Dads in the Limelight – Joel Schwartzberg

May 28, 2010
Our 27th Dad in the Limelight is Joel Schwartzberg author of the book The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad . I want to thank Joel for being a part of this series. It has been great getting to know him and now sharing him with all of you!


1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)

By day, I’m the Director of New Media for a PBS television show (though that may change by the time you publish this). But I’m also an award-winning personal essayist and author whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, Chicken Soup for the Soul, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, The Star Ledger, The Huffington Post, New Jersey Monthly, and more. My collection of essays, “The 40-Year-Old Version” was released last year and is currently a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s 2010 “Book of the Year” competition. See: http://www.bookfordad.com

2) Tell me about your familyRemarried in 2008, I have a 10-year-old son and twin 7-year-old daughters from my previous marriage.

3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?

The biggest challenge I’ve had as a father is redefining what it means to be a Dad following my divorce. But it was also my biggest fulfillment as a Dad.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
I advise fathers to find their “inner Dads” and be the most authentic Dads they can be. Too many fathers define their fatherhood by their spouse’s standards, television standards, or their parents’ standards, never giving themselves the opportunity to build their own standards and unique fatherhood identities.

More (you can borrow from):
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joel-schwartzberg/top-ten-things-divorced-d_b_243872.htmlspan%3E


5) Seeing that you (or your position) is in the limelight, how have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
The biggest responsibility is safeguarding my kids’ privacy; I don’t share their photos or use their real names. but they certainly like knowing their Dad is “a writer” and works for a TV show.
6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with? 
I’ve learned that many of us have the same insecurities, and often the same way of hiding them in public. Dads are not supposed to be vulnerable, conflicted, or have trouble with parenting. We’re just supposed to “man up”.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
I really encourage dads to spend time with their kids alone. It’s the best way to form a unique bond. And remember that the best times are when both Dad and kids are having fun, not just the kids. Sometimes, a trip to K-mart can be 10 times the fun of a trip to Chuck E. Cheese, especially if you’re imaginative with the big red shopping cart.

8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
Probably my most memorable experience — other than them being born — was when I told them I was getting remarried. I wrote about the experience in one of th essays in my book. I’m pasting it below.

Breaking the News

“I have something to tell you,” I tell Charlie as our boots crunch through the moonlit snow. Our mission is to return some shirts to a nearby retail store; in truth, I don’t even know if the store is open.
Those six words seem so cheesy, as if I’m about to reenact an after-school special. But it’s the best introduction I have, and it paves the way to a few more carefully-prepared —- if equally trite —- key phrases:

“Only one Mommy. Only one Daddy. ”

“More people to care about you.”

“Nothing is taken away.”

“Everyone loves you.”

I stop Charlie, kneel down on the cold pavement, and look him in the eye.

I lead with the Mommy thing, the Daddy thing, the more people thing, the nothing taken thing, and the love thing. Then I say flatly:

“Anne and I are going to get married. She’ll be my wife. I’ll be her husband.”
It needs to sink in, all the way.

“I KNEW it!” Charlie says instantly with glee and proud satisfaction. “I knew you were going to say that!”
Charlie, wise beyond his years but short of his own estimation, wears his presumed omniscience with tremendous pride, maybe too much.

“So…are you okay with it?” I ask.

“Sure,” he says simply, as if I’d just asked him to pass the Cheerios.

“Any questions?”

“Nope. I get it. I like Annie.”

I’m instantly taken back to the day nearly a year ago when my children first met Anne in the children’s section of a Borders bookstore. Within minutes of the introduction, she eagerly took my girls’ hands to look for princess stories, and asked my son to share his hypnotic attraction to Star Wars comic books. My kids took to Anne almost instantly. It doesn’t hurt that she makes French fries from scratch.

On Charlie’s and my way back to the apartment, where Anne’s watching Food Network and my five year-old daughters are asleep in the soft glow of a night light, Charlie and I talk about the wedding, the ring, and the proposal.

I asked Anne to marry me by colluding with a restaurant’s staff to redesign their dessert menu. Below the descriptions of molten cake and crème brulee was a final offering: “A Lifetime of Happiness.” Anne looked up to find the ring box waiting for her attention.

I casually tell my son this story, just as I did so many colleagues and friends. But Charlie processes it differently.

“A lifetime of happiness…” he repeats, pondering deeply. Had I just implied to my son that he sits outside my circle of happiness? That I could have complete personal satisfaction to the end of my days without my kids being involved at all? Would he consider himself merely a bystander to his father’s deepest joy?
I’m ready to break out the Mommy thing, the nothing thing, and the love thing all over again, but by then we’re home, and Charlie quickly becomes distracted by Iron Chef. I don’t want to badger him.
The next day, Charlie and I huddle with the girls — all of us in pajamas — and I break the news again, the same way, in the same order. Miranda, who thinks with her mouth, reacts first: “I’m worried.”
I brace myself. “Why, honey?”

“I’ve never been to a wedding before,” she says, eyes wide in exaggerated anxiety. “What do I do?”

“You just show up,” I say. “It’s just like a party, with yummy food and cake.”

“I don’t like cake.”

Arriving at destination: Normalcy.

On the drive back to their mother’s house, the girls play with two animal dolls in the back of the car.

“This one will be the Mommy, and this one will be the baby,” Miranda says to her sister.

“But where is the Daddy?” Cindy asks innocently, as she does all things.

“It’s okay. They can be divorced.”

