August 14, 2011


I don’t know Jennifer.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t hurt for her.

Sometime this week I became aware that a family had been torn apart by the sudden death of a husband.  A father.  A friend.  I became aware because a friend shared a wish that we all make Mikey’s favorite pie and share it with our loved ones.  Don’t take things for granted, was the message.  Cherish your family and what you have right now because you never know when it will be taken from you.

And so we did.  Late Friday night I  bought the ingredients and prepared the pie on Saturday morning as Swee’Pea helped with quality control, tasting bits and pieces as we went along.  I made the pie for “dessert night” which is usually Friday in our  house but was serendipitously switched to Saturday because I had to work late on Friday.

And as we sat around the table last night, eating our delicious Peanut Butter Pie, I explained to Swee’Pea and TheMonk that we were eating this pie in honor of Mikey.  I explained that I didn’t know Mikey but it was my understanding that he would want us to eat his favorite dessert and come a little closer as a family.  We talked about death and how Mikey was watching over us and how my father, who died when I was six, was looking over us too.  And what was left unspoken was that I too could die at any time.  I addressed this unspoken fear by telling them that I love them very much and even if I died, I would be there for them whenever they needed me.  As tears welled up in my eyes, I told them how much I loved them and that no matter what, I would be there.  Just as I know Mikey will be for his family.

It was a good reminder for me.  As hard as I try to live in the moment and embrace what life has to offer me, too often I get caught up in someone else’s anger or frustration or hurt or whatever.  I know that life’s too short to carry petty anger in our hearts and I try my best to let it pass through me and let the love remain.  I don’t always succeed.

But today, as we eat leftover pie and enjoy a beautiful Sunday afternoon, I’m left to ponder this again.  I know I’m lucky and that my family is lucky because we still have each other – even when we annoy the hell out of each other.  We have each other to lean on and to love and hold close.  It’s something I didn’t have as a kid and something Jennifer and her family don’t have now either.

I pray for peace in the heart of Jennifer and her family.  I pray for peace in the heart of mine as well.  Life’s too short.  I think I’ll have some more pie.

November 3, 2010

Our Morning Ritual

Every day I walk you to the bus. Before that, I make sure you’re dressed, feed you breakfast, pack your lunches, and get you out the door in time to catch the bus.

But walking to the bus in my favorite part.

It’s really the only time of day that it’s just us. Sometimes you hold my hand. Other times you run ahead and point out little things that only 5 year old’s can see. A dried up worm. A hummingbird. A snail that has climbed the side of a house.

Our walk is only about 2-3 minutes long but I savor every second. When we get to the bus stop, we are usually one of the first ones there but soon enough there are over 30 kids waiting for the bus.

Kindergartners board first and you two are two of three or four kindergartners that ride the bus. As the bus arrives I say good morning to the bus driver, kiss you both on the cheek and turn you loose to board the bus and you get on and sit in the first seat on the passenger side, oftentimes with a neighborhood girl who Swee’Pea is friendly with.

It is then that our real ritual begins. TheMonk turns to look at me and starts making silly faces. Not to be outdone, I’ll make silly faces back as kids board the bus around us. We stick our tongues out, we make antlers with our fingers, we roll our eyes and contort our faces, making each other giggle. I savor this moment because I know one day soon you won’t want to make silly faces at your daddy. But I’ll take it now.

And I know the other parents see us. I have never spoken to another parent about our routine so I don’t know what they think. I do know that some of the kids on the bus like it because, along with Swee’Pea’s occasional silly face, her seatmate will join in along with the kids in the first few rows on the passenger side of the bus.

But it’s TheMonk who loves it the the most. And as the door closes and the bus begins to pull away our silly faces turn to finger waves and we make eye contact until the bus is too far to see.

