Not a Babysitter

Being a dad is a completely different beast than being a mom, if someone sees a mom with her kids at a grocery store nobody bats an eyelid.  I cannot even tell you how many times I have been asked if I was babysitting with my own kids.  The first time, I was taken aback and got defensive and told them it was called fathering.  I have since tried to come up with more clever responses and see what kind of reaction I can get, one of my favorite is telling them that my mommy tells me I’m not allowed to babysit.  Why is there such a double standard when it comes to dads being alone with their kids doing normal, everyday actions?  In 2016, it shouldn’t be OK for these women to subject dads to this demeaning type of behavior.

I was on the Metro coming home from work yesterday and there was a young dad with his son that was about a year and a half old, like many toddlers he tried to throw his bottle and it kind of fell straight down and landed right way up, almost perfectly.  The dad picked it up and gave it back to his son.  An older woman walked up to him and told him that there are so many germs on the floor and he shouldn’t have given the bottle back without sanitizing it and that his mom wouldn’t have allowed it.  The young dad looked almost defeated as he took the bottle away looking for something to clean it with and I just couldn’t sit back and watch.  I said to him loud enough for the woman to hear that the nipple was nowhere near the ground and that he looks like a caring dad and to enjoy those moments alone with his son because they don’t come nearly often enough.  I got the dirtiest of looks from that lady and I loved every second of it.  Once she left I told him that there isn’t anything a mom can do that a dad can’t and to keep up the good work.

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Dads are so often known as the mean and tough guy that is clueless around the kids and is constantly telling them to go as their mother, but this isn’t the 50’s anymore.  Stay at home dads are becoming a lot more prevalent with moms being the bread-winner or just to avoid the ridiculous cost of daycare.  I look forward to my alone time with the kids and taking at least one of them with me while running errands on the weekend, it is our own special time together and they know it is usually capped off with a treat that we keep a secret from Mom and their sibling.  My wife has gone away for weekends before and believe it or not, she came home to a clean house and the kids still in one piece!

We may be the goofy parent, the stricter parent, the fun parent depending on the time but there is no reason that both parents can’t fill each of those roles at different times.  My wife and I try our best to co-parent to take the stress off of each other and get some well-deserved alone time every so often and not have to worry about the kids or how long the kids have been alone with the other parent.  My wife knows that if I’m getting my daughter up and dressed that she may not have on a cute outfit and her hair will be brushed but not in braids or anything like that and we are completely OK with that.  I cook nearly every night, used to do all of the grocery shopping, finish and fold laundry, iron and have even made the bed a few times without being asked.

I AM DAD, HEAR ME ROAR!

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You Can’t Say That

As a parent, I’m sure we have all slipped up at some point and said something that we meant to be part of our internal dialogue, but in front of our kids.  I know that I have and I remember my dad slipping up a few times (not often though).  Not everyone has the same rules and policies about anything so language can’t be any different.  I’m curious not only at what age can we open up our “adult vocabulary” a little more, but also, what words fall into that category?

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George Carlin is famous for the 7 dirty words that you can’t say on TV, but one of them is piss and I can think of at least 10 more that I wouldn’t dare say!  When we had just one tiny human to our name, we were so careful not to say certain things and we would never say fart or butt in front of them.  Well we get a call from Brenn’s pre-school telling us that he said a bad word.  The blame immediately came for the Navy dad, but he openly admitted that he heard mommy say it before.  In all fairness, he did drop the F bomb in perfect context when something wasn’t going his way.

We still have certain words that we don’t use beyond the obvious ones.  We do not say shut up and recently Brenn has talked about his nuts, I was not a fan of hearing that from across the yard while playing on the trampoline.  One of my pet peeves is the word whatever when coupled with an eye roll, it makes my blood boil!  My wife is aware of this and uses it wisely.  Unfortunately, Lilly is full of ‘tude and has the eye roll down to a science so we are working on getting that out of her.  Another word that I do not like my kids using is hate.  This one is a little deeper, obviously.  We want to teach our kids that if you dislike something, that is not hate and we don’t hate people.  After the talk about hate crimes a few months back (see a previous post), I think that Brenn is more receptive to why this type of thing is wrong and with the diversity in his school and on his soccer team, I don’t think he has an ounce of hate in him, except maybe for homework.

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The other part of this conversation is about age.  We all get a richer vocabulary as we get older and begin to only say these words around our friends but when is it normal to use these words in front of each other?  The reason I ask is that we had our niece over the weekend who is 13 and we were at a cookout.  My wife was talking to someone and dropped a bad word and I said something about it, they both laughed at me and she told me it’s nothing she doesn’t hear all the time.  I understand that they say things and hear things in movies and music but I feel that it is more a respect issue at this point.  I didn’t cuss in front of my dad regularly until I was around 20 and I try not to in front of my mom, but they definitely slip out from time to time as I’m in my 30s.  I believe that if we don’t want our kids using that language in front of us, that we should show them the same respect and I’ll be damned (whoops) if someone that age walks around dropping F bombs like that around me.

