Mourning Prince… and My Youth


Last Sunday evening, around the time I should have been feeding my kids dinner, a sudden urge to poses a Prince T-shirt came over me. Purple Rain had played at the Target Center in Minneapolis, my hometown, to a crowd of 5,000 people mourning Prince. I knew they were selling Prince T-shirts in the parking lot and inside the stadium.

All weekend I’d been thinking about a Prince T-shirt. I had to have a Prince T-shirt and now.

I sent a few texts asking some friends and acquaintances were they thought I could buy a Prince T-shirt in Los Angeles. I wasn’t opposed to driving. The texts started coming in. “Ahhs! The Ultimate Gift Store.” That’s a good one. I called Ahhs!. No Prince T-shirts. “Venice Boardwalk!” Fantastic. Why didn’t I think of that?

It was close to 6:40 pm at this point. I explained to my husband my urgency for a Prince

The Main Attraction – A Twins Story


During the shock of finding out I was going to be a father of multiples, I didn’t realize that my wife was also giving birth to the hottest attractions for the casual passerby to “ohhh” and “ahhh” at.

In fact, when in public, the only people who don’t seem to acknowledge our existence are the other families with twins. Surprise, right?

Maybe after wading through countless people asking, “Twins?” we don’t have the energy to jump in the air and shout “Twin life!” while hitting a mid-air high five. No, usually our eyes stay averted, gifting each other with a moment of tranquility that is quickly interrupted by the next couple seeing twins for what must be the first time, ever.

My kids are more interesting to look at than exotic aquatic life.

It wasn’t just the stingrays that day. The penguins lost too. As did the beluga whale. And the seals. Even the

Lessons I’ve Learned from Parenthood

Parenting Lessons

Who said being a parent is easy? No one, but then no one tells you it’s NOT easy either. Until after you’ve given birth. Then advice finds you quicker than you can say “Cesarean Section.”

Other parents forget to tell you their knowledge comes from the trial-and-error of raising their own offspring. In the early days I continued under the false impression that bringing up a child would be a doddle. Several years later, I’m here to report a few of the Lessons I’ve Learned from Parenthood:

Lesson One: The first five years are the best (excluding the sleepless nights). I’ve never felt more pride than when my bundle of joy smiled his first smile, took his first steps and said his first word that I had been longing to hear… “Dad, Dad, Dad.”

Still, there are things that make you smile, like fishing the car keys out of the trash bin or saving

Parenting Confession: Budgie Has Left the Building

kid-pet problems

Parenting Confession #1:

Two years ago I accidentally let my daughter’s new budgie bird escape out the window (and presumably into the jaws of a nearby cat). Yeah, not my best day.

She was beside herself with distress. So I came up with a Plan. I spent hours making panicked phone calls to every budgie breeder in the area, then told her that her budgie had been found and I was going out to pick it up.

I made my husband, her sister and all my friends swear blind that the budgie I returned with (bigger, with totally different feather patterns) was definitely 100% hers.

I explained to her that the Budgie Catcher Man had caught it by driving his special Budgie Catching Van (complete with radar and budgie tracking equipment). And that its feathering had changed because it must have lost some by getting caught in hedges. And that the feathers that had

How Reading to My Kids Changed Our Relationship

Reading to children


I love spending quality time with my kids, but the hectic pace of life gets in the way. From their school activities to my work, it’s rare that we get to do more than just pass each other on the way to our respective engagements.

But I’ve discovered one thing that lets me to carve out time with my children, and it doesn’t take (much) time or money: Reading a book together.

Reading a bedtime story every night has actually changed my relationship with my kids.

When my wife and I were first starting out, money was tight. I was in graduate school full time and also working full time when our oldest son was just three years old. I knew the time I was putting into school and my job would create a better life for him, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing out on some

The Parent’s Resume

Whether we work outside the home or stay at home, parenting uses every ounce of physical, emotional and verbal skill we possess. The job is huge.