And then I turn to head back to the house to begin my day and I smile at how the day has begun. Dried up worms and silly faces.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

August 25, 2010

The Ups and Downs of Homework

If I had homework in Kindergarten, I don’t remember it. I don’t remember bringing home copied packets of paper asking me to trace the letter P or color apples red. This is perhaps because I’m so old that photocopiers didn’t exist in schools and we, instead, were sometimes given much more labor-intensive mimeographs that reeked of the intoxicating aroma of blue ink.

But now, thanks to the age of high-end photocopy machines, homework packets arrive at home on Monday. Eight pages of tracing, writing, drawing and coloring that must be completed and returned by the next Monday so the cycle can start all over again.

While Swee’Pea and TheMonk are in different kindergarten classes, they bring home an identical packet each week. The routine is now set. After a short break once they arrive home on the school bus, Mommy breaks out the packets and the kids sit down at their Ikea table and Ikea chairs and begin their homework. The goal is to get the homework done no later than Wednesday so they can relax on Thursdays and Fridays. This means 2-3 pages of homework that generally last about 30 minutes. It usually goes something like this:

TheMonk sits down and hammers out each page as if this is his sole purpose in life. You tell him how many pages he has to do and he won’t look up until it’s done. There is no debating. There is no bargaining. The boy has a job to do and he’s gonna do it.

Swee’Pea, on the other hand, isn’t such a linear thinker. She might start on a project but the moment she has difficulty, she shuts down. She pleads. She whines. She announces over and over and over again just how much she does not want to do this homework.

And over the last few weeks we’ve come to realize that it’s best not to argue with her about this. If she doesn’t want to do it, she won’t and there’s no use in getting into an argument with a five year old about how failing to draw a picture of a banana will send her to a life of poverty and crime.

And 9 times out of 10, after she’s had a little break or even eaten dinner, she’ll suddenly announce that she wants to finish her homework. And she does so without complaint.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere. Something about letting kids find their own way or the most valuable lessons kids learn are the ones they teach themselves.

All I think of is, “Twelve more years of this?”

August 4, 2010

Tooth Fairy x2

I sit in a corner of a cramped dentist evaluation room as TheMonk’s little body sits in the chair in the center of the room.  The dentist looks at the x-rays and examines TheMonk’s bloodied and bruised gums suffered from a nasty fall on the playground structure at school the previous day.  She gently wiggles each of TheMonk’s two front teeth and she looks at me and says the thing I fear the most: “We’ll need to pull the tooth.”

I nod knowingly and look to TheMonk to reassure him that all will be ok.  I see the fear in his eyes and I silently kick myself for telling him that the dentist was just going to make sure his teeth were okay.  I shouldn’t have made empty promises and now I am paying the price and feeling like a loser.

After the room clears to prep for the extraction, I kneel down beside TheMonk and I ask, “Are you scared, Buddy?”  He nods solemnly and I reach out to comfort him.  “It’s going to be okay, Monkey.  When I was a little boy I had a tooth pulled too.  I was uncomfortable but it was okay.  You’ll be okay too.”

These words seem to relax him a bit and I tell him it’s okay to be scared but that everything will be fine.  We are escorted to a room where he’s weighed and then given a liquid to drink.  We sit on an exam table, waiting for the relaxer to take effect and I can tell TheMonk is still nervous.  Every once in a while he turns to me and cries, “But Daddy, I don’t wanna get my tooth pulled! I want it to fall out on its own!”  I squeeze him tight and reassure him as best I can.

Before we know it we’re in the room where the tooth will be extracted and they get him settled in and he begins to breathe in the nitrous oxide gas while laying on the table watching an episode of Olivia on a TV in the ceiling.  It is then that I’m informed that they will be removing both front teeth.  I protest slightly but I’m told it has to happen as both teeth have shallow roots and won’t survive the trauma.  I consent and continue to watch TheMonk who, at this point, is beyond any trepidation as pharmaceuticals take over and he begins giggling randomly on the table.  I make a mental note to have the “Just say no to drugs” talk with TheMonk earlier rather than later.