Respect for others when it comes to language is very important to me as a parent as well.  Even if you use that language in front of your children, have the respect not to use it in front of others, especially when they are at the repeating age of 2-3 without knowing the meaning of things.  I was completely shocked when I was 10 minutes into coaching my son’s 8 and 9-year-old soccer team and a dad from football practice on the next field backed up his SUV and opened the hatch just to blare hype music to the team (also around the same age).  I listen to all types of music, from Toby Keith to DMX and everything in between and whatever he put on was so foul that one of the mothers on my team got in her car.  When I went and asked him to either turn it down or change it, he looked at me astonished and basically just said no.  When I said the language wasn’t appropriate and I thought there might have been a confrontation, a park police car drove by and he turned it off.  Why would someone not only think that is OK, but then argue when someone asked you to turn it down.  Some people baffle me.

Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts on what are bad words in your house and at what age is it OK to start using them more freely around the little ones.

As always, stay strong and keep it clean out there dads!

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Disney World for Dads

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Walt Disney World is dubbed the happiest place on Earth and that is mostly true.  I have been to a bunch of theme parks and WDW is definitely on the top of the list.  The staff is beyond friendly and there are so many little things that may go unnoticed for many such as the scents that are put into the park, the staff that give crying kids a sticker and even the phenomenal app, but as with all things, there is a but!  This place is truly magic and all of these great things but it usually takes a few trips to learn how everything works and learn the inside tips.  As a dad, and a relatively frugal person, I don’t want others to have a less than perfect trip if they are spending all of that money so I am here to let everyone know the low down, from a dad’s perspective.

First of all, it is expensive!  This shouldn’t be news to many people but it is worth saving up to do it the right way and plan as much as possible.  Maybe I cheated a little but a good friend of mine Michele became a Disney Vacation Planner after visiting the parks about a hundred times, and she was a life saver on both of our trips.  There is so much to know when planning one of these trips and if you’ve never been, it is impossible to wrap your head around.  Michele came through and planned everything from lodging to tickets, to meal plans and which would be best for us, planned character meals and she even stayed up until midnight 60 days before our trip to get us the best Fast Passes available at the exact moment that was available.  This isn’t just a plug for her, but without her, our experience probably would’ve been dreadful!  So when you want to start thinking about a trip or get prices, give Michele a shout at Michele.Smith@mickeyvacations.com or https://www.disneytravelcenter.com/msbd49329f/

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Dads have a different perspective on things many times and WDW is no different.  It should be pointed out very early that WDW itself does not serve alcohol unless you are lucky enough to get reservations to Be Our Guest, which is usually booked up about a year in advance even though Michele got us in.  Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and the water parks all serve beer which is good to note, especially when planning.  My kids were relatively young at 5 and 3 for our first trip which made WDW and Hollywood Studios ideal because Lilly was too short for most rides at Epcot.  Our second trip, they were a little older so Brennan could show Lilly his favorite ride, the Test Track at Epcot.  We were lucky enough to have some of our friends come and meet up for a day at Epcot so we warned the kids that the afternoon was going to be adult time and we walked (and drank) our way around Epcot and the world for that matter.  Planning a fun time for adults is key in keeping your sanity, yes the happiest place on Earth is mostly for kids but slipping in an afternoon of adult fun is a must!  Some of the higher end hotels actually have babysitters available so that you can enjoy a nice meal or night out but we just brought our tiny humans in tow!

We learned on our first trip that if your kid will physically fit in a stroller and you have a decent one, bring it!  They are available to rent as well but they all look identical, so it is best to bring something to make yours stand out from the millions parked all over the parks.  Bring comfortable shoes, yes shoes!  We went both times where the weather was much warmer in FL than our home and I wore sandals to let my piggies be free but also brought comfortable shoes because the amount of walking those days was unbelievable!  I believe my FitBit told me that I was averaging 25,000 steps per day so having good shoes and a stroller to keep the kids from having to walk that distance was clutch.  The stroller is also good because it is a good storage facility, even when Brenn wanted to walk, it was nice to have somewhere to put your drinks, souvenirs and spray bottles.

