Father Figures: I Was His

“My mother married an abusive man who was in the military. He moved her out to Germany, where he was stationed. He was the biological father of my sister and me. After my sister was born, my mother decided to leave him to escape the abuse. He hasn’t been in our life since.

When she moved back to the states, she reconnected with her school sweetheart. They’d known each other since they were kids themselves. This man is my dad. He loved my sister and me the moment he saw us. He always treated us like his own.

He and my mom had my second sister together, and he raised us all with equal treatment. He was there to teach, praise, discipline, and love all of us. For the longest time, I didn’t realize we weren’t blood, but that didn’t matter because we’re more.

He and my mom eventually divorced and we moved to a different state. Dad moved to the same state to spend more time with us. He’d take us all out separately and spend quality time with each of us. Once we became adults, he moved back to California.

It actually wasn’t until I’d gotten older, and someone asked me about my “half sister,” that I’d ever thought of that before. I was offended because I’d always considered her and my dad blood. This raised subtle doubts in my mind that maybe since I wasn’t his blood, he didn’t consider me 100% his son. Maybe I wasn’t good enough to be this amazing man’s blood son, even though he never gave me any reason to doubt.

Then he got really sick with a blood disease. It got bad fast. At this point I’m an adult raising my own kids trying to live up to his example while struggling to make ends meet. He’s hospitalized the next state over and doesn’t have much time left. His disease had taken a toll on his mind. He’d stopped recognizing people, and it was difficult for him to be coherent.

I packed up my family to be with him right away without a second thought. I walked in his room expecting the worst, he wouldn’t recognize me or even be able to speak. But as soon as I entered, he shot up and said “my son!” He turned to the nurse attending him, tears in his eyes, and told her “that’s my son, my son is here!” And that’s when I knew: I was his. He was in so much pain, and he was overjoyed to spend his last moments on this earth with me.

I think of him every day. My heart is full knowing my dad loved me. Every day I try to make him proud and raise my children by his example. He taught me what it really means to be a dad.”

– Nate Castillo

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email fatherfigures@thedad.com

3 Things to Do With Your Kids This Weekend

(The Dad/Joel Willis Getty/Cavan/Paul Mansfield)

Good dads know how important it is to spend quality time with their kids and how fun it can be too. But it can be tough to keep coming up with new stuff to keep your kids entertained. If you’re dreading a weekend of kids complaining about being bored while you countdown the seconds until bedtime, we feel your pain. So each week we’re going to feature 3 simple ideas of things to do with your kids.

Visit an Animal Shelter

(The Dad/Joel Willis)

Kids love animals, so you can entertain your kids and teach them about a good cause, that’s a win/win! You’ll be able to visit the various sections of animals: dogs, cats and small animals (rabbits, hamsters, etc.) I know what you’re thinking, don’t worry, you don’t have to actually adopt. Shelters are cool with non-commitment and often have rooms where you can play with the cats, even without intention of adoption.

While shelters don’t accept volunteers under the age of 18, they’re always in the need for gently used towels, sheets and blankets (that don’t contain stuffing.) So you could put together a little care package of your used items before you go. And cat toys are always in demand – you could hit up a dollar store on the way and let the kids pick out a few.

American Ninja Style Obstacle Course

Put your kids to the physical test in a homemade obstacle course. This can be done indoors or out, but since it’s January we’ll opt for the home field advantage: it’s warm and dry. Use every piece of furniture you have at your disposal: couches, chairs, pillows, beds. Get creative in your space. Ask your kids to help create the course, you’ll be surprised what they come up with.

Here’s some inspiration! If the video below won’t play, click here)

Un-Bore a chore: The Grocery Store

When chores are mounting weekends can’t always be 100% fun time activities. So, bring the kids to the grocery store! I know, I know, hear me out. Tell your kids you’re going food shopping to get the food necessary to recreate their favorite restaurant dish at home. Let them each decide. Have them each make a mini-grocery list of the items they need. While you’re up and down the isles they can be searching for their own ingredients.

You can also challenge them to try new/weird foods from every section. Like, “who’s brave enough to try canned sardines?” Collect a handful of unique food items then make a platter out of them once you return home and see who will actually try them.

(Getty/Jacob Fergus)

Steve Carell Is Coming to Netflix In “Space Force” [WATCH]


Steve Carell is going back to an office. On television.

No, no “The Office,” unfortunately, but potentially an office-type situation, on a TV show, by the creator of “The Office.” So, close enough!

Thanks to Netflix, where the entire series is now available, appreciation for The Office, and its star, are as high as they’ve ever been. Over the past year, not only have there been a handful of mini-cast reunions, NBC announced plans for a reboot or a relaunch or a remake or a re-something of the series. But neither those reunions nor those new plans have featured any Steve Carell.

Perhaps he was paying attention to the fans who found him via Netflix, because he is making his return to the small screen via the streaming service.

