Dan@Home! The Day My Son Shadowed Me For “Take Your Kid To Work” Day

First things first… I have to come clean. This was completely unplanned.

A couple of weeks before the official “Take your grade nine kid to work day”, Lianne asked our son Daniel if he wanted to spend the day with her at her law firm. The fourteen-year-old thought about it for about two seconds and immediately passed.

He didn’t think watching lawyers push paper and take conference calls was exciting enough to hold his attention for a full day.

I guess that was that, until Daniel discovered that 95% of his grade nine class was actually taking advantage of this opportunity and all of a sudden, HE WANTED IN TOO! So, in typical teenager fashion, he came to Lianne the DAY BEFORE and asked if he could still come to her office.

Her answer was short, sweet and to the point:

“No Daniel, you can’t come to my office for the day. My firm would have planned some activities for you, and they would have needed a heads up that you were coming. You can’t just show up at the last minute!”

He was disappointed, but still determined to find a sneaky way to play hooky from school. Then a light bulb went off just above my son’s head, his eyes got big and he excitedly turned to me:

“Dad! How about I spend the day with YOU… at home!!! Can you call the school and tell them I’ll be going to work with you???”

I knew exactly what he meant by this. He simply wanted a day off school to sit in his room, watch YouTube videos and basically DO NOTHING.

My answer was short, sweet and to the point:

“Absolutely you can stay home with me, as long as you promise to do exactly what I do all day, with NO complaints.”

Daniel promised me he would be a GOOD BOY and the decision was made. My son would shadow a stay-at-home Dad for “Take your kid to work” day. I’m pretty sure he thought it was going to look more like the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, so I was determined to keep the young lad occupied and perhaps he would learn a thing or two about my world… at least for one day.

And so, DAN@HOME began: Wednesday, November 6th, 2019.

TIME TO GET SERIOUS.

7:00 AM: Wake up!

Actually… um, no. That would be my normal wake-up time. I normally wake my son by 7:00 AM and then go downstairs to fix him some breakfast. But, he wasn’t going to school, so I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t sleep in a bit, so that’s what I did. And so did Daniel.

8:10 AM: Wake up! (Take two)

OK, this time I did it for real. We were finally up and at ’em and ready to start the day. Normally, by 8:10 AM I would be out the door to drive Daniel to his school bus stop, but because he was spending the day with me, that task was no longer required.

However, my Uber driving skills were still needed, as Lianne had a client function the previous evening, left her car at work and required a lift downtown. We had our first task of the day, so I told Daniel to put on some pants. We were going on a road trip.

9:00 AM: Drop off Lianne at work.

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Dropping off Mom at work can be serious business.

When I first asked Daniel to get ready to leave the house, he looked a bit surprised… like he didn’t think he actually had to participate in this whole “shadow his Dad” thingy. But then, he realized this was NOT going to be a day of leisure. No sir. Not by a long shot. (This would be a day of semi-leisure at best.)

9:30 AM: Morning COFFEE!

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Getting a coffee and donut can also be serious business.

Speaking of semi-leisure, I decided to forgo my usual routine of making my own morning coffee. Instead, we stopped at our favourite local coffee shop on the way home, where I had a latte and Daniel had an… ICED CHAI??? That wouldn’t be my beverage of choice on a frosty morning, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m not here to judge. After our breakfast of champions, we were ready for some real WORK!

10:10 AM: Dad@Home checks his emails. Dan@Home lies down.

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Checking emails is definitely serious business… so serious that Daniel was excused from participating.

OK, I debated making Daniel pull up a chair and watch me check and answer a few emails but I thought better of it. I didn’t see the point. So, I let the young lad do what he does best: lie down in his un-made bed and look at his phone.

I’ll give you a small sample of the many serious issues I tackled while on my computer. I emailed Daniel’s hockey coach about his two-game suspension (no he’s not a goon, but I don’t have the time to get into it now). I also emailed our veterinarian to double-check the correct dosage of Prozac for our cat Sasha (no she’s not addicted to Prozac, but I don’t have the time to get into it now). Then, I went online to schedule a time for Daniel’s Parent/Teacher interview. And, full disclosure… I also checked my Facebook feed.

Sorry folks, but it’s not ALL serious business.

10:45 AM: Time to get SWEATY! There’s snow to shovel!

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Shoveling snow in Calgary is ALWAYS serious business.

I can’t remember the last time I had HELP shoveling the sidewalks, so I took full advantage of my personal stay-at-home Dad assistant. Did I watch my son do a vast majority of the work? Yes, yes I did. I figured it was the least he could do after his lazy lie-down break while I checked emails.

11:42 AM: CAT DUTIES! We’ve got two cats. They need our attention.

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When you’ve got a cat on Prozac, how could it NOT be serious business?

Sasha, our female cat… is anxious. She’s been diagnosed with anxiety (cat anxiety to be exact). She’s been so anxious that she has been ignoring her litter box and peeing on pillows and blankets around the house. So, every day we hold her tight and squirt meds directly into her mouth. To be honest, the Prozac actually seems to be working. (It’s also very good to know we have an ample supply in the house in case I ever become so anxious that I stop using the toilet and start peeing in strange places).

On this day, Daniel had the honours of squirting the syringe and he did a good job. After that, we headed into the basement where Daniel fed the cats their dry food. We also feed them canned food, but Daniel says the smell makes him gag, so I didn’t force him to do it. One thing we forgot to do was scoop the poop. Daniel got lucky. No wet food, no litter box duty.

12:11 PM: Household chore – unclog some slow drains.

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OK, I’ll be the first to admit… unclogging a slow drain isn’t EXACTLY serious business, but I am now 100% committed to this “bit”, so I have to see it through.

We have two slow drains in our household. One of them is my sink in our master bathroom, and the other is Daniel’s sink in his bathroom. I’m pretty sure my beard trimmings were clogging up my sink. I have no idea what Daniel is doing to back his up… as he’s not exactly “hairy”.

And speaking of Daniel, you may have noticed that he changed out of his regular clothes and is once again in full “loungewear”. Yup, when he thinks he doesn’t have to leave the house, he deliberately changes back into his sleepwear, and puts on a housecoat that makes him look eerily similar to the serial killer from the movie Silence of the Lambs.

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Should I be concerned? Maybe.

12:38 PM: Laundry. So. Much. Laundry.

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It’s exceedingly difficult to describe laundry as “serious business” when one of your cats jumps into the laundry basket and starts eating underwear.

By now, Daniel was desperately calling for another “lie-down and look at his phone” break, but I was having none of that. Dagnammit, he was shadowing me, and he had to WORK! Instead, we folded clean laundry and started the process of washing three loads.

It turns out; Dan@Home is just like Dad@Home. Dan@Home doesn’t like doing laundry either.

1:01 PM: LUNCH TIME!!!

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Is making delicious fruit smoothies serious business? It kinda looks that way.

I asked Daniel to volunteer to make us delicious fruit smoothies for lunch and after some gentle arm-twisting, he eventually agreed to volunteer. He also had some cheese and crackers on the side, as he found his delicious smoothie was not filling enough for a growing teenage boy. Me, I think I’ve grown quite enough…

1:36 PM: Clean up lunch mess, unpack and pack the dishwasher

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By the serious look on Daniel’s face, it seems like packing a dishwasher can sometimes be categorized as serious business.

1:52 PM: Put in another load of laundry… and make some BEDS!

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It looks like one of us isn’t taking the task of making his bed very seriously, which is unfortunate… as we all know making beds is 100% serious business. At least I had some “help” from my feline friend, Domino.

After cleaning up our lunch mess and loading another load of laundry into the washing machine, I ordered my assistant to remove his flowing housecoat, put some “outdoor” clothes back on, make his damn bed and get ready to run an ERRAND.

2:14 PM: Let’s RUN AN ERRAND!

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Anyone who knows anything about anything knows that a trip to Home Depot is pretty, pretty serious BUSINESS. We’re talking manly-man business.

As a damn stay-at-home Dad, I leave the damn house every damn day to run errands. Frequent destinations include Safeway, Costco, PetSmart, Canadian Tire, Shoppers Drug Mart… you name it, I’ve been there. But, sometimes I gotta get some HANDYMAN work done, and there’s only one destination for that.

Daniel has been bugging me for months to install another clothing rod in his closet. Well, now that I had a personal assistant, there was no better time to do it. We picked up the materials, cut the rod and installed the hardware. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

4:24 PM: Run the final load of laundry, change the furnace filter.

