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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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