Happy Birthday Max!

Happy Birthday to Max! He turned 4 today!

You know, I am more tired than I have ever been in my entire life. But I wouldn’t trade being his dad for the world. He’s my big pal, the Peter Venkman to my Egon Spengler. He’s my oldest son and I’m very proud of him…


Now this little stinker is Joss. The Ray Stanz to my Egon, my little pal. He’s priceless (and quite feisty). He’s my youngest, and I’m so proud of him too…

Thank you boys for being my sons!

So yes, dad’s exhuasted. I feel like an old clunker. How about the rest of you dads? But these boys deserve the best, so I do my best. I often fall short, sometimes way short, but they love me anyway.

I am so grateful.

Remember, you are not alone.

Healthy Food Tip #1: Decoding PLU Codes for Better Health

Last week I was listening to Wisconsin Public Radio. There’s a show I enjoy on my drive home called: At Issue with Ben Merens. The featured guest was a man named Jeff Cox, former editor of Organic Gardening magazine. 

I learned some very interesting information about the PLU Codes of produce that I’d like to share. PLU Codes are usually located on the tiny stickers appearing on fruits and veggies. And they hold a wealth of information that is in direct relation to the quality of the food and your health.

There are three types of codes:

1) Five digit codes beginning with the #9 mean the item is organic. No pesticides or chemicals are used in the growing of the product. This is our least toxic option.

2) If the code begins with a #8, that means the product has been genetically modified. This is bad and should be avoided.

3) Any four digit code means that the produce has been grown the traditional, standard way. Pesticides and chemicals are used to grow them. But they’re not genetically modified.

I never had a clue about the PLU (no pun intended), but this info seems very useful in providing our families with healthier foods.

One of the callers, a college student, was concerned about eating healthy. But she was on super-tight budget, so she wanted to know the top 5 foods to buy if she were going to go organic in a small way.

Jeff Cox mentioned the following foods, stating that if we could all eat these five organically grown foods, instead of their non-organic counterparts, we would all be “way ahead of the game.” They are (in no particular order):

1) Beef
2) Milk (GMO Hormones, also known as the Artificial Growth Hormone, increases milk production by 10%. But it is very bad for the cows who are treated with it. Guess what? It’s not good for us either.)
3) Strawberries
4) Apples
5) Bell Peppers

In these times of economic struggle, where the price of gas is quickly approaching $4 per gallon, it might be tempting to overlook the benefits of making organic choices part of our lives. Spending more doesn’t seem feasible. But the thought of making very few, specific changes doesn’t seem so bad. And the thought of providing healthier food for my wife and kids? Priceless.

I hope this helps!

And remember, you are not alone… 

Related posts:
Healthy Food Tip #2: The Perils of Partially Hydrogenated Oils and Other Bad Food Ingredients

Links to more information:
Wikipedia’s PLU Page

Huggies Children’s Products: Shape Matters, Dads Don’t

In the May issue of Parenting Magazine, I found yet another ad from a major children’s company that excludes dads. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, especially since it’s an ad inside a magazine who’s cover tagline is “What Matters to Moms.”

The ad, which appears on page 54, is for an “easy-grip, no-slip bottle*” for bath time hair and body wash. You may be wondering what that little asterisk is for after the word bottle. Well, at the bottom of the ad Huggies tells you:

 “*Picked by moms for better no-slip grip.”

I’d like to meet the Huggies executive who signed off on this one. I’m just wondering what type of research the company did before deciding to make this claim. Did they get a bunch of moms together and ask them what they liked best?

Did they bother to ask these moms who gives the children most of their baths? Because I give both my boys ALL of their baths. Yes, I am Bath-man! Exclusive bath giver to my children (and myself), no matter how dirty or stinky! It gives me a little extra time with the kids, and it gives my wife a break because she works very hard to take care of us.

It’s funny, because every dad I know tells me the same thing. They are the ones giving the baths.

Here was a chance for Huggies to get it right. To give a nod to all the dads of the world who sacrifice time with their kids to go to work and earn money so their family can survive.

See, Mr. Huggies executive, the thing is that us dads also use this money to buy children’s products. Like bath soap for instance. I for one can say I won’t be buying yours.

