We are a one car, three bike, one trailer family

We have enjoyed getting out on the bike and have even started Sunday rides when the weather cooperates. Biking is a huge part of the culture of this city and becoming a bigger part of the culture of our family. We are learning from the lessons above and hope to be riding as a family for a long time to come.

Towards the end of the summer our family moved out of the shared three story, five bedroom house we were living in with another family and into a much smaller place closer to our four year old’s new pre-school. No longer living with friends meant that the free childcare we had enjoyed was gone, as well as the use of the extra cars. Since we are a one car family we had to figure out how best to get the boys to and from school. Living in Portland, the biking capital of the U.S., it seemed like getting a bike was the way to go. Since I knew next to nothing about what I would need and what to pay I enlisted the help of a couple gear head friends and we toured most of the bike shops in Portland before settling on a new Hybrid bike. A search of craigslist lead us to a bike trailer for a decent price and I was soon setup with helmets for the family and all the other accouterments needed.

We have now been riding to and from school, the coffee shop, and the playground and throughout that time there have been a couple of things I have learned in the process:

  • Make sure the tires are pumped up and nothing is rubbing the tires. This seems like a basic thing but after trying to pull a trailer up hill with tires that were a little low, it is an important one. The drag that comes with under inflated tires means dad is swearing a little more than is called for.
  • Know the best bike streets in the neighborhood. Luckily there are great bike streets in Portland and when you get on one of those streets you immediately know the difference. Busy narrow streets are tough on a bike and even tougher with a trailer.
  • Bring snacks and something for the kids to engage with. I brought a couple of books, which was good, but no snacks or water, which was bad. Listening to the little punks whine about being thirsty while I was dehydrating  myself was annoying. Next time I will have the water and the cheese sticks or fruit to keep them fueled up. I think having a bag of toys and books will be a good idea to just grab and throw in the trailer.
  • When you are fat and out of shape like me, going on a ride on the off day is helpful for your over all fitness. The lactic acid in my legs is brutal today so getting out there for shorter ride to the park or coffee shop will help me get in better shape and make that longer trip easier. At least that’s what I’m going with right now to encourage myself to get out more.
  • Helmets for everyone. Make sure you all have a helmet on, even the kids in the trailer.
  • When the weather turns bad having the right gear is important and right now I don’t have a rain coat. A light weight breathable fabric that is also water proof is a bit pricey but a necessary purchase. The boys are warm and dry in the trailer but I end up wet out there in the elements.

We have enjoyed getting out on the bike and have even started Sunday rides when the weather cooperates. Biking is a huge part of the culture of this city and becoming a bigger part of the culture of our family. We are learning from the lessons above and hope to be riding as a family for a long time to come.

Portland Dad writes over at Stay At Home Dad PDX about raising two boys as a stay at home dad. You can also find him on twitter as Portlanddad.

Competing with the kids for attention

Mostly parenting is a process of squashing the selfishness that is inherent in all of us and embracing our nobler nature. Some days we are more successful than others but in raising and teaching kids we learn just as much through the process.

5:30 is anticipated in this house like nothing else. There are other important times in the day that have more weight with the boys like lunch and nap time. When we need to leave for school, or to go back and pick Primo up is another closely watched time but 5:30 is when Beautiful comes home. That is the time that it is no longer me against the kids. I have an advocate, a team mate, a colleague, and they do too. When mommy comes home they get a brand new audience for the tricks and stories that I have long grown tired of and the boys get a shot of adrenaline.

There are days, like yesterday, when Beautiful coming through that door means more to me than others. Days when it has been exhausting or hard and I need my partner, my wife. The irony is those are the days the boys are particularly glad to have their mommy home. Yesterday the boys were both feeling sick and their whining and fighting were at all time highs. I was worn out from trying to be patient, and feeling powerless to make them feel better. Those two feeling mixing together into a powerful parental cocktail of failure and shame. They are sick and I resent them for it. There is no bigger picture in that moment when you telescope into that damning truth.

