The Force Is Strong In My Family

Star Wars is a big thing in our family. IMG_2855.jpg

We watch the movies. Read the books. Dress up in a family themed costume for Halloween (true story!).

I even have a few toy lightsabers in my office, hidden from the kids so they don’t destroy the house. (There is a pretty good chance I shadow-spar and make the iconic sounds on the regular.)

Our kids look at the lead characters as role models. Princess Leia. Luke Skywalker. Rey. Finn.

Generations of youth raging against the machine to make the world a better place. I dig it.

From Han Solo, Chewbacca, and R2D2 to Poe Dameron, Maz Kanata, and BB-8, from Darth Vader and the Emperor to Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke, these characters are part of our kids’ childhood.

I absolutely love sharing a pop culture universe with my children. I love that characters and stories that resonated with me also resonate with them. I love that the evolution of the series gives them “their” Star Wars that we can discover, discuss, and enjoy together. (I still believe that Rey is a Kenobi.)

Much like Luke, Leia, Rey, and Finn, our kids will have a choice about what kind of impact they want to have on the world. Rebellion or Empire. Light or Dark. Good or Evil.

And hopefully the messages of empowerment, hope, and love will guide them in the right direction.

Paraphrasing Luke in Return of the Jedi, the Force is strong in our family. I have it. My wife has it. Our kids have it.

 

 

 

“Nobody Knows My Name Here”

Change is hard.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s hard to move to a new house.

It’s hard to move to a new city.

It’s hard to move away from your friends.

It’s hard to transition from preschool to kindergarten.

And our 5-year-old did all four of these in literally a few days.

Thursday, he left the only house he has ever lived in. Friday, he was at camp with some of his best pals. Saturday, he spent the day with grandparents. Sunday he flew across the country. Monday, he settled into his new house. Tuesday, he started kindergarten.

That’s head-spinning, especially for a kid.

It has not been surprising that he has had some meltdowns and tantrums the past few nights as he processes all of these changes.

After one recent fit, he calmed down and snuggled quietly next to me.

“Daddy. Nobody knows my name here. The teachers keep asking me what my name is. I miss my friends.”

#Heartbreak

He spent the past two preschool years with the same kids and even the same teachers. His new school has lots of enrichment specialists – and even the best teachers need a few days to learn everyone’s name, especially teachers he may only see one a week.

As crushing as this was to hear, I was so proud of him. He could articulate the biggest change in his life – he went from someplace where everyone knew him to a totally new environment where they…don’t.

Familiarity is replaced with opportunity.

It will feel like home soon.

But it doesn’t yet.

And that’s scary.

 

 

Our Home Becomes A House

As I write these words, I’m sitting on the carpeted floor of my living room – the furniture removed – surrounded by filled boxes and empty walls.

We lived here. And our life was here.

That life is going to continue, but just in a different city.

We can talk more about that adventure later. But tonight all I can think about is what happened between these walls.

Our home has returned to being a house. Just as it was when we moved in over seven years ago – totally empty, but filled with the hope and promise of the future.

Back then, we had no kids; our first was on the way and would be born five days after we arrived here.

We took possession of a house and made it our home.

I’m sitting here looking around and smiling at the memories popping from every corner. I remember a kid’s birthday party where all the guests decorated cookies on a tablecloth spread around the kitchen floor. I remember my daughter’s first words (“Hi, Dada!”). I remember the Star Wars trilogy marathon with all our kids (and how we fast-forwarded most of the movie because it was a biiiiiiiiiit too scary). I remember all the times grilling my signature meal (turkey burgers, corn, sweet potato chips) while holding a strong cocktail. I remember dragging the kids on sleds around the backyard. I (mostly) remember all of our adults-only bounce-house parties. I remember walking to the subway station and I remember all the daycare pickups and I remember the sick kids and I remember the tears and the laughs and the joy.

Our family happened within these walls. We moved in as a married couple with

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

a dog. We leave with three kids – and the dog. Everything else was here.

And now we are leaving.

But our home goes with us. The house stays behind for someone else to have a turn. And make memories. And host parties. And maybe raise a family if they want.

It’s a good house. It made for a great home.

To Red-eye or Not to Red-eye?

Everyone that travels across time zones is familiar with the scourge that is the red-eye flight.

The one that leaves late at night, flies east and arrives early in the morning.

