Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Most Amazing Six Year Old I Know

Now 32 years old, I've become a little jaded to my birthday. I haven't really "celebrated" my birthday in a long time. I've had people come over or go out for dinner, but I avoid much of a fuss. As you'd expect, it was a different story when I was little. I demanded wanted a big show. I wanted lots of people because that meant lots of gifts. I wanted a celebration of me! It's an important thing to celebrate.

If you have never heard Patton Oswalt's musings on when you should recognize a person's birthday, go find clips. In short, he has joked that through your life, there is really a short list of birthdays you should be allowed to celebrate. I really like it, partly because it falls into my own mindset of, "I turned"

Very much on the list are the young birthdays. Ages 1-10 where you are a little kid growing up. These are ages where you expect to see a kid begging for a party with loads of friends. You expect trips to Chuck E. Cheese, bowling alleys, parks, or even backyards. You might cringe at the idea of what you need to put into the favor bags so that when the kids all see each other at school next, your child hasn't lost any favor in the eyes of the other kids based on the wrong flavor of lollipop. So certainly for a 6 year old girl, the pressure is on the parents to provide the pony for kids to ride or a slew of princess dresses for a group of little girls to wear for an evening and feel like they are in a Disney movie. For parents Cherie and Shawn Flowers, something very different was requested.

Shawn and Cherie have two kids. Daughter, Mackenzie and son, Brady. Cherie is an amazing photographer and, like any proud mom, loves to take pictures of her kids. These photos tend to make their way across my facebook feed. Which I hate. Let me preface this with, I love my boys and I think they are as adorable as six puppies hugging seven kittens. Additionally I think their little boy is a handsome little fellow, but pictures of Mackenzie are painfully cute. I do not like it, and I do not trust it. As if being cute is not enough for her, Mackenzie decided to also be an astoundingly good person. Not just for a 6 year old, but for anyone.

Imagine what would go through your head if you asked your child what they wanted for their 6th birthday, and they responded with pet food, pet toys, and gift cards to pet stores. I can't help but think I'd go searching for a mystery pet that our kids had been hiding from us. Incredibly, when Mackenzie asked for these things, she was just being a sweet and giving little girl.

Yes, she had her friends over for a party, and yes, she wore a tiara like any little girl might. What set her apart was that she asked that no one bring her a present. What she wanted was for people to bring items that she could donate to the Humane Society. My favorite part about this story is how people began praising Shawn and Cherie for coming up with a great idea. As if they made the decision to withhold presents from their daughter and put her face on some poster campaign to give donations to an organization. In truth, this was all Mackenzie. Why? She loves the heck out of animals.

I'm happy to praise good parenting all day long, and I know that Shawn and Cherie are great parents.  Still, I think this act of generosity surprised them as much as anyone else. Parents spend an amazing amount of time trying to guide the minds of their children in what they hope is the right direction. I think though, this is a great example of where exceptional parenting meets an exceptional heart. I can't imagine how proud they must be of their little girl.

Well done, Mackenzie.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Are We Still Searching for a Better Father?

There's was an obvious level of terror when Melissa and I packed our entire lives into box to move to Idaho. I had been out for a short visit, and all she had to go on was a few pictures and my very detailed description of, "It's pretty!"

Recently I discovered that another gentleman (that seems way too pompous, but I'm gonna allow it), somewhere in Idaho, has been blogging about his experiences here in the "Gem State." While he doesn't seem to be a dad, he often talks about things that speak to me in different ways. Like me, he moved from a much larger city to the slow paced life somewhere in what I assume is the Boise area. Also like me, he seems to be struggling to adapt to certain aspects of being in an area that can feel out of touch with the rest of the world.

Truthfully, some of what he talks about on his website is just untrue. Sadly though, it's easy to convince people that life in Idaho is some form of black and white cartoon centered around a potato. People in Idaho know what the internet is, and I even saw our Governor take what I'm certain was an iPhone out of his straw hat, check the time, and put it in his overalls. Life here is not all that different from them big fancy cities.

One thing does tend to irritate me about many of the people here - sometimes I feel unwelcome. While I find the idea that Idaho needs to "catch up" with the rest of the world to be a little short-sighted, the very concept of a stay-at-home dad is still perplexing to some people in this state. I think much of it comes from religious points of view. The idea that the woman's role is in the household, but there has to be more to it than that.

It doesn't really bother me that people around here find it a little odd that I'm the one at home with the kids. What bothers me is their need to bring attention to it. As a man in an area that does not seem to understand that fathers are also parents, it's hard to find the balance between being offended by people who seem to look down on fatherhood, and not caring at all what they think. It's not okay that people ask Melissa why she is not the one at home. It's not okay that people ask me if I'm having a "day off with the kids" and then give me the most confused look when I explain that I'm a stay-at-home dad. I wish that confusion was limited to this state.

I don't feel a big connection to many of the dad bloggers I've come across, but that has a lot to do with me not trying that hard to make the connections. Still, I've come across some great sites and done a lot of reading and one thing I've seen discussed a lot is that  dads are too often forgotten in the parenting world. There are still people who want to perpetuate the idea that fathers can't be every bit as involved in the lives of their children as mothers. There are still people out there who feel like something must be wrong with Melissa and I because our "roles" are not reversed. There seems to be a nation-wide level of complacency to commercials, clothing, greeting cards, movies, TV shows, and more, all portraying dads as not only less important than mothers to kids, but fundamentally stupid when it comes to our children. We are supposed to be good with a hammer, not a hug. Good with a lawn mower, but not a frying pan. This has sadly become a common ideal in the minds of many people, and I really have to thank the amazing group of dad bloggers who have pushed issues of unbalanced views of fatherhood into the light. People are way too passive about underselling the role of a father.

See, there's not much poking fun at moms going around. That's a good thing, but I do think it's time for people to stop pretending that dads are some sort of mute sidekick when it comes to parenting. Great fathers are everywhere, and I think most people are aware of that. So I'm confused at the companies who make efforts to pretend otherwise. What more can fathers do to stop the negative image for the people come up with this crap? How is it that with many great figures of fatherhood around, people are still searching for a better father?

Fun little exercise, open up your eyes a little wider when shopping, watching TV, or even reading parenting materials. It becomes surprising how many commercials paint a picture of the lost dad who needs mom to save the day. You'll hear things like, "dad-proof" or "mother approved." You'll read that "even dad can get involved with this!" or "you'll be surprised to know that there are things we can learn from dad!" or "it's okay to let dad push the stroller even though he doesn't understand how to dress your child." Let's not forget the amazing "parenting" books that have a "special chapter just for dad." It's quite sad, as a father, to need to defend your commitment to your children to faceless corporations and strangers who have turned fatherhood into a joke. A big thank you to the dads and  parenting blogs out there, fighting for our real place in the lives of our children.

Not every dad is perfect, but that applies to moms as well. Sorry world, but there's a lot of great dads around. Our bad.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What Can I Say?

