The Kids Couldn’t Wait for Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Experiments

Bella, our neighbor’s fourth-grade genius, could hardly wait for Mike Adamick’s “Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Experiments” to arrive. When I told Mike about her enthusiasm for science and learning, he sent an extra review copy of her very own.

When her copy arrived, Bella grabbed it and went to find her friend Hanna. They spent an afternoon digging through the pages of this energetically written companion piece to Mike’s “Dad’s Book of Awesome Projects,” which was published last year. Within a few hours, the girls had experimented with Floating Water (Page 93) and with the Mentos and Coke Rocket (Page 107).

Bella and Hanna soon came over to visit our sons, and we all worked together on perfecting the Straw Balloon Rocket Blasters (Page 89). It was a lot of fun:

Mike’s new book officially publishes on Friday, April 18, and is available now on Amazon.

What I love about this book and his earlier volume is that the main idea is to give kids and parents a chance to do some cool things together that don’t involve sitting around in front of a TV. The 30 experiments in this book are not necessarily easy, but nor are they so challenging that parents and kids working together can’t figure them out. In fact, Mike even encourages you to embrace failure as you go, to find a way to make it work next time, to learn from mistakes.

I love that our neighbors’ daughters and our sons were so excited about learning. And I love that Mike Adamick has given us another awesome book.

Alone Time at Disney Does Parents a World of Good

Disney World

As parents, we owe it to ourselves to dedicate time exclusively to one another if at all possible. With the kids in safe and caring hands for a couple of days, few places are as rewarding as Walt Disney World for parent-only getaways. We did that this spring, and it was good for us and for the boys.

Our boys are not Disney deprived. This is the first thing I would like you to understand. Our family splurged on Walt Disney World seasonal passes last year, and our Year of Disney was a triumph.

We love spending time as a family at all four Central Florida parks. We look forward to having many more fun times and making great memories there in the years ahead.

Yet, as much as we love visiting the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom with our sons, there is much to be said for the Disney experience when it is just me and my wife.

Walt Disney World

One of the many selfies Beth and I took during our amazing getaway to Disney World. Here, we are aboard the monorail, on our way to the Magic Kingdom for the second time.

It had been two years since she and I took a couple of days for ourselves. In fact, it had been a little longer than that. She and I actually went to Disney World the last time, too, taking advantage of the relatively affordable three-day ticket offered each spring to Florida residents.

With generous babysitting help from Beth’s parents, we made plans to “escape” for two days and a night. We needed this. I’m convinced every married couple with kids needs it to maintain perspective. For us, leaving the kids in a safe, caring, familiar environment and dedicating time exclusively to one another is wonderful marital maintenance. We need to do it more often, and we will.

I’m also convinced that the boys could use a break from us now and then. Even though our home is a warm, loving environment where they know they are safe and are given the freedom to be themselves, they could use a day or two occasionally to stretch it out with someone else in charge. Besides, grandparents are fun.

This time, Beth decided we should do two things to mark each special moment during the weekend at Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. We would take many, many selfies together in front of the various Disney landmarks. And we would kiss while we were in line for every attraction we took in and every ride we rode.

Both activities turned out to be a lot of fun.

I figured out why Walt Disney World is such a different experience when it’s just us. It’s fun with the boys, of course, but we never shed our roles as caretakers. Whereas when it’s just Beth and me, alone, we are partakers rather than caretakers. We immerse ourselves in the manufactured fun, allowing our plans to shift with the moment.

If we want to stop for a minute to watch the Village People sing and dance at Epcot, we do. If we get an unexpected email from Disney inviting us to dine at the impossible-to-book Be Our Guest restaurant, we accept that invitation. If we want to stay late for fireworks or do anything parents do that doesn’t involve kids … we do it.

I know Disney isn’t everyone’s thing. When I’m there, though, with or without our boys, a sense of contentment and — yes, I’ll admit it — happiness fills me, and all of the cares of the outside world fall away. This is not a new thought; it has been voiced by other parents, other dads I know. Maybe it will begin to pall one day, or maybe it will simply become too expensive for us to afford. Until then, we’ll go there and make memories. (With and without the boys.)

Here is a look at our selfies and a few other photos from this weekend, set with two Disney musical favorites. (Yes, yes. I know there’s nothing more cliched than Disney selfies. And be warned — this is, perhaps, the most sentimental thing I’ve put on this blog. Know what, though? I love my wife, I love my sons and we all love Disney World. Sentimental? Sure. Sincere? Absolutely.)

 

 

 

A Fortunate Man

I am a very fortunate man. It's important to acknowledge that every now and then. Otherwise, why bother?

