Friday, May 31, 2013

Anniversary Wishes

Ten years ago I couldn't comprehend ten years. I couldn't imagine being 32, a father of two-and-a-half, and in a job that keeps me working the nights I should have with my wife.

Ten years ago, I laid in bed not knowing what awaited me as a married man, not sure if I would be a good enough man for the woman I had fallen in love with. I knew so little of love, commitment and happiness.

Twenty-four hours later, I was married to my wife and was the happiest man alive. In the ten years that have followed, through our trials and triumphs I have remained that way: happier than any man I know. Happy to be married to the most wonderful woman I've ever met.

I don't know what will happen in the next ten years. I don't know where our journey will take us. I don't know what challenges or surprises or adventures or marvels await us. But I do know one thing.

I know that love is real, and I believe in it because of her. These ten years she has shown me what love is. I will love her as strongly and happily as that day ten years ago for the next ten years and beyond.

Happy Anniversary to my wife, the love of my life.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Taken for a Ride

This post is about scams.

No, I was not scammed, but I was taken on a ridealong. This serves as my warning. A public service announcement, if you will.

This past Memorial Day, as we were enjoying lunch with my parents, they got a call from Publisher's Clearing House! Mom answered the phone and quickly passed it off to Dad for him to tell the person on the other line they weren't interested in whatever he was trying to sell. But after years of sending in those postcards with the scratch-offs and stickers, Dad was excited at the prospect of a $750,000 prize. He listened to the pitch, reluctant to believe it, but wanting to be convinced it was legit.

The guy on the phone told him there was a driver about 45 minutes from his house with a certified check, and needed Dad to confirm he was himself by fulfilling a task at the service desk at Wal-Mart, keeping him on the line the entire time. Once there the scammer instructed him to purchase a "Green-Dot Moneypak Paper Card" for $500. If you're not familiar with the Green-Dot card, it basically works like a prepaid debit card. You buy it with cash, and then can use the 14 digit scratch-off number from the back of the card to pay for things online. They can be used for things like reloading a Pay-Pal account, or to pay phone or utility bills.

Wanting to be a sounding board for him (and secretly hoping it was legit myself, cause I know my dad is a very generous man and would share the wealth) I volunteered to ride along as he drove to the store, not knowing he would be asked to lay down his hard earned money. Once there, we explained the request to our customer service desk worker who voiced her concern about the affair and advised he not make the purchase.

But that payday was ever so enticing. And the man was still on the phone. This guy was a smooth talker as he just kept on working it. Saying it was imperative Dad keep his winnings confidential until the prize check was awarded and that the driver could not come to his door until he had that 14 digit claim code in hand. He suggested he go to his ATM and get cash, then go to a different store to purchase the card. The upside was just too good. $750,000 was on the line. Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand dollars. Three quarters of a million bucks. Through this, we knew all it could take to rake it in, even if he bought the card was to never give them the code should they ask for it, until he had cash in hand.

We never did buy the card. the charade had finally gone on long enough, the offer was just too good. And, Google is our friend. One quick search on the PCH site revealed the true nature of the scam, and we were able to walk away. Told the guy finally it wasn't going to work and wished him luck in his future illegal endeavers. See, that Green-Dot card is like cash for a thief. With that number from the back, he or his associates can transfer that $500 to another debit card before Dad would be able to even get anywhere to do it himself. We never got to the point where he was asked for the number, but its clear that it was the endgame.

So, how do you protect yourself or your parents or your kids from scams like this? The MoneyPak card has a warning on the back of it to treat it like money and state they are not responsible for any money you may lose. First thing to do is remember that your money is your money, and you should never have to spend money to win money. That is not a sweepstakes, its called gambling. The rest I think is best expressed in a monologue from the made-for-tv movie... ah, who am I kidding, lets do a list.

1. Never give out any personal information over the phone or online. A legit business will never ask you to confirm your password or account number.

2. .....

Nope, that pretty much sums it up. Never give out your personal information to anyone, especially if you did not initiate the conversation. Think about your finances and how hard you've worked to keep them above water, how hard you've worked to earn your money, how much your family depends on you to make smart decisions about your wealth. Think about your retirement, or your grandkids upcoming birthday. These are the things that matter, not the $750,000 you could have won at random. Don't be played the fool. You'll feel less the fool for missing out on a potential prizefall than you will for getting taken for a ride.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Where is Heaven, and What do we do When we get There?

