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Learn to Live; Live to Learn

​If there is only one thing that my father has told me consistently throughout my life is that he wished my brothers and I could have “learned from his mistakes”, which I totally understand. Especially now that I have my own child, I can think of a litany of things that I could explain to her NOT to do purely based off my own experiences. Things like, if your going to walk around the whole of Rome, put on better shoes than just Converse; don’t date a horse-person if you are allergic to horses; don’t touch your tongue to the inside of the freezer door; and a wide range of relationship advice that may or may not be accurate this day and age for instance don’t break up with your girlfriend over MySpace.

​ But yet, doesn’t failing help us to learn? Falling teaches us to pick ourselves back up. So to a certain extent I would encourage her to do some of these things that at first seem like a good idea but turn out to be pretty dumb. There are endless things that we can teach our kids, but there are just as many things that would be better for them to learn themselves. When you really take a look at life isn’t it just one big trial and error scenario? For those Math professionals out there I like to use the term “guess and check”. Guess what the answer to a particular situation is and then check to see if you were right or not. Then, to put it in scientific terms, collect the data and move forward with this experiment we call life.

​I was watching Mythbusters one day and I saw a phrase which I definitely apply to life. They were crashing two big trucks into one another, a head on collision, and just as an added little treat they spray painted a phrase on the side of the trucks that read “Failure is Always an Option.” Failure is always an option, I like that. Adam Savage, one of the co-hosts went on to explain that it represents the idea in the scientific community that when an experiment fails, that doesn’t mean it ends. It’s just another set of variables to take into consideration when we try again, so that we can adjust our experiment accordingly. There are very few more satisfying things in the world of spoken word than analogies.

​We can’t knock our kids either for their curiosity. Don’t get me wrong, I would rather my daughter not find out via her curiosity what happens when you stick a fork in a power socket. But there is a great emotional reward when you witness a child’s appetite for discovery (i.e. My Nephew Discovered Physics blog), and it is especially important for you to be there whether it fails or succeeds. More often than not, even though the child will realize that we SHOULDN’T put that fork into the socket, they need someone to be there for them and explain WHY, (whether it is the actual explanation or the “lightning monster that lives in the walls”).

​I want to be the protector of my children against all things, and there will not be a single moment of hesitation when I need to put myself between them and danger. But I have no choice; I must accept that I will not always be there, no matter how much I will try. Endlessly I will teach them all I can, but I cannot always pick them up when they fall. I cannot always put a bandage on a wound, and I cannot always hunt down some prick they broke her heart.

​I would rather not see my child get physically or emotionally hurt, that’s just in my nature as being a parent and good human being. I wouldn’t wish either of those things on anybody for that matter. But if there is one thing I’ve learned, its that this life is a great big adventure full of discovery, and one of the biggest parts of discovery is danger. You might get lost, you might get hurt, you might get disappointed, but you will learn, and as they used to say on “G.I. Joe”…..“Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.”

-B.K. Mullen
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The Poppin’ Bottles Story

Nick and I have been asked a couple of times, most recently on the Life of Dad After Show, how our “Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast” podcast came into existence. Seeing as how we have this lovely blogging space, I figured it would do well to put the story down for all to know.

It all starts about two years ago, when in a crazy fit of creativity (I’m assuming) Nick Browne started the papabrownie.com blog, where he chronicles his adventures of being a dad. Fast forward to August 2013, when my daughter was born. A few weeks prior I had started a podcast called “Sketchy Radio”, and the thought of becoming a father had ignited an idea in my head to do a podcast about that very subject. Three weeks later by daughter was born, and we moved into our new house, right next to Nick and Sarah, who had just had their second child a week or two after our daughter was born.

