It has been a long time since I have written. I apologize for this. I can’t stand when blogs go dead for a while and here I am doing the same thing. The truth is our family has been going through lots of stuff (whose family isn’t) and we are now coming out on the other side. So here is a snap shot of some awesome things that have happened that I will certainly be writing more about.
Here is a little taste of the blessings we are so lucky to experience. Our life has been a little crazy, but that’s what makes it fun.
More to come very soon.
My family and I are moving to a new house in the next week. Needless to say we are in full-blown packing mode. We have only lived in our current house for a little over 3 years and it is amazing how much stuff we have accumulated. You would think that two adults and a 3 year old wouldn’t have so much, but man…there is a lot of stuff here!
What is crazy to me is how often in this packing process I have found things that we should have gotten rid of a long time ago. Clothes, food, toys, random things that I cannot even remember buying, etc. Some things I just shake my head at and wonder why we ever thought it was necessary in the first place.
A few months back there was a smell coming out of one of our lower kitchen cabinets. My wife thought it was the smell of the fish I had cooked the night before that had embedded itself into the cabinet. I figured, like most food smells, it would go away or be overcome by the next thing we cooked. The smell remained. Neither my wife nor I really paid too much attention to it. One day (sadly to say, this was about three weeks ago) I reached deep into the cabinet to get the food processor and amongst the movement of stuff I released a foul smell. I was immediately repelled back by the stank that came out. I recovered myself, took a deep breath and went in to investigate. I pulled the food processor out, some pans, and pots and finally there it was: a really old, really decomposed red onion. Thankfully it was in a bag and I was able to pick it up and throw it outside.
We threw the onion out and right away we could smell the difference in the kitchen. My wife and I laughed about the whole thing, but it got me thinking about how often the same type of thing happens inside of us. We can accumulate so much stuff inside our mind, heart and soul. Things we should’ve let go a long time ago. Regret, doubt, failures, what someone said, what someone didn’t say…the list goes on. Sometimes we don’t even realize that this stuff is affecting us.
Kind of like a decomposing red onion.
At some point I bought that onion and placed it in that cabinet. For some crazy reason I forgot about it but it affected me—it affected the whole household. As a man I recognize the desire to push things that are bothering me away. The “get over it” mind set may lead this, or maybe I convince myself that it really isn’t that big of a deal. The reality is that the serious stuff, the things that bother us do need to be dealt with or else they rot inside and whom are we kidding—it affects everyone we encounter: especially our family.
There is a lot of stuff—red onions—that I have stored up over the years deep inside the “kitchen cabinet of my being”. Some are based on old situations with my dad. Some are insecurities that are common to many men. Some are silly, but for whatever reason have a hold of me. As I continue to find random things in my house that we don’t need to carry on with us I am challenged to reflect on what I need to let go of so that I am not carrying it within me anymore.
Who knew moving to a new house would be such an existential exercise.
Last year I wrote about my discernment on whether or not to conceal carry. Here is the post if you are interested: Babies, Guns and Jesus. After the experience mentioned in that post I did a lot of thinking, praying and discussing with my wife. I spoke to lots of people about this subject. Some were experts in weapons training, police officers, military, priests, friends, neighbors, etc. My wife and I made our decision and I spent quite a bit of time training, learning and familiarizing myself with the safety and use of firearms. I still have a long way to go. On average I train every month or two with live fire and do dry fire drills at least 3 times a week. I know that many people do not feel the same way about guns and that’s fine.
This post is really not about guns.
Most of the guys I do weapons training with are very much convinced that they are doing this for the safety and welfare of their families. I wholeheartedly believe that. One guy got teary eyed as he shared how much he loved his family and how he wanted to be ready for anything that could potentially harm them. So do I.
I try really hard to listen, read, and follow the guidance of men and woman who are wiser and holier than I am. I especially try and study how to be a better man, husband and father. I find it so easy to want to be selfish and focus on my own desires and ignore my family—individualism is all about that. I have to constantly check myself and refocus. There is a certain discipline, training if you will, that I have to take on for this.
A few weeks ago I bumped into this video that really spoke to me about the importance of men training to defend their families. The video was not about weapons or hand-to-hand combat. The video was about prayer.
