December 31, 2010

10 New Year's Resolutions for Dads (and Kids)

New Year's is a time of renewal, redemption and a relatively lengthy list of resolutions that, after the ball drops, will be kept for at least 27 minutes. I find it's always smart to set attainable goals, like "Make a List of Resolutions." (NAILED IT!) It's also important to recognize what you didn't accomplish from last year's list (I didn't finish writing my book), just as much as it is to recognize what you did accomplish from your list (I grew my first glorious mustache).

While these goals are nice, none are as important as the ones every Dad sets for becoming a better parent. I'm the first to admit that Dads aren't perfect. Sure, we’re as close as you can humanly get to it, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few areas that could use a little refurbishing. Of course, if I'm working hard to better myself, I also ask that the kids do the same. So Ella, Anna and I sat down and hammered out our annual list of 10 New Years Resolutions for Dads and Kids. They are as follows:

They promised to stop leaving toys all over the living room floor for me to step on.
I promised to stop bleeding all over their toys.

They promised to stop picking their noses.
I promised to stop picking their noses.

They promised to start using forks when they eat.
I promised to let them have sword fights with the forks.

They promised to stop using their shirts as napkins (even when mom isn't looking).
I promised to actually give them napkins (even when mom isn't looking).

They promised to stop hiding the remote.
I promised to stop hiding the bag of lollipops.

They promised to give me a little bit more alone time when I'm in the bathroom.
I promised to occasionally wear pants when we have company.

They promised to stop eating the Christmas decorations. 
I promised to leave the Christmas decorations up year-round1

They promised to expand their iTunes playlist beyond "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," Annie's "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" and Taio Cruz's "Dynamite."
I promised to stop listening to Joey Lawrence.

They (Anna) promised to learn to use the potty.
I promised to be patient with that process and not get upset when the potty isn't the only thing she pees on.

They (Ella) promised to actually eat her dinner instead of spending an hour staring at herself in the dining room mirror.
I promised to let her pick our dinner menu a little more often—and to stop spending an hour looking at myself in the dining room mirror.

And finally, the most important resolution that was made for the coming year:

They promised to love the new baby with all their heart when he or she arrives.
I promised to continue to love them with all my heart when the new baby arrives.

While I'm terrible at keeping my own personal resolutions, there is one I've kept. It's one Ella and I made on her very first New Year's celebration (and very first list of New Year's resolutions). We promised to wake up with a smile each and every day. And I'm proud to say, 3 years later, we still stick to that promise. Anna too. And my wife…well, she's not much of a morning person, but I'm sure she's smiling somewhere under that thick layer of "Seriously, it's 7:15 in the morning, stop singing 'Dynamite.'"

Have a wonderful New Year, everyone! I'd love to hear what New Year's Resolutions you make with your kids (even if this is the first time you do it). Leave it in the comments section. And, as my friend Evan Dawson recently said to me, "How do I know next year will rock? Because it goes to 11."

We gon' light it up
Like it's dynamite.

1No, my dear wife, this isn't my way of getting out of taking down the Christmas decorations. It's my clever way of getting out of taking down the Christmas decorations. There's a difference.2
2I've been told there is no difference.3
3I've also been told I get to sleep on the couch for the duration of this resolution.

* Subscribe to The Life of Dad via email or RSS feed!
* Also, follow me on Twitter @BrianKlems. I promise to occasionally say funny things.

December 17, 2010

What Dad Wants for Christmas

Santa Claus
North Pole

Dear Santa,

How's the North Pole? Cold? Got your tongue stuck to any poles lately? Sorry I couldn't attend your surprise birthday party that the elves threw earlier this year. I had every intention of attending but my wife wouldn't let me leave the house "looking like that," and by the time I found something suitable to wear I was caught in the middle of E!'s True Hollywood Story on "Saved by the Bell." Maybe next year.

Did you get my daughters' Christmas lists? We sent them extra early this year because I'm convinced you'll need additional time to round up their wish-list items. Then again, maybe you have plenty of ponies, light-up shoes and "I *HEART* Dad" t-shirts lying around the workshop. And before you say anything, no, I didn't tweak their lists before I mailed them. I swear. They asked for the ponies themselves.

It's not often I write you a letter on my behalf, but I finally found something I really, really want and I’m hoping you can assist. I know you've been generous to me over the years, leaving me video games, books, an obscene amount of Cincinnati Reds paraphernalia and a Joey Lawrence CD, which, color me crazy, may go down as the best album ever released on February 2, 1993.

But this time is different. I've never wanted something more in my life. I've been extra good all year, hoping you'd notice. And, if you deliver, I promise to never ask you for another gift. Seriously. I promise to stay on the Nice List the rest of my life. I promise to be a better person. I promise to never release those photos of that night when you did you-know-what with you-know-who over at you-know-where.

So what is it I want? I want a son.

That's right, a son. Not sure if you've heard, but we're expecting our third child in May (I know, crazy exciting right?). As you are aware, I currently have two beautiful, smart, funny princesses who grace your Nice List every year. Adding a third would be amazing—and I've certainly proved that I can put the toilet seat down (sometimes). But at the current rate of inflation, I've calculated that to raise three girls and marry them off it will cost me just over $100 gillion dollars. That's a lot of Joey Lawrence CDs.

But I also want a boy so I can experience a new challenge, a new journey. I want an opportunity to look at him and see flashbacks of myself when I was 5 and 7 and 14 years old. I want to be able to offer him wisdom and sage-like advice on topics ranging from peeing standing up to girls to on-base percentage. If it doesn't happen, I'll live. Honestly, once that baby comes out it won't matter. But for today—and this magical time of the year where we can ask for anything—I thought I'd ask.

So this Christmas, if you have a little extra mojo up your sleeve, please put a ding dong on that baby. And if you can't, I'll take a Nintendo Wii.

Thank you and Merry Christmas,
Ps- I heard your wife knitted you a Snuggie. You lucky dawg.

* Subscribe to The Life of Dad via email or RSS feed!
* Also, follow me on Twitter @BrianKlems. I promise to occasionally say funny things.

December 10, 2010

Dad, Where Are Your Boobs?

From the minute my first daughter was born, I began preparing to answer the hard questions every parent is eventually forced to answer. You know, the questions that test your ability as a parent. And if you're like me and have a photographic memory for facts, you'll be able to quench your young one's thirst for knowledge with honest, dignified answers.

Dad, where do babies come from? They are dropped off at the hospital by storks flying through the sky—how else do you explain some of the goofy names some kids have? Storks have weird taste.

Dad, how does Santa get into a house if it doesn't have a chimney? That's easy, he uses a key that parents hide under the doormat to come through the front door. If the parents forget, he just picks the lock with Rudolph's antlers.

Dad, why do I pee sitting down but you pee standing up? It's because they don't make Dora potty seats in my size.

Dad, why do people like "The Mentalist"? No one knows.

And so on. It's a Dad's job to answer these questions earnestly, in a way your kids can understand and with an answer that will get you into the least amount of trouble when one day they figure out that you are lying. Of course, then you must eventually answer the question, "Why were you lying?"—to which the correct answer is, "You're grounded."

But no matter how hard you prepare for those curveballs, eventually you're sweet little angel will throw you a changeup. Allow me to demonstrate with an actual conversation that took place in my house last week between my eldest daughter Ella and me.

Ella: Dad, where are your boobs?

(Yes, she actually said it. And, like any intelligent, thoughtful Dad, I pretended not to hear it and quickly changed the subject.)

Me: So Ella, you're what, three now? I was thinking it's about time we got you a pony.

(I wear my panic well.)

Ella: Dad, I said where are your boobs?

