We decided we were way overdue for a Meet-a-Dad feature so we reached out to local dad, Austin, to hear how life is going for his family of six, their favorite things to do during COVID times, and about his first self-published book, The Wendals.
Where are you from originally?
Southern California, all of my life. I was born in Whittier, and then my family moved out to the Inland Empire when I was young, and I spent most of my youth in Murrieta.
How long have you lived in Costa Mesa? How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
We moved to Newport Beach in 2011, and have been in Eastside Costa Mesa since 2015. We have a whopping four kids–ages 9, 6, 5, and 2. One boy and three girls.
What are your favorite things to do with your kids in general or in town?
We love the beach! And our favorite time to go to the beach is in the fall, when the crowds are smaller, but the weather is still warm. Our 9 year old daughter, Emma, has started to pick up surfing, which is a dream come true for me. We love Blackies Beach, here in Newport, because the waves are nice and mellow for the kids. And on Saturday nights we’ve been heading down to Doheny with a group of friends, for an evening of surfing and hanging out.
Name 3 things in town you can’t live without.
The beach, In-N-Out, and our awesome friends.
What’s your favorite restaurant in town for a family date? Date night? Why?
Definitely In-N-Out for the family, because it’s delicious and it doesn’t break the bank when you’re trying to feed a family of six! For date night with just me and my wife, we love grabbing a casual California Burrito, and our current favorite spot for that is Great Mex, off Newport Blvd. My wife will eat anywhere though, as long as we get frozen yogurt after.
What are your favorite events in Costa Mesa or Newport Beach?
We love doing the boat parade at Christmas time, and walking around Balboa Island to look at the lights. And our church throws an awesome pancake breakfast every year on the Fourth of July, which has become a favorite tradition for our family.
Do you have a favorite destination for family trips? Why?
Long weekends in San Diego, because it’s an easy trip with the young kids and there’s so much to do down there. Also, hiking in Zion’s National Park in Southern Utah has been a family favorite.
What have you missed the most since COVID upended everything?
Our family has really missed the local sports leagues—AYSO soccer, and Costa Mesa Little League, in particular. We love spending Saturday mornings at the fields, watching our kids play their favorite sports.
Name a favorite book or podcast? What’s it about/brief description?
I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell and I just started reading his newest book, Talking to Strangers, which is all about how we see and interact with the people around us. I love how his books challenge us to look at the world from different perspectives—which I think is especially important in the times we live in.
What has been the most difficult age with your children to date? What helped you overcome the challenges at that time?
Honestly, right now has probably been one of the more challenging times of life for us. Having four kids that are all so young has been tough in and of itself, but when you add in the fact that all six of us are home all day—working from home, and schooling from home—things have gotten pretty tricky. I think the biggest thing that has helped us has been trying to get out of the house as much as possible. Long walks or bike rides in the neighborhood, playing at the beach, and throwing the baseball around at the park, have all helped us to stay sane. I think getting the kids outside, running out their energy, is invaluable.
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other dads?
There will always be an endless list of things you “need” to get done, but make time with your family a priority! This is something I try to remind myself of constantly. I don’t believe you will ever hear someone on their deathbed say, “I wish I would have spent more time with my job.”
What is your current occupation? Has it changed over the years?
I’m a Financial Advisor, so I help my clients with investing and with planning for their long-term financial goals. I have been in this line of work for almost 10 years now. Before that, I briefly worked in film production in Los Angeles, until my wife and I had our first child and decided I needed a more stable career.
When you get time to yourself, what’s your favorite thing to do?
If I can sneak out of the house alone for a bit, I love to surf. I also love seeing a good movie in the theater, and I love watching sports—especially my Lakers.
Definitely surfing. I also love to write.
So many to choose from! We were recently at Doheny State Beach with some friends, and someone had a giant surfboard-shaped inflatable toy for the kids to play with. So we took all the kids out to play with it in the ocean, at a spot where the water was maybe three feet deep or so. Eventually, the kids decided they wanted to use the board as a slip-n-slide, so one at a time, they would run a few steps on the board, and then slide on their bellies as far as they could. It wasn’t working very well, and none of the kids were sliding very far down the board. Well, my two-year-old daughter wanted to try it, so I laid her on her belly at one end of the board, and then gave her a push from behind with some force. You would have thought we greased her belly because she quickly shot down the board, flew off the other end, and dove into the water head first. At two years old, she obviously can’t swim, so I had an immediate moment of panic. Luckily, one of the other adults we were with wasn’t far from where my daughter had entered the water, and with the quick reflexes of a mom, she grabbed my daughter and pulled her out of the water. The best part was, that when my daughter came out of the water, she was only panicked for a moment or so, and then started to laugh excitedly and said she wanted to do it again.
Anything else you want to add?
Storytelling has always been a huge passion of mine, and before settling down and becoming a financial advisor, my dream was to be a film director and screenwriter. Though I left that industry behind years ago, I promised myself I would continue to write as much as I could in my spare time—as a hobby and a creative outlet. After failing at that promise for quite some time, several years ago I started writing again, and I began to work on a screenplay that was a story based on my childhood group of friends, and the youthful shenanigans that we would get into together as kids.
After finishing the screenplay, I decided that writing it into a young adult novel, instead, would be a better way for me to get my story out to anyone who wanted to read it. So I began working on the book, and for twelve months, it consumed most of my spare time. I wrote on my lunch break at work, and at night after the kids went to bed, and on the weekends—and I loved every minute of writing it. Then the COVID-19 quarantine happened, and one of the good things that came out of it, was that it gave me more free time and really helped accelerate the writing process for me.
So, I’m very excited to say that I recently finished and self-published my first book, The Wendals.
The Wendals is a family friendly adventure novel, geared toward the 10-16-year old-audience, and is about a group of best buds who go on an adventure to save a friend in trouble. If anyone is looking for something new for their child to read, I’d love for you to check it out! The book is available on Amazon, in both ebook and paperback format. You can follow the Amazon link, or go to my Instagram page, @thewendals, and follow the link in the bio.
Thank you Austin!