Monday, December 22, 2014

Chemo Talk

And there you have it, the new normal of chemo. The first day after the first treatment, I was awake for about an hour throughout the day. It's not my favorite way of spending a day, and it has nothing to do with "quality of life," which is at least half the focus of my treatment, but as long as things get smaller, I'll keep getting chemo, and I'll get to say, "I fight!" although sleeping all day doesn't necessarily feel like fighting.

I've started writing birthday letters to the kids. Just a few paragraphs that would hopefully remind them of me and of my eternal, unconditional love. Remind them I'm there even if I'm not physically there. I want them to know they can turn to me at any age--not for advice, but for comfort. Not to help them create their paths, but to remind them their paths are up to them, and that I'll be proud no matter what.

I've written a few already. Today was a longer than usual letter to a 10-year-old boy. Between Facebook and the blog, I know he'll be able to construct a picture of me, even if he doesn't quite remember what I had meant to him. The girl, well, in a day or two I'll sit down to write her 8th birthday letter. She won't remember me by then--only the way we remember long-gone relatives. Remnants of unexplained emotions and random, barely remembered anecdotes. But really, what else can I ask for? Do I need her to know the real me? Do I know the real me?

Here's me, or at least one side of me: I grew up in Israel. There were wars, and my dad went to the wars. My sister and I took his army shoes off when he came back home. I remember their smell. When I was 16, I became a political lefty. I couldn't stand the moral degradation my people so easily succumbed to for empty promises of security by charlatans who knew better. I became an Atheist, mostly because the alternative stopped making sense. Religious people can say my views make no sense. That's OK, they can say that. I served in Golani, although it's unclear whom exactly I served. That's where I lost my faith in authority and in my country. That's where I realized no one cared, and that we were all operating out of self-interest, and the hell with the rest.

Then I left for London, where I met my wife, and after an hour of chatting with her, my world-view changed again. Here she was, the selfless one who cared. And if it were possible for her to give so much of herself to others (in fact, it came so naturally to her), then the world must have been filled with so many people who wanted to help others. She made the world a better place for me, and if you find a person that does that, you don't let go.

We moved to the US. We had two amazing Pit Bulls. Seven years later, we started making babies. The transition from Man to Dad has been the most profound experience of my life. By the way, I think life is amazing.

After a couple of good weeks, I'm back to sleeping all day. Still, this second round of chemo has been much better than the first, and at least now I kind of know what to expect. A sleep that comes and goes, an appetite that comes and goes, and strength--physical and mental--that comes and goes. And I'll take this new normal as far as it gets me, hoping for years, but knowing it's not up to me.

A couple of days ago, we asked the doctor what she thought about me going to my kids' schools. It's been very difficult for me to be so ignorant of their lives outside the house. The doctor said, "Go, but wear a mask." And I said no, I'll go without a mask, because sure, my kids don't need me with pneumonia in the hospital again, but they also don't need me wearing a mask in front of their friends. Let them determine for themselves how they want to deal with a sick dad--they don't need me and some stupid pink mask to set the tone for the rest of their school lives, their friends raising endless questions they may not be comfortable even thinking about.

So I went today to a Terrific Kids award ceremony at the school. I got to see my brave son read a short speech, and finally today, in December, I got to see his teacher. Next stop: my daughter's Hanukkah show in two weeks at the JCC preschool. I see the jokes and the memes on Facebook. I know these shows are a pain for some of you, but they're my reason for living.

Spent a day at the hospital again. I had trouble breathing, so I was told to come over for some IV fluids and tests. I'm sitting there in the chemo room and I look at the other people. Some of them may have had an easy life, and others may have had to struggle uphill their whole lives, but no matter what--nothing prepares you for this. I mean, mentally, sure, I was ready. I was ready to fight and I was ready to accept the possibility of defeat with dignity. Physically, though, nothing prepares you.

Nothing prepares you for the weight loss, for the hair loss, for the loss of appetite... Nothing prepares you for the identity crisis you feel when you look in the mirror. Nothing prepares you for the loss of self. You say you'll fight, you'll be a cancer warrior, but nothing prepares you for the inability to fight.

And now I'm at the good week of chemo again. I'm awake all day, I go downstairs to eat, and I've even gained some weight. It's easy to be optimistic on the good week--easy to accept this as the new normal. Easy to call myself a fighter. It's even easier to look in the mirror. Easier to think about the near future.

See, we have plans: London in the spring for a family wedding. We plan to go to The Dublin Castle pub, where we met, and take pictures with the kids. It was here, Kids, that your mother transformed a cynical misanthrope who hated everything and everyone in the name of misguided Individualism into a man who believed in humanity again. It was here, at this table, that your parents met and started to talk. This table, Kids, is where your own story begins.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


I prefer it when things go according to plan, to be honest.

Although I had written two blog posts about embracing mortality, there was always a plan: The Tarceva--the chemo pill I've been taking since June--would work for, let's say, 5 years, before my misguided body starts fighting back. By then, there would be another treatment--maybe a clinical trial or an experimental surgery, and then, the promised land: NED. No Evidence of Disease. Followed by a big party with a big cake, big balloons, and big plans for the future.

After only a few months, though, it looks like the pill doesn't work anymore. A scan showed growth in the liver. So now what? The alternative to Tarceva is either another pill, which may or may not work for a limited time, or chemotherapy, which is limited in what it does.

And the irony is that I don't feel too bad. Walking--even standing--as much as I do now, would have been unimaginable only a couple of months ago. And now: Things are great! I'm breathing better, and I have more energy, and I go downtown with the kids, and I drive them around, and for a second, it looks like this is something I can beat, and then the doctor tells me the freakin' pill doesn't work.

Since I feel relatively well now, I tend to forget I'm on a one way road here. Sure, I'm allowed to deviate here and there, go up on this or that mountain to allow myself to be the man I was 5 months ago. I'm allowed to be active on the mountain. I'm allowed to stop obsessing about my health and about my future. I'm allowed to be a good dad and an average husband again. I'm allowed to taste life beyond cancer.

But the gift of life beyond cancer--one I wish I hadn't taken for granted all these years--is temporary. At some point, cancer wakes you up and calls you down. Time to get back on the road.