At a red light, I glance in the mirror over at Charlie. With his sixth sense, he instinctively looks up from his Goosebumps novel.

I say impulsively, “Nothing makes me happier than being your Dad.”

As the light turns green, Charlie smiles and gives the most deeply satisfying reply I could hope for.
“I know.”

If you have any questions for Joel, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!

Also, do you know a Dad in the Limelight? If so, please email me their contact information so that they too can be a part of this series!


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Dads in the Limelight – Prakash Dheeriya

May 24, 2010
Our 26th Dad in the Limelight is Prakash L Dheeriya, PhD author of the Finance for Kidz series. I want to thank Prakash for being a part of this series. It has been great getting to know him and now sharing him with all of you!

1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)
I came to the US in 1984 for my doctoral studies in finance. I received my PhD in finance from University of North Texas in 1987. As a PhD in finance, my employment options were pretty limited, considering that I was a foreign student at that time. Only universities would consider hiring folks like me. I got my first job as an Assistant Professor of Finance at the University of Tennessee at Martin in 1987. In 2 years, I received my “green card” or permanent residency. I then changed employers and decided to work for Illinois State University in fall of 1989. I selected that university because it and the town it was in were much bigger. I was there in Nornal/Bloomington, Illinois for 2 years. Having got tired of the snow, and missing the ocean, I looked for a job on the west coast and found one at California State University-Dominguez Hills in 1991. I realized I was taking a pay cut by moving to Los Angeles, but it was ok as the LA scene was very conducive to my single status. I bought a house a year later in Rancho Palos Verdes (1992), believing it to be an investment in my future.  After enjoying my single life for some years, I decided it was time to settle down and raise a family. During the interim, I managed to get my parents and my younger sister to immigrate to the United States. I got married in 2000 to a girl who was doing her residency in medicine. After her residency, we got married and she moved to the west coast.

2) Tell me about your family

We have 2 sons, Kapil (7 years) and Vikesh (5 years).  We also have 2 cats, Umbra and Ulka.

3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?

I am not good at sports or outdoorsy stuff (except beach volleyball) and I am finding it challenging to teach them American sports since I did not grow up with them.

4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
Just pretend that that your child is you when you were growing up. What would have made you happy then? And do those things

5) Seeing that you (or your position) is in the limelight, how have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
My work schedule (mostly nights) gives me the flexibility of being with my children when I want to. Sometimes, work takes precedence and the boys feel neglected at times. I make it up by doing other “fun” things with them whenever I get time. What is “fun” depends on them completely.

6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with? 
I learned form other fathers that we tend to have similar fears and anxieties. I have also learned about classes, best coaches, sports, and the after school activities that they take their kids to. I hear about the books that they read to their kids, and the games and playdates they have with other children. I also find out the different kind of birthday parties they arrange for their children.

7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
I am just trying to do my best. I am sure other fathers are also trying. I think we need to be given a break sometimes if we mess up.

8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
Just watching my sons change over the years. I can’t forget the day when my son spoke in a complete sentence and I was wondering where the hell did he learn that.

If you have any questions for Prakash, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!

Also, do you know a Dad in the Limelight? If so, please email me their contact information so that they too can be a part of this series!


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Dads in the Limelight – Chris Singer

May 21, 2010

Our 25th Dad in the Limelight is Chris Singer of http://sahdinlansing.com/. I want to thank Chris for being a part of this series. It has been great getting to know him and now sharing him with all of you!

1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)
I’m a first time father and stay-at-home dad to a beautiful 1 year old (as of today) daughter named Tessa. I currently live in Lansing, Michigan but grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania. I have a lot of different interests, and a wide variety of skills. I think that explains why I’ve worked so many different jobs in my time. I’ve worked as a cook, appliance salesman, teacher, child abuse prevention educator, sportswriter, recreation coordinator, communications manager, and even was a private investigator. I have also owned a skateboard shop and ran a respite care business for parents of children with special needs. However, my current job as a stay-at-home dad has been, all at once, the coolest, happiest, hardest, most exhausting and most rewarding of anything I’ve ever done. Besides being a stay-at-home dad, I also work part-time from home where I run my own consulting company (Harambee Consulting). I also write a column for Easy Baby Life as their “Expert Dad.” 
I guess I could be considered a “dad in the limelight” because of my blog: Stay At Home Dad in Lansing. I do a weekly review of dad blogs which has received some attention online. I’ve also been featured for a local story on Lansing Online News and have made several radio appearances to discuss my life as a stay-at-home dad.
2) Tell me about your family
I’ve been married to my best friend, partner and Tessa’s mommy, Deb, for almost 6 years now. Deb is a native Michigan girl but we met in New York through an online dating website. That was way back in 2000. Deb was just out of the Peace Corps when we met. She’s a crunchy lass into environmental sustainability, toe rings, Netflix, and all-natural and healthy foods (high fructose corn syrup is a bad word in our house). Deb runs or bikes to work almost every day, but I can still beat her in a short distance running race. Deb has helped Tessa get off to an awesome start to her life by breastfeeding, and now is making all of her baby food. She’s a terrific mom, wife and friend.
My daughter, Tessa, is the joy of my life. I’ve had a blast being her dad, and everyday brings a new adventure. Yes, it’s exhausting and I’ve spent the last year completely and utterly sleep-deprived, but I think I must draw some energy from the bond we have developed. I say it all the time, but I’m very fortunate to be able to stay home with her. I don’t see being a stay-at-home dad as a negative at all.
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
The hardest thing for me was dealing with how huge an impact the birth of our daughter had on our relationship. It was a huge adjustment for us that I think we both severely underestimated. Those first three months were the rockiest ever in all the years of our relationship. However, because of the love we have for Tessa and for each other, we’ve come through even stronger than we were before.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
My advice to new dads would be to just jump right in there. Don’t be afraid about how good you change a diaper and things like that. A lot of dads feel helpless in the beginning, but there’s a lot you can do to be not only helpful, but to help your child get off to a great start (i.e. supporting mom breastfeeding, giving the baby a bath, burping the baby, doing laundry, etc…).
5) Seeing that you (or your position) is in the limelight, how have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
I do most of my blogging at night while my wife and Tessa are asleep so it doesn’t interfere with our family life. Life overall has definitely changed in terms of my ability to engage in activities outside of the home. It hasn’t been a negative for me personally. My wife and I both coordinate our schedules to help each other have the time to do other activities with friends, volunteering, parenting groups, etc… It took us awhile but we’re both comfortable with how all of that is working out.
6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
Writing the blog and connecting with our dads on Twitter has been really helpful for me. It’s allowed me to share some of my experiences, and also to read about other dad’s experiences with their children. By making this kind of connection, I’ve been able to become more confident as a dad knowing I’m not alone in having some of the experiences or thoughts I have as a dad.
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
I really enjoy being a stay at home dad. I wasn’t terribly confident going into this, but I’ve realized how lucky I have been to spend this first year of Tessa’s life watching her grow and develop. I have no doubt that my being home with her has been a good thing for both of us. I’ve learned so much about myself this past year, and I think I’m a better man, husband and father for it.
8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
Watching Tessa’s birth was the best experience of my life. It was amazing to see my daughter for the first time. I still go back and watch some of the video from those first moments of her life. 

