One of America’s Summertime Favorites: at the Zoo with the #PretzelGuys

Pretzel Guys

Our Zoo Day pretzel pack included two kinds of sunscreen, kid-sized shades, plenty of water, a point-and-click camera and lots of Snyder’s of Hanover pretzel snaps and sourdough nibblers.

Disclosure: I was compensated by Life of Dad and Snyder’s of Hanover for my participation in this promotion. 

Pretzels make it easy for parents. Toss a few into a snack bag, and they’re the ideal school lunch side dish. Kids got the afternoon munchies? Grab the pretzels.

Need to fight off hunger during a hot and humid summer trip to the zoo? Put together a Pretzel Pack — Snyder’s of Hanover sourdough nibblers and pretzel snaps, along with sun screen, shades, a point-and-click camera and plenty of water — and all will be well.

We spend a lot of time at the zoo. Tampa, Florida, has one of the country’s best, Lowry Park Zoo, and the annual family pass is a great value.

Summertime in Florida means … well, you know what it means if you’ve been here in July or August. When we walk around the zoo or a theme park this time of year, we work up a crazy thirst and an even crazier hunger. This time around, after visiting some of our animal favorites, we ducked into an air-conditioned dining room and broke open the Pretzel Pack. As you can see in this quick video diary, the boys are crazy about these snacks!

Full disclosure: My older son was NOT reading from a script when he said, “Man, these things are SO delicious!” He was eating the pretzel snaps, but he could just as easily have been enjoying the sourdough nibblers, the pretzel butter snaps, the mini pretzels or the pretzel sticks. I mean, there’s an entire wall dedicated to Snyder’s of Hanover pretzel varieties at our local grocery store. Our kids love them all.

Now, I get to tell you about a chance to win $10,000 toward your next summer vacation. Snyder’s of Hanover is holding a big contest — America’s Summertime Favorites Sweepstakes — over on its Facebook page, with weekly entries and prizes. Keep checking back all summer for new ways to win.

And speaking of winning, I will join several of my blogging pals for a Twitter party Wednesday, July 30, at 1 p.m. ET. No RSVP is necessary, and prizes will include $50 VISA gift cards and a grand prize of a $150 VISA gift card. It will be hosted by the Life of Dad guys, who can be found on Twitter at @LifeofDadShow. Follow me, too, if you like: @DadScribe. The hashtag to follow during the Twitter party and throughout the summer is #PretzelGuys.

And don’t forget to check out the Snyder’s of Hanover America’s Summertime Favorite Sweepstakes on their Facebook page. I mean, $10,000 for a dream vacation. Just imagine how much fun you could make with that kind of prize …

SnydersHanoverTwitter V2

 

 

 

 

What do we tell the children?

What do we tell them?

What do we tell the children of Gaza as the tears stream down their faces, leaving tracks in the layer of dust that settled on their cheeks after bombs turned their homes into craters?

What do we say to the terrified children of Syria, where the innocent years have been smothered in bombs and blood?

What words are there for the lost and desperate children of the American border, where they stream across in their thousands, running from death, hoping for a new life?

What do we tell them? What can we do?

We see the images on TV, hear the horror even in the refined, detached voices of the men and women assigned to cover it. How can we change the channel? How can we look away?

How can we not, though?

It is easier, safer, to turn away from the horror than to stand up to it. Chores and errands demand our attention. Games and movies beckon. The lawn needs mowing. The baseball team is heating up down the stretch. Football is starting. School is around the corner. Vacation, birthday parties, a trip to the zoo.

All of this is here, in front of us. This is our reality. All we have to do is change the channel. All we have to do is click over to BuzzFeed or Upworthy or Reddit or Facebook.

Get lost in the fun.

Forget the faces. Forget the agony. Forget the blood.

Forget those children.

Hey, sorry. We all have problems.

Besides, they aren’t my children.

But yes.

Yes, they are.

They are mine.

They’re yours, too.

These children? We can’t see their faces, hear their cries, and relegate it to that place in our minds where unpleasant thoughts go to hibernate, waiting to stir when poked and prodded by our demons and thrust into our nightmares.

We can’t do that. We can’t just ignore it. Can we?

But what do we tell them? What can we do?

If I was there, if I didn’t have my own concerns and problems and distractions, if I could drop it all and run to them on the Rio Grande and in Gaza City and Aleppo, I would tell them that there is more.

