The Microwave Song and The Big Hill

“Daddy, can you play The Microwave Song?”

That’s Mabel. We listen to a lot of music when I drive. And no, I have no idea what The Microwave Song is.

I try “Heads Carolina, Tails California,” one of her current favorites.

Not it.

I try “We Belong,” another current Mabel fave.


I try “The Chain,” one of my favorites.

“Daddy, I said THE MICROWAVE SONG!” Like I’m an idiot. Usually, the requests are fairly easy to interpret. Like “Daddy, play the song where they don’t cut people out.” I dig up Somebody That You Used To Know and everybody is happy. Not so this time.

Honey, how does it go? She hums some nonsense. Do you know any words? NO! Or else I would have TOLD YOU! Is it happy or sad? What key is it in? Anything at all?

This is one of the most frustrating parts of being a child. Knowing exactly what you’re talking about, and being sadly unable to convey it to the idiots that drive the cars and operate the CD player. I had gotten in the habit of recording CDs of MP3s – which fit around 150 songs on them – and using them as my car music. So there are a lot of songs that could be The Microwave Song. I thought long about my collection. I have 109 Billy Joel songs. It could be any one of them. I googled “The Microwave Song.” Trust me, that’s not it. I even outsourced it to Facebook. Not even the brilliant people on the internet knew. And still, Mabel kept requesting it and I kept coming up short as a father.

Until one day, when I was listening to Weird Al on my way to pick Mabel up from school. Put your head in the microwave and get yourself a tan. Finally! Victory is mine! I FOUND THE MICROWAVE SONG! Of course it would be by Weird Al. I don’t know why I didn’t start there. So when Mabel got in the car, I was overjoyed. Guess what I found…

“That’s not The Microwave Song!”

What?! Yes it is! He says microwave! Put your head in the microwave and get yourself a tan?

“No, Daddy. UGH! That’s not The Microwave Song!”

Idiot. How could I be so dense as to put forth as The Microwave Song what was clearly NOT The Microwave song? Why do I even bother waking up in the morning?

A year passes.

I have long forgotten about The Microwave Song, or at least I stopped actively searching for it a while ago. I’m in the car with Mabel and Tall, Tall Trees by Alan Jackson comes on.


Really? Tall, Tall Trees by Alan Jackson is The Microwave Song? Well, of course it is. It all makes sense now.

Well if it’s lovin’ you want, then I’ve got it. If it’s money you want, then I’ll get it. I’ll buy you tall, tall trees and all the waters in the seas, I’m a fool, fool, fool for you.

Mystery solved. On to the next case.


Once you get to within a half mile of our house, there is a small variation in the way we can go home. There’s “the way,” and then there’s this other way that adds maybe 30-45 seconds to our drive time. It’s great for songs that I know are 30-45 seconds too long. Mabel started requesting on her own once in a while to go this way. She called it “the big hill,” and I have no idea why. I didn’t prompt her to call it this or anything. “Daddy, I want to go down the big hill.” And if I already passed the big hill and couldn’t turn around or if I just didn’t want to go down the stupid big hill – which, incidentally, isn’t a hill at all – there would be screaming and tears and screaming. (There is another way home that is less of a variation and only adds about 5-10 seconds. She named this “the little hill.” That one is actually a pretty big hill.)

Anyway, she called this way “the big hill,” and when requested, I knew what she meant. This went on for years. Her brother, who is now the age she was when she started calling it the big hill, also calls it the big hill. Recently, I asked preemptively if they wanted to go down the big hill, because I didn’t want the burden of figuring out how to stop them from screaming when I didn’t go down the stupid big f@#*ing hill when they REALLY WANTED TO. To this, Mabel asked a very interesting question, which I always figured I’d have to answer one day…


Quote of the Day 3/10/2018

“Daddy, why do we call it ‘the big hill’?”

  • Mabel


Great freakin question, honey. Great question.


Putting my head in the microwave and getting myself a tan,
Weird Dustin.


Still Standing Right Here…

Weird Al, singing what is clearly NOT The Microwave Song

Weird Al, singing what is clearly NOT The Microwave Song

Before I Begin


A while ago, I read something on the internet that was so damn hilarious, I wanted to find out who wrote it so I could read some other stuff they wrote. Turns out it was by a guy named Dustin Fisher. Well that can’t be right. That’s my name! And this isn’t the internet at all!!! This is a crumbled up Bennigans napkin from 2003!

D Rec, circa 2005

D Rec, circa 2005

It sucks when you realize that you aren’t as funny as you used to be. I can handle not being as fast or limber – I don’t really run or squeeze myself into lockers anymore. But through some politically correct jobs, a lack of regular adult interaction, and a quinoa-heavy diet, my comedy muscles seem to have atrophied in the last decade. I was reading some of my old blog posts (which were originally emails, back when people read emails) and got jealous of that guy. He was free, sharp, and damn funny. But I also see no reason I can’t be him again. So in an effort to recapture these glory days of humor writing, I have decided to recreate my blog in the image of my old “Quote of the Day” daily email humor column (see The Dangers of Day Camp, Rating Street Signs, or Review of Memento for reference). Hence the moniker “Quote of the Dad.” Hopefully it works. If not, there are still over 100 movies on my Netflix queue.


I turned my column into a blog back in 2005 and I was already late to the party then. Why reboot a blog now that everybody else has left the party and moved out and got jobs and kids and mortgages? Because I have no idea what I’m doing, but I need to do something. There is a very subtle and mostly overlooked line in Big Fish when a young Edward Bloom is leaving Spectre and the mayor tells him “You won’t find a better place” and Edward says “I don’t intend to,” basically forgoing paradise because he feels the need to do something. In my case, paradise is sitting on my couch and blazing through my Netflix queue, and doing something is writing a blog no one will read. Perhaps I will turn this into a podcast in a couple years. With any luck, that will be obsolete by then.


I have taken over I say “taken over,” because I want to sound bold and confident, not sheepish and full of regret, like a guy who forgot to renew his domain and let a squatter swoop in and scoop it up for his junk drawer. Sorry. I suppose it could have also been her junk drawer.


