Happy Dad

Dragons Love Tacos – Happy Dad and Kids Book Review

Title: Dragons Love Tacos

Author: Adam Rubin

Illustrated by: Daniel Salmieri

Age Range: Littles (0+ See more about this below.)

HappyDad’s Review

So excited to read this book and few other new books we got recently. As much as I love the classic children’s books I grew up, with I love seeing a new generation of children’s book authors inspire imaginations and cultivate creativity with their writing and illustrations.

Dragons + Tacos = Love

For those HappyDads and HappyMoms our there that love using silly voices during story time, Dragons Love Tacos gives you the opportunity to try out your best scottish/spanish voice.

I had a blast and the HappyKids all seemed to love this one.

A Voice in Harmony with the Illustrations

Let’s exercise our imaginations for a minute.

Pretend we met up at some great new Mexican restaurant that just opened. We walk in and the decorations are spot on. The look and feel of the place is 100% authentic Mexican.

We can’t wait to open the menus and see what delectable concoctions await us.

Then it happens. Something feels off. We can’t quite put our fingers on it but something is out of balance. Then we realize what it is. They’re pumping rock music over the speaker system.

It feels out of place and the atmosphere is at war with itself. It’s not in harmony and atmosphere is everything.

Children’s books are the same way. The voice of the book should match the illustrations and vice versa.

You’ve probably picked up a book or two at the bookstore or a friend’s house and thumbed through it and maybe the voice of the book was whimsical but the illustrations seemed harsh or perhaps the voice was epic and the illustrations seemed childish.

Either way the voice and illustrations of a children’s book should be in harmony, just like the music of a restaurant should match it’s brand.

Thankfully, the author and illustrator of Dragons Love Tacos did a great job of matching each other and the book has a great harmony to it.

A New Favorite for All

I have a feeling this book will be in heavy rotation at our house for a while, as it spanned all age groups. That’s why I gave it the 0+ rating above.

I mean everyone knows I love children’s books, but if you can get my bigs to enjoy a story you succeeded as a children’s author and illustrator.

HappyDad Rating: FIVE Silly Faces

5 Silly Faces from HappyDad and Kids

HappyKids’ Review

James (5 year old boy)

They ate it. Ate it. Ummm. I love it. I want to read it. That’s it daddy. Giggles.

Ava (6 Year Old Girl)

It’s a cute story. It’s fun. It’s funny at the ending. I love my daddy’s voice when he reads this book.

Shaw (9 Year Old Boy)

It’s an awesome funny story because of what happens when dragons eat spicy food. I love the surprise at the end and I bet you, you will too. Don’t forget, taco parties are the best!

Bella (12 Year Old Girl)

Very cute. I like the pictures and uptown funk make a dragon wanna retire man.

Bring Dragons Love Tacos to Story Time and Support HappyDad

You can get Dragons Love Tacos on Amazon and support HappyDad in the process: Dragons Love Tacos *Awesome sombrero not included. 😉

Thanks so much for supporting us as we help dads (and moms) connect with their kids!

My Favorite Superhero

As boys growing up, and now as men, we’re fascinated with superheroes. We imagine ourselves as them. We play with action figures, not dolls, even though technically it’s the same thing. We read books about them. We watch cartoons about them.

We imagine ourselves with super powers coming to save the day.

It’s what we do.

Some of My Favorites

Growing up some of my favorite superheroes were G.I. Joes. I’m sure some of you will dispute the fact that G.I. Joes can be considered superheroes, but until you’ve dealt with Cobra Commander, you aren’t in a place to make that judgement in my opinion.

Batman Sleeps Where He Wants via Happy Dad and KidsBut, if you want my choice on my all time favorite universally recognized superhero, it’s hands down Batman. There are so many reasons Batman is the ultimate superhero. I can’t get into all of them here, but the main one is simple: he didn’t come from another planet or have some sort of genetic modifying accident.

He’s as regular a person as you can get, and for that he was and is my favorite. Side Note: The animated series is not only my favorite representation of him, its the best. Anyone that says different is crazy. 😉

(That’s my cute little Batman, proving that if you wear your pajamas, rain boots, and Batman robe to the Farmer’s Market you get make a sandbag your pillow. Plus, Batman sleeps where he wants.)

Why Superheroes

So why are we so enamored with superheroes? Why do we have this undeniable fascination with them?

I believe there is one simple and logical explanation, and it brings me to my favorite superhero of all:


As children, we see our Moms do amazing things that can only be explained by the fact that they have super powers.

Here is a short list of some of their super powers:

  • They can tell what you are doing even if they aren’t in the same room as you.
  • They know if you washed your hands or not, so don’t bother trying to trick them.
  • This rolls right into, they know if you are lying to them or not.
  • They have eyes in the back of their head. They really do.
  • If you actually paid them for all of the individual jobs they do for free their salaries would rival that of professional athletes.
  • They turn houses into homes.
  • They can make physical injuries feel better with a kiss.
  • And so much more.

The only way these things are explained is that moms are superheroes. No question about it.

