A Heart, A Flower, and 7 Swallows

Today was full of coincidences. It has been difficult, as I age, to deny that things don’t happen for a reason. Sometimes things happen that seem completely unrelated only to have them come full circle and suddenly connections are made, dots are connected, and we see the whole picture.

The first dot

Eleven years ago today our oldest son was just 5 days old. He was born with a congenital heart defect called Transposition of the Great Arteries. In normal people words it means his aorta and pulmonary artery were switched. At 5 days old he was stable enough to undergo open heart surgery and Crash got his second go at this crazy little thing called life. He got the telltale “zipper” as a keepsake. We almost celebrate today like it’s his second birthday.

The second dot

When DW’s father was in the hospital there was a hibiscus plant in the sunroom across the hall from him. When he was taken in to the hospital the plant had one giant, red bloom on it. Being February, it was odd that it had bloomed. Rarely do they bloom in the winter. On his second day the bloom had withered and hung sadly from its stem. That night the bloom had fallen and DW’s dad quietly passed away in his sleep.

The third dot

A friend of ours makes and sells bird houses. When we found out he was making houses for swallows we knew we had to buy one from him. Two days later we had two swallows sign a lease and move in. We saw them come and go frequently, mostly during breakfast and supper times. We love watching them. They’re aerial acrobats while they’re chasing bugs to eat and salvaging nesting material. The pair of them flitted around, the female would build their nest while the male would sit on the wire above and watch for danger. They made a good pair. Until today. Today they were no longer a pair. I counted seven swallows on the line above their home.

The whole picture

This morning while DW was updating her Facebook status to share our joy of the eleventh anniversary of Crash’s heart surgery, I went out to the front porch to shake the beach out of our front door rug. That’s when I noticed that one of her hibiscus plants had a single, orange bloom and it was wide open, gulping the morning sunshine. Here, on the 11th anniversary of our son’s second chance was sign from DW’s dad. Then, to see five fledging sparrows flying for what could be the first time, it is many coincidences that happened for a reason. Life.

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Happy Birthday Buddy…

Dear Bang,

Since the day you were born, you’ve been quite a character. Full of personality. Full of quirks that made you unique. Today, exactly seven years later, that still holds true. You have a heart as big as the world and a temper to match. You can be as prickly as porcupine but also as snuggly as puppy. You have the temper of bull but also the kindness of Mother Theresa herself. You can be saucy, little brat, but also the most loving child a parent could ask for. You make your parents feel like we’ve done this parenting thing perfectly, but also make us feel like complete failures.

You’re kindness overshadows all. To this day, we still don’t know why you decided you wanted to sing in the church choir. Our only guess is that you absolutely adore the little, “old” ladies. They look forward to Sunday mornings as much as you do. I remember one morning when I told you to go up and get dressed and you growled at me like a rabid rhino ready to charge at me because you didn’t want to go to school. I reminded you we were going to church and you said “Oh” and happily got dressed. Today, not only did the church choir sing you happy birthday, but the whole congregation sang. I don’t know too many seven year olds who have happy birthday sung to them by the whole church. You’ve unknowingly made many people happy.

You hold doors for people just because you want to show them a bit of kindness. You could be sitting with your parents at Tim Hortons, but you’d rather stand at the door and open it when people enter or leave. You do it out of kindness. One day, someone gave you a tip, their loose change from their most recent purchase. It couldn’t have been more than a quarter. They might as well have given you a million bucks. Sometimes they would give you their free donut or free coffee they had just won from Roll Up the Rim to Win cups. Still, you hold doors because you want to, not because you are looking for tips. Even after the kindness of the lady who gave you ten dollars because she was traveling and had an armful of luggage.

At the grocery store you skip ahead in line so you can help bag the groceries of the person in front of us. At first I was afraid they would think you were stealing their food. Those fear were dashed quickly, when again, you discovered you could get tipped for helping. Everyone pays you with a thank you. The special ones give you a tip. Like the doors, you don’t do for the money. But it sure is nice.

You save money like Scrooge McDuck. When given ten dollars to spend at Toys R Us, your brother couldn’t get their fast enough. When we finally arrived, you asked, “Do I have to spend it? Can I save it?” don’t know too many kids you can take to a toy store and they don’t want to buy anything. You’ve got your eyes set on a puppy. So it’s only a matter of time now, buddy.

You frustrate us with your sauciness. You amaze us with your constant questions. You exhaust us with your desire to always to be moving. Come the end of the day, you make us feel loved and make us wonder why we ever thought we were “parenting” you wrong. Come morning, though, we’ll wonder all anew.

