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Monday, November 20, 2006

I, Caterer

So last Saturday I had to work a shift for a party some woman was throwing for her husband to celebrate his 70th birthday.

It was a tented event on the grounds of a place called Fearrington Village (which you can peek at here: http://www.fearrington.com/).

The party involved such entertainment as character actors walking around interacting with the guests [cheesy] and tango dance group [sorta cheesy] and three tenors doing opera [had they had old Bugs Bunny cartoons projected behind them on a backdrop? Priceless].

Some guy actually said this: "This is the nicest party I have been to that I didn't pay $1,000 to get into."

He was met by much laughter.

Some days you feel like Bob Newhart,
other days you feel like Peter Sellers.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

AHDCIKC - Being There Part 3

 

Dave Lux, he of the 17-inch monitor'ed lap top, enjoying a festive post-convention cigar. Posted by Picasa

AHDCIKC - Being There Part Two

 

The group makes their way to Arthur Bryants via a [shortened] yellow school bus. It's a raucous ride through downtown Kansas City.

We arrive to find another bus, this one of the chartered variety, parked in front of the joint and several folks let out sighs.

But no sooner then their sighs fade does it become apparent that the crew on that bus is leaving the restaurant.

The mouths of sighs become smiles.

Intrepid British journalist John Perry asks what to expect.

"Various parts of the pig all cooked to perfection," I say.

"Yah, but which parts?" he asks.

Many pitchers of beer are procured.

Veni, Vidi, Veci.


We came, we saw, we conquered. Posted by Picasa

At Home Dad Convention In KC - Being There

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I get up bright and early.

Too early considering I had a hotel room to myself and nary a kid demanding my attention in sight.

Then I went to the lobby for a few cups of complimentary coffee (much needed).

I spotted a few AHDs doing the same.

Shortly there after I hopped into the car of KC Dad Kevin “Kace” Christensen now dubbed a “shuttle” and made my way with a few other dads and a Japanese woman to the spot on the campus of UMKC where the convention is taking place.

The Japanese woman Renge Jibu is on assignment for some business magazine in her home country. “Japanese men do nothing at home,” she says with head tilt that is customary in her country.

People register, breakfast is consumed and introductions are made.

And soon after, the first of the day-long breakouts begins.

I attend a breakout on kids and the internet which is really informative but mostly pertains to parents of the tween’er set and kids who use email. The moderator is Dave Lux from Chicago and he has some scary shit to say like the fact that 1 out of 7 children will be sexually solicited in a year’s time or that 75 percent of children are willing to share personal info online.

I make a mental note and place this in a file for a few years down the road when my kids actually use the computer for such purposes. Right now both my kids strictly use the computer for video games and virtual puzzles but I am aware that my 6-year-old knows how to boot the sucker up and often goes online unsupervised. It wasn’t so much of an issue say a year ago, but now as a first grader and ardent speller the boy could easily find himself viewing inappropriate material whether it’s some knucklehead lighting himself on fire on YouTube or one misplaced vowel away from porn.

Taking candy from a stranger somehow seems like such a trivial thing these days. Yet it’s basically the same principle that is applied here.

After a brief break it's onto the next breakout which covers the topic of going back to work and preparing yourself for a return to the job market. Much of what is discussed pertains to recent grads more than At Home Dads but the general info regarding resumes and cover letters is a nice little refresher.

What isn’t explained (and maybe because it can’t be) is how to address the gap in work history due to being a stay-at-home-dad. One fellow is really concerned about how this will look a few years down the road and is aggressively taking courses and looking into grad school to make sure he’s got something to account for during that time besides bottles, diapers and memorizing the theme to Barney.

I believe more is achieved with the internal discussions amongst the men in the room then the career counselors but they do provide excellent questions which prompted the transfer of information between us all.

***

Lunch is basically the make-yer-own sandwich spread and serves its purpose to fuel up the conventioneers for another couple hours of talking heads, fluorescent lights and all things At Home Dad-esque.

***

My post lunch breakout is an open discussion amongst the dads that is segregated by age. I hit up the 2-5 age group even though my oldest is 6. I figure I may get some fresh insight on 3-year-olds and possible shed some myself to those about to run into the 5-to-6-year-old bracket.

Lots of interesting discussions come up: from the importance of routines to clean-up tactics.

“Routine is key,” says Steve Lundy from the KC Dads group. He uses the 3 B rule: “bath, books, bed,” he says.

Minnesota Dad Tom Vytlacil points out that while routine is key, kids are “event sensitive not time sensitive.”

With all the great ideas and good advice, I suddenly feel like I’ve been teleported to an episode of Dr. Phil what with high level of enthusiasm being used among the informative exchanges.

From there it’s off to the Kids, Nutrition & Behavior breakout.

