Being married, having kids, a job that limits my sleep, and a few too many hobbies...it's hard to sometimes sit back and really savor a moment. As adults we always seem to be going from here to there with little time to remember why. But every once in a while, everything seems to line up just right and you have one of those perfect moments, days, or even years.
I'm not talking when about things are just going great; I mean real honest to goodness perfection. Heck I'm having a pretty good 2013, but I hope that 2014 is even better! Whatever your perfection is, you'll know it when it arrives.
Since we've been living in the area I can count three absolutely perfect days and was lucky enough to recognize each as it was happening. Now the problem here is that for the first two I couldn't even tell you what made them perfect, but they were.
Let's compare it to the weather. For me 74° is the perfect temperature. If every day could be 74°, I'd be in heaven, but unfortunately it's not. My last perfect day came about a month ago. After being in the new house for a while, we were finally starting to feel situated and at home. One of the big reasons we moved was to shorten my wife's commute and be able to spend more time together during the week, including dinner as a family.
During dinner the kids were being silly and we were all having a few laughs, and I knew we had made the right decision on the move. I knew something was different and had an inkling it could be another one of those perfect days. Boy was I right, because what happened at the end of dinner certified my kids as my favorite people in the world. Little A decided we should play a game where they act like another person at the table. Little A was me and Young NC was my wife. They each proceeded to act as us and I hadn't laughed so hard in forever. Young NC highlighted his impersonation of my wife with "I'm driving to work now - don't have time to deal with you guys" and Little A punctuated his with "I'm Papa, I'm old."
The great thing about this game was the honesty of how the kids saw us - sometimes bad, sometimes good, and often funny. The best part of the game was when my wife and I got to act like them, which I think was a real eye opener. Why do I think this was a perfect day? Because we were all together, laughing and goofing on each other without the usual daily chaos, and for a few minutes all was calm and perfect.
Crabby Patties and Jellyfishing have become my life. Can you guess what show my kids are into?
Yeah, I know, they probably watch too much TV and don't read enough. Before you judge, let me tell you they have great taste in music because we listen to a ton of music around here. This is something I'm a bit proud of.
Since Young NC was a baby, we've listened to something together. Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds" was our breakfast go-to for the first year of his life. By the time he was 2, he knew all the words and could sing Edelweiss, and today both boys can remember lyrics better than me. We have a specific playlist that gets played in the car; there's also one for bedtime and even a Saturday afternoon jam playlist. As you can probably guess, the only thing I like better than talking is music, which is quite helpful for my job.
Knowing that I will pass that gene along to my boys feels awesome. Here is the other thing - I have absolutely no musical ability, can't sing, struggled to learn to play the saxophone in high school and think almost every contestant on Idol sounds good. I do have a good sense for hearing and picking hit songs. I also love all genres of music, some more than others, but listen to a lot of different things on a daily basis. There are times when I'll shuffle the iTunes, a song will pop up, and I'm momentarily back in the time when I first heard the song. This is the reason I love music so much; every single song can evoke such great memories of places I've completely forgotten about, people who have come and gone through my life or it connects me to my family.
I'm even talking about awful songs nobody ever liked.
I hope that someday L'il A will hear "Safe And Sound" and think about Papa and the road trip we took to Boston, or Young NC hears "Firework" and remembers playing in his first baseball game. I'll never tell anybody how to live his or her life, but I will suggest making music part of it, whether it's listening to the radio (B101.5 of course!), singing or playing an instrument. Oh, and I know where my love came from — my parents, of course. My dad did the same with me and to this day my mom has music on at all times in the house. Whenever I go back, it's nice to remember all the things we did as a family with music in the air.
Dang, did I just quote Rogers and Hammerstein?
Ah, the words come out way too easily these days: "I can't believe summer is over" or "Where did the summer go?" And as always, summer just cruised right by us.
Memorial Day happened and then Father's Day; Fourth of July seemed like the next weekend, the dog days of August weren't so "doggy." Suddenly, Labor Day is upon us and we're scratching our heads wondering where it went.
Well, somewhere tucked in between all of the craziness are a few special moments that define summer for me: a trip to the beach, vacation, camp for kids, dinner outside, Sunday afternoons around the pool and a slew of other fun little moments we enjoyed. I love a weeknight after dinner when we all get to go back outside, the kids get to play a bit longer and we get to relax and enjoy the summer.
