home and family

Six Years In

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The last six years have gone by so fast! It is hard to believe that six years ago my wife and I had a baby girl that would change our lives. That “baby girl” is now six years old (Claire) and we have a two year old (Cecilia). Life is simply awesome. There have been challenges for sure. However, most of these challenges are insignificant compared to the blessings we have received from being parents. 

I try to reflect on life as much as possible. We all know from experience that if you don’t pause and take time to reflect you let too much go by. Whether good or bad we need to process what life throws at us.

Here are six things that I have learned on this journey so far:

Just Let it Happen: Honestly, this is one I am not exactly comfortable, nor good at. If you have read any of my posts you know that I am a bit of a control freak and “letting things happen” is not necessarily part of my mission statement. Six years in I have learned that you just have to go with it sometimes. If the six year old decides to make you dinner you really shouldn’t blow up on her. Sure the kitchen walls are no longer the color you painted them, but it’s just paint…right? The two year old decided to potty train on her own and is super excited that 25% of her “deposit” made its way into the toilet. Maybe the other 75% will come out of the carpet…eventually. 

No Perfect Moment: I’m still waiting for that perfect moment when I do something super fatherly that my children are transformed by and respond, “Daddy, you were right. You are so amazing!” What I have found over and over again is that every moment counts. My daughters will become great, and develop virtue moment by moment. So will I. Little by little we move in the right direction. All those little moments I chose to love, respect and not be overwhelmed by the minutia of parenthood will create a life filled with moments that when stringed together paint a beautiful story. 

Speak Clearly. Pause. Repeat. Any Questions? My six year old tests my patience. Every. Single. Day. Often times my frustration is my own fault. I assume my daughter knows what cleaning up her mess means. I assume that she understands what eating all her food means. I assume she understands that quiet time literally means you don’t make a sound. We all have expectations for our children. This is a good thing. However, I have found I don’t always communicate this well. Six years in I am learning to be a better communicator. Speaking clearly and in simple terms is a must. Pausing to let the child process is a must. Having the child repeat the information back to you is a must. Asking them if they have any questions is a must. Get the point? Well…I don’t always get it and that leads to a frustrated child and father. 

Waste Time with Your Children: This is something Pope Francis once said to fathers in one of his addresses. The whole idea was to understand that being with your kids doesn’t have to have an agenda. It doesn’t even have to be “productive”. Just be with them. The Popes statement has stuck with me and really has helped me to see time with my kids in a different light. The games my kids play are not always fun, they don’t always make sense and that is okay. What matters is that I just spend time with them.

Change in Priorities: It is no secret that having kid’s makes you look at things in different ways. This is necessary. Money for my wife and I has been one of the things that we are looking at in a different light. We made the decision before we had kids that we would not send them to public school. There are many reasons for that which I will not get into here. The point is that sending our kids to a school we have to pay for is hard. Money that we could use for paying off debt and other items goes towards our kid’s school. It is a worthwhile investment for sure! However, this investment changes the way we operate. Whatever your priorities are they require change. That change can sometimes be uncomfortable, but in the context of my kid’s current education it is well worth it. Claire has learned so much from being in a Montessori school. The learning and experiences she is having make this a solid, set in steel priority for us—no matter how much it hurts.

Traditions Matter: One of the things I dislike about our modern secular culture is the lack of adherence to traditions. There are so many amazing traditions both religious and non-religious that we seem to have just pushed aside. Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up in a household with traditions. This makes it difficult to pass or establish any with our kids. However, we have a few that we have implemented: celebrating the kids Saint Feast day, celebrating their baptism dates (and future dates they received their sacraments), praying as a family, Advent Tree, reading books before bed, and playing lots of board games. These are just some. Traditions anchor us. They are moments with meaning that remind us of who we are, where we have been and where we are going. 

This list could be a lot longer. All in all these have been the six best years of my life. Lots of surprises, frustrations, laughs and some tears. All incredible. 