The one that ostensibly allows you to sleep while you fly. 587px-Tired_(381649345)

The one that makes you feel like roadkill after you land.

That one.

But the sleep is never good. Everyone dreams of falling asleep like the ThunderCats in medically-induced sleep pods flying through space from Thundera to Third Earth (awesome show!). But you really end up feeling like Chris Pratt in Passengers (neat premise but underwhelming movie!).

You land and feel gross, especially if you fly in your business clothes. You start calculating how long you’ve had on the same pair of socks and underwear. And when you start asking yourself that question, the answer is never, ever, ever appealing.

You feel off for at least a day, since, at best, you can take a discombobulating power nap. Let’s be honest with ourselves, though…those naps are band-aids on a broken bone. (Or, as Chris Rock said, it is way past Robitussin.)

But what’s the alternative? Kill a day on an eastbound flight? Sounds delightful…until you have kids.

There are tons of downsides to red-eye flights in business travel. But there is one huge, massive, game-changing positive for me: I get to see my kids off to school once I land.

It may sound silly to non-parents, but getting to see my little monsters for even 15 minutes in the morning – to surprise them with a toy or treat from my trip, to eat breakfast with them, even wipe a tushy – is worth hopping a midnight transcontinental flight and powering through the toll it takes on me.

I love travelling for work, but the last thing I want is my kids to think I was always on the road. If there is any way I can get home faster following whatever reason I need to be on the road, I’m going to take it.

But…one of those ThunderCat sleeping pods would be awesome…

Photo Credit: By Dwight Sipler from Stow, MA, USA – TiredUploaded by Jacopo Werther, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25221748

 

Jimmy Kimmel, I Have Tetralogy of Fallot, Too

On last night’s episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kimmel revealed that his newborn son, Billy, had surgery days after being born with a congenital heart condition called Tetralogy of Fallot.

Here is his story:

His story is heartbreaking. A little baby born with a broken heart. JimmyKimmelHWOFJan2013

I’m fighting back tears writing this because I was that baby, too. Not Jimmy Kimmel’s baby. But a baby born with Tetralogy of Fallot.

I don’t really talk about my surgery much. It’s not something I hide, but congenital heart conditions don’t frequently come up in casual conversation, right? I’ve never particularly felt like a survivor or part of a cardiology community.

My parents made sure I never felt like a patient as a kid and that carried over into adulthood. But with Kimmel’s revelation, I’m happy to share a little bit of my story.

I was a lucky one – my Tetralogy of Fallot was diagnosed when I was six months old and fully repaired in a single surgery in 1982 performed by Dr. Bruce Reitz when he was at Johns Hopkins.

My parents often talk about a mysterious woman who kept them company in the waiting room, which made the hours feel like minutes, before disappearing.

The ongoing impact after the surgery has been, thankfully, mostly limited, with a few exceptions.

A cardiologist visit every year or so. Antibiotics before going to the dentist. And a ban on playing football or wrestling. [That last one was the hardest for me as a kid who just wanted to play, despite having zero athletic bones in my body.]

But now, nearly 35 years later, I have a family of my own, including three perfectly healthy kids.

The one caveat there is that because of my condition, each of our kids had a fetal echo-cardiogram, where a cardiologist examined them before they were born, just to make sure their hearts were developing properly. We had to prepare for the possibility that each of our kids could have the same condition as me – which brought me to tears every time. [I discussed this here.]

Thankfully, their hearts are all perfect. Their behavior may not always be, but we can deal with that. I think.

And outside of my doctor telling me to lose a few pounds (if only Nutella wasn’t so delicious…), I’m in good health, especially from a cardiovascular standpoint. I fully expect to live a long, long life annoying and loving my wife and kids.

Not every Tetralogy of Fallot patient is as fortunate. This is a serious condition that can’t always be fixed. It can be repaired but is always the first line of your medical history.

I’m so glad Kimmel used his monologue to advocate for a healthcare system that protects people with pre-existing conditions. This is a critical non-partisan issue that I can’t believe we have to fight for.

If Jimmy Kimmel is listening, my message to him and his family is to stay strong and not let this condition define Baby Billy. This will certainly be a part of who he is – something that literally impacted him on Day One and will continue to be a constant reminder every day.

He was broken. Now he’s fixed.

This was his beginning. Not his end.

 

 

3 Steps to Winning Soccer Practice Snacks

It’s a rite of passage.

