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The Bittersweet Beginning

With the impending arrival of Baby #3 comes a somewhat harsh reality: We are done.

We don’t intend to have any more kids, which evokes a mess of emotions.

  • Joy: Three kids! How lucky are we? Watching them grow up healthy and happy will be the greatest joy a parent can have.
  • Completion: In football, three-and-out is not a good thing. It means no touchdown. Or even a field goal. But this is more a sense of accomplishment and finality. We reached the end zone. And retired on top.
  • Sadness: This is where it gets bittersweet. We will never expect another kid. That’s sad, right?

 

For nearly six years, we’ve been planning for babies, building our lives around the expectation of children. It’s been six years of fun, adventure, and growth. Six years of transformation, personally and professionally, for both of us.

We started it as ambitiou12924499_10101003302540599_8843305299805675720_ns newlyweds, living the sweet city life with our puppy.

We bought a house and left for the suburbs.

Had a girl. Then a boy.

Became mini-van owners. [They are so practical!]

Decided two kids definitely did not bring enough craziness to our lives.

Along the way, we grew our careers significantly, traveled extensively, and lived meaningfully.

And now this phase of life, which has brought me more satisfaction and happiness than any other phase, is just about done forever.

Nine years ago, my grandfather passed away. A form of leukemia he had been fighting for quite some time took him from us. At the time, I was in my mid-20s, getting over a traumatic break-up, and recovering from a wrong-turn in my career.

As I mourned my grandfather, I had a moment of self-reflection that honestly caught me off-guard.

I felt like, with the loss, I had moved up a rung on the “mortality ladder,” one step closer to the end. With my grandfather gone, the lineage was my dad, then me. It was a strange notion, especially since I still had two living grandmothers. But, for some reason, the loss of a grandfather struck a chord with me. It was a clear marker that my future was getting shorter and my past was getting longer.

I drove my grandmother home from a family dinner a few days after the funeral and she told me, “It just went by so fast.” Talking about her life with my grandfather.

Single, confused, mourning…it scared the shit out of me.

An innocently ignorant phase of my life was over. Forever. And I knew I had to live differently. Taking advantage of every opportunity, because they may be in limited supply.

The clock was ticking and wasn’t stopping.

A few weeks later, I met the woman that would be my wife and the mother of my children. Not long after that, I re-imagined my career.

One phase ended, paving the way for something different. And better.

That “better” phase is about to end. I’m beyond excited about what’s next…I know that after “better” comes “best.” But I still feeling like I took another step on the mortality ladder. And I’ve got the next generation lined up behind me.

This is the phase that I, like my grandmother before me, will eventually look back on as going “too fast.” It will be a bittersweet beginning to a new chapter.

 

Advice Needed: Time for All Three

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Quality Time Can Be Anywhere

Adding a third child to our family is pretty much the most exciting thing to happen to our family ever.

We’ll have a new human person to play with!  Plus, both Beanie and Bug will be big siblings, completely changing their dynamic with us and each other, and the baby.

But besides excitement, I’m honestly feeling another emotion right now: anxiety. But not for the reasons you may think.

Sure, having another mouth to feed and behind to wipe and such is a daunting task. The responsibility is immense. But we’ve done that before. Twice. I’m not worried about that.

No, my anxiety is as much logistical as it is practical.

Our two kids both have their full calendars – daycare, soccer practice, swim lessons, birthday parties, playdates. After the baby is born, I’ll be “owning” those calendars for a while, preparing, packing,  picking-up, everything.

Add a baby to the mix and I’m sincerely concerned about spending enough quality time with all three.

For dads of three (or more) – how do you balance time with all of your kids?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Four-Year-Old’s Letter to Hillary Clinton

[Caveat Up Front: This is not a political post. I don’t care to know your politics and I know you don’t care to know mine.]

“Is a girl going to be the President?!”

Beanie, our 4-year-old daughter, has been excitedly asking people this for weeks.

We don’t really talk politics around the kids, but we tend to have the TODAY Show or Good Morning America on in the mornings, so the kids hear some of the topics of the day.

Tonight, Beanie asked us again, so we talked to her about Hillary Clinton, the front-runner to be the Presidential nominee for the Democrats in 2016.

We talked about her job in the Senate, helping the people of New York. And then talked about her job as Secretary of State, representing the United States around the world. She was in awe learning about a “girl” doing such important jobs.

[Bug, our two-year-old, stopped running around the kitchen to ask if she visited Anna and Elsa in Arendelle. We assured him she did.]

We explained that people will vote for who they think should be President later this year.

