Category Archives: Childhood

Transcendence On the Way to Preschool

Claire

In life there are few moments of transcendence, or perhaps better said, there are few moments of transcendence that we recognize and commit to memory, and even fewer that are clear enough to shift our existential bearings and redefine our hopes.

When they do happen, they’re usually fleeting, they’re often mundane (given our inability to see the forest for the trees), and unless our emotions and spirit communicate, they’re usually glanced over so as to leave no trace of meaning.

For me the dark glass is lowered and transcendence is recognized almost always in the presence of my children, in particular aside my oldest daughter Claire (four years old). It happens simply, when undeterred joy emanates from my daughter and I feel partly to blame; when somehow my being her dad and being present in her life plays a role in it all.

It has happened at a pizza parlor as Claire watches her younger sister Maren do the funniest thing ever: refuse to keep her feet off the table. I’ve been wise enough to notice it as Claire is caught in a whirlwind of leaves, a recently raked pile behind her, the remnants of fall clinging to her hair and eyebrows.

Most recently it happened in the car, on the way to preschool. Claire and I have a tradition: We crank the volume up on the radio and act wild. We do this to get our crazies out—something both of us need to do before entering the real world where calmness and put-togetherness are most admired. A hit song from a few years ago comes on and we’re both dancing; we’re both unhinged. I look back and catch a glimpse of her, lost in the moment without concern. To make her laugh, I look forward and scream. I pretend the traffic cones on the side of the road are a brick wall and I’m about to hit them. I’m nowhere near them and I hit nothing but the explosion is real; it’s Claire in the back seat, head back, erupting with laughter; she’s like an infant guffawing for the first time at something that’s only funny in the beginning: a coo, a song, a bark, the tearing of paper, an older sister shaking her head inches away.

To see this innocent, explosive, in-the-moment elation was too much for me; I sobbed. I was happy. I was sad. I was nostalgic. I was worrying about the day she wouldn’t think a fake collision with traffic cones was funny anymore. I was in limbo.

I was no longer in the car. I was no longer on earth. I was outside looking in. I entered a realm that felt like home in a strange land. The meaning was clear and it was mine. And then I watched my Claire put on her backpack and walk toward school, a big girl.

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Christmas Was A Beach

Here’s me being WAY romantic

I know this is late and I know what you’re probably thinking, how can Christmas be a beach? Did you magically change it from a holiday to a pebbly or sandy shore by the ocean? And the answer would be no, no I did not. I did, however, leave the freezing, snow-capped mountains of Utah with my family of three to join an extended family of over 20 in one beach house just 30 feet from the sunny, wonderful beach and the freezing, no-less wonderful ocean. Usually leaving a wintery wonderland during Christmas would feel like an abandonment, a betrayal, but not this year. It could not have been more Christmasy and it was one of the best vacations I have ever had.

Why Was This One Of The Best Vacations Ever?

There are a lot of reasons this was a fantastic trip. I will not bore you with all of them, just most of them. For one, it was great to have all my siblings (except Chris who is in Bahrain…yeah I don’t know where it is either) and their spouses and kids crammed in one house—it was chaotic but for that very reason, fun. I liked the small Christmas tree on a shelf, mountains of presents scattered everywhere, gross leftover sweet and sour soup (that only my dad liked) in the fridge from the first night’s Chinese food, sodas lined up like soldiers on the kitchen counter, noise, new born twin babies crying, toddler cousins all dressed in similar jammies laughing, and me constantly breaking up the fight or fit started by my daughter, who despite being one of the best kids ever can also be quite the bodag.

Present time!

twins

New born twins, Benjamin and Thomas!

It was a very memorable ambience in an unforgettable setting. The beach was literally a five second walk away and even though the locals thought we were crazy, that didn’t stop us from swimming and boogie boarding everyday. To be honest, the water was no colder than it was in August, and after you’d been out ten minutes you were num to it, so you could fight on, catching an occasional awesome wave, no feeling in your toes, all the way to the shore. It was great.

The most attractive stance ever (me on left). Thanks Grandpa Marshall

We had a volleyball/badminton net right next to our beach house. We had many an impromptu game, but the most memorable of all was America VS. Brazil. A group of Brazilians approached us, challenged us, played us, and we walked away victorious. It was a game full of laughs, language barriers (my cousin Chase kept speaking to them in Spanish), and a lot of fun.

