Mr. Squiggle's Wonder Emporium: Being Dad Zero at Mom 2.0 - Part 3

*This is the third in a three-part series about this outsider's brief experience at the Mom 2.0 Summit held in Houston, February 18 - 20th. You can read Part 1 and Part 2.

Part 3: Dooce

Despite the suddenness of the grenade explosion set off by Finslippy (read Part 2), I managed to resuscitate myself long enough to counter her “twenty-top-posts” challenge with a question about the timing of her collaborative book with Fussy. Although I could just make out that her lips were moving, the ringing in my ears prevented me from hearing the answer. A few moments later my vision cleared, and I snapped back into full consciousness even though my recollection of previous events was still a foggy blur.

The small gaggle of mommy bloggers I once stood in was now breaking up, and I remained in the middle of the lobby for a moment before finally heading to the bar and ordering a drink. I was still feeling the effects from my recent bout of memory loss which caused a mild panic attack prompting me to call my wife. “Quick, honey,” I said. “What’s the name of the Michael Chabon book I’m reading right now?” I could hear her giggling through receiver. “Come on, honey, this is serious. One of these ladies might accidentally talk to me again and I have to sound interesting.”

“It’s Summerland, dear—with that kid and the elves who play baseball,” she said, pausing so I could let the answer sink in. However, what she didn’t tell me until the following morning was that I had succeeded in replacing every part of speech (to include pronouns) with the F-bomb while simultaneously loosing the ability to harness anything even close to resembling an “inside voice”every time I talked.

This is entirely possible given who I saw after glancing over my right shoulder—Heather B. Armstrong. (Yes, people—Dooce. Try to contain yourselves.) She was wearing an elegant leopard-print jacket and high black heels, the combination of which gave her a movie star-like aura, further enhanced by the noir feel of the bar’s dim lighting.

Despite the week’s worth of sexual favors my wife was now promising me in return for getting Dooce’s picture, I couldn’t bring myself to even give her a modest, friendly smile much less ask for a photo. And really, what was I going to do—strut right over, claim to be her biggest fan, and then ask to snap a picture for my dying niece? Yeah, ‘cause everyone wants to be “that” guy. Just my luck, she probably would’ve asked what my top twenty favorite posts were.

Aside from possessing a Wikipedia-esque level of information on Dooce, I really don’t know that much about her. Were it not for my Dooce-groupie wife, I would’ve been clueless as to Heather B. Armstrong’s alter ego, and even now, I’ve only read a smattering of her posts. Still, of what I do know about Dooce, it’s more than enough for me to sincerely respect who she is and what she’s accomplished. So, to go all papparazzii on her right then would only belie that respect. Besides, to me there has always been something about Dooce’s eyes that seem sad, as if they are the collection point for an accumulated weariness that she’s been carrying around since entering the blogging limelight. By no means did I want to add to the weight of this with a surprise photo op.

About that time, it occurred to me that I was only one sitting at the bar, unintentionally turning myself into a target for speculation among the other patrons. My prearranged meeting had fallen through due to some crossed wires, and so, to avoid becoming the very embodiment of seediness in everyone’s mind (Hey, how yooou doin’?), I relocated to an open table with a vantage point that allowed me to observe the entire room.

In the far corner I could see Dooce who had since joined Alice Bradley (you remember her--"The Una-blogger" KAPOW!) and Rebecca Woolf (Girl’s Gone Child) for drinks around a low square table. They were highlighted by the warm glow of the wall sconce mounted on the maple paneled wall behind them. The sight of this, along with the way they leaned in over the table to talk, gave me the impression they were plotting something, like perhaps knocking off a Vegas casino or crashing the European markets.

I imagined them living in immaculate homes where they throw entertaining dinner parties seven nights a week atop pristine glass dinning tables free from grubby handprints. Such a notion of course was ridiculous for many reasons, not the least of which being that we are all parents, and there’s no better equalizer than having children.

Surveying the entire bar, I studied the other Mom 2.0 attendees clustered throughout the room. Based on the blogs being represented and the scope of the sessions being offered at the summit, it was clear these were women who take what they do seriously, a sentiment underscored by one person who remarked that Mom 2.0 isn’t a slumber party like BlogHer. In other words, the Crocs sales rep probably wouldn’t need to bring a pair of nunchucks to fend off extortionists.

No, these moms are the exact mommy bloggers I “hate” (click, you’ll see) who have taken their expertise, their interests, their voice, their talents and their creativity and parlayed them into a viable profession. But this also raised the burning question as to whether daddy bloggers could achieve this same thing. Possibly, but a great deal of the say so would depend on both marketers recognizing that the dad-o-sphere’s readership is largely the same demographic reading the mommies, and on the media portraying fathers as confident, credible parents. Without these, dads will have a steeper hill climb.

Or maybe there’s another route. Maybe we dads need to jump in along side of the moms and learn what they are learning like the increasing number of daddy bloggers showing up at BlogHer and like Superjohn and Jon the brain behind Daddy Scratches, who were both brave enough to attend the Mom 2.0 summit. (They were the only dads that I am aware of anyway.) Maybe if we made our presence felt at more of these events, brands and marketers would become familiar with us and see that we take our blogging seriously too. I mean, the only disqualifier to our attendance is the registration fee, not a va-jay-jay, and after all, we are parents. Like I said before, children are great equalizers.

