Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans

It's about balance, right?
Author's note: This post was written on Saturday and retroactively posted to Friday but don't tell anyone.

Summer. What to do? It's the end of June and already I feel liked we've packed some good stuff into our Summer Break. So far, one or more of us has been to the Provo Rec Center, Seven Peaks, Moab, made a movie, and visited Chicago. We've been on bike rides. We've seen most of the major blockbuster movies together. 

We are a family that, most of the time, doesn't do much. We sit and play board games, video games, watch TV and movies, and eat. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) More activity has been good for us.

I'd like to continue to be more active as a family this summer. Some ideas are: go to Goblin Valley for a weekend, maybe try to get to Grandma's in Lodi, CA (stopping at some cool stuff along the way), local camping, Park City, Vegas, and Disneyland. If we manage to do one of those, it'll be a success.

One reason for all the excitement about plans this year is that we did absolutely nothing last summer. We had a good reason though. This weekend marks the one year anniversary of my wife's pacemaker surgery and all that near-death drama.  This year, there's this sense that we want to soak a lot more in because—and this will sound melodramatic—you never know when it will all end. Do I want my kids to remember our time together as one, long couch marathon, or do I want them to remember it as a time we did a shload of cool things together?

What I've realized more than anything is that I've had blinders on for a while. I've seen life as this trek I have to trudge through rather than something to be savored actively. Getting out and among other tourists, locals, weirdos, and hobos helped me to appreciate my life more and enjoy other people more. 

When I was in Chicago recently, I tried an experiment. As I walked through the city, I kept my head up and kept a smile on my face. It was cool to see how many people looked me in the eye. Only a handful of people smiled back, and I think this method attracted more vagabonds but ... I felt connected to everyone. Like we were all acquainted. It helped me finish a transition that I've been making the last few months. Coming out of the enclosed, selfish, drudgery, and into a more open, grateful place. No matter what you believe, this life is the only time we will have it. Either it's over when you die or it becomes something totally different if you get to live forever. Why wait, sit, and waste?

It's allowed me to look at this summer with more hope and happiness than I've had in a long time. It's helped me to feel real joy for the good things that are happening to the people I know. It makes me want to be a part of life and participate. I want everyone to get out, do things they love, with the people they love, and I'll be doing that too. Sounds like a plan.

What are your summer plans?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Summer Dreams are Simple

That's not mold on my shoulder. It's just a shadow.
When summer starts, the world seems full of promise. It is a beautiful new beginning. A clean slate of long, brightly lit days ahead of you. It’s kind of like when your kids go back to school and you feel like you are getting a fresh start on everything. The only difference being that in September my goals are around being more productive and focused and having a plan. And in the summer my goals take on a slightly different, more lazy feel.

Oh, I am still goal oriented, mind you. But I don’t want the goals to be strenuous or meaningful. So here are my hopes and dreams for the summer:

  1. Grow a beard. I think if the main topic of this blog is fatherhood, the subtopic is hair and the lack there of or abundance thereof. (And the sub-sub topic would be Ken being naked.) Much like I cannot grow hair on my head, I cannot grow an actual beard. But I am on vacation this week. And then I am home for a week and then on ANOTHER vacation, so this is the year to give the beard a real chance to become established. Right now the beard is in the bristly, patchy, obnoxious stage. (The photo above has enhanced contrast thanks to Instagram, so the beard looks deceptively full.) 
  2. Read more. Particularly while on vacation and while sitting on my back porch. I set a goal on Goodreads to read 70 books this year and I am currently 12 behind, so I need to really do some serious sitting on my butt to get caught up. As far as I am concerned, the kids can play frisbee with themselves - these Young Adult Sci-Fi Zombie Romanpocalypses aren’t going to read themselves!! 
  3. Eat more Popsicles. This will be hard to do, since I already eat one Popsicle a day (usually right before bed, much to my wife’s chagrin.) But don’t you think one Popsicle a day seems sad and lonely? Shouldn’t that number be closer to 3 or 5? We’re in agreement then? Great. 
  4. Catch up on Dr. Who. I’m tired of being behind. I’m sad that I didn’t get to watch Asylum of the Dalek’s with everyone else. I guess I care that Matt Smith is leaving but I haven’t watched any episodes of his yet, so I don’t really care. But I should. And I want to. So I need to kick the Netflix into high gear and get all up to speed on my Timelord Lore. 
  5.  Go to more movies by myself. A few weeks ago I really wanted to see Star Trek. And so after the kids were in bed one night, I just went. It was delightful and I loved it. Summer is full of movies that my wife has no interest in seeing. So I should just go. Elysium, I’m looking at you.
So that’s it. I’m not trying to lose 50 pounds. Or finish the great American Novel. Just some good, old-fashioned summer laziness. The world shall be my oyster. My lazy, inconsequential oyster.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

our lady joan

In a few short weeks I will be setting off for the magical land of Europe! I've gone every summer for the past seven years; I take UVU students there and we see plays and eat pasties. We stay a month. We also go to Paris and Edinburgh. I love doing it. Inevitably, people ignore my posts on facebook and won't look at my pictures, and I totally get that. I sometimes feel that way about other peoples' vacations. I hate having my nose rubbed into pictures of the Bahamas, and I don't want to do that to anybody else, although I inevitably do. Some people will kindly send me passive aggressive notes and emails saying "that must be nice. What does your wife get to do while you're gone?" You know - those kinds of comments. So full of love and understanding! For the record: yes, it's fun. Yes, it's also work. Yes, my wife gets to come over if she wants to (this year she's coming to Scotland) no, my children don't (super poor state school) and yes, I get paid to do it.

Every year there seems to be an emerging theme to the trip. This year it appears to be: (wait for it)


We will be seeing Shakespeare's Henry VI pt. 1 at the Globe Theatre, which features a character called Joan La Pucelle. In this play she's kind of a big whore and a liar, but she's still Joan of Arc. At the end of the play, right before they are about to burn her at the stake, she claims that God will punish the English for killing a virgin. But then nobody cares and they decide to burn her anyway, so next
she claims that she's pregnant. What a riddle!