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Our first trip, we got a meal plan that included a breakfast snack, a refillable cup, a quick meal for lunch and a sit down meal for dinner.  It was a good deal and for those of you with kids who eat mostly anything, it is a great idea.  You can just touch Mickey to Mickey on your Magic Band (we’ll get into that later) and you grab your food and move on with your day.  My kids don’t eat anything and we learned that you can bring food and drinks into the parks, what a deal!  We started each day with the kids eating pop tarts or something like this on the way in and we would pack snacks and sandwiches for lunch.  We also learned that the kids usually became hungry when they were bored, when we were in a line waiting for the next event or ride.  Having a sandwich or snacks handy saved many a meltdown!  We usually bought dinner in the park somewhere which isn’t cheap but the food is a lot better than what I think of as theme park food.

Planning out your days may not be your forte, but it is almost a requirement here.  Michele set up our Fast Passes for early in the day so that we could go to the kiosks and get more around lunch time or we could decide to go to another park in the afternoon.  Knowing where you are going is crucial in keeping everyone happy.  The app is fantastic with a GPS feature and ride wait times up to the minute.  Also the Magic Bands are really cool because the kids can get food, unlock the hotel room door and if one of them wonders off, it is GPS enabled and they are trackable! Again, the little details are so good to have and know about early.  Parking can be expensive but if you’re staying at a WDW resort, they have busses constantly running and almost never a wait of more than 15 minutes.  We did a Typhoon Lagoon one morning when we were there and we had a blast, it was a good change up from the norm and we were able to change and head over to a park afterwards.  The fireworks and light show at Cinderella’s castle is a must see!  As an adult, I was amazed at how it was done and just the spectacle of the whole show.  A lot of things are well documented in Disney tricks and tips like sunblock and best places to eat, but as a dad, some of these tips could have saved us many meltdowns and wasted time and energy on the first trip.  We aren’t pros yet, but we hope to be soon!

Stay strong out there dads and always be magical!

The Swim

There are times in most men’s lives that we feel the masculine urge to prove ourselves to be tough.  It is usually a dumb decision and I have to admit that it has happened to me a few times.  Whether it is the competitive nature that comes out when racing your brother down a water slide (that might’ve happened recently) or a simple taunt of “I bet you can’t”, we all of a sudden go back to the caveman mentality and puff out our chest.  Well I had a recent experience of this but it was completely internal and I seemed to challenge myself.

My family recently went on a vacation to North Myrtle Beach and we were staying in a condo in the same building as my brother’s family and another family that are close friends of ours.  My dad was down in a different hotel for most of the trip as well.  We used to rent jet skis to go and have fun one day during our annual vacation, but all of the kids, my dad and the price of jet skis, my brother found a place that we could rent a pontoon boat for half a day and we could all go on.  We were given a map, told not to worry about the sand bars because the tide would be coming in the whole trip and we were on our way!  We started out on the Inter Coastal Water way and made our way out towards the ocean.  I opened the cooler pretty early and had a Red Bull and a beer.

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We navigated the treacherous (not at all) waters and went to the deserted small island before the ocean that we could explore and swim for a while.  We all jumped right in and swam around, explored the ocean and got to see a bunch of fish swimming all around us.  I might have even had another beer while wading around.  We saw a large splash about 100 yards from us and we couldn’t tell what was jumping but it was a decent size.  It was nice and very relaxing but I got to thinking that I had not worked out on that Monday and despite a good beach run the day before, I might not get much of a workout for a few days.

I looked across the water and there was a very small island roughly 300 yards away.  I got the masculine urge to go for a swim.  I said that I was heading over to the little island, my 13-year-old niece said she would come too and I said no way that I could drag her back if she got tired.  I kept on my sunglasses and white round floppy fishing hat to protect my dome.  Lauren said it was best to keep my hat on so that I could be spotted easily and she later admitted that she was keeping an eye on the gap between the hat and the water level.  I walked out as far as I could stand and then started at a very leisurely pace towards the small island, I quickly notice the incoming tide was acting like a current but it wasn’t strong so I adjusted my angle and kept on.  I changed my stroke a number of times to keep from one part of my body getting too fatigued but I was getting tired.  About 40 yards from the island I realized that the current had gotten much stronger and my angle had changed a lot but I was swimming more upstream than across and I came to the realization that I was going to overshoot the island altogether.

“Crap” I thought, well that wasn’t the exact word I used but it was similar in amount of letters.  I was exhausted but knew I would be in much worse trouble if I missed the island and would be stuck in the middle of the waterway and stuck in a strong current.  I regrettably turned back and started heading for the boat but the current already dragged me over 100 yards down the coast.  It wasn’t too bad, I still had another 100 yards of sand before it turned into marshland where I didn’t know if it was shallow or what might be living in the Everglades-looking area.  The problem is that I never got my rest on the other side of the water and fatigue was taking over.  I flipped to my back and was staring at a house between my feet and I continued to swim to the shore and thought that as long as I stared at the house, I would be aiming for the boat and wouldn’t get too swept away.

