Sunday, April 8, 2018

On Changes... (two and a half years later)


It has been some time since I updated these pages, but I’m happy to report both J Bean and Link are growing like weeds and doing well. VV has a place nearby and we’ve been doing OK with the co-parenting gig, though we struggle with the occasional flash fire.

The person I alluded to in my last post as someone who thinks I am a better person than I am is now my wife. We’ll call her Serene here and she came to my world with two kids of her own, Bea and Nikki (also aliases). Serene and I bought a house and my career is back in full sing. As we have blended our homes into one giant Brady Bunch, we have dealt with hurdles in house rules, exes, schedules and the usual fun of living with someone new. Now our house consists of Serene, Dad on the Run, J Bean (9), Bea (14), Link (6), Nikki (10) and a puppy named Shade. I always dreamed of a big family and now when I ask for a table at a restaurant, the count is a half dozen! The puppy is an Australian Shepherd and we decided to get him because with only 4 kids, we found we were getting too much sleep and really didn’t have enough messes to deal with.

Serene and I met online and had a whirlwind romance, she is the most supportive and loving person I have ever met. She’s a wonderful mother, a beautiful person inside and out and I don’t know where I would be without her. Serene works on the IT side of a healthcare company, hails from Kentucky (which mixes well with my Georgia roots), and just happens to be one hot Mommy. In getting to know Serene, she took it upon herself to read my entire blog, which had the effect of allowing her to get to know me in ludicrous speed. After that, she was still interested, so what could I do but ask her to be my wife? Now, if I could just convince Serene to write a biography, then I could do the same. Much of her past seems a mystery to me, and she never thinks her story is as interesting as it is. I look forward to years of prying open that shell to find the pearls within. In the meantime, our magnetic attraction and complementary personalities keep life interesting. To say I’m in love would be an understatement and to write how happy I am would certainly fall short of reality.

I feel a little rusty in my story painting, so it may take me awhile to get the brushstrokes down again. I'll give you one guess on who has been begging me to start writing again for the past few years. Thank you all for your support over the past years, I look forward to sharing more in this new chapter.

From left to right, Bea, Nikki, Shade, J Bean and Link

DOTR and Serene

Nikki and J Bean

Thursday, October 15, 2015

On Changes...

Sitting on my new balcony, overlooking the large swimming pool, a gurgling fountain and surrounded by tropical fauna I collect my thoughts and begin to write.  I absentmindedly reach to my pocket for a cigarette where there are none. Overhead the cloudy, Florida night is punctuated by stars and interrupted by tall pines shifting sleepily in the warm breeze. I hear the barely noticeable white noise of my children’s monitor, motorcycles cruising along the highway, the chatter and splashes of swimmers and a few muted conversations of my new neighbors.

There have been quite a few changes in my life over the past several months and I reflect quietly on them while taking in a deep breath of the breeze tinted with chlorine and the memory of the sea. The monitor buzzes steadily indicating my children, my loves, have given in on their battle with sleep though they will live to fight another day. Laundry is done, well as done as it ever it is in my home, with 3 loads neatly folded and hung and one in the chamber, ready for a quick toss if needed. I fed the children, cleaned up after, helped with homework and even had time for a quick vacuum of the living room interstate. The surface streets can wait for the weekend.

A few dishes in the sink, a stray ant or 5 scrambling for food on the counter that isn’t as clean as the former at-home Dad within me would like, but all in all the “new normal” isn’t that bad. Two homes, two sets of beds, two jobs and two holiday calendars mark the odd multiplication that results from a family’s division. VV and I are co-parents of a different sort now and I have been back at work for nearly a year.

No apologies are needed, condolences are not appropriate. Two adults decided the best thing for our children was a home that didn’t include both of us. Reasons as old as time and as new as the pain of a paper-cut are to blame, but they won’t be rehashed in these here pages. Sure, there were periods of weeping and grieving. Heartbreak is never easy, no matter whose fault or how slow the burn leading up to it. Coming to terms with days where I don’t see the little ones, when I don’t get a hug and a kiss from either was not easy (for either of us, I’m sure).


I held my head high and stayed strong for Link and J Bean (at least when they were around) and I slowly came to terms with a new life.  A life I am feeling comfortable in, full of experiences and people I would not have known in my former station. Despite this, congratulations aren’t in order either. Life marches on and I am who I am because of what I have been through. There is no need for regret, for hatred or jealousy. I try to accept my shortcomings and those of others and let the pages turn. I’ve never been much for drafting an outline first, I tend to let the words and the shifting sands of time carry me where they will.