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Neglecting to change your furnace filter at least four times a year can lead to serious problems. Studies show that indoor air pollution caused by a dirty air filter can trigger allergic reactions and sinus congestion in those with allergies to animals, pollen and mold. Furthermore, dirty furnace filters cause your furnace to work harder than it should due to a decrease in airflow. The harder your furnace works, the quicker its parts will wear out and need repairs. In the long run, this will shorten the life of your HVAC unit. Why am I telling you all of this? It should be obvious by now, but I’m just trying to prove to you that changing a furnace filter is… say it with me now… SERIOUS BUSINESS!

5:18 PM: TIME TO MAKE DINNER!!!

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What do Daniel and I have in common with the great chefs of Europe? That’s easy, we ALL think cooking is serious business.

When dinnertime rolled around, I experienced my absolute favourite moment of the entire “Bring your kid to work” day. When I asked Daniel to start helping me get dinner ready, his jaw dropped, he stomped his feet and he began his protest in earnest:

“WHAT? I thought I was DONE! I would be done by now if I was at an office today!”

My answer was short, sweet and to the point:

“You sir, are absolutely correct. You would have been done. But, you wanted to shadow ME today, and my workday is far from over.”

To Daniel’s credit, he accepted his fate and got to work. He’s actually a very good cook (for a kid) and is usually in charge of making (or ordering) dinners when both Lianne and I are not home. Lord knows our 16-year-old daughter Abby isn’t the one taking charge in the kitchen!

We actually get a lot of our weekday dinners from “Chefs Plate”. It’s delivered right to our front door! The ingredients are fresh, the recipe cards are easy to follow, and the results speak for themselves… simply delicious!

“Chefs Plate, a stay-at-home Dads BEST FRIEND at dinner time.”

– Greg Tysowski, Dad@Home

(If anyone at Chefs Plate actually sees this, you now owe me $10,000.)

Together, we made Italian Lasagna Soup, described as “using hallmark lasagna ingredients like ground beef, tomatoes, basil, ricotta and parmesan cheese”. It was actually very good!

6:42 PM: Clean up the dinner dishes!

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Is Daniel serious about washing dishes? Dead serious. For the LAST TIME… all of this… the entire DAY… every activity… is serious business. Get over it.

Was Daniel surprised when I asked him to clean up the dinner dishes? No. Did he complain nevertheless? Yes.

Was he VERY relieved when I officially proclaimed that his “Bring your kid to work day” duties were officially wrapped up when he washed that final pot?

100% YES!

7:30 PM: Let’s recap. What lessons (if any) have we learned today?

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OK, time to get real. All of those “serious faces” were all for show and you all TOTALLY fell for it. Suckers! We actually had a pretty, pretty good day. I really enjoyed having Dan@Home and I sincerely hope he learned a thing or two about what Dad@Home does for a living. And, if you are wondering, my front porch light behind us was still green from Halloween night. I forgot to change the bulb back…

When I finally released my indentured servant from his day of servitude after almost twelve hours on the job, I asked Daniel the obvious question… the ONLY question:

“Was your day at home with me everything you thought it would be?”

His answer was short, sweet and to the point.

“I’m pretty sure you don’t have to shovel snow and do three loads of laundry EVERY DAY. I think you made this day WAY more busy than it had to be!”

The young lad made a fair argument.

I did make sure we stayed extra busy all day. I also freely admitted that I definitely have days that could accurately be described as LAZY.

I also made it very clear that I sometimes have days so full of errands, chores and appointments that they make this one look like a WALK IN THE PARK.

In the end, Daniel admitted that he learned a lot about what his Dad did at home all day, and he was thankful he asked to take part in the annual “Bring your kid to work day”… even if it started off as a sneaky way he could play hooky from school.

Dad@Halloween!

I. LOVE. HALLOWEEN.

There, I said it. But really, who doesn’t? What’s not to love?

Dressing up as whatever you want, knocking on a stranger’s door and demanding sugary payment for not damaging their property is truly the best tradition I can think of.

(Theoretically, that could also be described as EXTORTION) but who cares, so what?

I LOVE IT!  I always have and I always will.

“Halloweening”, and how we celebrate, definitely changes and transitions from one phase to another as we get older. But you know what?

It never gets old.

PHASE ONE: Trick-or-treating as a little kid.

Growing up in Saskatchewan, Halloween was not always so easy to enjoy.

Why, you ask? Well, by the end of October, my home town of Porcupine Plain was (almost) ALWAYS covered by foot of snow, temperatures were well below zero, and to make matter worse… very few houses gave out chocolate bars. Oh, the humanity!

Trick-or-treating was a mad dash from door-to-door… praying for bags of “Old Dutch” chips and hoping to avoid the unwrapped, hard candy the senior citizens loved to dish out. Halloween costumes were usually completely hidden under parkas, toques and “ski-doo” suits. We couldn’t wait to get out there, but at the same time, we couldn’t wait to get out of the damn cold, get home, empty our pillow case of it’s sweet loot and begin the sorting process.

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This was me. Halloween: 1970-something. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be a vampire, or maybe I just didn’t wash my face that day. Yeah, I know… pretty weak costume game. I didn’t even have fake vampire teeth! #Weak

PHASE TWO: Too old to trick-or-treat, too young to party.

As I entered my teen years, I actually didn’t mind when society deemed I was “too old” to trick-or-treat.

That’s because I really enjoyed the second phase of Halloween… HANDING OUT THE CANDY!  I loved seeing what the little kids were wearing, and I also loved giving sideways glances and silent stares to the older kids who still knocked on our door, boldly costumeless… yet still wanting their bounty of free candy.

Those older kids were NO FUN! #NoFun

PHASE THREE: PARTY, PARTY, PARTY!

The next phase of Halloween comes when you reach “young adulthood”. This time, the reward for dressing up wasn’t a candy coma, but rather it was getting totally sloshed at a crazy party and waking up the next morning wishing you were in a real coma.

There was a particular mid-90’s Halloween bash on a college campus that ended with me in a coffee shop at 3:00 AM, asking a Tim Horton’s employee to call us a cab home. I handed the cab driver a piece of paper with my address scribbled on it because I was having trouble articulating full sentences. Do I miss this phase of Halloween? Not particularly. #MaybeTooMuchFun

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Did I attend multiple Halloween parties as Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise? Yes. Does that mean I was simply too lazy to come up with another costume idea and found it easier to keep wearing the same one, year after year? No comment.

PHASE FOUR: Back on the mean streets to trick-or-treat! But this time with kids in tow.

I couldn’t wait to get back out there!

Abby and Daniel were barely out of toddlerhood when we decided it was time to dress them up and start trick-or-treating. Living in Calgary, Halloween night isn’t exactly “balmy”, but compared to Porcupine Plain, it was downright pleasant. Usually snow-free, and usually a degree or two above freezing meant we didn’t have to rush home, and thus…  we would get a REALLY big haul.

I usually carried extra candy bags for when the first one filled up. And guess what? There were LOTS and LOTS of chocolate bars to be had and ZERO unwrapped, hard candies! My kids never knew the pain I had to endure… so that meant I definitely got to steal some of their loot. Hey, it’s only fair! #ItsOnlyFair

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Do we love us some HOT HALLOWEEN ACTION in the Tysowski household? Damn rights we do. #DamnRights

Another thing that makes Halloweening so much better for my kids is where we live, or rather where we live CLOSE TO. The neighbourhood right next to ours routinely wins the day for busiest Halloween hot spot in Calgary. In fact, people come from all over the city to trick-or-treat in this wicked wonderland.

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We live RIGHT NEXT to the Disneyland of trick-or-treating in Calgary, but we only get 40-50 kids knocking on our door, year after year. NOT FAIR!!! #NotFair

Unlike our home, houses in Garrison Woods can get over 300 kids knocking on their door, and for good reason. There’s a particular street in that neighbourhood that goes ALL OUT on decorations. It kind of looks like a Halloween version of Main Street USA at Disneyland… with all of the spooky decorations, eerie lights, and of course, hundreds of kids and parents in costumes.

There’s even a group of Moms who have set up shop on that street for over a decade, dressed up as witches… serving parents a cup of hot chocolate mixed with Baileys from a steaming, black cauldron. I talked to one of them a few years ago, and asked how many bottles of Irish Cream they go through. She pointed to a pile of empties behind her – there had to be 10 to 15 bottles on the ground and the evening wasn’t even half over.

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Here’s a small sampling of the festivities that occur every Halloween in Garrison Woods, just minutes from our house.

I have to admit, seeing the super fun displays and extraordinary spirit on that street inspired me to go ALL OUT on my own Halloween decorations about five years ago. Every year since, I try to up my game and add something new to the mix.

I don’t get the same foot traffic as Garrison Woods, but I do get plenty of compliments from plenty of kids. That makes it all worthwhile.