But first, here are some pictures of life on the mountain, inevitably followed by the shock of coming down:

Had an amazing, memorable, rejuvenating trip. Three days in New York, five days in the Berkshires, then 6 hours to drive back home. In the evening, I start to sweat. I have nausea. High pulse. Runny nose. All happening at the same instant. And then...

Then suddenly that smell again. Oh no, not that smell again. Imagine opening the door of an antique, wooden armoire. Imagine moth balls. Imagine getting into the armoire and closing the door behind you. That's the smell. That's what I get as soon as I start feeling sick, like I'm inside a mothball-filled armoire.

This time I'm in my own bedroom, and I'm thinking I should open a window. It's so stuffy in here all of a sudden. And just my luck that, again, the smell comes back exactly when I start feeling really sick...

And then it hits me--this is no coincidence. Oh my God, I'm not in a stuffy room! And no one else can smell anything. Is it possible that this smell comes from inside of me? Because if that's true, then that must be the smell of cancer. And then I think, I'd better get used to this shit, better learn to like the mothballs, because that's the smell I'm gonna die with.

Getting off Tarceva is not necessarily the beginning of the end. It could be the beginning of a new beginning. Or at least the end of the beginning? I'm not sure I'm making sense here. I'm still optimistic, is what I'm trying to say. I still believe. I believe that even if it doesn't help me live one additional day, optimism is the only way to live, as long as it's mixed with a healthy dose of acceptance. Optimism is what allows me to continue this journey, and what motivates me to go up on as many mountains as possible and to create memories for the kids, for my wife, and for myself, before cancer calls me back down. Plan A is over. Let's see what Plan B has to offer.

November is lung cancer awareness month. Now you know. As part of an effort to raise awareness for lung cancer, I'm including some statistics here:

-- Lung cancer is the biggest killer in the world, and second in the US only to heart disease.
-- Lung cancer accounts for more cancer-related deaths than breast, colorectal (colon), and prostate cancers combined.
-- The 5 year survival rate for lung cancer is 17% (compared to 96%, 88% and 65% for prostate, breast and colorectal cancer, respectively).
-- And despite all that, lung cancer receives only 7% of cancer funding, and 0.1% of charitable donations.
-- Lung cancer affects smokers, past smokers, and people who have never touched a cigarette. If you breathe, you are vulnerable.
(Stats stolen from this post).

A donation to one of the many lung cancer organizations (like The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation or many more you can find online) can help turn this thing around. I believe scientists are close. I believe in science, and I'm optimistic about science. And I'm optimistic about a future where lung cancer is a disease rather than a death sentence.

Love you all.

And thank you!

It's been a crazy summer. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Zen and the Art of Simply Breathing

Breathe in, breathe out. Not so difficult, is it? Still around, folks.

Here's a joke. I heard it in a too-hot stand-up tent on the last day of the Phoenix Festival in England, in 1996, and it stuck. I'll paraphrase:

I'm watching the news, and this guy comes up in front of his burning home, and he says to the camera, "You know, I always thought stuff like that only happened to OTHER people!" And I'm looking at this guy, and I can't help thinking, "OK, but you ARE other people!"

That's all. That's the joke. Don't know why it stuck with me, but it's there. It's there every time I look in the mirror, actually.

Because you're not the only ones who read this and feel a comfortable distance. I do too. Even now, I will read a blog post from someone who's going through the same stuff I'm going through, and think to myself, "Man... It's tough, what other people have to go through in this world. What's for dinner?"

Then, at other times, I'm forced to face reality.

Madeline comes home from school. I open her backpack and see two drawings. Looks cool, what is it?

"It's a dying lion. But he feels better because he's resting in bed."

"And what's the other drawing?" I ask, afraid of the answer.

"It's a dying bear. But he's also resting in bed."


I get very little insight into what she knows and what's going on with her. She's 4, and what should and does appear to concern her are her friends, the kid who pushes other kids in preschool, and what dessert she'll have tonight. But also, apparently, death. And I guess the feeling that as soon as her dad stops resting, he would die.

We told her I was sick. She knows I've been to the hospital a lot. But from there to drawing dying animals... I wish I could grab her right now and make it clear to her that everything would be fine. That with or without me, she would grow up to be an amazing woman. That she has a mother who would always take care of her and always love her, and an older brother who would always be there for her. But how do I say something like that? How do I even hint about the possibility of not being there for her? Not experiencing life with her?

Since starting this post and today, I was at the hospital for 6 days. I had pneumonia, a 104 fever, and the oxygen tubes back in my nostrils, and it turns out breathing in and out wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. Funny, it seems so easy now when I'm back home. In and out, and you live another day. Easy peasy.

I go on the treadmill--doctor's orders. Since my pulse is constantly over 100, even when I sleep, I don't want to push it too much, so basically, I walk for half an hour and watch Netflix. What could be better than that? And it makes me feel normal.

And for a moment, I forget.

We're going to the beach tomorrow. Don't be sick. Don't be sick. Don't be sick. Don't be sick. Don't ruin it for everyone. Make it work. Don't be sick. Please, I don't ask for much, but just give me these 4 days. Four healthy days. Please!

Making it there and being healthy enough to spend time with the kids was the most important thing I could ever do. I didn't get into the water with them, but I was there. I was there at the beach, and I was there at the Ocean City boardwalk, bravely protecting the family from the evil seagulls who'd stop at nothing to get their fries. And I was there to take pictures and to finally shift my attention from myself and from my "condition."

Now I'm back home and I really want to live. Is that silly or what? Funny time to choose to live... I've read the Epictetus quote about death again today, trying to put things into perspective. Feel free to consider "The Giver" whatever you want it to be. It could be nature, or God, or anything you could imagine has put us here.

