March began with the launch of “Lego Bionicle” and “Lego Friends” shows on Netflix.  I don’t always pay attention to my new suggestions for streaming shows to check out, but my children apparently do–by the time some Legos came in the mail from Netflix, they were already familiar with the characters.  I’m not sure if the creators’ intent was for the former show to be marketed toward boys and the latter one for girls, but that’s certainly how my progeny wished to divide their spoils when the box appeared on our front porch.  They were very excited and began building them immediately.

Kids playing w Legos

Also this month, the Atlanta LegoLand Discovery Center invited us over to see a new “4D” movie they released and then again to see the new Pirate Adventure Island–an interactive play area featuring a giant pirate ship (that was strong enough for me to climb and run all over it with the children), a boat building + racing area down a water chute, and some other cool stuff.  We loved it.

Emmet and i lego pirate and i

While we like to encourage the children to play outside as much as possible (and they often bring their Legos outdoors), it rains a good bit during springtime in Atlanta, and Netflix or LegoLand are great ways for all of us to engage with one another when it does.

boat races

Given my 84-mile hike coming this July, I’ve been trying to spend more time on my feet when there’s a free weekend, as I need to break in my new shoes (I went with waterproof Merrell Chameleons) and build my endurance.  Since the days leading up to our walk will be spent touring the UK with the children, I figure I should bring them along for training.

Normally at this time of year, Atlanta might be up to 60-something degrees, but this year, it’s been high 70s, so we’ve been trying to spend as much time as possible outside. Last weekend, we started with a picnic by the Chattahoochee River before hiking near Sope Creek.

picnic by river

We even brought Winnie the dog.

winnie the dog waits

I bought an Olympus “tough” camera that the children can use on our trip this summer, so we’ve begun practicing with it as well (all pictures in this post were taken with it).

After eating, we began walking an easy loop trail of about 1 mile.  My 7-year-old son almost immediately began whining about hurting feet and not liking hiking.  My bride stayed in the rear of our pack to try and talk him out of his grumpy attitude (I’m not so good at being patient with whining).

Meanwhile, my 5-year-old daughter ran the entire trail.  In fact, I could hardly keep up with her.  Every few minutes or so, I’d round a switchback and find her waiting on me in some sort of pose, such as these:

waiting by stump

my 5yo seeking solace

I didn’t prompt or encourage these poses; she just did them.

It reminded me of my friend Glenn’s rehearsal dinner down in Destin, Florida in 2006, when I went AWOL from my deployment to Andrews AFB to attend.  We were at a beachside bar, and my bride was pregnant with our now 9-year-old, when I very publicly asked why she wasn’t drinking like the rest of us, so that we could “have a little Forrest” while pointing to her belly.  For some reason, she failed to see the humor in this, but I brought it up at the conclusion of our hike on Saturday, pointing out that we now have, in fact, a “little Forrest” (but without the mental challenges).  I suggested we add “Born to Run” to our bedtime stories list.

Eventually, the rest of the family caught up to our youngest, and they allowed a rare moment of across-the-board smiles as they wallowed in the grass next to the bike path that brought us back to the parking lot after the loop trail.

babies and winnie the dog

When we got back, we decided to book a trip to the Len Foote Hike Inn during their spring break next month.  It’ll mean 5 miles up a mountain at the southern edge of the Appalachian Trail, spending the night at a rustic hotel at the top, and hiking back the next day.  I figure it’s time to see if “little Forrest” can live up to her nickname and if her ornery brother can learn to like hiking like the rest of his family.  And, my bride is currently writing a murder mystery requiring sewing a quilt to solve the mystery, and it’s set there.  So, it’s research on multiple levels!  Hopefully, it’ll even be fun.

It’s a week later, and I’m just now feeling coherent enough to type some words about this year’s summit in Washington, DC.

The last few years (and the year it was part of Mom 2.0), I’ve helped the conference by being a live blogger, but this year, Doug asked if I’d like to participate on a panel highlighting military dads, and I was happy to agree.  It was like moving from being a production assistant to supporting actor.

Our talk was titled Major Dad:  How Military Life Shapes and Challenges Our Parenting.  Joining me were 3 current Marine Corps officers (2 dads and a mom), and former Marine and current author/speaker Armin Brott.  I moderated.

moderating at Dad 2

Our panel was smaller in attendance than most of the others I attended, but there were lots of questions and comments, so it made it fun and interactive.  Several guys spoke highly of it afterward, so I’m glad to have been a participant.

Other ways in which this year’s conference differed from previous years:

1- I got to fly a drone (but not where I wanted to fly it, which was the National Mall…instead, we drove like 1.5hrs into what I was sure was Pennsylvania, but was actually just rural Virginia)!  It was fun.  So was the long bus ride to the location, because I was surrounded by people I haven’t seen in a year.

drone flying

2- I got to do karaoke at a dive bar in our nation’s capital with Penn Holderness of “Christmas Jammies” fame (and others)!

karoke

not pictured:  Penn Holderness (of “Christmas Jammies” fame)

3- I finally met Josh Levs (even though we’re in the same city and talk on Facebok from time to time) and told him I enjoyed listening to him on NPR for 10 years.  Also, he was kind encough to come to my panel and offer some input!

4- I met the director of Movember for North America, Mark Hedstrom.  He gets the “favorite new friend” award for this year.  After a party at the Museum of American History, we walked to Old Ebbitt Grill and a rooftop bar at the W with great views of the city, and we were able to enjoy talking about more topics than just men’s health + cancer!

5- I was interviewed on Esquire TV (video clip here)!  I learned that I don’t look very comfortable on camera after 2 nights of less-than-adequate sleep and a whole lot of coffee.

6- I got to meet Derreck Kayongo and tell him how highly I regard the museum for which he has recently been named CEO.

There were also several ways in which this year’s Dad 2.0 Summit was very much like every other year’s Dad 2.0 Summit:

1- I got to spend time with some of my favorite people.

w Amy

2- I spent an embarrassingly large amount of time wiping away tears.  This year was even worse than prior years, however, because Oren‘s widow read some of his unpublished letters/posts right before we announced the addition of a Camp Kesem location at their alma mater, U. of MD, and that we’re all walking Hadrian’s Wall to raise money for the charity this summer.

3- Late night shenanigans were prevalent.

Carter FB post

4- I bought next year’s ticket within hours of its going on sale.

Dad 2.017

I go to a lot of professional conferences, seminars, and trips every year, but I gotta say:  I enjoy this one the most.  It’s the only one in which the daytime content brings as much anticipation as the after hours adventures do.

And as someone who does a pretty fine job of finding (or creating) the “after hours adventures,” that’s high praise indeed.