Saving Our World

But the most important super power they posses, and the one that completely legitimizes their classification as superheroes is the fact that when our world is falling apart and it feels like the end is near, we all pick up the phone and call them.

Why? Because we know that they will save us.

We don’t need Superman, The Avengers or even Batman, because we know the one real superhero that will save us is mom.

My First Favorite Superhero is my Mom by Happy Dad and Kids

My First Favorite Superhero

My own personal superheroes are my mom and my wife. These two women have probably shaped my life more than any other people on the planet.

My mom, turned a cute chubby little boy into the HappyDad I am today. That’s a super power you can’t deny.

She changed my diapers, taught me to clean up after myself, be kind to others, give, love, laugh, and organize. She took me fishing, taught me to cook, and didn’t freak out when I cut my own hair. You know the important things.

She is my first favorite superhero. (That’s my first favorite superhero at Gooseberry Falls on the North Shore of Lake Superior with the Happy Kids.)

My New Favorite Superhero is my Wife by Happy Dad and Kids

My New Favorite Superhero

The next superhero in my life with super powers unmatched by any other is my wife.

In addition to dealing with me, which takes super powers of unbelievable proportions, she wields her super powers on our four amazing kids. Somedays when they are acting more like her arch nemesis than our kids, I am in awe of her abilities.

Her joy, dedication and infectious laugh (especially when our oldest son gets her laughing) turns our house into a home. Beyond that, she’s turning our children into adults that I look forward to calling friends, right before my eyes.

She routinely saves us and just like every good superhero she has her Fortress of Solitude or Batcave. It’s called Mommy’s Night Out. So there you have it, there is no denying her superhero pedigree.

She is my new favorite superhero. (That’s my new favorite superhero, aka Beautiful, aka my wife and me. I know I married way up!)

Celebrate The Superheroes in Your Life

I know there are some that feel that we shouldn’t celebrate Mother’s Day because of the fact that some women aren’t able to take part. While my heart truly aches for these women, especially when I hear some women blessed with children saying they wish they didn’t have them, I don’t agree that banning the celebration of our own personal superheroes is the answer. Just because we can’t all celebrate, doesn’t mean no one should.

We should care for those who aren’t able to enjoy the joys of motherhood, we should do everything we can to help them experience those joys if we are able, we should comfort them and love them, but we should still celebrate those worthy of celebrating.

So this Mother’s Day, I will be celebrating the superheroes in my life, and I hope you’ll join with me. Because if my mom taught me anything, it’s that we need to find more things to celebrate in this life not less.

I love you Mom and I love you Beautiful.

Happy Mother’s Day,

Joe Jestus

P.S. – Give your mom a call today and tell her you love her.

P.P.S. – Treat the mother of your children like the superhero she is no matter if you think she deserves it or not and you might be surprised to find her acting more and more like a superhero everyday.

P.P.P.S – I have to give credit to my other new favorite superhero my mother-in-law, but I won’t be posting a picture or saying more than that or otherwise I won’t be her favorite son-in-law anymore. 😉

I SPY Bingo – Happy Dad and Kids Game Review

Game: I SPY Bingo

What does the box say?

Age Range: Little and Bigs (4 and up)

Players: 2 to 6

Short Description: A challenging new twist to an perennial favorite…Bingo is more fun the I SPY way!

Game Length: 10 – 15 minutes

Learning Curve: About one game.

HappyDad’s Review:

There are some games, like children’s books, that you can remember exactly where you were when you got them.

Secret Game Portal

Then, there are other games that seem to have showed up in your closet, and no matter how hard you try you can’t figure out where they came from.

It’s as if the game found you somehow. A little creepy I know, but I Spy Bingo is definitely one of those games for me.

Now I’m sure this entire mystery could be solved by asking my wife, but what’s the fun in that right? I’d rather just go on believing that somehow this game found its way into a dark corner of our game closet through a secret game portal and hid there until the Happy Kids found it one day.

So don’t ruin it for me 😉

I SPY Bingo has been gaining speed in our game rotation lately, and I’m not sure why exactly. But its being requested by the six, almost seven year old more and more.

Crazy Make’em Ups

It’s a simple game that can be played with more difficulty depending on if you’re one of those families that like to adjust game rules to make house rules or now. We are.

In its simplest form, you flip over a card and try to match items from the card to your board and just like bingo you try to get four matches in a row.

Depending on what age range of Happy Kids are playing we’ll keep the game simple or more difficult by limiting what on the card you can match on each turn.

We also like to see who gets second, third and so on as well, depending on the number of players. We tend to have this house rule for most games we play.

Quick Game – Easy Clean Up

The game can be played rather quickly, so if you have other things you need to get to but you still want to build a better relationship with your kids through play, then this game fits well.

Clean up is also pretty straightforward and equally as quick.

Not as Random as You Think

So there are two sides to each bingo board in the game and for the longest time we thought one side was in alphabetical order and the other was just random. That is until I got a card that started with Q-W-E-R across the top and realized that it wasn’t random.

I’m sure many of you guessed it by now, but the back side is in keyboard order. I doubt this will have any “educational” effect on the HappyKids, but I’m also suspicious all the “educational” things Nick Jr says my kids will learn from their cartoons at the beginning of every episode.