Love ya buddy,

Mom and Dad

U is for…

Undivided. In it’s entirety. Whole. As parents it’s easy to understand why our children may not receive our undivided attention. Laundry. Cooking. Assembling trampolines (that what we did after school today). A phone call. We’re sitting on the toilet. However, when our children finally have our undivided attention, there’s no telling what might happen. Perhaps they’ll want to play a board game. Perhaps they’ll tell us what they did in school. Perhaps they’ll just want to tell us a story. Usually, they’ll have some piece of useless information they found out about whatever video game, or Pokemon they’re obsessing over. We’ll feign interest so they know that what they have to say is important to us no matter how mundane. When a kid hands you a toy phone you answer it. It’s the same with their stories. Sometimes the best thing we can give them is our time. After all, it’s the one thing that once we give we never get back.

Unconditional. Our children’s love comes with no strings attached. Our love for our children is nonnegotiable. From the time we find out we’re expecting to the first moment we hold them in our arms, our love grows exponentially.

Of course we’re going to have tough days, tough weeks. Perhaps some tough years, too. We don’t love them less. They are our children. Learning. Growing. There’s bound to be mistakes by child and parent alike. We pick each other up, dust each other off, apologize and move on. We continue to feed them, shelter them, love them. No matter how much we’d like to hang them from the clothesline for a few hours.

E is for…

E

Everything.

Everything from A to Z. Everything I’ve written about so far and everything I will write about over the next 25 days. It’s about everything I’ve done today and yesterday and the 15,215 days since I was born. It’s about everything I’ll do with the unknown number days I’ll be here, of this Earth.

Right now, though, life is about everything we’ll do for our kids. We house them. We feed them. We educate them. We play with them. We put them to bed. That’s just the routine stuff. It’s the stuff we have to do. It’s in the contract.

It’s about everything we do for our kids that we don’t have to do. We sign them up for sports and music and dance and clubs and lessons and everything. We end up driving all over tarnation to get them where they need to go. It’s daughters doing dad’s nails and makeup. It’s about moms playing dump trucks in the dirt with their sons. It’s about dance parties in the kitchen. It’s about splash parties in the bathtub. It’s about doing what we need to do help our children be happy.

When your six year old son and the neighbor’s nine year old daughter decide they want to get married, you entertain the thought. You giggle when they start planning in November and set a date for April 5th. You roar with laughter when you hear they’re going to get divorced so they can get married again. Then they start assigning roles; a priest, a chef, a flower girl, a waiter. They create a menu of the grooms favorite meal; fish, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and corn. They ask for a wedding cake and cards. In November, it’s all good. It’s all fun and games and you allow them their creativity. Then comes April 5th. They didn’t forget. In fact, they spent the better part of those sixth month preparing. Invites. Place setting. Seating arrangement. Outfits. Decorations. The meal. Dessert. The first dance song.

So you make it happen. Coincidentally, there happens to be no school on their random date choosing six months ago. You take them to find a few things and return with fish, broccoli, pink salmon and green table cloths, a fake flower bouquet for the bride to carry, balloons, makeshift rings, and a cake that says Happy Wedding Day April 5, 2018. You gather the few who were invited and you act out the wedding. Then you cook the fish and mashed potatoes and broccoli and have it served by the gracious big brother. You allow them first dance waltz to Ed Sheeran’s Perfect then cut the cake.

Then you have to burst a bubble when you have to explain to your son that no, his “wife” can’t come live with us. Still… they do look like a very happy couple. It makes everything we do for kids worth everything we can do for them.

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C is for… #atozchallenge

CEmbracing the chaos (or as our niece used to call it, chowce).

It comes in many forms and it comes during varying times of the day and night. We always have two options. Option A is stress about it and try to find a way to calm the chaos. Option B is embrace the chaos and roll with it.

There are parents who can handle the chaos. These are the parents who have their shit together and all the ducks in a row. They give us the impression that parenting is as easy as watching our kids sleep. Here they are showered, dressed in real clothes, and so are their kids. Even their car is clean…

For the rest of us, parenting is more like getting our kids to sleep after they’ve eaten an entire chocolate cake and it’s 2:30 in the afternoon. Our car is muddy. And so are the kids. My chaos is different from your chaos as no two chaoses are the same.

There is the chaos that happens in your house. The kids are shack wacky, climbing the walls with too much energy and not enough room to unload it. There may be arguing. There will definitely be a mess. It will be loud, someone will end up with a time out. If we’re lucky, it’ll be us. It may be your own kids. It could be your kids and their friends. Whoever it is, you won’t be able to hear yourself think, which is all part of their plan. Our only hope is channel their energy into chores, board games, coloring, or something quieter. The only other way to beat them is to join them and their chaos.

