Fun With Numbers

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2013-04-26 12.45.07_1As if the approaching day when the number that represents my years on this planet begins with three isn’t enough to remind me that I’m getting old, my son is two, and I can’t think of a better metaphor for the blur that life has become than that.

Sometimes I go crazy with numbers, not because I aspire to be Rain Man or Jim Carrey’s character from “23”, but because manipulating numbers sometimes helps to put things into perspective. For example, Mason is two. That means he only has 16 more birthdays before he’s an adult. He has completed 1/9 of his childhood already, and is 1/6 of the way through his preteen years. Sounds crazy, but with how fast these last two years went, it’s just another constant reminder that every second counts – and these years are no less finite than those seconds. While his little brain is trying to process everything that’s happening, ours is trying to process everything that’s happened – including these last two years.

If you would have asked me two years ago where I thought I’d be at this point, chances are slim that I would have said blogging about my son’s birthday. Then again, if you would have asked me two years before that where I thought I’d be in two years, my answer surely wouldn’t have been, “Bringing my baby home from the hospital.” But, once again, looking at how numbers can put things into perspective, four years ago we weren’t talking about kids, two years ago we were bringing one home, and today we are celebrating his second birthday. I still sometimes find myself struggling to come to grips with this new concept of time that children introduce to us.

Thankfully, cameras give us the ability to freeze time, if only for a split second, and allow us to go back and relive those seconds as often as we want, whether they’re over the span of a year or a lifetime.

As we celebrate Mason’s second birthday, and begin looking ahead to the next year, every new word he says, every new thing he does, every new accomplishment for him, will continue to be that constant reminder that time waits for no one and every second counts. After all, you only get so many in a year.

31,557,600 to be exact (assuming the extra slightly-less-than 1/4 day to account for leap year).

Which, if you multiply by two and divide that by the total number of seconds in 18 years, and multiply by 100, you’ll find that Mason has already lived slightly more than 11% of his childho…ok, ok, I’ll stop…

Doing What Works

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If there’s one thing that I’ve learned during the 21 short months that I’ve been trying to hone my parenting skills, it’s that there is no perfect way to parent. Oh, but Dr. So-and-so’s guide to perfect parenting and your pediatrician’s oh-so-helpful (yet poorly timed and sometimes teetering on condescending) tips and hints would suggest otherwise. Look, I’m not discounting some of their claims or writing them off as crazed, know-it-all, I’m-smarter-than-you-because-I’m-a-doctor people. However, they are not the ones parenting your child(ren) nor are they capable of knowing and understanding your child(ren) when they only see them for a half hour every few months. Yet, everywhere you look, you find these guides, how-to books, and manuals on parenting authored by doctors and pediatricians.

Nobody knows your child(ren) better than you. Therefore, you tailor your parenting style around them to best suit their needs. Yet time after time, you are told that you’re not doing it right because Dr. So-and-so’s guide says otherwise. As if the stress of parenting isn’t enough in and of itself, you are now faced with the pressures of the societal status quo of parenting that is based on as many ideas as a person can cram between two covers, publish, and receive endorsements for, and is taken verbatim in comparison to real life experience.

I believe one of the greatest tools of parenting is flexibility. There are certain areas where consistency is needed, yes, but in the grand scheme of things, there is nothing about parenting that is consistent. You will always be walking a fine line between judgment and rationale that can only be balanced by flexibility. A book cannot teach you how to find that balance.

For us, our way of finding that balance is by doing what works. It may not always be right in the eyes of the “experts” who have somehow universally mastered the art of parenting, but as long as your decisions and methods are always in the best interest of your child(ren), it can’t ever be wrong.

Guides, how-to books, and manuals should be reserved for things that require systematic processes. Things that require consistency. Neither of which, in broad context, define parenting.

In short, we are raising children, not robots. So let’s put the books down and use the tools we were given by life. When it’s all said and done, you’ll find that you never needed a book at all. Experience is the reference for life, and that’s something that you’ll never find in any collection of ideas between any two covers.

Random Things I’ve Learned Along The Way: Part Two

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When a toddler tells you no, it means no. When you tell a toddler no, it means challenge accepted.

Bribery, used wisely, is an acceptable tactic in parenting.

Running around the house naked is okay for a toddler. However, for an adult, it’s frowned upon.

I’m not quite sure why baby poop hasn’t been investigated as a form of biological warfare.

There’s gotta be a way to harvest the energy emitted by a child. I think my kid would power New York City for a week by himself.

Speaking of energy, now I understand why our parents needed to take a break so often. I bend over to tie my shoes and I need a nap.

If they’re fussy eaters, just leave it in front of them. They will eventually eat it. Or throw it in a fit of rage.