If you are reading this right now, it's important to know that I appreciate you. I'm thrilled that you have given some of your time to read my stories. My last post seemed very well received and was passed around by a few people, and I appreciate that too. The problem, for me, is after you post something that is a rather sweet, heart-felt moment between a father and son, it's hard to know how to follow that. When I started writing this blog, I went in with every intention of keeping things real and honest, so there's no way I'm going to make post after post about adorable little antics as if it's a day to day thing. Likewise, my post for Metro Music Therapy in Atlanta, completely destroyed what I consider to be my "normal" amount of page views on an average day. Still, the long term answer can't be selflessly giving out information (however much I believe in it) on the great things my friends have gone on to do with their lives. I only have so many friends, and sometimes I'm sure I have even less than that.

So the question remains - how do I follow up a post that found a great reception? How can I live up to the hype?

I probably can't, but what a great chance to let out a little crazy for the sake of not worrying about a "great follow up post." I was hesitant to talk about it, but Melissa insists that there are other people like me in the world. I don't mean stay-at-home dads, I mean parents who've seen far too many episodes of their kid's cartoon programs and have started to put too much thought into it. There is no rational way to ease into this topic, so I'm just gonna go for it.

Ev's Crazy - Episode 1 - Handy Manny:

  • Manny's name is Manuel Estevez Garcia III, named after his father and grandfather ("Abuelito"), but while we see Abuelito all the time, there is only a small mention of Manny's father. Equally his mother is only referenced once in the show and still we have no clue what happened to either of them. Better yet, there was an episode where Manny went to his family reunion and there was STILL no discussion of his parents. What the heck?
  • While we're talking about family there is a specific episode where Manny's sister Lola tells him ,"You're my favorite brother!" to which Manny responds, "Lola! I'm your only brother!" Much later the character of MANNY'S BROTHER, Ruben, is introduced. How does that work? What the heck?
  • Parents who watch the show have long speculated on the relationship between Manny and Kelly, the owner of the hardware store. Questioning if they were ever going to get together. The makers of the show have insisted that making such a leap would not work with the show dynamic. They said things needed to remain open-ended with all the characters to ensure that the story for the characters wouldn't really need to evolve. It's a common issue for cartoon shows. It's how "The Simpsons" has been on for over 1000 years and yet there is still a baby on the show. In a recent episode, Abuelito and Mrs. Portillo suddenly got married. These two characters have never really had any major interaction on the show, let alone something that would hint to the audience of any romantic connection. Even within the episode they hint at Kelly and Manny having feelings for each other. What the heck?
  • Kelly's hardware store is basically two doors down from Manny's workshop. In an episode, Manny and the tools need to get some glue, and bring it back to his shop. To do this, he puts on his work gloves, tool belt, trademark pencil in his ear (that he never seems to use), and loads the tools up in the tool box. To get a little bottle of glue. Two doors down. What the heck?
  • Why does Kelly carry absolutely everything on the planet? Why can Manny buy car parts at a hardware store? I'm willing to get on board that she somehow has everything they need to fix various home projects, but would you really look to the local hardware store to carry baskets to go on a scooter? A crank specifically for a BINGO wheel? All these odds and ends, and yet she had to order Manny safety goggles, which took a month to arrive. They have a store that sells ONLY gloves (Handy Hut) and yet the hardware store is where you go for a popcorn kettle? What the heck?
  • I worked for a construction company for a while. When you're in that line of work, you start to mass a collection of various things that you know you'll use later. Manny has jars of nuts and bolts around his workshop all the time, yet somehow he never has nails. He has the perfect amount of lumber for a job in his truck somehow, and yet needs to stop by to see Kelly if he needs goggles or a hardhat or glue. What the heck?
  • How was Manny able to restore a race car with a saw, two screwdrivers, a monkey wrench, a pair of pliers, a tape measure, a hammer, and a flashlight? What the heck?
  • The majority of characters appear single. There's a disturbingly small number of couples. There's something sort of creepy about Sheetrock Hills. There's a sort of sinister quality to children appearing who seem to have no parents and a level of acceptance regarding potentially fatal situations. What the heck?
  • What is the deal with Mr. Lopart? He is the source of many issues throughout town. He's in a constant state of failure and refuses to allow people to help him. Wouldn't there be a point where you would stop asking if he'd like some assistance getting his foot unstuck from a bike rack or getting down from a tree? What the heck?
  • The Sheetrock Hills economic system. No one pays for anything. Ever. There was one episode where Manny was supposed to be preoccupied and was leaving the hardware store when Kelly reminds him that he hadn't paid yet. I could hear every parent in the world screaming, "How is that different from every day ever!" Seriously, what the heck?
  • There's an episode where Manny is drooling over a pair of gloves in the hardware store. The tools decide to try and get enough money from random places in Manny's shop to pay for them as a surprise. Obsessed with getting enough money, Squeeze sees a coin in a sewer and while trying to get it, falls in forcing a very suspenseful rescue. At the end of the episode, the mayor ends up giving Manny a pair of the much coveted gloves. Manny quickly tries them on, much to the delight of everyone. Those gloves have never been seen again. One of his talking tools falls into a sewer for him trying to raise the money to get him these gloves, and when he gets them he doesn't even have the common courtesy to wear them once in a while? What the heck?

I have plenty more, but not the desire to make this point that long. PLEASE, leave comments below if you'd like to keep the good times rolling, but keep it to Handy Manny. There will be other days where I need to vent some crazy, and so we'll get to the other shows later. Seriously though, help remind me that while I may be going crazy, some others are going through the same kind of crazy. Furthermore, don't let this scare you off, I'll be back to more "normal" topics soon.

Thanks again for all the patience with posting lately! Adding Bonus Baby to the mix has given me some amazing perspective of parenting, but sucked the life out of me at the end of the day. I have a new level of respect for parents with lots of kids at lots of ages. If that means you, I think you're amazing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thanks Tigger!

The guys over at 8 Bit Dad said on twitter recently that, "If we don't post everyday, it means we've been putting family first." Man I love that. You wouldn't believe how far I had to scroll back on their twitter feed to find that quote. I am awful at twitter. There's too many hashtags floating around, and I'm never sure if I have to virtual hug the person who talks to me or just move right to the cuddling. So confusing. Sometimes I have to step back a little and remember that blogging is something I've been making an attempt to do for only three months. I've been a parent for more than three years now! Just how parenting came before the words in real life, parenting must continue to be the primary focus over the blog. I put a lot of pressure on myself as a "new guy" in the world of dad bloggers to get a little attention without being in anyone's face about it all. The biggest part of that is posting, and there are moments where I feel bad that I didn't get a chance to finish something on a particular day. I've asked a few people for advice and then quickly left those people alone so they don't feel I'm like the annoying kid brother who just wants to follow them everywhere. I know that guy, I've been that guy, and people want that guy to go away. I even know a few people who do quite well with their own personal blogs, and I refuse to ask for pointless plugs that are apropos of nothing they would ever talk about normally. I'd love a larger audience. I'd love to power through post after post, but in the end I am a dad first and I have a long way to go in this process. Feeling a need to apologize for my parenting getting in the way of a post is a bit stupid.

This week really let me take that idea to heart. I'm gearing up for my new babysitting adventures, which will start on Monday - wish me luck! I'm also making some changes to my diet and exercise program, namely, having a diet and exercise program. I'm tired, I'm busy, and in the middle of all this are my boys. William has finally, finally, found a way to get out of his shell more. He's talking more to us, instead of just near us. He's turning into a boy who wants to do things! It's so exciting, and when he wants to live out his imagination, I'm ready to join him. I really love it.

