Category Archives: Chelmsford Patch

Dude, Where’s My Sarge? The Story of a Matchbox Car

Sarge is a character in Cars and Cars 2.

Sarge has a small role in both of those movies.

A role just big enough to warrant him being immortalized into matchbox car form.

As you may know, matchbox cars play a significant role in our house, and the Cars collection are the ring leaders of the entire lot.  The Cars matchbox cars always come out first, have their own special carrying case, and are always last to be put away.  They are the ones who get selected to join us when we go out to eat, or when the boys take a trip with Mommy to run errands.  Tow Mater, second only to Lighting McQueen in worldwide popularity (debatable), is often selected for such trips.

But there simply isn’t a single car that gets more attention than Sarge.  Not even close.

I have no idea why this is.  Right now my theory is that the little guy settled on Sarge after his big brother decided to hog Tow Mater, big brother then decided he wanted Sarge upon realizing his plan backfired to make little brother jealous about Mater, and from there the legend of Sarge just took on a life of its own.

“Sargey” as he is sometimes called, is the undisputed leader of all matchbox cars and toys alike.  They fight over him, they sometimes play together with him, and he basically goes everywhere the boys go.  I honestly can’t get over how this character with such a minor role in the movies, movies that have no shortage of dynamic and likeable main characters, became the center of attention in our house.

But here is the kicker – right now Sarge is missing.

Sarge has a knack for that actually.  I would say he goes missing at least once a week and often for days at a time.  I’ve found him in between the couch cushions, mixed in with the trains on the train table, at the bottom of random toy bins that contain no other matchbox cars, in the play kitchen oven, and most recently outside in the middle of the lawn.

Nothing short of ninja like reflexes saved Sarge from getting a haircut (and then some) the other day as I was mowing the lawn.  He came out of nowhere, and lucky for him, I stopped the mower just in time.  As quickly as the question, “Why is there a matchbox car in the middle of the lawn?” popped into my head, the realization of who it was answered that question just as quick.

“The 1-year-old” you might be guessing?

The 1-year-old.

He loves his Sargey something fierce.

Just today the he exclaimed “Sarge!” in an excited voice, and upon hearing this I went running into the family room to welcome the spunky little car back into family, but the poor boy was just reacting to a Sarge sticker on the side of one of his toy bins.

For almost a week now the most famous matchbox car in the world, in the eyes of my boys at least, has been missing.  This is the longest such stretch for Sarge.  We look for him daily and have turned the inside of our house and outside yard upside down twice over without any luck.  The only thing we can do is continue looking.

We love you Sarge, please come home soon so you can get lost again.

Brad the Dad’ can be reached at Follow him on Facebook or Twitter at keyword: readbradthedad

This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 7/28/12.


Posted by on July 30, 2012 in Brad the Dad, Chelmsford Patch


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Swim Training: An Adventure Story

His head came up from underwater, sheets of it pouring from his face and air rushing into his lungs.

The slightly unsure look in his eyes told you he still wasn’t comfortable with the task at hand. But at this point in time that didn’t matter, he was part of a team and that team’s leader was counting on him. Counting on him and watching intently from nearby.

The long time rookie’s past flashed before his eyes as he recalled the early years of being his leader’s lone sidekick, to the more recent years filled with mentoring the next one. He was a rookie no longer and now being counted upon to set an example for the kid who was. A kid who would soon be nipping at his heels, fighting for the number 2 spot.

Presently, training was entering its third week, and if day 1 was any indication, probably the last.

Standing on shaking legs, on top of a platform in the middle of a massive training pool, the first day of this challenge found him scared and nearly beaten by the mission before him. Why was it that nobody could tell him for certain what exactly was going on in the waters beneath him? Did it end? Does anything live down there? Why do we want to go under it again?

Wracked with fear, he signaled for a break.

He took comfort on the sidelines as he watched other trainees at the center practice the challenges set before them. Many passed with ease and went on to mastering repetition, while others battled through various levels of struggle and produced various ways of coping with those struggles.

But as a whole, everyone was still in the game. Everyone except for him.

He sprung from his place on the deck and got back into the water with renewed determination.