For all of the love we give summer, we seem to take it for granted. We pray for it to come in January and beg for it to leave by mid-July. For me, some of my greatest memories are from the summer: the year I drove across country, moving to Richmond, meeting my wife, the summer I tried to learn to surf, or the summer Young NC was born. This is not to say there aren't any winter memories, but summer makes it a lot easier to have an adventure.
And this summer has once again given me my share of memories.
We started this summer by deciding to sell our house for a home closer to my wife's office. Within a month on the market, we had a contract on a new house, but no bites on the house we wanted to sell. One of the hardest things about selling a house is keeping it ready for showings. Buyers could appear at any minute and the house better look good. Not an easy task with Young NC and Little A running around the house. Somehow we managed to keep it looking great, although at times it wasn't as comfortable as we liked. In mid-July, we had resigned ourselves to the fact that we may be carrying a couple of mortgages for a while and started tightening our belts. At that time, it was also time for our family vacation, and the boys were ready. A week at the beach was perfect for clearing our minds and relaxing.
The day after we returned, another summer memory was made.
Early that morning, I got the call that a realtor wanted to show the house for a second time — in 15 minutes! We quickly straightened the house and packed the boys in the car to go out for a few minutes. On the way home, still trying to waste time, we got the call that there was an offer. My wife and I breathed that sigh of relief. It was all going to work out. We sold the house and moved into our new home last month. Young NC will start at new school and make new friends, and has begun his summer memories. For the boys, the summer of 2013 will be the one when we moved.
If you had a day, an afternoon, an hour — heck even 15 minutes — to be totally free of all your parenting duties, plus you could give up all your digital devices, what you do?
Being at this "dad" thing for seven years now (yep, Young NC turned seven at the turn of the calendar), I can't remember what that was like. When I do get those afternoons with an empty house I find myself glued to my iPhone, Kindle or laptop. What did I do back in 2005 when my flip phone only let me play Snake and Texas Hold'em? Honestly, I can't ever imagine my life being any different than it is right now. Loaded with chaos! Fortunately, it's the kind of chaos that makes my home a home — the boys chasing each other around, my wife and I exchanging bits of our daily life between yelling "stop it!" and making sure we didn't miss anything on our smart phones. It's the modern American dream: house, kids, jobs, cars, sports, school functions, vacations and just about anything else you can throw on the pile. After seven years of this dad thing, I can tell you I still haven't figured it out, but it sure is fun trying.
I will say that even though I'm not an expert at parenting, instinct really seems to be crucial to raising kids. I wonder why we let kids celebrate birthdays before a certain age. Shouldn't parents get a party for not letting anything terrible happen? Yeah, I know it's our job as parents, but I can't be the only one who looks back 10-15 years and says, "Whoa, how did that guy become a parent?" We all know that kids don't come with a manual and most of our decisions need to be based on gut feelings. Either we think it's good for our kids or it's not. Problem is our kids don't quite understand the rationale sometimes and they want to do the things that are bad. They are kids, though, and everything is still awesome to them. Sometimes we have to scold them and in seven years my wife and I have tried pretty much all of them. As they get older, the consequences need to be age appropriate; a time out just doesn't cut it anymore. Now, it's taking away the Wii or iPad. These are great motivators and the threat of losing one, the other or both usually will squelch a situation. But then there are those times when we need to take them and sometimes in the midst of those punishments, because of life's chaos, I'll need a few minutes to do something and those distractions were perfect for those times. Guess what happens next? I give back the iPad for ten minutes. The punishment is now null and void.
Yes, I give in easily sometimes. But my boat is not empty. After talking to other parents, I hear the same things. When and if I find the perfect punishment that's not also a punishment for us parents, I'll be sure to let you know. Until then grab an oar and join me as we paddle up this river of parenthood. It's a fun ride!
Do you remember the day you found out you were going to be a dad for the first time? If you have more than one child, do you remember the second or third time? Was there anything more exciting and scary as what was going to happen next? I know, I know, so many questions to begin this month.
Well, for some reason this Father's Day, I went into recall mode and was thinking of those two awesome days and will admit it wasn't like anything you see in the movies or on TV. When we found out Young NC was on the way, I didn't realize how much things were going to change or how immediately things would change. Suddenly it was planning, stopping and preparing from that wonderful November day. My wife and I were driving home from spending Thanksgiving in Boston when she had an urge for McD's French fries, something she had never asked for. Most people would realize this is a sure sign "something" was up and, since we were planning on a baby, I should have seen it. Well, this guy apparently had to be knocked upside the head with a stick to realize what was going on — yep it was time.