In every Dad's moment of weakness, he does one of two things: 1) tells the truth or 2) fakes a heart attack. Unfortunately my daughter mistook my fake heart attack for a sneeze (my high school drama teacher would have been so disappointed in me.) So I sucked it up and went with the truth—which led to this, nearly verbatim, conversation:

Me: Well hun, I don't have boobs.
Ella: Why don't you have boobs?
Me: Because I'm a boy.
Ella: Boys don't have boobs?
Me: No, boys don't have boobs.
Ella: But mom has boobs.
Me: She's not a boy, she's a girl.
Ella: So only girls have boobs?
Me: Yes, only girls have boobs. Can you stop saying boobs?
Ella: I don't have boobs. Does that mean I'm a boy?
Me: No, you're a girl.
Ella: Then where are my boobs?
Me: You don't have them yet. One day when you get older you will get boobs.
Ella: When?
Me: When you're older. Much, much older.
Ella: How will I know when I'm getting boobs?
Me: When I start to carry a baseball bat around the house.
Ella: Does that mean that when you're older will you finally get boobs, too?
Me: I hope not.
Ella: Maybe you can ask Santa for some boobs?
Me: That's OK. I've already asked Santa for enough.
Ella: Well, I can ask him for you.
Me: You don't have to do that.
Ella: I don't mind. I have room now that I can cross pony off my list.

OK, so I'm not the best at answering the tough questions now, but as the years go on I know I'll get better. At first I wasn't the best at changing diapers either, but now my wife brags to others that I'm "not terrible" at it. Hopefully one day I can be "not terrible" at answering my daughter's tough questions, too. Or, at the very least, I should, in theory, be able to fake better heart attacks.

* Subscribe to The Life of Dad via email or RSS feed!
* Also, follow me on Twitter @BrianKlems. I promise to occasionally say funny things.

December 3, 2010

Why Dads (and Moms) Love Christmas Trees

When it comes to decorating for Christmas, a Dad has three major jobs: Put up the tree, string up the lights and make sure the fridge is always stocked with an ample amount of eggnog. It's the only honeydew list my wife assembles that I look forward to. I mean it. A typical, non-Christmas honeydew list at Klems Manor looks something like this:
Dear Brian,
Please do the things on this list ASAP.
Your Wife

—Cut the grass
—Take out the garbage
—Water the flowers (peeing on them does not count)
—Wrap up the hose when you're finished (I can't believe I have to remind you of this)
—Cut the grass (Yes I put this on here again. I know you skipped over it the first time)
—Sweep the floor
—Change the light bulbs
—Move your folded clothes from the laundry basket into your dresser (and "dresser" is not code for "floor")
—Clean the toilet
—Cut the grass (Trust me, by the time you actually finish this list, it'll need it again)
Christmas is different. Aside from the occasional bulb not working causing the entire strand to go out and getting the evil eye from neighbors because my strands are blinking at different speeds, I love hanging up the lights. And eggnog? Hell, I stare longingly at our supermarket's freezer section all year, counting down the days until the eggnog returns. The taste reminds me of sitting at my grandma's kitchen table, explaining to her why I was especially good that year so Santa would bring me Super Mario 3 (which he did!) and an elephant (which, unfortunately, he didn't).

Putting up the Christmas tree, though—well, that's my favorite holiday tradition of all. The moment it comes out of the box, the season of Christmas is finally launched. I stand it up straight and lock it into its base. The limbs hang bare momentarily, as I bend and fluff them. I wrap it in a skirt, which is unfortunate because our tree's name is Clint. Then I assemble the troops—my two daughters, whose ages combined I can count on one hand, and my wife, whose age I won't mention—and grab the boxes of ornaments that will soon bring our tree to life.

Now to understand our tree you must understand what each of us brings to the table. My wife has a box full of beautiful, handcrafted (and highly breakable) porcelain ornaments she's received every year of her life to commemorate each Christmas. A smiling angel from 1984. A Santa sleigh from 1997. A pastel reindeer from 2006. I, on the other hand, contribute a box of memories filled with Popsicle-stick stars, dried Play-Doh blobs, and a pipe-cleaner wreath, that's held together (poorly) by what I can only assume was once a piece of chewed gum. I know they sound silly, but each of these items commemorates particular Christmases of my life and is every bit as important to me as my wife's are to her. So we hang them all, allowing our tree to host a friendly mix of ornaments that have little in common. We may not have the fanciest tree or the most do-it-yourself tree, but we have a family tree—the way it should be.

Back to decorating the tree: Once the troops (my kids) are aligned and the ornaments have escaped their off-season home in our basement, we begin to unwrap and hang. This used to be a systematic process. We'd pop Home Alone in the DVD player. My wife would remove items from the box and hand them off. I'd find homes for each one. And just as big brother Buzz yells "KEVIN! WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY ROOM!" I hang the last decoration—an ornament of Homer Simpson wearing a Santa hat. But now my kids were no longer interested in sitting patiently on the sidelines. They demanded playing time. They were helper elves ready to shine. So we let them.

They hung nearly everything. They hung the fancy ornaments. They hung the Popsicle-stick ornaments. Then hung Homer. They'd bolt back and forth from their Mom to the tree, tripping over each other's feet, carrying ornaments—as well as smiles—on every trip. They hung each memory with care and finished before Kevin's parents even realized they'd left him home alone.

They stepped away from the tree. Ella looked it up and down, grinning widely, impressed with her and her sister's work. Anna nodded in agreement.

"It's looks pretty!" said Ella.

"Pretty!" said Anna.

They were proud. So were we. And as my wife and I stepped away to take a look at our children's work, we put our arms around each other and smiled at our beautifully decorated Christmas tree—that only had decorations on the bottom 1/3rd of it.

* Subscribe to The Life of Dad via email or RSS feed!
* Also, follow me on Twitter @BrianKlems. I promise to occasionally say funny things.

November 30, 2010

How Growing a Mustache Changed My Life

Growing a mustache is a lot like having a kid—it's a life-altering experience that teaches you about love, heartbreak and teeny, tiny combs. When I set off on this quest, I was young, immature, irresponsible and reckless. Just 30 days and one thick lip-sweater later, I can honestly say I've changed.

Now I'm young, immature, irresponsible and reckless ... and mega-handsome.

In the beginning, I knew there would be risks. After only three days of growth, my sisters-in-law called me out on Facebook: "I seriously can't believe that's all u have. Thought for sure it'd grow faster" and "I agree with Mel, I thought it would be full by now." How could they expect me to grow a mustache that fast? Was I letting them (and everyone else) down? After hours of contemplation, I could come up with only two possible explanations:  Either 1) They were kidding around or 2) Their leg hair must grow at a ridiculously fast pace. To this day I'm torn between the choices.

There were other hurdles as well. Every morning we had to set aside 25 seconds for my beautiful wife to take my daily head-shot photo. This eventually turned into a 6-minute affair because both girls wanted to be in the picture with me. They'd stand on each of my sides, lean against the faded yellow dining room wall, smile big, look right at the camera and saying "CHEESE!" Of course, neither seemed to realize that my wife had the camera pointed at my head—and they weren't actually in the photo. But that didn't mean they weren't a valuable part of my morning ritual. They were overjoyed to be included in my mustache journey, and I was overjoyed to have them along.

My work life changed a bit too. Coworkers who stopped by my cube on a regular basis were now bringing friends to catch a glimpse of the spectacular-ness of my face. Some chatted up mustache etiquette while others shared stories of family members who had grown their own "mos." All of them, though, would stick around for a few extra minutes to see if my mustache did anything magical, like curl before their very eyes or transport us both to one of those calming, beach-themed Corona commercials. Nearly always, it did—and they walked away impressed.

Over the past month, I've learned a lot about myself. I learned how to set goals and stick to them, a quality I hope to pass on to my kids. I learned that my wife will still love me, no matter how ridiculous—or, in this case, awesome—I look. Most important, I learned that I have wonderful friends, family and Life of Dad fans who took time out of their busy schedules to "like" my mustache updates on Facebook, send me supportive comments and e-mails, read my mustache posts and compare my face to that of a budding young porn star. For all of these (and all the other support you always offer), I will forever be grateful.

