home and family

Let Them See

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Claire watching me shovel our neighbors house

Snowmaggedon 2016 has come and gone and we have survived. We have shoveled our way out of 20+ inches of snow, which depending where you are in the world may be laughable. Here in the good ole state of Virginia, 5 inches is enough to shut us down for a while; 20+ inches set a new record and may possibly have us stuck in our neighborhoods for a week.

From Friday afternoon to right about at 2:30pm this afternoon we were buried in. Our back deck had snow coming up to the window. Our dog that loves to run in snow wouldn’t go out because he needed to take a running leap to clear the 20+inch wall of snow that had collected against the French doors. Apparently relieving your bowls isn’t really worth all that trouble.

My daughter was super exited to see snow. For whatever reason, she was also excited by the fact that “Papi” was going outside to shovel the snow. I went out to clear the snow off the porch and driveway when my neighbor yelled out, “Good morning. Want some help?” “Yes. Yes I do.” The words came out of my mouth before my neighbor could complete his sentence.

For the next several hours, my neighbor and I cleared each other’s driveways and vehicles, and 3 other neighbors’ driveways. Another neighbor joined us a few hours in. It was one of those great moments where neighbors unite and make life easier on each other.

While all this snow shoveling was going on, my daughter was watching. Claire saw her “Papi” and other neighbors going around helping each other out. At one point, as Claire was playing outside with my wife, they both came over to the neighbor’s house we were helping. These neighbors had a baby recently, so we wanted to make sure their house was extra clear. My wife grabbed a shovel and Claire helped out as well. Claire’s job was to help me put salt on their steps and walkway. Claire was so excited to help.

My pastor recently wrote in his weekly letter about how important it is to let kids see parents writing checks and placing money into the collection. He speaks of this action as necessary for kids to recognize its importance. My pastor, at one point, wrote, “We watched our parents write the check every week.” The witness of seeing this act of writing a check told my then pastor-to-be that it was important. He ended up giving his whole life to the Church by becoming a priest.

Our kids witness so much in this world. A lot of it is good. A lot of it is bad. What kids witness from their parents sticks most. Your influence on your child is greater than any other. If we want our kids to do good, let them see us doing good. If we want our kids to be holy, let them see holiness in us. My neighbors thanked me for helping them today, but letting my kid see my wife and I helping others is something that I thanked them for.

Let’s show our kids all the good that they can do.

Categories: being a good example, children, church, dad and the kids, fatherhood, holiness, home and family, Uncategorized, working together | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent: 4 Ways to Become a Better Man & Father this Season.

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Happy New Year!

In the Church, Advent commences the Christian New Year. Advent is the season that most retailers miss between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Advent is a preparation in anticipation for the coming of Jesus. Most people focus on Jesus coming during Christmas, but there are two other “comings” of Christ that occur. The Second Coming refers to Jesus final coming in time where He will take His peeps to Heaven and the rest well…you know. The third coming, which technically should be called the second coming since it happens between His birth (first coming) and the final coming at the end of time (second coming) is what I call a daily coming. This is the daily decision to let Jesus come into our hearts and literally reign over all we do.

For many people Advent is completely off the radar and gets surpassed by shopping, planning family gatherings, etc. I want to challenge all men (and women too. I know you read this, but I’m focusing on dads primarily) to use this season of Advent as a way to help you become a better man and father. So here are four ways to let the season of Advent transform you.

