The misadventures of a first time father

Category Archives: The future

Boo at DoorIt’s amazing how quickly our little family has grown – from Meg and I, to our first cat, then another, then a third. Then came our little guy, followed last year by our little girl. Very quickly, our little starter home started to feel a little bit smaller.

And so, we admit we have been looking for something to move on to – whether it be today, tomorrow, or next year, it will happen when the time is right. I’m convinced of that. I wasn’t always. But I am now.

Even with those feelings of outgrowing our space, of constantly boxing up our lives to make room for the changes going on amidst us, it’s never easy to think about a change to the sites, sounds, and faces that you see every day.

There have been times where something happens that makes me say or think ‘ugh. We need to move’ but those thoughts are then counter-balanced whenever we get close to the thought of actually purchasing a new home.

This was never more pronounced than recently when we had gone and looked at a house for sale and decided that we wanted to make a move on it and put in an offer.

Like an interrogated suspect under the spotlight  in one of those old crime movies, my head and body began to swell with anxiety and fear.

  • What were we doing?
  • Was this the right move to make?
  • What will the neighbors be like?
  • Will we regret this decision later?
  • What type of peers will our kids have in the neighborhood? Will it be good? Will there be trouble?

And so it goes. And goes. And goes until I was just a ball of neurotic over-analyzation and worry. Given enough time I can talk myself out of anything. Maybe that’s the road I was heading down, I don’t know, but it’s certainly the path my brain takes when decisions aren’t made and are given time to settle, to fester, to raise concerns.

In the end, we didn’t get that particular house and another offer was accepted. I truly believe there’s a reason for that. It wasn’t the one for us. The right one will come along at the right time and we’ll know it and if things don’t work out, it wasn’t the one for us.

We walked back to the car, Meg, myself, and the kids, and sure, the standard feeling would be defeat after a situation like that, but it wasn’t.

As we got into the car, offer rejected, we decided to head to Barnes and Noble where our little guy can play with the train table, dance on the stage (he’s never met a stage he doesn’t like to dance on) and just felt…okay.

So this offer, this plan, this house didn’t work out. We still have a house to go back to. Maybe it’s not perfect. Maybe it’s not as much room as we’d like at times. Maybe there are sometimes some weird stuff going on that I question and worry about. But we have a home, which is something to be incredibly grateful for in a world where so many people don’t. Without even consulting each other, it was like we all took the same mental step back after the rejection and breathed a sigh of gratitude. We had a home.

And most of all, we have each other.

We truly and honestly, felt fully, inside and out that age old saying – home is where the heart is.

As long as we have each other, it doesn’t matter where we are. We’ll be home.

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Its a girl 1If I’ve failed to write as of late, it’s like the old saying goes, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Or blame it on the sleep deprivation.

Yes, Meg and I have been up late once again, all for a wonderful reason – a little over a week ago, we welcomed our second child into the world – a beautiful baby girl.

Just like with our little guy three-plus years ago, we chose to be surprised about the gender of the child, and boy, were we ever surprised! We were convinced, almost entirely, that this one would be a boy, and when we heard the words “It’s a girl!” that morning, we couldn’t believe it. I think sometimes we still can’t. The awe still washes over me, realizing we have a little girl joining our little (though he’ll tell you “i’m a grown up!”) monkey.

While he was born a week and a half late and weighing over ten pounds, this little lady was a week early and just a little over eight pounds, making her a peanut in comparison to what it was like holding her brother.

All talk of lightweight/heavyweight classes aside, none of those little details mattered when I was holding her in my arms in that hospital room, seeing the tears of joy in Meg’s eyes as I had the privilege of showing her our daughter for the very first time.

I stared into her eyes the first night we had her home, and just thought, “Of all the people in the entire universe, I get to be your daddy. Me! How absolutely lucky I am.”

There will be a whole new set of adventures, a whole new set of lessons for me to learn, but I look forward to all of it. I just am thrilled that our family has grown once again.

And you know, the sleep may be few and far between and the poopy diapers may seem like they keep coming, but deep down in my heart, I wouldn’t have it any other way,

Sometimes I feel like there’s a bit of amnesia once a few years have passed from having a baby. It’s like we forget all about all the trials, tribulations, sacrifices, mental, emotional, and physical tolls that come with a baby, infant, then toddler.

Or maybe we just secretly miss it all and have an inherent need to start the process again.

I admit that I thought the biggest challenge of having a second child would be having to learn/remember how to raise and care for a baby all over again.

I was so wrong. Not even close.

