don’t know what you got (’til it’s gone)

jack?! don’t say that. that’s not ok.

those were the words i heard my wife say to my son (almost a year ago)…as we were getting ready to leave my wife’s sister’s house…

we had been over at their place celebrating several cousins’ birthdays (including our own kids) and spending some time together as families, when those words floated up from the basement stairs…

when i approached my wife at the top of the stairs, with an eyebrow raised and a look of like–what did he say?  

she said, i’ll tell you in a minute, let’s just get moving.

well, “a minute” turned into a half-hour and eventually we said “our goodbyes” and packed the kids and all their stuff into the van.  in the driveway, while the kids were tucked securely away in the vehicle, i asked my wife–what did he say?

she turned to me and said, he said that ‘he didn’t want to leave and that he wished he lived here–because their house was so much better than our house.’

there was a moment of silence.

then, i said–really? ok, i’ve got this.

[i said that because i could see that she was at her wit’s end and done with the challenging behaviors that had ‘run her ragged’–i said that, because it was time for me to “tag in”]

then, my wife got into the van and i got into my own car and we both headed home (i had come from work, so we had driven separately)…but, i left first and flew home.  en route, i thought about all the possible ways to respond/talk to my five-year-old son about what he had said and how to communicate just how important it is to be ‘thankful for where we live’ and all that we have (i mean, i had just loaded up a shit-ton of birthday gifts for him and his twin sister, people! come on?!) – but everything i came up with, initially anyways, was either inappropriate or illegal–and could’ve potentially resulted in some sort of serious negative outcome…like losing parental rights.

then, just before i got to our house, it hit me…i knew what i was going to do.

upon arriving home, i went inside and got down to business…i knew i had to move fast because my wife and kids weren’t too far behind me.

so, i went into jack and grace’s bedroom and over to jack’s side of the room — and got to work — completely stripping his bed.  i took off the pillows, the stuffed animals, the bed sheets, the mattress–everything!  as quick as i could, i jammed all of that stuff (including the mattress) into our bedroom and shut the door.  after that, i walked to the kitchen, poured myself a jack and coke, sat down at the table and waited.

well, they came home a few minutes later and were bustling about…

i said nothing.

after a few minutes, grace went down the hall to their bedroom and immediately i heard her call for jack…

jack, come here.

so, jack walked down the hall.

i heard their murmurs–as they were talking about ‘what was going on with jack’s bed?!’ and ‘what had happened?!’

my wife walked down there too, and walked back out to me and said, uh-oh.

i gave her wink and said, yep, why don’t we go down to their room and have a little talk with our children.

when we got to their bedroom, i told them that we wanted to have a little talk with them, but especially with jack (and that grace could listen, because she needed to hear this, too)…they looked up at us, wondering what we were going to say and what all the “fuss was about”…

this is what happened next…

me: hey, bud, can i talk to you for a minute?

jack: yeah.

me: hey, mom told me what you said at your cousin’s house-do you remember?

jack: (silence)

me: did you say something like, ‘you wished you lived in their house because their house was so much better than ours?’

jack: yeah.

me: any particular reason why you said that?

[he shrugs]

me: jack, i just want to say that, while they do have a beautiful house, it’s good to know that we have one, too, you know.  we live in a great house.  one that your grandma and grandpa lived in and loved.  one that is full of a lot of good memories.  i don’t want to hear you say things like that about where we live again, ok?  because we are thankful to have this place–and, we like where we live.

[he nods]

me: could you do me a favor? could you climb up on your bed?

jack: but, my bed is gone.

[the bed-frame was there and so were the wooden slats that held up the mattress]

me: i know, but hop up there anyway, ok?

[he climbs up on the bed-frame]

me: now, it’s going to feel a little weird, but i want you to lean back, lie down on the bed.

jack: huh?

me: yeah, just lean back.

[so he leans back on the hard, wooden slats]

me: (gently) hey, jack, how does your bed feel now?  does it feel good? like something you’d like to sleep on?

jack: (right away) no, it’s not good, it’s hard.

me: (after about 5 seconds or so) i know, why don’t you sit up now.