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Another poor assumption as I realized that not only was I getting swept farther down the stream, but I was also now aiming right at the grassy area.  I paused and thought about yelling and waving for help but I knew with nobody on the boat, it would take almost 10 minutes to load everyone up, pull the anchor and get to me, not to mention the thought of the stories that would follow about how I needed to be rescued and that wasn’t going to happen to me!  I pushed on, this time going almost completely upstream and was winded to say the least.  When I was about 40 yards from shore I was ready to give up and was debating about trying to doggy paddle for a few and the greatest possible thing happened, I kicked the ground.  There was a sandbar going diagonal from the end of the sandy beach past the grassy area.  It was a savior!  I was able to walk, well more hobble my way to the beach and then up to the boat.  I was shaky and thought my shoulders were going to fall off, but I made it!

I chugged a giant Gatorade and stole some of the kids’ snacks and was so happy that I decided to get a breakfast sandwich that morning at Starbucks.  I sat for a while as my family chatted and laughed and played in the water.  My dad told me that he was keeping an eye on me, but couldn’t see very well and he thought I made it.  We decided to move on, I was rejuvenated enough for a few more beers as we anchored out and swam around the boat and I even checked off a bucket list item of jumping off of a moving boat, which was a blast.

On the ride back, right in front of the boat we saw another splash, but this time, it happened twice in a row and we were able to see the culprit, it was about a 5-foot stingray jumping out of the water.  I had never realized that they did this, so I decided to jump on the google machine and investigate.  Turns out that they only jump out of the water for one reason, to avoid getting eaten by their predators.  A stingray that size only has one predator, a large shark.  We were in brackish water, nearing the line to fresh water which means it was most likely a bull shark, the most aggressive shark.  I was swimming in open water, fatigued, likely with a bull shark very close-by.  Needless to say I had another beer when this realization hit me.

Why must we be this macho, why do we feel the need to prove ourselves?  What made me think this was a good idea?  I am very glad that these are questions that I can ask myself on dry land and they are not questions being asked as I’m in the hospital or even worse!

Stay strong, smart and macho out there dads!

Slowest Week Ever

Mondays aren’t known for workers showing up to work refreshed and motivated, especially when they are so rainy and dreary as it is today in the DC area.  But this week has extra meaning, it has more of a reason to drag on than a typical Monday.  We leave for a family vacation at the end of the week!  Even though we like to take little weekend getaways here and there, this is our first extended vacation as a family in a year and we are all looking forward to it!

The whole family has been counting down to this vacation for some time, but as of Friday when we got within a week, it started to get real.  My scatter-brained daughter has asked almost every day if we are going to the beach tomorrow, quickly followed by “Oh yeah, I mean are we going to Gran’s tomorrow on the way to the beach?” We decided to break the trip up into two days and make it to VA Beach to see my mom and spend the night with her to make two 4-5 hour drives instead of about 7.5 all the way through just to save leaving well before dawn to miss traffic.  These are the adventures of living near the Nation’s Capital, traffic every day regardless of the time!

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We are going to North Myrtle Beach, which we have done for years after my in-laws got us hooked.  We have gotten our own place for a few years now and had a house last year, but it was far more space than we needed and the price tag was pretty high.  We decided to get a condo this year, it still has enough room for us, the kids and a spare bedroom for some friends that are coming to get away as well.  This year we are in the same building as my brother’s family and another couple that we are close with, along with all of their associated tiny humans for maximum play time.  My Dad is even coming down and staying part of the time in a hotel just a few miles away.  Unfortunately, my mom’s cat is sick so she can’t make the trip with us this year.

So back to my incredibly dreary Monday.  I rarely sleep well on Sunday nights and last night was no different but waking up to rain didn’t help.  I went through my morning emails and started with my podcasts and when I got hungry, I decided it was time for my morning walk (which I normally take around 7:45) and I realized it was only 7:00!  I feel myself turning into Lilly with my mind wandering about being at the beach while sitting in my cubicle and praying that this week doesn’t drag it’s butt like Monday has thus far.IMG_1106

I am looking forward to time on the beach with the family, eating great food and really just relaxing.  It is a full week that I don’t have to commute to DC or have to think about work, ideally I will come back with a nice tan and feeling fully refreshed.  I have a few books that I want to get finished while sitting at the beach or on the balcony overlooking the sand.  I look forward to casting a line in the surf with a beer in my hand and not a worry in the world.  Lilly asked if she could fish with me, so that could be fun (for a few minutes at least).  I want to kick a soccer ball on the beach with Brennan and just see how much fun they have on the beach!  I’ll live in this fantasy land for a few more days leading up to the road trip, realizing this is not how family vacations actually work, but don’t burst my bubble damnit!  My kids won’t argue at all, they’ll enjoy everything we eat, they’ll listen to what we tell them and they will go to bed when we ask; Oh it will be so grand!  It’s worth a shot!

