Posts Tagged With: Home and Family

Mi Vida Loca

tokyobusystreet

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

moving-boxes

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

lettere sparse

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

kidtv

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

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

grass

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

Us. Together.

chores

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

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

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

Us. Together.

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

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

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

Us. Together.

 

Categories: children, chores, collaboration, fatherhood, God, Parenting, working together | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Help, I stood up & can’t get down!

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Here at DiscoveringFatherhood.com I love seen new developments in my daughter’s life: crawling, waving, and pooping only twice a day—it’s exciting. As a new dad everything is pretty much new. However, every now and then I experience or hear about something baby related that leaves me scratching my head.

This is one of those blogs.

Claire recently started standing up by grabbing on to things. It first happened in our living room as she grabbed on to the ottoman. My wife warned me of what was going on with a scream and some jumbled words, “bab-stand-stop!” I was amazed to see that even though Claire wasn’t crawling at the time, somehow she managed to stand. Claire has now mastered crawling and standing has become a new thing to do. I found her standing up in her crib (above photo) a few days ago. However, prior to being welcomed with that gorgeous smile the baby monitor greeted me with blood curdling screams. I thought Claire had fallen out of the crib.

This habit of standing and holding on to the crib rail has continued and unfortunately has occurred several times during the early hours of the morning. Screams come through the baby monitor, we open her door and she is standing, holding on to her crib. At least she has a cute smile to welcome us. My wife finally noticed that Claire would fall asleep as soon as we either laid her back down, or picked her up from her crib. Naturally we Googled, “baby cant sit down after standing up in crib” to see if this was something other babies did. It turns out our daughter isn’t that weird.

Apparently there is this phenomena, habit, lack of motor-skill-function—whatever you want to call it—that causes kids to stand up in their cribs, but not be able to get back down. What happens is that kids pull themselves up, but they have not developed the gross motor skills to bend their knees and sit back down. Claire has developed plenty of other gross skills, but we’ll leave that for another blog entry. Anyways, kids lock their knees and so instead of naturally bending them to sit down they tend to just fall either on their butts, or if they get rigid, end up falling like a surfboard, which never ends well. Some kids apparently fall asleep standing up and eventually fall down which naturally scares them to death hence blood-curdling screams from the baby monitor. I’m not going to lie, I laughed out loud when I thought of a poor kid holding on to dear life and falling asleep on the crib rail. Anyways, here is a video that explained this pretty well.

So now my wife and I are teaching Claire how to bend her knees. It isn’t working so well. Claire is really good at locking her knees. It’s like prying an alligator’s jaws open whenever I try to get her to bend them. Apparently, karate chopping the back of her knees is not an acceptable method of teaching her.  So discovering fatherhood is also about doing trust falls with my 10 month old kid. Ha! Who would’ve thought it?

Categories: cribs, fatherhood, home and family, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Old Days

advice-lazy-guy

There are moments like today where I miss the calm, ordered, predictable life I once had. I had an apartment that was clean. Everything was placed in a particular way that made logical sense. I got up at a certain time. Went to sleep at a certain time. All was calm, ordered and clean.

Life is not like this anymore and there are moments where I miss the old days.

I miss it because it was easy. When you are alone you can set your own pace. Do what you want and have no one disrupt that. It’s nice because it’s predictable, constant and oh, so comfortable.

Life is anything but predictable, constant and comfortable with a family. Everyday has something in it that you were not expecting that frustrates you, changes your plans, leaves a mess, etc. I currently stand in the mist of toy shrapnel in my living room. It looks like Fisher Price sent bombers and toys blew up everywhere. There are socks (none matching) all over the place. Food is smeared on the baby chair and dinning room table. My wife’s school books are sprawled out on the kitchen table, her own socks lie before the grown and there are at least 2 cups of water lying around in precarious places. Dishes peek over the sink and there is a particularly yellow stain on the kitchen counter that I think just winked at me.