Our daughter’s mind was working overtime processing all of this information. She disappeared for a few minutes and came back with paper and a crayon. She said nothing to us, but proceeded to sit at our kitchen table and write. Occasionally she would ask us how to spell key words. When we realized what was happening, we were awe-struck. Beanie was writing a letter to Hillary. She wanted to write a letter to Hillary Clinton to tell her how happy she was that a girl (like herself) might be President.  Here is what she wrote:

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[Transcript – To: Hillary: I am Beanie. I hope you will be the President. You are the best. Love, Beanie]

No matter what your politics, this is an incredible time. Barriers are being shattered all over the United States, allowing for more people to see people like themselves in positions of power.

The current President is African-American. The Democrats have Clinton and an independent-minded Jewish Senator as their final two potential nominees. The Republicans have a celebrity businessman, a career public servant, and a Senator of Cuban heritage as their final three.

Of course, these people are more than just these titles. But it’s amazing that these nominees represent a cross-section of the American populace, allowing everyone to dream as big as possible…even…especially…a four-year-old girl.

 

 

The Heart of the Matter

As parents, we pass a lot of our traits on to our children.

We see ourselves in their actions and realize that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.

Sometimes it’s adorable (“Let’s watch baseball!”). Sometimes it’s horrific (“Where did you learn that word???? Oh…me. Got it.**”). Needless to say, it’s always an adventure…and even a game. Can you “program” your kids to be a better version of you?

[**When I was two, I apparently ran around a pharmacy screaming “SH*T!” repeatedly.]

But what about the things they can inherit from you besides behavior? Eye color. Hair color. Height.Those are definitely passed down across generations. It’s fun to have someone running around the house that looks a bit like you, right?

But what about health problems.

Knowing that your health history could impact your kids from Day One…this is what keeps parents-to-be awake a night.

For our kids, it was all about their hearts.

I was born with a heart condition that required surgery when I was an infant. Nothing to worry about now – 100% fixed and zero complications (*knocking on wood*). And, while I visit my cardiologist for regular check-ups, the condition has had virtually zero impact on how I live my life. But I was really fortunate. Others with the same condition I had aren’t as lucky.

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Me, circa 1983

When we first started talking about having kids, well before we were married, my heart surgery was a big topic of conversation. Was the condition hereditary? [Not likely, but…] And if it was, what types of procedures exist today that weren’t available when I was a patient? Would my children be as lucky as I was?

Every time we’ve gone in for sonograms with all three kids, the first thing I look for is the heart. Even without going to medical school, I could identify any problem areas pretty easily after 30+ years of cardiologist visits.

Thankfully, neither of my children have any cardiology issues, and all tests show the new baby will be free of heart troubles, as well.

For me, this takes on an added meaning. My kids didn’t inherit the thing I feared them getting the most. So now it’s on me and my wife to instill them with the best things possible. Making sure they face the world with confidence, balance optimism with realism,  and take advantage of all opportunities in front of them…and fight for the ones worth fighting for.

Still, the occasional naughty word is going to come through. Sorry. I think I get that from my mother.

 

 

Adam LaRoche Retires

Regarding Adam LaRoche

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

Parenting is all about choices.

Literally every day is a “choose your own adventure” style book. Do you go to this event? Or let them hear that song? Can you skip nap time to have an adventure? Will you regret it later.

Chicago White Sox first basemen Adam LaRoche was confronted with a parenting decision recently.

The team asked him to limit the times his 14-year-old son hung out in the locker room.

Doesn’t seem unreasonable, right? I mean, I work in an office of roughly 300 people and it’s pretty rare to see someone bring their kid in. Maybe in a crunch when the kid is sick, or school is closed and they have to be in the office.

Case in point: Have you ever had a neighbor that you said could “come by any time,” and they came by every day? Technically, the neighbor is doing as you instructed them, but stopping by every day clearly abused the intent of the offer.

Adam LaRoche RetiresLaRoche looked at this request…looked at his $13 million contract…and decided to retire.

I used to work in sports. It’s a haul. Night. Weekends. Holidays. And I wasn’t an athlete training and competing. And I didn’t have much travel in those days, either. I can’t imagine what the life of a professional athlete with a family must be like.

It’s also hard for me – and you, probably – to look at a guaranteed $13 million salary and say, “I’ll pass.”

But LaRoche was in a position to do so. His career as a successful athlete allowed him to make that choice.

It also afforded him the ability to invest in other business ventures, like Buck Commander, a subsidiary of the Duck Commander company – the crew behind Duck Dynasty.

Summing it all up: Adam LaRoche was able to set aside his baseball playing days to invest in spending precious time with his teenage kids – years he will never be able to replicate, no matter how much money he could earn as an athlete.

