daughters

The Strong-Willed Child

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My sweet little Claire is wonderful. Claire is kind, loving, intelligent, and as stubborn as a mule. At three years old, Claire is showing that she is her own person and will do what she wants, when she wants. This would be fine if Claire was 25 years old and living in her own place. However, at 3 years old and in my house, this isn’t going to fly.

It is quite amazing to see how strong-willed this little girl is. No matter if it’s what clothes she wants to wear, when she wants to eat, or whether playtime is over, Claire lets you know her desires without any hesitation. I find myself, at moments, wondering where the line should be drawn between letting her be this strong-willed, little person and needing to “break her in”.

I’ve been reading about strong-willed kids and the positive side is that, while early on they can be tough, they will grow to become great teenagers, capable of holding on to their integrity and not easily peer-pressured. This comes as great news to this father.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered so far about parenting a strong-willed child:

  1. Choices are essential: Early on I learned that asking Claire what she wanted was the wrong question to ask. Strong-willed kids want to be in charge of their choices, so if you ask them what they want, they will tell you without hesitation. The problem comes when their response isn’t an option you are willing to accept. I now word my questions like so: “Claire, which of these three outfits do you want to wear?” I have preselected the three outfits so I can live with whatever choice she makes. It is a win-win for both of us. This has been huge in dealing with food, clothes, and activities.
  2. “I wanna do it myself!”: This comes out of my daughter’s mouth anytime there is anything to be learned, experienced, or explored. Claire is not okay with mom or dad telling her that getting too close to the fireplace could burn her. Claire wants to feel the heat on her skin and see why she shouldn’t get that close. I’ve realized that Claire learns better when she can experience what we are talking about. I guess this can be applied to most people; however, there is a clear need for Claire to understand things by “doing it her self.” As long as there is a safe way for this to happen, it is worth doing.
  3. Raising my voice is pointless: This is really hard for me. My personality is pessimistic by nature, so when my daughter does something I disapprove of, it shows. I naturally raise my voice to confront Claire when she is doing something wrong and this causes her to become defensive. My wife constantly reminds me that a calm, cool voice will go a long way when disciplining. When I am able to listen to my wife’s wisdom, Claire is willing to listen as well.
  4. Strong, yet gentle leadership: We hear from counselors, psychologists, and all kinds of experts that children need discipline and guidance. Yet, the strong-willed child wants to be the master of his or her own destiny. As parents, we need to have just the right balance of strength and gentleness when leading these kids. I wrote a post a while ago about the strength of men. I think this post explains that balance well.
  5. Expect it to be challenging: Parenting in general is hard. When my daughter asserts her strong will it shouldn’t come as a surprise. I know that my daughter is going to want to do it her way. I know my daughter will want to question or challenge what I say. Therefore, I’ve learned we must be preemptive with strong-willed children. Think about what your child might do or say when you tell them it’s time to eat, or take a bath, or put toys away. When I expect my daughter to do it “my way” and it doesn’t work out I have myself to blame.

So, there you go. This is just some of what I have observed/learned so far. Nothing terribly complicated, but it’s so much easier said than done. Maybe our next kid will be willing to accept a simple, “because I said so.”

Categories: children, dads, daughters, fatherhood, Parenting, Strong-willed kids, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Pretty Flowers

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This year the outdoor project our family wanted to tackle was rebuilding the flowerbeds we inherited when we bought the house 3 years ago. These flowerbeds were pretty terrible. Weeds reigned without consequences. The landscape beams that were supposed to contain the flowers were rotted out. Needless to say, the flowerbeds were an eyesore.

A few weeks ago I was able to rebuild the flowerbeds and weed the one up against the front of the house. I planted some new flowers to spruce up the curb appeal. Since doing this I have been able to better distinguish between weeds and other flowers. Some weeds have pretty flowers on them, which is probably confusing for most people. It is for me.

I have told my daughter that there are some pretty yellow and orange flowers that will be coming soon. Claire is very excited for pretty flowers to come. As Claire and I walk by the flowerbeds when we leave the house I look to see how the flowers are doing. Claire will excitedly look as well to see if her pretty flowers are ready. “Are they ready Papi?” Claire asks excitedly. “No baby, not yet.”

