Monday, June 20, 2011


Working in education for the past 10 years, I have gotten to know a lot of kids.  I have often felt that God has put me in these kids lives so I can help teach them something.  Other times, I have honestly felt that God put some special kids in my life so they could teach me something.  In all of my years a few special kids stick out in my mind.  Two of these students I met during my first few years as a high school principal.  These kids stood out because they had a combination of characteristics that I like to describe as "fireproof."  One happened to be a female and the other a male.  They were several grades apart and for all I know, they never even really knew each other.

Each of these kids...

  • ...was a unique individual.  They were unaffected by the usual fads and passing fancies of normal high school existence.  Where as many high-schoolers biggest fear is standing out or being different, these kids simply did not care.  They embraced their individuality and brought out the unique traits of others.  They followed their own drummers, and often, that drew others to them.  It was always interesting to see how much other kids, from every different social group, respected these two individuals.  I believe even the stereotypical self-involved, boy (or girl) crazy, self absorbed teenagers saw a difference in these young people that they themselves wished they had as well.  
  • ...put others before themselves.  They were deeply in-tuned to the fact that there is a great big world around them full of people with needs, both big and small.  Even as 16 year old kids, they were eager to find ways to help meet those needs.  Whether that meant volunteering for local organizations or taking on mission trips halfway around the world, they lived their lives for others.  
  • ...were leaders.  They were not the student body president or the team captain, but they led nonetheless.  Leadership is not a position, it is an ability and they had it in spades.  
  • ...had a deep sense of faith and family.  I consider myself a spiritual man.  My Christian faith is very important to me and has sustained me during the tough times in my life.  These two kids that come to mind each had their own deep seated sense of faith.  Faith in God, faith in their families and friends, and faith in the basic goodness of the human race.    
  • ...understood the point of life.  It was clear that these kids knew that life is about collecting experiences, and that friendship, love, and the memories they make are the only things that matter in the end.  
  • ...lived life on purpose.  They didn't have every step of their life's journey planned out in detail.  I don't believe any teenager should...heck I'm 33 and I can't tell you for sure what I want to "do" with the rest of my life.  However, they knew they were here for a reason and their goal seemed to be to help others as much as they could, where they were at that time, and live life intentionally.  Too often teenagers sit back and wait for life to happen to them.  We stereotype them as lazy and indifferent.  Those adjectives will never be used to described these two young people.  
To sum it up, they were fireproof.  Fireproof because they seemed almost immune to the fires that can consume young people in the tumultuous teenage years.  The fire of indifference, the fire of popularity, the fire of selfishness, and the fire of "cool."  Don't get me wrong, I did not know everything about these kids.  I am sure they have had their moments of self doubt, fear, and weakness when dealing with trials, just as we all do.  But the way they lived their lives day in and day out is a testament to their fireproof nature.  For as long as I live I will never forget these two students. 

I often wonder, what makes these kids the way they are?  They both have awesome parents and caring families.  They have surrounded themselves with friends that build them up and make them better people.  Do genetics play a role?  Is there a manual for this stuff?  

As my wife and I work on our most important calling in life, the raising of three daughters and a son, my hope is that we can instill and cultivate this same fireproof nature in each of them.  I can think of no greater advantage to give any kid as they navigate the fires of life.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Choose Everyday

I love watching sporting events. I am a fan of the Cubs and am working to instill this love into the hearts of my kids. My oldest, Connor, just turned 7 two days ago and it hit my that he is halfway to an age where his friends will be a more preferable hangout choice than good old dad. Though my impact will still remain, I also know the time I have for maximum influence is closing much too quickly. And being the Cubs aren't likely to win the World Series until he is 90, I have my work cut out for me.

On a more serious note, I often miss fathering opportunities. It is so easy for me to go into my daily routine and not use the time I have with my children. How quickly days and weeks can pass where I look back and wonder about my influence. Am I modeling joy, peace. courage, love and care? Do I exemplify a positive model of what it means to be a husband and a father? Do I teach my children or do I just assume their environment will be their primary instructor? These questions keep me striving to take advantage of this time. I made a choice almost 8 years ago to be a father, but truthfully, the choice to father a child is much different than actually being a father. I must choose everyday to be a father. Though I love my kids beyond explanation, I also know my feelings of love don't equate to me being a great father. Proverbs 22 says we are to "start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." Today I will choose to be a father. I pray that every day I will make this same choice. And if I can help them love the Cubs, so be it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Release the control!

You will probably learn very quickly that I'm not a very serious guy and I won't write about many "deep" subjects. Tonight I will dive into a subject that is near and dear to many Dad's hearts. Before we had Caden, I was always in control. I made the decisions, I press the buttons, and very rarely did I allow Julie to control our lives. Now, I know what you are thinking, what a control freak! Actually, that is very accurate. I was a control freak, a remote control freak.

Before kids, I regularly watched nearly any sports games I wanted to, caught every Office episode as it was being aired, and could easily sneak in a show on the Food Network just for fun. Then came Caden. I'm no longer the king of the remote control. Instead of SportsCenter in the morning, we are watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Instead of The Office on Thursday nights, we are watching "The Wonder Pets" just before it's time to read books. As for watching live TV shows, don't count on it. If we want to watch something not on Nick Jr. or Disney, we need to DVR it and watch it after bed time.

For the most part, the TV is off most of the time at our house when Caden is home and awake. Yet, when it's on and he is active, it's not on a channel that Julie or myself would prefer to watch. I will say though that I have become quite fond of many of his shows due to either watching them with him or having them on DVD for various rides in the SUV. Here are my top five shows (note: Caden is two years old).