So if we were hypothetically applying for a parenting job, our resumes would look something like this:


Seeking financially non-compensated, indefinite position that is challenging yet highly rewarding


 I always strive to do my best, fail miserably at times, but my persistence is admirable (there’s really no other choice). I may not have the solution for everything, but I’m willing to buy a book on “How to Be a Better Parent Because You Suck At It Right Now” or … continue to wing it and make it up as I go.


(1) CEO of Leadership 2007 (Birth of 1st child) – current

Create multitude of charts that aid in the encouragement of positive behavior.

Where There’s a Will…

She had done it a thousand times before. When Emma was younger, she would carefully and slowly roll her body down the two steps of our sunken living room.

But as she got older, she evolved into scooting down on her bottom with some semblance of graded control. It was a sight to see. Her four-foot, seventy-five pound frame propelled itself by pushing off the floor with the back of her hands while simultaneously pumping her legs, much like a caterpillar. She never took to the hand splints that were custom-made for her when she was little to keep her wrists straight and to prevent the contractions that partly defined her life.

Even as a small child, she was not going to be restrained. She somehow always managed to remove the limiting splints—using her teeth to pull apart the velcro. Survival was the name of the game for Emma, from the day she

Lose the Battle, Win the War

There I am. Standing in the budget section of the grocery store. Arms piled high in frozen dinners I’ll be lucky enough to enjoy, let alone cook, the remainder of the week. I’ve missed at least two shifts in two days of my two part time jobs. The few things I can afford to splurge on are fresh fruit and yogurt for Zoey.

And there she is. She’s running down the aisle screaming “No!!! Mine!!!!,” strewing raspberries along her path. A few people look at me, obviously wondering why I’m not disciplining her. A few others wonder why I’m not chasing her and bargaining with her.

All I can do is choose between laughing and crying.

I’m defeated.

It’s been a long couple of days and I’ll need my energy for the dinner-time battle, the bath-time war, and the bed-time hell. I calmly look at her and say, “Dude… Here’s the rest of the

Why Moms Shouldn’t Make New Year’s Resolutions


As a new year rolls around, I have some hard-won advice for moms making New Year’s resolutions: Just stop. Don’t do it. It’s a bad idea. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

Instead, take a look at your day-to-day life: packing lunches, paying bills, doing laundry, potty training, the baby’s nap, breakfast, clean up, lunch, clean up, dinner, clean up, dry cleaning, phone calls, and on and on.

Obviously, Moms shouldn’t make New Year’s resolutions.

Here are the top eight reasons why:

1)  You’re already bombarded with everyone’s schedules and goals—you don’t need a new set for yourself.

2) If you’re talking fitness, moms do more lifting than most. Up the stairs with 35 pounds of screaming toddler, and down the stairs with 15 pounds of baby.

3) If you want to set a goal to get more sleep, that’s a very bad idea. You’ll never make this goal—not for 18+ years.


10 Things Never to Say to Your Pregnant Wife

Tatiana Vdb

I’ve been there, done that, and now can share: Ten things you should never say to your pregnant wife.

1. Well yes, you are putting on weight! But to be fair to you, you haven’t trained in ages and have eaten whatever you wanted for six months. Given all that, you look okay.
2. While watching “One Born Every Minute”: “Oh my god, the stretch marks on that woman are horrendous. No amount of cream is getting rid of them!”
3. When the baby comes, it’ll be okay if I sleep in the spare room, so you can breastfeed and I can get some sleep, right?
4. When the baby comes, I’ll still be okay to go out a few nights a week with my friends, right?

5. Actually, now you mention it, I have noticed a few hormonal changes in you.

6. You don’t look pregnant in that dress, just a bit overweight, which is

The Definition of Insanity


There’s nothing sweeter or more rewarding than reading to kids. Or so I thought, until this happened:

My one year old brings a book over, saying “Hi Da-Da!” and wants to sit on my lap.