While we're in France we will probably visit the Place de Pyramides, since the fanciest McDonald's in Paris is really close by, and no trip to Paris is complete without a trip to McDonald's! And I'm not kidding!! AND I WON'T APOLOGIZE!!! Anyway, here is a beautiful statue of Jeanne D'Arc in the middle of the Place de Pyramides:
Finally, while we're in Edinburgh my students will be performing Melissa Leilani Larson's play, Martyrs' Crossing, which is all about Joan of Arc and her guardian angels. Joan comes off much better in this play than she does in Shakespeare's play. She doesn't fake pregnancy or make dirty jokes or act like a crafty trollop. She's noble and good and she dies beautifully and tragically. Just as it should be.

So that's my summer: Joan of Arc! Joan of Arc! Joan of Arc! I'm trying to think of some other tie-ins I could do with my students so they really understand this warrior-maid. Maybe:

1. Milk a cow, and then see a vision (The vision would be me in a tree with a couple of flashlights)
2. Sword fight! I'm already planning to bring a few swords in  my carry-on bag.
3. Burn someone at the stake - but safely! It would be a real stake and real fire, but the person wouldn't be tied up (or just loosely tied) and then we pull them out before it gets too hot.
These are just some ideas I had.

Monday, June 24, 2013

By the End of Summer...

The wisest choice I made as a teenager was to avoid being filmed in home videos. (The second wisest choice I made was to eat TWO Double-Doubles every time I went to In-N-Out. Ah, the metabolism of a teenager. I miss it.)

I don’t remember the precise year home video cameras were priced low enough that every American family decided to own one; but if memory serves, I believe our family got one Christmas 1985. I was 14 years old.

Few people can pull off 14 well. You've got Frankie Muniz, Michael Cera, and of course, Justin Bieber. I am none of those people. I knew it even then, so I avoided the lens.

There is some horrific footage of a 1988 Ward Roadshow practice where I played the unfortunate roll of John-Boy (of Waltons’ fame), and it is extremely painful to watch. If you are ever forced at gun-point to watch it, you can see that I clearly felt I was doing everyone a favor by showing up to practice. I had perfected the “eye roll” that all mentors and leaders enjoy seeing in youth, and I was chomping the heck out of a piece of gum – as if the flavor had personally offended me and I was going to kill it.

But as painful as it is, I occasionally watch the footage when I’m alone. Because it serves as a reminder that I was wise beyond my years to avoid being videotaped. I wince as I watch, then I pat myself on my back, and carefully put the video tape back in the unmarked shoe box in my closet. Never to be seen by my children.

Instead, my children snoop through things like old photo albums and boxes. And recently, they found this photo of me.

Judging by the orange/pink/yellow medley going on with those swim trunks – combined with the light swirls of navel hair peeking through the life jacket – I’m going to say this is summer 1987. 16 years old.

I have no recollection of this photo being taken. But I absolutely love it, and here’s why:

1. My kids think it looks awesome. THIS is how they think of me as a teenager, and not some plaid-wearin’, gum-chompin’, eye-rollin’ John-Boy who could eat two Double-Doubles with fries, root beer, and chocolate shake. (You're judging me, aren't you?) So this picture has won me “cool points” with my kids.

2. I most likely have U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” going through my head in this shot. This was the summer of The Joshua Tree, after all.

3. I look at this photo and I feel washed over with nostalgia and memories of summers gone by and the water skiing trips of my youth - every summer, all summer long. At least I think they were all summer long. As I've admitted, the memories of summers of my youth may be a bit fuzzy.

4. The photo is slightly out of focus. Just a bit blurry. Which gives the appearance of...well, look closely at my face. What do you see there? Is that…smolder? I could swear it is, but I have no idea how it got there.
But here is my plan this summer: To capture the 2013, 42-years-old version of this moment! It will not be easy, my friends. I have no boat, no fluorescent swim trunks, no idea if I can still ski like that...and a smolder that looks more like I just ate a rotten grapefruit. Or like Chuck, when he flashes. 

I just want my children to think I've always been super cool, and I'll need at least two photos to submit as evidence. I'll also need to destroy all video tapes from the 1980s. Also...I may need to eat two Double-Doubles in one sitting. My summer will not be complete until I make this happen. Please check back and hold me accountable. 

How about you guys? Do you have a Summer Bucket List?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Here's where I am today

I'm now sitting in a motel in Moab, UT with my wife and daughter who have been here since Tuesday. I composed this using the Blogger app for iPad and cant figure out how to schdule it for Friday morning so, here you are. Better to be early I guess?

Driving 3 hours by myself today reminded me of my single-ness when I would just leave town on my own for the weekend with a CD case full of my favorite driving music, a sleeping bag, and just drive. I always had to have some combination of the following CDs:

Tom Petty - Wildflower
Wilco - Summerteeth or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Son Volt - Trace or Wide Swing Tremolo
Paul Simon - Graceland
U2 - Joshua Tree
Sinead O'Connor - I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got
Van Morrison - Tupelo Honey
Bruce Springsteen - The Rising or Tunnel of Love
Weezer - The Green Album or Maladroit
Neutral Milk Hotel - In an Aeroplane Over the Sea
Ryan Adams - Gold
Whiskeytown - Pneumonia
The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
The Sundays - Static and Silence
Jethro Tull - This Was or Stand Up
Led Zeppelin - II or Houses of the Holy
The Beatles - Abbey Road

There are others that are great but these were my Go To selections.

Sometimes I had friends to see at the end of my travels, sometimes I didn't have a plan at all. I miss things about that but I have to admit that seeing my wife and daughter at the end of this little road trip made me very happy. 

We've made it a goal, now that the kids are a little older, to be more adventurous because, at our core, that's who we are and we've been neglecting that part for too long. Feels good to get away and reset. Besides, my CDs are collecting dust.

How about you? Ay road trippers out there? What's the best road trip music?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Week of my Dreams...

