December 18, 2009

Letter of Recommendation to Santa

Santa Claus
North Pole

Dear Santa,

My 2-year-old daughter Ella is concerned that, with so many kids to check up on this year, you won't have time to do a thorough background check on her Nice-List qualifications. To ease her concerns, I told her I'd write a letter of recommendation on her (and her sister Anna's) behalf. Here it goes:

It is with strong conviction that I recommend both of my daughters, Ella Jane Klems and Anna Jo Klems, be placed on this year's Nice List. While I may be biased, I, myself, am also a permanent fixture on the Nice List and have been 29 of my 30 eligible years. (Rest assured that in 1985, I learned never to play hide 'n seek in the girls' restroom ever again).

Over the past 12 months, my eldest daughter Ella Jane has shown exceptional growth in her physical, intellectual, emotional and puzzle-putting-together skills. She adheres to her bedtime guidelines: putting on her PJs, brushing her teeth, hopping into bed without a fuss. She also marches the extra mile each evening by giving her mom, her little sister and me hugs and kisses—generally without us having to ask.

She's helpful around the house as well—bringing her tired, overworked father the remote control from way across the room; using her toy vacuum to clean up the surprisingly large number of Dorito crumbs on the carpet; taking the blame for anyone who is, as my wife likes to say, "dropping stinkies;" and more.

Furthermore, she's extremely generous. She'll happily take all of my pocket change and divvy it up between her and her sister's piggy banks. This not only proves she's kindhearted, but also that she's fiscally responsible. If that's not benevolent enough, she also shares the culinary delicacies that she cooks in her play kitchen, such as chicken stew, turkey stew, cheese stew, apple stew, spaghetti stew and fresh-strawberry smoothies. While I'm no imaginary food expert, I have to say her pretend smoothies are the tastiest pretend smoothies I've ever had the pleasure of sipping. If you like, I'll ask her to leave one out for you this year next to her annual batch of cookie stew.

Ella most certainly deserves many of the items on her list, including puzzles, undershirts and a hard-to-break digital camera—though please do not bring her the pony mentioned on line 12. (If you do choose to bring her a pony, please revise my Christmas list to include pony food and Zanex).

I'd also like to put in a strong word for my youngest daughter Anna Jo. She's been an angel ever since she joined Team Klems. I recognize that her Nice-List qualifications must be prorated because she was born in April, but in that short period of time she's become the most loyal, accommodating member of the family. When we ask her to eat, she eats. When we ask her to hug, she hugs. When we ask her to sleep, she—well, she's still working on that one, but I can assure you she's putting in a sportsmanlike 110%.

Her skill set has grown faster than expected. In a short eight-months, Anna has learned to roll over, sit up, crawl, stand and keep a majority of her bubbly slobber in her mouth. She grew two magnificent teeth that shine each time she smiles. And, unlike her sister and father, she has successfully learned to keep her eyes open in all photographs—a trait she likely gets from her mother.

Anna also raises everyone's spirit. On days when I'm severely depressed, like when my fantasy football team loses or the cable goes out, she's always there to console me with a smile, laugh and dirty diaper.

She most certainly deserves the items on her list, including a play phone, several car-seat toys and that set of Encyclopedia Britannicas. (Don't ask me, Santa. It's her list.)

Finally (and though she didn't ask for it), I'd also like to put in a good word for my wife Brittany. Throughout the year she has been kind, considerate and has successfully managed to put up with me, the girls and our annoying habits. She has done this all with a smile. I'd like to recommend that you put her on the Nice List—but definitely get her something off the Naughty List.

Thank you and Merry Christmas,
Brian A. Klems
Founder, CEO of Team Klems

The Life of Dad is updated every other Friday (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

November 20, 2009

The 9 Stages Dads Go Through When Buying a Minivan

In high school, most Dudes plan to grow up to be Independent Men. That's why we all take the Man's Hippocratic Oath: To ethically and responsibly uphold the laws of manhood throughout our lives. We pledge to live by certain principles, which are mainly a list of things we will never do, including buy a house in the suburbs, take ballet, use the phrase "Oh No You Didn't" and watch a Sandra Bullock movie.

As important as those rules are, none of them hold a candle to the Mac-daddy of all rules that are true and holy in the Man's Hippocratic Oath:

Never own a minivan.