On one particular occasion I noticed a few dandelions. I must have made some irritated gestures and sounds because Claire could tell I wasn’t pleased. I walked over to the dandelions and ripped them out of the ground and threw them against the fence. Claire was confused and said, “Papi, no! Those are pretty flowers you made for me!” I looked at the dandelions and back at Claire. “No baby, those are weeds, not flowers.” Claire was not pleased with my response and began to lecture me with a stern voice: “You no do that papi, ok! Those are my pretty flowers!” I wanted to laugh out loud, but thought that it would only make her more upset. Claire went towards the fence and picked up the beaten dandelions. As she straightened up my little girls’ sweet and gentle voice returned, “See Papi they are pretty flowers.”

I wish I could see the world the way my daughter does. What a difference it would make.

 

 

 

Categories: children, children's perspective, daughters, fatherhood, fathers, home improvements, landscaping, Parenting, perspective, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Twirling

fatherdaughterdanceA couple of weeks ago my wife told me about this “Daddy-Daughter-Dance” that our local YMCA was putting together. It was going to be a two-hour event where we would dress up, get our picture taken, make crafts, eat snacks, dance and get an ice cream Sunday. I signed up for it and told my daughter about it. Claire was very excited. It is really interesting seeing how Claire was able to recognize that this was going to be a special event just for her and I. Leading up to the dance Claire would talk about going and how it would be fun.

About a week before the dance Claire got a package in the mail from her aunt. Auntie had heard that Claire was going to a dance and bought her a slick pair of black dress shoes. The shoes solidified for Claire that this dance was a big deal. Apparently a woman’s DNA is wired to respond to shoes in a way that I simply cannot quite wrap my mind around. Shoes = big deal. I guess this is a universal norm.

The day of the dance Claire was talking about it and I was busy working on the closet shelving system I was installing. As I finished my project I jumped into the shower and quickly dressed. My wife was busy getting Claire ready. At one point I walked by Claire’s room and saw her in her dress and she said, “No Papi. Not yet. I not ready.” I complied and walked away. Once my wife was done getting our daughter ready, Claire walked out with a big smile and a look that clearly sought my approval. I told Claire how beautiful she was and it was obvious that she was eating up my words, smiles and hugs.

She was stunning.

The rest of the night was great. I twirled my daughter around on the dance floor, told her how beautiful, strong and smart she was. We made a ladybug craft and ate too much ice cream. Our picture was terrible (the “picture people” were not pros) but the overall night was fantastic. Claire recognized that she captivated me; that her father genuinely desired to spend this time with her. The other fathers at the dance were equally captivated by their daughters—it was really cool to see. We all had these looks of awe and wonder as we saw these glorious little beings twirl around the room.

As Claire and I drove home I realized that these two hours had been a powerful exchange between her and I. My daughter genuinely felt love from me in the form of this Daddy-Daughter-Dance. Some of my friends have taken their daughters to dances like this in the last few weeks and I have seen social media filled with pictures of little girls twirling with their dads. It’s pretty awesome!

My favorite moment at the dance was not with my own daughter; it came about when I saw one of the other dads with his daughter and another little girl who wasn’t his child. In the exchange that the girls had with the man you could tell they were not sisters. Who knows what that one girls situation is and why her daddy wasn’t there. The beautiful thing was that someone else was “daddy” in that moment, and was twirling her. This little girl was loved and more importantly, she knew that she captivated this daddy.

Categories: Catholic, christianity, daddy date, daddy daughter dance, dads, daughters, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Food Drama Rant

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Feeding my daughter is possibly one of the worst things ever! Maybe I’m over reacting since a few minutes ago I was “reasoning” with her to eat the plate of food in front of her.

I honestly do not understand why it is so incredibly difficult for her to eat her food. I use to think that maybe what I cooked for her was gross, too spicy, too bland or maybe too green. However, the more I interact with my daughter the more I realize that Bill Cosby was correct: children have brain damage.

Proof one: Daughter begs for a PB+J sandwich. Begs! I lovingly prepare the sandwich. It isn’t just a PB+J; it is a PB+J+L (‘L’ is for the love). I present the sandwich to my daughter. Daughter rejects the sandwich, “I no-wan-it!”