Finishing my Absolut and soda, I realized there was nothing more I could do here at Mom 2.0. So, I stood up and walked through the hotel lobby out onto the streets, out where the rest of the blogosphere lurks.

*There. Three days of posts from a guy who was there for only a couple hours. Guess that makes me a real A-hole, huh?*

Photos: Dooce photo from Mom 2.0 official website. Jon's picture taken from Daddy Scratches profile page.

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Mr. Squiggle's Wonder Emporium: Being Dad Zero at Mom 2.0 - Part 2

*This is the second in a three-part series about this outsider's brief experience at the Mom 2.0 Summit held in Houston, February 18 - 20th. You can read Part 1 here.

Part 2: Finslippy, Mightygirl, and more

Because Mr. Lady and I each had prearranged plans, we parted ways at the close of the exhibit, and I headed toward the shuttle bus that would be ferrying people back to the Four Seasons hotel. Prior to leaving, I chatted with A Southern Fairytale writer, Rachel Matthews about her impending move from the south Texas coast, and our exchange was enough of a distraction to keep me from noticing the handful of riders already on the bus.

Thinking about it now, I believe my experiences with public transportation have conditioned me to never look directly at other passengers as a measure to keep from getting my face shot off, and it certainly taught me to never expect that fellow passengers would be anyone of great notoriety. This is why it took me several minutes to realize that the aforementioned handful of riders included LEAP Design Director, Laurie Smithwick; the effervescent Maggie Mason of Mightygirl; Girl’s Gone Child creator Rebecca Woolf; and someone who I’ve always admired, writer Alice Bradley of Finslippy. I’m also quite thankful none of these ladies had in their possession a concealed handgun, or I currently would be sipping meals through a straw.

It’s moments such as this when a sudden self-consciousness jabs you in the eye, making you wish that you had brought along that bad wig and sunglasses after all. I might have been able to blend in a little better had I not been the only male in the group, and I’m sure that at some point during the trip, my presence prompted each of these power bloggers to wonder who the goofy looking chap was sitting in the front seat. The thought of striking up a conversation did cross my mind; however, the tequila from earlier still hadn’t melted my inhibitions enough for me to introduce myself. Instead, I had to rely on the choreography involved in exiting the bus and the distance to the hotel’s entrance to do the work for me.

Once on the sidewalk words did come from my mouth, and despite whatever drivel may have been spewed from my mouth, these ladies were gracious enough to let me accompany them into the lobby. Inside, Mightygirl snapped photos us, and I don’t doubt that the following morning this poor lady (who was also a keynote speaker) had to be wondering why my mug was showing up in the memory of her digital camera. Although, I will say she was quite fond of my purple shirt and blue velvet blazer, and coming from a woman known for her impeccable style, I took this as great compliment. In fact, based on the number of favorable remarks my ensemble garnered, I’m positive it gained more popularity that evening than did my own blog.

Over the next few minutes I exchanged business cards with April Welch of Simply Organized and My Inspiration Lounge creator Misty Gibbs while somewhere along the way, finally explaining in a coherent manner that I was a stay-at-home dad blogger.

“And what’s the name of your blog?” one of them asked.

Well, obviously you ladies have never heard of me. (My life's goal is to be the Steve Martin of the dad-o-sphere.)

In response, I managed to say the name without blushing, while quickly adding, “But right now I’m thinking about changing it to ‘I Am Nobody.’” It was a C+ level quip making it good enough to get a polite chuckle, but not enough to be memorable. Pity my coat couldn’t grant me super-powered wittiness.

Then off to my right someone suggested “Mr. Squiggle's Wonder Emporium,” and that’s when I realized Finslippy was still standing there. “And you still haven’t given me your card,” she said.

From this point the next several minutes turned into a blur for me. Somewhere in my amnestic state I mentioned being a fan of her writing. Then someone lobbed the phrase “greatest fan” into the air like a hand grenade that landed at my feet, the detonation of which coming in the form of a question by Finslippy. “Biggest fan, huh? So what’s your twenty favorite posts?”


This is when I flat-lined and the long, monotone beep of the monitor faded into the background as everything went back.

Here’s where I need to stop and explain things for a moment. While it’s true I am a fan of Alice Bradley, to categorize me as her “biggest fan” would be a misnomer. Such a designation implies leaving creepy comments about puppies on her site, rooting through her garbage for discarded printer cartridges, and lighting candles before reading her latest post. I’m nowhere near that level of devotion.

My admiration has less to do with what Alice Bradley writes than it does with what she and many others bloggers like her have accomplished in being recognized for their talent as writers. With a regular magazine column, a Pushcart Prize nomination, and a body of work found in a long list of books and well-known publications (to include the freakin’ Onion!), Alice’s site represents those bloggers whose focus rests almost entirely on the strength of the writing itself.

While there are many well-written blogs out there providing product reviews and parenting tips, Alice’s “About Me” page states in clear, simple terms what she is: a writer. At the same, even though she distances Finslippy from other more consumer-oriented blogs, Alice manages to do so without alienating herself or losing relevance within the mom blogging niche.