It's so sacred of a rule, that we bold it. We underline it. We give it it's own paragraph. We also spell check it. Even in Catholic school we learned that though Judas betrayed Jesus and sold him to Roman authorities, Jesus forgave him because he knew Judas would never be caught dead in a minivan. So, as you can see, it's pretty serious.

There are many repercussions for buying a minivan. First, you will be stripped of your man identification card. Immediately. Your friends—who remember the day you took your oath—will treat you as if you've contracted some fast-spreading, contagious disease, and will avoid sitting at the same softball field as you. You will also become an instant target for Zima jokes.

It's a cruel world we live in.

Now I'm not going to be naïve and think that all Dudes will be able to stay true to the Man's Hippocratic Oath, especially Dudes who become Dads. In fact, I must confess that, after endless debates, fights and one hotly contested rock-paper-scissors match with my wife, I, Brian A. Klems, have caved and am now the pathetic proud owner of a minvan.

Here's my man identification card. Have fun setting it on fire.

But I'm not here to talk about me. I'm here to help prepare the millions of other Dads who will inevitably fall victim (rock) to a wife who wants a minivan (paper), and explain to them the 9 stages that all Dads go through when buying a minivan. Each stage is real and must be taken seriously. I've included examples to help you understand what to expect. Just by reading on, you will be able to handle the transition better than most. Without further ado, I present to you the 9 Stages that Dads Go Through When Buying a Minivan:

1. Denial.
"I don't care what my wife says, we aren't getting a minivan. I know that the previous five Google searches on my computer were 'How to buy a minivan,' 'Where to buy a minivan,' 'When to buy a minivan,' 'How much does a minivan cost,' and 'Minivan Minivan Minivan,' but that's just a coincidence."

2. Uncontrollable Weeping.

3. Lying.
"I think minivans are pretty sweet. Way better than your Ford Mustang and your Dodge Viper. In fact, I once read that chicks dig guys who drive minivans. Seriously. Wait, why are you laughing?"

4. Bargaining.
"OK wife, if we get the minivan, I'm buying a motorcycle! No? Well, I'm buying a TV the size of our house! No to that too? Hmm…well, I'm only going to shower three times a week. And fart louder."

5. Depression.
"What happened to me? I used to be cool. I used to party, wear awesome concert t-shirts and hurl myself at others in mosh pits, leaving welts on my hip the size of Montana! Now what am I going to have to brag about? Sore knees from having to step up so high to get in the car?"

6. Hysteria
"I can't be seen around town in this behemoth. What will others think? I know exactly what they'll think: What a Loser! Wonder if it'd help if I painted it to look like The Mystery Machine?"

7. Commiserating.
"So you own a minivan too, eh? Nice to find someone else to talk to about it. How have you survived … What's that? Can't talk? On your way to the store to get your wife tampons? Well that's just excellent …"

8. Overcompensating.
"Hey wife, I bought us tickets to the Motley Crüe, Metallica and Lynard Skynard concert. Plus I found my old chain wallet and "UP YOURS!" t-shirt with the middle finger on it—and they still (sort of) fit! Also, and this is just something I'm toying with, what's you gut reaction to neck tattoos?"

9. Acceptance.
"Man, these automatic doors and this massive cargo space are awesome! Plus, the kids' feet no longer reach the back of my chair. Maybe I miss-judged this thing. In fact, I love it! Let's celebrate. Wife, go grab me a Zima!"

The Life of Dad is updated every other Friday (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

October 30, 2009

Reasons To Smile #2: Costumes

Driving home from work with my family in tow, I pulled up to a stoplight. With Halloween weekend coming up, I decided to use this brief moment to quiz my 2-year-old.

"Hey Ella?"

"What Daddy?" she said from the back seat.

"What is your sister Anna going to be for Halloween?"

"A beautiful butterfly!" she yelled.

"That's right. What are you going to be?"


I turned back to face the red light, waiting for it to change. In the process, I shot my wife the I-Can't-Believe-How-Smart-Our-Daughter-Is look. It's a look I shoot her all-too-often.

A moment or two passed, then Ella's soft voice resurfaced with a very concerned tone.


"Yes dear?"

"What are you going to be for Halloween?"

This was a great question. I hadn't thought about it and, quite frankly, wasn't planning on dressing up. In truth, Halloween is really about the kids so it didn't matter to me whether I dressed up or not. But if she wanted me to, maybe I would.

"I don't know, Ella. What do you want me to be?"

She thought about it for a second. Then a giant smile overtook her face.

"A big Cinderella."

(Luckily for me, I don't think they make glass slippers in my size.)