You know I love podcasts. And one of my favorites lately is NPR's How To Do Everything. It's basically 2 really funny guys, who talk about completely random and unrelated things for 30 minutes. There are no themes. And if the hosts weren't funny and charming it totally wouldn't work.

Last Friday, part of their show was interviewing a guy who developed Ice Cream flavors for Ben and Jerry's. They asked him if he had ever made a flavor that just totally bombed and he told about a flavor that he made that was called "Rosemary's Baby." (Already I'm in.) It was a rosemary infused cream ice cream with a rosemary tea cookie crumble and an apricot swirl. He said he thought it was the best ice cream he'd ever had, but it was a total bomb and was never put into production. Obviously this man is a genius and everyone else that works at Ben and Jerry's are fools. I want that ice cream every day of my life.

The other thing he revealed is that when you work at Ben and Jerry's, one of the benefits is that you were allowed to take home 3 pints of Ice Cream PER DAY.

Did that sink in? Do you need me to repeat that? 3 free pints PER DAY. EVERY DAY YOU WORK. When I head this, I immediately pulled off the freeway, stopped my car, got out and knelt on the ground and tried to take deep, cleansing breaths to clear my head. All I could think of was 3 free pints of Ben and Jerry's a day and my body was unable to focus on driving my car safely.

I thought about it a lot since then. And I've prayed about it. And I want to let you know that I have come up with my list of what I would take home my first week.

  • Monday - The classics: Phish Food, Mint Chocolate Cookie, Cherry Garcia (for Amy.)
  • Tuesday - Going Crazy: Late Night Snack (it has chocolate covered potato chips,) What a Cluster (marshmallow, peanut butter, clusters, you hear me?) and Oatmeal Cookie Chunk
  • Wednesday -A mid week refresher. Keeping it light with: Banana Peanut Butter Greek Yogurt, Pineapple Passion fruit, Mango Mango Sorbet.
  • Thursday - Classic Desserts: Cannoli, Red Velvet Cake, Peach Cobbler
  • Friday - Everything else: Cinnamon Bun, Pina Colada, Pistachio pistachio
So now I've finished my first week at Ben and Jerry's and I weigh 1000 pounds. At least he mentioned that they have an on site gym. I'm going to need it.

Did I miss anything? Did I hit all your faves? What would you eat if you worked at Ben and Jerry's for a week?

hugh head

My son Hugh is 8 years old, and he's pretty awesome. His awesomeness dwarfs yours and mine combined, and there's still room to be awesome. Now that it's summer time he doesn't stop moving. Are you interested in how his brain works? If you were to insert yourself inside his brain, what would it sound like? Read on!

"My name is Hugh. It's like a HUG with another H. It's like Hugh Jackman. He was Wolverine. He has knives coming out of his hands! Popsicle. I want to jump on the trampoline. I can almost do a backflip. I need to practice my backflip! Why are there pine needles on this trampoline? Where's that broom? I am going to sweep off this trampoline, and then leave the broom on the grass. It will be picked up and put away by a magical ghost. Popsicle. No - otter pop! I am eating an otter pop. It is cold. My tongue is blue. What should I do about this wrapper? Oh, well! I am practicing my backflip. I want to go on the swings. I can go super high. I need to pee. Oh, here's a bush. I am climbing into my tree house. It is a Death Star. This pool noodle is a light saber. No! It's a shoto. I mean it's a light saber. I'm attacking these leaves. I am Indiana Jones. This pool noodle is a snake. Popsicle. I need to drink some root beer super bad. I had cheerios for breakfast with no milk on them.  My brothers are teenagers. I have a sister. Wait! I have two sisters. I have two dollars. I can buy two packs of Skittles. I will share one with my cousin. Well, maybe if I feel like it. I look like my Grandpa. I need to go get a snowcone. I have two dollars! I am going to put this sprinkler under the trampoline and turn it on. The water is poison and I have to jump over it! I mean it's acid! I am Frodo. I have to jump over this acid lake. Fourth of July. Popsicle. I am taking off my shoes. I will just put them here on the grass. I will pick them up late- look! a hang glider! I can do that! I'm on the swing. I'm flying like a hang glider! I watched all the Lord of the Rings movies and they're PG-13. I have forty-five things in my pocket."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Because Josh Told You...

You guys,

I super just finished the BEST book.  Hands down, uh-the-BEST! And you know how when you finish a good book it's like you invented reading and you are probably the first person to read this amazing book you found off the New York Times Best Seller list?  Well, that's how this book went down, even though Josh totally told us all to read this book here.

So it's a book about kids with cancer.  Two teenage kids with cancer.  A girl with cancer and a boy with cancer.  And yes, it is super sad. And yes, you cry when you are in public reading it on your lunch break.  But also, it's so funny, and so well written. The voice of Hazle, the girl with cancer, who tells this story is so very funny and smart (too smart, perhaps, for a teenager) and you fall in love with her on the first page.  That is all I ever ask of a book, to have me love it on the first page. Don't hand me some book and tell me that you have to read a few chapters before I really get into it. That book is called a coaster. Nope, I need a book to tell me, in the first moments of reading, that I am gonna want to take the time to finish this book.

So, I would love to tell you all about it!  I mean I could talk about it for days, but you haven't read it and maybe to don't read books because you are behind on 'The Call of the Midwife'  (you should also be watching that, it's a British TV show about Midwives in the 50's in the East end of practically writes it's self!) but this book is written in such a easy voice that you can blow right through it.  It took Lisa Clark two days to read it cover to cover, and you're just as smart as her!

So, my name is Patrick and I just read 'The Fault in Our Stars' by John Green and I loved it.  It's a book about two kids with cancer and I couldn't get enough. I hope you go down to your local library and check this one out...but you don't have to take MY word for it!

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes

Perhaps the stars are all aligning, or perhaps it’s just coincidence (yeah, right), but I have recently had four different individuals text, email, or Facebook me that Katie and I (or in one case, my daughter, Abbie) were prominently featured in their dreams. I KNOW!

Dreams can be confusing, so I will now interpret them for you, using the exact words in which my friends reported their dreams. Please note, these are legitimate, and I did not make up one word of their dreams.