[he sits up right away]

me: jack, i know it didn’t feel good, but i want you to remember that feeling.  i want you to remember that feeling because that is the feeling of not having anything, the feeling of not having all the good stuff you have–here in this house–ok?  don’t forget about all the good things you have and the great house you live in, ok?

my wife: do you understand, jack?

[he nods]

me: ok, good, go ahead and get washed up for bed.

[while my wife gets him and his sister get ready for bed, i put his bed back together–reset the mattress, the sheets, the pillows the stuffed animals, etc. — after a while, they come back all ready for bed]

me: hey, jack, come back up here on your bed.  i want to ask you one more thing, ok?

[he hops up on his bed]

me: why don’t you lay down and get under the covers, ok?

[he crawls under the covers]

me: now, how does that feel?

jack: good.

me: remember the feeling without this stuff? and now, it feels good, right?

[he nods]

me: don’t ever forget this feeling either–right now–the warmth, the comfort.  it feels pretty good.  that’s the feeling of having what you have.

jack: ok.

me:  good night, son.

jack: good night, daddy.

[i give grace a good night hug & kiss and turn out their lights and leave–two steps out of their room, my wife and i “high five” in the hallway and enjoy some time together (on our own) while our children fall asleep-yay!]

now, what he said wasn’t the worst thing in the world…not even close (take it from me, i’ve heard the worst things in the world:)…and along with that, they (our relatives) do have a truly amazing house, no lie–and, he could’ve been saying that for any number of reasons–maybe because they have a foosball table, new carpet and basement, or any number of other things–and we don’t–who knows?!

but, nevertheless, it was important to us, it was the principle of it all…to help him see that he has a lot to be thankful for, we all do–and sometimes we miss the very things that are right in front of us!

the things that you only see when they’re gone.

so, with that in mind…won’t you, please, have a blessed and happy thanksgiving!

nice swimsuit

so, there we were…

at the local swimming pool on the opening day of the summer…

the place was packed…with parents and kids, babysitters and kids…and about 1000 children from the local ymca…

summer had just begun and school had just let out…so, everyone was in good spirits…

my wife and i were sitting in the water and playing with our kids at the wading pool…and i was taking it all in…

the sun, the fun, the sounds of summer…

then, i turned to look behind me…and there was a little girl (not more than two years-old) walking towards the wading pool…

she had an adorable swimsuit on, one that was as cute as our kids used to wear when they were that age…

so, i turned towards the child’s mom, who was standing right by us, and said…

that’s a nice swimsuit.

the mom looked at me and said nothing…a look of disgust covered her face…

i sat there, frozen, thinking…

what’s happening?!

i think i remember hearing my wife mutter from beside me…

she thinks you’re talking about her suit… 

[the mom was in a bikini]

the mom turned towards her child, picked her up, and walked off…

feebly…i called after them…

i meant your daughter’s!

 

our last day with our day care provider…

yesterday, we said goodbye to one of the most important people in our lives…our day care provider…

given the impact this woman had on our lives, i am re-posting (below) a post i shared more than 3 years ago…

everything in this post is still true today…or, more true…meaning, you just need to “times” all of the good shtuff i said below by ten thousand (x 10,000) and then you’ll be close to just how much my wife and i love and appreciate her, our day care provider…

note: in the first version of this post, i didn’t give out her actual name–for privacy reasons–but i’m gonna do that now…because if you’re out there (in the twin cities)–looking for a place for your kids–look no further, sign up today!!!

thank you, stefanie berge/sharon (owner/operator of tender heart childcare) you’re the best around!

to see what i’m talking about, please keep reading…

before i was a teacher, i worked with kids in many different settings…coming through a gauntlet of years in youth work & (now) teaching, it takes a lot to impress and inspire me in this field…

but, i have been truly impressed and inspired over the past 3+ years…

with our in-home day care provider…

and yes, i said in-home daycare provider!  …in-home daycare programs are often regarded as marginal, “fly-by-night” operations that may be alright in an emergency….but not as a “serious long-term consideration”…because people think that “they’re just not as good as centers” or a mom/dad staying home with their children…nor are they viewed as “safe places”–you get the feeling that this is one of the most horrific decisions you can make for your children–tantamount to sending a kid cross-country on an orphan train (esp. from my parent’s generation) …like your kids will end up abducted, abused, neglected, abandoned, in the emergency room, dead in the street and on the nightly news if you leave them there!!!  i heard the world saying, please report to the shame corner and turn in your parent card, now!