I stare in absolute shock as confusion and rejection seep into my being.

“What do you mean you don’t want it? You just begged for one?!” Claire crosses her arms in front of her and says once again, “I no-wan-it!” I take the sandwich and eat it myself. I hate to waste food. Less than 5 minutes have passed and Claire comes back to the dinning room asking for her sandwich. Asking is too nice. Demanding for her sandwich is more like it. I tell her that I ate it. Claire begins to cry because I ate her “favorite sandwich”.

Scenario two: Claire has a friend over the house for a play date. Claire asks for a PB+J (believe it or not she does eat them). I proceed to make a PB+J with some of that ‘L’. Surprisingly, Claire doesn’t want it anymore. I offer carrots and tomatoes (two of her other favorite snacks). Claire rejects my alternate snack and walks away. I turn to her friend Bennett and ask if he would like a PB+J with carrots and tomatoes. Bennett says, “Yes please”. I gladly begin to hand him the plate when suddenly Claire returns with and inexplicable hunger. She is ravenous and needs a PB+J with carrots and tomatoes. Bennett is willing to share and Claire devours the food—she asks for a second sandwich and eats…all…of…it.

Whenever we take Claire to the babysitters and ask, “Did she eat well?” I hear, “Oh yeah! She ate everything!” It seems that at every other place except her home, my daughter is cooperative and a vacuum cleaner towards food. I honestly don’t get it. It hurts my brain to try and process. What is even more ridiculous is the fact that my wife and I could cook the same thing that a neighbor, friend or hobo would make and 99.9% of the time Claire would chose their meals.

Ok, I’m done. Rant over.

Categories: children, daughters, fatherhood, kids not wanting to eat, picky eaters, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

6 Ways to Wear Your Toddler Out.

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Toddlers have a ton of energy. I know—understatement of the year. My daughter is no exception. Friends of ours that have toddler boys tell me all the time that Claire has the energy of a boy. My wife and I have realized that Claire is definitely the most energetic girl in our group of friends. Actually, Claire is the most energetic out of the girls and boys. Don’t get me wrong; I love my daughter’s energy and enthusiasm for life. It’s just that her energy takes so much of mine.

We have found that if Claire doesn’t do something that can use up her energy, life will get stupid real fast for all of us. So here is this father’s recommendation for wearing your toddler out:


Season Passes:
Amusement parks are not the only places that offer season passes. We have a children’s museum, a local farm, and one of those fall plantation type places that all offer season passes very close to our home. I recommend getting one for each season. Ask for them as birthday, or Christmas presents to lessen the financial burden on you. My daughter loves going to the farm in the summer and early fall. Claire literally chases chickens, plays in a tree house and builds sandcastles (giant pile of sand provided). In the winter months the children’s museum is a place to run around away from the elements and still burn energy. We literally just got back from a plantation farm that’s open only during the fall and Claire ran, jumped, chased animals, saw pigs race and is now in deep sleep.

Malls: My daughter and I have made it a tradition now of going to Costco for a hot dog, soda and slice of pizza. The Costco is connected to the local mall, which allows for us on rainy days to get lunch and also walk around the mall. The mall has an indoor play place that she can go and play with other kids. My neighbor and I did this a few weeks ago and it was great. The play place is enclosed and offers comfortable seating for worn our parents to sit and watch their child’s batteries drain. If there isn’t a play place in the mall you can play chase, I spy, and many more games that have your kids moving and running around.

Classes: Claire has taken a ballet class and now is doing a gymnastics class. Again, this could be something you ask for as birthday or Christmas presents since it can be expensive. My wife recently took Claire to a gymnastics class and texted me after saying, “Claire is sweating from class.” At first I didn’t really know why she was texting that to me, but later that day I found out that all that energy burned resulted in an epic nap and some quiet study time for mommy.

Backyard: We were blessed to have received a free swing and slide play set for our backyard. I actually built the beam enclosure for Claire to be able to play in it. For us, the backyard is a simple way to burn some energy—especially on those days where you don’t have the desire to go anywhere. Whether Claire plays on her play set, or chases the dog we are always able to wear her out this way. Having different games that require thinking, skill and exercise are perfect for backyard fun.

