June 30, 2009

Dear God, it’s me Matthew

About a month ago, as the kids and I were driving in the car, we noticed a very long funeral procession traversing along the local freeway. It was a quiet Saturday morning and the sight of at least 50 to 75 cars following each other in a single file line was unmistakable. The fact that there were four motorcycle cops rushing up to the nearest onramps and shutting down traffic to allow the procession to proceed only added to the sight.

Of course it wasn’t long before I heard a little voice from my inquisitive little boy (who, by law, is mandated to ask more questions each day than a week’s worth of Jeopardy) piped up from the back seat. “What are those caws doing, Daddy? Where are those caawwws going?”

Think fast old man! Where are they going? A baseball game? The beach? The local carwash? I couldn’t think of a suitable answer. My mind raced and as he waited for an answer I could feel the anxiety rising in my chest. Finally, after reaching a point where hyperventilating was a real possibility I seized upon an idea that was so far out there that I couldn’t believe I would even consider such a response. But I was desperate. So I took a deep breath and…

I told the truth.

“Monkey, someone in that black car in front of us died. They are taking that person to the cemetery so that all those people in the cars behind us can come and celebrate that person’s life.”

TheMonk, I could tell, was digesting this information. I could tell there was going to be a follow-up question. There always is. So I braced for the worst and squinted from the reality of the situation as he uttered his next question… “Well, what are the motorcycles doing?”

Motorcycles?! Oh praise the Lord! I could DO motorcycles. We spent the rest of the drive talking all about motorcycles. Not dead people. Motorcycles. I have never been so glad to discuss why some motorcycles are loud and some are quiet. I had survived!

Fast forward to this evening. We are driving along the same stretch of road that we had driven on a month prior when we witnessed that funeral procession. I was lost in thought as we cruised down the freeway with Jason Mraz providing background music. (It’s all about the Wordplay, apparently)

Suddenly, from out of the blue, TheMonk speaks up from the back. “Daddy, why did that man in the back of the car die?”

*Sigh* This time, I went straight for the truth. It worked so well last time and as I formulated my response, I began scanning the road for a motorcycle to distract us.

“Well, Buddy, just like babies are born every day, people die every day. It just happens. It’s sad when we know the person who dies because we can’t see them anymore but it’s okay that people die.”

I pause and wait for his follow-up. And when it comes, it’s a doozy.

“Daddy, what happens when someone dies. Do they ever wake up?”

As my body temperature rises, I experience a heat flash and I can’t find a Goddamned motorcycle ANYWHERE! So I take another deep breath and say…

“Buddy, when someone dies they aren’t sleeping. When someone dies they leave their body and, if they’ve been good, they go to heaven.”

Oh, shit. Why did I bring up heaven? Did I really want to go there? Maybe he didn’t hear that part.

But TheMonk heard it. “If they’ve been good they go to heaven? What’s heaven?”

“Heaven is a place where we go after we die. It is in the sky and it’s where God lives and it’s a wonderful place. But you have to be good to go there. That means you have to tell the truth, be nice to others and don’t hit people.”

Now the words are just barfing out of my mouth and I can’t control it. I know that I am sliding head first down that slippery slope and the bottom will not be pretty. And there is still not one damn motorcycle anywhere to be seen.

TheMonk, smelling blood in the water, follows up again. “You mean, if I hit, I won’t go to heaven?” He quickly mentions two younger daycare friends who, as fate would have it, are dead smack in the middle of their hitting phase. “Victoria and Jayse like to hit. They are not being nice.”

And then, a little girl voice pops up from the back seat for the first time since we started this conversation. In a matter of fact voice that is dripping in sad resignation, Swee’Pea declares…

“Yep. Victoria and Jayse aren’t going to heaven.”

*sob* I so suck at this.

June 21, 2009

What being a dad means

Dear Swee’Pea and TheMonk,

Today is Father’s Day. When I was growing up, this day meant very little to me. Since my own father died when I was six, Father’s Day was often a painful reminder that my father wasn’t around to celebrate the day with.

But then 28 years after the death of my father, you two came along and, all of a sudden, Father’s Day had meaning again. My first Father’s Day was just days after you were born and I didn’t really get what being a father meant. That was the curse of not growing up with a father – I just didn’t know. But it was also a blessing. It was a blessing because I could dictate what being a father meant to me rather than what I had learned through my interactions with someone else. I could shed stereotypes about what being a man is all about and create my own definition of what being a father means.

