Not the Usual

HALLOWEEN

I have never been a big Halloween person. I don’t think its evil, or bad nor do I think that people who celebrate it are crazy. It just has never really spoken to me.

My wife is really excited about this being our daughters first trick-or-treating Halloween. Claire is old enough to enjoy the dressing up and going out. We were given a ladybug costume a while back and I figured that’s what my wife was going to have Claire wear. To my surprise Claire’s costumer was not the usual cute-toddler-costume one thinks of. Claire is going to be St. Clare of Assisi for Halloween.

“Who?”

That was my mothers’ response. When I told her that it was a nun she thought it was weird and that I should have picked something “cuter”. I understand that sentiment. It is definitely not the usual Halloween character. However I am glad my wife decided to chose a saint for Claire’s Halloween costume. There will be plenty of toddlers dress as goblins, ghouls, and other frightening characters. I am sure that there will be plenty of cute ladybug, and butterfly costumes to go around as well. I believe there will be very few children if any dressed as Saints this Halloween.

There is something very depressing about that last sentence.

Saint’s are heroes. Men and women, who struggled, sinned, changed and lived courageous lives of virtue under devastating, sometimes life-ending circumstances. If you have never read about St. Augustine, St. Claire of Assisi, St. John Paul II, and St. Maria Goretti—you are missing out on some of the greatest stories ever told.

When my daughter shows up at someone’s doorstep on October 31st, she will be dressed in an unusual costume. This costume will probably intrigue those who open their doors. It will be an opportunity to share a little bit about a great Saint. My first real blog post on this journey of discovering fatherhood consisted of sharing about my desire for my daughter to become a saint. I guess it is only fitting that my wife dresses her up like one for Halloween.

Claire is a normal kid and so were all those we call saints. It is the not so usual way that they lived their lives that lead these ordinary people to become extraordinary. So my daughter will show up at someone’s doorstep sharing about our spiritual family’s ancestors. Maybe you find this weird, or pushy, and I’m okay with that. It is this father’s humble opinion that we don’t need more goblins, ghouls, butterflies or ladybugs in the world, but we do need more saints. Ordinary men and women who chose to live in extraordinary ways.

Saints change the world, and I believe that we need to discover more about these men and women so that our children as well as ourselves, can be inspired to follow in their not-so-usual ways and be transformed.

 

Categories: costumes, daughters, fatherhood, halloween, holiness, saints | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Skimpy Costume Dilemma

Leo:

I wrote this last year and I think it is worth sharing once again with Halloween around the corner. Enjoy.

Originally posted on Discovering Fatherhood:

jackolanternA few days ago I was in a Wal-Mart with my daughter Claire and I saw that they already had Halloween costumes out. There were two high school girls looking at the different outfits and I happened to overhear their conversation. The one girl thought that the costume she was looking at was not “skimpy” enough. Yes, she actually used that word. The conversation ended with them deciding to go to one of those pop-up Halloween stores in town to get something that would be more “fitting” for their needs.

Every year I see some of my Youth Ministry girls’ pictures on Facebook from Halloween parties and I dread the potential of seeing one of them in these “skimpy” costumes. I dread it because:

  1. It hurts my heart to see them dressing in a way that is going to objectify them and have guys thinking all kinds of inappropriate things…

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Lock Out Rant

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The day began chaotic. I woke up later than I should have. Claire woke up exactly at the same time I did which meant that I would have to put breakfast and my quiet time aside until she was taken care of. After changing her and getting her breakfast I remembered that the animals needed to eat and that the dog had been holding his bladder since 10pm the night before.

Animals were fed. Dog used the bathroom. Success.

Daughter spills Chiobani yogurt on her tray and proceeds to smear it all over the tray and then push 75% of its contents onto the floor.

Sigh…

Luckily the dog isn’t lactose intolerant and enjoys strawberries.

I find something else for my daughter to eat. In typical fashion she licks it, puts it down and a half hour later comes back and eats it as if it were the greatest thing ever. What’s wrong with her taste buds?!