That this is not all there is in this world, that life is still beautiful. That there are flowers and toys and music. That somewhere on this planet, a kitten purrs and a toddler laughs and laughs.

That even though the world allows little boys to be blown to bits on the beach as they play soccer;

even though men with guns and foul faces force little children to trek across dangerous Central American  fields and treacherous waters in a blind search for something better;

even though it is unspeakably awful now and sadness, despair and anger are their close companions … there is hope.

There is more.

I would tell them: Don’t give up.

You are precious.

And I would take them in my arms and hold them close, and cry with them until our mingled tears soaked the dry and fractured earth.

 

9 Things Han Solo Taught Me About Being a Dad

As a child of the ’70s, I considered Han Solo the epitome of manhood.

Fiercely independent, yet secretly sentimental. Skeptical, but willing to believe in magic if he sees it with his own eyes.

Secure enough in his own skin to pursue a princess, but not above taking a wide-eyed farm boy under his wing. Best friends with a Wookiee.

A lovable scoundrel who poses as a mercenary, but who deep down recognizes the best things in life are free.

In short — the ideal dad.

I readily acknowledge that my exposure to Star Wars at a young age shaped the adult I have become. And while Obi Wan was a superb mentor and Vader achieved redemption in the end, it was Han Solo who taught me the most about how to be a good dad.

Here are just a few examples of why I believe General Solo, who had not fathered children with Leia Organa as of the end of Episode VI, still might be the finest father figure in the history of this or any other galaxy:

Nine things Han Solo taught me about fatherhood

1. When the kids get difficult, use redirection.

redirection

(And if you must leave a mess for someone else to clean up, tip well.)

2. Trust your instincts. Even in the face of utter uncertainty.

odds

 

3. If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.

changeconversation

(To be fair, Don Draper also teaches us this.)

4. Give praise where it’s due — but don’t overdo it.

5. Make a smile your default expression.

smile

6. Learn to work with your hands.

workwithyourhands

7. When all else fails — bluff.

bluff

(But if the bluff fails, know when it’s time to cut your losses.)

retreat

8. Give the kids room to succeed or fail — but a little help every now and then can’t hurt.

 

9. Never let them forget how much you love them.

iloveyou

 Images/videos: giphy.com; imgur; YouTube

 A slight different version of this post appeared on the Huffington Post following publication here.

Disney Fun Run: Into the Wilderness at Wide World of Sports

I’m not a runner. I should be a runner. Why? Because I’m lithe. And I used to be fast. How fast?

Faster than a diamondback rattler strikes its prey. Faster than a Thompson’s gazelle in full flight from a hungry cheetah. Faster than Expedition Everest and Space Mountain — combined.

OK, not that fast. Pretty fast, though.

Not any more. A combination of factors — middle age, etc. — conspired to slow me down. Like, a lot.

ESPN Wide World of Sports

Faron Kelley (left) and Darrell Fry of Disney Sports get the group pumped for a Run Disney Fun Run at ESPN Wide World of Sports early Monday.

Yet, I can’t entirely blame the ravages of time for my lamentable lack of speed and endurance. Did I mention the lack of  endurance? No? OK. Well, this video from an attempt last summer to run around Epcot during a runDisney Fun Run pretty much sums up my lack of endurance. And speed.

Not much has changed in a year.

I’m back at Walt Disney World for a media familiarity event at ESPN Wide World of Sports, and the folks from Disney Sports and runDisney again set us up with an outstanding Fun Run. This time, they sent us around a customized cross country track at Wide World of Sports, a course of about 1.2 miles that encompassed the complex’s world-class track and a path cut through some back woods adjacent to the Wide World of Sports complex.

Back woods I didn’t even know existed, even though I’ve been coming to this sports complex since it opened and have covered dozens of events here over the years.

So, off we went this morning. Very early, again. We gathered in the lobby of the headquarters hotel, Animal Kingdom Lodge, at 6:30 a.m. and took a bus over to the Wide World of Sports complex. They had bananas and other snacks, along with cold water and sports drinks, waiting for us at the start-finish line.

After a few words of encouragement and knowledge from Disney Sports director of marketing Faron Kelley and sports media director Darrell Fry, we were off. What follows is a companion video to last year’s Fun Run classic (ahem). Later in the week, I’ll post a full recap of our visit to ESPN Wide World of Sports, including an homage to Argentina and a slew of extremely helpful youth sports tips given by a roster of experts during our tour today.

