The misadventures of a first time father

Leading by example

“Talent + service to others = success and personal fulfillment.”

These were the words uttered by a friend as he brought to a close a passionate and inspiring eulogy about his dad.

His dad being a math teacher, my friend described it as “the most important equation” his dad ever taught.

The passing came unexpectedly, but came doing what he enjoyed most – helping others. In this case, helping at a local church. I had never met the man myself, but hearing my friend talk of him with such esteem, such reverence, I knew what a difference he made in the lives he touched.

As my friend spoke those words at the front of the service, I felt…I don’t know. Inspired. Motivated. Enlightened.

It was like those words went into the air, floated into my ear and sparked a fire inside my mind (and no doubt, many others as well that day).

We are all given something or somethings that we are good at, and to allow them to waste is the only true failure. Whether you succeed at something with flying colors or are don’t meet your goal but gave it all you’ve got, you’ve put your abilities to work.

I think of how easy it is for so many of us to become complacent in this life. To just accept things for how they are and lose the fire, the motivation that once pushed us to change our thoughts, our worlds. Heck, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat down to write blog entries here, only to give up a few sentences in, filling up my account with dozens of unfinished blot posts.

This man inspired countless people in his time – be they the students he guided to find their true calling, the people he helped serving his country during the Korean War, or his own family, showing them, by example, what it means to believe in yourself, to have conviction, and to never put your abilities to waste, rather, to put them to use, making an impact, making a difference to others, making this world a little bit better.

It was a truly beautiful and touching tribute and my friend’s words echoed through my mind since we left the service, making me want to live a life that takes full advantage of any abilities I’ve been given, to make a difference (for the better) on the lives of the people I encounter, and most of all – to show my son, by example, just how happy life can be when you put it all together, stop focusing on the unimportant, the trivial, the superficial, and start focusing on what matters – making this world a little bit better.

Book Fair Adventures!

The Book Fair, in all its glory.

The Book Fair, in all its glory.

When I was in elementary school, there was nothing like the day the teacher would pass out those colored pieces of newsprint paper, folded into a makeshift catalog, brimming with choices of the literary sense. It was like a periodic Christmas catalog hunt, reading through every summary, your eyes passing over every book cover sitting there in the Scholastic book order form.

The only thing that probably matched up to it was when your book order actually came in. Even that might be questionable because, let’s face it – it was that cornucopia of choices, the anticipation for the books to arrive that brought about that feeling of excitement and euphoria moreso than actually having the book.

So, when Meg (who is a school librarian, or Library Media Specialist as they are today called, because they do much, much more than in years past) had her annual week of the Book Fair coming up for school, I thought two years old might be a good time to introduce the little guy to the awe and wonder that is the school Book Fair (as well as give him a peek into where mommy goes every day).

Making our way through some dark, snowy back roads one recent night, we made it to Meg’s school for the one evening during the week when she stays late for any parents who want to come with their kids after school or after extracurricular activities to check out the books.

Perusing the shelves.

Perusing the shelves.

It was truly an experience for the little guy, even before we stepped foot into the library. As we made our way from the car and across the parking lot, we talked about this being not only where mommy worked, but that it was a school. He’s heard of school before, in books and in cartoons. But he had never actually seen one, and he was truly excited that he was seeing ‘mommy’s school.’

Then we got to the library and you’d have thought we walked into Santa’s workshop.

Only a few customers were there when we arrived, but that didn’t stop the monkey from running exuberantly to the shelves and grabbing any book he could with a cover that appealed to him. It wasn’t long before he was plopping down on the floor of the library and just shifting through the colorful pages.

As Meg occasionally tended to the business at hand, I watched over the little guy – or chased after him as the case may be, once he noticed there was so much more to do beyond those Book Fair shelves. (Note: smartboard markers and erasers are not toys. But try telling a two year old that). In between her customers, we’d have the whole library to ourselves, where, as a family, we’d look through shelves, talk about which books we’d like, and generally just have a good time. Probably more fun than you were supposed to be having in the library as a kid. But, hey, we’ve got an in with the librarian. She’s pretty cool, I hear.

"Chase me, dada! Chase me!"

“Chase me, dada! Chase me!”

From shelf to shelf, book to book, it was an overwhelming experience. It was sort of like our trips to Barnes and Noble, but this time it was where mommy worked, and he seemed to fully understand the full advantage he was taking of the situation, from going behind the library desk, or just shouting ‘chase me, dada!’ as he ran through the library stacks.