So if you want, you could probably say your kids will learn “computer spatial orientation” or some other fancy sounding thing from playing this game if you’d like. I won’t tell.

HappyDad Rating: 4 Silly Faces

4 Silly Faces Rating on Happy Dad and Kids

HappyKid’s Review:

James (5 Year Old Boy):

Mom: Do you like the I SPY Bingo game?

Him: Uh, huh.

Me: What else?

Him: That’s it.

Ava (6 Year Old Girl):

It is a fun game. It’s kinda hard, but it’s fun.

Shaw (9 Year Old Boy):

That you can have fun playing with family and friends and that it helps you make your eyes better at seeing.

Bella (12 Year Old Girl):

Very fun. I actually really enjoy playing it with my family! Even though it’s for younger kids, I still like it!

Get I SPY Bingo for your family and support HappyDad

You can get I SPY Bingo on Amazon and support HappyDad in the process: I SPY Bingo on Amazon

Thanks so much for supporting us as we help dads (and moms) connect with their kids!

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel – Happy Dad and Kids Book Review

Title: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Author: Virginia Lee Burton

Illustrated by: Virginia Lee Burton

Age Range: Littles (0-7)

HappyDad’s Review

Another classic children’s book this week. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel has become known as Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne at our house. In fact, until I looked at the cover to write this review, that’s what I thought it was called.

Spend a Day in Poppervile

Recently I was able to visit the Oklahoma City Museum of Art with HappyMom and take in a few of their amazing exhibits including one about some our our times greatest fakes and forgers.

I was blown away to see the talent of some of these men who never made a name for themselves on their own but could reproduce some of the world’s most amazing paintings.

As we walked through the museum and made our way past the fakes and forgers exhibit to the other exhibits, I couldn’t help but think that some of the men who only made a living forging other people’s works were far better artists than some of those who were in the museum on their own merit.

It further cemented my belief that art is solely dependent on a person’s own taste, and what one person loves another hates. I believe the same thing holds true for illustrations in children’s books.

I love the nostalgic and simple illustrations in Mike Mulligan. I believe good art and good children’s illustrations give you a longing to be in them. They make you want to visit them and spend a day strolling through the world’s they create. The illustrations in Mike Mulligan do that for me.

Full of Character and Characters

From the townspeople and the little boy to Mike and Mary Anne, the book is filled with characters you want to meet and people you can relate to.

But more importantly for me, the book drives home the importance of character qualities I want my Happy Kids to strive for, namely determination.

Mike and Mary Anne, never give up. They don’t quit despite the odds being stacked against them and the world turning its back on them. They keep going and in the end it pays off.

In addition to determination, your kids will learn about responsibility, care for others and thinking outside the box, or the cellar in this case.

When It Counts The Most

If you’ve read any of our other reviews about some of the books I grew up with as a Happy Kid myself, you know how much I believe these books shaped me and continue to shape all those who read them. Mike Mulligan is no different.

Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne seemed to always work harder and faster when people were watching them. Not that they did their work for show, but that they seemed to rise to the occasion when the pressure was on.

This drive to perform when it counts the most has long been a trait of mine, and only reading this book again to my own Happy Kids did I notice it. It’s fun being taken back through our own lives as we share the joys of our childhood with our own children, and to me its half the magic of story time.

A Little Determination Goes a Long Way

So pick up a copy of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and teach your kids that sometimes a little determination can be the difference between being forgotten and leaving a legacy.

HappyDad Rating: FIVE Silly Faces

5 Silly Faces from HappyDad and Kids

HappyKids’ Review

James (5 year old boy)

It’s good. It’s an awesome book. It’s a good book and it’s crazy. That’s it! That’s the end daddy.

Ava (6 Year Old Girl)

It’s crazy! It’s kind of funny. It’s a nice book and that’s it. The end.

Shaw (9 Year Old Boy)

Good book, although it’s not true. But it’s fun to hear how they did it in one day.

Bella (12 Year Old Girl)

Very cute and classic book, I remember my mom and dad read it to my brother a lot. Best for little kids.

Bring Mike Mulligan & Mary Anne to Story Time and Support HappyDad

You can get this book now at Amazon here: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and support HappyDad in the process. Thanks you!

Dad. You’re Important.

We come in all shapes and sizes.

Some of us came into the position of fatherhood at the mercy of well thought out plans, while others have come into it with no planning at all. Still others of us arrived both ways. (That’s me. Two planned and two came as a surprise to us.) But no matter how we showed up, we’re here.

We do well. We do poorly. We inspire. We undermine. We hope. We fight. We pray. We fail. We love.

Who Am I?

Our children’s identities are seeded in who WE are, it’s just the way it is. It also comes from what we teach them through our words, but even more so, our actions.

Our children believe they have value because they have our time, our heart and our love, and if they don’t have these things, they’ll eventually believe they have no value.

The Cancer of Relationships

If we are too busy to color with our daughters now, when will we find the time to help them overcome the heartache of another broken relationship with a man who only saw them as a tool to his own pleasure later?