And dost thou that hast received all from another's hands, repine and blame the Giver, if He takes anything from thee? Why, who art thou, and to what end comest thou here? was it not He that made the Light manifest unto thee, that gave thee fellow-workers, and senses, and the power to reason? And how brought He thee into the world? Was it not as one born to die; as one bound to live out his earthly life in some small tabernacle of flesh; to behold His administration, and for a little while share with Him in the mighty march of this great Festival Procession? Now therefore that thou hast beheld, while it was permitted thee, the Solemn Feast and Assembly, wilt thou not cheerfully depart, when He summons thee forth, with adoration and thanksgiving for what thou hast seen and heard?--"Nay, but I would fain have stayed longer at the Festival."--Ah, so would the mystics fain have the rites prolonged; so perchance would the crowd at the Great Games fain behold more wrestlers still. But the Solemn Assembly is over! Come forth, depart with thanksgiving and modesty--give place to others that must come into being even as thyself.

And it helps. It helps to know people have been thinking about these things 2,000 years ago. I'm not the first one who wants just a little bit more. When breathing in and out becomes almost impossible--just a little bit more. Maybe one more trip to the beach? How about one more car ride? Or even the opportunity to see those faces smile just one more time?

Living like that, with the awareness--the constant awareness--is strange, but maybe the dark cloud hovering above me is not that dark?

See, there's a cloud above me, and no matter what I do what I say where I am and who I'm with, there's a cancer and mortality and an end, and I'm almost constantly aware. By the way, I assume that if I have a cloud of impending mortality, you have one too, since give or take a few years, we're all doomed. But if you're not aware of the cloud, are you at some kind of a disadvantage? Or should I try to re-learn from you to ignore the cloud?

I'm not sure what to think. Life under the cloud is different. Here's a small and silly example: On the one hand, now I know that the whole "One day I'm going to learn French" that's been at the back of my mind is not going to happen. That's it. On the other hand, I don't feel bad about it anymore. For years I've told myself "One day," and when another day came and I didn't improve my French, I felt guilty. But that's done. I speak enough languages. I play enough musical instruments. I know enough DIY. I have zero gardening skills. Very little cooking skills. Constantly feeling like I should be more? Constantly feeling guilt? Hey, that's pre-cloud thinking. Maybe the cloud isn't a morbid distraction from life, but a gift, allowing me to stop treating the day that's passed like it was wasted, and instead, letting me concentrate on all the good that's happened? I saw a butterfly today. It was a good day.

Another meeting at the hospital. Another blood test body scan brain scan. There's a reduction in the number and in the size. I'm doing good. I mean doing well. I'm a little slow, a little weak, a little tired, but 3 months into this thing, I'm not doing too bad. I'm fighting this thing, I'm a fighter. If by fighting you mean getting out of bed in the morning.

I'm not sure what this "fighter" business means, but I guess I know when I stop trying to fight.

I've never liked the idea of getting old. I remember for years, going to visit my grandmother, and her only reply to "How are you," was, "You know... Old age..." And what was her reward for surviving old age? A further deterioration of body and mind. Nearly blind at 99, she still recognized us all. Still remembered our kids, even. But at the same time, she was elsewhere--you could tell she was elsewhere. I remember one time I was sitting with her in the Home, and she suddenly raised her voice and said, "Three kids I put through university! No one can say I didn't do that!" Which was somehow the most personal thing she'd ever said to me. She then quickly moved on to our usual Grandma-Grandson relationship: the "How are you, have a cookie!" talk. And she was one of the good ones, mentally. The other grandmother didn't recognize me when I was visiting, until suddenly she'd remember, say something relevant, and sink back.

So I didn't want to become that, and I have to admit that the possibility of avoiding that became a slightly morbid but nonetheless real silver lining. But what if I get old age symptoms soon? What if I lose my eyesight? Lose my ability to walk? What if I lose my mind? One more brain radiation, I was told this week, and I'd start losing it--just simple stuff, just forgetting things for a start. But it's my brain! It's me! Without it, what's the point?

That's when I stop being a warrior. If I become a young old man, unable to see, walk, and think clearly, I might just wake up, turn the TV on, and wait.

And meanwhile, tests are good. The bad stuff is shrinking. We even have another trip planned, including the zoo at Central Park in New York, apple picking in Vermont... There's still a lot to do and a lot of life to experience with the kids. I love life--I just want to live it on my terms.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Still surrounded by love.

Still thankful.

Still here.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014



On Friday, 5/30/14, I found out I had a Stage 4 lung cancer. People in my condition have about a year to live on average, and treatment is now limited to making the next year more bearable. There are other options that may be discussed later, including experimental treatments, and I'm staying optimistic, but frankly, I think I know where I stand.

4 years ago, in the summer of 2010, we were at Bethany Beach, and everyone was having a great time. Our family and some friends were building sand castles, going in and out of the water, and just relaxing in general--everyone except anxious old me. I had hundreds of unread emails and dozens of ideas for blog posts I didn't have time to write, and I was surrounded by too much sand and not enough coffee. I tried to pretend I was having a good time, but people could see I was out of my comfort zone, and worse, that I didn't want to be there.

It was only on the drive back home that I had the epiphany. It was only on the drive back that I realized what I had been missing out on. It was only on the drive back that I realized I had been experiencing the biggest tragedy of human existence: I was having the time of my life, and I didn't even know it.

That was a good day, since once you make that decision, man... You're in Heaven every single second of your life. And it went on and on, and things only got better, because I made a conscious decision one summer day, on the drive home from Bethany Beach, and was able to repeat that decision subconsciously from that moment on. It made the difference between a living Hell, where I was always behind, always unhappy, and always unfulfilled--always a step behind on my writing, my relationship with my wife, with my friends, and with my kids, and a living Heaven, where even if I had wanted more out of life, I also knew I had it all.

I believe in Heaven on Earth, and I believe it's found anywhere you seek it. Here's where I found it:

I found Heaven on long car rides with the kids. I could have felt bad about having to drive my kids back and forth to school for hours every day, but instead, I used those car trips to chat with my kids about their worlds and about mine, to introduce them to music, and to make up music with them, to talk about values as well as about nonsense.

And I found Heaven on the dirty floor of a basketball court. My then 2-year-old daughter used to finish the JCC preschool at 12, so we were stuck for hours, waiting for her brother to finish school before we could head back home. And those days of waiting with my girl will be remembered forever by me and hopefully by her. For 4 hours, we sat around and we shared lunch, and we went to a playroom at the JCC, where she made me plastic sandwiches and tea, and we raced to the basketball court and played basketball, which meant she was leading the parade of two by only stepping on the black line, and I was behind her, dribbling. She made up that game, calling it "Going to the birthday party." Then we would sit down on the floor in front of each other, spread our legs, and roll the ball to each other. Then she wanted to hug, so we hugged on the floor of the basketball court while people played around us.