I’m forever grateful for the years I had the chance to spend as an at-home dad. I am better for the experience, more grounded in the lives of my children than I might have been otherwise. I benefited from the friends I made in circles I would not have traveled had my life taken another path. I’m thankful for the support and the interest of so many readers, friends and confidants. I hope to continue to contribute within these pages from time to time, but for right now I just want to stare at the sky, dream of the promise of tomorrow and talk to someone who thinks I am a better person than I am. Much love to all you parenting partners, keep fighting that good fight and if you find your world turned upside down? Well, I suggest you call over the little ones and stand on your head with them to see if it’s the world that has changed or if it was just you. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Rebels With a Cause...

Because I said so...

Did I really just say that?


Are my demands for compliance without question really the goal of parenthood? Am I raising another brick in the wall; another round peg for every round hole? Does trying to do so more often than not result in a rebel without a cause?

More importantly, are the actions I take... the "ought to's" of parenting effective? What measure do I use?  At what point do I measure that outcome? Is a 2 year old who says please and thank you the goal? Or am I shooting for a 26 year old who can feed and clothe himself while not ending up in prison?

Maybe I'm trying to raise a better parent than I am.

Perhaps, it's not so important they listen to me (or anyone) without question and it's more crucial they be independent and comfortable going against the flow.

I've seen the the white water rapids of a group of teenagers pulling everyone along toward a waterfall and hidden dangers. I've rolled down that river myself. Learning to take a few strokes against the current of social rules and peer pressure is probably a valuable skill for a child learn... so how do we teach it?

It is difficult to remember the world view we present our children is not just in the words and lessons we teach with purpose, but in the guidance we offer through our actions (often inadvertantly). Will my desire to be unquestioned expand their horizons and their potential, or limit their ideas and confine their goals? Am I willing to answer that question?

What about the other people they come across? When a person tells my daughter this activity is for boys or tells my son those toys are for girls I want them to question the assertion. When someone offers a ride to an underage keg party and it seems everyone is going, I want them to decide for themselves if that is a good choice, because I won't be there.

I am the parent and I hold some authority, there is no avoiding the arrangement, but I don't have to squech their desires to know the "why's" and the "how comes." I don't have to silence their objections. It's not my goal to raise subserviant children, I want them to grow up to be capable, introspective and independent adults.

Being "like everyone else" may be easier in some ways for children and doing what they're told everytime certainly would make parenting a more pleasant endeavor. On the other hand, we should not forget to rejoice in the rebels and the rabble-rousers. I don't want to raise a rebel without a cause, but I do hope to raise discerning, skeptical children who see much cause in this world to rebel against.

Here's to you Link and J Bean, may you break all the rules (well, some of the rules) and challenge the status quo, may you not always take the easy way out, may you sometimes make other's uncomfortable with your individuality and may we always remember that you are the rebels with a cause we raised.

I want to keep you from harm, so my rules and your ideas of freedom will often clash, but I want you to know that somewhere behind my inevitable scolding and angry face is a jagged bit of pride stuck in my throat.



Monday, September 15, 2014

Man Under the Moon

“Look, Daddy! Moo!,” Link says excitedly pointing at the half-moon directly overhead as we walk into his daycare center. All I can think of is loving him to the moo and back and squashing the inner voice telling me to take him back to the car, speed home and spend the day hugging him and showering him with kisses.

I’ve been chatting him up about the great first day of “school” and how he’s a big boy and gets to go learn just like his older sister since we dropped her off 10 minutes ago and he seems excited. After 5 and a half years as an at-home father it is time for me to start a new chapter.  Last week I had the first job interview and soon I expect to be getting back into my career in investigations.

As I punch in his student number (how can a 2 year old have a number?) on the panel outside, the door clicks and we walk in to the impossibly clean facility. Don’t children attend here? I’m confused. After some small talk and administrative details with the director I walk down the hall toward Link’s classroom. I hear his sneakers pattering along the hardwood floors and see his soles blinking like tiny emergency vehicles (which reminds me of him yelling “Beedo, Beedoo, BEEEDOOOO!” on the way to school when a fire truck passed us). I fear the lack of that pattering when I get home, I smile at the teacher. Does it look sincere? I doubt it.

After she has a little chat with Link about Lightning McQueen on his shirt, to which I know he’ll say, “Ka-Chow!” before he even does, the teacher shows me to Link’s cubby. 

