January 19, 2006

Growing Pains

Dear TheMonk and Bri,

How did you get to be seven months? It seems like just yesterday (one long, sleep deprived, yesterday) that I was holding your tiny bodies in my arms and nothing else existed but you and me.

Today, however, there are constant reminders that you’re growing up. Too fast, my little ones. Slow down. What’s your hurry? But you don’t listen. You insist on learning new tricks right before our eyes.

Bri, you rolled over backwards and forwards this evening like an old pro. You’ve been reluctant to do this of late but now it seems like you’re finally ready. It’s also apparent that you’re getting ready to start moving around. While on your belly, your head up and arms fully extended in front of you, you lunged for Nutmeg the cat as she walked by. Pretty soon, Nutmeg is going to have to be just a little bit quicker than she is right now. Our little cat lover is going to start chasing kitty all over the house.

Bri, you are also learning how to give kisses. You don’t quite grasp the concept of a pucker so instead you plant a big, sloppy, open mouth kiss on my cheek. When you pull away and I give you praise for giving your daddy a kiss, you have a look of pride on your face as you smile at me. *Sigh* That smile melts my heart.

TheMonk, tonight while feeding you your bottle, you grabbed it firmly with both hands and fed yourself the remaining half. You even knew to tip the bottle back further, the way a guy in a bar polishes off the last of his beer before heading home. You sat on my lap, holding onto your bottle while gazing up at me. In the blink of an eye I saw you growing up – not needing your Daddy to feed you or hold you or give you kisses. It hasn’t even happened yet and I miss it already.

And yet, each new day brings something so uplifting that it leaves me craving more. Last night, TheMonk, while in your mother’s arms, you looked at me, arched your body away from your mother towards me and said, “Da Da”. Your mother and I looked at each other, not sure if you really knew you were referring to me or not. Of course, I’m inclined to think so.

Bri, your Mommy said she heard you say “Da Da” yesterday while feeding you. I have yet to hear this but I can’t wait ’til I do. I suspect since TheMonk says it all the time you’ll be doing so soon anyway. Just this once, you can hurry up.

In the food department, you tried carrots the last few nights. You both really like them. And since Swee’Pea’s poop is a toxic orange color I’m eager to try something a little less colorful. Pears, it seems, are next on the list. You both seem so eager to try new things. It’s an exciting time and I’m loving every minute of it.

You’re almost over your latest colds. The bronchiolitis returned and we are still giving you nebulizer treatments with the mask. I’m amazed at how docile you are during these treatments. It’s almost like you’re getting a facial at the local spa as you both often times close your eyes and rest. All you need is little cucumbers for your eyes. Of course, we can’t do that because TheMonk would end up eating them.

Well, it’s late and I have to get to bed since I’m sure one of you will awaken sometime during the night. It seems every time we get close to getting you both to sleep through the night, you get sick and then wake up congested. I’m hopeful we can make some positive steps towards sleeping through the night this weekend. Of course, soon you’ll be teething so I may not get my much-sought-after full nights sleep.

But for now, I am here for you. Sleep tight my little ones and have sweet dreams.

I love you.


January 10, 2006

I miss you like a banana

TheMonk and Bri,

I almost missed bananas today.

You see, we’re slowly introducing new solids to you every few days. You’re not too far into this “eating solids” thing so each new experience is fun to watch. So far you’ve tried rice cereal, oatmeal and squash. Tonight, it was bananas.

I love watching the first bite. That first bite of each new food triggers facial expressions that seem to show how your brain is processing each new flavor and texture. You will then look up at me or your mother and we make eye contact. We nod and smile, encouraging you to accept this new food as something good. As your little lips smack and inevitably food oozes out of your tiny mouth you decide that you like it. You may smile or open your mouth instinctively for more. You two are little adventurers and each new food is an adventure to savor.