Certainly she’s not the only one who fits this description, and no, there is nothing inherently wrong with consumer-oriented blogging. However, regardless of what category a blog falls under, one fundamental applies to them all: quality written content is king (or in this case queen). This is something the moms at this summit understand.

(Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to Finslippy for that time a while back when I left the comment about the puppies. It was all a big misunderstanding.*)

*Said puppies comment never actually occurred and is intended only as a joke. However, Finslippy, does utilize an unusual brand of printer cartridges in case anyone’s curious.

That too is a joke.

Tomorrow: Dooce

Oh, and although this might not be exactly how the events I just described went down, the video still captures the flavor.

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Mightygirl and Finslippy photos are from the official Mom 2.0 website.


Mr. Squiggle's Wonder Emporium: Being Dad Zero at Mom 2.0 - Part 1

*This is the first in a three-part series about this outsider's brief experience at the Mom 2.0 Summit held in Houston, February 18 - 20th

Part 1: Mr. Lady, The Redneck Mommy, The Bloggess and other stars

So there I was on a Friday, just minding my own business when a text message lit up my phone. “Do you want to go with me to Mom 2.0 tonight?” It was from Mr. Lady and as a testament to her generosity, she was offering to act as my blogging sugar momma for the evening despite joining a growing litany of bloggers who have met me in person only to realize I am far less interesting in the flesh than on Clark Kent’s Lunchbox (hence my real duel identity).

Of course the great irony in all this is that not twenty minutes before, I had been exchanging emails with stay-at-home dad advocate and RebelDad writer, Brian Reid, about both the lack of equal consideration given to dad bloggers and our shared concern that parent blogging is becoming increasingly synonymous with consumerism. Now, it appeared that I would soon be cavorting with the same contingent of mommy bloggers I claim to “hate” so much.

Enroute to the event, Mr. Lady suggested we stop for shots, or as she referred to it, “liquid courage.” After all, her site is called Whiskey In My Sippy Cup; still, why anyone of Mr. Lady’s stature and talent would need two shots of the stuff as a prerequisite to meeting her peers was beyond me. Here’s a woman who was among Babble’s "Top 50 Mommy Bloggers," who was approached by a major literary agency to write a book, and who, by the virtue of a single, gut-wrenchingly honest post, has become a regular speaker at BlogHer.

Most bloggers can only dream of such achievements, and yet for all her accolades, Mr. Lady seems unaffected. This is not to imply that she isn’t proud of her accomplishments, but she sees them for what they are without taking herself too seriously. In fact, it wasn’t until her appearance at BlogHer that Mr. Lady even realized there was such a thing as a mommy blog. Before then, the majority of her audience consisted of computer geeks drawn to her coolness and political conservatives fond of her intelligent liberal debates. Today, even with the mommy blog label, she is pleased to say this is still the case.

Despite my matching Mr. Lady’s whiskey with two shots of tequila (daddy blogging has made me a lightweight), it wasn’t enough to smooth out my awkward interaction which was the conversational equivalent of a child’s uneven leaps as they attempt to avoid the cracks that are said to inflict spinal injuries on their mothers. By contrast, Mr. Lady was at complete ease, being used to going back and forth with all types of people throughout the blogosphere, and as we talked, she provided a rundown on various friends of hers that we were about to join shortly. This unobtrusive exposé included a behind-the-(computer)screen glimpse as to which blogs fully represent the personas of their creators, and which show only a small facet of an even more complex person at the keyboard. In either of these cases, what remained a unified constant was that both types of bloggers retained an authenticity in their voices that resonated just as equally with the large readerships they have earned over the years.

After drinks we headed to meet the group at FotoFest where the Defining a Movement exhibit was being held. As I stepped out of the car, the liveliness of the party inside was evident based on the volume of conversation flooding the parking lot with the same intensity as the light that emanated from large bay doors leading to the former warehouse turned gallery. That volume jumped a notch as soon as Mr. Lady walked in. She needed no introduction, nor did she need an official Mom 2.0 name badge worn by the summit’s attendees. Quite frankly, given the all-star collection of bloggers in the room, no one did (well, except me that is).

Before being swallowed up by her eager crowd of friends, Mr. Lady introduced me to her virtual sister, the charmingly charismatic Tanis of Redneck Mommy fame. After a brief exchange, Tanis offered to escort me around by asking which moms I’d like to meet. Admittedly, I felt a little overwhelmed by the opportunity, but I gathered my bearing in mentioning Greeblemonkey. A year earlier, I won her inaugural photo contest and thought it would be nice to thank her again in person; plus we share an admiration for the local Denver band The Autumn Film. However, she was nowhere in sight. What about Finslippy? Not in the area either.

Oh, I know—my neighbor across town, The Bloggess who as fate would have it, just happened to be passing by us. Three seconds latter I was face to face with one of the funniest ladies in the blogosphere, but, I’m afraid my enthusiasm over the moment must have made me seem as if I had yelled “boo” while jumping out of pantry based on the surprised expression on The Bloggess’s face. (Don’t let the curlers fool you; she’s a pretty lady.)

