Stay-at-Home Dad 101: Don’t Drink (Coffee) and Drive (the Grocery Cart)

I found out this afternoon while doing a mid-week grocery store run for my wife, that it’s not as easy as one might think, to push the grocery cart with a kid, while drinking coffee.

As I entered the Super Kroger in Spring Hill, Tennessee, I thought to myself, “Okay, this is my first time as an official stay-at-home dad buying groceries. Enjoy this errand and make it part of your identity. This is part of your job now. So… what would my wife do in this situation to make it more fun?”

And there it was, Starbucks. She would definitely buy a $5 coffee to begin her journey. So I ordered an Eggnog Latte with coconut milk, as my daughter played inside the two-seater Kozy Coupe-looking car attached to the front of the shopping cart.

I tried to order the manliest drink I could think of, but unfortunately, they don’t make the Spicy Mocha that High Brew in Franklin makes: cayenne, cinnamon, and mocha.

Once the nice young man handed me my unregulated caffeinated beverage, I made my way towards to organic section. But immediately, I found out it’s quite difficult to make a right turn when your right-handed and are pushing a shopping cart with a giant car attached to the front of it, still while holding a $5 drink in your other hand.

How was I going to make it all the way through a ten acre grocery store without spilling my coffee?

The answer: I wasn’t.

Historically, I have stayed home with the kids while my wife buys the groceries early on Saturday morning. I have yet to memorize where everything is in that grocery store so big it needs its own zip code.

Some of the items on the “scavenger hunt” were in the baby section, some were in the organic section, and some were just mixed in with the regular stuff.

In case my Instagram photo doesn’t show the details, then just believe me:

Each time I suddenly had to jerk the cart to make a turn in time, or simply bumped into the corner of the aisle I was trying to enter, an eager ounce of the Starbucks magnificently shot out of the adult sippy lid of my coffee cup and landed in the cart.

Needless to say, my daughter’s clothes still smell of Eggnog Latte, as she had eventually exited the faux Kozy Coupe and asked me to place her in the normal kids’ seat; right where the majority of the two dollars’ worth of Starbucks had made a miniature puddle.

I know there will be a learning curve to this stay-at-home dad thing, but today I learned that I shouldn’t be drinking Starbucks and driving the grocery cart.

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Dear Jack: The Mad Rush to Get You to Your 1st Violin Lesson on Time!

6 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

Today was a pretty interesting day…

This morning was an exciting in itself, as it made the first morning that you and your sister got to ride in the 2017 Toyota Highlander we are driving this week. With almost with no words necessary, you immediately adopted the 3rd row seat as your own.

Your sister was jolly as usual, enjoying the view up at you from her 2nd row seat. You loved how I let you out; through the back hatch door, so you could just jump out.

But while it was a good morning, it ended up being sort of a strange afternoon…

I received a call from Mommy while I was at work, which was unusual. She explained she was stuck in stand still traffic on I-65 and that it would be impossible for her to be able to pick you up in time from your school, then take you to your first official violin lesson. (A couple of weeks ago you got fitted for your violin, but today was the big day to actually start learning how to play it.)

Mommy told me your violin lesson would be beginning at 4:00. That only gave me 40 minutes from that point to finish up at work, drive to your school, then rush to the music academy where your lessons would be taking place.

Normally, to drive from Cool Springs to Spring Hill, on a good day, would take a solid 45 minutes… if I was lucky. But because the Interstate was essentially shut down, I would have to take the back roads instead; which only increased the challenge.

By the time I was pulling out of the parking lot, it was 3:25 on the dot; that gave me just 35 minutes to get your to your violin lesson on time.

It take a miracle to make this happen!

With a little bit of high tempo inspiration from Metallica pumping through the speakers (because, of course, who else?!), and the power of the 4Runner’s V-6 engine, I took advantage of my ability to make it through every about-to-change-from-green-to-yellow traffic light.

