Tag Archives: fishing

I Put the Phone Down For a Day to be In the Moment and Here’s What I Learned

A beautiful moment preserved for all eternity thanks to a smartphone camera

I’m addicted to my smartphone.

If you’re a parent and you’ve ever been on the Internet, you know how shameful a statement that is. Because if we’ve learned anything from other parents who write about parenting on the Internet for an audience that is largely mobile and reading these things on their phones, we know the combination of phones + kids is bad. Harmful, according to so many of these writers who know beyond a shadow of a doubt parents on phones are irreparably damaging their offspring.

On Sunday, I put our canoe on top of our minivan, loaded up the fishing gear, and decided to take my 3-year-old for a canoe ride down the Charles River. When we parked the car at the put-in point on the river, I had a panic attack as a horrific feeling of dread and anxiety washed over me.

I forgot my phone at home.

Truth be told, my first instinct was to jump back in the car and go get it. But I stopped for a second and calmed myself in order to contemplate something truly outrageous — spending the next few hours in nature with my son sans smartphone.

I thought of all the articles I’ve read telling me what a deadbeat I am for using my phone so much around my kids. I thought of how valuable it could be to be present in the moment and not witness life through a small screen. I also thought about the epic tantrum Sam would throw if I told him we had to go home and then come back and how much I hate detours, but I swear I thought about the value of the no phone thing too.

In the end, I decided to go it without technology. Just a dad and his son. Fishing and paddling and talking and connecting with one another and nature. Besides, who needs a camera when the mind’s eye is so wondrous, right?

Well fuck that shit, because the answer is me — I need a camera. And going without my phone was absolutely awful and I’m never doing it again!

I know you were expecting another one of those “I was addicted to technology but I went without it and I had some spiritual epiphany and now I’m a different man and a better father and I’m here to annoy you with my newfound anti-smartphone wokeness” bullshit, but that’s not happening. And here’s why.

First of all, the scenery was really beautiful along the river and capturing some shots would’ve been nice. Second, we saw deer, turtles, an otter, and a family of geese. It was really cool. Know what wasn’t cool? Sam asking me to take a picture each and every time wildlife appeared, and having a fresh new meltdown every time I reminded him I didn’t have my phone on me. It was nice being in the moment with multiple tantrums.

But the big reason I’ll forever kick myself for not going back for my phone is because Sam caught his first fish on this trip — and I missed it.

I’ve let him reel fish in after I’ve hooked them, but this was the first one he caught after casting with no help from me, setting the hook, reeling it in, and then landing it in the canoe. When he realized he had a fish on he FREAKED OUT with excitement and began reeling like a madman. He was shouting “I’VE GOT A FISH! DADA I’VE GOT A FISH! I’M A REAL FISHERMAN!” and his shrieks could be heard clear across Populatic Pond. He and the fish battled but eventually Sam got the better of him and plopped a smallmouth bass into the canoe. Once in the boat, Sam screamed “I CAUGHT A FISH ALL BY MYSELF!!!!!” with triumphant resonance. And as a proud papa, my smile widened as my eyes watered. And at that moment Sam turned to me, cocked his head to one side, and said something I’ll never forget.

“Dad, you got that on video right?”

Don’t get me wrong, it was as Kodak a moment as they get and I’m thrilled I was able to see it. But know what would’ve made it better? A video or picture I could look at any time I wanted. Something I could show relatives and friends. Something I could show him years from now when he’s unable to remember any of this. Hell, something I can refer to when I can’t remember any of this.

All of these parenting “gurus” tell you to live in the moment so I’ll be able to remember things clearly, but I work 50+ hours a week while raising three kids. My days start at 5:15 am and don’t end until the maelstrom of dinner and bedtime has concluded around 10 pm. Half the time I don’t even know what day it is, and I legit can’t remember my kids’ names. I called one of them the dog’s name yesterday. So having every photo and video I take automatically back up to Google Photos and be categorized online for perusal any time I want is HUGE for me.

An that’s the other thing. One of the arguments from these smartphone critics is “You’re taking a photo you’re never going to watch again so what’s the point?” Well maybe we’re a bunch of narcissists in this house, but we watch old videos and go through old pictures constantly. Once in awhile we’ll spend entire evenings going through YouTube videos from years ago and watching the kids grow up. And EVERY SINGLE TIME we say “Oh wow, I completely forgot about this. This is great.