But alas, the reputation of Clark Kent’s Lunchbox hardly measures up to the likes of The Redneck Mommy and The Bloggess, and they both were quickly absorbed into the circles of conversation swirling around us. This, of course, was fine. I had no intention of making anyone feel they needed to babysit me, especially moms who were enjoying a few days away from their parental duties. Instead I bantered with Julie Marsh of The Mom Slant about my day job as a male escort (read why she's not a "mommy blogger"), and I had my picture taken by another Houstonian notable, Imelda Bettinger (she’s a keen photographer and not because she kept me from blinking).

At this point, it occurred to me that I was "through the looking glass" so to speak, with some of the most vaunted names in the parenting blogosphere standing only feet away, no longer as names, but as people. The thought made me chuckle. Then I strolled through the exhibit’s collection of impressive photographs, and in doing so, reverted to what I normally am when it comes to these ladies’ blogs—a lurker.

Tomorrow Part 2: Finslippy, Mightygirl and how I become Mr. Squiggle

Mr. Lady photo and The Redneck Mommy logo are from Babble's "Top 50 Mommy Bloggers." The Bloggess's photo courtesy of A Good Husband

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Video Babysitting

I did have a post planned for today--actually, I had several. However, between the girls' medical appointments, paid writing gigs, promoting the book (please take a free chapter), cleaning dishes (dirty plates breed like nymphomaniac hamsters), and solving healthcare reform, I just couldn't get to it.

So, instead of a written post, I thought I would employ a technique that we busy parents sometimes use when we are overloaded with work and want to keep the kids entertained--pop in a video. No, this isn't Barney, or the Wiggles or that whiny, bald kid Caillou; it's waaaay better.

Maybe some of you have heard of comedian Tammy Pescatelli? Right now she's one of the funniest people in the country, aaaand she's from my hometown--well, sort of. She was born outside of Cleveland and then migrated to Meadville, but in a town that gave the world such notable figures like actress Sharon Stone, Playboy model Meghan Allen, and Grammy nominated organist Cameron Carpenter, she fits in just fine.

As Tammy's career took off, she moved to LA, but now, after having her first child, she came back to Meadville. The video will explain all that, which is also kind of weird. All those back country roads, the park, the gun raffles--that's where I grew up for almost 20 years. It's not like NYC or LA, which you see on movies and TV daily; this is the middle of nowhere. It's kind of like revealing to the world the island on LOST. Well, enjoy One Funny Mother.

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Truth and Precipices

I'm not a big fan of heights. Sometime I will lay in bed at night and imagine myself on the ledge of a skyscraper so high, I can barely make out the people and cars below. The thought of this sends a surge of adrenaline through me that forces my eyes to pop open. Honestly, I don't know what scares me more, the sight of my bloody body splattered on the pavement like a human paint-gun pellet, or having no control over the inevitable after I've fallen off. Either way I wouldn't classify my aversion to heights as a full-blown, debilitating fear.

At the Army's Airborne Training Course, you can count on heights; it's kind of the point. For two weeks you do nothing but perform gazillions of push-ups, roll around in sawdust and fling yourself off apparatuses that get progressively taller each week, all in preparation for the culminating event: jumping out of perfectly good airplanes for no damn reason. Simply put, if you plan on graduating from the course, then plan too on overcoming your fear of heights because whether you want to or not, someone with a very powerful voice and a very large boot will be there to help you with this problem. Consider them as a sort of therapist.

Airborne School is where I encountered my first real test with heights. It was during a session on the thirty-four foot tower. It's a half-bungee cord, half slide-for-life contraption that catches students after they simulate exiting from an airplane fuselage mounted on the top of the tower. Thirty-four feet doesn't sound too bad looking up; thirty-four feet looking down at the ground is a different story (actually, it's about three), which is why I hesitated before I leapt, turning me into a flailing mass of arms and legs as I fell ever so gracefully. The Airborne Instructors said (yelled) that I looked like "a dope on a rope having a seizure," and they made me repeat the jump over and over and over. They did this, not just to ensure that I would get it right, but also to force me to trust the equipment meant to keep me safe. Once I developed that mentality, flinging myself from a plane twelve-hundred feet up was a breeze--literally. Sometimes, though, people don't always have that assurance when they need it.

During 911, I remember watching news footage of a guy trapped on a burning floor in one of the Trade Center towers. The news anchors tried to disguise their lament before erupting into hysterics as the man slid out onto the twisted metal and started to climb down the side of the building. For the next forty seconds, I think everyone watching that broadcast cheered harder than they ever had before, hoping this brave guy would somehow make it to safety. Sadly, however, he slipped. As I followed his descent, it was hard not to wonder what was going through his mind as he fell. An intense lingering sadness came over me, and I could only console it with the thought that at least he tried to do something. If heights terrified him, he brushed that fear aside choosing to scale the wall rather than let his fate be determined by the flames.

For me, my aversion to heights is rooted in what I alluded to earlier about the loss of control, and it's an issue that's been churning in my brain of late. Right now there's a lot of negative circumstances impacting my kids--circumstances my wife and I have no control over, and despite our best efforts, we can't prevent them. To some extent, it feels like people are standing on a tall ladder and dropping our fine china while we scurry back and forth, diving to catch as many tea cups and saucers as we can to prevent them from shattering on the floor. Yet for every acrobatic save we make, the people on the ladder keep dropping plates, faster and faster.