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…and sometimes you let them wear pirate hats to soccer because it’s just easier that way.

You signed your kiddo up to play soccer. (Yay!)

And then you signed up to bring snack next Sunday. (Ugh!)

Here’s the reality of the soccer-snack relationship, the order of importance KIDS place on the weekly gathering:

  1. Seeing Friends
  2. Snack
  3. Running & Screaming
  4. Wearing Gear
  5. Getting There On Time
  6. Playing Soccer

So, snack is pretty effing important, mom and dad.

Thankfully, we can make it super easy for you with this step-by-step guide.

  • Bring two options. Seedless oranges/clementines plus a modular bag/squeezie. This should be easy for kids and parents to grab and open/peel. If possible, let your player help pick it out.
    • Pro-Tip: Leave the chocolate at home. It may melt during the practice and no parent wants chocolate-covered hands in their car.
  • Make sure you have enough. At least 25% of the kids will bring a sibling. Look at the list above – if you are dragged there by a parent and aren’t playing soccer or even wearing some gear, snack is pretty much all you can look forward to.
    • Pro-Tip: You can ask a bored sibling (or one of your own bored kids you brought along!) to help you distribute snack.
  • Bring a trash bag. A grocery bag will do, and this is something other parents notice – and your kid can help with! Ask them to go bring the trash bag around to collect trash and even a 3-year-old can feel like they contributed.
    • Pro-Tip: Throw a roll of paper towels in your bag. You won’t regret it.

Follow these steps and you can spend the hour rooting on your kid, sipping your hot beverage, socializing with other parents – confident you will win snack time.

 

What’s Your Favorite Truck, Dad? Optimus Prime

Over the past few months, we’ve done something creative at dinnertime.

Our two oldest kids are 5 1/2 and nearly 4 – certainly able to carry a conversation.

So, in the vein of late night talk shows, each night they get to host their own chat show to interview the rest of the family, complete with an announcer (Daddy) giving them an introduction Ed McMahon would envy. #DatedReference

You can imagine the adorably painful conversations at the beginning. One evening, The Best Mom and I had to answer, “what is your favorite color” five times, even saying the next question HAD to be different.

But over time, the questions became better and led to what we hoped it would be: a deeper dinner conversation beyond “how was your day” and a way to fuel their curiosity and confidence.

My son asked me an innocent question one night last week and my answer was reflexive:

Bug: Daddy, what is your favorite truck?

Me: Optimus Prime!

I knew he was expecting “dump truck” or “fire engine,” but, dammit, Optimus Prime, Transformer, leader of the Autobots, is my all-time favorite truck!

Long-haul trailer by-day and galactic superhero on-call?

Please, tell me which truck is better than Optimus Prime?

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Here is where it got good.

Instead of blowing off the comment as another silly thing Daddy said, Bug asked a follow-up question(!): “What is an Optimus Prime?”

That kicked off a 20-minute conversation with my kids on the Transformers, including watching (several times) an animation of Optimus Prime transforming from truck to robot and back again.

A few days later, we were driving on the highway and my daughter started asking me if every truck we passed by was a Transformer. Granted, it got old after 4 trucks, but it felt amazing that my kids were now curious about one of my favorite childhood brands.

It’s a delicate balance – you push your favorites on them by saying “Watch this, I loved it when I was your age!” and you’ll likely get a fairly negative response. Guide them to being interested in it and their perspective changes entirely.

Next up: Figuring out solutions for Fraggle Rock and Thundercats!

The Flu Shot and the Crossface Chicken Wing

I took my daughter to get her flu shot last week.

She hates needles and is big enough to run away from them.

The nurse and I looked each other in the eye and I knew I had to do SOMETHING.


Like many kids of my generation, I was (am) a massive professional wrestling fan.

Real life superherodownload-8es and villains competing in the center of a jam-packed arena…and broadcast into my home on Saturdays…and Sundays…and eventually Mondays, Thursdays…and…well, now you can fresh wrestling content on TV just about every day of the week.

I vividly remember in 1994 when Bob Backlund returned to the then-WWF to face Bret Hart. Before my time, Backlund was a champion and superstar. (I didn’t remember a time before Hulk Hogan)

In their bout, Backlund was the aged golden boy…doing the same schtick he apparently did in the 1970s that earned him prominence and fame. However, the 1990s fan was a different fan and his goodie-two-shoes persona agitated fans.