Prayer is the ultimate training that all men must take on. St. Padre Pio once said, “Prayer is the best weapon we posses.” Prayer isn’t something a weak man does. Prayer is something that a man who understands his place in the world does; a man who knows his limits, capacity, and potential; a man who recognizes that ultimately God is the one we need to turn to for our families protection and for them to become what they are meant to be.
Real men pray.
So here is the challenge I put to myself, and the men who read this blog. Pray. If you want to defend your family there is nothing more powerful than prayer. Here are some suggestions:
I really enjoy shooting my guns at targets and training for scenarios, but lets be honest; there is a small chance that I will ever need to draw my weapon on anyone (thank God for that). However, if I am ever in that situation I’ve done all I can to be ready. I am more likely though to be tempted sexually, to be greedy, selfish, to be dishonest: insert your potential situation here. Praying for God to transform you and to guide you when those situations come (they will come) is important training. How will you respond to those situations if you have not prepared yourself?
Praying for and with our families is absolutely necessary. This world is filled with situations that if we are not actively “training” for we will get eaten alive. I pray every single day. Sometimes it’s short and rushed due to my daughter or other things outside of my control. More often than not I spend quality time in prayer. I need it. I cannot become whom God intends me to be if I am not communicating with Him. Communicate with Him. Encounter Him.
I want to protect my family and myself. I want to be ready for whatever this world is going to throw at us. I am whole heartedly convinced that there is no better training for a man than to seek the face of God in prayer and to ask the most important question we could ever inquire of Him: God, what do you ask of me?
Me: “Hey hun, do you want some i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m after Claire goes down?”
Wife: “Sure. Do we have v-a-n-i-l-l-a or c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e?”
This has become the way we communicate in our household when we are referring to certain sensitive subjects that could cause our 3 year old to scream, fight taking a bath, or not go to bed. Sensitive subjects can be things such as, but not limited to: food, going outside, visiting grandparents, pizza, all forms of candy or what is perceived as candy, television, and Dora the Explorer.
By the way, I never realized how terrible of a speller I am.
I have experienced parents spelling words out in front of their kids before. I thought it was weird, but now I truly see how essential it is to home dynamics. For example: I can’t say the word, ‘grandma’ without Claire going nuts because she things were going to see one of them. “No sweetie, I just said her name. Grandma isn’t coming today.” This statement is usually followed by puzzled looks, an incoherent, frustrated sounding sentence and finally; capped off with angry screaming because I “took grandma away.” Needless to say the ‘G’ word is spelled out in our home.
I’m not sure what my daughter is thinking when she hears us spelling things out in front of her. Claire is a pretty smart kid and I think she is catching on. When I spell words out you can see her face look a bit more focused, almost as if she were visualizing the letters in her head and putting them in order. Since Claire has her mother’s brain I’m sure we only have another 4 months before spelling things out wont work anymore.
Say a prayer for us.
Social media has been blowing up about what happened this past week in the Cincinnati Zoo. If you haven’t heard, a 3-year old boy fell into the silverback gorilla enclosure and was greeted by a 450lbs male named Harambe, The gorilla dragged the little boy several times across the water filled part of the enclosure. After several intense minutes the zoos special team for these types of situation shot and killed Harambe. Here is a link to the video footage that shows what happened.
Before I watched the video I heard of the incident and my natural reaction was to think that killing the gorilla to save the child was a no brainer. News and social media continued to cover this incident. I kept asking myself, why are people still talking about this? Finally after the constant media coverage I began to read what some folks were saying and I am sad to say that my hope for humanity keeps taking detrimental blows.
Human life is sacred
The line above was once a “no brainer”. No one would question the sanctity of human life, but unfortunately that isn’t the case anymore. I find that as a people we are forgetting that we are sacred. Maybe it is easy to forget this sacredness because we are so good at desecrating it with our numerous questionable behaviors and choices (aka sin). However, no matter how much we mess up and fall into sin there is an inherit goodness to you and I that cannot be destroyed. We can smear it up pretty good, but you and I will always be sacred. Always. That sacredness is given to us by being made in the image and likeness of God. Whether you are religious or not we can all rationally see that humans are different, set apart even. That difference is what helps us to recognize that a 3-year-old boy is worth saving over an endangered silverback gorilla.
