Thursday, August 7, 2014

Do NOT Ditch the Gym Membership! Staying in Shape as a SAHD

"You get married, you have kids, and you get fat." -Jim Gaffigan, Dad is Fat.

This blog post is in direct response to the recent blog post "Ditch the Gym Membership: Staying in Shape as a SAHD" by B.K. Mullen.

I began being a Stay at Home Dad in April 2012, and I was determined to keep up my work out routine. Although it has altered a lot, I have lost weight since staying home and stayed in relatively good shape. I am signed up to do a relay Olympic triathlon in September (I am biking 26 miles and running a 10K) and planning on running a half marathon in October.
Running with the double stroller also often puts the kids to sleep.

During the past 2.5 years, I have kept my gym membership. Yes, my gym is two blocks down the street from our house and I do get to the gym 2-3 times a week. I know that every Dad out there does not have the same convenience.

If you are a stay at home Dad/Mom or even a working parent, here are some tips on staying in shape even with young children:

Workout at odd hours. When our kids are on a roll of waking up around 7:00 AM, I get up at 5:00/5:30, go for a bike ride or get to the gym. This does not happen very often, but it is a great way to start the day. When the kids are waking up on the early side, I go to the gym or work out at home at 8:00 PM. If your kids sleep in later than 8:00 AM, I envy you and I have no further advice.

Run with Your Kids. Most of my weekday runs these days are with either a single or double Bob stroller. It is a great workout and when our 3 year old refuses to take a nap, a great way to get him to sleep. These runs are not as great as my pre kid runs, but I enjoy them just the same.

Carve out time on the weekend. Being a stay at home parent is difficult and tiring. You do not get a lot of alone time. Working out on the weekend has provided the time I needed to think or relax. About 2-3 times on a weekend, I get up early and ride my bike. go for a run or head to the gym. It’s a great way to work out and get some alone time. Of course, you will need pre-approval from your spouse on this one.

Join a Mommy Boot Camp. Two years ago, I joined StrollerStrides in our area. Yes, I was usually the only Dad in the class (two Dads had joined previous to me joining), but it was a great way to workout, meet other parents and get an hour break from parenting duties.

Yes, when we have kids our lives have changed dramatically. We have less time to ourselves and for leisure activities. However, with some creativity, less sleep and desire, we can keep our gym memberships and continue to work out. If fitness is important to you, don't give it up just because you now have kids.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Letter of Apology to Our Second Born Child

Dear Eloise,

Since this January, I have been caring for you and your older brother Caden. Unfortunately for you, your life is based on Caden's schedule and not your very own schedule. Luckily, you are good-natured about this and are willing to go with the flow.

When Caden was your age, he got to sleep when he wanted to sleep uninterrupted, go to swim class and story time, eat when he wanted to eat and got picked up pretty much the instant he started to cry. This is what happens when the world revolves around you.

Since you are the second child, your first year of life has been quite different than Caden’s first year. Therefore, I would like to apologize to you for the following:

  • Waking you up when I had to go pick up Caden
  • Letting you cry a little longer so I could attend to Caden's needs
  • Turning my back on you for one second and your brother somehow using that one second to knock you over or stomp on your hand, etc.
  • Since our lives revolve around Caden's activities, I apologize for not taking you to swim class or many free library story times. That being said, these were mostly lame until kids turn about 18 months.
  • Anything Caden did to you in the double Bob stroller that I could not see because of the covers and the fact I was busy running or walking the dog.

Despite these inconveniences, I do feel I am a better parent the second time around. I am in tune for when you are hungry, sleepy or not feeling well. I now know some tricks to keep you safe and happy. I am also more patient and less stressed out as we have been through all this before. Also, I have learned to appreciate the little things (rolling over, crawling, babbling) much more since these things go by way too fast.

Again, I hope you accept this apology. Oh, and if we decide to have child #3, I apologize in advance for giving you the Middle Child Syndrome.

Love,

Dad

 


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Top Five Problems with Frozen

By now, every parent knows about the movie "Frozen" and their kids probably have memorized all the songs. Each of us at one time out in public, have heard a girl between toddler and elementary school age belt out "Let it Go!" The film is the highest-grossing animated film of all time and the fifth highest-grossing film of all time, with $1.23 billion in revenue. The merchandise from the movie is so hot that Disney stores have limited the purchases to two items per guest and a limit of 1 item per guest for Anna and Elsa costumes!

Caden with "Elsa".
Luckily, in our case Eloise is too young to know about "Frozen" and while Caden did see it in the theater (his first movie) and twice on DVD, he has not totally obsessed with the movie (yet). The movie is wonderful with songs that stick in your head and positive messages (family love, strong female characters, living without fear of what others think). However, since the movie is everywhere and anywhere right now, I have five questions about the premise of the movie. All angry e-mails and tweets can be sent to realsahdla@gmail.com or @TheRealSAHDLA. 