His book of choice: “Snuggle Puppy,” and I read it with spirit and enthusiasm. He loves it. When it’s over, he holds the book up and says, “More!”

Obviously I’m a hit. Sure.

Oh wait, what’s that?

You want to read Snuggle Puppy a third time?

Why sure! But this time I change up the voices, add some snaps to jazz it up and give him a huge raspberry to the neck for a spectacular grand finale to this Snuggle Puppy Trilogy … an encore Bruce Springsteen would envy.

Huh. I must be really good at this because now it’s all Snuggle Puppy, all the time.

A fourth reading has been strongly requested and of course I fulfill it. Obviously my award-winning raspberry-ending

Morning Comes Too Early

The cell phone alarm chimes at 6 a.m. I can never locate my cell phone at 6 a.m. At some point in the night the phone fairy came into my room and moved it like a chess pawn.

I find the source of my annoyance and slap it to “SNOOZE.” Eight more minutes of blissful sleep.

But 6:08 a.m. rolls around. It’s time to wake the sleeping bear.

There was a time when I couldn’t wait to wake up my son, even for all of the hell he put me through as a newborn, toddler and preschooler: The countless hours of wakefulness during the middle of the night. The days when he decided he was simply done with naps. The nights when he just wasn’t tired and insisted on staying up. “Just five more minutes, PLEASE?”

Walking him back to his room, I would chant over and over again: “I can’t wait until I

Pop Quiz: Flying With Kids

Now that summer break has come to a speedy halt and my mother’s heart is a mixed drink of one-part elation and three-parts homework hell, I finally have a moment to reflect on the memories from the summer.

The biggest accomplishment, by far, was surviving a plane ride with the kids. It’s a monumental feat that will test your marriage and prove exactly what your “for better or for worse” is truly made of.

Take this pop quiz to see if your union can withstand this crucial test.

1. When riding on a plane with a 15 month old, do you:

A) Apologize to the other passengers ahead of time because, lets face it, they are trapped with you on this hellish journey.

B) Try to watch a movie. This could be your only chance for another two years.

C) Collect all the cartons of milk from the flight attendant

Port-a-Potty Parenting 101

I’m always on potty watch. It’s my God-given duty to take care of the dooty. I can’t stand it. It’s the bane of my existence. Anything pleasurable to me is a trigger for them. Sitting down to a movie, pouring a cup of fresh coffee taking that first bite of ice cream; someone always has to poop. It’s always an emergency, and if we’re out of the house, it’s always in the most vile latrine I’ve ever seen and smelled.

Independence Day, 2014. I knew it would happen. I planned ahead. I made sure all children went potty before we left. I forced them to poop. I threatened to take away toys, I threatened to take away TV. I was serious.

Satisfied that all poops were out, we joyfully set up camp along the lakeshore to enjoy the annual celebratory fireworks. It was a beautiful evening; hot and clear, no bugs, a

Holding On


He’s too old to need this. He shouldn’t need to be cuddled and huddled to sleep. But I do it. I shouldn’t need it either. But we’re simpatico this way.

Like him, I too am refusing some transitions now that I know there’ll likely be no return, no future facsimile, no one ever who will need me this way again. It’s really hard early on, but it’s also so simple. The hours are neverending but the repeated need–once the electricity is on, the fridge is stocked, the house is clean and warm, the bum is wiped, powdered and covered–is just love. Hugs and kisses and cuddles. It’s all I need really. Its what he gives me in exchange for everything I can provide him.

I’m getting the better end of the deal. It’s not even that close.

He was sleep trained before. At least this part. The “going to bed” part of the

Confessions of a Gender-Neutral Mom


Early in my first pregnancy, we decided against finding out the sex of our baby. “One of the few surprises in life,” people told me. There was more to it than that, though.

I didn’t want my unborn baby to be gendered before birth, to be born into a room decorated according to stereotypes or dressed in a wardrobe of pinks or blues. For as long as possible, I wanted this baby to remain a baby— a miracle, and nothing more.

