December 31, 2013

Happy New Year 2014!

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

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December 20, 2013

Why Do Kids Scream in Pictures With Santa?

For 11 and a half months of the year our kids talk about Santa Claus as if he’s their best friend. They draw pictures of him. They write letters to him. They sing songs celebrating his arrival. They even discuss the assortment of cookies they plan to leave for him on Christmas Eve, which is hard to believe considering the only cookies they’ve ever left for me are half-eaten ones that fell on the floor.1

So it makes no sense to me as to why, when given the opportunity to have their picture taken with Santa—a guy who leaves them presents of dollhouses, ipods, video games and more (no questions asked)—they cry and scream as if he murdered their puppy. (Which is odd because we don’t even have a puppy!2)

Every year we are fortunate to be invited to an event called “Breakfast with Santa,” thanks to our good friends (and realtors) at Coldwell Banker. This Christmas celebration has three of my favorite things: Donuts (awesome!), a magician (double awesome!) and a person who makes balloon animals (it’s like I’m in heaven!). For two hours I load up on sugar and entertainment, right alongside my kids, and hope that this glorious day never ends. That’s when Santa finally makes his entrance and my wife utters those same 14 words that always ruin my day:

“For the last time Brian, you cannot quit your job and become a magician.”

From a distance, my daughters all seem to be pleased that Santa has arrived. They clap like all the other kids. They even get in line to see Santa, smiling and laughing and telling us what they plan to ask for. Then it happens.

“OK, it’s our turn. Go sit on Santa’s lap.”

Suddenly they turn ghost white and look petrified, as if we had asked them to walk away with an axe murderer or, worse, a Cubs fan. They start screaming, “No Daddy! No Mommy! I don’t want to sit on Santa’s lap!!!” They grip onto my legs tighter than a pair of spandex, hiding their heads in the back of my knees and making it impossible for me to walk. I can only hope that, years from now, they have the same kind of reaction when boys ask them on dates.

As I try to pry them off, their grip only gets tighter. I make a reasonable case to them as to why they should sit on Santa’s lap (“I will give you all the candy you want!”) but that effort falls flat, mainly because evil creatures also known as “grandparents” have already been sneaking them candy all morning.

“I don’t like Ho Ho,” said my youngest, who only calls Santa that when she’s scared of him. Terrified tears come racing out of her eyes to match those of her 4-year-old sister, who isn’t a fan of the up-close-and-personal Ho Ho either. My eldest wasn’t crying, but the idea of sitting on some stranger’s lap didn’t really entice her either.

So I grabbed the kids and said, “HUDDLE UP!” I pulled them together like a quarterback pulls together his team when motivating them to push past their insecurities and help make the game-winning drive.

“Listen, your mom just wants one picture. ONE PICTURE! You don’t have to look at Santa. You don’t have to say anything to Santa. You don’t have to sit on his lap or even acknowledge the fact that came all the way from the North Pole to Ohio, which I'm sure had at least two layovers, just for you to ignore him. All you have to do is stand to the side of him and smile at the camera for ONE PICTURE. Can you guys do that for me?”

After hearing how important this was to me and how reasonable deal this deal was, all three of them nodded in agreement with a resounding, “NO!”

“Whoever stands next to Santa and lets mom take a picture gets to play Candy Crush on the iPad when we get home.”

And that’s the story of how we finally got the girls to take our annual photo with Ho Ho.

1 And the answer to your question is yes, I still ate them.
2 Though if we did, I’d like to think that we’d name him Zach Morris.

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

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December 18, 2013

Everyone Needs an Aunt Ali

With the amazing story of my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and niece/goddaughter showing up everywhere on the web recently (originating on the Today Show's Mom's memory lives on in sweet dad, daughter photos and being featured as a wonderful segment here), I thought I'd re-share this tribute to her. I'm as proud of it as anything I've posted to TheLifeOfDad, as she told me it was her favorite column I'd ever written. (I tear up every time I reread it.) Thanks to Ben and Olivia for keeping her legacy of love alive.

My daughters are incredibly lucky because they have three amazing aunts. They have my wife's youngest sister, Aunt Melanie, who is a professional photographer and is constantly taking great pictures of our kids. They have my sister, Aunt Jennie, who is a social worker and can explain to the kids exactly how awesome I have always been—oh, I was pretty awesome at 7 years old "flying" around our house in a Greatest American Hero cape. (Wonder if they make those in adult sizes?) And they have my wife's middle sister, Aunt Ali, who is … well, Aunt Ali is lot of things.