I can honestly say I didn’t speed, because in Nashville traffic, that’s just not an option: there are too many cars in front of you even if you tried. It must have been because I left work at an unusual time, far enough ahead of rush hour traffic, that I was able to achieve the impossible:

At 3:58 PM, with 2 minutes to spare, you were flying out of the back hatch of the 4Runner!

I still think that we must of cheated the laws of physics to get there on time, but somehow, we arrived with moments to spare!

And what can I say? Hey, you’re a smart kid. You soaked up every word your violin teacher, Gabrielle, had to say.

Tonight, after Mommy read you a bedtime story, you impressed her by giving her a violin lesson of her own.

So yeah, it was a pretty interesting day.

Love,

Daddy

This is 36: Taking Shifts with My Wife, As the Baby Sleeps in the Car

As you know, our family recently spent a week down in Destin, Florida for a family vacation over Memorial Day weekend. As you can imagine, with a 1 year-old little girl in tow, we largely had to base our schedule and activities around her sleep schedule.

For example, on the way down to Florida, we left our home in Tennessee immediately after an early dinner so that we could get to our condo in Destin by 1:30 AM. This created an environment for our daughter to be able to sleep through the entire drive. Granted, we only stopped once during the 7 hour trip for a bathroom break; to help ensure she didn’t wake up.

Since this formula proved effective, we did the same thing for the drive back home from Florida. That’s right- just 2 bathroom breaks during the 14 hour round trip.

Uh… impressed much?

We continued to cater to our daughter’s slumber throughout the course of our vacation.

One day we took a day trip over to Pensacola where one of my brothers-in law and his wife have recently moved. After we toured their new home which is currently under construction, everyone decided to walk through some of the model homes in the surrounding neighborhoods.

So my mother-in-law and her husband (who were also in town for the weekend), my brother-in-law, his wife, my wife, our son, our daughter, and I successfully toured two model homes.

But as we drove to the next neighborhood, our daughter had fallen asleep in just a matter of minutes. I volunteered to stay in the driver’s seat of the 2017 Toyota Prius Three as our daughter took her afternoon nap behind me in her car seat.

There in the driveway of that model home, I pulled out the classic 1984 Ride the Lightning album by Metallica to enjoy for myself. Fortunately, the symphonic distorted electric guitars helped keep my little girl asleep. She’s not too picky when it comes to music, yet.

Even after my wife and son returned from the tour of that model home, they returned to the car, only to inform me that there was yet one more model home to visit before we made our way back to Destin.

Honestly, I didn’t mind one bit. It was peaceful and relaxing for me. It gave me not only a chance to think, but a chance to help my wife out by giving her some time to see something new and exciting and to take a break from constantly caring for a baby.

Of course, it was no surprise that less than 24 hours, my wife would be taking the next shift of “chill out in the car while the baby sleeps.” Because for lunch the following day, as went out for Mexican food for lunch, our daughter had fallen asleep in the car.

So I took my wife’s order, then eventually brought her food to her roadside, while the rest of us ate inside the restaurant.

This is just how it has to be right now. We’re used to it.

This is 36.

Dear Holly: It’s So Rewarding to See You When I Come Home/Your First Word?…

9 months.

Dear Holly: It’s So Rewarding to See You When I Come Home

Dear Holly,

Monday evening when I got home from work was the first time I had seen you in two days, as your brother Jack and I had been staying in the Surgical Holding Room at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville due to his near-brush with surgery for his Retropharyngeal Abscess due to Strep Throat.

I walked in the front door of our home to see you look up from the carpet, smile so big, then immediately make your way towards me like a faithful little puppy. You were genuinely happy to see me. The translation was clearly, “Daddy! Welcome home, I missed you!”

After such a soul-exhausting weekend, it was so rewarding to see you when I got home. What made it even more special was that you had apparently been practicing what appears to be your first word: Daddy.

Sure, I realize that “daddy” is probably just simply the physically easiest word to say as you’re figuring out how to speak. But I don’t mind that technicality.

