April 6, 2013

It’s a man’s world but don’t just live in it

To my girls…

Someday, you won’t be little girls with ribbons in your hair and stains from Crayola markers adorning your hands. Someday, you will be all grown up and finding your place in this big, yet small, world. This is what I hope for you…

Despite much change, it’s still a man’s world when it comes to getting ahead in life. They shape how much you get paid, what you should wear and how you should look. Don’t buy into that. The most successful women aren’t the ones who accept the status quo – they are the ones that look the patriarchy in the eye without blinking and blaze their own path. I hope that you find the strength to be true to yourself – not to what any man (or woman, for that matter) thinks you should be.

I hope that you grow up not needing the embrace of a man to make you feel whole. I want you to know you are whole now. No man can give you what you already have inside.

But when it comes to settling down (if that’s where your heart leads) I hope you find a man (or woman, for that matter) that each and every day feels damn lucky to be with you. And I hope you feel the same way. I hope you find that person that understands that two can be stronger than one.

I hope you never look at yourself in the mirror and think anything other than, “I’m beautiful.” You are imperfectly perfect and being comfortable with who you are and not what anyone else – men or media alike – says you should be will lift you up when the world tries to drag you down. Be yourself. Love yourself. Nothing else matters.

And while we’re on the subject, I hope you don’t live your life based on what you think others will think of you. Don’t waste energy on what other people think. Chances are, they are too worried about what others think of them to spend too much time thinking about you. Live your life! Be free from the chains of expectations that will yoke you to the ground like turkeys and prohibit you from flying with the eagles where you belong.

And finally, I hope you lift other women up rather than tear them down. There’s room at the top for everyone and for every woman who is where they want to be, there are many more who could use a helping hand. Refrain from tearing others down to make yourself look better. Instead, give a helping hand and realize that your successes don’t come at the expense of others, they come when you are true to yourself and to women everywhere.

Oh, and call your father. He loves you.

March 14, 2013

You shine too bright to be in the shadows

Swee’Pea,

We had your parent-teacher conference yesterday. In it, your teacher told us of your fantastic reading skills (4th grade level) and your burgeoning math skills and how well you are doing in your classes. She showed us your reading scores and your math scores and we went over areas that we could help you (apparently you’re only just average when it comes to interpreting graphs and charts). It was great to hear how well you are doing.

And as I asked how you were in class, the teacher said, “She’s quiet. Not that it’s a bad thing! She’s just quiet. Every now and then she’ll answer a question but most of the time she’s quiet.”

And that is what I found most interesting difference between you and your brother’s conferences. Your brother participates fully and is clearly a class favorite. You are quiet. But when I look at the test scores, it becomes clear that you could give your brother a run for his money any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Your verbal scores are on par with his. Your math scores are right on par with his. But you’re quiet.

When asked about how you are socially, your teacher told me that you are “really sweet and really smart…” and she held out her hands as if to say that you are perfectly balanced. And then she added five words that I found better than any talk about how smart you are…. “And she works really hard.”

I love that you work hard. Indeed, a strong work ethic will take you farther than intelligence. The world is filled with smart, lazy people my dear and I am glad to see that you are a triple threat in the intelligence/work ethic/personality realm.

But it does make me a tad bitter that just because you are quiet, you don’t get the cheering that your brother does. His personality and, perhaps, him being a boy, makes it more acceptable to be really good at school. For as long as you two have been in school, your brother is good at math and you are good at reading. That’s just the label that’s been placed. But I think it’s time to recognize that you are a bright, shining star in everything that you do.

You shine too bright to be in anyone’s shadow my darling daughter. May the light you exude never be extinguished.

June 12, 2012

They Say It’s Your Birthday

Seven years.

I can’t believe it’s been seven years.  It seems like I’ve always known you.  The sound of your laughs, the way you speak, the smell of your skin during a goodnight kiss.  All of this is you and before there was you doesn’t even resonate with me anymore.

I am incredibly proud of both of you.  Swee’Pea, you really hit your stride this year in school.  You read at almost a sixth grade level and, socially, you blossomed into someone who makes good friends.  Monk, you loved first grade.  Your teacher was the perfect teacher for you and you soaked up school.  Your math and analytical skills are amazing and your love of Junie B. Jones is unmatched.

But I can’t believe it’s been seven years.  Just yesterday, you were snuggling in my arms.  Just yesterday, I was watching you take your first steps.  Just yesterday, you were clinging to my legs on your first day of preschool.  Just yesterday, you weren’t seven.

And now you are.  You are the most wonderful seven-year-olds the world has ever seen. You radiate joy and revel in the world around you.  You believe in magic.  You believe in fairies and Santa and the Easter bunny too.  I hope, in some way, you will always continue to believe what precocious little seven-year-olds believe.

But I also hope that you’ll slow this ride down just a bit.  Seven years.  It seems like yesterday.

Seven Years Old
Happy Birthday to my beautiful kids

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 20, 2012

She’s got his back

Swee’Pea and TheMonk get to buy lunch at the school cafeteria one time a week.  It’s our favorite day of the week because they get to choose what they want at the cafeteria and I don’t have to make lunches.  It’s a win-win.