Categories: children, dads, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Last Few Months: Pt. 1 – Another New School

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The last few months have been filled with tons of discernment, choices, and changes. Our family has been moving at the speed of light, or at least it seems that way. Claire is now going to first grade and Cecilia turned two.

This past year Claire was having an amazing time at a small (3 student) Montessori school based in a private 20-acre farmhouse. The teacher has over 30 years of teaching experience and is an incredible and Godly woman. Claire fell in love with the place and in a short year had learned to read, write, and do pretty complex math for a 6-year-old. Claire picked up a plethora of other advanced learning like anatomy, science, rhetoric, and logic. I’m not sure if the logic stuck. Unfortunately, her teacher had some health complications and ended the school year early. The real kicker came when she told us she would no longer be able to do full-time school. We were crushed. Claire cried a lot.

In Claire’s 6 short years of life, she had switched school three times. She was not pleased.

After lots of praying, research and back and forth we narrowed our school search to two. One school was right at our price point and the second was not going to happen money wise, but we still wanted to check it out. We visited both schools. The more expensive choice was a Montessori school. If you don’t know about Montessori schools they are pretty amazing. Check them out here.

We applied to both schools and asked for much needed financial aid. We expected the Montessori school to call and ask if the amount we wrote down was a joke. Actually, we were so convinced that we were not going to be able to send Claire there that we submitted all the paperwork for the other school we first visited. After a few days, we heard back from the Montessori school and they accepted our proposal for financial aid.

I was stunned.

I asked my wife if she had written the numbers right. We called and clarified. We spoke really slowly, and loudly to make sure there was no misunderstanding. The secretary confirmed that they had accepted our amount. I literally placed my hand behind my back to catch myself as I sat down on the couch. I could not believe it. The school has a barter system built into it, so the school uses the skill set of the parents to get school business done. The landscape business owner cuts grass and weeds and gets a discounted rate.  Part of the application asked what skill sets we had. I imagine my wife will get a chance to use her nurse powers and I’ll do something as well.

We are pretty pumped about this school and so is Claire. Since Montessori learning is very hands-on and has specific physical elements they use for teaching students, Claire was really excited to see that most of those elements were present in the new school.  We are excited to know that since this school goes all the way to high school level Claire may not need to ever switch schools again. Mom and Dad just need to keep increasing their incomes to make that happen, which will lead to our next post. Stay tuned.

 

Categories: dads, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, new school, new things, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Regular Maintenance

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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 Village

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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

Mi Vida Loca

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It has been a long time since I have written. I apologize for this. I can’t stand when blogs go dead for a while and here I am doing the same thing. The truth is our family has been going through lots of stuff (whose family isn’t) and we are now coming out on the other side. So here is a snap shot of some awesome things that have happened that I will certainly be writing more about.

