Author Archives: Leo

About Leo

Director of Youth Ministry at a Catholic Church in Virginia and has been involved in the faith formation of young people through Youth Ministry for 12+ years.

Montessori School, Missing Teeth and a New Car Seat


I’m not really sure how it happened. One day Claire was born and now she’s on the verge of turning 5 years old. Time didn’t zoom by, it just happened and here we are.

The last few months have been pretty amazing. Claire started at a Catholic Montessori school where she is learning at a rapid pace. There’s a good chance she will be smarter than me by next week. We chose to send her there instead of the parochial school attached to the parish because we are big fans of the Montessori model as well as the small student to teacher ratio (she is one of three). Claire has her momma’s brain and is learning so much. At some point Claire and I went from having one word conversations to now going back and forth regarding what animals are vertebrates. Again, time didn’t zoom by and bring us to this place. It just happened and here we are.

Last week Claire came home and said she had a loose tooth. I thought to myself, “umm…did you get into a fist fight? You’re too young to be loosing your teeth.” Claire’s first tooth has come out and I am once again standing in awe at the reality that this little girl isn’t so little anymore. There is sadness in some ways. My first born whom I held and took naps with is now this tall, spunky kid who can pour her own milk, and make herself a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Now, don’t get me wrong I like not having to make breakfast, but dang…

The sadness I am experiencing is a bittersweet kind of thing. Yes, my little girl isn’t so little, and that piece is fading away. However, this new little girl is bringing into life all kinds of beautiful experiences and memories that I cant help falling in love with her all over again. It is quite the thing to have your child grow up.

Cecilia, our second daughter is almost 10 months old. Our experience with Cecilia has been very different. We got all the new baby stuff down from our first born, and we are enjoying Cecilia more than we did Claire. I guess that when we had our first-born there was so much newness to the experience that we were hyper vigilant about everything. Now, with Cecilia, we are calmer and able to experience her with that knowledge we got from our time with Claire. However, I am in awe that 10 months have gone by. Cecilia is crawling and interacting with her amazing little personality. It is definitely awesome.

Again, time didn’t zoom by, it just happened and here we are.

In between all of the above, and switching out car seats for both kids (another wow moment) I am glad that I can pause and be grateful for all the experiences I have with these kids. My wife and I try our best to make sure we savor the moments we have with them. Time isn’t zooming by for us because we are trying as best as we can to live in the moment with these kids. Yet, no matter how intentional we are about our time with the girls we still have these moments where we recognize that they are older, taller, smarter, etc. It just happens and we look at ourselves wondering how?

But here we are. And we love every moment of it.

Categories: being thankful, dads, fatherhood, fathers, growing up, learning, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

You Never Know


It was a typical Friday afternoon. I was running around with the girls getting groceries. Claire was hungry so we stopped at the Costco eatery and grabbed a slice of pizza, and a hot dog. I was tired from running around and Cecilia (#2) was in need of a bottle. We sat on the white plastic picnic table and I said, “Lets pray.” We made the sign of the cross, and asked God to bless our food. We crossed ourselves once again and Claire proceeded to devour her hotdog. Cecilia pounded her 4 ounces of milk like it was going out of style. I had a bottle in one hand, and a pie slice in the other.

Quite amusing.

As I awkwardly fed my daughter and myself I noticed an elderly man looking over at us. I figured I looked like a big dumb animal with the way I was handling the pizza and baby bottle—it must’ve been entertaining for those around. The man finished his pizza slice and I continued to feed the kiddos. Claire was talking about some book with a dinosaur and a shrinking machine. Cecilia was yelling at me in baby jibber jabber—I think she wanted my pizza.

We were almost finished when the elderly man came up to us. I was bracing myself to hear some lame, “dad’s on his own” joke. The man stopped, and looked at me with a smile and said, “thank you for praying with your children.” I responded with a simple, “your welcome.” The elderly man began to tear up. He tried to speak again, but choked up. Finally, he was able to let out, “you have no idea how important this is.” He smiled a simple smile, and walked off. I could tell that he had not expected to get so emotional.