"Reasons To Smile" is a series of shorts from The Life of Dad and will be updated periodically in-between usual posts to (hopefully) brighten your day.

October 14, 2009

Reasons To Smile #1: Undershirts

Because of the cold, we made Ella (my 2-year-old) wear an undershirt this morning. She fought me at first, but eventually she got excited to wear it because I was also wearing one. She noticed that our undershirts were different and asked, "Where are my sleeves Daddy?" I said, "Your shirt doesn't have sleeves, it has Spaghetti Straps." To which she replied, "I like my Spaghetti Straps."

Later we dropped off the girls at our sitter's house. We were inside taking off their coats when Ella tells Kathi (her sitter), "Look, I'm wearing an undershirt," and she proceeds to pull up her top shirt. Then I ask her, "Does your undershirt have sleeves?"

Ella says, "No ... it has meatballs."

(I am still laughing about this.)

"Reasons To Smile" is a new series of shorts from The Life of Dad and will be updated periodically in-between usual posts to (hopefully) brighten your day.

September 25, 2009

Disney on Ice: A Rite of Passage

Several weeks back, my sister mentioned she was taking her family to "Disney on Ice" and asked if I wanted tickets for Team Klems. I replied with an enthusiastic: ARE YOU INSANE? I'd rather be forked with pickaxe.

This, of course, was a complete lie.

I desperately wanted to go to "Disney on Ice." In fact, had Brittany and the girls not been interested, I still would have gone. The only real question would have been whether my parents preferred to take me to an evening show or a matinee.

Disney on Ice is a rite of passage for all parents. We buy the tickets. We load up the car. We dress our sons, daughters, dogs and pet rocks in mouse ears. And we make our way down to the arena, singing songs from any one of the Disney classics. We also spend $20 on parking, $27 on a small cup of lemonade and $35 on a glow-stick.

Rites of passage have gotten expensive.

When we entered the arena, I was struck by a familiar scene—one that drifted me back 20-plus years to my first "Disney on Ice" experience. My dad had secured tickets in his company's highly coveted, very swanky private suite (either he carried some weight around the office or carried a dossier of blackmail photos to use for just an occasion). My sister and I were certainly impressed. There were more potato chips, drinks and TVs in this room than in any room we'd ever seen. And that was only the backdrop to the show that awaited us.

The lights dimmed. The music started. The Disney cast skated its way to center ice. Mickey. Minnie. Donald. Goofy. Our favorite cartoon characters brought to life. Telling stories we loved. For the next 2 hours, we were mesmerized.

Brittany, Ella, Anna and I made our way to seats. Once again, my sister was in tow—this time with her husband and son (and a few of their friends). We weren't in a suite, but our seats were so close we could feel the heat from the Zamboni as it melted the top layer of ice. Then the lights dimmed. The music started. The Disney cast skated its way to center ice. Mickey. Minnie. Donald. Goofy. They were ready to entertain, and they introduced their friends Aladdin, Apu the Monkey and the Robin Williams-inspired Genie.

Seven-Year-Old Brian was in heaven.

I turned to Ella, thinking about how long I had waited to share a moment like this with my own kids. "How cool is this?"

In the softest, sweetest voice, Ella replied: "Daddy, I don't like the genie."


I looked at her face and she wasn't mesmerized; she was petrified. Tears flowed down her cheeks like a quiet river. Her little lower lip quivered ever so fast. It was the saddest, most heartbreaking thing I had ever seen.

And then 30 more Genies came skating out onto the ice. And then the shark from Finding Nemo. And then Beauty's Beast.

I felt so helpless. I hadn't seen it coming. What I expected to be a memorable moment for the rest of her life would be—but not for the reasons I had hoped. I had quite possibly scarred her forever.

In retrospect, maybe I should have taken my parents.

But as she nuzzled her head into my chest, wiping her tears on my sleeve, I looked to my left and saw Anna (my 5-month-old) smiling away, enjoying the show, cooing as the Beast left the floor and the princesses arrived. THEY ARRIVED! And, though others may claim I made this up, I swear to you Anna reached out to her big sister as if to comfort her and tell her, "Don't worry, the princesses are here!"

Suddenly everything changed. Ella cracked a smile, matching the grins of Anna and my nephew Chris. They all started clapping. They all started dancing. They all started enjoying each other's company, happy to share this experience with each other. Happy to share this experience with me.