No, I’m quickly learning that the biggest challenge with a second child is raising them while simultaneously raising your first.

Here’s one example – With your first child, those late night feedings, cryings, etc, wake you up, sure. They leave you a little sleep deprived for a while, of course. But the second time around (and I’m sure the third, fourth, etc, for those of you so inclined), you’re no longer the only ones who that baby can wake. So now, while you’re up at 2:30 a.m. changing a diaper, feeding, or generally just trying to soothe a baby to sleep, you’re also praying to high heaven that your first child isn’t going to wake up as well, adding an entirely new level of obstacles to the night. (Not to mention the crankiness that will come the next day from a toddler who doesn’t sleep)

All that aside, though (and fodder for future pieces, no doubt), it’s been incredible to welcome her to the world.

We’re all very happy, and we’re all very tired.

More to come…Stay tuned.


Father and SonThree years. How quickly they go by.

It seems like only yesterday I cradled you in my arms, swaddled in a blanket covered in baby footprints, wondering how I was so lucky to get to welcome you into this world.

When we brought you home, I never thought I could feel so exhausted again in my life. I wondered how how your mom was even standing. And yet, as I write this, we’ll be going through it all over again in just a few short months.

I sat in awe the first time you smiled. I laughed when you pooped on my hand during a diaper change. I watched you roll over, then crawl, then stand up and walk and with each step you took, you walked deeper and deeper into my heart.

The awe in which you saw everything for the first time left me inspired.

You gave me new eyes in which to see the world.

I sat awake in a chair in the hospital while you and your mom slept, unaware that febrile seizures even existed, let alone it was what put you there in the first place. We hoped and prayed we would see you return to the exuberant force of nature you are. Lucky for us, you did.

Pigeon HospitalAnd that was just the first year and a half.

You turned two and I thought how fast the time had passed. You impressed us with your counting and letter knowledge, and the way you’d chat up a storm. Now I look back at video of that time and realize how crude those words may have been in the beginning, but they were there, and we knew every word you meant.

Some days you were unhappy. It happens to us all. And when you’re a kid it can be magnified. Sure, it’s been 32 years since I’ve been in your shoes, but I get it. You’re having the time of your life, tons of fun, playing up a storm and suddenly being told you’ve got to go, that it’s time to go to sleep. You were just getting warmed up. Or it was a cool toy, a great book or the open space of green grass. I may tell you it’s time to nap or go home, buddy, but deep inside, I get it. I really do. Who wants to be dragged away from all of that with no choice in the matter?

Our car rides are legendary…well they are to me. The fact that you’ve made it your own game to guess which composer is on when I play the classical station makes me simultaneously chuckle and beam. Other days you want to listen to music from cartoons ranging from Thomas the Tank Engine to Winnie the Pooh, to DuckTales, and it makes me rediscover childhood all over again. Only I get to experience it with you.

To see you play with my old toys or watch cartoons that I watched as a kid and have just as much fun with them strikes a chord deep inside.

You help me stay eternally a child, little buddy. It’s something I’ve longed for and long-lost in this crazy world of adulthood. Some people never lose it, some never had it. Me, I’ve lost my way here and there, looking back wistfully at those bygone days. But thanks to you, I’ve been in touch with them all over again. And It’s something I’ve needed for quite a while.

I admit there have been times when I’ve wished we could speed through a troublesome phase or moment. But honestly, more often than not, I’ve wanted nothing more than to stop the sands of time, and live these moments forever with you.

I can’t believe I get to be your dad. Whether it’s the intelligence and thought you show in the decisions you make, the stories you tell, or the compassion and kindness you show to others, be they a baby, a fellow kid, an animal, or an adult, you inspire me.

You make me a better person each and every day and I thank the stars above every moment of my day (yes, even when you’re kicking and screaming) that you’re here.

Happy Birthday, little man.

Storytime.


Eight years ago, I was single, working as a newspaper reporter and living on my own in an apartment.

Oh, yeah. I was also buried in debt – student loans, credit cards, car payments, you name it.

It’s not something I’m proud of, but as I’ve chronicled here in the past, I put all this out there for two reasons. The first is as a motivator. By admitting to the mistakes of my past, publicly, I hope to be less likely to repeat them. The second is because it is a reminder for me of just how far I’ve been able to come at eliminating debt.

Back then, I felt trapped, helpless, that this was going to be the way it was for the rest of my life and there was no way I could possibly get myself out of it. At times, I even took the absolutely wrong approach of looking at myself as a victim. I blamed the credit card companies, I blamed the banks, I blamed everybody because I felt ‘preyed upon’ in my youth, I didn’t know what I was getting into, etc. That didn’t help matters.