And four years later I now know, more than ever before, what it means to be a father. I know it because I’m living it every day through my interactions with you both.

You see, being a father means providing strength when you need it most. It means gentle kisses in the morning and evening and every time in between. It means a firm resolve to show you the difference between right and wrong. It means leading by example and being the person I want you to grow up to be.

Being a father means wiping noses, wiping butts, and wiping away the tears. It means loving you so much that the love gets me to the next day, even when it seems like the weight of the world is upon my shoulders. It means being the one who comforts you in the middle of the night after a bad dream and the one who dances with you in the light of day to celebrate a milestone. It means having to say no when I really want to say yes. It means saying yes when I really want to say no.

Being a father means baking cookies, baking cakes or just plain making the attempt. It means learning that not every shade of pink matches and that superglue fixes the broken heart that comes along with a broken toy. It means learning to make a ponytail, painting little fingernails and going shopping for a new tube of lip gloss. It means teaching the intricacies of the internal combustion engine – even when I have to make some of it up along the way.

Being a father means expressing my love out loud but also expressing my love through deeds. It means sharing a popsicle on a hot day, giving horsey back rides and helping you climb the difficult ladder at the playground. It means putting on lipstick, clip-on earrings and having tea out of pink plastic cups. It means teaching how to throw and catch a ball.

Being a father means reading the same story three nights in a row. It means finding a Hot Wheel and a barrette in my pocket while sitting in a meeting at work. It means researching the best car seats and then buy four of them and not thinking about the cost – until the total is read out loud. It means planting “magic beans” in the back yard and pretending they grow into beautiful flowers. It means pretending the beautiful flowers smell really, really good.

Being a father means so much more than I can write in a single post. But then that’s why I have this blog. So you can see first-hand, my little ones, how much I love being your Daddy. While this year has been a tough one for us I hope you remember this time, if you remember it at all, as being one of love and feeling safe and secure. Because, above all else, that’s what being a father is all about.

Love you always,

June 15, 2009

A picture says 365 words

So I got this hair-brained idea.

Okay, granted, one could argue that the vast majority of my ideas are hair-brained but this one sat in my head for a while and it was harder to shake loose than a stubborn booger. So I went with it.

See, the idea is this. For the next year I will, upon leaving the house, line up each kid at the door and take their photograph. The goal, of course, is to look back on their fifth birthday at all 365 photos and see the transformation in a matter of seconds. But then there are also other intriguing elements that I have discovered in just the four days we have done so far. The most interesting aspect is the fact that I have found they are not always in the mood to take their photo as we are heading out the door. This, I have decided, is an added bonus. One that will be fully enjoyed only when they are much older and I can make fun of them for having some of the most forlorn looks known to man (Yes, Swee’Pea, I’m talking to you.).

The other bonus is that I have found that encouraging them to make whatever face they want in the photos will open up a window into their personality and, I think, become better understood after the year is up. I hope this project will be one that they will look back on and think, “Boy, Dad sure was crazy had a great idea.”

Now I know that the hardest thing will be to keep this up for an entire year. I also know it will be hard to get every single day on camera. Having said that, I think this will be a successful project if I can get close to 300 photos each. And if this doesn’t turn out the way I think it will, then at the very least I will have prepared them well on how to take a mug shot.

If you are interested, I will be posting each photo on flickr (One set for Swee’Pea and one set for TheMonk) but will try and resist putting many more on the blog until I put them all together in a video in June of 2010.

But, a little peek into the first four days are in order. I present days 1-4:

June 14, 2009

Four Years and a day

Ever since I was mentioned in Entertainment Weekly, I have been struck with the biggest writer’s block in the history of the world.  I have several half-finished posts in my drafts folder – each one being questionable to being EW worthy.