This concludes my month-long Movember quest to grow a mustache and raise money/awareness for Prostate Cancer (if you haven't already, there's still time to make a tax-deductible donation to my team). It's been a lot of fun and I hope you were able to get a few laughs out of it as well. Tomorrow is shaving day and my face will return to its normal level of awesomeness. (I know, I know—my eyes are tearing up at the thought too.)

In these final hours before Hector is set free to go and grow into a full beard and make some other family happy (yep, I named the mustache Hector), I'm reminded of a classic mustache-shaving song that's stood the test of time to become one of the greatest mustache-shaving songs of all-time: "End of the Road" by Boyz II Men.

"Although we've come
To the end of the road.
Still I can't let go.
It's unnatural.
You belong to me.
I belong to you."

So long, my friend. Until we meet again in Movember 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Missed my daily Movember progress and diary? Check it out by visiting
the About Movember tab at the top or by clicking here
The Life of Dad is updated every week. 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 19, 2010

Growing a Mustache: The Second Trimester
(and How to Create a Mustache Registry)

Now that I've made it through the first trimester and have told my boss that I'm growing a mustache, I'm starting to feel more confident. I'm smiling more. Some may even say I've developed a special "glow" that follows me around. If those people got closer they'd realize it's actually a gas cloud.

For the most part, my early symptoms are gone and I've moved into the second trimester. I'm now experiencing sudden bursts of energy, which I use to point at myself in the mirror and wink. My muscles are growing—a side bonus that comes with a mustache—and my voice, which has always been a solid baritone, has dipped into Barry White territory.

It's not all fun and games, though. I'm moodier. I'm over-emotional. I have to pee A TON. The rest of my face, who originally were excited and star-struck by the presence of the mustache, are now resentful of the special attention it gets and no longer talking to it. In fact, the only facial feature still willing to mingle with my mustache are my nose hairs—and that's because they have no other friends.

But I prefer not to focus on the negatives, especially when a party is in the horizon!

During the second trimester of the mustache, it's common for friends and family to want to throw you a Mustache Shower. A Mustache Shower is a party where folks "shower" you with gifts to help you care for and raise your mustache. Sometimes the host of the Mustache Shower will provide hors d'oeuvres or sometimes a full meal—either way, you can generally count on a pork product of some type.

In order for folks to know what to buy, I decided to start a Mustache Registry. I searched the Web for practical ideas, but there were no lists to be found. Not a one. After hours of research I became convinced that the U.S. government banned all online mentions of a Mustache Registry (thanks a lot, Patriot Act!). Still unsure of what I needed, I turned where everyone turns when they need help answering a question that only the most brilliant of minds can answer: Facebook.

Thanks to my social network, I came up with a killer list. And even though I may get flogged by the feds, I thought it was only right I took a stand and shared it with everyone (in case you're invited to my Mustache Shower).

Brian's Mustache Registry:
  • Mustache comb
  • Mustache trimmer
  • Long, fluffy robe
  • Massage oils
  • Shag carpeting
  • Aviator glasses
  • Powder Blue Leisure Suit
  • A bearskin rug and a cigarette
  • NRA Membership
  • Shoulder holster with Gun
  • Tight Jeans
  • Trucker Hat
  • Unibomber hooded sweatshirt
  • Patent Leather Platform Shoes
  • Trench coat that opens and closes quickly (I didn't even know they came with that option!)
  • Velour Jogging Suit
  • Razors
  • Hawaiian shirt and Detroit Tigers hat
  • Flannel
  • Coach Shorty Shorts
  • A Subscription to Hustler
  • Leather vests
  • Brown bell-bottom corduroy suit, with mustard paisley shirt
  • A Chicago Accent (Wonder if Rosetta Stone can teach me to say "Da Bears")
  • Smokey and the Bandit DVD, collector's edition
  • Hulkamania do-rag
  • Nintendo Wii (it's about the only way my wife will allow me to get one)
The reality of the mustache has really hit me. All joking aside, it's a life-changing event that can't be taken lightly—nor should it. It's not a right, it's a privilege—and a big responsibility.

If only growing a mustache were as easy as raising kids.

Anything missing from my list that you think should be on a Mustache Registry? Add it in the comments section.

Also, don't forget to check out my daily progress and diary by visiting
the About Movember tab at the top or by clicking here.

Reasons Not to Grow a Mustache:  
You suffer from a severe case of Folicuphobia: a fear of mustaches. It's not recognized by most medical journals, but hey, what do they know.

Reasons to Grow a Mustache: 

The Life of Dad is updated every week. 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 12, 2010

How to Tell Your Boss You're Growing a Mustache

It can be a difficult task telling your boss and coworkers that you are growing a mustache. When you do share the news, most of them will be happy for you, saying things like "Congratulations!" and "Your wife must be so excited!" and "Was this planned?" But they will undoubtedly start to consider how this may affect them, so you will need to take several things into consideration before letting everyone in the office know that, by the end of the month, you'll be the proud father of a glorious mustache.

To help with this, I've developed list of the three most Frequently Asked Questions, along with answers, on how to tell your boss and coworkers that you're growing a mustache.

FAQ#1: When is the right time to tell?
It's a general rule-of-thumb for men to wait until after the first trimester to share the news, when the risk of Turns-Out-I-Can't-Really-Grow-A-Mustache-Even-Though-I-Thought-I-Could- Syndrome (also known as "CantGrowNoMo") passes. If you are dealing with a bad case of CantGrowNoMo, you'll likely be very emotional. It may be in your best interest to take a day or two off work and come to terms with the fact that you may never be able to grow a mustache. And, if need be, search the phonebook for local CantGrowNoMo support groups.

When the first trimester ends and you've established some healthy mustache growth (and are confident a full mustache is imminent), it may be time to spread the news.

FAQ#2: What if the boss asks before I'm ready to tell?
Most members of management are taught not to ask questions like this and to be sensitive to their employees' personal lives. Occasionally, though, a boss may slip—I mean, hey, bosses aren't perfect (Except for mine. She's perfect. She's totally perfect. She couldn't be more perfect if she tried. Have I told you how perfect you look today, boss?). In the event your boss mistakenly says something, it's important to be prepared.

If your boss confronts you and asks you point blank, "Are you growing a mustache?" keep in mind you do not have to let him or her know if you aren't ready. Simply turn to your boss and say, "I have no news to share at this time." This is a flexible response that is not a lie (lying to your boss is very bad) and also allows you to deliver the news on your terms (via Twitter).

FAQ#3: I'm afraid of what my boss will say. What should I do?
Unfortunately, some employers are less than enlightened about mustachioed employees. If you're concerned about your employer's reaction, proceed cautiously.

Remember, it's acceptable to wait to tell your boss until your mustache has secured 14-20 days of growth. This allows you to point out that you've already demonstrated that you can successfully do your job while having a mustache.

Also, consider timing your announcement to coincide with the completion of a major project. By doing so, you'll send a strong message: I'm almost halfway through growing a mustache and my productivity hasn't been affected. Finally, you may want to wait to tell your boss about your mustache until after a salary or performance review to make sure the news doesn't influence how you're treated. Of course, if your boss is a handsome, mustachioed man or a woman who thinks mustaches are super sexy, then it may be advantageous to divulge the news during the review. It may also be advantageous to take off your shirt.

Take into account this advice before making your announcement. Who knows—your boss and coworkers may be thrilled with the news and may even offer to take you out to lunch or throw you a surprise Mustache Shower, where they "shower" you with gifts off you Mustache Registry (I'll cover this next week). And if you're still worried, then just quit. There's always a job for you in the adult entertainment industry.

Also, don't forget to check out my daily progress and diary by visiting
the About Movember tab at the top or by clicking here.