Coming home into that atmosphere Beautiful comes to the rescue for the boys. She loves on them and takes care of them and makes them feel better in a way that, sometimes, only mom can do. They swell from her love like sad party ballons given new life with a shot of helium and while I am happy for the break I can’t help feeling jealous. It is that jealousy that makes me feel even worse. I mean what kind of person gets jealous of their kids for the time they get with their spouse? Most of us do I would guess. We may not admit it very often or even recognize the feelings when they arise but I bet this is common. It is common here anyway and yesterday it was on full display.

I soon came to terms with my own feelings and realized that, at this moment, the boys needed their mom more than I needed my wife. Soon they would go to bed and I would have her to myself and seeing them revived helped squash those selfish feelings. Mostly parenting is a process of squashing the selfishness that is inherent in all of us and embracing our nobler nature. Some days we are more successful than others but in raising and teaching kids we learn just as much through the process.

Portland Dad writes over at Stay At Home Dad PDX about raising two boys as a stay at home dad. You can also find him on twitter as Portlanddad.

Family Fun For the Fall

When the leaves start to change colors and the air picks up a little nip I start to get excited. I love the Fall and the changes it brings. I love the tasty coffee drinks and comfy sweaters that warm from the inside and out. My wife and I were married in the Fall and for our honeymoon we headed to the North East and enjoyed the Fall Foliage of Vermont. Now that we live in the North West the trees are mostly evergreen so the colors aren’t as vibrant but the excitement is still there. It is that excitement that got us up and out of the house this past Labor Day to head up the Columbia Gorge in search of some Apple picking.

Apple picking season doesn’t really start until mid October so we were a bit early but there was still family fun to be found. We drove along the Columbia River just past the Wind Surfers a Hood River and then turned South to head up towards Mt. Hood. There were Apple and Pear trees on all sides with the massive mountain as an ever present background. The first place we went to had a wedding that day and sent us on our way to another orchard near by. The second place was called Kiyokawa Orchard and while we couldn’t pick any apples yet we could wander around and play amongst the rows of trees. Along with the apples trees there were a number of wagons, toy tractors, and large fort to play in. The boys lined up the wagons and ran around the fort while my wife and reminisced about going Apple picking just before our wedding. Before leaving we bought some sweet juicy apples, pears, and a couple of peaches to enjoy in the ride home.

We had a great day exploring the orchards in search of ripe apples and fun with our boys. There are summer adventures to enjoy but with the change of season there are still plenty of adventures in Fall. Apple picking is a Fall tradition for our family, along with a trip to the pumpkin patch, and hot apple cider. What are the family traditions you have when the weather turns cooler and the colors start to change?



Portland Dad writes over at Stay At Home Dad PDX about raising two boys as a stay at home dad. You can also find him on twitter as Portlanddad.

Response to Fatherfolk and the challenge to be more

want to see those millions of kids without dads mentored and loved. I want to see the dads that are still there engage with their kids more, get on the floor and play with them. Get outside and run, or collect leaves, or build a fort, or lay on the grass and watch the clouds with their kids. I want to see a revolution with dads where one day the absent father is as rare as the at home father is today.

On Sunday night Aaron over at Father Folk wrote an open letter to the dads over at Dad Revolution, a letter challenging us to be more. Please take five minutes and go over and read the letter before we continue….

You read it right? Good stuff huh. That letter went up late Sunday night, was taken down and then went back up Monday night. You see Aaron took a little heat for posting that, it seems some still don’t get the spirit of his challenge. Aaron is not a fighter on the playground calling us out, but a friend in the locker room spurring us on. That is how I interpret it anyway, and I think he’s right. Well I think he’s mostly right anyway. I disagree that engaged parenting from fathers is the new just showing up. I think we get clouded by the dads that are blogging about their kids and how they parent. It is a self selecting group but a small percentage of fathers. Most of the dad bloggers are engaged dads, otherwise they wouldn’t even be writing about parenting. They would have blogs on Bass fishing or model train collecting. There is still a large percentage of dads that are not even showing up at all. Those guys don’t know their kids birthdays let alone blog about twenty toddlers that screamed when the clown came out.