There was the Home Alone Marathon where Ryan, my older brother, was again crowned the victor of Home Alone Trivia and my sister-in-law April was crowned the most recent winner of the Home Alone quote contest.

Christmas morning. Grandkids and grandparents.

There were the gifts the kids loved. Claire with the teepee my beautiful wife finished making her a couple nights before. And then there were the Ninja Turtles PJs that I thought Claire would love—after opening them, we asked her if she wanted to wear them, she just said no. Her and all her cousins had PJs with different princesses on them, so I don’t blame her. (She’s wears her Michelangelo PJs now).

Princess PJs with cousins and aunt.

There was Rinda trying out surfing for the first time and loving it, and looking natural as she did it. She was surfing. I saw her. She was also crashing and getting enveloped in massive waves, but she was surfing and she was happy.

The babe and the waves.

There was my family’s gift to my dad: an authentic Indian headdress (my dad’s been known to dress up) and the photo of him wearing it, sitting in front of Claire’s teepee.

Chief Wanna-Hawk-A-Loogie.

Truth be told, there were a lot of things, but the number one reason this vacation was SO incredible was that it was simple. I know, I know. Getting people from all over the country to San Diego, existing in one small space, avoiding contention is not simple, but once we were there, it was. We didn’t try to cram too much into the time we had. There were options presented everyday but almost always we chose to hang around the beach house so we could hit the beach. If we got too tired or too cold, we could just go back and relax with a bunch of people we like being around.

We walked the boardwalk (whatever it’s called in the west), saw sea lions, ate plenty of nearby Mexican food, and so much more. Beach, house, beach, house. No stressful or long days away. It was miraculous. Oh, and Claire, with her cousins to convince her, actually got in the water and loved it, and Abigail, her cousin, who wouldn’t step off the beach towel previous to this trip for fear of the sand decided playing and covering her entire body in sand was a fun, good idea.

Oh, did I forget to mention: it was in the 70s the entire time! Heaven my dear Watson, heaven.

The Moral Of The Story

Needless to say, the moral of the story is this: food, fun, good people, that’s a recipe for a great time. Thanks mom and dad for putting this trip together (and paying for the beach house) and thanks family for being family.

Until next time.

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We’re All Confused Children That Need Help

I’m not old. I’m only 28, soon to be 29. And while my sense of humor may suggest otherwise, I’m not (and I don’t feel like) a child—at least not usually. For me, and for all of us I assume, there are moments in life that the inexplicable happens, moments where our limited experience in this thing we called existence leaves us unprepared or incapable of understanding the pain and confusion that surrounds us.

For My Wife It Was Five Years Ago This Sunday

We had only been dating a couple of months. I will never forget the moment she heard the news. We were driving in her car along a windy road. It was night. It was dark. She received a phone call and, being overcome with emotion, had to pull over. She stepped outside and started pacing in front of the car, back and forth, cutting through the glow of her headlights. I stayed inside. I wanted to give her some space. From the call I knew that someone had died but I didn’t know who. After she hung up the phone she collapsed in the street. I ran to her. I sat on the pavement with her. When she had recomposed a bit we got back into her car. I drove. I kept my eyes on the road as she whimpered in the passenger seat. Her father had died. He was young too.

We spent that night on the couch. Me sitting up, awake, comforting her in any way I could (there was no real way to comfort her), and her laying on my knee. She would sporadically wake up, cry, and then fall asleep again. Her tears wet my jeans.

It was then that I knew I loved her—which surprised me. Despite only knowing her for a matter of months I knew that if she were to ever experience something as heart-wrenching or confusing as this again, I wanted to be the one to comfort her. It may have been the only thing I knew in that moment but I knew, like I know the sun will rise each morning, that if the frustration and pain of the world left her defenseless, like a child, I wanted to be her defense. As weak and pathetic as I am, I wanted to protect her, to care for her.

For My Two-Year-Old Daughter It Was Yesterday

It was around 3:15 in the morning when my wife and I heard the small, confused voice of our small child. “Mommy, mommy, help.” She had thrown up in her crib. We had just gotten over a 24-hour bug and now she had it. If I could make it so, I would have a world where children never get ill. They don’t understand it. Their experience rejects it. Never have I felt more helpless than when my little girl is sick or sad. Never have I loved her more.