March 3rd is a special date in Dustin lore. I started the original Quote of the Day 23 years ago today, and I auditioned for Last Comic Standing on March 3rd in 2008. I think I did something else recently too, like I bought a TV or something. Anyway, it seemed fitting to roll it out on a March 3rd. Especially since I can’t afford another TV right now.


Well, me. And the kids. And occasionally my wife, though she doesn’t like it when I air out our actual dirty laundry, so I’m not sure how she’ll take to the metaphoric dirty laundry. But I will do the writing. They will just provide the content. You’ll see.


My 3-year-old son has an impeccable bargaining technique that does all the work for his opponent, often times shouting things like “Well if you won’t let me watch Mickey Mouse, I’m not watching ANY TV EVER!!” Like it’s a threat. When “OK” is a sufficient comeback, your opponent’s argument game needs work. One night, he was bargaining with time. He gets it right about half the time, but the other half, he doesn’t do himself any favors. But a few nights ago after waking up around midnight, he caught on to his mistake…

Quote of the Day 3/3/2018

Me: “OK, Morris. You have to go back to bed in 5 minutes.”
Morris: “No. 2 minutes.”
Me: “OK, fine. 2 minutes.”
Morris: “No… 40 minutes.”

Well, damn! That’s a hell of a jump! And a very specific and somewhat reasonable time, almost exactly the length of an episode of Monk. I’m starting to think he may be slow playing me.

Blogging like it’s 1999,
Daddy Dustin.

Still Standing Right Here…


After a 3-year absence, I am about to reboot my website. Why? Because I tend to enjoy starting things just as they are becoming  unpopular (I’m also in the market for some used DVDs). But before I get going on the reboot, there’s something I need to do first.

I tried to write this 3 years ago – in fact, a lot of this comes from a journal-ish thing I wrote to get my feelings down on paper – but every attempt was clumsier and less focused than the last, and every good thing was already being said by people with much better words than I had. This attempt is no exception, but this big rock needs to be moved so everything else can start to flow again.

Oren Miller, the man who changed Amazon Mom to Amazon Family

Oren Miller, the man who changed Amazon Mom to Amazon Family

Saturday, 2/28/15

In late February 2015, I read on Facebook that Oren had stopped his chemo and he spoke about his life in terms of weeks or perhaps days. On the morning of Saturday the 28th, I finally worked up the courage to send both Oren and Beth text messages to tell them I was thinking of them and I’d love to come for a visit. Regrettably, I had talked myself into believing that he should spend his final days with his family and those close to him, convincing myself that I was not one of those people and so much as a text message from me would just be a burden to their grieving. Yes, typing it now, I feel as stupid as it sounds. Beth wrote me back within the hour saying Oren wanted to see me and asked me to come. My daughter was already in the car and we were on our way to a birthday party she had been looking forward to all month. For a moment, I considered skipping the party to go see an ailing friend. Instead, I opted to go to the party, but leave early. After all, if Oren was too tired to talk when I got there, I’d be able to come anytime on Sunday.

In the hour-long trip to Oren’s place, I had no idea how to talk to him. Would we ignore the elephant and talk about how Boyhood was robbed at the Oscars? Maybe he wanted me there to provide a distraction from the cloud. Or would we look the elephant in the eye and tell him what kind of a bastard he is right to his face? Maybe he’d want me to work on getting all his best blog posts and essays together into book form, like the one I self-published last year – to which he attended the release party the week before he got the news. Heck, I’d be honored. I’d even offer up Brent to do the artwork. I had settled on coming out and asking him directly what he wants to talk about. But in a funny way, to lighten the mood. That’s probably why he wants to talk to me.

By the time I got to his place, he was asleep. Family and friends were there. Over the next hour, it became apparent that this was the end. I would not be coming back to see him tomorrow to talk about Boyhood. Beth told me that Oren wanted to see me because he wanted someone from the Dad Blogger group to speak at his funeral. Damn. Gut punch after gut punch.

I took solace in helping clear the driveway of a fallen tree and chip away at the ice for an hour or so with the others who were there. I hoped he would come out again, that the prognosis was wrong. But I also felt like I was inappropriately making this about my guilt for missing whatever window I was given to see him. There will be other birthday parties. I should have come right away. And why did it take me so long to work up the courage to text him? These are questions I’ll work on later. For now, there is a grieving family that could use support, however I can manage to give it to them.

Oren passed away before I got home.


Sunday, 3/1/15

I called Brent to talk about the eulogy. On every level, it made more sense for him to give it. I would be happy to say something in his stead, should he have felt, for whatever reason, that he couldn’t do it. Brent then wrote and later delivered the most beautiful tribute to a person that there has ever been. But please, don’t take my word for it. I did recommend that we have some of Oren’s quotes in a collage for people at the reception to see. I did the same for my dad. It was a bunch of pieces of paper taped to a piece of wood, which had been covered in green paper. Pretty ghetto, but also, very fitting for my dad. Before I knew it, Brent was suggesting we make a video tribute for him. He assembled five of his closer dad blogging friends and put it out there and before I knew it, I was downloading video editing software and creating a video for his funeral. It was an honor to be able to help in some way. Honestly, Jeff Bogle did the heavy lifting, gathering 95% of the pictures that I used from family and other dad bloggers, but I was happy to have helped.

I took a break from the video for family movie night, a tradition recently started in an effort to bundle most of the TV we allow Mabel to watch into a controllable and predictable time period. I had gone most of the last couple days without shedding too many tears, despite being the kind of guy that cries at the end of every episode of Monk and many Subaru commercials. I sat and watched my two-year-old girl and two-month-old boy and imagined what their movie night would be like without me. And that’s when I lost it. I had to leave the room because I didn’t want to have to explain to Mabel why I started sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of Madagascar. Maybe Up or The Lion King, but not Madagascar. Shortly after the movie, I got back to work, which was a good distraction from the sadness, even if it involved looking at over a hundred pictures of Oren and his family.


Monday, 3/2/15

I arrived at the funeral about 45 minutes early to set up the video. This was not the first time I was at this funeral home. A few years ago, when Mabel was only a baby, I was here for a college friend’s funeral. I did not appreciate having a sort of familiarity with a particular funeral home. I set up the video, adjusted the volume 47 times, and looked desperately for Brent or somebody I knew. I sat with Brent, Chris Bernholdt, and Jeff Bogle, together as the four representatives of the Dad Bloggers group that Oren started and ran all the way up to yesterday.