Now I thought it would be like going back to school in the fall; a few days of easy classes, a weekend, then in a couple of weeks the work really starts. Reality check. It started right then and there. When Little A decided to become part of our family, it was more of a surprise, but this time I was able to figure it out on my own. Instead of French fries it was a bottle of wine, specifically an unopened bottle of wine I noticed in our kitchen. The reason it struck me as odd was that it was unopened for a couple of days. Like a lot of us, we enjoy an adult beverage (I abhor that term by the way) on occasion. We work hard and like to relax after doing what we do. Well anyway, after my wife got home from work and the bottle remained corked, I became curious and asked why. Before she had a chance to respond, the bell in my head went ding and with a panicked look blurted out, "You're pregnant!" She smiled, nodded and I was again scared to death. We had one little boy who was not even two and it was going to happen again. "There's no way I can do this," I thought. How am I going to do all those things that...and then it struck me, "Holy cow I'm going to be a dad again."
It's been an adventure and I wouldn't trade a day or moment of the past seven plus years. These guys bring me so much pride and joy along with frustration. I'll wrap this up by telling you that as I sit here watching them play in the yard and write this, they both came over and decided to give me a hug, one of those moments where you say to yourself, "This is awesome."
I hope you're having a great summer and that the cicadas didn't make you crazy and your family gets to have a nice vacation together.
April had to be one of the wackiest months I can remember in a long time. It started with the celebration of our team's four-year anniversary at B101.5 and ended with cooler temps and rain, and what happened in between was something I hope I never will experience again.
For those who don't know me very well, I grew up in the suburbs of Boston and lived there until moving to Richmond in 2001. I spent 2007-09 living again near Boston. Needless to say, I have a very strong bond to the area and still love everything about it. One of my favorite things to do is go to Fenway Park. I've been too many times to count and have taken both boys to games and even had a chance to take Young NC on a field tour of the park a few years back. Like many parents, we'd love to see our kids grow up to be ball players for our favorite team, and someday one of mine will hopefully make my dream come true. Going to the park is and always will be an experience that I recommend to everyone.
Marathon Monday has always been extra special, an early game that usually got out just about the time a majority of runners were crossing the finish line. I've been to these games on several occasions, even bought standing room only tickets so I could be there for the experience.
Watching the events that unfolded this year made me sadder than I have been in a very long time. Like many of you, I was glued to the TV for a week straight, seeing and hearing places that I've been to, driven by and am very familiar with. It was a scary couple of days for my friends and family back home; thankfully nobody I know was harmed. But my city—the city I love—was hurt and that made me feel bad. It was also the first time that I was asked the question, "Papa, what happened, and why are you sad?" by a curious 6-year-old. At first, I wasn't sure how to answer or how much to tell him. What will he really understand? What will make him scared? Who else will he hear this from? All these questions were things I hoped I would never have to answer, but was about to. I explained to both boys what had happened in as general terms as possible that "there were some bad people who did some very bad things to good people." At the time I wasn't sure how much to let them know (again the news is everywhere these days and we even talked about it on the air). What I do know is that there are people who have to explain a lot more complicated issues to children on a daily basis. I got lucky (not sure if that's the right word) that I only needed to explain a situation that was happening six hundred miles away.
Here's hoping that none of us have to deal with a situation like this again, and as cliché as it might sound...give those kiddos a big hug tonight and every night!
As parents, we all know one of the greatest things about having children is watching them grow up. There are so many small things we observe on a daily basis that can bring so much pride and joy: seeing them learn how to read and write, their first time striking out in baseball or scoring their first goal in soccer, losing teeth, and watching those marks on the doorway that show how much they've grown in a few years. Sometimes it goes unnoticed, but I always like to step back observe and see how much we've all grown.
One of the more interesting things is having two boys who are eerily similar to me—which makes my wife a little scared—play the same games so differently. As Young NC gets closer to seven, he's not as inclined to play the "cutsie" games anymore. He's a big boy now and wants to act that way. However, I can still watch Little A play the big boy games in a "cutsie" way.