If we are too busy to play catch with our sons now, when will we find the time to help them recover from an addiction that promised to drown their lack of self-worth later?

Busyness is the cancer of relationships, and true relationship with our children is the very foundation of their identity.

It is through relationship with us that they discover what we value and why. It is how they begin to create the framework for how they see the world, others and themselves.

Hold My Hand

Fatherhood isn’t about doing everything right. If it was, we would all be doomed to failure before we even started.

Fatherhood is about freeing up the time needed in order to cultivate relationships with our children so that we can walk through the wrongs and rights of this world hand in hand.

It is this connection, this turning of our hearts as fathers to our children, that offers them the freedom and security to grow into and explore their individual uniqueness. Because they are able to rest securely in our love, our children are able to risk, to dream, to discover things hidden deep inside them and nowhere else.

Value Beyond Compare

The rarity and irreplaceable value of these things cannot be overstated. They are priceless.

They go from living a life desperately trying to find their value, to living a life of contentment out of their intrinsic value that has been revealed to them by their fathers.

When our children see us put the world on pause in order to connect with them through their own unique passions and abilities they begin to believe that they have value.

When a father stops his world to reach into his child’s world, that child begins to believe that anything and everything is possible.

Creating Room for Adventure

Lets Go Adventuring with Happy Dad and KidsEveryday you’ll have to fight to create room for your children. You’ll have to work as tirelessly to create a space for you and them to explore and discover as you do for your job, your hobbies and your spouse.

But as you create this space and these opportunities for you and them, you are calling them to an adventure like no other, and you’ll begin to discover the adventures of your youth, your dreams, and your hopes that you have long forgotten.

Children live in an economy of imagination and deal in the currency of curiosity. It is our duty as fathers to foster that imagination and curiosity through our calls to adventure.

This is the essence of play.

Writing the Future

The greatest payoff for all of this is that we aren’t just giving our children a foundation for today, we are giving them a future even better than our own. We are helping them to create a world in which they and our grandchildren will thrive.

We are truly and literally writing the future.

This is why your children need you to be present. This is why they need to know they have your time, your heart and your love.

This, Dad. Is why you are important.

Dad. You're Important. Share Image by Happy Dad and Kids

To my own Dad. Who was, is and will always be important to me.

Joe Jestus – Founder of HappyDad.org

Know a dad that needs to be reminded he’s important?

Use the sharing buttons below to let him know!

Dutch Blitz – Happy Dad and Kids Game Review

Game: Dutch Blitz

What does the box say?

Age Range: Bigs (8 and up)

Short Description: Developed in Pennsylvania Dutch country, Dutch Blitz is a card game that’s exciting to play and easy to learn.

Game Length: 30-45 minutes

Learning Curve: One to two hands.

HappyDad’s Review:

Dutch Blitz is a new family favorite for us and the best way I can describe it is as a mixture of Spit (Not sure if this is just a family game we played growing up or if any of you know it too.) and Skip-Bo.

It’s incredibly fast paced and we find ourselves standing up more often than not while playing it.


The object of the game is to get through your pile of ten cards before anyone else does and when you do, you yell, “Blitz!” to the utter disappointment of all the other players.

As you can imagine, if your family is as competitive as I’ve heard ours can be, it can get pretty heated.

Luck of the Draw

Sometimes you get dealt a band pile with high cards and you have to wait patiently while playing from your hand until you can start to play off your pile. So there isn’t a ton of strategy involved, but you do have to keep your eyes open if you want to come out on top.

How the Game is Played

Dutch Blitz Game Review by Happy Dad and KidsEveryone has a set of cards that all carry the same icon on the back. This is how you count your points at the end. After shuffling your deck you make a pile of ten cards and then you lay down three cards face up next to it. (See the picture to the right.)

Technically, you can play on these other piles, but in our house we don’t. As mentioned, the object of the game is to get rid of your pile and the way you do that is by playing the cards on a pile in the middle (For instance, the yellow three in the picture above could be played on the yellow two.) or if you play one of the three cards next to your pile you can move the top card from your pile to replace it.

Your hand consists of the rest of the cards in your deck and you flip them over three at a time like in solitaire. If you can play a card in the playing area from your hand, you do it, with the idea of helping yourself play from your pile.


At the end of the game you get 1 point for every card in the playing area and -2 points for every card in your pile still. So you could still score positively if you played a lot of cards even if you have some left in your pile. But obviously the best way is to get rid of the cards in your pile.


We play the first person to 75 points is the winner and even if you get behind early on you can catch up with a few good hands. I’ve seen people come from way behind to win.

Kids Just Want to Have Fun

As mentioned above, because of the fast pace of the game its better for bigger kids, but our kids have fun being on teams and playing against us. The extra eyes help them keep up with us and even out play us sometimes.

Options and Complete Craziness

Because we have a big family and we love playing games with our friends, we bought the Expansion Pack which allows the game to be played with up to 8 people at a time. Keep in mind that the more people you add, the crazier the game play becomes, because everyone is playing at the same time. So proceed with caution, but if you’re like us you’ll love it.