He seemed to be having a “Mr. Social” Day, greeting many who came in to the Book Fair, getting in the way of walking around with other kids as they tried to peruse the book shelves. At one point, he even tried to play the role of assistant. A student who was probably about 8 or 9, I would say, came in and asked Meg for a book. It wasn’t on the Book Fair shelves, so Meg went to look in the back. At which point, our guy turned to the girl who was looking for the book and says “Nope. No more books…” Luckily, she took his passion for being a part of things with a smile.

It’s hard to express just how grateful I am that he loves books as much as he does. I know I’ve probably talked ad-nauseam since starting this blog about how special our pre-bedtime storytime routine is. It’s the sort of thing that pains me if I have to miss. We’ve been doing it, quite literally, since he got back from the hospital. Now, it’s just part of what we do. Only these days, he picks out the books he wants himself.

Just casually plopping down on the library floor.

Just casually plopping down on the library floor.

I’ve read that there are several points throughout life where children decide if they are going to continue being readers or not. My hope is that by having books (and such excitement for them) be such a presence in our lives, that it will help continue to foster that love of reading, and of the imagination he seems to have in abundance. I consider us truly blessed for this. I really do.

I bought several more books for him than I had intended, but a) it helps benefit the school  and b) there were so many good kids’ books, how could I not?!

All in all, we really had a great time.

Even I felt like an eight year old again when I walked amid the Book Fair shelves.

And it was awesome.

I wonder if Meg has any of those book order forms lying around…

A book for daddy!

A book for daddy!

Giving Thanks

Holding HandsI have tried to write this post several times throughout the week, but every time I did, I ended up deleting whatever I wrote.

It was either too wordy, dragged on, tried to encompass too many things. My wife, my son, my family, my friends, our cats, four seasons, etc, etc, etc. You see what I mean. This could take days.

Then today, I realized I could sum it up (fairly) briefly.

What I’m most thankful for is this life.

We can sit around and think about ‘what if’ we had made this choice or decided to that. You can wish for fame and/or fortune. If you look for it, you can always find something to feel negative about, envious about, angry about – whether it’s something that didn’t go a certain way, something you don’t have, or just the way life is.

But really, I’m thankful for everything. Just thankful for this life I have. There were great times, rough times, but each and every segment of this life has been and will continue to be a puzzle-piece that makes up the bigger picture of me and my life.

And I’m incredibly thankful for that. All of that.

No matter who you are, where you are, I hope that not just today, but every day, there is an opportunity available to find even the smallest of positivity, of light, and find happiness and hope in that light.

To those who celebrate, a very Happy Thanksgiving.

“For Pete’s Sake”

PeteI honestly have no idea where he comes up with these things some times.

The snow was falling for the first time this season, a cold chill in the air, and the heat rising from my car as SiriusXm’s Holiday Traditions played some classics out of the radio (Yes, I’m one of those people listening to holiday music already. It puts me in a good mood as the snow falls, so I make no apologies).

Making our way through some of our usual routes, the little guy pipes up from the back seat, navigating.

“Turn here, dada.”

“This way, dada.”

“You got it, buddy.”

Then, some time later, as I’m waiting at a stop sign, I hear something I’ve never heard before.

“For Pete’s sake, let’s go. Come on, dada.”

He’s two but some days I feel like I’m chauffeuring a teenager around.

(sighs)

I suppose in many ways a toddler is very much like having all the emotional volatility of a teenager and no filter or way to fully communicate it.

Okay. So it’s not that I’m totally unaware of where it comes from. He’s been very, very, very into watching Mickey Mouse Christmas specials as of late and in one of the vignettes, a Goofy one about waiting for Santa to arrive, neighbor Pete hears something out his window and shouts “what in the name of Pete is goin’ on out here, for Pete’s sake?!”

As for the “come on,” well, Meg’s caught herself saying a few times, only to have it repeated back to her by our little human tape recorder.

There’s a lesson in here somewhere, that toddlers are sponges. They are true mimics. And whether it is what they see from the characters they watch, or what you say or what you do, they will look to you for their words and actions.

So make sure they’re the best ones you can muster.

Ghost stories

GhostWhen your child’s vocabulary and speech begins to grow, you, as a parent, are constantly bombarded with new words, phrases and sounds each and every day. At times, they can cause a few moments of strange looks on your face as you try to decipher just what it is they are trying to say. Other times it’s clear as day.

And there are some times when it is so clear and so bizarre that you’re sure you understood it, but question if you heard that right.