But there’s nothing like a life milestone to jumpstart the writing.  Yesterday, Swee’Pea and TheMonk turned four.  First, I need to start with the most obvious question.  A question that I’m sure every parent faces when one minute they are wandering the halls in a sleep-deprived daze to suddenly contemplating some Christian pre-school, even though you’re Catholic, because it’s right down the street.  The question, of course, being…


Once I got over the shock of having kids who can now climb up on a barstool, clamber over to the fruit bowl in the middle of the kitchen island, grab a juicy nectarine and eat it while Daddy is in the shower, I realized that “four-years-old” happened while I was busy trying to figure out “three-years-old.” And that happened when “Two-years-old” was only half-figured out. At this rate, I’m beginning to think I will never figure my kids out. Maybe when they’re 38.

To illustrate how badly three-years-old messed with my mind, I thought it would be a good idea to throw a birthday party for the Swee’Pea & TheMonk. We would invite over 8 to 10 of their closest friends and we’d party like it’s 1999. It would be great! I’d bake each of the kids a cake while making cupcakes for the party goers. We’d give out caramel apples as party favors. But it would be small, intimate and downright cozy.

Well, it turns out that caramel apples aren’t as easy to make as it seems. And baking cakes (even though we do it every year) must be like pregnancy. You forget the pain so much that you think doing it again would be a good idea.

Luckily we had help. Grandmother and Great-Grandmother (who’s old and quiet but will slap you upside the head if you get out of line. I just know it. I can see it in her eyes.) arrived to help set-up and, more importantly, clean-up. Grandmother also took Swee’Pea and TheMonk out this morning to buy candy for the treat bags (I couldn’t give out our poor little apples. Think… the caramel apple version of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.), buy Swee’Pea underwear (Don’t ask. Apparently it was an emergency.) and get haircuts (not on the agenda I sent her out with so she’s darn lucky the hair looked good.).

Anyway, the party was short and sweet. The kids had fun and the party goers were on excellent behavior. We even enjoyed chatting with the grown-ups. But even as I write this my legs are aching from all the work that went into this party. I’m already dreading next year. Except the cakes. I’m looking forward to that.

Oh, and just as I was lamenting the fact that my babies are growing up, TheMonk looked up at me today and said, “Daddy, being four means I’m medium-big.” Okay, maybe I can live with that.

Happy Birthday my not-so-little ones. Your Daddy loves you with all of his heart. May your fourth year be filled with love, happiness and a complete weaning of Pull-ups.

June 6, 2009

Entertainment (Semi) Weekly

Hey there! If you’re here after reading the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly and you took the time to actually look me up on the internet (I mean, seriously EW, I really appreciate the love but would adding the web address have killed you?!), then I say you have a lot of time on your hands.  Nonetheless, you’re here. So take a look around.  Some favorite posts of mine are right over there on the right so kick back and prepare to be dazzled by my “irreverent” humor. (I won’t lie to you. I had to look “irreverant” up in the dictionary. I’m not proud.)

Also, can you tell me if you would consider buying Katy Perry’s eye make-up that’s profiled on page 23?  And if you would, can you tell me at what strip club you are employed?

Oh, and since I’m first on the list and you might not have looked at the others, you can find them here (But take your time. They’re not going anywhere.):

Halcomb Hellions

McNulty Quads

Howell Quints

June 1, 2009

Meaning of life

Over the years, I’ve spent a great deal time pondering the age-old question, “Why are we here?”

As a kid, I would stand in front of the mirror, peering relentlessly into my own eyes and ask why I existed. What am I here for? What am I supposed to do? Am I here by chance or is there a purpose behind my existence? Was I part of a higher being’s great celestial plan? Or was I here based on a big bang and pure chance?

I never did find an answer.

But that didn’t keep me from asking the question. As I got older and wiser I began to think that maybe I was put on this earth to do good. To bring joy to peoples lives. To leave the world a better place. To make a difference in the life of a child.

As I studied the stars on a crystal clear night, I would ponder the heavens and wonder about all the possibilities strewn across the galaxy and galaxies beyond. And again I’d think of the question… why? Is it to behold a sunset while holding your wife in your arms? Is it to witness the newborn cries of your children and see life being created and all of its possibilities? Perhaps it’s to experience laughter and sorrow and fear and joy and love and anger so that you may truly know yourself. Perhaps each of us is put here to learn as much about ourselves as possible before we move on to the next stage. Or perhaps this is the last stage.

Years and years of pondering have brought me to this point. One where I finally know myself and I can finally answer the question, “Why am I here?”

The answer, it turns out is this:

To eat donuts.


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