Then, when he couldn’t beat Hart…Backlund snapped!

He locked Hart in a devastating hold I’d never seen before – the crossface chickenwing!

Backlund wrapped one arm around Hart’s neck and used his other arm to wrench his shoulder.

And to REALLY sell it, Backlund screamed like a banshee, with veins bulging from his neck and beady eyes wide open.

I thought Hart was going to die at the hands of this crazy old man!


As Beanie screamed at the sight of the flu shot needle being prepared and the nurse asked for her shoulder, I had the eureka moment.

The crossface chickenwing will keep her shoulder stable long enough to get the shot.

Finding inspiration from Bob Backlund’s hold, I pulled Beanie’s arm back to expose her shoulder. I then gently restrained her flailing neck with my other arm then wrapped a leg around her to prevent her from running mid-shot.

It wasn’t pretty (and it did NOT hurt her, only restrained her for safety), but it held for the five seconds needed to complete the shot.

When it was all over, I expected my daughter to spew venom at me like never before.

Instead, she smiled and said it wasn’t that bad. Then asked for a sticker.

And that’s how watching professional wrestling helped ensure my daughter got her flu shot. See, Mom and Dad, I told you it would come in handy one day.

[Note: Please do not use wrestling holds on children. This was for medical purposes only to help a nurse to give my scared kindergartner an important shot. Thank you.]

batman day

Happy #BatmanDay!

batman daySuperheroes are kind of a big deal in my house.

Growing up, my uncle owned a comic book store, so it was easy to follow the escapades of my favorite characters.

I gravitated to the DC Universe, one filled with pure fantasy and imagination. Time travel. Aliens. Mythology. While I’ve always appreciated the Marvel line, it was never my #1.

Batman was an anomaly compared to Superman (my all-time favorite fictional character), Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the rest. His parents were shot and killed when he was a boy, leaving him all alone in a dark world. The future Dark Knight trained himself to be a one-man crime-fighting machine, grappling with Gotham City’s most dangerous villains.

His superpower was his grit, determination, and creativity, fueled by a desire for justice.

A self-made hero in a world where most heroes are born with powers or acquire them through an accident. That definitely stood out to me.

I love getting to share the love of these characters with my children. Bug asked to wear a Batman t-shirt today…and when I found out that today is #BatmanDay, how could I refuse?

What comic book character impacted you the most as a kid?

 

 

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Parenting and Punctuality

Punctuality is an interesting concept.

Being somewhere EXACTLY when you are expected to be there is a mix between science and art. You have to know yourself and the situation around you and plan for the unexpected, all for the chance to be there perfectly on-time, no questions asked.

Before kids, I was on-time, every time, like we all wish airplanes would be.

Now, as a parent, I have dual perceptions of what punctuality means in my personal life. [Note: professionally, punctuality is the rule, without exception.]

  • Sympathy

My family is three kids, two adults, one dog.

For us to get the entire brood up, fed, dressed, pottied, packed, and in the car to go anywhere at any time takes a Herculean effort.

Kids are messy – literally and figuratively. Let’s focus on the figuratively. They provide unexpected challenges at every turn, from clothes that fit YESTERDAY not fitting today, to hating what was their favorite food last week, to nap time lasting blessedly longer than expected, to having a meltdown because you put on Paw Patrol and not Sesame Street.

It’s nearly impossible to crack the code and figure out what combination of timing, food, clothing, packing and everything else aligns to get us where we need to be.

Feel for us parents. Excuse us. Don’t judge us for tardiness when we have kids in tow.

  • Anger

On the flip side, parents know how valuable every second of every day is.

If we are expected somewhere and we get there when we should get there…and someone is late…that does not go over well.

We didn’t do everything we had to do to get somewhere on-time to wait for anyone else. That’s wasted time and we don’t have time for that.


dad baby napIs this a double standard? I’m pretty sure it is.

But do know this: All things being equal, staying home to watch movies, play in the backyard, and bake cookies sounds like a fulfilling day to me.

So if parents go through the trouble to get the family out of the house – be it one kid, three kids, or even more, it means we REALLY want to see you and spend time with you.

If your parent friends are going to see you today, you are better than pajamas and cookies.

Which means you are amazing and incredible and valued and loved. You are the party parents want to be at.

We’ll do our best to get to that party on time. Feel free to get started without us, though. The baby is napping.