HappyDad Rating: 4 Silly Faces

4 Silly Faces Rating on Happy Dad and Kids

I’m rating this 4 Silly Faces because it isn’t a complete family game as the littles aren’t able to play as much as we’d like and also because it can take a really long time sometimes for someone to win. But that said, it’s a great game that the kids request to play again and again.

HappyKid’s Review:

James (5 Year Old Boy):

It’s really fast. (Mom: Is that it? James: No.) Plaaaaayyyy. And that’s it.

Ava (6 Year Old Girl):

It’s really, really fast. It’s hard sometimes. It’s better with more people. It’s better when you are on a team. Oh and it’s really, really, really, really fast.

Shaw (9 Year Old Boy):

It’s a really fun and fast game.

Bella (12 Year Old Girl):

Fast when you get into it and very, very fun! I like playing it when there are more people because it gets crazy. Probably one of my favorite games.

Get Dutch Blitz for your family and support HappyDad

You can get Dutch Blitz on Amazon and support HappyDad in the process: Dutch Blitz on AmazonDutch Blitz Expansion Pack on Amazon

Thanks so much for supporting us as we help dads (and moms) connect with their kids!

Ferdinand – Happy Dad and Kids Book Review

Title: Ferdinand

Author: Munro Leaf

Illustrated by: Robert Lawson

Age Range: Littles (0-7)

HappyDad’s Review

It wasn’t more than a month ago when the HappyMom and I were out on a date discussing the great mysteries of life and we stumbled upon the truth that… I am Ferdinand.


With those simple words, “You’re Ferdinand.” My wife pulled the curtain back on a lifetime of hidden identity. If you read our review of “I am a Bunny” and how I said that I believe children’s books have a larger impact on our lives than we know, you already know what I’m saying here.

But it seems that as I visit these books again and again with my own children I am discovering just how true that is.

Stop to Smell the Roses

Happy Dad and Kids Quote Stop and Smell the RosesYou see, Ferdinand isn’t like the other bulls. Instead of running and playing and butting heads, he would rather just sit under his favorite tree and smell the flowers.

“That’s just like you,” my wife told me, and she’s right. “Plus you’re always wearing those red shoes now and that red hoodie, just like the red book cover. You’re Ferdinand.”

Our cover is a little more orange than red now, but it’s because our copy is a bit worn. The cover is red as you can see below, and the similarities don’t end there.

I’m pretty sure the cover of a book I read as a kid isn’t directing my clothing purchases, but I do think the lessons it contains did have an effect on me then and now.

What’s Important

Like Ferdinand, I’ve always felt a little different than the typical bull (guy), but the more HappyDads I meet, the more I don’t think that its that I or they that are different than the typical guy. But rather, we’re ALL different than the stereotypical guy.

Like Ferdinand, we have things that we think are more important than what our culture thinks guys should be interested in and that’s honestly why I created HappyDad in the first place.

Connecting Through Play

I believe those things that we as HappyDads think are important are important for a reason.

We’ve been given this natural curiosity to explore and discover certain things that tickle our fancies so to speak, and it’s so we can lead our children on adventures that involve those things.

For me, it’s helping dads connect with their kids through play and adventure so that they can build better relationships.

For some other HappyDads its filmmaking, business, marketing, story telling, traveling, cooking, building, and more.

We’ve settled far too quickly for a mundane existence in an effort to provide our families with a false security, when we should have been leading them on an adventure that would cultivate curiosity, create courage and show them that there is more to life than what we’ve been led to believe.

Play to me, is following that call to adventure.

It’s sitting beneath our favorite tree like Ferdinand and smelling the flowers when everyone else is running around under the spell of busyness and missing the truly important things in life.

Find Your Own Favorite Tree

So pick up a copy of Ferdinand, teach your kids that there is more to life than following the crowd, and start seeking out what it means to find your own favorite tree and smell the flowers.

I dare you.

HappyDad Rating: 5 Silly Faces

5 Silly Faces from HappyDad and Kids

HappyKids’ Review

James (5 year old boy)

Oh my turn. Hoo ahh! It’s a bull. Uh, huh a bull in a story. Sit on a bee. Got up and that’s it.

Invincible. That’s it, uh huh. It’s a bumble bee. That’s it. Nothing.

Ava (6 Year Old Girl)

It reminds me of flowers, roses, and flowers that smell good. It’s a cute story for kids. It’s funny at the end. And that’s it.

Shaw (9 Year Old Boy)

It’s a fun book, that’s it. Just kidding. It’s funny what happens to him and it made me laugh.

Bella (12 Year Old Girl)

It’s very cute and funny, but it’s best for little kids.

Bring Ferdinand to Story Time and Support HappyDad

You can get this book now at Amazon here: Ferdinand and support HappyDad in the process. Thanks you!

3 things I Wish I Knew as a New Dad – Joe Jestus

So if this is your first “3 Things I Wish” post, and for most of you reading this it will be, since it’s the first one ever written for HappyDad, here’s the game plan.