First, we’ll hear from our long-time friend, Teddi:
Don't worry about another baby coming, Ken! In my dreams last night I helped Katie deliver. Everything turned out fine. Even though there were wild animals chasing us. – Teddi

Interpretation: Simple. Teddi had just watched the deleted scene in 17 Miracles where a pioneer woman delivers a baby in an out of control handcart, while wild buffalo are in pursuit. Then she went right to bed, and her subconscious mind went here.

Next, from my friend, Chandi:
Um, I had a dream last night that you guys lived by my parents in Cedar City and you almost had to move out cuz you were an artist and out of cash, but luckily Huey Lewis stopped by at midnight on the last night and wanted a super nice painting that he paid a lot of cash for. And you had pets in the form of giant snakes roaming around your house. The end. From, Chandi 

Interpretation: Chandi knows I have seven children and that we are expecting an 8th in November. To her, this is dangerous! Having 8 children around is like having giant snakes in your house! Things get broken, messes are made, and people may get eaten. That’s a no brainer. But what Chandi may be surprised to learn – what she couldn't possibly have known! – is that I have tickets to the Huey Lewis concert in Salt Lake on July 23. And I’m not going for the music. I’m going because that rat-b owes me money for one of my amazing original paintings!

Next is this sweetie, Camille:
You and Abbie were in my dream last night!  I was in a blue family reunion t-shirt at a hotel. You guys got off in blue family reunion shirts too.  We were laughing at how funny we were, both there in similar shirts. Then i started to cry. U asked why & i said cause i miss u guys soooo much!  then we hugged  ;) i woke up sad...& missing u guys!

Interpretation: Well, once you stop crying from how sweet this is, I’ll tell you what’s going on here. Ready? Camille and I are secretly brother and sister. I never told her before, because I didn't think she could handle it. But the public forum of this blog seems like the perfect place to do it. 

And finally, a doozy from our dear friend, Jonelle; who, bless her heart, wrote out in detail this peculiar dream:

Yes, it is 6:52 in the morning, and I am writing. I have seminary carpool this morning, and this was a great time in between pickups to share the dream I had last night.

I don’t know if you could really call it a dream. It was like an all night montage. Don't pay attention to the numbers.  Also, there is no order to what I am writing.

1. First, You guys were in a Broadway production of Gone with the Wind. It was performing in Utah, and you had farmed out your kids to various people for the year … YES THE YEAR! 

2. So, you guys were of course Scarlett and Rhett and you were ALWAYS in character. Always. Costumes and all. And Ken, your mustache looked just like that picture of yourself that was in your room when I helped you guys move. I am not judging.. I am just sad that I think it was thrown away! 

It was not thrown away, Jonelle. 

So, Ken was answering all pertinent questions, with. "Frankly Dear, I don't give a damn, and to Katie (er, Scarlett) everything and everyone was addressed, as "Oh, Ashleyyyyyyy," Get this- you asked to borrow the church keys while you were visiting so you could rehearse the vase smashing scene in the Relief Society room. You guys were very serious about your craft, and I am sure I made you chitlin's and a ham hock for dinner. (This was not in the dream, just an assumption based on facts.)

3. I was awoken very early in the morning with a phone call. On the other end it was just someone crying, sobbing really, and I could not understand them, nor did I recognize the number. I hung up and panicked, as Bert [Jonelle’s husband] is on his way up to Reno to train the NV Highway Patrol. I thought maybe it was a dispatcher who had called and something had happened to them. So, I called dispatch and asked, and she coldly told me that no one had called, but since my husband was technically missing (WHAT?) that they were revoking federal security for our family.

4. At that moment, men in black from head to toe came to my house (which upon opening the front door, and seeing them come up the PORCH STAIRS, I realized was the Huxtable's house!  THEO??? Where are you, you big strong black man, come save me!) Anyway, they started taking off the screens and the actual windows, and so we had no glass, and the curtains blew in the wind. It was a horrible, vulnerable feeling! 

5. At that point, Angie [our mutual friend and neighbor] came running inside very upset, because she had received a call from someone sobbing too, and it was my best friend Paula (Who lives in Kazakhstan, or one of the stans) and she was so mad at me for not being kinder to her when she called, and how she had to call her (Angie) for support. (To my knowledge, they do not know each other) She explained that Paula had an ectopic pregnancy, and they had to take out her uterus and ovaries. I was so sad! Angie continued to berate me, sobbing and crying for a long time. And she was dressed in a business suit/skirt because she was going to give Harry Reid a piece of her mind when she got to work…which was in the senate!!!

6. So, all the while you guys continue in character, and are just "around" staying at our house. I remember one moment where I made you a veggie scramble and eggs, as you guys ran your lines at the breakfast table (still the Huxtable's).

7. Bert comes up from the basement (remember, where Dr. Huxtable's office was?) and he is in his greens and had a look of panic. He said that the fed's were after him, and he has to "lie low for awhile" because they possibly think he murdered someone.

You guys were leaving for your next city, and we said our goodbyes. (At no point were my children or yours anywhere to be seen.)

8. After you left, you sent Maya Rudolph to work for me- as a thank you gift. Her gift and talents were two-fold, as she was not only a maid, but an acting coach. You guys said I had "untapped potential" based on your knowledge of my past PAT [from SNL] performances. You wanted her to train me, and then join you guys on the road. (Prissy maybe? I do love saying, in Prissy voice, "But Miss Scarlett, I don't know nothin' about birthin' no babies!") Maya was dressed in too-small sweats and a peace sign shirt with a head wrap like Mammie's. She did carry a broom and mop. I remember being disappointed since "Up All Night" jumped the shark before its first season was over. I had been highly annoyed by her.
So, that's it folks. Let's just say, should you ever doubt that you are missed, please know you are alive and well in my dreams! Love, Jonelle

Interpretation: Actually, I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.

Friday, June 14, 2013

My extraordinary inheritance

The first time I remember feeling like a father was ... let me explain.