It’s a slow fade
I was talking to a friend about this whole thing and he said, “Are you really surprised that people are valuing the gorilla’s life over the boy?” Unfortunately, the answer was ‘no’. There is a line in a song by the band Casting Crowns that says, “It’s a slow fade, when you give yourself away.” The song suggests that we don’t simply one day out of nowhere choose to do something bad, immoral, etc. We make smaller choices that are not necessarily immoral, but nonetheless carry moral weight that will affect future choices. Hence when the time comes and there is a situation that requires a moral response, that “slow fade” has deteriorated our ability to choose the good.
I think the lyrics above apply to our societies “slow fade” in recognizing what is good, sacred and beautiful. This “slow fade” didn’t just occur over night, it has been slowly eroding our understanding of sacredness. Whether it is drugs, alcohol, porn, abortion, affairs, questioning “sexual identity” etc. all of it has and continues to eat away at the soul of or culture. As a people we have forgotten our dignity, and when you forget that human beings have dignity, well…we can start to question whether one boys life is worth losing an endangered species over.
My thoughts as a father
As a father it pains me to see that people have gone as far as to say that letting the boy die would have been “acceptable” to preserve the endangered animal. This is crazy. Maybe these people are not parents. That could be it. Whether it was the boy’s fault, his parent’s fault—that doesn’t matter. The boy’s life is, was, and will always be more valuable than the gorilla—even if this was the last silverback on the planet. Thankfully the zoo recognized that killing the gorilla was the right thing to do. The news has quoted zoo officials saying over and over again that they made the right call, and would do it again. That is a bold statement coming from the people who have dedicated their lives to the care and preservation of these animals. Maybe these zoo officials get it. Maybe their time with these majestic gorillas has helped them to distinguish that although they are incredibly beautiful, a 3-year-old boy is inherently more wonderful, more majestic and more valuable because he is human.
Thank God some people still recognize this.
I usually get home around 6pm after picking up my daughter from preschool or the babysitters. Claire and I usually arrive home ravenous. Well…I am mostly ravenous. Claire gets a snack right before I pick her up. Lucky.
As soon as we walk into the house Claire clearly wants to chill out after being stimulated all day at school. I want to chill as well but I need to feed the dog, stupid cat and get dinner going before my beautiful bride gets home. In the craziness of this getting-home-transition I find that sitting Claire in front of the TV for an episode or two of Dora, Wonder Pets, or Caillou is absolutely essential to my sanity.
I really struggle with this.
Long before Claire came around I read that TV exposure at a young age wasn’t a good idea. “Make sure your child is older than 2” I heard from different sources as the “allowable” TV viewing age. Although Claire is 3 years old I still feel guilty for popping her in front of the TV for 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted time. The worst part is watching Claire as she sits glued to the TV screen. Claire goes into this sort of coma/stupor that can only be broken by pausing the show, or standing directly in front of her. Its really creepy how sucked in she gets.
My wife and I have tried getting her to read, or go to her room and play with toys, but that usually last for 5 minutes and then she wants us to play with her or take her outside. I have tried getting her to help me with making dinner, which works for about 5 minutes, and then she complains that she wants to do something else. The only thing that I have found to keep her focus for at least 30 minutes is TV. I feel pretty selfish doing this but honestly I need that window of time to make those essential things like eating dinner a reality.
Claire watching TV has now become a daily routine and I don’t like it at all. Anyone have any suggestions that could get me those 30 – 45 minutes needed for dinner, etc? This dad could use all the help he can get.
This year the outdoor project our family wanted to tackle was rebuilding the flowerbeds we inherited when we bought the house 3 years ago. These flowerbeds were pretty terrible. Weeds reigned without consequences. The landscape beams that were supposed to contain the flowers were rotted out. Needless to say, the flowerbeds were an eyesore.
A few weeks ago I was able to rebuild the flowerbeds and weed the one up against the front of the house. I planted some new flowers to spruce up the curb appeal. Since doing this I have been able to better distinguish between weeds and other flowers. Some weeds have pretty flowers on them, which is probably confusing for most people. It is for me.