Waiting to get teeth pulled

Before we know it both teeth are gone and I carry a sleepy Monk to the car.  We get home, change the gauze, and he crashes on the couch while watching cartoons.  He is an angel and I sit close by and take a deep breath as I realize just how stressed I have been for the past couple of hours.

TheMonk sleeps

When TheMonk awakes after an hour and a half nap he begins to cry as I take the gauze out.  His mouth feels funny but Mommy soon arrives with ice cream to make it all better.  Vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup makes lots of things better.

Soon after I run to school to pick up Swee’Pea at school and let her know of TheMonk’s teeth.  She takes the news well and is glad to see her brother upon our return to the house.  We soon commence with regular after-school stuff like homework and snacks and getting dinner ready.  As we near dinner Swee’Pea and TheMonk begin talking of the tooth fairy’s impending visit.  It is then that TheMonk and Swee’Pea realize that only he will be getting a visit from the Tooth Fairy.  There is a moment of sadness that lingers in the air until TheMonk suddenly speaks:

“Daddy, can I give one of my teeth to Swee’Pea so the tooth fairy can visit her too?”

And after all the stress of the day, it is this moment that has me fighting back tears.  Yes, Monkey.  You sure can, you sweet, sweet boy.  I’ve never been so proud as I am at this moment.

August 2, 2010


Today, you brought home a classroom assignment. It was a photocopy of a number five that your mother had fished out of your backpack and that you had traced a number of times – each with a different crayon. Blue, Green, Red, Yellow, Purple…

Your mother shares it with me as I come home from work and you welcome me with excited tales of how you got to choose a prize for reading 20 stories. Our bedtime stories that I had meticulously chronicled each night for the past 10 days opened up treasures of pens with beads glued to it and a small box of crayons.

I smile at you both and I am struck by the change in you. The change from four to five years took place only six weeks ago. The change from preschool to kindergarten took place only 12 days ago. And yet, the change in you cannot be measured. You have both tackled a new chapter in your life better than I could have imagined or, perhaps, feared. You are both enjoying your own teacher, being apart for the better part of a day, and have thrived not only in school but socially as well.  You have flourished where I feared utter failure.  I shall try not to underestimate you again.

You both have adjusted to taking the bus to school. It took TheMonk five seconds to adjust while it took Swee’Pea five days. But you adjusted. And now, as I see you onto the bus (Kindergartners board first!) each morning and we wait for the other children to board the bus, we make eye contact and play a game of seeing as who can make the silliest faces. I always win. But you’re getting better.

And each day your mother greets you at the bus stop and shares your brilliant smiles as you come home from your latest adventure. And as you share your day with Mommy while eating an afternoon snack and drinking pink milk, your mother texts me any important news.

*TheMonk got to bring home Millie the Monkey today*

Millie the Monkey
*Swee’Pea was the Star Student today*

Star Student

And as I race home to celebrate Star Students or to help take Millie the Monkey on a bike ride, I am reminded that this only happens once.  Only once will you be so excited to show me that you can write the number two.  Only once will I hear stories of who brought home the coveted blue cards (while also hearing who in class brought home the dreaded red card).  Only once will I get to call my two little ones Kindergartners.

And at the end of the day, as we read our two bedtime stories while fighting a case of the grouchies because of your afternoon nap has been yanked away so suddenly, I savor the moment.  For I know that before long you will be reading your own stories and my role will be as listener and not reader.  And while that moment might come five months from now.

It’s gonna seem like five seconds.

July 14, 2010

Stopping to smell the dandy flowers

dandy-flowerAs great of a responsibility I have, as a parent, to teach my children the lessons they will need to grow up to be non-felons, it has become apparent that an unexpected bonus of this parenting gig is how much Swee’Pea and TheMonk have taught me.

Those who know me will tell you that I’m a bit scatter-brained. I’m often thinking a few steps ahead of what is happening right now and I often lack the patience to be “in the moment.”  At the start of each work day, for example, I’m already thinking about what I have to do that day, who I have to call, what new initiative I want to spring on my unsuspecting staff, what I’ll have for lunch that day, whether the Snicker’s bar in the staff fridge will still be there that afternoon, and how will the Village People survive now that the YMCA has chosen to be known, simply, as “The Y?”

