Sunday, June 26, 2016

Win a BFG Trip to Great Britain!

I was recently looking at Facebook, and found on my friend Jeff Bogle's of (OWTK) facebook page a cool link that he posted to win a trip to Great Britain, sponsored by VisitBritain.

Especially with Brexit having just been voted on, this struck me as a lot of fun.  And it comes with the opportunity to attend the Roald Dahl celebration in Wales.  He's one of my favorite authors(for both kids and adult books), my son loved the BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (but was weirdly scared of the movie version of James and the Giant Peach)  Anyway, Dahl is a favorite in this house, and I was intrigued.

PLEASE  NOTE: This is not a sponsored post- (although, Great Britain tourism council or other councils , I'm always open for business!)

Punch and Judy show at Cardiff Castle.
Photo courtesy of
 Photo by Richard Schindler
As I started to fill out the entry form, it asked me what giant British locations I'd like to visit.  I assumed this was just a condition to prove that you and not a robot entered.  Just in case, I looked at the Terms and Conditions, and was shocked to find something out.  (Emphasis mine)

6. This is a game of skill, and chance plays no part in determining the winner. Each entry will be individually judged based on originality, creative merit and humour of the answer provided. The judging will take place on or around 3 August 2016 at the Promoter’s premises and the winner will be the entry that scored the highest in the opinion of the judges based on the judging criteria. The judges may select additional reserve entries which they determine to be the next best and record them in order of merit in case of an invalid entry or ineligible entrant.
Game of skill, eh?  Most of these kinds of contests in the US are chance based.  Challenge accepted!

I started writing a sonnet, but sonnets are hard, and getting a bunch of jokes and thoughts into it (as well as that damned iambic pentameter) was getting too hard, so after about half an hour, I saved what I could of the sonnet, and switched it to a more verse-like poem where the structure and verse is easier and I could play a little more.  (Yeah, Doggerel!)

Here's the poem I wrote:

Big Ben, photo courtesy of wikipedia.
Let’s visit Britain on  a 5 day tour
Explore all of England from shore to shore,
While we are there we’ll have loads of fun.
(Do you measure fun in stones or metric tonnes?)

Let’s go to Cardiff, the city by the sea
Watch Punch and Judy, laugh with glee.
Breathe in the salt and the fog and the fresh air
Listen to the sounds of the county fair.

Then to the middle to see the Pictish wonder
Stonehenge: ancient miracle or cosmic blunder?
As we see historic stones that have been split asunder
We might feel a chill from history (or perhaps its the thunder?)

Last stop London, cosmopolitan seat
Big Ben, Changing of the Guard, Get something to eat
Visit a museum, see the Crown Jewels.
Walk along the Thames, think of Shakespeare’s Fools.

On to the West End, to see a funny play
It’s almost time to end our trip, but that’s okay.
We’ve had a blast, checking out Eng-land.

Now all we have to do is win, wouldn’t that be grand?

Okay, so I'm not the best poet in the world, but it's got a rhyme scheme, it's got some humor,  it mostly scans, and it was quick!

So I submit it, but there's an error-- it tells me that it has to be less than 140 characters!  Yikes-- I just spent like an hour between writing the sonnet, and then changing it to this doggerel.

Undaunted, I pared it down to the size of a tweet and entered.

Please enter if you are intrigued as well.  It would be great if I inspired someone to win!  (Of course, it would be even better if I won, but you can't have everything!)

Click this link to see books by Roald Dahl on Amazon

Oh yes, and here's the BFG Trailer, if you are interested.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

LEGO Americana Roadshow in Northbrook through July 4

My family and I had the opportunity to see a great new exhibit of Master built Legos at Northbrook Court. 

Selfie with Legos. This model took 8 builders over 1700 hours to make. Scale 1/29

The exhibit, entitled  LEGO Americana Roadshow: Building Across America, features 10 giant immensely detailed American historical monuments built by some of LEGO's Master Builders. Buildings include the U.S. Capitol Building, White House, Supreme Court, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and Old North Church.

The models are truly beautifully made by Master Builders (there are less than 10 in the world, employed by Lego) and each one took hours upon hours, most with THOUSANDS of bricks.  