So now our whole family is back together under the same roof. Jack really missed you. His new activity is to hold you in his lap. You love it!

Oh yeah, and Grandma is in town from California for a few weeks now. It was so funny- when I picked her up from the airport, I suggested she sit in the back with you, to keep you from being lonely back there.

You looked up at her and didn’t make a beep until we got to our destination. You had to figure out who she was.

But since then, Grandma has been taking care of you all day, while Mommy and I give you a break from daycare. This is the first time since I can remember that you haven’t been sick. We wanted to give your immune system a break.

We are so glad to have Grandma staying with us. And we’re so glad to all be together again!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: It’s So Rewarding to See You When I Come Home

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa!)

5 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

Dear Jack,

This past weekend, you had an unforgettable weekend! You finally were able to go my to hometown’s ever-growing festival call Boom Days; which celebrates the people and culture of Fort Payne, Alabama; where I was born and raised.

Being there reminded me that I didn’t grow up in a stereotypical Southern town, as typically featured in media. No, Fort Payne was always special.

Basically half of the city is on the mountain (where I lived) and the other half is in the valley.  There was always this artsy, Americana feel to the place. I was surrounded by DeSoto State Park and all its hiking trails, as well as well as Little River Falls (the tallest waterfall in Alabama) and Little River Canyon.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

It was a fun place to grow up, and apparently, a fun place to return to; and especially, with a nearly 6 year-old boy.

With Mommy’s youngest brother getting married in two weeks in San Diego, I convinced her to take the weekend off by staying in Nashville where we live, and to let me take you and you baby sister to Nonna and Papa’s house for the weekend.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

That way, Mommy could get us packed for the upcoming California trip, run errands, and relax with no parental responsibilities for a full weekend. I’m glad she took me up on the offer! She works full-time with a 2 hour commute round trip each day, so she definitely was in need of some down time. She got to go to the spa; getting her hair and nails done.

Meanwhile, we were with Nonna and Papa, and Baby Holly, in downtown Fort Payne at Boom Days. The first big stop for you was to go inside a “gerbil ball” which was a giant inflatable sphere in which you got to run and roll around the Alabama Band Park.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

You apparently got into a thrilling “fight” with another boy in another gerbil ball. I saw the two of you smiling as you both attempting to knock each other over.

It was funny because there weren’t really any rules and I was never told how long you got to be inside there. Turns out, it lasts as long as you do…

The guy running the event explained to me, as you finally were ready to come out, “He’s stayed in there longer than anyone else ever has!” You were very proud to hear that you won the unofficial contest of endurance.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

You also enjoyed riding a pony. I think your favorite part about that was getting to pick the one you wanted.

Next we made our way over to the jumpy house, where we definitely got your money’s worth. I paid just $3 and you stayed in that thing for over 90 minutes. You just didn’t feel compelled to leave.

Back in Nashville, whenever you get to go one of your friends’ birthday parties, you always hope there will be a jumpy house. And when there is, you are never ready to leave.

But for more than an hour and a half, I hung out with Nonna and Papa in front of the jumpy house, as we showed off Baby Holly to passersby.

That’s when I saw and flagged down two of my Class of ’99 friends, Kim Hester and Brian Winkles. They enjoyed meeting you; granted, it was the extremely sweaty version of you, as you only took a short break to get some water.

Turns out, they weren’t the only “Ninety-Niners” I saw while we were there. Out of our graduating class of 183, there were about 20 that I saw there.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

Therefore, I am convinced that from here on out, we need to attend Boom Days every year; that way I don’t have to wait to see my classmate every 5 years for each official class reunion.

Speaking of, a little while later on the closed down the main street, I ran into more classmates, Jason New and Kris Holcomb. Kris’s daughter Libby had just bought a pet baby turtle she had named Raphy. You loved petting the turtle.

You also got to hold a baby squirrel as well, at the pet adoption tent.