If you have any questions for Chris, please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!

Also, do you know a Dad in the Limelight? If so, please email me their contact information so that they too can be a part of this series!

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Dads in the Limelight – Bill Dodge

May 17, 2010

Our 24th Dad in the Limelight is Bill Dodge of http://www.uticamission.org/. I want to thank Bill for being a part of this series. It has been great getting to know him and now sharing him with all of you!

1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)

I am a father of a now 17-year-old diva named Aleta.  I live in Utica, NY.  I am the CEO of a faith based non-profit that provides services to the needy in our community. It’s called the Rescue Mission of Utica. 

Ever since I can remember, I have been up in front of people in some way. When I was in first grade, I performed in “Frosty the snowman” and found out how much fun it was to hear people applaud for me when I was on stage. That led to me singing the lead role in an operetta in 6th grade in “Amahl and the night visitors.” Later in High School I went on to be selected for lead roles in three HS musicals: South Pacific, Oklahoma, and Fiddler on the Roof. I always loved performing and singing.

It’s probably a good thing, because my chosen career was as a church pastor, and that’s what I prepared for in Bible College and Seminary. I had no idea, however, that my life would be any more in the limelight than that. That is, until I wound up working for a Rescue Mission in Grand Rapids, MI as a chaplain. In that role, my boss wanted to do a daily radio program and wanted me to co-host it. I was a little uncertain at first, but those impromptu radio programs went pretty well.

In 2005 I was hired in my current position as Executive Director in upstate NY, and found a great opportunity in our town for getting out message out through radio and TV on a regular basis. I am considered a “frequent guest” on radio and TV talk programs, and if there is a question about how to help the homeless, the reporters often call me for a story. In fact, we recently started a renovation project and had cameras and microphones from six media outlets with local and regional radio, TV and newspapers covering the story.
2) Tell me about your family
My wife is amazing. She and I met on a blind date when I was in grad school in Michigan. We dated for three years. She is a musician who plays five instruments, including bassoon which she played in a symphony orchestra for 20 years in Michigan. We met when I was a church choir director and one of my choir members set us up on the blind date.

Our daughter Aleta is the light of both of our lives, and she is a little bit of a performer too. She plays piano and trumpet and loves performing in High School musicals like her dad did.

3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?

I have to say by far the biggest challenge is balancing work and home life. It’s tough to reach out to others all day and have anything left for them afterwards. I also have tried very hard to live in such a way that we could always survive on one income so my wife could be home as much as possible with our daughter. I think we did ok with that one.

4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
I have learned that the early years of a child’s life are really important. The more you love on your kids and focus on the basics at a young age, the better the prospects for them as a teenager. I am crazy about my daughter, and she knows it. I think because she knows it and is secure in my love for her, she won’t need to go looking for Daddy’s love in all the wrong places. I have seen this scenario play out over and over again in the lives of the clients we serve in the inner city. When Dad is not involved, the girls look for him somewhere else. So I suggest Dads show their little girls that they are wild about them, and provide a solid foundation early on.

One other piece of advice – READ TO THEM. I used to read a portion of the Chronicles of Narnia to Aleta every night before bed, and that was great to build imagination and vocabulary. It also did wonders for creating a strong bond we will always have.

5) Seeing that you (or your position) is in the limelight, how have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
As a family, we are pretty committed to eating together for dinner as much as possible. This is a natural time to stop and catch up with each other, even when we are busy.

My job sometimes means that I travel, too. I have requested to be able to take my family with me for at least one trip every year so that they can enjoy some of my world. We have gone on several work trips together that have doubled as family vacations that we could have never afforded on our own. This has provided great memories for us and helped us through the times we can’t all be together.