I do agree that good enough is not good enough for me though. If I want to be associated with a revolution then I want to be a revolutionary. Being an engaged at home dad, leading by example is a good start. But I want more than that. I really do want to see the public face of fatherhood changed. I want to see fathers turn into dads in this country. I want to see those millions of kids without dads mentored and loved. I want to see the dads that are still there engage with their kids more, get on the floor and play with them. Get outside and run, or collect leaves, or build a fort, or lay on the grass and watch the clouds with their kids. I want to see a revolution with dads where one day the absent father is as rare as the at home father is today.

Now I don’t know how to do that exactly. I’m still working on translating dreams into action plans but highlighting groups like The Mentoring Project is one way of starting. Connecting with dads locally is another way to start and as more of these actions come up I will continue to write about them. I will also use my every other week post on Dad Revolution to call more to action. But I’m still going to tell the day to day stories of my family and my friends. I want to do the same thing with this blog that I try to do with my kids and that is be the person I want them to grow up to be. If I want them to eat their veggies, then I will. If I want dads to get on the floor, then I will and I will write about it. Thank you Aaron for calling us to action not calling us out. I for one accept the challenge.

Portland Dad writes over at Stay At Home Dad PDX about raising two boys as a stay at home dad. You can also find him on twitter as Portlanddad.

Even the Stay at home dads need balance

The Work/Life balance takes on a different meaning when your a stay at home dad. For us Work is the family and life seems to be a complete unknown to me. I am not finding a good balance right now for a couple of reasons I will try to illustrate.

When we started this blog there were three stay at home dads in the Revolution but now that the dust has settled a bit I find I am the only one still going. I feel like I need to stand strong and represent the cause in a sea of great working dads, but at the same time the numbers seem a bit more balanced. While there are more and more men staying at home to raise the kids, whether by choice or necessity, the numbers are still pretty low. So as one out of the ten dads here at DadRevoltion being a stay at home dad fits more in line with the country as a whole. So far you have read some posts on balancing kids and work or balancing kids and your spouse but as an at home dad that balance looks more like balancing kids with a life outside the house. So far I have to say I am failing at finding that balance but there are a couple of reasons for that.

First off from some of my previous posts you probably worked out that I live in Portland Oregon, but that hasn’t always been the case. I was born in Portland but grew up in Southern California. I moved back to Portland two and half years ago after living the previous five years in Indianapolis, Indiana. While living in Indy I was also a stay at home dad and finding that balance of kids and personal time was much easier. I had friends that I hung out with, community projects I was involved in, and plenty of sporting events and concerts to attend. Here in Portland I haven’t found those friends, time for the community involvement, or extra money for various entertainment options. I know that all of those things will come eventually but right now my free time is spent at home reading or on the computer instead of out of the house. That always being home starts to manifest in a feeling of being trapped or stuck. Those feeling build on each other and bleed into my interactions with the kids and with my wife and I am far less patient than I should be.

Adding another kid to the mix has played a big part as well. When we just had one, and a baby at that, it was much easier to get out and about with friends. Now with the two boys it becomes more work to go out with them, and a good deal of planning to find a way to leave them at home. I am also a lot more worn out from caring for my two boys plus the third little monster in the mix that I look after during the week. After a long day of running around with them, cleaning the latest art project, or coming up with three meals a day I don’t have a whole lot of metal energy to come up with something for me to do on my own. I feel like a lot of my creativity is taken up in the day to day tasks of raising the boys leaving me void of ideas for things to do myself. Trying to think of what to do is much harder then just not doing anything so apathy wins out and I pick up the computer instead of meeting a friend for coffee and conversation that doesn’t involve me asking anyone to take their hands off their penis.

When Beautiful comes home from work I don’t want to just clock out, slapping her hand on her way into the house noting that it is her turn to get into the ring and wrestle. I know you working dads know what I mean here, that transition is tough and as much as you want to get right in there and get your parenting on you need to shift gears and ease into it. I feel guilty turn the kids loose on my wife so I stick around too long instead of finding time in there for me. I need to be better at successfully making the hand off and then getting away, even once a week, to recharge. When every minute is about the kids I come to resent them for not having any time for me and that isn’t fair to them. They need me to get away and find more outlets to recharge as much I do. That balance will always be weighted far more in the direction of home but I need to be better about finding those times away that really are for me. Now I just need to come up with ideas for what those are.

