Am I doing this motherhood thing right?

There’s no better way to spend a day off than to find out the myriad of ways that you’re inadequate. And I find the best way to do this is by taking an online quiz.

It makes for great balance. Anytime I’m feeling good or maybe a little too big for my britches, I’ll bring myself down a notch or two, then I take a quiz. Conversely, when I’m feeling bad, I quickly turn to Judge Judy or Jerry Springer and let the never-ending problems of others cascade over me.

As a single parent, I've tried to balance being a full time dad and a part time mom.

As a single parent, I’ve tried to balance being a full time dad and a part time mom.

So this morning I found myself intrigued with an email with the tempting link to find out the “15 Signs You’re doing Motherhood Right.” Ok, it wasn’t quite a quiz. But that’s ok because I’m not quite a mother. Again, I look to balance (yet one more reason The Karate Kid has had such an impact on my life.). And while I’m not into motherhood, I do have to assume the role of a mother sometime.

So, in no particular order, here are some of those signs, and how I seem to be faring with each.

1. “The kids smile about 90 percent of the time” – well yeah, but only because they’re laughing at my ineptitude at being a, ahem, mom. You may think I’m kidding, but you haven’t seen my cooking.

2. “They share with others” – definitely true here. Just the other day, I saw my son online sharing my bank account and credit card numbers with some new friends he had made online.

3. “You aren’t afraid to issue a time out” – I know a lot of parents have trouble with this one. But not me. Nope, any time my kid is doing something wrong, I find a timeout works great . . . I just go in the other room, take a few deep breaths, and pretend there’s nothing wrong.

4.”They say please and thank you without being told” – They’re supposed to do that?

5. “You put their need to eat, bathe, and sleep before your own” Again, an easy one for me. I stick the kid in the bathtub, turn on some water, hand him his nearly-thawed TV dinner, and remind him to turn off the water before he goes to sleep.

6. “They would rather cry on your shoulder than a tissue” Yes, but only because we’re out of tissues about 99 percent of the time.

7. “They call for you when they have a bad dream” – I used to ask my son what he dreamed about. He would tell me, very matter-of-factly, “Dad, I don’t dream.” Case closed.

8. “You always keep your partner satisfied in bed” . . . oh wait, wrong quiz.

9. “You are a mom first and a friend second.” – ummmmmmm, well, I don’t think there’s a right way for me to answer this one.

10. “Your partner doesn’t know how you do it” – Well, I don’t have a partner, but I do often find myself talking to myself. “Hey self! How do you cook rice without it sticking to every appliance in the kitchen?” Gosh, I guess I really don’t know how he does that.

11. “You’ve stopped crying over spilled milk” – again, an easy fix. I just stopped buying milk.

Ok, seriously for a minute. I see this kind of stuff about moms, and I think to myself, “hey, that’s great. But where’s the stuff about dads? Where’s the info to check if you’re a great dad? Or the call for dads to be great?

Or, in some cases like mine, where’s the info on support for single dads – I’m sure I’m not the only one out there.

Sure it’s important for women to be the best moms they can be. But guys, it’s up to us to embrace the accountability and responsibility that comes with the role of being a father. We can do it. We can all do it. So let’s support the women in our lives who are the moms to our children. But let’s also support each other in a job that’s as equally hard as it is rewarding. Because when we do it right, we get a final criteria to check . . .

12. “But they always say I love you” – and those are words well worth working for.



The Wal-Mart bet

I know I’ve written about Wal-Mart several times in the past, but unless you’re from a small town, it might be hard to understand.

You see, in a small town, wal-mart is like the center of your galaxy. Sure you can try to stay away, but eventually the gravitational pull draws you in. Then once inside, it’s kinda like the Cantina in Star Wars – there’s a wide variety of characters, dressed in strange garb. This is probably why I blend in so well while walking the aisles. wal-mart

But just the other day I was faced with someone who had hoped to break one of the Laws of Wal-Mart that is physically impossible to break.

I was coming out of the store recently, meandering my way through the parking lot, when I heard someone call my name. It was hard for me to see who it was because Wal-Mart positioned the sun so that it would be shining right as you walk out of the store, blinding patrons and, in some instances, forcing them back inside where they can buy even MORE STUFF.

So there we were, in the parking lot, having a normal conversation and all, when she revealed her intentions . . .

“I’m only going to buy one thing.”

I tried to stifle a laugh, but it was impossible.

“You can’t do that,” I said defiantly. “NO ONE can DO that.”

She assured me that she could. But I just shook my head. “There’s no way. Wal-Mart is deigned so that you’re forced to spend at least 10 times what you intended to spend. And they have very sneaky, clever ways to ensure that.

First, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but they move stuff around ALL the time. The oatmeal that used to be next to the cereal? Nope, not there any more; it’s been moved next to the motor oil or the shampoo or even the condoms. “Yes, I’d love a cup of sex to go with my Cocoa Puffs.”

Another tactic is they allow inventory to run short. That way, when you go to buy the SAME cereal that you’ve been buying for the last 20 years, you’re forced to look around for a DIFFERENT KIND. And you’re not really sure if you’re kids will like it, so you pick up two or three flavors just in hopes that one won’t sit on the shelf of your pantry until even the bugs won’t eat it anymore.

And the most dastardly thing of all that they do? That’s easy – they put chocolate next to the checkout. No, that’s not so you’ll make an impulse buy. They put the chocolate there for survival – because after you’ve been through the stress of shopping at Wal-Mart, you deserve AT LEAST some chocolate.

So, we made a bet: bloody mary’s if I won, and some-as-yet-to-be-determined-flavor of daiquiris if she won. It was kind of one of those no-lose situations (or what the inspirational writers call a win-win. Usually the closest I come to that is being forced to choose between either chocolate covered raisins or just plain chocolate.)

We finally parted ways – me to a happier, calmer place; and her to an impossible task.

I had hardly put he groceries away when I received a text: “You win!” She had bought not just one extra item, but about 21 extra things.

But I wasn’t surprised. No one can break the universal laws of Wal-Mart – it’s a natural law of life, just as certain as the law of gravity and the law that says your kids can only throw up between 2:06 a.m. and 2:09 a.m.

Did I feel bad? A little, but I’m already looking forward to enjoying my winnings.

I don’t look good in a dress

Just a week ago was Mother’s Day, and as you can imagine, it’s not necessarily the best day around our house. Each year brings bittersweet emotions: memories both good and bad, phone calls to wish the grandmothers a happy day, and a church service that welcomes and praises all the mothers present.

But I’m often left with a feeling of uncertainty. As a single dad, I’m often at a loss of what to say to the kids. Or how I should feel. Or even what I should do. dress 4

And what becomes most glaring each year is that I’m NOT a mom. And I really shouldn’t try to be one.

There are a lot of things I can (and have) pretended to be throughout my life, usually regretting it later. And at times, I might have even tried to pull off the Mom roll. But I shouldn’t

Besides the fact that I don’t look good in a dress, there’s an even bigger reason I shouldn’t pretend. Quite simply, I really don’t know how to be one.

Sure, I can apply a band-aid when the driveway proves tougher than my son’s knee. I can follow the step-by-steps of various recipes, stick the concoction in the oven, and a little later pull out something that sort of resembles the picture from the cookbook.

I can buy groceries, clean house, and sometimes even figure out where I’m going on long distance trips (of course, with the GPS system, even MEN can often find where they’re going without getting lost, right?).

But I can’t fake the nuances. I can’t read a book and learn to provide all the little things a mom can provide.

I can give my kids hugs, but they’re a dad’s hugs. I can give them a gentle pat, but it’s not as gentle as that of a mom. I can provide insight and advice from my perspective, but I’ll never be able to provide the perspective of a mom.

No, I’ll never be a mom. In fact, I find it hard enough Just being a dad without taking on a role I can never fill.

A “Best” is THE best

As I sit at my computer this morning, there are ominous piles of paper stacked around me. Piles stacked dangerously high. If my desk was a ski resort, the slopes would be closed to protect the safety of visitors.

In other parts of the house, clean dishes diminish, while dirty clothes accumulate. I see the cat. tired of the hunger pangs, has resorted to planting crops in the dust layers around the house in hopes of producing a quick crop.

If you’re a parent, you get it. There’s always something to do. Usually too much. If we had 30 hours in a day, we still couldn’t get it all done. sam snow pic spring 2015

And yet with so much to do, I still find it surprising, almost amazing, when the simplicity of life can cut through the chaos and grab my attention.

And make me smile.

We had a snow day earlier this year. Snow days may not mean much to you. But around these parts, we not only measure snow and ice, we go so far as to measure the amount of frost we get. (Read this with a southern drawl – “By jimminy, that’s the biggest frost we’ve had around here since I was a young’un and had to walk five miles to school”

So with two (count em, TWO) snow days, my son was a tad bit excited.

He wanted to build a snowman. He wanted to have a snowball fight. He wanted sledding, and snow forts, and if he’d had skis at that moment, I’m sure he would have wanted to install a lift in our back yard.

But I had work. Work that I needed to do. Piles that I needed to diminish, and other piles that I needed to undiminish. (that’s a word, right?)

But how do you turn down an 11-year-old who is dying to peg you with a snowball.

So I pushed the work aside, bundled up, and headed out.