6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
This may not seem very profound, but I have learned that most Dads love their kids more than their kids know. My father in law never said I love you to my wife but she knew he loved her. The guys in our inner city programs are more likely to make changes in their lives if they have a son or daughter that is waiting for them to finish their program.

One of the best lessons I learned about raising kids was actually from a Dad who was also my seminary professor – he used to say, “An obedient child is a happy child.” We used that mantra so much with our daughter that she still knows it today.

7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
I think its really important that Dads have time with other men and Dads to do man things, and come back refreshed to give back to their families. I can’t tell you how often I was able to begin to work tough parenting problems because I had lunch with my buddy who was a home school dad, and had the same trouble I was facing. Or an older couple at church that told me about what they did when they weren’t sure what to do. I don’t know about the whole “it takes a village” thing, but I do know that we can’t do it alone.

8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
At the top of my list has to be when I first heard my baby’s heartbeat in the doctor’s office. We were ALL in tears that day. Right next to that is having the honor to cut the umbilical cord when she was born (without fainting!).

A little later, after she came into her own in our faith, I had the privilege of baptizing her in our church. She was so happy, and so was I – more than words can describe. Last year we started the obligatory Daddy driving school after she turned 16. I think I will always remember teaching her how to park between the lines in the school parking lot.

And to wrap it all up, I will always remember her smiling at me when she runs to give me a welcome home hug. That makes my day, my life…. every time.

If you have any questions for Bill., please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!

Also, do you know a Dad in the Limelight? If so, please email me their contact information so that they too can be a part of this series!

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Dads in the Limelight – Jack B.

May 14, 2010

Our 23rd Dad in the Limelight is Jack B of http://wwwjackbenimble.blogspot.com/. I want to thank Jack for being a part of this series. It has been great getting to know him and now sharing him with all of you!

1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)

I have a love/hate relationship with interviews. I love to be interviewed and want to come off as the witty, charming and insightful rogue that I imagine myself to be. But I am not sure that I succeed in doing that. Ah, the trappings of the Fragile Male Ego. Ok, on to things about me.
I am your average 5 year-old boy trapped in a 40 year old body. Scratch that, I am going to be 41 in May. So I am your average 5 year-old boy trapped in an almost 41 year old body.
I really am a Jack of all trades. Spent time working in a variety of fields including construction, defense, marketing, advertising and a stint in writing. 
In the next ten years I want to write a book, a screenplay and successfully complete the Ironman in Hawaii.
2) Tell me about your family:
Been married for 14 years. We have a son who will be ten and a daughter who will be six.
3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?
Good question. There are a few moments that stick out, but one in particular hits me. My father had a triple bypass two days before my daughter was born. That was the culmination of a long illness in which he came perilously close to dying.
During that time I had to take care of my three grandparents, my family and somehow pay the bills. It was rough, but we got through it.
4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
Plan for the future but live your life today. Do things with your family now because life changes instantly and you might not always have the chance to do it later. Spend time with your kids because they really do grow up quickly.
5) Seeing that you (or your position) is in the limelight, how have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
I accept that I can’t get it all done and that I am going to make mistakes along the way. All I can do is my best and hope that it is enough. Most of the time when I look back I see a record that I can be proud of. It may not always hit the mark I want it to, but it is enough to let me sleep at night. And to me that is critical, being able to sleep that is.
What I mean is that when the lights go out and you are alone with your thoughts you need to feel comfortable with your actions. So that even if things didn’t go the way you want, you know you tried. Can’t do more than that.
6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
Pretty much everything I shared above. I learned that tired clichés have truth to them, the kids do grow up quickly. I make a point of being at every game/school activity what have you.
 
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
That is a hard question to answer briefly. One of the reasons I blog is to record those moments. Maybe that is a good idea to share, blog. I have been doing it for six years and it is a treasure trove of moments in time. Really a great place to watch my children’s growth.
8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent? I love watching my kids learn. Helping them with homework, listening to them read. I love watching them interact with each other, with their cousins and with their friends. You know, seeing them in their “native habitat” is incredibly fun.

If you have never read any of Jack B’s writing, check out these blog posts!

If you have any questions for Jack B., please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!

Also, do you know a Dad in the Limelight? If so, please email me their contact information so that they too can be a part of this series!

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Dads in the Limelight – PJ Mullen

May 10, 2010

Our 22nd Dad in the Limelight is PJ Mullen of http://www.realmendriveminivans.com. I want to thank PJ for being a part of this series. It has been great getting to know him and now sharing him with all of you!


1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)

I’m PJ Mullen and I’m a 35 year old father, husband, blogger and prolific air drummer. Nearly four years ago I left my job in the mortgage business two weeks before our wedding because I just couldn’t stand what I was doing anymore. When we returned home from our big day I went to work renovating a home we had purchased because we thought it would be a good sabbatical for me as I plotted my next career move, plus it saved us a ton of money.

Fast forward to almost a year later and we found out we were expecting our son, so we made the decision that I would be a stay at home dad after he was born. The only jobs I found required a great deal of travel and that just wasn’t going to work for us with my wife’s schedule and a newborn. I started blogging about my life as a dad at Real Men Drive Minivans in November 2008 in part to save my sanity and possibly develop some new skills that would be helpful when it came time to return to the workforce.

2) Tell me about your family

My wife and I have been married for three years.  Our son was in April 2008 and has turned into this walking, talking tornado of activity on us practically overnight.  We are also expecting a baby girl in June and couldn’t be happier. 