1. Why doesn't the family send Anna to boarding school?
It is obvious that Elsa is the creative and talented one in the family. Instead of holding her prisoner in her own castle and ostracizing her from sister, why not send Anna to boarding school and nurture Elsa's talents and let her flourish? Instead, they lock Elsa in the castle; give her the gift of agoraphobia and leads to her going ballistic on her kingdom when she becomes the Queen. Boarding school may have also taught Anna not to get engaged to the first prince who comes calling! Of course, since this is a Disney film, the parents die on a sinking ship later in the movie.

2. If the trolls erased Anna's memories how does she remember to build a snowman?
Allegedly, the magical trolls erased Anna's memories of her sister's magic, which consisted of making ice and snow and of course a snowman. However, in a subsequent scene Anna sings "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" So did the trolls do a terrible job or is that movie just trying to get us to choke up early in the movie with this tear jerking song?

3. Why do certain characters have accents while others do not?
The movie is set in a village named Arendelle, supposedly in Norway in the 1800s. The characters Oaken and the Duke of Weselton seem to have some sort of Norweigian/Nordic accent while everyone else let's say has an American accent. Is it too much to ask that everyone in this small area have the same type of accent?

4. The monster in the movie is called "Snowball" and is unleashed on Anna?
The terrifying monster in the movie is called Snowball (we have to fast forward this part for Caden.) In the movie, Snowball terrifies Anna and her friend/guide Kristoff. If Anna and Elsa are loving sisters, why does all powerful Elsa allow Snowball to attack Anna?

5. When Hans tells the "brain trust" that Anna is dead, that he married Anna right before she died and they should sentence Elsa to death, no one objects?
Seriously, Hans swoops out of nowhere (the youngest of 14 boys), Anna leaves him in charge of the Arendelle and then begins to make huge decisions like killing the Queen? Of course, after his plan his foiled, Anna punches Hans, everyone applauds, everyone is happy again and order is restored.

In all seriousness, it is a wonderful and sweet movie that will probably be shown at our house another 100 times or until the DVD fails (damn you Disney!) Of course, as all parents have realized I need to "Let it Go!"

Thursday, May 22, 2014

30 Things I Will Miss When Our Kids Get Older

As Caden is soon turning three in June and Eloise is turning one in July, these are the things I will soon miss when they get "older".

1. Caden being excited about fire trucks, ambulances, trains, airplanes and taxi cabs. And hoping that never ends.
2. Both kids needing snuggles when they are sick.
3. Family Hugs.
4. Looking at photos of Caden and noticing that he is holding his stuffed bunny.
5. A diet of mac and cheese, smoothies, grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, PB&J, pizza, cereal and hot dogs.
6. Making your kids happy with a balloon, a sucker or a book of stickers.
7. Reading books. Even the same book over and over.
8. Caden knowing the words to "Good Night Construction Site".
9. Eloise laughing at Caden.
10. Caden giving kisses to Eloise.
11. Teaching simple sign language such as "more" and "all done" and seeing your kids sign back to you.
12. Caden asking "Can I sit in your lap?" or "Can you snuggle me?"
13. Being excited that your infant is getting new teeth.
14. Knowing that it all goes by way too fast.
15. Caden singing:

16. Caden ending sentences with "Mommy" or "Daddy".
17. Walking to get ice cream.
18. Double stroller runs.
19. Taking dog walks with Nugget and Ellie in the ergo.
20. The excitement of treats like chocolate, a Popsicle or ice cream.
21. Getting Eloise to sleep and holding her a little longer to keep her head on my chest; sometimes even taking a nap with her on my chest.
22. Bath time.
23. Caden asking to sing him "You Are My Sunshine" before he goes to sleep.
24. Not needing an alarm clock for the past three years.
25. Getting excited that your kid made a poop in the toilet.
26. Play dates with friends.
27. Going to the beach with little kids.
28. The satisfaction of getting them both to sleep.
29. Being there to see the first rolling over, sit up, crawl, pull up and first steps.
30. Feeling exhausted at the end of every day, but knowing that you have never been happier with two kids.

Of course, our goal as parents is to have our kids become responsible, polite, respectful loving, caring and self-dependent adults. But for now, it is fun to enjoy them being so young and little.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How to Travel with 2 Kids Under the Age of 3 in 25 Easy Steps

We recently traveled to Chicago and Indiana for my brother's graduation, my mother's retirement party and visiting family. Here is how we survived flying from Los Angeles to Chicago in 25 easy steps.