So the memory of "Disney on Ice" was saved. As Mickey and crew took a bow, we all applauded, kids and parents alike, thanking them for creating a memory we will all savor for years to come.


The Life of Dad is updated every other Friday (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

August 28, 2009

17 Rules Every Dad Must Know When Dressing His Daughter

Dressing a 2-year old girl shouldn't be that difficult, after all, I've been successfully dressing myself for three decades (give or take the few years my mom and dad took charge). With my choice in color, style and overall look, I think it's safe to say I have the fashion sense of blind manatee. And even then, that may be an insult to manatees.

When I'm charged with the task of dressing either of my daughters, I abide by the two rules every guy uses to dress himself: one article must have a neck-hole and the other must cover the crotch. These rules are simple, easy to remember and will keep you from violating any state laws.

My wife, on the other hand, has 17 rules for dressing our daughters. They are complicated, confusing and intimidating. (They are also endorsed by the League of Female Manatee.) These rules were not pulled out of a hat—though, to any normal human being, they might look that way. The basics were crafted centuries ago and have been adapted by each generation of wife/mother. While slight details may change from household to household, the essence of each rule is in tact.

But let's be honest: 17 rules are too many for any dad to remember; after all, dads' minds are only programmed to retain things like baseball statistics, what-beats-what in poker and which flavor of snow cone is the best (lemon lime). Even Einstein couldn't remember his wife's set of rules for dressing their daughter. And if he—father of e=mc2—couldn't do it, how could women expect us regular dads—who don't even know what e=mc2 means—to cope with so many rules.

In order to avoid future problems, I wrote the rules down on a little cheat sheet that I keep hidden in the top drawer of each daughter's bedroom. I reference it every morning. Since I started doing this, my wife and I stopped fighting about clothing, which has opened up some valuable free time that we now dedicate to fighting about societal value of the "I'm So Excited" episode of "Saved by the Bell." (And yes, there totally is some.)

So, without further ado, the 17 rules for dressing my daughters are as follows:

1. Clothes need to match—in color and style, not in "type of animal on them."
2. Diapers must go on under tights, not over.
3. A shirt with a ketchup stain does not "have red in it."
4. No matter how you dice it, vertical stripes on a shirt do not match horizontal stripes on pants.
5. Shorts are not a year-round option.
6. No socks with sandals (this rule also applies to dressing dad).
7. Bowls are not hats.
8. Pants are not hats.
9. Underwear are not…you get the picture.
10. Adam committed original sin when he ate the apple. His second sin was dressing his daughter in white after Labor Day.
11. Daughters in matching outfits are cute. Dad and daughters in matching Megadeth tees are not.
12. Changing from PJs into another set of PJs is not "dressing her."
13. Wristbands are not "part of an outfit."
14. If she wears her Jay Bruce Reds baseball jersey on Monday, she can't wear it again for at least 10 business days.
15. She also can't wear the other 11 Reds jerseys you bought her.
16. Grunge is dead. So are you if you dress my baby in it.
17. And finally... if you have to sniff it, it's off limits.

There you have it. The list of rules every father must have. Print it out. Tuck it away under the mattress. Hang it from the ceiling. Stuff it down your shorts. But most important, keep a copy in every room.

You'll find it more useful than e=mc2.

The Life of Dad is updated every other Friday (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

July 31, 2009

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

In the Klems family we sing. And not in the fake, underwear-clad Tom Cruise lip-syncing-in-Risky-Business sort of way, but more in the loud, boisterous and (usually) off-key sort of way. We do it everywhere: in the shower, in the car, on the softball field when we're down by several runs and need to get pumped up (Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" is perfect for this, no matter how much your teammates may disagree).

It's not uncommon to be hanging out with my Klems' side of the family and, in the middle of dinner or a board game, hear them break out in song. It's a tradition that's predated me. In fact, it's predated my dad, my dad's dad and probably another dad or two beyond that. It's built into our DNA, much like good looks, high IQs and the ability to grow enviable mustaches in less than 3.5 hours.

But with each generation, there's an introduction of new DNA (our spouse's) that may have its own set of rules. The new DNA will often have great qualities—beautiful smile, wonderful laugh, amazing pair of voluptuous … eyes. The new DNA will also have broken strands that fight against your favorite things, like playing video games or licking the Dorito cheese off your fingers (no matter how good they know it tastes).