I am a very fortunate man. It’s important to acknowledge that every now and then. Otherwise, why bother?

If you enjoy the deep and abiding love of a spouse or a lifelong companion who you also love deeply, you are a fortunate man.

If you have under your roof two loving, bright, beautiful children with a lifetime of promise and wonder ahead of them, you are a fortunate man.

If you have a roof, you are a fortunate man.

If you spent 24 years pursuing and living a career that fulfilled your adolescent dreams and stirred your creative impulses, you are a fortunate man.

If that career was sidetracked because of the changing economy but you were able to find a job that — while perhaps not quite as exciting and fulfilling as your past career — was stable, secure and provided for your family, you are a fortunate man.

If you have lived into your 40s and your parents are still around, and not only that, but are relatively healthy, capable, self-sufficient and happy together after nearly 50 years of marriage, you are a fortunate man.

If you have lived into your 40s, you are a fortunate man.

If you married into an amazing family, with in-laws who love you and appreciate you for who you are and for the life you’ve built with your nuclear family, you are a fortunate man.

If you have friends near and far who are happy to see you again — and who you are happy to see — even after several months or years have passed since your last meeting, you are a fortunate man.

If you possess fond memories of loved ones past, you are a fortunate man.

If you managed to extricate yourself from an unhappy marriage that lasted only long enough for you to know that you were in the wrong situation, you are a fortunate man.

If you have experienced the love and enduring affection of a furry animal companion for a stretch of many years, you are a fortunate man.

If the worst thing you can say about your life is you dread your miserable morning commute into work, you are a fortunate man.

If you have found a pastime or hobby that gives you a sense of accomplishment and scratches the creative itch, you are a fortunate man.

If you possess all your faculties, and understand who you are and where you’ve been, and can summon at least a semi-substantial vision of where you might be going in life, you are a most fortunate man, indeed.

You are a fortunate man if you can laugh and cry and sit in silence and contemplate your great, good fortune.

It is important to acknowledge these blessings. It is important to remember them. It is important to be able to look at your life, consider it as objectively as possible and render a fair judgement. We can be as hard on ourselves as we want to be, and Lord knows I’ve been hard on myself over the years.

Every now and then, though, I’ll wake up with a smile on my face because something beautiful worked on my subconscious while I slept. Some wonderful facet of life fought and clawed its way to the surface, and ruptured the veil of insecurity and diffidence that shrouds all our adult lives and gave form and voice to a lifetime of blessings that demand to be counted.

It is in those waking moments that I can honestly say that I am, in fact, a very fortunate man.

The Lightning and I Go Way Back …

Bolts Social Captain

I was honored to be invited to serve as Bolts Social Captain for Thursday’s Lightning game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram.

I watched my first Tampa Bay Lightning game from the rickety old press box at the Florida State Fairgrounds in 1992. The Bolts lost that game to the Winnipeg Jets, who featured rookie Teemu Selanne. It was the first hockey game of my life.

Remember that old barn they played in that first year? Remember the faint whiff of cow when you walked through the Expo Hall door? Remember how the walls, rafters and bleachers shook when the fans really got going? Remember Chris Kontos, Terry Crisp, Brian Bradley, John Tucker? Remember Roman Hamrlik?

I do.

That’s one reason why I was so honored to be asked to serve as the Lightning’s Social Media Captain Thursday when the Bolts host the Philadelphia Flyers at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. I’ve followed this club since the beginning, and now I feel like this online journal has helped me come full circle. My sons have never been to a hockey game, and they still don’t really understand what I used to do for a living before they were old enough to form memories. This event is yet another opportunity for them to peer through a virtual window to my past and, maybe, get an idea of what my life used to be like when I was a sportswriter.

Since receiving the invitation to serve as Bolts Social Captain last week, memories of my on-and-off association with the team over the years have come fast and furious.

I was at that Jets-Bolts game at the barn in 1992 to help out the Tampa Tribune’s hockey writer, Roy Cummings. My job was to “run quotes,” which meant dashing down to the dressing room and grabbing a comment or two from Crispy and a few players, then climbing back up to that precarious gantry and transcribing the quotes for Roy to use in his game story. I don’t think he used them, actually, but that didn’t matter because HOCKEY had hooked me.

Fourteen years, two arenas − and one Stanley Cup championship − later, I was assigned to help cover the Lightning for the Tribune for three seasons starting midway through 2005-06. It was the era of Vinny, Marty, Brads and Torts, an era of promise, an era defined by the stratospheric success of those 2003-04 Stanley Cup champions.