About a week after our neighbor's dog died, Godzilla and I were sitting on the front porch taking a break from our street-ball game when he asked me "Where is Heaven? I don't think its underground." That's his little mind still working through this new concept of death. We had driven past several graveyards in the preceding week and talked about how people are buried there so their families have a place to go and remember them.

He knew though that those graves just couldn't be where Heaven was. So, we talked about it. Threw some ideas out there. Had a laugh and pondered God and Great Grandpa chillin' up in the clouds. I had to ask him what he would do if he could just be floating around up in Heaven with anyone he liked. Perhaps sharing a smoothie with Superman? Baseball with the angels? Nope, he wants to go mountain climbing with me.

So, now the question is do they sell "Mountain Climbing for Dummies" in Heaven, or should I start reading up on it now?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Best Friends

zoo trainRecently, through a conference with his speech therapist, I found out my son likes me. I had a pretty good idea beforehand, but when his "teacher" relayed a conversation they had in which he said "I know my dad so well, it's like we're best friends!" I knew for certain. And why shouldn't he? After all, I'm his primary caregiver in the morning. I ride bikes and play ball with him. I cut his sandwiches in special shapes on occasion. I have even been spotted wearing a cape as we zoom around our little cul-de-sac saving the city from vicious invaders. So, I'm glad he likes me.

But this can't last.

I want to be his friend until the end of my days, but I know that the days of being his best friend are numbered. He will get older. He will make friends at school who know all the names of the Skylanders characters. He will listen to whatever hipster music men of my generation just don't get. He will have a camp out with his buddies from boy scouts. He will have a first crush, a first love and a first kiss. And somewhere along the way, he will have moved on from me.

But I hope he knows me even better by that point. I need him to know not only what I like, but what I don't like. Its my job to make sure he knows how I trust him, what I expect of him, where to make a stand. (This goes for my daughter as well.) My job as parent is to prepare them for life. That doesn't happen as their best friend. That comes by teaching life skills so that when they no longer count me as their best friend, they can handle the new relationships they build and feel confident making their own decisions. If I do my job, I can trust them with those new relationships, and they can have the freedom every child wants. While I know they most likely will not tell me everything as they get older. I want them to know by the relationship I build with them that they can.

And so, in the time I have left as my son's best friend, I will continue to build Lego cities with him, and talk about death when it is needed, and point out when I see things that disappoint me. I will teach him how to build a sandbox and how to treat a girl and how to spike his hair just right. For my daughter, I will show her what to expect in a gentleman when *gulp* she begins to date. I will listen as she sings me songs or reads a story she wrote herself. I will encourage her to be strong and confident in herself and I will teach her modesty in her dress. I will wear a crown as we have high tea, and I will listen whenever she wants to talk.

I am their best friend, and I am their Dad, and while I will forever be their Dad, my time as their best friend is limited, so I will make the most of the time they give me.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Stuff My Kids Say III

"I'm never going to have babies. I'm going to adopt. I don't want to have a baby come out of here, or for the doctor to cut me open and rip it out of me."
          - Nat, 8 years

What dad isn't thrilled to hear his daughter say she won't be having kids. But its really the end of the statement that perked my ears this time. "Rip it out of me." It seems Kate and I may have talked about her deliveries a little too candidly in front of the kids.

I promise though, Leatherface does not perform c-sections.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Stuff My Wife Says II

"Oh yea, and I'm pregnant."

Wait, what? I thought we were done. Afterall, kid2 is 4 and will be 5 by the time january comes around. Kid1 is 8 (will be 9). Who knew that after all this time, we'd have another one?

Kate had gone to the doctor for a routine visit, and when I picked her up after the appointment, started with something about needing to pick up a prescription. I think I asked her if everything else was ok and she came back with that.

Talk about burying the lead.

To be honest, I'm excited as can be. I love the idea of having a third child. For a long time, I think our family has been missing something. But for an equally long time, I haven't felt like we were ready to have another child. And now here we are. Ready or not.