3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?

With a toddler, it’s all about patience, which has never been my strong suit. I was impatient in my career, which lead to some poor career decisions, so I have to take deep breaths a lot and remind myself. One of my favorite sayings is that “doctors have patients, I don’t”, but in my son’s nearly two years I have gotten significantly better on this front. Also, being a stay at home dad is a humbling experience for a Type A personality, so that has been a big adjustment  for me too. 

4) What advice would you give to other fathers?

Throw out all advice books and go with your gut. I read a few, scanned some others before our son was born and they turned out to not be so helpful. My wife and I have trusted our instincts and the good and bad we have learned from our childhood and applied it to how we are raising our son. 

5) Seeing that you (or your position) is in the limelight, how have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
Considering that I’m a stay at home dad I don’t have much of an outside life.  Sure, we go out to the park when weather is permitting, run errands and hit Gymboree once a week to help him in his development, but my life pretty much revolves around my family. We are fortunate that some of my family is local and we can rely on them to watch him so we can get out every once in a while, but the balance thing is something I definitely need to work on. And, obviously, the blog helps me stay connected with the great people I’ve met online. 

6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?

I haven’t really interacted with many dads in my area, most of them have jobs :)  I have watched my friends who became parents before me and have taken a little away from the things that they’ve done with their kids. Still, I would say for the most part I’ve relied on what my wife and I have determined are the right things for our family.  
 
7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
Since I’ve become a parent everything has become magnified. Every decision you make has to be viewed through a different lens. There is no such thing as just picking up and going anywhere without at least a modest amount of planning. It definitely alters the way you think about things. Frustrations and tantrums fade, but every day you realize more and more that the little person growing up in front of you needs you for guidance and support. 

8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?

Everyone has their own personal milestones, for me it was finally hearing my son call me “Papa” after months of him calling me “Mama” instead. It seems small, but it was a big deal to me.

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Guest Post – What Kids Most Want and Need from Their Parents

May 8, 2010

Excerpted and revised from…

The Power of Your Child’s Imagination:
How to Transform Stress and Anxiety into Joy and Success
by Charlotte Reznick PhD
(Perigee/Penguin USA August 2009)
 
What Kids Most Want and Need from Their Parents
Dr. Charlotte’s Top Ten List
• Patience
• Understanding
• Listening
• Soft voices
• Structure
• Consistency
• Love
• Freedom connected to responsibility
• Family and extended family
• Role models

Patience:
Things take time. It’s a simple and frustrating fact of life. You want your child to learn faster, change quicker, get unstuck sooner, and move ahead in life. But kids learn and change as fast as they are able, and no faster. If you can accept that, allow yours to be exactly where she is, and help her move, slowly and steadily, toward her goals, she might surprise you. Impatience, and its sidekicks Anger and Frustration, actually slow change, eating up energy and time. Tools like the Balloon Breath and a Special Place can help you keep your cool and gain perspective.
Understanding:
Childhood is a profound and challenging time, yet we quickly forget what it’s like to be a kid. With your understanding, your child will feel supported enough try new behaviors. Without it, he can feel cut off and alone. Let your imagination take you back to when you were ten, or eight, or five. What were you like? What crazy things did you hide from your parents? What were you proud of that they didn’t understand? How did they handle it? What would you have preferred? You don’t have to agree with your child’s point of view. You can still impose consequences on poor behavior. But if you can at least understand how he feels and why he does what he does, you can become the true coach on his life team.
Listening: Sometimes kids need to talk. A lot. They don’t want a quick fix or even a full solution. Often, unless they ask for help, they just want to know that you hear them. Even when they do ask, it’s still better to listen first and solve gently. After all, how can you understand what your child is experiencing until you really hear what she thinks and feels?
Soft Voices: No one likes to be yelled at, and children tell me they hear their parents’ words more clearly when they use soft voices. Otherwise, they hear the roar but miss the message. Tools like the Balloon Breath and Listening to Your Heart and Belly can center you before you speak, keeping you focused on the lesson you hope to impart.

Structure: Since much of life is unpredictable, clear boundaries, rules, and routines are comforting; they provide a dependable framework for your child’s life and help him feel safe. Try to incorporate imagination time into the structure of your day or week with the same stability as bedtime rituals and family meals. Your child will come to look forward to and rely on it.
Consistency: Consistent rules, expectations, and most important, consistent behavior on your part build your child’s sense of safety. She needs to trust that black won’t become white between today and tomorrow. You are the anchor in her world; if you say one thing and do another, she’ll lose her mooring. This doesn’t mean you should be rigid; there is something to be said for flexibility in responding to new situations. But before a child can trust herself, she needs to feel secure in the world around her; your consistency will foster that trust.