Pillow forts are just as cool today as they were 20 years ago.

After giving Mason a bath, I sometimes find that I’m toweling myself off more than him.

Cat treats are for cats only. Or so I thought.

When your child wants to express their displeasure with you, you will know it. So will everyone within a ten mile radius.

When you offer to share your food with your child, they will refuse until it’s all gone, at which point it becomes your fault that they didn’t get any.

Another use for duct tape: Keeping your kid’s plate food-side-up.

Clipping a toddler’s fingernails and toenails should qualify as minor surgery.

Thank God for the DVR. I don’t even need to explain.

Puke – it was easy when it was just formula. Now? Can’t do it. Nope. Not happening.

Remember those rules and the “we’re DEFINITELY not doing that!s” that you put in place before having a child? Yeah, about that…

Mason produces more gas on a daily basis than the Marcellus shale has over the course of a million years.

I think it’s time for us to get Mason a helmet. No, not for a bike. For walking around the house.

The vacuum is apparently a fascinating thing. Mason loves it. I don’t get it. He cries when we’re done. I cry when I have to start.

Until next time….

Defined by Dad

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Part of life’s progression is finding an identity for yourself – finding out who you are and what defines you. You try to develop ways to narrow down what seems to be an endless list of things that interest you, careers you may like, and hobbies you enjoy all in an effort to finally say, “that’s what defines me.” For some of us, myself included, it can be a struggle to reach that point.

Then, on June 7, 2011, at 8:39 in the morning, from the floor of the operating room where I lay from nearly passing out, crackers and orange juice in hand, surrounded by more nurses than my wife who had a gaping hole in her stomach, my struggles were over, hobbies and careers no longer played a part in my soul-searching, and my list was finally narrowed down to one thing. In that instant, whatever purpose I had convinced myself defined my existence went out that second story window and was replaced by Mason.

I’m defined by kissing boo-boos (real and fake), playing peek-a-boo, a shirt over my nose when I change diapers as if it’s some kind of radioactive waste, and saying “no-no” about a million times a day. I’m defined by a house with toys strewn from one end to the other, more food on me and the floor than in Mason’s stomach, and reading books over, and over, and over again. I’m defined by sharing ice cream, cookies, cereal, and whatever other junk food I have (within reason), partaking in discussions about Bubble Guppies (what’s up with Nonny never smiling or expressing emotion?), and wiping snots when he’s sick. I’m defined by the memories of the past 19 months of his life and the hopes and desires I have for the future. I’m defined by the responsibility I have to him to be whatever he needs me to be and to love and protect him until I take my last breath.

I’m defined by Dad.

It’s a limitless definition, one that I can control and make up as I go along, and whose evolution and change parallels Mason’s. It’s something in which I take great pride, and there is no better way to be defined than that.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sometimes in life we all need a reminder to help keep things in perspective. A reminder that, for many of us, we have more to be thankful for than we realize. It’s only human that we sometimes lose sight of the important things in life that keep us in check and provide us with that reminder. And what better opportunity to reflect upon what you’re thankful for than the Thanksgiving holiday?

So, in no particular order, here are the things that I’m thankful for. Not just now, but every day.

-          I’m thankful for my wife. I know I’m not the most ideal person to live with sometimes (much less be married to!), but she still hasn’t run away yet. Small victories, people, small victories…

-          I’m thankful for my son. He is my world and my motivation for everything. I can’t picture my life without him, nor do I want to.

-          I’m thankful for the home we live in. We don’t own it, but we have made it ours. And it will always have a special meaning to us.

-          I’m thankful for my job. I have been given a great opportunity and get to work with some really great people. (Shameless schmooze).

-          I’m thankful for the clothes we have. They may not say Aeropostale or Abercrombie, but the name doesn’t make them any warmer.

-          I’m thankful that my father’s diagnosis was not cancer.

-          I’m thankful for the friends that I have. Whether I’ve known you my whole life or met you along the way, I appreciate your friendship.

-          I’m thankful for the food we have to eat.

-          I’m thankful for my immediate and extended family that has kept in touch over the years, even if we may not get to see each other often.

-          I’m thankful for the family I have that have passed on too soon, and the time that I had with them, especially Steve, Mikey, Josh, Pop and Uncle Kenny, all of whom I think about every day.

-          I’m thankful for my parents, for if not for their raging hormones, I would not be here.

There is certainly a lot more that I’m thankful for, but at the risk of causing you to enter a vegetative state, I will stop there.

I don’t need lavish house, I don’t need a fancy vehicle, I don’t need a six-figure salary, and I don’t need a bank account busting at the seams with money. I already have everything I need – a loving wife, an amazing little boy, a roof over our heads, food on the table, health, and clothes on our backs.

