From Sleep, Awake

As you may or may not know by now, I’ve moved from from Central IL to Northwestern Washington state. I’ve changed jobs, companies, and set my entire family on an adventure into the unknown, 2,100 mies away from friends, family, and everything we know. This wasn’t completely on a whim; the Pacific Northwest is the area of the country my wife and I decided we wanted to live permanently eventually; we just didn’t think it would happen this fast. But when the golden ticket arrives you can’t really say no. “Opportunity only knocks once”, as they say.

We’ve been here 10 days and we’re not settled yet. We’re staying in a hotel while we wait for the closing date on our new house. Me, my wife, my son, my father-in-law, 3 cats, a dog, and a partridge in a pear tree for that matter. We’re starting to go stir crazy, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re displaced and already feeling isolated it’s incredibly hard to find comfort, to start to put down roots and make a new place truly home. Add it all up and even when it goes smoothly, The question can creep in. Was this really the right thing to do? A routine errand provided the answer in the most unexpected way.

After work I decided to take my son and find the nearest “shared branch” bank that would allow me to transact using my account from back in IL. Even though it was only 5:30 in the evening Daylight Savings Time ensured that the sun had already been down for quite some time. A full moon helped guide us on our trek as we headed for Oak Harbor. A small road (WA Route 20) with only 1 lane in both directions took us the entire way, winding through the trees and a few small towns. Suddenly the view opened up to Deception Pass. Even though it was completely dark, the moonlight gave way to a breathtaking view. I pulled over to the scenic waypoint, turned off the car, took my son out of his seat, and walked to the viewing area.

We stood there, silently in awe, father and son, watching the full moon reflect over the eerily calm waters and pine trees of Deception Pass. Maybe it was the moonlight, maybe it was the slight chill in the air, maybe it was the stress release, or maybe it was that I was listening to the magically epic Z2 album from the Devin Townsend Project. Whatever it was, the significance of this moment hit me like an impact gun, nearly buckling my knees and practically moving me to tears. This is why we’re here. This is our purpose. The sense of adventure, of worldly exploration, of wonderment and deep humbling respect for Mother Nature.

My iPhone can't even come close to recapturing the moment. Yes, that is the moon.

My iPhone can’t even come close to recapturing the moment. Yes, that is the moon.









That sense had always been a part of me, but years of spirit-crushing winters and a job that drained the life out of me had left me wondering if it was gone forever. Tonight the fire was reignited and it’s starting to burn brighter and brighter. This fire will provide the strength I need to carry my family through this transition, to dig deep, find a home, and instill those same senses in my son and all the children I will have. I was born and raised in the Midwest and will be forever proud of that. But tonight Mother Nature opened her welcoming arms and reassured me that yes, my family belongs here.

Welcome home.


Batteries Not Included

As I sit here with my 11-month-old son watching him inspect my iPhone and figure out how his favorite song (The Incomparable Mr. Flannery, by Clutch) is emanating from this mysterious black box, a small pit forms in my stomach. I begin to question myself: “Should he be exposed to my phone screen?” “Will the bright colors and sounds desensitize him from the simpler things in life?” “Shouldn’t I be sheltering him from all this technology?” “Am I using my phone as a substitute for real interaction?” It took me quite awhile to really understand where these thoughts came from and even longer to figure out how to answer them.

My wife and I grew up in a period of technology explosion. Stuck firmly on the corner of Generation X and Generation Y, at the intersection of latchkey kids and 90s grunge/alternative, I feel like we occupy a unique place in technological history. Our childhoods are filled with memories of playing with friends outside AND digital experimentation. Big Wheels, Slip ’n Slide, Skip-It, “Ghosts in the Graveyard”, and “Cowboys and Indians” right alongside MTV, AOL Instant Messenger, Napster, Myspace, and Facebook. So of course our experiences have cultivated a subconscious and visceral gut-check to ensure we do not use TVs, iPads, the Internet, and DVD players as de-facto babysitters for our children.

