Apr 8, 2014

Smothered in Hugs

Over the years, I've developed a number of little games and rituals with each of my kids. They're not created with intention... they just sort of emerge over time based on our interactions and the meshing of our personalities. All dads must do it. It's part of our fatherly bonding experience and a way to show our kids that we share something special. Some of these routines only last through certain ages or phases of development. Some stick around longer. Some seem to go away and then pop up later when you least expect it. They're all important, though, and serve as little reminders of the unique relationship we fathers have with each of our children.

Eliana, my little two year old whose charisma cup runneth over, has several of these little rituals she shares with me. They are mostly madcap and always loving. And 100% unique to her. The one I love the most right now (and hopefully one that lasts) is our bedtime routine. After getting dressed for bed and brushing our teeth, we head downstairs while the remaining hooligans of the house prepare for bedtime under mom's supervision. We find a cozy blanket, turn off all of the lights and snuggle into the recliner to begin our nighttime wind down. Sometimes we read a book by the light coming in from the window. Sometimes we go straight to the music. Every time Eliana insists on picking the first song. And she ALWAYS picks "Book of Love" as sung by Peter Gabriel. It's an odd choice for her as any other time of day she prefers upbeat dance music. But without fail she scrolls through the music list on my phone and her tiny little finger taps her chosen song. As soon as the music starts, she lets me know that it's "Book-a-Love." And she reminds me again every time Mr. Gabriel sings those words throughout the rest of the song. Sometimes, without any specific prompting in the lyrics, she tells me "he's singing James and Eli." Needless to say, my heart promptly melts and I nestle her in even closer. (And this all but guarantees that one day, the first boy to break her heart will meet an untimely death at the hands of her hysterical father.)

Once her preferred song is over we listen for awhile to whatever music the random toggle serves.  Each time a song starts, Eliana immediately asks me "what's this song about?" I smile because she always responds the same way -- repeating whatever description I just gave her but prefaced with an "Ohhhhhhh." Like, "Ohhhhhhh, it's about two people in love." Or, "Ohhhhhh, it's about dancing all night." This goes on for several songs as she moves and adjusts to find the optimal arrangement for drifting off to sleep. Finally (and maybe my favorite part of our whole routine) her stirring subsides as she finishes fine tuning her position on my lap and she asks me to "put it back on Book-a-Love." She closes her eyes. Her little hand gives me a pat on the arm. Her breathing gets deep and slow in that way that only babies and puppies seem to master. And before the first verse is over, she's... out.

And usually before the second verse is over, I too am... out.

Mar 18, 2014

How's My Drinking?

For one reason or another, St. Patrick's Day has been a good day for family photos for us. Maybe it's usually around the first days of warm weather so outdoor family portraits sound like a good idea. Maybe it's the luck of the Irish.

Looking back at these makes me feel old, though.


Jan 28, 2014

The Closer You Are


May 15, 2010.  That's the date this photo was taken. Why am I standing in a beautiful meadow, posing for pictures with my daughter? Because I'm actually standing on 1.25 acres of property we had just purchased in a huge master-planned housing development. I was imagining where our new house would sit. I was dreaming of the home where our family, which had ballooned to six people, would live and grow for the foreseeable future. Exciting times those were. Out in that empty lot.

Eventually that empty lot would be excavated to hold the foundation of the house that Julie and I spent months designing as we scrutinized every little detail, making sure it would be perfect for us. And on that foundation a building would be erected over the course of a year while the six of us lived in a bedroom over the garage of Julie's parents' house. And with the help of our friends and family, we finally moved (almost) all of our earthly possessions into that brand new house and got to the task of settling in and making that marvelous new house our home.

And now... we're moving out.  And on.

Shortly after committing to building that perfect home, our family business started getting pulled into the muck of the financial crisis and economic depression. Our timing was horrible. Luckily we were conservative enough in our finances up to that point that we were able to weather the storm for awhile. Throw in some unbelievably high property taxes (like as high as a second mortgage) and it eventually became too much. We loved our house, but there was no joy in dedicating so much of our shrunken income to our living expenses. So almost exactly two years after moving into the house that took so much planning and patience to obtain, we put it on the market. Downsizing was the only option.

Which leads us to now, almost exactly one year after we listed our house for sale. We're in the final weeks of preparing to hand this house over to another family and move into the next house that we'll call home.

We really did painstakingly design every square inch of this house with us and our children in mind. It really is "our" house. In some ways it feels like we've barely lived here, but in other ways it's hard to imagine anything but this house being our home. Despite all that, though it may be surprising to some, leaving this house isn't that big of a deal. It's just a house. A thing. It sheltered us, but it's just brick and stone and wood and cement. The same stuff of which our next house is made.  I care far more about the lives lived inside the house than the house itself.

Plus this gives me all the more reason to dive into my favorite show on television, This Old House. I can't wait to give Julie my list of projects I want to tackle...