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I waited until the last minute to set up this year’s decorations, and that had my daughter stressing! She’s having a friend over on Halloween night and she has promised her a “show”.

PHASE FIVE: When your kids are too old to need a chaperone on Halloween night!

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Halloween 2018. It took Daniel weeks to make this awesome costume from scratch. Abby was a pickle.

I actually don’t mind this phase all that much, especially on the rare Halloween night when it’s raining, or worse… snowing! A couple of years ago, both Abby and Daniel both reached junior high and I was told in no uncertain terms that my services were no longer required.  I was officially DONE trick-or-treating.

It was totally the end of an era, but it’s still so much fun to see all of the widdle kids come waddling up our front steps. It totally takes me back to my teen years of handing out candy, which then totally takes me even farther back to my own trick-or-treating days in snowy Saskatchewan. #Totally

And that brings us full circle to where it all started…  and why I STILL love Halloween.

No matter how old I get, no matter what “phase” I’m experiencing, it will always be totally awesome to watch kids dress up as whatever they want, knock on my door and demand a sugary payment for not damaging my property.

Like I said, it never gets old.  It never fades away.

And hopefully, neither will my Halloween spirit.

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In a very gravelly voice, BATMAN SAYS HAPPY HALLOWEEN TO ONE AND ALL!!! #HappyHalloween

 

Dad@World! CAN I FILL MY MAP? Maybe… But I Need Your Help.

Sometimes, when traffic is especially SLOW on my Dad@Home blog (which is actually the NORM) I will start sifting through the various statistics offered up by wordpress. I can easily find out how many clicks a certain post is getting, which social media site readers found my link at and how many people liked or commented on it.

BUT… by far, the most entertaining stat of them all is the one for all-time views by COUNTRY.

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I feel if I could only get a view from China, Mongolia to the north would immediately follow suit.

It’s no surprise that 95% of my nearly 7000 views come from Canada and the U.S. But, when I get a single view from a “less obvious” country, I always say to myself:

“Wait! How the hell did that happen? Do I know someone in Kenya?”

The funny thing is, since I launched my blog over three and a half years ago, I’ve had more than a few of those “how the hell did that happen?” moments… so many that the map of the world offered up in the wordpress stats page is slowly but surely FILLING UP.

The big question is: exactly where in the world do I need more clicks to really fill up my map?

Like I said… North America is my stronghold. Heck, I even have 28 views from Mexico. It’s all good.

But, the rest of the Americas are very slim pickings indeed. Central America only has a handful of views from Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica, while a look farther south finds only Columbia and Brazil representing the entire continent! Is my message simply too bland for the spicy Latin world? Perhaps.

Across the pond, it’s a completely different story.

I’ve got a vast majority of Europe covered, with a only a couple of small pockets of complete indifference. One of them is the grouping of countries formerly known as Yugoslavia. The other pocket is the Baltic States (with a salty side order of Belarus)… interestingly; they are all former Soviet republics. Perhaps communists simply do not connect with the hopeful message of Dad@Home? Maybe the Kremlin did not condone the concept of stay-at-home fatherhood? Maybe. Would I have been considered a dangerous OUTLAW in the Soviet era? Perhaps.

But, let’s not get too cocky.

For every success story on my map, there are even bigger failures! Looking directly south, I seem to be failing miserably on the continent of Africa.

4 countries out of a possible 54! And, only 4 views! My message is obviously NOT resonating.

I am open to suggestions on how to increase my views. Maybe an extended, yearlong media tour of the entire continent is in order? How does #Dad@Africa2020 sound? Oh, you think that sounds very unrealistic? Fine.

As much as Africa is a barren wasteland of blog support, it’s even worse in the Middle East! A smattering of clicks from Israel and the United Arab Emirates is all I’ve got. Maybe the region has more pressing issues on their agenda than seeking out a particular blog about a certain stay-at-home Dad? Maybe. That being said, could the hopeful message of Dad@Home completely heal thousands of years of war and mistrust? Perhaps.

Now, let’s get back to the success stories. South East Asia seems to be a (relative) hotbed of blog support! India 32 views! Australia 34 views! Philippines 20 views! I’ve got clicks from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the list goes on!  But, with only 2 views, it would appear that New Zealand thinks I’m dumb. Well, maybe I think THEY’RE dumb. But I digress.

And now, let’s address the huge elephant in the room.

CHINA!

There are 1.4 BILLION potential Dad@Home subscribers in that country and I’ve got exactly ZERO clicks from the mainland. I do have ONE CLICK from Hong Kong, which curiously came at the exact moment in time the protests really started to ramp up. Is there a connection there? Could the hopeful message of Dad@Home be fuelling the fires of democracy? Could that be the reason my webpage has been permanently blocked from the largest multitude of potential blog subscribers in the entire WORLD? Maybe. Does the People’s Republic of China consider me a dangerous OUTLAW? Perhaps.

And, while we’re talking about repressive regimes that view me as a threat, is anyone surprised that I also have ZERO clicks in North Korea? You tell me. Personally, I think Kim Jong Un could learn a lot from reading my book Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated, which is still very much available for purchase on Amazon.ca!

Now, in the title of this blog I mentioned that I need YOUR HELP to fill my map… and I do!  I really do!

To turn this map completely red (or something close to that) I need clicks from a whole whack of countries. I’ve only got 53 out of the planet’s 195 countries, but to be honest, we don’t really need ALL OF THEM to colour my map a vast majority of red.

What I really need are the really BIG countries! That’s right, I want LARGE LAND MASSES.

Sending this link to a friend in Montenegro, or Cambodia, or Belize, or Kuwait doesn’t do me much good. That only fills in a very tiny bit on a very big map. Now, if you’ve got a contact in Greenland, by all means… FORWARD THAT LINK! Because the wordpress map uses the “Mercator Projection”, it shows Greenland as being ridiculously large, and turning it red will go a very long way.

Here’s a list of the biggest countries I still need to FILL MY MAP! Please send links of my blog to the following countries:

Greenland, CHINA! Kazakhstan, Argentina, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, (and really… pretty much MOST of Africa and South America)

Another option for you all is to literally TRAVEL to these countries, log on to the internet, click on Dad@Home, then immediately fly home… as personal favour to me. Now, I know what many of you are thinking: not many of these destinations are truly “touristy”. But, hear me out people!

I know for a fact that Iran is quite lovely this time of year.

Like I said, you would be doing me a huge solid. And, if I discovered that any of you needed my help in any way, shape or form… would I return that favour and assist you to the best of my ability?

Perhaps.

Oh, and for your reference, here is a list places you DO NOT need to send links to. Thanks, but I’ve already got these covered:

Canada, United States, Ireland, United Kingdom, Australia, India, Ukraine, Mexico, Philippines, Spain, Thailand, Japan, Netherlands, Brazil, Portugal, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Germany, Finland, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Colombia, Italy, Jamaica, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Pakistan, Israel, Poland, New Zealand, Congo-Brazzaville, Honduras, Greece, Algeria, Sweden, Denmark, Costa Rica, Turkey, Bermuda, Guernsey, El Salvador, Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Romania, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Norway, South Africa and Kenya.

Wait! How the hell did that happen? Do I know someone in Kenya?

 

 

 

 

 

Dad@Mexico: The Most Exhaustingly Snoozy Vacation Ever

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If a picture really is worth a thousand words, then I should really end this blog right here.

Over the past few years, I’ve blogged about several of our fun-filled, fast-paced, fabulous family vacations, detailing the often-rigorous sightseeing schedules that have become the hallmark of our trips abroad. I’ve also written about the ULTIMATE REWARD for all of this exploring:

The legendary “vacation within the vacation”!

Last year, we blasted through Ukraine and Poland, then chilled on a beach in Croatia for a week. The previous summer we explored the province of Quebec for two weeks, then relaxed at a lake house along the Vermont border for another. In fact, beach/lake houses in Vernon BC, Prince Edward Island and South Carolina were ALL welcome respites after a juggernaut holiday pace that wore us down and made us ache for the ability to unpack our bags and simply stay put for more than 48 hours.

But what happens when the entirety of a family summer holiday becomes the VACATION WITHIN THE VACATION? Well, we did just that in Mexico a couple of weeks ago, and I have to admit it was great, but it was also… kinda… weird?

For ten gloriously hot days, we rented a beach house near Punta de Mita, about 40 minutes from Puerto Vallarta. So, what made this vacation so dramatically different from other beach/lake houses we’ve stayed in?

Well… to put it simply, this vacation home came with a STAFF.

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Was it comfortable? Very.

That’s right, a cook made our meals, a driver picked us up and dropped us off, cleaners made up our rooms and tidied up the pool deck. They even bought all of the groceries and booze! Of course, we had to reimburse them, but our list of responsibilities while staying there was incredibly small.