I was fortunate enough to tag along with beat writer Erik Erlendsson as the Lightning lost in the first round of the playoffs in consecutive seasons to Ottawa and New Jersey. The Stanley Cup Playoffs, as any hockey fan knows, give us some of the most intense emotional experiences you’ll find in sports. It will be good to have playoff hockey back at the Forum next week.

Even though the Bolts lost early in the postseason during my time on the beat, I knew I was covering something special, something that I’d include among the highlights of my 24-year sports journalism career.

The Lightning even figured, indirectly, in one of my most memorable moments as a dad. On the day my wife went into labor with Chris, I happened to be helping to cover a news conference introducing Oren Koules and Len Barrie as team owners. I had just finished asking Barrie a question about their plans for the undeveloped land around the arena when my mobile phone began to buzz in my pocket. While Barrie answered my question, I glanced at the caller ID − it was my wife, and I knew why she was calling.

I answered the phone with a whisper − “Hang on!” − and waited as patiently as I could for Barrie to finish his answer. The instant he was done, I bolted out of my front-row seat and whispered something incoherent to the Tribune’s hockey editor about labor and the baby’s coming and I had to go to the hospital and I’ll see you later and then I was gone.

About two hours later, Chris was born.

As Bolts Social Captain, it will be my duty to bring you as much behind-the-scenes hockey fun as you can possibly stand. To that end, as my family and I take in a tour of the arena and then watch the game, I’ll be tweeting about our experience at @DadScribe using the hashtags #BoltsSocial, #BeTheThunder, #TBLightning, and #BoltsSocialCaptain. I’ll also be posting plenty of photos on Instagram at my DadScribe account. You also will want to follow all of the Tampa Bay Lightning social channels: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr.

Thursday’s game features another return “home” for Flyers center Vinny Lecavalier (that still is very strange to write) and also continues the Lightning’s Fan Appreciation Week. It’s Military Appreciation Night, which means military personnel receive free popcorn and peanuts and can meet former Lightning greats Brian Bradley and Dave Andreychuk at the Social Quad during pregame.

Oh, one more thing. This is an incredible honor for me. The list of previous Social Captains reads like a Who’s Who of social media giants and local sports celebs. Here’s a cool story with video and GIFs of Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson’s recent appearance as Bolts Social Captain. I couldn’t buy 400 tickets for military personnel like he did, but I will have the privilege of introducing this incredible sport and team to my sons.

And you are invited along for the ride. Hope you can join us.

Prepare to #BeTheThunder: Meet the Newest Lightning Social Media Captain

BeTheThunderThere are times when I can only shake my head and wonder at the opportunities that have come my family’s way during the two-plus year run of DadScribe. We’ve gotten to do some pretty cool things and I’ve met some amazing people because of this little online journal.

Today’s news is right up there when it comes to cool factor: I was invited by the Tampa Bay Lightning to serve as the Social Media Captain for the home game on Thursday against the Flyers.

Oh, make that the playoff-bound Tampa Bay Lightning. Has a nicer ring to it, don’t you think?

What is the Social Media Captain? Basically, me and my family will go to the game and I’ll share the experience with you on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We’ll get to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the St. Pete Times Forum before the game, then we’ll hang out with some fans and do all kinds of fun stuff.

You can join in and follow along by jumping aboard my social media channels, as well as the official Tampa Bay Lightning Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. Tumblr and Facebook accounts. I’ll be using the hashtags #BoltsSocial, #GoBolts, #BeTheThunder and #TBLightning.

This will be the first hockey game for our sons, and I can’t think of a better way to introduce them to a team and a sport that I was fortunate enough to help cover for three seasons (2006-08) when I wrote for the Tampa Tribune. I kind of hope the tour includes a quick stop in the press box, because it’d be great to say hello to longtime public address announcer Paul Porter, Lightning manager of radio programming and former WDAE farm animal wrangler Matt Sammon, TV team Bobby “the Chief” Taylor and Rick Peckham, radio voice Dave Mishkin and the whole press row gang.

I want to thank the Tampa Bay Lightning for this amazing opportunity. I know my family will love it, and I hope I can do the experience justice. Thursday’s puck drop is 7:30 p.m. The game will feature former Lightning All-Star and captain Vinny Lecavalier in a Flyers uniform — which is probably always going to seem strange.

One last thing: Should we start our playoff beards now, or wait until the first round begins?

Tampa Bay Lightning

Images: Tampa Bay Lightning.

 

The Field Trip

He came around the corner, distraught, and found me in the family room.

His face broke.

Tears gathered and fell.

“Mommy just told me you can’t come on the field trip.”

Small sob.

“I want you there. I want you to go. I want to be with my daddy.”

He wrapped his arms around my waist and buried his face into my shirt.

I put my hand on his head and told him I was sorry.

