Coughing all the way

The first year I moved to California, my entire family went on vacation to Hong Kong for the holidays. Because of my work schedule, I couldn't go with them. Luckily, I appreciate solitude, and since I was a newly independent single guy, the prospect of spending the holidays by myself in LA didn't seem as sad as it did on paper. But then I got the flu. All by myself. With no one to take care of me. Worst Christmas ever!

This is why I keep a mental checklist to make sure that everyone in my family gets sick before the holidays. Ok, so it's not like I cough in their faces or lick the doorknobs come November or anything. It's more of a peace of mind kind of list. If someone gets sick close enough to the holidays, I know I won't have to worry about them being under the weather once the festivities begin.

So far so good, this year.

My wife is sick right now. She took a sick day yesterday and went to work today, which means she'll be fine by Christmas Eve.

Lessi had the flu in November, and has been sniffly and coughy for a little while. Nothing too intense, which is good. I hate it when babies are miserable. Right now, she is all happy and giggly, but shoots a mean snot rocket every so often. Lisa bought one of those Vicks vaporizer machines for her room. That thing rules. I'll walk in during the course of the night, stand over it and take a deep inhale. Yes, I inhaled. Lessi also likes to take hits off the Vicks minty stick thing (my apologies: I am a Vicks Blogger Brigade member and I'm making up names for their products). In the spirit of disclosure, I did NOT receive any of my Vicks products for free. We went and bought all that with money, so I guess it's ok if I name them myself. Moving on...

Fury got some nasty stomach flu that took him down for a few days earlier this month. Poor kid. Glad that's over with. I noticed today that he sounded a bit nasally, so I'm a little worried. But he's on Winter Break right now, so his "fun fun fun!" gland is probably working overtime, and that has cold-fighting effects, I've heard. He's playing video games right now. I just walked up behind him and slathered some Vicks Vapo Rub on his throat. Why? Because I'm a Vicks ambassador, that's why!

As for me? I have some weird ailment going on. Everything feels sprained. Not sore, but actually sprained. I've had body aches from the flu before, and these aren't those. It literally feels like I fell on each and every one of my fingers and it hurts to move them. Same with my neck and my back and my knees. Even my tongue. I'm afraid to get on WebMD. I'm also coughing so much it wakes me up at night. I'm sure glad I have a tub of VapoRub. And a butter knife.

But you know what would make me really feel better? If you went to Vicks' Facebook page and and sent me a Vicks "Feel Better Friend" virtual giftbox. Because I can't send one to myself. I tried. Shut up, I'm covering up emotional scars. Psychotherapeutics aside, "Feel Better Friend" is free and really cool. In fact, you can send one to all your friends who are feeling craptacular. The page scans your friends' updates and tells you who's sick based on their updates. Then you can swoop in and look like the hero. Win-win. Cough... cough...whimper...

Another year, another ode to Dexter

Tomorrow night at this time, I will be trying to employ strategies to distract myself from the fact that I won't be able to watch another episode of Dexter for an entire year. I'm one of those people who gets genuinely angry when the credits begin to roll, so you can imagine what it's like to watch a season finale with me. Some couch pillows gonna get punched.

Last year my love for Dexter manifested itself in a Halloween costume (with matching office decor).

Then I made a "How Dexter Would Cook a Turkey" video.

This year, I wrote a seasonally appropriate poem. And by sharing it with you, I'm killing two birds with one roll of Saran Wrap, because I'd also like you to know that you can now find me writing for MamaPop.

What? Jim writing for MamaPop??? Yeah, that's what everyone says. Then again, you didn't know Mister Rogers was a Marine sniper either, did you? (I know it's an urban legend, but the analogy worked too well so go with it).

I'm only two posts in and I've already blown most of my pop culture wad. My first post was about Guns N' Roses, and the post that went live today is about Dexter. I guess I'll just post about Star Wars from here on out until they cut me off.

So anyway, without further excuses, please enjoy my latest: Twas the Night Before the 'Dexter' Season 6 Finale.