Meanwhile, enjoy this video proof of my utter lack of speed and endurance. You know? You just might be witnessing my own, personal fitness renaissance. Possibly. Probably not. I don’t know. Maybe?

 

Marvel Universe Live: Preview and Ticket Giveaway

Marvel Universe LiveOur family will head back to the Tampa Bay Times Forum Tuesday night to attend a preview performance of the new Feld Entertainment super hero show, Marvel Universe Live. Think our sons are excited about this one?

They’ve already picked out their gear– a Minecraft-themed t-shirt with the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Spider-Man; and a very cool black-and-gray-striped t-shirt with a metallic red Spider-Man logo on the front. Boom. Dressed and ready for history.

The show will begin what is scheduled to be a two-plus-year international tour Thursday at the Forum, and run through Sunday before moving on to Raleigh, N.C. The folks who bring you Disney on Ice and Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus — among many other big shows — teamed with Disney and the creative minds from Marvel Comics to create an original story featuring 25 Marvel characters, including Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor and many more.

There will be vehicular stunts and feats of skill, pyrotechnics and dare-devil thrills. We really can’t wait, and we’d like you to join along by following the updates on Twitter (@DadScribe) and Instagram. I’ll be using the hashtag #MarvelUniverseLive. Be sure to follow the show on Twitter, too, at @MarvelOnTour.

But wait! There’s more!

How about a promo code for a free fourth ticket when you buy three at $30 or $45 for the shows Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 5 p.m? The code is FORUM25, and is good when you purchase tickets through the Tampa Bay Times Forum website.

Oh, you want EVEN MORE?

‘Nuff said!

How about winning a free Family Four Pack for the Friday, 7 p.m. show? And how about you win those four show tickets from your friendly neighborhood blogger?

(Um. That’s me.)

The fine folks from the Forum have provided that Family Four Pack of Marvel Universe Live tickets, and they can be yours if …

  • You leave a comment on this blog post before noon EDT Thursday, July 10.
  • You guarantee you and three of your closest, bestest friends can make it to the Forum for the Friday, July 11 show at 7 p.m.
  • You make yourself available for me to contact Thursday afternoon, so that I can provide your name to the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
  • You can pick up your tickets at the Tampa Bay Times Forum will call window before the show on Friday evening.

I will pick one random commenter to win all four tickets Thursday afternoon. If I am unable to contact the initial selectee within a reasonable amount of time, I’ll pick until I get someone I can reach. So, come on back to this post shortly after noon on Thursday to see if it’s your lucky day. I’ll post the winner’s name in the comments.

No purchase is necessary to win the tickets. You must present a valid ID at will call to receive your tickets. The prize does not include transportation, parking, food or beverage. Tickets only. But four of them. For free! What do you have to lose?

Disclosure: I was provided four tickets to give away to my readers and my family was invited to attend the preview show for review purposes. Opinions expressed here and on other social media platforms are mine and mine alone. 

 

 

Once More … For Oren

Give Forward

Oren Miller, founder of a Facebook dad bloggers group almost 800 strong. He and his family need our help. Now is the time to act.

They were in the car together, Beth behind the wheel, husband Oren Miller by her side. This was life now. A trip to Johns Hopkins for radiation treatment, a necessary precursor to deal with a cancerous invader in Oren’s brain before the rest of it could be dealt with.

The rest of it is stage 4 lung cancer, which has spread and is life threatening. Very life threatening. But that would have to keep. First, the brain.

Oren’s phone rang. It was me.

My editor at TODAY Parents had agreed to let me write it up live. When a group of dad bloggers get together to make something this big happen, it’s news. Especially on the Friday before Father’s Day.

What was so big that the parenting arm of the TODAY Show immediately responded in the affirmative to my inquiry that afternoon? The fundraiser, of course. Using the wonderful Give Forward platform, Oren’s fellow blogger and Marylander, Brent Almond, had set up an online fundraiser on behalf of the Facebook dad bloggers. This group, this extended family of fathers and writers from all over the world, would do our small part to help Oren’s family.

Oren Miller

L-R: Oren Miller, his wife Beth and friend and fellow blogger Brent Almond, together on Memorial Day weekend — hours before Oren’s cancer diagnosis.

The idea was to raise as much as we could to help them enjoy a nice vacation getaway before Oren began his treatment in earnest. We figured $5,000 was a nice, round target.