And remember, you are not alone…

Evel Knievel and the Hairy Lady

When I was a boy, one of my favorite toys in the whole world was my Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. Evel and his trusty motorcycle withstood any and all of the death-defying stunts I could dream up. Somehow he always managed to “walk away” in one piece (although sometimes he and the bike suffered some pretty deep scratches and dings). No matter how bad the crash or how far Evel flew off his bike, they both remained intact.

Until the taxi incident.

The year was approximately 1978. And it is a day I will never forget. I remember it as clear as a sunny Wisconsin afternoon (which is pretty rare by the way).

I was on my friend’s porch — at least 20 steps up, on the second floor of his two-story house. It turns out this porch would hold another traumatic experience for me (but more on that later).

As I revved up Evel’s motor with the hand crank (those who had one will remember the super-cool sound, and the painful hand blisters that ensued), my excitement grew. Once I got him to top speed, I let him rip! He went down the stairs like a madman — flipping, flopping and popping wheelies! I was so excited as he zoomed towards the, uh, street?

He made it to the center of the road before puttering to a stop. He plopped onto his side, the bikes rear wheel still turning. Then, I heard a sound…

A dirty yellow taxicab was barreling towards him! The bastard didn’t even slow down. Nor did he take evasive action. I would swear he took aim! It appeared to be an act of pure aggression on a helpless toy that he knew was more successful and more popular than he’d ever be.

And then he ran over Evel Knievel — squashing him and his stunt cycle like a pancake.

Needless to say I was quite upset.

The guy didn’t even stop. He just left my toy in pieces. He was a rude man, and I bet he smelled bad.

Soon after, my mother bought me a new Evel Knievel. But this one was the blue chopper version (they had stopped making the original). It just wasn’t the same. He popped a lot more wheelies, but I could tell his heart wasn’t in it. And neither was mine.

In case you were wondering, my original Evel did survive the taxi incident. I mean, he WAS made of rubber! Too bad the bike was not. The tire tracks across his nylon jumpsuit were a constant reminder of the tragedy.

Conclusion: The Hairy Lady

One day, on that very same porch, I choked on a piece of gum. As it lodged in my throat, my friend (who’s name and face I can’t remember — sorry dude) went and got his mom.

She came out in a tank top (I think it was red) and that’s when my fear of choking to death was replaced by an even greater terror.

Hair, and lots of it! Under her arms, in between her breasts. I had never seen anything like it! Nor have I since, thank God.

Although my airway was blocked, I couldn’t help but stare at my friend’s hairy mom. In between her boobs was both facinating and repulsive at the same time. And I’m not talking a few, “I need to tweeze my eyebrows” strands, I’m talking a big, bushy hairball. Yuck.

I eventually swallowed the gum. But the memory of that hair remains with me.

Remember, you are not alone…

Teaching Our Kids How to Cope with Loss

I read a blog post a few days ago on a great dad site called Building Camelot. The name of the post is: My 5 Biggest Fears Being a Dad, and it covers the fear of loss in a very honest, real way.

The post came along at the perfect time, as loss has been on my mind lately — ever since I had my tooth pulled a few days ago.

My tooth’s clinical name was #13. And although the procedure was quick and physically painless, I have been thinking more and more about loss. Other than my hair (which I’ve been losing for years), this is the only part of my body that I have lost. And the experience has quickly transcended into a life metaphor.

What else have I lost? I’m not talking about a set of keys or a receipt from Target. I’m talking about real loss, the type that takes a piece of you along with it. The kind that leaves you with little gaps, like cavities, that never fully disappear or heal.

And yet we go on – battered, weathered and full of tiny little holes. Somehow, we find a way to function. What choice do we have? To give up?

Here’s what I’d like to know. Why weren’t we ever taught how to cope with loss? How to come to a place of acceptance, and have what we’ve learned from the loss propel us to a better place. In school, we learn about calculus and how to dissect a frog. Have you found that helpful? Unless you are a mathemetician, or a freak who likes to look at frog guts, it hasn’t.

Mom and dad? Yeah, they were a big help. The only serious talk I got was ”boys have a penis, and girls don’t. Did you know that?” As a matter of fact, I didn’t. But nothing came after that sentence except my uncomfortable thoughts about what girls did have down there if there was no penis.

Like it or not, loss is a part of life. We have the power to give our chilren the tools they need to cope with loss in a positive way. We can help them learn to heal (as best as possible), and come to a place of acceptance so they can move on from loss instead of dwelling in it.