I made a comment on my facebook page the other day explaining why I might not be getting a new post up, and people seemed to love it. My assumption is that everyone thought it was sweet, and not that people were glad to have a break from me. So I thought I'd expand on our very important search the other day.

Several months ago, it was announced that Disney Junior was going to turn into a full-time channel. Melissa and I were overjoyed with that news. Why? CLEARING THE DVR! So many Mickey, Jake, Manny, and Little Einstein episodes clogging our system. So a full channel devoted to those shows and more, made us a happy pair. Of course, it took a while to be offered in Idaho, but we have it now! Along with all the normal shows that the boys were familiar with, came a few new titles as well as some Disney movies.

One of the movies, which I had never heard of, was "The Tigger Movie." It was released in 2000 and as best as I could find, is the only movies involving the "Winnie the Pooh" characters where Tigger is the main focus. I'm not going to go into the details of the movie, though I will say if your child likes that silly old bear, they will enjoy this story. All you need to know for this is that at a point in the movie, Tigger and Roo are bouncing through the woods looking for Tigger's family by yelling, "Hello? Tigger's family?! Come out, come out, where ever you are!"

For several days, William had been saying something that typed out probably looks like this, "Comeonah iya are!!" Having my minor in toddler linguistics, I really felt like I should be able to figure out what that meant. I had no idea. Till one day we were watching the movie, again, and William joined in at that scene with Tigger and Roo using his gibberish version. That is William's idea of, "Come out, come out where ever you are!" So now it was no longer confusing, just adorable.

With my role as William's playmate becoming more and more involving, it generally means he wants more time playing with puzzles or drawing in coloring books...or any books. This week though, thanks to the folks at Disney, he had something else in mind.

I had just put Carter down for his nap, and William was running around in a mild panic downstairs having finished watching The Tigger Movie...again. While to me it was downstairs, to William it had become the world of his friends from the hundred-acre woods. I'm almost surprised that I was not scolded for tramping on flowers or splashing in puddles as I took that final step off the stairs. Honestly, I was hoping for a moment of rest or a chance to check over the latest post so I could publish it before we dove into play time. Not that day. William reached up for my hand, and I was not going to tell him to wait. For a few moments I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to be doing, then William called out, "Hello? Tigger's Fam-wee? Comeonah iya are!" Ah! We're looking for Tigger's family, and since William was leading me, I assumed he was Tigger which made me Roo. Stick the short guy with the little character. Funny, son.

So we searched. And we searched. I mean, our house is not exactly big so there was a few laps made. We hopped a little and we checked in some of the drawers, but just like in the movie we never did find Tigger's family. All in all, our adventure probably lasted less than 10 minutes, but it was the first time William has ever pulled me into his world. In those moments, time really wasn't the important thing, and running spell check on some goofy write-up wasn't something I was going to worry about when we were working so hard to find a family of Tiggers. I made sure to reiterate a point made in the movie, that Tigger didn't need to go searching for his family, they were right beside him all along. It's true that I will always be here for my kids, but still, I'll go looking for that elusive family tree whenever William is ready to bring me along again. I hope he does.

So yes, if you've found your way to my exit on the internet turnpike, I do hope you'll stay a while. I hope you enjoy what you see, and I even hope you'll recommend me to a friend. Perhaps even lots of friends?


Know that there are days where I'm in search of a huge, striped tree filled with bouncing Tiggers of every color. There are days when I'm sharing a blanket with a special little man to watch Sheetrock Hills put on their brand new play, "Snow White and the Seven Tools." Some days I've just got too much dad life going on, and that has to happen before any of this.

To the next adventure!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Are We Too Safe?

I feel like I don't understand many things that seem to have happened over the 14 (yikes) years since I graduated from high school. I know I've talked about this before, but times have changed. Every generation has probably said that at some point, but I feel there's something particularly relevant about that concept these days. The overexposure to people we have gained from social networking sites in addition to the continued wave of hypersensitive parenting styles, have made what I consider to be a larger than average stride between myself and younger crowds.

People have every right in the world to raise their kids in whatever manner they see fit, so long as they are not putting that child directly in harm's way. The downside of that idea is when a parent makes a decision for their child with every good intention in the world, and it catches on so rapidly that society takes a seemingly harmless idea and forces the world to change around it in a harmful way.

The other day, a friend posted a picture on his facebook page. He, his wife, and their roughly two year old boy had taken some professional family photos. In one of the pictures, he was holding his son upside-down while he and his wife were kissing. Their boy had that kind of kid-smile that is infectious. It was a very sweet picture, but it wasn't long before comments started flying about holding his child upside-down. How it was very dangerous and to consider what might have happened if he was dropped! Then came the attacks on the two of them as parents, of course from total strangers.

Look, if you as a parent decide that it's unsafe to toss your child into the air and let them fall into your arms, or lock hands with them and spin around in a circle, or dip your child upside-down, that's completely your business. Quite frankly, if you hear laughter coming from inside my house during the day I'd caution you to stay out since there's a pretty high chance something like that is happening right at that moment. A higher level of caution when it comes to your kids does not make you a better parent than someone with a little more flexibility in that area. It also does not guarantee your kids unlimited protection from harm. More so, having an opinion on something doesn't mean that every needs to bend to your view, and offering your opinion of what is "safe" is not the same as some blind rage comment on how people who differ from your view are wrong.

So what then? Do we need to put bubble wrap over every object in the house? Ban the sale of tables with pointed instead of rounded corners? How long are we going to hear about Steve Irwin's son feeding crocodiles before we're able to be okay that he's someone who is growing up in a zoo with this lifestyle? Interesting to me, as I grew up in Florida just miles away from an entire park where young kids can come face to face with giant alligators for a price. Safety is really a frame of mind. I, for example, feel much more safe in a car than an airplane though statistics tell me planes are the way to go. So how safe are we? Too safe?

Something bugged me during a recent online search for a trampoline. One of William's favorite movies is the newest "Winnie the Pooh" and while he certainly loves that willy, nilly, silly old bear, Tigger has inspired him to fill moments of his day with bouncing. I'm happy to join in, but that can only last for so long. So I thought, "Hey! He'd bounce for hours on a little trampoline!" A short time into my search I saw this little bundle of joy:

I love how hard they work to imply that this is not just some fun plaything. It's a fitness center! Complete with fitness slide! Better still is the level to which they have gone to convince people that it's safe. You're basically leaving your child to play with a cloud, while on a cloud. Everything is beautifully soft, rounded, contoured, and padded. There are nets to protect you from swinging too far off course. Best of all, the trampoline has a safety bar! Nothing says, "Have fun kiddo!" like a bar on a trampoline designed to restrict your movement and bounce height. Isn't that why trampolines like this were invented? No springs to pinch skin, seemingly impossible to hit any part of the frame, and better shock absorption than most off-road vehicles. Still fun? Of course, but look at the cost of all that peace-of-mind.