Reasons Not to Grow a Mustache:  
Your boss' husband recently had an affair with a mustachioed man.

Reasons to Grow a Mustache: 

The Life of Dad is updated every week. 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 5, 2010

Growing a Mustache Week 1: The First Trimester

When I first hatched the idea to grow a mustache for Movember, I received a lukewarm response from my wife. Sure, she had dreamed of one day marrying the type of man who had a good job, would treat her well and could raise a happy, healthy mustache. But she still saw the mustache as something we weren't ready for yet. Something we weren't financially prepared for. She made excuses as to why now wasn't the right time:

  • I'm too focused on my career to give it the kind of attention it needs. 
  • I'm nervous to bring anything into the world in THIS economy. 
  • What will the kids think of the new addition?
  • Are you sure we're mature enough to raise a mustache?
As if these same concerns hadn't crossed my mind; but it was time to throw those worries away. At 31 years, I was not getting any younger. My mustache clock was ticking. It. Was. Time. With a little help from our good friend, Cabernet Sauvignon, my wife and I agreed—together—to take the leap. So on Halloween we kissed for the last time as DINMs (Double Income, No Mustaches).

The next morning our prayers were answered and my upper lip tested positive for mustache growth. We were so happy! I called family and friends to share the good word. I posted to Facebook for the entire world to see. I even attempted to create a Twitter account to "tweet" our news, though apparently MustacheMania had already been taken.

At first I felt like a superstar because everyone showered me with compliments. "I'm so happy for you guys," they'd say. "Couldn't have happened to a nicer couple." Women gave us hugs. Men would give me the half-handshake, half-hug. Some weathered men, who watched their own mustaches grow up over the years, shared tales about how their little ones eventually fell in love with a pretty little razor and left home—much to the heartbreak of their family. Even one guy joked that, after 35 years, his mustache was still living under his roof, living by his rules.

When the excitement of the news finally died down a bit, the symptoms started kicking in. Fatigue. Nausea. An urge to crush beer cans on my head. I noticed changes—emotionally and physically. Emotionally: I wanted to yell extra loud at the TV as my favorite sports teams fumbled their ways into crushing defeats. I wanted to say "Nice buns" and wink at my wife each time she waltzed by me (though I used all my willpower to refrain). Physically: I started retaining water, not to mention the fact that my potatoes began to swell.

This process was proving more difficult than I had originally thought.

Next came the hunger cravings: mostly big slabs of meat, Slim Jims and jelly (who knew?). I drank more beer—and none of that light stuff, only the calorie-filled leaded beer—because it helps fertilize the mustache for thicker growth. And, just as the doctor recommended, I cut back on watching "Glee"—part because musicals can stunt growth and cause mustache defects, part because it was a rerun this week.

Luckily for me, I didn't have to face these early challenges alone. My daughters—bless their hearts—did their best to comfort me, giving me hugs and kisses, while offering to grow their own mustaches in a sign of support (I didn't have the heart to tell them, but it's the thought that counts). They also generously offered to "watch as many episodes of Dora as needed in order to stay out of my hair." Bless their hearts indeed.

As I near the end of week one, I've noticed many of the symptoms are fading away. The morning sickness is gone, and some even say I now have a special glow about me, an extra skip in my step. I'm beginning to see some results and, according to the medical journals, the growth is in line with what's to be expected during the mustache's first trimester. And from what most men tell me, it only gets better from here.

I wonder if that means I can start watching "Glee" again?

Also, don't forget to check out my daily progress and diary by visiting the About Movember tab at the top or by clicking here

Reasons Not to Grow a Mustache:  
Your girlfriend already has one—and it's nicer than yours.

Reasons to Grow a Mustache: 

The Life of Dad is updated every week. 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 28, 2010

A Movember to Remember:
The Diary of One Man's Quest to Grow a Mustache

I've done a lot of crazy things in my life—jumped into a bush, funneled a beer, bought Crystal Clear Pepsi—but the one wild thing I've never done but always wanted to do was grow a mustache.

A thick, grizzly, glorious mustache.

One that fills men with envy and ladies with lust.

The type of mustache that, when you look at yourself in the mirror, causes you to forget to put on pants because all you can see is reflection perfection.

That's right. Reflection. Perfection.

Before I was a Dad, I'd gone through the annual "We Should Grow Mustaches" ritual that all men make in the smoky confines of their favorite pub. That evening always plays out the same way: It's late. You're at the bar shooting pool with your buddies. A row of empty shot glasses clear the path for one of your friends to make that bold, prophetic statement that one of your friends always makes:

"You know what I need to do? Grow a mustache."

Like a choir of off-key tubas, the rest of the guys enthusiastically support this idea: "Hell yes! We're in." After 10 minutes of rock bumps, chest-thumping and the occasional foot high-five (also known as the "Tripped-And-Fell") you and your friends throw back a binding shot as a solemn vow that, starting the next morning, you will all grow a manly mustache.

But no one ever does. Instead of growing a magical "mo", the next morning is filled with a typical bucket of lousy excuses. "My employer won't let me." "I forgot." "Sorry I puked in your car."

Now I know what you're thinking: You're a Dad; that means you can grow a Dad'Stache no matter what. It's your right. Not so. I learned from several credible sources that you don't just get to grow a Dad'Stache, you must earn the right to grow one. (Or you must have started to grow it before 1974.) After learning this it was with a heavy heart that I resigned myself to the fact that I would never, ever grow a mustache from scratch. That was, until a few months ago when I learned of this spectacular event called "Movember."

Movember is a month-long event starting November 1 where men across the world grow a mustache to raise money for prostate cancer research (oh yes, it's real). You start clean-shaven, then "grow a mo." All donations go directly to efforts to save men's manly parts (and lives). Because of this, I've decided to take a pledge and ask you to join me.

I, BRIAN A. KLEMS, founder, CEO and gardener of The Life of Dad, vow not to shave my upper lip for the next 30 days starting Movember 1, growing the most manly Man'Stache I can. I will document each day's growth on the blog here in the About Movember tab and in a rotating box of photos on the right so you can see my progress. I will also enter weekly, diary-style updates, so you can follow along on my quest.

I've already added a link with a logo on the right-hand side of this blog where you can donate to the cause if you like. Donate $10. Donate $20. Donate $0. I just thought this would be a fun way to support a good cause by doing something I've always wanted to do but never had the guts to do (and by "guts" I mean "wife's approval").

And, if you're extra awesome, join in the fun! Become a member of The Life of Dad's team "REFLECTION PERFECTION" and grow your own "mo." If you join and send pictures, I'll find a way to work them into the blog. I'll also try to donate some money in your name. Grow any kind you like—a Dadly mo, a curly mo, a fu-manchu mo, a porn mo. It's all up to you. And, if you're not convinced, I've created a list of reasons "For" and "Against" growing a mustache to help make your decision easier:

Reasons Not to Grow a Mustache:  
You are in a horrible boating accident and your doctor—after looking long and hard at your medical chart—explains that if you don't shave your upper lip every day you will die.

Reasons to Grow a Mustache: 

So join me in my quest to save manly parts everywhere. At the very least, follow along as I create the best Thanksgiving family photo our family has ever taken. I will, in turn, make sure to get my photo updated daily during the month, so stop by each day and Watch My Mo Grow!

It'll be reflection perfection.

The Life of Dad is updated every week. 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 22, 2010

When Halloween Delivers More Treats Than Tricks

One of the best times of the year for any Dad is Halloween. You get to watch the excitement on the kids' faces as they dress up as princesses, vampires, pirates, mutant ninja turtles and The- Thing- You- Don't- Recognize- But- Is- Super- Trendy- This- Year. You get to take the kids around the neighborhood, saying hello to most of your neighbors. You even get to awkwardly explain to one particular neighbor why you've spent the past 10 minutes discussing Global Warming with her Ghost-covered light-post, who you mistook for her husband, Mark.