HappyDad Jim Valvano QuoteEvery month I’ll be asking someone to write a version of this same article and tell the rest of us HappyDads (and HappyMoms) what three things they wish they new as a new dad. Each month we’ll get to hear from someone new and hopefully over time we’ll all learn some really cool things and become better HappyDads in the process.

So to kick it off I thought I should take the challenge, especially since I’m going to be asking other HappyDads to do it.

So here goes, the inaugural “3 Things I Wish I Knew as a New Dad by Joe Jestus”

Dad Stats

Name: Joe Jestus

AKA: Dad, Daddy, HappyDad, El Hefe – I think my wife calls me this jokingly, but I’ll take it 😉

Experience: 13 years

Roster: 2 Boys and 2 Girls

Favorite Dad Quote: “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.” – Jim Valvano

My Three Things

HappyDad and Bella

#1 Your kids are just like you.

Mind blown. I know, not really, but stick with me here.

I know how it works, the whole having a baby thing. But I didn’t realize how much I, me, dad would show up in those cute little bundles of joy as they grew into children.

It’s SCARY and from what my dad tells me they are just like their grandparents too. So look out.

Nature vs Nurture

I think this is true because of two key things. We’ve all heard the nature vs nurture debate and the facts as far I as can tell from personal dad experience is that it isn’t an “either or” but a “both and” world.

Your kids are just like you because they are a part of you and they are just like you because you are modeling you for them each and every day wether you realize it or not.

So straighten up and fly right. I mean it.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

You’ll at least save them from the nurture part but don’t get discouraged too much because of the fact they still act like you due to the nature part. Keep in mind it goes both ways: good and bad.

They’ll be exactly like you in regard to some of your good qualities and it’ll make you smile until they kick into the bad ones and you get frustrated in your efforts to save them from the same lessons you had to learn (see #2 below).

But as much as they are just like you, this “thing” has another side to it and thats the fact that:

Your kids aren’t anything like you.

I know, I know, you probably think I’m one of those guys who can’t see a plot twist in a movie coming a mile away because of my less than mind blowing statements here in #1, but it’s true once again.

It Takes Two

There is another person in the mix when it comes to your kids, and they are just like your spouse sometimes, just like they can be like you. In addition to that, the mix creates some unique traits as well, so you can both stare in amazement as you wonder if this kid belongs to either of you.

But as much as I wish I knew these things to the full extent I understand them now, its pretty fun and amazing if you don’t try wearing yourself out in an effort to control them. (Once again, see #2 below.)

Enjoy the Show

So enjoy seeing you in them, enjoy seeing your spouse in them and enjoy seeing the unique mixture that the two of you created at times as well. Celebrate it!

You can even have fun seeing how they frustrate your spouse when they are acting like them and how they frustrate you when they are acting like you and how they frustrate you both when they aren’t acting like either of you.

So just remember, no matter what: They are going to be just like you and they are going to be nothing like you.

You’ve been warned.

HappyDad and Shaw#2 Your kids are actual human beings.

I’m not redeeming myself here any with this one I know. But here’s the key.

Your kids are more important than what you think others think of you.

They are kids, but that doesn’t make them any less human. I think as parents we can forget that. In our efforts to rule our universes and portray our parent intelligence through the showcasing of our perfect little offspring we treat them as less than human.

That’s crap. Don’t do it. This is totally easier said than done and I fail all the time at it.

What If You Talked to Your Friends Like That

I often wonder what our lives would be like if we talked to and treated our friends and co-workers like we talk to and treat our children. CRAZY. That’s what it would be.

“Bill, how many times do I have to tell you to fill out your expense report right away? I’m going to count to three and I better see you filling out that expense report. One… Two… Don’t make me count to three. You don’t want me to get to three.”

Yeah, not cool at all. Don’t think I’m advocating complete chaos in the home either. I’m not. I’m simply saying that we are raising adults not children. So we need to structure our words and actions accordingly.

Practicing for Responsibility

Depending on age there will be some things that need to be done or said that you probably would never do or say to a friend or co-worker. I’m guessing you aren’t setting their bed time, but if you manage people at work, you are setting their work hours, and really bed time is just practice for that.

This brings us to the bonus item of #2:

Your kids are best led and not controlled.

By leading your kids, you are teaching them that the only person that controls them is them. It’s simply called self-control. It’s not crazy, it’s character. If your kids will only do something because you’ve bullied and badgered them into doing it you’re accomplishing three terrible things:

1) They’ll think they can bully and badger others into doing things.

2) They’ll think other people can control them even though it was still them that made the choice to do what you wanted.

3) They’ll become one of those people mentioned here:

“There are two kinds of people who never amount to much: those who cannot do what they are told, and those who can do nothing else.” – Cyrus Curtis, 1850 – 1933

More to Learn

If you want to learn more about this you should pick up the book Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline: The 7 Basic Skills for Turning Conflict into Cooperation it goes into a lot more on this topic and it is one of the most challenging parenting books I’ve read because I had to rethink a lot of what I had believed about parents and kids.

This brings us to the final thing.