I didn’t belong there. I wasn’t family. I had met Oren a few times, but I wasn’t even a real blogger. I was sitting with these three larger than life characters, who also coincidently all happen to be 6’3” and above, listening to them talk about monetizing stuff, sponsorship, and paid trips to go somewhere they could blog about later. I pay a web hosting site a few bucks a month and post stuff I think is funny. We are not in the same world. I didn’t have anything to say to them. And boy, do I have no idea what to say to Beth or certainly the kids. I was a phony and I was crashing a funeral because of my own guilt. What an ass. I looked around for any other imposters. Nope. Just me.

You know who I need to be here right now? Oren. He was my bridge from me to these rock stars. He got me. He understood these insecurities. Stupid as it sounds, I was really wishing he was there to sit between me and these other three guys. He stood squarely in both worlds and when he was there, I was on equal footing with the others. He made me feel comfortable. He made everyone feel comfortable. He talked about me in his blog once. I felt honored. We met IRL when I first joined the group to talk about blogging, SAHDing, and Facebooking. He actually – and I shit you not – had to explain to me what a thread was. I didn’t know. And he didn’t judge. It was largely his influence that kept me both an active member of the Facebook group and a blogger at all. In the three years since he passed, I have only posted once. Saying that Oren’s passing was the only reason I stopped writing would be overdramatizing the past – it was a ton of things, as it always is – but I didn’t feel a part of the group like I did before. And the motivation just wasn’t as strong.

Brent stood up to give his eulogy. It was moving and perfect. He sat back down and some other people spoke. I still didn’t know what to do. I wanted to show my support, but I started questioning why. And then it was time to go to the cemetery. They were calling the pallbearers up to the front to help them. A few of the people I had met on Saturday started moving to the front. And then they called my name. Dustin Fisher. Why? I mean, I was surely happy to help but why me? I was sitting with three men all at least 6’7” and much stronger and my name was called? Perhaps it was a thank you for the video montage. Maybe the other guys would have been too tall and strong. Or maybe Beth needed one more person and I was the only name she could remember at the time. Regardless, I was shocked. Maybe I wasn’t a phony after all. Maybe I did belong here. Maybe I was better friends with Oren than I thought.

After the service and the cemetery, we collected back at Beth’s house for Shiva, yet another chance for me to feel insecure and phony. Only I now felt a little more like I belonged. I still didn’t know why I was chosen as a pallbearer for this incredibly important moment, but I was. This gave me a little confidence to talk to these people as a real friend of Oren, regardless of how many times I had seen him in the real world or how many hits my website got last week. Suddenly I found some common ground with these 7-foot behemoths of the dad blogging industry. I even felt comfortable enough to bring Mabel to Shiva the following day. Mabel is always a good icebreaker. Unfortunately, she is also an adept Lego breaker. Sorry, Liam. Thank you for taking that in stride. And then I had a thought. I think I know why I was chosen as a pallbearer. It was Oren. It was him, sitting between me and these people and things that intimidated me. He was – maybe one last time – making me feel like I fit in. He was my bridge yet again. And so even at his own funeral, he was able to reach out and do for me what he had done many times before with regard to my writing and my dadding. He told me that what I was doing was enough. That I had no reason to doubt myself or my intentions. That I deserved to grieve and show support as much as anyone. Thank you, Oren. I’m sorry it took me three years to say it.

Four dad bloggers, just trying to change the world

Four dad bloggers, just trying to change the world

Breaking the Silence

Morris sleeping on Daddy's legs

Morris sleeping on Daddy’s legs

It’s been a LONG time since I’ve written, and the reason for that is very much related to the reason I need to write this particular story today. I know what you’re thinking. But Dustin, what the heck are you talking about? That’s the most awkwardly worded sentence ever. While you have a penchant for hyperbole, you do have a point. I’ll explain.

Morris was born the day after Christmas last year, making him over ten months old now. And he still sleeps in our bed. When he wakes up at night – which is often – I feed him and we hang out until he goes back to sleep. This can sometimes take an hour or two. Occasionally, I transfer him to the crib once asleep, but he rarely sleeps in it for very long and sometimes wakes up immediately when he realizes that dream he’s having where he’s flying through the bedroom is actually not a dream and it’s the beginnings of me leaving him alone in a cage.

We have avoided sleep training him for a few reasons, but those reasons gave way to the need to sleep an embarrassingly long time ago. And I have been dragging my feet because he was sick one time, and because Jenn got a promotion another time, and because the Eagles played on Monday Night Football once, and it’s time for the excuses to stop. I wrote it down on the calendar that the sleep training starts tonight. But knowing my penchant for excuses and the lack of people who see my kitchen calendar on a month-to-month basis, I wanted to put it out there online for all to see. Not to brag or complain or entertain, but to be held accountable. That’s where you all come in.

I expect you all to tell me how much of a wus I am if I don’t start doing this tonight. When we finally did this for real to Mabel, she cried for 47 minutes the first night, 20 the second, and never more than 10 every night after. I have no reason to believe Morris won’t be able to make the transition just as easily. But it does mean the end of cuddle time. And at this point, that’s fine with me.

Maybe it’s because this time around, I’ve seen it work once already. Or maybe because I’m curious to see Morris tackle this new problem. Or maybe it’s because I’m barely sleeping at night anymore and it’s causing me to be irritable toward the kids and Jenn and the people on the phone at Comcast (actually, they had it coming), and I’m looking forward to not being irritable anymore. I’m looking forward to my left shoulder not hurting anymore because I don’t have anywhere to put it night after night. I’m looking forward to sleeping without being kicked in the ribs or without having a pair of knees in my back. And I’m mostly looking forward to eventually getting on a schedule again where my body gets tired at night. Over the course of the last ten months, my body has stopped getting tired at night, so even when the little guy sleeps, I can’t. My biology is all wonked up. And for that reason, and the fact that I usually have a pair of little legs on my gut, I can’t find time to open the computer to write. Hopefully that begins to end tonight. And if not, I expect to hear it from all of you. Please.

So the cold strategic neglect that is the extinction method starts tonight. And I think he knows it because he decided to mess with his nap schedule. But I will not back down. And I’m not going to wus out like I did the first two times with Mabel. It happens tonight. Because it’s on the calendar.

