After Ten Great Years… It’s Hard To Say Goodbye

Outside of my marriage, this has been the longest relationship I’ve ever had.

She’s been reliable, steady as a she goes, and has never let me down. Sure, maybe she “drinks” a little too much, but that’s because she’s a six cylinder kind of gal. She’s been my constant, my rock, my touchstone, and my faithful companion for a good chunk of my time as a stay-at-home dad. I see her every day. EVERY DAMN DAY. What can I say… I am really going to miss her.

“She” is my 2010 Subaru Tribeca.

How did we get here? Allow me to explain. It was spring 2010 and our silver 2004 Forester simply wasn’t cutting it anymore. The kids were growing. I was growing. The car simply seemed – cramped. One day, while getting service for the Forester, I casually asked  about the Tribeca, Subaru’s new entry into the seven passenger SUV market. The guy behind the counter told me:

“You know, we’re selling our Tribeca demo right now.”

WHAT! They were selling the car they let people test drive? Unreal! I had to have her. I just HAD to have her. We came back to the dealership on the weekend. After a quick test drive and and even quicker trade in, that gorgeous graphite grey gas guzzler was mine… ALL MINE.

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She already had 8,000 clicks on the odometer… but she was beautiful. My God, she was beautiful.

The kids loved her right off the bat, all because of one special feature: the DVD entertainment system, complete with headphones. On any ride over four minutes long, they begged me to play them a movie. At the time, Daniel and Abby were aged five and seven, and anything I could use to keep them quiet and calm during traffic was an absolute godsend.

This was my golden age of car travel.

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Looking at this photo, two things really stick out. A) Ten years ago, I still had hair! B) Based on my horrified face, I seem to have made a gruesome discovery in the back seat of my new car.

As a stay-at-home dad, I volunteered A LOT to drive my kids and their classmates on school field trips. With third row seating that could seat seven, my Tribeca was a very practical choice to cart these little monsters all over Calgary. And trust me, when things got crazy in the car, that entertainment system saved the day more than once.

When you drive as much as I do, it’s important to have a car that you like. It’s also important the kids you constantly drive around also like your car, and for those first few years, they most certainly did. But, as kids get older, interests change. The DVD entertainment system no longer seemed magical, and the numerous complaints began in earnest.

“Why does this car not have heated rear seats? Mom’s car does! Why is this dumb car so bumpy? Mom’s car is smooth! Why doesn’t the heat blow in the back? It only blows cold! Mom’s car blows hot air in the back!”

Yes, my kids finally realized… like anyone with a brain, that Lianne’s car (an Audi Q5) was a much, much, much, much, much nicer car than my Subaru Tribeca. Now, it seemed everyone had turned their backs on my precious Tribeca… everyone but ME.

I still loved her. I still washed her. I still faithfully serviced her every six months or 8,000 km. She was still my baby, despite her many faults.

And yes, I had to agree with the kids on some of her shortcomings. Yes, the ventilation system in the back only blows the air conditioning through the vents, and not the heat. That really blows! On icy-cold days, I could turn on the seat warmers in the front, while the kids (literally) froze their butts off in the back. Yes, that WOULD be annoying. And yes, after driving Lianne’s Audi from time to time, I certainly noticed a big difference. The silky-smooth, German-engineered ride was a treat compared to the constant light jostling I got when I drove my car.

And don’t get me started on GAS MILAGE! Our previous cars, a VW Jetta and Subaru Forester were both great on gas. The Tribeca was a bigger car with a bigger engine but with the same size of gas tank. It seemed like I was ALWAYS fuelling up. ALWAYS!

Another annoying thing about my car was the length. It was significantly longer than my previous vehicles, and for that reason, I could never quite replicate my savant-like ability to parallel park. Yes, I’m proud to say, that back in the day, I could parallel park with the BEST of them. THE BEST OF THEM I TELL YOU!

I remember Lianne would say: “There’s no WAY you’ll fit in that spot!” I’d just look over at her with a wry smile and say: “Just watch me.”

Could I do that with the Tribeca? Nope. No dice. I just didn’t have the “gift” anymore.

Now, you might be thinking that with all of these shortcomings, I’d be chomping at the bit to unload this 10-year-old hunk of junk… but I’m not. I’m really not. This car has safely transported our family on countless road trips over the years. From numerous adventures to the Rocky Mountains, Saskatchewan, Edmonton, Vancouver Island and back… the list goes on.

Unlike Lianne’s car (which she basically drives to work and back home) my car was the true FAMILY car. If the four of us had to go somewhere, it was in my Tribeca.

There are so many reasons why it’s so hard to let her go.

1) My kids grew up in this car!

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Ah, those were the days… when the kids were still so very happy in my Tribeca.

My kids spent a lot of time in this car from 2010 to 2020. They ate countless drive-through meals on the way to and from gymnastics, soccer, piano, basketball, hockey, volleyball, rugby and many other activities. I think the back seat still smells like old french fries!

