Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Scattered Reflections: One Year Removed From Terror

It has been one year since Boston, my hometown, was brutally attacked on Patriots Day, normally the happiest day of the year in Massachusetts. In the last 24 hours I have seen plenty of coverage surrounding this somber anniversary and it has stirred up so much thought and emotion. Honestly, it is hard to sort it all out. I felt the need to blog about it but have been sitting here for four hours struggling with my words, three posts already deleted in frustration. The issue? It seems impossible to package it all into one thread. So many varied thoughts and emotions, some seemingly in contrast with the other, reflective of the chaos the followed the explosions that day. So, instead of one story, I offer a series of them. Short, individual reflections that stay with me today... one year after terror struck Boston. Maybe I need to write this post for myself more than anyone else.

The Line Between Tragedy and Blessing is Razor Thin

My wife and I both knew people running in the 2013 Boston Marathon, including my cousin Alessandra and her aunt Diane (we are also consider family). It was a beautiful, perfect spring day and many friends and family members planned to gather at the finish line. My wife and I both agreed it would be really nice to join them but we had a few "baby chores" to get done first, as she was 30 weeks pregnant. We got a little hung up at Ikea, still had enough to time to get to the finish line, but my wife was getting a little tired so we reluctantly opted to head home. When the bombs went off, my heart sank. Not only did it take hours to learn if my loved ones were safe, but I was acutely aware of how close we had come to standing there. If the decision were mine alone, I would have been there. No doubt. Tonight, my wife and I are very healthy and madly in love with our beautiful baby daughter... but we came that close to possibly losing it all. It is terrifying to think about.

Join the Movement: #DadsRun4Boston

Today has been a tough day. Exactly one year after my city, the city that I love, was so brutally attacked and all the emotions of that day come flooding right back. The fear, the anger, the sadness... all of it. But the pride and the strength that unified Boston as one family is stronger than all of it. And now there is a way to show that strength, that unity, and that support for the victims, the heroes, and all those touched by that terrible day.

Join #DadsRun4Boston

Note: The correct hashtag IS #DadsRun4Boston

This movement was hatched by a couple of my fellow Dad Bloggers and I was, of course, on board right away. It is such a simple and perfect way to stand with Boston as we remember. Any Dad of any fitness level can participate. Here is what you do:
  1. Between now and Marathon Monday (April 21st) go out and run. Distance does not matter. Whether you can do a half mile or ten miles, just get out and run.
  2.  Snap a photo of yourself.
  3. Share it on Twitter, facebook, Instagram, and any other social media outlet with #DadsRun4Boston attached.
So many were injured in the attack that afternoon, and those who lost their life included an 8 year old boy. This is something that hits right at the heart of any Dad. Now, all Dads can stand together in support for Boston and against the terror of that day. Run. Run as part of the #DadsRun4Boston movement. 

And while we are at it, we can also continue to support the victims and those impacted by donating directly to One Fund Boston: http://www.onefundboston.org 

Later tonight I will post more thoughts about that day and my reflections one year later, but I wanted to get this movement out there asap so as many Dads as possible could join us.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

#BePositiveHour - Join The Movement!

It is hard to escape the sad, tragic, troubling, or downright depressing news each day. Perhaps it is a story on the local news about a devastating fire, the latest terror threat, or a child that was hurt. Maybe it is someone on your facebook feed complaining that it is too cold, too rainy, or work is too hard, or they're too tired. It may show up on Twitter. A personal lament or whine carefully packaged into 140 characters or less so the world can share it. The negativity surrounds us. The worst part? It can be contagious. When someone points out how dark it is, it can be all too easy for us say it is even darker in our corner of the world. The negativity is like a like leech on our soul, sucking the life-blood from our spirits and draining us of hope, confidence, and optimism.

But there is a way to fight back. Become part of the #BePositiveHour movement on Twitter! It is incredibly simple, but also incredibly pure and good. The Be Positive Hour occurs every single day from 3pm-4pm wherever you are. What do you do? Simply post and share something positive with the world! Do you have any good news in your life? Is there a goal or milestone you are shooting for? What are you favorite inspiring, motivating, and positive quotes? Share it all... and attach the #bepositivehour hashtag on it. That's it!