  1. Daily Invitation: Does Jesus have a place in your daily life? Is He a Christmas and Easter thought only? If so why? There are many reasons why this could have happened. The question is do you want it to stay this way? If the answer is ‘no’ then challenge yourself to doing some daily reading this Advent. Go online, to a bookstore, etc. and find an Advent Companion. Here are a few: Magnificat, LivingFaith. Maybe you are one of those dudes that don’t like to read, so here is an option for you: redeemedonline.com. This website gives you a 2 minute daily video on Advent that you can reflect on.
  2. You are going to die: Eventually we all do. Advent has us reflect on the reality that Jesus’ Second Coming is going to happen and how we lived will have a huge impact on what happens after you die. The point here isn’t so much to focus on death, but to help you reflect on how you are living so that you are on the right side of this Second Coming. If you dropped dead right now where would you go? Something worth thinking about.
  3. Serve your family: This may seem like a no brainer and something you already do. The question is how can you do this better? Most men are really good at serving their families by working and providing for their material needs. What about other needs like quality time with your spouse or kids? When was the last time you had a good conversation with your son or daughter? When was the last time you did something for your wife so that she could have a few hours of free time? I don’t know about you guys, but I find myself constantly trying to get things my way and this is not ok. Being a man means being able to sacrifice and serve—it is at the core of who we are.
  4. Your family’s overall health: How is your family doing in the following areas: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually?
    1. Are you all overweight and not eating well? Do you have some way to be physically active? If not, walk around your block once a week as a family, or go to a park and walk together.
    2. Can your family members communicate emotions, feelings, thoughts in a healthy loving, yet challenging environment? Having a dinner or after dinner discussion once a week on how everyone is doing is a great way to check in.
    3. What is your family’s prayer life like? Is it just grace before meals? Besides the fact that Church on Sundays should be a priority what are you as a father doing to lead this effort? How about taking that Advent companion and doing the reading and reflection during dinner and have everyone go around and share their thoughts.
    4. How are you challenging your family intellectually? Do you read articles, books, etc. on things that help them flex those brain muscles? Why not once a week present some discussions on a topic that will make your kids think beyond what they are accustomed to? It could be political, moral, ethical, etc. The key is getting them to think and grow in their intellectual capacity.

I know that these four things may seem like a lot, but the whole point of having a time to reflect and push ourselves is so that we can live better lives. Advent is here and will be gone in the blink of an eye; will you be a better man and father after the fact? Will you have helped your family be better after the fact? Maybe all four of these are too much for some of ya’ll. That’s fine. Do two. Do one, but definitely do something.

Categories: Advent, being a man, best self, Catholic, christianity, christmas, fatherhood, fully alive, God, home and family, Jesus, surrendering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nap Time Woes

claire in bed

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

More Than Grass

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Having children makes you do weird things; things that you would never, ever do in normal circumstances. Fathers sell their priced muscle cars that they have worked on for half a decade to purchase a minivan with “stow-n-go” for the sake of more room. Mothers leave their careers that took them years to obtain to stay home and be pooped on, yelled at, and bossed around by little dictators. We will leave our beloved city life in order to move to a quieter suburban home because the school districts are better there, but the parties are lamer.

And sometimes we buy grass.

Yes that is an awkward sentence. It is one of the weirdest things I have ever done since having a child. My wife and I were fortunate enough to buy a home early on in our marriage. The house had everything we needed and it was move in ready. When Claire was born the back yard began to be an issue for me. I now saw it with “daddy eyes.” The ground was rocky and uneven. The grass, or to be more precise, the weeds, were not inviting. There was this awkward spot in a corner where we had a ton of pea gravel and glass. It literally looked like someone took a pickup truck full of pea gravel and dumped it there and then smashed bottles over it. Needless to say the yard was not inviting and was more of a hazard than a future playing area for my daughter.

As Claire began to crawl I took more notice of the yard. I finally got a landscape company to come out and tell me how much it would cost to fix the yard. We were given a great quote and so began this crazy process of redoing the yard. We put down some Zoisa grass because my wife’s family had grown up with it and it also requires less maintenance. We couldn’t afford to do the whole yard with Zoisa sod, so we had a big patch of it installed by the playground area and we seeded the rest with common seed. I figured the Zoisa grass should go where Claire would walk on the most. Zoisa is a thick type of grass that spreads. Eventually the Zoisa will take over the whole yard. The landscaper suggested I install the Zoisa in the middle of the yard since that would allow all four sides of it to spread at the same rate. It made sense. However, Claire’s playground was on the left corner of our yard and I wanted it there so that she could play on it. The landscaper said, “You realize that one side of the grass will be against those 6×6 beams enclosing the playground, the other will be against the fence separating your neighbors yard, the third stops at your deck, which leaves you with the right side as the only possible spot for the grass to continue to spread out?” Yes I understand. “Sir, you wont maximize on the Zoisas growth that way!?” I know, I said. The landscaper thought I was nuts and I was, but children make us do weird things like buying grass.