I look at the oven clock: 8:45am. Crap. I need to get Claire to the babysitter and I still haven’t packed her lunch or mine. *Note to self—do this the night before!!!

Food is packed and ready to go. It may not be the greatest sandwich I ever made but its food and it will keep me alive. I grab Claire and her diaper bag with one hand, lunch bag in the other, and my left hand pinky has a hold of the keys and iPad mini.

Pinky is feeling a bit overwhelmed.

I begin to walk towards the door and the dog greets me as if I were taking him on a walk. I put everything down. The dog needs to go out one last time before I go to work and then I have to put him in his crate. Sigh…

Dog uses bathroom. Success.

I turn the knob to the French door that is to lead me back into my house to regretfully be greeted with my shoulder hitting said door. “Umm…this door seems to not be opening.” I turn the knob and push again. Still not opening. My daughter stands on the other side of the glass with a look that I have not quite experienced before.

The hamster slowly begins to give momentum to the wheel.

Daughter + door not opening + new look on face = locked out of the house.

Sigh…

“Claire, sweetie. Can you unlock the deadbolt?” “No, it isn’t funny so stop laughing.” Claire begins her attempt to reverse the deadbolts locking mechanism, but apparently she can only lock it. Of course!

I think to myself, “How do I get into the house?” I could wake my wife up, but she worked the night shift and went to bed 2 hours ago. She will not be happy. Naturally, I go back to the door and begin coaching Claire on how to open the door. Claire tries but fails. I laugh a little. If I weren’t going to be late to work it would be a lot funnier.

I finally give up and knock on our bedroom window. Wife wakes up and unlocks the door. Success. Wife has a look I recognize very well. It is a mixture of “I’m-not-pleased”, with a dash of “I-would-kill-you-if-our-daughter-wasn’t-here-right-now”. I try to make light of the situation and share with her how Claire is the one that locked me out. “Isn’t that cute?” I ask. Wife continues to walk away towards the bedroom.

I finally get the dog in the crate and Claire into the car. I drop her off at the babysitter and get to work 15 minutes late. I sit down at my chair and attempt to relax. I think to myself, I made it to work only 15 minutes late. That’s better than I expected. Success.

Lunchtime comes around and my uninspiring sandwich is nowhere to be found. The hamster slowly begins to give momentum to the wheel.

Sigh…I left it at home…

Categories: child locking you out of the house, daughters, dogs, fatherhood, patience | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Her Words

Word Cloud

 

Language is pretty amazing. The fact that we can create an alphabet that connects strings of letters into words; that when spoken create sounds; that create meaning; that convey thought and emotion is pretty astounding.

My daughter has so much to say these days. The world is new and filled with exciting things and she wants to tell us all about it. I can’t help but laugh every time Claire goes off on a rant about the neighbor’s dog barking, or about the cat jumping off the couch. Claire is speaking in her own baby language and I cant help but wonder what is going through that little head of hers. It really is amazing to see how vocal she is.

I don’t know about your kids but mine says things with certain pitches, tones and slurs. Each word comes out in this unique and ridiculously cute way. When she was 4 months old she made some noises that were awesome to hear. Claire couldn’t quite blow kisses; instead she did this clicking noise with her mouth. As Claire gets older her noises, voice and words change. My wife and I were amazed to hear that Claire’s voice had changed a few months ago. She woke up and sounded like someone else’s kid. It was sad in a sense, losing the old baby voice. Yet the new toddler voice is great. I’ve recorded some of Claire’s sounds and I’m really glad I did. I watch the videos every now and then and it reminds me of the change and growth.

I know soon enough she will be speaking plainly but right now there is something so neat about her babble. We are enjoying it and at the same time excited for when it all makes sense. My friend Scott jokingly says that when kids are young we are excited for them to walk and talk, and then for the rest of their lives we’re telling them to sit down and shut up. I’m sure there is much truth in that.