And tonight it was bananas. My work was a little hectic today and I left 15 minutes later than I know I have to if I’m going to make it in time to feed you. My commute is 35 minutes if traffic is good, 40 minutes if traffic is normal, and 45 to 50 minutes if traffic is bad. I hoped for good traffic today. I didn’t get it. Soon enough, I got a call from your mommy. “It’s time to feed them. How far away are you?” She asked. I looked where I was on the freeway, surrounded by cars. “About 15 minutes.” I replied. “Do you want me to feed them squash instead?” Your mommy asked, as I was unable to hide my disappointment at missing your feeding. I wanted to say “Yes.” I wanted to wait until tomorrow to see that first bite of banana. But then I realized there’s no guarantee I would make it home tomorrow night in time, either. “No…” I sighed, “go ahead and feed them bananas. I’ll be home as soon as I can.”

I hung up the phone. I had turned down the radio to talk to your mother and it was silent around me. I sighed again and thought about missing this first. Tonight, I was missing bananas. What would I be missing in the future? School plays? Sports performances? Music recitals? Bedtime baths? Goodnight stories?

I took a deep breath and I imagined these scenarios in my head. I was disappointed but when I thought about how you might be disappointed by me not being there, I felt crushed. I never want to let you down. I never want to let my job interfere with my primary responsibility of being your parent. Yes, my job is important, but being your father is the most important thing I will do in this lifetime. I can reschedule meetings but I can’t reschedule all of these firsts. I’m just going to have to find a way to do a good job at work and do a great job at home. In this new year, that is my resolution.

As my thoughts continued, traffic thinned and my pace picked up. Lights turned green for me as I made my way off the freeway and onto the surface streets to home. Soon enough I pulled into the garage and bounded out of the car and into the house. You were there, strapped into your chairs, while Mommy fed you bananas. I rushed over, picked up a spoon and fed TheMonk a gob of banana. It was not your first taste of banana, TheMonk, but it was one of your first bites. I could tell you liked it. I smiled at you to reassure you that you were eating yummy stuff. You looked up at me and laughed.

I laughed too.

I almost missed bananas. I’m so glad I didn’t.


January 3, 2006

A New Year’s Reflection

Dear TheMonk and Bri,

This being a father thing is really starting to sink in. You are now well on your way to seven months and I cannot believe how much my life has changed since you were born. This being the new year, it has provided an opportunity to reflect on the past year and all that I see in that reflection is you. In fact, I see you everywhere I look little ones. I see you in the little boy holding his mama’s hand as they cross the street in front of me. I see you in the teenage girl behind the counter at Starbucks. I see you in the fifth-year senior quarterback leading his team to victory. I see you in the preschool kids that run by my office each morning.

You are my world little ones. The promise of your smiles gets me through the day and I never forget how lucky I am to have you in my life. Every night, your mother and I look at each other and remark about how lucky we are to have you both. I cannot imagine my life without you.

As a new father – your father – I’m struck by the awesome responsibility that you present. I feel so humble that I was chosen by some greater being to be your father – to protect you, to nurture you, to love you. I do not take this responsibility lightly and while I’m not entirely sure what comes next I know I’m pretty good at improvising. I try not to let fear of losing you interfere with living our lives. Every day I open the newspaper and read of children being abducted or hit by cars or things so awful I don’t even want to think about it. It is these times where my thoughts are only of how can I keep you safe. I do not have the magic answer but your safety will always be first and foremost on my mind. I also feel comfort in that I’m not alone in this. Your mother and I make a pretty good team and I hope you benefit from that in the years to come.

This parenting thing isn’t easy. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I have ever done. I hope, someday, you will come to understand how much your mother and I love you. I hope you understand that with this kind of love we will have to make decisions that you may not like. We won’t always be popular in our own household. And as much as I hope to be your friend and be the one you look to as you become an adult yourself, I also know that I need to be your father first. This will take some practice. I may not always make the right decision. But I will always be honest with you and tell you why I’m making that decision. My biggest hope is that we will always be able to communicate. A child should always be able to talk to his or her father.

TheMonk and Swee’Pea, you can become anything you want to become. I hope to help you get there. Every day you do something that makes me catch my breath in amazement. I cannot believe that you are my son and you are my daughter. I hope that sense of wonder never goes away. You both deserve a bit of wonder in your lives.

I love you little ones.


September 12, 2005

What?! 3 months?!

TheMonk and Bri,

I can’t believe it’s already been 3 months since your birth. That means we only have 213 more months until you go off to college.