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

So everybody got what they needed: Mommy got rest and relaxation back home in Nashville. I got to see my kids enjoy themselves at the festival. Nonna and Papa got to spend time with you and your sister.

And as for you, Boom Days made all your dreams come true. It was the perfect place for a Kindergartener boy to get to burn energy and explore.

We shall return in 2017!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: We Went to Boom Days 2016 in Fort Payne, Alabama (and Gave Mommy a Chance to Go to the Spa)

P.S.

I made this video with Papa the next morning featuring the park where Boom Days took place, which features the Alabama band monument.

Dear Jack: Your Sister Truly Adores You More than I Realized

5 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack: Your Sister Truly Adores You More than I Realized

Dear Jack,

It is important to me that the good and healthy relationship between you and your baby sister is not fabricated or superficial. I don’t want you to hear me saying to another adult, “Ah, he loves his sister and she loves him. They really love each other,” and then in turn you began fulfilling the script in an effort to please me.

Instead, I want to see true mutual love between you to; real and natural.

I have to say, my expectations have been exceeded greatly. You have yet to ever act intimidated by the attention she gets for being the cute little baby girl she is.

What I see instead, is that you are confident in yourself. You are not competing with her.

I say this because one of the first thoughts I had when Mommy and I learned that Holly would be coming, was, “I need to proactively make sure Jack gets enough attention since he won’t be the only child anymore.”

But honestly, it has yet to be an issue. You’re our Kindergartner boy. You are independent and assured.

Your identity is secure in being our firstborn son, not our baby girl. I see no struggle on your end for you to compete for your parents’ attention.

Just take a look at this picture I took of you and your sister before school. Obviously, you’re so proud to have her as your sister.

But just look at the way she looks at you.

That’s how it always is.

I can be on the living floor playing with her while Mommy is making dinner, but the moment she hears or sees you walking in from the other room, she immediately turns her attention directly to you.

She loves you. I think you need to expect her to look up to you from here on out.

Love,

Daddy

What Your Father’s Day Card Reveals About You

June 12, 2013 at 10:46 pm , by 

2 years, 6 months.

Dear Jack,

As I picked out my own dad’s Father’s Day card today, I noticed how they are designed for all the major types of dads. For example, there’s…

The Serious/Sentimental Dad– His card features a sophisticated black and white photo of dad and child.

As well as…

The Funny Dad– Expect a witty cartoon, a humorous photo, or some kind of lighthearted joke on his card.

And similarly…

The Fart Joke Dad– Like The Funny Dad, but specifically capitalizing on flatulence.

But don’ forget about…

The $1.99 Dad– This card tends to feature more generic language, steering away from words of affection like “dad” and “love.”

And of course…

The $.99 Dad– Here’s to one step away from not sending a card at all.

Yes, no kidding: At Kroger, they have both a$1.99 section as well as the $.99 section in the Father’s Day area.

It’s an interesting thought- that kids and adult children have to subconsciously figure out whether they have a serious/sentimental dad, or a fart joke dad, or a $1.99 dad.

I wonder if it changes throughout the years based on the child’s age.

For example, I could totally see you getting me a fart joke Father’s Day card when you’re 10 years old.

It sort of reminds me of an article I read onYahoo! Finance called “What You ‘Like’ On Facebook Can Be Revealing.”

For example, in theory, because of the fact I “like” Non-GMO ProjectOccupy MonsantoJulie BorowskiRon PaulParents Magazine, and Bruce Springsteen on Facebook, I am evidently making it somewhat obvious that I’m a a socially liberal, fiscally conservative, vegan dad who has accidentally caused his 2 and a half year-old son to now get upset in his car seat if he doesn’t get to listen to Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Hits album on the way to school in the morning.

To me, a Father’s Day card is just as indirectly telling of what kind of dad one is perceived to be, at least in that moment, that year by their child.

I will never look at Father’s Day cards the same…

 

Love,

Daddy

 

Top photo: Night Drive Long Exposure, via Shutterstock.

Bottom photo: Knocked Out, via Shutterstock.