Vapo Rub Loves Dads

At least they love me, and by association, other dads, I'm assuming. And I really love breaking up sentences with commas. How did I come to this conclusion? I use a lot of commas. As for the other thing, they are actually paying me to tell you about my experiences, advice and thoughts related to getting sick and feeling better. They aren't putting me in the spotlight to mock the infamous "man cold," or to poke fun at a man's inability to wipe kid snot. Man colds are a serious affliction, and that would be a foolhardy PR move.

What they are doing is making me a member of the Vicks Blogger Brigade. Last year, it was all moms. This year, they needed some dad representation. Not only because today's dad knows a little something about taking care of sick kids, but their ad campaign will feature their first ever "VapoDad." He's a celebrity who also happens to be a great dad (well that narrows it down quite a bit, actually). If famous dads taking care of their little ones does it for you, you might want to check out Vick's Facebook page on October 25 when they reveal who it is.

If unfamous dads taking care of their little ones is more your thing, stay tuned here for the next 6 months, as I chronicle the snot, sweats and tears of cold and flu season, armed with a laptop and a tub of Vapo Rub.

Believe me, I have the street cred for this gig. Did you know I once quit a job over Fury getting sick? A few years ago, I took a sick day from work so that I could stay home with Fury when he had the flu. The next day, my boss called me into his office and reamed me for it. How could I take a sick day when I wasn't even sick? If the other employees found out that they could take sick days for their sick kids, then no one would ever come to work! Then he said he would let it go this time, but I had to make alternate arrangements the next time. My alternate arrangement was to walk out and never come back.

I apply sideways

Don't tell me I'm not gangsta when it comes to taking care of my sick kids.

VapoRub. Represent.

Peace.

They called me "Food Media": The LA County Fair food post

Last year, the LA County Fair invited my family to partake in the sights, sounds and festivities that make this annual celebration one of the most popular events in Los Angeles. I ate food. And blogged about it.

This year, they recognized my forte and invited Fury and me to a preview night. For Food Media.

Free beer. Who said blogging would get me nowhere?

Fury started his own blog recently and has already internalized the first rule: always have a camera at the ready.

As we sauntered up to the sign-in table (VIPs saunter, FYI), I was handed my badge and Fury got his. His said "Guest" on it.

Here's the disclosure part: the people on the Rogers Ruder Finn PR team are the nicest people around. That's all I really need to say. I already mentioned the free beer.

Let's eat!

This is a Korean-Inspired Taco from the Calbi Truck.

You kind of have to get around the ravenous kid to see the actual taco. So here's a picture of the truck, instead:

The whole Korean-BBQ-meets-Mexican-fare thing has been wildly popular in Los Angeles, because it is a culinary combination that works. Also, Koreans and Mexicans. While the Calbi truck isn't the first on the block to do this, I'm happy that there are alternatives to waiting in line for 90 minutes to get your Korean shortrib taco on. Because when you invest an hour and a half of your life in a food truck, it leads to this (yes, I ate that ALL in one sitting. Then hibernated for the winter).

Next, Cheesecake-on-a-stick. I have a personal rule: never pass up any food on a stick.

I wish I remembered the name of the vendor, or took a picture of the stand. I tried Googling it and still couldn't find the name. My bad, but I tried.

This was Fury's favorite: the Nutella Crepe from the Crepes Bonaparte Truck.

While it is healthy to indulge, I also feel that it is very important to eat some vegetables at every meal. I think the Chimichurri sauce on that pulled pork slider from the Piaggio Argentinian Food Truck has green in it.

This is Piaggio himself. Thanks for the veggies!

And now, the reason why so many people go to the LA County Fair: Chicken Charlie's! He's the guy that has never met a food he couldn't deep fry. I kind of worship this man. This year, Fury and I sampled his Fried Kool-Aid and Fried Ribs.

The Fried Kool-Aid is featured in the video below. As for the fried ribs, I really was kind of wary at first. I love ribs because they are fatty. Fatty is delicious. But even I would be afraid to dip that madness in batter and fry it without a large side of Pepto Bismol dipping sauce. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Chicken Charlie merely dusts the ribs with his own blend of spices, flour and cornstarch, rather than thick batter. That way, when you fry it, the ribs get tender inside and crisp on the outside, with no batter to weigh it down. Then, he slathers it with his own recipe tangy, spicy BBQ sauce to cut through the oil and fat. It's really heaven. And this here was my personal moment of zen:

Chicken Charlie approves.