But in time, I realized I had to sink or swim. I got serious about it early on, but my desire to “clear up the books” only intensified when Meg and I got married, and hit overdrive when we had our little guy and began to realize that one day, there’s a good chance we could outgrow our house.

Before he was born in 2012, I had managed to clear up the credit card debt and now live completely credit card free. It’s incredibly liberating. Planning budgets, spending only what you have, saving for something if you really want it. It’s like a great big puzzle, but one that is so absolutely satisfying when you’re not owing money (and interest) to someone.

We bought our current house as a foreclosure and fixed it up, keeping our mortgage low but putting a nice roof over our heads and a warm place for our family to grow.

With the credit cards paid off, I began, as noted in earlier posts, to focus on student loan debt via Dave Ramsey’s Snowball Method to debt. With four student loan lenders, I took focus on one at a time (making regular payments to three of them), but throwing as much extra money as I could at the one with the smallest balance.

We’re often told to go for the one with the highest interest rate, but there’s a psychological aspect to paying something off. It motivates, it makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something, and hitting the lowest balances first allows you to do that and feel great about it, making you want to move on to the next.

So for me, I tackled Keybank. Once they were paid off, I moved on to National Education, taking all the money I was paying each month to Keybank and ‘snowballing it’ on top of my regular National Education payment. Before I knew it, I had that student loan paid off as well.

That then led me to two student loans and a car payment. The car payment was the lowest balance between all three, so I took the payments I was making to Keybank and National Education and snowballed them on top of my car payment, which has just recently allowed me to pay off my car more than a year early.

It really feels incredible.

This is where I was in May 2014:

National Education – $1,500

Car Payment – $6,800

Sallie Mae – $12,200

Discover/Citibank Student Loan – $23,000

Here’s where I was in September 2014:

Car Payment – $4,833

Sallie Mae – $11,878

Discover/CitiBank Student Loan – $21,379

And here’s where I stand now:

Sallie Mae – $11,379

Discover/CitiBank Student Loan – $19,386

I’m not one who needs a new car every few years and believe me, if I can maintain the one I have and get it to last as long as possible, I will be thrilled to do so, because now I own it. No bank, no dealer, just me.

Believe me. I’m the guy who is still using the old 4:3 television set I got as a Christmas gift from my parents in college 15 years ago as the family TV in our living room. I’m not one obsessed with spending money on the latest and greatest.

Of course, now there is all that money that was going toward these snowballed car payments each month, which has totaled out to roughly $700.

So, from here, I stood at a crossroads, determining what to do with that $700. If I were to continue on in the purest form of Dave Ramsey’s Snowball Method, I would take that $700 and apply it on top of one of the two remaining student loans. But, there’s other things I’m taking into consideration, including the possibility of needing another car eventually and the fact that one day, we might need to be looking for another house if our family grows out of the current one.

With that in mind, I’m doing a sort of ‘partial snowball effect’ from hereon in, taking $200 of that car payment money and applying $100 extra toward each of my student loans (Discover and Sallie Mae). It will likely take about five years to pay them each off, but that’s better than the 9 remaining years if I were keep making basic payments on each.

That leaves $500 of non-earmarked money that can be put away for any variety of things – whether that be some toward an emergency down payment for a car one day, a little money put aside for Christmas shopping, building savings, or just eventually being able to have some more money to put toward a mortgage if we decide it’s time to find a new home.

I’m not writing this to brag. The reason I’m doing this is because I once felt so buried that I saw absolutely no hope that my life could get better, but it did. It took time. It took cutting back, living a little more simple, not having everything.

But the feeling of a possible future that’s not tied to a shackle of debt is one that can and will keep me going.


Here we go again. That media, making a big deal out of everything. Okay. It is kind of a big deal. 😉

Since we’re both pretty big fans of the satirical newspaper The Onion, this seemed like a natural approach for ‘the big reveal,’ as it were. Fortunately, our son turned out to have pretty good timing and inherited his father’s hammy acting. 🙂

In all seriousness, we’re very excited.

(you can click to enlarge, if you like)

The Rutabega - Copy copy


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.


I’ve been feeling pretty nostalgic as of late.

