not Mufasa, but Cornelius Robinson.

You probably just said, “who?”

If you’ve unfamiliar, Cornelius Robinson is the patriarch in Meet the Robinsons. While it certainly wasn’t the most popular movie, (released in 2007 it was the 29th highest grossing movie of the year. If you’re curious 28th was Evan Almighty) that doesn’t take away from Cornelius’s status a great movie dad. I’m also saying Mufasa was a bad dad. I mean, I feel like telling his only son to stay away from his creepy uncle would have been a good nugget of wisdom for him to pass along. But circle of life, that’s cool.

So what makes Cornelius the best? Well let’s start with the obvious – his name is Cornelius. That is a great dad name. What makes it even better, is that isn’t even his real name. Dude chooses to go by Cornelius. His real name is Lewis. Major upgrade and a tally to put in the best dad column.

Another point in his favor is also pretty simple – he’s alive. I know parents in kids movies are easy targets to kill off early, so there is something to be said for a guy who is still standing when the credits roll. It has been said that 90% of being a dad is just showing up. I think there is some truth to that. I also think that tries to cram way to much other stuff into the remaining 10%. Carring crap to and from the car is at least 8% alone. The simple act of being there goes a long way, so the fact that Cornelius is simply there works in his favor.

Also, Cornelius is not a king. He wasn’t born into royalty. He’s just a dude. He was actually an orphan. He came up through his own ingenuity and hard work, which automatically bumps him up above any of the king dads, even feline ones.

One thing that Cornelius and Mufasa actually have in common is their relatively low amount of screen time. I know that technically Cornelius is in almost every scene in the movie as the younger Lewis, but Cornelius as the dad is only there for a few minutes. If you haven’t seen the movie that may seem confusing, but – spoilers – Lewis travels to the future and finds out that he grows up to be Cornelius. However, Mufasa and Cornelius differ in how their limited screen time is used. Mufasa’s time early in the movie sets him up as a larger than life figure in the eyes of his son, who is then tormeted by the fact that he feels he’ll never live up to what his father may have wanted for him. Cornelius on the other hand is not seen until the movie is almost over, but his impression is felt throughout and serves as an inspiration for people to embrace who they are live up to who they believe they can be. What could be a better lesson for dad to pass along, even in absence?

Which leads me to the biggest factor for his greatness – he literally changed the world. Unlike that useless dope Maurice, Cornelius Robinson is an inventor who makes great things. He revolutionizes everything from construction, transportation, robotics, sandwich making, and the inventor’s holy grail – time travel. Cornelius sets out to make his mark on the world by making it a better place to live, and he succeeds. Isn’t that something all dads, nay, all people aspire to do? And its not like he is some work-obsessed guy who neglects his family. By all accounts his son is smart, adventerous, and thinks the world of his dad. Cornelius has also taken in his parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, so I think he definitly qualifies as a family man. Mufasa couldn’t even keep tabs on one brother. Just saying. Cornelius seems to have mastered work-life balance.

While it certainly isn’t the most popular movie, Meet the Robinsons is definitly worth a watch. It’s got some funny parts, it’s got some heart, and oh yeah, it’s got Tom Selleck. That’s right, Cornelius is voiced by Tom Selleck. Admittedly, his voice is not exactly James Earl Jones, but it is also hard to out-dad Magnum freaking P.I.

Balancing Work and Home Life When You Work From Home

Opinions and politics aside, nothing is normal about living through this pandemic. What used to be a typical day at the office has been replaced by an atypical day at home. I have been able to continue working without a layoff or hours reduction, and I know I am lucky because of that. However, this mix of work life and home life has created a bizare state of mind, that seems to have now become the new normal.

I have always liked to keep a clean break between work and home. When I’m working I’m working, and when I’m not I’m really not. When I left the office at the end of my work day, I didn’t concern myself with work again until the next morning. I didn’t go back and check my email, I didn’t check Slack, and I even have the notifications on my phone turned off so I don’t even know if there is anything to check. Work stayed in the office, and home stayed at home. That was the case even before I had kids, and it really became something I wanted to maintain after having them. I work for a digital marketing agency, so I can do my job anywhere with wifi, but I would always go to the office because that was where work belonged. I am fortuante to work for a company who holds a healthy work/life balance as a core value, so having the time to spend with my family was always available. And it definitly still is, but now that my home is my office the lines have become oddly blurry.