He and I had run into each other a couple of times out in the driveway, like neighbors do, but it took a few months before we actually got to talking. One day, in the same driveway mentioned above, we got to talking about our kids and whatnot and I thought to myself he seemed like the right person for the job to help me achieve the kind of dad podcast that had been rolling around in my noggin. Besides, why not be friends with your neighbor? So I gave him my phone number and we texted a bit about semi-meaningless stuff until finally I figured I’d come right out and ask “how would you like to do a podcast with me about being dads?” Not a split second later (he had sent a text at the exact same time) he says “I have a blog about being a dad you might like,”

It was strange moment of planetary alignment or something, a young dad with a production company, working knowledge of podcasting, and the desire to achieve moved in next door to a young dad, with a dad themed creative outlet, a broadcasting degree, a desire to achieve, and an eye for social media sharing. A few days later, the first episode of the Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast was recorded, posted on the internet, and shared for all to enjoy.

Right after our second show, we got in contact with the Life of Dad website, a social networking site for dads including many who podcast and blog, who added us to their podcast network and got us set up with blogs on their site. Since then we’ve had some of the guys from the site as guests on our show, as well as being guests ourselves on the Life of Dad After Show. Our blogs are doing better than ever, and our general layout for the next year is nothing short of exciting.

Its been a crazy exciting experience so far, and we’ve only done 10 episodes. 2014 is gonna be a great year for the Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast, and I hope you guys join us.

-B.K. Mullen
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My Nephew Discovered Physics

My Nephew Discovered Physics. A.K.A. The Way The World Works

​Having children provides you with at least one guarantee; you get to witness and/or re-live moments from your own childhood from a new perspective. They may be general moments that perhaps every human who ever lived did at one point or another (like the first time you ever ate a boogy), but you think about it somewhat differently when it’s your child that’s doing it (“stop that!”). One of the actions that stand out the most is how children investigate things to figure out how they work. Pick it up, play with it a little bit, taste it, smell it. Discovery of new things in the universe is a magical thing to behold, and I have been lucky enough to be beholden to such events, even before our daughter was born.

Over the past couple of years I have been blessed with three Nephews. Joseph was the first to come followed by Daniel and most recently, Charlie. Joseph was around 2 going on 3 (I think) when I traveled down to Maryland to help my brother and his family move out of there house and into a new one a little ways down the road. Needless to say, throughout the moving process we were awash with inquiries and the occasional lending a hand from my nephews (then tiny) hands.

To set the scene, I should describe the house that we were moving stuff out of. It was a farmhouse style, although updated and was a little ways back from the main road. Due to this, a long gravel driveway was created leading up to the garage off the side of the house which cut through a decently large sized front yard. It was in this driveway that I had my first true experience of a child’s discovery.

Joseph was running around making the usual merriment when after a while, as kids do, he began to get tired and slowed down a bit. So he plopped down in the driveway, near where the gravel ended and the grass began, and started playing with the stones. Throwing them off to the side, throwing them into the air, throwing them under the truck, stones were going everywhere.

Until one of his throws found the stone land in the nearby grass; that’s when the child became a detective (Batman would be jealous). He stared for a moment, and threw again towards the grass and watched the stone fall. He then stood up and looked, as if standing at the edge of a great height, out into the grass to see where the stone had landed (about 3ft away). The theory for his investigation was taking shape.

He looked down at the gravel beneath his feet, and very sternly made the decision to move forward with his full scale experiment. He reached down and picked up as big of a handful of stones as possible, and threw them all into the grass with full force. He remained still, and examined the work. I can only guess the notes he was taking in his head as he stared out into the, now stone-laden, patch of field. I imagine, if he’s anything like his father, he was taking into consideration the random flight paths of each stone determined by the strength of his throw, the wind speed, and the weight of each stone. The release from his hand as well as the intensity of his throw are really what determine the velocity and therefore is the cause for how spread out the stones now are which makes them increasingly difficult to find.

Therefore: adjustments must be made.

He looked once more to his feet, and picked up another handful of gravel. This time however, he took two or three steps into the grass and slowly bent down and placed the small pile of stones onto the ground. He then began to stare, ever so carefully.

Until A BREAKTHROUGH! AHAAAAAA!