The miracle of the human person unfolds before me everyday through my daughter. Today I am noticing her words. Maybe tomorrow it will be the change in her fingers and toes, or facial features and hair. Everyday I am blown away by the awesomeness (in the literal sense of the word) that God has bestowed on human beings. Who knew that discovering fatherhood would have me discover more than what being a father means. Discovering the complexities of language, sounds and words—things we never really pay attention to reveals how mysterious and amazing the world I live in is.

All this brought to my life through a 1-½ year old.

* The above image is a word cloud made up of the many words found in this blog.

Categories: baby talk, children, daughters, fatherhood, fathers, growing up, language, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Prince Charming is a lie, but real men aren’t!

 

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I am sharing this post from an article I recently read on the website: The Chastity Project. It is written by a young woman named Esther Rich. I think she touches on something very true that sometimes men (at least this man) we feel like we are not the “Prince Charming” that we are supposed to be. Esther’s word are worth sharing. Enjoy.

LEO
I LOVE the song ‘Lead Me’ by Sanctus Real, but I can’t listen to it without getting emotional. My friend and I cried to each other over the phone when we first heard it.

Why?

Because it hits a sore spot. It hits that wound in all of our hearts that bleeds the phrase “how come there are no real men anymore?!” Most of us have heard it asked. Nearly as many of us have asked it ourselves. But the reason we don’t see them isn’t that they don’t exist, it’s that we tell them they can’t.

God created us for union and communion with each other. His unmatchable creativity is such that he designed us to fit together. Our lives are the most fruitful and we feel the most fulfilled when we’re exercising that complementarity. We need men in our lives—not just husbands, but fathers, brothers, friends—and they need us. We unlock an extra level of potential in each other.

Sometimes as women we put far too much pressure on men to become the ideal we think we need. We’re often guilty of underestimating just how difficult a job they have! Supporting us and leading us takes an immense amount of strength. But that strength comes from God alone, and must be continually renewed through prayer and abandonment to Him.

Disney has taught us to expect perfection and settle for nothing less. But Prince Charming is a lie. No wonder the divorce rate is rising so rapidly: we’re in for a serious shock if we marry with the false belief that the men who swept us off our feet and carried us to the altar in their strong arms will retain that guise of perfection for long.

No man is flawless (neither are we!), and expecting them to solve all our problems will only end in more heartache. Christ called us to love one another as He loves us. That means that the most fruitful relationships will be built on grace and mercy rather than pressure and judgement. We’re called to love each other including our flaws, because without that merciful love no relationship can survive.

Disney’s version of “Mr Right” may be far-fetched and idealistic, but deep down we do have a natural longing to be supported and guided by a strong man—spiritually, physically and emotionally… and that’s no coincidence! What we long for is actually the root of what men were intended to be, we just don’t realise it. We want them to be strong and gentle and decisive and loving all at the same time… and they can be! But to benefit from that, we have to allow them to develop those strengths. To have a “real man,” we have to allow him to be a real man.

Culture insists on mourning the loss of ‘real men’, but perhaps it’s simply the definition used that needs challenging. A real man isn’t one who works out twice a day, earns a six figure salary and buys extravagant presents with money he won’t miss.

A “real man” is one who will lead you with strong hands even when that means humbly admitting his mistakes.

One who will discerningly make sacrifices for the greater good of your family.

One who seeks guidance from his heavenly Father instead of relying on his own strength.

One who’d rather walk you to Heaven than drive you around in his Porsche.

One who looks at your heart before your physique.

One who prays for you, not just pays for you.

One who strives to protect your purity not conquer it.

One who loves you as Christ loves His Church.

… and these REAL MEN EXIST!

______________________________

Esther Rich has a bachelor degree in Psychology from Oxford University, UK, and is currently completing the Sion Community Foundation Year, working on their youth ministry team. She loves Theology of the Body, Papa Francesco and a good worship band. She is passionate about empowering women to be who they were created to be, and blogs at “For Such A Time As This.”

