I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling lately. It’s relevant to everyone. As human beings we crave stories, and our brains are naturally wired to consume information in this format.
With this top of mind, I’ve been reflecting on my family’s last weekend. On paper, it wasn’t anything overly extraordinary: a cold weekend in March, Friday dinner out, Lego building, a hockey game, and an afternoon at the bar. But a double click into each event tells a short story of actually an extraordinary (at least to me) memory or lesson for my kids.
-Steven Michalovich, Regular Contributor
As a child of the 90s, The Olive Garden was the pinnacle of fine dining destinations. If you grew up in Columbus like me, you might remember when the now closed location opened on State Route 161 a.k.a. "Restaurant Row". For me and my family, birthdays and special occasions were celebrated there, as it was one of our favorites.
We haven’t eaten there in years, but my wife received a generous gift card from a client. Given this is a nationwide chain, The Olive Garden isn’t the typical institution highlighted on CBUS Dads, but really the location isn’t what makes this story significant.
We planned to use the gift card on this free Friday night. My wife was hung up at a separate client appointment, so me and my three little ones went to the Polaris location separately to meet her afterward. Upon arrival, we were given a 25-minute wait, so with the draw of conference tournament college basketball on the TV, we saddled up at the nearby bar to kill some time. I did my best to enforce proper restaurant etiquette with my kids, as a few fellow bar patrons enjoyed their pasta dishes.
Eventually the bartender greeted us, and I gave the green light for the kids to order a drink: two Shirley Temples and a chocolate milk. He hooked them up too: maraschino cherries, extra chocolate syrup, BIG cups.
Our table was ready shortly after, and when I went to settle the bill with the bartender, he told me it was on the house. I tried to insist, knowing that while not as involved as your typical cocktail, there is still substantial effort to concoct the kids’ beverages of choice.
I explained how nice of a gesture this was to my kids, as they couldn’t understand why we didn’t have to pay. Later on in our visit, I handed my son a $20 bill to take back up to the bartender. Certainly the $20 didn’t make or break his night, but on our way out, the bartender told my son he was a gentleman. As a former server myself, I want my kids to know how important it is to show appreciation for those in service roles.
And if you’re wondering: the salad and breadsticks still held up and were as delicious as I remember. The kids especially loved the chocolate mints as the capstone to the meal.
-Steven Michalovich, Regular Contributor
First Lego Competition
Westerville City Schools has been hosting a district-wide Lego competition for the last 17 years. This was the first year my son, a kindergartener, was eligible. He definitely doesn’t take after his Lego-inept dad, as he loves to build.
Him and I entered the building with a tub of every Lego we own and an open mind of what this event was going to be like. As a first step, our tub was inspected by the volunteering high school lacrosse team to ensure we had no instructions on hand, pre-packaged sets or pre-built blocks. We checked in and found his four feet by four feet spot amongst the other kindergarteners on the freshly cleaned gym floor.
Shortly after, he and 70-80 other participants were given a full hour to build whatever they wanted. He was confident, as he told me he was planning to construct a “space station”. I found my spot to support him in the nearby bleachers with a book and my computer.
I’m proud that he didn’t rush through his build, using 50 of the allotted 60 minutes. The judging followed, as my wife and daughters met us then for the awards ceremony. Two students from each grade would receive individual awards: best build and most creative. I don’t know how the judges did it, because every submission was awesome. Of course, this event enlisted true experts to lead the judging, as members of OhioLUG assessed the creations (I didn’t know this group existed until now).
He didn’t end up winning an award. And that wasn’t the point. We kept stressing to him to just try hard and have fun, which I think he did. He kept his head up and wasn’t disappointed, rather just more motivated to participate again next year. He tried something brand new and was creative in the process. Combined with a participation certificate, a treat from the concession stand and the memories, he won the day anyway.