There is chaos that is trying to get two kids to three different places. Dance. Band. Sport. Lessons. Chess club. I have heard of parents who drop one kid off one place, run their second kid to another place and by the time they get number two dropped off they have to go pick up number one. Somewhere in there they need to eat, do their homework, and at some point, go to bed. Only to have to do all again the next day. The chaos of having more to do that can be done in one day can be overw
helming. Or you can embrace what your life has become and know that it’s better to have your kid involved instead of in trouble.

Whatever your chaos, remember to breathe  and embrace the chaos. One day there will be no chaos and I dare say we’ll miss it.

You follow my chaos on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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B is for…

B… the moments that make us hold our breath.

… the moments that take our breath away.

… the moments that we need to be reminded to just breathe.

For the hopeful parents holding their breath waiting for the test results to the anxious parents in the delivery room a simple breath holds all the tension. They are the two greatest moments in becoming parents, after all. It is the moment you find out you’re going to be parents. It is the moment it all becomes real. There is one more person in this world and in that moment all it knows is you. In that moment you know that all of its needs are your responsibility. We hold our breath in hopes that we ascend to become the parents we hope we can be. We hold our breath as we watch our little one come into the world. We hold our breath hoping the doctors tell us we have healthy newborn.

Our breath breaks the tension all the waiting created. It is the first step in accepting our new role. In later years we’ll hold our breath again when our little ones are learning walk. Will they take their first step by themselves? Will they get back up if the fail the first time? We’ll hold our breath again while we wait to see if they’re okay after a fall. We’ll hold our breath again and again as they grow older. Fortunately, these moments are spaced far enough apart so we don’t die of asphyxiation.

There will also be moments that take our breath away. The sweetest actions by our little people can stop time. Whether they make us an “I love you” card, share something that means the world to them with us, or brags about us to others, these are the sweetest moments. Sweet like the art they made just for us. Sweet like peanut butter kisses softly planted on our cheek. Sweet like an older sibling protecting a younger one. They are moments that will most definitely bring a smile to our face. They may even bring a tear to our eye. A moment that takes our breath away will become etched in our memory and be a part of a story will tell and retell a hundred million times.

Then come the moments when we have to remember to just breathe. Those trying moments from the ones who also make us hold our breath and take our breath away. What did they break this time? What are they screaming about now? Why do they insist on trying to argue with me? Sending kids to a time out is most often for their benefit. It removes them from the situation. It allows us a minute to breathe, to count to 10, and hopefully not overreact. It’s as much a time out for us as it for them. A deep, calming breath can help us summon the patience we need to survive our children.

From the moments that make us hold our breath to the moments that take our breath away to the moment when we just need to breathe, parenthood is full of joys and scares and frustrations. The best we can do is catch our breath, hold it, and release it. One day they will be grown and we’ll be out of moments.

You can also follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

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How to Survive Marriage

DW and I are coming up on 13 years of marriage in July. I know that’s not long in the whole scope of things. However, when the 15 years we’ve known each other is held up to other relationships we’ve been in, the others pale in comparison. Each of us were in 4 year relationships before. The one we’re in now is over three times as long!

Being a member of male species meant I had a lot to learn. While I didn’t necessarily learn it quickly or even on the first try for that matter, I did learn some valuable lessons on how to keep a marriage strong, healthy, and fun.

In the beginning, I wasn’t too good at many of these. Marriage has a learning curve, after all. Eventually, we learned how to be married and it has made all difference.

A simple “thanks” goes a long way…

Was supper cooked and it was edible? Perhaps it was even delicious. Thank them for for their time and effort to keep you alive. It lets them know you appreciate it and perhaps they’ll do it again tomorrow. They washed your dirty clothes? Perhaps they even put them away for you. Thank them for it so you won’t have to go naked, or worse, wear stinky filthy clothes in public.

Kiss your spouse before you leave for work…

efe8349c478ff927a07e7d5a226ba67d-romance-quotes-lds-quotesIt’s a proven scientific fact that spouse who kiss each other goodbye live longer.

A study conducted during the 1980’s found that men who kiss their wives before leaving for work live longer, get into fewer car accidents, and have a higher income than married men who don’t.

~Joshua Foer NY Times

While getting married certainly isn’t a get rich quick scheme and having kids a certainly a get poor quick scheme, it will help you live longer. I suppose it gives us a reason to come home. If home is where the kisses (and suppers) are, I’m coming home every day. Perhaps it has something to do with wives not killing husbands for being ignored in the morning.