Kitchen Calendar

Kitchen Calendar

Oren Miller Video Tribute

I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to write about the past few days all night. Everything comes out clumsy, distracted, forced, and a little too much about me. So I’ll table that for now and instead just show you the video we had playing at the funeral and the reception. I put it together in under 24 hours, so it isn’t perfect. I had to use all instrumental music because the video software I downloaded Monday sped up all the audio. But I’m happy to have been able to help out in some way with this grieving process. Many thanks to Jeff Bogle, who got together about 95% of the pictures used in this montage in about 8 hours, and to the Dad Blogger group for helping find most of the quotes in the video. Oren, you will be missed.

The Burden My Son Had to Bear for 9 Months

Sorry I haven’t really written anything new in 7 months, but there was a good reason. This is the post that needed to be written before I could write anything else.

mabel with ultrasound

Mabel with Ultrasound

The plan was always to have a second child. Of course, by “plan,” I mean utopian future in which I get everything I want, and by “always,” I mean Jenn and I talked about it once over dinner on our third date when we were still lying to each other. Jenn and I both had siblings growing up and we wanted Mabel to have that experience too. Besides, with the two of them having each other to occupy their time, that meant more time for me to concentrate on my Netflix queue. So when we got pregnant again, it was hardly an accident. Of course, seeing as how we conceived while still on the pill, it’s difficult to argue that we weren’t actively trying to not have another child. So maybe this new child is an accident by circumstance, but certainly not a mistake, a distinction that will likely be important in his or her future therapy sessions.

Our family is fortunate enough to afford to have Jenn work while I stay home and raise Mabel, who turned two a few months ago. And being a stay-at-home dad has been the greatest experience of my life. Except of course for the first year, which was absolutely terrifying. Simple things like balloons and remote controls become devices of death when babies are involved. But once Mabel was walking and consolidated her nap schedule so that we could actually do things during the day, life got much better. Every day was a party. We’d go to the zoo or the playground or the Natural History Museum in the morning, we’d come home to take a nap (yes, I said we), and we’d go to the pool or the lake in the afternoon. Mabel and I had gotten into a groove. The introduction of another human life into this equation – one whom I’d be directly responsible for protecting from deadly balloons and such – could possibly tear that world down. Besides, I had gotten used to kissing Mabel on her forehead every night and telling her that she was my favorite person in the world and I didn’t want to have to qualify that with anything. “Goodnight, little Bunnyhead. You’re my favorite person in the world… Well, you’re tied now. No, there is no one and one-A, you’re both number one… And mommy? She’s third.”

When we found out about Mabel and hit that 14th week, in the case of one holiday party, we literally shouted the news from the rooftop. We couldn’t wait for the world to know. This new baby is unfortunately not coming into the world with the same fanfare, producing yet another layer of parental guilt. We know it isn’t fair, but from what I’ve heard, the second child needs to get used to never getting the same attention the first child gets. I just didn’t think that life would start in the womb.


The time came for our 18-week ultrasound, the one where we find out the sex of our little fetal ball of guilt. Mabel and I went to this event because I wanted us all to have the experience of everyone finding out at the same time. Mabel was justifiably confused and obsessed with the flashlight that was able to penetrate into mommy’s tummy to see the little baby. After five minutes of that, she turned her obsession toward an open box of rubber gloves and the trash can, a game which was admittedly wasteful, but preoccupied her in a non-destructive manner, which I considered a win. The technician measured the head and the femur and a bunch of other stuff I’m sure is important before finally revealing the one piece of info that we were there for. Mabel was going to have a baby brother. There was a mixed reaction in the room, but I was happy for the news. And not necessarily for the reasons most typical sitcom dads are happy they’re having a boy, but because now Mabel would be daddy’s little girl, and no one could take that away from her.

We had discussed names of boys but had never really settled on anything like we did with Mabel. Her name came to us in a dream, both of us sitting straight up in the middle of the night, looking at one another, and simultaneously saying “Mabel!” Nothing like that was happening with this child. And after weeks of discussion, lobbying, and a little indifference, we finally found something to agree on. Corbin. Corbin Fisher. We both liked it. It was original, fun, and neither of us had an ex named Corbin. So it was decided.

We weren’t telling people at the time about the name. Which means that I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about the name, but Jenn was telling random people whenever she wanted to. One afternoon, she told her friend at work, a gay security guard (an important detail which you’ll discover soon enough). His response was Oh, like Corbin Fisher. But Jenn didn’t take my last name and this guy had no way of knowing what Corbin’s last name would be. You might want to Google that.

So we did. And as it turns out, Corbin Fisher is not the name of a gay porn star. It’s the name of a gay porn franchise. A film studio. A website that won the “Best Adult Gay Megasite” at the 2006 Cybersocket Awards. This probably wasn’t going away anytime soon. Let it be known that I have nothing against gay people and very little against pornography, but this may be out of our hands. Still, a part of us really wanted to hold onto the name. And that way, when we introduced our son to people and they recognized the name, we could glare at them in judgment, which is what parenting is all about. But this kid is eventually going to go to high school, and this was unnecessary baggage to saddle him with. So we had to say goodbye to Corbin Fisher. And we turned the parental controls back on our internet browser and went back to the drawing board.


After the ultrasound, we all adjourned to the doctor’s office to talk about weight gain and some other less important stuff. It’s a boy! the doctor said. We know, I retorted. The doctor asked if Mabel yet knew that she was going to be a big sister. We think she knows, but we don’t really know how much she’s taking in. She keeps saying she’s going to be a big sister, so there’s that. Sure, but she probably doesn’t understand the full implications of what that means. Well of course not. Neither do we.

The doctor then told us that there was a white spot on our son’s left heart chamber, that is likely indicative of calcium deposits, which happens to be a soft marker for Down syndrome. The term soft marker means that in and of itself, the spot is not an indication of Down syndrome, but together with other markers, like the bridge of the nose and the length of the femur, it is a strong indication that the child will be born with Down syndrome. Our doctor flippantly said this happens all the time and I see maybe six or seven people a week in this office with this, and it almost always turns out to be nothing. She was smiling. Out of how many? I wanted to ask. Was it 50? If so, that’s a good percentage. Or was it closer to 1,000? That’s not so good.