Aunt Ali is fun.

Aunt Ali is funny.

Aunt Ali is forgetful and will leave her phone at your house, even when the reason for her visit was to pick up the purse she left there the night before.

Aunt Ali is the best at making cupcakes—especially ones that look like animals.

Aunt Ali is a lover of cotton candy, and will sneak your kids some assuming she hasn't eaten it all on her drive over.

Aunt Ali is a magnificent manicurist, sculpting your daughters' dirty kid nails into beautiful little girl nails. A layer of Aunt Ali's polish later—purple for Ella, blue for Anna—and both girls feel grown up … and special.

Aunt Ali is a hilarious commenter on Facebook, making you laugh even when calling you "Uncle Creepo" (see here).

Aunt Ali is silly.

Aunt Ali is a good cook—so much so that you will actually want to eat your vegetables.

Aunt Ali is a Michael Jackson fan and makes your kids want to learn to moonwalk just to impress her.

Aunt Ali is an excellent housekeeper, helping you time and time again after each kid is born. She asks for nothing in return, save maybe a few minutes of holding your baby—and a few sugary treats.

Aunt Ali is good at sharing and letting her sisters “shop” in her closet every time they are in dire need of something pink.

Aunt Ali is almost always wearing pink.

Aunt Ali is seriously almost always wearing pink.

Aunt Ali is—wait, I don't think you understand. Roughly 98% of her wardrobe is pink. The other 2% are clothes she borrowed from her sisters and never gave back.

Aunt Ali is nicknamed UB by your friends, which stands for "Ultra Babe."

Aunt Ali is a great finder of the best kids books (except for the time she found us the bathroom book The Gas We Pass, which I've only kind of forgiven her for).

Aunt Ali is an excellent reader, with the perfect arm-length-to-book ratio, allowing room for a couple of kids to cuddle on in.

Aunt Ali is a hell of a lot smarter than she often gets credit for.

Aunt Ali is a great bargain shopper and can find deals on anything. EDITOR NOTE: This does not mean she actually spends less money (which her hubby would prefer), only that she buys more things (like terrible bathroom books for your kids).

Aunt Ali is a wonderful mother. 

Aunt Ali is a fan of bows and headbands and will buy hundreds of thousands of them for your daughters. If you aren't careful, she'll buy one for you too, even if your name is "Dad."

Most important, Aunt Ali is, and always will be, an important part of our lives.

If you were lucky, you had an Aunt Ali growing up. If you are luckier, your kids will have one. She does nothing but put smiles on the faces of everyone she meets. Aunt Ali memories are the best of the best and remind you every day how much you should celebrate life and love the people around you—even if that means you have to moonwalk across the floor and hug them with sticky cotton candy fingers.

Aunt Ali is an amazing person. That's why we all love our Aunt Ali so much.

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. 

December 11, 2013

8 Reasons to Build a Snowman With Your Kids

You should never pass up an opportunity to build a snowman with your kids. Here’s why.

1. The Mess Stays Outside

Play D’oh. Bocks. Dollhouses. What do all of these items have in common (other than, at one time or another, each has been licked by one of your kids)? They, along with many other indoor activities, leave a giant mess inside the house that needs to be cleaned up. When you are building a snowman it’s typically outside, so you don’t have to clean up—it all just melts away. And if you are one of those rare breeds that builds indoor snowmen, I ask that you stay away from me and my family. You're what my daughters would call "cray-cray."

2. It’s Hours of Entertainment

No matter how long you’ve been packing snow into the body of a snowman, there’s always more snow you can add. Is the base big enough? No way, we can make it BIGGER! Is he tall enough? No way, we can make him TALLER! Is Dad’s right knee frozen enough from kneeling down in the snow for the past 75 minutes? No way, we can make it FROZEN-ER!

3. It Keeps Them From Trying to Eat the Snow

If your kids are like mine, they will look at snow and immediately think “I wonder what that tastes like?” without taking into consideration the germs that may be manifesting. This also applies to pool water, your toothbrush, and candy that’s fallen on the floor (the accumulated fuzz on it is apparently not a deterrent). Now I’m all for catching snowflakes on your tongue, but once it’s landed and set up shop in my yard, I consider it about as sanitary as a clogged drainpipe. So the moment they attempt to grab that first bite, yell, “Let’s make a snowman!” It's the only way to get them to pass on that snow sandwich other than bribing them with candy (fuzz optional).  