Chores: So I do a lot of chores around our home since my wife is spending most of her time studying for her nurse practitioner degree. Getting Claire to help me with chores is another way to burn some energy. I will sweep our floor and then have Claire take her little toddler broom and sweep up behind me. Claire helps with the laundry, whether it’s putting it in or taking it out. Claire also helps with prepping meals (as best a 2 year old can). These things take more time when my daughter is helping, but it gives her the satisfaction of having helped me. Plus it helps her burn energy.

Special Events: Check your towns website, or newspaper for special events that may be taking place. It is not uncommon for fairs, shows, etc. to come into town. Although these are not things you can consistently do with the kiddos, it may be a one-time thing that really excites them and more importantly wears them out.

 

Hope these are some helpful ideas to help wear the kiddos out.

Categories: boys and girls, chores, dad and the kids, daddy date, daddy time, dads, daughters, energetic toddlers, fatherhood, ideas for play, napping, naptime, toddlers | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus in the Bathroom: The Mundane & Sacred

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The picture above is from one of our bathrooms. We have a crucifix in every room in our home to help us remember that God is always present. In the bathroom where this photo is from, I placed the crucifix in this basket. It wasn’t that I ran out of nails, or that there wasn’t a good spot on the wall. I remember putting it in this basket because it felt natural—Jesus amongst the normal everyday mundane stuff.

St. Josemaria Escriva has an amazing quote that has always stuck with me, “Either we learn to find our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or we shall never find him.” This crucifix in the bathroom reminds me of this reality: that our lives are always filled with the mundane and the sacred.

So my wife, daughter and I were at Mass like any normal Sunday afternoon. We were praying and trying to keep the 2-year-old from crawling under the pew. My wife and I take turns holding Claire and helping her to experience Church as best a 2-year-old can. Sometimes it is easy. Most times it is challenging.

After communion I’ve made it a habit of having Claire sit on my lap to pray with my wife and I as a family so that she recognizes the sacredness of this moment. For Catholics, when we receive the consecrated bread and wine we believe that it is the true, real and total presence of Jesus (the same Christ that walked on earth 2000 years ago). So it’s a big deal for us to emphasize this moment with Claire. Claire will normally sit on me, close her eyes and put her hands together to pray. On this particular Sunday she did the same. As we sat enjoying this moment of grace it was interrupted by the mundane reality of a full bladder.

As I realized that Claire had completely unloaded on me I stood up and sure enough it was dead smack on the middle of my pants crotch region. I sighed out loud, picked Claire up and headed to the bathroom while holding her a little lower than normal to shield myself. In the bathroom I laughed out loud. The urine spot on my khakis’ looked as if I was the one who peed on myself. I laughed out louder at the irony of it and Claire asked, “What’s funny Papi?” I responded, “Life baby. Life is funny.”

Claire and I bolted through the main door of the Church and headed to the car. Claire was maintained at crotch level in case we bumped into anyone. We made it to the car and waited for my wife to meet us. As I sat in the car I smiled and thought of Escriva’s quote, “Either we learn to find our Lord in ordinary, everyday life, or we shall never find him.” It is so true.

Claire peeing on me did cause us to get up and leave the Church, but what I realized is that it hadn’t changed the moment of grace we were experiencing. Grace came with us to the bathroom and was with us as we laughed. The sacred was with us as I cleaned myself, as I thought of how embarrassing it would be to have to explain this to someone as we left the Church. The bathroom was not the typical place we experience prayer and grace, but it was this Sunday.

The things we consider mundane and ordinary typically dominate our lives. These ordinary, mundane things are not bad; they are good and certainly necessary. More importantly I believe God is present in these ordinary moments. Maybe for you its experiencing God while cleaning up a mess your kid made, or dealing with the chaos of a work situation, maybe its experiencing a moment of grace in traffic when you are bumper to bumper on the interstate. Rarely do we have experiences of the sacred in perfect, extraordinary situations. Not too many of us can say that an angel appeared, or a light shone down on us, and a voice from heaven spoke. Most of the time the sacred presents itself in the ordinary everyday situation. Thank God for that because I personally don’t find myself in many extraordinary situations.