I have told my daughter that there are some pretty yellow and orange flowers that will be coming soon. Claire is very excited for pretty flowers to come. As Claire and I walk by the flowerbeds when we leave the house I look to see how the flowers are doing. Claire will excitedly look as well to see if her pretty flowers are ready. “Are they ready Papi?” Claire asks excitedly. “No baby, not yet.”
On one particular occasion I noticed a few dandelions. I must have made some irritated gestures and sounds because Claire could tell I wasn’t pleased. I walked over to the dandelions and ripped them out of the ground and threw them against the fence. Claire was confused and said, “Papi, no! Those are pretty flowers you made for me!” I looked at the dandelions and back at Claire. “No baby, those are weeds, not flowers.” Claire was not pleased with my response and began to lecture me with a stern voice: “You no do that papi, ok! Those are my pretty flowers!” I wanted to laugh out loud, but thought that it would only make her more upset. Claire went towards the fence and picked up the beaten dandelions. As she straightened up my little girls’ sweet and gentle voice returned, “See Papi they are pretty flowers.”
I wish I could see the world the way my daughter does. What a difference it would make.
This is one of my favorite posts. One that came about unexpectedly and yet was so perfect for reflection on Good Friday. I hope you enjoy it.
Yesterday I finished putting together a boxed perimeter around my daughter’s little playground area in our yard. It consisted of a couple of 6x6x12, and other similar sized beams and some metal stakes to connect them. Eventually we will fill it with rubber mulch and put her swing set on top of it. It took me about three days total to put the beams together.
As I was buying the beams at Home Depot I couldn’t help but realize how heavy these things were. As I began to assemble the box perimeter in the yard there were a few times when I dropped the beams, stumbled carrying them or got a splinter from them. These beams were crazy heavy and big—twelve feet of anything is going to be heavy!
It was a labor of love for my daughter.
Yesterday was Good Friday. All of Christianity celebrated the death of its…
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3am on a Wednesday. Daughter is crying and sick.
3:01am. Daughter is still crying and sick. I realize my wife isn’t home so lying in bed to allow her compassionate side to cave and take care of the baby isn’t going to work.
Claire is cranky, but not the usual I-wanna-watch-Dora-now sort of way. Claire is sick. Possibly the worst kind of cranky. I put my hand on her forehead and she is very hot. I get her water and take her temperature and sure enough she has a fever. Tylenol comes out and she goes back down.
7am. I am woken up by a loud yell—“Papi! I awake!!!!”
I am tired and have my right nostril completely clogged. It’s pretty gross. As I begin to move I notice that my body hurts. I’m not really sure why. My head also hurts. The kind of hurt you get from drinking too much. I didn’t drink though. Seriously.
I go to my daughter’s room and she still has a fever. I get her up and give her more Tylenol. Thank God for Tylenol. Claire wants to cuddle on the couch, which is another sign that she is sick. Claire doesn’t normally want to cuddle; instead she wants to run at 50 mph yelling at the top of her lungs. Luckily cuddling is less loud and something I can do.
I take coffee, orange juice, a waffle and the remote to the couch. Claire and I watch Dora’s less annoying cousin, Diego. Apparently he is allowed to have his own show…Claire’s Tylenol has kicked in and she watches two episodes without making a sound. Thank you Tylenol! I attempt to do my morning prayer but begin to fall asleep and my once clogged nostril has decided to let go off its content on my iPad. As gross and as OCD as I am, I leave the snot and nap.
About 20 minutes later I wake up to Claire wanting more juice. I guess this is a good time to clean the iPad. Claire gets more juice and we cuddle some more and read her books. There is this sick-person to sick-person understanding that we are not going to be too needy and this will be a very chill day. Books are read and then, we go and draw some pictures.
1:15pm. Claire has gone down for her nap. All is quiet and I am really contemplating taking a nap myself. Why am I still typing?
4pm. Claire wakes up and is feeling much better. We play and eat and eventually we go to her room at 8:30pm. More cuddling occurs followed by stories.
9pm. Claire is in bed and I am walking out of her room. “Papi.” Yes, Claire? “I love you.” I pause and respond, “I love you too baby. See you tomorrow.”
Today was a good day.