Love:
It goes without saying that you love your child. But it shouldn’t. It actually needs to be said a lot, and also shown in tangible ways. After all, love is more than a feeling; it’s an action. That sweet, sometimes painful, swell in your heart is just the starting point. How does your child know you love him? How does he experience it? Children are always translating messages from the world around them, but sometimes they’re mistaken. They may misread anger or impatience as lack of love. Don’t assume your child knows you love him. Keep this important gift front and center in all your interactions.
Freedom Connected to Responsibility:
Freedom is an important, but complex quality. Your child needs a certain amount of it—which grows as she grows—in order to develop independence. But it must be tempered by responsibility so she can build social grace and self-esteem. It’s a parental two-step: you let her go out to play with her friends (freedom) as long as she’s home in time for dinner (responsibility). Learning freedom within rules creates a more harmonious home and fosters an independent child who is accountable for her actions.
Family and Extended Family:
Try as you might, you cannot answer all your child’s needs for love and attention. It’s the impossible myth of the nuclear family. Community is a critical component of child rearing, a vital source of support for parents and children. And the core of your community is family—immediate and extended—as well as good friends who feel like family. Their love and assistance create a safety net for all of you. Maybe you can’t help with history projects, but Grandpa can. When things between you are temporarily strained, perhaps your child can find a sounding board in an aunt, uncle, or family friend. There’s nothing like another perspective to calm everyone down. Make the time to connect with your community. Everyone benefits when you do.
Role Models:
Children learn from what you do, not what you say. You are their first and most important role model. So be the person you would like your kids to grow into. Show them you can laugh at yourself. Make mistakes, apologize, and learn from them. Reveal and honor your feelings. Being a good role model will teach them more than anything you ever tell them.

Put into practice, these ten elements result in healthier, happier children and a thriving family.

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Guest Interview – May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month!

May 7, 2010
A Sun Care FAQ with Beverly Hills Dermatologist Husband/Wife Team,
Helen Fincher, M.D. and Edgar Fincher, M.D.

Q. What role does sun exposure play in the development of skin cancer?

A. The number one cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet, or UV radiation from the sun. However, UV light from tanning beds is equally dangerous.

Q. Who needs sun protection and who is most at risk for skin cancer?

A. No one is immune from skin cancer, but people who have fair skin that burns easily, light eyes and blond or red hair are at greatest risk. Darker skinned individuals should never consider themselves safe in the sun, although their risk is lower.

Family and personal history of skin cancer should also be considered. And anyone who works outdoors or lives in an especially sunny area is at risk. Finally, a history of severe sunburns — even if they occurred a long time ago — as well as a large number of irregularly shaped moles can be risk factors for melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.

Q. When do I need to protect myself from the sun’s rays?
A. Sun protection is important all year round, and UV rays can damage skin during any season or temperature, and even when there is a cloud cover. That means it is best to use at least an SPF 15 sunscreen even if you’re only going out to walk the dog.

That said, in the United States, UV rays are generally the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in spring and early summer. It is best to avoid sun exposure during those hours, and if that is impossible, use sunscreen, reapply liberally, and cover up with broad brim hats or special sun protective clothing.

And don’t forget that reflective surfaces like water, sand, snow, and cement can exacerbate the effects of UV rays. In short, if you spend time at the beach, on the slopes, or in the city, you need to be cognizant of sun exposure and its potential damage.

Q: How do I choose the right sunscreen?

A: Always choose a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, and that offers at least SPF 15. But beyond that, the best sunscreen is the sunscreen you know you will use. There are formula options including lotions, gels, and even powders, as well as sunscreens that are specifically designed for areas of the body such as the face or the scalp, different skin types, and for kids and babies. If you are a swimmer, athlete, or just a very active person, you will need a sunscreen that is waterproof and sweatproof.

Q: Can you demystify “SPF” for me?

A. Sunscreens are assigned a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) number according to their effectiveness in offering protection from UV rays. Higher numbers (above SPF 15) offer greater protection, but don’t assume that using an extremely high SPF (such as 50) means you don’t have to reapply throughout the day.

Q: When should I apply sunscreen?

A: Ideally, you should apply sunscreen thoroughly at least 30 minutes before sun exposure. Follow the manufacturer’s directions regarding reapplication. Even though many sunscreens are water and sweat-resistant today, a good rule of thumb is to reapply every two hours during peak sun hours or after swimming or any activity that causes sweating.

Q. Is there any way to un-do previous sun damage?

A. Unfortunately, you can’t undo previous damage, but it is never too late to embrace sun protection. Since sun damage is cumulative, the sooner you stop exposing your skin to harmful rays, the better.


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Book Review & Giveaway – Basie & Paisley Books

May 6, 2010

About the Books

A Spider Lives In My Belly Button is about Basie, a monster, who loves to use his imagination to pretend, and describes all the fun that Basie has with the spider that lives in his belly button. This book is for kids of all ages, and grown-ups who are kids at heart. James and Leslie’s first of their book series, Miller’s Monsters, inspires imagination, excitement, and a pure enjoyment of and for life. Their next book in this series will feature a monster called Paisley.

You can find this book on Amazon!

A Monstrous Smile, the second installment of the Miller’s Monsters children’s book series, features a monster named Paisley, and describes all the things in life that make her smile. A Monstrous Smile is a book that can be enjoyed by anyone at any age, and expresses a joy and appreciation for the simple things in life. Paisley is the sister of Basie who is featured in the first book A Spider Lives In My Belly Button.

You can find this book on Amazon!

For more about the Miller’s Monsters children’s book series visit www.twitter.com/BasieAndPaisley or become a fan of “Basie and Paisley” on Facebook.

AUTHOR
James Robert Miller, Basie & Paisley Author

Always the daydreamer, James has constantly had ideas to create. Years of creative thoughts culminated one day in 2007 when the most spontaneous and ridiculous inspiration came to light  A Spider Lives In My Belly Button. From that particular moment, James knew he had a new goal  to publish a childrens book series.

Upon the birth of James first daughter, Ella, in 2006, becoming a father held new beginnings, new life, new experiences, and a new appreciation for lifes simple moments; and with a new look on life James got to work on writing and developing his first childrens book.