“Well, here are his things. He has a little eczema break out right now, but I forgot his lotion {more guilt, too heavy} so please don’t use anything else unless you have Cetaphil or Aquaphor even though it looks red.” I manage to squeak out before giving him a quick hug and telling him bye. I leave quickly because I know it is best that way and he doesn’t cry, but I put on my sunglasses before I’m out the door.

In the car, I breathe.

At home it is too quiet, so I write.

Tomorrow, he’ll be with me and we’ll pack every minute of fun in our two weekdays per week off school until I get back to work. I’ll cry, we’ll laugh and life marches on under the moon.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Breath

The sun is in my eyes, glaring and sparkling off the pool. A shower of water rains on my face, created by the child drowning swimming in front of me. The tinge of chlorine tightens my squint.

I'm holding out a hand to my daughter who is trying to reach the edge of the pool











before her limited swimming skills fail to bring her mouth above the water for another hurried breath. She expends much needed energy to say, "No! <BREATH> I've got it!" Meanwhile, her feet and hands push and pull desperately against the water.

Almost. There.

I wait closely, tracking her progress. I don't want to offer help too soon (or too late) so I agonize over the slow drip of time between gasps. Goggles provide vision above and below. Underneath the water is cool, her hair dances slowly and rhythmically about her determined face. The sun is dampened and sound takes on new qualities as reality creeps to the edge of recognition. It really is another world under here. I am terrified. Looking for any sign of doubt or fear behind her own goggles and dreaming of the breath and the sweet chaos at the surface.

Is this the way I'll feel when she is learning to drive? The first time her heart is broken? Will I be there with my hand outstretched? Will anyone?

Of course she wants to be independent. She is of us, of me. Is it instinct, this characteristic of avoiding the request for help? Clearly, people everywhere need help of one kind or another yet hesitate to ask for it even when we need it most. I know I do. Did I teach her this? Is it some misguided shame in needing others causes us to act this way? Pride which misguidedly stays our hand from reaching out to others? Is it fear which causes the hesitation? Will the hand be there when I reach for it? Will it pull back too soon, leaving us no better off than when we started?

Children need to learn the value of independence, but in the end my daughter, J Bean, knows I'm there and if/when she reaches out a hand to me I'll pull her up as quickly as I can. Must be a great feeling. One we should all experience. As time passes, I hope to show her the power in the hands of the world. How her mother's and mine are not the only ones ready to lift her. Eventually she'll know ours are not infinite and she'll need that reassurance. I'll need that reassurance.

Her face breaks the surface just as her outstretched hands finally grasp the edge.

<Breath>

Relief floods my mind as oxygen fills her lungs and I pull back my hand. The edge is constant. I am here. Others nearby are ready to help.

I trust in the knowledge another intrinsically human characteristic is the desire to help others. People step up and offer help even when we won't ask for it ourselves. We like to help, we want to, I really believe that we need to. It seems we should be happy in giving and receiving. Help when we can, reach for a hand when we need it and know it will be there, because it will. 

A fellow dad blogger, Oren Miller of A Father and A Blogger, reached out a hand here. He didn't realize he had actually, because all he really did was let his community know his situation and his thoughts on it. Heartbreakingly, that situation is dire. The response to Oren's stage 4 lung cancer, much to his surprise, came in the form of hundreds of outstretched hands. One stood out to me, it was the hand of Brent Almond (Designer Daddy) who created a Give Forward page for Oren so that we might send Oren and his family on a much needed and deserved vacation. Brents' action was important as it flew in the face of the bystander effect. We all wanted to do something for Oren, but we didn't know where to start. That fund surpassed our imaginations and is now, I am proud to say, a true gift to help them through the rough road ahead. I hope you'll check out the Give Forward page and consider extending a hand of your own to help this loving family through the challenge of their life. 

Oren, we are with you. Take a hand.

<BREATH>


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Flip the Script... -sponsored-

Has anything ever gone as planned for a parent? Seriously. Is there one moment, one vacation, one picture, one single event that came out just as you had hoped? Children get sick, they pout have full-fledged foot-stomping hair-tearing tantrums, they define "uncooperative" at the most inopportune times. Still millions of people have children everyday, tell others they should have spawn of their own and we even keep the ones we have already. Why is that? Wouldn't life according to plan be so much easier, less stressful and just more manageable in general?

Probably.

Then again, it's the unexpected moments and flavor my kids add to every day that really create the life I want to live. Sure, there would be fewer messes, a whole lot less laundry and I'd have more freedom to do some of the things I enjoy without the kids. On the other hand, no one would ask me things like, "Daddy, how does a baby whale know how to swim if she's never had even one swim lesson?"