In addition, there are smaller exhibits of fun and interesting Americana by Certified Builders. (You'll see one of those exhibits below, featuring the Karl Wallenda tightrope walk that happened in Chicago last year.)

The exhibit has been touring throughout the states (mostly to malls where there is a Lego Store)  After Northbrook (which ends July 5)  here is the schedule for 2016.

The Capitol Building. The dome is 10 ft tall!

Baybrook Mall   Friendswood, TX    July 30 - August 14

North Star Mall  San Antonio, TX     August 20 - September 5

Fashion Show     Las Vegas, NV        September 24 - October 9

Alderwood Mall  Lynnwood, WA      October 15-30

The White House
Here's some more info from the press release (my photos of the exhibit are sprinkled throughout)

WHAT: Northbrook Court in Northbrook, Illinois will host THE LEGO® Americana Roadshow, a highly visual, educational and free traveling installation of larger than life LEGO replicas of some of our nation’s most beloved landmarks

Ten one-of-a-kind, large scale models of American Landmarks made completely out of LEGO bricks by LEGO Master Builders – including the U.S. Capitol Building, White House, Supreme Court, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and Old North Church – take over Northbrook Court and entertain customers with stunning visuals and fun facts.

WHERE:                Northbrook Court, 1515 Lake Cook Rd., Northbrook, IL, 60062

WHEN:                  Saturday, June 18 through Monday, July 4
                                Exhibition Hours: Monday-Saturday 10:00am-9:00pm
                                                                   Sunday 11:00am-6:00pm

Statue of Liberty is over 9 feet tall!
(But not a gift from France)

·         Behind-the-scenes: LEGO model load-in on Thursday, June 16

·         LEGO Brick Play Area: Children of all ages can build whatever their imaginations dream up

·         LEGO Building Activity: Attendees can build their own LEGO Americana Roadshow inspired model and take it home with them

·         LEGO Scavenger Hunt: Attendees can collect a special LEGO prize after completing the LEGO Americana Roadshow scavenger hunt.

This was made by a certified builder, and features a Minifig of the Wallenda tightrope walk!

Friday, June 24, 2016

DATE NIGHT IDEA: Xanadu at the American Theater Company

American Theater Company's production of "Xanadu."
Image by Michael Brosilow.
Now through July 17, the American Theater Company will be presenting the classic camp musical Xanadu

 It's the first production of its Legacy season, presented as a tribute to ATC's late Artistic Director PJ Paparelli, who was a huge fan of this camp classic, which is based on the 1980 Universal Pictures film, also called Xanadu. 

The production has music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne (of E.L.O.) and John Farrar (of British group The Shadows, and producer of Olivia Newton-John's work) and the book is by playwright Douglas Carter Beane.

Xanadu takes place in Venice, California in 1980. Struggling artist Sonny Malone seeks to create his own version of the American dream by renovating an abandoned warehouse into a venue for world-class entertainment – a roller disco!  He manages to succeed with the help (and hindrance) of some Greek deities. A hilarious and modern update of the 1980’s camp classic, Xanadu celebrates the artist’s muse, even when it comes from the most unlikely of places.

We saw this when it was on Broadway and it was a very fun (and funny) musical.  If you are a fan of the 1980's, of camp, and of roller-skating, then this will be a sure fire winner for you.

Here's the promo video for your perusing pleasure:

The Sirens in American Theater Company's production of "Xanadu."
Image by Michael Brosilow.

Single tickets for Xanadu range from $48-$58. Student tickets are available for $15 with valid student ID in-person at the Box Office. More information and tickets are available by visiting the ATC Box Office at 1909 W. Byron Street, by calling 773-409-4125 or visiting 

Xanadu Performance Schedule
Regular Run: June 7–July 17: Tuesday–Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Tribe Called Dad: Finding Your Community of Dads

Since I've become a dad, I've sought camaraderie within a number of organizations and groups that cater to dads.

I also belong to a number of mom communities, and general parenting communities as well, but the dad ones speak a little more to me, have helped me find my Tribe of Dads

Here's a list of just some of the Dad Communities I belong to:

City Dads Group  
When I was a newbie father, I discovered a cool meetup group that had started a few months before I became a dad-- the NYC Dads Group. Founded by Lance Somerfeld (and the quickly joined by his partner Matt Schneider) the NYC Dads Group went from about 100 dads when I joined to a 22 city network of dads that number in the thousands.