When I showed up for my first date with Amelia, I knocked on the door and, when she opened it, I thought three things: "She is beautiful," "She's out of my league. Enjoy this one date." and "Her kids seem really great." She was a single mom of a boy (Aidan, 6) and a girl (Isabella, 18 months).

I was 34. I had never been married but had dated women with kids before. Some I got very close to and some I never really got to meet. If I was allowed to be around my various girlfriends' kids, it was always heartbreaking when things didn't work out. I mention this because it's important to understand that I definitely knew what was at stake, having been through it before.

By the time I met Amelia, I was more confident about who I was, what I wanted, and where I wanted to go in life than I had ever been before. I was on the right track—finally—and in just the right headspace. I had come to grips with the fact that I could be single forever or, at least, for a really long time. It was all right. That didn't mean that I would avoid marriage; it just meant that I wouldn't let the pressure of finding someone to spend life with make me choose someone just because they were nice or pretty or cool. I wanted to be a dad almost as much as I wanted to be married, but, again, I wasn't willing to stress, settle, sacrifice, or impregnate just so I could be.

When I started dating Amelia, I fell fast for her. Because I loved her so much, it was inevitable that I would love her kids. I'd arrive to pick her up and, while she perfected her make-up, I'd play Ring Around the Rosie or London Bridge with her daughter and have pillow fights or play Find the Hotwheels with her son. These kids were amazing individuals. In six months, Amelia and I were married. Insta-family.

On that day I became a guardian to two wonderful kids. Aside from hiccups here and there, I really took to the role of father figure. But, you see, as I recall the events of the last seven years, it's difficult for me to single out one defining moment where I finally felt like a father because every moment with them kept defining it.

But, I think I can narrow it down to a handful of them.

With Aidan, I'm his step-dad. We've always gotten along but it's been a challenge to know how to fit in to his life like a dad without it feeling like I'm trying to be his dad. We do a pretty good impression of a father and son though. For us it's been soccer in the backyard, me letting him win. Laughing at jokes that only he and I get. Playing video games and screaming at the action. Nerding out about some show or game or film. Showing him something I loved, like Back to the Future, for the first time and him loving it too.

There are the moments Patrick wrote about where you've been driving and they're all asleep and you have to unbuckle them and, without any words, you pick them up and their hair is wet with sweat and their fists are clenched and they nuzzle into your neck and you carry them to bed and kiss them on the forehead and they make that noise that can only be interpreted, in that moment, as thank you.

One time, when Amelia and I were engaged, Bella needed to spit out her gum and I, without a thought, held out my hand and she, without a thought, spit it into my hand and I threw it away.

The day of our sealing (pictured above).

The times Izzy got hurt or scared and I was the first person she ran to.

There's the baptisms, blessings, confirmations, and ordinations. The recitals, performances, and concerts. The bedtime prayers and tuck-ins. Christmas shopping and Christmas morning. The middle-of-the-night stories or jokes to soothe them.

Adoption day.
There is Bella's adoption day when she legally became my daughter and I got to testify, before a judge, that I wanted to be her dad and how I would always do my best to love and protect her.

Then, there was the day I married Amelia. Right before the ceremony, Bella was crying because she couldn't see her mom. The sweet two-year old couldn't be consoled. I watched as moms, dads, sisters, brothers, and others tried to help out. Finally, I walked out from under the arbor, gently picked her up, put her blanket over my shoulder and just held her. She nestled her head on my shoulder and stopped crying. Instantly.

So, it might be that moment. Still, maybe you should ask Bella if she remembers when she first felt it. Because, as much as these moments feel like "dad" to me, until I became Dad to her, I never truly was one.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

When you're a dad, no one cares

My first born was a colicky baby. For the first three months of life, he cried from about 8 P.M. until about 2 A.M. every night. There were very few things that would calm him down. Sometimes I would put him in his car seat, lean forward, and swing the 20 pound contraption back and forth between my legs. And that would usually get him to stop crying, but you can only swing a car seat between your legs for so long before you: A) Tip over B) Hit yourself too many times in the leg or C) break your back. Needless to say, those early months were tough. And we were exhausted. I remember showing up at my in laws one night at about 3 A.M. The baby was crying and my wife and I were both crying. I don't think we said a word. We just handed him over and headed down to their basement to sleep and let them deal with him.

Sometime during those early months I got a cold. That terrible kind of cold where your head hurts and your body hurts and your face feels like it it stuffed with ferrets. And one night, as I was swinging the car seat between my knees to the dulcet tones of a screaming newborn, I remember thinking to myself that all I wanted in the world was to curl up in my own bed and go to sleep. And then, very clearly, a thought popped into my head. "It doesn't matter," said the thought, "You're the dad now. What you want is totally irrelevant. This baby could cry for the next 36 hours straight and you would still just have to stand here and swing this baby seat." And that was the moment that I knew that I was a Dad.

Isn't that what Parenthood is all about? All of your hopes and dreams and desires and wants all get swallowed up in the needs and wants of your children? And you do it (mostly) willingly, because you want them to be happy and safe and successful. That's why for the last two nights in a row when I have gotten home from work I set my bag down and played a rousing game of Monopoly: Disney Chanel edition. Not because I want to. I'm tired. And crabby. And hungry. And I have lots of important FB checking and Buzzfeed reading to do. But my daughter says "Please?!" in a really cute voice and suddenly I find myself laying on the floor, my dinner uneaten, paying her $4 because I landed on "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" and she owns it. (For the record, I have lost both games. But at least I get to be Zach Efron, and imagine that I have his hair.) It's why my days off are usually spent going to the park, or somebody's baseball game, or to McDonald's for lunch so the kids can play on the play land.

Someday my kids will be grown and I'll be awesome again. And I'll sleep in when I am sick and take naps on Sunday. I'll go to movies on weeknights and won't have to pay someone to sit in my house while my kids sleep. I'll cook amazing meals with weird ingredients, and I won't spend any grocery money on any food shaped like an animal. And my bed won't be full of Frosted Flake crumbs (which, by the way, essentially feel like laying on broken glass.)