Throughout the night she would jump to her knees and cry out “mommy” or “daddy.” We’d hold a small metal bowl in front of her and she would throw up it in again and again. After she’d finished she’d curl up in a ball. She took turns snuggling up so close to my wife and I that we were nearly falling off the bed. We didn’t sleep. She never cried. She handled it like a champ but I could tell she was sad. Her eyes betrayed her sweet nature. She was frightened and no “It’s going to be okay” or “I love you” spoken softly by my wife or I chased the pains in her stomach away.

The first real food she ate was a small piece of a banana. As she was chewing it she said, “oh mommy, it tastes so good.” She threw it up. At dinner she begged and begged for some bread. We finally caved in and gave her a small piece. She ate it like the characters in the movies, who have not had a meal in a long time, eat their food.

This morning she woke up at 6:00. She felt better. She wouldn’t stop talking about food. Like a little hobbit she was listing everything she wanted to eat: milk, bread with jam, scrambled eggs, tomatoes. It broke my heart to hear it. She didn’t understand why she had to go hungry for so long. My saint of a wife made her a feast of all her requested food. She devoured it.

For Me It’s Every Time…

For me I feel lost, confused, and in pain every time I’m called to be the protector, the defender, the care-giver to someone else who is scared and unsure. I feel like a child when my own wife or daughter need me to be a man, an adult. It’s then that my experience fails me. It’s then that my existence comes full circle. And then that I’m grateful to know that I, too, am a lost child. I’m grateful to know I have a Heavenly Father that knows how to comfort me, protect me, care for me.

Who or what has helped you when you’re confused or in pain?

 

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I Soiled My Brother’s Bell Bottoms On Halloween

My costume this year is Garth from SNL’s Garth and Kat (see below).

Last night, driving home from last-minute Halloween costume shopping (I know, I said I wasn’t going to do that, but hey the costume is good), my wife asked me when Halloween changed from being a holiday (or pagan ritual) where you dressed up as something scary to a holiday where you can dress up as anything—wearing as much or as little as you like. I didn’t have the answer. However, her question got me thinking of Halloweens of old.

I’d Rather Be Silly Than Scary

As long as I can remember, with the exception of maybe a homemade tiger outfit my mom made me when I was a wee lad, I’ve never dressed up as anything frightening. Grotesque, bloody, or repulsive outfits are not my thing. Some of you like scary. You love the horror movies that make you feel like Satan is breathing down your neck or a murderer will tie you up and throw you in his/her van as you’re walking to your car. I do not. I prefer Casper, The Burbs, Hocus Pocus, Zombie Land, Nightmare Before Christmas—essentially I prefer kid or comedy Halloween.

My Costumes Are Proof

So, rather than dress up like Freddie, Jason, or a guy who recently got run over, I dress up in costumes that make me laugh, even if no one else thinks they’re funny. One year I thought I’d make a killing dressing up as a “weird hippie.” Clearly I lacked originality, but hey, I was in the fourth grade, I didn’t know that. Since I didn’t have hippie clothes or money to buy any, I raided my older brother’s closet and found his off-white, color-striped bell bottoms. He wouldn’t know I wore them, right? I’d just slip them back in his closet at the end of the night. If I would have known then that the next time I brought them home they would be covered in poo, I wouldn’t have taken them.

I Soiled My Brother’s Bell Bottoms On Halloween

As I said before, I was in the 4th grade when it happened. I wish I could say it was the last time I soiled my pants, but alas, two years living in Mexico and a dairy intolerance would make that statement a lie. It was Halloween night and I was happy as a weird hippie could be trick or treating in the neighborhoods within a couple mile radius of my parents’ house. Everyone was opening their doors, candy was being tossed about like a drug lord’s money, and crazy kids were snatching it up without hesitation and slipping it into their plastic buckets or pillow cases.

All was well and then it happened. My stomach started to growl a vicious growl, a growl so low and rumbly it could only mean one thing: if I didn’t get to a bathroom soon, I was going to mess my pants.

I hurried to the next house. The owner opened the door, candy bucket in hand, waiting for me to say the three magic words. But trick or treat never left my mouth, instead a rushed, perhaps overly excited, “Can I use your bathroom?” passed through my lips. The large man in the dumb orange shirt that had This Is My Halloween Costume written on the front gawked as if he’d never heard such a request. I recomposed and said, “please,” but to no success. He just handed me a peanut butter taffy and said, “I don’t think so.”

