| June 2013
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By Olivia Boler
Seven-year-old Emme models the stilts that she and her father designed for Dad’s Book of Awesome Projects. Photo courtesy Adams Media
Imagine spending your days putting together fabulous crafts using whatever is in your junk drawer—and getting paid to do it. That’s the life Duncan Street resident Mike Adamick has been leading.
Adamick’s new parenting book, Dad’s Book of Awesome Projects, was published by Adams Media last month, just in time for Father’s Day June 16. It has had so many pre-order requests, it’s already in its second printing.
Easy to see why. The 176-page paperback shows you how to make more than 25 projects—from birdhouses and friendship bracelets to rope swings and fruit-crate scooters. “Think MacGyver meets Martha Stewart,” jokes the author.
Adamick, 36, is a reporter who gave up his job at the Contra Costa Times seven years ago, soon after his daughter Emmeline was born. He blogs for the San Francisco Chronicle’s parenting blog “The Poop” and for KQED Radio, and has a column, “Daddy Issues,” on Jezebel.com.
But his major title these days is stay-at-home dad. Adamick’s wife, Dana Kromm, an attorney, is the main breadwinner in the family.
Adamick describes himself as “the caregiver who’s home most of the time to handle the day-to-day drudgery of parenting, both the good and the bad—homework, chores, carpools, pickup, drop-off, [and] grocery shopping.”
Nevertheless, he absolutely loves the role, because the “good” is being able to spend creative quality time with his daughter. Emmeline (nickname “Emme”) has been his collaborator in crafting ever since she could grab a piece of construction paper.
“We’re always looking for fun things to do,” says Adamick. Those fun things include building a catapult, constructing zip lines from their house to a tree in the back yard, and mixing up mounds of homemade play-dough.
For Emme’s seventh birthday, Adamick made her a pogo stick. “She really loves it. When I was a kid, I tried to get to 100 jumps on my pogo stick, and it’s so great to see her excited to try it, too.”
Bridge Knowledge Comes in Handy
Emme, Dana, and Mike Adamick have collected the family’s best inventions in a crafts book, already in its second printing a month after publication. Photo by Pamela Gerard
The idea for Dad’s Book of Awesome Projects wasn’t Adamick’s originally. He is friends with former Noe Valley resident Jeremy Adam Smith, who wrote a book on stay-at-home fathers called The Daddy Shift (see Voice June 2009). Smith’s agent was on the hunt for a father who could pen a book about crafting with kids. Smith knew Adamick was the dad for the job.
“It never occurred to me to combine my two interests—writing and DIY stuff with my daughter,” Adamick says. “It’s just one of those things. I’m really grateful Jeremy passed along the information.”
As a reporter, Adamick covered state transportation politics. “I wrote about the quite fascinating and arcane Bay Bridge construction project,” he says. He still keeps track of the bridge’s progress.
“It’s interesting to see it’s still big in the news every day. One project in the book is inspired by the differences between suspension bridges and cable-stayed bridges.”
That would be the popsicle-stick bridge, which is fashioned to look like a miniature Golden Gate Bridge. To make it, Adamick dug around Emme’s art bin for popsicle sticks, glue, tape, and twine one rainy afternoon when she’d been asking questions about bridges. He was in “dork heaven.”
Made with Found Objects
Adamick divides the projects in the book into three types: afternoon crafts, weekend projects, and school-break projects. He says one of his key points is to not spend a lot of money on supplies.
“Most of the things you need are probably lying around the house, or you can head over to Cole Hardware on Mission Street for a few things. I love Just for Fun on 24th Street. They have great crafts supplies.”
The Noe Valley landscape is also a good resource. “I’d say 99 percent of the stuff used in the book came from the neighborhood. The sticks for the bow-and-arrow project, we found those walking around Glen Park Canyon," Adamick says.
One of his favorite projects is the circus stilts. “I was really surprised at how easy it was to make them. Emme likes to march around on those things. It’s a surefire hit.” He also likes the “old-school favorites,” like making homemade ice cream and superhero capes.
Adamick says most of the crafts in the book are meant to be easy to do and not “blow up the kitchen too much.” Others—such as building a seesaw—can take a few days to accomplish.
All projects come with a list of supplies and instructions, and are illustrated with photos, many featuring Emme and friends.
A Born Tinkerer
Adamick says he inherited some of his ideas from a childhood growing up in Fairfield, Calif., with two older brothers. The boys would roam their suburban neighborhood, mucking around in the creek and “tinkering around the house. I remember we found a turtle and tried to build it a home of dirt and wood. We didn’t know that turtles are good at digging, and in the morning it was gone from our back yard—probably back to its real home in the creek!” he laughs.
He and Dana have lived in Noe Valley since their daughter was 2. He says they’ve been surprised—and pleasantly so—by how much like a small town the neighborhood is.
“Fairfield was small and tight-knit, on the edge of farmland. That feeling is replicated here. It’s like Noe Valley has that small-town culture in a big-city neighborhood. Everyone is so friendly, and we have our haunts—Phoenix Books, which has a great kids’ section, and Martha’s for caffeine fixes.”
He’s hoping people will use his book as inspiration, and not worry if their results aren’t exactly like those in the pictures.
“This is the golden age of DIY with Pinterest.com and being able to share ideas on the Internet. At the same time, it can freak people out when they see these photos of perfect crafts and then what they make doesn’t look like the picture. They can get frustrated, but they shouldn’t.”
Adamick also reminds us that the book is aimed at families—that means letting kids take the lead. “Let them wield the saw or the drill. It doesn’t have to be perfect, especially if a kid is doing it. As long as they’re having fun, they will be so proud of what they make.”
Mike Adamick will be at Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids at 766 Valencia St. on Saturday, June 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Kids will get a bag of mystery crafts supplies and build with whatever happens to be in the bag. Copies of Dad’s Book of Awesome Projects will be for sale. They are also available at Phoenix Books on 24th Street.