How did we end this night of sanctioned gluttony? By riding the mechanical bull, of course. It's all in the video below. 

With tummies full of food and beverage, properly shaken, not stirred, Fury and I ambled (VIPs who have overindulged amble, FYI) back to the car. As we removed our badges, Fury made sure to point out "next year, my badge will say my name on it!" Aim high, blog boy!

Do you want to saunter in and amble out of the LA County Fair like a true Food Media Pro? Then just let me know in the comments below that you want to enter my drawing for a 4-pack of tickets (including a parking pass). The LA County Fair runs from now through Oct. 2, so even though I'm totally late on this post, there's still time to enjoy it.

I will be in China for the next few days on business, and will try to figure out time differences and pick a winner this Friday night. My blog is banned in China (wouldn't you do the same if you could?), but my comments are emailed to me, so it should be no problem. Unless they figure out I am BusyDad and give me work detail fixing up the Three Gorges Dam. In which case, it was nice knowing you. At least it'll allow me to work off those ribs.

Hello my name is Busy, and I like to do drawings

Last summer, d Wife went online to find Fury a lunchbox for the upcoming school year. I don't know how she stumbled upon it, but she ended up purchasing one from Go Green Lunchbox. When it arrived, I didn't think much of it. It was a lunchbox. I have better things in my life to pay attention to. But then I opened it. And my life changed.

It had a whiteboard in it.

If you know me from Twitter, you know that I

Love

Me

a

Whiteboard.

Naturally, I drew a ninja on it. Followed by Optimus Prime, then of course Boba Fett. And that's how Lunchbox Daily was born. Almost every day, I would draw a cartoon on the whiteboard and send Fury to school. I would also post it online. While I loved that people on the internet dug my cartoons (they even got a mention in Wired), my favorite accolades were the ones Fury gave me:

"Dad! I'm the 4th most famous kid at my school because of the lunchbox!"

"All the big kids crowd around the lunchtable to see what you drew."

"Mr. [asst principal] came by to see today's lunchbox."

"I didn't understand the lunchbox today."

While I have to admit that it can get really tedious thinking up things to draw every day of the week, Lunchbox Daily means a lot to me. First, Fury likes it. Also, my mom did the same thing for me when I was a kid. Every night, she would draw cartoons on me and my sisters' lunchbags. They usually had to do with something that happened that day, so I kept them all in a box, like a cartoon diary. Sadly, I have no clue where they are now, but the happiness they brought me is something I will always cherish and I wanted to pass that on.

Also, I want to let you know that over the summer, I painstakingly moved every single cartoon off of my Posterous blog and into their new home right on this blog. Because honestly, that site got more traffic than this blog and this is the one with my name attached to it and, dammit, traffic is a matter of honor and I want it here! Call me an internet Samurai.

Since today is also Fury's first day of school, I thought it was a good time to officially introduce you all to Lunchbox Daily and also post the first cartoon of the school year.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to give props to two essential elements of Lunchbox Daily: Go Green Lunchbox and Mabel's Labels.

Go Green Lunchbox is obvious. They make the lunchbox with the dry erase board on it. Why Mabel's Labels? Because they make cockroach-in-nuclear-winter durable labels, my friends. At the end of last school year, I noticed that the Mabel's Label affixed to Fury's Lunchbox survived the entire year! Fury would wear out a kevlar vest if you let him wear it to recess. Those are some tough labels. Also, they serendipitously became essential to this year's lunchbox and literally saved Lunchbox Daily. Read on...

You know the whole bento box craze that has been hitting the school lunch circuit these days? Go Green was doing this long before it was cool. So there. Their lunchboxes feature a durable outer insulated bag, with a compartmentalized container inside (the bento part, if you will).

And of course, there's the whiteboard on the inside cover. Go Green was nice enough to send me their latest model a few weeks ago; however I must admit that I was a little bit sad because they changed the whiteboard. It seems that they replaced the vinyl whiteboard from last year's model with a metallic one held by a green frame. I did a quick drawing test on it, and it takes dry erase ink better and erases more easily (on the vinyl one, I had to erase it with olive oil to get all the ink out). But what they gained in quality, they lost in size. This new whiteboard, because it is metallic, cannot be sewn directly on the canvas. It must instead sit inside a plastic frame that is sewn into the cover. While this improves writing quality and aesthetics, it greatly reduces drawing space.

I needed to mod this sucker out. Ever seen a grown man gettin' crafty? Now's your chance.

Yes, I'm doing crafts. Wanna make something of it?Like Orange County Choppers, but with lunchboxesThere's crazy in them eyesYes, like the hearts of my vanquished foe, the green frame was cut out of the lunchbox to give me more drawing room. But like the barbarian warriors before me, I cut first and pondered later: "How the hell do I get this metal whiteboard to stick to the canvas now??"

I'm bright like that.

Superglue doesn't work on metal. I don't care what the ads say. But you know what does? Mabel's Labels!! I had never really taken the time to handle a Mabel's Label in the past, so I had no idea that they weren't simply stickers. I have no idea what they are composed of, but they are not of this earth. You know the teflon tape that plumbers use to seal threads between pipes? That's kind of what they're like. Mabel's Labels are stretchy, and they will stick to anything -- and stay there. You want proof? Check it:

That whiteboard ain't going nowhere! And now I have more drawing space for the cartoons, and you can identify my son's lunchbox from outer space. You know what I want? I want a roll of unprinted Mabel's Labels. Just to fix stuff around the house.

I'm horrible at transitions, so here is where I simply tell you that I am giving away a make-your-own-lunchboxdaily-lunchbox kit. This kit includes: one Go Green Lunchbox of your choice, and a Mabel's Labels Ultimate Back-to-School Combo. Box cutter and crazy Asian not included.

To enter, just go to Go Green Lunchbox's site and choose the lunchbox you would want. Then write it in the comment section below. Also, tell me what you wish you could label if you could label anything in the world (because if you can't stick a Mabel's Label on it yet, I'm sure they'll eventually make one that will - yes I am giving them free market research). If you do both things, you will be entered into my drawing. I'll give you until the end of the day Friday. 

Go Stuff a Stocking

With this:

Fury and his Kid Test Labs cohorts TXU and Brendan recently did a video review of this awesome book by Bonnie Burton.

And I think I've reached the pinnacle of my life and can simply retire from all this now. Because the OFFICIAL STAR WARS BLOG wrote about it.

So like a spider who has laid her eggs, there is nothing more I can do but find a corner, smile and wither away.

But first, check out their review. You can even win a copy of the book, just in time for stocking stuffing, or your equivalent holiday money draining tradition.

How to Completely Remodel Your Home in 30 days and 12 Easy Steps

As some of you may know, my house recently underwent a total makeover. Whenever people see my house, they always ask "how long did it take?" And then I say "one month," and then they laugh. And then I laugh and we move onto other subjects. It's not worth explaining. But here on my blog, I've got time. So I'm going to explain step-by-step how to remodel your entire house in 30 days.

I'm also going to give away a $100 Home Depot gift card. You know, happy father's day, bribing my readers to leave comments, buying your affections and all that...

Step 1

Move your family to a new city and find the cheapest gas station in town. Fill up twice a week because you have a crazy ass gas guzzling truck that only gets 6 mpg. Bitch constantly to the owner of that gas station about having to fill your tank up twice a week. But since you have a 34 gal. tank and your twice-a-week fillups pretty much cover the rent for his station, he's really cool with you.

Step 2

And because filling up your tank takes about 2 hours at a time, you end up spending lots of quality time at this gas station, just talking about random stuff with this guy. Pretty soon, you find out he's exactly your age, and knows a lot more about lead generation, sales channel management, ROI, Powerpoint and Excel than your average dude who works at a gas station. Turns out, he is a disillusioned corporate refugee who one day just said "Frick this crap. I'm going to open a gas station." And just did it. At around the same time, he finds out you work in the field of online marketing. "Hmm..." he thinks.

Step 3

One day while you are hanging out at the station, Toheed (it's too tiring to type "gas station dude" over and over) casually brings up the online marketing thing, and asks if he can pick your brain about something. But he gets as far as "I wanna sell fish..." before I freak out. "FISH! I LOVE FISH! I am a total fish nerd. Let's DO this!" And we just did it. That was the genesis of OceanPets.com (the site is still up, but the business is defunct - keep reading).

Step 4

Get $800 worth of sales just a couple days after launching the site. Which means you drive your 6 mpg truck to the fish wholesalers near LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) to fulfill orders each day and do it like the big boys -- in special styrofoam containers, pumped oxygen and ice/heat packs (depending on the region to which you're overnighting your tropical fish). Start generating sales of $2,000 per day before long. But then you realize why only the big boys ship live fish: DHL and FedEx often (VERY often) deliver to the wrong address, lose packages and run into storms. All of which does not fare well with Nemo and Dori who are sitting in a plastic bag that only has enough oxygen for a 24 hour trip. And unless you are a big boy with lots of money in reserve, you simply cannot re-fulfill the order, plus pay again to ship it (out of your own pocket) while you wait 6-8 weeks for DHL and FedEx to "review" your loss claim and ask for evidence that the shipment has been damaged. Um, how about "turns out the fish I delivered has ceased to be. It is bereft of life. It is an EX-FISH!" (bonus fish for you if you got that reference).

Step 5

Before calling it quits on the fish business, you insightfully conclude one day that 1) people like to buy live fish 2) it is futile to try to ship fish 3) Toheed has all this empty space inside his gas station 4) you can fit about 23 fish tanks in here with the proper rack set-up 5) you're here all the time anyway 6) the slogan "Fill Your Tank" is the perfect catchy phrase for a gas station/tropical fish store 8) Petroleum products and aquatic life can co-exist, Exxon Valdez notwithstanding.

Step 6

Sell 6 fish in 6 months out of the gas station. Craigslist all the fish tanks. Dust ourselves off and decide with Toheed to sell something less alive through the internet. That was the genesis of Silverguys.com. Let's just say I have a very nice ziploc bag in the closet with all kinds of silver jewelry in it. None of which has been sold. Talk to me, my friend. I give you best price.

Step 7

Go back to your day jobs and stick to what you're good at. Which in me and Toheed's case is being the real-life "Harold and Kumar" wherever we go.

Step 8

Go back to the corporate grind while Toheed buys a smog station in Sacramento. And tries to remodel it. But then is told by the city that he cannot hire any crews to do it unless he goes through a general contractor. So in genuine Toheed style, what does he do? He takes the general contractor's license exam and passes it. Since he now has his license, he throws a couple ads up on Craigslist to see what happens. He lands a ton of jobs and pretty soon he's bringing in more money than selling gas has ever brought. A year later, he brings me in to help him do sales and business development.

Step 9

Not knowing jack about construction, I buy a book and attend a few tradeshows. But Toheed teaches me that that your ability to put a real proposal together, use a spreadsheet and speak English far outweighs any knowledge of construction when you're selling commercial projects. And he is absolutely right.

Step 10

Decide that it's time for another kid, which means the house needs to be bigger. Perhaps a second story? Toheed tells you he can totally do that, so you hire an architect, draft some plans, and send your wife and kid overseas for 2 months so construction can begin. After your wife and kid leave, and you pack all your belongings in boxes and store them in the garage, find out that your zone is the hardest zone in Los Angeles County to get approval for a second story, and it ain't happening without months of jumping through hoops.

Step 11

Make lemonade out of lemons. Rent your house out for two months and go live like a frat boy with your friend Joey the Fireman. That's all I'll say about that.

Step 12

Wait for the economy to slow down and construction projects to dry up along with it. Go back to your day job. Work two more years. Realize you still have construction loan money left and decide it's no longer worth it to try for that second story. Draft new plans (which include your dream kitchen and bar area, which make you feel a lot better about not getting that second story), and then move your family into Toheed's house while he begins construction. Unleash your kid and dogs on this single guy's house and in 30 days? Voila. NEW HOUSE.

* * * * *

I apologize for the length of this post. I really do. We're almost done.

So Toheed succeeded in building us the pimpinest house in only 30 days and I cannot thank him enough for doing this for us (at cost!!). It just proves that in life, there is nothing better than good friends. They stick with you through thick and thin, get into trouble with you, bail you out and laugh with you the whole way through. Really, what more to life is there?

For my good friend, please do me a favor. If you know anyone in the Southern CA area who needs a general contractor, tell them about his company, Complete Construction. He is a great guy and I can vouch for his honesty and committment to service. And if you don't believe me, check out this slideshow I made about our home remodel. It'll blow you away:

 

Awkward segway time (because d Wife and Fury are waiting for me to finish this post so we can get on with Father's Day festivities and can't think of any way to seamlessly weave this giveaway into my post)...

Hey, Happy Father's Day! What goes with remodeling posts and dad? Why, Home Depot of course! And looky. I happen to have $100 Home Depot gift card for you right here! In true BusyDad style, I dropped the ball and failed to put this post up before Father's Day so that the winner would actually have this card in hand to spend on Father's Day. But it actually turned out for the better because now I have a little game to play:

See these really clever gift cards?

 

 

I'll give one to the poor soul got the lousiest Father's Day present this year. If you're a dad, leave a comment on this post describing your lousy present. If you're a mom and you gave a less than ideal gift and would like to make up for it, describe that necktie in detail right here. I'll give you till next Saturday 11:59 pm to get these all in (and pass this post along) and then select a winner.

And if you're really down to the wire and HAVEN'T gotten the father in your life a present yet, here's a link with more info on Home Depot gift cards. I'd want the drill bit one myself. I'm always losing or breaking drill bits, because, you know, I'm only good at doing contruction proposals.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!! 

ADDENDUM:
My first commenter on this post suffered a tragedy that none of us should ever have to face, and in light of that I know some of you felt bad telling me about horrible neckties to win a gift card. Home Depot stepped up (thank you! you rock) and offered her family a $100 Gift Card apart from this contest. So... bring on the bad neckties! The $100 gift card is yours to win - and I've changed the rules, because I can. I will let fate, aka the Randomizer, decide which story gets the card.

ADDENDUM #2:
Geeez how could I forget?? Toheed is getting married this weekend. Please congratulate him (I'll have him check comments)!

Little Pimpin, Vol. 1

If you can't pimp your blog friends, who can you pimp (without landing in jail)?
My roundup of contests, campaigns, carnivals, theme posts and anything else my blog friends are trying to make noise about.

 LittlePimpin.jpg

 

  1. Blog for Education Day: June 20 - My friends April and Cablegirl are reaching out to parent bloggers to write about something that affects us all: education. Read their posts: here and here.
  2. Online Parenting Group: Ashley, aka BossSanders, started an online parenting group over at Lilaguide.com and needs 600 members to win a contest. Just sign up. You don't have to subscribe to 6 weeks of Entertainment Weekly or anything nutty like that. She just needs warm bodies. Don't we all.
  3. Easiest Contest Ever: Tyler from Building Camelot is making us jump through hoops again. Go to his site and subscribe to his feed. Or tell him you subscribe if you already do. I know, like we don't have other things to worry about! But he's a cool dude, and you could win $50. He's also hosting the next Manival. Sounds kinky.
  4. Mommy/Daddy Ink: Sunshine over at And The Pursuit of Happiness is doing something really cool. So cool, in fact, that I thought of it too. But she beat me to the punch, so I am participating in hers. Send her pics of your tattoos by June 1 and she'll feature you in a mix 'n match post where readers guess the owner. I sent mine in. You should too. And if you don't have a tattoo, go get one now! Do it for your blog!
  5. Send Maria to BlogHer: There's something immoral up in here, and that's the way I like it. Maria, everyone's favorite Immoral Matriarch was asked to be a speaker at this year's BlogHer convention. This is a good thing for the mom blogging world. A very good thing. Read about it here, and lend her your support.
  6. Prom Stories Wanted: You know you have one. Go over to Mommy's Martini and join the fun. She's hosting a prom story carnival on June 3. I'm considering posting mine. Considering. (No, it wasn't at all exciting. Just something I need to make good for because it was probably the single most inconsiderate thing I ever did.)
  7. Can you act as your own pimp? Because I need to get you guys over to my other site, Stark Raving Dads. Submit questions (moms, we're opening it up for you too!) because we're running low on blog fodder.