Stay strong out there dads and come on Friday!!

DAD TRAITS – Guest Post

 My Old Man

My father was the most humble and hardest working man I have ever known. I was able to work hand in hand with him on our farm and learned many life lessons. While I was in college he unexpectedly died at the young age of 54 due to a heart attack. It has been the most devastating moment of my life thus far. Growing up I took a lot of moments we had together for granted. Always assuming he’d grow old into his 80s or 90s and spend countless hours with his grandchildren. However, life always has a way of changing our direction just as soon as we think we have it all figured out. This was a life changing moment for me and set in course events that would lead me to where I am today.

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Passed Down

As a husband and father today, I see a lot of traits in myself that I have to thank my old man for. Putting faith, family and friends first was a cornerstone in my dad’s life. If you ask my wife I am certain she would tell you the same about me. She would also tell you that I did pick up some annoying habits from him as well. Such as rolling my dirty socks up and tossing them in the laundry basket or picking my toenails instead of clipping them, just to name a couple habits!! Growing up I also watched how he treated my mother and made sure he worked hard to provide for her and our family so our needs were met. I’d like to say that I am not perfect but I do strive each day to make sure that my family’s needs are met and provided for. Of course when necessary, I also make sure to spoil my wife and daughter because they deserve it.

Learning On The Fly

Regardless of how much I learned growing up with my dad, still many lessons I learned through trial and error. The most useful skill I developed was diaper changing. Up until our daughters birth in 2012, these hands had never handled a nuclear bomb in a diaper. I remember the first occurrence of this quite well. It was shortly after Fin was born and our first night at the hospital. Jess was fast asleep after being a rockstar through the delivery. Yours truly was not able to sleep in the room’s torture device aka the recliner. Then the moment happened. Finley started crying. The room mostly dark. I looked to my left. No one there. I looked to my right. No one there. THE TIME HAD COME. I walked over to Finley’s bed and grabbed a clean diaper. (at this moment I was really kicking myself for not paying more attention the nurse just hours before). I methodically opened up the diaper, making sure to hold Finley’s legs up so a bigger mess didn’t happen. Quickly I swiped a wet wipe….positioned it for a clean swipe and WHOOOSHHH. Clean butt, wipe dropped into the diaper, diaper tabs criss-crossed and tossed into the trash. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!

As I raised my hands in victory and then began to rock Finley back to sleep, I could of swore I felt a hand pat on my back and it wasn’t Finley. I believe my old man had been watching (and I’m sure laughing hysterically) through the whole episode. It was then and there he realized I had conquered the diaper change and that he had already set me up to be the father he always knew I would be from that moment forward.

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Dad With A Daughter

Outside of the first diaper change, there have been many firsts for me already in just the first four years of Finley’s life. Making ponytails, buns, braids and picking out the right colored hair clips to match outfits are a daily adventure. One of the best ideas I’ve come up with is to allow my toenails to be painted once a week during football season. I’ve found that letting Fin paint my toe nails on a Sunday afternoon allows me to watch the Chiefs uninterrupted, at least for 5-10 minutes! It’s a win-win situation for both of us.

Everyday there seems to be something new I learn as a father and as a husband. Just as I took for granted the time I had with my father, I instead try to make the most of every single moment I have with Finley. She is too young to realize the importance of each day I am able to spend with her. However, I hope and pray that she will some day look back and realize her father helped set in motion the values, morals and events that will make her successful in life both as an individual and as a wife and mother to a very lucky man (years down the road of course!!)

 

Don’t forget to check out the rest of my blog at: www.chaddydaddyishome.com and make sure to follow our adventures on Facebook and Instagram: @chaddydaddyishome

More Than Just a Picky Eater

Our eight-year-old son Brennan is an extremely picky eater, but when I say extremely picky eater, it goes far beyond the norm and was actually diagnosed.  Many kids are picky eaters and don’t like veggies or certain foods, but this is not the same thing.  My wife and I have posted on social media about it before, whether in a proud moment or venting about another ruined meal and though we appreciate the empathy, very few people deal with it on this level.

Let’s give a little background on Brennan and this issue.  When he was a baby, he ate relatively normally and that went on until he was around 2 ½ with only a few foods that he didn’t like.  That was when things began to shift and he would refuse more and more foods.  We tried everything under the sun and his pediatrician told us not to worry and that he won’t go to college only eating a few foods.  Well she may have underestimated exactly what was going on.  When we talked to him about it, he tells us that it is not about the tastes, but instead the texture.  He has always had some sensory issues, whether it was his favorite blanket to his socks having to be exactly lined up to how much he hated sand in between his toes, so it made some sense.  Much of this has gone away over time and he has grown to really love the beach even though he still isn’t a fan of the sand.  This with his eating has only gotten worse.