Even Heaven on Earth includes some caveats. We moved to a new house in March. It's a beautiful house. It's a dream house. It's the house where my kids will grow up, and it breaks my heart. I don't care about myself, I really don't. I've had the most amazing life anyone could ever wish to have, but there's one thing... There's one thing I would give anything for: watching my kids grow up.

I've raised happy kids. Sure, they sometimes whine, but in general, they're happy. They're my masterpiece: two loving, smart, intelligent, funny, happy kids. And I can't let that end. I can't allow them to grow up sad. I can't allow them to grow up with a hole in their hearts in the shape of the dad they barely remember. I want them to be happy. I want to be around to make them happy.

And I want my wife to be happy. She deserves to be happy. I wish I could make her happy right now.

So acceptance, and sadness--well, I believe they can coexist. Sadness is inevitable--I'm only human, and trying too hard to rise above it only hurts more. But I do accept. I accept that life is finite, and I accept that my time will come soon. I accept that my life had been and still is a gift, and I accept the likely possibility that I won't see my kids grow older.

Should I complain, though? Should I cry out to the empty sky and say, "Why me?" Or should I feel that now, even now, especially now, a little confused, a little tired, and a little sad, I'm having the time of my life?

Whatever happens to my body in the next few months is still relatively unknown. Here's what we do know, though:

We know I'm the luckiest sonofabitch who's ever walked this earth, and we know I will be loved until my last moment by people it has been my utmost privilege to know: by a wife I adore and two kids I'm in awe of every single moment.

Just let me make this request of you.

My girl--she's a shy one. You'll see her play by herself sometimes, and you'll be tempted to step back and say, "She plays so nicely by herself!" Go to her. Play with her. She needs you.

My boy--he's so freakin' sensitive. Everything you say will be remembered by him and analyzed for months in that genius head of his. Don't joke with him just to make yourself smile--you'll ruin him. Answer every question he has, or at least direct him to a place with answers. He likes to play and he likes to fool around, but you need to treat him like a grown up. He's smarter than I am, and he's probably smarter than you are.

And my wife--just give her a break. Please, allow her to take a break. She's a type-A personality at work, but at home she's always just wanted to relax and have fun. Help her have fun. She'll want to take all the responsibilities over everything herself--don't let her. Tell her to relax. Tell her to take it easy. Help her enjoy life. And don't label her or limit her in any way. Don't use the W- word with her. She's not that word. She's not an easy simplification. You know who she is? She's the daughter any parent could wish for, and the mother any kid would long to have. Although I've stayed home and took a great share of the credit for raising these amazing kids, nothing could have been done without her. And she'll continue to raise them, and they will continue to grow and be even more amazing teens and adults because of their mother.

And she's the woman of my dreams.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Favorite YouTube Video

But first, the runner up. Because it's all about the innocence of children, and about the temptation of the dark side (and we all know that once you're on that side, it doesn't look that dark, does it?), and about unexpected things that stay with us forever because we happened to press Record.

So... Here it is, my second-favorite video:

But the video below is my favorite. I happened to press Record more than a year ago, while the dishwasher was going, we were all tired, and I was getting ready to do some cleaning and go to bed. But my girl wanted to listen to Adele, and you can't say No to a 2-year-old girl with Space Needle PJs. Believe me, I've tried. So here's my favorite video. Forever.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Capable Dads, Lunch Masterpieces, and the Politics of Kids: Fatherhood Newsletter

This week's roundup includes an amazing response to BuzzFeed, a cool lunchbox project, a cool lunch notes project, and speaking of cool, me, in a sweater, talking about father-son politics on Huffington Post.

Please consider subscribing here to get these weekly newsletter posts in your email. Let me know if I've missed anything good, and I'll be sure to include it next week. Thanks for reading!

Capable Dads
Buzzfeed is a terrible site. Sure, some of you participate in its quizzes, and sure, sometimes their lists are good enough to warrant wasting 2 minutes of our lives, but really, it's not a place anyone goes to find good writing or truth. It's bathroom reading. So when yet another Dads-are-grown-babies list came up recently (wonderfully titled: 24 Reasons Kids Should Never Be Left Alone With Their Dads), it was hard to find a proper response. On the one hand, it's annoying that a site with so many readers is going to present a list making fun of dads, but on the other hand, it's BuzzFeed, and people expect lowest-common-denominator entertainment from that site, and nothing more. So how does one respond?

Well, fortunately, Zach Rosenberg of 8BitDad has come up with his own list--the most appropriate response to BuzzFeed's idiocracy: 25 Reasons Kids Should Be Left Alone With Their Dads. It's an amazing article, short on words but full of great pictures.

Lunch: Lunch Notes
While my boy is lucky if I send him to school with a note that says, "No nuts" in his lunchbox, some dads put a little bit more effort... Brent from Designer Daddy sends his kid to school every day with a cool and loving note (SuperLunchNotes: April 7 – May 9), which makes me feel inadequate as a dad AND as an artist! Yes!!! But really, it's great. And although I can't draw, I can definitely probably maybe do a better job writing notes...

Lunch: Lunchbox
And as long as I feel inadequate, here's Beau from Lunchbox Dad with his latest lunchbox masterpiece: Woody Woodpecker Lunch, which comes complete with a list of ingredients and instructions. Go for it!

Following a post I had written about the 7 stages of grief you face if your kid ends up a Republican, I was asked to speak on the Huffington Post Live show about politics. Now, OF COURSE my post was tongue-in-cheek (but not really. OK, yes, really. Well, here's the thing: basically, if my kids end up the kind of people who yell at Town-Hall meetings, start walking around with dumb yellow flags, and complain about birth certificates, then that's one thing, but if my kids ask tough, thoughtful questions and end with different answers than the ones I have, of course I'll be proud of them), but it was fun talking about politics with a young Republican and an even younger Democrat (she was 12). If you're interested in watching the segment, it's here: Do Kids Take Their Parents' Political Views?