These are serious considerations and since it is my job to ensure the kids get off to preschool (which is rapidly winding down, but that’s another blog post), I am often challenged to get my day started by two five-year-olds who insist on making farting jokes instead of getting their shoes on.  Inevitably, I’m herding two little ones into a car while trying not to spill my morning cup of coffee all over my non-iron shirt that was recently sprayed liberally with wrinkle releaser.

By the time I park the car curbside at their preschool, I’m already counting the minutes wasted and how I just KNOW that the Snickers bar is a goner.  As I try and usher the kids out of the car along with lunch boxes, sweatshirts, and napping blankets, I rush towards the front door only to find Swee’Pea stopping every few seconds to pick a yellow dandelion flower which she calls, “Dandy flowers.”

“C’mon, Swee’Pea! We’re late, Honey.  Please hurry!” I implore.

She hears me but she’s not really listening to me. (Something that seems to run in the female side of our family, I’m afraid.)  Again, I beg, “Swee’Pea! Daddy needs to get to work! Please, Sweetie, hurry up!”

Swee’Pea might hurry for a brief second or two – long enough to give me hope that she’s finally decided to get in gear but, inevitably, she stops to pick yet another flower.

And as we finally get closer to the door, I might beseech one last time, and she’ll finally listen and scamper her skinny little legs over to me while I hold the door open for her.  She and her brother enter and as we put their things in their cubbies and get ready to join their friends on the playground, I bend over to give hugs and kisses.

As I receive my hugs and kisses, Swee’Pea thrusts her tiny bouquet of yellow Dandy Flowers in my face and says, “Here Daddy. I picked these for you to take to work.”  I take the flowers gently in my own hand and as I say my goodbyes and wander down the hall towards my car waiting outside, suddenly the world doesn’t seem so crazy and it slows down enough around me to allow me to grasp what’s really important.  And I clutch the rapidly wilting flowers in my fingers and try and remember that before long, picking flowers for Daddy won’t be as high on her priority list.

So I stop and smell the Dandy Flowers.  I’ve never smelled something so sweet.  Even that Snicker’s bar in the fridge.

June 3, 2010

A Red Envelope for Dad’s Day

I don’t do reviews. I get, on average, about 15 to 20 emails a day asking me to review some product or another. Some offering payment. Some not. I’ve rarely accepted these review opportunities because I wasn’t familiar with the company and didn’t use the product.

But that changed this week. The good folks at Red Envelope, a “unique and personalized gifts” website that I have used for the past several years (I bought two sets of these frames and some great family Christmas ornaments) contacted me about doing a product review for Father’s Day. Because of my love of the company, I agreed. And they paid me for this review.

Now that I have the nice FCC requirements out of the way, let me tell you about the cufflinks I received to review. These cufflinks are made of stainless steel and great quality but it’s the quote on them that I liked the best.  Each cuff link says, “All that I am and all that I hope to be I owe to you.” These words, inspired by a quote from Abraham Lincoln, are a great reminder to me of what fatherhood is all about.

The cuff links were shipped in a nice red box with a ribbon and were placed in its own box inside (see photos below).  If you’re looking for a great last minute Father’s Day gift, I would highly recommend Red Envelope.  And I’d say that even if they weren’t paying me.  (In fact, I think I have before!)

To see Red Envelope’s Father’s Day gifts, you can go here.  You can get a 10% discount on any item by entering the promo code: 10offred.  Tell ‘em Matthew sent you! (I’ve always wanted to say that.)



This is a paid post.

May 9, 2010


Lately, once I get home from work, the twins have been eager to play “Ironman.” Now, this has nothing to do with the movie Ironman. At least, I don’t think it does. All it really resembles in Swee’Pea and TheMonk playing the hero/heroine while I play the villain. This means fending off flying almost-five-year-old bodies while protecting things important to me, least of all my family jewels.