Scare the living shit out of each other…

Jump scares are hilarious. However, be cautious because this has a negative effect on the kisses that lengthen your life. At least once in the marriage scare your spouse while they’re in the shower. Or while they’re drying their hair. From my experience, only attempt this once. Kisses and life are important; a second attempt could put you in the intensive care ward. Also, be prepared for immediate retaliation. While my mom was drying her hair my dad sneaked up behind her with a wooden spoon and a pot.

I’ve never seen anyone in an electric chair, but I now know what it looks like.

~My Dad

Keep the competition alive…

Board games. Video games. Games with friends. Made up games. Fitness challenges. It keeps the competition alive and when the two of you are trying to best each other you are also besting yourself. By competing against each other you make yourself better, too. Be that at Scrabble, Cards Against Humanity, Fitbit, The Punch Buggy game or whatever challenge floats your boat. And if you lose, suck it up. It’s just a game. Shake hands, kiss and try again next time.

Know how to argue…

3ced7bd022f37b98722151a3c50f8df2-funny-marriage-quotes-bride-quotes There’s no need for screaming matches. The kids provide enough of that for everyone. Besides, once you’ve started screaming, the arguing has ended. And just because you’re right doesn’t mean you get to rub in. Unless it was just a playful argument for the sake of arguing. Then you get say “I told you so”. Also, using past offenses is illegal unless it directly applies to the current argument. Someone once said that DW and I likely never argue, that we’re THAT couple. While we may not argue any more, we do have some lively discussions. Like that one about what that student’s last name was. Turns out she was right. Again.

 Find the time, the humor, and the love…

80304cf07cbf6487e62ade438132ea5e--quotes-about-husbands-marriage-marriage-quotes-funny-married-lifeA couple who can laugh with each other and at each each will be a happy couple. You’ve got to find the humor, even if it’s just in the little things like the way I dance like a dizzy June bug and sing like a drunk donkey. Find the time for each other, too. Find yourself without the kids for an hour? Go to lunch or for coffee or a climbing wall. Make it date, even it’s just to school for a parent/teacher conference. Find the time to be married. Find the time where you don’t have be Mom and Dad, but husband and wife. Give head scratches or back scratches or ear rubs or whatever it is to help your bed buddy fall asleep. Give kisses on the forehead, too. Kiss them good bye. Kiss them hello. Kiss them good night. Kiss them good morning. And grab their butt and call them beautiful.

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Happy Lupercalia Day (or not)

Once upon a romantic time, hundreds and hundreds of years ago, back when humans believed some weird things, there was a wonderful holiday in Rome. It was celebrated around the 15th of February and it was a special time that was believed to bring fertility and purification throughout the year.

First, A goat and a dog would be sacrificed upon an altar, the first for fertility and the second for purification, both to the God of agriculture, Faunus, and to Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. After the sacrifice, strips of the goat’s hide were cut from the body and dipped in sacrificial blood. Men would then take the strips and would gently slap women with them. Women, wanting to be fertile and pure, welcomed the event. Afterwards, all the maiden’s names would be put in an urn. Bachelors would then draw a name and the couple would be matched until the following Lupercalia Day. Often, the couple would end up married.

Christianity eventually outlawed this practice when Pope Gelasius declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day in honor of Valentine, a priest who would wed couples in secret during a time when Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriages. Valentine was imprisoned and while behind bars he would write to his one true love, the jailer’s daughter. Before his execution, he wrote one last letter and closed by writing,

From your Valentine.

I have no goat nor dog to sacrifice. I lack an alter, too. DW doesn’t need to be fertile as we’re done having kids. Therefore, I won’t smack her with strips of goat hide dipped in blood. I think that’s a real sign true love. You’re, welcome hon.

I may not have a goat, or a dog, or an alter, or the desire to sacrifice an animal, or even to smack my wife, gently or otherwise, but I do have a purpose. That purpose lies in being the best husband and father that I can be. I can be their Valentine. I’ll never give up on them. I’ll never give up loving them. I’ll never give up their love for me. Even on the days it’s hard to like them.

After almost thirteen years of marriage and through the raising of two kids, one thing I’ve learned is that we’re better when we work together. We have the common goal of raising happy, healthy, and educated kids. Granted, some days it appears we’re failing on all three accounts. However, we know there will be hurdles to jump and bridges to cross. Together, my valentine and I are prepared to jump and cross.

So, to my Valentine, Happy Valentine’s Day. And a Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too, reader. I hope your day was filled with more chocolate, love, and loved ones than sacrificed goats.

Becoming Dad

I always knew I was going to be a dad some day. I don’t know when exactly I determined that, though. It probably wasn’t until my university days that I entertained that thought. Before that I was just a free spirit. A happy wanderer. A lone wolf looking for a pack.