But is sheltering our children from technology at such a young age the right answer? I’m starting to think it isn’t. There’s a HUGE difference between using it as a babysitting crutch and teaching them about it, watching them learn and discover it. You see, our children will be growing up in another unprecedented era. A world where this technology is not only ubiquitous, but also taken for granted. A world with new technological breakthroughs that I can’t even begin to fathom. And my job as a parent, above all, is to prepare them for this world. Sheltering them from this technology is doing a giant disservice.

I love watching my son figure things out, discover the ins and outs of how things function, cause and effect. That if he pushes the big round button he can “speak” to Siri, who will speak back. That if he touches the screen on one of my color drawing apps he can literally create something new, something from his own mind. I can see his brain working overdrive during phone calls as he tries to figure out how mommy, daddy, or grandma got their voice into this tiny black box. He’s even starting to understand video chat, which will become incredibly important as our family and friends are spread all over the place: Peoria, Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, Washington state, and even Sweden.

It goes without saying that my other job as a parent is to set reasonable limits for how and when to use said technology. My childhood experiences (as well as my wife’s) have ingrained in us that there is no substitute for good, solid playtime with other kids, especially outdoors. It remains a core and primary value. But our children will live in an entirely different world than the one we grew up in. Recognizing that and understanding how to merge the two worlds is the new challenge. This merge smacks me in the face yet again as I hit the “Post” button on this blog, written on my laptop from my couch with iTunes playing in the background, staring out my front window at the multi-colored leaves of our giant oak tree in mid-Fall. Wow.

4 Days in the Hot Seat

So this past weekend my wife went on a 4-day vacation getaway with some friends from high school. Without our son. This marks the first time in his entire existence that he has been away from mommy overnight. So who gets to take care of baby? Me. Taking care of him. For FOUR. WHOLE. DAYS. A daunting task no doubt, so naturally I headed straight up to Grandma’s house for some support. So how did things go? Well here’s 10 things I learned on my adventure:

1) This was not the same as being a single parent. I got tons of help from my mother and I knew that after four days my wife would be back. That’s a huge difference from knowing that you are the sole provider and responsible party for a child day in and day out. As I’ve said before, it really does take two. Mad props again to all the single parents out there.

2) It takes a TON of energy to care for a child. “Duh” statement, right? It’s definitely a full-time job, and I knew that going in. But having to plan, prepare, be on point, and supervise nearly every second of the day? Downright exhausting. My wife deserves an award.

3) Despite the energy expenditure, it was actually fun. Even before I had kids I could see myself as a stay-at-home dad. This weekend confirmed that I’d actually like it.

4) My son and I grew closer. A lot closer. I’m the one he needed to depend on for feeding, changing, transport, and getting to sleep. When things got rough he clung even tighter to me. Regardless of whoever else we were visiting, I was his entire world. That’s immensely humbling.

5) He really did miss his mommy. His closeness to me was also a necessity. Mommy wasn’t there to nurse him to sleep, comfort him when he’s upset, or play with him. I had to figure out how to live up to the task.

6) He made it really easy for me. Went down for naps with no fuss. Took a bottle, even with formula in it. Slept for unprecedented stretches at a time (7 hours!!!). Slept in every morning. Travelled like a champ. Smiled, and smiled, and smiled. It’s like he knew it was my rookie debut so he took it easy on me instead of putting me through the wringer.

7) I never thought I’d rejoice over my son pooping. My son has been breast-fed 99.9% of his existence. This weekend we used a combination of pumped breast milk and formula to get us through (YOU try pumping enough milk for 4 entire days while also feeding a baby. It ain’t easy.). So naturally the formula messed with his little digestive system and he didn’t poop until Day 3. Worried? You bet I was. And thus when the poop cometh forward, there was much rejoicing! Now that said…..