A regular work scheudle ended for me on March 13th. For the last five months my office has been my basement and my desk is our old kitchen table. At the start of this it was different. There was almost a sense of adventure about it – there was a challenge to be faced and we were going to hunker down, stay safe, and make the best of it along the way. My wife even made me a care package of snacks and drinks to keep next to my “desk.” Sacrifice and trail mix, those were the keys to success.

My home “office”

My wife was laid off, so she was able to watch the kids upstairs while I worked in the basement. I’d come up for lunch and to help get the kids down for naps, and she would try her best to keep up with the lessons that our daughter’s pre-school sent home. There was something quaint about it, almost Rockwellian. I mean, if Normal Rockwell painted the cover art for an apocolyptic graphic novel. But Rockwellian none the less. Remember those Disney family sing along shows? We were all in this together, and a spoonful of sugar was helping the crushing anxiety go down. Ah, simplier times.

When things opened back up, my wife went back to work, my kids went back to daycare, and I stayed home. I sit at my desk alone in my basement and interact with people through a keyboard and webcam. The work itself is the same as it has been – there are emails to send, tasks to complete, and meetings to have. But doing the work comes with a new challange, and I’m not talking about needing to remember to unmute yourself on Zoom. Now the work must be done from an irregular mental state. I have all the responsibilties of work combined with the daily routine of unemployment. Wake up, get dressed in something comfortable, sit at a computer for long stretches, long for a more normal situation, which you could have someplace to go, wait for my wife to get home from work. The parallells of what I’m doing now and what I was doing in the past when I was between jobs are really uncanny, and there are times it feels exaclty the same as being unemployed. The normal stress of work, combined with the uncertainty of the times, topped off with the ennui of the unemployed lifestyle – what kind of a mindf*ck is that?

And what does that do to the mind’s ability to actually focus on work? Nevermind the obvious distractions that come with working from home – mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, replacing that light bulp that you keep forgetting about until you go to turn it on but you keep putting it off because there are still two other lights in that room and its probably bright enough anyway. Now there are the added distractions of the pandemic, and the looming questions of what to do when schools open back up. If I am staying home, why am I sending my kids to daycare or school? Oh yeah, because I’m still working.

But as I said before, I’m lucky. I know that. Throughout all this, I haven’t lost a paycheck and I haven’t gotten sick. I have never been put in a position to choose between my income and my health. Generations before ours were forced to leave their families to fight in actual wars, and I don’t like it that I put my kids in daycare so I can stay in pajamas and sit at a computer all day. Though it may be the firstest of first world problems, it is a problem. At least it is for somebody who liked a clean line between work and home, and work has now become a houseguest who has overstayed their welcome and I can’t ask them to leave.

Babies Are Full of Spit

A baby’s body is made up of 47% undigested milk. That is a science fact. Probably.

It boggles my mind how a baby can can spit up what seems like more than they ate. Babies spit, I get that, but I also understand basic math. It really ought to be impossible for a baby to spit up 8 ounces when they only drank 4 ounces. However, I have a laundry basket full of shirts that tell me it is quite possible. My baby boy spits up at least something every time he eats, which my other kids never did. They would spit up occasionally if they didn’t get burp out or something like that, but this kid spits up at least some after literally ever feeding.

Even if it is hours after. The other day we woke up after being asleep for several hours and almost immediately spit up. There is no other conclusion to draw other than his bones are hollow and fill up with undigested milk. Some might say that babies are all soft and squishy because their bones are mostly cartilage. Nope. Their bones are mostly milk, laying in wait to be hurled upon an unsuspecting baby-holder who undoubtedly just put on a clean shirt.

You know what? I literally had to stop writing this just now to go get the baby boy out of his crib because he woke up with spit down the side of his face. He ate. He got a big ol’ burp out. He fell asleep. He slept for about a half hour. Then spit. Of course while he was at it he pooped twice for good measure. And just to really drive the point home he spit up all down my arm the second I lifted him off the changing table. I guess he still had some of his secret stash left over that he just felt compelled to make me wear.