-Steven Michalovich, Regular Contributor
A Ride She Will Never Forget
My kids have each been fortunate to visit Nationwide Arena for a Columbus Blue Jackets game. I even indoctrinated my youngest this preseason.
One thing that has always shadowed all of the on-ice action for them is the allure of riding the zamboni. They see kids enjoying their unique voyage across the rink and wish it was them.
An admission: I was on the power patrol for the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2006-07 season. It was a blast. I won’t completely reveal my sources, but by reaching out to past contacts, I was able to arrange having my daughter ride the pregame zamboni for the most recent home game. Of course I kept this a surprise from her.
We entered the arena earlier than usual, which she only mildly questioned. We had a prearranged meeting with the current power patrol regime, and at this point, she started to ask questions on what was actually going on. We were led into the bowels of the arena by a power patrol member who eventually spilled the beans on what was soon about to take place. She simultaneously was elated but also nervous when it set in that I was not joining her on the ride.
We got to watch pregame warmups from the zamboni tunnel and take a picture with Stinger. I was given the chance to reminisce with a few familiar faces from 15 years ago and was even reminded that I gave the legendary Braveheart freedom speech for my audition.
Then she was summoned to climb aboard for her ride. After a few instructions and some anxious dialogue with the driver, she was on her way to assist with smoothing the ice for gametime.
When her ride was over, she asked me questions on how this happened for her. I explained how I had to make contact with some people that worked for the team and that this wasn’t something we could just snap our fingers and make happen. At eight, she’s starting to understand the commitments and work her parents do to support her and her siblings. She’s even starting to show some appreciation for it too. Consequently, she gave me a big hug and thanked me for giving her this opportunity.
You don’t need me to sell you on all of the fun things for kids to do at Nationwide Arena, as throughout the rest of the night, we took pictures, visited the new Fan Zone and even watched a noncompetitive hockey game.
But the highlight for her was her novel ride upon the zamboni. The highlight for me was seeing how much she enjoyed it (and holding the WWE championship belt - it was also WWE night!).
-Steven Michalovich, Regular Contributor
Brewery Curling at Land Grant
After a dry, mild winter, I’ve been quietly saying recently I wouldn’t mind one more decent snowfall. Remarkably, despite a forecast that didn't predict as such, we woke up on Daylight Savings Time Sunday to a couple inches of beautiful snow.
This was timely, as we still had one winter-specific activity on our calendar before we officially enter spring: brewery curling at Land Grant.
The reservations were hard to come by, as we’ve had this booked for seemingly months. Each reservation comes with a heated outdoor igloo. Upon arrival, we were taken to ours and given a scorecard for our family’s game. After discussion, we determined the fairest teams would be boys (me and my son) versus girls (my wife and two daughters).
After acquainting ourselves with the rules, we stepped onto the ice for a quick warmup to get the feel for the game. It proved to be harder than any of us anticipated to expend the right amount of force to ensure the small keg slides across the ice and stops within the circle on the other end of the rink.
The girls started off fast with an early lead, as the boys couldn’t find the proper touch. My son was especially reckless with his initial tosses to say the least.
A break was requested after the fourth round (you play ten) for a possible snack. I obliged by picking up a pound of waffle fries from the Ray Ray's Hog Pit food truck on site.
We were soon back at it. My youngest daughter, who’s never seen a french fry she didn’t like, was shuffling back and forth from the igloo and the rink, shoveling fries into her mouth as we played.
The boys settled in and by the end of the game had taken a four-point lead to clinch the victory. My wife and oldest daughter - certainly the most competitive members of my family - were disappointed if not outright salty (and not from the fries) by the outcome.
This late in the season, you may have to wait until next winter for a round of brewery curling, but I highly recommend it. Land Grant with its outdoor beer garden is certainly a destination and one that is incredibly family friendly. We’ve taken our kids there several times, as there’s always activities, music, sports, or some combination available.