Portland Dad writes over at Stay At Home Dad PDX about raising two boys as a stay at home dad. You can also find him on twitter as Portlanddad.

Beating the heat in the city – Water Fountains

Finding places to stay cool in the city is an important part of a parent’s job, especially in the summer. I have found that Water Fountains offer a unique blend fun for the kids and simpler tracking for a stay at home dad with three toddlers to keep track of.

Even in the NorthWest we get some hot days. I know it’s hard to believe, what with the reputation of never ending rainy days and tall evergreen tress but we are at the beginning of 90 degree temperatures like the NorthEast. When the weather warms up like this the boys and I go out in search of water to cool ourselves down. There are a number of great pools in Portland but when it is just me and three kids a pool is a bit bigger than I can handle. So instead of hitting up the pool we find one of the many great fountains around town where a stay at home dad can do better to keep tabs on three toddlers.

Rock Climbing at Jamison ParkThe best of the fountains in Portland is the Jamison Square Fountain in the NW neighborhood called The Pearl. We have been to this one many times letting the boys run through the large pool of water and climb the stone slabs where the water trickles out. The pool fills and then drains every ten to fifteen minutes. The moms there seem to think I need extra help because there is no shortage of advice for me on how to deal with the boys. I take it and smile, I know they mean well. The boys love to run in and out of the water in ever growing circles.

Next to our house is Overlook Park and on Wednesdays in the summer there is a Farmer’s Market in the park and the small fountain is turned on during the market. It is a great place to grab some produce and baked goods while the boys run through the streams of water with the other neighborhood kids. There are usually one or two parents on our block trading off kid watching duties while the other parents grab their pallets of strawberries and fill a growler of Organic beer. Though this is a small fountain having their friends from the block makes this a favorite as well.

Waterfront park along the Willamette river has the mother of all fountains that the kids love to play in but is often so packed that it’s not that fun for dad. The Bill Naito Legacy Fountain is in such a beautiful location and should be part of any visit to Portland for people with kids. There are sure to be plenty of kids to play with on warm days.

Finding ways to beat the heat and stay cool while still getting out and about with kids are an important part to exploring your town. Where do you go locally to get a break from the hot weather and let the kids have fun? Would love to hear about the places that you love in your city

Portland Dad writes over at Stay At Home Dad PDX about raising two boys as a stay at home dad. You can also find him on twitter as Portlanddad.

On the road with toddlers

Last Summer Beautiful and I set off on a road trip with our three year old and one and half year old sons, from Portland, Oregon to Indianapolis, Indiana. We needed to get back to the house we owned in Indy to turn it over for our new tenants and we also needed to get out of town for a little vacation. The thought of driving 36 hours in a small car with small children is enough to inspire night terrors in the best of parents but for some reason we thought we could handle it. We were right too, we did handle it. It was a great trip for a number of reasons and I think your road trip can also be great with a couple of these tips:

  1. Have in car entertainment – We brought the laptop and a stack of movies with us, along with an electrical converter to plug the laptop into the cigarette lighter. I know a lot of the cars and mini-vans have the entertainment built in but if not you can easily use your laptop or portable DVD device. We built a little platform for the laptop in between the front and back seats so the boys couldn’t reach it and so that it would stay stable. We also brought the audio out of the laptop and into the speaker system of the car to give the boys a surround sound experience.
  2. Make the stops fun – We had to make a stop about every 2 hours for bathroom breaks, food stops, or just to stretch out restless toddler legs. We would try to make one or two of those stops, especially around meal times, a fun stop. In Spokane, Washington we played in the water fountain down by the river and in South Dakota we found a playground that was a full size old western town. By making the stops fun and getting out and running around a bunch the boys were good and tired when we did drive.
  3. Drive while the kids sleep – We would take advantage of the times that the kids were sleeping by continuing to drive. That meant driving later at night and sleeping in and playing in the morning. We would pass up on our own bathroom breaks if the boys were asleep and we could get some precious miles in. Our schedule had us on the road around 10 AM with a movie going. Then a lunch stop and play time around noon. We would hold off on the after lunch movie and hope the boys fell asleep for a nap and that would take us to dinner time around 5 PM. Dinner and some play time would get us back on the road at about 6:30 or 7 and we would get the boys in the jammies and start another movie. After they fell asleep we would drive until midnight or 1 AM. The best driving was always when they were sleeping and Beautiful and I could listen to The American Life and just watch the road.