I now firmly believe that baby pudge is not fat, but extra milk reserved specifically for higher volume spitting. Like that little extra container of water that came on the Super Soaker 100. Just in case you need to get dad extra wet. Of course the Super Soaker delivered a refreshing splash of water on a hot day. Partially digested milk that is the temperature of the inside of a person is something less than invigorating as it runs down your neck.

The doctors may say my kid has a mild case of acid reflux. But I know the truth. He came with a real built-in version of those fake vomit bags they use to make it looks like people throw up on Saturday Night Live. Yep. I’m on to you little man. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put on my 4th shirt of the day.

Raising Kids as a Detroit Sports Fan

It’s baseball season (or at least something resembling baseball season), and I can do something that feels like a right of passage – watch baseball with my kids. So far my kids exposure to me watching sports has been last year’s March Madness and football season. I don’t watch hardly as much sports as I did before I had kids. The most obvious reason is not having the time, but perhaps an even larger factor has been that I am fan of all the Detroit teams – and they have been a complete dumpster fire.

To this point the most sports my kids have seen me watch is during last year’s March Madness. This gave them the basic knowlege that dad watches basketball, which meant that ever since then if I am watching any sport, they say I am watching basketball. I once tried to correct my daughter that no, I’m actually watching football. This lead to a 20 minute back and forth of “Basketball!” – “Football!” To this day she’ll ask to play the game where we say “Basketball! Football!” It has been their biggest exposure to sports.

But with a new baseball season comes new hope and I am suckered back in. I watched a few innings with my son, but seeing as he is only 4 months old I don’t think he quite picked up on the nuances of the game. My 4 year old daughter however, did show some interest and askd some questions – mostly “what’s his name?” Apparently the what and they why are not as important to figure out as the who.

Though I wonder – once my kids are old enough to ask who I’m watching, should I give them the opportunity to watch somebody worth watching? If so, it certaintly won’t be any of the teams I follow.

The Tigers – I Just Can’t Help Myself

Honestly, the odds of me not pushing Tigers fandom on my kids is pretty low. Even though they have been bad for the vast majority of my lifetime, I just can’t help it. They are my team, and they will be theirs. I don’t even know what realistic alternative options would be. In most cases geography would be a factor, but I’m certainly not letting my kids root for another team in the same division. Being in West Michigan there is a descent amount of Cub fan spillover, but ever since they finally won a World Series they feel like too much of a bandwagon team. If I’m going to let my kids abandon the Tigers they better do it for somebody like the Pirates or Padres so they can be just as miserable as me.

The Pistons – Depends on the Year

I liked watching basketball when I was growing up, it was great time for the sport. Jordan was Jordan. Barkley was uncivilized. Larry Johnson was Grandmama. The Pistons were transitioning from the Bad Boys to the Grant Hill years. Their style of play of physical, the uniforms were teal, and the NBA on NBC had the greatest sports theme ever. What a time to be alive. But Grant Hill couldn’t do it all by himself, and my fandom faded. Until Ben Wallace came to down and the Pistons went work. They won and I watched. If they win again, I’ll watch again, but I’m sure not going to introduce my kids to the NBA as it is today without a rooting interest in the Pistons. Show my kids what basketball at the highest level is by showing them James Harden? I’d rather them watch me play pop-a-shot.

The Red Wings – Meh

Like everybody else my age, I went and saw Mighty Ducks when it came out and got into hockey for about 6 months. The Wings were consistenlty good for most of my youth, so watching a local team win the championship was fun. They even let us watch some of a game in school one time – when Yzerman beat the Blues in OT. A good time was had by all, and thus concluded my hockey watching. If my kids want to watch the Wings, neat. If they don’t, that’s cool too. If they find another team to follow, I don’t really care, but I think I would prefer for them to root for a Canadian team. I don’t know why.