8) Formula diapers are friggin’ nasty. In retrospect I’m sooooooo glad my wife was able to breastfeed because nearly a week later I’m still trying to get that awful diaper smell out of my nose. I now see the value in Diaper Genies. Do they make Diaper Incinerators?

9) The time bomb never went off. I kept waiting for the meltdown. The nuclear “You-all-suck-and-mommy-needs-to-come-home-now-because-she’s-the-only-one-I-want” tirade. Considering these were the first four days ever that he was away from mommy, it would have been completely justified. Yet it never happened, which makes my son all the more awesome.

10) We were both excited and relieved when mommy came home. As fun as the adventure was, there’s no place like home, and there’s truly nothing better than being together as a family.

Weighted Words

It seemed like an ordinary enough day. Mom and T were at Grandpa’s house and I was at home taking care of errands, meal planning, and some general household chores. But that’s not how it ended. Mom pulled into the garage, took T out of the car seat, and headed toward me. T turns, wide eyed and cute as a button, locks his gaze with mine, and says:

“Da da da da”.

Time stops. My son just said words!!!! I know they’re not associated with any particular meaning yet my brain neurons were firing full force in all their kaleidoscopic glory. I instantly feel overjoyed, proud, floored, nostalgic, and excited; a complex cocktail of emotions that consumes so much energy that I have to intentionally brace myself to keep my legs from giving out. In just a simple fragment of time my son grew up before my very eyes, added a vast new layer of depth to his entire being, assembled all the communication skills he’s learned on his own for the 8ish months of his existence, and formed a word using consonants, vowels, and syllables, all without even trying.

It’s the strangest yet most wonderful feeling. In my perception of time, just seconds before that moment I was unaware he had developed that capability. And instantly, he had it. Like it was no big thing. Truthfully he had been practicing those words all day unbeknownst to me, but hearing it described by my wife pales in comparison to actually experiencing it. Despite overwhelming physical exhaustion it took me quite awhile to come down from that natural high and fall asleep that night. I just kept staring at my son, tucked away next to me in Dreamland, the proudest father I could ever be.

I don’t even care what’s next. This is now, and this is incredible.

Into the Night

Here we are in such an unfamiliar situation, you and I. “Strangers in a strange land”, as they say. Usually it’s Mommy who puts you to bed being the Superwoman that she is. But tonight? It’s my turn. The stage has been set – you’ve had a bath, you’ve been nursed, the lights are down, shades are drawn, fan and sound machine quietly humming in the background. You’re clearly tired what with the rubbing of the eyes and all, yet still as energetic as if you just woke up. Exploring all corners of the bed with your newfound crawling abilities, climbing Mt. Daddy and squealing triumphantly with joy at the summit, even somehow figuring out how to push pillows out of the way with your head like a bulldozer. I lay there and watch in amusement, adjusting every so often to keep you from falling off the bed and onto the wood floor.

Slowly I see you start to wear down. Little chirps of frustration – are they because you want to sleep or because you don’t want to be tired? Your arms give way on the half-pushup-to-crawl maneuvers as you deplete your energy battling the Inevitable Sleep Monster. I try to lay you on my chest to sleep just like when you were a mere infant. You rest your head on me briefly but No! The Monster will not take you tonight!!

But the Sleep Monster is winning this battle. Chirps of frustration turn to anger. No position is comfortable for you. I hear your cries – “Why am I not asleep yet??” I pick you up and slowly walk the room, rocking back and forth. Still cries of frustration, legs kicking wildly in the air as I hold you. It seems we’re headed off the cliff to a meltdown when suddenly, without thinking, I start to softly whistle The Lullaby. Our lullaby. “Great Big Stars”, the song we learned together in music class. The song that calmed you down as we paced the house in the dead of night all winter long. There it is…..