This spring we were able to really see the fruit of our landscaping endeavor. The yard is level. The grass is actually grass and not weeds. The playground now sits on top of the pea gravel and is buried by weed cloth and rubber mulch (another ridiculous expense that I would never, ever have made under normal circumstances). My daughter now runs, jumps and tumbles in the yard. I stand on my deck and watch Claire laugh and chase the dog. Claire falls on the grass as her and the neighbors play together. Endless laughter ensues. I smile and take it all in.

It’s more than just grass.

Categories: children, fatherhood, fathers, grass, home and family, home improvements, landscaping, playground, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Nursery Chair

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I was talking to some friends who are getting ready to have their baby about what type of chair they should have in their nursery. To most people this sounds like a ridiculous thing to think about but the type of chair you have in the nursery is pretty important. You’ll be doing lots of sitting and sleeping on it.

Before we had our daughter we were recommended a glider chair with the accompanying gliding ottoman. We tried them but they were not very comfortable and most of them were really expensive. The gliders had these cushion seats that although some were well made, it really didn’t do the job as far as comfort goes. They were not thick enough, or the cushion would come off too easy. No one ever sits straight in a chair so slouching on a glider was pretty rough on the back.

Next we turned to the old school wooden rocker. The nostalgic image of seeing someone rock on those is heartwarming but not comfortable. Although Cracker Barrel does a good job of trying to get people to buy them they really are not ideal for late night feedings and baby/parent naps. Still some people do it.

Finally we decided one day to go to a furniture store and see what they had to offer. We figured there might be a broader selection to chose from. There was more of the same there, but then we saw it. The recliner. My wife and I looked at each other as the scales fell from our eyes.

Screw the glider. We want a recliner!

We instantly knew that a recliner chair was the way to go. It was half the price of a glider and a million times more comfortable. My wife loved it and it was pretty roomie. The upside too was that once the kid outgrows being held on the chair daddy could move the recliner to his man cave. Everyone wins.

We have had our chocolate color recliner for over two years and it is great. We have slept in it with kid in arms. When they are new born it’s perfect because your arms are raised on the armrest and it creates this little area for them to sleep in. If they somehow moved they would bump onto your arms and still be safe. As our daughter grows the recliners size allows for us to still sit in it with her and be comfortable. The cushioning is great and I have never felt wood against my back, or the need to reposition because the cushion moved. Our recliner also rocks back and forth which is pretty awesome since that’s one of the selling points of most baby gliders. I think most importantly the recliner reclines. There is nothing nicer than pulling that lever and instantly having your feet raised and your back dropped to a semi-horizontal position. It is the epitome of relaxation.

Another thing we love about the recliner is the fact that it’s cushioned enough that when your two year old bounces onto the arm rest it doesn’t bust her nose up. If a kid did that on a glider or rocker that’s pure hickory on the snout and a potential trip to the ER. Claire has jumped from her toddler rocking chair (I know it’s ironic) onto the recliner and has been caught by cushion every time.

So those are my thoughts on a nursery chair. Ultimately you need to decide for yourself, but let’s face it a glider in your man cave is gonna be weird. Just saying.

Categories: Baby furniture, comfort, fatherhood, home and family, Nursery, recliners | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fall

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A few nights ago my wife and I had dinner with friends. We came home looking forward to settling down and getting ready for bed. My settling down was interrupted by my wife’s screaming voice raised in alarm and panic, “Claire fell down the stairs!”

I flew down the steps. Actually I think I teleported because I don’t remember actually going down any steps. Claire was wailing as loud as she could, sitting at the bottom of the stairs. Our hearts were instantly in pain. I picked Claire up and held her close to my chest as if trying to absorb the pain. Jess’ nurse training kicked in and told me to gently put her down so that she could check her. Jess checked for broken bones, bruising and other important things. Claire looked fine. I picked Claire up after her medical exam was done and held on tight…well sort of. I didn’t want to squeeze too hard just in case.

Claire started laughing and moving around almost instantly. Jess and I—after some intense observation and speaking to an on call nurse at the local hospital decided Claire was okay and did not require further medical care (there are great benefits to being married to a nurse). Claire walked around laughing for the next two hours as we kept her up in case of a concussion.