This breakout focuses more specifically on the concept of a minimally processed, organic food diet. This being the Midwest, it comes off a bit forced trying to push this type of diet on what I perceive as the meat-and-potatoes sensibilities of the locale. Working in food service and living in the most cosmopolitan part of my state, most of this is either old news or stuff I already have implemented (buying/using local and seasonal goods, substituting soy milk for milk and keeping a minimum of the ingestion of sweets). It also can be stripped down to the age old adage "you are what you eat.” Of course if my kid eats at McDonalds all the time and drinks soda there’s going to be some nutritional – and behavioral – issues to be addressed.

That said, I still gleaned some valuable info from the session.

[Note to organizers: more coffee after lunch! Or maybe nap time!]

The last breakout of the day was about depression and isolation and the one I probably got the most out of despite the fact that it had this sort of Iron John/AA vibe to it: we are all men with this unique experience and we are not alone.

The day finished with brainstorming sessions on likes and dislikes and on getting a leg up with the planning of the 12th Annual At Home Dad convention. Capping off that was men sharing their anecdotes with the crowd.

And yes, I broke out the Breathing Penis story.

I won’t tell it again here, you had to be there for it.

Then it was back the hospitality room at the hotel for cold beer and conversation before boarding a bus for ribs and BBQ at Kansas City’s stories Arthur Bryants.

Monday, November 13, 2006

At Home Dad Convention In KC - Getting There

 

Friday, Nov. 10, 11:15am: Shoeless and without belt I clear security. This is the first time I have flown in years (in a post 9/11 world). One of the security guards at Raleigh/Durham International – a catering colleague of mine – recognizes me.

“I know you from somewhere,” she says, her pierced tongue affecting her slight Southern drawl. “[Blank] Catering,” I say. “Oh, yeah,” she says. “They fired me and [blank]. It was over some bullshit.”

***

With the better part of an hour to kill I dive into Bradley Udall’s The Miracle Life Of Edgar Mint.

***

I sit down for lunch – an $8 veggie burrito – when the biggest son-of-a-bitch of a man sits down next to me. I overhear his cell phone conversation which involves talk of wrestling and how he’ll need a shot because his shoulder is hurting him. He’s mentions Hulk and The Undertaker to who ever is on the phone as well.

“Do they call you Tiny?” I say.
“Yeah,” he says. “My brother is even bigger.”
Then he explains how both him and his brother use to wrestle professionally. His brother wrestled under the moniker Mr. X.
“And your alias was?” I ask
“Tiny,” he says.

***

I take a puddle jumper (as my father would say) to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., to make my connecting flight to Kansas City, which is where I am headed to attend the 11th Annual At Home Dad Convention. And yes, I am as surprised as you that it even exits much less on its eleventh year. Two shuttle trips across Dulles’ tarmac are required before I reach Concourse A… and a vodka tonic is required ($7).

Drinking at the airport reminds me of a time back in the late-80s when I spent several hours waiting at National Airport for a friend of mine – stuck in Chicago because of bad weather – to make it to the East Coast from Los Angeles. After several hours killing time in an airport bar, his flight eventually got cancelled and I had to leave only to return the next day to pick him up. I left thinking about how strange airport bars are; the strange mix of people you find there; the stories told and heard.

Twenty minutes later, beverage consumed and airport bar memories relived, my worse fears are revealed: my flight has been delayed an hour. This has several ramifications. First off, it most likely means I won’t rendezvous with British journalist (and father) John Perry at the Kansas City airport. We had planned to split a cab to the meet & greet session that evening at Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City.

It also means I will miss the free beer at the meet & greet.

But this is Parenting 101: expect the unexpected.

I secretly admit to myself that I’m glad I’m not traveling with a wife and two kids and having to face a long flight delay. Because I am traveling alone, I exhale a sigh of relief.

Accentuate the positive.

There’s another trait learned as a parent. Making the best of a shitty situation is a weekly, if not daily, occurrence.

I peek at the departure board. My flight it delayed yet again.

I contemplate another adult beverage.

***

I stave off the desire for an adult beverage with a slice of pizza and my novel. I fantasize about possessing a text-messaging cell phone, an iPod, or a lap top. But I’m fully antiquated with nothing but a book, a pen, a few scraps of paper stapled together which turns into a makeshift notepad, and a meager slush fund in my pocket. Whittling away the hours in an airport is not a cheap proposition.

I check the departure board again. My 3:30pm flight has now been delayed from 4:30pm to 5:30pm. Clearly, the skies of United aren’t as friendly as I’d like them to be.

There goes the meet & greet.

Yet I’m starting to feel like a real working father and husband, one who has to slough away the hours at airports on business travel. Only I’m missing the fancy watch, the carry-on tote with wheels and an expense account.