Categories: being a man, dying to self, fathers, God, manhood, prince charming, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Us. Together.

chores

A few days ago I was cleaning the house. The floor needed cleaning so I grabbed the broom and began to sweep. Claire has a toy broom and dust pan that her grandma bought her that she keeps by her toy kitchen. As soon as Claire saw me sweeping in the hall she ran over to her kitchen and grabbed her own broom. I saw her do this and thought to myself, “if only I could train her to cut the grass.”

Claire came over to the hall where I was and she began to sweep with me. At first it was cute, but then Claire began to get in the way. The pile of dirt, dog/cat hair I had collected was being knocked around. I guided Claire so that she could use her broom and collect the dirt. For the most part she understood and moved the dirt towards the direction I was sweeping. It wasn’t perfect, orderly or neat but she did it. After a few seconds of this she would inevitably kick the dirt pile or drop the broom and make a mess.

The neat freak in me wanted to pick my daughter up and move her to another part of the house so that I could finish sweeping. However, I recognized that efficiency was not the important thing here. My child collaborating in my work was.

Us. Together.

We had to stop, go back, re-sweep, and re-sweep again. By the time we finished sweeping it had taken 10 times longer than usual. Even then you could still see some of the places we had missed.

What would happen if God decided to do everything on His own? If instead of letting us collaborate with Him, He picked us up and moved us to another room? Sure it would all get done in half the time, it would be perfect, but something would be missing…us.

As my daughter got in front of me and knocked around my carefully collected pile of dirt I recognized that God is constantly inviting us to collaborate with Him—to join Him in His work. If He wanted to, God could do the work on His own. We usually get in the way of His plans and knock things around, etc. Yet I think He prefers it this way—us, together. I don’t think He prefers the messiness of it, or the fact that we can really screw things up. I do think however that the messiness and those screw-ups, etc. are tolerable because it is done together. As I stare at my daughter joining me in the work of our home I cant help but want her there; to serve with me; to create with me; even if it isn’t perfect.

Us. Together.

 

Categories: children, chores, collaboration, fatherhood, God, Parenting, working together | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

3 Seconds

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A few days ago I was playing with Claire in the living room. As  usual our dog, Rocky wants in on the action so he forces his huge head in between Claire and I in order to “play”. I usually shoo Rocky away but he is persistent and my patience fades quickly. Finally after several times of shooing Rocky away I whacked him upside the head with a book Claire and I were reading. It was a quick reaction. Whack the dog, and we are back to reading.

The whole thing took 3 seconds.

Claire saw me whack Rocky. Then, she turned and looked at me and began to whack the dog with her book. Rocky ran away and Claire chased him, laughing the entire time as she whacked him upside the head. For the next half hour I am trying to keep Claire from whacking the dog with her book, shoe and anything else she gets her hands on. I distract her, avert her attention and even try to bribe her with food and juice. Finally, Claire is able to focus on other things and leaves the dog alone. Rocky stayed downstairs the rest of that day.

You always hear people say that children are like sponges and suck up all they see and hear. I believe it and am aware of it, so I try do whatever I can to be a good example. Clearly I failed in this instance. After this incident I began to reflect on all the other things that I do that are just “reactions”. Some of my reactions are great, and others not so much. It is difficult to try and change these reactions, because they are just that—reactions. Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing them.

One thing that I discovered in all of this is that my daughter is watching and hearing all that I do. What she sees and hears isn’t filtered as a reaction that I can’t help, or as a calculated response I meant to do. Claire simply sees and hears it all. Claire sees my great moments and the moments I chose to settle; when I pray or chose not to pray; she watches when I treat her mother with respect or snap at her; when I talk well about others or criticize; when I eat well or stuff my face with junk. Claire sees, hears and she responds by doing as I do. All it takes is one example, one action or reaction and it is processed and imitated. 3 seconds and I either have a great new habit established or I’m spending half an hour telling her that she shouldn’t do that.