I rushed to several more houses and asked the same question to the same results. Somehow, every decent person in the world was willing to open their door and hand out candy to strangers, but no one would let me use their bathroom—candy cost money, letting me go to the bathroom cost nothing and I’d even flush a couple of times during the download so it didn’t stink. No argument prevailed. I had but one course left: run the mile or so to my parents’ house. Which, if you have any experience in nearly pooping your pants, you know is a near impossibility.

I made it to the field 100 yards from my house and had to stop running. I shuffled forward a few feet but it was of no use. My stomach won the race and my clenched buttocks unclenched. The next thing I knew I was in my parents’ laundry room throwing out my socks.

Despite The Mess, Halloween Was Still A Success

My brother came home before I could scrape the pants and properly wash them. He was mad and relentlessly mocked me. But that’s okay. Moments later, changed into my PJs, I was sitting Native American style in a circle with my siblings. I was once more a participating member in our annual candy trading session. The delicious sweets overshadowed the accident and I made some good trades. After all that had happened, the night was not a waste (no pun intended). And it only took a few years for my brother to stop calling me poopy hippie.

As messy as that Halloween was, it is cemented (perhaps not the best word to use here) in my memory as one of my favorite Hallow’s Eve memories. It was hilarious.

For Those Of You Who Like Scary More Than Silly, Check This Out:

If you have a little money and a bit of time and you love the frightening aspect of Halloween, you should probably visit these seven terrifying haunted attractions around the world:

http://www.priorityonejets.com/blog/just-tell-make-believe-7-terrifying-haunted-attractions-around-world/

Happy Halloween! Have any scary or embarrassing memories of October 31st? I bet you can’t top mine.

 

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My Near-Death Experience In A Snow Igloo

A quinzhee made in Finland

Our igloo looked nothing like this one.

In honor of winter—everyone’s favorite season—I’ll be traveling back in time to a more care-free period of my existence. I was 14 or maybe 15, I had a great group of friends, and I lived in a small town about 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia.

Unlike the thick and blustery winters I experience here, in Salt Lake City, the winters there were pretty pathetic; and people’s preparation for the cold was even more pathetic—they’d close school for one inch of snow. Here, kids trudge and shiver through feet of snow on their way to elementary school. But that’s beside the point.

One Time I Almost Died

Or at least, in the moment, I really thought, “This is it. This is how I’m heading out of this cold world.” And when I thought cold, I was referring to the weather. Like I mentioned before, it was winter.

As it didn’t snow a ton in Pennsylvania, my pals and I did the best with the snow we had. One day, possibly a weekend, probably a weekday after school, we were making an igloo in the only probable spot: the pile of snow made by the city plow.

Now, all of us came from good homes with good parents and had heard from our moms that making igloos is a dangerous business; “kids die in them every year.” We’d also heard our dads say, “when you make an igloo, make sure to pack the snow first, so it doesn’t collapse.” We happily ignored both bits of counsel. Igloos are fun and packing the snow beforehand makes them smaller.

English: An igloo made for fun by teenage boys...

Here’s another sample of what our igloo DID NOT look like. And those aren’t my shoes.

The snow mound was probably six to eight feet tall. We had excavated a sizable hole and were in the process of shaping the inside and outside. My friends worked on the outer edge as I cleared snow from the inside—something I realize now was not the safest of arrangements.

They (I’m not sure who they are) say your senses amplify when you’re about to die, that your survival instincts kick in and your suddenly able to see, hear, smell, and taste everything clearer than ever before. I do remember hearing the crunch and then feeling the crack in my back when the igloo collapsed and six feet of snow pinned me to the ground, but what I remember most is not being able to breathe.

My life didn’t pass before my eyes. I didn’t see the faces of my loved ones or reach out longingly to my future wife. I just thought, “you gotta be kidding me. I’m going to die like this, trapped in a pile of dirty snow and gravel. What a dumb way to die.” Of course I was scared, but I was almost more angry. I could’t go like this.

I had already tried to lift myself and failed. But somehow I found the strength and the will to get my knees beneath me. From there, with all the force I could muster, I pushed upward, towards the sky, towards life. To my amazement it worked. My face broke the surface. I took a deep breath and was dug out by my panicked friends.

Once I was out my friends started laughing. I said nothing to them. I just threw punches in their direction. Without a word I headed home. Those dumb kids had no idea how frightened and mad I was. Only now do I realize that I was only able to get out because they were digging on top, probably frantically digging. I never said thanks. Thanks friends.

For two weeks I could barely move. My back just hurt too bad. I probably sprained it. But I was breathing, walking, alive—something I need to remember more often.