The initial shock was over and he was up for the challenge. Standing steady, back on the platform and scene of his earlier distress, he mastered the first task with ease – underwater survival. Head down and eyes closed, mouth shut and nose plugged, he was operating underwater and not intimidated at all.

Floating exercises and short diving drills were mixed into the equation over the coming weeks, and each one he took on with energy and excitement. He even realized at one point that he was actually having fun. The memory of his mentor telling him that he eventually would have fun suddenly crossed his mind, but he erased that thought just as quick. That’s one secret he would keep to himself as his older partner surely didn’t need the ego boost.

Towards the end of week 2 and beginning of week 3 the biggest challenge arrived.

Dive off the platform, head down and arms forward, driving with all of your strength towards the far wall. No support from the trainer, no trust coming from what you can see with your eyes, just blind faith in yourself and your training to guide your hands to the wall as fears of being sucked into a bottomless abyss, never again to see the light of day, challenged that faith.

He closed his eyes and dove. His hands touched the wall.

His head came up from underwater, sheets of it pouring from his face and air rushing into his lungs.

The slightly unsure look he had in his eyes was actually from excitement. Excitement one gets from pushing yourself outside your comfort zone and into one of fear. One of fear, excitement and most importantly pride. Maybe he doesn’t realize it yet, but some part of him was learning that when you stick something out, put in the work and come away with success, the result is pride.

Pride that will build his confidence in completing this training, contributing to the team that depends upon him, and everything beyond.

The veteran of many adventures patted him on the shoulder as he exited the pool and put his arm around him.

“You’re doing great at swim lessons buddy. Watching you makes me so happy and proud. Now someday you can teach your little brother how to swim. Did you have fun today?”

“Yes Daddy. Can we get a pool?”

Brad the Dad’ can be reached at Follow him on Facebook or Twitter at keyword: readbradthedad

This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 7/21/12.


Boys Are in a League of Their Own

Unless it belongs to my wife, you won’t find the color pink within a 300 foot radius of my house.

If you should so choose, a quick inspection of your immediate surroundings will usually turn up a random matchbox car. Pick up any pillow, move aside a magazine, look under the couch, check between the cushions, even take a peek in the kitchen sink and you will definitely find something with 4 wheels. Feeling brave? Just walk around barefoot and you will eventually step on one.

Need anything from the Cars or Cars 2 merchandise collection? Close your eyes and put out your hand and make a fist once you touch something. You’re welcome.

If my house screams anything, it’s boys.

It’s never more apparent than when a friend brings over their daughter or my niece comes by. The pink, the airy giggles, the delicateness; it’s all just so…foreign.

How so? Here is how hugs go in my house: one of the boys falls for my trick of “What’s in Daddy’s hands?” and ends up in a bear hug upon inspection of said hands. The other boy, seeing the commotion, immediately gets jealous and runs over to join in. A very nice moment follows for about 3 seconds where I have both boys in my arms and a big smile on my face.

That moment always ends very quickly.

First, one boy’s arm makes its way into the other boy’s vicinity. A slight push back and a whine alerts the intruding limb to the encroachment and signals a request to please return to the other side of Daddy. After complying for another 3 seconds, the arm returns and the resulting pushing and whining get louder. Next, legs enter the equation.

When all is said and done, I have a diapered bum sitting on my head, a foot in my neck, a knee in my stomach and an elbow in my side as both boys push and scream at each other as if they are fighting over the last morsel of food on earth.

Tender moments.

Snack time offers up another reminder about the culture of our family. Remember that scene in Jurassic Park when they feed the Velociraptors the cow? That’s essentially how snacking goes with my boys. Keep your distance, lower the food carefully into their lair, and then back away quickly and quietly.

It usually starts out slow. A request by one boy for Cheerios or a cereal bar seems innocent enough at first, but in a flash his impatience hits as Mommy or Daddy rummage through the snack cabinet or travel bag to find the correct item. As typical with everything, once the other boy gets wind of what is going on and the realization that he might get left out of anything sets in, the mayhem starts.