Miller strongly believes in the arts, and that every child should have exposure to art, books, music, and theatre. Miller, not an artist by any means, instead sang from elementary school through college, performed in plays and musicals and even sang with Bob McGrath of Sesame Street. Additionally, James was a radio DJ at WXOU 88.3 FM hosting two shows called The Jimmy Swing Broadcasts and The Top 40 Conspiracy. Currently, James serves as the PR/Media Committee Chair for BravoBravo! in Detroit, which is an event benefitting the Michigan Opera Theatre.

Moving forward, James now focuses his creative efforts on Basie & Paisley. More books are in the works that will feature new friendly monsters, and much more. Miller hopes that, with his books, he can inspire children that no idea is too silly, and that dreams can come true with hard work, dedication, and daydreaming!

James Robert Miller, 33, resides in Waterford Township, Michigan with his wife, Karen, and daughters, Ella Rose and Evelyn Violet, who inspire him every day. James is the public relations manager at Publicity Works.

ILLUSTRATOR
Leslie A. Kelly, Basie & Paisley Illustrator

Illustrating childrens books has always been a dream of Leslies. When her brother, Jim Miller, approached Leslie a couple years ago with the story, A Spider Lives in my Belly Button, Kelly was thrilled to create the wonderful characters that would become Basie and Paisley.

Kelly has always had a creative heart and a love of all things art related. Leslies college career quickly became centered around art classes at Oakland University, including drawing, painting and photography. She then transferred to the University of Michigan to major in graphic design where she continued to take fine art classes as well, but she fell in love with the possibilities that computer graphics held. From college Leslie became an Art Director/Graphic Designer, making a career of her graphic design skills.

Leslie states, Basie and Paisley have been such a joy to work on. These books are all me and my brother and our imaginations, inspired by our own life experiences and family moments. Working on these books gives me so much freedom and allows me to do something Ive always dreamed of doing.

For Leslie, it is the perfect mix of her background in fine art and graphic design. The style she created from Jims words and thoughts is fun, graphic and a little retro. Leslie is very proud to present the Basie & Paisley books to the world with her name on the covers.

Leslie Kelly was born in Madison, Wisconsin and has lived in Waterford Township, Michigan most of her life. She currently works as a Graphic Designer in Commerce, Michigan. Leslie is 30, and married to Patrick Kelly.

My Take on the Books
I read both of these books to our five and two year old girls and they were quite the hit, especially to our two year old. The first book features Basie and we find him talking about a spider that lives in his belly button, but come to find it is only lint. You do not realize that he is using his imagination until the end of the story so it is a bit of a surprise. The second book examines Paisley and explains what makes her happy in life (what makes her smile). I enjoyed this book even more than the first as it really made me and the girls (especially Diva-J) think about what they truly enjoy in their lives.

The books were simple, and quick reads. The books tend to be geared toward preschoolers so the words are short and limited. I loved the illustrations! The only criticism I had was about the first book, because Basie’s story ends very abruptly (at least in my perspective). The girls still loved the stories, so maybe it is an adult thing!
Giveaway

How would you like to win a copy of these books for yourself? I will be giving away a copy of both books to a lucky reader! All you need to do is let me know why you would have an interest in this books to be considered. The contest will run for one week and will end on May 13, 2010.
Bonus Entries:
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  • Grab my badge to your sidebar

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    • Share this giveaway on Twitter, Facebook or any forum, including the name of the prize and a link to this post. Here I’ll make it easier on you, copy and paste this:” @dadofdivas is giving away 2 Basie & Paisley books by James Robert Miller http://dadofdivas.blogspot.com/” (Then leave the link to your post. One entry per place per day)
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    Make sure you comment separately for each task after the required entry task so you will get credit for each one ~ and leave your e-mail where you can be contacted.

    This contest will run until May 13, 2010 at approximately 12:59 pm Eastern.

    Winner must be a resident of the U.S or Canada.

    Winners are chosen at random, if you want all your chances counted, make sure you leave individual comments, not all of them in one!

    Winner has 48 hours to contact me or another name will be chosen.

  • All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site’s Terms of Use  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.


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    Understanding Shut-Down Learners: Six strategies to help your academically discouraged child climb from struggles to success

    May 5, 2010

    Understanding Shut-Down Learners
    Six strategies to help your academically discouraged child climb from struggles to success
    by RICHARD SELZNICK, Ph.D.

    Throughout preschool and her early elementary grades, Emma was sunny, confident, and engaged in school. Now 12 and in Grade 6, her teacher’s comments paint a different picture:

    Emma enters class pleasantly and she seems to get along nicely with the other kids. During class, however, Emma never participates and it seems that her mind is elsewhere. Emma’s work reflects a general lack of effort. It’s almost as if she doesn’t care.

    What happened to the sunny, confident and engaged Emma?

    Jacob, age 9, loves playing with Lego and other hands-on materials. Building elaborate cities and complex scenes, he is confident and very capable. In class, though, Jacob is unenthusiastic. An observer watching Jacob’s lack of connection and energy in class would probably think his “light bulb” was dim. Often, Jacob actually looks pained in class – particularly during open ended writing assignments.