Oh yea, and happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Stuff My Kids Say II

"Girls have girl babies. Boys have boy babies."
          - Godzilla, 4 years

Thank God we were not created this way. I have the utmost respect for women in general, and the childbearing process in particular, but I never want the responsibility of childbirth. What pregnant mom hasn't muttered the words "you try carrying this thing around inside you for nine months"? We've all seen men try on the prego-bellies and recently through the magic of the internet, we were able to see two dutch men hook themselves up to electrodes to "experience labor".

 I have a feeling, if men were tasked with carrying babies, we as a species would have died out long long ago. Between the cravings, the cramping, and the hormone changes, I know I want no part of it. But that doesn't mean we don't have our roll to play. Men should be there for their children, and that means being there for their children's mothers from the beginning. We should help pregnant mothers through the difficult times of ther pregnancy. We need to be willing to run across town for that highly specific and wildly irrational craving. We need to know how to give a back rub, or a foot rub or whatever other rub she needs.

Amazingly enough, it can't stop there. Dads need to help their kids through their mom's pregnancy as well. It can be a terribly confusing time for young children who, up until this time only knew their family one way. Whether they ask them or not, your kids have questions about pregnancy and about having a sibling and about what that new baby will mean to their relationship with you.

Your family needs a whole lot from "Dad" and this usually means "Dad" will get less sleep, less leasure time, less social activities and an increased dependance on caffeine. Thank God we don't also grow people!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Did Somebody Say Free Comic Books?

We got back from Free Comic Book Day at BuyMeToys here in South Bend (who did an awesome job by the way) and Nat wouldn't even get out of the car until she had finished her comic. Once she did, it was straight into a chair to read the next one. And then the next. Reading has always been a passion of hers, and she was very excited to even go today.

We have been reading to her since day one. From board books up to picture books and easy readers and now chapter books. It was last fall when we brought home Brian Jacques' "Redwall". She was enthralled. It was a whole new world of fantasy that opened up to her. Up until that point, she mostly enjoyed princess stories. Disney has a way with little girls, and she still loves the fairies and princess', but she has graduated to more complex storytelling. She reads stories like the "Dear America" series, and "The A-Z Mysteries". These are stories that develop characters and conflict. They engage her mind and imagination.

Today it is comic books. If you want character development, look no further. If you want conflict, do I have to say it? If you want imagination, comics will keep you dreaming until you are old enough to be a fanboy (or girl) and not just a kid. If Free Comic Book Day does nothing else, I hope it brings dads together with their kids to read something new, and to open their eyes to a world they never knew existed. Because when you dive into a book with your kids, be it Cinderella, My First Alphabet, or the New 52, you help encourage a lifelong love of reading, and that's something I think is worth spending time on.

Friday, May 3, 2013

I love the 80s

You know that VH1 show, "I Love the 80's" where they talk about how, like, totally rad the decade was and highlight the Rubik's Cube and the Sony Walkman? Yea, that's the one. Well, I love the 80s. I have great memories of those years. I remember great TV, much of which I've already introduced to my kids. I remember my favorite sports stars from the 80s: Montana, Sandberg, and Payton still decorate my walls. I remember playing Ninja Turtles, Duck Hunt, and Simon.

More recently, NatGeo Channel made a "The 80's: The Decade that Made Us" miniseries. There, they examined the influence things like MTV, the Cold War and the Reagan revolution had on shaping our world today. This one was less legwarmers, and more Alaskan oil spill. Having been a kid, much of the cultural revolution of the decade went over my head, but I still caught on to major events like the Challenger explosion and Live Aid. I was there for the first personal computers, for "Back to the Future" and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Nowhere in there do I remember giants or dragons...

The following is a transcript of historical events I apparently missed in the 80's as told to my by my 4 year-old son.

"I think dragons were around in the 80s when there were giants. The giants tried to protect us from the other monsters like Bigfoot. And they protected us from pirates. And they did giant-ie things. And sent the pirates to the bottom of the sea. Then the dragons went into hiding, so people didn't know they were still around. But people research dragons so they can learn all about them. And I'm an expert on dragons, so I'll tell you all about them so you know about them too."

After that gem, I look forward to more revisionist history from the best story teller in our house. I think I heard him muttering something about showing me a soccer move from the 80s... Stay tuned!