It takes a bit of planning to find the stops, map the route, and make sure that you are prepared for dealing with kids on the road but it can be a nice way to travel. That trip last summer was a great time for our family and we will definitely be doing it again, if not this summer then the next. Happy trails!

Portland Dad writes over at Stay At Home Dad PDX about raising two boys as a stay at home dad. You can also find him on twitter as Portlanddad.

Sharing the love: Living Room Forts

Having grown up with a father that built high rises and suspension bridges I knew a thing or two about the proper way to build a fort and used a lot of those tricks yesterday. First we gathered lots of blankets, sending the boys to raid the guest rooms and linen closets for supplies.

Before heading out to the boat that would take us off shore we had to go over some safety issues first. How to get in and out of a basket for helicopter rescue and how to swing on a rope. Now I understood the basket rescue part, but didn’t know why maneuvering a rope swing was necessary for life out on the platform. Would we be swinging around like Tarzan from deck to deck? We made the thirty minute ride from the shore to the oil rig and while my dad slept on the deck I tried to ward of sea sickness in the back of the boat. We arrived and I quickly learned why we needed to know how to swing on the rope. To get from the boat to the platform in high seas we needed to grab up as high as possible when the boat was on top of a swell and then swing over to the deck. Grab too low and the boat crushes you against the frame of the platform. I grabbed up high on the rope, at the top of the swell and then started my swing over. For some reason I instinctively wrapped my legs around the rope, like it was tree swing at Culaby Lake. When it came time to let go on the other side my hands released and I slid down the rope taking a large knot square in the sack. I fell over with tears in my eyes from the stinging pain of my balls in throat. At the safety meeting the job foreman asked who the kid was that rang his chimes getting off the boat and I raised my hand as he thanked me for making he week.

After that rough start I settled in to working with my iron worker dad. This was not the first structure we had worked on together but it was by far the biggest and most complicated. Building with my dad has always been something I have enjoyed and am eager to enjoy with my boys. Yesterday the boys and I worked on our biggest project to date, a living room fort. Having grown up with a father that built high rises and suspension bridges I knew a thing or two about the proper way to build a fort and used a lot of those tricks yesterday.

First we gathered lots of blankets, sending the boys to raid the guest rooms and linen closets for supplies. Then we moved the chairs around the living room to create a nice solid skeleton for the structure. I was shouting out order and calling the kids terrible names so they would get the feel of a real job site. I feel it’s part of my job to give them the full experience.

We ended up with a long fort along the banister that had two entrances. There was a tunnel on one end that only the little guys could get in and a bigger entrance in the back that daddy could squeeze into. It was surprisingly spacious inside and with the smaller pillows and blankets from the kid’s beds, a comfortable space. We spent most of the afternoon in the fort and Primo decided he would nap there instead of his bed. We kept the fort up all day until this morning and brought the laptop in to watch the basketball game. After bath time mommy read the boys book in the fort and we had to draw the line at sleeping there for the night. I could tell that they loved this time as much as I had when building forts with my dad and none of us got tagged in the junk for our troubles.

Adventurous eating out in Portland

Getting out to eat with kids is a difficult endeavor and part of the reason we often resort to places we know will work. For our family getting out and trying new places has lead to some great finds right in our neighborhood as well as a couple of places that didn’t work out.

Where ever you live there are likely no shortage of places to eat out with kids, but often those places don’t exactly serve the best food for the parents. There are the kids menus/coloring books with the same five options you always find (chicken fingers, mac & Cheese, pizza, burger, and PB&J) and booster seats that may or may not have been cleaned in the last week. Don’t get me wrong I dig these places as much as the next parent but there are times when the most convient place is not always the best option. Finding those rare places that are kid friendly, have a different vibe, and serve great food is something we’re always on the look out for. Here in North Portland there are two un-conventional family restaurants that you would never guess were as kid friendly as they are: Miho and Pause.