…this is not the case with our person, sharon–yes, her name has been changed to protect the innocent–or in the many cases of parents who use amazing in-home daycare providers each and every day…anyways, my wife did the first drop-n-go routine, through a river of tears (mind you, this is a person who cries over  the voice🙂 and i did the job three days later…and this is what happened…

i entered the house, took off my shoes, and proceeded downstairs to find my children…i was excited to see them…arriving downstairs, i made eye-contact with my son and daughter…they recognized me and smiled…but, they weren’t that excited to see me…they stayed where they were–by the side (son) and in the arms (daughter) of sharon…i thought, what the hell is this?!  i’ve been your father for nine months–you think that was a piece of cake–i was there when you were colicky, when you wouldn’t sleep, when you had that “projectile shit”–the rapid fire, .50 caliber shtuff that ‘took out’ the nursery room door–and this is how you repay me…how dare you?!  i mean, i had envisioned my children running from sharon, bounding towards me–their father–with outstretched arms (press play on can’t hold back by survivor)…but, it didn’t happen…so, i made funny faces, talked to them, waved for them to come to me…but still, they stayed with sharon…so, i hiked back upstairs, put my shoes on, went out to the van and grabbed the wonder bar…so-to-pry my children off of their in-home daycare provider!

…since those early days, we’ve seen and heard all about the amazing things they’ve learned from sharon…sign language, “how to wear a helmet with style”, music, how to pronounce their “t’s”, please and thank-you’s, “how to help”, potty training–you name it…she is unbelievable …so, let me just take this moment to say…thank you, thank you, thank you, sharon…for teaching our kids, for loving our kids like that…i am impressed and inspired…you’re the “+1” to my wife and i, you’re the best around…

i swear

i have a language problem, and anyone who knows me knows it’s true–it’s no secret…it’s been something i’ve been trying to work on since we’ve had children–and there was one day, in the not too distance past, when i knew–things had to change…here’s that story…

it was a day after many long weeks–we had sold our house and just moved into a new house–and at the same time that we were dealing with that major life transition, my wife and i were trying to keep up with our kids and our jobs…anyways, one day after work, i picked up our kids from daycare and headed home–they were tired from all of it, too…and it showed in their behaviors, as they were crabby with each other and with me for the whole ride home…

[author’s note: when we got home my kids were demanding snacks and juice and having to go to the bathroom and 100 other things…meanwhile, i was running through a mental checklist in my brain of what we had in the liquor cabinet, because daddy was going to need some “juice”, too!  🙂 ]

so, here’s what went down on that fateful day in october…

jack: daddy, i have to go poopy.

me: go ahead and head into the bathroom, i’ll be in there in a minute.

he goes into the bathroom and gets to work and i get grace some juice and a snack…

jack (after a few minutes): daddy, i’m done!

daddy (walking towards the bathroom): o.k., i’m coming. 

jack: can you wipe me?

daddy: yep.

i say this as i turn towards the toilet paper holder…unfortunately, i don’t see any toilet paper on the holder…i look to the basket where “backup paper” is kept and it’s empty, too…then, i hear my son’s voice again…

jack: can you wipe me, daddy?

me: yes, jack.

then, i hear my daughter crying for more snack from the other room…and i shout to her…

me: in a minute, gracie.

feverishly, i start going through the cabinets, looking for the almighty tp…it’s not looking good, i can’t find any…and i hear jack again…

jack (impatiently): daddy, i need to be wiped.

daddy (more impatiently): i know.

frustration is mounting on all sides when i go to the last cabinet…no dice…no toilet paper in there either…and that’s when i say it, that’s when i swear…

me: fuck!

i realize i’ve said it “out loud”, but it’s too late…because jack speaks up again, to my chagrin…and this is how it goes…

jack: fuck!

[then again]

jack: fuck! fuck! fuck! fuck! fuck!