We spend so much time worrying about our kids. Parents try to teach these little life lessons, but learning to pick yourself up is something often overlooked. For a time, William realized that the threat that he might be hurt would get attention. This led to fake injuries with fake emotional responses, something we then had to learn to ignore. When a child is learning to walk, falling is part of that process. Eventually the training wheels need to come off the bike, and falling is part of that process, too. What is it Dory says in Finding Nemo? "Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo."

Odd that after writing this, I wake up to several announcements regarding this:

So perhaps there's a sound logic to a company providing over-the-top safety precautions when there are parents out there who will simply ignore the most basic rules. Even if they are printed out for them, three times. Clearly there needs to be some middle ground established on this matter, and you just can't account for people who will be brazenly careless with their children. We used a Bumbo for a while, it went on the floor and was surrounded by carpet and blankets to fall on. We have knives in the kitchen, we keep them out of their reach.

...and when I buy some little trampoline for William, I won't be telling him to keep the bounces under two inches. Aerosmith taught me to live on the edge.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Don't Concuss at Me

One of the most dangerous things you need to worry about as a parent, is your child. Kids have a seemingly natural tendency to "express their love" by unconventional means. Not all the time. You get the hugs and kisses, sometimes without even asking for them, but there are those times when you also get smacked a little too hard in the back or receive a swift kick to the nuggets. I'm not saying you should feel unsafe at the top of the stairs or at a subway platform when you are alone with a toddler, but I think you should be careful. As a rule. An accident happens by accident so you have to be aware that even your most trusted friend can cause you a great deal of pain without meaning to hurt you.


My junior year was my favorite year of high school. I had a very tight-knit group of friends who would get together frequently. From going out to eat to spending hours hanging out at someone's home, we had fun doing simple, harmless things. I can only hope our parents took note of that, because even our most wild night was tame. I developed friendships over that year that have stood the test of time. We would never to anything to hurt each other. Right?

Anyone who is familiar with band nerd protocol is probably aware that before school starts, you go hang out in the band room. Over the course of high school, your band mates are the people you see the most, so it makes sense that the people you form such a strong bond with are also the first people you want to talk to as the day begins. Likewise the band folks who drove to school would try and park as close as possible to the band room door, knowing that it would be the door they would use at the beginning and end of the day.

So it was not surprising that as I pulled into a parking spot very close to our special door one morning, I looked over to see two of my very best friends parked in the next spot. Their eyes were closed, listening to some music and patiently waiting for the doors to be unlocked so we could pile in the band room and regale each other with tales of things that had occurred in the 12 hours since we had last seen each other. Clearly I must have had something to talk about that couldn't wait, because that morning I exited my car and found my way to their driver's side window. I remember wanting to give my friend in the driver's seat a bit of a scare, and so as they both sat there with their eyes closed, I took position with my face close to the window, waiting for his eyes to open to my ugly mug inches from his place of rest.

I don't remember how long I was waiting, but I was willing to put the time in for my little joke. His eyes remained closed, as did his passenger, one of our close female friends. Eventually she opened her eyes and greeted me with a big smile. She began talking, but with their windows up I couldn't hear a thing from inside. I assume she was going on about how I was right outside the window, and how clever and funny that was of me, and how so many girls in school wanted to go out with me, you know, things like that. He remained sitting with his eyes closed and began to grin in an odd way. Evidently at some point she told him to open his door really quickly. My very good friend, who would go on to be the best man in my wedding party, did not question this idea because...well, because boobs. So in complete trust of her advice, he pushed the door open with as much strength as he could gather at that time in the morning.

And then I don't remember things that clearly.

I know I was in the band room getting a very concerning talk from my band director about something on my head. Whatever that means. I know I had a similar conversation during my first class because I couldn't "focus." Then there was some kind of drama involving my mom coming to school to get me and that I was not to be allowed to sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time. Either way, I got a few very nice phone calls that evening asking if I needed anything. Isn't that nice?

A similar incident happened over the weekend with Carter.

Carter has a new favorite toy. It's one of those toys that has an arrow pointing to one of a bunch of different animals, and if you pull the lever on the side you hear something along the lines of, "The cow says, 'moooooo" You all know the one. A speak and say. Carter decided that when he's ready to play with it, he would let me know by slamming it down on my lap with a massive smile on his face. The smile is to make sure I'm aware that it's done in a happy way, not an angry way. Since he has managed to avoid hitting me in the dangle thus far, I have been very tolerant of his method. So all was well and good till this weekend when I was taking a well deserved moment of rest on the couch. William was in a rare mood of actually sitting still to watch some cartoons and Carter was running around playing with whatever struck him in the moment. His sights must have set on his speak and say at some point because I remember seeing the quick flash of a cow and a goat, but it all goes fuzzy afterwards. I know that Melissa said something about a thing on my head, and then she was going on about a doctor's appointment and something my eyes were doing. I don't know, it was hard to focus.

It actually reminds me of this time in high school! A really good friend of mine was sitting in his car with this girl. They were listening to the radio in the morning.....

My point is - Be careful out there parents.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Art to Adorable

In a long list of things we needed to finalize in Florida before we moved to Idaho, I was told very sternly to get into my father's attic and clean out several boxes of random items that had been kept from my childhood. There was an endless pile of drawings from all throughout my life. Melissa insisted I keep a few from my high school art classes, but did not object to getting rid of my detailed blueprints for a spaceship. One unfortunate side effect of divorce, something the psychiatrists won't tell you, is that your childhood scribbles and memorabilia tends to split up as well. While that's all perfectly sensible, parents seem to go through a stage in life where hanging on to a picture of an unidentifiable blue mass is no longer important. So after feeling I'd seen the last odd box containing an MC Hammer concert ticket at my dad's house, I was a little frustrated to start the process over with a steady line of packages sent from my mom.

There was some element of fun in looking through all the drawings and school projects, most of which I had long forgotten. Still, I was not compelled at all to keep any of it and most ended up in the trash. I meant no offense to my parents by it, I'm sure at some point those things held meaning, but I couldn't help but think how long that stuff sat around waiting to be thrown away. I just barely want to show the boys the stuff Melissa made me keep, let alone proclaim, "Yes! Daddy was the one who drew...that."

We have one art project that William did adorning our refrigerator door. He wanted to decorate a cake like daddy does, isn't that sweet? So we found a cake picture from a coloring book and he went nuts with it. Outside of that, the boys are not at an age yet where they've attempted to actually draw anything.

I got to thinking a little bit, and I don't want this to come across as insensitive. I was wondering how long you need to keep something on the fridge before it's acceptable to take it down. Not that I'm saying parents ever get bored with seeing the artistic stages of their children displayed, but seriously, you have to run out of space eventually right? I'm sure not everyone is like us, but we keep a great deal of information on our refrigerator because it is a major focal point. Keeping things like important phone numbers, any number of reminders, or just a nice simple family photo takes up valuable real estate. Of course there's the technology to consider as well. Undoubtedly Apple will come out with the iFridge because we've all been there in the moment when you realize that you can't check facebook while opening the door and getting all the breakfast necessities out for the kiddos. I'm pretty excited. Likely we'll be able to store billions of their pictures in some kind of app, but there's nothing quite as personal as seeing the drawing in real life.

That's what I thought anyway...