Or at least I think that’s what happened………

Almost feverishly he began moving from the driveway to the grass each time with new handfuls of stones, sometimes throwing them once again and quickly examining their landing zones. What could have possibly happened in that moment of discovery to inspire such excitement? What is the purpose for this phase of the study? Does the increased intensity of stone throwing provide a new angle to the hypothesis? It must. It must represent the solid finding of a key factor in the discovery that some may challenge in the future. So it must be done repeatedly and each throw as vigorous as the last, for consistency.

The experiment finally came to a close as the investigator in question was beckoned by his mother. He would have to retire for now to the house and consider all the events of today. Summarize his findings and include it in his notes for later, a particular juice box holds precedence for now.

And then, standing on the edge of the truck holding a box in my hand, I went back to work. The entire event had taken five minutes, and it was one of the most wonderful things I had seen yet in my life. Nowadays its things that seem even more simple that I observe my daughter discovering. Things like her hands, feet, and sneezing. It was just last night that I witnessed for the first time my little one grab a binky with her hand and shove it directly in her mouth.

I have never been so excited in my life. A lot of individuals who are about to become parents for the first time are probably hearing from multiple sources that “having a child is a huge undertaking” and “sometimes the frustration will be unbearable.” But I disregard these things. There are definitely times of frustration and times when one considers the immensity of the dedication you have to put toward this child, but it all washes away when these little moments happen. The first time they smile, or look at you with those big eyes. The first time they fall asleep on your chest, or the first time they begin trying to speak.
In fact its not just the “firsts” that will wash away your worry and frustration, but each time they do these things. Every time I pop the binky back into her mouth and her hand reaches up and grabs my pinky finger. Every time I go to pick her up from daycare and when I get there she is crying, but as soon as she sees me she begins to smile, and giggle. More things will come, first words and calling me Daddy and so on.

In all this, I make a discovery of my own. That this being is what is truly love. I love my wife, and I have learned that putting up with the difficult times is well worth it for all the amazing moments we share. But this little girl, I need not learn to be patient in frustrating moments. She is a constant source of happiness, wonderment, and love. I will always be grateful for anything I can do for her, even the nasty stuff, because I know I’ll always get something wonderful in return.

-B.K. Mullen
Twitter: @BKM505
Podcasts: Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast
Sketchy Radio

The Dining Room Forum

The Dining Room Forum

​Everyone has their traditions, whether it was passed down through the family or recently created. We brought this up on our podcast this past week and it got me thinking about my own family. The primary one I could think of was the existence of our Dining Room table. To be clear, this table is not magic, nor is it made out of some exotic material. It was never even owned by someone famous or infamous, it was originally owned by my grandparents and has been owned by my parents since around 1996.

​To understand the importance of this table you have to put yourself into a particular mindset with the following list. Clear your mind of all prior notions of what a table is and just visualize it and feel it through these descriptions:

1.) It has always been the largest piece of furniture we owned. A fixture of the house, couldn’t go from one room to the other without seeing it or even bumping into it. With the leaves put in it was over 7ft long (seemed like longer when I was little) and 3 ½ feet wide, cherry if my memory serves correctly.
2.) Dinner was ALWAYS at the dinner table. The only exceptions being:
a. You are at school/work.
b. You are sick in bed.
c. There are so many people around the table there is nowhere for you to sit.
3.) When Dinner was going on the Television is OFF.

It wasn’t just a place to eat food, it was an essential part to the communication in our family. Dinner wasn’t just that we all sat there at ate together, we talked, we laughed, we had arguments, we had discussions. We talked about everything, the table was the Family Forum. Politics, Religion, School, and those ever important “talks” in the life of a growing young person such as alcohol, violence, sex and death.

I look around and I see two things coinciding, and maybe its just me who looks at it this way but here it goes: I notice almost everyone in my generation who has emotional disconnections within there family also don’t eat around a dinner table. They don’t have that place to convene and communicate with their family. They are all rushing around pushing fast food and microwavable “meals” into their faces. Don’t get me wrong, its not a necessity of relationships to have a dinner table experience like I did growing up. All I’m saying is it helps bring us all together for at least a few hours every day.

