October 30, 2013

So What Does the Most Awesome Dad Dress As For Halloween?

Captain Handsome, of course. (With my sidekick, Supergirl!) 

It's worth noting that my Supergirl sidekick made me search around the house for a blue shirt, red shorts, black tights (yes, I own a pair) and a black long-sleeve t-shirt just so we'd match. She knows a thing or two about looking good. Perhaps I'm actually her sidekick.

Also, The Most Awesome Mom went as Mickey Mouse to complement our little Minnie. It's safe to say there is no cheese left in our house.

Finally, our eldest daughter decided to buck the duo trend and go as a cheerleader. This marks the first year she's chosen to be anything other than a Disney princess, so I consider this a big win. Plus, the pompoms can double as a weapon (The U.S. government reports that pompoms are the #2 cause of eyeball-poke-related injuries, just after the Three Stooges Double-Finger Point). Only one member of our family has avoided the injury thus far. HINT: It's the person holding the pompoms.

Happy Halloween everybody! Would love to know what you and your family are dressing as this holiday season.

October 18, 2013

How Handiwork Can Bring Dads and Daughters Closer Together

When I was young, I used to help my dad fix everything. Broken leg on the table? We fixed it. Cracked mortar in the wall? We fixed it. Leaky hose in the back of the toilet tank? We made it worse and, after six trips to Home Depot and lots of muffled swearing, we called a plumbing professional who gave me a lollipop and gave my dad a bill that led to unmuffled swearing.

I look back on some of those wonderful memories all the time. I remember being the greatest helper in the world and, if it weren’t for me, I assume my dad would have never been able to fix anything on his own. I was just that awesome.

Twenty-some-odd-years later, as a Dad, I’m now in charge of the fixes around my house. I also am lucky enough to employ several of my own little helpers who are eager to lend a hand in any way they can, especially if it involves hammering on my ankles. They are excited and ready to do anything I ask. “Bring me the screwdriver,” I say. “Yes Dad!” they say, and within seconds, one of them enthusiastically hands me a wrench.

So when I sat down to replace the bathroom faucet, it wasn’t just me, it was me and my team. My HandyKlems Team. We were a team built on determination, intelligence and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. We could tackle any project at hand, so long as wasn’t during naptime. And, other than the occasional pee break, we’d spend every minute working until the job was complete (mainly because the iPad was out of battery). We were ready.

We stared at that leaky faucet for awhile, trying to diagnose the problem.

Me: “I think the washer seal has gone bad. What do you think?”
Helper #1: “I think I should hammer it.”
Helper #2: “I think we should hit it with this thing.” (Points to crowbar.)
Helper #3: “My favorite color is green.”

After careful inspection, the vote was 4-1 in favor of hitting it with something. Unfortunately our house is not a democracy, so my wife’s vote overruled ours and we were forced to replace the faucet instead.

I climbed under sink, squeezing into a bathroom cabinet the size of a football helmet, slowly unbolting everything that needed unbolting. My team sat around me, one of them watching my every move, one of them trying to squeeze in the cabinet with me and one of them standing on my legs as if they were a step stool.

“Can I help?” says the one squeezed into the cabinet with me.

“Not right now, sweetie. I promise I’ll let you help in a minute.”

She “helps” anyway by twisting the shut-off valve and letting water spray all over us.

“Hey, why does she get to help?” asks Helper #2 who was watching my every move but is now, for no particular reason, unrolling the toilet paper and wrapping it around her arm.

“Turning on the water when the valve is unhooked is not helping.”

Just then, Helper #3 decides to jump, landing back on my shins, ripping out every hair follicle on my legs with the rubbery sole of her size 5 shoes. I scream. She screams. I hit my head in a pipe. Helper #1, now leaning on my throat, manages to get her hand caught in one of the holes now vacated by the faucet.

It’s believed that Winston Churchill coined the phrase, “I have nothing to offer but blood, sweat and tears,” but this is not true. The phrase was first uttered by a Dad who was trying to fix the bathroom sink with his kids.

Did we eventually fix the faucet? Sure. Were the kids excited to use the new, fun, fancy faucet? Not really. They were too busy pretending the tools were telephones. But after the struggle I went through and the battle wounds I suffered, I felt mighty proud of that faucet. Team HandyKlems came through in the clutch once again. My dad would have been proud.

“You know I want you to replace the other bathroom faucet too, right?” my wife said.

