May 26, 2012

You say potato, she says nuts.

It is a rare moment in time.  I’m playing with all three kids at once and as I playfully lift GirlyGirl over my head, Swee’Pea and TheMonk, jump around me shrieking in joy, kinda like a scene out of Lord of the Flies, only without the pigs blood.

I’m enjoying the laughter and the shouts of glee, particularly from GirlyGirl who is reveling in the moment as three of her four favorite people are having fun around her.  I swing GirlyGirl low, between my legs and then high, over my head.  I repeat this motion several times until I’m forced to change direction as Swee’Pea steps into the line of fire.

Unfortunately, the change of directions has placed GirlyGirl’s kicking feet right in line with a part of my anatomy that is near and dear to me.  She swings her feet hard and meets with a part of my body that rhymes with besticles, and suddenly, the world stops as I inhale deeply and make some guttural sound that only men in my situation can appreciate.

Everyone stops what they are doing.  Me, Swee’Pea, TheMonk and even Mommy over on the couch.  I make eye contact with the lovely wife and her look tells me she understands what just happened.  Apparently, Swee’Pea understood as well.

“What happened?” She asks. “Did GirlyGirl kick you in the nuts?”

The next 10 years are gonna kill me, I think.

May 24, 2012

Burrowing Baby

The beginning and end of your day are two of my favorite daily moments.  As I pick you up out of your crib in the morning, you are always happy to see me.  And as I embrace you in a morning hug, GirlyGirl, you always drop your hands to your side and burrow your upper body and head into my torso and neck.  It is clearly your version of a hug and, in the early morning, before the day picks up into a frenzied pace, I get one moment where it’s just us, baby and Daddy, together in a sweet, tender, loving moment.

By the time the day ends and I have endured work, and corralling your brother and sister into jammies, brushing of teeth and bedtime stories before I turn my attention to you and our little own bedtime routine.  As I hit “play” on the iPod docking station that plays your lullabies, we sit in the darkness as I feed you your last bottle of the day.  You take the bottle while looking at me in the darkness and you never fuss.  And, unlike in the early days, once the bottle is done, you seem to understand that it’s bed time.  I transition you to hold you against my upper body as I gently rub your back until you burp.  Then, to make sure you are ready to be transitioned to your crib, I hold you for about five minutes.  It is then that you, once again, drop your arms to your side and burrow into my body.  You rest your cheek on my shoulder as I inhale the baby smell of your soft, curly hair.

Eventually, I lower your tired little body into your crib, kissing your soft, chubby cheeks as I do while wishing you sweet dreams.  Most nights, you leave your burrow and practically dive into your bed where you burrow your upper body into the mattress as you get comfy enough to sleep.

I leave the room, the sounds of lullabies wafting towards the door and I’m already looking forward to the morning.  For my good-morning burrow.


February 11, 2012

And when they said come dancing, my sister always did.

You look beautiful. I mean, you always look beautiful, but on this evening, dressed in the gown your grandmother bought you on a whim, you look enchanting. Your mother has helped you with your hair and as dusk turns into evening, we head to your school for your first school dance.

On this night, you have the good fortune of having two wonderful (if I do say so myself) escorts. TheMonk of course, dressed in his finest plaid, and your Daddy. I have chosen slacks, a light green dress shirt and blazer to match. We are the best looking trio at the dance.

And as we enter the dark auditorium, the sparkles from the disco ball and the laser lights bouncing around the room as the bass pumps from a song I only vaguely know, I look to you and your brother to see how you will react. In the not-so-long-ago distance you would cling to me with uncertainty and, perhaps, shed a tear as you’d struggle to overcome your fear in search of having a good time. Try. I’d tell you. And eventually you would.

I expect more of the same on this night but as we enter the dance, you begin to sway and dance to music. We all start to dance, your brother, myself, you and a couple of neighbor friends and it is like you were born to do this. Before long, you are not even next to me as you rush over to dance with friends and I watch you from afar, your flowing white dress silhouetted against the disco lights. You throw your hands up over your head and jump up and down to the beat of the music. You are graceful and light on your feet and your smile lights up the darkness around you.