One may ask... why bother with such a short, simple exercise? What difference can it possibly make?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mourning a Warrior and a Father

As a young boy, there was a time when I wanted to be The Ultimate Warrior. I did not watch much pro wrestling in my house but had friends and relatives who did and I really enjoyed it. Especially back in those days around 1987, it was incredible entertainment and easily addictive. I fully understood it was fake but I still loved the theater of it. And when The Ultimate Warrior came on the scene? Pure awesomeness. He was instantly my favorite and the enjoyment of watching him in the ring has stuck with me for life. His entrance music? His power? His freak-outs on the top rope? The way he talked? It was awe inspiring. The video below gives you just a small sample of his greatness. Earlier this week, The Ultimate Warrior was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and this fan was very happy for him, enjoying the clips I caught online or on TV. It was fun to flash back to those days gone by. Two days later he was dead, collapsing to the ground while walking to his car. Somewhere inside me, that ten year old boy mourned the loss of an idol. It was heartbreaking for that little boy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Big Apple Circus: Ticket Giveaway!

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Big Apple Circus has come to Boston just in time for April school vacation. Appearing on City Hall Plaza, this year the circus brings an all-new show: Luminocity! Entertainers from around the world will perform in ways that will amaze and astonish everyone in your family. This is an event that brings rave reviews year after year and promises to be a great experience for your family. And now you have a chance to attend the circus for FREE!

Through my contacts, The New American Dad has two tickets to the Big Apple Circus that will be given away to one lucky reader. The tickets are for the 6:30pm show on Friday, April 18th and will be sent to you by email. How do you win these tickets? Simple. Leave a comment below with the answer to ONE of these trivia questions! Wondering where you can find the answers? That is easy, too. They can all be found on the Big Apple Circus web site: http://www.BigAppleCircus.org

  • What is the height of the Big Top? 
  • Big Apple Circus is a non-profit organization. Name one community program it benefits.
  • Name one of the performers and/or acts in this year's Luminocity show.

The winner of the tickets will be randomly chosen on Sunday, April 13th by 8pm.
Winner will be announced here on my blog and by email if I have it.
** Children under 3 are free if they sit on the lap of an adult
Follow me on Twitter (@BloggyDad) and facebook (The New American Dad) for more ways to win! 


And don't forget...
Even if you do not win you can use promo code BIGAPPLE to get $10 off per ticket at select shows!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

School Vacation Ideas & Options

Here in Massachusetts, April vacation week is coming up fast. You can hear the students and teachers celebrating already! Are you still looking for ideas to enjoy as a family without going to far. I have a couple I am happy to share with you today:

The Big Apple Circus

The Big Apple Circus is in its 36th year of operation but comes to Boston with a brand new show. Luminocity will be appearing on Boston's City Hall Plaza thru May 11th. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased online at www.BigAppleCircus.org or in person at The Big Top. Children of all ages are welcome at the show and those under age 3 are free if they sit on the lap of a paying adult. Shows last 2 hours with a 15 minute intermission. More details and information can be found on their web site. Special offer: Readers of The New American Dad can use promo code BIGAPPLE to save $10 per seat. The offer may be limited to select seats and shows. I am also working on a ticket giveaway but need to finalize details on that.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Boomer Esiason: Leading a Chorus of Ignorance...

If I were still ten years old and actively collecting sports cards, I would be very willing to trade my Boomer Esiason card for a Daniel Murphy right now. Also, if I were ten years old, I would probably have the same view of childbirth and parenting that Boomer Esiason has... and I would be completely unaware of how offensive and potentially harmful his radio comments were.

For those of you who missed it, this all centers around New York Mets infielder Daniel Murphy. His wife gave birth to their son by caesarean section in Florida on Monday. His contract allows him to take three days of paternity leave and he chose to take that option to be with his newborn son and recovering wife. After all, she would not be allowed to travel to New York for a month so this was his one chance to be with them as a family. These three days off caused him to miss two of the 162 Mets games this season.

Immediately, certain members of the New York media took him to task. The charge was led by former Pro-Bowl quarterback Boomer Esiason and his co-host, Craig Carton, on their radio program. Carton was stunned that Murphy would take time off after the baby was born. He stated his view very clearly, that a Dad should only take 24 hours off and then get back to work because "there is nothing you can do" once the birth is over. If there are complications? He said you should take 48 hours max in that case. Boomer quickly agreed, saying "you need to get your ass back to work" once your child is born. Boomer decided to take it one step further, though. He added that he would tell his wife she had to have an early c-section so it is done before the season starts. Wow. Just wow. Order your wife to have a possibly unnecessary, potentially risky surgery to bring your child into the world before he/she is ready just so you can play in a game? Shame on you, Boomer. I expected more from a father who knows what it is like to have health concerns in a family. I honestly did not think anyone could have such selfish and primitive views on parenting... but you proved me wrong today.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Sun Also Rises...