Till I saw a feature on one of my favorite websites promoting a company called "Child's Own Studio" and if you're like me, you'll be blown away at what they do. Clearly companies like this have been around for some time, which is sad because I have plenty of friends with kids but I've never seen them mention this type of service. I think this is the type of thing parents love! I looked through a mountain of drawings I had done over my life and felt no spark of attachment, but I think having the one stuffed toy based on a drawing by me, that was special to my parents, would certainly be a bit of a treasured item. Needless to say it would be one of those items that the boys are not allowed to touch until they understand how to not destroy everything.

I became very excited by the prospect of turning artwork into something the boys could hold, sleep next to, and find comfort with. Sadly, with the amazing gallery must have come popularity as described on the studio's contact page saying they are working their way through a backlog of orders and are therefore not accepting new orders at this time. So perhaps even more awesome of Child's Own, they have provided a list of alternative places where you can find this type of service. That's if you're not willing to wait I assume.

I am so very fascinated with this so please, if you have used a place like this before or you, like me, are intrigued and go forth to have a toy made, leave a comment! Let myself and all the readers know how your experience was, and by all means send me a picture of the finished product!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Therapeutic Note

Every year I go through the phase of "What if I had continued on with my music education degree?" I have no regrets really, because in the end I wanted something that really wasn't being a band director. I wanted to work with bands without administrative red tape. There are jobs within most band programs that fill that idea, but not many, and not full time.

I love music in most forms, and I feel it's a bit of a "cause" for me because of how important it has been in my life, and how I believe it truly helps people. Which is why I was really excited to find that a good friend had taken a route with music that not enough people think about - music therapy. There's a feeling as you approach college as a music student that your options are either to teach music or play music, but that's just not the case. So I'd like to shed a little light on the work done by Metro Music Therapy and while they may not be in your area, perhaps you or someone you know could benefit from the services offered by groups like them to people of all ages.

Music therapy has been around about as long as instruments have. Through the centuries it's been said that music could rid a person of demons, delay madness in mental patients, purify the soul, or even aid with healing of diseases. Modern music therapy really began with veterans from World War I and II. Musicians, some quite famous, were sent to hospitals to play for soldiers suffering from mental and physical trauma as the result of battle. The results of these musical interactions were discussed for years. William Congreve wrote that now famous (often misquoted) line, "Music hath charms to soothe a savage beast..." but did you know it goes on to say, " soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak." Congreve was on to something there, music takes hold of people in an almost indescribable way.

So what is modern music therapy? From the website, "Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. It is an established health service similar to occupational therapy and physical therapy and consists of using music therapeutically to address physical, psychological, cognitive and/or social functioning for clients of all ages." In short, music therapists work with people who have any number of disabilities and use music to help in the way they live. If you are a mother who had a special "labor mix" on your iPod, you have used music therapeutically. So this is an idea that many people have used in their life while perhaps not knowing it. I took this opportunity to ask my friend, Mallory Even - who owns and operates Metro Music Therapy, a few questions that go outside the realm of the information provided on the website.

My first question was the one I was most interested to hear the answer. As a former music education major, I'm well aware that music therapy is not an obvious choice to most people. It's something Mallory aims to change for other students.

With so many career choices involving music, what made you choose music therapy?
"I actually thought I wanted to be a band director throughout my time in high school, so I started out as a music education major my freshman year at Florida State. During one of our general music courses, Dr. Jayne Standley came to speak to our class about her work as a music therapist in the NICU. I had never heard of music therapy before,which I now think is sad and have made it a mission of mine to educate high school students about music therapy as a career choice. I was completely amazed that there was a field that combined my love for music and my passion for helping people. That same day, I walked into Dr. Standley’s office and told her I wanted to change my major."

Dr. Standley has done some amazing work with pre-mature babies. Her research and efforts with The Florida State University has found them third in the nation for music therapy programs. You can learn more about Dr. Standley and her work right here.

How would people find out about music therapy groups in their area? Would it be doctor referral, internet/word of mouth searching, little of both? 
"If searching for a music therapist in your area, I would start with either The American Music Therapy Association ( or the Certification Board for Music Therapists ( – both have databases to help people find music therapists throughout the United States. A doctor’s referral is always a plus (especially if you are hoping to have insurance coverage for music therapy services), and even speech, occupational or physical therapists in your area can be great resources since a lot of music therapists network with those other therapeutic disciplines. (Of course, the internet/word of mouth is always a good option, too!)"

An important thing to reinforce there is that many insurance companies cover some or all of the costs of these therapy sessions.

I'm sure there are tough days (right?), tell me a story about a good moment that keeps you going.
"Definitely tough days ... not only while working with challenging clients, but also as a small business owner in a field that can still be considered “new” or “different” by the general population. But, the work that we do is so rewarding that it makes it all worth it. One of my favorite moments as a music therapist could have been easily overlooked by an outsider – as a lot of our “it” moments can be – but, luckily my five-year-old client’s mother was in the room during our session that day. This little girl, we’ll call her “Bella”, was hearing impaired and had recently undergone surgery for bilateral cochlear implants – a surgery that is decided upon by a lot of families only after much thought and consideration for their child’s future. As usual, I started our session with the “hello” song (a simple song I had sung so many times before while Bella would look at me and smile, but usually never make a sound) ... “Hello Bella, Hello Bella, Hello Bella, it’s time to say hello!” That morning Bella waved and smiled, but didn’t vocalize anything with me. I told Bella I wanted to sing the song again, and this time I wanted her to try really hard and sing her name with me. “Hello Bella, Hello Bella, Hello Bella, it’s time to say hello!” After I was finished singing that phrase, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Bel-la.”

“Yea, Bella! That was wonderful!! Let’s do it again!!” And we did. We must have sung the “hello” song ten times that day. Bella’s mother remained very quiet and got very teary-eyed as we continued to sing, and finally looked at me and said, “That is the first time she has ever said her name.”

There are so many touching moments that make up a music therapist’s career. The elderly dementia patient that can’t remember their name, where they live, or who their family members are, but who can sing every word to the song, “You Are My Sunshine,” and who smile for the first time in days because you brought that musical memory to them; the child with Autism who remains isolated and withdrawn in their usual daily activities, but engages in eye contact, close proximity to peers, and appropriate social skills during the instrument-play activity in their weekly music therapy group. The changes evoked through music can sometimes appear to be subtle, but as a whole, music therapists are doing some big things."

Ya know, it's easy to dismiss a profession that traces back to ideas of tribes performing rituals of song and dance to cure illness. Yet, we live in a world that has blamed death and tragedy on music time and time again. It's clear that people know that music is a powerful thing, but I'm not sure people know how beautifully powerful it can become when channeled in the right way. We all have a song that brings a smile to our face, ones that makes us feel calm or remind us of a perfect moment, and using that idea to help people is pretty special. These amazing people design programs for each individual person which can even include instrument lessons. It's clearly rewarding and an industry that deserves a little spotlight.

If you know of someone who might benefit from music therapy. Look into it, please!

Again, check out and to find someone in your area and do me the added favor, if you will, of either commenting below or sending Mallory an email to: and let her and her staff know to keep up this great work.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

He is Happy!