I’m breathing, walking, alive.

Happy Winter. Don’t make igloos.

Have you had a near-death experience? What happened? What ran through your mind?

Building an iglu in Cape Dorset (southern regi...

This isn’t me.

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Horse Trotting Through The Mall With Claire

Yesterday Rinda picked me up from work and we drove home together. It was nice. Instead of two hours on bus and train, it was only 50 minutes in car, and I was with my family.

Play Time

We didn’t go straight home, which was also nice. We went to the mall. Rinda went to West Elm to order a butter dish. Claire and I stayed outside to play. A creek runs through the middle of this mall and there are benches, chairs, and couches spread throughout, most on the banks of the small river. I don’t know why, but I told Claire that it would be so funny to run and sit on a chair.
We did. We ran. We giggled. We sat on a chair, very briefly, and then we ran to the next sitting spot. Claire thought this was the funniest, most fun thing in the world. And she was right. Running through this mall, pretending to be on a horse and trotting my way down the winding paths, my little girl at my heels or right in front of me, her crazy curly hair flying behind her, her small hand pointing to a chair in the distance and saying, “look dad, that one is sooo funny” is the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. And I’m not exaggerating.

Looking Like A Fool 

Rinda loved seeing her grown-up husband horse trot through the mall giggling like a little kid too. Actually, she didnt’t care at all, because like me, she knows that looking like a fool in public is worth it if it makes your child happy. That being said, she probably could have done without my yelling, “hi ho silver” as I galloped about.

I love my family.

PS, the short dance parties we had in every store that was playing dancey music were also awesome.

We ended the night with Mexican food (see video below). What a day.

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Halloween Decorations = The Secret To Happiness

I once wrote a post that essentially said, life is more exciting, even happier, if you have something to look forward to. Traditions, even the smallest ones, play a large role in setting the stage for joyous experiences.

The Difference Between Grown Ups And Kids

Busy adults push events and moments out of their minds until they crash down upon them; but not kids, kids are pros at anticipation. If they know a summer trip to the lake is around the corner, they’ll prepare physically and emotionally—swim trunks and plastic boats will be carefully set aside and memories of water fights and sunburns will splash around in their mind.

Remember, One Secret To Happiness Is Remembering

I believe the secret to happiness (of all sorts) comes down to remembering. So, have something worth remembering and remember it! Halloween is a little over a month away. Many adults, even those that don’t get excited for Hallow’s Eve, might say, “look, with all the stores, magazines, and advertisements attacking me with orange and black, it’s near impossible to forget Halloween!” Touche. But not forgetting and remembering are two different things.

I know my birthday is in January. I don’t forget that. I do, however, forget to remember what my birthday used to mean… means. When I take the time to remember, my birthday becomes so much more fun and well, meaningful.

Halloween may be silly, but do you remember how exciting it was for you as a kid? Your parents let you play dress up in the streets, you got to knock on random doors, and for some reason, they all handed out free candy. AWESOME! And let’s not forget the activities at school, the parties, the hayrides, etc.!

What if you no longer trick or treat? What if you have no children candy beggars to take around the neighborhood? It’s still Halloween, October, fall! You’re not dead. Eat some candy, bake some apples, make a pumpkin pie, tell ghost stories, watch Halloween movies, throw a party, have a Halloween themed dance or talent show—even if it’s just with a few friends. And for crying out loud, wear a costume, one that you’ve been thinking about for at least a couple of weeks. I admit, I am the worst at this. I always end up throwing a leather jacket on and saying I’m a greaser. Lame. Not this year.

Skull salt and pepper shakers on top of an awesome table-cloth. Good purchases Rinda!

Decorate, Decorate, Decorate

If you can’t get in the mood for Halloween, if you just can’t get excited, decorate, decorate, decorate! Everyone knows that decorations are great for pumping kids up, but they can be great for big people too. Throw some fun decs around your house and you’ll soon see how it helps you—even Ebeneezer Scrooge—feel festive. And throw them up early! For example, there’s no reason that Birthday decorations should only be set up the day of a birthday. If you want a kid (or an adult) to get really excited for his/her birthday, talk about it months before, set up decorations the week of, and then do something super special the day of. Your child’s (or weird roommate’s) eyes will glow.

It’s the same with Halloween. Fill your house with celebration, pumpkins, skulls, skeletons, Monster Mash on repeat, the scent of pie and candy, etc. Do that, and your dreams of a happy, exciting Halloween just may come true.