And if you want just my part of the conversation, because you can't get enough of the sweater, here it is: This Guy Is 'Scared' His Kids May Become Republicans

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Art Museums, Diversity in Children's Books, and Things Girls Should Know: Fatherhood Newsletter

I took a break, but now I'm back. My parents were here, and our rental home is keeping me busy, and there's always something to do in the new house we've recently moved to, and I even played some Wii with the kids. Not to mention that season 7 of Psych is now on Netflix, and I can't be expected to do anything until I'm done with that. But I'm back, and here are this week's-ish stories.

This week's roundup includes a trip to an art museum with the kids, a post about diversity in kids' books, wisdom for girls, a congrats on a wedding, and more.

Please consider subscribing here to get these weekly newsletter posts in your email. Let me know if I've missed anything good, and I'll be sure to include it next week. Thanks for reading!

Kids in Art Museums

An Art Museum Trick
This is a trick I've used when I was a young man, and now use with my kids who would otherwise get quickly bored by museums without buttons. Try it and let me know if it works! (How to Go to an Art Museum with Young Kids)

Be the Change

When a couple had realized there were not enough books that would appeal to their non-blonde, non-usual-Disney-princess-lookalike girl, they decided to do something about it. A great post about encountering a problem and dealing with it not simply by explaining things to kids, but also by making a difference. (Non-Token Diversity in Storytelling: CAKE Literary to the Rescue! The Revolution Has Begun)

Dads and Daughters

dads and daughters
In a short post, full of honesty and love, Jeff from Out with the Kids lays out 16 things he wants his daughters to know. A great post from a true advocate of girls. (16 Things I Want My Daughters To Know Right Now)


The good people at Life of Dad have partnered with Starbucks again, for another Instagram Video extravaganza. Here, a bunch of bloggers were given the task of showing off their romantic Mother's Day breakfast-making, Starbucks-coffee-preparing sides. Since my wife travels a lot, we did our video without her, which means more coffee for me! Read the post to find out more about the competition, where you can win a $200 Starbucks gift card. (My (Winning) #LatteRomeo #StarbucksVia Video)

And here's the info about the Twitter party:


My friend Brent, who writes at Designer Daddy, has gotten married last week, and I'm honored to have been invited. When MD Governor O'Malley started pushing to legalize gay marriage, the reason he gave was that gay couples' kids deserved to live in a house with two legally married parents just as much as kids of straight couples do, and this pretty unique angle--the one of dignity for children--gave the Maryland referendum voters the push they needed toward the right side of history. It was a beautiful wedding, and I'm happy to report that the sanctity of my own straight marriage is still intact.

Monday, May 5, 2014

How to Go to an Art Museum with Young Kids

Nearly 20 years ago, after I just moved to London and before I found a job, I used to walk around a lot and experience life on my own. I walked to Soho and to Hampstead Heath, and I stared at tourists in Leicester Square and at old-time Londoners in places the Tube didn't bother to go. One day, during one of those trips of discovering the city and myself, I ended up at the National Gallery, and immediately felt out-of-place. My high school may have taught me the biographies of some artists and the stories behind famous artworks, but it didn't teach me to appreciate art on my own. I was never told how to approach art, and the idea that certain works of art "spoke" to some people seemed like science-fiction.

Here I was, at one of the greatest art museums in the world, not sure what I was supposed to do next. So I turned to leave. But just before I got out, I decided to look at the museum store, and there I came up with a plan. Recently, I used that same plan to help my young kids get an appreciation not just of art, but of their own, individual tastes.

We were at the Baltimore Museum of Art for a while, and my kids started to get bored: art-shmart, but where were the buttons? I don't have anything against museums with buttons--the Science Center in Baltimore is one of my favorite places in the city--but art museums should be places we look at art and, well, let the art press our buttons instead.

Minutes into our visit, and it looked like we were done. Mr. "Carry me" and Ms. "I'm hungry!" were starting to make their appearances, and I was about to give up, thinking we would try the museum again when they were older, when I suddenly remembered my 20-year-old museum trick.

"Come with me!" I said, and started running down the stairs. The kids followed me to the museum store, and we stopped by the 60-cent postcards. And here's the trick:

Every museum store has a postcard section that features art pieces from the museum. The kids (and maybe their parents) take a long look at all the postcards, and choose their favorites. You buy the postcards, hold on to them, and each person, in turn, starts looking for the art on his postcard.

My daughter was the first to choose a Georgia O'Keeffe painting, and then my son, who took more time to find his own favorite, got a Gauguin. Then we started our quest. And this is the beauty of it all: you don't get spoon-fed information that doesn't interest you and that ends up making you hate art. A kid who picked a Georgia O'Keeffe painting because that painting "spoke" to her from the postcard stand, is now interested in the artist, curious about her other paintings, and eager to find her art in the museum and elsewhere. A kid who picked a Gauguin wants to know more about him. Art history becomes more than a story about a man who cut his ear off.

And it doesn't end there. The kids still get to keep the postcards, and every time they see this $0.60 piece of art in their rooms, they remember the experience of searching for a piece of art that touched them.

I hope people who read this find the opportunity to try this experiment. Next time you're at an art museum with the kids, start at the museum store, and then get your kids to find their treasures and discover their individuality. If you do that, please come back and tell me if it worked!

For the record, my boy had a great time. Unfortunately, I recently told him saying "Cheese" and showing a fake smile when people took pictures was silly, so he's decided he didn't smile in pictures anymore. A bit of a misunderstanding there.

5/19: Hey, this post is now up on Huffington Post: How to Get Kids to Appreciate Art

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My (Winning) #LatteRomeo #StarbucksVia Video

This is a sponsored post, in conjunction with Starbucks and Life of Dad, LLC. I was provided with samples packets of Starbucks VIA® Latte, and received compensation for participating in this promotion.

Starbucks Via Latte
I wanted to join the Life of Dad people's Mother's Day promotion of the Starbucks Via, but by the time I got around to take the Instagram video, my wife was away for work in Seattle. So I figured that unlike other #LatteRomeo entries from other bloggers, my coffee will be handed virtually to my wife. And anyway, I'm the big coffee drinker in this family.