Last week while putting Little A to bed, we did our normal routine of a story and some fun before he called it a night. On this particular night, he wanted to play with his Hot Wheels, so I let him and watched him have a race with his cars. Young NC has been having nightly Hot Wheel races for a couple of years now and I seen his way of racing the cars. Well, Little A race was completely different—from the shape and length of the imaginary track to which car was going to win that nights contest. Until then I figured a race was a race and there wouldn't be a lot of differences when pushing cars around a bed. It intrigued me that two boys who are so alike could be so different when it came to a simple game. Bottom line is that it made me happy to know that they'll always be brothers, but always be themselves. The one thing they did do similarly was not let me win a race, never, ever!
I'm not sure how you do it at your house, but we still have Christmas gifts that were "stored" right after Christmas. These are usually the toys that require a ton of batteries or an adult to make them work properly. The intention is to pull those toys out within a couple of days, weeks or maybe even in the spring. The reality...."holy cow we have some awesome toys from last Christmas in this closet!"
Can you believe Young NC and L'il A have had toys in a closet for over a year and to top it off never asked for them or even stumbled upon them. I'll pat myself on the back for not raising nosy kids. They are however quite noisy! That "i" can make such a difference and I'm not really sure which is better or worse.
I guess I should let you know what awesome toy we found hidden away. No, it wasn't a Red Ryder BB Gun or the super cool Quad Four Wheelers some of their friends had Santa deliver. Nope. It was something basic, simple, creative, challenging and rewarding. Something I think all little boys get into and something most would love to do when they grow up.
Yep, we found the Lego Star Wars set!
At first I was a little apprehensive to open it. There are tons of small pieces to lose, instructions to follow and the fear of finding a rogue piece with my bare feet at 3am. But I got past my Lego fears and remember a childhood of trying to build everything I would see or do with my Legos. So we opened the box and tried to keep the pieces orderly and began to build the A-wing Starfighter. This is when I realized how much I really loved playing with Legos, and yes wanted to somehow work with them when I grew up.
For the next 20 minutes or so the three of us took turns following the directions and starting the building process. After that the boys grew impatient and I was in my glory finishing up the project, and after another 15 minutes, we had our A-wing Starfighter complete. It was awesome and reminded me once again that there is something about the snap of a couple of Legos that is very satisfying. It's even better when they are brand new. Despite the fact that the A-wing now resembles Mater from Cars doesn't really matter, what does is that we had a great time building and the boys have asked when they can have my old Lego sets (yes, I still have them). So with that I crown Lego ... "The Greatest Toy Of All Time!"
Now please excuse me while I remove the block I just stepped on from my foot.
We've had an unusual sort of epidemic around our house since the calendar flipped to 2013. I'm not talking about anything related to health, as we've been pretty healthy since I managed to get the boys flu shots, which I keep telling myself was worth it.
I say manage because I took them solo, without appointments, and made the worst mistake of all - letting them know where we were going. Their reaction was just as predictable as that of the dog who freaks out when it hears V-E-T!
It went something like this, cry - no - cry - we hate you - cry - we're not getting out of the car - cry - mumbles - we'll get chocolate shakes afterward - hmmm - cry - can we have strawberry - what was I thinking-ok - it doesn't hurt - shakes - oh they have the mist - cry - come back in fifteen minutes - shakes - cry - that wasn't fifteen minutes -ugh - cry - you're done - that didn't hurt at all - and then....the loudest screaming of the word "NO!" by a four year old who doesn't want a syringe up his nose!
As you may know, angry four year olds are kind of strong. So, yeah, we managed to spend a fantastic Friday afternoon preventing the flu from coming to our house, and yes I'm sure was worth it!!
The epidemic I'm referring here to is the "Island of Misfit" toys we are creating. Yes small pieces are easy to lose and so if a puzzle isn't missing at least two tiles, we're puzzled.
It's the broken toys that I'm talking about. Boys are gonna have accidents and can be rough. I get that and encourage it...up to a point. My flu-shot-angry-strong four year, old aka Little A, actually seems to enjoy breaking toys. I've watched him do this and he really just needs to push his toys to and past their limit. What ends up happening is him saying "Mommy fix it later" and problem solved. Short term at least. In reality I have repair these abused toys and superglue will only fix so much. I've used toothpicks, spaghetti, rubber bands, and just about anything that will help to put a toy back in action.
So if you come to our house in 2013 we should be hale and hearty, with plenty of good health and energy for toy demolition. Leave your tissues at home but keep an eye on the floor for those Misfit Toys and...if you have a spare glue gun could you bring that along, please?
The opinions and/or views expressed on this blog represent the thoughts of individual blogger and not necessarily those of Fredericksburg Parent & Family Magazine or any of its employees or staff.