My wife and I realize we will never be able to dictate the situations that impact our children, but it's frustrating when these situations have nothing to do with the kids and yet they have to deal with the fallout anyway. It's this frustration that forces me to contend with a different loss of control, namely in how I react.

No parent can stomach seeing their child hurting, which is why an angry lump forms in my throat when I meet with the therapist, and we strategize methods for helping my stepdaughter to cope with the self-centered decisions and manipulation inflicted on her by the adults in her life who are supposed to be watching out for her, not themselves. It's the same lump that chokes me when my ex-wife uses the boys' wellbeing as her excuse for not letting them stay with me for the summer; meanwhile, I can hear the desperation in their voices over the phone as they ask when will we see each other again.

These are the moments when I find myself at the brink. With everything in me, I want to explode on these people. I want to grab them by the shirt and show them the truth of what they are doing to my sons and stepdaughters. I want to scream at them. I want to pound my fist. Freed by the justification to protect my children, I want to step off the edge of the cliff and let fly in their direction my every thought and emotion.

But sliding my foot forward, I kick a few pebbles into oblivion, causing me to question whether or not this is the best way to handle things. Will letting go result in me making a big bloody mess on the sidewalk? Is this a situation where I just need to trust my gut and step into the breeze? Or should I crawl out onto the wreckage because it's better to do something rather than nothing? Sometimes it's hard to know what you're jumping into, and sometimes it's hard, knowing what you're jumping into.

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Valentine's For My Wife & Kids

These are my video Valentine's to my children and my wife who are more wonderful than anything I can ever imagine. I love them very much.


Clark Kent's Icebox: Supergirl, God & Free Stuff

From time to time I'll post a regular deal called Clark Kent's Icebox, which is basically the web version of showing off the stuff our kids have done. They're a creative bunch, and I'd love to know what goes through their brains when they're doing these kinds of things.

Today's offerings feature Avery's handiwork: A lovely rendition of Supergirl (Yessss! Stepdad 1, the Establishment 0) done in Crayola markers on construction paper. The other is a note Avery wrote to God a few days back (we're still working on the postage), which also makes me curious as to what her concept of God is. The other day she wondered allowed, "Wouldn't it be cool to be the first person when God started?" Yeah, I guess it would.

Enjoy the exhibit (you can click on the image to make it larger)

In case you can't quite make out the note, I'll transpose it:

"Dear God, I love you so much. I hope all the people up there are safe."

Oh and did you notice that FREE sign taped to the fridge door? Well that's there to let you know that you can now a FREE CHAPTER from Sugar Milk before the release date.

All you have to do is send an email to and write "FREE CHAPTER" in the subject line. A PDF file of the chapter "Not In Kindergarten Anymore" will be emailed back to you.

It's about my one daughter's career as a kindergarten life coach, the ways schools embezzle parent's money, and how things change. Hope you like it.

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The Cruelest TV Commercial Known To Man

Before meeting my wife Ashley, I used to own a fully-loaded, gleaming red Dodge Charger. I've never been much of a motor head, but when I drove off the lot and heard the growl from the dual exhaust, I knew this was a car that fit my personality.

Today Chargers are a dime a dozen. A few years ago, however, after first hitting the street, all that power under the hood was quite bad-ass. When I rolled up to the clubs, the valets would park it for free near the entrance along with all the other hot cars. (Clubs like to do this because showing off hot cars projects an image that hot people are inside.) Since I knew a lot of the club owners, the coolness factor afforded me by my cool car was further enhanced by the ability to nonchalantly bypass the long lines of gawking onlookers waiting to get in.

Among the many great things about my Charger was the amount of room in the back where all three of my boys fit comfortably to include their car seats. And when the trips together were over, the leather interior made for easy clean up of Happy Meal fries and Gummy Bears. Kids plus cool car equals babe magnet. (Forgive my sexist reference ladies--it's only for effect, I swear.)

When I got the Charger, my plan was to pay it off early and then trade it in for the Dodge Challenger scheduled to roll out a few years later. That was not to be, though, once I went from three kids to five. It didn't matter how much truck space the Charger had, simple math and physics dictated the need for a larger vehicle. An SUV might have preserved my masculine image, but finances restricted my options to (damn it) the minivan.

Walking into the dealership to trade my Charger for a used Honda Odyssey, I realized my old life was over, and I was on a new course with no OnStar to guide me. Pulling away from the car lot in a drab symbol of emasculation complete with automatic sliding doors and eighteen cup holders, I glanced up in the rear-view mirror only to see my beloved Charger staring back with a sad, questioning expression. It looked like a faithful beloved dog that I had just dropped off at the pound never to return.

Since then I've come to accept the transition from V8 to seats eight. Sometimes my minivan even makes me chuckle like when I hand the valet ten bucks and then watch as he brushes away the Happy Meal trash before getting in and driving off. Still, there's a part of me that will always long for my Dodge Charger (and its brother, the Challenger).

When I see either one, Ashley consoles my distinct whimpering with a, "there, there, honey," while patting my hand. I know what I have in her and the kids is greater than any silly ol' car, but it doesn't change my opinion. This is the cruelest commercial known to man (unless you own one).


PS. I'm kind of curious what guilty pleasure(s) you other dads (and moms) gave up for the greater good?


