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)

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* 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.