We can also let them know that it’s OK if they need help to cope or heal. Just being approachable, and telling them “mom and dad are here,” is a huge deal. Then, of course, there’s the power of spirit (but that’s a topic for another blog post).

Can we protect our kids from loss? I don’t think so. And why should we? If we want them to be healthy, successful adults, it’s our repsonsibility to help them be fully functioning people.

My parents were incapeable of this. Were yours? I think they did their best, which is all I can ask. But we can do better.

And remember, you are not alone…

Reference Guide: How to get more hits on your daddy blog, or any blog!

This is the second (and final) part of my reference series for dads. I’m sure there’s more information out there, but these blogs & Web sites have been incredibly helpful to me. Depending on your blog’s content, some of the suggestions made will provide positive results, while others will leave you with an empty feeling and a craving for chocolate cake!

JohnTP.com: How to increase your blog’s traffic
This four part series is a wonderful, detailed introduction to blogging. Find links to all four parts towards the end of each post. Thanks John!

Seth Godin’s: How to get traffic to your blog
Another great resource for bloggers.

Quite simply, one of the best blog aggregators around! I have found it to be very powerful IF you take the time to learn how to use it. It’s also important to choose the correct “subreddit” tag so you reach your intended audience. If a tag has a big audience, expect your click-throughs to jump! But be responsible in your posting or you’ll get bad Karma!

Good luck!

And remember, you are not alone…

Resources for Dads: Top Daddy Blogs & Web Sites

Over the past few months, I’ve been lucky enough to come across some incredible blogs and Web sites for dads. I am pleasantly surprised that there more of us than I expected. A couple of fellow dads were kind enough to compile lists of some of the best blogs out there. These are a all great resources for bloggers and readers alike!

Links to Daddy Blog Lists
These sites also offer great content beyond the lists.

Building Camelot: 101 awesome sites for men husbands and fathers
Dad Thing:51-dad-blogs
Alltop:Dad blogs

My Favorite Daddy Blogs
With content so relevant, I visit them just about every day.

Paul Peterson Live
Paul is a pastor with incredible insight and dedication. He is a wonderful source of inspiration and spirituality no matter what your religion.

Clif’s Notes
Great dad posts coupled with an abundance of forward thinking content for teachers & educators. He’s also a bit of a sports fanatic.

Working Dad: An Unauthorized Guide to Parenting
If it’s newsworthy, and it concerns dads, you’ll probably find it on Paul’s blog. Interesting stories and book reviews that will have you digging through his archives for more.


National Fatherhood Initiative(NFI)
This is a great site to visit for everything dad — including programs, products, events, links, research, news and more!

Right now, NFI is running a contest about what it means to be a good father. They’re looking for “your best creative ideas in a video and/or photograph that expresses what involved, responsible and committed fatherhood means to you…”
Click here to find out more.

And remember, you are not alone…

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It Could Be Worse…

It is 10 pm on Easter night. I had been planning to do a satirical comment about the holiday. Something funny, with wit and chuckles to spare. The plan is out the window.

Yesterday my wife had a serious reaction to her diabetes medicine. Thank goodness she’s OK. But it was pretty scary. Today she started insulin again, something we’ve been trying to avoid. But it could be worse. It could be much worse.

Feeling much better (but still not great), my wife made a tasty Easter dinner. Homemade stuffed mushrooms with enough garlic to kill an army of vampires (yum) and a ham more tender than, well, a tough ham. The boys fussed over their food (as usual) but it was quite good and they ate enough to sustain healthy life. They acted like monkeys the entire meal (giving scientific proof to the theory of evolution) leaving my wife and I with headaches, stomach aches and a few extra aches for me to pass around at work tomorrow.

We’re 800 miles from our friends & families, living in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin. Trust me, this is not an actual state. It’s an iceberg with bad pizza, but damn good beer (New Glarus Brewery)! When we lived in NY, the holidays always left me with a vague sense of dread. Now, being away from everybody leaves me with a strange sense of detached isolation. Maybe we should move somewhere in the middle. Maybe that would cancel out all of the negatives. Or at least let me enjoy a sampling of dread and isolation in tandem!

Next, the kids ran around like little hooligans (really cute ones), and evaded my lame 40 year old attempt to catch them. There was laughter to be had, but I was too out of breath to even consider anything but gasping for air. The smell of apple pie permeated the air.