But I’m crafty. I distract with a flying pillow. I duck at the last minute, sending little bodies flying as well. I bob and weave like a skinny, Mexican, Muhammad Ali. I counter-jab with couch pillows and occasionally pick up a wiggly preschooler and body slam them onto a stack of couch cushions.

The kids gang up and attack me from different sides. TheMonk will be pinned beneath me screaming for mercy and yelling for his sister to help when Swee’Pea will announce, “Have no fear! Super Girl is here!” And before I know it, Super Girl is giving Daddy an elbow to the head.

But, until recently, I always had an ace in the hole. If I ever got into unexpected trouble I could always pull out my secret weapon. You see, I happen to be an expert tickler. My fingers are nimbler than four-year-old nose picker. I’m lightning fast with both hands. No preschooler can escape from my wiggly fingers.

TheMonk seems to have noticed this. And one thing I like about my son is that he’s a thinker. He always wants to know how things work and how he can solve problems. And tonight, he figured out how to solve the tickling problem.

“Daddy, I’m the good guy and you’re the bad guy. Let’s pretend that the bad guys don’t have tickling powers.”

Dammit. How do I argue with that?!

May 4, 2010

A test not for the faint of heart

The pressure is unbelievable. It’s one of those life-defining moments in someone’s life where you know that one little mistake, one wrong answer, one tiny miscue can make the difference between a life of hardship and a life of splendor.

The energy, as we walk down the hallway is tense. Playful words are exchanged as we take in our surroundings and try to block out what will transpire in the next few minutes. The tension mounts as we enter a cramped corridor that holds untold potential horror. We are greeted and summarily ushered to two small tables where Swee’Pea and TheMonk are made to sit and face their judgment.

I feel, not like a lion protecting his cubs, but a parent who is offering his children up to be sacrificed to appease some deity that controls all that is known and unknown. I fear the worst and I am ready to lash out at a moment’s notice. I am ready to rebel against the tyranny of oppression that stands before us in judgment. I want to scream out to protect my offspring in a primal, winner take all, battle to the death. But it is useless. I am resigned to accept the situation as it is.

I, as a parent, am helpless in my ability to protect my little ones from what is about to take place. I am forced to wait beyond the reaches of my protective grasp and as I take my seat and force myself to exude a calmness that doesn’t exist, I strain to hear what is happening to my little ones at this very moment. I hang on every sound, no matter how faint, and I expect to hear the worst. But, suddenly, I hear it. I strain even harder to hear with my one good ear and barely make out a familiar, yet faraway, sound.

“a, b, c, d, e, f, geeeee… h, i, j, k, lmnopeeeee… q, r, s… t, u, v… w, x, y and zeeee.”

Hmmm, maybe this kindergarten assessment won’t be so bad after all.

March 21, 2010

Learning to take the path less traveled

Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to instill in my kids the fact that they don’t need to always conform to what others expect. I want them to feel like they can blaze their own path to whatever they want to achieve in their lives. And, most of all, I want them to live their life without limiting themselves because they are worried about what other people think.

At almost-five years, I worry that maybe that lesson isn’t sinking in. I worry when my kids cling to me at preschool in the morning rather than racing off to join their friends. I worry when they don’t like my idea of showing everyone their uvula when they have to bring something that starts with the letter U for show and tell. I want to shout out to them, “Don’t do what everyone else does! Be different! People will respect you for being an individual!” But then, I look into their young, innocent eyes and I acquiesce by grabbing the umbrella and stuffed unicorn. I guess, they’re not ready for uvulas quite yet.

But then, on other days, I am blown away by the paths that Swee’Pea and TheMonk choose to blaze. One day I’m encouraging them to be leaders – to do their own thing without a thought of what they look like or what others will think – and the next day, I walk into our play room and find TheMonk looking like this:

TheMonk is experiencing a severe identity crisis.

Yep. They’re gonna be just fine.

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