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His list of foods that he will actually eat has diminished even more with certain restaurants’ style of pizza or chicken nuggets not being passable.  Up until a few months ago, the only foods that he would eat was down to pizza, fried chicken nuggets, Nutella sandwiches, pizza Lunchables, pancakes, breakfast sausage, apples, applesauce and strawberries…  With no exceptions!  He ate Nutella sandwiches for lunch at school every day.  Dinner was a terrible time of arguing and tempers flaring all around.  We tried it all from punishing him for not trying something (he lost many privileges), telling him he wasn’t moving until he did try something (he sat there until 11:00 at night once), only making him what we were having for dinner (he went almost 18 hours without eating before we caved) to basically forcing it into his mouth (he threw it back up).  When we hear from people that they dealt with this too and just force them to have something every day, it becomes more and more difficult to not have a sarcastic remark like “That’s a great idea, I’ve never thought of that hidden gem of parenting”, but I usually take the high road and say thanks.

When we thought that we were at our wit’s end, something finally started to turn his way.  My wife booked him an appointment at Kennedy-Krieger in Baltimore to be a part of a study for kids that are extremely picky eaters.  His first appointment was a grueling few hours of about 6 doctors from Nutritionists, Occupational Therapists to Mental Health Professionals evaluating him to see if he qualified, and he did!  A few more months go by and he was allowed to go in and be a part of this study.  It started slow but they would play with him and talk to him and start with certain familiar foods and then ease into other things.  He has tried six new foods which is pretty awesome!

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Last week something happened that had never happened before and we could not be more proud of him.  Both Brennan and his sister Lilly ate the same dinner with us two days in a row!  We had baked chicken with green beans one night and tacos the second night.  I’ll give him that his was just chicken on a tortilla, but it was so great to have him eat what we are eating and not have to make three separate meals.  When Lilly sees Brennan getting away with eating other things, she throws a fit but many times she will still eat what we are having and enjoy it most of the time.  To date, Brennan has eaten cheddar cheese, baked and grilled chicken breasts, green beans and just this week he tried cucumber (and he liked it) and macaroni and cheese (not his favorite but eating it anyway).  He goes in two to four week sessions where he eats the new food every day and we report how he does with it.  If he does each piece of food in a minute without throwing a fit, he gets a star and he can trade 5 stars for a prize.

He has done so great and it has been such a tough few years just trying to make sure that a restaurant has food that he will eat.  It is expanding and hopefully soon he will allow us to start venturing out a little bit more and he might even be able to come to some of the smokehouses that I love so much (but usually don’t have fried nuggets).  We look forward to expanding his palette even more and a huge thank you to those people doing great work at Kennedy-Krieger, you are truly lifesaver, or at least dinner-time savers!

Stay strong out there dads, it might take some work, but it can get better!

Does Guilt Ever Fade?

Facebook memories can be a great reminder of what you were doing on this day on different years, great memories of trips and firsts for the family.  It can also be a not so subtle reminder of less than great times.  This morning a picture came across my feed that I stared at for a few minutes and didn’t know how I felt about it.  On this day in 2015, the doctor removed the cast from my son’s leg and I immediately felt the overwhelming guilt come back.  It got me thinking about if guilt ever faded.

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To relive that terrible day in May of 2015 is one of my worst nightmares and though I am able to joke about it now, it does still bother me.  A quick version of the story is that I was coaching Brennan’s soccer game and we actually got scored on (we hadn’t all season up to this point) and he started getting mad and throwing a fit.  Even though he was the best player on the team I sat him down until he could calm down.  He never calmed down and kept crying so he sat the rest of the game and we ended up losing despite other parents trying to get me to put him back on the field.  Once we got home he apologized and asked to kick a ball with me in the back yard.  I agreed and we were having a good time until it happened.  He wanted to race me across the yard so I obliged.  We started running and as he cut in front of me, he stepped in a hole and started to go down, I tried to jump over him to avoid landing on him and he rolled right under me and my knee landed on his leg.  Fast forward a few hours and I get a call from Lauren saying the X-ray showed it was a broken tibia.  The drinking that started right after the incident dramatically increased.

I cannot even begin to explain the amount of guilt that I was feeling.  Worst of all, I was leaving to go to Chicago in 2 days for work.  Luckily my daughter was already asleep and didn’t see my in that state but I cried like a baby for a while.  I was thinking of how terrible of a person I must be to break my kid’s leg.  Who would do such a thing to a 6 year old?  He won’t be able to go in the pool or ocean all summer, I’ve ruined his summer!  What if it doesn’t heal right and he limps, or worse, he has pain in it for the rest of his life?  Why did I have to actually run and not just lightly jog to let him win?  Why didn’t I dive the other way?  I could not turn my brain off for days about this and I skipped quite a few meals.  I got so many encouraging messages from my friends telling me it was an accident and is ok, and many horror stories from their kids or their childhood which helped but I couldn’t get rid of that feeling in my gut and was scared that I never would.