I hate to break it to these professional parent-shamers, but it’s entirely possible to take pictures and videos of your kids and “be in the moment.” Using a smartphone to record kids and being present are not mutually exclusive things, and I’m not sure why it’s now socially acceptable to simply believe that’s the case. If you overdo it then sure, it can be a problem. That’s true for anything — especially dispensing judgey parenting advice on the Internet.

Lastly, when I got home, MJ was FURIOUS at me because if something had happened I would’ve had no way to call for help. So in addition to missing a milestone moment,  not being able to capture the cool animals, and disappointing my son, the absence of my phone got me chewed out by my wife to boot.

All I know is I’m going to wield my smartphone all the time and capture as much of my kid’s childhoods as humanly possible. And I’m not going to question that decision or feel guilty about it for one damn second. Because some day years from now, MJ and I will be sitting down getting happily misty-eyed at random videos we’ve taken over the years.

The beauty of this technology is that it’s allowed us to retain the random, wonderful moments that are too often lost through the holes in memory’s floorboards. It’s the virtual recycling bin that allows us to reuse the overflow of memories our minds are simply too full to comprehend for the long-term. Or, more simply put, it allows me to live in future moments as well as the original one.

I will hold on to the memory of Sam’s first fish for as long as my addled mind allows. But I sure do wish I had caught it on video.

It won’t happen again.

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That Time When

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I do it all for the stories.

I love stories. I love collecting them and mentally filing them away so I can marinate in them whenever I want. I love telling stories, both via the written word and through old fashioned word of mouth. And I like retelling them years later, even to those who have already heard them and know them by heart.

Stories are my currency, my stock-in-trade, and they become our historical record long after we shuffle off this mortal coil. They are the thread that weaves together generations and the wind that gently carries whispers of the past. They are the closest any of us will come to immortality.

But before our stories can be told, they have to be lived.

It is amazing to me how the entire concept of vacation has changed since becoming a parent. If you’re like us, you have one family vacation per year. Assuming you take family vacations up until your kids are 18 — and factoring in most kids don’t remember much before the age of 5 — that leaves a measly 14 vacations. Fourteen chances to create lasting memories that give your children Kodak Moment level goosebumps. Just more than a baker’s dozen opportunities to make and collect your stories.

For me, it’s all about “That Time When.”

I think back to family vacations when I was young and there was that time when we went to my aunt’s beach house on Cape Cod but ended up playing a billion games of Ping Pong in the basement because none of us liked the beach. Or that time we went to Six Flags and I instantly overcame my fear of rollercoasters because a 13-year-old girl in a bikini asked me to ride with her. And who can forget that time when we went to Amish Country and ended up fighting with a buggy driver after I called him a hypocrite for being against the consumption of tobacco for moral reasons, yet having no issue profiting off the smoking industry.

But now I’m a dad. A working dad. A working dad who knows my countdown from 14 has begun, and desperately wants to create some “That Time When” moments for his own family.

With some help from HomeAway, I was able to do just that. Instead of staying at a hotel, we used HomeAway to find an absolutely perfect, pet-friendly lakefront cabin in Vermont. We had a kitchen to cook our meals instead of paying for room service, a beautiful pond for swimming and fishing instead of a hotel pool, and we saved money by not having to board our dog. All that for roughly $150 a night. Cheaper than a hotel and better than a hotel.

Now, here are our moments.

Continue reading That Time When

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Time is a Flat Skipping Rock

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photo credit: via photopin (license)

“You need to get better at managing your time.”

We have the same exact fight with Will every single night. An hour before bedtime we ask him to think about his plan for the rest of the evening. For instance, he can watch TV or play Minecraft for an hour, but at 8 pm he’ll have to go right to bed. Or he can choose to watch TV/play for half an hour and then we can rest for a bit together upstairs and chat before bed, which he loves to do.

He’s always so sure and steadfast when he makes the initial decision. But then, as bedtime nears, he gets buyer’s remorse and wishes he had chosen the opposite. Then come the tears, the yelling, the tantrums — it’s exhausting. But we stick to our guns and talk about the importance of time management. Time after time.