I paused and looked around the Costco eatery. There was a bunch of people there. Families, elderly couples, single men and women. For an instant I wondered what was going on in all of their lives. Were they ok? Were they happy? Suffering? I caught a last glimpse of the elderly man as he walked out of the store. I wondered if he had lost a child. Maybe.

I’m not really sure what was going on in that mans heart and mind, but I do know that the simple act of praying with my daughters for 30 seconds was enough to powerfully impact his day. You just never know what simple gesture, word, or action can be a blessing in someone’s life.

Categories: being thankful, Catholic, dad and the kids, dads, fatherhood, fathers, prayer, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Regular Maintenance


A few months ago I was really struggling with anger and patience. There had been a lot of changes in our family routine. I am a creature of habit and so too much change at once without some kind of normalcy is not good for me. The anger and lack of patience was mostly unleashed on my four year old. I was really hard on her and it culminated one day after mass where Claire was being particularly difficult. It was a Saturday night after 7pm and Claire was tired and hungry, which led to her bad behavior. I was so angry after mass that I grabbed Claire before leaving the cry room, slapped her bottom and shook her as I yelled. Claire immediately started crying and my wife almost unleashed her second-degree-Shotokan-Karate-black-belt-skills on me.

We went home, and I was angry—more with myself then anything else. My wife was pissed off and my daughter was upset that the man she looks to as a source of love and protection had just mistreated her. Needless to say it was a low point for me. My wife took Claire upstairs and put her to bed after calming her down. I sat on the couch with tears in my eyes.

My wife and I talked (no Karate involved). We decided that I needed to go and speak to a counselor. This had been something that I had been considering for a few months, but for a number of reasons I kept pushing it off. I got an appointment pretty quickly and saw my counselor for about 4 months straight (once a month).

It was great.

I know there is a lot of taboo regarding counselors and psychiatrists. As a Hispanic man I have always heard people shun mental health professionals in my culture. “People will think you are crazy”, is one of the many things I heard growing up. The reality is that if I hadn’t gone to a counselor I probably would have erupted again, and gone crazy.

Counseling was great for me. It was like going into the mechanic and getting regular maintenance done on the car. Some of the fluids needed to be topped off, a few alignments were made here and there, and I was back on the road. There was no discomfort or frustration. The counselor heard what I had to say and he made some recommendations. I applied the said recommendations and things got better. I still struggle here and there, but there is a huge difference between then and now.

There are lots of men—particularly fathers—that could benefit from seeing a counselor. There is nothing worse than going to the mechanic and hearing that if I would have brought the car in months ago for regular maintenance I could have avoided the catastrophic damage that I now have on my hands.

So maybe you think counselors are for the weak, yuppies, or stupid people. Regardless of the possible bias you may have, the potential benefits of seeing a counselor vastly outweigh those biases. Our families need strong men that can lead, love and serve them mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. So be a man and go in for some maintenance.


Categories: being a man, best self, counseling, dads, fatherhood, frustration, healthy living, home and family, manhood, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The One Thing All Successful People Do


One of the most difficult things about being a father is managing time. I don’t know about you but it seems almost impossible to do certain things during the day. Exercise, reading, writing, etc. almost always take the back burner because there isn’t enough time to get to it.

I love reading books from all walks of life. One of my favorite genre of books is business. I love seeing what people are doing to better master best practices. There is a lot of great advice out there, that if focused on really helps.

One of the things that I have noticed in my reading is that the most successful people in all industries, and public/social sectors wake up early. Early can be a relative term, so to clarify I’m talking 4:30am early. (insert WTF face gesture here) I usually glance at that fact in my reading and ignore it, or say something witty to myself, or frankly consider the writer to be a crazy bastard. However, I can’t deny the fact that all of the most successful people I know and read about are waking up between 4am and 5am.