It's worse when later you have to explain it to Mark.

The real gem comes at the end of the night, as you return home just in time to get the kids out of their costumes and into their PJs … and then back into their costumes over their PJs (don't get me started). After a quick tucking them in followed by an hour of prayers, they finally begin to drift off—and you finally get to rummage through their candy, taking every last Snickers, Butterfinger and Smarties you can find. Some Moms call that "stealing from your kids." Dads call it "paying rent."

While I've been plotting my plan of attack for weeks, my daughters have had their minds on something completely different. They didn't seem to care about candy. They barely mentioned costumes. Instead, they’ve spent most of their waking minutes gravely concerned about our lack of Halloween decorations (this is not a joke).

I didn't understand why this was a big deal. Halloween decorations are scary. Place one in the wrong spot and you'll give yourself a heart attack. Or, worse yet, scream in a high-pitched, girl-like manner that your wife will never let you live down. Trust me, it's no coincidence that while Klems Manor has 17 giant tubs of happy, festive Christmas gear stowed in the basement, it only has one tiny box of Halloween stuff that's so small, it just says "H-ween" because the other letters won't fit.

But as I looked up and down our street, I started to understand why the girls were so concerned. Our next-door neighbors' porch was decked out in plastic pumpkins, flying witches and a Frankenstein who blows around in the wind and takes occasional karate kicks at our house. Another house down the way displayed an inflatable Winnie-the-Pooh wearing Halloween garb that glows so brightly we had to install a second set of curtains to block the light. Another house just a few up has fake gravestones littering the yard, with funny names on them like "Ima Ghost" and "Ricky D. Bones" and "Justin Bieber." And yet here at Klems Manor, the only thing connecting the outside of our house to Halloween is the long trail of cobwebs on our bushes left behind by Theo, the giant spider I've spent all summer (unsuccessfully) trying to kill.

Something had to be done. I spent the next day at work thinking about how I could make things right. The solution seemed simple: Stop at the Halloween store over the weekend and pick up some decorations. Nothing too big or scary, but a few things to show my girls I care. When we got home, I started to announce my plan when a soft, 3-year-old voice interrupted me.

"Dad," Ella said. "At school today I made some decorations for our house." She opened her backpack and unloaded one fuzzy spider, made out of a black paper plate and pipe cleaners, and a pumpkin carved from construction paper, orange paint and glue. They were simple. They were scary. They were the two most beautiful Halloween decorations I had ever seen in my life.

Funny thing about being a dad is that while you spend so much of your time trying to provide for your family you don't always stop to realize how much time they spend providing for you. Whether it's a hug on a bad day at work or a song when you've lost your voice or a homemade spider and pumpkin when your house isn't quite dressed for the occasion, your kids will give you more than you can ever give them. And that's the best Halloween treat any dad could ever ask from his kids.

So I've decided to scrap that tiny box and get a large Rubbermaid tub, big enough for our new decorations. Big enough for the future decorations I know Ella and Anna will make for us. Big enough you can write "Halloween" on its side and still have room to decorate. It's the least I can do to show my kids I love them.

Well, that and maybe this year I'll only take their Snickers.

The Life of Dad is updated every week. 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 15, 2010

How to Make Flu Shots More Appealing to Kids

Flu shots are as much a part of our October calendar as Columbus Day, Halloween and Columbus Day (observed). Before I became a Dad it was a simple 6-step process:

Step 1: Get e-mail from employer saying shots will be administered on XYZ date.
Step 2: Get reminder e-mail day before shots will be administered.
Step 3: Get final e-mail reminder 20 minutes before shots will be administered.
Step 4: On way to get shot, get distracted by free donuts in the break room.
Step 5: When wife asks why you didn't get your shot, tell wife they ran out of shots.
Step 6: Wipe glaze from cheek and prepare for flu.

Now that I'm a father, I'm not the only one I have to worry about getting vaccinated. I have two toddlers to keep in mind. They are so miserable and pathetic when they are sick that they can't eat. They can't sleep. They can't tolerate my beautiful singing voice (my wife claims this one is not flu-related). In fact, I can only assume that having the flu as a kid is almost as bad as being forced to watch a "Jersey Shore" marathon as an adult. The only difference is that the flu will leave you, but images of Snooki never will.

When shot day arrived, my wife and I took the kids to the doctor's office. The waiting room was packed with toddlers who were either sneezing on everything, coughing on everything or licking everything. It was as if a mushroom-cloud of illness filled the air, affecting everyone in its wake, and the only way to avoid it was to huddle up in one corner chair, cover up with our jackets and continually douse our bodies in hand sanitizers.

My kids immediately deemed this plan unacceptable, as they preferred to wander around freely and get licked.

(Thankfully the nurse called us back before any licking took place.)

It was there in the room that the kids started to question our motives.

"Why are we here?" asked my 3-year-old Ella.

"We're just here to get a quick flu shot that will help you from getting sick."

"Is Anna getting one too?"

"Of course."

"WHAT!?" screamed Anna, as she put her snacks back in the bag and started heading for the door—not seeming to care that she wasn't wearing pants anymore.

A brief pause and look of concern crossed Ella's face. I was fully prepared to hug her and give her the fatherly, Don't-Worry-It-Will-Be-OK-You-Can-Barely-Feel-It speech. I even placed my hand on her shoulder in preparation. Then she hit me with the question that she'd thought so long and so hard about:

"Will I get a sticker?"

In the few years I've been a father, I've learned that the keys to any good flu shot are Band-Aids and stickers. Without them, you're scum. With them, you'll finally get that "World's Greatest Dad" mug you've secretly (and desperately) been dreaming about (hint, hint).

Of course, that doesn't mean all Band-Aids and stickers are built alike, nor will they all dry your kids' tears. That's why I've created this handy Good/Bad chart so you know what will work and what won't:

Good: Dora Band-Aid, Elmo Band-Aid, Handy Manny Band-Aid.
Bad: Skin-colored Band-Aid, duct tape.

Good: Tinkerbell sticker, Diego sticker, Any-Disney-Character sticker.
Bad: "Paid" sticker from Kroger, "Hello My Name is" sticker, duct tape.

So when the nurse finally poked both our kids and the tears started to flow, I was armed with a pocketful of Dora Band-Aids and Disney stickers in tow—ready to earn my "World's Greatest Dad" mug. Unfortunately my kids immediately deemed this plan unacceptable too, and instead preferred the nurse's Tasmanian Devil Band-Aids (even though they had no clue who he was) and wanted to pick their own stickers from the nurse's sticker bin. I guess my mug will have to wait for another day.

And as I sat there, waiting for my kids to decide between a green Dora sticker, a red Dora sticker and another green Dora sticker—which looked identical to the first one but, according to Ella, wasn't—I realized something about myself:

I really, really wanted a donut.

October 8, 2010

The Best Laid Plans of Dads (and Baseball) Often Go Awry

I am a huge baseball fan. I have been since my Dad took me to my first Cincinnati Reds game when I was 7 years old and Kal Daniels (No. 28) roamed a few dozen feet from our left-field seats. I still remember the sun's reflection off the pale-green Astroturf and the mound of peanut shells covering our feet. The afternoon air was warm enough to tan our skin, but not hot enough to leave us sitting in puddles of our own sweat. And as my Dad and I left the stadium after my first game, I remember talking about nothing but baseball for the next 24 years (and counting).

Thank you, Dad, for changing my life.

I learned a lot about myself that day. I learned that a) I wanted to grow up to be a baseball player b) If that didn't work out, I was definitely going to spend all my adult money on season tickets and c) drinking Mt. Dew through Twizzlers was the most genius idea my dad had ever had.