Without the kids, my wife and I would probably take some of those fantastic, artsy portraits of ourselves in a warm embrace with the sunset at the beach or some other destination I can't afford to go with the whole brood. On the other hand, we wouldn't end up with this type of photo either:
Personally, I think I'll be happy to have this as part of my photo album when I'm old and gray and reminiscing over the "good ol' days." The lighting isn't perfect, the outfits don't match, and I didn't even shave. Still, this captures more of the way our life is than any studio portrait ever could.

It's true, the unscripted nature of life with kids can cause delays and throw off our
schedule, but do I really need to be on time when I could be dancing in the street with a 2 year old as we enjoy the music of one of our favorite street performers?

Sometimes you just have to laugh at the unscripted moments of fatherhood. What else is there to do? I wouldn't have it any other way, personally. When you tell your daughter to get ready to go to an office party and she comes out looking like a bedazzled pirate from space, that's what makes it all worthwhile. Even if you plan a play date with a bouncy house and it all comes crashing down, that's OK. Life wasn't meant to be scripted. It's the suspense, the excitement and outright comedy of it all that make fatherhood so special to me.









I'm sure you've heard of the #WorldsToughestJob campaign it hit the big time around mother's day and now it has been expanded to include us dads as well. You can learn even more about getting involved with your own #WorldsToughestjob moments here. This video really encapsulates the feelings and the reality of a life as dad unscripted, they took real actors to have them audition for the role of "Dad." Check it out, it's hilarious and touching:



Now that's I'm a father of my own, I often reflect on my own unscripted childhood and how my father must have dealt with my own unforeseen shenanigans. When I went to work on his Father's Day card, that was definitely on my mind. I was excited to learn about Cardstore's service where I could create my own card for him. A card that isn't scripted and crafted by someone we never met. Something more personal and hopefully, more meaningful to him.

Click to Enlarge
Time was running short for me with father's day approaching (you know how that tends to happen when you have kids, right?) so it was great to find that Cardstore's interface was quick and easy to learn. In no time, I had a card designed and ready to send. Actually, I didn't even have to "send" it, they handled that part for me too.

For my dad, I selected an old picture as the front cover. It was one of those unscripted moments from my childhood that shows so much about the fun we had together and the feelings we had for each other. Then, I recreated the picture with my own children to remind him that he showed me how it's done. Inside, the card says:

"Look familiar? Fatherhood isn't scripted, but you always made us feel like the stars of the show! Thanks for showing me how to wing it! I may not have a director or a 'how to' book on the shelf, but looking back on my childhood, I'm able to figure it out. Well... mostly. Happy Father's Day!" 

I've included some screenshots of how I put it together and the final product. You still have time, yourself, to create a card and have it delivered on time for Father's day if you act right away! Just head over to Cardstore right now to get started! Cards made by 6/9 will arrive on time with standard shipping! Also, because, you read this far, you get a special discount code: CCG4527 is valid 6/3 – 6/9 and will get you a father's day card for $2.49 plus the stamp.


Disclosure: I partnered with Cardstore from American Greetings and Life of Dad, LLC for the #WorldsToughestJob Dad Casting Father's Day promotion and was compensated for my involvement.




Saturday, June 7, 2014

I love my job. #DestinationDad with Sears. - Sponsored -



Sometimes I just have to admit my "job" is a really good one. As an at-home dad, I deal with the kids all week for better or for worse and with one in the "terrible twos" and a 5 year old it seems like the worse part of that equation has been winning lately. However, Wednesday was one of those days that makes it all worthwhile. I was paid, that's right I was given money, to go do with my children what we might do anyway: peruse the mall, check out some gift ideas for father's day, wear fake mustaches, ride up and down escalators for no apparent reason, photobomb some complete strangers, and eat ice-cream. Ok, I'll admit, there are one or two of these we wouldn't normally do, so maybe that's the part I get paid for, I'm not sure. Honestly though, when a job is this fun, life is good!

My Destination Dad trip started when I loaded up the kids and a bag full of fuzzy mustaches to head to Sears and entered the "Snap Your 'Stache" contest. I also brought along a magic marker to draw a mustache on my son, Link, knowing he would inevitably refuse to wear his lip accessory. Little did I know, he'd also refuse to have his lip colored despite his normal propensity for body graffiti. It was a lot of fun and felt like a mini-vacation, we played with tons of gadgets, sat on a few riding lawn mowers, chilled out in some patio furniture on display and may or may not have watched an entire movie in the electronics department. It also helped that I was wearing swimming trunks, sunglasses, a summer fedora, a tropical(ish) shirt and a gray handlebar mustache. A man in a funny hat brought me a drink in a coconut shell. OK, the drink bit didn't happen but it wouldn't have surprised me. Also, do you call that brown stuff on the outside of a coconut a shell or is it a husk? 
Never mind; moving on. 