You’re growing up so fast. It seems like you learn a new trick every day. Jonathan, I watched you in your crib yesterday spend at least five minutes trying to get your thumb into your mouth. You had a plan that was pretty good in concept. Execution, however, wasn’t so hot. First, you extended your fist as far away from your face as possible. Then, you would eject your thumb away from your fist, almost like an artist sizing up his painting from across the room. Next, you would slowly bring the thumb/fist toward your face. Almost inevitably you would bring the fist right at your eye that was looking at the fist. Being off by only a couple of inches, you would then try to drag your thumb across the bridge of your nose, over the top lip and into the awaiting mouth. The only problem you had was by the time your fist got to the mouth, the thumb had retracted back into your fist. “Hmmm” I could almost see you thinking, “Let’s try this again.” And you would. Never quite got it though, I’m afraid.

Now, you’re sitting next to me as I type this and you’re at it again. Being the great dad that I am, I first showed you how I suck my thumb (Please note that I stopped sucking my thumb years ago. I mean, who knew how mean college classmates could be about such a thing). This seemed to provide some much needed encouragement, however, because you proceeded to try again in earnest. This time, I helped keep your thumb out and you finally got it into your mouth. Another problem has arisen, however. Judging by the wrinkled nose and licking of the lips, it seems you don’t care for the taste of your thumb. Well, we can’t say we didn’t try. Now, this won’t rank up there with me teaching you how to throw a baseball, blast out of the starting blocks, telling Mommy you love her more, but it’s a start.

Swee’Pea, your new trick is that you like to talk. All… of… the… time. Every morning when I get you out of bed for your early feeding you look at me like I’m the bestest thing in the whole world (and I’m just going to keep believing it’s so). Your smile is so huge and you begin to make excited noises that are so loud I have to hurry you out of the room to change you so you won’t wake your brother. When I lie you down to change your diaper prior to feeding, you get so excited that you kick and thrash your legs around. While it’s cute as hell, it does make it a little harder to change your diaper. Luckily, there’s been no accidents as of yet. After feeding, I put you back down for your morning nap (you’re like your mom, you definitely like to sleep in. In fact, if it was socially acceptable for your mother to wear diapers to bed, she might not ever get up). It is so fun to hear you talk yourself to sleep over the baby monitor as I feed your brother. What you’re saying, I have no clue, but it sounds fascinating. You’ll have to explain it to me some day.

Needless to say, the last 3 months have been an incredible time in our family. I must admit it’s pretty exhausting to juggle the both of you (not literally, we haven’t tried juggling you since you hit the 10 pound mark. Daddy’s back isn’t what it used to be). But at the end of the evening, after your mom and I have bathed, fed, changed and finally put you to bed we close the door to your room and we give each other a kiss and a high five (Another day without killing the kids or each other – All Right!). It is then one of us will look at the other and say, “Can you believe how lucky we are?”

No, I cannot believe it. But there it is. You are living proof at how blessed and fortunate we are. I dreamed of having you for so long, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would be as good as this.

Happy Three Months Little Ones. I love you.

September 11, 2005

The Day The World Changed

Four years ago today I was awakened by a phone call from my mother. “Turn on the TV,” she said. “A plane crashed into one of the twin towers in New York.”

For the next hour or so, I sat in front of the television, 3,000 miles away from death and destruction, with a numbing sense that our lives would never be the same. I didn’t cry – not that day – it was too surreal to cry. But I mourned for the loss of lives and the families and friends they left behind, I mourned for the city that I had lived in for six years, and I mourned for the loss of innocence that inevitably arises from such a tragedy.

I wasn’t a parent then. I didn’t yet have to think about how to explain how such hatred and violence can occur in the same world that let’s us experience the beauty of a rainbow after a summer shower, the aroma of freshly baked cookies on a cold winter’s day, or the soft underside of a lazy kitty’s belly. I’m not sure what I would have said then, had I been a parent. It caught me off guard and I’m not sure I would have had an explanation. But I’ve had some time to think about it. I know that someday I’m going to have to discuss how such atrocities can happen. I use the word “discuss” because I’m not sure there is an “explanation.” At least not one that could ever truly make sense.