[then]

me: no! no! no! no! no!

eventually, i locate some tp in our bathroom and use it on him and get them their snacks and juice…and eventually, everything settles down…

but, deep down, i know that parent fail #76 just happened…

in the months that followed, i tried, really hard, to regulate my language…that experience was enough to startle me into some efforts for better behavior…i mean, having my son mimic me like that, like a little mockingjay–what the fuck?! 🙂

then, recently…i was startled again, when i heard my daughter say…

oh my God!

when i heard her say that, i stopped right in my tracks (again, i was making them their after day care snack) because she said it like an expletive–not in a praise to the Almighty kind of way…

here’s our exchange…

me: hey, now…we don’t say that.

gracie: oh, o.k.

me: we say, “gosh” or “golly”, right?!

gracie: o.k.

me (not really wanting to ask): where did you hear that?

jack and gracie are silent and then look at each other…then, gracie sings…

oh my God, i’m coming home.

at first, i don’t get it and am a bit confused…

me: what? wait?! from the song we play?! 

[we have an i-home where we play all kinds of music, and what i realized–in that moment–was that she was referencing a song called, “Oh my God, I’m Coming Home” by the christian musician david crowder.]

after a short conversation about the differences between singing it like the way he does and using it in everyday life as an expletive, my kids go off to play and think/say nothing of it going forward…

but, i’m still worked up about it, i’m still ticked…mostly at david crowder…mr. pop-christian musician...in my mind, i envision confronting him and throwing down…damn you, crowder, damn you!

since the most recent incident, i have mixed up the playlist…and substituted in–“Mama I’m Coming Home” by ozzy osbourne…

rock on!

🙂

parent fail – good friday

i think enough time has passed…

i think enough time has passed to tell you this story…without it being a complete and total sacrilege…

so, there we were…

getting ready to go to church on good friday…

and we find ourselves in a conversation with our kids, our four year-olds…about Jesus dying…actually about Jesus being killed…

my wife: so, today you’re going to hear about how Jesus died.

me: actually, that Jesus was killed.

our son: Jesus died? Jesus was killed?

me: yes.

our son: who killed him?

me: some people who were not very nice.

our son: were they bad guys? were they bad ninjas?

and that was the end of the conversation…as my wife and i looked at each other knowingly–“well, that went well”…

[and chalked up parent fail #85]

march madness

during one day in march, i took my kids to the mall to run around (because it was cold out)…and once they saw the toy store it was all over, game over…

or maybe, it was game on

once we crossed the threshold of the store, all i heard was…

i want this, i want that…

from superheroes to legos to games…it was a non-stop barrage of begging and pleading…then, after an hour there…i pulled them away, and we went to another store…there were some toys there, too…and it began again…

i kept thinking…

what happened to my sweet children?! where have they gone?!

i fought off those punches, too…and left the mall…without buying them a single thing…as we left, they were whining and unhappy–and i was smiling and happy…even though i felt a little bit like the bad guy…and even though it wasn’t an easy or fun thing to do…to repel those requests…it’s not…it’s not the peak of the mountain for a parent…but, a little rise, a hilltop, when it turns out…and i’ll take it!!!

i mean, they must have asked me for a toy at least 1000 times…and i must have said “NO” in equal measure…

but at the end of it all, the score was…

daddy 1 – 0 jack & grace

it may not seem like much, but it was a huge victory…and a bigger one for them (later in life)…

now, don’t get me wrong…i’ve been “played” before (like a fiddle in the devil went down to georgia)…manipulated by my four year-olds…lost out to their wishes and will before (it’s crazy how early they learn those skills–how early we learn those skills)…but, i keep trying…and on that day in march, i thought to myself…i won this round–we won this round…

all along, as they were working me over…i kept hearing that voice in the back of my head…it was the voice of dr. david walsh, parent and child expert…encouraging me, reminding me…

we say “no” to our kids because they can’t say “no” to themselves–in doing so, someday they will be able to!

thank you, dr. walsh!

lessons in love (for my son)

it’s taken me nearly 44 years on the planet to understand what it means to love a woman…here’s some of what i’ve learned, jack…because you might want to know what that might mean for you–if “loving a woman” is something you want to do, or choose to do yourself someday–if not, that’s another conversation we can have–regardless of what path you take–know that you’ll get the same love and embrace from your old man, cheers!