 When I lived in NY I was very involved in the organization (I was one of the first co-hosts of its podcast The Modern Dads Podcast, and I still occasionally contribute) I was the cultural coordinator, so organized a few meetups, and as well I was a pretty frequent contributor to their blog.

 Since I've moved to Chicago, I've become involved in the local chapter Chicago Dad's Group, and write for their blog (local and national) and also do some cultural coordination.  Of course, my son is older now, and my need for hooking up with other dads has lessened a little bit.  It's still a great organization, and I think an essential group to belong to if you are an involved dad or a primary caregiver, especially a newbie. Although it's organized online, the heart of the group is face to face meetups.

Dad 2.0 Summit
I've attended every one of these blogging conferences so far.  Founded by Doug French and John Pacini, it's an annual conference where influencer dads (bloggers, youtubers, snapchatters, periscopers, tweeters, facebookers, and instagrammista's) meet corporate brands and have conversations about influence, about policy and culture, and about working together.  I'm a tiny fish in this pretty large pond (but still a pond compared to the Ocean that is Mom blogging conferences, including its sister conference, which I've also attended.)  I love going every year because I love the dads that go, and some of the guys I've met at this conference have turned into relatively close chums (considering they live around the world)   It's really a must-go conference for me.

Life Of Dad
Life of Dad is a blogging platform and community. They offer a forum, a blogging platform, a podcast, a videocast On their site you can start a blog, start a conversation, watch a video, and meet hundreds of other parents.  I've met most of the founders at Dad 2.0, and they are good guys.  I've also recently started working with them as an influencer partner-- ie, they occasionally put me up for blogging or other influencer work.  If you don't have a dad blog yet, I think it's a great starter place to check out and see if you like blogging.  There are lots of helpful people on site, and the community is great.

Dad Blogger's Facebook Group
Started by sadly now-deceased friend Oren Miller (Blogger Father), this group has grown to over 1000 guys all who have blogs.  It's a closed group, meaning you have to be approved, and primarily to do that, go to the site, and send a message, with a link to your blog.  The basic rules of the conference are to not be a dick, and for the most part, that works. There are share threads (threads where you can share your blog posts) and lots of helpful people.  It can get a little raucous, and occasionally a little dick-jokey, but it's one of the best ways to meet a whole bunch of dad bloggers all at once.

National At-Home Dad Network
This is a conference and advocacy group that helps connect at-home dads with each other, with best practices, education, support, and community.  It has an annual conference every year (but sadly I've never gone-- it always conflicts with something-- in the past it was the Jewish holidays-- this year it's my hard fought tickets to Hamilton.)  I know a lot of the organizers, and they are smart, compassionate, and very eager to help.  If you are an At-Home Dad, I can highly recommend this group.

These are great resources to start with if you are a dad looking for your tribe.

Please list links to your community(ies) in the comments!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

#ThanksBaby- Or how my son made me a dad.

15 years ago, I wasn't dad material.

Oh sure, I was capable of being a father (and had some close calls regarding same) .

I knew lots of great dad jokes (still my reigning champion-- "What's brown and sticky?  A Stick.")

I was great with kids (Hey, I am a professional clown)

But despite all that, somehow, someway I didn't feature being a dad.  I didn't think it would happen for me, and I wasn't particularly sad about it. And if you talked to my friends and family, they probably would have had a hard time believing that I would be a dad too.

The chairman of the board likes to wear his food.
Part of it was that I hadn't met the right woman, part of it was that I was focused on the hardscrabble life of being a self-supporting artist.  I was travelling all the time, and honestly, I didn't see how I could afford to have a kid either timewise of financially.  I was really into living in the now, in the moment, and there never seemed to be a now when saddling myself with extra responsibilities seemed to be something that didn't seem wise.

About 12 years ago, I met my wife, and we immediately were hooked to one another.  We ended up moving in together after about a year and a half of long distance dating.  We bought a house together. She was on the fence about kids, and I was perfectly okay with that.