TheMonk and I dance close by but you are oblivious to us. And as I slowly come to the realization that you are growing up, little girl, my heart swells with pride while, at the same time, I am thankful for the darkness as I blink back the tears of longing. Longing for the days when my little girl needed her Daddy. But proud of the independent and strong girl you are becoming.

Before long, TheMonk joins you too and I am left alone to watch you both while bobbing my head to the beat. Nobody told me fatherhood would be like this. No one tells you that sooner than you think, the blink of an eye, actually, your baby grows up.

But I’ll be right over here if you need me.


February 2, 2012

A Smile Changes Everything

The soft melody of the lullabies hang gently across the darkened room. You are in my arms, snuggled into the my body while I feed you your bottle. Our eyes meet in the dim light emanating from the corner of the room and the gaze lasts exceeding long.

The intensity of the gaze locks me onto your tiny face and as I study the gorgeous speckles in your increasingly hazel eyes, I begin to reflect on my world and all that consumes me. All the clutter that crowds my mind in an almost endless stream comes flooding to the forefront and the all too familiar rush of stress strikes at me from a distance. Complications from work, internal struggles, external stressors – all of these bang against my pysche like beat up drum and I try to keep it from reaching the surface like I have for so long.

Then, just as the emotions are about to spill over, still locking onto your gaze, a slight change happens in the outline of your face. And as I pull my vision back from just your eyes I begin to notice something that makes all the stressors melt away into the darkness of the night. I see your smile.

You smile at me, GirlyGirl, and, all at once, the world seems right. I smile back at you and just the act of smiling – of sharing this moment with my third child – brings me back to what is important and what is not. I lean down and kiss your fleshy cheek and feel the coolness of your skin against mine. It is at this moment that I have some clarity. I have clarity of who I am and what I need to do and it has nothing to do with anyone or anything else.

I breath deeply as I lay you gently in your crib and rub your little back as you drift off to sleep. With every exhale I feel more grounded than I have for a while and I try to make a note of how this feels. It feels good.

I’ve got work to do. But I’m also going to be just fine.

My daughter’s smile told me so.

November 17, 2011

Furry Lips

I’m not a mustache kind of guy. I’ve been known to rock the goatee but a simple ‘stache is something that I have always avoided. But late last month, I got an email from my friend Doug, better known as Laid Off Dad, who implored every Dad Blogger he knew to grow a mustache and raise funds for men’s health – especially the issue of prostate cancer.

This hit home for a few reasons but particularly important to me was that I turned 40 this year. This means that I will now have to make regularly scheduled visits to my doc who will then, ahem, make sure I’m cancer free.

I have had many reactions to my mustache. Some are complimentary and some are downright brutal. But each one who has questioned me about my mustache has had to hear about how important it is for men to get checkups and ensure they are healthy. As a dad, I want to be there for my children. A little discomfort in the backside seems a small price to pay.

I do have two fans who have embraced my mustache. Swee’Pea and TheMonk, in fact, wanted to get in on the action. Here’s how their mustaches looked on day 10:

Swee'Pea and TheMonk 'stached

So, here’s where you get the pitch. If you would like to support my efforts and help 60 dad bloggers flex our collective muscle (myself notwithstanding) in the name of men’s health. If you would like to contribute something $1, $5, $10, $20 or whatever you can, please go to my Movember page by clicking here.

Thanks for your support. For your efforts, I have included a recent photo of me in all my mustachioed glory.

Furry lip

October 17, 2011

The Tooth Fairy Giveth…

Tonight, unexpectedly, TheMonk lost a tooth while being a little too aggressive while brushing his teeth. His jubilation was such that the blood spewing from his mouth did not seem to faze him one bit. Why was he psyched? The frickin’ Tooth Fairy, of course.

Now I’ve come a long way since the early days of Tooth Fairy visits. I learned to stock up on trinkets and little candies and, for some reason, I had a large collection of Sacagawea dollars that seem to be the perfect Tooth Fairy gift. I was ready for a barrage of lost teeth and Swee’Pea and TheMonk were only too happy to oblige. They have lost 12-14 teeth (including TheMonk’s phantom tooth) in the past year and I knew I was running low on supplies – especially those damn Sacagawea dollars.