At times, my car was their dining room, bedroom and living room.

Thank God it was never their bathroom! But, full disclosure… my kids have definitely puked in it… more than once.

2) My daughter learned to drive in this car!

Abby also scraped the side of it when she cut it too close while parking in the garage, but that just added to the legend… the lustre… the loveable character of my Tribeca.

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Looking at this photo still sends shivers down my spine when I think about Abby driving my precious for the first time.

3) I could haul LOTS of stuff in this car! And I mean LOTS.

This car has made multiple trips to the DUMP, and never let me down. Sure, there have been plenty of times when I couldn’t see anything out of my rear window… but that’s just how I roll.

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No, it’s not the bed of a pick-up truck, but after dropping the seats down, I can pack a boatload of stuff in this car… which I did when my parents moved houses last spring.

4) My body has flattened and shaped the driver seat to the exact contours and specifications of my ass!

Never underestimate the importance of a comfortable seat… especially if you’ve spent thousands of hours in it.

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Over the course of ten years, my big bum has cracked the once fine pleather upholstery. But those cracks are a forever reminder of my love…

So if this car is so damn awesome, WHY AM I GETTING RID OF IT???

Sigh. I hate to be ageist but my beautiful Tribeca isn’t exactly a spring chicken.

She just hit 180,000 km on the odometer. I know that’s not a crazy amount of clicks, but that’s not the only thing to consider. In the next six months, she probably needs new brakes, new tires, a new timing belt… the list goes on. And guess what? A quick Google search shows 2010 Tribecas are being sold for $5,000 to $10,000. She’s just not worth all that much anymore!

I really don’t know what I could get for her… as she’s not in pristine condition, but I do know I have several thousand dollars of maintenance coming up soon. Very soon.

And, please don’t tell her… but I have my eye on a much younger model.

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The Subaru Crosstrek looks like they simply shrunk down my Tribeca… and I’m very OK with that.

I’m not carting around a whole whack of kids on field trips anymore. I don’t want to fill up my tank twice a week. I don’t need all of that extra cargo space. Abby is now driving her own car. Next year, I’ll have two kids in high school… and after that, we could be empty nesters before you know it. My Tribeca may feel like a part of the family, but she is simply too much car for the next phase of my life!

It pains me to say it, but it’s time to say goodbye.

People always say you never forget your first car.

For me, that’s simply not the case. I never really liked my first car: a 1988 Ford Mustang. It had weird pink and purple accent striping, it was only a 4-banger, and it was kind of a lemon.

I’d actually like to forget it.

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When I got the Mustang in the fall of 1991, I thought this car would make me cool. I thought this car would be the one I would always love. I was wrong on both fronts.

Driving an unremarkable family SUV for ten years did not make me cool, but it faithfully served as my sidekick as I performed my daily duties as a dad. I jokingly tell people that being a stay-at-home father is like being an Uber driver. But all kidding aside, with the amount of time I’ve spent driving my kids all over town, it actually rings quite true.

As I say goodbye to her, I know in my heart there’s no other car I would have wanted along for the ride on this crazy journey called parenthood.

My 2010 Subaru Tribeca is the car I will never forget.

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“She” is the only car I will always love.

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Merry Christmas From The Tysowskis! 2019: The Year In Review

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Gotta make sure SNOOP is represented in the family Christmas card.

Well, here we are again. I know we are fast approaching the end of another calendar year when I sit down to write the annual Tysowski Christmas letter. This is the 14th anniversary edition, which means absolutely nothing to anyone.

2019 started off with a much needed winter getaway in mid-January for Greg and Lianne. We hooked up with friends Jennifer and Sean for a weekend trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, where we took in a hot car show, a cool hockey game and also played some golf. Oh, and we also drank booze. February started off with BIG NEWS with the birth of our newest niece, little Everly Grace Tysowski! Gaeil and David have combined to create a real cutie-patootie! (FYI, she gets 99.9% of that cutie-patootieness from her mother.)

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I don’t want to be rude to Abby and Daniel, but cutie-patootie Everly makes both of them look downright ordinary. Sure, they’re still cute but… come on! Just look at this baby!

Spring arrived, and with it a couple of March birthdays. Daniel’s slow transformation into a fine young man continues, as he turned 14. As for Abby, she turned SWEET 16 and has already become a lovely, young (edgy) woman. In late March, I made a quick trip to the left coast to visit Patrick and Mia, and hit the slopes at Whistler for some excellent spring skiing.

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Simply gorgeous… and the scenery ain’t so bad either!

The rest of spring 2019 was filled with Abby’s club basketball and rugby seasons, Daniel’s rec volleyball and another school play, where he played a flying monkey (among other parts) in the Wizard of OZ.

In late May, Lianne and Daniel went on a special mother/son trip to sunny Los Angeles, where the highlight was attending RuPaul’s DragCon!