*If all you can do is stay at home and be grouchy, don’t be one of those houses that shuts all their lights out. Hand out some candy, good candy, not peanut butter taffy, and watch how excited the kids get when you drop it into their plastic pumpkin or ratty pillow case.

Now, tell me something AWESOME you’re doing this Halloween so I can copy you!

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I’m Creating A Ham

As a parent I’m interested in helping my child discover and develop talents and skills. Rather than force my own interests on her—her existing in the same space as me is influence enough—I do my best to notice and point out things she does well or shows interest in.

Dancing

For example, from a young age Claire has loved to dance, more so than most little ones. So I made a point to encourage her dancing. I took the time to compliment her on her moves—even if it was nothing more than an over excited head bob. Today, she still loves to dance, and I love to dance with her. Her focus and ability to remember the little moves I’ve taught her is quite impressive. Where there’s music, she’ll be the first and last person dancing. I love it when she says, “daddy, I wanna dance wit you.”

Hamming

But dancing is not all she loves or does well. She is also a ham. My two-year-old daughter is constantly doing and saying things that are hilarious. Trouble is, and true to our family heritage, she’s doing most of it intentionally, so she knows (or thinks) she’s funny. I’m partially to blame. I see humor as a very important talent—it helps us find joy, companionship (my wife certainly wasn’t smitten by my looks when we met), it’s fun!, it serves as a stress reliever and a coping mechanism… “I could go on forever baby” (name that movie reference).

So, if Claire is good at “being funny,” why not encourage her sense of humor. When she does something that cracks me up I honestly tell her, “that was funny Claire,” or “you’re funny,” and she knows and appreciates what I mean. She is now stopping me to say, “daddy, watch” right before she makes a funny face, body movement, or strange voice. She is being a comedian (I’m sure future school teachers are just going to LOVE me).

Vine Time With Daddy

Another thing she loves is “daddy time.” Every so often, when Rinda is busy or tired, I’ll take Claire out on a daddy-daughter date. This could be dinner, shopping, a simple walk around downtown, or just hanging out at home. She loves it. In fact, sometimes we’ll all be walking out the door and Claire will push Rinda back inside and say, “seeya in a bit mommy, I going with daddy.”

So, knowing that she loves being funny and doing stuff with Dad, I decided to start making short six second videos using Vine. Claire and I act and Rinda films and directs. Claire loves watching back the videos and repeating her lines. It’s really silly and really fun, and here is the evidence:

(Hover over the image and click the speaker icon in the top left corner for sound.)

Did you like the videos? We plan on making more, so keep an eye on the channel. Do you have fun activities you like to do with your child or family member (nephew, niece, etc.)? Tell me in the comments below or else… JK, but seriously, tell me.

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A Summertime Walk With My Two-Year-Old Daughter

20130907-215435.jpg

If it’s summertime and you decide to go for a walk, try and go with a child. That way the pacing is perfect and the realizations are lovely.

Our Walk, My Awakening

Sidewalks melt like abandoned popsicles into rivers of pavement and lakes of grass, all while my daughter Claire skips ahead, happy not to be tethered to her stroller, and completely uncaring that the path she errantly travels has no known destination.

I would do well to learn from her example. She travels slowly and stops to investigate every sound and scent that meets her inexperienced senses. The airplanes and birds that fly overhead don’t go unnoticed, the flowers we pass don’t go unseen or unsmelled.

She’s the perfect travel companion—not anxious for an agenda but excited for adventure. Her only concern is that we keep moving forward.

I hover close behind, watching her watch the world and doing my very best to see it like she sees it. It’s beautiful, she’s beautiful, and I’m happy to think she’s mine, to love and to shape (I just hope I don’t corrupt her natural greatness). I get to watch her grow and luckily, I get to re-experience this madness that we call life through her eyes—what a blessing.

Goodbye Summer

*This post is obviously late in coming, but, I guess the saying is true, better late than never. Rather than forget the realizations I had when this walk took place, I thought I’d put them down on paper (or internet) as a way to remember, and as a way to say goodbye to summer.

Looking Forward to Sugar Cereal and Life

The father of my childhood friend was a genius. He never used words like saxicolous, I never saw his SAT scores or overheard a neighbor talk about his IQ, but I knew, even at the age of seven, that he was brilliant. Today, my opinion of him remains the same; the only thing that has changed is my reason for believing he was so smart.