About a year or so after we moved in together, her biological clock started ticking.  At first, I was a little resistant, but I loved my wife, and thought, "Well, let's try and see. If it's meant to be, it will be."  (and other rhyming thoughts)

Also, the thought of breaking up with her over the kids issue was pretty scary to me.

Our family at the Mouse House.
She got pregnant almost right away (my boys can swim!) , and I was in the nervous/excited/elated/freaked out stage.

Sadly, that turned out to be a miscarriage, which brought a whole different level of freaked out/nervous feelings.  (And to be completely honest, a little relieved as well)

We started trying again, and about 3 months later-- another pregnancy.  Back on the nervous/excited/bandwagon.

About 10 days after we discovered we were pregnant, my mom passed away, which changed my whole perspective on time, kids, and family.  I felt like it couldn't come soon enough.

That nine months of waiting for the baby to come was excruciating.  For the first few months I was in denial,  (we also planned our wedding and honeymoon,  got featured in the NY Times for the same, and oversaw several home projects at the same time, including moving my office.  You know, the little stuff)

Once I got out of denial I was in the full panic mode.

 I felt woefully unprepared.  I started reading all kinds of books, which is the way I prepare for things, and then I felt even MORE unprepared. Go figure.

I had a lot of fears that I wouldn't love the baby, that I would resent him for ending my career as a touring clown,  I was afraid I would be grossed out by having to change him all the time.  (As it turns out, it wasn't so bad.  Because, you know, shit happens.  And also, thanks to products produced by the sponsor of this post Pampers, it wasn't as terrible or as smelly as my fears made it out to be. Thank you Pampers! Your products work!)

Here's our world famous song, my contribution to the world of songs about children going to the bathroom!

As soon as my son was born, I'm happy to say that all my fears WERE UNREALIZED.   I loved the little guy to pieces, and have loved watching him grow, and progress, and learn, and become a person. Yes,  I do sometimes miss my former life as a responsible to no one performing artist,  but I wouldn't trade positions.  I love my life as a dad, in a way that I didn't know that I would.

My son and I making faces.  I am teaching him how,
and he's teaching me!
In fact, if you had asked me 10 years ago if I would be happier having a baby, having more responsibility, having less "freedom", I would have looked at you like you were crazy.  Counter-intuitively, I added responsibility and I have never been happier.

I don't think that it was as simple as him being born that changed me into being Dad material.  It was the process.   It was changing all those stinky diapers and staying up with him when he was sick and watching him sleep and bringing him to his first playdate and holding him when he has a temperature.  It was that process-- that slow laborious process-- that has turned me into a dad.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

DISCLOSURE: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion. All the thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories remain truly mine.

When a baby is born, a dad is born. This Father’s Day, Pampers is encouraging dads to give thanks to their kids for making them feel special, and to recognize how babies (and children) help the dad to grow along the journey of fatherhood.

 Please join them by tweeting or instagramming how your baby changed your life with the hashtag #ThanksBaby.

Pampers has also released a new #ThanksBaby video that captures the  relationship between dad and child that starts at birth and when the journey of fatherhood begins.

Friday, June 3, 2016

EAR WORM: Can You Canoe? by the Okee Dokee Brothers (BOOK & CD)

I recently received a book/CD from the OkeeDokee Brothers called Can You Canoe?  and it's really great.
The Okee Dokee Brothers in their natural habitat.

The Okee Dokee brothers aren't actually brothers, but they SOUND like brothers, and that's what's important.    Two best friends Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing, grew up together in Denver as adventurous kids- they were always rafting, and hiking, and exploring the great outdoors.

When they got older they started a bluegrass band together, and travelled some more, and after all their adventures they now live in Minneapolis.  Each album they've done is based on an adventure that they went on together.

Can You Canoe? is their first album, and it's based on a month-long canoe trip they went on in 2011 that started at the headwaters of the Mississippi river and ended at the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

During this adventure, they camped, canoed, sang, danced, made films and videos, and wrote songs all about their experience. The album came out in 2012, and in 2013, the album won the Grammy Award for best Children's Album of the year.