This is something I want to continue with my kids, the Family Forum. A central location where we all get together at the end of the day and talk about everything and anything. I want my kids to grow up as I did, always talking with my family and knowing exactly who they are inside and out. Some people say that you “can’t be friends with your kid, you gotta just be a parent or else they’ll loose respect for you” and I think that’s a bunch of bull. I respect my parents more than anything BECAUSE we are friends. I feel no distance at all between us and that is what has kept us a strong family for so long, through so much. And when I was younger I still had the understanding that THEY were the authority in the house and their word was “law” but that’s because we talked about it. We had quite a few “discussions” about their credentials as parents and heads of household. Every decision they made for the family was up for discussion, because it was a family matter.

I can’t wait for my little girl to grow up and be my friend. I can just imagine the adventures we can go on, even when age starts to catch up with me. So many parents who kept emotional distance between them and their kids end up saying as they grow older “I wish I would have spent more time with them.” No doubt, every single second I don’t spend with my little girl feels like a second wasted. I miss her constantly when she’s not around, so no matter what, I will always wish that I’d have spent more time with her. However, one day I want to make that transition from being more of a father to being more of a friend, and in that way she’ll not distance herself too far.

In the end, the life she leads will be hers to choose, and the relationship she has with her mother and I will change and form between now and then. As it is with me and my parents, I wish for my child to venture into the world with all its excitement, danger, fear, and wonder. And when she does, I always want her to keep us close to her heart, and know that no matter what happens, she will always have two of the best friends a person could ask for.

-B.K. Mullen

​Twitter: @BKM505
Podcasts: Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast
Sketchy Radio

Bloggety-Blogface

breakfast with emma

Greetings fellow fathers and wanderers! I’m Ben Mullen, and I am the co-host of The Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast, a podcast where my “neighbro” and I discuss all things related to being dads. Particularly in my case, from the perspective of a new dad, as my daughter Emma is at this point 4 months old.

I started podcasting about 4-5 months ago, having had multiple failed attempts at blogging and vlogging. Podcasting has turned out incredibly well for me and I now have 3 shows in my own production company, which I’m crazy excited about. The first show, now called “Sketchy Radio”  is the one I started with, its every Friday and it’s just me blabbing away into a microphone. The second show is called “Brudders” and if you haven’t guessed by the title, it is my brother Ash and I teaming up to ALSO blab about whatever is on our brains this week. The third show of course, with my neighbor Nick we talk about all things Dad related in this crazy world we live in. We are only three episodes deep but we’ve gotten a great response from people and have just been added to the Life of Dad Podcast Network!

As I mentioned, this is my second try at blogging, but this time I have a purpose! A direction! It will act as both a personal blog at times but also as a “partner” to The Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast from my perspective. Needless to say there will be situations where Nick or I will not get around to talking as in-depth as we would like on some topics. Therefore we can use our blogs as a follow up outlet to give you more details and further discussions on the topics of our show. Obviously if you are reading this you already know how to get to mine, but just in case you are unaware, you can findNicks blog on here as well .

I like to think I have a pretty good idea of what kind of dad I want to be. I was raised by a pretty interesting group of people in a somewhat strange concoction of circumstances (strange compared to “normal” people). But I believe that it created a “perfect storm” if you will of a parental figure in me and I hope that I can tap into it and be as successful as possible. Needless to say, none of it (especially the part about actually having the kid) would be possible without my amazing wife Carissa. Go team!

So I hope you guys enjoy the miscellaneous ramblings of a young dad yet to come. I always appreciate comments and suggestions so feel free to leave some! And most of all, don’t forget to tune in every Sunday for The Poppin’ Bottles Dad-Cast!

-B.K. Mullen

@BKM505

Life of Dad Blog