3 seconds…

Categories: being a good example, best self, children, fatherhood, frustration, reacting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh, Boy’s.

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Claire is 16 months old and my usual concerns with her range from whether or not she’s holding my hand while going outside, brushing her teeth, making sure mangos and French fries are not all that she eats, and making sure I have a paci with me at all times—the usual dad stuff. In my mind I know that in a far off distance boys will become a concern, but I never thought it would be this soon.

Most boys that are around Claire’s age are typically busy playing, running circles around their parents and not paying attention to girls in an aesthetically-pleasing-sort-of-way. However, on three separate occasions I have had boys that are around Claire’s age literally gazing at my daughter in that glassy-eyed-stupor that is common to boys 13 years old or older.

The first time it occurred we were at Mass and a boy of 3-4 years old sat in front of us. The entire time he was glued to Claire. I didn’t think anything of it—she is a cute baby. It wasn’t until the little boy turned to his mother at the end of Mass and said, “Mommy, she is beautiful.” that I thought, that’s interesting. The second time was a similar situation that ended with a little boy telling Claire and I that she was pretty. The third time was while shopping. A young family saw Claire and she waved to them. The mother approached us with her clan and shopping cart and waved back to Claire telling her how beautiful she was. This I expect from adults. This woman’s younger son looked at Claire, turned to his mother while pulling on her shirt and said in a very serious voice, “Mommy she is beautiful.”

Oh, boy!

I think my daughter is beautiful—she looks like my wife and Jess is beautiful! Yet, I have never thought of Claire as one of those stop you in your tracks kind of babies. I was telling Claire’s Godfather about these strange incidents (the three above are just a few) and he looked at me and said with a very serious and intense voice, “Dude. Claire is beautiful.”

So here we are at 16 months old and boys are checking my girl out. Sigh…

Since this boy situation seems to be creeping in a little sooner than expected it is a great opportunity for my wife and I to begin teaching Claire about her beauty. I am not speaking here primarily of her outward aesthetic beauty. I am speaking of the beauty that does not fade, is incorruptible no matter what she or someone does. This beauty is the beauty of being made in God’s image and likeness. We want Claire to recognize the gift that this beauty is and how precious she is as a person. We also want to make sure that she recognizes the power and responsibility that an aesthetically beautiful woman has. I don’t know if many fathers have these conversations with their daughters.

Outward beauty can easily be used and manipulated for all the wrong reasons, and Lord knows we don’t need more of that in this world. I want my daughter to see that her inherent, God given beauty is the most important thing and that her outward beauty should reflect the reality of that inner beauty. As a man I am well aware of the power an outwardly beautiful woman can have on me and I think that if this isn’t communicated to my daughter it could be a bad thing. With that being said, I also know the power a woman can have on a man who recognizes her inherent beauty and allows it to shine through. My wife is the perfect example. It can literally change a man.

I’m excited at the opportunity to help my daughter discover all of her beauty and to be the gift that she is called to be in this world. But boys, seriously. Can we wait till she is at least out of diapers? Or 16 years old? Better yet, let’s wait till she graduates college. Oh, boy!

Categories: boys and girls, Crush, daughters, dignity, fatherhood, growing up, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Fragile

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Recently at my church a young pregnant woman passed away. I won’t say how or names in order to keep their personal information private. I did not know this woman or her family, but they are a part of my faith family so it hurts all the same. My wife and I have been praying for them as have hundreds of others. I can’t help but keep thinking of the husband and what is now before him in raising the kids while dealing with the loss of his wife and unborn daughter.

In a moment life ended…

It stopped…

Gone…

When I was growing up I went to a rough school and kids died due to violence there, and in that area. I have experience death before but never as a father. Fatherhood adds a whole other dimension to death. The solidarity that I am experiencing with this families pain is tangible, and I don’t even know them. I think of the husband and my stomach gets tight and I feel sorrow. I keep thinking about how fragile life is. Sacred Scripture says our lives are like a vapor: here for a while and then gone.