Click the image to see on Amazon.
They've since made a couple of more albums, one based on a month-long trek on the Appalachian Trail THROUGH THE WOODS and another on a horseback riding trip along the Continental Divide. SADDLE UP

The book, Can You Canoe? is a natural extension of their work. It features the CD and the lyrics to 12 of the songs on their first album of the same name as well as their two other albums, Saddle Up and Through The Woods.  The illustrations by Brandon Reese are fine, and capture the Okee Dokee's in all their slightly goofy and earnest outdoor glory

It's an Okee Dokee sampler of sorts. It doesn't contain all of their songs, so if you want to listen to them all, you need to purchase everything! (But of course)

But if you don't know the Okee Dokee's work, or you are looking for a great gift to give to a kid who loves music and the outdoors, this is a perfect book for them!

They've made movies/videos of their work as well, each one called by the same name as the album.  They are available on Netflix, or available for sale on Amazon or Itunes.

For more information about the Okee Dokee brothers, visit their website:

You can also see their albums and book below (and if you purchase them from Amazon using these links, I get a slight commission!  No pressure though!  :O)

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products or services that I use personally and/or believe will add value to my readers.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dealing with Death

I recently contributed to the Modern Dads Podcast in an episode about loss and death.

The episode, entitled On Loss, has 5 dads (myself included) talking about the loss of a parent and how they explained it to their children.

It's a very moving episode about a hard topic, so be prepared with a couple of tissues when you listen to it. (My part comes about 6 minutes in, but listen to the whole thing.  It's only 18 minutes long, and it's wonderful.)  Other contributors include Lance Somerfeld (founder of CityDads) Whit Honea, Jason Greene, and Josh Kross, who originated the idea.

I've included the text of what I contributed below the podcast embed if you are interested in reading it.

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Dealing with Death by Adam Gertsacov

Me and my dad
My parents never knew my son.  My dad died when I was 22 in a car accident, and my mom died  22 years later, about 10 days after we found out we were pregnant (But before we told anyone) 

My son does have both (or rather all three) of his grandparents on my wife’s side, and up until he was about 4, his great grandparents on my wife's side were also intact.  So he knows about grandparents,

My mom Karel Gertsacov
I wanted him to know about my parents, so from the time he was small, I’ve been telling him stories about my dad and about my mom.  When we’ve visited Rhode Island, we’ve gone to their gravesites and laid stones on their graves (as is the Jewish custom).

 When he was four and a half, his great grandfather (Great Hank) passed away at the age of 98.  My son knew him, in the way that you know all your elderly relatives when you are a kid.  You say hello, you were polite, you hoped for a dollar.  

 We traveled from NY to the funeral, and although we weren’t sure, we decided to bring him to the funeral (and to the interment) with us.

My wife and I talked about it, and we decided we wouldn’t sugar coat death or make up weird stories about how Great Hank was on an extended vacation. We decided to talk to him about it, maybe not with all the gory details, but to answer any questions that he had, to let him participate in the process. We felt that not talking about it, or talking down to him about it, would do everybody involved, including him and the deceased person, a dis-service.

At the cemetery my son was sad but very matter of fact about it, and it didn’t seem to phase him too much.  Great Hank was here, and now he’s not.  He’s in the box in the ground.  Dad, you are sad.  Mom is crying. Can I give you a hug? Can I go  play now?

Great Hank
I thought that maybe he didn’t understand the permanence of death, but about 6 months later, we were in the car driving home from kindergarten, and he started asking me questions about my mom’s funeral, and if she was in a box too, like Great Hank.  And if one day I would be in a box, if he would be in a box.

I answered him straightforwardly, forthrightly, yes, everybody dies, I’m going to die, you are going to die, mom is going to die,  but it’s a long way away, and you can’t worry about it now.

He thought about it for a minute and then said, “Dad, when you are in a box I will come and visit you.” 

I nearly swerved off the road.

Joey The Cat
About 6 months after that our cat Joey died.  He didn’t go into a box, but he got made into ashes that we spread across the farm he was born on in Indiana.

There were tears and there was sadness but my son, now age five and a half, knew the score.

And still now, two years later, we talk about my mom, and about Great Hank, and about Joey the cat with the fondest of memories.