There are two approaches at this point. Give them the same snack or go with different snacks and hope to divide and conquer. Both have their pros and cons. The same snack leads to fighting over who has more and sometimes even the color of the other’s bowl, while different snacks lead to eyeballing of the other’s bounty, usually with intentions of theft. Since the results vary, I really can’t say which approach works the best, but tweak as you see fit and be sure to keep your hands away from moving parts.

The problem is that once they start snacking, the hunger seems to build like an avalanche. One snack doesn’t satisfy them for some reason. It’s like when sharks taste blood in the water and they just want more, more, more. It’s basically a snack frenzy. Cheerios beget Cheez-Its beget strawberries beget squeeze yogurts.


Pretty soon all I’m left with is messy faces, dirty hands and empty bowls as I make a mad dash for a wet paper towel to wipe them down. A garden hose works well if nearby.

Screaming is another thing. Screaming for fun that is.

Whether it’s in the car or just at home, screaming isn’t just for anger anymore. Truth be told, the screaming is usually started by the little guy, but encouraged and escalated by his older brother. Car screaming tends to be a back and forth, tit for tat kind of thing. A short scream by one is echoed with a short scream by the other. A long scream yields a matching long scream and around and around we go.

But at the house, where they aren’t strapped into car seats, screaming matches usually turn into wrestling matches (seems to be a trend here). The “concern” here is that the little guy is very nearly holding his own at this stage of the game. We don’t call him the “Freight Train” simply because it’s one of his favorite books, but rather because that’s him on top in the second picture below.

Part of me wonders what things would be like if a girl was in the mix. Would that 3 seconds of peace I get during a group hug turn into 10 seconds? Would snack time be less volatile? Would there be less screaming and more giggling? Would the color pink actually make an appearance in our house?

But as I dislodge the latest matchbox car from the bottom of my foot and pick a few Cheerios out of my hair, I truly know I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Brad the Dad’ can be reached at Follow him on Facebook or Twitter at keyword: readbradthedad

This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 7/14/12.


Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Brad the Dad, Chelmsford Patch


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The Fourth of July Then and Now

Noises I once loved as a kid have taken on a whole different meaning now that I am a father.

For example, our nation celebrated its independence this past week and for the most part many of us put an exclamation point on the day with sudden, loud noises.

Sudden, loud noises in the form of fireworks.

Growing up, fireworks were always somewhat taboo, but definitely exciting. Rumors of blowing off a finger or losing an eye perpetrated by parents were meant to deter us from them, but the reality is that such stories just made us like them more. Raise your hand if you yelled “Bang!” just after your buddy lit a fuse to try and scare the daylights out of him knowing we all heard about the boy who lost his finger? Stories meant to scare us, simply encouraged us.

Definition: boys.

The point is that I love fireworks. The sights, the sounds and the smell afterwards all contribute to a fantastic experience. But as I sat on my couch on the evening of July 4th this year, with the windows open and my boys sleeping soundly after a long, hot day in the sun, fireworks became my enemy.

I was officially “that guy.” Staring out the window, scowl on my face, trying to pinpoint which neighborhood kids were setting off fireworks in their backyard at 11pm. I started thinking to myself, “How come no adults are putting a stop to this? Are the adults even home? Wait a minute, maybe it’s the adults who are the ones actually lighting them off!”

“Uh oh, is that one of my boys crying?”

Thankfully no and thankfully I eventually got a firm grip on my attitude and let my displeasure go in the name of overreaction. Still, my (over)reaction wasn’t totally uncalled for. You guys know how hard it is just to get them to sleep, and anything that might jeopardize this great accomplishment immediately becomes public enemy number one. Add in the fact that they just had a long day of playing in the sun, and any reawakening would simply be a nightmare.

Then it happened. Exactly what I thought would happen the whole time. They both slept through the night like champs.

My oldest even mentioned the next day about how he could hear the fireworks while in his bed. For one who is definitely not a fan of fireworks at this age, and more specifically wants nothing to do with them at all, it was pretty cool that he heard them and still got himself to sleep without making a stir.

Growing up?

In the end everything turned out fine…that is except for realizing I may now have a crotchety old man living somewhere in my body.

But, there is one noise I never experienced growing up that I get to hear all the time now. A noise that makes all of the above worth it and more.