“I have to work. I want to go, too. I wish I could. But I have to work.”

I told him we could make our own family field trip. I told him to think of adventures we could have on the weekend.

The tears stopped. He stepped back. Our own field trip? That sounded promising. He seemed to feel better.

I did not.

_______________

The next morning I got into my car and began my commute as usual. I fought the traffic along the expressway and watched the sun come up.

When I reached my exit, I kept going. My son wanted me there. I was going to go on that field trip. It wasn’t far, just up the interstate at the state fairground. A place where old Florida has been reconstructed out of antique buildings moved there from their original homestead sites. It’s a pretty, shaded village, a living set torn from the pages of a Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings novel.

I maneuvered through the downtown morning rush hour traffic and made it to the fairground ahead of the kids. I parked my car. I talked my way through the gate. The guard said he had a son, too. He understood.

When the bus arrived, I stood there smiling. Excited kids filed off and I looked for my son. He bounced off the bus chattering to friends, excited to be there. Then he spotted me.

“Daddy!”

He ran to me and grabbed me in a hug.

“You’re here! I can’t believe it! This is awesome!”

“I know, bud. It is. It really is. Let’s go look at that old train station. It looks pretty cool.”

We explored the village, ate some kettle corn, pet some farm animals and had a great time making a memory.

_______________

No. That did not happen.

I battled the traffic, took my exit, and showed up to work. He went on the field trip with other chaperones, other kids’ parents.

We will have our own, personal field trip. But it’s not the same. I know it, and he knows it. That’s why he cried.

I wanted to be there. I should have been there. I could not be there.

It didn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel right.

We can’t have it all. I know that. We understand reality. There is school, there is work, there are hours apart. Our family handles it as well as we can, just like every family.

But sometimes, if only for a day, it might be nice to have a little more. Sometimes, it would be nice to be there.

Tampa Sunrise

Tampa sunrise from the office. Beautiful view. Somewhere out there, there’s a field trip happening.

I Asked, He Answered: What My Son Really Thinks of Me

NPR

“How would you describe your dad?” I asked. His answer was not what I expected.

At 6:17 a.m., I walked into my older son’s bedroom and flipped on the light. His face was turned toward the lamp, so he squeezed his eyes shut tighter and twisted his head into his pillow. I sat down on his bed and said good morning.

“What time is it?” he mumbled into his pillow. I glanced at his alarm clock.

“It’s 18 minutes after six,” I said. “Time to get ready for the bus.”

“Six-eighteen,” he said. He’s learning time and money in school, and he’s getting pretty good at both.

And then, because I read a story about the impressions our kids have of us, and because I saw a commercial the night before that showed kids mimicking the behavior of their parents, I had this question buzzing around in my mind as we began our morning wake-up ritual.

“Hey, let me ask you something,” I said. “How would you describe your dad?”

Now, this wasn’t fair of me and I knew it. He was still basically asleep. His mind was primed for another day of second-grade exuberance and angst, possibly still full of Frozen songs from our little movie watch party of the night before.

I asked anyway, even though I wasn’t sure I would like his answer.

As drowsy as he was, he did not hesitate.

“Sweet, kind, funny, courageous,” he said. After a pause, he added, “Likes to play soccer.”

It was as if he had tapped into my mind and pulled out the exact words I would have used to describe him. Except I would have added a few.

Smart.

Empathetic.

Sensitive.

Energetic.

Loving.

Feisty.

Independent.

Loves to read.

Good at math.

Loves animals.

Loves to ride his bike.

Loves vacations.

Loves his family.

On and on I could go. His answer was not what I expected, but it instantly lifted me emotionally and mentally. I could not stop smiling when I told my wife what he said, and even the morning commute to work couldn’t get me down.

When I think of some of the words he might justifiably have added to his description of me − strict, grumpy, always tired, yells too much, hard to please, sometimes makes kids eat healthy food − I feel exhilarated, but a little guilty, too. Even though I would describe myself differently, he chose to accentuate the characteristics that place me in the most favorable light as a parent. The guilt sneaks in because his act of lifting me up with unvarnished praise also served to remind me that I have a long, long way to go to be the parent − the person − I need to be for him, his brother and their mother.

I won’t let it go to my head. I know that if I ask the same question at a different time (say, when he’s being forced against his will to spend 10 more minutes on homework instead of watching Clone Wars on Netflix), his answer might be vastly different. But it did feel good to hear it. It does feel good.

Nothing wrong with a little parenting validation from the most relevant source there is, as long as I keep it in perspective.

If you have kids, how would they describe you? Have you asked them? Are you worried about what they’d say? I was, but boy did the answer make my week. Let me know what you think.