She wasn’t telling us this to intentionally send us spiraling into a panic.  She had to tell us this as a matter of procedure to cover her ass. And I get that, but it doesn’t stop the spiraling. She did say that the spot often goes away and asked us if we’d like to schedule another ultrasound. Sure. How’s tomorrow? And every day after that until it goes away? We scheduled the next ultrasound for our 22-week appointment and had the task of trying not to obsess over it for the next month.

Jenn and I wanted to handle the next month in two separate ways: she wanted to do research and talk about it; I wanted to ignore it. These techniques were at odds with each other and neither of us was happy with the compromise. Through her research, Jenn discovered that 16% of babies have this spot show up at some point during their fetal stage. Less than 1% of these babies – absent of any of the other soft markers – are born with Down syndrome. I still didn’t much like the percentages. I just wanted to exist until the next appointment.

Mabel and I did not go to the next appointment. In the case that we got bad news, we didn’t want Mabel to be there. And so Mabel and I waited at the playground for the call. 45 minutes after Jenn’s appointment time and I still hadn’t heard from her. An hour. An hour and 10 minutes. And hour and 15 minutes. An hour and 16 minutes. I was now checking my phone twice a minute in anticipation of the call. Finally, an hour and 47 minutes after the appointment, I got the call. Apparently, Jenn’s doctor wasn’t there. Another doctor took the appointment and told Jenn that the calcium deposits don’t normally go away and she didn’t know why the other doctor told us that. So there was no good news and there was no bad news. There was no news. And now, we’d need to wait another four months until the birth of our son to find out for sure. It would be to be tough to ignore for that long.


Not only is this child being born at a time when we were actively not trying to conceive, but he had his name taken from him by a homosexual pornography website, and he’s in a limbic stage of potential genetic defect. He did not have his sonograms published online for all to see and information of his existence was not shouted from a rooftop.

I know there are plenty of special needs children who grow up to live happy and privileged lives. I feel yet another layer of guilt at times just hoping that our son doesn’t have Down syndrome. But as parents, we just want our children to have the best chance in life that they possibly can.

For the next 18 weeks, Jenn and I decided to shoulder the burden of this information alone. After all, odds were very good that in three years, my perfectly healthy son and I would be leaving the playground to go pick up Mabel from school, get Jenn from the Metro after work, and we’d go have a nice dinner and maybe chase each other around the house before bedtime, life full of smiles and laughter. Of course, there’s still that less than 1% chance that he wouldn’t be perfectly healthy, and that our lives would all need to adjust accordingly. But raising a child wasn’t exactly easy the first time around anyway. We figured it out once, we can do it again.


…17 Weeks, 6 Days Later

Jenn and I casually strolled into the hospital at 9pm on the day after Christmas, confident our son would be born before Mabel woke up the next day. Less than an hour and a half after we parked the car, our son was thrust into this world, absent of a planned epidural and carrying the burden of four months of suppressed anxiety. Nurses and doctors unaware of my concerns told us how healthy and beautiful he was. No one explicitly said “and he doesn’t even have Down syndrome.” About 20 minutes later, I finally posed the question that I apparently needed a blunt answer to.

No, said the nurse, as if it was an absurd question asked by an absurd man. Mabel was going to have a perfectly healthy brother to play with and teach about the world.

I sat down and called my sister. We talked about weight and the labor process and she asked, innocently enough Is he healthy? She didn’t know. And that’s when I lost it. I tucked myself into a dark corner of the room and wept, finally relieved of not only the anxiety of not knowing, but also of the secret we had been keeping for the last four months. Morris Glen Fisher, named for both of his grandfathers, will have as good a chance as his parents can possibly provide for him. Of course, he is now named after an apartment complex in Arlington, but there are some battles he’s just going to have to fight on his own.

One Healthy Sleeping Family

One Healthy Sleeping Family

The Gift My Daughter Gave to Me on Her 2nd Birthday

It's a Very Blues Clues Birthday!

It’s a Very Blues Clues Birthday!

On the morning of Mabel’s second birthday, she and I ran into our neighbors while taping a giant paw print made out of a blue bed sheet to our garage door. The sweet and thoughtful people that they are, they had bought a backpack for her. It was Mabel’s first second birthday gift, and an incredibly kind and unnecessary gesture. And then came the verbal tug of war this is trying to get a toddler to show appreciation.

“Mabel, that’s so great! What do you say?”

“Iss a backpack.”

“Yes, Bunnyhead, I know. And Kalimoir got it for you. What do you say to her?”

“…Iss a pink backpack.”

“Yes honey. Good job. It is pink. But can you say thank you to Kalimoir for getting you the pink backpack?”

“My like Dowa.”

“Yes honey, Dora wears a backpack too. And now you can look just like her thanks to Kalimoir. Now please say thank you.”


“Maaaabellll, what do you say?”

“My want to watch Dowaaaaa.”

Talking to a toddler is like arguing with quicksand. The more you struggle, the more stuck you get. Kalimoir, a mother of four children herself, fortunately understood that and doesn’t seem like the type of person who only gets gifts to receive acknowledgement of her generosity. Especially from a two-year-old. Still, it would be nice for Mabel to get used to saying thank you on occasion – whether she knows what it means or not – to make the other 15 conversations we would have later that day move along more quickly.


Shovel and Pail

Shovel and Pail

For Mabel’s second birthday, we decided to throw her a Blue’s Clues-themed party. As much as I rely on television as a crutch on my at-home-dad sick days, Mabel still hasn’t gotten bitten by the princess bug. Probably because we haven’t really exposed her to any of it. For this reason, she also doesn’t crave beef jerky, beer, or bungee jumping. As far as she knows, the word television is synonymous with a peppy blue animated dog, talking condiments, and an adult man who can not only talk to all of them, but also to Mabel. And football of course. And very recently, Dora, which is my wife’s fault.