HappyDad and Ava#3 Your kids will teach you things better than anyone else.

I can’t even begin to tell you the things I have learned from being a father and I think this learning is in two key ways.

The first is that your kids will see the world in ways you never imagined. Remember the second part of #1 above?

A Whole New World

I’m amazed at how my kids see and interact with the world and even more so how they each uniquely interact with and see it. So much fun, and so cool to get to experience this as their dad.

My youngest daughter is especially perceptive to things that I never thought anyone her age would be able to recognize and relate to and it stokes the fires of excitement I have for fatherhood everyday.

She’s told us she wants to be a coffee maker, travel the world with her cousin and tell people about Jesus, but that they will start in our state because there are people here that need to know too. She’s 6 at the time of this writing.

I was thinking about candy and G.I. Joe’s when I was 6.

The other kids are just as unique and amazing (and frustrating as well) in their interactions with others.

Cute Little Lessons in Kid Form

The second way that my kids teach me is in their interaction with me as I interact with them as their dad. If I’m not being dense and I’m open to learning, in their response to me I see how I interact with my wife, my friends, my co-workers, my boss and as a follower of Jesus how I interact with and see God.

Our youngest son is hand picked.

Hand Picked and Home Grown

I met this inspiring family that had adopted a baby with what some would call special needs and he was very close to the age of a little girl they had. I asked if they were twins and I was told that in fact they weren’t, but that the girl was home grown and that the boy was hand picked.

I loved it, and I loved their hearts for both of those children. It’s people like that that inspire me to be a better HappyDad.

Gold Medal Whining

So back to our little hand picked boy who I say is an Olympic caliber whiner (He’s also a world class snuggler and kisser too, so don’t think I’m not thankful.) But this boy has taken whining to levels the rest of us didn’t even know existed, and at times if I’m being honest it can get super frustrating

Of course it’s usually when I’m trying to control instead of lead, so yeah, I’m not helping any, but in these moments of frustration I think, “Boy, don’t you understand that we picked you and loved you and made you our own and gave you everything that is ours and you are going to whine about this stupid little thing?”

And… before I could even finish thinking the thought, it smacked me right upside the head with, “Yep that’s how I treat God, who I say is my Father.”

If I truly believe He adopted me into His family and gave me His Son (everything) to make that happen, then why am I whining about the fact that I couldn’t find a parking spot up front at Target and now I have to walk. Bam!

That little boy who was frustrating me, suddenly just taught me that once again, he’s just like me and now I have to decide, am I going to stay frustrated or am I going to be love to him like my heavenly Papa was and is to me.

Which brings us to the bonus section of #3:

My dad always told me, “God gives us children so that we can grow up.”

Whether you believe in God or Jesus or not, the fact remains that children help us grow up. They help us see ourselves and challenge us to stop being adult sized toddlers and start growing up, but hopefully never old.

So in your efforts to instill the things you think your kids need to know in order to succeed in this life, don’t forget that you are just as much a student as they are.

HappyDad and JamesIn Summary

Your kids are an amazing gift if you choose to see them that way, or if you want, they can be a burden if you choose to see them that way, its up to you.

They’ll be days I choose both, and then I realize I’m not being the HappyDad they, my spouse or I need, and I apologize to them and try again.

They are just like you and nothing like you, they are actual human beings who are best led and not controlled and they will teach you amazing things about this world, people, yourself and God, if you let them.

So enjoy it. Celebrate it and them. Fall down, apologize, and get back up again. Enjoy them and every moment you have together, because no amount of money or fame will buy you back a day with your 4 year old when they are 30.

Enjoy the day!

Joe Jestus

Got questions or comments? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter.

HappyDad and 4 KidsJoe Jestus is a #PeopleHelper, but more importantly he’s the incredibly lucky husband of Julie and the completely unprepared #HappyDad of 4 unbelievably adorable and intelligent #HappyKids.

He loves spending every moment he can playing with his family by going on adventures, exercising their imaginations and unleashing their curiosity.

When he’s not doing that, he can’t think of anything more fun than helping dads (and moms) connect with their kids through play in order to build better relationships.

He can usually be found in the Tulsa, OK area throughout the cold months of the year and anywhere in MN in the warmer months.

You can find him on Twitter @HappyDadAndKids, Instagram @HappyDadAndKids or Facebook @HappyDadAndKids

Qwirkle – Happy Dad and Kids Game Review

Game: Qwirkle

What does the box say?

Age Range: Littles and Bigs (6 and up)

Short Description: While Qwirkle is as simple as matching colors and shapes, it also requires tactical maneuvers and well planned strategy.

Game Length: 20 – 30 minutes

Learning Curve: About one game.

HappyDad’s Review:

The day you have to start playing games for real against your kids is like a right of passage.

Qwirkle is one of those games that I have to play full out or suffer the consequence of being completely annihilated by my 9 year old. His intelligence style fits perfectly with this game and he can see things I miss if I’m not vigilant.

Just the Right Amount of Fun

Its a fun game that involves skill, strategy, matching and some luck of the draw.