  1. know yourself…take time to examine and evaluate the things that you’ve said and done…learn from the past…sometimes your heart gets broken because of things they’ve done…but, sometimes it gets broken because of things you’ve done–from the way you’ve been living in the world, guaranteed.
  2. love yourself…see and “believe in” the good that’s in you…no man can have love for another person while at the same time despising himself.
  3. let her know that she’s your queen…court her, pursue her intentionally (and in a healthy/’law-abiding manner’)…listen to her, show up in her life when it counts, give a timely gift, treat her right, woo her–to win her over and beyond!!!
  4. women are not disposable objects that were put on the earth to please and entertain you, son–treat them with love and respect…’call out’ men who don’t.
  5. only say, “i love you” if you really mean it…those words carry a lot of weight.
  6. balance – if all you’re doing is spending time with your “special one”…then, that’s a problem …now, if you’re anything like your old man, when you do fall for someoneyou will fall hard…it’s gonna happen…and you’re gonna lose your mind for a minute (at this time, you will most likely start to see cartoon versions of blue birds flying around and chirping as you randomly and uncontrollably burst into song–zippity doo dah day!)…it’s o.k., it’s a good thing to have those feelings and emotions–but, don’t forget to share your time and love with your friends and family, too!
  7. date one person at a time.
  8. reciprocity – no romance is 100% fair or equal…but, most good ones get close–if you’re doing all the work, making plans, showing up in her life, etc…and she’s “phoning it in” and “treating you bad” — that’s a red flag, son–so, cut her loose, “break it off” and move on.
  9. don’t play games – if you’re not “into her” or “not feeling it”–have the balls to tell her that to her face (never “break it off” by text or email) and move on.
  10. when your heart gets broken, and it will–(privately) share your pain with those “select few” family members and friends you trust; you will know who they are–not everyone gets the honor and privilege of knowing this shtuff–they will be there for you; and keep your distance from her–physically, socially, online, phone, etc…trying to pursue her beyond this point doesn’t do a damn bit of good and makes you look like an idiot.
  11. and if/when you “mess it up” (in how you’ve treated her)…step up, be a man, own it–and apologize for the harm you’ve caused.
  12. sometimes, “i’m sorry” doesn’t cut it…and what happens is a product of not knowing yourself and not dealing with yourself and your shit (this one goes a lot to #1, but probably pops up at other points as well)–because eventually, your shit will rise to the surface – – my shit has a long history of flying out sideways  🙂  [if some of your issues keep resurfacing, keep coming up…then, have faith, be brave, and do the right hard thing–talk to a trained professional counselor–someone who is qualified to advise you and who doesn’t have an axe to grind].
  13. you can talk to me, too…anytime, anyplace…in joy, in pain, in exuberance, in sadness, and in all those “in-between” times…you can ask me anything–and i mean anything…i’ve been there, believe me…and i’m still here, i’m still standing.
  14. trust God, trust the process.

i love you, son.

dad

[this is the tip of the iceberg for the things that i hope to impress upon my son regarding this topic (as he gets older), most of the other things “not listed here” are not for public consumption–they are private matters, personal ones, that are just for me and jack–but today, you get a glimpse behind the curtain…so, enjoy–and have a happy valentine’s day!]

season of wonder

when the kids and i got home a few days ago…

they started playing with the nativity set, like they always do at this time of year…

and like in years past, some “other friends” showed up…this year it was R2-D2 and a ninja…

immediately, the ninja started calling for help (the part of the ninja was being played by my son, jack)…

help! help! i’m trapped in the lasers!

Jesus’ mother and R2-D2 (both played by my daughter, grace) replied…

hold on! we’re coming!  we’re coming to save you! we’re the only ones that can!

i interjected…

wait, what about baby Jesus?!  can’t He help, too?!

grace replied…

no. they’re the only ones that can save him.  