Now here is the kicker. The folks I read about are not waking up at 4am to go to work. They are waking up this early to begin their daily routines that help them thrive. Most of these people don’t get to work till 7am or 8am.

So what are they doing?

Well, for one thing these crazy bastards…I mean, highly successful people are exercising. Their average amount of exercise is between 20-50 minutes of high intensity training in the morning. This is something that hands down I see in all of the books I read. I recently started waking up at 5am to exercise and it has been magical. Yes I said magical. I literally roll out of bed complaining every-single-time. As I get dressed to go to my basement and work out I am telling myself over and over, “I can do anything for 20 minutes.” 20 minutes is currently how long my HIT workout takes (high intensity training).

Once I enter into the exercise it is great. It doesn’t mean I want to do it, but I push through. By the time I am done I am pumped. I get a shower, get breakfast, pray and get the kids ready. All before 7am. GAME ON!!! #AdultingLikeAPro

I am exercising like this three times a week (only on weekdays). I am definitely noticing the difference. I still hate waking up, but I can do anything for 20 minutes. I love sleep, it literally is my favorite thing ever. Well I love to eat too. If I could eat and sleep I would be in heaven. Ooo, maybe heaven is where sleeping and eating happens at the same time—cant wait!

Anyways, I know it is rough to even consider waking up a little earlier, but I am finding that getting exercise in before work is absolutely amazing, and the best time of day to do it. Once the kids get up and the responsibilities of life take over all bets are off. If you wait to exercise after work, there is a good chance you wont do it because you are so drained from the previous 8-10 hours. So this fathers humble opinion is to join the thousands of crazy bastards…I mean, highly successful people out there and exercise in the morning. Its making a difference in this busy dads life.

Just remember: you can do anything for 20 minutes!

Categories: being too busy, best self, exercise, fatherhood, fathers, healthy living, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Enough is still Good Enough

Good Better Best Signpost Representing Ratings And Improvement

A few months ago I came across this article via Facebook. A lot of what it said I had hear before, but the one line of advice that really struck me was this:

“Go for ‘good enough’ instead of ‘best decision ever made on earth’”.

I think that most of us want the best—the best for ourselves, children, spouses, etc. However the reality is that “the best” isn’t always attainable. Sometimes no matter how hard we work, prep and execute we are not able to obtain the best. Even if the “best” is not obtainable should that keep us from seeking the next best thing—good enough.

Our dynamic at home has changed in the last few weeks, which is difficult for us type A, routine-is-our-best-friend kind of people. One of those dynamics has me picking up the kids and then getting home to immediately cook dinner for the family. Inevitably, cooking takes time, which then takes time away from hanging out with my kids. However I have found that we have this 30-minute window between cooking dinner and my wife getting home that I have been using to go outside and play fishes and minnows with my girls. We run around, chase each other and then go on our playground and pretend we are the characters from the Magic Tree House book series.

Is this the most epic hangout time with my daughters? Probably not.

We could be doing lots of other things that are more fun and more memorable, but we don’t have time for it during the week. However this 30-minute window is good enough to bond with my girls, run around a bit and spend quality time together. Sure, I would love hours on end with them, but it’s not going to happen on a weeknight after working all day and getting dinner ready. The realization that good enough is actually good enough has been a much welcome relief for this dad who wants the best all the time.

So for all those dads out there that feel like there’s never enough time, space, room, resources, fishing, hunting, etc. in your life; know that even a little bit of it makes a big difference.

Categories: dad and the kids, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Killing Me

Here liesDad

The last two months have been tough. Going from one kid to two has its challenges. The baby has been easy: sleep, eat, poop, repeat. My wonderful wife has been great and for the most part is the one that has to focus on Cecilia (the baby). Most of my time and focus has been on Claire (the four year old). This started of really well, but it has quickly spiraled into chaos.