The Lions – Not on My Watch

Part of being a parent is hoping that you are able use what you’ve learned from your experience and mistakes to teach your kids. You want them avoid the misfortune you’ve endured. You want them to not have to deal with things like misery and disappointment. Misery and disappointment have been the official sponsors of Detroit Lions football since the Eisenhower administration. I will not subject them to it. I barely subject myself to it anymore. For the last few seasons I watch only to the point where I am certain the Lions will lose. Sometimes that’s 4 quarters, sometimes that’s 4 minutes. Sometimes that’s 4 days before the game. If they want to watch other teams play football, I won’t stop them. But much like the NBA, if the style of play continues on the path it’s on I don’t think it will be worth watching anyway.

Ultimately, kids will like what they like. Maybe my girls will love the Lions anyway. Maybe the boy will like obscure Olympic sports. I could find a worse way to spend my time than hanging out with my son watching handball. But I do know this – no matter what their interest level in sports ends up being, if they don’t learn how to keep a clean scorecard at a baseball game, I have failed them.

Fighting Dad Stereotypes: Lawn Care

In the current social climate, it is more important than ever to call out stereotypes and address them head on. I know we’ve all seen the memes and spoof YouTube videos. The dopey dad with a pair of grass-stained New Balance obsessing over his lawn mower and prioritizing his lawn over all else. Even in the face of an oncoming tornado, a dad must tend to his lawn. To this notion of what makes a dad, I must say no.

This guy is a jerk.

Do I own a lawn mower? Yes. Do I mow my lawn? Of course. Would I prefer my lawn to be more green than brown? You bet. Is it some passion, some obsession, some ritualized activity that I’ve somehow intertwined with my dadness? Absolutely not. At its most enjoyable, lawn care for me is some time to put headphones on and get some uninterrupted time to listed to music or a podcast. At its least enjoyable, it is something that involves more than walking around my yard while the mower does the work. If mowing my lawn gives me a reason to get moving outside on a nice day, then sign me up. If it means doing things that could be categorized as landscaping, hard pass. And I don’t think that makes me any less of a dad. I might actually be in the majority.

For me, the obligation to maintain a tidy lawn is one of a homeowner who doesn’t want to have the worst looking yard on the street, not one of a dad. Lawn maintenance should be like an umpire in baseball, if the job is done properly, you don’t even notice it. Passers by will notice the lawn that looks professionally manicured, and the lawn that looks like the chimpanzee enclosure at the zoo. They will not notice the lawn that has probably been cut within the last week and isn’t completely brown. That’s the sweet spot to be in. To put just enough work into the lawn so it doesn’t make somebody wonder if you’ve died.

Now I am sure there are real life dads out there who reinforce this stereotype. With mowers that are finely tuned with freshly sharpened blades. Who’d rather put out a sprinkler at just the right time of day everyday than to sure hope it rains soon because the yard is really starting to get crunchy. And yes, dads who have turned a white pair of crappy shoes green. But I am not him. My mower is in good enough shape to get the job done, but probably not what you’d call “maintained”. My method for achieving green grass is mostly based on the weather report. (Though full disclose – during a recent hot and dry spell I did water my back yard where the kids play, but more out of wanting them to be able to play on actual grass and not a patch of scorched earth that looks like it belongs between two trenches. I’m just looking out for my kid’s feet here.) And I mow the lawn in work boots. There is no way I’m sacrificing a pair of my shoes in the name of my lawn, and if that’s not completely against this stereotype, then I don’t know what is.

I’m not here to judge the guys out there to are all about their lawns. You do you, buddy. You be that shining beacon on the block. As long as you don’t live right next to me. A C+ average looks much worse when directly compared to the valedictorian. But I am fairly certain these lawn care all-stars are not the norm. I have to believe that the average dad is just a dude looking to get out of the house for a little while and push a mower around. And really, isn’t the true dad move to not take care of your lawn yourself, but to make your kids do it?

The real lawn care dad stereotype should be a guy staring out the window and saying to his kid, “The lawn isn’t going to mow itself.” Now that is a stereotype I would gladly fit in. My oldest kid is only 4, so we aren’t there yet, but I am definitely going to do more lawn watching than lawn mowing. It might even be one of the best reasons to have kids in the first place.