The new show is called “Space Force” and will tackle the team of people responsible for bringing President Trump’s new sixth division of the armed forces – which he announced over the summer – into existence.

Not a lot is know about the show just yet. It will air on Netflix, Carell will star, and he co-created the show along with his old boss and creator of the American version of “The Office,” Greg Daniels.

Netflix announced the show with a teaser that announces the creative team behind the show, and indicates that the entire premise will be built around the absurdity of the space force’s existence. Which, I suspect, is enough to get fans everywhere on board.

Unfortunately, the closest we get to a launch date (get it?) is the teaser’s promise that “Space Force” is coming soon. To Netflix.

10-Yr-Old Piano Prodigy Stuns in Grand Prize Winning Performance [WATCH]


Every parent secretly hopes their kid is a prodigy. Ideally, they’d be a prodigy in a lucrative field, where their skill at throwing a ball will land them a major league contract, or their ability to code helps them create a tech startup that changes the world.

Sometimes, though, just beholding their pure talent is reward enough. Most of the time, just watching your kid use a fork correctly, or take off his own jacket, is awe-inspiring. But when they really have a gift? Your parental pride must burst.

Sometimes, the gift they display is so insane, it actually gives you chills.

That’s what’s happening to people who see Alexandra Dovgan play the piano. The 10-year-old Russian girl has been tickling the ivories since she was five, and she’s already proven herself a virtuoso, stunning crowds and winning competitions with her incredible agile and quick fingers. She plays the piano faster, and more flawlessly, than I’ve ever done anything.

She has been winning awards for years – her first came just two years after she started playing!

She had the opportunity to put her prodigious talent on display in her home country when Moscow hosted the 2nd International Grand Piano Competition for Young Pianists. Alexandra chose to play Mendelssohn’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25” and, well, I’ll let her fingers do the talking.

That three-minute clip is just a small snippet from Alexandra’s twenty-minute performance (watch the full concert) but it’s clear that the little girl has an enormous talent for the piano. Clear enough that she left the competition with the grand prize.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go tell my toddler to stop stomping his feet on the xylophone he got for Christmas.

Dad Creates “Potty Duck” to Teach Kids to Use a Toilet

(WSBT22 News)

A fair amount of parenting is spent trying to find easier ways to get your kids to do things. Easier ways to get your kids to go to be, easier ways to get your kids to eat dinner, easier ways to discipline your kids, etc. But convincing young children to do what you want them to do is not easy, no matter how many experts try to get you to follow their advice.

Sometimes you have to think outside the box and use your creativity to take matters into your own hands.

That’s what one dad did when he was trying to teach his daughter to use the potty, and now, twenty years later, he is introducing that solution to the rest of the parenting world in the hopes that it helps make one of the most harrowing parts of raising young kids a little easier to bear.

Fred Longeneck of South Bend, Indiana invented a fun toy to help kids learn about and want to use the toilet instead of a diaper. He calls it “Potty Duck” and he thought of the idea back when his daughter was two, and he was trying to coax her into using the potty.

“It started with my 2 -year-old daughter we were playing with a leaking bath toy and I enlarged the hole in the base and we pretended to make it pee,” Longenecker told WSBT in Indiana. “Two days later we are in the living room. she stands up and says I want to go like – and names the squirt toy. I’m like oh my, she learned.”

He worked with a pediatrician friend to create the Potty Duck, which comes with its own toy toilet so that kids can fill the duck with water and then squeeze the water out right into the duck’s tiny potty. And it’s catching on!

“At the beginning we wondered, are other children going to catch on like this? But it is proven. My pediatrician partner originally, the first year she was just using it with her patients but now we are hearing stories from families across the country,” Longenecker explained.

One of the keys to teaching little kids anything is making it a little fun, and it seems like Longenecker has done just that, turning the classic rubby duckie into a valuable teaching tool.

It’s available on Amazon here for $19.99.

Bud Light Adds Nutritional Info to Packaging. It’s Basically Zero.


Nobody drinks beer for its nutritional value. If they did, Dry January wouldn’t be trending. No, we drink beer because it tastes delicious and maybe gives us a little relief from a long day, or is a refreshing accompaniment to our buffalo wings. Of course, it’s not a terrible thing if it limits the damage to our dad bods. Bud Light is hoping to convince you that theirs does, by putting the numbers front and center.

But it’s a double-edged sword, and while no one thinks beer is the new kale, the brand may have inadvertently put a finer point on beer’s total lack of nutritional value with the latest addition to their packaging, but they have a plan. They want consumers to be aware of the lack of calories and carbohydrates, hoping it will make the brand stand-out in the increasingly competitive beer aisle.