Planning a Blues Clues party nowadays is a difficult endeavor. When typing Blues Clues party favors, Google suggested I reset my browser to 1998. I’m sure 15 years ago, light green and dark green horizontal striped rugby shirts were available in every corner drug store, but in 2014, they’re a little hard to come by. Fortunately, Mabel has internet-savvy babysitters who enjoy spending their work time on impossible chores for the purpose of throwing a theme party. We managed to find chocolate party favors in the shape of the show’s characters, miniature Handy Dandy Notebooks for all the kids, and the piece de resistance, a reasonable facsimile of Steve’s green and green striped shirt.

I have been blessed with the distinction of looking way too much like Steve from Blue’s Clues. This garnered me some popularity during my day camp counselor years, but I had no real use for this gift. Until now. With that shirt, the 86 DVR-ed episodes of the show played on repeat, and my ability to make an idiot out of myself, I was to become Steve. And we were going to play an epic live version of Blue’s Clues at Mabel’s birthday party for all the toddler s who have absolutely no idea what Blue’s Clues is. Sure, there was that huge gaping hole in this concept, but I unfortunately look nothing like Dora.




The party had been going on for about an hour. Blue cookies and cupcakes were largely avoided by adults because they looked disgusting and tasted like Jolly Ranchers, but the older kids managed to take them off the counter and sneak them to Mabel when we weren’t looking. Oh well. Happy birthday, Mabel. Despite the fact that everyone was already having fun without my assistance, it was time. Time for me to interrupt that fun for the sake of my daughter’s happiness. And maybe a little bit for my own ego. But this Blue’s Clues party game had been planned for weeks – it was largely the reason we didn’t give up on the theme – and I’ll be darned if I’m going to let 15 miniature Handy Dandy Notebooks go to waste.

I – nay, Steve – jumped around like a goofball, led 15 increasingly excited kids from room to room, writing down clues and singing the incorrect words to dumbed-down songs, until the moment when we would find out what Blue was trying to tell us. What was she trying to tell us? What was the special gift that she wanted to get for Mabel? Oh my! It’s her own special Blue doll! What a surprise!

Honestly – as you can see clearly on the video – Mabel wasn’t necessarily that impressed with her doll. She really just wanted to go back outside and talk to Mailbox again. You’d be surprised how many household items can come to life with a bag full of googly eyes. But it wasn’t the toy that I really poured my passion into anyway. It was the excitement of the event that was fun for me, and hopefully for the rest of her friends, and mostly for Mabel. And so I – nay, Steve – retreated back upstairs and was thusly transformed back into Daddy, who tragically missed the whole show.


Because the kids were having so much fun on their own, we opted not to interrupt that with a gift-opening session destined to fail. Besides, we could prolong the birthday by up to a week this way. The party lasted over two hours, which is pretty long considering the attention span of the average two-year-old. Dinner time rolled around and I was beat. Between the show and the other intricacies of the party, I barely said hi to most of the party guests, including my baby girl. I finally got to eat the food everyone else had been eating for the last couple hours. The crowd subsided with the exception of my sister and her two kids, who were staying the night. We all stayed up to watch Wallace and Grommit (the one with the penguin), and we finally got our sugar-laced two-year-old to sleep almost two hours after her normal bed time.

On a normal night, I’ll read her up to five books, tuck her in, and sing to her while lying down with her in her bed. But she was not going to need those five books tonight. As soon as we changed her into her pajamas and turned the light down, a switch went off in her and she fell limp to the bed. Her eyes struggled to stay open just a little bit longer, to take in the day that she just had. I just laid there looking at my exhausted little angel, wishing every day could be exactly like this one. I leaned down and kissed her on her forehead. “Happy birthday, Bunnyhead. I hope you had a fun time today. Now you have a good baby night and we’ll have a fun baby day tomorrow.” She managed a hug with her eyes closed.

“Thank you, Daddy.”

I don’t know if she knew what she was saying, and if she did, what exactly she was thanking me for. Perhaps she was just thanking me for the kiss on her forehead. Or maybe she wanted to show me she could say the words I’d been begging her to say all day. Or maybe she knew exactly what she was saying. But I just wanted to melt those words down, build a house out of them, and live in that moment forever. You’re welcome, Bunny.

Happy Birthday, Bunnyhead

Happy Birthday, Bunnyhead

The NFL Story You Need to Hear

Leah Strong

Leah Strong

There is a great story in the NFL that has gone largely underreported, possibly due to the media’s focus on the negative stories in the sports world. And just when I started to curse the media for neglecting to integrate this story more prominently into the sports world, I remembered that I am part of that problem, and therefore, just as much at fault as the rest of them (us). That stops now.

I’m a pretty emotional guy. I’ve been known to shed a few tears at the end of Big Fish, most episodes of Monk, and the occasional Subaru commercial. Rarely does that happen during a sporting event unless I jam my pinky finger really hard. Well, it happened Sunday night in the third quarter of the Bengals/Patriots game.

Devon Still is a defensive lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals. His 4-year-old daughter Leah was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare type of childhood cancer, and given a 50/50 chance of survival. Devon says the doctor’s lip was shaking when he told Devon the reason for the pain in Leah’s leg – that there was a grapefruit-sized tumor in his daughter.

This diagnosis was back in June. When I first heard of this story, it was because the Bengals had cut Stills from their team during the preseason, but allowed him to stay on the 8-man practice squad so that he and Leah would still be covered under the NFL health insurance plan. It was a real classy thing to do, for a team whose job it is to win football games – with a CEO whose job it is to make money, to help a guy out like that, when they really didn’t need to. Still would later be signed to the active 53-man roster.

Later, in yet another classy move, I heard that the Bengals were donating ALL the proceeds from his jersey sales to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, even absorbing a $500,000 printing cost for the first 10,000 jerseys. Still’s jersey sold 4,000 units in one week, a record by a large margin. To date, they have raised over $1 million.

I assumed that there would be a few people in the football world who might help out, either to legitimately help or at least to look good. The Ravens missed this layup. Sean Payton, head coach of the Saints, did not. He bought 100 of these jerseys at $100 apiece, to help support Devon Still and his family. He donated the jerseys to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and a few other youth clubs in southwest Ohio. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly sent a surprise gift basket to Leah in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she is staying. And fans came with “Get Well Leah” signs the day he was activated to the 53-man roster.

Author’s Note: I am the father of a two-year-old girl and a soon-to-be zero-year-old boy. When researching for this piece, I had to stop writing to record a 19-minute “If I get hit with a bus tomorrow” video to my one and a half kids.