Everything is a struggle with Claire.

Waking up, getting dressed, eating, going to preschool, coming home, play time, snack time and definitely going to bed at night. There isn’t one thing that we do during the day that doesn’t have the potential to explode on my face, and it usually does. Claire and I will have a great time playing and eating a snack, when suddenly she will fight with me about getting a bath. Claire will be dead tired and fight getting into bed; she will then wake up at 3am, 4am and 5am because she “can’t sleep”. WHAT THE HELL!! There is no rhyme or reason to it (at least I can’t see one).

I realize that change for a four year old is difficult, and lets face it…she is only four years old. Regardless of this fact, I am exhausted. I literally feel dead and spent every single day and night. The nights where Claire decides to wake up at 3am because she’s hungry are the worst. It takes all that I have to not run off to Mexico and seek asylum.

The kid is killing me.

When I am able to see past my exhaustion I recognize that this is exactly what is suppose to happen.

I need to die.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve come to realize that it isn’t my daughters fighting, crankiness, random 3am wake ups that are killing me. Sure this is tough for any person, but the fact is that my comfort, my desire for control and order are being purged out of me. They are unbalanced and unrealistic.

I don’t want to be purged. I want comfort. I want control. I want order.

I have known that I am “particular” about things; I believe its one of the reasons why I am successful at work. However, I never would have consider myself so rigged that I would be stressed out the way I currently am. I guess its always different in the most sacred of inner sanctums like home.

Comfort is good to some extent, but there is no growth in it. Comfort doesn’t allow for testing and purging. Trying to control things and people isn’t freedom, its slavery for them and myself. Order has value, until it turns your wife and daughters into tasks, objects that must be taken care of.

The kid isn’t killing me, she is an instrument of Gods grace that is taking this overly comfortable, control freak, that values order way too much; and is slowly, painfully, yet beautifully changing me into something else. Something better.

Something worth dying for.

I never would have thought that I would have these things messing with me, but I do. My spiritual director and counselor tell me that I am in a beautiful place, a sweet spot of sorts that has exponential opportunities for growth and transformation. I see more and more through this crazy, beautiful gift of a four year old that discovering fatherhood is not just about what I can do to help my children become holy, loving and responsible adults. It is also a journey of discovering that this father has to become a holy, loving and responsible adult.

Man! Never a dull moment in this journey.

Categories: being a man, best self, Catholic, dad and the kids, dads, death, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Village


We are 4 weeks into being parents for the second time around and it is great. My wife is doing well, minus the whole sleeping thing. Cecilia is healthy and very alert. We were told that, “its easier the second time around” and it definitely is. We knew what to expect which was great. Even though it was easier there still have been some challenges along the way that have made me incredibly grateful for our village.

My wife and I have some friends who have a good chunk of their immediate family living within walking distance. We tease them that it is a “compound” and that they are taking over that part of town. Kidding aside, there is something beautiful about that level of connectedness with family that these friends share. This little village of theirs gets them through the good, the bad and the ugly. Although my wife and I don’t have immediate family within walking distance we are blessed with a local community of friends, church family and amazing neighbors that have become our village.

The last few weeks have been a reminder of how necessary it is to have a village. Not just to provide meals because we had a baby, but for the overall goodness and formation of our family. Our village consists of men and women whose holiness and general awesomeness is being absorbed by our family and particularly our oldest daughter. Claire hears mom and dad say, “be good, be holy” but she also sees others living that way. Our village provides concrete examples of serving others and Claire sees that, absorb it and jumps right in. The village gathers for fun, for prayer, for joy and for grief. We love and serve one another. We laugh and cry together. We teach and learn from each other.

If you don’t have a village join one or gather people together to form one. No family can ever become what it is suppose to be in isolation. We need one another.