-Steven Michalovich, Regular Contributor
The Next Dadvocate Milestone: City of Columbus Changing Station Accessibility Grant
It all started in the brain of Matt Lofy, The Dadass himself, as he struggled to change his son’s diaper outside in the cold rain in October 2021. Shortly after that moment, a movement started.
In 2022, we partnered with great institutions like Pluie and North High Brewing to raise grassroots awareness in the city we love of the need for easier/better access to changing tables within area businesses. Despite leaving The Dadass overwhelmed, there was no more perfect time to start the dialogue and build advocacy for change for families in our region.
While legislation nationally is gaining momentum and making headway, we are thrilled that we have taken the next step in our #DadvocateForChange crusade, forging a partnership with the City of Columbus to reintroduce the Changing Station Accessibility Grant.
Late last year, we took the initiative to introduce ourselves to Columbus City Council. Coincidentally, Councilmembers Rob Dorans, Nick Bankston, Emmanuel Remy and Council President Shannon Hardin are all young dads too. Sparks flew immediately, and the excitement for reviving this important program took off.
Initially established in 2017, the Grant engaged the small business community to increase equal access to changing stations within the City. The Dadass Podcast recently had a fun conversation with the braintrust originally behind this initiative.
Here’s the details for this next carnation of the program:
Word got out fast, even before the application process was available to the public. The campaign and grant have since gotten additional exposure.
We are excited for the continued progress, discussion and awareness of this important need. More to come, but feel free to follow along and/or reach out to us on additional ways we can #DadvocateForChange.
-Steve Michalovich, Regular Contributor
I grew up in Westerville, Ohio. After a decade living it up in various urban Columbus neighborhoods, my wife and I decided to lay down roots in my hometown. Fast forward a few years to when I was fortunate enough to be appointed to the City of Westerville Park and Recreation Advisory Board in 2019.
If you’re not familiar with our little hamlet, Westerville prides itself on being a city within a park. Biases aside, you feel this mantra living in Westerville. Our parks, trails and pathways are treasured, keeping us connected and creating a recreational system that serves as the centerpiece of our community.
Don’t just take my word for it. The department is nationally recognized as one of only three municipalities to be a five-time recipient of the National Gold Medal Awards for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management. Additionally, they’ve been deemed compliant with 151 rigorous standards to be one of 191 out of 12,000 eligible communities to be accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Parks and Recreation Agencies since 2005.
My first monthly meeting serving the department was January 16, 2020. My excitement was high. I found a new outlet to be involved with my childhood hometown and the place I call home as a parent who regularly takes advantage of the 26 parks and 50 miles of paths within city limits. Our role as advisory board members as I saw it was to be a sounding board for decisions and initiatives led by the department and represent the community’s best interests to the best of our ability.
Of course, the whole world changed shortly after my onboarding, when the global pandemic shut everything down. My excitement was tempered by the sight of seeing our beloved public parks actually closed to the public, with no clarity of when that would cease. As someone who loves the outdoors, this sight never was easy to see.
In my 38 years, I don’t know that I’ve seen or will ever see a team more committed than the Parks and Recreation team for the City of Westerville. They have done everything they can over my three years on the advisory board to fulfill the City’s promise to provide world class parks and recreational amenities. It’s been so inspiring to peek behind the curtain and see all of the tireless work that goes into living up to these expectations year in and year out - especially with the enormous additional challenge of navigating their successes during this unprecedented time. In just my three years, this department has brought to life:
Fast forward to today, as I documented before, my family increasingly has more commitments on our calendar, resulting in me needing to be very deliberate about how I spend my time, including extracurriculars I can commit to. Because of this, I sadly did not seek reappointment to the Parks and Recreation Board following my three-year term.
My point in drafting this is to not seek any kind of praise for my very small commitment over these three years. Moreso, it is to show my appreciation and respect to this team and to highlight to all parents that Westerville has unique and varied parks, greenspaces and recreational amenities to enjoy with your family whenever you’re ready for a visit. If I can answer any questions or provide any recommendations, please let me know, and I’ll do my best to help or direct you to this amazing team.