But it will probably be kind of sad, too. Because I do, indeed, like McDonald's french fries and it's kind of nice to just get to keep refilling my Diet Coke and reading my kindle while my kids play. And it's pretty cute that my daughter wants to hang out with me and play Monopoly, even if am tired. Even if I do lose.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

day one

Everyone told me that the birth process would be super spiritual and I would probably cry. Mmmm, not so much. It was definitely spiritual once it was all over, and I'm sure I cried at some point, but probably only weeks later when I blessed the baby in church. I'm always leery of people telling me that something might make me cry, because it generally doesn't, and then I wonder if I missed something. Or if I got gypped. Not that having a baby was a gyp, but maybe the expectation of exhausted crying and singing angels was. I remember pushing and blood and ice chips and even a lot of laughing with Lisa. I loved her very much. And I was super excited. And also super nervous.

I don't remember feeling like a dad for a little while. My baby was not really a person; it was a special doll that everyone came to look at. When it pooped it was so cute! Oh, look! It's yawning! How do they know how to do that? I felt like I had a new toy and everyone wanted to come play with it. In those first few days I was so proud of Miles, and so excited to be a "father," and so unaware of the ways my life would change.

I grew up in a house full of babies. We always had a baby somewhere doing something. I love babies. I still do. I eat every baby I can find at church. I'm not one of these guys who gets all goofy and acts like he doesn't know how to hold one. I'm at ease with them, even if they aren't with me (usually.) So having a baby wasn't difficult for me - I knew how to take care of one. If we were Tarzan's parents and a tiger had eaten Lisa, I still could have raised that newborn and been OK. But he would probably be a horrible teenager now, so I'm glad Lisa wasn't eaten by a tiger. She has instilled our teens with a nice, grounded sense of humor and work ethic.

When we got home from the hospital Lisa was exhausted. She wanted to sleep. Suddenly I wasn't so confident with this baby. What was I supposed to do with him? Put him in his little bouncy chair, she said. What if he stops breathing, I asked. He won't, she said. So I did that. I put him in his little bouncy chair in the living room while my exhausted wife slept. And he didn't do anything. He just laid there. So I grabbed a New Yorker magazine and a block of cheese and laid down next to him. I read, he slept, and I ate some cheese. There was no sense of eternity and no apocalyptic sign. It was just the beginning of fatherhood for me.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Being Dad.

So there are moments, every day or rather, they can come on any day, where your mind snaps a picture and you remember that moment and it shapes you.

Our best friends lived right across the street from us in Jersey City, New Jersey.  They had a daughter and we did not have any kids.  We had always thought we would have kids, but we knew we needed to adopt and we really didn't know all that meant so we just kept on not having kids.

One night, I was sitting in our bedroom that looked out onto the street which our friends lived on and I noticed them parking their car.  It was summer but it was late and getting dark and I have this clear picture of my friend, a dad, climbing out of the driver's side and opening the back door and unhooking his sleeping daughter from her car seat, her flopping into his arms and then tucking in.  He wrapped her blanket around her and my mind took a picture.  That was what I wanted.  All of it.  This quite moment where no other labels stick to you, only 'Dad'.

Later, we got our daughter, and she was perfect (is), and here's the thing, people who wonder if you can really love a child who came from somewhere else, or rather someone else, as much as biological child, well, they forget the father. You see, no father has ever carried a baby inside his belly. In fact, when he contributed to that baby, his mind was most likely elsewhere. His bonding begins when they meet face to face.  No child, who was raised by two parents thought, 'You know, my mom just sorta loves me more...I guess it was those nine pre-birth months that really tipped the scale.'  No one questions the fathers ability to bond and love and protect a baby he didn't carry. And so it was with my daughter.  But another secret they don't tell you, is that it doesn't happen that first second. You think maybe it should but in that moment you are still meeting a stranger and nothing is stranger than a new born. This is also complicated when adopting as there is one string in the back of your heart that you hold back, you have to. You protect it because the truth is it could all fall apart at any moment.  And if you gave yourself  over, completely and totally gave over every string, you would never recover.

The first time I saw her she was in an incubator getting warmed up.  The delivery had happend very fast and we had just missed it. So we pressed our faces to the nursery glass looking for our baby. While we thought she would be easy to spot, she was not.  We came looking for our black daughter but there were only white ones.  So she came out pink, we didn't know?! But we saw her name and she turned her head and we, all three of us, felt it. (okay, I'm projecting what the 15 min old baby felt, but it's our story and I'm telling it, so you get what you get.) ...she turned her head and we, all three of us, felt it.  But the 'IT' was the surprise, I did not feel that she was my daughter, what a felt was a deep longing, 'Oh...I hope that is her.  I want it to be her. Please, please, let her be mine.'  She was (is).

Raising a new born is like someone giving you a hot water bottle that cries and poops. You don't sleep a lot but you also get to snuggle a lot and rock it a lot and she never wipes off your kisses (three year olds do). And while I felt like a dad at the time, I must not have been.

Once, when she was older, we were driving across the country moving from New Jersey to Utah.  We picked the scenic route as we would never do this drive again, and meandered down the east coast through the Great Smokey Mountains, then through Atlanta on our way to Savannah and through Jacksonville. Drove for days through Texas, where the sky touches the distant ground on every side of you then whipped up to the foothills of Colorado before coming to our new home.  And every night, and my wife would let me cause she knew the story, we would pull into a new hotel, turn off the headlights and I would get out of the drivers side and open the back door and there she slept. Only when I unsnapped her buckle and she tucked her nose into my neck and breathed out into a deeper sleep did every label drip off me, and I was only 'Dad'

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Father Is Born

I became a father on August 8, 1997, 8:42 a.m.

Katie and I had been married [just shy of] two years, and I felt comfortable and confident in my role as an adoring husband. I was less sure of myself in the role of a dad.

I don't remember this photo being taken, but I precisely remember sitting in that chair, holding Abbie. I remember feeling still. Present in the moment, and by the same measure, caught up in this sense of eternity. It was an instant when I felt like I should have the most profound observations and declarations to make; but for the life of me, I could not find a single, coherent word. I don't think I'm an exceptional writer or orator, but I had thought I was at least good enough to express what it's like to hold your newborn child. The words never came.  I felt them. I just couldn't say them. They seemed somehow deficient.