Because of the parents I had, I thought I knew what kind of dad I would be. I would be the dad who played, the dad who disciplined, the dad who got shit done. It probably wouldn’t get done in a timely manner, mind you, but it would get done.

I was going to parent like my parents did. I would allow my kids to think they were acting on their own when in reality I would be watching from a distance. I wasn’t going to be a helicopter or snow plow, or tiger mom dad. I wasn’t going to be free-range, mind you, but somewhere in the middle. I was going to be involved, too. I wanted to be there to watch them succeed, fail, or just plain try.

I was glad I was a teacher before I became a dad. I learned to discipline other people’s kids before I had to discipline my own. Not that it mattered because discipline comes in as many flavors as there are kids. There is much debate between which consequences work best. Seriously, there is no one size fits all. But that’s for another post, entirely.

Of all the things I was going to be as a dad, the one I nailed is being involved. Not in a helicopter way. I’m just there. When they’re getting ready for school in the morning or ready for bed in the evening I’m there prodding them along. When they’re playing a sport, I’m there to watch. When they have a school performance, I’m there to see them. When there are parent/teacher nights, I go. DW is with me all the way. Or I’m with her all way.

We’re in this gig called parenting together.

However, when I imagined myself being a dad before I was dad, back when I was a clueless twenty something, I didn’t imagine myself being quite as involved as I actually am today. My kids would love school because their parents are teachers. My kids would love helping out around the house because we would include them in such chores from an early age. My kids would be polite, respectful, hard working, smart, and a plethora of spectacular superlatives. Whenever I imagined what my kids would be like, I think God giggled a little bit.

I didn’t imagine I’d have a kid having ADD and needing constant supervision because he’d be a task avoider. He knows what he needs to do, he just doesn’t do it. I didn’t imagine my kid throwing a temper tantrum the size of a Philadelphia Superbowl riot. How dare I make a pancake without chocolate chips? We never imagine that stuff before we become parents. They don’t teach you that stuff in school. They don’t write about that stuff in books, or at least not in the books I read.

What To Expect When You Don’t Expect Your Kid To Be Different From What You Expect.

I learned to be a dad from my Dad. I learned to be a parent from my parents. They set a pretty good example, too. They had awesome kids though, so they had it “easy”. I wish I had it as easy as my parents did. Perhaps I do because I really don’t know their struggles as parents back then because I was just a kid. You can’t imagine #ParentingStruggles when you are a Terrible Two or a Threenager or even a Teenager, for that matter.

The Fresh Prince knew what he was saying when he said “Parents just don’t understand”. Well, neither do kids.

So, to my parents, I want to say thank you for teaching me to parent by example. To my kids, thank you for testing my parenting ability. One day, you two will understand why your mother and I do what we do.

Kids

Lucy At Home

Even When It’s Not Easy

I read in a book that when given the choice between right and being kind we should always choose to be kind. Both boys understood that concept. Wouldn’t it be great if we could teach it to the whole world?

I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here. You, my reader, are kind. You probably show kindness wherever you can, whenever you can, to everyone you can. I don’t need to tell you not to judge others because they wear mismatched socks, or yell at their kids, or cut you off on the highway, or took the last bag of storm chips. I don’t need to tell you to use words of encouragement, to lift others’ spirits, or how a smile can change someone’s day. I think my readership already understands the power of kindness.

You do, don’t you?

However, the words”you can” from that last paragraph leaves us a bit of a loophole, doesn’t it? If you can, you do. If you can’t, you don’t. It is really tough to show kindness that arsehole who just told you you’re a bad parent. It’s really tough to show kindness to the jerk who just flipped you the bird. It’s really tough to show kindness to the idiot who just drove a front loader through your house. But if you can, be kind.

I see it as paying it forward. I’m kind to someone and in return they’re kind to someone else. Eventually, that chain of kindness will return to me. Or you. Or all of us. I think that’s how karma works.

I can honestly say, as much as the boys can drive us absolutely mental sometimes, one thing they fully understand is kindness toward others. Crash looks out for his classmates with special needs. He makes sure they get outside safely when the fire alarm scares them. He sees that they have all their belongings while they’re on field trips. Bang knows how people people laugh. He has adopted all the ladies of the church choir as friends. Sure, they can be total jerks to each other. They’re brothers. However, when it comes to others, I’m proud of them.

*Kindness is one of the greatest attributes one’s character can possess.

*An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

*When you lift others up, you also lift yourself.

Please share your favorite quote on kindness in the comment section. It can even be one you made up…

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