-Steven Michalovich, regular contributor
This milestone was brought on gradually, and it completely blindsided me, but it changed my family’s operation indefinitely. It was about a year ago when I had the epiphany that this milestone was even occurring to us. But the tables have officially turned: my kids now dictate more of our calendar than we do.
For some context, my oldest daughter’s kindergarten year was cut short in spring 2020 by the pandemic, and her next school year was anything but ordinary. Things picked up in second grade, and so did her activities. Seemingly overnight, we found ourselves going from needing to find things to do between periodic virtual happenings to shuttling her to several dance classes a week, meeting with a reading tutor outside of the house twice a week, committing to a monthly Girl Scouts event, and signing her up for weekly first communion preparation meetings. Beyond that, refreshingly, playdates, school parties, PTA events, and socialization became the norm again.
Now in third grade, the last three months have been a whirlwind since the school year started with only increased commitments for her (i.e., 13 hours a week at the dance studio, cheerleading at football games and camps). This rapid change from no evening and weekend child obligations to now having something on the daily itinerary for my kids has changed the family dynamic quickly - and after a year of this new normal, I’m still getting a handle on it. My wife and I live and die by a shared Google Calendar, our kitchen whiteboard and precious, well-calculated 15-minute increments.
I have no room to bellyache. Several of our neighbors have multiple kids older than ours who are active in sports. I’ve concluded that youth can’t really play organized sports casually anymore. Today, committing to recreational sports mandates tryouts, several weekly practices and weekend-long commitments. I’m in awe of what these families can juggle for their children. They're mastery of this far exceeds my abilities at the moment.
Of course, our squad is only just getting started. My son is in kindergarten and is lacing it up this winter for a sixth different sport he’s trying. He’s already had several birthday parties with classmates this fall. And our youngest, who is only three, is following in her big sister’s footsteps with dance. We also recently hosted her first ever playdate with a classmate who lives in our neighborhood.
To be completely and utterly clear: none of this is a complaint. I feel truly blessed that my kids are invited to be social with their friends and peers, and that they are healthy enough to try various activities.
Yes, happy hours or relaxing weeknights are few and far between. But I’m keenly aware that these obligations build their character, challenge them in new ways, open up their perspectives, and are shaping who they are. We get the highest honor of supporting their growth through these activities from the sidelines. We also get the honor of chauffeuring them around town, making sure water bottles are filled, snacks are prepared, and uniforms are washed.
And someday we will miss all of this hustle. This won’t last forever, and we keep this in mind everyday. As stressful as it can be, I’m doing my best to cherish this time and these moments - and I wouldn’t have life right now any other way.
-Steven Michalovich, Regular Contributor
Rose Grady, FNP-C and Maddie Smith FNP-C, family nurse practitioners and toddler moms in Central Ohio who are behind Two NPs in a Pod (Instagram) joined The Dadass Podcast this week. They gave five ways men can take charge of their life right now. Listen to the episode or read their guest blog post below.
Stay Up To Date on Your Preventive Health Screenings
We recommend you see your primary care provider (PCP) at least annually to address health screenings you may be due for, goals you have for your health and any physical or mental health concerns you may have. At this appointment the following subjects may be discussed with you: blood sugar control, cholesterol, colorectal cancer screening, prostate cancer screening, at-home testicular screening, dental cleanings, eye exam, and lung cancer screening for current or former tobacco users.
Know Your Risk
Not everyone is at an equal risk for developing chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or more serious diagnoses, like an autoimmune disease or cancer. Interview your family members to gather as complete of a family medical history as possible. Knowing this information will provide you and your primary care provider the most complete information to make the best recommendations for the timing and frequency of your health screenings.