My newborn clothes were browns, creams and yellows. From the very beginning, I set out to raise children who are not defined by gender, who could see opportunities for themselves across a broad spectrum of interests.

It surprised me when I realized my own bias. I’m now determined to correct it.

Our first child was a boy, and as soon as he was born, the “It’s a Boy!” cards arrived in the mail,

Depths of a Mother’s Love

When my two older children became capable swimmers and no longer needed me to hover over them in the water, I created a new parenting rule for myself. I decided I would wear a swimsuit whenever I accompanied them to the pool or the lake, even if I didn’t plan to get into the water. Being prepared to play the role of lifeguard was a way to hedge my bets and ward off the unthinkable.

One morning, I broke my own rule. We had traveled from Minnesota to Phoenix so my husband could attend a work conference and we could soak up some sun. When seven-year-old Louisa and five-year-old Sebastian made their request—could they “please, please go to the pool” for a quick swim before lunch?—I was already dressed. It seemed like a hassle to put on my faded swimsuit, only to change back into regular clothes an hour later. Besides, their


“I can’t believe what you went through,” my friend said, welling up with tears after reading an essay about the molar pregnancy* I had ten years ago.

Ten years ago, I couldn’t believe it either. All I wanted was a baby, but I got cancer instead. When that clusterfuck of a pregnancy–my first one–robbed me of everything I believed to be real and good and safe and normal, the earth tore open and swallowed me whole.

Still, her sympathy caught me off guard. Even though my molar pregnancy is a topic that often comes up in my writing, it doesn’t elicit the tremors of misery that it once did. The experience undoubtedly shaped the person and mother I’ve thankfully become–in good ways (perspective) and in bad (anxiety)–but it’s no longer a wound that throbs. It’s a memory of an awful thing that knocked me down, but also of one that taught me

One in the Can

Those who have experienced the undeniable need to sacrifice your attachment to cleanliness and a small piece of your sanity in a wretched  public restroom can appreciate the contrasting experience of heeding that same call in the comfort of your very own bathroom.

At home, in your private sanctuary, you have the clean seat, the tidy bowl, the stack of outdated yet unread magazines and the perfect combination of wipes and extra quilted paper for your delicate behind. It is the nirvana of potty breaks.

That is, of course, unless you live in a house filled with a motley assortment of teens, tweens and toddlers. In that case, the home is filled with bathrooms that are only one small step above public facilities. We have the random sprinkling of drips and, more often than not, a clogged toilet.

Could it be the carb-heavy, fiber-free diet of the average American youth, or perhaps the


It’s been a while since I stabbed my foot on an overpriced plastic building block.

They used to litter the hall and creep between the sofa cushions. It was as if they were summoned from thin air. No matter how many drawers and containers we had, they couldn’t handle the deluge. After a warning I would vacuum them up, small boys running in front of me to rescue the very best ones.

Once they had been returned to the bins, they inevitably sunk to the bottom which led to furious digging, blocks flying, kids whining. And there were creations. Some clearly vehicles, others… not quite identifiable. There were orderly patterns and haphazard towers. Each windowsill held a new version of imagination come to life in plastic. Until it held the next one.

We moved across the country a year ago and the boys carefully collected each block from under the rugs and the

First Day of School, Here So Fast

It was finally here, that moment I had been counting down to all summer long: The first day of school. At the end of May it seemed so far away, but mid-August came quickly.

My daughter was bouncing off of the walls as she talked ninety-to-nothing about school. I almost shushed her so she could eat her breakfast, but I knew Kindergarten was already going to be a big adjustment for her.

She was going to have to sit still and be quiet. I didn’t know if my spunky five year old could do that, so I decided to let her jabber through breakfast.

I pulled the heavy door open to the elementary school, and hurried my daughter inside. The familiar smell of the school filled my nostrils, the mugginess surrounded me, and my mind wandered back twenty years ago to my first day at this very school.

Twenty years ago, I was scared,