You’re quiet now, body starting to relax in my arms. Head now on my shoulder. Eyes still open but very calm, comforted by my embrace and the connection we’ve made through song. I lay back down in the bed with you resting on my chest. No struggles, no more climbing, the Sleep Monster turned out not to be a monster after all. I shift over and lay you on the bed next to me snuggled close. A heavy sigh confirms it – you’re nearly there. Eyes closed, tiny fingers gripping my thumb, head nestled against my arm. Never worry, my son, Daddy will always be here for you. A blanket pulled up slowly to keep you warm. Now let’s set sail for Dreamland……

7 Months – Radiance

My Son,

I cannot think of a greater first Father’s Day gift than to celebrate you turning 7 months old today. Incredible doesn’t even begin to describe you and how fast you’re growing up. As I type this we’re sitting in the living room and you’re happily banging away on your toy xylophone, cooing all sorts of “words” I have yet to understand but know carry such meaning and emotion. It brings me such joy to see you explore your world, to see how happy you are playing with your toys, with other people, with the pets, with me and mommy.

And that smile. That radiant, infinite smile that lights up every room is one of the highlights of my day. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul which means your vast, beautiful brown eyes reveal such a clear innocence and curiosity about your world. You feel raw emotions with such intensity that sometimes it overwhelms you, and my job is to help you learn to harness those emotions to guide your passion and get the most you can out of life. I will do my absolute best for you as I know how it feels to be overpowered by emotions, both good and bad.

Keep on smiling, laughing, playing, and growing. You are wonderful to the point that no words I will ever say or write can fully convey my feelings. So instead I’ll pledge to be by your side watching you and guiding you through this life as best I can.

I love you, father to son.

6 Months – A Bright and Shining Star

My Baby Boy,

It’s getting much harder to call you that now that you’re six months old. Every time I look at you and think “this can’t possibly get any better”, you gladly prove me wrong. To see you gain awareness of the world around you and want to explore it with the fearlessness and confidence everyone wishes they had, this brings me an unspeakable amount of joy. Your personality is on full display as this bright and happy baby who wants to be a part of everything that’s going on around you. And I hope your mom and I can foster that confidence and curiosity for your entire life as it’s one of the rarest and most valuable traits in today’s world.

We’re about to embark on one of the wildest rides of our journey together as a family. In the next few months you will start eating solid foods, cutting teeth, and crawling around the house. While I honestly cannot wait for all these developments, I’m already starting to wax nostalgic about the early months. You used to be so little that I could engulf you completely in my arms for hours on end. That’s proving to be much more difficult now that you’re so big, and while this makes me sad, this sadness is replaced tenfold by the abundant joy of seeing you explore this world.

So let’s explore this world together, my son. You have so much to learn about it and I have a feeling I do too.

I love you.

Goodbye, Old Friend

While it’s definitely true that I get really excited over buying a new car, it’s definitely not like me to get emotional over the car I’m trading in. This past weekend proved much different. My car was getting up there in miles, had some decent wear and tear on it, and was proving to have not enough storage space for everything we needed to haul on longer trips with our son and dog in tow. So we decided to go car shopping. I’ll spare you the details of the experience as car shopping is about as much fun as watching paint dry, but needless to say I purchased a new vehicle. Cause to celebrate, right? Well, yes, but it was definitely tempered by having to say goodbye to my old car.

I bought this car (2008 Chevy Malibu) brand new. It was really the first car I got to choose to buy as opposed to having only one option for financial or circumstantial reasons. My plan was to drive it until it died, but obviously having a child changes the rules of the game quite a bit. Regardless, I drove the hell out of it – 128,000 miles in 6 years and 23 days. I’ve hauled everything from bikes to drums to pets to moving boxes, and it handled everything with nary a complaint. But those experiences aren’t enough to get my eyes to tear up. It’s the other, life-altering experiences:

March 8th, 2009: After walking into Petsmart with the sole purpose of buying cat food, we fell in love with the cutest dog ever and brought home our first dog since childhood – our pitbull/pointer mix Sandy.