***

Suddenly, I get this slight foreshadowing; a wee bit of déjà vu – like I’m soon going to be the angry drunk at check-in on some reality television show. Luckily for me, somebody else would step up to fulfill this role an hour later.

I speak with a Vietnam Vet who is in town for a battalion reunion that’s part of the new Marine monument dedication.

With all the delays and gate changes, mass confusion ensues and several KC-bound folks board the wrong plane.

I am one of them.

I introduce myself to the young woman sitting next to me and ask her about her travel plans. She is going to meet her boyfriend in Kansas City who is coming from Texas.

“And what about you?” she asks.
“I’m going to a convention for At Home Dads,” I tell her.
“What?” she asks.
“A convention for stay-at-home-dads,” I say.
“I’m going to write a story about it,” I explain. “I want to know who these men are.”
“A bunch of losers!” she exclaims with a hearty laugh.

Fortunately for her, I have boarded the wrong plane and won’t spend the next two hours schooling her on the definition of loser.

The best news when I finally board the right flight – at 6pm – is that nobody is sitting next to me.

I settle in and get back to The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint.

***

The woman across the aisle from me is reading Vanity Fair and I can smell the pages as she turns them.

My dinner is a blend of pretzels, roasted red pepper sesame sticks and BBQ soy nuts. All chased with Minute Maid orange juice. Yum!

***

When I finally get to Kansas City, it is passed 8pm.

I stand outside in the blustery weather – a mix of snow and sleet – and wait for a shuttle to take me to my hotel. Roughly, thirty minutes and $17 later, I’m at the Hampton Inn and ready for some food and drink. I call one of the organizers, KC dad Andy Ferguson, but the group from the brewery has splintered apart since the meet & greet and he apologizes for not being able to point me in any AHD direction.

I walk down the street from the hotel and step into a pub called Tomfooleries. I order a sandwich and a few beers and then head back to the hotel for some sleep. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 11, 2006

We Are Live From Kansas City Folks!

Yep.

I promise I'll post pictures soon...

Monday, November 06, 2006

In Four Days...

I'll be here:

http://www.athomedadconvention.com

and so will these folks:

http://moderndaydad.com

http://kchomedad.blogspot.com

http://kev.homelinux.net

http://www.hail2pitt.org

as well as about 40 some other proud stay-at-home dads.

and we'll talk about things like this:

http://www.athomedadconvention.com/2006_Convention_Web_Program.pdf

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Picasa O Sweet Picasa

Why do you cause me so much grief?

Halloween (Slight Return)

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Hockey Man meets Red Power Ranger

Current Temperature

Raleigh, North Carolina
Currently: 38°F


Conclusion: It is cold as shit.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Houston... We Have Poop

So September proved to be a landmark month in the household: my 3-and-a-half year old son is now officially potty trained.

That means no more diapers.
And diapers are expensive.
But I'm sure the cost will quickly be absorbed somewhere else.

During this past month, I had to face one of my greatest fears as a parent.
And I stood and faced it head on.

You see, before I ever even thought about having kids, I always wondered how parents delt will the public bathroom with kids-on-the-cusp of potty training.

I've been in some nasty bathrooms in my day, but I don't think my boys will be seeing the inside of a rock club's bathroom anytime soon.

But then there's always Six Flags, A Durham Bulls game or - gasp! - the fast food restaurant in the middle of nowhere on a long road trip.

So a few weeks back the time finally came for me: I had just arrived at the soccer fields where my 6-year-old has practice. And after about two minutes the little guy told me he had to go pee.

"For real?" I said.
"For real," he said.
"But you just went before we left the house," I said.
"Dad," he said with a huff.
Then he stomped his foot on the ground and said, "I have to go potty!"

And that's when we saw the Port-A-John.

So we both went in and I instructed him not to touch anything. He peed in the urinal but couldn't keep his eyes of the exposed toliet seat.

We left I and took a deep breath of fresh air.
And then he stopped.

"I have to go potty dad," he said.
"But you just went," I said.
"I have to poo," he said.

So we went back in - and like the trooper father that I am - I held my son over the toilet seat and watched him take a dump into the cesspool below. He was sort of tottering on the edge of the toilet seat and began putting his hands where no human should ever have to put them unless in the middle of some sort of tortutous interogation.

I tried to get his hands in control while removing him off the seat and then he slid forward... leaving a streak of poo on the seat and across his butt check. So now do I not only have to wipe his ass (have you ever seen toilet paper in a Port-A-John?) but clean the seat off as well.

At one point I thought one of his shoes - from the movie Cars - was going to fall in and that I would find myself trying to explain to a crying toddler why I wasn't going to retrieve his favorite shoe from the mucky muck of poo.

So I faced the public bathroom fear - in a Port-A-John no less - and lived to tell about it.

And yes, they had hand sanitizer in there.
This is Chapel Hill afterall.