  1. Home Sweet Home: This past summer my wife and I moved to a new-to-us-house. We were not planning on moving and all of a sudden we were. It was one of those situations where you find yourself thinking “are we really doing this?!” The move was a great financial decision. We were blessed to find a house that we could do minor work to at a price point we could afford. The best part of the house was the location—really close to the city, but tucked away in the woods on a little less than 3 acres. Going from apartment living to buying a house is a simple process, but buying a house while owning another house was nuts. I honestly never want to move again just because of the stress we experienced.
  2. We can have friends again: My beautiful bride is officially done with school and will be taking her license exam to be a Nurse Practitioner very soon. It took our whole family three long years to make this happen. We spent most of our weekends giving my wife the time and space to study while normal chores, and everyday tasks were completed. We are so happy its over! My bride worked really hard and soon it will pay off with a better paying position and the opportunity to do what she loves. We threw a party a week ago with some friends to celebrate the fact that we can have friends again. Seriously, if we haven’t talked to you in a while, please be our friends again. We have a fire pit we can share!
  3. Baby #2 is on route: We are super excited for our second baby to be on the way. My bride and I wanted to get pregnant close to the completion of her degree. We are teaching our first born that she will be a big sister and that this means she needs to listen more and step up to the plate to be a good example. Claire is a little over three years old so how much of that she is actually capturing is unknown to me. My bride and I are having some baby name troubles. She hates what I pick and I dislike hers—well see how that goes.
  4. Fix it: It didn’t take long before we moved to out first house that I began working on small projects I could tackle on my own. The new-to-us-house was no different. Now that trees surround us I made it my mission to get gutter guards installed. The project was super simple and took no time at all, which lead me to change out every single light switch and outlet. They were this puke brown color that didn’t match our wall paint choices. I finished most of that today. I accidentally wired some toggle switches wrong, but it all worked out. Gotta love Google and YouTube—I swear I can do anything on my own with those two.
  5. Internet Woes: Comcast is the only high-speed Internet provider in our area. I spent a month and a half fighting on the phone with them to get us hooked up. Apparently there wasn’t a connection point anywhere near our property. After over a dozen calls, several techs coming out, a city permit and a really great Comcast executive we finally got the Internet installed. We didn’t have to pay the $1200 fee they were going to charge us (due to my many calls and threats of going to the press). Unfortunately, my poor wife had to live like a gypsy going from wifi to wifi connection at friend’s homes, Panera and Starbucks to do work and school. They finally set up the Internet connection a week before my wife’s semester ended.

Here is a little taste of the blessings we are so lucky to experience. Our life has been a little crazy, but that’s what makes it fun.

More to come very soon.

Categories: being thankful, blessings, Catholic, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, home improvements, moving, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stuff

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My family and I are moving to a new house in the next week. Needless to say we are in full-blown packing mode. We have only lived in our current house for a little over 3 years and it is amazing how much stuff we have accumulated. You would think that two adults and a 3 year old wouldn’t have so much, but man…there is a lot of stuff here!

What is crazy to me is how often in this packing process I have found things that we should have gotten rid of a long time ago. Clothes, food, toys, random things that I cannot even remember buying, etc. Some things I just shake my head at and wonder why we ever thought it was necessary in the first place.

A few months back there was a smell coming out of one of our lower kitchen cabinets. My wife thought it was the smell of the fish I had cooked the night before that had embedded itself into the cabinet. I figured, like most food smells, it would go away or be overcome by the next thing we cooked. The smell remained. Neither my wife nor I really paid too much attention to it. One day (sadly to say, this was about three weeks ago) I reached deep into the cabinet to get the food processor and amongst the movement of stuff I released a foul smell. I was immediately repelled back by the stank that came out. I recovered myself, took a deep breath and went in to investigate. I pulled the food processor out, some pans, and pots and finally there it was: a really old, really decomposed red onion. Thankfully it was in a bag and I was able to pick it up and throw it outside.

We threw the onion out and right away we could smell the difference in the kitchen. My wife and I laughed about the whole thing, but it got me thinking about how often the same type of thing happens inside of us. We can accumulate so much stuff inside our mind, heart and soul. Things we should’ve let go a long time ago. Regret, doubt, failures, what someone said, what someone didn’t say…the list goes on. Sometimes we don’t even realize that this stuff is affecting us.

Kind of like a decomposing red onion.

At some point I bought that onion and placed it in that cabinet. For some crazy reason I forgot about it but it affected me—it affected the whole household. As a man I recognize the desire to push things that are bothering me away. The “get over it” mind set may lead this, or maybe I convince myself that it really isn’t that big of a deal. The reality is that the serious stuff, the things that bother us do need to be dealt with or else they rot inside and whom are we kidding—it affects everyone we encounter: especially our family.

There is a lot of stuff—red onions—that I have stored up over the years deep inside the “kitchen cabinet of my being”. Some are based on old situations with my dad. Some are insecurities that are common to many men. Some are silly, but for whatever reason have a hold of me. As I continue to find random things in my house that we don’t need to carry on with us I am challenged to reflect on what I need to let go of so that I am not carrying it within me anymore.