Birthday Cards From Far Away

Today is my son's birthday. As many of you already know, we (to include my other two sons) are separated by hundreds of miles for the time being, so the best I can do to be with him on his special day is a package in the mail, an early morning phone call and my feelings put into words. Below is a letter I wrote to him last spring for his kindergarten graduation, and even though it's a different occasion, the message still applies. Happy Birthday, Harrison.

Dear Harrison,

I wanted to say how proud I am of you for getting past that great hurdle in life known as Kindergarten. You're teaching said you were such a wonderful student this year, which doesn't surprise me a bit. You are a good boy. I laughed when told me that you were nervous about the graduation ceremony, but I knew would do fine once you got on stage for your diploma. I can see you standing up there with that tight-lipped smile of yours as I write this.

Hope you liked the pictures of you I sent for the school to use in your class's slide show - one baby pic and a recent one just like they asked. It took me several hours to decide on which ones. But I finally picked one that showed what a happy baby you were even when you had all that reflux junk that kept you up at night, and then I would rock you back to sleep in that glider next to the bed. The other photo was from this summer after swimming at Grandma and Grandpa's - I think it really captures your charm and mischievousness.

I'm sorry I couldn't be there to see the ceremony for myself. You're teacher told me she would try finding someone who tape it for me, but I haven't heard if she was able to or not. But hey, at least we got to talk right before. And yes, I really did call solely to tell you good luck - no strategy conversations with your older brother Noah or taking new toy requests from you little brother Sawyer. I just wanted to talk to you, buddy.

Yes, I miss you too, and it was very generous of you to offer me all your money (five dollars and seventy-eight cents if I recall correctly) so I could use it to move near you. It was also kind to offer for me to live with you again. I know it's confusing when you ask me why I don't stay with you anymore. I know my answer about how your mommy and I get along better this way doesn't make any sense at all. It's a cliche' for me to tell you that you'll understand more when you're older, but you'll figure it all out along with a whole bunch of other stuff I can't tell ever you about. But you're a smart boy, like you're old man - smarter even (I only went half days in kindergarten so you're already twice as smart as me when I was your age.).

For now, keep praying like you said you have been - that God will help me find a way back to you and your brothers. Don't worry; it will happen when it's supposed to. Sometimes we can't have what we want because it's just not the right time - like trying to ride your bike before it's all put together. The whole thing falls apart before you can enjoy it.

Well, I'm going to let you get back to playing with your brothers. Stay away from all them girls you keep telling me about. Girls are trouble. And don't let your mom figure out that you've been pretending to sleep during mass so you won't have to listen to the homily - I mean it's a good plan and all, but don't get caught (I used to do the same thing).

One more thing. I love you.

- Dad

PS. I know you're too young to read my blog son, and your mom probably wouldn't let you anyway, but maybe one day you'll come across this while doing research for a paper or checking sports scores. Maybe it will be just what you need to hear from you're dad. And maybe the guys below will still be cool (probably not), and this song will make sense. Just know that I have no doubt; whatever happens, the sun will come out.

(You may need to restart the video and turn on the volume)


About A Boy

There's a boy at the bus stop. Cute kid, deep dark eyes, bright charismatic grin-probably in kindergarten. He's also a holy terror. He will rip things he wants out of other kids' hands. He tears around the entry drive, darting in front of moving cars without regard. When the drivers blow their horns, all the adults turn and look at him, wondering where his parents are. Usually, he's the last one on the bus because he has to find where he left his backpack. You can see the annoyance on the bus driver's face as she holds the door over, waiting for him to locate it.

Allie and Avery say he's even more of a pill once he gets on because the driver often yells at him. One afternoon, I noticed Avery's eyes were red from crying. When I asked her what happened she told me that she had gotten in trouble on the bus for taking a sharp pencil and poking holes in the green upholstered seats. Then she pointed at the boy. "He told me to do it. He was doing it too, but then he told the driver it was just me."

I had to ground Avery, the lesson being not to listen when other kids tell her to do stuff that's wrong, but really I was peeved at that boy. The next morning I intended on asking the bus driver to move my stepdaughter to another seat, but instead I held off after the boy came up to Avery and handed her a stack of Pokemon cards that he told her she could keep. Avery smiled and the two of them talked about their favorite characters until the bus arrived. Maybe he felt guilty, or maybe he was truly sorry, but regardless of his motivations, in that moment I saw a sweetness in his eyes that negated the outward hellion I had watched morning after morning.

One day at the bus stop, he showed up with a toy that he kept tossing into the air for him to catch. Sometimes he missed and the plastic would clatter against the concrete. After being dropped three or four times, the toy could take no more, and it exploded into several pieces. The boy looked down at scattered parts, shocked over the possibility that this could happen.

Allie and Avery told him that maybe I could fix it, and they brought him over to me. I'm always fixing the girls' stuff; so to them, I'm some sort of miracle worker. Fortunately, I was able to maintain this reputation as the toy pieces snapped back into place, good as new. He never said thank you, when I it handed it back to him. Yet, I didn't mind because his eyes reflected something better than gratitude. There was a genuine wonderment in them, as if he had just witnessed Jesus healing a blind man. Then he ran off and resumed his game of catch.