I’m not sure if it’s the changing colors of the Fall leaves here in the Northeast, which always make me think of the many returns ‘back to school’ for almost two decades, or sitting outside the cafe in college with my portable CD player and headphones providing ample musical accompaniment as I’d write. Maybe it’s helping my parents pack up and move out of the house we were a family in from the age of 13 onward. Or maybe it’s watching the only sitcom these days that I tune into each week, The Goldbergs, which washes over me like a wave of reminiscences to my youth in a ‘1980 something’ blur.

Either way, there’s been something about the past. Something about how life used to be. Something that, in the words of Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon on 30 Rock – ‘I want to go to there.’

Watching my son walking talking, counting, and just becoming a little person all his own, with his own ideas, decisions, and views, even at two, has made me think more and more about the world he is going to grow up into. Most of all, I think about just how different that world is from the one I look back so fondly on.

couple-on-phonesWe went to lunch as a family not too long ago and were talking when my wife nudged her head slightly to the table next to us. I glanced over, where I saw a young couple who had come in just before us. They were seated at the table, ready for a meal, like anyone else in a restaurant would be, but instead of talking to each other, both had their heads down, glued to the phones in their hands.

I sighed.

Yeah. I know. I’m already three steps into ‘Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!” territory, but I can’t help but feel a longing for a time that, despite the melodramas that (let’s face it) we created ourselves in our youth, was much simpler. Workplace tasks didn’t include making sure Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, yadda, yadda, yadda, were updated constantly.

A time when asking someone out on a date meant walking up to them and doing so in person or building up the nerve to pick up the phone and hope that a parent didn’t answer first. Now it’s a text, a Facebook message, a tweet. A ‘wanna hang out?’ There is something…lacking in it all.

Yes, yes. I realize that in many ways the Internet and Social Media have opened up the world to so many. Heck, would these thoughts running through my head have anywhere to go other than to my friends over a beer if it wasn’t for the power of the world wide webs?

nice-neighborhoodThere was once a time when the worst you had to worry about when doing something foolish was a friend taking a picture that they’d show your friends. Now, that picture can be seen by the world in a matter of seconds, with no way to take it back.

Bullies may have caused trouble at school or on the bus, but you could go home and take a break from it, regroup, feel you were safe. Today, computers, the internet and phones bring the bullying right there into the living room or bedroom of the child, giving them no break, no moment to gather thoughts – a constant bombardment of assault that would drive even the strongest adult to question their own sanity at times, I’m sure.

Sigh.

And this is the world my little boy is growing up in. How could I possibly be prepared for it?

I was blessed to have a family unit with caring parents and a great younger brother. I went to a high school that was so close-knit (don’t get me wrong. there were issues here and there. there always is with teens.) that when I wax nostalgic about it, my wife has often asked me if I went to school in a time warp or the 1950s.

I was very lucky and I want him to be too.

And yet, I can’t help but be fearful of the changing world we live in when I look back on the carefree days of riding my bike to the little league field, of walking to school or to the public pool, or being able to walk at night in my neighborhood to a friend’s house around the corner or just blocks away without worry for me or my parents.

They were wonderful times and I will treasure them always.

social_mediaWhen I was in college, I wrote a paper about what was then, the ‘height’ of social media in that pre-myspace, pre-friendster, pre-facebook days – AOL Instant Messenger. My theory was that through the use of technology like Instant Messenger, we as a civilization were becoming less human. We were losing our humanity in the way we communicate.

If I had only known what was coming down the pipe in terms of ‘social media’ back then.

But, here we are. All sharing this world – a world made ever smaller by our ability to connect with someone halfway across it in a matter of seconds. Many of us still finding our way.

What kind of people will we be?

Whatever we choose will automatically play a role in who our children choose to be.

I can’t control the world around me and I know that. And that world around me is going to continue to grow with things I’ll never understand and yet, gets smaller by the day as technology grows. How it’s used, how it’s reacted to, that’s all up to the people behind it.

That would be us. And our children. And their children.

I can’t put my son in a bubble or create a world for him without the risks, the fears, and the distractions that come with technology, the internet and social media that have made me look back so much on my own youth as ‘so much simpler.’

But I can make sure the phones are put away at dinner time, or family time, or storytime, or that we make sure we get outside, go for walks, or just enjoy the world that we’ve been given. I can get on the ground and play with toys with him instead of turning on the television.

I can teach him that while there is vast, powerful technology in this world that can either bring us together or rip us apart, it is no match for the imagination of oneself or the true community of family and friends that are found simply reaching out a real hand, not a twitter handle.

I can show him how much this world, this earth, the world around us and everything in it that we walk by each day should be cherished and appreciated, less it fade away and disappear and become nothing more than an image on one of those magic screens.



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