Day 4: Your Favorite Time of Day

There is a moment that I look forward to (almost) every day. After a long day there is a fraction of time that I close a door, take a few steps, pause, take a breath, and open another.  This is the moment that makes every single day worth whatever has been thrown at me.

When I get home, without fail, there is a moment that transpires. As the door opens one or two little voices will YELL from within the house “Daddy’s Home”! There is a cacophony of screams and a thunderous pattering of feet. I am bowled over as two excited children attack me with hugs, kisses, and begin pulling on my arm. As they guide me into the next room a little cherub face will turn and a brilliant smile will come to his face. Then my beloved bride will come and say “Welcome Home”.

No matter the day, no matter what is going on, this moment makes my entire day fade away. It is in these moments that the weight of the world leave me, like a mantel taken off. No matter what was on my mind the moment before I touched the handle, I am in my happy place. I am dad and husband. I am home.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Cranio Dad says #ThanksBaby for making me a dad.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion.

This weekend is an amazing one. Father’s Day is a chance to celebrate dads, and all that they do in our lives. But this year I am looking at this day a little differently. Yes, there will still be the accolades for my amazing dad.  But Pampers is giving thanks to babies for making Dad feel exceptionally special; for empowering dads to discover new roles in life through fatherhood.  While I am forever thankful for each of our growing children (Zoey, David, and Jacob), my role as ‘Dad’ started when Zoey was born.

After a crazy labor and delivery, there was a ton of worry. Zoey was rushed to the NICU. The picture-perfect story about entering fatherhood was squelched with worried whispers from the staff. “What are we going to tell the parents?” is something one NEVER wants to overhear.

I remember, and still hold close, the very first time that I saw my daughter in the NICU. As I quietly pulled back the curtain, I saw before me a dark room and a little tiny bed. That bed had a light that shined with a radiance that hurt my eyes. Bathed in the warm, glowing light was my little girl, my Zoey. The one of whom I had prayed for, sung to, and talked with through my beloved bride’s growing belly. On shaking legs, I walked over to her bedside; tears streaming down my face. A quite voice from the corner of the room said “Dad, you can touch her, she is ok.” With tear-filled eyes I looked at the nurse that I had not noticed before. Her calm, penitent smile met me as her hands beckoned to the bed.

My hands were trembling as I reached out and placed my hand next to her. Choking back the tears, I said the words that I had been waiting nine months to say. “Hey Zoey, it’s me, Daddy.” At the sound of my voice, she stirred. I watched as her little body moved, and her tiny, tiny hand reached up. Her hand found my finger, and she grabbed on.

Dad and Zoey

This was the moment that I realized my entrance into the role of fatherhood. I knew that I would climb mountains for her. As her little hand grasped tightly onto my finger, I knew that just as she was born, this dad was born as well.

How Cranio Dad feels about Pampers.

For more than 50 years, moms and dads have trusted Pampers to care for their babies. Meanwhile, over the last five years, our family has come to understand Craniosynostosis. We have also learned about the challenges for a child with an imperforate anus. On Day One Zoey was in Pampers. We have tried others, but, honestly, no others work for her. Weather it be dealing with blow-outs, or looking for some comfort after a surgery, Pampers have always been there. Because of how well they worked for Zoey, we knew they were our choice. They are a staple in our home as all three kids wear them.

Pampers has released a new #ThanksBaby video that captures the amazing relationship that is created between a dad and his baby when a baby is born.  I love how this video makes me smile.

I am so happy that Pampers is helping to make this Father’s Day, and every day, special by honoring dads; for thanking dads for all the amazing things that we do, big and small, to help our little ones.

Please join me by tweeting why you are most thankful for baby with the hashtag #ThanksBaby

This Father’s Day let’s do our best to live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Sleep, where we are going we don’t need sleep…

For far too long we have been off the radar. We have been working hard at creating a new format for our vlogs, and those should be starting again soon. Kati has been doing an awesome job juggling all that there is to do taking care of a house full of children.  I have been working towards launching a dad’s group here in Richmond, more preparation on a book that I am writing, projects, and more projects. Sleep has long since been a common thing for either of us.