I remember the distinct impression that Abbie's spirit was older than mine. I don't know how doctrinally accurate that is, but it was a clear thought, in a sea of sleep-deprived thoughts.

I felt inadequate, underqualified, and flawed. But I also felt completely motivated by love. And I think that calmed me. I think love magnifies efforts, covers mistakes, and corrects foolishness. I hadn't left that hospital room yet when I felt like a dad for the first time, because I felt propelled by an undeniable love for this beautiful, heavenly-scented infant that was mine.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Want better ideas or input from people? Try Jon Bell's 'McDonalds Theory'

Do you ever get in the situation where, as a group, you need to decide on something but no one can think of anything to suggest? Wether it's your co-workers, friends, spouse, or kids, we've all said something like, "Let's decide where to go to lunch" or "What movie should we see?" and everyone just stares blankly. Recently, I found a pretty brilliant solution. It's called the McDonald's theory. Simply, people are inspired to come up with good ideas to ward off bad ones.

Jon Bell writes:

"I use a trick with co-workers when we’re trying to decide where to eat for lunch and no one has any ideas. I recommend McDonald’s ... An interesting thing happens. Everyone unanimously agrees that we can’t possibly go to McDonald’s, and better lunch suggestions emerge. Magic! ... It’s as if we’ve broken the ice with the worst possible idea, and now that the discussion has started, people suddenly get very creative."

Obviously there are plenty of work applications for this. I get involved in brainstorming sessions all the time where, for whatever reason (fear, nerves, boredom), no one offers anything. I think something like the McD's Theory can really bring those sessions to life. Now, unless you're the boss, don't be the one who makes the crap suggestion every time, and be sure to continue to add more ideas when the session gets cranking.

For someone who has done any improv, you get used to crappy offers and making the most of them by adding better details to make the original offer look amazing. I think it's a similar theory but instead of "Yes, and ..." it becomes more of a "Maybe, but ..." It doesn't block the conversation and keeps the idea channel open.

What's probably the most fun for me to think about is the family/friend use for this. However, my kids love McDonalds so I think an opposite approach will work for them. Such as "Let's go to Liver and Onion Town!"

What do you think? Will this work? How do you get others to be a part of the idea process?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Summer, I love you.

This is what we've been doing at my house lately. A little bit of this
and some of this
and a whole lotta this
Yep, we're sliding down rainbows. 
It's been pretty amazing. Schools been winding down, the weather has been hot and every day the kids want to run through the sprinklers. Which means my lawn gets watered and I get to sit on my shady back porch and read a book or check Facebook and sip an icy Diet Coke. And that, to me, is heaven.

When I was younger, I loved fall. I loved the clothes and the sitting by the fire and cuddling under a blanket on a rainy day. But fall is a young man's game. In the fall, my kids are stuck inside with me all day, they fight over who's turn it is to play Pokemon Tower Defense, the hot chocolate is too hot and they've taken all the blankets to make a fort. 

So now it is summer for me, all the way. I love to see my yard turn green. I love mowing my lawn and listening to a podcast. I love that I don't feel so guilty if my kids want to play a video game, because they have been outside for the last hour jumping on the trampoline and let's be honest, it's hot out there. I love that my kids can go outside and jump on the trampoline. I love the prospect of a vacation where I can sit on my butt for a week and read. (I have 2 planned this year!! One in two weeks and one in a month!!) I love that I'm not freezing when I get out of bed in the morning. I love my swamp cooler.  I love wearing jorts. I love running when it is warm and drinking out of the garden hose when I am done. I love tomatoes. I love that when I have a day off, the kids get up and go watch TV and I don't have to wake up and get them ready and off to the school bus. I love that there is no homework. I love that it is sunny and light. I love drinking 400 Diet Cokes in a day, because let's be honest, it's hot out there.

So welcome, Summer! Let's all raise a glass of hose water and toast this wonderful season. In about 2 weeks it will probably be 108 and my swamp cooler will make the doors in my house stick closed because it will run 24 hours a day and I will wake up sweaty and it will be too hot to run. But for now, let's let summer be the glorious, happy wonderful promise. 


I finally shaved my beard and I did that thing where you take pictures of yourself in stages. It was fun. I know it's kind of cliche to do that now, but I couldn't just shave my beard off and act like it was no big deal. That was a ton of hair and I've worked on it since last November! Also I like to show-off and pretend like I'm a bunch of different dudes. Here are my best takes! I took about forty five.

I am really angry! I am going to punch you in the throat.  Or I'm smelling something super gross. Or I just watched Baz Luhrmann's Great Gatsby again.

Life is super hard. Why did I take that Zyrtec? Oh, man. I need some sleep. Why did I have all these kids? Nobody told me they were going to watch Disney Channel shows and just pound, pound, pound up and down the stairs all day with their friends.

What!? Tally-ho! I say! Benedict Cumberbatch, you say? Well, I'd rather. I shall have to report you immediately. Jolly good!

The bald man's Beckham.

Oh, this? Why, this is just a toupee I made from my own hair!

Handsome, at last. Let freedom ring!!!!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mothers and Daughters...a Man's Perpective

So, here'e the deal, I'm not a Mom and I'm not a daughter; as a matter of fact, I don't have any sisters, so I didn't even grow up around daughters. I do have a daughter now and there literally isn't anything I wouldn't do for her. But the other day, at my work (I sell cute dresses and cookie jars and stuff) a mother and daughter came in.  That's not that interesting, mothers and daughters come in a lot, and this trip was not anything out of the ordinary; I think they were buying a graduation dress, so that should give you a context for age.  They were sharing a fitting room (no big deal) and the associates (two of them) were scurrying around finding the cutest dresses or cookie jars or what ever they wanted.  As the visit went on I started to notice a pattern in our dress searching...

"She's got a large rib cage so she needs a size 8."

"She doesn't really like to show the top parts of her arms so she'll need sleeves."