A few weeks ago, the girls and I were walking home from the bus stop. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the boy running. The fifth-graders were racing each other, and he wanted to join in. About the time he hit full stride, one of the older kids--the largest of the bunch--swung his leg to the side, intentionally tripping the boy and launching him into the sidewalk. The violence in this would've earned the guilty party an automatic red card in an English soccer league, but there were no referees around to blow any whistles, and the older kid took off as if nothing happened.

The boy, however, was still on the ground, holding his leg. Through heavy sobs, he kept repeating, "He kicked me. He kicked me." His words were not an accusation, they were a plea--a plea for someone to comfort him, to make the pain go away, to be there for him. The sight of him there, crying and alone, evoked a feeling that surpassed pity, and his tears washed away all of his previous moments of recklessness.

I bent down and checked out his shin. There would be a nasty bruise, but otherwise, he would be fine. His crying had begun to taper off, and I helped him to his feet while cracking a few jokes. He didn't laugh, though; nor did he respond to Allie and Avery attempts to console him with understanding voices that he would be okay. I'm not even sure he was listening to any us. He just limped along beside us without saying a word.

When we had to head in separate directions, I stood and watched for a few minutes as he hobbled away, his cadence occasionally interrupted by those deep sniffles that linger after crying uncontrollably. It was a sad vision of utter loneliness.

Even though it was unfair of me to do so, I couldn't help but speculate about his life at home. Maybe his circumstances were just tough, I thought. Maybe he has a single mother who loves him all she can, but has to work a job that dictates she leave early and stay late in order to make ends meet. Or maybe it wasn't that way at all; maybe it was better. Maybe it was worse.

When he was gone, I turned in the other direction and wondered where he would go.


A Second Round Of Sugar Milk With John Cave Osborne

Today is part 2 of the interview with John Cave Osborne, author of the very funny Tales From The Trips: How Three Babies Turned Our World Upside-Down. (If you'd like to read part 1 click here.) So, we'll pick up right where we left off, with John about to explain his brush with Ashton Kutcher. But before we do, let's have a look at a little video clip.

CKL: The video of you on YouTube taking care of the kids all by yourself went viral - even Ashton Kutcher and Alyssa Milano got in on the action. How did that go down? Got anymore video's planned?

JCO: First off, it only got 8,100 hits, so I wouldn’t say it went viral. (It might, though, if each of your readers tweets it! secondly, I’m a bit of a video geek, so I make a lot of homemade movies. The one you’re talking about, “Where’s Mommy,” was completely spur-of-the-moment.

One night, as I got home from work, Caroline abruptly announced that she would be the one to take Alli to soccer practice instead of me. The babies were “on fire,” she explained, and she couldn’t take it for another minute. As soon as Caroline and Alli left, the tiny trio (who were none too happy with the sudden change of plans) commenced with a DEFCON 1 meltdown.

It was so awful, it was funny. Literally. So I got out my video camera, set up three different stations, and filmed the action. What began as absolute chaos quickly evolved into something incredibly sweet. The next day, I spent a few hours editing it and BOOM, it was done. Six months later, I put it up on the LaughterThought Media (the publisher’s) website, and there it quietly sat.

Until early December, that is, when the lovely and talented Deb Jorge discovered it. (@debjorge on twitter. Follow her.) Deb asked if it’d be okay for her to tweet it. Of course, I answered. Later that day, I noticed that it had gotten quite a few re-tweets. Sweet, I thought. Maybe I’ll get a couple hundred hits out of this.

Three hours later, Deb emailed that Ashton Kutcher had tweeted it. I realized she was serious when my phone started BLOWING UP w/ youtube/twitter-generated emails. I’m still not sure if Ashton found it thanks to Deb via all the re-tweets, or if, coincidentally, he found it randomly on youtube the very same day it was making the rounds on twitter. Regardless, he cut and pasted the video link and wrote “@johncaveosborne I think you’re doing a brilliant job.” The next day Alyssa Milano found it, and it was déjà vu all over again, only on a smaller scale.

It’s cool that something so special to our family struck a chord with others as well. But to me, the video itself is way cooler than all that other stuff. It’ll long outlive any Ashton Kutcher story. I can’t wait til Sam, Jack, and Kirby are old enough to appreciate it.

Other homemade videos I like are “I’m Just a Girl,” which is of Alli skimboarding, and “Guaranteed Winners,” a little piece where I let the triplets make my NFL gaming decisions with the help of some color-coded M&Ms. They’re both up on youtube under the username johncaveosborne.

CKL: So if they made a movie of your life, who would play you?

JKO: Someone who is absurdly funny, disarmingly charming, remarkably intelligent, and also possesses youthful good looks. So, I dunno. Corey Feldman, maybe?

CKL: For the readers, how would you sum up your book in one sentence?

JCO: Can it be a run-on? I mean seriously. I just used 500 words to describe a three-minute video. Now you want one sentence to sum up a 260 page book? Jerk. Okay, here goes.

Tales from the Trips is the hilarious and poignant story of one family’s journey from the time they learn they’re expecting triplets to the time the first of the trio learns to walk, as told by a bumbling, inexperienced father who relies heavily upon LaughterThought, the act of seeking wisdom through humor.
Oh, and it’s kick ass. So go buy it.

CKL: You're doing something interesting with your book in conjunction with ChildHelp, can you elaborate?