Lately, William has made bedtime a struggle. I'm not just talking about our little scare the other night, which by the way has not happened again, the new safety door lock is amazing. No, it's much more than that. When we close his door at night, we do so with the understanding that the room we saw as we left will not be there in the morning. William has taken to a variety of tasks before actually falling asleep. Things like putting on extra clothing, flipping his mattress over, or taking the majority of his clothes out of the dresser. In the end, I'll take cleaning up the clothes over finding that he's been playing outside while everyone was asleep, but it would still be nice of him to cut me a break. A little one?

He is growing up, no doubt about that, and with new levels of expectations comes new levels of stressful situations. Potty training is proof of that. When your kids are very young there is always a lot of discussion of milestones or normalcy for their age groups. We as parents are trained, in a way, to expect certain things to occur with our kids within a set time frame. Tonight I was reminded that I've never thought to ask if my son was happy. No one told me at what age I should check into that. I see his smiling face and hear his laughter which indicates happiness, but even though I know William doesn't say very much (although lately he has been kicking that habit), it's only fair that I would ask him at some point.

Tonight while I was washing some dishes, Melissa came downstairs and announced, "You need to come look at your son." Melissa and I have a general rule when it comes to the boys, and I think it's a pretty common thing for parents. Phrases like, "That's my boy" are for when we want to personally take credit for something. On the other hand, "your son" is generally followed by something not necessarily bad, just something we want to pretend doesn't stem from watching us. Considering it was well past the time he should have been asleep, I was assuming it had something to do with dad's inherited "angry sleeping face." Yeah, I sleep with a very displeased face.

I was informed that he had put on a pair of underwear over his pajamas, which really isn't that bad. It was so much better! He had put on six totally different socks, three on each foot. I'll admit that I like to keep the house a little on the cold side, I run hot, but 3 socks per foot seems like overkill. He was in fact wearing underwear over his pajamas...backwards. Awesome. Also my personal favorite, a single sock on his right hand. It's the kind of outfit women think of when the picture that perfect guy. William is way ahead of the curve.

Melissa woke him up, as he had pulled the top mattress off again. We got him all settled in and Melissa walked out of the door, saying good night. I stood for a few moments with a big grin on my face. Stuff like this, is the kind of ridiculous that makes people want to have kids. I believe that. I leaned in, gave him a tight squeeze, and a kiss. With one more stupid grin moment, I turned to leave saying, "You look silly, buddy."

From a rather sleepy face, "I'm HAPPY!"

So I've got that goin' for me...

Angry sleep.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Music of the Field

Music has always been a major part of my life. Now that I'm a dad it's funny to think that had it not been for the actions of several parents, I would likely be working as a band director. What might have been.

Now, this post is not to rehash points I have made before but more to highlight a specific event that not only needs support, but showcases the talent that youth of this and many countries possess.

It's no secret that I was in marching band for a long time. I began in high school, attending band camp before school had even started. All tired "American Pie" flute jokes aside, I signed up for band the same way I signed up for any other class, so going to school before any of my friends had even thought about setting their alarms for the first time could have been a real rocky start to high school...had I not loved it so much. I continued marching in college and even instructed for a period of time. I even moved up to the big leagues. Marching band big leagues? Yep, because what the majority of the population doesn't know is that every summer since 1972 marching groups have competed all over the country under the title: Drum Corps.

The competition, known as the World Summer Music Games, operates under the governing body of Drum Corps International. Ask anyone who has marched what "drum corps" is, and you'll get a wide variety of rehearsed answers. Truthfully, it's not that difficult to explain. It's marching band. Though woodwind instruments (clarinet, flute, saxophone, etc.) are not used and it is much more on a professional level. That's it really. An extremely well rehearsed marching band. The problem's so much more than that, so people who have given their time and body to one of the almost 50 current marching groups, don't want to give such a simple answer. In addition, people have a general stigma regarding marching bands which generally stems from underwhelming performances from high school bands during half-time at a football game. So people within the drum corps community try to avoid the marching band label.

I should mention, the people you'll see in a drum corps show are the absolute best of the best within their ages (kids start as young as 10 in some groups and you become ineligible after 21). How so? These people go through rigorous audition processes, which from the start includes an audition fee. As there are not drum corps groups in every state, and people often want to march for a specific group, they pay extensive travel bills just for a chance  to maybe get one of 150 coveted spots. Should you be offered a spot, it comes with a very hefty bill (more on that in a moment) and once a month practices for which you pay more travel bills. After several months, you give up your life for the summer to tour from June to August, culminating in a week of finals competitions.

Why the major bills? Two reasons really. The first is fairly simple to understand. It takes an enormous amount of money to do what these groups do. Once you move in with your group, everything is taken care of for you. You are fed three meals a day, with additional snacks. You are given a place to sleep, which by and large means sleeping on a gym floor of a local high school at whatever city you happen to be in that night. You are provided with world class instructors to help you be the best you can possibly be through countless hours of practicing. You are given a uniform, which is altered for you and cleaned for you. Lastly, they transport you everywhere. If at any point over your summer you notice a large number of charter buses in your area, this could be why. Most performing groups make a little bit of money at every show, but it's nowhere near enough. So in order to march, you pay "dues" which today almost always means a couple thousand dollars. Drink that in. The second reason, is interest. Which is why I'll be asking you all for a favor shortly. The kids who march in these groups are mostly from America, and the tour itself stays within American borders (in past years there was a single stop in Canada), but while groups play throughout the country all summer long, most people who are not tied to marching bands in some way, never hear about it. Advertising is expensive, food for these kids is expensive, this is an expensive activity. So getting the word out, and proving that this is an exciting event to anyone who gives it a chance has proven difficult. However, technology has allowed us a very cool opportunity.

This Thursday, at a theater near you, Drum Corps International is presenting their 9th Big, Loud, and Live event. Live on the big screen, this is the quarter finals for the drum corps community and will showcase the top 12 groups based on scores leading up to the event. This is a chance to see these groups at their peak, and if you're a fan of marching band or even if you just want to support music education and the arts, you'll walk away happy. Check the site, it's almost a guarantee you'll find something in your direct area. With our rough economy and the rising price of keeping these kids safe while on the road, four groups have needed to pull off tour during the season this year due to financial issues. Keep this great organization that has been a dream for many kids, up and running.

Support music!

If you have further questions, leave comments below!

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Blame Knight Rises

Tragedy happens far too often.


I went to midnight showings for two movies. The first was the release of episode one of Star Wars. I did that completely legit. I waited in line for hours, I got my tickets, I saw the movie, I went home and cried for a few hours about how bad it was. The second time was for the first Lord of the Rings movie. A friend who was the manager of the theater got me in for the employee viewing.

I never got into the idea that seeing a movie sooner made it better. Maybe that's why I don't understand why people think it's cool to say "First" in comment sections of...everything. I don't like lines and I hate feeling like my personal space bubble has been popped forever. I think I understand why other people do it, and why some choose to dress up as characters from the movies, but it's not for me. If it were possible, I'd love to go and always be alone in the theater or just have a few friends with me. Perhaps that's why lately we tend to wait for the DVD release, or even the TV premier.