"Her chest is overdeveloped so we'll want to minimize that area."

A few things to note here:

One, the daughter was MAYBE a size 4, but probably a 2.

Two, The daughter didn't speak once. As far as I heard, not once.

Three, the Mother was a very nice lady.  She was not being "That" kind of mom.  She really did think she had her daughter's best interest at heart.  That's why I noticed it, she wasn't being a "B word", she was being thoughtful and they were out buying the daughter a graduation dress (which, I might add, would have a full-blown maroon tent over it, so what does it matter if her overdeveloped chest is minimized?!) and they both seemed like they were having a good time.  Really, both of them! Though, I will say, it really affected the two associates who were helping them. Each one, on their own, came to me and asked me to pop by the fitting room and let this daughter know how great she looked.  Which I did and I didn't even have to embellish, she was real cute, though, even some guy like me could tell, she didn't know it.  Somehow this cute girl with a nice mom grew up knowing several things about herself, (Me = Large Rib Cage, Hide the Top of My Arms, Too Big Boobs (or Two, I suppose)) but not the one true thing, she's cute.  She was one of the cute girls.

Maybe I'm reading a lot into one afternoon.  Maybe it was an off day.  Maybe the daughter had just yelled at her mom in J Crew that she didn't like her arms, boobs, or rib cage and if she has to bring it up again she's going home.  Daughters are not blameless.  I could easily write a post about the abused mothers that come into my store.  But, as I said, it was the two associates who got me thinking.

One of them said to me, "You know, daughters hear every word their mothers say.  Some buy into it more then others, but we all hear every word."

I tried to say it was the same for fathers, but they would have none of it.

"It's not the same for fathers, or even boys, it's all different from what other girls think...starting with their mother."

I guess that's what brought me here.  I genuinely don't like to find out I have less power over my kids than other people...even my wife.  But no matter how I try to teach my daughter that she is a smart, clever, funny, thoughtful, kind, straight up amazing girl, if she doesn't buy it from her mother, she will never buy it.

My daughter is lucky and my wife does such an amazing job, but, then again, this mother in the fitting room would die if she knew this post was about her. She really did appear to have good relationship with her daughter, aside from the passive abuse, but they were out together and they would talk to each other inside the fitting room. But growing a self esteem is not something that can be checked off in an afternoon or really ever finished, it's consistant stance that doesn't chip away or tamp down or hold back.  It's can't be faked and it won't be easily won, so let this be a reminder to all you mothers of daughters out there (and there are a lot of you) when she sees herself, she first looks through your eyes.  

Monday, June 3, 2013

Summer Fever

Every year, around the beginning of June, I start showing signs of what has become self-diagnosed and labeled as Summer Fever. To suppress the symptoms, my doctor has suggested wearing flip-flops and using my dad’s Chevron card to put gas in my car. But when I brought it up, Dad just gave me a dirty look. It’s like he doesn’t even care about my health.

I don’t know how I’ve never outgrown the phenomenon that is The Beginning of Summer, but it’s just instinctive. It’s like I forget I’m a grown up, with a job, a mortgage, and a vocabulary that should not include words like “dude” or “freakin’.”

I suddenly have the urge to get up around 10:00 a.m., catch up on some music videos, go to a friend’s house to swim, order pizza that my friend’s mom pays for, then head off to a dark, air conditioned movie theater to watch the most recently released summer blockbuster. Then my friend and I call a couple of girls to accompany us to In-N-Out Burger, and then go to another movie. But now, when I call Katie to go, she just says stuff like, “ Where are you? I have dinner on the table…We’re sitting here waiting for you.” Apparently Katie isn’t really concerned about my health either.

I have wonderfully fond memories of summers growing up in California. And I think one of the reasons that they are so wonderful and fond, is that I am fondly remembering specific days, and then wonderfully imagining that every day was like that. (This is one of the warning signs of Summer Fever.)

The mood of summer, for me personally, is capriciousness or frivolity. Whimsicality. This was especially the case when you had Disneyland, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Knott’s Berry Farm, Sea World, Universal Studios, and Raging Waters at your doorstep. These were tiny, magnificent worlds, the furthest only 90 minutes from my home. A complete escape to another fantastic existence. A world where all the characters and employees there make you feel like the gates were opened today because we knew you were coming.

It wasn’t only the amusement parks, though. The summer was just packed. We would make weekly jaunts to Zuma Beach, where a single day felt like an entire summer itself. We’d arrive at the beach, lay out the beach blankets and towels, and then get out the food as if we were going to have lunch first; only to be overcome by the exhilaration of that huge ocean, and go running headfirst into a wave. Then, an hour later, waterlogged and with clear sinuses from the salt water, we’d drag ourselves onto the sand and eat like it was the first meal we’d been given since floating to shore from a deserted island. We’d bury ourselves in the sand, throw a Frisbee around, dig for sand crabs, build sandcastles, and wish we never had to go home. Eventually we’d all climb into the van and promptly fall asleep on the drive home. Then, groggy and salty, I would climb out of the van, find my way to the shower, and wonder to myself how that much sand could still possibly be falling off of me – and from unspeakable places!

We additionally made monthly waterskiing trips where we’d throw out sleeping bags on the shore and literally sleep a few feet from the water. And sleeping would generally be the only time we weren’t in the water. It was no strange thing to go on a skiing trip and never have your swimsuit completely dry. These trips were commonly three- or four-day trips. By day four we were three shades darker (either red or brown), our lips were so chapped it was like somebody took a blowtorch to them…and then a cheese grater, we’d consumed 438 ounces of soda and never left the lake once to use a bathroom, and our feet were so calloused, we could play hopscotch on hot coals.

There was also camping in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, pool parties, barbecues, staying up late, getting up late, the smell of sunscreen, the smell of popcorn at the movie theater, breaking curfew, playing hide-and-go-seek in cars. The list goes on. Summer just always seemed like the season for very little real responsibility. And around this time of year, I miss that.

And if my boss can’t understand my illness, I may just call in sick one day, take two matinees and call my doctor in the morning. Seriously, is there nobody that cares about my health?

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