My friend’s dad did the shopping for his family, but it was more than buying eggs. He had a rotation. Every time he went to the grocery store, he’d take one of his three sons. That son was his personal assistant and the official family cereal-chooser. When my friend told me he could choose any cereal (that he wasn’t limited to Cheerios, Cornflakes, and Rice Krispies) and that, when they were in the check-out lane, his dad would always lean down and encourage him to select any snack, I about lost it. Who was this man and did he teach courses on genius fathering?

A dad that let his son choose whatever cereal he wanted and candy — images of Butterfingers, Sweetarts, and Big League Chew electrified my being  — had to be the next Gandhi, Mother Teresa’s Uncle, or at least the long lost brother of the Ninja Turtles. He was giving and awesome  — gawesome. I knew he was the wisest of men; he got us little guys; he won over his sons (and me) with sugar cereal and gawesomeness.

Today, I still admire my friend’s dad. I look back and still conclude that he was brilliant, giving, and awesome — I won’t combine all three — but, what I realize now is that, his smarts had nothing to do with grocery stores, bubble gum, or even sugar cereal.

Starting a family and becoming a father has let me in on a secret. Because of his father, my friend had something to look forward to every month. Isn’t the magic behind traditions, holidays, birthdays, vacations, weekends, and movie releases found in the excitement that comes with looking forward? I respond with a loud, boisterous, and reassuring YES.

Some might be thinking, “big deal.” Well, I am thinking, “What a discovery!”

Want to know why last year’s birthday wasn’t nearly as exciting as your tenth birthday? I don’t know about other people, but these years, with a few exceptions where rude people remind me I’ll be turning ___ in so many months, I hardly even think about my birthday until the month before. Unlike my worry-free younger years, life distracts me until it’s basically too late. I know this isn’t the case for everyone; there are plenty of individuals who still get giddy at the thought of a birthday six months away (and I applaud them), but why?

My childhood birthday was awesome because I looked forward to it. I looked forward to much more than a day; I looked forward to the the events of the day (and I knew them well). Birthdays in my family included, but were not limited to, going to a dollar movie with all my sibs, ordering 5 Buck Pizza and buying generic grape, orange, and root beer soda.  It included a cake or lemon meringue pie (for me) with candles on top, and usually some small, but ever so exciting, toy. It may not sound that great to some but it was heaven on earth to me. I loved birthdays. If my next birthday followed my childhood birthday agenda to a tee, I would be thrilled.

So what does it all mean?

The idea for this post came after Rinda and I had a great conversation about easy ways to make life wonderful. We concluded that starting and maintaining family traditions was key. Rinda’s family is pro when it comes to getting excited about traditions. The amazing thing is, their traditions are simple but make things so much more enjoyable. For example, whenever they go to the beach they always order “the best” calamari from the same dumpy old bar; when they go to Disneyland, they can’t leave without eating “the best” sour cherries and churros in the world — they get more excited about the food than the rides. Brilliant.

Rinda and I want Claire’s life to be simple but ever so exciting. How can we help make that a reality? We have challenged ourselves to start and maintain a simple family tradition for every month of the year. These traditions will be planned, marked on the calendar, and spoken of regularly. As the years go by, more traditions can join the table.

This last Christmas was incredible for many reasons. My whole family (with the exception of Christian, that jerk) was present, we had a schedule of events and we did them! Most exciting — and I promise I will post about all of this in detail — were the returning traditions: our annual Home Alone movie watching Marathon (1 and 2 back to back with Little Nero’s Pizza, throwback Pepsi, and ice cream sundaes), our Christmas Eve Twas the Night Before Christmas gift exchange, and the Christmas Eve cracker and cheese fest.

See what I mean? Simple things to look forward to = an exciting life to live.

Traditions can start today. You can call making a new, homemade Christmas ornament each year a tradition, even if Great, Great, Great, Grandfather Merle, from the Highlands of Scotland, never did it. I give the world my permission to do so.

Start traditions. Start living. Find ways to look forward to life.

What are some of your simple or not-so simple traditions? What do you look forward to? Please share in the COMMENTS!

UNFUNNY HUSBAND MOMENT: Rinda wanted records (vinyl) for Christmas. I bought her two. To trick her on Christmas day, I also bought a calendar that looks like a record when wrapped. When she was opening it, I told her to be careful, it could break; she was thinking “this is definitely a record,” she was wrong; it was a calendar jam-packed with pictures of wolves in their natural habitat.

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