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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* Also, follow me on Twitter @BrianKlems. I promise to occasionally say funny things. 

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)

* 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 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)

* 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 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.