4. It Teaches Teamwork

There’s no such thing as “too many hands" patting snow at the same time. There is such a thing as too many people fighting over the bucket you’re using to transport the snow from one end of the yard to the other. Teamwork allows all the kids to carry the bucket at the same time without bickering or arguing. This will last until one of them has to pee and inevitably wants to take the bucket with them. The only solution: All kids go to the bathroom together so they can continue to each keep one hand on the bucket.

5. It Encourages Creativity

For eyes, should we use bottle caps or Connect Four piece? Should we give the snowman a scarf or stick with the traditional three-button vest down the front? Should we name him Frosty or Blizzard? All these decisions require some thinking and some discussion between you and your kids. The more you can teach kids to engage in creativity, the more likely they will be to solve problems on their own as they grow older. Also, it’s how you end up with a hat-wearing snowman named Bell Biv Devoe.

6. It Keeps Them Preoccupied So You Can Shovel the Driveway

My kids like to help me, especially when I’m doing chores. This is particularly true when I’m trying to quickly shovel snow off the driveway. But they either 1) want to use my big, heavy shovel which they can barely lift, thus not allowing me to shovel or 2) use their kid-sized shovel to lift snow and dump it right back in the spots I just cleared. When they aren’t "helping," I can typically shovel the driveway--and the sidewalks--in about 15 minutes. When they do help me, it takes so long that I’d be better served just waiting until summer for the snow to melt. By starting a snowman, the kids will continue to pack wads of snow into his side and let you shovel the driveway in peace.

7. It's Nearly Impossible to Listen to Justin Bieber When Building a Snowmen

This is a big win for parents across the world. Except for maybe Justin Bieber's mom, who probably likes hearing her son sing. (I wonder if she also likes all the pelvic thrusting he does?)

8. It’s fun.

For most of us, the opportunity to build a snowman is rare. Not every winter brings enough snow and not every snow falls at a convenient time when you aren’t working or driving the kids to dance lessons or engrossed in the most epic game of Candy Crush. You’ll create memories that you’ll discuss later in the evening over warm cups of hot cocoa and later in life when they are packing up to head back to college after Christmas break. And the big payday will come years down the road, when your children have children of their own and text you a photo of your grandkids building a snowman with the caption, “Look who came to visit our house: Bell Biv Devoe.”

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. 

November 26, 2013

12 Things I'm Thankful For

With Thanksgiving here, I asked my daughters what they were most thankful for. My eldest daughter said "Family," a wise decision by someone who was plotting her way to negotiate a second piece of chocolate from the after-dinner candy bowl. My middle daughter said "light," another good choice because without it we'd have to play on the iPad in the dark—and that's just barbaric! And my youngest daughter, who is a mature 2 ½ years old, said she is most thankful for "Farts."

(Though I'm unclear if she meant her own or others'.)

I have a lot to be thankful for this year. My wife and kids are healthy. I had my first book published and it's selling amazingly well. I rubbed elbows with Nick Clooney, father of George Clooney, which means George and I are practically BFFs now. I moved into a new wonderful house after saying goodbye to an old wonderful house. Really, I'm not short on things to be thankful for.

So I've made a list. I want something to help me remember all these wonderful things, that way the next time my daughters are in the car screaming at each other at the top of their lungs over who gets to use the pink Magna Doodle and who gets "stuck" with the brown one, I can reference my list, smile and know that life is too good for me to pull over and leave them on the side of the road.

Here's what I'm thankful for:

I'm thankful for the "like" button on Facebook. Without it, I'm unsure how I would ever be able to judge my self worth.

I am thankful for walk-in closets. They provide ample room to camouflage this giant body during epic games of hide and seek.

I am thankful for Christmas music in August. How else would I know that Christmas is only 4 months away!

I am thankful for church. I mean, if God can't keep my kids quiet for an hour, what hope do I have?

I am thankful for eggnog breath. When my wife is out of line, I have very few resources to punish her. But thanks to two glorious months around the holidays, her unfathomable dislike of eggnog and three daughters who absolutely LOVE eggnog, I can keep her in check.

I am thankful for having a first name that is easy to spell correctly because, apparently, my last name is impossible to spell correctly. It's true. Just ask anyone who's ever sent me junk mail. (And they wonder why I never respond to their free-trails.)

I am thankful for naptime. This needs no explanation.