1. Have a super organized spouse.
2. Said spouse makes a spreadsheet of all packing supplies.
3. Pack all the tiny kids clothes in a huge suitcase and wonder how it is possible that all those clothes take up so much space. 
Cram your stuff into carry on. Feel proud that you packed suitcases while still watching two kids.
4. Realize you don't know where 25% of the things on the packing list currently reside.
5. Make sure there are TV shows and/or movie loaded on to the iPad. Get over the fact that your child will be having 2-3 hours of "screen time". Also, purchase some new toys, books and stickers that may or may not entertain your toddler.
On the car rental shuttle at O'Hare.

6. Text taxi driver to confirm pick up. Taxi must arrive 2.5 hours before departure.
7. Have a huge car seat bag. Throw all the things that do not fit in your luggage in said bag.
8. If you have a morning flight, wake up early so you can actually shower before getting both kids ready for the flight.
9. Somehow load two car seats into the taxi with all the luggage. Make sure both kids are in the car seats as you tax off.
10. Pay the cab driver and force yourself into the sky cab line. Stuff the car seats into their car seat bags with random luggage. Negotiate with the sky cab on how many bags the airline will charge you. Realize that you need a new luggage system for a family of four. Make sure to keep your stroller as it is used for pushing kids and/or remaining luggage.
11. Tell your spouse how much you tipped the taxi cab driver and sky cab. Begin to question yourself on your tip amount. Tell yourself to never tell your spouse your tip amounts in the future.
12. Pray that your flight will be on time.
13. Somehow take off your shoes, belt, jacket, etc. while holding onto a child. Hope that you can find a family having a worst time than you. Luckily once, we spotted a family of four where the mother said "this is a disaster!"
14. After getting through security, find ways to entertain your kids while waiting to board the plane and pay an insane amount for food to eat while on the plane.
15. While boarding the plane, give mean looks to people who are flying solo and show your envy of them.
16. Pray that you still have the iPad.
17. Hope that you are sitting by an understanding parent or loving, sweet grandparent.
18. Try to entertain your toddler with new toys and stickers. Give up and ask said toddler if they want to watch a video on the iPad.
19. Even though the seat belt sign is on and the flight attendants are serving drinks, go to the back of the plane and try to get your infant to sleep. Get into an argument with the flight attendant. Tell them that you understand the seat belt light is on, but you need to get your child to sleep.
20. After infant is sleeping on your chest, hope they stay that way for the next 3 hours. Realize you will not be getting a drink with a sleeping infant on your chest.
21. Make sure both kids are awake when the flight lands. We have found out the hard way that it is difficult to get off a plane with 2 sleeping kids and 3 bags.
21. Hopefully locate your luggage and try to swipe a luggage cart. Try to figure out how to get kids and luggage out to the taxi cab pick up area.
22. Taking a risk to not rent a car until we leave the hotel two days later, pray that the taxi cab line is not too long. We have learned this the hard way and once had to cram into a town car with a lady who will always be a saint to us.
23. Negotiate with the cab driver and fight through traffic to the hotel.
24. Pay and tip and taxi cab driver and the hotel bellman. Do not disclose to your spouse how much the tip was this time.
25. Realize that it wasn't that bad and your kids love taxi cabs, airplanes, and hotels.

After surviving travel with these 25 easy steps, remember that you have to do it all over again to get back home.




Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Should I Let My Son Play Football When he Gets Older?

My son Caden is approaching 3 years old in June. Yet, at an early age, I have already thought about and discussed with others: “Should I let my son play football when he gets older?”

The reason for the discussion and the debate is the recent discovery of concussions in football and the after effects on football players after they retire from the game. Even President Obama stated that he would not let his hypothetical son play football.

I am a football fan, even though my two favorite teams growing up were the Cincinnati Bengals and Indiana Hoosiers. I played basketball, baseball and football growing up and played basketball in high school. Both my father and brother were high school football players; my brother’s team played in the Indiana High School Football championship game.  So my take is not based on a person that never played sports.

I recently read the book League of Denial by Mark Fainaru-Wadaand Steve Fainaru. The book details concussions suffered by former NFL players Steve Young, Merril Hoge and Gary Plummer among others and the tragic deaths of DaveDuerson, Andre Waters, Junior Seau and Jack Lambert.

The book detailed that Duerson, Seau and Lambert suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a degenerative brain disease, resulting from repetitive head trauma, that some believe causes symptoms of dementia, such as memory loss, aggression and depression. For decades, this disorder was only associated with former boxers — its original name was “dementia pugilistica,” or “punch drunk” disease.