From the moment I started dating my wife I knew her DNA had one major, major flaw: No singing. Not in the morning. Not in the evening. Not in the shower. Not in the car. Not in front of anyone, living, dead or deaf. I learned this our first Christmas Eve together. We joined my family and, in Klems' tradition, sat around the tinsel-laced tree and sang carols for a mere 120 minutes (that's 2 hours for the non-math majors in the crowd). My wife didn't open her mouth once—not once. No Hark the Herald Angels. No Winter Wonderland. No Fas. No La La La Las.

I would have ended it right there and then if it weren't for a piece of advice a wise friend once gave me: "Never dump a girl who's smoking hot."

So when Ella was born, I was terrified she wouldn't want to sing. I could live with her if she had an extra toe or a tail or something, but if she didn't have the desire to sing—well, I just didn't know what I'd do. But around 4 months of life, Ella began to coo. Then the coos turned to noise. The noise turned to gibberish. And, eventually, the gibberish turned into the Itsy-Bitsy Spider. It was the second most glorious moment of my life.

The first happened on one fun car ride home from our sitter's house, when it was just the two of us. As I said, I'm always singing in the car and, often have a preference for TV theme show songs—Who's the Boss, Perfect Strangers, Silver Spoons, etc. My favorite is, of course, the theme to Cheers. It's welcoming, catchy and universally known, so it'd get the most turns in my singing rotation. So much so that Ella started to call it "Dad's Song."

On this particular car ride in late April, Ella requested "Dad's Song," so I obliged. About two lines of lyrics in I heard a soft voice coming from the back seat. I quieted down and the voice continued, "where everybody knows name … and they are glad you came." It was the sweetest, most unexpected gift she had ever given me—and she didn't even realize it. I'd never purposely taught her the song, she just learned it from listening to me. It was amazing. So I joined back in with a giant smile and a teary eye … and we sang it fourteen more times, or approximately the distance between our sitter's house and ours.

To my wife's credit she's never discouraged Ella. In fact, there's been a dynamic shift in my wife's DNA that's allowed her to (gulp) start singing (and she sings really well!). Maybe it's Ella's sweet voice. Maybe my family harmonized a little better last Christmas. Or maybe she realized just how special it is to be a part of something I love. Whatever the reason, I don't care; I'm just glad she's one of us now (even if it is still in moderation).

So my worries were for naught and all is right in the world. Ella sings. My wife's a convert. And just when I thought it couldn't get any better, it does.

Anna has started to coo. (I love my family.)

The Life of Dad is updated every other Friday (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

July 24, 2009

Two Are Better Than One …

April 3rd, 2009 started out like any other day with my morning ritual. Woke up. Got out of bed. Peed. Washed hands. Winked at self in mirror. "If there were a lotto for handsomeness, you'd hold the winning ticket, Klems," I said as I gave myself the double-finger gun-point. Waited for wife to laugh in the I-Can't-Believe-I-Married-This-Guy laugh that all married men know oh-too-well.

But there was no laugh. Not even a groan. In fact, I was so wrapped up in my handsomeness that I didn't even notice that she wasn't in bed when I got up.

So I made my way downstairs to find her on the computer, undoubtedly looking at porn.

Me: "What'cha doing down here?"

My Wife: "I'm in labor." And, just like that, my day changed…sort of.

Me: "I'll grab the bags."

My Wife: "No, don't do that. I think I'm going to go to work. I have some stuff I want to finish up before the baby comes."

Are you kidding me?

For those of you who know my wife, what she lacks in common sense (like labor = hospital) she makes up for in amazing organizational skills and calmness. Note: What I lack in calmness and organizational skills, I make up for with handsomeness.

Rather than drag out an argument, I decided to go along with her and head to work like a normal day—got showered, dressed and fed Ella. (But I put the bag in the car for good measure.) We hopped in our Toyota Matrix and cruised to work.

By lunchtime we were in the delivery room at Good Samaritan Hospital. By dinnertime we had our second beautiful baby girl.

Now I need to put some of this in context: With the first delivery, we were in the hospital for 8 hours, Brittany pushed for about two and a half of them and my arms were ready to fall off from holding her legs. This time we were in the hospital for about 3 hours, Brittany pushed for all of 10 minutes and my arms were filled with enough life to celebrate the birth with several hearty fist pumps.

What followed was kind of a blur. People were coming in and going out. Everyone was hugging. Folks were snapping pictures left and right. Brittany finally got to drink a Pepsi—something she was really craving. And the new baby brought her big sis a little present: Sylvia the Cabbage Patch Kid. Needless to say, big sis immediately fell in love with her baby sis.