So this tooth caught me off guard.

And what does a guy Tooth Fairy do when he’s unexpectedly called to duty and has no shiny coin (nor a crisp dollar bill) in sight? He does what you would do if you were in this situation. You’d sneak a Sacagawea dollar out of his sister’s piggy bank when she wasn’t looking.

Yes you would. Don’t deny it.

September 22, 2011

Conquering the Industrial Complex

This week we had our parent-teacher conference with both teachers for Swee’Pea and TheMonk. It was one big love-fest with lots of compliments and gushing and anecdotal stories mixed with concrete evidence at how incredibly smart and gifted our children are when it comes to reading, writing and arithmetic.

I must admit that my wife and I walked out of school a little taller that afternoon. After all, it’s nice to hear from someone who isn’t related to you, just how wonderful your kids are. It was validation of all the time we have spent reading and coaching and encouraging the kidlets in all things school.

But I must admit, I’m a bit conflicted. On one hand, I’m happy that my children are learning and doing well in school. On the other hand, I’m bothered by the fact that we spent so much time discussing punctuation, ways to count to 100 and the finer points of Junie B. Jones that we never talked about how we are going to encourage Swee’Pea and TheMonk to be artists.

And I’m not talking about the arts, although Swee’Pea’s drawing ability and TheMonk’s musical abilities are certainly noteworthy, but I’m talking about how to excel in life. How are we teaching them to be confident enough to follow through on dreams when everyone else is telling them they cannot do it? How are we teaching them to question authority? How are we teaching them to blaze new paths rather than follow tired, worn out paths that lead to mediocrity and subservience?

How is coloring inside the lines, raising your hand when you have something to share, and fearing the thought of failure going to prepare my children to be the super stars that our next generation is going to need? While my kids have wonderful teachers that are doing a great job challenging my kids in the areas of standardized testing, when will they be taught the skills to succeed and even excel, in a world that now rewards those who stand up and challenge the status quo rather than those who blindly accept it as the best we can do?

It’s not the school’s or teacher’s fault, of course. They’re only doing what is mandated to them in trying to uphold a century-old institution that was created to provide an endless supply of subservient workers for factories during the industrial revolution that made our country great. But now… our country doesn’t need subservient workers, it needs leaders and artists and people who aren’t afraid to take chances in order to be great.

Right now, my children are artists. We all were at that age. We painted masterpieces because no one told us we couldn’t. But somewhere along the way, people told us only other people are artists. Only the truly gifted can be artists. And the worst part of it is that we believed it.

The more I think about this parenting gig, the more I realize how challenging it is – especially when you want your children to succeed in a world that wants them to be average, at best. My only hope is to help my children realize, as they grow, that they CAN do anything they want. That what other people think should not be the deciding factor that guides who you are and where you want to go. Follow your heart. Have the courage to stand up to mundane expectations and be the artist you want to be.

Being good at school is one thing. Being good at life is quite another.

August 29, 2011

Relationship Building

I take you from your mother as the sun begins to set in the West. Your brother and sister are in bed and now it is your turn.

I have a bottle of the finest milk, freshly pumped from your mother, and I have the iPod docking station gently streaming lullabies. I carry you into the room and sit on the bed and position you in my arms. I marvel at your eyes and cheeks and as we gaze into each others eyes, I am reminded just how much I love you. I smile and, this is new, you smile back. Your smile swells my heart and I hold you closer and kiss your soft, downy head.

At this point, as the room darkens and the music softly fills the room, I pick up the bottle and get ready to begin our bedtime routine in earnest. You are not yet aware that this is about to transpire. I can tell because you haven’t begun your part of the routine yet. But I know it’s coming.

I smile and bring the bottle to your tiny lips, ready to feed you into a restful slumber. It is then that I see the look of recognition in your eyes. You realize that it’s bed time and, as if on cue, you begin your part of the routine…


Ah, yes. It wouldn’t be bedtime if we didn’t play the “Let’s scream in Daddy’s arms until I fall asleep” routine.