“I love you Daddy.”

Brad the Dad’ can be reached at Follow him on Facebook or Twitter at keyword: readbradthedad

This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 7/7/12.


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Oldest Son, All Growns Up

Whether you’re facing a big bear with claws and fangs, or just walking down a cold, rocky river with the water up to your waist for the first time as a 4-year-old, you still have to face fear.

Facing fear is a part of growing up.

I watched my oldest grow up recently when he breached the unknown and faced fear head on. He did this on the annual family camping trip, affectionately known as – The Camping Trip.

Or Campamania. Males only, non-negotiable.

I believe the count was up close to 50 this year. 50 cousins, uncles, nephews, fathers and sons made appearances over the course of the weekend as a long standing tradition marched on; going on 30+ years now. This is definitely one of my favorite weekends of the year and even more so now that my oldest son has been coming with me for the past 2 years.

He was half passenger half driver last year, everything so new and different, but this year he was all driver.

He ran and played with cousins that he only sees a handful of times per year like they were his best friends. He helped me set up our tent and unload the car. He ate food he never ate before. He played his first game of kickball. He slept through the relentless, morning sun that turned the temperature in our tent up to seemingly 100 degrees without batting an eye. He conquered the river on our annual River Walk, and on this walk he even climbed a rock pile all by himself. The significant part of that climb being that the pile that was probably close 300ft away from the group.

Our oldest has never been a “wanderer,” so for me this flash of independence in the name of conquering a rock pile was pretty special. For perspective, when I write this article in a few years after the experience of bringing the youngest one on The Camping Trip, I will probably be bragging about the moments in which he stayed close to the group, not away from it.

The next “growns up” (a line from Swingers in case you are not familiar) moment came shortly after The Camping Trip when we celebrated my birthday. As many of you know, once you hit your 30s birthdays it can be hit or miss. Either you’re in the “these are the best years of my life” mood or wallowing around in “where have my 20s gone?”-ville.

My mood options were open to start the day, but after a few early well wishes from loved ones and friends, I started leaning towards, “best years of my life.”

Then came in my oldest son.

Can we talk honestly for a moment and say that for the most part kids at this age (and definitely younger) are pretty selfish? “No, that’s my toy,” and, “I don’t want to eat this,” and “why do I have to do that?” are all examples of the little bubble these kids live in before they are introduced to things like homework, curfews and inevitably…taxes.

But when I got home on my birthday it was 100%, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.”

He wanted me to open my gifts practically before my keys were even on the hook and was nearly jumping out of his sneakers when I sat down to do so. He watched intently as I opened every card and every gift, especially those that were his own.

At this point, for me, his cards are the best part. He can write his name almost in a straight line, and he can do the same for his brother’s. His “art work” is targeted and specific, just like his dad, and he even has his favorite colors he uses. Lately, New Jersey Devils red has been making a strong showing to my enormous pleasure.

From gift opening to dinner to bedtime routine afterwards, I truly got the sense that he was into me first and foremost the whole time.

That is not only tear jerking, it’s growns up.

Brad the Dad’ can be reached at Follow him on Facebook or Twitter at keyword: readbradthedad

This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 6/30/12.


Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Brad the Dad, Chelmsford Patch


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A Story(land) of Firsts

I may have said this once or twice before, but I’m a huge development guy.

I tend to look forward to what’s next as opposed to wanting to freeze my kids as they are.

That is why I love firsts so much.

The first poop (yup), the first object grasped in their fist, the first pass of an object from hand to hand, the first laugh, the first step, the first word, the first “no” used in proper context, the first timeout, the first day of daycare, the first drawing made for daddy, the first writing of their name, the first soccer practice.

The first time he came on the family camping trip with me; a camping trip I have been going on since I was 3-years-old.

I can’t get over this stuff.

That is why just a few short weeks ago when we went to Story Land (an amusement park for kids), and these firsts came at me in such rapid succession, I nearly lost it. I’ve been on small rides with my 4-year-old the summer before, but Story Land had both small rides, big rides and (obviously) the stories to go along with all of them.