We had a great day. We threw snowballs at each other. We ran around like we had frogs crawling in our pants. We went to my office where the snow was even deeper and made even BIGGER snow ball to hurl. My snow made a snow angel. He kicked snow. Threw snow at icicles. We even tried to play snow baseball.

At home, we build a fire, and listened to the cackles and the pops as we slowly thawed out. We cooked pancakes and bacon for lunch – a “treat” my son had never experienced. And later we watched a movie as we rested from the day’s adventures.

At the end of it all, the piles were still there. But so were the memories.

And in case I hadn’t realized how great those could be, my son reminded me. “Dad, that was one of the best days of my life.”

Yeah. It really was.


Kids say (and eat) the darnedest things

When it comes to sick kids, there are basically three types of parents. First, there are the parents you see in a typical comedy at the theater: parents teetering on falling into chaos as panic sets in.

Then there’s the more normal parents. The ones who calmly assess the situation, show a balance of concern, and schedule a doctor’s appointment if necessary.

And then there’s me.

You gotta be pretty sick around these parts to earn a day off from school. I’m not saying you’ve got to be falling-out-of-a-death-march sick. Or even as sick as some for the guy yelling “Bring out your dead.” picking nose 2

But it’s pretty close.

When my daughter had pneumonia? Well, I wasn’t convinced she was even sick.

And when she broke her arm? Eh, it doesn’t look that bad.

So it was just a little short of front page news when I had my son at the doctor. What pushed me into seeking medical assistance short of a free-flowing artery or my son’s arm hanging on his body by a thread? Well, I like to think I’m objective as I examine the symptoms.

First, my son said he had a pain in his side. Ok, that could be something as simple as gas, or the Matchbox car he had eaten just the day before. Second, there was a fever, but it wasn’t much above 103.  But when the alien burst through his chest . . .

Ok, so that last part didn’t happen. (But if it had, I swear I would have taken him straight to the doctor. Well, unless I hadn’t eaten lunch yet.)

So it was off to the doctor’s office.

And it’s often there that you hear (and sometimes have to confess) the HONEST TRUTH. Which is exactly what happened.

As we went through the standard questions (some of which I even knew the answers to) the doctor asked, “Have you had anything to eat this morning.”

Wow, if only tests in college had been this easy. “No, he hasn’t,” I said with some authority. Ahhhhhh, such a good parent, monitoring every calorie my kids consumed.

Yep, things were going smoothly and I was feeling pretty good. Until I heard . . .

“Mumble, mumble, mumble.”

I looked at my son. “What,” I asked? Maybe he had eaten something.

More mumbling from my son. I still couldn’t quite make it out.

So I leaned down REAL close and asked him again what he had said. This time I got the answer in a whisper.

“I ate some boogers this morning.”

Oh. Boy. Sigh . . .

I patted my son on the head and turned to the doctor, who, thankfully, hadn’t heard. “Nope. He hasn’t eaten anything.”

As expected the booger intake hadn’t had an effect on his health. Or his diagnosis.

As we left the office, I swore that it would take a lot more than a mere alien chest explosion before any child of mine would see a doctor again.

The Hero is in the Eye of the Beholder

I don’t wear a cape. Or fly. Or even have x-ray vision (although that would be a nice super power to have). In fact, about the closest I feel to accomplishing anything even remotely heroic is fixing my son’s lunch in time to take him to school. superhero sound effects

But I recently found out that even if I don’t see myself in the role of a hero, sometimes our kids see us with a much different perspective.

I had the chance to travel to Houston recently as part of my job. And I was fortunate enough to be able to take my son with me.

Now Houston may not seem like the ideal destination. But I’ve been there a few times. It’s one of my favorite cities to visit.

And for my son . . . well, he’s never been to a city that big before. He had trouble sleeping the night before we left because he was so excited.

He wasn’t disappointed. The trip was everything that he had hoped for. And more.

He got to attend his first professional baseball game, and almost saw a no-hitter. He got to make his own waffle in the shape of the state of Texas. He got to visit two businesses, and saw some things at both that he found amazing. We got to tour a ship. He got to tour a museum, and aquarium, and an indoor rain forest.

We toured the Galleria Mall, where he put on ice skates for the first time, and instantly skated circles around his dad, who was content to grip the railing while teetering around the rink. And he got to walk on the beach of Galveston.

It’s a trip he’ll never forget. And neither will I.

But with all of the great things that we did, the one thing that will always stick out to me is what happened in our hotel room following our first night’s stay.

I woke up early to go running. And my son groggily woke to my stirrings. Half awake, he asked me, “Dad, did it really happen?”

“Did what really happen?” I asked.

“Did someone try to break into our room last night, and you beat the stuffing out of him?”