In past stays at beach houses, we would have to make a huge grocery run, plan out meals, cook, clean, straighten up, wash dishes… you name it, we did it. It would definitely keep us busy, and it would definitely eat into our coveted relaxation time.

But on this Mexico trip?

The expression LAZY DAYS doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Allow me to explain how we our spent our ten days at Casa de Lazy:

1) Sleep in as long as you want.

We were travelling with my brother’s family and our niece… which meant all but ONE of the six kids on this trip was a teenager who could theoretically sleep all damn day. There was never a rush to get to the breakfast table, no matter how old you were.

2) Eat “breakfast” at noon… 1:00 PM at the latest.

Our cook, Rosa, would make a huge spread of eggs, bacon, fruit, pancakes, french toast, or crepes every day. If you asked for it, she could make it. And then she would clean it all up.

3) Float in our pool or go explore the private beach.

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A rare occurrence of kids cooperating for the greater good.

There were a million floaties available and the adults did just that. FLOAT. The kids also floated, but they were also inclined to splash around and wreak havoc. However, too much physical activity wasn’t highly recommended, as it was AFRICA HOT most days!

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We almost never saw another soul on this beach. Is that weird? I say yes.

That heat made a simple thirty minute walk on the beach a draining experience, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. They loved the crashing waves and had plenty of beach time. Some of them even have pretty impressive sunburns to prove it!

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The massive waves constantly knocking people over pretty much ensured the adults would stay on dry land, or back at the pool.

There were also ample deck chairs and loungers that offered plenty of shade to read a book, sunbathe, nap or simply stare straight ahead for hours on end. I actually did something I haven’t done in a ages… READ A 500 PAGE BOOK COVER TO COVER.

4) Figure out what we wanted Rosa to make us for dinner.

First off, I have to say that Rosa was a great cook! But as the days went on and on, we found there is a finite amount of Mexican dishes one can sample. We had tacos, tortillas, enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas, burritos… all very good, but they all started to seem like the same thing. Add in the repetitive nightly sides of beans, rice, salsa and guacamole and you can understand why the first thing my daughter wanted in the Puerto Vallarta airport on the way home was a BURGER.

5) Drink booze, stay up as late as you want.

Yes, we filled one of the multiple refrigerators to the brim with cheap Mexican beer, while Rosa mixed us EXTRA strong margaritas! I could crush several brewskis poolside and I could crush several more brewskis in the evening. All told, I personally crushed 824 beers on this trip.  A lot of said crushing happened because there really wasn’t much else to do.

Like I said: LAZY DAYS.

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It was nice there.

6) DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN THE NEXT DAY.

Everything you just read could simply be repeated the next day, and the next, and the next and the next. I think you get the point. After a week of this, it started to feel like the movie Groundhog Day… just with way more booze.

I can’t stress enough how different this vacation was. There was no sightseeing schedule. There were no trains to catch. There were no car rentals. There were no hotels. There was no packing and unpacking our bags every 48 hours.

And, with the exception of one dinner at a nearby restaurant and borrowing the house’s Suburban to drive a couple of times to the MEGA Superstore to buy more booze and snacks… we didn’t leave the property.

I barely lifted a finger, and yet, somehow, I seemed as tired at the end of the day as if we just finished walking ten hours exploring Rome, or London, or wherever.

Who knew lying by a pool all damn afternoon could be so damn exhausting!

I think the heat and humidity played a part in draining our energy reserves, but at least the bedrooms all had air conditioning, were very comfortable and were every conducive to sleeping the morning away.

And what did the kids think of a vacation with a sloth-like pace?

We all know most teenagers are lazy and glued to their devices when they get ANY down time, so we were very concerned they would never leave their air conditioned rooms!

So, we took away their phones during the day and at bedtime and only gave them access to their “precious” for a few hours in the late afternoon and early evening. That way, we forced them to interact with other humans, frolic in the pool, hit the beach, and (god forbid) READ A BOOK. We assumed that taking away their phones would mean they would actually go to sleep at night… but we were wrong.

So very wrong.

Freed from their usual late night, screen-loving, zombie-like existence, they found other ways to entertain themselves at 3:00 AM… like engage in late night pool parties, rummage through the kitchen pantry and bake a cake, and of course, steal our beers. One particular morning we noticed our stash of Pacificos and Coronas looked very thin indeed.

At the end of it all, the kids told us they really enjoyed their stay at Casa de Lazy, as they often complained about the frenetic pace of our previous family vacations. Unlike adults, I do not think teens have any issue with doing something close to nothing for a week and a half.

You may be asking why we decided to vacation in Mexico smack dab in the middle of the hot summer and I can sum it up very easily:

It was SO CHEAP!

The rental rate was a little over half the price of what it goes for in high season. So, if you can handle the steamy days, I would highly recommend an ultra lazy Mexican vacation in the middle of August.

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Do we look refreshed after 10 days? I didn’t feel very refreshed.

By the time we wrapped up our ten days, I was also ready for a burger, but I was also ready to get home and recover… from the most exhaustingly snoozy vacation we’ve ever had.

Can a vacation be TOO lazy? Maybe?

Would we do it again? Maybe? Maybe not.

Like I said, before: it was great, but it was also… kinda… WEIRD.

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Weird or not weird…  does it really matter? Case de Lazy is what it is.

 

Step 1: Pass Learner’s Exam. Step 2: Pass Driver’s Exam. Step 3: Get Your Own Car?

This decision has been in the works for a very long time.

Ever since Abby passed her Learner’s Exam at the age of 14, there have been constant negotiations with her over IF she should get her own car, WHY she should or shouldn’t get her own car, and perhaps most importantly, HOW IN THE HELL a 16-year-old even deserves to get her own car!

I don’t think even the ongoing Brexit negotiations have been this painstaking!

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January 2018. On the day Abby passed her learner’s exam, the thought of her getting her own vehicle was the FURTHEST thing on my mind. Surviving the ride was FIRST thing on my mind.

Abby’s biggest argument for getting her very own set of wheels was always very simple.

“Dad! Just think about it… I can drive MYSELF places now! You won’t have to drive me anywhere… like EVER AGAIN!”

It’s true. Abby does need a LOT of rides. Between school, friends, sports and other extra-curricular activities, I often feel like her personal Uber. Driving has been a constant staple of my duties as a stay-at-home dad for over fifteen years, so I have to admit the thought of my daughter driving HERSELF to basketball practice two or three times a week is actually pretty appealing.

So, after plenty of discussion, we weighed the pros and cons and ultimately decided that YES, we would be adding a third vehicle to our stable of family cars. The big question was, what kind of car should we buy?

There were THREE options on the table, and originally I was very adamant that I would only consider ONE of them.

OPTION #1: Buy a BRAND NEW CAR!

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You could buy this brand new Kia for $14,500! But then, you would own a Kia.

Um, I never really considered this one for a second, but my wife certainly did. Lianne thought that purchasing a lower-end, basic, compact car could be achieved for less than $15,000. That way, we would have a full warranty and not have to worry about buying a lemon. I was NOT on board with this idea. I currently drive a ten-year-old Subaru with 175,000 clicks on it, dents on my door and rust bubbles forming on my roof. There was no way my kid was gonna drive a nicer car than me! NO DICE.

OPTION #2: Buy a “QUALITY” USED CAR!

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This 10-year-old Nissan is nice, but it seems way too nice for a kid.

No, this option was not the one I was pushing for either. Most of the nicer vehicles we looked at online were in the range of $8,000 to $10,000 and to me that STILL seemed like a CRAZY amount of money to pay for a teenager to drive independently! What ever happened to buying your kid a true beater that you didn’t have to worry about her wrecking? That’s what I was hoping for and that, brings us to the final option.

OPTION #3: Just buy a BEATER!

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The 2002 Toyota Camry… how could you possibly go wrong with that?

This was what I wanted from the start… to buy Abby a car from the early to mid 2000’s with (hopefully) less than 200,000 clicks. However, I know that you can’t just buy ANY old beater. I did my research and found that Honda or Toyota sedan models have a very good reputation for being reliable vehicles, even with very high mileage. And (more importantly) they could be purchased for $3,000 to $5,000.

While I was hoping to save some dough and find a reliable beater for Abby, I quickly discovered there’s a big problem with option #3: those true beater cars are either private sales, or found at those really sketchy used car lots. There is really not a lot of recourse if something goes horribly wrong with your purchase. It truly is BUYER BEWARE! I know people who have bought a beater that turned out awesome and I also know people who have bought a money-pit.