I have wanted to write a little on some current topics that have been floating around lately, and the shooting in Aurora is one of those topics. I'm still very new to blogging and sometimes I get the urge to run before walking, but something told me that people were going to be popping out write ups pretty fast. I guess I didn't realize how quick that would happen. The morning after the shootings, as more and more information was making itself public, many bloggers were clacking away at their keyboards, salivating over being the first one to click publish on their post. As a steady outflow of posts began to make it's way on to my twitter feed, I was reminded of a time when I was young. I was maybe ten or eleven and one of the neighborhood kids and I were having ourselves a heated little argument. Since I was so young at the time, I assume it was about which was better - bomb pops or orange push-ups. As the tension rose to the point of emanate fighting, I started to lose it a bit. I was so angry that everything I said was utterly stupid and made no sense at all. I would get my words out of order, and everyone watching would laugh, adding to my frustration of trying to explain how upset I was getting.

It doesn't matter what happened afterward, for the point of what I'm saying here is reacting to anything at your highest point of anger doesn't work. Reacting to things before you really know what's going on is dangerous, and desperately rushing to react at all will often leave you stumbling so bad that you lose the entire point of what you wanted to say.

I can't say if anyone regrets their knee-jerk posts or if they feel compelled to add or subtract from their statements. I will say that I was really disappointed with the theme of posts that were pumping out before the dust had even settled inside the theater.

Not surprising, it was all about who to point the finger at.

Blame Hollywood. Blame Warner Brothers. Blame Democrats. Blame Republicans. Blame the guy's parents. Blame local police. Blame the theater. Blame the people who were inside the theater.

I saw posts that encouraged blame to almost everything in the world with the exception of the whack job who found himself pointing a weapon at innocent people. It oddly reminded me of this post from Bekki at Chasing Supermom. I was hopeful that someone would just tell people to call off the dogs. I was concerned that amidst this outpour of grief from a small town, so many people sitting comfortable in their chairs sipping coffee, took to the internet to scream at each other, and I really wanted it to stop. Don't get me wrong, I saw compassion on that day. I saw messages of love and sorrow because in general, these horrible things tend to bring out the best in some people. Some people.

Sadly, many of these posts became a feeding ground of comments and finger pointing. Many people noted the baiting headlines and subject matter. As I stated, I'm new to the blogging world, and perhaps I'm just not sly enough to realize that if I really want people to read my work, I need to use titles like "Women are stupid," "Shut up women, there's a man about to talk," or "10 reasons why men are just better at everything ever." I find it a little sad that there's a need to resort to trick tactics in the blogging arena to become "popular" but perhaps that's why I don't get many views each day (be on the lookout for my post next week: "You, yes YOU, don't know how to do ANYTHING cause you are a DUMMYHEAD!").


I'm going to close this with a story from my recent camping trip. A friend of mine received some heart wrenching news while we were on the trip. A troubled co-worker had killed himself. I've been in his shoes before, and watching him go through the instant pain of hearing the news was hard and brought up some of my own memories of dealing with that type of loss. In the middle of so much pain, it seems to be the natural human response to reach out for something to blame. A way to put an image in your mind of where to direct all the anger. The question of "why" becomes a sort of quest, as if the answer will make everything better. We talk about how we would have done things so differently, so much better, and so much smarter. We talk about our own adversities and how we've managed to overcomes them and be so well adjusted. I think we do this to distance ourselves; to pretend that in our world, tragedies of such a horrible nature never happen. We're all very smart and in control of our lives. Reality is normally much more simplistic than the worlds we see in movies. It's supposed to be. Movies are meant to offer a place of joyful escape be it thrilling adventures in space or spontaneously finding true love in a diner, but our lives are no more Gotham City than they are Mayfield.

Blame won't bring anyone peace. I would offer instead the idea that when tragedies like this arise, it is a great time for thoughtful conversation, not angry ramblings. It's a great time to remind yourself of the people you love and the need to make your time with them special. It's a great time to try and push forward, not stand still and scream. This tragic shooting, and situations like it, are not rational, and they are not carried out by rational people. Trying to connect the dots of "why" is a long, unending road because you won't find reason where it doesn't exist.

I doubt anyone who I took note of as a person who felt they had the entire situation figured out during a time when many news organizations were still using the term "alleged shooting," actually reads my tiny blip of internet. However, many people read their blogs, and from time to time that includes me. I have to say, sometimes the successful people in any given field, suck.

Seriously, the fact that people were writing hateful, insensitive, blame-crazy things to those who had just lost loved ones, including disgusting. No one deserves that.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

True Fear

"True Fear." That's how Melissa described our morning yesterday on her facebook page. Less than 24 hours after having a great compliment about how amazing we are as parents we found ourselves scared, standing with our mouths open, wide-eyed, and our hearts racing. Why? William had a little adventure time last night.

We have many of these door knob locks around the house. There's a certain level of comfort to them, but in all honesty, they are easy to bypass. With enough of a pull, the two halves will disconnect exposing the door knob and you're a twist away from freedom. William figured that out last night. We learned this as we were snuggled up on the couch watching some evening TV before Melissa turned in for her early bedtime. We were talking and trying, as usual, to clear some of our shows from the DVR, when up strolls William as calm and normal as he would at any point during the day. This, however, was not during the day! William was supposed to be in bed, and the knob safety device was supposed to be keeping him in his room.

We escorted him back upstairs to find the separated halves of the safety lock on the floor. I snapped everything back into place, double checking that it was connected correctly. We said our good night, after explaining that he needed to stay in his room and it was not safe to just run around on his own like that. After ten minutes, Melissa looks upstairs to see William going back and forth between his room and ours. We decide to up the level of protection. I once again attach the "safety lock" and additionally added a safety gate outside his door, hoping that if he decides to get the door open again, he'd be defeated by the gate in the way.

Long after Melissa had gone to bed, William had made no apparent attempt to escape and I decided to call it a night. I peaked into his room once more and found him sleeping soundly which always brings a smile to my face.

I have two alarms in the morning. One goes off as a reminder to make sure Melissa is up and getting ready to leave for work. Hey, sometimes even the best of us have a hard time waking up. The second is my time to start the wake up process and goes off right around the time Melissa is leaving the house. My second alarm began to ring as Melissa was leaning in to give me a kiss goodbye. We're as adorable as two puppies hugging three puppies. She opened the door and began to say something, but was interrupted by William running into the room with a very big smile on his face. Something else was on his face as well. Dirt?

The first thing to note here is that we were greeted by William who was happy and fine, so perhaps the second thing to note is that we were somehow greeted by William! I shot up out of bed with visions of poop-smeared walls or broken items in the house. The reality was much more terrifying. As I entered the hallway, the first thing I saw was the "safety gate" pushed out of the doorway. Let me be clear, I may not be the guy that the ladies want to see shirtless on the beach, but from hours of practicing drums I do have some arm strength. I do not mess around with locking the safety gates. Period. Freedom, it seems, was enough of a motivator for William to knock it out of place.