MIHO in North Portland

Miho is a new small plate Japanesse restaurant just around the corner from our house. We had avoided checking it out because it was new and trendy and we didn’t think that it would be kid friendly, but on a beautiful Spring day a couple weeks ago we decided to chance it. They have outdoor and indoor seating so we thought worse case scenario we would let the boys run around outside while we ate. The menu consists of small plates of items that you order a la carte to create a meal. Beautiful asked what the can’t miss items were and we tried the Misoyaki Eggplant, Fried Tatsuta Chicken, and the Yakisoba noodles for the kids. We soon added more items as we made short work of the first course. While we didn’t care for the Eggplant (a little over cooked) we loved the chicken and the Sweet Chili spare ribs that we ordered later. The boys loved the new flavors and by having them try everything we had a good time watching their faces with each bite. The portions were on the big side of small plates and we had plenty to eat without spending much at all. The owner was behind the counter talking us through the menu and interacting with the kids. His excitement was infectious and we have been back a couple of times now. The boys love the food, we love the family friendly vibe, and new tastes and my wallet loves the prices.

PAUSE in North Portland

Just up the street is another family friendly gem called Pause. Pause is the local burger joint to our family but apparently they have all sorts of great menu items. Again some outdoor patio seating makes for a great space for the kids to run around and the free bowl of butter noodles for the kids that is served with the drinks makes this place a winner. Getting the kids going on something right away makes for a much nicer dinner and sneaking a noodle or two makes the wait for my meal that much shorter. Pause has daily specials that include fresh fish and seasonal options but the Two Sliders, Fries, and a Pint of Pale Ale for $7 is hard to pass up. Runner up in the Best of Portland Sliders category these are some tasty tini burgers that pair nicely with the beer. We have spent a number of summer and winter nights eating at Pause and have not run into a menu item we haven’t enjoyed.

Getting out to eat with kids is a difficult endeavor and part of the reason we often resort to places we know will work. For our family getting out and trying new places has lead to some great finds right in our neighborhood as well as a couple of places that didn’t work out. What are the places in your neighborhood that have been surprisingly family friendly?

The Revolution will not be televised, but it will be tweeted

There is a growing group of men that are not only doing their fair share but are stepping into roles that have too long been defined as only for women. To me Dadrevolution embodies that change in what it means to be a father today.

I remember the first job I ever had mowing the neighbors lawn and cleaning out stables where they kept two horses. I was 10 and the work was hard but the money was great, I was living large getting all the candy and soda I wanted. From about that age on I have worked in one field or another from working the counter at the local Baseball Card shop to working off shore pressure testing welds on oil derricks in the Pacific ocean. Most recently I have worked in the Software industry training folks, testing new software, and providing technical support to the savvy as well as the technophobes. While I have had some success in all these jobs I never saw any of them as a carrer until my wife and I had our first son and I got the opportunity to be the one at home with him. When he was 6 months old my wife went back to work and I quit my software job to come home and raise the boy. I had found my carrer, the job I could see myself doing and doing well for years to come. During that time home with my son I started writing about my experiences as a stay at home dad in a blog, mostly for family and friends.

A year later when a series of unfortunate events led us to move back to Portland, OR from the midwest and for me to go back

to work while my wife had our second son. We cruised along in these roles but they were unnatural and forced and in the summer of 2009 after losing my job we decided to go back to what works for our family. Me at home with the boys and my wife in the work force connecting with adults and being challenged with providing for us boys. when I came home again I got back to writing about those experiences in a blog called Stay At home Dad PDX and you can read more about our family there. So that is where we are now, me raising our 3 year old Primo, our 2 year old Segundo, and looking after our housemates 1 year old whom we lovingly call The Charge. We are an unconventional band  of dudes in a local sea of stay at home moms and nannies at coffee shop music times and play dates in the park.  I am excited to be part of this talented group of thoughtful dads that aren’t leaving the parenting to the mommies. There is a growing group of men that are not only doing their fair share but are stepping into roles that have too long been defined as only for women. To me Dadrevolution embodies that change in what it means to be a father today. These aren’t the detached dads from yesterday but engaged and active fathers who are looking to change more then diapers, they are looking to change the lives of their kids.