A few weeks ago I announced this blog was riding off into the sunset... but just as the sun also rises after a period of darkness, so will The New American Dad. I will begin blogging once again, covering the same topics and offering the same advice I did before, only better. The stresses and challenges that pushed me to shut down the blog have not gone away. Without a doubt, they are still a constant presence in my life. However, during this "quiet time" I realized a few things that brought me to this point of resuming the blog:

1. I Have Very Loyal Readers: When I shut down the blog, I heard from quite a few people. Most of these people were strangers to me and I had no idea they were reading my blog so religiously. Beyond that, they have kept visiting my blog. In the days and weeks of silence that followed my exit, my page hits have remained steady. In fact, they have grown. I can't explain it but I am flattered by it. Realizing that so many people have already made The New American Dad a regular stop on the internet was eye-opening.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I Have Moved! (At least my author page has...)

Looking for Mark McNulty's author blog 
and web site? 
I have moved it to a new, updated site with an improved focus. 
Click below to visit and follow me there!

Mark McNulty - Writer


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Babies & Budgets: Making a Plan

I am going to share a secret with you, a secret nobody knows about...
Babies are expensive. That's right, while becoming a parent will fill your life with more joys than you ever imagined, it will also being a new level of financial pressure. If one of you is planning to take time off work and be home with the baby? Go ahead and double that pressure. It is one of the absolute truths in starting a family: The new costs are something any parent should start planning for ahead of time, before the new addition even arrives.

Okay, I admit it. This isn't such a big secret. I think everybody knows that a new baby comes with new financial factors to consider. Even with this knowledge, however, too many of us overlook important details or decide certain steps are not important. An even bigger factor is probably confusion. With all the extra work and lack of sleep you enjoy as a new Mom or Dad, how can you possibly sit down and solve this financial puzzle? It usually is not much fun and takes time away from more immediate tasks. Who has that kind of time and energy with a baby around? I am here to give that little push, though. Get it done. In the long run, you will be glad you did.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

An Olympic Salute... to the American Losers

A Disappointed Bode Miller...
Earlier tonight, the 2014 Winter Olympics closed in Sochi, Russia, with all the celebration and fanfare we have come to expect from the Olympic games. And, once again, the overall medal count was ruled by the American athletes. Except... oh wait.. that's right... we did not win it this time. Russia did. Oh.

Truth be told, it was not a great year for Team USA on the not-so-frozen terrain of Sochi. From the very first days of competition, the disappointments and failures began rolling in. I was assured by multiple TV analysts that Shaun White was a lock for gold on the halfpipe. He finished fourth, with no medal around his neck. Hannah Kearney was another safe bet for gold in the moguls competition. But she slipped up and settled for a tear stained bronze. The USA took home bronze in team figure skating too. I wonder what color the medal would have been if Jeremy Abbott had not fallen down. Bode Miller got his medal, a nice rebound after he only managed 8th place in the downhill. World Champion Sarah Hendrickson, another athlete with a lot of hype leading into these games, could only manage 21st place in the ski jump with her injured knee. There were zero individual medals for our figure skaters, and the American speedskaters failed to medal in any individual event for the first time in 30 years. There was no better symbol of this failure than Shani Davis repeatedly finishing far behind the leader in his races. And how about Team USA hockey? As if the shocking last minute collapse by the women's team was not enough, the men decided to top it with a complete disappearing act. No medal for you!

It seemed like every single day of competition was marked by which American athlete would choke or falter on that particular day. They did not win, so I guess that makes them losers. And if that is true, I want to take a moment and proudly salute all these American losers. I thank them. I applaud them. They are powerful role models to all our children.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Ups & Downs of an At-Home Dad

My last post focused on my leave-of-absence from teaching being extended a second year, and thus my new role as at-home Dad being extended a second year. It seemed like a natural time to take a step back and reflect on these last eight months and what this experience has been like. As I mentioned in that post, being a stay-at-home Dad has been the hardest and the best job of my life. It has been filled with varying challenges but has also brought wonderful rewards, and some were rather unexpected. I thought it would be good to take a closer look at three specific challenges I have found in this role, along with three specific benefits. I know many other parents will be debating this same decision in the weeks, months, and years ahead. Hopefully my thoughts can help them make the best choice for their family:

Challenge: The Family Budget

This challenge was fairly obvious and expected all along. The simple math was no surprise at all for my wife and I. You take away one full income and you add all the baby expenses... of course things are going to get tight. Since we expected it, however, we were able to prepare for it. We began cutting back as soon as my wife was pregnant and putting that money into savings. Since our daughter's arrival, we have cut back even more. So far, so good. We may not eat out as often and some of the luxuries we once enjoyed are gone now, but it has also taught us to prioritize when it comes to family finances and make practical choices. Make no mistake about it. It isn't easy. More than a few times there were things we wanted to buy or do but simply didn't have the money, and we have had to tap that savings in a few tight months, but it has made us much wiser financially and we still live a very enjoyable, comfortable life with all our needs met. Preparation pays off. I call it a win.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Another Year in the Trenches? Sign Me Up.