Who knew moving to a new house would be such an existential exercise.

Categories: being a man, best self, cleansing, fatherhood, getting rid of junk, home and family, letting go of the past, moving, packing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

S-p-e-l-l-I-t-O-u-t

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Me: “Hey hun, do you want some i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m after Claire goes down?”

Wife: “Sure. Do we have v-a-n-i-l-l-a or c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e?”

This has become the way we communicate in our household when we are referring to certain sensitive subjects that could cause our 3 year old to scream, fight taking a bath, or not go to bed. Sensitive subjects can be things such as, but not limited to: food, going outside, visiting grandparents, pizza, all forms of candy or what is perceived as candy, television, and Dora the Explorer.

By the way, I never realized how terrible of a speller I am.

I have experienced parents spelling words out in front of their kids before. I thought it was weird, but now I truly see how essential it is to home dynamics. For example: I can’t say the word, ‘grandma’ without Claire going nuts because she things were going to see one of them. “No sweetie, I just said her name. Grandma isn’t coming today.” This statement is usually followed by puzzled looks, an incoherent, frustrated sounding sentence and finally; capped off with angry screaming because I “took grandma away.” Needless to say the ‘G’ word is spelled out in our home.

I’m not sure what my daughter is thinking when she hears us spelling things out in front of her. Claire is a pretty smart kid and I think she is catching on. When I spell words out you can see her face look a bit more focused, almost as if she were visualizing the letters in her head and putting them in order. Since Claire has her mother’s brain I’m sure we only have another 4 months before spelling things out wont work anymore.

Say a prayer for us.

Categories: Catholic, children, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, language, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The TV Conundrum

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I usually get home around 6pm after picking up my daughter from preschool or the babysitters. Claire and I usually arrive home ravenous. Well…I am mostly ravenous. Claire gets a snack right before I pick her up. Lucky.

As soon as we walk into the house Claire clearly wants to chill out after being stimulated all day at school. I want to chill as well but I need to feed the dog, stupid cat and get dinner going before my beautiful bride gets home. In the craziness of this getting-home-transition I find that sitting Claire in front of the TV for an episode or two of Dora, Wonder Pets, or Caillou is absolutely essential to my sanity.

I really struggle with this.

Long before Claire came around I read that TV exposure at a young age wasn’t a good idea. “Make sure your child is older than 2” I heard from different sources as the “allowable” TV viewing age. Although Claire is 3 years old I still feel guilty for popping her in front of the TV for 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted time. The worst part is watching Claire as she sits glued to the TV screen. Claire goes into this sort of coma/stupor that can only be broken by pausing the show, or standing directly in front of her. Its really creepy how sucked in she gets.

My wife and I have tried getting her to read, or go to her room and play with toys, but that usually last for 5 minutes and then she wants us to play with her or take her outside. I have tried getting her to help me with making dinner, which works for about 5 minutes, and then she complains that she wants to do something else. The only thing that I have found to keep her focus for at least 30 minutes is TV. I feel pretty selfish doing this but honestly I need that window of time to make those essential things like eating dinner a reality.

Claire watching TV has now become a daily routine and I don’t like it at all. Anyone have any suggestions that could get me those 30 – 45 minutes needed for dinner, etc? This dad could use all the help he can get.

Categories: children, dads, fatherhood, healthy living, home and family, kids and television, television, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The To-Do List

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Claire: “Papi you wanna play wit me?”

Me: “Not right now baby. We have to go to the grocery store, Costco, get gas, and pick up     mommy’s medicine. Not to mention finish the laundry.”

Claire: “Just 2 minutes Papi?”