In the semi-darkness of our hotel room, I bit my tongue. I wasn’t sure which was funnier. Thinking about someone breaking into our room, or the fact that I would be capable of beating the stuffing out of someone like that. Or just the phrasing that my son had used. Does anyone really use the expression “beat the stuffing” any more?

Is this man a superhero? Only in the mind of his son.

Is this man a superhero? Only in the mind of his son.

But before I could answer, he said something else.

“Because I was really scared, but you were a REAL hero.”

I was touched.

And in that moment I realized that our kids see us in much different ways than we see ourselves. While we as parents often view ourselves as bumbling and stumbling through a life that we’re trying to figure out on the fly, our kids have a much different view of us.

To our kids, we are the brave ones, who face the darkness without a night-light – even when we’re trying not to show the fear our kids are feeling. We know what to do, even in the most extreme circumstances. We’ll ALWAYS have the right answers – even when we don’t have a clue.

As our kids get older, that perception of their parents changes. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes not.

But we as parents have a chance to shape that image our kids have of us – with the choices we make, spending time with our kids, keeping the promises that we make.

No, I don’t wear a cape or leap over the tallest buildings in a single bound.

But it felt good to be a hero, if only for a brief moment. And if only in a dream.

Who needs Super Bowl? We’ve got Kitten Bowl

This was the year I had been waiting for. My son, now 11, was excited about watching the game with me.

Ok, he was excited more about the commercials. And the promos for Kitten Bowl, promos that aired all week leading up to Sunday. And my son fixated on this program.

I think it was just the name of the event itself that drew him in. Or maybe he thought the cats were actually going to be playing football.

This was, without a doubt, the WORST thing I’ve ever seen on TV. But it wasn’t bad in a good way, like saySharktopus or some bad Lifetime movie. No. This was three the commercials than the game, but that was ok. (And what have I done to this poor boy when it comes to commercials?EEEEEEEEEK! But that’s a story for another blog)

Not only was the scoring impossible to understand for viewers and cats alike, I think the game might have been fixed.

Not only was the scoring impossible to understand for viewers and cats alike, I think the game might have been fixed.

But as a lead up to the Super Bowl, we were looking forward to the Kitten Bowl. In case you’re not familiar with this “event”, it’s three-hour (that’s right, three – count them, 3 – hours) program on the Hallmark Channel that basically is just a bunch of kittens playing.

I’m not sure what the allure of it was, but sometime during the hours of excruciating fingernails-on-the-chalkboard TV.

How bad was it? Imagine the worst thing you’ve ever seen, and multiply it by 10. Or 1,000. It doesn’t matter.

This show was so bad that the FCC should step in and revoke Hallmark’s right to broadcast a television station.

If convicted criminals were given a choice of punishment between death or watching Kitten Bowl non stop for 20 years, they would pick death every time. Heck, I was ready to die and I was only on my first viewing of the thing.

The show had these kittens playing as kittens do with a small kitten-sized field in the background. Somehow (we never figured out how) points were scored. Time was kept, just like in a real football game, but there never seemed to be any consistency.

And the announcers . . . sigh. Let’s just say that I’m sure the announcers would have chosen death, too, if it had been an option in their contract.

There were a couple of announcers you might have heard of. Boomer Esiason was there. So was Mary Carillo, who used to be one of the top tennis announcers on ESPN.

Yep, if you’re an announcer on the Kitten Bowl, chances are good your broadcast career is not heading in the direction you had hoped.

Oh, and the puns. There were so many bad puns. I counted something in the neighborhood of just over 500 puns on the words Purr and Paws – and that was just in the first 10 minutes of the show. Words like “Purrking lot” and “Purr-lates” were common.

And the names they stuck on those poor cats. Talk about animal cruelty. There was Joe Montuna, Wes Whisker, and Ryan Fitzcatrick. (Ok, I admit, I kind of liked the name Mr. Meowgi, but only because I have a special place in my heart for the Karate Kid.)

At one point, my daughter had joined us, and through our laughter at all the badness, she said that she could have written the dialog for this show. And I told her that she couldn’t – she couldn’t write that badly.

Yep, this was about as bad as it gets. And who do you blame for something like this? Hallmark Channel? Television in general? Cats?

Well, I blame Patricia Heaton and her friends and fellow cast members from the family sitcom The Middle. My son and I happen to watch that on Hallmark Channel in the evenings. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be the emotionally scarred wreck I am today.

So Patricia, I’m laying this one on you. Your punishment? You guessed it. You’re going to have to sit through three showings of the Kitten Bowl. And if you survive, well, then you’ve got the plot line for another episode of your show.

But as for me and my son, we’ve got better things to do . . . like watch the Puppy Bowl. We recorded it yesterday.