I take so much for granted! Why? I do not know. Especially since life is a vapor. As the news of this families struggle has been shared via our Church family I have been holding on to my wife and daughter a little longer and a little tighter. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. Today—now is all we have. Yet I take it for granted. We all do. Then death comes and reminds us. Someone else’s tragedy speaks to us and we come out of our delirium and appreciate what we have a little more.

But how long until that fades? How long till we go back to taking for granted?

A vapor. Here one moment and gone the next.

Categories: complacency, death, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fully alive, living, living in the moment, Suffering | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fitting Them In

Photo Jun 17, 8 59 25 PM

Recently I heard someone say that today’s generation of parents are trying to fit their children into their lives as opposed to changing their lives for their children. I had never heard it put this way, but as I have been thinking about it I realize it is true. It has always been understood that children change your life and that you therefore must make adjustments for that change.

Children require us to live differently.

We see this on TV and movies every now and then. A man finds out his spouse is pregnant and he states, “Well I guess I have to change my ways.” The man will tend to stop staying out late with friends, be more responsible about financial expenses, and change habits that are not conducive to being a father. Obviously, it isn’t that simple but the idea is that things need to change due to this new life entering the world. Unfortunately this isn’t really happening with many new parents.

More and more we see that my generation and the ones that follow are not willing to transform their lives so that their children can benefit from it. Instead we are attempting to fit our children into the lifestyles we currently have. Square block into a round hole kind of thing.

A few years ago I had a friend that was into the nightclub scene. This friend would go dancing Thursday through Saturday nights because she loved dancing and that was her thing. Baby came along and after a few months of being a mom she attempted to pick up the nightclub life again. My friend would get frustrated because her baby would keep her from going dancing. Thankfully, reason set in and she realized that she needed to change because a nightclub lifestyle is not conducive to a new born.

Another example.

I have an acquaintance who loves hip-hop. He listens to it all the time on his way to work. One day he gave his mother a ride to the grocery store and he had his music blasting on the stereo as usual. His mom turned the stereo off and smacked him on the chest (while driving). “What was that for?!” he asked. The mother began to chew her son out because listening to the cursing, ill reference to women, etc. that this particular hip-hop song had was not okay with a 9 month old in the back seat. Unfortunately my friend didn’t take his moms advice seriously and continues to play his “dirty hip-hop” as his mom calls it, and now has a 3 year old with a seriously messed up vocabulary, lack of respect for his mother and a bad attitude.

When I first heard about this “fitting them in” style of parenting I thought to myself, “those selfish people, how dare they do such a thing”. However, the more I reflect on this I realize I too am guilty of trying to “fit them in”. I have this fence that we have had up for a few months now and I have been attempting to stain it. Part of it is done and the other part isn’t. My goal has been to stain the fence and fit Claire in when it isn’t interrupting the fence project. I’m sure I can come up with more examples, but you don’t need a 6-page post of my ridiculousness.

Clearly we all have things we enjoy doing and things that we need to do that demand our time and attention. This fitting them in thing is more of an overall mentality that seems to be dominating my generation and the ones following. I personally think it all stems from the selfish-its-all-about-me way that most of us in the U.S.A have been led to believe is part of our Constitution. Entitlement I believe is the word. It is scary to have a “fitting them in” mentality about our children because they become just one more thing. The gym, mowing the lawn, and chores around the house—these are all things that are okay to fit into our lives, but not our children.

I believe we have to live differently when we have children. We can’t be selfish about our lives because our children suffer and we also suffer. It isn’t easy. I struggle with this all the time. So from this newbie dad to those who bother to read this blog lets keep praying for each other and keep each other accountable. Lets not fit our children in like we do client meetings, phone conversations or fence staining. Our children are our priority and they should get first dibs.

Categories: children, dying to self, fatherhood, Parenting, selfishness, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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