I am thankful for Movember. Prostate Cancer is a serious thing and we need to find a cure. Also, it gives me an excuse to do this.

I am thankful for Candy Crush. Without it, I'm not sure what my wife would do with all her free time. (Perhaps she could learn to acquire a taste for eggnog?)

I am thankful for Advil, which helps relieve the back pain from trying to hold kids over public restroom toilets without letting any part of them actually touch public restroom toilets.

I am thankful for my family and friends. From my wife to my kids to my mom to my grandparents to my sister (and her family) to my in-laws (and their families) to my aunts, uncles, cousins, friends from grade school, high school, college, Chicago and more—you all left 5-Star reviews of my book Oh Boy, You're Having a Girl on Amazon, right? Right? If not, you're all dead to me.

And finally …

I'm thankful for you, the reader, and the generous time you spend reading my blog. Whether you're reading it at home, at work, or in the bathroom, or if you just leave it open in your browser all the time to hide all the porn from your spouse, know that I am forever grateful that you turn to this site for a few laughs.  

Happy Thanksgiving. 

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. 

November 12, 2013

Packing a Suitcase and the Car: A Dad’s Epic Journey

When it comes to family vacations, Dads are only in charge of packing two things: their own suitcases and the car. Sure, we offer to pack for our wives—quite the kind gesture, if I do say so myself—though time and time again our wives politely decline, claiming that if we were allowed to pack for them they’d arrive at their vacation destination with nothing but lingerie and a box of Combos. They make this ill-advised assumption without taking into consideration the fact that Combos are delicious.

Super delicious.

We also altruistically offer to pack for the kids, but that gets shot down too. I’m unclear why this gets such an emphatic NO! from our wives, but I can only assume it’s because our wives are thoughtful and know how exhausted we are from a long day of debating which wide receiver to pick up off the free agent wire in our fantasy football league. I’m sure our wives are also confident that this is the year our team, Men at Twerk, will break that streak of 17 consecutive losing seasons and, quite possibly, finish at .500. (Talk about a Cinderella story!)

So, like all dads, when we recently started getting ready for our trip to Disney, I focused all my non-fantasy football league energy toward packing my suitcase and packing the car. With our trip only days away, my wife gave me a deadline to have my bag packed and ready to go.

“No problem,” I said, as I meticulously piled undershirts, underwear, socks, shirts and shorts on the bed in neat little rows—a long way removed from my college days where I grabbed a pile of clothes from my (kind of) clean laundry basket and shoved it in my bookbag, hoping that there were at least one pair of boxers and one t-shirt (bonus points if it was my awesome Blink-182 concert-Tee1).

I was taking this trip seriously, letting my wife know I was grown up and could handle the responsibility of packing appropriate clothes for our trip. I left my Reds jerseys behind in favor of stain-free shirts that would not only be comfortable, but would look nice in family photos with Mickey, Minnie and Donald. I scrapped the athletic shorts and opted for cargos, allowing for enough pocket space to store tissues, sunscreen, Advil and all the other necessities of a trip to Disney. I even packed two spare pairs of undergarments “just in case.” That’s right, I’m now a prepared “just in case” guy, ready to handle any spills or unexpected kid vomit tossed my way. I spent at least two hours debating through clothes and packing what I believe most would call The Perfect Suitcase.2 And it was zipped up and ready to go, sitting right by the dresser with three days to spare before our departure.

Next job was to pack up the car. Packing a car is an underappreciated art-form, and only celebrated by Dads who recognize how difficult it is to pack everything you own except for the microwave—and believe me, when you have kids, your wife will pack everything you own except for the microwave—into the trunk of a car. Thankfully I have the luxury of owning a minivan, which means my wife also packs the microwave.

This is where all those years of playing Tetris (and your arthritic Nintendo thumb) finally pay off, as you maneuver piece of luggage in between piece of luggage, squeezing snack bags and DVD bags and potty seats all around, piecing it all together until you can push down the trunk door and it goes click. Ah, that sweet click. That sound signifies a masterful accomplishment, one that you will revel in as you recall every teacher who ever said “Frankly, Mr. Klems, video games are a complete waste of your time.” (Ah Mr. Miller, how wrong you were.)

My wife, impressed for the first time in our 8-year marriage, showed her heartfelt appreciation through her words:

“If you forgot something, you’re a dead man.”

“I love you too.”