One night, for example, our little guy was casually playing in the living room, per usual, with nothing out of the ordinary, when he started telling us about “the little ghost” that he says “hides” from him. My wife and I immediately looked at each other and asked our son, “what did you say, buddy?” and he repeated it, the same as before, clear as day.

A separate afternoon found he and I in his room, playing with some toys, when he suddenly said to me, “Geno’s coming!” This, once again, caused a double-take and a request for repeating, which he gladly, and exuberantly obliged. Yep. He said it. You see, Geno was one of our two older neighbors who passed away this past year. When I asked questions to see if we were talking about the same Geno, yep, we were.

“Does Geno sometimes visit you, buddy?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Okay.”

I’m sure some people will think I’m looking too much into it, but as I’ve detailed here in the past when one of my parents’ dogs passed away, I suddenly started thinking about children and whether or not they can see things that we adults can’t. Trying to find reference on the internet leads me down a rabbit hole of websites both supporting and debunking the entire thought, so I won’t even bother sending you across the world wide webs for it.

As I’ve said before, I’m not really a religious person these days. Spiritual, probably, but not religious. And I think that’s why I’m always so torn when faced with encounters or incidents like this.

But I certainly think it’s possible.

As we get older, we often become more cynical and hardened to the world around us, losing the open-minded nature and open-eyes that we had as children. Through our young eyes, we saw the world in a much more spectacular, much more magical place than we do as grown-ups. And because of that, I think it’s certainly possible for young ones to somehow be more attuned to what’s out there that we just don’t see or feel.

It gives me some hope that maybe there is something else…something beyond all this. While I, many times, find it hard to believe that, there is a part of me that really wants to.

And whether I am right, wrong, or off-base at all in regard to this life and whatever, if anything, is after, I will say that our little guy is certainly opening my own eyes and mind to the thought that there is much more out there than my jaded, cynical, adult mind has shut out.

He’s quite the teacher.

More tales from the backseat

I can’t help but share the tidbits and conversations that come out of our little guy during our drives in the car.

Recently, we were driving along, some classical music playing on the radio, just the smallest amount of heat coming out of the car on a crisp, Fall day, when I heard coughing from the backseat.

“Are you okay, Buddy?”

“Me no sick, dada. Me BRAVE!”

A few moments later, his arm goes up in the air in a fist, like he’s about to fly.

“Me SUPER!!!”

“You certainly are, buddy.”

“Trick or Treat” OR “Put down that snickers bar and pick up this comic”

I’ve always wondered how dentists feel about Halloween.

Back when I was anchoring the news, we would occasionally have dentists on-set once a month, and when it came to this time of year they’d often have candy-returns that they would plug, where their offices would collect candy and ship it overseas to people in the armed services. In return, kids would be put into the running for contests.

But I can’t help but think that, despite pushing for moderation, there’s got to be some dentist offices filling up with kids who just go overboard with the stuff.

Anyway, that was a bit of a stream of consciousness.

My mind was on candy because this year, we’re trying something a little different. In years past, we’ve always given the option of candy or a comic book, culled from stacks I would accumulate throughout the year to give away. However, as time has gone on, those kiddie comics of the past that used to be so easy to find in “6 for a $1″ bins, have disappeared.

So, this year, imagine my delightful surprise when I walked into my local comic shop (where I’ve been going regularly since the age of about 7, when I had to stand on a footstool to peer into the back issue boxes) and found pre-packaged stacks of mini-comic books, ready to hand out and completely kid-appropriate.

I was thrilled!

Halloween ComicsComing 20 per pack, they had varying titles and topics, but all were labeled ‘all ages,” meaning, it’s okay for little ones to get them. And, I admit, I love the slogan on the package “lasts longer than candy!” You’re darn tootin’ it does. I would have went nuts with glee as a kid if I had gone to a house on Halloween and gotten a comic book instead of a mini Snickers, and in the years past when I’ve given out comics, I’ve smiled ear to ear at having some kids genuinely feel the same way, running feverishly down our sidewalk to their parents yelling “Comics!! They gave me comics!!!” It’s been pretty darn cool.

So, this year, I’m keeping up the tradition, thanks to these Halloween Comicfest comic packets, and Meg has also ordered some Halloween toys (glow in the dark vampire fangs and spider-rings) as an option as well.

So, it’s a candy-free Halloween this year for us, and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. I like the idea of finding something that’s still fun, but a little bit different for the kids. They are items that can be enjoyed long after the wrapper is taken off and at the same time, safe for everyone, even kids with allergies or diabetes, as has been very popular with the Teal pumpkin initiative as of late.

And I mean, it’s not like we’re handing out toothbrushes. :)


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