Of course, that was all before I realized that the plans you make as a kid aren't always the same plans you follow as an adult. They get redesigned over and over again—by family, by friends, by college, by that girl whose smile shines nearly as bright as the ring you put on her finger–until one day you wake up and you say, "Holy crap! What happened?" My dreams of playing baseball are trapped inside a 31-year-old body that's suited less for making head-first slides and more for playing Patty Cake. My adult money isn't spent on season tickets; it's spent on diapers, doll babies and Halloween-themed footed pajamas. My Twizzler/Mt. Dew combo is no more due to the recent ballpark sponsorship switch to Coke.

So when my beloved Cincinnati Reds finally made the playoffs again this year—the first time this has happened since I've been legally allowed to drive—to play the Philadelphia Phillies, I became a kid all over again. I spent hours deciding which Reds shirt to wear. My girls and I discussed whom we would cheer for the loudest, my favorite player (Brandon Phillips), Ella's favorite player (Joey Votto) or Anna's favorite player (Jay Bruce). The collective answer was: Dad, are you really going to make us watch this all night?

I let them off the hook and met my friends to watch the game. Our beers were cold. Our hearts were warm. Our hands were in prime high-fiving position. When the first pitch was thrown, we cheered loud enough for the team to hear us all the way in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, it was the last time we cheered the entire game.

Inning after inning, the Reds were shut down. One-two-three. One-two-three. One-two-three. I watched in denial as every Reds player grounded out and every heart in the bar sank faster than a Roy Halladay breaking ball. The moment I had waited for 15 years to enjoy, the one that started years before on a warm Sunday afternoon at the ballpark with my dad, ended as my favorite player grounded out to the catcher completing the second no-hitter in baseball postseason history.

Unfortunately, we sat on the wrong side of history.

My friends and I hung our heads in disbelief as the Phillies formed a giant man-hug on the pitcher's mound. We were crushed. We didn't have an opportunity to cheer. We didn't have an opportunity to high-five. We barely had an opportunity to finish our drinks before the game was over—it had all happened so fast.

The car ride home was awful. I couldn't turn on the radio, as every station was talking about the game, or the CD player, as it contained a special REDS PLAYOFF CD I'd filled with 17 consecutive tracks of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'". Worse yet, as I looked out the window all I saw were waves of slow-moving Reds jerseys walking down the street, dulled by the sad faces that accompanied them.

But like I said before: Life never goes according to plan. I planned to be a baseball player—but I didn't. I planned for the Reds to get more than zero hits in their game—but they didn't. I planned to come home and be in a grumpy mood the rest of the night—but I wasn't. When I got home, it took only my littlest daughter throwing her arms around me and yelling "Daddy!" to remind me that baseball is a part of who I am, but it isn't the biggest part of who I am. I may talk about it constantly (to the chagrin of my wife) and pretend I still play it (every week at softball), but I have a new love interest now: my kids.

And that is even better than drinking Mt. Dew through a Twizzler.

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

* Subscribe to The Life of Dad via email or RSS feed!  
* Also, follow me on Twitter @BrianKlems. I promise to occasionally say funny things. 

October 1, 2010

A Thank You Card to My Wife

Every year for our anniversary I generally get my wife some kind anniversary card that starts out "You are kind, smart and beautiful" and ends with "You're so lucky to have such an awesome husband." I know it's a lousy anniversary card but, in my defense, the BP station located by work only sells lousy anniversary cards.

This year is different, though. This year is our 5-year anniversary. It's the first "big" number we've hit. I couldn't get her the same lousy card as I had in the past; I'd have to do something a little better. Step up my game a bit. I pulled together the Brain Trust—my daughters—to come up with a can't-miss idea. Unfortunately, key members of the Brain Trust were already wrapped up in their individual projects: one proving Newton's Theory of Relativity, one making mouth bubbles with her spit.

Instead of a card this year, I've decided to publicly thank my wife for many of the things she's done for me over the past five years. I know—probably not as good as a trip to Hawaii or a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon, but certainly more accommodating to our budget (after all, napkins to clean up spit bubbles aren't free) and hopefully more from the heart. Here it goes:

Dear Wife ...

Thank you for saying "I Do." The phrase never meant much to me until it came from your lips. When it did, it immediately became my favorite two-word combination, dethroning the phrase "Rock Bump."

Thank you for a wonderful honeymoon and allowing me to chug all those Choco Loco fancy drinks. Had it not been for your support, I'd never have known what a pure laxative would do to my body.

Thank you for washing my softball clothes, even if it meant that you had to purchase a surgical mask and Playtex gloves. I will reimburse you for them. (An early 6th anniversary present, perhaps?)

Thank you for listening to, deleting and forgetting to tell me about messages on the answering machine. Without you, I'd have had to spend who knows how many minutes calling people back.

Thank you for changing the song on the alarm clock from "Domo Arigato Mr Roboto" to "Anything-But-Domo-Arigato-Mr-Roboto." I was two mornings away from hurling myself out the window, so the change saved my life.

Thank you for saving my life.

Thank you for e-mailing me while I'm at work. It forces me to take a break from checking my pitiful fantasy football team. Guess this year isn't the year for team "Bacon Is Meat Candy."

Thank you for watching the Reds with me ... and tolerating my long lectures of useless stats, information and opinions. You may only be pretending to nod in agreement as I spout off about the absurdity of the Designated Hitter, but deep down I know that you think the Designated Hitter is stupid too.

Thank you for figuring out the plot of every movie we watch halfway through watching it and then sharing it with me. Because of you, I can fall asleep before it's over and still tell my sister whether the movie was good or not.

Thank you for making me a dad. I definitely couldn't have done this one alone. Besides the physical impossibilities, I look terrible in maternity pants. (Who knew?)

Thank you for getting our girls dressed in the morning. It saves me the embarrassment of answering the question, "Why are they wearing spaghetti-strapped undershirts over orange tank tops with green pants and winter Reds hats ... and no shoes?" I don't want to have to answer that question a third time.

And most important:
Thank you for letting me poke fun at you week in and week out on this blog. Not many wives would. It's your sense of humor that drives my sense of humor—and THAT drives me madly in love with you.

There are a million gagillion bazillion other reasons you deserve to be thanked and I promise to try and thank you for all of them. In the meantime, I can sum them all up like this: When our kids grow up I hope they are lucky enough to find someone that makes them as happy as you make me.

Happy Anniversary,
p.s.-You're so lucky to have such an awesome husband.

Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl
(A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters)

* Subscribe to The Life of Dad via email or RSS feed!  
* Also, follow me on Twitter @BrianKlems. I promise to occasionally say funny things. 

September 24, 2010

When Bedtime Rituals Go Into Extra Innings

I'm a firm believer in bedtime rituals. I have been for a long time, just ask my wife. For years I've abided by a 7-step process that goes something like this: 

Step 1: Change into old Ohio University shorts from college (you know, the one with holes in them).
Step 2: Hop into bed.
Step 3: Wink at wife.
Step 4: Watch as wife ignores wink.
Step 5: Kiss wife on cheek to let her know I'm serious.
Step 6: Watch as wife puts second pair of sweatpants on over the top of the pair she's already wearing to let me know she's serious.
Step 7: Turn on SportsCenter and drift off to sleep the moment they say something about Brett Favre.

With kids, bedtime rituals are important too. My oldest daughter, Ella, used to strongly abide by one when we moved her into a big-girl bed: brush teeth, give hugs, ask if there were any witches in her room (which I assured her, there were not), turn on nightlight, fall asleep. It was simple and sweet—the perfect nightcap to my day.

But not anymore.

Now, getting my oldest daughter to go to bed is like an intense game of baseball. Every night is the bottom of the 9th. There are two outs and I have a one-run lead. I'm doing my best to close this game out, while she stands at the plate, doing her best to send it to extras. I stand at the edge of her bed and throw pitch after pitch of "goodnights" and "see you in the mornings" which she fouls off with swings of "Just one more story, please" and "I need to pee again." These grueling at-bats last for several minutes until finally, after the stadium (night)light comes on, I drop the hammer.