Not predictable…not constant…not comfortable and certainly not clean…

Seven years ago I left the Catholic seminary. I was studying to be a Catholic priest; something I had felt a calling in my heart for a long time. After a few years in the seminary I was hooked and thought this was where I belonged. It was predictable, constant and comfortable. I felt like this was where I was supposed to be. Yet, God had other plans. During my second year I began to get a sense from God that this was a pit stop and not my final destination. I was not comfortable with that. I liked seminary and what it was. Needless to say I left the seminary. Not because I didn’t like it, or had a bad experience or any of the sorts. God had made it clear, that for me, this was too easy. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Being a seminarian and eventually becoming a priest is not easy. Priests have very demanding and difficult lives. Ask to shadow your local priest and you’ll see how not easy it is. However for me, and the way I am wired it was going to be too easy.

This may seem confusing to people. Why not do what feels predictable, constant and comfortable? I thought the same thing until I got married. Pope Benedict 16 has a quote that I love, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” In my life that which is comfortable and easy never helps me to grow. Sure, it’s predictable, constant and comfortable—all things I love. However, these things only help me to live a life that is comfortable and not great. Comfort in this sense is not the comfort one looks for in their couch after a long day of work. Comfort here refers to someone seeking to do that, which is less arduous, and doesn’t demand as much. Comfort in this sense is a lack of living to our full potential—half-assing if you will.

You and me are made for greatness, but a lot of the time we settle for comfort. It’s predictable and constant. But to be who we are meant to be requires effort, pain, sweat and tears—none of which are comfortable.

I stand before a room that is messy; a life that is no longer done “my way”; a life that demands that others be first and myself to be last. There are moments like this one where I miss the old days. Yet, I know that this new life is turning me into the man I am called to be. The lack of predictability, constancy and comfort makes me a better man, a better father, a better husband and a better person all around. It’s like going to the gym and working out. If I only lift weight that my body is comfortable with I will never breakdown the muscle fibbers that will in turn rebuild stronger and bigger muscles, which will make me a stronger and bigger person.

There are moments when I reminisce on the old days, but these new days are better. I have a loving wife and daughter that make life so much better. We can all look to the old days and say they were good. There was a lot of good stuff there that made life predictable, constant and comfortable, “but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

Categories: best self, complacency, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, manhood, Parenting, surrendering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Switching Car Seats

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Claire had her first Thanksgiving this year and she got to meet some family members she hadn’t met before. Claire had some other firsts besides Thanksgiving and family:

  • She started waving her hands to say hi and bye and if you listen carefully enough you can hear her say, “hi”.
  • She is able to sit up in the grocery store cart without any support.
  • She is sounding off what sounds like “mama” and “papa.”

A couple of days ago we had to switch out Claire’s car seats from our vehicles. Claire is getting bigger and bigger every day. I remember putting her into her infant car seat when we left the hospital and I can’t believe she is too big for it now. Parents, friends and acquaintances all say the same thing, “they grow up so fast.” It really is true.

I don’t know if it is her learning to wave, sort-of-talking or changing out the car seat that has saddened me (or a the combination of the three), but the reality that my baby will not be a baby much longer is hard to accept. Claire isn’t going to college anytime soon, but it feels like she has taken a step closer towards that end of the spectrum.

I’m trying to maximize my time with her at this stage of life because it’s going to fly by. I guess that sounds weird since I should be maximizing my time with her in all her stages of life. However, this baby stage is so unique and it stinks that it is flying by so fast.

One of the benefits of this nostalgia is realizing how privileged I am to have this precious time with my daughter. Tomorrow is not promised to me, or to you, and so I must seize the moments or lose them forever. The last two weeks I have found myself playing with Claire and spending more quality time with her. I’m not going to lie, there are days when I cant wait for her to go to bed so I can get things done or just have a break. Somehow, switching car seats has changed that mind set. I’m finding myself waking up in the morning with a desire to be with my daughter and on returning home wanting nothing more than to have her in my arms.

Man…what a crazy, emotional ride! I can’t imagine how I’m going to feel when we switch out her current seat for the booster seat.

Categories: enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, living in the moment, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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