July 10, 2011

New Beginnings

Swee’Pea and TheMonk are almost one month into their sixth year. I look at them and I marvel at how much they have grown, at how mature they look, at how much they know about the world around them. I am struck by their level of understanding complex issues and how their social skills are blossoming before my eyes. This time of their life is truly an amazing time.

And yet it’s also the exact same age that I lost my father almost 34 years ago.

It is a painful reminder of what my own father missed. It’s also a reminder for me that every day is a gift and that no amount of crankiness or messy rooms or dirty fingerprints on walls will matter more than the time I get to spend with my children. Almost 34 years later and I have very few memories of my father. If something were to happen to me today, even though I have tried my hardest to leave an indelible impression on the my children, I fear that they won’t remember me. They won’t remember holding my hand on the first day of school. They won’t remember snuggles in the quiet early mornings. They won’t remember how my lips felt on their cheeks or how my arms felt wrapped around them in a powerful hug full of love. They won’t remember tickle monsters or butterfly kisses or anything more but faint images of my face and a sense of who their father might have been. Just like how I remember my own father.

So I am once again reminding myself that every day is a gift. It’s an opportunity to impart wisdom, teach valuable skills, mold values and share love. It’s an opportunity to dance in the streets and share laughs and giggles and hugs and kisses. Today is another day to tell them how much I love them and help them become confident and caring adults. It’s another day to be thankful for what I have – beautiful children, a loving wife, a career that I love – and that realizing that far too many people lose out on what I have at this moment. I am lucky indeed.

And for the first time, I have another baby to help mold and, like my brother who was only a year old when our father died, she would have no memory of me if something were to happen. And because I know that ultimately I don’t have control over when it’s my time to go, I contine to write this blog for her. As Swee’Pea and TheMonk get older, they will form their own memories but m&m (baby’s blog name) would not have that luxury. This blog is a testament to the love I have for my children and I write in it as a way to show them how much I love being their daddy. My hope is that someday I can share these stories with them and we’ll laugh about how crazy their Daddy was. But I also know it’s a way of recording my thoughts and hopes for my kids to know me in a way I never knew my father.

Six years old. It’s a lifetime. 3 weeks is too. 40 years seems like a lifetime but I know that each day adds to the gift that I have been given and I’m going use each day to the best dad, the best husband, the best person I can be.

Each day is a new beginning. Seize it.

June 23, 2011

They eat, sleep and…

She is less than a week old. Her chubby cheeks and cute button nose are in-your-face perfection. I gaze into her dark eyes and she stares back. Her mouth forms small O’s in a primal rooting reflex and, to this Daddy, I imagine she’s blowing me kisses. I am sitting in my back, supported by pillows, in a half-way-done situp position. She sits on my tummy as she rests against my raised knees. I hold her little hands in mine and enjoy being together for the first time.

As we share a moment together, alone – just father and daughter – I begin to tell her how much I love her. “I have known you all my life.” I tell her. “You have been in my heart and I’ve just been waiting to meet you in person.” I marvel at her fragility and wonder at the personality that is waiting to emerge.

I continue to tell her my hopes and dreams and as she stares at me, I feel that we are forming a close bond that will continue a lifetime. “I will be the best Daddy I can for you. I’ll give you kisses and hugs, words of encouragement, moments of discipline, and most of all, love.”

As I gaze into her eyes, I feel like she is understanding what I am trying to convey. In the waning moments of the day as dusk envelopes the room, my eyes fill with tears as I smile at this wonderful little girl sitting on my lap.

Suddenly, she looks at me and smiles back. My heart leaps and I laugh out loud at her smile at such a young age. I know that she understands and her smile is proof. I revel in this special moment between daughter and father. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.

And that’s when she pooped with a force of class five hurricane, spewing yellow baby poop out of her newborn diapers and all over my shirt. She lets out a little cry and I am suddenly left with a feeling of warmth in my stomach that is in sharp contrast to the inner warmth I felt just moments ago.

That smile? Yeah, I’m thinking it was gas.

Maybe the bonding will take a bit longer.

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