Another issue I failed to consider is the safety of the used vehicle, especially in our harsh Canadian winter. My wife made the rather good point that for half of the year, roads in Calgary can be pretty shitty. Why would we want our 16-year-old kid to venture out into terrible winter weather with a potentially unreliable beater? Lianne and I both have vehicles with all-wheel drive and designated summer and winter tires. We feel pretty secure on the roads.

I’m not so sure I’d feel as safe in a front-wheel drive car with bald summer tires and 203,000 kms on it. So, my original plan of spending a few thousand bucks on a vehicle was thrown out the window.

We chose option #2 and have not regretted it.

A little over a month ago, we bought Abby a 10-year-old Nissan with all-wheel drive, a back-up camera and a little over 130,000 clicks on it. Abby cleaned out her bank account and paid us $1,500 that we put towards the purchase. We got it at a reputable car dealership, so it’s considered to be a “certified” pre-owned vehicle. The fact they have already checked it over with a detailed inspection, made the appropriate repairs and stand behind it gives us some peace of mind that we haven’t bought a lemon!

And speaking of peace of mind… I have to admit that the panic I felt when Abby first got her learner’s license immediately crept back into my brain the second she took out her “new” car all on her own. We share a family Apple account, so all of our devices appear on the “Find my Phone” app. The first dozen times Abby ventured out on her own, I simply could not stop tracking her.

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Is it super creepy that I do this? Maybe.

If I felt she stopped too long at an intersection, my mind would immediately flood with a series of unfortunate events. Did the car stall? Was she in an accident? Is she stuck in traffic? Was she pulled over for speeding? Has she left the vehicle in park, abandoned it and is now being chased by police on foot?

I know the last one is far-fetched… but when you are a nervous dad, anything seems possible. Fortunately for me, as the weeks have passed, my nerves have settled down a bit. Abby has now driven all over Calgary and has even ventured out of the city limits to the neighbouring towns of Chestermere and Okotoks. Yes… even Okotoks!

And, have I personally experienced a big difference in my daily Uber duties?

Absolutely! You betcha! 100% YES!

Abby has driven herself to her art camp, she has picked up Daniel from his summer camp, she has driven herself and friends to the movies, she has driven my brother to a car rental place and she has driven Daniel to a friend’s house… more than once! She has even agreed to drive me to the Subaru dealership next week, all without any complaints.

It’s only been a month, so the novelty of driving her very own car hasn’t worn off just yet. But, you just wait… she’ll eventually figure out that it’s really more of a mundane task and WAY less cool than she thinks it is. But for now, we are all enjoying this new family Uber driver who simply can’t wait to get behind the wheel.

As for my bad habit of tracking/stalking her every move while she’s out driving… no I haven’t been able to break it just yet.

I may be well on my way to losing my job as primary driver in this family, but I’m still a dad who will always worry about his little girl, no matter how grown up she’s getting.

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And for the record, I still think this car is way too nice for a kid.

 

For those of you interested in reading other blog entries in my TRILOGY of thrilling teenage driving stories, please click on the links below.

AUTOMATIC FAIL! (My Daughter’s Incredibly Bumpy Road To Her Driver’s License)

Baby, You Can Drive My Car! (Just Don’t WRECK IT)

 

AUTOMATIC FAIL! (My Daughter’s Incredibly Bumpy Road To Her Driver’s License)

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Did I take this photo from the back seat of Abby’s driver’s road test? No, I found it on the Internet… but I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during her multiple attempts to secure her license.

The last time I talked to you about my daughter Abby’s grand entrance into the world of driving, she had secured her learner’s license. You may recall how relieved I was to pass the torch on the responsibility of teaching her to drive a car to a qualified driving instructor. Fast-forward almost a year later, and our household officially has another fully licensed driver of automobiles!

But – OH MY GOD was it a struggle to get her to the top of that mountain.

It all started with her sixteenth birthday near the end of March:

“Dad! Can you book my driver’s exam? Dad! Can you book my driver’s exam? Dad! Can you book my driver’s exam? Dad! Can you book my driver’s exam?

DAD! CAN YOU BOOK MY DRIVER’S EXAM????”

As my wife can attest, I only need to be told to do something FIVE TIMES before it registers in my brain, so yes I finally went online, paid $84 and booked Abby an appointment.

ATTEMPT #1: APRIL 17, 2019. 2:30 PM

After Abby completed her 20-hour driver’s training course last summer, I would describe her as a competent, careful and fairly confident driver. So, I fully expected her to nail her first attempt to acquire her license.

When I dropped her off at the registry, I waited patiently and was more than ready to pop the champagne the second she finished… (not literally, as it is illegal to drink alcohol while operating a motor vehicle) But I digress.

Instead, I was greeted with TEARS! She failed! How did this happen?

Well, it appeared she DID nail her drivers exam… except for one little mistake. She was instructed to make a right turn at a red light, so she proceeded to the traffic signal, made a full stop and then… hesitated. For a moment, she had to ask herself: “I can make a right turn at a red light, RIGHT???” And, before she could finish her thought and decide that “yes, yes I can make a right turn at a red light” there was a sharp HONK behind her. She quickly made the right turn and continued with the exam, not knowing that that one little honk had sealed her fate.

It turns out, that slight hesitation at the red light… that single HONK, meant she was obstructing traffic, and obstructing traffic is a big no-no on a drivers road test. However, had the driver behind her NOT HONKED, Abby would have passed with flying colours and we’d all be showering in champagne. (Again, not literally)

ATTEMPT #1 RESULT: AUTOMATIC FAIL!

To make matters worse, Abby also told me that she was SO NERVOUS during the test that her hands were shaking and her knees were knocking. She was absolutely dreading the next try for her license but she was also so desperate to pass! So, I went back online, paid $84 and booked her the next available appointment.

ATTEMPT #2: MAY 1, 2019. 3:15 PM

This time, I wasn’t quite as confident. This time, there was no champagne on ice waiting to be popped! (Maybe a nice sparkling rosé) But I digress.

This time, Abby was even MORE nervous, and so was I.

Once again, I waited patiently at the registry and even tracked her movement on my Find my Phone app. I noticed she was pulling into the parking lot, so I made my way outside. Just as she was set to stop in her parking stall the car unexpectedly LURCHED FORWARD… knocking over a garbage can and clipping one of those stupid cement posts.

WHAT! What did she do? How did this happen? She was PARKING THE CAR!!!

Inexplicably, Abby’s foot slipped off the brake and right onto the GAS pedal as she inched her way into the stall. Thinking she had her foot on the brake, she managed to swiftly lunge forward, put a relatively minor dent in my front fender… and to nobody’s surprise, fail the exam. However, had she managed to get that car into PARK, she once again… would have PASSED.

ATTEMPT #2 RESULT: AUTOMATIC FAIL!

If you thought there were tears after the first fail, this time Abby was truly devastated. The exam was essentially OVER, and all she had to do to pass was click the gearshift into PARK! Instead, I went back online, paid $84 (again) and booked her the next available appointment.

Oh yeah, and I also had a fender to fix.

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No, this was NOT our car, but this did happen to a 17-year-old girl in Minnesota who was taking her driver’s exam. The building she demolished was actually the registry she had her appointment at. So, my point is… it could have been worse. Much, much worse.

ATTEMPT #3: MAY 15, 2019. 10:15 AM

OK, by now I didn’t know what to expect and had no idea what Abby’s chances were. After her parking mishap, she was now more nervous than ever… like catastrophically nervous. So, NO fancy champagne, NO sparkling rosé… only a cheap white zinfandel at room temperate was waiting for me at home in case she managed to pull this off.

If I was nervous last time, this time I was downright nauseous as I waited for her to finish the exam. When I saw her pull up to the registry and get out of the car, my heart sank. I immediately knew she had failed yet again.

What! How did this happen… again??? (well, at least my car was still in one piece)

However, I knew this attempt was somehow different than the other two. This time, there were no tears. This time, there was ANGER. Abby truly thought she had passed the exam, but a disagreement with the examiner had sealed her fate. You may recall how Abby failed her first attempt by hesitating when she should have been turning right on that red light? Well, she was determined that would not happen again. She told me that she made a complete stop and then QUICKLY made the right turn… except, technically, she didn’t.

According to the examiner, she did NOT make a complete stop. According to the examiner, it was a ROLLING STOP. Abby vehemently disagreed, but she lost that battle, and despite acing the rest of the exam, failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign or red light is a deal breaker.

ATTEMPT #3 RESULT: AUTOMATIC FAIL!

This time, I didn’t feel quite as sorry for her as the other failures. This time, I felt she should have been more careful and made 100% sure she executed a complete stop. But that’s neither here nor there. Once again, I went back online, paid another $84 and booked her the next available appointment.