March 1, 2014. That was an important deadline looming on the horizon for me. The primary reason I was able to assume this role as at-home Dad was because the Hingham public school system granted me a one-year leave of absence from my position as a classroom teacher. They do have a set policy for women taking leave after the birth of a child, but had no obligation to extend this benefit to the men. Thankfully, they were more than happy to give me this opportunity. Being able to stay home with our infant daughter while knowing my job was secure if it didn't work out? That was priceless and I am incredibly thankful. By March 1st, however, they needed to know my plans for next year. My wife and I discussed it, but the decision was not very difficult at all.

I informed them that I planned to remain at home with my daughter next year and they generously extended my leave of absence another year. Now a new important date has appeared on the horizon: September of 2015. That will be the earliest I could return to classroom teaching if I choose to. It seems to be a long way off, but I am sure it will be here before I know it.

This extension brings up two questions I hear a lot. I thought I would take a moment to answer them publicly here, for all those who are interested.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Three Special Valentines

One of my students once told me everyone should be lucky enough to have a special valentine for Valentine's Day. And you know what? I think that little nine-year old hit that nail right on the head. There were quite a few years when I really didn't like Valentine's Day at all. Let's call them the Single Years. When you are young and fun-loving but don't currently have that special person to share it with, an entire day focused on romantic couples can be pretty annoying. I began to think this would be a permanent feeling, one particular day on the calendar I would never really look forward to. Silly me. Here I am a little over a decade later and I am truly blessed. I can look at my life and see that I have not one... not two... but THREE special valentines who mean the world to me. Two of them don't get nearly enough mention on this blog, not even close to the praise they deserve. So, this Valentine's Day, I want to shine the spotlight where it belongs. Right on these three amazingly special girls.

Valentine #1: My Mother

My mother, Beverly McNulty, will always be my first valentine. She was the first to hold me, the first to kiss me, and the first to bring love into my world. I may not remember every little thing, but as a father I now know all that she did for me. She comforted me when I woke up crying in the night. She encouraged me as I explored my world little by little. She fed me, kept me warm, and relentlessly guarded my safety. She celebrated every little victory I accomplished and helped me learn valuable lessons in my failures. This unconditional love never wavered or let me down. I am 36 years old now and I know part of her still sees me as her little boy, and I am so thankful for that. She taught me about priorities in life, the importance of family and being true to yourself. In short, she has been the best mother I could ever ask for. I often advise parents that they need to prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child. My mother is a perfect model of this. She made sure her love, support, and guidance were always a constant for me as I grew older... but also allowed me to be myself, make my own mistakes, and learn as I go. I like to think of myself as a good, caring person, and I have my mother to thank for that. It has only been about eight months, but I like to think of myself as a good, dedicated father. I have my mother to thank for that. I look at my life with abundant gratitude for all I have accomplished and the genuine happiness I enjoy each day. I have my mother to thank for that.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

I will confess up front that I have never been a big Jim Gaffigan fan, so I picked this book up as a reluctant and skeptical reader. I have no real issue with him and certainly don't dislike him, it is just the case that his jokes and humor never clicked for me. I just didn't find him to be that funny. After reading Dad is Fat, my opinion has certainly changed.

This is a very funny book. In a nutshell, it is Jim's unique analysis of life with five young children. He reflects back to his life before kids in the opening chapters and I was hooked right away. He does not paint a Pollyanna view of fatherhood where everything is wonderful and perfect and filled with joy. At the same time, he does not enter into an endless, selfish vent over the agony of sharing your life with children. He simply paints an honest picture of the whole experience. The highs, the lows, the surprises, the mysteries... the full gamut. Through it all, he had me laughing out loud. He delivers a special blend of sarcasm and sweetness in these pages and it stays constant until the last page. Gaffigan explores every angle of life with children, from birth, to communication, to eating, to time with cousins, and even babysitters. I genuinely admire the comic style he delivered in this thoroughly amusing book.