And that makes me far richer than any amount of money or material possessions ever could.

Happy Thanskgiving everyone!

Carrying on a Family Tradition

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As we get closer to Thanksgiving, I can’t help but get excited. It is my favorite holiday (well, tied with Christmas) and I looked forward to it every year growing up (and still do). However, it does bring a bit of sadness as well.

Up until my Grandfather passed away, Thanksgiving dinner was always a big tradition for my family. My Grandmother would cook enough food to feed ten armies and family would come in from all over (to be quite honest, there were so many of us, random people from off the street could have walked in there and nobody would have known any better). We would sit down for dinner and in between the clinking of silverware on our plates, we would laugh, talk, and enjoy each other’s company. This would continue well into the night. The kids would all play together and the adults would share stories, inside jokes, and laugh some more over a few or ten glasses of wine and a cheese ball (which I found, and still find, repulsive). Football and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Snoozefest, er..I mean parade, were on TV and, sometimes, my cousin would bring his acoustic guitar and sit on the kitchen floor and play songs while everyone sang. The Santa parade would pass through town in the evening followed by a trip to the hosie to see Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty. Afterwards, we would put up the Christmas tree and assemble the little town below it on a platform built by my Uncle. It was a family tradition like no other. Call me crazy, but at this time of year when I walk into my Grandmother’s house, I swear I can still smell that Thanksgiving dinner cooking.

I miss those days.

As important as that tradition was to me, and as fond as I am of the memories (and believe me, there are LOTS), it’s a tradition that hasn’t been followed for the last ten years or so. The family dynamic has changed over those years and my Grandmother just didn’t have it in her to continue cooking that huge dinner without my Grandfather here with us. And I don’t blame her. He was a huge part of our lives, just like she is.

I guess it’s just the way things go sometimes.

Last year, my wife and I cooked dinner for Mason’s first Thanksgiving (his dinner was a jar of pureed turkey, pureed sweet potatoes, and pureed green beans – he hated it, of course). I wouldn’t have felt right if we hadn’t cooked, which I think is a reflection of how important that family tradition was to me growing up. Afterwards, we put up the Christmas tree – just like we had in years passed. This year we will be cooking dinner again, and I hope to eventually make it into something as big as what I used to have. There was just something about sitting around a huge table, stuffing food down our gullets (not that I don’t do this – and thoroughly enjoy it – every opportunity I get), and spending time together as a family that seemed to bring out the best in everyone. Even if it was just for that one day, it was an opportunity to forget all the petty things in life and focus on what was most important – each other.

Sometimes it’s the smallest things in life that have the greatest impact, and this, for me, was one of those things. I hope that one day Mason will realize the same thing, and be able to look back on family traditions of our own that we will have, and carry those on into his future, share them with his children, and remember them as fondly as I do mine.

I strongly believe that as their Grandchildren, this is what my Grandmother and Grandfather hoped for and wanted for us as well.

And now, years later, fully understanding how important it was to them, it makes it that much more important to me to fulfill their hopes and desires by carrying on their tradition.

Everyday Heroes

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It seems as though it’s always during times of adversity that heroes emerge from otherwise everyday people, and this story more than justifies that sentiment. A father shields his four children from a hail of bullets, only to lose his life. His four-year-old son was shot in the head and later died. Two other children are critically wounded, and another managed to get away unharmed. The gunman, who also set the house on fire, apparently then took his own life.

The story is heartbreaking, to say the least, and it’s just one of many similar stories that depict events like this that occur every day. Too many questions will be left unanswered, and what can be answered will surely lead to more questions. However, one thing is certain – the parents of these children are nothing short of true heroes. A father who didn’t think twice about jumping on top of his children amidst a barrage of bullets in an effort to save their lives, sacrificing his own, and a mother who, despite being shot in both legs, found the strength to carry her dying son out of the house.

It’s a scene that no parent should ever have to envision themselves being a part of.

We could spend days, weeks, or even months analyzing, questioning, and trying to find reasoning for violent acts like this, especially those against children, or we could take that time to remind ourselves of the unspoken vow that we take as parents to protect our children – a vow that both of these parents honored with dignity, bravery, and selflessness. It restores a little bit of hope for the world to know that there are parents who cherish and appreciate the gift that they were given.

These children now undoubtedly have a lifetime of heartache ahead of them, but they can rest assured knowing they were in good hands throughout this ordeal, and will continue to be moving forward. They can carry with them the honor and respect that their parents deserve for making the ultimate sacrifice, acting out of love and instinct, in a situation that provided no time to make a decision.

Then again, they had already subconsciously made that decision.

Just like the rest of us.