Yes, September 11, 2001 changed me. I am now keenly aware of the role I will have to play in the development of my children. I am raising my children in a world that is far more complex than anything I experienced as a child and they will have to face issues that I never dreamed of as I was growing up. I have written before of how I want to teach my children ways to look at these challenges and choose to act in a way that will foster love and not hatred. That will promote peace and not war. That will provide understanding and not ignorance. These skills are becoming more and more important. No longer do our actions just affect those immediately around us. No, the world is a smaller place and our actions have the power to produce tidal waves across the world rather than just ripples across a pond.

I have saved newspaper clippings and books that detail the events of 9/11. I hope someday to share these with Jonathan and Swee’Pea. I want them to see what happened. But as much as I want them to understand the events that happened that day, I also want them to see the outpouring of love and compassion that erupted from this horrific event. Strangers helping strangers down long flights of stairs in total darkness, children donating their piggy banks to help in the recovery of a nation, and parents hugging those children close and telling them they are loved and they are safe.

My hope for my children is for them to be a difference maker. And I don’t mean that in a grand, global sort of way – for we can all make a difference in the lives that we touch. But in order to do that, we have to make the effort! We have to reach out and touch those around us. We have to get to know our neighbors first and the rest of the world second. And while it’s natural to gravitate to those who are most like you (those that look like you, talk like you or think like you), perhaps it’s more important to get to know those who are least like you. Stretch beyond what is comfortable and strive to know your world. Because I believe that it’s hard to hate those that you have taken the time and interest to know and understand.

I pray for those who lost their lives on 9/11 but I also pray that my children will grow up in a world that grows closer together rather than farther apart. If it has to start somewhere, let it start with them. Let it start with me.

August 23, 2005

Love Actually

My wife and I finally got our act together enough to watch one of the Netflix movies that’s been sitting around the house this weekend. The movie, Love Actually, chronicles 10 love relationships leading up to the holiday season. The 10 different couples all are intertwined in each other’s lives in one way or another. The film stars Hugh Grant and Liam Neeson, among others and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The best of the 10 relationship stories that we follow, in my opinion, was that Sam. Sam is an 11 year old boy whose mother has recently passed away. He is now being raised by his step father (played by Liam Neeson) who grows concerned over his son’s reaction to his mother’s death. Sam spends much of his time in his room and when he comes out he’s visibly upset and has been crying. The stepfather finally talks to Sam about his obvious difficult time adjusting to his mother’s death where he finds out that Sam is not grieving over his mother. He’s agonizing over unrequited love. The object of his affection is a girl at his school who is the most popular girl and, sadly, does not even know Sam exists. Well, through the encouragement of his father, Sam develops a far-fetched plan to win over the girl’s heart. There is a very touching scene of Sam and father talking about love as they listen to a sappy love song. Ultimately, Sam’s brilliant plan does not work and the girl is leaving the country that night. The Stepfather, not wanting to see his son devastated, encourages him by racing him to the airport, helping him elude airport security so Sam can finally get the girl.

This got me thinking about the relationship I want to have with my son. I’m certain I want no part of the stereotypical father-son relationship where we talk about sports and nothing else. This movie hit home because I believe in the power of love. I believe in hugs and kisses and public displays of affection. I believe in never wasting an opportunity to say ‘I love you.’ I believe that love should be expressed, not hidden. So when it comes to raising my son and teaching him of the concept of love, I have lofty expectations of myself and of him.

To my son Jonathan, I pledge the following:

Jonathan, I want you to see the expression of love as a powerful gift that should not, indeed cannot, be bound by societal norms and male stereotypes. Love is bigger than all of us and well worth the risk. In fact, I want to show you that risking heartbreak is worth it when that love is finally returned and that the only thing worse than heartbreak is regret. I’ll be there to share in your joy of first loves and I’ll be there to support you when you experience your first heart break. I also want you to know that love doesn’t have to be serious. I want you to see that it’s okay to be silly in the name of love. Love loudly! Love goofily! Love like no one is watching! And as you grow and learn about this love thing, I’ll be there encouraging you… to ask the girl next door to the prom, to thank the girl who left home-made cookies on our doorstep, and to treat all women in your life, your mother, your sister and your lover with the utmost respect.

And last, but not least, if you ever need to race to the airport, I’m your man.

I love you son.

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