Time is pretty effing valuable.

Photo Credit: By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “Adam LaRoche”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

4 Non-Kid TV Shows to Watch With Kids

When kids are first born, you can have ANYTHING on the TV when they are in the room. As they grow more impressionable, you have to be a bit more strategic about what you have on the screen in front of them.

We don’t ban TV – we limit it. Our kids love “Book Night” where everyone picks a book to read together as much as they do “Show Night” where we watch a TV show and snuggle.

Kid-friendly programming is paramount. No Law and Order: SVU here, ok? And while there are many, many, many amazing “kid shows,” it’s important to us to show the kids life beyond Sesame Street. Which we adore.

Here are four of our favorite “non-kid” TV shows to watch with children.

Live From Daryl’s House

My absolute favorite show to have on in the background while the kids are playing is Live From Daryl’s House. Daryl Hall (who you may know from such bands as Hall and Oates) invites musicians of all sorts to his estate to hang out, play each others’ songs, and talk about what inspired each song or phase of their career. And then they cook a meal. It’s a fascinating, offbeat hour. Hall brings in such a diverse, eclectic array of artists from Smokey Robinson to Fitz and the Tantrums to Sammy Hagar.

LFDH is a great way to discover new artists and also learn more about some of your favorites.

Brain Games

How do our brains work? This series investigates the inner workings of our minds in a fun, interactive way. The progression of experiments make sense to a kid and the animations and games bring them to life.

This is a definite “good for the whole family” type of show.

Supergirl

Supergirl_(TV_logo)As previously noted, we greatly appreciate strong female role models in our media consumption. This is not just for our daughter, but for our son, as well.

Supergirl is a world-expanding show, where the imagination can run wild and things aren’t always what they seem, but the heroes always win. Kara (Supergirl) overcomes adversity, doubt, and life’s little challenges – plus aliens and super villains.

Bonus: My kids know about Krypton. #GeekDadWin

Warning: The villains can be a bit scary, so have the fast-forward button handy.

The Muppets

Everyone loves The Muppets, right? We all watched them as kids! But..they aren’t really FOR kids. Sure, they are bright and fuzzy and lovable, but dating back to their heyday in the 1970s, they have always been risque.

But that bright, fuzzy, lovable thing allows them the leeway to do some pretty ridiculous things. Each character is a mini-brand, developed over decades. This latest incarnation puts these characters back into the real world, as Miss Piggy hosts a late night talk show, with the rest of the cast serving as the show’s production crew. Hilarity ensures. Adult topics are discussed. And the kids have no idea.

[Note: Supergirl Image Attribution: By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46708396%5D

22 Items for the Hospital “Dad Bag”

ryk hospitalEvery movie or TV show with an expectant mother talks about “The Bag.” You know, the one that is packed and waiting by the door for Momma Bear’s water to break while she is sitting on the toilet, so you can then fight city traffic to get to the hospital, with her screaming in pain and you screaming in fear? Duh.

Spoiler alert: Real life isn’t quite exactly like that. [However, that happened with our daughter – a GREAT story for another time.]

In reality, “The Bag” may be more than one actual bag. And for good reason.

While Momma Bear is by all definition a patient at the hospital, you, my friend, are a visitor. Your comfort is last on anyone’s to-give-a-crap-about list.

The time you spend in the hospital will be hectic and restless, as you try to contort yourself into a position to get a few minutes of rest on the Least Comfortable Surfaces Ever. I used capital letters, because I’m certain it has to be trademarked. Hospital visitor couch/beds are the worst. Know it. Acknowledge it. Move on with your life.

Putting comfort to the side, you, pops, have a lot of responsibility as a documentarian (just be careful where the lens is pointed at all times), advocate, and part-time medical assistant (trust me, it will happen and you will go pale. Suck it up.)

So, let’s assume that you read and did the 7 Things Dads Must Do Before Baby Arrives and present the follow-up list of items for the “Dad Bag.”

  1. Cell phone
  2. Cell phone charger
  3. Laptop computer
  4. Laptop charger
  5. Video camera
  6. Video camera charger
  7. Bluetooth/wired speaker
  8. Speaker charger (notice a pattern?)
  9. Deodorant
  10. Protein snacks – for the long-haul
  11. Sugary snacks – for the bursts
  12. Sports drink (like Gatorade) – Momma Bear will want it after delivery
  13. Toothbrush
  14. Toothpaste
  15. 24 hours worth of any medication you take
  16. Dollars and coins (for vending machines)
  17. Written Birth Plan – have it in writing in case your brain goes blank. It happens.
  18. Pediatrician’s number – you’ll want to call them soon after baby arrives
  19. Reading material – bring a magazine or book, but you’ll be too amped to actually read it
  20. Comb/brush/hair product – you’ll want to look as human as possible in pictures
  21. Sneakers – if labor is extended, you’ll be walking around the hospital to get things, uh, moving
  22. Anything else Momma Bear wants you to pack. You did this to her. The least you can do is carry some stuff to the hospital.