It could be worse. Sometimes I just need to be reminded.

And remember, you are not alone…

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Keeping Life in Perspective

There’s no question, being a parent is hard. Being a good parent? Even harder.

In an effort to do our best, it’s easy to get caught up in the thick of daily to-do’s, responsibilities and problems (which can linger for weeks, months or even years). This struggle can be overwhelming and even debilitating. Fatigue, frustration and dissatisfaction creep in and suddenly things appear insurmountable — a huge mountain that we’re standing at the bottom of. And our climbing boots don’t fit.

The size of the “mountain,” and our ability to climb it, is directly related to our perception of the mountain. In other words, it’s as big as we think it is. You’ve probably heard the statement, “your perception becomes your reality.” It’s true.

When my perception tips toward the dark side, the Universe (God) has a way of stepping in with a reminder to help me realign.

This week, my reminder came in the form of an article in Esquire Magazine called, “What I’ve Learned: Glenn Fitzpatrick.” Glenn is the father of a 5-year old girl named Maddie. He’s also dying from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

And suddenly I realize, my life isn’t so bad. I’m actually pretty lucky.

Click the link above to read Glenn’s brief, yet moving interview. It really puts things in perspective. He seems to be coping with his illness and imminent death with grace and dignity, and he inspires me to deal with my problems in the same manner (which often feels impossible).

Problems that seemed so large, and feelings that were so strong shift. I’m not saying they’re invalid. They most certainly deserve respect and attention. My issues are just smaller in comparison to Glenn’s — a man whose five year old daughter won’t have a daddy soon. How hard will it be for his wife to carry on? To raise their family? To smile?

At least I’ve got a partner, my lovely wife, to help my family through the peaks and valleys of life. I always say wife rhymes with life for a reason! I thank the Universe for her every day. How much harder must it be for a single parent?

I hope Glenn’s words help you as much as they’ve helped me. If you are a single parent, or if you are sick, my thoughts and prayers go out to you. I’m always here to listen if you need someone to talk to.

Remember, you are not alone…

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The $5,000 Tooth! (and the deconstruction of America)

I’m starting to feel like The Bionic Man. Not because of any special powers or enhancements like telescopic vision (heck, I’d settle for 20/20), or the ability to run faster than a cheetah.

No, I’m talking about a tooth. A solitary tooth, which I failed to properly take care of when I had a cavity years ago.

Ka-ching! Root canal, $2,000.

Present day. Root canal’s still good. But I’m told the tooth is cracked, oh well…

Ka-ching! $3,000 for an implant.

An implant? Couldn’t they think of a more friendly name? I feel like I’m in an X-Files episode. For that price you’d think they’d at least include something high tech  like a blue tooth implant.

Point being (other than complaining), in today’s economic climate with most of us up to our eyeballs in debt, how are we supposed to get ahead? Or simply break even when the cost of living is so high? There’s only so much fat you can cut, and there’s only so many hours in a day that can be divvied up between work and family.

And yet this country spends BILLIONS of dollars “fighting” a war for the “spread of democracy.” How about the spread of economic independence for Americans? If George Bush thought more about the people of this fine country, instead of the profitability of oil, maybe I wouldn’t gag (no pun intended) at the thought of such expensive dental work. 

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a “turn the other cheek” world. And we don’t live in a world where disputes are always resolved through talking and cooperation. So yes, we have to defend ourselves. But I’ve heard that the USA gave Osama Bin Laden somewhere in the amount of 3 billion dollars prior to September 11th. How much good would that have done for America? But to gain leverage and power in the Middle East, this money was given to a man who masterminded a terrible day. Nice work with that investment there.

And if no “weapons of mass destruction” were really found in Iraq, then why attack? Oh yeah, power & profit. Then we get to pay over $3 for a gallon of gas. It appears that “spreading democracy,” as George Bush puts it, is pretty hard on everyone but the rich here in America. And the deconstruction of economic foundations is global. That’s how influential our country is. In a very real way, we’ve become the heart of the world.

I’m left with a troubling question: Who has the guts, the brains and the determination to make this a better world for our kids? Who has an honest soul and a heart that cares more about helping Americans than making a buck?

I feel like there’s a cavity eating through America and there’s no dentist to be found not at any cost.

Your thoughts and opinions are welcome.

And remember, you are not alone…

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