When I stare at the crucifix in our bathroom I am reminded that all moments are sacred. That whatever is happening right now is a moment of grace if I can see it. Do you see God in your mundane, everyday ordinary moments? Look again. You might just find Him in the most extraordinarily ordinary of places.

Categories: being thankful, Catholic, church, daughters, fatherhood, God, Jesus, ordinary, potty, sacred, saints, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nap Time Woes

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At a blissful time in our daughter’s young life we were getting two, 3-hour naps a day. It was amazing. The amount of stuff that my wife and I could do was quite impressive. I personally broke the first 3 hours into chores, followed by the second 3-hour nap with some TV, video games, or napping myself. There were moments when Claire’s first nap wasn’t a full three hours, but that was okay—you always had the second nap to make up for it.

The day finally came when that late morning nap disappeared. I wasn’t informed. There was no, “Hey dad you might wanna brace yourself for this.” It was taken from me. I’m not going to lie; there were some man tears shed over the loss of the first nap. Eventually, I was able to pull through and condense all I needed to do into the only remaining 3-hour nap. Many an awesome project had been accomplished via the naptime we had left. Rebuilding the patio deck and painting/remodeling the downstairs basement were the major things (each took 3 months worth of nap-time, and bed time sleep).

I think that dreaded day is almost here. I knew it would come, but I don’t want it to be here already! In the last few weeks my wife and I have both noticed its presence slowly creeping in. Of course, I am alluding to Claire not napping anymore.

(Pause for man tears)

The last few days Claire has not napped. Honestly, it is my fault. The Saturday it first happened we were visiting family and Claire was playing with her cousin. My mom didn’t think to put them down, and honestly they didn’t show signs of sleepiness. The next day I made sure I put her down for her nap. I had her milk, storybook and doll all set up. Claire went to her room and climbed into bed without an issue. “Have a good nap” was said, and I proceeded to go and read for a while. I could hear Claire playing in the room through the monitor. It was clear that there would be no nap in that room. ‘She might need me to go in there and remind her’ I thought to myself. I went in and told her to settle down, but 5 minutes later she was hollering, “Papi, come here!”

There are those moments in life where one is left baffled at what to do, say or think. This is one of those moments.

Categories: daughters, home and family, napping, naptime, not napping, toddlers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Make Eye Contact!

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Every now and then our daughter will do things that we want her to do without having to tell her. I know it’s shocking to me too. Examples of such things range from eating all the food on her plate, to cleaning up after a coloring session, or simply sitting quietly while playing with her toys. Usually I am thrilled to see that Claire will do these things without us having to say anything. I will stare at her as she chomps away at her food. I will smile proudly as she cleans up her messes. I will gaze in wonder as I see my little girl’s imagination at work while she plays.

And that’s usually when it all goes down hill. When we make eye contact.

As I stare at my daughter from across the room she gets the sense that I am looking at her and if our eyes lock it causes her to snap out of her good-behavior-mode. It’s the weirdest thing in the world. Claire will go from well-behaved kid to insane toddler in a matter of seconds. I’m not really sure why my wife or I locking eyes with her can cause Claire to change what she is doing, but we have quickly realized that if we do not want to interrupt her calm, cool and collected moments we cannot make eye contact with her.

I recently read an article that says that the human mind can actually sense when someone is staring at you—it is quite fascinating. There is a “gaze detection system” in our brain that is responsible for recognizing when someone is staring at you. There are clear benefits to this but when it comes to our toddler we have realized that we do not want to be detected by the said system. When Claire’s “gaze detection system” gets her to lock eyes with us she will stop eating, recognize that she was cleaning up instead of making a mess, or realize that she has been quiet for more than a minute and therefore must do a lap around the house while screaming at the top of her lungs.

As with most things toddler, there is a balance with how you deal with them. Apparently locking eyes with them is also something that we need to find a sweet spot for. My wife and I will call each other out during dinner if we stare at Claire for too long. “Don’t make eye contact!” will come out of one of our mouths. Quickly we will stare at our plates hoping the “gaze detection system” was not alerted and Claire will continue to eat.

Never a dull moment with these little ones that is for sure!