For the 15-hour drive to Disney, I was proud of myself. Sure, we didn’t pack as many Combos as I would have liked and Men at Twerk were on the verge of another mid-season meltdown, but my suitcase was packed and the car was skillfully loaded—all thanks to me. With so much stress before any major trip, it’s important as a husband (and a Dad) to take care of everything your wife asks. If you can alleviate a little stress, even if it’s simply by taking care of yourself, then you should do it. And when you arrive at your destination, the stress will be over and the fun part begins.

Unless, of course, you arrive at your destination that’s 15 hours away from home and realize something is missing in the trunk of your car. And that something is this:

The Perfect Suitcase. Zipped up and ready to go. Sitting right by the dresser. 3

[Like this post? Tweet it!]
1 Unless, of course, the road trip was to see a Blink-182 concert. Rock-show etiquette clearly states that you can’t wear a concert-Tee of the band that you are going to see. If you do, everyone else there will consider you a total loser. EXCEPTION: Rick Springfield Tees at Rick Springfield concerts. (If this is you, clearly being judged is the least of your concerns.)
2 Oooooh … sounds like a potential name of next year’s sub-.500 fantasy football team!
3 The Grant Street Target in Orlando is now $150 richer.

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 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)

* 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 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)

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September 18, 2013

Saying Goodbye Part 1 - My Parents' House

I’ve lived in many buildings over the course of my life. I set up shop in the Big Apple for one glorious summer and had a nice run in the Windy City (even won two softball championships there—go T-Hawks!). Before that, I spent four of the greatest years roaming the campus of Ohio University, where the marching band is more popular than the football team and Halloween is holier than Christmas.

But there are only two places I’ve ever really called home. And in the course of a week, I had to say goodbye to both.

Saying Goodbye to My Parents’ House

From the time I was an infant to the time I left for college, I only lived in one house—my parents’ house on Quebec Road. The house was small and didn’t have air conditioning, but it had a lot of heart (which is code for one bathroom). I can remember bringing my sister home from the hospital, a proud big brother wanting to hug and to love her. That's why I picked her up from her crib, set her on our couch and propped her up with a pillow 3 times her size. My parents were certainly terrified impressed.

Of course, she returned the favor years later when she drew along our stairwell wall with red crayon and, as our parents asked who was to blame, pointed the finger at me (forgetting that the red crayon was still in her other hand).

My parents' house is also where my grandparents babysat my sister and me all the time. We’d drive my grandma crazy because she’d put us to bed and say, “I don’t want to hear a peep!”—to which my sister and I would say “Peep!” (and giggle) for the next 10 minutes.

It's the house where I learned to ride a bike and where I started growing chest hair. It’s where I struggled to find my identity. It's where my style changed from wearing everything as a cape ... to jams and chucks ... to overalls with one strap undone and Air Jordans ... to wearing my clothes Totally Krossed Out ... to layering on the flannel and corduroy pants and growing my hair shaggy long ... to slapping on the punk-rock high waters, chain-wallet and dying my hair bright orange.

It’s where in grade school I sat on our porch every afternoon, waiting impatiently for my dad to make his way down the hill from the bus stop after work so I could greet him with a hug. It’s also where in high school my dad sat on the couch every weekend evening, waiting impatiently for me to get home by curfew to make sure I was safe.

That house is where my mom taught me how to read and write, and where she helped me write my first short story about a planet named Crouton in the Galaxy of Salad. It’s also where I showed her my tattoo for the first time and gave her a heart attack.

And it’s at that house where my wife Brittany and I announced that we were giving my parents what they always wanted: a grandchild (which gave my mom a second heart attack.) Honestly, I’ll never forget the sheer excitement of the scream that came from my mom that day. It may be the moment I miss the most from that home.

As I stood in my old bedroom for the last time, I teared up. I hadn’t lived there in 16 years, yet still it was incredibly hard to say goodbye. I met the family moving in—a family with two young daughters. Both excitedly bounced around “their” new room. Wiping my eyes, I told them how my sister and I used to surprise our parents and rearrange our furniture every once in awhile just for fun. I also pointed out where my cabbage patch doll, Ozzie, used to sleep. I couldn’t believe I was saying farewell, but I was so happy to know that new memories were about to be made.

“Treat this room with love and it will love you back,” I said. “Also, don’t draw on the walls with red crayon and blame each other.”

After two years of clearing out old memories, my parents house has become just that—a memory. But whenever I drive down Quebec Road, I’ll always slow down and wave (with love) as I pass by.

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.