March 28, 2011

Reading about Pigs and other critters

We’re three-quarters of the way through Swee’Pea and TheMonk’s kindergarten year. So much has changed in these past several months that it’s difficult to keep up. The biggest leap that the kids have made, however, is in their reading skills. The best, and admittedly worst, part of this is that bed time stories are now being read to me.

Now, they don’t use the voices or bang out a Dr. Seuss rhyme like Maya Angelo, but they can downright read. Every night we pick out books like Harry the Dirty Dog, A Crazy Day at the Critter Cafe (a current fave), There’s a Wocket in my Pocket, Where the Wild Things Are and, most recently, Olympian and Dancing with the Stars winner Kristi Yamaguchi’s new book, Dream Big, Little Pig.

We’ve been reading our books with Swee’Pea and TheMonk taking turns reading books or, sometimes, pages of the book. I only correct maybe 1 or 2 words per page. They blow right through the books. And, I have to say, after we received an advanced copy of Dream Big, Little Pig, Swee’Pea fell in love with it immediately. I have found her reading it to herself in the mornings and I even found her copying all the pictures of Poppy the Pig with her pink crayons. I must admit, the book is fun and we’re definitely a fan.

We often talk about the meaning of the books we read and I try and reinforce the message through a brief discussion. The book, of course, is about finding what you love and doing it with all of your heart. Dreaming big is how you become great. For little pigs named Poppy or little girls named Swee’Pea.

March 24, 2011

Hands are for holding

Mornings are a rush. There are showers to take, clothes to put on, breakfasts to eat, coffee to drink, lunches to pack, teeth to brush, hair to comb, shoes to tie and jackets to don. It’s like herding cats. Only these cats will spontaneously put their underwear on their head, whine about their food and generally move slower than this father would prefer.

The phrase, “Let’s Go!” is uttered over and over. And it never sounds like an encouraging cheer. Instead, it sounds like an imploring plea of, “Let’s Goooooooo!” This is often followed by a “We’re gonna be late for the bus!” or a “I’m gonna make you walk to school if we miss that bus!”

But, invariably, we hop out the front door between 8:00 and 8:05 a.m. each and every school day. And as we open the door and the cool air hits our faces, we hunker down for the short walk to the bus stop. It’s at this point that I know we won’t be late and we relax and enjoy the walk. Swee’Pea and TheMonk pull their little backpacks on wheels that is often filled with nothing more than a completed book list and that day’s lunch and snack.

Along the walk we notice many things. We notice new gopher holes in our neighbor’s lawn, snails making a run for it across the sidewalk, newly fallen leaves, brightly colored trash and the occasional roly poly.

But what I notice is how big my kids are becoming.

Which is why, as we walk along in the solitude of the morning, I smile to myself when Swee’Pea reaches up to hold my hand as we walk along the sidewalk. Or when TheMonk continues to hold my hand after we cross our one and only street along the way. I smile because I know one day soon – too soon – my kids won’t want to hold Daddy’s hand anymore. Someday soon, I’ll have only the faint memories of holding hands smaller than mine and wondering where the time went. The cruelty of parenthood baring it’s teeth.

Yes, I’ll try to hold onto these memories because someday it’s all I’ll have. Well, that and underwear on the head.

March 13, 2011

Shamelessly loving Graco

When you have twins, you accumulate a lot of stuff. One of the areas that you absolutely have to buy more than one of is car seats. And then you have to buy them again. And then again.

And, if you’re like me and my wife, since one of us dropped off in the morning and the other picked up, we needed to buy seats for both of our cars. When they were infants, we bought two carriers and four bases. But after they grew out of the infant carriers, we bought four each. And every time we bought our seats, we bought Graco seats. I felt like they were the best seats available and who wouldn’t want their children to be safe?

But suddenly, we have quite a collection of car seats. And we naively thought we’d hold onto them so we’d have seats for another child, if and when that day would come. But we recently learned that car seats actually expire! So now we have two infant seats that we no longer can use and an infant rapidly approaching. Baby #3 is due to arrive in early June. We need to get an infant carrier.

Do you think Graco has a buy 10 (plus a Graco Double Stroller!) get one free program? If anyone from Graco wants to help out a loyal consumer, I’d gladly accept!

Graco Collection
Our collection of Graco Car Seats and a Double Stroller.

March 6, 2011

Father Figure

As most of you know, my father died when I was young. It remains the biggest influence on my life. Hardly a day goes by that I’m not reminded or make decisions based on my experience of growing up without a father. One of my biggest concerns when getting married and then having children was the fact that I didn’t have a positive role model to pattern myself after when it came to marriage or fatherhood.

How would I know what to do? What are my responsibilities when it comes to running a household?

Then, after I met my wife, I took a trip with her to meet her family. My wife’s family was very kind and welcomed me with open arms. I’m sure it was more about my personality and how I treated Andrea than it was that I was Catholic (a definite plus) and I’m sure if I’d been allowed to wear my earring on that first visit, that would have been okay too.

Spending time with the family and staying as a guest in my future in-laws house allowed me to watch my future Father-in-law Mike as he went about his day to day responsibilities. It didn’t take long to see how he shouldered responsibility. He went about his day taking out the trash, refilling the humidifiers, shoveling snow and even winding the giant clock in the living room – generally working hard to make sure the house was nice and that things were running smoothly.

He would exercise regularly – often early in the morning, attend church and choir practice with my mother-in-law and generally be her support whenever he was needed. I noticed that he was a hard worker but had a sharp sense of humor. He favored dropping puns whenever it was warranted (or perhaps, some would say, even when it wasn’t) and he was warm and caring and not once did I ever hear him complain.

I have spent many vacations both at my in-laws place and here at my house with Mike and he has always been someone that I could look up to. In fact, I often find myself saying to myself when I don’t want to do something around the house, “WWMD?” What would Mike do? And it doesn’t take me long to get up and do it – because I know Mike would do it without complaint. I cannot tell you how helpful it’s been for me to have someone like Mike to look up to and, even at this late date in my life, have as a role model.

Recently, Mike was diagnosed with a tumor in his abdomen. The family gets frequent updates via email from my mother-in-law. They often talk more about how well Mike has dealt with the treatments – maintaining most of his normal activities, continuing to go to work every day, etc. – than the actual treatments itself. This doesn’t surprise me. Even as Mike goes through this, he is who he is. They say you can truly judge someone by how they react to difficult circumstances and as I watch from afar it’s more apparent than ever that Mike is someone who I should aspire to be.

May I ask you, as you read this, to say a prayer or send good thoughts to my father-in-law Mike. He’s a good man and he deserves better. Even if he wouldn’t tell you that.


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