Categories: children, daughters, fatherhood, home and family, kids challenging parents, kids wanting things their way, parent child relationship, toddlers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Palpable Difference

File Aug 05, 5 23 47 PMThe last few weeks I have noticed a significant change in my relationship with my daughter. I don’t really know how or when it happened but it is palpably different. Claire and I have been hanging out and doing stuff like normal but I find that I am able to interact with her on a deeper level. Maybe it’s the fact that she can communicate with more than the word “no”. Claire is talking so much these days. Her ability to construct full sentences, and express her thoughts and feelings has changed the dynamic between us. I love it.

I know it sounds weird but I feel like I have a relationship with her now. Obviously, my wife and I have been in relationship with Claire since the womb, but the majority of womb to two has been meeting her needs. At this stage we are still meeting her needs, but there is more to it.

We took Claire to an amusement park last week and it was a blast! We had her ride the kiddy rides and she loved them. At one point there was this kids rollercoaster that we got in line for. I was a little apprehensive about it because it jerked around quite a bit. I had decided that I would keep my arm around Claire’s neck for extra support and comfort just in case she freaked out when the coaster started. As we got our lap belts fastened I gave Claire a pep talk, “This is going to go fast baby. Don’t worry I will be here with you ok?” Claire was too excited to care about what I was saying. I positioned my hand around her and was ready for a frightened kid. We had our first drop and Claire had an ear-to-ear grin that was accompanied with a loud “weeeeeee” as her arms were raised in the air. It was awesome.

After we got off the roller coasted my wife and I asked Claire what she wanted to do next and she responded with, “ride again.” We went from ride to ride eventually ending the day at the water park. The whole time Claire and I were hanging out there was this palpable difference. Claire interacted and laughed with us; she would run up to stuff and say, “Papi look!” I would respond with, “Wow! That’s amazing.” My daughter and I are growing in our relationship together and I love every minute of it.

I guess all parents recognize that at some point we will do more than change diapers and feed our kids. The reality of it happening is so cool and moving. This little person that I have the blessing of raising is fun, full of personality and someone I really love spending time with.

Categories: amusement parks, daughters, fatherhood, growing up, parent child relationship, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bye, Bye Baby

Photo Jun 24, 8 43 05 AM

I walked into my home the other day greeted by the following words from my wife, “Claire is too big to stay in her crib. We need to move her to a toddler bed.” I was puzzled at first.

Baby too big? No crib? Toddler bed?

I responded with a simple, “ok.” My wife began to explain that she had caught our daughter after her nap with her leg over the crib rail and was getting enough momentum to make an escape. When my wife checked to see what the weight and height is for switching to a toddler bed Claire had reached those measurements a while ago.

After eating dinner we spent the next 45 minutes putting together a toddler bed that had been given to us. As I assembled the toddler bed, my wife disassembled the crib. There was that “awww, she’s a big girl!” sentiment, mixed with a “she’s a big…girl…?” feeling. It was really weird. It felt like we were burring someone while new life was springing up right next to it. Claire was super excited at the reality that she was getting a new bed. There was no mourning on her end. No hesitancy to see the comfort of those four walls disappear before her very eyes. Meanwhile I am holding on to an Allen wrench in the fetal position wondering to myself, ‘what is happening?’

They outgrow things: clothes, car seats, and shoes. I have seen Claire outgrow several of these items, but her crib was the last symbol of her “babyness”. It’s definitely a little sad. My baby isn’t a baby anymore. She’s a little girl. I guess I knew this was going to happen and I understand that it is an inevitable part of life, but its weird. Part of me wants Claire to stay a baby so I can hold her longer and experience her in this oh, so short and unique time of life. However, Claire doesn’t want to be held. “I walk!” she says as she squirms from my arms to get to the ground. “I try!” comes out of her mouth as she attempts to figure things out. I step back and let her do it.

This discovering fatherhood journey has so many twist and turns. One minute I think I’ve got it figured out and the next I feel like I’m starting over again. Being a father is awesome but it is painful. As simple and necessary as it is for Claire to transition to a toddler bed a piece of me hurts inside.

It’s part of the process I guess.

Categories: cribs, daughters, fatherhood, growing up, outgrowing a crib, toddler bed, toddlers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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