Anything with the 19-month-old. The ball pit was hilarious. If you haven’t picked up by now, the little guy is somewhat of a nut. He hasn’t met a wall he didn’t wanted to walk through. The ball pit though? Oh no. He was like me testing the pool water before that first Spring swim. Little by little though he made his way into the ball pit.

Mainly just so he could throw balls out of the pit, but that’s our boy.

The teacups were pretty amazing. The Mad Hatter, whose character will forever be tainted for me after watching Once Upon A Time this year, was the host of this ride and I would say it was the first “spinny” ride for both of the boys. The 4-year-old and I rode first after the little guy threw a fit and went off with Mommy, but sure enough as he watched us go around and around he threw an even bigger fit.

He was right in the mix the very next ride and even demanded, “Ahgen.” We complied, and after another spin around the Mad Hatter’s ride, the next fit was about wanting to stay on the ride.

Definition: toddler.

There was a pirate themed area next, and the boys loved playing hide and seek in the playground made of pirate ships – complete with planks, hulls, decks and even look-out towers. There were even water canons to help deal with the dangers of a pirate’s life. But, the first here was the real ship.

For the first time as a family we braved the “high seas” on a pirate ship in search of the infamous Blackbeard’s treasure. When we actually found him, the 4-year-old’s eyes lit up in terror for a few moments until we explained to him that it was all for fun (again), but in the end good times were had by all.

The next first was my favorite – my first roller coaster ride with my oldest boy. There was something weird about this that I can’t quite explain. Maybe it’s that roller coasters were always a very individual thing. Sure I may have glanced over from time to time at a buddy sitting next to me, but for the most part I was engrossed in the thrills of the ride all by myself. But this time, on the adorably named Polar Coaster, I was enjoying the ride through my son’s experience. Hard to explain, but it was definitely the coolest part of the day.

We enjoyed many other rides, attractions and firsts together as a family that day along with another couple and their child, and next year we plan to recruit more friends to join in the fun.

Until then, I’m cherishing those moments we had a few weeks ago and will hold off on the development thing for just a few more days.

Brad the Dad’ can be reached at Follow him on Facebook or Twitter at keyword: readbradthedad

This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 6/23/12.


Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Brad the Dad, Chelmsford Patch


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Dads, Hockey and Life

Recently my 4-year-old and I got the sports bug watching the New Jersey Devils make a deep run at the Stanley Cup.

Not only were the games fun to watch with him, but a few other things happened along the way as well.

He is now officially a full fledged fan of my favorite team.

The baby says “Go Dehvuls” upon request or when he sees any hockey on TV, but often just says it on his own for no reason.

My wife supported the team (once the Bruins were out), as did many students in her classroom and even some of their parents.

What happened here is that the infection of this team on these boys inspired me and even others around them. Others born and raised in Massachusetts who don’t have my Jersey blood were rooting for them.

But the Devils didn’t win.

They came within 2 wins of the Stanley Cup and got crushed 6-1 in their final game. And guess what? The boys didn’t care one bit.

The little guy learned a few new words and got to hang with his idol and older brother, so he was happy with the whole experience.

My 4-year-old, I thought, might be a different story. He knows most of the players’ names and even has favorites. He is emotionally invested in this team just as I am. But unlike the pity party I tend to throw for a few days after such a loss, he still wore his shirt the day after and still wanted me to wear mine when I got home from work.

He’s not mad at the team. He simply wants the ride to continue. For him right now, he doesn’t have the love/hate relationship with sports that many of us do, but rather just love. He isn’t mad at the refs or upset with an all-star player who underperformed. He doesn’t know about retirement questions for some players and free agency concerns for others. He doesn’t boo the Commissioner, and if I could be totally honest, the Stanley Cup itself isn’t even really on his radar.

So what is he? He’s in the club.

A club his daddy used to paint his face for in the late 90s.

A club championed by his late, great “Uncle” Basil. A family first, passionate club of crazy cousins and friends who have loved this team for as long as I can remember.

And now my sons are part of it.

This season turned out to be victorious after all.

‘Brad the Dad’ can be reached at Follow him on Facebook or Twitter at keyword: readbradthedad

This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch  on 6/16/12.


Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Brad the Dad, Chelmsford Patch


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