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He was classic Brennan when he got home and I went outside to carry him in the house when I apologized for the 100th time he said “That’s ok Daddy it was an accident, but couldn’t you have gone the other way?”  He is so calculated in his thoughts that even while on pain killers and without being prompted by my wife, he said it was ok followed by a wise crack.  When my wife told me that insurance wouldn’t cover the waterproof cast and we had to pay out of pocket and was that ok, I told her I didn’t care if we went into debt for years to pay for it, let the kid have a summer!  Turns out it was only $50 but he would be in a cast to his hip for a month and then a new one up to his knee for another month.  He used crutches, a tiny walker and even a wheelchair that a friend let us use but his favorite transportation was either daddy carrying him or the hiney scoot.  He cracks us up!

He had some people sign his cast and it was a tough few months but he got to play in the pool and even a few trips to Busch Gardens in our double stroller.  We took him to the beach even though he couldn’t go in the ocean (he was ok missing the sand but that’s another story).  He had a pretty normal summer and every time I felt like it was ok and my mind was moving on, someone would ask him how he broke his leg and he always said his daddy did it.  I also didn’t appreciate the friend of mine who pointed out that the most broken bone of child abuse is the tibia.  It’s good we can laugh about it now and even glaze over the fact that I broke my kid’s leg in casual conversation but it is still in my mind.

Luckily he has no ill effects of the break and is back running, playing soccer and enjoying our trampoline.  This is just another reminder that no parent is perfect and while the dad is usually the one to play harder and rough house, we need to be careful with our tiny humans because they are, for lack of a better term, breakable.  Every time I am reminded of the incident or see a picture, I get that sick feeling in my gut and close my eyes to remember that time.  Lauren still tells me almost every time that I go on the trampoline with them not to break anyone’s leg, also not appreciated.  Know that accidents happen and kids survive, and we move on with our lives but beating yourself up about things doesn’t help anyone.  Just think of all of the memories made.

Be strong out there dads and remember that it will be ok!

First Rule of the Internet for Teens (Guest Post)

The internet is a great place for learning, fun and sharing our lives. It can also be a hideout for bullies, thieves and predators. It can be hard for mature adults to navigate all the dos and don’ts of cyberspace, but how do we protect our kids while they are on online? Are the rules of the internet? It seems like a lawless place at times. But we, as responsible parents have to set up rules for the internet in our homes. 

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The first rule for the internet for your teens is this: everything online is permanent.  

Today I will focus on what your kids can freely give to the internet. It’s a different article on what the internet can take from your kids. I often tell people, to their disbelief, that one day will will be electing presidents based on their Google searches and Facebook posts. That does happen somewhat today, think President Trump and his Twitter account.

But my prediction for the not so distant future is that candidates will be grilled for comments and searches they made as teens and young adults. Why do I feel certain this will happen? Because everything on the internet is saved by someone. Whether it’s a business like Facebook or your internet provider, your digital history can be found and it will only become easier for people to gather. The long-lasting effects of our cyber footprint can already be seen today.

Snapchat

The app known as Snapchat offers 150 million users a unique way to communicate visually. Snapchat is not a bad company, some people choose to use it to do bad things. The same could be said for Twitter and Facebook. Snapchat users range from the ordinary people to celebrities and brands.

What makes Snapchat so different is that the posts only last a few seconds and are “erased” after they are viewed. This promise of brevity can lure teens (and adults) into a false sense of security that their risqué, or unlawful, pictures will be obliterated from the world and no one will know what they shared.

 Snapchat does not have a native save feature, but recipients can screen capture the image and save it to their device. Users are alerted that a recipient has screen caped an image but by that time the damage is done. A lurid photo can be captured and then rebroadcast to any number of viewers on a variety of social networks or worse an adult website.

In a matter of moments an intimate picture sent between a couple can be seen by thousands of people. Or a photo can be saved for years and then released a later time by a scorned former partner. This is called “revenge porn”. Also it is safe to assume that Snapchat servers are cataloging every post too.

It is our duty as parents to make sure our kids understand that what they post on Saturday night will follow them into Sunday morning and the rest of their lives.

The problem facing our kids today is that their agent of socialization is online social media. Where older people, those of us born with a 19 in our birth year, didn’t have our pocket notes and telephone conversations recorded to be seen again at an embarrassing time. Today’s youth will have their private photos, emotional texts and stupid videos on file forever. Nothing that they post will go away. Ever. What an awful burden to bear.