Outside the store, the kids and I bothered stopped a departing customer to see if  she would mind snapping a few shots of the brood and myself with the Sears sign in the background. Once inside the resort department store, we went on a scavenger hunt for the items that I'd most like to find under my pillow (wait, wrong occasion... to find on the kitchen counter?) on Father's Day this year. Preferably, that gift would be something that I don't wear between my feet and shoes or tie in a Windsor knot around my neck. I wasn't disappointed. 



I was happy to find several gift possibilities for my "Gimme List" and the kids approved of most of my selections. First, I was awestruck by the crisp, high definition picture on the 
Samsung 46" LED TV and we jumped on the opportunity to take a #DestinationDad photo with a realistic beach scene in the background. Maybe I should have put sunscreen on my boy! Then we scoped out the Kenmore 4 burner grill with a foldout table that would make a great addition to my new home in Tampa. Did I mention I had to leave my old grill in Chicago during my recent move because I rented a truck that was too small? Did I also mention that my wife Vv told me so? Well, don't feel bad, she covered that ground a few dozen times, but given the price on this Kenmore maybe she is ready to forgive me and get back to freshly grilled steaks for our endless summer in Florida. (Please?!)





Next, we checked out the comprehensive selection of man-tools in the Craftsman 263 piece mechanic's tool set which would look awesome in my garage. I was also able to take a gander at a really
nice Citizen's Quartz stainless steel watch that I literally almost bought on the spot (it was on sale for way less than half of retail). Ultimately, I decided to leave the feeling of satisfaction that will come with getting me just what I want for Father's Day to my wife and children to enjoy. That's because I'm a giving person.


I told the kids if they would be willing to sign a small waiver granting me access to their college funds then I would purchase a Samsung Galaxy Tab3 Lite 7" Tablet on their behalf so they might gift it to me on Father's Day. Mind you, it wasn't expensive, that just happens to be the only money in their names. J Bean, my daughter, denied the opportunity (obviously, she wants to surprise me with it later) and my son, Link, just yelled, "Dop It, Daddy! Wa Er, Wa Er, Mo Wa Er!" I have no idea what that means, but I assume it was a thank you for the wonderful vacation at Sears and that he had already selected one of my previous choices to bestow me with. Love those little, buggers!


After nabbing our pictures and bringing home a few bacon bits to add to my wife's far more substantial slab o' bacon contribution, we headed over to the mall's play area where Link threw himself off a slide a few dozen times and where J Bean climbed a fake palm tree while still wearing her mustache. It was nice... It wasn't Sears nice, but it was OK. To top the day off we grabbed some ice cream and headed home. Now I can't wait to see what I get on the big day and for my next Destination Dad trip to


the local mall!


In short, I recommend you get down to Sears to enjoy your own dad desination day and to enter the contest! Sears wants to honor dad this Father’s Day through the “Snap Your ‘Stache” contest, a nationwide search for the greatest moustache. Now through June 15 entrants can can take a photo of your mustaches and share at sears.com/DestinationDad.com for a chance to win the ultimate Father’s Day gift – a trip to the Craftsman MAKEcation where you’ll meet a celebrity and learn to make whiskey, roll cigars, grill steaks, and amass survival skills. I'll be honest, the celebrity could be an extra in a B-movie and I'd still love to win that prize! Runner up prizes include other great gifts including a Craftsman Quiet Lawnmower Craftsman portable gas grill and Craftsman MACH Series tools. As you can see from my pictures, you shouldn't let a bare lip stop you from entering the contest. In fact, in a stroke of irony, I shaved my real mustache (which didn't seem to be award winning material) so that my fake one would stick to my
face! So go ahead, get creative and draw one on, use a sticker, or even hold something to create your best ‘stache. Everyone who enters will receive $5 in Shop Your Way points to use on the perfect Father’s Day gift. Plus, Shop Your Way members can vote for their favorite moustache submission, which will enter them into a sweepstakes for 250,000 in points (a value of $250).

Disclosure: I partnered with Sears and Life of Dad, LLC for this Father's Day promotion and was compensated for my involvement.