JCO: Caroline and I are donating 30% of the gross profit of Tales from the Trips to an entity called Childhelp. They’re a leading national non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect. They have many innovative services and programs from their National Child Abuse Hotline to their Children Advocacy Centers located in many communities across the US. I’ve seen firsthand the amazing amount of good that they’ve done in our community, and I thought my book would be a good vehicle to help them in their efforts.

I wrote Tales from the Trips for one simple reason. I thought it’d be cool for my children to read it one day. If it “does well,” that’s fantastic, but its worst-case scenario is the ultimate coming-of-age gift. Since I wrote it for my kids, I thought it was only appropriate if other kids could benefit (albeit indirectly) from it as well. That’s why I lined up with Childhelp.

To learn more about Childhelp, please visit or check out the post I put up about my association with them on my blog [And Triplets Makes Six].

CKL: When is the book coming out and how do we get our hands on Tales from the Trips?

JCO: The book’s official release is in April. It will be available through traditional retail outlets, including However, I’m selling a limited number of pre-released, autographed copies “direct,” and those can be purchased on my blog, or on the publisher’s website, as early as Monday, February 9th. We’ve already pre-sold over 100 copies. If you’d like to be added to the list, please email me at and I’ll make sure to notify you as soon as they are available.

The book retails for $14.95 plus tax, shipping, and handling.

CKL: Favorite toy or TV show growing up as a kid?

JCO: This is going to sound pathetic, but I don’t really remember a favorite toy, or a favorite TV show. My parents were 42 when I was born and they were both wrapped up in incredibly busy and highly accomplished careers as professors at the University of Tennessee (GO VOLS!). As such, I was raised in an adult-centric environment. Most of my childhood memories consist of martinis (theirs, not mine), the MacNeil/Lehrer Report, Barney Miller reruns, and opera.

That’s not to say that my mom and dad weren’t good parents. They were. But now that I’m a parent, I’ve discovered that my style is a bit different from theirs. The family environment that Caroline and I strive to create is a kid-centric one. Again, not because I’m critical of the way my parents did it, but rather because that’s the environment that works best for us.

Plus, I hate opera.

* * *

I'm very thankful that John could be here today. He's a helluva good guy, and the book is great. Go get a copy. Thanks. You know, John, you do sort of have that Det. Stan "Wojo" Wojciehowicz look about you.


Lady Gaga + 6 Year Old = Bad Romance

Allie and Avery have been grounded from TV, the computer and video games this past week for wrecking our portable DVD player (a post unto itself) during our trip to Denver. In the meantime, they've been forced to come up with creative ways with which to fill the hours. Armed with a closet full of dress up clothes, make up and a Lady Gaga song, this is just one of the shenanigans they came up with--a video remake of Bad Romance produced by Allie and performed by Avery. For being grounded, they look like they're having more fun than they ought to.

The full version is pretty much the same, but for all those not keen on Lady Gaga, I thought it best not to subject the entire five-minute rendition.

And completely off subject...

Jeremy Adam Smith, editor of Shareable and author of the highly regarded book, The Daddy Shift; and the very funny writer of Tales From the Trips, John Cave Osborne, have each provided advance reviews for Sugar Milk which you can read at

Also, please help the Lunchbox in our efforts to help find a Cure for JM. Click on the button for more details. Thanks!


Just Another Manscape Monday: Cure JM

I'm a glutton for punishment it would seem, because yes, I have decided to run a new edition of Just Another Manscape Monday - the post where you get to make fun of me for tweezing and trimming those hirsute nether regions, and in retort I play some uber-metrosexual music video (usually Coldplay) to fan the flames.

If you happen to be stopping by after my suicide attempt on Friday (which has warranted a follow-up post), then I would like to offer my appreciation for you're graciousness in coming back. I will, however, warn you that this is where my writing goes back to being plain 'ol, boring Clark Kent.

This Coldplay offering is one of my favorites (my post While You Were At BlogHer probably has something to do with that), and the video's theme fits perfectly with what I'm about ask of you.

Some of you may or may not know Kevin from Always Home and Uncool, and that his daughter Megan has been diagnosed with Juvenile Dermatomyositis -an autoimmune disease affecting approximately 5,000 children in the United States. JM is characterized by rashes and weak muscles, and there is no cure. However, there are treatments, and the Cure JM Foundation is working to find a solution that will rid children like Megan of this awful affliction. (Watch this video as well.)

On February 13th & 14th, Kevin, his wife Rhonda and Megan will be in Austin as part of the JM National Education Event Marathon, and I'm thrilled that my wife and I are able to be a part of this event as volunteers (and no, my hairless butt isn't running in the marathon). What I'm asking is that you would consider sponsoring us, and by extension, be an active participant in helping to find a cure for Megan and other kids diagnosed with JM.

If you'd like to be a sponsor, PLEASE CLICK HERE or on the button below for directions and more information. Even a few dollars is greatly appreciated in our personal goal to reach $1000.

And if nothing else, regardless of how you feel about Coldplay or my shaven tuckus, please forward this message on to others via email, Facebook, Twitter, carrier pigeon, etc.

Finally, Thank you.

Now, have your way with me in the comments over my grooming habits and musical tastes. It's for a good cause.

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