Categories: being a good example, being thankful, community, fatherhood, home and family, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on Day 4 of Our Second Kid


My wife and I got back from the hospital a few days ago after the birth of our second daughter Cecilia. Both mom and baby are doing really well and resting at home. I have been reflecting on our whole experience with Cecilia from conception to now, and man it has been different than with our first. The experience has been so different that at first I questioned whether baby number two was getting second best from us.

When Claire was born it was all new. We were prepping for Claire right away: buying a crib, sheets, curtains, etc. I had a baby gate up 6 months before Claire was born. It was all new and I guess thats the difference. Another significant difference was that we had no other kids to take care of and so we were able to really dive into preparing to become parents.

The last nine months have flashed by in the blink of an eye. We planed for Cecilia to be born in May and we were really excited for a second kid. Life had settled down with my wife’s studies so it was a perfect time for our little family to grow. That being said, we still found ourselves busy, running around constantly, and not with as much “free time” as we expected. Claire at four years old dominates most of our time and as the weeks turned into months suddenly I found myself in a hospital labor room telling my wife to “push”. I blinked again and Cecilia was in her mothers arms.

Here is what I am learning/experiencing so far with number two:

  1. Guilt: There is a level of guilt and general feeling-bad-ness that I’m experiencing due to comparing Cecilia’s pregnancy and birth to Claire’s. I know I’m not supposed to compare, but its where I am at. Lots of what I already said above applies here. I have heard from parents of 3+ children say that these feelings are normal.
  2. Focusing on first daughter: Although Cecilia needs mom pretty much all the time I am focusing more attention on Claire. I am sure that in Claire’s mind there is a certain level of “hey lets all still focus on me”. Claire has been pretty amazing so far and really enjoys her little sister. However, I want to make sure that Claire still sees how important she is to us even if we have to focus more time on Cecilia. There is just no way to know how a four year old mind will interpret certain actions from our end.
  3. Two isn’t that tough: Granted we are only four days in, but that ‘oh-my-god-we’re-responsible-for-a-baby’ mindset that most new parents experience is none existing. We have been out already and really all that number two does is sleep, eat and poop. As long as we can feed Cecilia, change her and stick her in a corner to sleep going out isn’t terrible.

I am sure there is sooo much more to come with having two kids, and with that a whole new list of what I am learning/experiencing. Right now we are so grateful for our little family.

Categories: babies, fatherhood, fathers, new baby, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment



A couple of days ago I was outside doing chores. My daughter Claire was out back playing on her playground and running back and forth entertaining her self. At the end of the day before bedtime Claire asked, “I want someone to play with me.” Regardless of how long we play with her, Claire will always want more play time. After Claire went to bed my wife and I reflected on the day and I couldn’t help but hear Claire’s words: “I want someone to play with me.”

Claire turned four a few days ago and it has caused me to pause and reflect on these last four years. What does my daughter see within these four years? Does she see a dad whose engaged, present, kind, forgiving, gentle, calm? I’m not quite sure. I’m those things described above: hopefully most of the time. Still the words, “I want someone to play with me.” echo in my mind and heart. Do I play enough with my daughter? Have I spent the quality time that Claire needs? Am I busy doing things for our life while Claire entertains herself?

Lots of questions now that she is four.

Claire will have a little sister soon. Cecilia. Will Cecilia ask the same question? Will I look back when she is four and wonder; did I play enough with her?

Maybe it’s the realization that my baby isn’t a baby but a little girl. Maybe those thoughts, emotions, etc. are getting the best of me. Maybe I’m doing as best as most dads. Maybe the statement, “I want someone to play with me” is a challenge. Something God is letting rattle in my head. Maybe I need to be pushed to become more, to do less, and play.

Lots of questions now that she is four.


Categories: being too busy, best self, dad and the kids, dads, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Us. Together.

This is one of my favorite posts. Something about this week and my interaction with my daughter reminded me of it. Hope you enjoy it, again.

Discovering Fatherhood


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…

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