    A recent sample of Jacob’s writing about a school experience offers insight into Jacob’s in-class struggles:

    One day in scool it started as and ordenary day but at resec we hade a safty meet and I got my posit (post) I got to raes the flag It was cool because every morning I hade to come to school erly to raseis the flag and tack down the flag I was cool because I was incharg of the flag that is one thing that happond to me

    While both of these children are quite different in style and personality, both manifest the signs of a shut-down learner. The signs of a shut-down learner typically start to emerge in the upper elementary grades, and become much more pronounced by high school. They include:

    • A sense that the child is increasingly disconnected, discouraged, and unmotivated
    • Fundamental skill weaknesses with reading, writing, and spelling, leading to diminished self-esteem
    • Increased avoidance of school tasks such as homework
    • Dislike of reading
    • Hatred of writing
    • Little or no gratification from school
    • Increasing anger toward school

    Understanding the formula of shut-down learners

    Shut-down learners are children who become academically discouraged and disconnected from school over time. A simple formula helps to explain how kids become shut-down learners:

    Cracks in the foundation + Time +Lack of Understanding + Strained Family Communication = Shut-Down Learner

    Understanding this formula will help parents of children like Emma and Jacob to be in a better position to take appropriate action.

    Cracks in the Foundation: Cracks in a child’s learning can usually be identified as early as preschool and kindergarten age. Indicators during this period are easily identified. Does your child have trouble learning letter names and their sounds, for example? By first grade, is your child taking steps toward blending sounds? In middle to upper elementary school, is writing a laborious, often agonizing process for your son or daughter? If the answer is “yes” to these questions, it does not necessarily follow that your child will become a shut-down learner. However, like cracks in your house that expand if unaddressed, it is important to act to prevent academic cracks from widening. Otherwise, they will contribute to discouragement over time and a child ultimately shutting down.

    Lack of Understanding: In my evaluation of shut-down learners, I have found that many receive work on a daily basis that they simply cannot handle, causing them unnecessary frustration. Too often, parents and teachers do not understand the skill deficits that are causing a child difficulty. For example, I recently tested a fourth-grader who struggled to read certain words presented in a text, including “porcupine,” “passage” and “amazement”. Since most fourth-graders read silently to themselves, her teacher and parents mistakenly believed that the student had a comprehension problem, when she was actually experiencing difficulties with word-reading and decoding. Additionally, many children who struggle in school simply do not have problems deemed to be “severe enough” to warrant special education. For those children, parents will need to seek outside remedial help in the form of tutoring, where available.

    Strained Family Communication: The beginning of homework time often marks an increase in the household temperature, as screaming and arguing become part of the landscape. Strained communication around homework can be overwhelming for families and can contribute to a child’s becoming a shut-down learner.

    Addressing (or preventing) shut-down learners

    1. Trust your gut: If you believe your child is experiencing difficulties at school, listen to yourself. Don’t wait, or fall for such oft-used statements as, “You know how boys are,” or “She’ll grow out of it.” Act on your feelings even if your child has been deemed in eligible for school services. Consult a trustworthy, competent person outside of school whom you feel comfortable with, to assess your child.
    2. Know what you are targeting: If your child’s assessment has identified issues of concern, chances are an area in your child’s reading needs addressing. There are essentially two types of reading problems in the first, the child has trouble decoding words and reading fluently. In the second, the child can read fluently, but experiences great difficulty understanding what he or she has read. Get clear on the exact issues that you hope to resolve. Don’t scattershot remediation.
    3. Take the heat out of the interaction: Try to step back a little bit and turn down the heat within the house. The daily ritual of yelling, pecking or nagging never leads to positive change. When was the last time your child said, “Thanks for yelling, Mom, I see your point. I’ll get down to business”? Right. Never. Why persist? Your kids are probably feeling overwhelmed by homework that they can barely handle. In raising the heat, you’re simply adding stress to their lives. Turn down the temperature. Kids need emotional fuel to tackle their school difficulties, especially those kids who derive little gratification from their efforts. Look for the small things that your child is doing well. Statements, like, ”Wow, I like the way you took out your work tonight without my asking,” can really mean a lot to a child, especially one who might be a bit discouraged.
    4. Find someone to connect with and mentor your child in school: The shut-down learners I know do not feel very good about themselves and they do not see their true strengths. If your child is of middle-school age or older (those preteen and teenage years when the development of a sense of self is critical), it is particularly important for him or her to have at least one person in school who really values him or her and will rally on your child’s behalf – even if he or she isn’t succeeding academically.
    5. Maintain a sense of equilibrium: Do something fun and enjoyable with your child. Play aboard game or do an arts and crafts project together. Most kids would enjoy doing an activity like that with you. Try not to let school problems set the tone for the entire household and all of your interactions.
    6. Support your child: Academic discouragement is debilitating to children and families. Connecting with your child’s natural strengths and letting him or her know that you are both on the same “team” can make an enormous difference in preventing your child from becoming a shut-down learner.

    Do something fun and enjoyable with your child. Try not to let school problems set the tone for the entire household and all of your interactions.

    About the author

    Dr. Richard Selznick is a child psychologist and the director of the Cooper Learning Center, Department of Pediatrics, Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey. He is the author of The Shut-Down Learner: Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child http://www.shutdownlearner.com.

    A native of Staten Island, New York, Dr. Selznick lives in Haddonfield, New Jersey.

    Dr. Selznick is an experienced media guest and has appeared on numerous radio and television shows to discuss a variety of children’s issues including things like whether same-sex schools were advantageous and the current trend of “redshirting” kindergarten students. He recently wrote feature story for Exceptional Family, Canada’s Resource Magazine for Parents of Exceptional Children www.exceptionalfamily.ca.

    If this book sounds like one that you would like to own for yourself, you can find it on Amazon!


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