ATTEMPT #4: JUNE 4, 2019. 10:15 AM

I was really hoping that Abby would start to feel LESS nervous, as she was certainly becoming an old pro at this and she knew exactly what to expect from the process.

No dice. Instead, I think she was even MORE wound up than ever before, so this latest try really didn’t bode well and I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. This time, I had practically zero expectations. So, there was no wine of any kind ready to open as a fancy celebratory drink. A time like this called for a warm, flat Bud Light.

I also had no idea that something I WOULD DO would seal Abby’s fate and lead to yet another AUTOMATIC FAIL.

I still can’t believe this happened.

Let me set the stage. Before the driver’s exam begins, the examiner will walk around the car and make sure all of the vehicle’s signal lights, brake lights, headlights and hazard lights are fully operational. It has been the same ritual EVERY TIME… except this time.

This time, he asks Abby to turn on the windshield wipers. That seems simple enough, but Abby had never actually driven in the rain before! She had no idea how to do it, and she was fumbling with the lever, making the wipers go slow, then fast, then slow again. I was watching all of this unfold this from the front window of the registry, so I came out to offer my assistance.

Abby rolled down her window, and before I could say anything, the crabby examiner interjected with a “You can’t help her! You can’t assist her in any way!” So, I didn’t. I backed off, and Abby eventually figured out how the wipers worked. They drove off, and I once again waited patiently for their arrival.  They came back to the parking lot, and I knew it immediately. Another fail.

I WASN’T THE LEAST BIT SHOCKED SHE DIDN’T PASS. I only wanted to know how it happened this time!

And what happened was… ME!

WHAT? The examiner told me that I assisted her and that led to an automatic fail! I explained to him that I didn’t even open my mouth, and I backed off right away when instructed to do so!

He told me that my finger was pointing in the direction of the lever that controlled the windshield wipers and that was enough. My FINGER? Wait a minute; my POINTED FINGER was enough for him to fail Abby before the exam even started?

Pardon my French… but that is complete and utter bullshit.

ATTEMPT #4 RESULT: AUTOMATIC FAIL!

This one left a very bad taste in my mouth because this time, I felt the examiner was completely unreasonable.

Throughout this now torturous process, Abby was getting all manner of different people administering her multiple road tests – from really nice to really mean. This guy was old, cranky, had villainous eyebrows and probably worked very hard to find a reason to fail every kid taking the drivers exam under his watch.

Or, maybe we simply got very unlucky… again.

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This is an unreasonable facsimile of what this grump looked like.

Both angry and sad, we drove home in stoic silence. I went back online, paid yet another $84 and booked her the next available appointment.

ATTEMPT #5: JUNE 10, 2019. 10:00 AM

By now, this whole endeavour was becoming almost comical… almost.

Through a series of unfortunate events… including some truly bad luck, a truly dented fender and a truly uncool driver’s examiner, we were now at our fifth kick at the can.

I wasn’t even nervous. Like, not even one bit.  By now… it simply is what it is.

The celebratory drink (if needed) would be: tap water.

Even Abby seemed resigned to a possible fate of never-ending driver’s road tests. At this point, once you’ve failed it four times, what does it matter if you’ve failed it five times? Or six? Or seven?

This was our fourth different registry in our five attempts and it was by far the farthest from our house. Maybe that would be a good luck charm? At this point, I was grasping at anything to try and stay positive.

I found myself waiting patiently… but not nervously. Once again, I pulled out my iPhone to track Abby on my Find my Phone app and went outside to meet her in the parking lot.

She was getting close… she was parking the car… she was getting out of the car… she was… she was…

SMILING!!!!

YES!!!!! A massive wave of relief washed over me and I could only imagine what she was feeling. We ran towards each other in the parking lot and I gave her the best Dad hug I could muster!

ATTEMPT #5 RESULT: NAILED IT!

You all know the old saying: “Fifth time’s the charm!”

Or, maybe Abby is just like her dear old Dad and has to be told to do something FIVE TIMES before it actually gets done? Either way, I asked her if there was anything different about this attempt, and why she thought she finally passed.

She simply said: “I was actually way less nervous because I totally thought I would fail again. There was really no pressure… so, I just drove.”

That makes perfect sense to me.

We then waited in line at the registry to get her new photo taken and to finally get her (temporary) FULL DRIVER’S LICENSE!

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And THAT is the most genuine smile I’ve seen on Abby’s face in a very long time.

Before we made our way home (to drink our celebratory tap water) we stopped at McDonalds for a quick lunch.

And, as we were leaving, it hit me…

I’m pretty sure I now have an extra $84 to spend on whatever I want.

It All Started With A Dumb T-Shirt…

When I made the decision to self-publish my masterwork of non-fiction, otherwise known as “Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated”, I desperately needed something catchy on my book cover.

I needed some serious inspiration.

I needed something recognizable. I needed a logo. I needed a brand.

I needed something that screamed STAY-AT-HOME DAD!

Oddly, my muse came in the form of a seldom worn, wrinkled, grey T-shirt that sat on the bottom of my dresser drawer for almost five years. On said T-shirt was a kind of “stick figure” changing a diaper, along with the name of the pretty terrible 2011 Ryan Reynolds/Jason Bateman comedy “The Change Up.”

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How did this dumb T-shirt become the genesis for my Dad@Home logo? Keep reading people. That’s literally the ONLY WAY you’ll find out.

The movie was about two best buds… one a ladies man, the other a family man… who somehow SWITCH bodies, just like the classic film Freaky Friday. If you’re old enough to remember the Jodie Foster version of this movie, congratulations… you’re old. If you’ve seen the Lindsay Lohan version… then I just feel sorry for you. But I digress.

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Do yourself a favour and DO NOT see this movie.

When Reynolds and Bateman change up their respective bodies, “hilarity” ensues, but the plot of this sub-par movie is neither here nor there. Actually, don’t even give it a moment’s thought. All that really matters is the dumb promotional T-shirt. Let’s stay focused people!

You know, I’m not even sure how I got the dumb T-shirt in the first place, but one day I actually wore it and the stick man changing a diaper somehow struck a chord with me.

Could I incorporate this diaper-changing image in a book cover? Maybe? But was a picture of a stick man hovering over a stick baby enough? I wasn’t sure.

Then, something hit me like a bolt of lightning!

The previous year, I received a Father’s Day card from my kids that featured an actual sewn patch stuck to the front of the card. It read: “Dad in Chief, Head of Household”, and it looked like the Presidential seal. I yanked the patch right off the card and stuffed it into a desk drawer.

I liked it. I kept it. I’m glad that I did.

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Now THIS was something I could work with.

Despite me loving this patch, the majestic bald eagle in the centre wasn’t really working for me. First of all, it is a very AMERICAN image, and I’m a proud CANADIAN dammit! Secondly, the eagle is holding a hammer and a BBQ burger flipper. Those certainly are tools of a dad, but not necessarily a stay-at-home dad!

I showed the Father’s Day card patch and the image from the dumb T-shirt to my graphic designer friend Melina, who was creating my book jacket and laying out the interior pages. She liked the idea of incorporating them and asked me to search for other images that I would like to see in the centre to replace the overly patriotic eagle.

I already had the diaper-changing dude locked down, but I needed MORE!

I needed the tools of MY trade.

I needed pictures that would strike a chord with all of the men who have dedicated their lives to primary caregiving.

I needed images that screamed STAY-AT-HOME DAD!

So, I went online and looked through hundreds, if not thousands of images for sale. It turns out, the ones I needed FOUND ME. They almost jumped off the screen and into my lap when I saw them:

SHOPPING CART! Done.

BABY CARRIAGE! Double Done.

BABY BOTTLE with SOOTHER! Done. Done and Done.

I purchased them for a tidy sum of $25, printed them up and decided to lay them out on a piece of paper. I made a very rough design of the logo I had in mind and sent it off to Melina, thinking she would tell me it was terrible.

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I was 100% sure she would say this looked kind of DUMB.

To my surprise, she didn’t think it was dumb… at all! Rather, she stayed faithful to my very rough “vision”, and made it look spectacular. An early version featured a slightly skinnier font:

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This was actually the second version of the Dad@Home logo, but who’s counting?

In the end, we settled on a fatter version of the font, and the “classic” Dad@Home logo was BORN… now known around the globe as a proud symbol for all men who are Fully Domesticated!

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And… by “known around the globe”, please note I could be exaggerating this bold claim by up to 98%.

Now, if any of you blog readers found this story of how my book cover logo was conceived even marginally entertaining, then you might want to try reading my actual BOOK! Trust me, it’s more entertaining than this blog…    marginally.