Of course, since the Major League Baseball strike in 1994, football is now America’s most favorite sport. It brings joy to fans on weekends (and now weekdays), tailgating, fantasy football, gambling and fan allegiance. The NFL made nearly $10 billion last year alone.

However, will the NFL be in trouble because parents begin to ban their sons from playing football? In the book, Joe Maroon, one of the NFL’s first brain specialists, lays out the threat to the league: “If only 10 percent of mothers in America begin to conceive of football as a dangerous game, that is the end of football.” Here are some of the recent findings and factors:


The future of football will be interesting. Will new rules and technology protect football players? Will youth football be concentrated in the Midwest and South because parents who live along the coasts begin to prevent their kids from playing football? Will football become a sport for just low income families, as higher income families’ flock to sports such as lacrosse and soccer? Malcolm Gladwell stated that “football could become like the Army, where you know the risks and sign up anyway, and it becomes an activity for people who have nowhere else to go.”

After reading
League of Denial and the reports of potential long-term effects of repeated head injuries, I am finding it difficult to believe that football is 100 percent safe for children. On the other hand, I am against “overprotecting” and “bubble wrapping” our children. 

I understand that there is a slim chance that my son will play college football or will have a future in the NFL. When Caden reaches the age of wanting to play sports, it will be an interesting discussion on whether to allow him to play football or not. However, why let him risk a brain injury in youth or high school football when he will not likely play college or pro football? Hopefully, he will choose to become a runner, baseball player, swimmer or volleyball player instead. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Seven Things You Gain When Having Kids

In an earlier post, I wrote about the “Seven Things You Have Less of When Having Kids”, which was mostly advice to those who are in a relationship and are considering having kids. What I left out is all the wonderful things that come with having kids. The following are my Top Seven things you gain when you have kids. The list does not include "weight", "tax credits" or "perspective".

Enlarged capacity to love. Adding members to your own family is an amazing experience. Somehow your own heart expands, lets more love in and your capacity to love grows. After having our first child, we wondered if we could love our second child just as much. Sure enough, after having our second, we easily loved her just as much. Furthermore, I fell more in love with my wife Susan. We even love our dog Nugget more, especially because he is so gentle around our crazy children.

New emotions. The new emotions and feelings that come with parenthood are indescribable. On one side there is joy and happiness. On the other, there is often frustration, weariness and often the feeling of defeat. Then there are the tears. Not sure if they are tears of joy or sadness but there are tears. Just reading the books Someday or If I Could Keep You Little brings me to tears. I have "heart melting" moments every day, most recently when Caden gives Eloise a kiss or when Caden says "God made the moon and God made Caden".

Greater respect for your own parents. Like many of us, my first memories started around age four. I remember having a wonderful childhood and my parents doing everything for our family. However, I have no memories of my parents likely getting up with me in the middle of the night, changing my diapers and dealing with all the crying. Now that I have experienced that for myself, my admiration and respect for my own parents has grown stronger.

Appreciation for your partner. I did not know I could love, respect and admire my wife more than I did before we had kids. And now I know it wasn't even close. She carried our kids for 40 weeks, delivered them and loves and cares for them unbelievably well. After having kids I saw her in a new light: a gentle, loving and patient mother. She has greatly helped me through the parenting stage, making me a much better parent and person.

Joy for the simple things. Being a parent means you get excited about the simplest things: seeing your kid roll over, clap or walk for the first time. Even potty training brings excitement; I never thought I would get so excited for someone pooping in my life. I am excited daily by Caden seeing a fire truck, cement mixer, helicopter or airplane. Before having kids, we were quite picky about the restaurants we visited, what we were making for dinner or what we had planned for the weekend. Now we are just happy to actually make it through dinner at a restaurant, have any kind of weekend plans and stay awake for any kind of movie. Even with this, we have never been happier.

Patience. Kids are not always on your schedule. Their little legs cannot keep up with adults. When you really need to get out the door, they usually will not get dressed, or they will need a snack or a drink. Often there is a diaper blowout when you least need one. Having kids will definitely teach you to become a more patient person, which can lead to being a more kind, empathetic and loving person.

Learning to be present in the moment. We have so many distractions in our lives: work, social media, TV, and smart phones. If you haven't noticed, kids need our constant attention. They need their parents to be engaged and involved. Having kids teaches you to put your worries and troubles aside and be in the moment with your children.

Having children means having to sacrifice, becoming less self-absorbed and becoming a better person. There are constant challenges and obstacles to overcome (or at least get through). Life becomes a little more difficult. However, as you can see, the positives far outweigh the daily challenges of parenting. My life is much better with kids. 

Please leave your comments below, e-mail them to realsahdla@gmail.com  or tweet @TheRealSAHDLA.