Luckily, although I don't have my wife in the video, my kids are really cute, and my daughter's idea of serving her mom Banana Pants for Mother's Day will surely win the day.

Because this is a contest, see, and you can get in on it too. You can get all the details on the Life of Dad site, as well as watch your potential competitors' videos: Starbucks VIA® Latte #LatteRomeo Mother's Day Video Contest. Your winning Instagram video can get you a $500 Starbucks card, which would literally last you YEARS. Here's my video. And remember, Banana Pants!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Working Dads, Stay at Home Dads, and Bus Stop Pajamas: Weekly Fatherhood Newsletter

This week's roundup includes stories about working dads, stay-at-home dads, a warning about the biggest threat facing America: bus-stop pajamas, and more.

Please subscribe here to get these weekly newsletter posts in your email. Let me know if I've missed anything good, and I'll be sure to include it next week. Thanks for reading!

Bus Stop Pajamas

Bus Stop Pajamas
Evil is rising, and this time, it's coming in the form of bus stop pajamas. My friend Aaron from the blog Daddy Files has been wearing pajamas to the bus stop with his kid. Some people think it's OK. Others, like me, know this is the beginning of the end for our planet.

Here's Aaron's original post: Would You Wear Pajamas at the Bus Stop?

And here's a worthy response from the blog Daddy's in Charge?: Bus Stop Pajamas


I always thought there were hiking people and non-hiking people, like me, so finding out I actually liked hiking was quite an identity crisis. (Being a Hiking Person)

Kids and Money

Kids and Money
An article on Men's Health gives some great tips about raising kids who know money doesn't grow on trees. Starting with 3-year-old kids handing money to cashiers, and continuing until the late teens, with young adults setting up a budget, this short article has many good tips. (Make Your Toddler a Financial Tycoon)

Kids and Music

Kids and Music
Kids listen to terrible music, but is it really that tragic? Didn't we listen to bad music when we were kids? (They Don't Make Music like They Used to (and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves Because We're Afraid of Becoming Irrelevant))

Paternity Leave

Paternity Leave
Sports radio personalities(?) Boomer & Carton, as well as Mike Francesa have had a lot to say about paternity leave last week. They were specifically upset about a Mets second baseman not playing two games because his wife was giving birth and he wanted to be with his newborn for the first few days of his life. The radio clowns insisted Daniel Murphy's wife should have had an early c-section to make sure her husband could play, and that, "You're a major league baseball player. You can hire a nurse!"

It's sad that these people have a platform, and it's sad that some people still think like that, but the reaction has been great, and it seems like the majority of people stand behind Murphy and are in favor of dads who want to be with their newborn kids. Here are some of the reactions:

CNN's Josh Levs: Open letter to Boomer & Carton and Mike Francesa, who slammed paternity leave and Daniel Murphy for taking it

Scott Behson on Wall Street Journal: The Good News From the Daniel Murphy Paternity Leave Uproar

And on ESPN, a reaction from Murphy himself: Daniel Murphy: Right to take leave

Stay-At-Home Dads

Stay-At-Home Dads
I wrote this post about parenting on auto-pilot a year ago, and it's still pretty much the same. It's not always easy to stay home with kids, but it's definitely rewarding. (The Auto-Pilot: Pros and Cons of Staying Home With the Kids)

Working Dads

Working Dads
It's not always easy, but I also know I'm very fortunate to be able to stay home with the kids, and be there when they need me. Carter from the blog Dad Scribe had to go to work and miss his kid's field trip, which made him ask a lot of tough question. (The Field Trip)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Being a Hiking Person

It’s funny how we all grow up with certain ideas about ourselves and about the world. These ideas often have no basis in reality, but we assume they’re real, because they’re convenient and simple. For example, I’m not a hiking person. Ask anyone--ask me, if you want, and I’ll tell you some people are hiking people, and some people, like me, are not.

If you’re not a hiking person, and you tell someone you’re about to go with the family on a 3 mile hike up a hill, their answer will always be the same: “You?!”

Because you’ve created this identity, and your identity makes sense. And this identity you’ve created helps you and others make sense of the world.

But what if it’s not true? What if you suddenly discover that climbing up a hill while holding your kids’ hands makes total sense to you? What if you love nothing more than letting your girl choose the paths you will all use on the hike, and your boy navigate the trail with a map?

hiking with kids

Maybe an identity crisis can be a positive thing.

Now, I don’t know if we’ll end up hiking once a week this spring/summer, like we said we would when winter started. Sometimes it's too easy to stay home and say, “It’s OK. We’re not hiking people anyway.” But we’ll try again soon. It's good for the soul, this whole nature thing.

hiking kids

hiking girl

Friday, March 28, 2014

They Don't Make Music like They Used to (and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves Because We're Afraid of Becoming Irrelevant)

I have a 6-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl, and they listen to whatever music I listen to, and they like it, most of the time. But I live in fear. We're not the only influences in the kids' lives, and the older they get, the larger the chance of them coming home from school one day, humming a new Katy Perry song. Or Bieber. Or whatever manufactured teen sensation of the day they're innocent enough to consume and think of as their own.

When parents find out their kids have shitty taste in music, they either roll their eyes, or start a Good Music 101 class, and I had always considered myself in the second group. I've had it all planned out:

When the first crappy music makes it into our house, I will sit my kids down, play the entire Pink Floyd discography, then The Beatles, then Simon & Garfunkel. And Bjork. And Death Cab for Cutie. And Arcade Fire. Then The Velvet Underground. Then Talking Heads. Radiohead. Flaming Lips. Yo La Tengo. Then Robyn Hitchcock. Then we'll take a short break, and start our Bruce Springsteen lesson with Nebraska. When we're done, the only thing left to say will be, "Any questions?" And they'll know they've made a mistake, and that they're destined for better things.

Or maybe I will roll my eyes and know it's only a phase?

Recently I got to drive a rental car, which came with satellite radio. And like many people from my generation, my first choice when I turned on XM Radio was their '80s station.