It’s a great table game that doesn’t take all day, but also isn’t so short you’re left wondering what else you’re going to do for family game night once it’s over, besides spending an hour trying to pick another game everyone can agree on.

A Warning for Organization Addicts

You can keep the box for easy storage with the rest of your games or you can just store it in the bag it comes with to hold the tiles. That said, the organizational monster in me prefers the box so that it stores easily with our other games. So before you ditch the box, check with your spouse to make sure that same organizational monster doesn’t live inside them and then comes out to eat you. 😉

The Nitty Gritty

The idea of the game besides winning by scoring the most points is to get what they call a Qwirkle. A Qwirkle is six tiles in a row that are either all the same shape but six different colors or six tiles in a row that are all the same color but six different shapes.

A Qwirkle is worth six points plus a bonus six points and it can be a game changer.

As mentioned above, it takes about a game for most everyone to learn the game except for maybe your children on the lower end of the age range. For them I’d recommend playing on a team with an older sibling or parent for a while until they get it.

The Independent Toddler

This could be longer or shorter period of time depending on if your littles are like mine and declare their belief that they are fully capable of playing on their own even though you know they have no idea what they are doing.

In that case, remember you’re playing a game, it should be fun and you’re raising an adult not a child so let them learn from the consequences of their decision mercifully and teach them gently.

Qwirkle is definitely one of our family favorites and is a go to game for us if we can’t decide on another one.

HappyDad Rating: 5 Silly Faces

5 Silly Faces from HappyDad and Kids

HappyKid’s Review:

James (5 Year Old Boy):

Purple… red… green… (siblings giggling) Oh, which one. Blue. That’s it.

Ava (6 Year Old Girl):

(Thinking… thinking… thinking…) It’s a very fun game. It’s a super duper fun game and that it’s cool because its a little bit hard and it’s cool because it helps out with colors and shapes and it shows you more shapes. Like stars and it tells you how to pronounce more stuff, like shapes.

Shaw (9 Year Old Boy):

A fun game that helps you learn about shapes and then it also helps you to have fun.

Bella (12 Year Old Girl):

Not available for this review.

Get Qwirkle for your family and support HappyDad

You can get Qwirkle on Amazon and support HappyDad in the process: Qwirkle Board Game

Thanks so much for supporting us as we help dads (and moms) connect with their kids!

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I am a Bunny – Happy Dad and Kids Book Review

Title: I am a Bunny

Author: Ole Risom

Illustrated by: Richard Scarry

Age Range: Littles (0-7)

HappyDad’s Review

It’s amazing how a simple board book can be so powerful, but that’s why I love children’s books in the first place.

I am a Bunny is like a a time machine for me. It’s one those books that takes me back to when I was just a little HappyKid. So when I first found out I was going to be a HappyDad it was one of the first books we got for our first little HappyKid over 12 years ago.

So, yeah. I love this book. It’s simple, cute and the pictures make me want to be there with Bunny experiencing the seasons right along with him.

The Power of a Simple Children’s Book

In fact this book probably plays a huge part in the reason my favorite season is “the change of seasons”. I love the transition and anticipation of each season that’s coming, just like Bunny, but I also mourn the end of the previous season as well.

Never underestimate the power of a book in shaping your life or the life of your HappyKids even if you don’t see it at first,

The more I think through who I am, I have to admit, many of these books that were read to me or that I read as a little HappyKid, have shaped me in some way or another even when I didn’t realize it.

Fun to Read and Beautiful to Share

I am a Bunny is fun to read and beautiful to share with your HappyKids that fit into the Littles age range, but our Bigs like it too since they’ve grown up with it just as I did.

For those HappyDads and HappyMoms who like to do voices for the characters when you read like me, I am a Bunny gives you the opportunity to pull out your cutest little voice ever or if your HappyKids have a goofy sense of humor like mine you can use a deep rough voice that doesn’t fit at all but will make for a story time filled with laughs.

HappyDad Warning

Oh and if your HappyFamily knows the children’s song I Think I’m a Bunny your HappyKids will probably be reminded of it and start singing it after you read this book. Just a friendly warning from one HappyDad to another. (We like that song in our house, but I’ve heard some people don’t since it does have the M word “monster” and it can get repetitive. But it makes us laugh.)

HappyDad Rating: 5 Silly Faces

5 Silly Faces from HappyDad and Kids

HappyKids’ Review

James (5 year old boy)

Me like them. I love him. (Hugging his brother.) Hi bunny. Hi bunny. Hi-ya you died. (Brother and sister laughing) Shush peoples.

Ava (6 Year Old Girl)

I liked it because it had cool pictures, a very cute bunny and because it helps people learn about the four seasons. What happens in that season? What happens in that season? And because it shows you what you can do in each season. It gives you ideas on what you can do in each of the four seasons.

Shaw (9 Year Old Boy)

I like it because it talked about the four seasons and what he did during each season.

Bella (12 Year Old Girl)

Not available for this review.

Bring Bunny to Story Time and Support HappyDad

You can get this book now at Amazon here: I Am a Bunny (A Golden Sturdy Book)
and support HappyDad in the process. Thank you!

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