🙂

merry christmas and may the force be with you!

fury road (chicago)

part II – the windy city

we did laundry, re-organized the van, had the scheduled maintenance done on the van–and slept in our own beds for two nights…and less than 48 hours after our trek to utah and back…we (mom, dad, son, daughter) continued the epic road trip of our lives…this time, we headed east, towards chicago…to see my sister there (for more details on my sister–see the post titled, “my sister, chris”)…

we knew we could make it…heck we just drove several thousand miles together…we made it through that trip, successfully, in large part to ‘how the kids did’ (and with the mercy of the Lord, of course)…yes, it was intense, and yes, our son had an ear infection…but, they managed surprisingly well…way better than i thought…i think ‘they did well’ because “my wife planned well” and had (in addition to episodes of “paw patrol” and “jake”) a lot of ‘low-tech’ activities for them…reading books, coloring/activity sheets and books, white boards, cars and action figures, etc. – and we had two “blessed bags of saving grace” from my wife’s coworker and friend, kate…thank you, kate…your stuff + my wife’s stuff made it fun for the kids!

anyways, this is my first person account of the second phase of fury road:

1. 1130am – we leave the twin cities (we had planned to leave at 9am).

2. 630pm – we arrive in chicago (one of the all-time great american cities) – making extremely good time (the drive seems like a snap after the previous adventure).

3. my sister, chris, makes pizzas.  we eat, talk, and relax.

4. we “hit the hay” – and set up camp in her two room apartment.

bedtime.

bedtime.

5. meltdown #1 happens – jack “goes ape” during breakfast at the lucky platter (we see the first signs of life on the road).

6. we recover.

7. we drive down to millennium park and hangout, play and eat italian ice; it turns out to be a fun day, especially for the kids…and it is great to have some time to catch up with chris and hear how her life is going and for her to hear the same from us…we’ve never had the kids with us in chicago before…it is great to see!

millennium park.

millennium park.

(more) millennium park.

(more) millennium park.

8. nap time.

9. meltdown #2 happens – jack and grace “go ape” after nap time (we see the next signs of life on the road).

10. the travels are catching up with the kids.  they are on the ropes.  minutes from a knockout. it looks bleak.

11. my wife uses her magic powers to “rally the kids”.

12. we recover.

13. we go to dave’s italian kitchen for my sister’s birthday dinner – great food; we come home, open presents and “face-time” with my parents–who are on face time for the first time, which makes the entire call all the more entertaining.

14-18. the day is good.  we have brunch, take naps, and ride the “l-train”.  jack and grace can hardly contain themselves (it’s as if thomas himself shows up).  the train pulls to a stop in front of them and we jump aboard…we ride the train for a “whole 15 minutes” (and it is worth it…just to see the looks on their faces).

L-train

L-train

19. 830am, the next morning, my wife and i exchange a “knowing look”–translation: yeah, we’re ready to be home.

20. 835am, i give jack his antibiotics and have a flashback to the utah trip (and feel a flash of anger)…medical school is not worth it...then, i try to coach myself back…thinking…let it go, let it go

21. 836am, i can’t let it go.

22. 837am, i think to myself, i should’ve asked for some “meds”, too.

23. 838am, an ed sheeran song starts playing in my head–loving can hurt, loving can hurt sometimes…

24. 839am, repeat #22

25. 840am, i “dial it back in” and make 100 trips up and down 50 flights of stairs. to pack the van, i haul an amount of luggage/gear that would normally accompany a professional baseball team.

26. 9am, after a brief stop at dunkin’ donuts, we head home.

27. noon, we stop near madison, have lunch at panera with my wife’s friends.

28. on the drive back, i daydream about a novel new show for TV–amazing race–family style.

29. the idea causes me to have a minor panic attack on the road.

30. i recover.

31. i keep the idea to myself until now.

32. 530pm, home sweet home.

33. happy birthday, chris!

34. jack and grace are presented with their “road warrior” badges – way to go, kids–you’ve earned ’em!

i can’t believe that we just did all that…honestly…we made it…and, at the end of the day…upon reflection…it was insane, but it was also good–we also know that we are fortunate to have the time to do that together, as a family…to be able to be there (in person) and celebrate the people we love–first, with jamie and steve in utah…and then, with chris in chicago…it’s a gift…

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