It is our duty as parents to make sure our kids understand that what they post on Saturday night will follow them into Sunday morning and the rest of their lives. A good rule of thumb for your kids is to never post anything you wouldn’t say out loud, in front of their parents and in front of Jesus. This is not a new problem, only a new way of communicating it. Mankind has been dealing with the power of words and images for a while. Proverbs 13:3 tells us: “Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.”

Make sure you are monitoring your teen’s social media feeds. You have to not only protect them from predators, you have to protect them from themselves. And for goodness sake, take your kids phones away at night! Bad decisions become worse in the late hours of night.

A Side Note for Parents

Parents play a role in this as well. I’m guilty of it. I post tons of funny memes and stories of my child online. I am nowhere near as bad as other parents. (So I get a pass right? No.) But these stories, photos and memes we all share will be stored somewhere on online forever. Recently a couple of vlogger parents had their children taken away because of the “antics” on YouTube.

I’m heartbroken for these children and this family. What happened to these kids will not only stay etched in their memories for life, they will live online forever. Be careful in sharing content about your toddlers today. Tomorrow they will be adults and they deserve the same anonymity that we got.   

Andy Murphy’s blog, The Secure Dad, is dedicated to family safety, home security and of course fatherhood. Visit weekly for tips on keeping yourself, and your family, safe.

WOO-SAH

I know that I’ve written in the past about different ways that I or dads in general can relieve stress.  I think that a big one that I may have mentioned before but may have gone unnoticed is meditation.  I used to balk at the idea of meditation and how it seemed to out there for me.  Maybe I didn’t think it was masculine enough of a practice for me to try, whatever the reasoning in my head, it didn’t really hold up.  I remember when I was in a walking boot after one of my deployments and not being able to run my stress off, I really could’ve used a release!

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I started looking more into meditation after hearing Dan Harris speak about his on-air anxiety attack.  He had a lot of factors that didn’t match up with mine, but after his war time reporting stress and a drug problem, he was able to make it back into the public eye.  When he explained that his top method was meditation, I was a little surprised.  When I heard Arianna Huffington give a speech as she was taking over Thrive Global and how stress nearly killed her, I really began taking note.  I actually conversed with Arianna via email when she invited me to be a contributor to the Huffington Post Blog and wanted me to look more into digital detoxing and meditating.  Maybe there is something to it after all.  I tried it a few times with guided meditations via YouTube but felt like I just couldn’t turn my brain off and didn’t get any benefits so it got dropped with many other great ideas that I’ve come up with.

More recently, I’ve been on a kick to really try to get healthier in all aspects of life.  I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and was slacking on my workouts and eating like total garbage which assisted in my gaining back 10 of the 25 pound I lost earlier this year, and definitely feeling it.  I began taking my life back over little by little but I needed a plan.  I started using my calorie tracking app and set it at a reasonable level for my diet and to work out at least 5 times a week.  I got back into my FitBit challenges which kept me more active on my breaks at work and set the bar at 15,000 steps a day as a goal.  Well that wasn’t quite enough, I needed to get my head right too.  I made a decision to read every day for 30 minutes after the tiny humans are in bed and my wife agreed to do the same and keep the TV off during that time.

It still didn’t seem like enough for me.  On one of my favorite Podcasts, The Joe Rogan Experience, Joe had Dan Harris on and always talks health and wellness.  This time Rogan started going on and on about how great meditation has been for him.  He also said something that really stuck with me about it, he said that like anything, it takes practice and you aren’t going to be good at meditating the first time you try.  I almost shook my head at myself; obviously I needed to work at it!  That night I went home and found a new skill on my Alexa to help me with guided meditation.

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It has taken some getting used to, but I find that I really enjoy it.  It is a great way to be completely alone with myself and just let the stress of work and annoying tiny humans just leave your head, even if only for a few minutes.  I realized that this was the missing step to my plan that I needed to help reduce my stress and feel better all around.

I am still very new to this world and by no means claim to be an expert, but I am learning.  I always used to picture Buddhists sitting around with legs crossed, incense burning and chanting going on.  Or I would see Martin Lawrence’s character in Bad Boys rubbing his ears and saying Woo-Sah but that isn’t what it is.  My favorite part about meditating is that you can do what you find works for you.  I am always looking for new ways to relax and center myself and this is a great starting point.

I am always looking for new way to reduce stress; that is actually one of the main reasons that I started my writing, was to help unleash my brain.  Most of my stress relief methods include me sweating or getting angrier but I may be on to something here.  I find myself just concentrating on my breath a lot more when I would usually find myself getting worked up.  I may not sit through a full guided meditation session after I’ve had a beer or two, but even when I lay in my bed, I can center myself and control my obsessive brain a little bit easier (just a little, that thing can get out of control sometimes).

Stay strong and centered with your Chi out there dads!

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