Unmuffled swearing commence. 

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 7, 2013

Saying Goodbye Part 2 - My Own First House

Recently I said goodbye to my parents’ house. The same week I had to say goodbye to the only other house I had ever called home—the first house my wife and I purchased together. The Minmor House.

Trying to buy a home with your wife is much like like naming a baby with your wife. After careful discussion, consideration and reading every book there is on the topic, you will, inevitably, lose your mind. She’ll rule out every house you like because it “just doesn’t feel right” or “smells funny” or “reminds her of that jerk she dated in high school.” She’ll veto the house that you love without taking into consideration your practical arguments like “it’s really cheap” and paternal instincts like “In this house I could envision myself raising a finely groomed mustache.”

So when we stumbled upon our two-story house in St. Bernard, we decided to buy it because—well, it depends who you ask. My wife will tell you we bought it because she was tired of looking at houses and this one “didn’t suck that bad.” If you asked me, I’d tell you we bought it because my wife passed on a nicer house that, in her words, “lacked character,” which is code for “looks like every other cookie-cutter house.” (Keep in mind it’s also code for “has two-car garage,” which should always trump “character.”)

Either way, it clearly wasn’t our dream house when we first moved it. It needed fresh coats of paint. It lived behind overgrown bushes. Only half the windows worked. It had one of those old, giant, metal antenna’s sticking out from the roof like the mast of an old pirate ship. The electrical outlets had only two-prongs, a metaphor for a house that didn’t want to adapt to the 21st century.

Moving in felt like taking over 0-16 football team and being asked to mold it into a playoff contender. And we did just that. We ripped up wallpaper and laid down carpet. We re-glazed tile and replaced all light fixtures. We reseeded bald spots with grass and planted beautiful flowers in order to fool our new neighbors into thinking that we were professional horticulturalists (something they’d wise up to over the next eight years when I’d routinely cut our grass two weeks later than I should).

The Minmor House will forever be known to me as the home where I started my family. My family. It is the first home our daughters ever knew, as we brought each one of them home from the hospital and proceeded not to sleep for the next 6 months. I can remember the spot where Ella crawled for the very first time, determined to get the TV remote like she was Indiana Jones in pursuit of the grail. I remember the time I spent hours with Anna looking under the dresser because she was convinced SpongeBob was under there—and she was right! I remember the exhaustion I felt trying to keep up with Mia, chasing her around our circular first floor as she knocked over everything in her way.

This didn’t start out as our dream house, but over time it became the house that made all our dreams come true. And unlike my parents’ house where we were forced to say goodbye, we were choosing to say goodbye to the Minmor House in an “It’s not you, it’s us” kind of a way.

Dear Minmor House,

It’s not you, it’s us. You’ve been loving and caring. You’ve forgiven us for tracking softball field mud across your floors and shooting baby vomit on your walls. You’ve worked hard to make this work, and I’m forever grateful for that.

But we’re to a point in our lives now where we need more. We need another bedroom. We need a room where our toys can live freely and are less likely to puncture our feet. We need two full bathrooms so that we (my wife and daughters) don’t need four hours to get ready for events and can do it in the reasonable time of “under two.” Most important, we need a house that has kids on the street—and that’s just something you can’t fake, no matter how hard you try.

We will miss you dearly, but it’s time to move on. In the words of the future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rock legends Fall Out Boy, Thnks Fr Th Mmrs.
Team Klems
OK, so I didn’t actually leave a note (mainly because I had already packed up all the pens into moving boxes), but I did walk around to each room in the house and said goodbye. I had my middle daughter Anna with me as we made our final trip moving stuff out of the house. I carried her around from room to room, having trouble letting go—of the house, of her. I couldn’t help but remember all the laughter and smiles we’d had in that house. And, for some reason, that brought on tears. When Anna asked me why I was crying I said, “I’m going to miss this place.”

She leaned in and gave me a big hug. It was the best farewell hug I could have ever imagined.


“Yes sweetheart,” I said as I wiped tears from my eyes.

“It’s time to go.”

And she was right. Nevermind that she was too young to appreciate the moment. Nevermind that her mature comment had less to do with her astute intuition and more with her need to pee really, really badly. It was time for us to go and to start the next chapter in our lives, the two-car-garage chapter in our lives.

But I’ll always take the memories of the Minmor House with me, wherever I go. After all, any house can be your dream house so long as it’s filled with people you love.

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.