You can purchase Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated by clicking HERE!

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And remember… this logo evolution all started with a dumb, seldom worn, wrinkled, grey T-shirt that sat on the bottom of my dresser drawer for almost five years.

 

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Are Stay-at-Home Dads HAPPIER Than Stay-at-Home Moms?

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According to these two very random images I found on the internet, I believe the answer is a resounding YES.

A couple of months ago, my sister-in-law forwarded me an interesting article from the Washington Post:

“Dads are happier than moms. Science wants to know why, and so do I.”

The piece was written by a mother who works from home, is the primary caregiver and also takes care of running the household.

The article cited a study recently published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin  that determined fathers experience more well-being from parenting than mothers do. It suggested that playtime could be a very important contributing factor, and that dads reported playing more with their kids than moms did.

“Moms and dads both reported being happier when they were talking or interacting with their child (vs. other interactions or activities), but the effect was greater for fathers. The dad happiness advantage was most dramatic for childcare. Fathers reported greater happiness during child care than for anything else they did that day, whereas mothers reported lower happiness during child care than for other activities during the day.”

So, are dads just “naturally” happier and more playful than moms?

There has to be more to it than that, so the writer of the article pressed the author of the scientific study for an explanation and she offered up the following theory:

“…mothers are more responsible for child care in general, and they also have more emotional and invisible labour such as keeping the household running, managing schedules, worrying about their children’s emotions. All of these things are possibilities that could explain why mothers are less happy.”

Now that actually makes a lot of sense to me, as I don’t think anyone is surprised to hear that when it comes to parenting, moms do a lot of the heavy lifting. And who has the energy to remain happy and playful after carrying such a heavy load on a daily basis?That being said, the similar nature of being a stay-at-home dad means much of that emotional and invisible labour mentioned in the study should fall on the father.

I was a bit surprised the article makes no mention if the gender of the at-home parent plays a role in their “happiness quotient”. The stats that I researched for my book are a few years old, but I’m pretty sure the amount of households with stay-at-home dads in the US is now well over 5%, which would put their current numbers in the millions.

So, it’s not some insignificant issue that is easy to gloss over.

This rather glaring omission from the article was also raised in the comments section, where a reader pointed out: “it is curious that the research did not point out the differences between stay-at-home dads and going-off-to work dads levels of happiness.”

Is it possible that dads who work out of the home can come busting through the door at the end of a long day at the office and immediately get the good times rolling with their kids? I think that’s very possible. I also think it could be akin to the “grandparent effect”, where it it’s far more fun to be a grandparent than a parent… mainly because they enjoy the kids, then the kids go away.

Now, I’m not saying it’s exactly the same situation with working dads and grandparents, but the fact that most moms handle far more labor and child care certainly skews things in that direction in most households.

So, where does that leave me?

I certainly qualify as a dad, just not the typical model. I’ve never been that dad who waltzes in the front door at the end of the workday and can immediately turn on the playtime with my kids.

Rather, I have far more in common with my female stay-at-home counterparts…  or do I?

Do I REALLY have that much in common with them on this particular issue? I thought that I did! I assumed that I did…  until I had a lengthy back-and-forth email chain with my sister-in-law (the one who forwarded me the article in the first place.)

One of the central themes of my book “Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated” (still very much available for purchase if you are wondering) is that stay-at-home dads have it easier than stay-at-home moms… and this whole question of “who is happier” is very relevant to my personal experience.

One of the biggest complaints that stay-at-home moms have is that their husbands do not appreciate or understand the emotional labour they undertake on a daily basis. A very good deep dive into the nature of emotional labour can be found by clicking here , but here’s a brief descriptor from the report:

“I often talk about emotional labour as being the work of caring. And it’s not just being caring, it’s that thing where someone says “I’ll clean if you just tell me what to clean!” because they don’t want to do the mental work of figuring it out. Caring about all the moving parts required to feed the occupants at dinnertime, caring about social management. Caring about noticing that something has changed – like, it’s not there anymore, or it’s on fire, or it’s broken. It’s a substantial amount of overhead, having to care about everything. It ought to be a shared burden, but half the planet is socialized to trick other people into doing more of the work.”

The bottom line is, wives don’t want to be a mother to their husbands.

They want a partner who can apply their intelligence to help manage the logistics of running a family household. The classic hubby refrain: “If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it” just isn’t good enough. Wives want their husbands to figure out for themselves what needs to get done, and devise their OWN plan to get ‘er done!

Here’s another very interesting article she forwarded me that tackles the issue head-on and explains the value of emotional labour way better than I could. It really made me reevaluate about how I have handled my job as the primary caregiver and household manager… especially in those early years on the job.

I feel this entire discussion has been a reeducation on a topic that I assumed I knew a lot about. Hey, I’ve been living the life of a stay-at-home dad for over 15 years! I should be an expert on everything related to this job!

I will now admit I did NOT do a bang up job in ALL areas of domestic life in my first few years at home.

I simply convinced myself that all I REALLY had to do was change diapers, keep the kids from falling down the stairs and make sure I made dinner.  I completely ignored many of the emotional labour duties, as my wife Lianne seemed to be doing that stuff and I figured I was doing more than enough to earn my keep.

I now know that I was sorely lacking at running a truly efficient household, and admit I wasn’t doing all of the stuff a woman in my position would normally do. Was I doing MOST of it? No. HALF of the stuff? Probably? Maybe? I don’t know.

However, I feel that I’ve grown into the job over the years. I’ve become more efficient, more effective and more in tune to what needs to be done. But that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally fall into a lazy lapse and then have to be REMINDED or TOLD to do something.

Yes, I know that sounds crazy.

That should not even be an issue, as realistically, I should be the one deciding and reminding everyone about what needs to be done around the house! Remember, I’m supposed to handling all of that stuff!

I can’t see many working husbands even noticing the little things not getting done, or reminding their at-home wives they’ve been slacking off on the home front. They probably wouldn’t be aware or educated in how IT all works… and the “IT” I’m talking about is the emotional labour, the stuff that weighs down the stay-at-home parent… the stuff that reportedly makes one parent LESS HAPPIER than the other one.

I’m lucky. Lianne knows how IT all works, even if she no longer has to physically deal with or plan out a majority of it. I never have to worry that she needs to be reminded of upcoming family events, basketball games or piano recitals. From time to time, she will pitch in and help around the house (if needed) without having to be asked to pitch in and help around the house.

And there it is. That’s the biggest difference between being a working wife of a stay-at-home dad as opposed to the more “traditional” set-up.

Working wives get IT.  Working husbands don’t get IT.

There certainly are exceptions to this general rule, but my guess is they are few and far between. I firmly believe that you have to literally live the life to appreciate IT… and in my case, live IT for several years before IT really sinks in. To my credit, over the years I’ve become considerably less hapless, more hyper-aware of my surroundings, more cognizant of what needs to be done, and more proactive.

But yes, I do have the advantage of having a WIFE, and not a husband to help me along the way.

Lianne would need a more “wifely” partner to make things truly run like clockwork around here, but I’d like to think I’ve gotten much better at it as the years have ticked by… all fifteen of them. Am I the perfect homemaker? No sir, I’m far, far from it. But, on the question of “are stay-at-home dads happier than stay-at-home moms?”, I think the answer is obvious.

Of course we are. We have wives.

 

 

Dad@Work? Maybe… In The Not-So-Distant Future!

When I read through the blog topic suggestions my readers so graciously provided me a couple of months ago, there was a common thread found in most of them… what my future holds AFTER my time ends as a full time stay-at-home dad. More specifically, many of you asked:

What the heck was I going to do with my life when my teenagers grow up, spread their wings and fly the coup?

To be honest, I really hadn’t given it much thought before I read your suggestions. You see, right now I’m still very much the Uber driver for our family’s ample extracurricular activities. On top of the daily school drop-off and pick-ups, there’s high school basketball, hockey, piano practices and school musical rehearsals. And, in a few weeks, high school basketball and hockey will be replaced with club basketball and volleyball.

There’s still a very real need for yours truly to hold down the domestic fort, drive the kids around and keep this household running. BUT… there are big changes coming on the horizon.

My daughter will be sixteen this spring. (Wow, that sounds so very weird to say out loud!)  Abby desperately wants to secure her driver’s license, buy a beater she can drive around and flaunt her newfound independence.

With one more driver in the house, the need for my personal Uber service will diminish by at least 50%. And, with another kid about to take his learners license test, it won’t be long before BOTH of them are driving themselves to basketball, hockey and rehearsals.

I always knew this time of transition was coming but it never seemed real. It never seemed like something I had to think about right away… or plan for. While I still have a few years before both of my kids are out of high school, I have been weighing my various post-child rearing options and the pros and cons associated with them.