What is most touching about this story is that when Still talks, he sounds like a regular guy. He gets choked up. He talks about his daughter’s excitement over being on television. He says his focus wasn’t 100% on football. He sounds like a dad. A dad concerned for his child first and foremost, and football is his way of helping his family as best as he can. He doesn’t sound entitled. He doesn’t talk through lawyers or publicists. This isn’t a ploy to help his career. He says having a daughter at such a young age allowed him to become a man faster. He says he can’t remember what life was like before having a child.

Patriots Cheerleaders wearing Devon Still jerseys

Patriots Cheerleaders wearing Devon Still jerseys

Last Sunday night, in the Bengals/Patriots game, midway through the third quarter, the camera panned passed the Patriots cheerleaders coming out of a commercial break, as it often does. But instead of the usual tight, skimpy half-skirt things cheerleaders are known for, they were all wearing Devon Still jerseys. The PATRIOT cheerleaders were wearing BENGALS jerseys as a way of showing the team’s support for Devon and Leah Still. My tear glands were suddenly activated from the practice squad. I was glad that my wife doesn’t like to stay up to watch three football games in one day. She already thinks I’m a wus whenever a Subaru commercial comes on. The Patriots also played “Truly Brave,” a cancer awareness video starring Leah Still and other patients from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, on their Jumbotron during that commercial break. Robert Kraft, Patriots owner, also donated $25,000 in Leah’s name to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

In a sport where most people believe in gaining advantage wherever and however you can, where I once heard Hines Ward say “If you ain’t cheatin, you ain’t tryin,” and in a world where I was once heckled at the Washington area Susan G. Komen Race For a Cure for wearing an Eagles hat, the Patriots transcended that to show their support for a brother on national television, where it needed to be.

Leah has undergone her surgery successfully, but is not out of the woods yet. She has a long road of chemotherapy and radiation ahead of her to try to get to the cancer in her bone marrow before anyone can celebrate. So this story lacks a heartwarming ending. But it is being told now. And seeing such a positive reaction to a person in need transcend the lines of competition in such a violent sport is a pretty good start.

If you’d like to show your support by ordering a Devon Still jersey (or donating to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital), you may do so here. Jerseys will only be available through October 20th.

This story was originally published on So Much Sports as part of Dustin’s weekly NFL column, Quick Inside Slant.

A Letter to My Father on his 66th Birthday

My Dad, circa whenever sepia was popluar

My Dad, circa whenever sepia was popluar

Hey dad. I recently remembered that standup routine I did back in 1995 at that coffee shop where Char worked in Blue Bell. I got my ten-minute set together, practiced it three times in the mirror (not too much so as to dull my delivery) and went out there nervous as hell. You had asked me if I wanted you to come and I told you no, because I had included some racy material that would have paralyzed the 20-year-old version of me with nerves had I known my father was in the audience. I couldn’t score if the girl had a home plate in her living room. Good thing I spared you from that and the similar atrociously dirty jokes that followed.

I have since gotten back up on stage, though it took me another 12 years to work up the guts. It turns out I have a knack for it. I won several contests and awards in the years that followed and soon found my way to performance storytelling, which I much prefer to standup. You can take your time to set up a story arc and integrate some real meaning into the piece. It beats telling the same five minutes of dick jokes over and over. Anyway, that has since led me to a collegiate creative writing program, following right in the footsteps of my writer father. I have been trying to get some of my work published recently and it reminded me of seeing mom putting together all those cover letters, typed out individually on a typewriter, and sending them out to agents and publishers in manila envelopes. The publishing world is a lot different now, though the success rate doesn’t seem to have changed.

In fact, the best piece I’ve written is called The Heartbreak of Breathing. If you remember this title, it’s because you wrote it. Toward the end of your days, I remember you writing a poem with that title, but I couldn’t find it. When I asked mom and Char to look for it a year later, they couldn’t find it either and didn’t remember it at all. I don’t see how they could forget four words so powerful, but there’s also no way I made it up. It’s possible it was just the subject heading of an email or four words scribbled on a napkin at a diner. But I turned my search for the source of those four words into a pretty moving story that I hope to try to get published one day as a tribute to you, because the words are just as much yours as they are mine.

I have a daughter. You’d absolutely love her because I know how much you loved your Goddaughter, Paige, and how alive you were around her. That and because everybody loves Mabel. Being with her is the most joy I’ve had in my life. I can’t wait until she’s old enough to go to movies and play chess, but I also don’t ever want her to get any older than she is right now. She laughs a lot and dances a disproportionately large amount of time. She adores me and loves her mother, who is someone else I’m sorry you never got the opportunity to meet. You’d love her too. She treats me well and doesn’t take any crap from your brothers. We’re fortunate enough so that I can stay home with Mabel while Jenn works. This has been the single greatest and most stressful two years of my life.

I now understand what it means to be a parent. It means you had a kid. And that’s it. There are no papers to sign or tests to pass. Anybody could become a parent. As a child, I pictured you and mom as something much more, something that you have to aspire to. I now realize you were just two people who had a kid. Jenn and I planned to have a child and were happily married for five months before we got pregnant. But that’s not to say that we realized the full implications of this decision and how it would put our individual aspirations on the back burner for the next X years. Knowing where we are now and how Mabel will see us as being her world, I wonder now what it was Char and I were to you. I know without a doubt that you loved us and did the best you could with what you had, but were you on your way somewhere else when we came along? What dreams did you put on hold for the two of us? Did you get to revisit them? This isn’t something I imagine you talk about with your kids. I hope whatever it was, that you got back to them later or at least found peace with the new direction your life turned. I hope the same for myself.

I have stolen your sense of humor. It has become a defining characteristic of mine and something that has opened a lot of doors in my life. When prompted to answer a question about my hero or my influence, I say My Dad and Paul Reiser. But I only really throw Paul Reiser in there to give the statement some credibility. Thank you for that.