Holy crap that was scary!

I can’t begin to explain how helpless I felt not being able to protect my little girl. The worst part of it is that it was my fault that I didn’t check the stair gate before putting Claire down on the ground. Jess and I didn’t really ever settle down that night. We were tense from the fall and the thought of Claire tumbling down the stairs was worse than any nightmare we could ever have. Our neighbors comforted us by stating that their young son had fallen down the stairs several times and was fine. In a weird way it is comforting to know that we are not the only people who have had their children fall down a flight of stairs. Luckily they were carpeted stairs.

Claire is okay and she is running around like normal. Every now and then she walks pass the stairs and points at them. A healthy fear of the stairs will go a long way for her. This fall has me thinking of all the potential falls Claire has yet to encounter. Not necessarily down the stairs, but in life. Her first betrayal by a friend, her first encounter with a bully, her first fight with the ugliness of evil, her first heartbreak. As much as I want to protect Claire from these falls some will be unavoidable. As I held Claire after her fall down the stairs all I wanted to do was absorb her pain. I think every parent wishes they had this ability. It would bring so much comfort to us.

Falls will continue to happen and this dad will continue to wish for the ability of his hugs to absorb his little girl’s pain. The hugs wont absorb the pain, but they will introduce a new feeling—love—and maybe that will be enough to combat the pain from these falls. Maybe my little girl after falling will recognize that daddy’s hugs can have the power to bring comfort and safety amongst falls, and maybe bring a smile to a once frowning face.

Categories: children, daughters, falling, fatherhood, home and family, keeping kids safe at home, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

A Year In


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Its still mind blowing to me, but my daughter is a year old. One full year zoomed by. I’ve been looking back over the past year and here are some things I wanted to share a year in:

  • You will never be ready to be a father in the grand scheme of things. You can read every book, go to seminars, pray all day—all of which are great things to do, but you will never be ready. It is okay. Be a father anyway.
  • Prepare your house before the baby comes. I installed a gate on my stairs 6 months before Claire was born. It was soooo smart. Don’t wait till the baby is born!
  • Sleep is over rated. Seriously, we only need a solid 5-6 hours to function. You can sleep when you die.
  • Be your wife’s greatest fan. She had this child come out of her body! She deserves praise! The more you love her and serve her before and after the baby is born the easier her recovery will be and the more she will love you.
  • Get involved! Sure you can’t breastfeed them at night, but you can give them a bottle, change diapers, bathe them or rock the baby to sleep. Don’t be a dead beat—man up!
  • Reusable diapers are good in theory. They absolutely suck in practice. You want to be green and recycle—get a trashcan just for mixed papers. There’s your tree hugger tip of the day.
  • Give your kid quality time. My daughter won’t remember the moments I spent gazing and smiling at her, or playing with her feet. Her memory won’t remember, but somehow a child is able to retain those experiences and connect with those actions, which nourishes and nurtures them.
  • Go out on a date. You will probably talk about the baby all night long, but you deserve and need a night to be a couple.
  • It is possible to cook, clean and do the normal things post baby—you just need to make time for it. If your anal like me, relax and know that some of those projects may take weeks instead of hours to get done.
  • Take pictures and videos. Capture those moments and cute things your kids do that will disappear in the next few months. However, don’t be one of those people that lives their kids childhood through a cell phone screen.
  • Give yourself away. The more you try to hold on to your time the less you will enjoy it, the less meaning you will find. Yes you need some alone time, but remember life is meant to be lived for others.
  • Be interruptible: This is probably the thing I struggle with the most. If I have something planned I want it to go my way, but a lot of time there are interruptions and we have to be willing to give them permission. Sometimes those interruptions are better than anything we had planned.

Being a father is hard work, but also amazing. I’m sure next year this list will look different, but for now these are things that I have noticed and wanted to share about my journey of discovering fatherhood.

Categories: fatherhood, growing up, home and family, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Cor Meum

heart in handIt is hard to believe, but my daughter turned a year old two weeks ago. I blinked and she had teeth, hair, and now she moves. Everyone says that the first year flies by and everyone is right.