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I took Will to a local swimming hole with friends over the weekend. The weather is unseasonably gorgeous here for early May, so the kids fished for a bit and then stripped down and went for a dip. They were pirates, adventurers, and archaeologists digging in the water’s edge for time’s forgotten fossils.

Well, the clan of Spidey underwear clad explorers  didn’t discover a new species of dinosaur. However, they found the next best thing: flat rocks.

The sun-splashed afternoon quickly became a rock skipping competition of epic proportions — each kid side-arming stones in an attempt to skim it off the surface of the water and create as many jumps as possible. Who could skip rocks the farthest? Who could get the most skips? Which one of those trumps the other?

Then Will hucked a nice one at a great angle and attained maximum skippage. A nice big, arcing first bounce followed by four or five additional skips before the limits of the universe intervened and halted all progress. He turned and looked at me with a beaming grin and eyes sparkling with self-satisfaction in the noon-day sun.

He suddenly seemed so grown up, almost like a different person. And I wondered where all the time had —

Oh holy hell.

Time management is a crock of shit. It only took one look at the skipping rocks kissing the water’s surface combined with my suddenly seven-year-old son to realize time can’t be managed. Not really, anyway. Nothing as inexorable as time can truly be managed. Or contained. Or even slowed down. A few guys tried it once in the 1980s, but their DeLorean antics produced some unpredictable results.

We are shot out of a cannon into life’s pond and the clock immediately starts ticking. We skip along the surface and our respective ripples trace our journey. They are the major milestones of our lives — first date, graduation, buying a house, marriage, kids — because those things are the most visible. They are the moments stamped most markedly in time for all to see.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re the most important.

Time can’t be stopped or slowed down. But it can and should be savored often, and survived when necessary.

And although the splashdowns are the obvious focal points, most of life is the in-between. The bulk of our journey consists of the flight — rocketing through the air not knowing exactly where or when we’re going to land — and hoping we bounce up and keep going for just a little while longer. Just skipping ahead one more time until physics kick in and we inevitably sink to the bottom.

We’re all in flight and set in motion, and you can manage your time or enjoy it. For me, it’s time for the latter.

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Working Parents Squeeze In Their Moments

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The canoe glides along silently, save the “plunk/whoosh” sound of the paddle slicing through the water’s surface. The gargantuan clouds are puffy and impossibly white, but not foreboding — no rain checks needed today. A summer zephyr gently prods us along toward a cove spotted with lily pads, as the oldest and I look to add to our summer bass total.

“Dad, this is very calm. And peaceful,” he says from the front of the canoe.

But all I can do is look down into the clear water to see the milfoil just below the surface. Thick, green submerged weeds like fuzzy fingers reaching up from the depths. I can’t help but feel this invasive species is reaching for me, trying to rob me of time like it’s suffocating the water quality in the pond.

I’m only on Day #3 of my vacation, but already my window is closing and one thought is flashing in my mind like a neon sign — DO MORE!

This is the curse of working parents.

I work two jobs (three if you count the blog) and I struggle to provide as a breadwinner and a father. Rent, bills, and canoes aren’t cheap, which makes the hours at work numerous and quality time scarce. I get three weeks of vacation every year, but I use one for conferences and the other around Christmas when things are crazy. That leaves one week. One week solely for my kids. One week to do everything.

Lately I’ve been envying my wife for being a stay-at-home mom, which is ironic since I’m not even sure I could do her job. Or that I’d want to do it, if we’re being honest. I know her role is filled with damn hard work and days she questions her sanity when our youngest won’t nap because his 1-year molars are coming in and he’s drooling blood in a fit of rage. I know sometimes she feels like she wishes she could trade places with me.

But stay-at-home parents have the thing I’m most envious of — the knowledge that they’re doing the most important thing in raising quality human beings.

They are in the trenches and doing the grunt work. Sure they’re unappreciated now when the kids are young, but in 25 years they’re going to realize my wife was always there. The reliable one. The go-to parent. And they’ll have a bond with her that will be deeper and stronger than one can imagine.

Me? I’m the guy working on the computer. Answering one last email and sending one final freelance pitch. So on vacation, I really pour it on.

“Let’s go the museum!”
“Hey, how bout a baseball game?”
“Want some ice cream?”
“Time for fishing!”