"That's it! It's late. No more talking. Go to sleep. Good. Night." Close door. Game over. Pump fist. Point to the sky. Get congratulated by wife with a sportsmanlike "good game" pat-on-the-butt.

But it's not over. In fact, it's only beginning. Just as I start to head down the stairs I hear a soft voice come from her bedroom:

"Dad, we forgot to say prayers."


I can deny my 3-year-old a lot of things—ice cream for breakfast, getting her ears pieced, a Twitter account, those awful socks with the toes sewn into them—but I can't deny her prayers. Heck, I remember being a young kid, sitting with my mom on the edge of my bed, praying for my family, my friends and my Cincinnati Reds to win the pennant. It was part of my ritual then, so why couldn't it be part of our ritual now?

I'll tell you why. Because my sweet, adorable, loving daughter prays for everything under the sun—and everything above the sun, behind the sun, inside the sun, related to the sun, not related to the sun, divorced from the sun and birthed by the sun. And that's before we move on to the moon. If she's met a person, she prays for him. She also prays for that person's parents, whether she's met them or not. And, occasionally, she tries to sneak in a quick prayer for her Cabbage Patch doll, Sylvia, who, in all honesty, needs it considering the way she gets hurled around our house.

By the time she moves on to inanimate objects, it's an hour past her bedtime. It's an hour past my bedtime. My wife finally comes in like a pitching coach who has seen enough and relieves me of my duties. "Not your day today, is it Ace?" she'll say. And with a pitiful "nice try" pat-of-the-butt, she sends me to the showers.

As I head to bed, I think about rituals and prayers. I think about how the bedtime ritual I set for my daughter has caused her to pray more often (which is a good thing, as it teaches her compassion for others). I also think about how she's inspired me to pray more often (which is a good thing too). Sure, sometimes I pray for her to cut down on her prayers. And sometimes I still pray for the Reds to win the pennant. But I always pray for my kids to be happy and healthy kids, even if it means staying up a little past my bedtime to do so.

Oh, and I definitely pray for God to set fire to that second pair of sweatpants. If he really loved me, he'd take care of the first pair, too.

The Life of Dad is updated every week. 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

September 8, 2010

Searching For SpongeBob

My youngest daughter, Anna, is a 17-month-old explorer. If there's a closet left open, she'll peek in it. If there's a stack of books piled neatly in the corner, she'll toss them to the side, one by one, to see if there's anything at the bottom. If there's a toilet seat left open, she'll find her parents racing toward her in a panic trying to immediately stop that expedition.

Sometimes being an explorer teaches everyone a valuable lesson.

Recently I noticed Anna on the ground, butt in the air, looking under her dresser. I had just finished folding laundry (and by "folding laundry" I mean "shoving my unfolded clothes under the bed to avoid an unpleasant confrontation with my wife") when I spotted her little butt waving in the air. It's not unusual for her to look under things, but it is unusual for her to continue looking under things for longer than 30 seconds—and, by my watch, she had been there a solid 4 minutes.

I made my way into her room and stood within her peripheral. She didn't budge. Normally she'd pop up, hold her arms in the air, grin and say "Mommy!" (A cruel joke she likes to play on me, likely getting even for all the times I accidentally call her by her sister's name). Not this time, though. She was focused.

"Hey Anna," I said, in a pretending-to-not-be-concerned concerned voice. "What're looking at?"

Without lifting her head from the carpet, she pointed under the dresser. I thought to myself, What could possibly be under there that had her attention? A toy? A spider? A pair of my underwear from the last time I "folded laundry"? I leaned down on the ground—butt in the air, top of my head touching the top of Anna's head—and peeked under with her. I didn't see anything.

"Anna, I don't see anything."

Finally, she lifted her head with a serious look on her face, pointed under the dresser again and, with authority, let me know exactly what she saw.


As many parents know, "BobBob" is 1-year-old speak for SpongeBob, the lovable (and most tolerable) cartoon character on Nickelodeon. His antics are often ridiculous and make little sense, much like this under-the-dresser situation.

"But Anna, BobBob isn't under there."

"BobBob!" She continued to point.

So I bent down to look again. Still nothing. I was beginning to think that Anna was somehow in cahoots with her sister, executing a master plan of keeping me preoccupied while my oldest stole a box of Yogos out of the pantry. Then I remembered that we were out of Yogos, so the joke would be on them.

"I don't see him, dear." I lifted my head again. She looked so disappointed in me. She let out one last plea.


It was then that I realized who cares if SpongeBob is actually under there or not. If her imagination believes he is, maybe he is. Maybe he lives under the dresser with the clumps of carpet fuzz and my "folded laundry." And maybe it makes her feel safe knowing a friendly face looks after her every night, albeit an imaginary one. All I know is that she's my daughter and I love her, and if she sees "BobBob," well then I see him too. 

"Do you want me to keep looking for him under there with you?"

She nodded enthusiastically, gave me a kiss and dropped back into adventurer position on the ground, butt in the air. I did the same. We spent a good part of the afternoon searching for SpongeBob and, I have to say, it was an adventure I'm glad I didn't miss. Apparently it was a moment Anna's older sister didn't want to miss either.

"What are you guys doing?" Ella asked, as she walked up to us holding a box of Oreos.

"We're searching for … wait, where did you get those Oreos?" I asked.

"No where," she said. The she winked at Anna and exited the room.

Valuable lesson learned.

The Life of Dad is updated every Tuesday. 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

September 1, 2010

Living Room Campouts

There are several essentials to a good living room campout. Most important, you need kids who have a healthy imagination. You also need two parents who are unwilling to pack up the car, brave the wilderness and poop in the woods. Klems Manor is filled with these types of kids and parents. So when my two daughters asked me if we could camp out, I agreed under one condition—I got to choose the campsite.

Welcome to Yosemite, er, wait ... I mean YoKlemsite National Living Room Park, where the climate is controlled and the 50-inch HDTV lights up the sky like a cluster of bright stars—so long as that cluster of stars is shaped like Cincinnati Reds baseball players.

Creating an impromptu living room campout isn't too difficult. You will need a few household supplies. As Dad, you are the hunter and gatherer, so it's your job to hunt around the house and gather these supplies. Of course, the first item you will need to find is your wife, who will need to tell you where everything is. (Sure, you're a good hunter and gatherer, but the only three things you can really locate in the house are the fridge, the bathroom and your underwear drawer.)

Now that you're able to find the items (thanks Dear), let’s get started building our campsite.

First and foremost, you must lay down blankets on the floor to disguise the landscape. (Green and brown blankets are preferred, but not required). This not only makes your living room feel more "woodsy," but also is an excellent way to cover up the incriminating trail of Dorito crumbs that leads directly from the kitchen to your spot on the couch. And no matter how much you argue that you intentionally left this trail as a safety precaution (so you can find your way back to the kitchen in case you get lost), your wife will still give you a hard time. Better to cover it up.

Your next task is to build another campout staple: the campfire. Lighting a fire inside the house when it's 95 degrees outside seems like a cruel joke to play on your air-conditioning unit—I mean, seriously, that poor guy has put in countless hours of overtime and hasn't slept all summer. Then again, he peeps on your wife in the bathroom, so it's hard to feel too badly for him.

Instead of lighting up, grab some red and yellow construction paper, a pair of scissors, a roll of tape and two Band-Aids (any time scissors are involved you will always need a minimum of two Band-Aids). Minutes later you will have a handsome fire just outside your tent. 

Next up: Build a tent. Building a tent is an easy, two-step process: Step 1) Take a folding table and set it up; Step 2) Drape another blanket over it. Within 2 minutes, you have a tent. Fortunately for us, we didn't have to deal with the hassle of finding those items because we have a wonderful teepee tent that only took 6 hours to assemble its 134 pieces.