My wife and I had a little birthday party for Claire at our home with family. Someone asked me, “How does it feel to have a kid?” I gave a simple reply, “its amazing.” It is amazing, but there is so much more to it than that.

This is what I was really thinking.

I feel like the moment my daughter was born my heart was ripped out of my chest. No anesthesia, no scalpel, no warning—ripped out. It was given arms, legs, and the ability to move. My heart was no longer secure and protected by my rib cage. It was out, exposed, and vulnerable. My heart was no longer mine. In this exposed and vulnerable state, I loved it and yet feared for it. My heart—I guess I should call it by her new name, “Claire”—is the most painful and most beautiful thing to ever happen to me.

Claire moves, falls, cries, laughs, and smiles. Each movement, action, and emotion tugs at me. It is an incredible metaphysical-like-experience. She smiles and I feel it, she cries and I experience it, she laughs and I enjoy it. The feeling of this walking, breathing, and exposed heart is much more sensitive. My heart has never felt like this before. I have never had it hurt or be filled with joy so easily.

It is something words cannot fully describe.

It doesn’t just end with Claire and me. My wife and I are united in this indescribable metaphysical-like-experience. We simultaneously feel when our heart falls and hurts herself. We can be overwhelmed by our heart’s piercing laugh and tear up at her beauty as we gaze at her. My wife and I are more vulnerable and exposed than ever before.

It is beautiful and excruciatingly frightening, but love always is.

The crazy thing is that when my wife and I have more kids this will happen all over again. As we all know we cannot give part of our heart to someone…it is all or nothing. So, if we have 3 kids, each one of them will have my heart completely. I can’t comprehend how I can possibly experience that amount of joy, pain, and beauty all at the same time, but that is what Grace is for.

If it feels like this while she is 1 year old I might just die when she is going out to the movies, is hanging out with friends, or—oh dear, God—when she goes out on her first date!

It is beautiful and excruciatingly frightening, but love always is.

Categories: children, daughters, fatherhood, growing up, home and family, husband and wife, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beauty and the Beast

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My daughter Claire has a really cool relationship with our dog. I guess most kids do but since this is my first experience with the whole canine, Homo Sapien relationship it is neat to experience.

Rocky is a mutt that has ¼ Pit bull, ¼ Boxer and ½ of what we think is Rhodesian Ridgeback. A pretty unique mix if you ask me. When we first got Rocky he was all about cuddling with you and being playful. He is almost 5 and is still the same but 70lbs bigger.

We were not sure about whether or not the dog-baby relationship would work out. Growing up I never had a dog and I had heard that dogs could get jealous and sometimes attack children because they felt threatened. When we brought Claire home the first day we did the whole “introducing” thing where Rocky got to smell her and see there was a new favorite in town. Rocky was curious about her but never got territorial or jealous.

Fast forward a year later and you will find Claire rolling on top of Rocky trying to take his dog toys. Rocky will let her take it out of his mouth and then gently, get it back from her. Rocky will sit patiently by Claire’s high chair as she eats, because he knows she will toss him a scrap or two. There are benefits to this relationship on both sides. It is amazing to see that Rocky recognizes that she is fragile and that he cannot play with her the way he does with other dogs, my wife or I. Somehow this beast knows that our little beauty is to be treated with the upmost care. For example, a few months back I heard Rocky give a loud yelp. When I went into the room he was in I found him still as stone with my daughters hand in his mouth. Claire had discovered his tongue and wanted to keep it for herself. Rocky didn’t bite or do anything aggressive he just waited for her to release it and then went to the other side of the room. I guess he needed a time out after that.

There are the occasional moments when Rocky will run past her and knock her to the ground by accident, or have his iron rod tail hit her upside the head. His tail really hurts when it gets you. For the most part he is a really good dog and knows how to act with Claire. However, I’m not just going to leave her alone with him. Rocky might be a great family dog, but he is still an irrational animal and you never know what could happen.

Still Rocky surprises me.

There have also been moments when people come over and Rocky gets between them and Claire until we give him the okay. Rocky’s instincts seem to tell him that this little one needs to be protected and I appreciate that.

Categories: children, dogs, fatherhood, home and family, pets | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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