This song was the first one to play, and I couldn't be happier:

Last Christmas I gave you my heart
But the very next day, you gave it away

If you're a child of the 70s or the 80s, you just repeated "gave it away" in Andrew Ridgeley's voice. That's what we do, because we listened to Wham! religiously as kids, and now as adults, we sing along and remember the good old days.

And that's the point. There were great songs in the '80s, but most of us listened to crap, and we ended up fine-ish. Maybe people who talk about the good old days are just afraid of becoming irrelevant? So they look back and imagine a time when everything made sense, and then they compare it to what young people face today: Snapchats, and twerking, and sexting, and terrible terrible music.

We weren't better than them, though, and us old men and women need to remember that. They listen to Bieber? You listened to George Michael. Their songs are all about sex? Didn't you sing along to "My Toot Toot"? Aren't you singing it on your head right now?

I have to remind myself to lay off the next generation. They will make their own mistakes, whether it comes from twerking of by listening to One Direction, but along the way, they will create their own culture and change the world in their own ways. And one day, 30 years from now, our kids will drive their hybrid cars jetpacks, and a Bieber song will start playing, and they will sing along, remembering those crazy 2010s.

We're not the first generation to pretend we're musical snobs, and we won't be the last. Our kids--the same ones who put up Miley Cyrus posters on their bedroom ceilings--will react to their own kids' favorite music with disgust, and try to convert them away from the dark side of manufactured crap, but in the end, crap will forever continue to be manufactured, kids will forever like it, and they will forever grow up listening to it with a nostalgic smile, singing along to bland lyrics with the same terrible rhymes repeating themselves one generation after another, and they will then lecture their kids about the golden age of music.

So when the inevitable happens, and my kids come home singing songs that offend all that is good and beautiful and edgy in the world, maybe I will choose to roll my eyes and move on after all. After all, I had this poster in my room:


Hey Hey Hey, this post has been republished on Huffington Post!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fatherhood Newsletter: My Little Pony, Existentialism, and Drugs

This week's roundup includes My Little Pony bullying, a toddler's existential crisis, a hunt for drugs in Vegas, a story about The Talk, and more.

Please subscribe here to get these weekly newsletter posts in your email. Let me know if I've missed anything good, and I'll be sure to include it next week. Thanks for reading!


After a kid was bullied by his classmates for wearing a My Little Pony backpack, and after the kid's parents were bullied by Internet troll Matt Walsh, who blamed them for the bullying, it was great to read this post on Slate, putting blame where it belonged. (My Son Loves My Little Pony. At 7, he already knows that’s not OK.)


Think 3-year-old kids don't understand death? That's nothing. Life before they were born is the real conundrum. (The Existential Crisis of a 3-Year-Old Boy)

Looking for Drugs in All the Wrong Places

This blog post tells the story of a dad who went up and down Vegas streets, looking for drugs. Apparently, Las Vegas is not as ready for kids as it claims to be... (Vegas, Baby!)


My girl watched the Olympics and decided she wanted to ice skate, so of course, I signed her up. And of course, 5 minutes into the class, she was out crying. What was I supposed to do now? (My Daughter's Olympics Dream)

The Talk

Parents always feel awkward about the talk. They have been feeling awkward 2,000 years ago, when their sons started spending a little too long in the far side of the cave, and they will feel awkward 2,000 years from now, when their sons lock themselves in their spaceship for hours every day. Here's one of the funniest versions of The Talk I've read, courtesy of a blogger's mumbling dad. (Dad’s sex mumble)


Friday, March 14, 2014

My Daughter's Olympics Dream

We parked at 6pm and walked to the ice-skating rink. My 3-year-old--almost 4-year-old--girl was very excited. She saw the skaters and the dancers at the Winter Olympics, and she wanted in.

"When I go in the building, I'm gonna skate in the 'lympics?"

"No no," I said, trying to balance pragmatic honesty and "You can do whatever you set your mind to!" fatherly support. "You're going to go in there, and it's going to be tough at first. You're going to fall a lot. But then you'll get up, and you'll practice more and more, and then you'll become really good eventually, and maybe one day you'll be at the Olympics."

"So when I'm 4 I'm gonna skate at the 'lympics?"

"No... Maybe when you're 14?"

"Yes, 14!"

So that was that. She was going to go in, fall, get up, and in ten to twelve years, a pink-eyed Bob Costas would interview me. Maybe I'd tell him about the day she started, when she thought she was going to skate at the 'lympics, and we'd laugh and laugh. But I wouldn't sit too close to him, because who knows where that eye has been.

At 6:15, the lesson started. My girl had her gloves, her skates, and her helmet on. She was going for gold!

At 6:20, she was out, crying hysterically.

Now I didn't know what to do. There's this cliché that says Mom comforts a crying child who's fallen off his bike while Dad puts him back on the bike. It's some nonsense that has more to do with outdated stereotypes than with reality, and that only serves to make us feel insecure about our actions as parents. But it affected me, and I was torn. On the one hand, I could convince her to try again, tell her to overcome her tears, and push her back into the ice. On the other hand, she was holding on to me so tightly, putting her trust in me after falling again and again on a frozen, slippery floor, and she was finally feeling safe again--there was no way I was going to let her go. Sure, I second-guessed myself, but when a child hugs you that tightly, you let her hug you.

But what about her 'lympics dream? I felt I did the right thing, but still... I wish life could be more like a video game, or a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where you can always go back and make a different decision.

Back in the car, I had an idea. We would all go ice skating soon, as a family. We would wear skates together, and we would be cold together, and we would fall together, and we'd laugh about it all together. And then, maybe in a year, we'd try skating lessons again. By then, she wouldn't be afraid anymore, and she'd know exactly what to expect.

I called my wife and told her what happened. In 12 or 16 years, she said, when our daughter wins the gold medal, we'll remember the first time she went ice skating, and how scared she was, and how we almost gave up, before we decided to try again, and now look at her, a champion!

But I couldn't help feeling depressed about it. I couldn't help second-guessing myself. In a parallel universe, a dad who looked just like me, saw his almost-4-year-old girl crying hysterically on her first ice skating lesson, and when she wanted to leave, he told her she had to stay and finish the lesson. That girl cried more, and she fell more, and she had a miserable time for 30 minutes, but then, after a while, and after her 100th fall, she didn't care as much about falling. She didn't notice how cold the ice was anymore. She got up by herself, and she looked at her dad, and she gave him the thumbs up. Maybe she fell once more, only now, she laughed about it.