On the same weekend, Abby and I flew to the equally glamorous metropolis of Kamloops, BC for a basketball tournament. We stayed at the Travelodge. I’m not sure which duo came out on top?

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SO FIERCE!!!

With the arrival of summer came a couple of major milestones. In July, my parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with a lovely family dinner and a fancy hotel sleepover in downtown Calgary. The next landmark achievement featured Abby, who joined the ranks of licensed drivers, and could not have been more pleased to gain her “freedom”. Little did she know that I was just as excited to be free from driving her around all the damn time.

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Do yourself a favour. Stay off the sidewalks.

Next up, another epic family vacation, where we reunited with Mark, Dona and family and also added our niece Erika to the mix. This time, we journeyed to sunny, beautiful and HOT Punta de Mita, Mexico in early August!

Yes, it was scorching, but on the upside, we rented a huge beach house with a pool for super cheap… and the price wasn’t even the best part. The place came complete with STAFF: a cook to prepare your meals, maids to clean up, and a driver (who also doubled as a bartender/BBQ griller.)

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Did Daniel suffer an epic sunburn on his back just two days into our trip? All signs point to yes.

All we had to do was stock the beer fridge, which would suspiciously be missing several cans every morning. I guess that’s what happens when you vacation with five teenagers.

To say this vacation was LAZY would be a massive understatement.

Usually, the dynamic duo of Dona and Lianne would plan a holiday itinerary that bordered on exhausting. On this particular vacation, I STILL felt exhausted all of the time, but for no good reason. Was it because I was sleeping until noon and then crushing multiple Coronas poolside all afternoon in the extreme heat? It’s a mystery that may never get solved.

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Sunset at Punta de Mita, Mexico. That’s-a-nice.

Just days after coming home from Mexico, Lianne and Abby had their own special mother/daughter adventure. This was a belated SWEET 16th birthday trip, where they joined Dona and fellow SWEET 16-year-old Evan for six days in the Big Apple.

They all had a super-fun and action-packed time sightseeing in New York City, while Daniel and I watched five horror movies in five nights on Netflix back home in Calgary. I wonder which duo came out on top? I also wonder when it will be MY turn to go on a fancy trip with one of my kids? Whenever I ask Abby and Daniel about it, they either quickly change the subject or abruptly leave the room.

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A couple of raven-haired beauties in NYC.

August also was marked with some extremely sad news as Lianne’s father, Ralph Ecker, passed away suddenly at the age of 79. He had been living in a nursing home and was suffering from dementia but it still came as quite a shock. The entire family certainly appreciated the love, support and prayers we received.

With the arrival of fall, we all turned our attention to the beginning of a brand new school year. Abby was eager to get back to Bishop Carroll High to continue her self-directed learning. Meanwhile, Daniel was beyond excited to start grade nine at Willow Park School for some Arts-Centred learning. He really needed a change.

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Abby tried community basketball for the first time this fall and had a blast. Who knew she could JUMP?

Another round of piano, volleyball, basketball and hockey made sure our kids are well rounded, and also totally exhausted by the weekend. OK I’m making the call. This will be the final time this tired, recycled line will be included in this letter, even though it is still considered a Tysowski Christmas letter “classic”.

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I bet you have no idea who this handsome couple is…

In November, Lianne’s law firm had a retreat in super-fun New Orleans, and it did not disappoint. Great parties, cool music and awesome food made sure we had a super-fun time. Speaking of SUPER, we checked out the Superdome to catch our first ever NFL game! It was so very, very loud, which made life difficult for yours truly, who was so very, very hungover. Oh, did I mention that we also drank booze on this trip?

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My eyes tell the tale of how I was feeling at that exact moment.

For those very, very few of you looking for an update on my beer league hockey team, here it is: as I write this, we are stuck in a huge rut… yes, we are experiencing an epic losing streak so severe my brother Mark and I could soon be fired as co-General Managers of the team! Pray for us. Pray for our survival. (UPDATE: we recently snapped a losing skid that started back in OCTOBER! Mark and I will live to see another day.)

And that brings us full-circle to December where we already have the mid-winter blues and are desperately waiting for Christmas holidays to save us all. Unfortunately for us, there will be no winter escape this year but we are already looking forward to another summer adventure… we just don’t know where it will be. I guess you will all have to read my blog at dadathome1970.wordpress.com to find where we go this year.

And while you’re visiting my blog, you might as well buy my book on paperback, kindle or audiobook. OK, I apologize for the shameless plug, but it’s still the only book I’ve ever written! All right people, that’s enough yammering from me. We hope you had a wonderful 2019 and look forward to hearing from you in 2020. All the best this holiday season!

Love, Greg, Lianne, Abby, Daniel, Domino & Sasha (the G.L.A.D.D.S. family)

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That’s Domino to the left and Sasha on the right. Did Domino attack Sasha shortly after this photo was taken? All signs point to yes.

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.