OPTION #1: DO NOTHING!

That’s right, you heard me. Do nothing. And, just to clarify, I don’t mean do absolutely nothing… I mean keep running the household, but without the added responsibility of kids in the home. I’ve seen plenty of stay-at-home moms who have put in their time, nurtured their kids into adulthood, and then reaped the rewards of an empty nest.

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This could be me in the not-so-distant future, relaxing and taking care of two furry creatures that will still need me to feed them after all of the human kids have moved out.

At-home moms with more time on their hands may take up a new hobby, ramp up their volunteer activities, or simply enjoy their time with fewer humans to take care of. Why can’t I do the same? To be clear, the thought of me taking full advantage of this tantalizing option has definitely crossed my mind… a lot! But, to be honest with you, I feel there is a double standard when it comes to the stay-at-home dad who suddenly finds himself an empty nester.

Over the years, I can’t count how many times people have asked me when I was going BACK TO WORK. What’s even weirder is that a vast majority of the times I was asked were during my first few years at home! It was like people were still having trouble wrapping their heads around the concept of a MAN deliberately saying bye-bye to a steady paycheque to raise kids full time.

While I’m quite sure plenty of stay-at-home moms re-enter the workforce after staying home with kids, the societal pressure to do so has to be way less than a stay-at-home dad experiences. Remember, there is still a sizeable segment of the population that believes women should stay out of the workforce and stay barefoot and pregnant.

A recent poll released by Fortune magazine found nearly 30% of men would prefer that women stay home, this according to research by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Gallup. The poll found that roughly two-thirds of men and women worldwide believe women should work outside the home, while 29% of men and 27% of women disagreed. To obtain these results, researchers surveyed 149,000 different people across 142 countries.

I feel it’s safe to say that society expects me to go back to a paying job. For the record, I feel I’ve had a real job for the past fifteen years… just not one that I can file a real income tax return with. So, while OPTION #1 is out there and ripe for the picking, I think taking advantage of it would likely lead to me feeling judged by a world that didn’t really feel 100% comfortable with my choice to become a stay-at-home dad in the first place.

OPTION #2: WORK PART-TIME FROM HOME!

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I was totally thinking this was a total scam until I kept reading and saw that it was NOT a total scam. Sorry, my bad. I should totally look into how I too can make MILLIONS online! Could this really be ME in the not-so-distant future, making MILLIONS? Totally.

On paper, this looks like a great option. The only problem is… what could I possibly do from home that would actually pay me enough money to make my efforts worthwhile? Some people have said: just concentrate on your writing!

Sorry “some people”, but I have a news flash for you:

Writing stuff simply don’t pay! (Unless you are J.K. Rowling, then it pays real, real good.)

Honestly, a quick Google search of work from home jobs reveals a whole whack of get-rich quick schemes. Sorry, I’m dumb but not that dumb. I need a LEGIT job people!

OPTION #3: GO BACK TO SCHOOL!

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Rodney Dangerfield made it look like so much fun! But in reality, I’m neither ready nor willing to party with 19-year-olds or jump off of multiple diving boards to win the big college diving competition. So, it’s safe to say this is NOT me in the not-so-distant future.

Um, no. It just doesn’t make any sense.

My wife makes a good living, but if I can supplement it for five to ten years with a decent-paying job, maybe I can shave a few years off of her much-hated, working-like-a-dog-life… and get us BOTH to retirement that much quicker.

The biggest reason I would want to dive back into the traditional workforce would be to MAKE SOME COIN!

So, me going back to school would defeat the purpose and actually COST us both money and valuable time in my quest to deposit some serious cash-money into the retirement kitty.

OPTION #4: FIND A GOOD JOB OUTSIDE THE HOME THAT PAYS A DECENT SALARY

This could be easier said than done.

As some of you may know, I received university degrees in English and Journalism. I spent a little over five years as a reporter/news writer/producer before switching to a career in advertising and marketing. I must say, I really enjoyed my time in broadcast journalism and would love to reignite that passion.

I must also say that journalism in general is a dying industry that is hemorrhaging jobs each and every year. In Canada alone, the Canadian Media Guild reported over 10,000 journalism jobs lost in a span of five years. That number is tripled in the United States.

So, by the time I’m ready to hit the job market in a few years that profession will very likely be on life support and my chances of landing meaningful employment in it would be slim to none.

That leaves the advertising/marketing biz, and while that particular job market looks somewhat brighter than journalism, I’m still not sure who is going to take a chance on a guy who has been out of the traditional workforce for the better part of two decades.

Yes, it will be close to TWENTY YEARS at home by the time I’m ready to try working for a paycheque again! Wow, that also sounds so very weird to say out loud!

But wait, it gets better! According to a very interesting article published in the New York Daily News, stay-at-home dads can really get the shaft when trying to re-enter the workforce.

“Men, long thought of as the privileged gender when it comes to the workplace, are not so privileged when it comes to re-entering the workforce after staying at home to raise kids. In fact, they face a greater stigma than women.”

The article suggests that men are stereotypically thought of as assertive, competitive, dominant and tough, and those are not characteristics typically associated with someone fulfilling the role of Mr. Mom. Go figure.

“When a man accepts second priority to their spouse with regards to their career, their peers make the assumption that he is not a leader,” suggests Dr. Robert Chell, Professor Emeritus in Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University.”

“Professionals see it as a sign of resignation that he is willing to give up the race in rising to an authoritative position in his industry. He is not ambitious or capable of handling the challenge and lacks the drive and passion men are thought to have.”

Dr. Caitlin Killian, a sociology professor who specializes in family and gender issues at Drew University, agrees.

“Men are even more concerned than women about missing out on promotions or being the first ones fired during a company downsizing if they are perceived as more family-oriented and less committed to work than their peers.”

So, there you have it.

I may face an extremely uphill battle when I do decide to dive back into a 9 to 5 life.

But know this: I am determined to find a job… even if I end up being one of those cute, shrivelled up, elderly men you see behind the counter at McDonalds.

You know those guys. They’re the ones you see and immediately say: “aw, isn’t that sweet!”

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Don’t judge. This could actually be me… in the not-so-distant future.

I Asked For Suggestions, You Suggested Stuff…

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This is a reasonable facsimile of me, seriously contemplating the suggestions… you suggested.

Back in November, I was staring at my computer screen, experiencing something I haven’t really had to endure in the nearly three years of writing this blog.

I had no idea what I was going to write about.

I had writer’s block! (Or, was I simply feeling lazy?) I really don’t know. In any event, it led me to ask my loyal readers if they had any bright ideas… you know, any suggestions about what I should tackle next on Dad@Home.

In big bold letters I put it out there:

“Dear readers: I need your help. If there is something you would like me to write about, just let me know. Please leave a comment at the end of this blog post, or click on the “contact me” link in the menu at the top of the page and you can provide your input there.”

I asked for help, and you did not disappoint.

Here’s a sampling of the suggestions I have received to date:

 

“Get quiet within yourself like real quiet, no inner talking. Some of us call this meditating. Do it for 15 minutes every morning – yes only 15 minutes. Ideas will come because they are all within you. Have you ever written about what you absolutely love about what you are doing? Have you ever written what your dreams are, what you want to do when your children turn 16?”   A.S.

 

“Write about YOU… not Greg the stay at home Dad but maybe something about you, a deep desire, a bucket list dream, something that happened perhaps a long time ago that made you who you are today… maybe peel a couple of layers off the onion (that you love so much) and let readers know something about yourself that wasn’t mentioned in the book or the blog. Maybe a collection of memories of when you were a kid, what about those amazing comic books and super heroes you used to create? Start the memory bank rolling, it will come to you.”  A.C.

 

“My advice: use a hashtag to search like-minded interests, read those blogs, and keep a list of ideas that will inevitably pop into your head.  #dadlife  #SAHM (they may have dad followers), parenting, etc. Also, note the tags people use on blog posts you like. Good luck!”  C.

 

“Write a piece on what to recommend when your kids ask for career advice. I really struggle with this one. Engineering? Probably not these days. Medicine? Really difficult for most. Business? But what specialty? You must be in the midst of that as your kids get close to university. We are there now. Cheers.   T.V.”

 

So, what will I write about?

Did any of these suggestions make a big impression? The answer is yes. They all gave me a lot to think about.

Stay tuned to find out what happens in my next blog entry…

COMING SOON.

Oh, and one more thing. If any of you suspect that me PROMOTING an unwritten blog post instead of actually getting to work and WRITING it is another incredible example of writer’s block, it isn’t.

It’s simply another example of me being incredibly lazy. So, like I said, stay tuned.