I turned to look down the stairs and saw several things had been moved around. I raced down, looking for glass on the floor or permanent marker drawings on the table, and that's when I saw it. The sliding glass door was open. I've never seen William make much of an attempt to figure out unlocking the sliding glass door. He does enjoy going outside, and clearly I need to remember my own advice that kids are perceptive beyond what we might give them credit for. Needless to say, my heart dropped and I got that uncomfortable pit in my stomach. As cautious as we try to be, William spent who knows how long, hanging out in the back yard. It might not seem so scary when I add that our yard is totally fenced in and I keep padlocks on the gates due to some issues with neighborhood kids feeling our back yard is a neat short cut to take after school. Just that idea though, of him being outside alone, the idea of having our comfort zone of control visibly ripped from under us was something I can't put into words.

As the day progressed and I waited for Melissa to get home so we could go find new safety measures for the house, William seemed to push on with his new found feeling of freedom. It was a difficult day to say the least, and I found myself a bit shaken in the task of trying to regain control of the household. It was perhaps similar to the idea of a person on say, an Olympic gymnastics team having a poor performance, setting off a chain of events in which other promising gymnasts also have terrible performances which cost them all hope of a medal. Too soon?

When I looked around online for a better door safety option, I was surprised (perhaps I shouldn't have been) to find that in general the standard purchase for door knob safety, the kind pictured above, is regarded as utterly pointless. One customer noted that her one and a half year old was able to separate them with relative ease. How scary is that? In the end we purchased this:

While time will tell if it will work, I will say this as a first impression. It seems durable, in the sense of I'm not worried that William will be able to simply pull hard enough on the door and just break it in half to get out. It was extremely easy to attach to the door, taking maybe two minutes. It's a very simple concept of, if he opens the door, it catches on the frame exposing a small crack of space. It also has a finger guard so if he opens the door, it won't close all the way. Eliminating the risk of pinched fingers. For the sliding glass door we purchased some track locks which attach with an allen wrench. Certainly something he won't be able to undo, but a little bit of a hassle as we will need to put them on and take them off every day. It seemed like William would figure out many of the other options. The track locks were cheap and there's just no way to take them off without the wrench. I don't care how many episodes William has seen of "Handy Manny", I don't think he'll figure them out any time soon.

I felt embarrassed that morning. Fortunate, but embarrassed. It's important as a parent to never let your guard down or get too comfortable with the way things are going. Life will smack you right across your mouth and face and chest and headface.

*Answers to questions you might have in your head already. William's door doesn't have a door lock, thus we were unable to turn it around and lock it from the outside. Yes, we will continue to look for other flaws in our safety/child-proofing system. Yes, I will drum for your wedding pending certain factors.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sharing the Relaxation

When I was a kid I never thought much about what my parents might be going through on vacation. For us kids, the activities that we didn't normally do in Florida was the reason to be on vacation in the first place. Horseback riding, new and exciting theme parks, old historic towns, whatever the distraction was, we wanted to get out there and do stuff in these new places. Until I became a parent, it never dawned on me that there was a pretty high chance that my parents probably wanted to have the occasional day or even moment to just relax and unwind. I hope they found time for that.

I think this idea is really put to the test when you go on vacation with an at-home parent. I have this theory. I think one of the main reasons people go on vacation is to get away from their stressful jobs.  A very valid reason to want a break from the real world. So what then, for the at-home parents? You can't very well take a vacation from your job if your entire company is coming on vacation with you. That's where some real issues can sneak their way into the trip.

I'll use myself as the example, and who knows, maybe I'm the only guilty party in the entire world. Perhaps that makes me seem dangerous and attractive, *wink*.

When we took our big trip to Florida I was very involved with the kids. There was no way to avoid it. In fact the only time it was an issue was at night when we were trying to get the kids to bed after a long day of driving when all they wanted to do was run around. I can't fault them for that, but it is hard to find the will to get up and keep driving when you haven't had enough sleep. Still, overall, our teamwork is what ultimately got us through the trip and allowed us to even have some fun here and there.

The staycation was a different story, and here's where I admit to the world (I assume you've all shared the blog with the entire world) that I was a bit of a selfish jerkface about things. At times. I explained in some part before that the decision to have the staycation was based on the idea that soon I'll be taking on a third child during the day (for a period of time) to help out some friends. In that way I'm a pretty amazing friend. So Melissa had the fantastical idea to take a week off and have some family time before we're just too busy. As our break progressed I would catch myself shutting down and getting a little too comfy. Of course this means that while I'm sitting there with the same level of brain function as any of the Kardashians, Melissa is placed in the position of lone person in charge of the kids. This is a real test for some people, and I wanted to give some perspective on things for people based on mistakes I feel I've made.


First off, teamwork is not always an option on vacation but this doesn't have to be an issue! The key is finding some understanding and balance. Unfortunately, time on vacation that will be both together and alone is hard to come by, so plan ahead for those days. Ladies, we all know you really love a certain amount of spontaneity, but on vacation, with kids, it's not that simple. Find ways to get things done throughout the day so that once the kids are in bed, you can have an actual evening (or several) together. You are not setting a romantic mood if you need to take an hour to worry about washing dishes or picking up toys. In fact, try not to worry about that're on vacation.

Second, remember that decompressing on vacation should be a priority. That sounds a bit obvious, but again, as a parent you can back yourself into a corner trying to ensure that there are activities going on at all times to keep the kids busy and happy. Our staycation was one week long, and we only had four things "planned" to do within that time. Even though any given day with our boys is a busy day, when we both pitch in and have nowhere to be, there is time to relax. Everyone has those moments of going back to work after a vacation and you realize, "I need a vacation to recover from my vacation." My advice is to plan some time for absolutely nothing to occur.

Third, when teamwork is not an option, sacrifice for your spouse. Melissa and I have both seen "The Dark Knight Rises" but separately. Sometimes you have to go solo, and let's face it, that can be nice too. We have been lucky enough to get some very trusted friends to watch the boys so we can have the occasional date night. We know the boys are in safe hands but there's always worry in the back of your mind, even if it's just worry that the kids are behaving. So there is an additional feeling of safety knowing the kids are back with mom or dad, and you can be free to enjoy whatever you might have planned. As a side note on this, should you find yourself in the fortunate position of getting a day to go do whatever you might want - plan, plan, plan ahead. Melissa, who is so amazing about letting me take some time for myself (even if I'm just writing for you lovely people), told me to go out in the world and have some fun a few months ago. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I was very excited about it. I woke up around 7am before anyone was up, and snuck out of the house. Clueless of what to do, I proceeded to go grocery shopping, as the very option of freedom was frightening and confusing. I got us all some breakfast and was back at the house before 9 (in fairness to Melissa, she continued to do the bulk of kid stuff that day). I honestly had no idea how to go out and have some fun. I'm a little bit sad. Now is a good time to feel bad for me. Aww...

Last, don't go total space cadet without talking to your spouse. Again that might seem like a common sense move, but as a party guilty of this action, I can attest that it's easy to get into the mind frame of, "I'm on vacation, let someone else handle it." Everyone deserves some time to enjoy a quiet moment on vacation, but not by sneaking into another room and just tuning out the world. Talk to each other and be understanding that while it is very true that you both deserve a break, you both need to work to get there.


The typical summer break months are winding down, and so this may be too late to be helpful this year. Just remember that vacations are a time for fun, not fighting.

Happy Vacationing Everyone!