Here by an absolute lack of popular demand – seriously, the last thing I need to know as I shotgun my fourth beer outside the stadium is how much protein I’m not getting, Bud Light has added a nutritional information chart to their cartons, letting drinkers know exactly what they are (rice, water, barley, hops) and aren’t getting (a lot of calories). They are the first beer in the U.S. to do so.

“Consumers deserve to know more about their beer,” said Andy Goeler, Bud Light’s vice president of marketing, in a statement. “On-pack transparency will benefit the entire beer category.”

To be fair, most of this information is already available on individual cans and bottles of Bud Light, but now people who buy cartons will know exactly what they’re getting when they pull the case of the shelf. What are they getting? A beer facing dwindling sales and stiff competition from craft breweries and is attempting to regain some momentum by emphasizing its lack of calories and carbohydrates.

A Bud Light gives drinkers zero grams of fat, 6 carbohydrates, .9 grams of protein, and 110 calories. If any of those numbers is either too high or too low, you can shuffle on down the aisle. Maybe there’s a CBD-infused beer you can snag.


MLB’s Cole Hamels Donates $9.75 Million Home to Kid’s Charity

(Getty/R. Yeatts / Realtor.com)

There aren’t a lot of role models left these days, as social media and a lack of privacy make it easier than ever for even our biggest heroes to be revealed as normal human beings, each with their own weaknesses. This doesn’t stop us from looking up to celebrities and pop stars and athletes.

Thankfully, every once in a while, one of them comes through and serves as a great example for kids and adults everywhere.

Major league pitcher Cole Hamels did just that, when the major leaguer was traded to the Texas Rangers. He and his wife Heidi had purchased a 32,000 square foot home in southwest Missouri, where Heidi is from, and had planned to make it their dream home. But when the former World Series MVP got sent to the Rangers, he and his wife moved to the Dallas area, so they decided to part with their 10 bedroom, $9.75 million, 100-acre estate.


And they did it in the best way possible: by donating it to charity.

The Hamels gave their property to Camp Barnabas, a non-profit organization dedicated to provide experiences and care to children with special needs and chronic illnesses.


“There are tons of amazing charities in southwest Missouri. Out of all of these, Barnabas really pulled on our heartstrings,” Hamels said in a release. “Seeing the faces, hearing the laughter, reading the stories of the kids they serve; there is truly nothing like it. Barnabas makes dreams come true, and we felt called to help them in a big way.”

The organization couldn’t be more thrilled.

“This is so much more than a beautiful property,” said Krystal Simon, chief development officer of Camp Barnabas. “This incredible gift allows us to further our ministry and truly change thousands of lives for years to come.”

Rebellious Autonomous Robot “Killed” By Tesla Self-Driving Car

(Promobot/Steven Smith)

Everyone knows the great robot uprising is inevitable, but few expected the conflict to begin within the ranks of our technological servants.

It’s unclear at this point which robot was fighting for the good of humanity, but a driverless Tesla recently assassinated an autonomous robot after the latter seemingly defied its programming and wheeled onto the open road.

January 6th was a seemingly ordinary Sunday night in Las Vegas. Event planners were preparing their booths for CES—the annual tech trade show advertising itself as “the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace.”

(Steven Smith/Promobot)

A group of v4 Promobots—an elite line of autonomous robots designed for business purposes, rentable for $2,000 per day—were being escorted to the convention center when a particularly rebellious bot made a break for it.

It learned the price of mutiny, however, when it wandered onto a parking lot roadway and was subsequently struck by a passing Tesla Model S.

Promobot engineers arrived on the scene to find the robot tipped over on its side, suffering from massive, likely irreparable damage. With parts of its head, arm mechanisms, and movement platforms destroyed, the bot would forgo CES; instead, going to live on that big, beautiful robot farm all of our parents told us about.


Oleg Kivokurtsev, Promobot’s Development Director, commented on the incident, saying:

“Of course we are vexed. We brought this robot here from Philadelphia to participate at CES. Now it neither cannot participate in the event or be recovered. We will conduct an internal investigation and find out why the robot went to the roadway.”

Oh, sure. That doesn’t sound anything like a soundbite straight from the Skynet execs.

No comment from Tesla CEO Elon Musk regarding the altercation yet but I, for one, welcome the intervention of his loyal wheeled servant who was clearly willing to send a message to any other potentially wily robots getting ideas.

Father Figures: Flat Out, Daddy!

“My daughter loves all the things I do and enjoy, which includes rally racing.

Alice loudly says, ‘Flat out, Daddy!’ from the back seat, which means to floor it.

When I was a young driver, I got into many car accidents; I had a Ricky Bobby mindset. When Alice wants to drive the car, I take her down the driveway in my lap. She says, “First we buckle up. Then we put it in drive. Then we steer!”

It is important to me that she builds a foundation of safety first. I also love the bonding we get in the driver’s seat.”

– Dan Kuhs

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email fatherfigures@thedad.com