A little more than week ago, on a Friday, Swee’Pea and TheMonk came home from school and I asked them what they had for lunch that day.  Swee’Pea excitedly rattled off her choice of pizza, salad, orange slices and, for dessert, a frozen orange juice fruit bar.  This last item is considered a dessert and all other items must be eaten before eating the fruit bar.  This rule, I imagine, is rarely enforced because the kids self-report that they ate everything to get their juice bar.  With this in mind, I asked TheMonk what he ate.  With a dejected look on his little face, he explained that he chose pizza, carrots and spicy pickles.  “But the pickles were too spicy so I didn’t eat them and I couldn’t get my fruit bar.”

Fast forward a few days later and I ask Swee’Pea and TheMonk which day they want to buy lunch.  Swee’Pea votes for Wednesday.  TheMonk votes for Friday.  I tell them, “I’m not going to make one lunch so you two need to talk it out.  Explain your reasoning on why you want the day you want.”

Swee’Pea goes first.  “I want to buy lunch on Wednesday because it’s “brunch for lunch” and we get pancakes.”  This is a compelling argument and I expect TheMonk to readily agree with his sister.  Who would turn down pancakes?!

TheMonk, however, isn’t swayed.  He looks up at both his sister and I and he simply says, “I want my popsicle.”

Swee’Pea, bless her heart, without missing a beat, says.  “Okay.  Friday.”

April 15, 2012

A future in sales?

Swee’Pea, seeing the remnants of our old blender tucked away in the pantry, suddenly looks up at me as I tend the pancakes on the griddle. “Daddy, did you know you can get a Ninja Blender?”

Thinking there is a punchline to the joke forthcoming, I ask her to continue.

“Yes, while some blenders leave the nutrients of vegetables you blend behind, the Ninja Blender does not. And you know how much it costs? Not, $300. Not $200. Not even $100. You can buy it with four easy payments of $39.95.”

Hmmmm… Maybe her mother was right about limiting the amount of TV she watches (and maybe spend that time with her math skills).

But, damn, I think she’s right. I need that Ninja blender.

*(This is not an endorsement of this product. It’s a sure sign that my daughter is watching informercials instead of Nick Jr. Buy this product at your own risk. If you do buy this product, let me know how it works. I’m really interested.)

April 9, 2012

Reading

She sits on the chair in her Sunday best.  The chaos around her is the rest of us rushing to get ready for church services on this Easter Sunday.  She is oblivious to the chaos, however, as she quietly reads her book.

The book was a gift from the Easter Bunny and it’s a chapter book about Fancy Nancy and some mysteries.  Swee’Pea has yet to put it down.  As we leave for church she implores me to allow her to bring the book along.  While we want her to start listening to the service more, I acquiesce and allow her to bring it along knowing there will be time to kill before mass.

She reads it in the car to church and on the way home.  As I prepare lunch she is fervently bent over the book and I announce that lunch is almost ready and that she should find a good spot to stop reading.  She tells me, with a proud smile, that she has only two more pages.  Lunch is ready but I tell her that I have a bit more to do before lunch is served.  She smiles and buries her head into her book for the final push while I wander around the kitchen pretending I have things to do.

With a flourish, she is finished.  She closes the book and approaches the table.  “I’m done, Daddy” she says.  And she was.  Thirteen chapters in half a day at six years old.  I’m amazed at how big she is getting and I smile at her and tell her how proud I am of her.

Then we sit down for egg salad sandwiches and she tells me about the book.  I hope it’s the first of many book reports.

Reading

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.

Dance!

December 24, 2011

Jingle Bells, The Baby Smells…

Merry Christmas, everyone! May your holiday season be filled with love, friendship and lots of chocolate. From our family, to yours, have a very happy holiday.

Lyrics:
I used to write a blog
About Swee’Pea & TheMonk
But then came #3
And now they’re in a funk, Boo Hoo Hoo
But Santa’s on his way
So we are being good
We tell Santa we love our sis
We’re just misunderstood!
Oh, Jingle Bells, The Baby Smells
But she’s here to stay
She only sleeps, eats and poops
But we love her anyway, hey!
(Repeat)
At least three times a week
The baby cries at night
I haven’t slept a full 8 hours
And now I’m quite a sight
But they say this soon shall pass
When she’s not quite so new
Yes I’m tired, but it’s ok
At least it isn’t two!
Chorus

December 8, 2011

Gotta get my ears checked

We are eating dinner. Our dinner conversation has taken a typical turn towards school.

Swee’Pea reports that she jumped up three frogs in reading level and got to check out harder books at the library today.

“You are such a good reader, Swee’Pea.” I say. “I’m so proud of you reading these new books.”

Swee’Pea takes a bite of food and, with a mouth slightly full, replies, “And I slap your butt.”

“What did you say?!” I choke out, in disbelief that my sweet 6 year old would even go there during a standard dinner conversation.

“I said, ‘And I read chapter books!’” She says indignantly.

I breathe a sigh of relief and laugh as I tell the table what I thought she had said.

We all get a good laugh – except the baby. She isn’t old enough to appreciate butt humor.

Someday. Someday.

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