 

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7 Things Dads Must Do Before Baby Arrives

The end stage of pregnancy is strange for everyone involved. Momma Bear is uncomfortable (at best). And Poppa Bear is waiting on pins and needles for the new Baby Bear to arrive.

For Dads, it can feel like there is literally nothing to do at this point, as you wait for active labor or a scheduled Cesarean. [All of our kids were delivered via active labor, so that’s the perspective I can share.]

electronicsCharge Everything Every Day

Phones. Cameras. Laptops. Portables Speakers. Make sure that every device you will need on-site for delivery is at 100% charge. Also, put all of the cords in a bag you will take to the hospital/delivery center. Highly recommend a “dad bag” for such things.

Clear Device Memory

Memory cards, device memory – clear it all. Who wants to see “iPhone Memory Full” when you are taking pictures of your new bundle of joy? We have an external hard drive for all kid-related photos and videos. Makes it so easy to clear devices.

Just Choose Sleep

You’re holding on to the last vestiges of no children (or just one less than you currently do). I get it. But this is no time for binge-watching House of Cards, bud. Trust me, you will have plenty of time in the coming weeks, as babies LOVE letting you stay up all night. Keep your latest obsession for then. Plus, let’s just say Momma Bear is in active labor for a long time. You’ll wish you slept tonight instead of staying up to watch literally anything.

Bathe, Ya Filthy Animal

Once it’s go-time for delivery, you switch into Dad Mode. You’ll be at the hospital/birthing center where you are NOT the patient. They do not support you there, nor should they. Plus, after the baby comes, you won’t want to leave. So stay clean…it may be a while before you can freshen up you musk. [Note: toss some deodorant into the Daddy Bag. Please.]

Groom, Ya Filthy Animal

Chances are pretty damn high that over the next few weeks, you’ll be taking pictures you will cherish for a lifetime. Every day when you wake up past, say, 36 weeks into the pregnancy, you could end up meeting your baby for the first time. It’s an event you’d want to remember. So if you were thinking about getting a haircut, do it. If you were thinking experimenting with a new facial hair style, this may not be the time.

Stock the House

Hunting and gathering is part of our instinct. We want to provide for our families. And a new baby kicks those hard-wired instincts into high gear. However, this is the 21st century. As a modern dad, you want to bond with your baby over those precious few hours and days. The last thing you want to do is stand in line at the grocery store. Also, when the influx of friends and family come to see the baby – let them help you so you can stay home.

Support Without Overwhelming

Like I said above, this is a strange period of time in a woman’s pregnancy. Something little can mean EVERYTHING. And something that feels big can mean NOTHING. And since each pregnancy is different, even on Baby #3, like us right now, there are new experiences to be had. Your job is to support. Be calm. Ask questions. But don’t be annoying about it. Momma Bear likely has as many questions as you do. You aren’t a doctor (…unless you are, then, apologies, doc), you’re a dad-to-be. Enjoy the ride.

The Umbilical Dilemma: Cutting the Cord

ScissorsBelly buttons are magical.

We all have them, but we don’t generally think, on a regular basis, about WHY we have them. And if you do, umm, ick.

Our belly buttons were our conduits to nutrients in utero. Not to be confused with In Utero. [Click the link to look it up, kids.] Basically, the umbilical cord connected us to placentas, which are so nutritious, some parents actually eat it. I’ll take a pass, but suit yourself. Chop off the cord, you get a belly button.

 

Here’s the crazy part:

Doctors and scientists still don’t know when you should separate baby from the placenta by clamping or cutting the cord. We’ve been at this birthing babies thing for a little bit of time, but this is still somehow up in the air.

A recent study showed something interesting: if babies are attached to the placenta via umbilical cord longer, it may provide cognitive benefits years down the road.

Over-simplifying: waiting a few minutes to cut can make your kid healthier and smarter.

On the other hand, babies can be deprived of oxygen during delivery and clamping the cord can apparently help doctors diagnose if that’s the case.

With our third kid arriving soon, we are discussing the talking points we’re going to share with the doctors and nurses in the delivery room. This study definitely gives us food for thought. Still not going to eat a placenta, though.

[Image via CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12418]