Me: “Maybe later. If we have time.”
I find that the above interaction with my daughter is becoming more than just an occasional exchange. One day its groceries, another is picking up my gun from the gunsmith, another day it’s a Home Depot trip for lumber and a saw blade. There is always something going on that needs doing. Our family is busy, but so is every other family. As I re-read the conversation above it makes me angry, angry that I would dare say to my daughter that I don’t have 2 minutes for her. I spend more time updating my calorie counter app.

Claire turns 3 on Easter Sunday and I am finding that my little girl is growing up too fast. In the whirlwind of our busy lives there is this glorious gift we call Claire that repeatedly calls me to step outside of the business. To be childlike and enjoy these precious moments that are so quickly passing us by.

“2 minutes Papi.” But there is so much to do. “2 minutes papi.” I haven’t made dinner yet. “2 minutes papi.” I’m too tired baby. “2 minutes papi.” Baby, it has to get done.

It does have to get done. I am tired. Dinner needs to be made. There is so much to do. But my daughter is growing so fast…

I find that days go by and items are checked off my to-do list, yet the reason why I do those things (my family) seems to get the back burner. The to-do list gets things done so that my family is happier, yet it is keeping me from experiencing that happiness with them. The moments when I am playing with Claire I find that in the back of my mind the to-do list pops its head in, telling me there are things that need to be done for the family.

I don’t know if anyone else feels this way.

Maybe I’m ridiculous in my expectations. Maybe this is the way it is and I have to deal with it. Yet, Claire’s voice calls out to me. To enjoy the moments while they are still available.

“2 minutes Papi”.

Categories: being too busy, blessings, Catholic, distractions, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fathers, growing up, home and family, living in the moment, Parenting, time management, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sick Day

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3am on a Wednesday. Daughter is crying and sick.

3:01am. Daughter is still crying and sick. I realize my wife isn’t home so lying in bed to allow her compassionate side to cave and take care of the baby isn’t going to work.

Claire is cranky, but not the usual I-wanna-watch-Dora-now sort of way. Claire is sick. Possibly the worst kind of cranky. I put my hand on her forehead and she is very hot. I get her water and take her temperature and sure enough she has a fever. Tylenol comes out and she goes back down.

7am. I am woken up by a loud yell—“Papi! I awake!!!!”

I am tired and have my right nostril completely clogged. It’s pretty gross. As I begin to move I notice that my body hurts. I’m not really sure why. My head also hurts. The kind of hurt you get from drinking too much. I didn’t drink though. Seriously.

I go to my daughter’s room and she still has a fever. I get her up and give her more Tylenol. Thank God for Tylenol. Claire wants to cuddle on the couch, which is another sign that she is sick. Claire doesn’t normally want to cuddle; instead she wants to run at 50 mph yelling at the top of her lungs. Luckily cuddling is less loud and something I can do.

I take coffee, orange juice, a waffle and the remote to the couch. Claire and I watch Dora’s less annoying cousin, Diego. Apparently he is allowed to have his own show…Claire’s Tylenol has kicked in and she watches two episodes without making a sound. Thank you Tylenol! I attempt to do my morning prayer but begin to fall asleep and my once clogged nostril has decided to let go off its content on my iPad. As gross and as OCD as I am, I leave the snot and nap.

About 20 minutes later I wake up to Claire wanting more juice. I guess this is a good time to clean the iPad. Claire gets more juice and we cuddle some more and read her books. There is this sick-person to sick-person understanding that we are not going to be too needy and this will be a very chill day. Books are read and then, we go and draw some pictures.

1:15pm. Claire has gone down for her nap. All is quiet and I am really contemplating taking a nap myself. Why am I still typing?

4pm. Claire wakes up and is feeling much better. We play and eat and eventually we go to her room at 8:30pm. More cuddling occurs followed by stories.

9pm. Claire is in bed and I am walking out of her room. “Papi.” Yes, Claire? “I love you.” I pause and respond, “I love you too baby. See you tomorrow.”

Today was a good day.

Categories: christianity, dads, fatherhood, fathers, fever, home and family, medicine, Sick kids, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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