I forgot your birthday last year. It was the first time in the eight years since you’ve passed and certainly my 30 years before that this has happened. I have developed a routine for commemorating your life over the last eight years in which I will write a story about you every day in the week leading up to Father’s Day and post it on a blog that no one will read – and then watch Big Fish on Father’s Day. In fact, a story that I told on stage based on these short stories of you called The Encyclopedia of my Father won me a spot in a “Best of 2011-2012” storytelling show last year. Now that I have a daughter, Father’s Day looks a little different. So beginning this year, I am moving that tradition to your birth-month. Because you deserve it and because I enjoy remembering you.

Well dad, I just wanted to let you know that I think about you. I think about you a lot, especially now that I am a father of my own. You were my baseball coach, my football coach and are still the funniest guy I ever knew. You were the father I hope to be one day. And when my daughter tells me that she’s doing a standup routine and wouldn’t be comfortable with me in the audience, I hope I have the tact and savvy to look her and the eye and wish her good luck and then sneak in the back door and hide behind the vending machine too. Thanks a ton. I’m glad you got to see me on stage at least once. Hopefully you’re catching some of this from the shadows too. I love you, dad. Happy birthday.

Me and Dad, April 2005

Me and Dad, April 2005

8 Reasons I Don’t Write

Tremors 3

Tremors 3: No Budget for Graphic Designers

I’m stuck and I need your help.

I have not been a very good dad blogger lately. I have put up a few posts in the past few months, but they were gratuitous and laborious. I seem to be having a motivation problem. I don’t make money from this blog, I don’t have a schedule I have to keep, and there are a finite number of hours in the week. Who says updating a blog is more important than watching Modern Family with my wife? Or another mock fantasy football draft? Or sleep?

Not always, but occasionally, I do.

For the last few months, I’ve been making excuses about why I haven’t been writing. Some are legitimate and some are bullshitimate. I’ll label each as such, but what I need from you are reasons to keep writing and/or techniques that may have worked for you in the past to get over the hump. Or, if you’re so inclined, the go-ahead to stop writing and spend my nights doing mock fantasy drafts and sleeping.

Why I don’t Write

  1. I just published a book and I’m burnt out from writing. This may have been true a couple months ago, but now my late-night crappy-movie-watching has become habit. When I first published Daddy Issues, I felt a huge sense of freedom from deadlines. Now, when I see a Tremors marathon on AMC, I don’t feel this sense of guilt that I should be doing something else instead. Which is unfortunate, because they apparently made four of those time-sucking pieces of crap.* This sense of freedom eventually turned into habit and now, that itch I used to get when I knew I had a manuscript to edit has been replaced by this itch to get my DVR below 80%. However, as it turns out, I can delete shows without watching them and it still creates that same sense of satisfaction in my puny little brain. Is it really possible I’m that easy to manipulate? Verdict: Bullshit
  2. I’d rather concentrate on being a good dad than writing about being one. Again, there is some truth to this. There has been a time or two when I needed to finish something, so I would sit Mabel down and let Steve and Blue babysit her while I tried desperately to pretend she wasn’t there so I could write about how great of a dad I am. That felt dirty, even if it was for a deadline. At least now when I do that, it’s for the betterment of my fantasy team. So yes, there’s a kernel of truth in there, but it was very rare for me to take time away from my daughter to write about her. That time came from other places. This is just the BS I can’t even convince myself of anymore. Verdict: Bullshit
  3. I need to concentrate more on sleeping. This one actually has some legs. I have always had insomnia issues and it’s gotten worse in the past few years. I used to write during these periods of time when I would be awake against my consent. I felt like it was more productive to write than to lie there awake. In fact, I’m doing it now. And while that is true, sleep is better than writing. And very rarely do I fall asleep writing. HOWEVER, I do, on occasion, fall asleep while lying down in a bed. So yes, though I’d rather be productive than lying there trying to sleep, I’d rather be sleeping than not. And I never know when lying down is going to turn into sleep. It’s another risk/reward thing. Sleeping > Writing > Lying down awake. And the book on insomnia that I read, which ironically, did not bore me to sleep, suggested I continue to lie there and eventually, my body will recognize that I sleep during the night. Like, later. Months or years down the line. And tonight, I just don’t have the kind of faith that will pay off. Verdict: Reason
  4. I feel the need to make all of my essays more meaningful. One unfortunate byproduct of workshopping a book comprised of 22 essays is that I now feel the need to perfect all of my writing. Mabel turned two back in June and I have this piece that I really want to write about that day, but I can’t because I want it to be awesome. And that will take time I don’t have. And I don’t want to write anything else before I write that one, because people need to know she turned two. Life was a lot easier when I didn’t have expectations of myself. Verdict: Reason, but not a good one
  5. It’s football season. Football season eats up a lot of my “free” time, especially now that they have Thursday games every week. And though it is not football season yet, it is looming. Along with The Big Bang Theory, Survivor, Manhattan Love Story, and all the other network shows lined up to assault the backlog of crappy movies and Dora the Explorer episodes on the DVR. So no, it’s not taking up a lot of my time just yet, which is actually why I feel motivated to figure out a way to make a writing habit now, before I’m in too deep to find the hole in the ice. Verdict: Reason FOR writing
  6. I am behind on my reading. The word “behind” would indicate that there was a schedule I am keeping, and there is not. Not even one I’ve given myself. Though I do feel like I should read more and actually have started a very passive reading program for myself. And there have been times when I got tired of watching TV somehow and stared at both my computer and a book and chosen the book. So there’s some truth in that, but I also feel like reading might just be a way for me to put off my writing. Like how I only ever cleaned my room when I knew I was supposed to be mowing the lawn. Damn my brain. Verdict: Though barely, still bullshit
  7. I’m concentrating on my stage performance. Complete bullshit. Verdict: Complete bullshit
  8. I don’t have any material. Please. Verdict: Even bullshittier

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are the main things I tell myself about why I haven’t written in so long. Science dictates that there are 168 hours in each week, so there’s never just one reason for not doing something. It’s a matter of finding an extra hour or two during those 168 to take away from somewhere else and put into writing. Somehow, I no longer have classes and though there should be a huge chunk of free time in my schedule, there is not. I would total up the time I spend on fantasy football mock drafts, but I’m afraid it would tell me something about myself I’d rather not know.

OK team, so what techniques do you use to try to get out of a rut and start writing again? You may also feel free to compliment me to trick me into writing more regularly again.

* – I really only feel like the last three movies were crap. The first is classic cinema on every level.