This new baby was smooth, squishy and soft—and had great timing: My wife's entire family was in town for her sister's wedding shower. The only one who doesn't have great timing is the baby's father, who has taken four months to write about her.

Without further ado, I'd like to officially announce my daughter Anna Jo Klems to my Life of Dad readers:

Now that I'm settled in, I'm ready to share more stories (and there are plenty of them). So welcome to The Life of Dad 2.0. Hope the past four months have been as wonderful for you as they have been for me—minus the hundreds of dirty diapers.

The Life of Dad is updated every other Friday (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

February 20, 2009

Potty Training ...

Moms are proud of their toddlers for many reasons: learning their ABCs, recognizing family members in photos, not eating things found under the couch (of course, Moms never take into consideration how fresh the Cheeto may look). Dads are proud of these accomplishments too (more Cheetos for us), but we really get excited when our kids start performing useful talents.

Specifically, tinkling in the toilet.

Two months ago, my daughter decided to try this out. It came as a quite a shock to me, as I thought potty training was still years away. But she started asking. So we'd hold her up over the toilet and, what'da ya know—she'd pee! No prompting. No asking. She'd just sit her tooshie down and do her business. It was unbelievably easy.

Now I'm not one to overly dramatize such situations, but a euphoric sense of freedom overcame me. Happy thoughts dashed through my head, like a pack of Olympic sprinters on Red Bull. Goodbye Huggies and take care. So long Pampers, your services are no longer needed here. See you later diaper bag, don't let the door hit your handle on the way out.

And that is how we potty trained Ella.

"AS IF!" yelled Wayne and Garth (that's right, I just hit you with a Wayne's World reference—you're welcome).

All of that really did happen, and I earnestly thought we were close to a diaper-free daughter. But two short months later, our peeing process has changed, and it's not as neat and compact as it once was. Let me walk you through a typical trip to the bathroom with my darling Ella:

I ask, "Do you need to go potty?"
Ella responds, "Hokey Pokey?"
I say, "No, the potty."

Then she puts her right arm in. Then her right arm out. Then her right arm in. (You get the picture.)

I smoothly transition her from the Hokey Pokey to our potty dance, which may or may not look something like this: Potty Dance Video. When our Congo line reaches the bathroom, I quickly take off her diaper and put her Dora the Explorer potty seat on the toilet. She promptly turns the seat sideways, but gives me a condescending look as if to say, Why does this bozo always put my seat on wrong?

She finally sits on the toilet but makes me sit down on the floor right next to her—which is not nearly as appealing as you may believe. In the next four seconds, she manages to (in no particular order) unravel the roll of toilet paper, grab the plunger, flush the toilet, knock over the candle sitting on the toilet, pull down the hand towels, unravel the toilet paper more and fart.

After regrouping, calming her down and hiding everything within a six-mile radius, I start the negotiation process. I don't mean to brag, but I've always been a good negotiator. I bought my car below market value. I persuaded my wife—who's way out of my league, mind you—to marry me. I even convinced myself to like broccoli … BROCCOLI! Compared to those, this negotiation should be a piece of pie:

"If you pee, you wipe with grownup toilet paper."
"And you'll get some M&Ms."
"Yes, Ms."

A big grin comes over her face. So I turn my ear toward her and give her the I'm-Listening-Closely-For-The-Sweet-Sound-Of-Pee face. At this point, one of two scenarios play out:

1. She pees, I clap and cheer, we wipe, wash hands, then I shower her with "Ms"; or
2. She sticks her finger deep in my ear and effectively punctures my brain.

So I guess potty training isn't nearly as easy as I'd hoped it would be. Sometimes there are flashes of brilliance and this process takes less than a minute, while other times I'm just hoping that my little angel doesn't stick her hand down her crack and sniff it. I know eventually she'll get it down; after all, she's amazingly smart and incredibly young to be potty training in the first place. But until then, I'm going to have to make amends with a few key players.

Well Pampers, Huggies and diaper bag—I know we all said some things we regret, and we'd take them back if we could but we can't. For Ella's sake, let's act like adults. We're going to be friends for a bit longer. I'm willing to offer an olive branch to show my sincerest apologies. Want a Cheeto?

I'd love to hear about your potty training experiences. What worked? What didn't? Did you survive? Drop a note in the comments section below or e-mail me at

The Life of Dad is updated every other Friday (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian