The Dad 2.0 Thrival Guide

Are you going to the Dad 2.0 Summit? If so, this might be useful. If you’re not, but you like cigars, scroll to the bottom of this post because I am giving away a humidor and a mess of cigars. If you’re into both, then jackpot. I wrote this just for you. Since this is going to be the fourth year that I will be attending Dad 2.0 (actually, I might have skipped one of the middle ones, so let’s say third, lest I be Brian Williamsed and cast from blogging for six months, which really wouldn’t impact my current cadence in the least come to think of it), I figured I probably have something useful to share about it. At first, I thought about doing a survival guide, but it would be an awfully short post consisting of “don’t get arrested” and “don’t tweet past 11pm or four bourbons,” so I decided to go for less doomsday, more thrive. After all, fatherhood is all about kicking ass rather than simply not getting your ass kicked, right?

I’m about to take a red eye for work, spending too much on airport booze to help me sleep, and don’t have time for crafty transitions. Let’s just do this:

1) Make one new friend
Every conference I go to, whether it’s this, Blogher, Mom2.0 or BondageCon, I give myself a one-friend quota. Try to find one new person who really clicks with you. It’s not tough to do, but it makes all the difference in the world. Buying people beer offers you the best conversion rate. That said, I will be your friend.

2) Everyone Cares About Your Blog
You know when you go out into the real world and people just look at you funny when you talk about your blog? For three days, everyone around you will be speaking your language. They will get you. They’ll cringe with you about search terms bringing you traffic, stress out about the Facebook algorithm, and high five you because Melissa Joan Hart followed you on Twitter. Nerd out about your blog. You are among friends. 

3) But Not That Much
However, we all know you blog. So talk about other stuff too. Turns out, dad bloggers have a lot in common aside from our blogs. Stray from that comfort zone and you’ll discover other topics. Like kids. And blogging about them. Wow, this is harder than I thought.

4) Don’t Stress About Business Cards
You’ve probably seen a lot of conversation around getting business cards ordered. Screw that. You don’t need them. If you have them, great. If you don’t, you’ll be fine. If you meet a cool blogger just follow them on Twitter or like their Facebook page. If you meet a brand person you click with, get their business card. Then take the initiative to engage with them later. Little good ever came out of giving someone your business card. Think about it. I’m right. I find that people put too much false hope on them when they have them. 

5) Be Nice to the Sponsors
I get it… you may not ever want to work with brands. But many of your fellow bloggers do. It’s actually a big deal that dads are making an impact in how things are marketed these days, and whether they’ve got it right yet or not, at least we are in that conversation. As someone on the other side, I know how hard it is to get a client to take a risk with dads. Help them feel like it paid off, because it will lead to better opportunities and more influence for us as a whole. Stop at their booths, chat with them, tweet with them, use their hashtags, show them some love. They are taking a leap of faith with us. 

6) Go To One Totally Irrelevant Panel
We tend to choose panels to attend that are familiar to us, whether that means a topic we dabble in, or panelists we know. Try attending one that you think you have absolutely nothing to do with. Those tend to be the most memorable because they offer you new perspectives on things. Plus, knitting baby bottle koozies might be the big Etsy break you’ve been waiting for. 

7) Enjoy Not Being a Dad
I don’t mean in the metaphysical sense, but in the “I have to pack school lunch for tomorrow” sense. Ironic as it is, Dad 2.0 is one of the few times during the year that you don’t have to be “on” in your role as dad (unless you brought your kids, for which I say kudos to you, and thanks for making the rest of us look bad, and skip this one). Have fun, be a guy, and hang out with other guys who are also taking full advantage of their temporarily reduced responsibilities for the weekend. Drink more, worry less. 

8) Call Your Kids/Spouse/Significant Other
Before you dive head first into the above piece of advice, do this. This would have been in the survival guide as well. 

9) Bring Aspirin
See above.

10) Hydrate
See above above.

11) Make Opportunities For Yourself
Remember that thing I said about brands taking a chance on dads? This is good not only for the dad collective, but also good for you as an individual. The brands are there to have conversations with you, and part of that is sharing ideas. Maybe there’s something you do that would be a great fit for a brand. This is your time to get in front of them and share it. 

In the spirit of making opportunities, I went and did that in a small way for this post. I’m sharing this because:

  • Opportunities don’t have to involve gobs of money on either end
  • They can be fun and aligned with your personality
  • I love cigars
  • I know a lot of you do, too
  • They don’t take a ton of work
  • It’s all about relevance and fit

A few months ago, the folks at CigarsCity.com contacted me to review some cigars. While I love cigars and they’ve been an integral part of the happy times of my life, I don’t have much cigar content in my head to do a good “cigar post." But I do have pictures of me enjoying some. This one is on my desk:

 Times I'll never remember with friends I'll never forget.

Times I'll never remember with friends I'll never forget.

Here's one I took with work buddies just last month:

I did, however, need a new humidor. And yes, even though I do get paid for most of my brand posts, I also know that in order for a brand to pay me, they need to get something out of it as well. Like I said, I don’t think an amateurish post about cigars would really move enough cigars, or change the conversation about cigars in a way that would warrant their $[classified] expenditure on me. However, it might be worth the cost of a humidor and a couple handfuls of cigars. And while I might not be someone who can move the needle in the cigar consumer space, I do have an in with dads. And dads (at least the ones I know) are a strong cigar demographic. So I asked them to send me a humidor, and let me give one away (along with a couple handfuls of cigars picked just for you) on my blog.

 Booze Not Included. 

Booze Not Included. 

If you’re curious, here is what I do know about cigars:

  • They are best lit with a wooden match and you aren’t supposed to draw the flame in when you light it. Just hold the cigar over the flame and turn slowly. Actually, that’s not true. The best way to light a cigar is via the smoldering remains of your would-be assassin’s car after you thwarted his attempt and made him pay dearly.
  • If you’ve never smoked a Cuban cigar, allow yourself the entire next day to recover from the nausea. After that first one, it doesn’t hit you half as hard. Not sure why. 
  • To get rid of cigar breath, no amount of brushing or mouthwashing will help. The only thing that really helps is eating Denny’s. Not sure if this is backed by independent peer-reviewed research, but neither is anti-vaccination and people seem to buy that just fine. 
  • Nothing smells worse than cigar ashes, the morning after. Trust me on this one. Do not dump it in the trash. Bury it, or something. 
  • Use a cutter or punch to cut the end of a cigar. You might think it looks cool to use your teeth, but it’s not. You look like the kid ordering a Strawberry Daiquiri the first time his fake ID works.

Ok, I’ve kept you from better things for long enough. I would love it if you could leave any conference tips of your own in the comments section, since nobody comments on blogs anymore and I want to feel nostalgic. Also, if you would like to win a humidor like mine (with cigars!), please let me know in the comments and I will add you to the drawing. If you would like to give CigarsCity an idea of the type of cigar you would like to try, visit their site and add that to your comment. They will then custom choose an assortment that fits your liking. How’s that for relevance?

I will draw the winner on Feb 28 at 9pm PST, so you have time to unwind from the conference and make some school lunches. If you'd like to purchase something in the meantime, use the promo code BUSYDAD with any order over $50 to get 10% off until the end of April. 

I look forward to seeing you at Dad2.0. I am going to be moderating the "Everything is Negotiable... Until it Isn't" panel, (which is coincidentally very related to this post) so please check it out. If you can’t make it, follow all the activity as it happens by following the #dad2summit hashtag. 

Parent Developmental Milestones (with apologies to BabyCenter.com)

Want to know if your baby is going to achieve better than a 3.25 GPA during his junior year in college? You can extrapolate that by calculating how many days plus or minus 3.25 months old he was able to roll to his tummy from his back. The internet has it all figured out, don’t you fret. But knowing where your kid stands is only half the picture. What about your own milestones? Have development experts figured out when exactly you overcome the aversion to licking your thumb to wipe that crusty toothpaste from the corner of your son's mouth as you drop him off at school? Science has left us parents to benchmark these milestones on our own, apparently. So with graph paper in hand, here goes.

Babycenter, take notice. I'm going to get the ball rolling. Take over whenever you'd like. 

PARENT DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES
Age 0-1:

What a time of discovery! As your child begins to make sense of his world, his own senses will become more acute. He will even begin to hear his own crying. That's fascinating for him! It drives everyone else crazy - except for you because nature equipped you with the Bose effect. A parent's ability to tune out the frequency of their own child's prolonged wailing in the car or at Target is an evolutionary wonder. Or maybe it's a symptom of waking up at 3:30 a.m. Research still pending... 

Dexterity is another wondrous new skill that marks this stage of your life. Your new parent fingers can now confidently cradle all sorts of things, namely squishy, runny, warm ones to the nearest trash can, or out the car window. In rudimentary stages of development, you may bring your fingers up to your nose in curiosity afterwards, but you soon learn that some things are better left conveniently smeared on your jeans and forgotten. Don’t think this is a skill? A Crossfit guy can roll a monster truck tire 50 yards without puking. Have him try this with a travel-sized Kleenex filled with four ounces of chunky fresh spit-up. Paleo lunch cleanup in aisle four.

In her first year, as your child begins to develop an understanding of words and language, reading to her helps her understand the complexities of this essential life skill. What she doesn't yet understand are the complexities of the Dexter plot that’s starting in 3 minutes, so your parental brain develops the amazing workaround of making up shorter sentences, or changing the story entirely as you flip through the pages really fast. 

Age 1-3:

Your little one is becoming so mobile! As he starts exploring his world, he will step in, pick up and smear everything. It’s about this time that you’ll notice yourself digging deeper into that Starbucks napkin dispenser to grab a fat stack of paper. You will use one and jam the rest of that pile into your glove box. Daily. You will also find yourself strategically placing wipes containers where you live, work and play. Squirrels do this with acorns. 

Just as spawning salmon are able to navigate winding tributaries using some kind of magnetic magic or whatever to get to their spawning grounds, you will also develop an innate skill that will enable you to navigate through your environment. The collective knowledge of every public restroom with a decent changing table will somehow be imprinted in your brain like a Borg Thomas Guide and your travels will hopscotch with the efficiency that only nature could have masterminded. Also, changing a baby on your lap once is like getting grazed by a grizzly claw. You never forget that. 

Fairies, scary bears, firefighters or superheroes. Your toddler is starting to understand the concept of pretend. You’ll notice that you will also naturally transition into pretend mode as you play dress up, cars, or whatever the fantasy of the day might be. Your newfound ability to pretend really shines when it comes to music. “YAY! Let’s listen to the Frozen song, AGAIN! YAY!” you’ll say with nary a tinge of disingenuity. You will be tested, however. His name is Calliou. You will want to erase him with the cheap eraser that rips the paper he’s drawn on. Let it go. Let it go…

Age 4-8:

Your child is growing bigger and stronger! She can run, jump and frolic. It seems like every time you turn around, she grows another inch. Well, did you know that you too are growing stronger? It may not manifest itself on a growth chart, but your strength is in your footing, literally. You’ve been stepping on errant Legos and plastic jewelry for quite some time now and you’ve developed a pain tolerance that Amazonian shamans envy. When one of your younger parent friends steps on a Lego and shrieks in pain, you will enjoy stomping on it, bringing your foot up, plucking the brick out of the deep indent in your foot, and placing it gently into your friend’s palm. 

A child’s developing palate is a thing of wonder. Too bad most kids won’t acquire a taste for nuclear hot wings for a couple more life stages. That’s ok. By this stage in your own development, your palate has adapted to accommodate your body’s need to efficiently turn leftover kids’ meals into fuel for the body. The half eaten chicken nuggets, cold mac and cheese, oatmeal with two bites taken out of it, and PBJ sandwich crusts that would turn a young man’s stomach are now simply your way of cleaning up, fueling up and saving for college tuition. 

It’s amazing to watch your child’s social skills come into full bloom at this stage. She learns to make friends, share toys, take turns and hone all the skills that will be essential for success later in life. Essential for everything except birthday parties, that is. There’s nothing that prepares you for the social agony that is a birthday party you have to attend with your kid. Luckily, your ability to numb the pain kicks in naturally around the time you attend your first one. With the instinct of a predator, you will locate the one lame gazelle in the pack. He is usually wearing a fanny pack. You will randomly glance at him and think “at least I’m not that guy” throughout the party to make yourself feel better. Your brain will also hyper-focus on your child to make every goldfish cracker eaten, every piñata whiff, and every facepaint whisker a thing of amazement and wonder. You will take pictures. You will say “that IS a frosting flower on that cupcake! That’s so awesome!” When you see parents hovering alongside their kids at a birthday party, it’s not for safety. They’re just trying not to go insane with boredom, or worse, engage in forced kid-party socialization with other miserable parents. And they never serve beer. 

Age 9-12:

As children enter this stage in their development, they are making the transition from childhood to adolescence. Many psychological and physiological changes are occurring at this time, which may make it difficult to make certain choices. Clothing and music, being the two of them. This is a hotly contested theory because the other school of developmental thought postulates that it is the parents who lose their ability to recognize, buy or understand what good clothes and music are. Whichever one holds true, our advice is if you avoid Hot Topic, most crises arising out of this life stage can be averted. 

And that brings us to puberty and teenagers. We’re going to need a lot more graph paper and Febreeze for this. Science can wait.

How to (grumble) eat better over the holidays (grumble) when you hate eating healthy and only do so in order to live longer

I do a lot of things that are healthy. I do a lot of things that are not healthy. But all in all, I think they yin and yang quite well.  And while it seems noble of me to work with The American Cancer Society strictly “on props,” I really do it to force myself to make sure the healthy keeps pace with the unhealthy. If I’m telling you how to live your life so that you can enjoy more birthdays, it forces me to more or less follow along, because if not, the internet troll that lives in my head will call me out on it. Congratulations! You are all unwitting participants in my self-help strategy.

That aside, let’s talk about holidays.

Over the holidays, you eat. That is what we are supposed to do as decent human beings. You are the ghost of ChristmasFAIL if don’t indulge over the holidays. I am all about going all out on the holiday table. Any dish can be improved with an extra stick of butter (name ONE thing that can’t be). Screw measuring the sugar. Carbs = love. Be a glutton for gluten. I’m not about to take this away from you. It’s only like half a dozen meals out of the year. Enjoy the hell out of them.

But what about the 30 or so other days during the holidays? Yang is such a buzzkill sometimes, I know. But that doesn’t mean healthier meals around those few indulgent holiday meals have to be lame. These are non-lame things that I actually do to keep my waist size the same as it was in college 20 years ago. 

Disclosure time: I hate eating healthy. I do it because I have to. I do it because I want to live longer and have more birthdays, because birthdays mean I can eat all the cake I want with whipped cream frosting (I hate buttercream frosting… how can anything with such glorious ingredients fail so miserably in execution?? That is fodder for another post, though). I am eating a donut right now as I type this. Transparency is the key to authentic blogging.

It is useless for me to write "without further ado" because ado is like my brand now (see above, and above that and above that).

Here are some recommendations from the American Cancer Society on how to live healthier, to which I have added some realistic ways to follow them in your day-to-day eating around the holidays. If you want more info, as well as actual recipes, click that badge on the left that I have worked so hard to try to align with this paragraph.

1) Eating lots of fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of many types of cancer. I hate vegetables and I hate fruit (again, transparency). However, I recognize their importance when it comes to overall health. As a grownup, I will simply hold my breath and force a clump of vegetables down my throat whenever I get the chance. And I call my mom when I do, so she can tell me how proud she is of me (no, I REALLY do this. Shut up, before I punch your face).  For my kids, I try to incorporate them as seamlessly into dishes as possible. Here are some tips:  

  • Smoothies. Once they are liquid and you use a silly straw, kids cease to define things as "healthy food." A little non-fat vanilla yogurt in there, and you're golden. I also throw some raw quick oats in there because I know oats are also good for you. But drop the kale and step away. Everything has its limits.
  • Chop them into little pieces and put them into soup or on a pizza (whole wheat raw pizza dough is the best invention ever).
  • Put cheese on them in addition to chopping them up. Anything with cheese on it becomes delicious. Also, anything dipped in tempura batter and deep fried, but I'm not about to replace cancer with cornorary artery disease, so let's move on. 
  • Chop them up, stir fry with ground chicken or turkey, add hoisin sauce or terriyaki and make lettuce wraps.

2) Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.  

  • My kids have eaten whole wheat bread since birth. They don't know any different. I tell them white bread kills kittens. We hang effigies of white bread up and beat them with sticks. That's how you instill an affinity for whole grains.
  • If violence against food isn't your bag, quesadillas made with whole grain tortillas are delicious, too. You can also incorporate the chopped vegetables and cheese into these. 
  • If you're making any kind of pie crust, banana breads or other goodies, whole wheat flour works there, too. I find it tends to be a tad drier, so go heavier on the wet ingredients, by like 10%. If some of those wet ingredients are butter... well, then so be it. At least you're eating whole grains. Rome wasn't built in a day. 

3) Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat. This one makes me a little bit sad, as I tear into slabs of meat on the regular. If you would like to follow this guideline, here are my tips on getting the most meat per mouthful without consuming a lot of meat.

  • Take advantage of the concept of surface area. By maximizing the surface area of meat your mouth encounters, your body is somewhat fooled into thinking it has eaten more meat than it actually has. So take a piece of meat and cut it up into small pieces and add it to dishes like those below:
  • Chili: probably the best hearty thing you can eat that's not bad for you. It's not cream based; it has cooked tomatoes in it (which contains lycopene, which fights prostate cancer); and you can throw beans and chopped vegetables in it. You can also use pretty much any kind of meat you have lying around from holiday meals.
  • Stir Fry: while one steak can feed an individual, one steak can feed a whole family if you cut up the meat and use it in a stir fry with vegetables. I keep my stir frys simple: meat, scallions, onions, green and red peppers, mushrooms. Then I make a sauce using cornstarch, soy sauce, some broth, mirin or vinegar and honey. Serve some brown rice with that, and everyone is happy and has consumed 75% less meat. 
  • Fried rice: my post-Thanksgiving meal is always fried rice. And if you go easy on the oil, it's really not that bad for you. When I make my Jim's Super Secret Special fried rice I would never use brown rice. But if you want to stay on the healthy side of things, I will look the other way if you choose to use it. A few months ago, I wrote a full no-holds-barred fried rice tutorial, if you're interested. 

4) Drink no more than 1 drink per day for women, and 2 for men. I offer this one with no comment or supporting tips. Just sadness.

5) Here's some other random things I do when I'm trying to live longer: 

  • Olive oil and herbs (and a bit of parmesan) instead of cream sauces for pastas, or instead of mayo for pasta salads.
  • Grill vegetables (I make a marinade out of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and fresh herbs). The smoke makes them taste like meat if you're drunk enough. 
  • Chicken broth with chopped scallions as a soup base instead of cream. 
  • Corn starch instead of roux as a thickener. That's actually an Asian thing. I can't take credit. But there are a butt load of non-obese Asians in the world, so they/we they must be doing something right.
  • Make everything with spinach and feta. Although it isn't meat, the combination of spinach and feta wins my allegiance over any flavor combination on earth. I'm going to try and make a spinach and feta bundt cake this Christmas. 

That's all I've got. Don't stress out about holiday meals, stay mindful of healthier options on non-holiday days, hug your loved ones, and live for more birthdays, because the more you can stuff your face with cake, the more fulfilling your life will be. 

80's TV and baby feeding: what you should know

Hey everybody! I got a new job. Actually, I went back to an old job. It's complicated. Anyway, the point isn't that I got a new job. The point is, I'm trying to make excuses for not putting up a real post since mid-December. But considering my new/old job is only 15 min from my house and I have complete flexibility over my hours, I'm not presenting a very good case.

So...

Cute baby!

This is Lessi, not cooperating with the morning routine. One of the perks of making your own hours is the freedom to stay at home and get oatmeal tossed in your face when your baby doesn't much feel like eating. Over the past 10 months (yes, she is almost a YEAR old!! Wha??), I've been honing my distraction skills. Usually, breaking out the ring of measuring spoons is enough to divert Lessi's attention from fighting the feeding so that she'll open her mouth when a bite comes her way. But not this morning. The Elmo voice didn't even work. Don't ask.

Having exhausted all viable options, I began the drum intro... bum-bum, badda bumbumbum...

"Wait, what's this?"

The A-Team theme song!

I had to sing it about 12 times, but Lessi bopped, bounced and smiled the whole time. And ate every single bite of her oatmeal.

I love it when a plan comes together.

UPDATE:
For video proof of the effectiveness of this method, see here.

LEGO'ing without a license

There's a lot of Lego worship going on in the Lin household. And we've done some pretty cool things with them here on this blog. We've experienced the thrill of completion and the agony of subsequent gravity. We've used the Lego Minifigure to replicate bloggers and perpetuate cultural stereotypes (flashing my rice paddy pass). We've played bartender and even nightclub mogul with them.

But this past weekend, we achieved the epic. We colored outside the lines. We went rogue. We went to Michael's.

And bought paints. Paints that I hadn't seen in at least 25 years. Remember when you could go to any drugstore and buy model kit Camaros and F-15s? And you had to glue them together and paint them yourself with those cool little bottles of Tester's model paints? They still exist!!

Combine those with a healthy disrespect for merchandise licensing agreements, and you've got yourself a recipe for fun:

Step 1: find two Lego minifigures you're willing to sacrifice for the greater good. In other words, not the Star Wars ones! Give them a good base coat.

Step 2: let them dry overnight, then apply your outlines.

Step 3: use child labor to fill in those outlines.

Step 4: finish the job once child becomes bored.

Step 5: revel in your awesomeness.

The unofficial offical Venom and Iron Man minifiguresStep 6: Introduce your child to the wonders of stop motion animation.

I Must Really Like You Guys

...because I was planning on taking this recipe to the grave. Or put up a website and start a business around it. Turns out I'm over the 50 lb. weight limit for netherworld luggage and I'm simply too busy to even register a domain name. "Blog about it" was choice #3 (come to think of it, that's choice #3 for pretty much everything that goes on in my life). So, my friends, I present to you the New England Clam Chowder recipe that won me a new family.
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