Brent posted the link to the fundraiser late Thursday evening. By Friday morning, the amount raised had slid right on past $5,000 and was bearing down on $10,000 before noon. When it reached $13,000, I emailed my TODAY Parents editors and told them news was happening.

Important news. News that illustrated the strength and power of these things that bind us in that Facebook group. Fatherhood. The creative impulse. Passion for our roles as caregivers, and compassion for others.

It had to be shared, this wonderful story that arose from such a terrible thing.

I say terrible, because that’s what it was. And is. Yet, Oren’s grace and dignity in the face of this awful circumstance moved thousands (here it is in his words, powerful words, words that will make you cry and wonder at the strength of this gentle father and caring husband).

That Friday afternoon, as Beth and Oren wheeled their way toward Johns Hopkins for his radiation treatment, I reached back into my professional past and tried to wear my journalist hat for an interview session. We chatted, he and I. He sounded tired, of course, but all I heard was music in that thick Israeli accent of his. His responses to my forced and awkward questions were as graceful as you would expect, if you know him.

And then he put Beth on the phone. I wish I had known Beth before this. She sounds amazing. She also let me know how much the group has meant to Oren during this time. I wrapped my TODAY piece with a great kicker quote from Beth, but it was cut in the final edit. Here is that quote now, in its entirety:

“Right now, this is the [worst] time you could ever imagine,” she said. “The only time in those early days in the hospital I saw Oren smile was when he was keeping up with what was going on with the group. I don’t think he would have made it out of the hospital if not for that. I really don’t.”

The fundraiser goes on. The goal has been increased to $30,000, and as of this writing, we’re past $26,000. It’s more than a vacation fund now. It’s money they can use for medical bills or any other needs that will arise as they fight this. The founders of Give Forward have generously agreed to donate $25 for every post the dad bloggers publish (up to 40 posts), an additional $1,000. Click here to donate, if you like, or simply to leave Oren and his family a message of love and hope.

There is no moral here. No feel-good story, no happy ending. Not really. There is something, though, and it’s this: We can do good in this world when we act together out of compassion and love. What else is there?

Oren Miller

Oren Miller and family.

 

1Voice Foundation: Uncork the Cure for Childhood Cancer

The 10th annual Uncork the Cure wine tasting and auction is Sunday at the Tampa Club. Tickets are $50 at the door, and proceeds will help fund research into the cure and prevention of childhood cancer.

The 10th annual Uncork the Cure wine tasting and auction is Sunday at the Tampa Club. Tickets are available online and at the door, and proceeds will help fund research into the cure and prevention of childhood cancer.

The 1Voice Foundation’s 10th annual Uncork the Cure wine tasting and silent auction takes place Sunday (June 22), 4-7 p.m., at the Tampa Club.

The event is put on by the Krewe of Zingaro and will raise funds for the Children’s Cancer Research Group, a Tampa-based organization affiliated with the 1Voice Foundation. Both of these great organizations are dedicated to the prevention and cure of childhood cancer.

The auction will feature great trips and sports memorabilia, as well as other items for bid, with live music and wine and food.

Tickets are available online or at the Tampa Club door.

My family became acquainted with the 1Voice Foundation when my wife, Beth, began to work with executive director Mary Ann Massolio in 2011. We love and support their mission:

  • The Cause — Providing families with vital Information and resources about various forms of childhood cancer, treatment facilities and options.
  • The Care — Providing families with support and assistance, both emotionally and financially, during their battle against childhood cancer.
  • The Cure — Funding research that will lead to treatments that are less toxic to children and increase survival rates

One focus when it comes to research funding is the work of Cameron Tebbi, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Director, Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the University of South Florida. Dr. Tebbi’s area of research — his passion — is the search for a vaccine for childhood leukemia. The Krewe of Zingaro has long been dedicated to supporting Dr. Tebbi’s important work.

Also, Mary Ann Massolio will travel next week with friends to Washington, D.C. to participate in Childhood Cancer Action Day on Capitol Hill. It takes place on June 24, which would have been Mary Ann’s son Jay’s 27th birthday. Mary Ann lost her son to childhood cancer when he was 9, and she and her family have dedicated themselves to this cause with a passion.

She and her party will tour the East Wing of the White House in the morning, then head to Capitol Hill to testify to Congressional staffers and the Senate about pediatric cancer issues.

For more information about Uncork the Cure, click the link or call (813) 786-0234.

UncorkTheCure