September 19th, 2009: I drove my then fiancé to our wedding at the courthouse. After the ceremony I was almost given a parking ticket for an expired meter, but the police officer saw that I just got married and decided to give us a break. I then drove my new wife off to our reception.

November 14th, 2013: After over 24 hours of hard but productive labor at home, I loaded up the car and carefully navigated the 20-minute drive to the hospital where our first son would be born in the wee hours of the next morning.

November 17th, 2013: We brought our brand new, first born son back to his home.


As I took a final glimpse at my old car in the dealership parking lot, completely emptied of all my personal belongings, reflecting back on all those life changing events that it supported, my eyes welled up uncontrollably. Goodbye, my old friend. You’ve been nothing but the best.



The Littlest Fan

Blackhawks_LogoLast week we took my 5.25-month-old son to his first Chicago Blackhawks hockey game. In the playoffs. He’d been to 3 previous games in utero (all wins), so we were hoping for some additional luck here so we could even the series against St. Louis. Regardless of the outcome, being able to experience his first NHL game with him was magical. Here are my top 5 incredible, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping moments from the game:

5) If you know anything about Blackhawks games at home, you know they’re loud. You probably also know the National Anthem is LOUD. He was a trooper for the entire thing, not batting an eye as mommy and daddy went partially deaf for 3 solid minutes. NOTE: He did have hearing protection. We may be crazy parents, but we’re not stupid. 🙂

4) All the fans we met in the stadium and around us in our seats (even the drunk ones) were respectful, courteous, and downright happy to see such a young kid at the game. In any other venue I can see this one going completely FUBAR with people whining and complaining about a young kid fussing, general looks of “he’s not supposed to be here”, or shock/disgust/general discontent over breastfeeding (see #3). But not at the Madhouse on Madison, proving once again that Blackhawks fans are the greatest fans in the world.

3) Speaking of breastfeeding, my wife was able to feed him during the game. In her seat. While the game was being played. All with no issues from any fans around us. She and I are of the same mind that we don’t care (kid’s gotta eat, right?), but we’re very aware that other people make it their business to care for some stupid reason. But again, not at the Hawks game. So BIG kudos to my wife and son both for making breastfeeding at a professional sports stadium during the game look like just another meal at home.

2) I mean it when I say this kid was a trooper. The stadium was loud for the entire game (as it should be), yet he fell asleep while mommy was wearing him in the 3rd period. And then he stayed asleep until the end of the game in OVERTIME. All while maintaining his mellow, laid back personality as if to say “as long as I have mommy and daddy everything is no big deal.”

1) Holding my son as the red lamp lights up, the horns blare, and over 22,000 of the greatest fans in hockey belt out “Chelsea Dagger”. There is truly no other experience like this in the world. He shoots, he scores. Go Hawks.


Epilogue: The Blackhawks won the game in overtime, 4-3. This kid now has 4 wins under his belt including 2 in the playoffs. Maybe you’ll see us at more games. 🙂

The Look

Experienced parents know it when they see it. Non-parents have no real equivalent. And for first time parents it is the most soul crushing look you’ll ever receive from your child. A few days ago I received it for the very first time. I was attempting to give T. a bottle, to make the independent feeding connection we had a few months back. Gnaw on the nipple, turn away, cry, comfort, repeat. After 10 exasperating minutes of this, with tears streaming down his face, I got the look. Eyes drift right, avoiding me for a few moments until the emotions overcome him. Eyes then lock on me and they are filled with desperation. “You know what I want. Why are you not giving it to me? What you have to offer is clearly NOT working. I’m hungry and I want Mommy. Can you not see this? Can I trust you do provide for me, to do the right thing?” These are the things he would say to me if he could. Crushed, defeated, and heart-torn for him, I head upstairs so he can find relief in the comforting bosom of Mommy.

I’m sorry, little guy, for putting you through all that. We’ll get there eventually, just gotta keep trying different things.