1. The Wonder Pets - Ming Ming Duck pulls some great one liners out of her hat. Many of them make me laugh while Caden doesn't quite get the joke.

2. Olivia - Something about a show with talking pigs is pretty cool, right?

3. Phineas and Ferb - Ok, this show hasn't quite caught Caden's attention but I love watching it! Plus, it's a got a sweet theme song.... "There's a 104 days of summer vacation..."

4. Jake and the Never Land Pirates - Brand new show on Disney that has the old school looking Captain Hook from the original Disney Peter Pan. Different voice though.

5. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - This isn't the Mickey Mouse from my days but it's still entertaining. You will learn who "Toodles" is and the words to "The Hot Dog Song".

Oh, one show that I hate: Yo Gabba Gabba. Incredible creepy. Enjoy your new favorite channel lineup. You are not the only one watching.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Our Anniversary....with Four Kids

My wife and I were married 8 years and 364 days ago today.  For those who aren't great at math that means our 9th anniversary is tomorrow.  The picture above is us on our wedding day. Don't we look so young, vibrant, and full of energy.  We had the world by the tail and all we needed was love.

The past nine years have taken us on quite an adventure.  As a couple we have gone through 5 jobs, 2 Masters Degrees, 4 houses, and created four new lives. We still have the world by the tail, but now all we need is a nap.  By the world's standards we are still quite young, I just turned 33 and my wife is only 30.  Outwardly we still look fairly similar to the picture we took on our wedding day.  However the ride we have been on together for the past 3285 days has left us often feeling more like this:

Our first anniversary was magical, a two day trip to Chicago that included trips to the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the top of the Sears Tower.  Wonderful dinners and a beautiful hotel made it a memorable anniversary indeed.  Compared to that, tomorrow's "celebration" will be a markedly different affair. It will probably include a 6:30am wakeup call and "what's for breakfast Dad?", baths x4, dress up time, diaper changes, baby feedings, dinner at home, and bedtime stories.  When 8:30 comes and three of the four are tucked in their beds, I will look lovingly into the eyes of my one true love, and yawn.  This won't bother her however, because she will probably be asleep sitting up on the couch.

Make no mistake, we are more in love than we were even on that wonderful day in June of 2002.  This is a stage of life and like all stages, it will pass.  We have worked hard to avoid becoming "partners in the marriage business" as so many fall victim to. It is tough with young kids.  They don't care that it is your anniversary.  They still need to have those basic needs met and its your job to meet them.  When you feel run down by the demands of parenthood and your kids are absolutely kicking your butt, and you and your beautiful wife look at each other and ask "what is that stuff on your shirt?", and "is 8:30 too early for an adult to go to bed?", remember, this stage will pass, take the bad with the good, and always remember that this whole thing started because you love each other.

Happy Anniversary Annie!  I love you so much!

On love

Before our son was born, I remember reading a quote in a magazine article. I'm fairly certain it was Esquire, but I can't remember, otherwise I'd cite it.
You'll never love your parents as much as they love you.
Or something to that effect.

I remember reading it and thinking, No way. I love my parents. LOVE them. We have a great relationship and we always have.

Then our son came along.

It wasn't the first diaper change or even the first time getting up with him while he was crying in the middle of the night.

It wasn't his first tummy time or his first smile.

Somewhere in between I thought to myself -- without realizing any connection to that quote until after:
Wow. I love this boy more than I ever thought possible. He has no idea.
Which is fine. That's how it was supposed to be. He'll go through the same thing some day.

Hopefully I can find that magazine in time.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Welcome to #DadLife

Welcome to The Dad Life Blog, also known as #DadLife. The idea for #DadLife has been rolling around in my head for a while now. The phrase #DadLife is an homage to the Twitter hashtag. If you are on Twitter, search for #DadLife to see tweets written daily by fathers all over the world, chronicling what aspect of the fatherhood experience they find themselves in today.

By day (and often by night as well) I am a professional in the educational field and work in a public high school. 9 years ago I was lucky enough to marry my high school sweetheart. She and I have been blessed with 4 children. Three girls (6, 4, and 2) and one boy (2 months).

We never set out to have four kids. We had our first during our second year of marriage. We always knew we would have more than one, but four?!? It has been quite a ride thus far and there certainly is no such thing as a boring day in our home. There also is no such thing as downtime, adult hobbies, dinners for two, or floors that stay clean all day. There are fingerprints on most reflective surfaces and random toys on most horizontal surfaces in the house. Both of which my saint of a wife works diligently to keep clean. She does an outstanding job and most days our house is amazingly clean. However, I believe the kids have figured out they outnumber us and I fear they are beginning to unionize.

In all seriousness, I love my life. Fatherhood has been a trip I have found myself woefully unprepared for, but so glad I am on. In the words of singer Darryl Worley, "I love this crazy tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful beautiful life." That is what #DadLife is all about. A place for dads to share the joys and burdens of fatherhood, and everything in between. There is no manual on this stuff, not that we would read it if there was , so I figure if we work together on it, (sorry, I don't have a cold beverage for you while we work) we can probably figure it out.

I hope #DadLife becomes a place for lots of people to contribute. In the days and weeks to come I will be inviting fathers that I know and respect to contribute and get our work off to a great start. To end our first post I will include the video that got me thinking about this blog several months ago. It is a great music video spoof created by Church on the Move out of Tulsa, OK. It does a great job of taking a humorous look at what #DadLife is all about.