And finally, camping isn't camping without the weather elements. Creating rain indoors seemed like an insurmountable challenge (and a bad idea). Instead, we were able to create a strong windstorm thanks to a small box fan. It had four levels: Light Wind, Heavy Wind, Blow-Teepee-Tent-Over Wind and Off.

While I know this experience isn't quite like the great outdoors, I do know that it's the perfect way to spend a Saturday night. And as I sat on the couch, looking at the flashlights and water bottles and remnants of not-so-scary ghost stories that surrounded our campsite, I noticed my kids drift peacefully off into sleep in the arms of my wife. It was a picture-perfect memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Then, out of the quiet, came the faint voice of my wife.

"Oh Brian, I love this moment, but I'm really, really thirsty. Can you get me a glass of water so I don't have to get up?"

So I lifted myself from the couch, gave her a kiss and said, "I would love to, but I have no idea how to find the kitchen. If only there were a trail of some kind."

The Life of Dad is updated every Tuesday. 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 23, 2010

The 10 Rules of Cheering on Dad as He Makes Breakfast

Breakfast is a Dad's meal. We eat it. We love it. If our wives would let us, we'd name our children after it. It's the most important meal of the day according to physicians, medical consultants and the sales department at IHOP. So when it comes to crafting a tasty, mouthwatering spread of bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, French toast, fruit (and by "fruit" I mean more bacon) and orange juice (and by "orange juice" I mean more "fruit"), there's only one person in each household who will give it the kind of love, care and dedication it needs.

Relax Mom, Dad's got this one covered. 

Just like we are hardwired to squish bugs and make poor fashion decisions, we are hardwired to cook the most awesome breakfasts. That's right! In fact, we cook it in such a scrumptious way that our taste buds go back in time and forgive college-us for feeding college-taste-buds nothing but Ramen Noodles. (Note: Taste buds still unwilling to forgive college-us for drinking Natty Lite).

Now I've never claimed to be good at much1, but breakfast is one frontier I've conquered. I come from a long line of gourmet breakfast Chefs. From my great-great-great-great grandpappy Klems, who I've heard invented the donut, all the way to Roger "My Dad" Klems, who has been credited with inventing heartburn, a fine strand of DNA has been passed along to me—one that makes weekend mornings delicious.

Unfortunately, one thing I've noticed in today's kids is that they don't know how to appreciate Dad when he's making breakfast. They don't realize the precious art form they're witnessing. Instead of fawning over you like the Breakfast Picasso that you are, they sit there like lumps on the couch, watching TV and sneezing in your drink when you aren't looking.

To remedy that, I've come up with The 10 Rules of Cheering on Dad as He Makes Breakfast:
    Rule 1: Never ask Dad what he's making for breakfast. Doesn't matter what he's cooking—it will be awesome.   
    Rule 2: Use magnetic letters on the fridge to spell out "Dad is my Hero." (If you have to, use upside "p" for second "d" in Dad). 
    Rule 3: Applaud each time Dad flips the pancakes.  
    Rule 4: If you have "I *heart* Dad" T-shirts, wear them. If not, skip to Rule 6. 
    Rule 5: SECRET NOTE TO THOSE WHO HAVE "I *HEART* DAD" T-SHIRTS: Dad loves you more than his other kids.  
    Rule 6: No Foam Fingers. Non-negotiable. None of us want to relive the We-Almost-Caught-Our-Kitchen-On-Fire incident of 2008.  
    Rule 7: If a sausage link starts to roll off the fryer and Dad saves it with his spatula, yell "WEB GEM!" and then sing the SportsCenter "Da da da ... da da da."  
    Rule 8: Argue over who loves Dad the most. This will often net you two extra pieces of bacon.  
    Rule 9: As Dad shuffles the eggs onto the plates, start chanting "MVP! MVP!" Then do the wave.  
    Rule 10: After Dad turns off the stove, ask him to do it again, but this time in slow motion so you can "savor the moment."
Read these rules carefully. Memorize them. Pass them along to your children. I know they may sound silly, but I also know that Dad will appreciate his family appreciating him. And if you're not willing to thank him for making a good breakfast, at least thank him for not naming you Bacon3.

1That's a lie. I claim to be good at everything—except for predicting the future2.
2That is also a lie. I can predict the future.
3This is not a joke. He really wanted to name you Bacon. 

The Life of Dad is updated every Tuesday. 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 17, 2010

Why Listening to Your Kids is a Real Treat

Sometimes your role as a Dad is just to listen. Listen to sounds, music, those amazingly annoying Wonder Pets, whose voices are the real reason God invented Advil. It's a role that at times can make you cringe and at other times make you upset, but most of the time it makes you thankful that you have a good sense of humor.

Ring, ring, ring.

My 3-year-old daughter simply loves the phone. She loves to dial numbers and to answer it when it rings. She loves to hold it hands-free, between her head and her shoulder just like her mom does. She'll keep that phone squeezed tightly to her ear as she walks around the first floor of our house like a bubbly teenager having deep discussions with her best friend about who is cuter, Justin Bieber or Justin Timberlake. (NOTE: The correct answer is neither. Your dad will give them both black eyes if they come within a 10-mile radius of you.)

What she loves to do most with the phone, of course, is to make phone calls. She'll call her Grandma and Grandpa. She'll call her Nonni and Poppi. She'll call the mysterious voice who says, "If you'd like to make a call, please hang up and try that number again." But the person she wants to call most often is her cousin Chris, who is three months her younger and, according to my daughter, "doesn't have enough dresses around his house to play fashion show."

Now what I love about phone conversations with Chris is that if he's talking to you on the phone about one of his new toys, he'll set down the phone—while you are mid-sentence—get the toy and bring it back to "show you." You applaud and tell him how much you love it, even though for all you know he's standing on the other end of the phone holding a butcher knife or, worse yet, Season 3 of the Wonder Pets.

On one particular evening, my daughter Ella told me she has something "very important" to tell her cousin and "it couldn't wait." Like any good dad, I immediately used that as leverage to make her finish her broccoli.  After that, I made the call.

Listening to a phone conversation between two 3 year olds may be the most entertaining thing any parent gets to witness. It starts out with simple pleasantries, but quickly takes a turn into uncharted territories. No conversation is ever simple and none is ever the same. When Ella called Chris this particular time (when she had something "very important" to tell him), I'm certain that to them, the conversation sounded something like this:

Ella: "Hi Chris. Lovely day we are having, isn't it?"
Chris: "Oh yes, Ella. Simply gorgeous out. Have you seen that the Dow Jones is up several bill-fold?"
Ella: "My Google stock is through the roof. But what I'm even more happy to see is that they've solved world hunger."
Chris: "About time. I had given Green Peace the answer six months ago."
Ella: "Indeed."

Of course, as a Dad who is afraid that "very important" means "I'm running off with Justin Beiber," I couldn't help but listen in and hear the actual conversation—which went more like this (and no, I'm not making this up):

Ella: "Hey Chris, remember that one time I was over your house and you pooped on the potty and then I pooped on the potty?"
Chris: "Yeah!"
Ella: "No wait, remember I pooped on the potty first then you pooped on the potty?"
Chris: "Yeah!"
Ella: "No wait, remember I pooped and peed on the potty, and then you pooped on the potty?"
Chris: "Yeah!"
Ella: "Remember, I pooped and peed on the potty and then you pooped on the potty, and then we all had popsicles?"
Chris: "Popsicles, yeah!"
Ella: "That was awesome."
Chris: "Hold on Ella, I'll get one and show it to you."

I guess solving world hunger will have to wait for another day. Though if you keep listening closely to your kids, maybe one day you'll hear the answer. In the meantime, I've learned it's just best to smile and enjoy what they have to offer now. And, if you're lucky, when they do solve the problems with the world, you'll be there to help them celebrate with popsicles.

The Life of Dad is updated every Tuesday. 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