Where MJ is a fire that burns slowly and steadily, I flash hot and bright and then fade back into the office. She’s steady as the tides, I’m a tsunami. I’m an annual meteor shower and she’s the moon.

Working parents don’t witness milestones, they’re told they occurred. The phone call at the office that he got his first tooth. The video she sends you of his first steps, and hey — at least we saw it before all of Facebook. So there’s that. It’s enough to make us feel like spectators, or subscribers to the newsletter of our own lives.

Which is why when vacation hits, I get a little desperate.

We tried to get Will to ride his bike without training wheels last year. It went horribly. He wasn’t ready or physically able, and it ended with lots of crying, pouting, and frustration. Will was also pretty upset.

But this year, I vowed to make sure Will could ride his bike by the end of the summer. And I was going to see it, dammit.

When we went at the beginning of vacation a week ago, it was…rough. I was too hard on him and placed way too much pressure on the poor kid, and his performance reflected that. I was trying to force it so I didn’t miss it, and in the process I damn near ruined everything.

Yesterday was my last day of vacation. After we went fishing, I nonchalantly asked if he’d like to try bike riding one more time. This time, I took an entirely different tack. I told him it didn’t matter if he did it, only that he improve from last time. I had him sit down first and envision a successful ride, and then try to emulate in real life what he mentally pictured. I smiled and told him stories of my learning-to-ride failures as a precocious kid.

He fell. A lot. But then, well…he didn’t.

Once my attitude was positive, so was his. He refused to accept my help because he wanted to do it on his own, and he constantly repeated affirming messages to himself throughout the whole thing. “Just keep trying, Will” and “Will, remember to pedal, steer, and not panic.” 

And then off he went, pedaling furiously away from me as I jogged to catch up. As apt a metaphor for parenting as there ever will be. But this one — learning how to ride a bike — this one is ours. Will’s and mine. I needed a win, badly, and my wife saw that and graciously let me have it. Because she’s awesome and far too good for me.

Back on the pond, the interesting thing about milfoil weeds is there are no known biological controls to fight them off or slow them down. In time, and like time, they come whether we like it or not and eventually they change the existing habitat. Armed with that knowledge, my vacations in coming years have taken on a whole new meaning and level of importance.

If you only have a week, you’d better make it count.

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The #PretzelGuys Go Fishing

Disclosure: I was compensated by Life of Dad and Snyder’s of Hanover for this promotion.

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Will and I love to fish.

What started as a fishing derby on a whim one year ago has quickly turned into a passion the two of us share. It’s strange that a 6-year-old who can’t be still for six seconds and his ridiculously impatient father have taken such an interest in an endeavor that requires patience first and foremost. Yet that’s exactly what has happened.

Simply put, during the last 12 months, fishing has become something that fuels our relationship and gives us common ground.

Because our fishing trips often turn into an all-day adventure (especially now that we’re out on the water with the canoe), I need to make sure we’re well-packed. That means our fishing poles, our tackle bag, lots of water, and something that ensures our energy doesn’t wane before we land the big bass.

That’s why we never go fishing without Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels.

They’re the perfect fishing snack because they’re healthier than junk food yet not too filling. Plus, my picky 6-year-old likes them. Call me boring if you must, but I prefer the original Pretzel Snaps. My son, on the other hand, likes the Sourdough Nibblers. But whether you go with the Pretzel Butter Snaps, Pretzel Sticks, or Mini Pretzels, you really can’t go wrong.

And while I’m not sure the good people at Snyder’s realized this when they began making their delicious pretzels, here’s a little known fact — my son discovered another use for Snyder’s pretzels:

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When it comes down to it, Snyder’s is now as much a part of our fishing trips as landing huge bass. And sure, I’m getting paid for this so I understand if you’re rolling your eyes and thinking I have to say all this. But the truth is I ate and loved these before I was ever contacted by the company. They’re delicious, they’re healthier than a lot of other snacks, and they give us the pick me up we need to row and fish for hours.

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And now for some even better news that affects you directly.

Snyder’s of Hanover is running “America’s Summertime Favorite Sweepstakes” on their Facebook page, and you should check it out immediately. There are not only weekly prizes to be won, but also a chance to win $10,000 toward your ideal family vacation.

Check out the hashtag #PretzelGuys on social media for more great information.

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