If You See/Feel Something, Say Something
This point is emphasized by our nursing backgrounds: Maddie in the ICU and Rose in inpatient oncology. Don't wait until a health concern becomes troublesome to your daily life to then seek medical care. Now, we don't want you rushing to your PCP's office for every cold symptom you experience, but if you notice something starting to impact you physically or mentally, don't hesitate to talk with your PCP. Most health conditions are far easier to treat in the early stages.
Prioritize Bettering Your Mental Health
Mental and physical health are tied together. When one starts to depreciate, the other follows suit. Although increased awareness has shed light on the importance of mental health as of recent, mental health isn't always as prioritized as physical health. Take charge of your mental health by fostering friendships, getting outside, and scheduling activities into your schedule that bring you joy, such as exercise, music or another form of art creation/appreciation.
And on that note...
Set Boundaries, and Keep Them
This can be harder to do as a younger person starting off in a career or relationship, but setting professional and personal boundaries to protect both your physical and mental health is crucial. If an opportunity presents itself that may compromise your health in some way, say no. Your peace is incredibly valuable. A "no" that may seem like you're letting others down in the present could very well be a "yes" to better physical and/or mental health in the long run.
I still remember the day. I was in a new job and had just moved into my new apartment. My mom was in town helping me move. As I drove home, she called to tell me my brother had died.
Just a few days earlier, I had called him just to say hi and woke him up. He wasn’t feeling well - he had a cold and was taking a nap. I told him that I would call him back in a few days. That was the last time I would ever talk to him.
That’s the day I changed my life. I cleaned up my eating, drank less alcohol and became a spin instructor shortly after. It was also the day I set a new rule for my life:
I WILL SEE A CARDIOLOGIST BEFORE MY 35TH BIRTHDAY.
Before that, I was healthy in my mid-20s, living my best life. I never had to see a doctor. Now I’m “middle-aged.” According to Men’s Health, 37 years old is the median age for men in America. My big middle-aged birthday is at the end of this month.
I’ve since gone through a gauntlet of tests with a cardiologist for a clean bill of health for the next five years. Most recently, I went through another round of tests with a urologist thanks in part to a little rough housing with our little guy. Let’s just say it was a real kick to the pride. But another clean bill of health. I also make sure I get annual physicals where I probably get a little too competitive to lower my resting heart rate and improve a bunch of healthy numbers.
Now that I’m married and a dad, my goal is functional fitness or “Dad strength.” The days of just heavy sets on the bench press and bicep curls are behind me - in part to tendonitis, but so that I focus on what matters most: the endurance and strength to wrestle, go on hikes, carry far too many grocery bags at once, and eventually coach soccer (pray for me). I’ve lined up specialists to help me stay on track, so I don’t have to wait to see someone when something goes wrong. They have my health records.
I see a chiropractor and massage therapist almost regularly. I never thought a torn pec and ruptured bicep at 20 would literally be crippling me now, but being a sherpa for a three-year-old will do that.
The point of all of this is we as men must talk about this, AND WE DON’T. Maybe we do one time a year at a physical or during Movember and you have an excuse to grow facial hair at work. We should talk about it more.
I still teach spin for an area gym. Since the pandemic, I’ve seen an increase of male riders. That is shocking because my earlier classes were predominately female riders. Maybe there’s a shift, but if we’re going to rise up as dads and husbands, WE NEED TO DO MORE.
I can’t call my brother to tell him about my life or check on him. Our son will sadly only know one of his two uncles. But what I can do, is ensure that I continue to take care of myself to be the healthiest man I can be. I owe it to my wife and son.
-Matt Lofy, The Dadass
CBUS Dads is a community of central Ohio area dads balancing an active lifestyle with being an involved parent. A Saturday for us may involve enjoying morning t-ball, lunch at a new local spot and an evening at a summer festival with our families. We may live downtown, in the suburbs or somewhere between, but our common thread is that we continue to experience the community we love - now as parents.