Back in this universe, I was alone in the kitchen, thinking and rethinking, listening to music from my phone on speakers.

I often laugh about how some songs make every mundane activity seem meaningful. Think about the theme song from Friday Night Lights, or the music from Game of Thrones. Or "Jupiter" by Holst. Or that bit from "Carmina Burana" (you know, the one that plays whenever something evil is happening in a movie). But nothing gives mundane moments spiritual meaning like Sigur Rós's "Hoppípolla." And of course, the song I make fun of all the time because of the way people who listen to it take whatever meaning they need from it, got me this time.

While the song was playing, I could see it, just as vividly as I now see the computer screen: I could see my 20-year-old daughter skating. I could see her spinning and jumping, and smiling the whole way through her routine. And as I saw her there, a mature, confident woman flying fearlessly through the air, I knew we'd try again. Whether I did the right thing or not didn't matter. We were going to try again. We were going to make this happen.

3/28: Post is now republished on Huffington Post

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Weekly Fatherhood Newsletter: Children's Hospital, Working Dads, and D.A.D.D

This week's roundup includes a car talk with my curious son, a reflection from a dad about a children's hospital, a Funny or Die fatherhood video, a rant against over-protective dads, and a reminder that working dads' stories need to be told.

Please subscribe here to get these weekly newsletter posts in your email. Let me know if I've missed anything good, and I'll be sure to include it next week. Thanks for reading!

Car Talk

Car Talk
I've recently written about a talk I had with my son about the Ray Rice arrest. A longer version of this post has now been published on Huffington Post. Hope you get a chance to read it there, and maybe leave a comment or two. (Explaining Ray Rice to My 6-Year-Old)

Children's Hospital

Children's Hospital
Nothing made my wife and me feel as useless as we did when we watched our kid go into surgery. In the end, though, it was a routine procedure, and as soon as he was out, we took our stuff and ran home to return to normalcy as soon as possible. In this blog post, a dad writes about rushing his baby to the ER. Unlike us, before leaving the children's hospital, the dad looks around him and sees the pain that still remains in the hospital. He hears a screaming kid, and writes, "So much hurt. So much anguish. And I’m sure he/she had two parents close by, whose hearts were making the same sound of torment." (Not Everyone Gets to Go Home)

Dad Metal

Dad Metal
I found out about this Funny or Die video from the Super Dad Show podcast. Watch this video, and then subscribe to the Super Dad Show podcast. Or subscribe first, and THEN watch the video. (Dad Metal)

Dad Metal - watch more funny videos

Dads and Daughters

Dads and Daughters
You know those Dads Against Daughters Dating shirts and Facebook memes, threatening future boyfriends of their little girls? Well, one dad has had enough, writing, "I understand the love you have for your daughter, but let me be clear, if you mistreat my boys when they show up to your 1950’s doorstep to take your daughter out on a date, you’ll have to answer to me." Judging by the comments on his blog, he's not alone. (Dads that threaten their daughter’s future dates annoy me)

Working Dads

Working Dads
As a stay-at-home dad, I'm happy every time at-home dads get some attention from the media. It's important for dads and future dads to know staying home is something they should consider, and dads-at-home stories are generally positive. But I also agree with Scott Behson that the stories of working dads who can't find the work-life balance don't get enough attention. (5 Things You Should Know About Working Dads)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Weekly Fatherhood Newsletter: Growing Kids, the Evil Agenda of Frozen, and a Star Wars Room

This week's roundup includes talking with kids about tough subjects, the hidden agenda behind Frozen, dealing with growing kids, and a very cool Star Wars room. Also, another installment of the Worst Dad in the World!!!

Please subscribe here to get these weekly newsletter posts in your email. Let me know if I've missed anything good, and I'll be sure to include it next week. Thanks for reading!


Last week, following the arrest of Ray Rice for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, I wanted to talk to my Ravens-loving son about what happened. I postponed this difficult talk until my boy actually asked if he could wear his 27 Jersey to school. On the car ride to school, I tried to explain. (Explaining Ray Rice to My 6-Year-Old)

Gay Agenda

Gay Agenda
A blog post written by a crazy woman went viral last week, after she explained the way Frozen had a hidden agenda, meant to make us all love the gays. That post was unfortunately too late for one dad whose young son has turned gay the moment the end credits started rolling. (Frozen Turned My Son Gay)

Great Expectations

Great Expectations
This short post, written over a year ago, is still one of my favorites, because it's still honest and true, and probably will continue to be true for many years, unfortunately. I look at my boy as he navigates his way around the other kids in the playground, trying to fit in, and I feel nothing but compassion and pity for this kid, and then something silly happens and I lose it... I want Home to be a sanctuary--a place where my kids feel safe, where they don't have to fit in and act out, but instead, I turn home into just another obstacle. (Looking at My Boy)

Growing Up

Growing Up
Sometimes it's the most personal blog posts from others that make us think about our own experiences. My kids are still young, but I can imagine them as teenagers, and I desperately want to pull the emergency break and stop this one-way train away from me. Here's a beautiful, very personal post about a baby who's somehow a teenager. (Teenager)

Star Wars

Star Wars
We're moving in a few days, and my 6-year-old is very excited about his Star Wars room, which currently consists of nothing but Pottery Barn Star Wars sheet... If you're looking for more ideas from the artsy people at Etsy, a dad has collected a bunch of great items for a Star Wars themed room, mostly for babies, although a young kid can definitely find some items as well. (The Baby Star Wars Nursery)

Worst Dad in the World?

Worst Dad in the World?
The dad who took this video and uploaded it to YouTube has already deleted the video, probably because every other person with a laptop and a Google+ account called him evil, but... I'm sorry, I'm with the other half. It's slapstick comedy, and slipping on ice is a staple of winter fun. Also, no one got hurt, and everyone seems to have had a good time. AND we have a good old father-daughter shared activity. (Father Laughs Hysterically At Kids Slipping On Ice)


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