Averaging, still, three hours of interrupted sleep has been my thing so long that I think I am going to make business cards that state it. At current, it is not due to the (almost) eight month old Jacob, or the potty-training three year old David, or even the amazing and full of life five year old Zoey. Life. It is the time of year where projects are the thing to do. Also, scraping every moment of family time that we can. Sure, there is the awesomeness of the days lasting longer.  That SO helps when you tell your kids that it is time to go to sleep.  David, in particular, has gotten great about pointing out that the sun is still up.  This means that it is not bed time, right?

“Every mountain top is within reach is you just keep climbing”. Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro and Beyond

But, there is a ray of hope. There is a glimmer of light cresting over the pinnacle of this phase of life. We can see the cairn that we have been building in this place, as we face the light. The work that we have done, the nights that we have spent working, are coming to an end. Soon, we will be at the peak, facing a new dawn, and a slope that we can coast down.

There is more to come. Hopefully it is all awesomeness. There will, undoubtedly, be many more summits ahead of us. But, and this may be the lack of sleep speaking, I think that we can take them on. Thanks for hanging in there with us.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Still Frequent Customers

It’s funny how time and experiences change our perspectives. I remember the times when I used to post about every doctor’s appointment for Zoey. I posted about our questions, every medical procedure, many of the tests and treatments, and every so often, a few solid answers. My way of processing this sudden upheaval of Cranio to my organized and planned little world was to document all of it. List it, capture it, question it, follow prescribed treatment, and return for follow-up as needed. Lather, rinse, repeat. Move toward the bigger corrective surgeries, pass through the long days of waiting in a foggy haze, and continue with recovery. More tests, more questions, more plans. At some point it became our new normal. I was able to continue on with less hoop-la and without the intentional driving of a new Cranio Parent, at least most of the time.

The calmer season that follows the initial year or two of constant upheaval is very common for Cranio families. Many speak of it as being “on the other side,” particularly when they are fully treated for the remainder of their child’s life after a single, albeit heartbreaking procedure. I think this concept is a big reason why many personal blogs and pages devoted to craniosynostosis fall by the wayside once a Cranio baby reaches her 2nd birthday. The craziness has subsided and everyone just wants to move on with life as normally as possible. I get it, really I do! I am so thankful that regular life continues and the daily stress of this diagnosis doesn’t usually last very long. Granted, not all Cranio cases are quite as simple, with their medical folders gathering dust as children collect pencils and notebooks for school. We are among those who, even after 5 years, still have many questions concerning what our Cranio baby will be able to accomplish in her life time. We are learning that our answers will largely come only as Zoey tells us what she is able to do, and as we slowly stretch her limits and encourage her to reach higher. There are simply not enough others like her who have already been documented to set forth a regular pattern, so she is forging her own path in every area of life. Really, everyone must do this to some extent, but I find it interesting when even medical professionals refuse to lay any claims on a predictable path for her.

I am very grateful that the circus of appointments are less frequent these days. They still continue in spurts though, regardless of how little attention I bring to them. We have already faced Zoey’s 4th appointment of 2017 with her Pediatric GI surgeon. The novelty has long worn off, and the struggle is real to cart 3 kiddos under 5 through a hospital for an appointment and routine KUB X-ray. Zoey has some differences in her digestive tract that need monitoring occasionally, which may or may not be related to her Cranio diagnosis. When we do go, there is still a feeling a familiarity. Some nurses think Jacob is David because there is no way my second little baby is already 3 years old.  Others have crayons and paper on standby for Zoey.  I now force a big smile every one of the 3-4 times someone in our path comments on how I have “my hands full.” When I’m not stressed out, I really do love having a loaded up double stroller, complete with sticky fruit snacks in the cup holders and sweatshirts piled in the basket. It’s exhausting and demanding. Every so often I get it right, and I am so proud of myself for the tiny battle I have won. This includes a previous visit to the outpatient waiting room when Jacob pooped through two layers of clothing onto his carrier car seat while waiting in the stroller. It was an unexpected blow, but thank God I was ready for it. I had a complete extra outfit, a good supply of wipes, and even an extra burp cloth to lay on the clean, damp seat for him. I was just buckling him back in when the technician called Zoey’s name for her x-ray. You know, no big deal.

I have many more failed attempts than successes, but let’s face it: I want to scroll back through these days and remember that I got it right a few times too. So here is proof to Future Me: you know that one day at St Mary’s Hospital in the outpatient waiting room? Not all of them, but that one day? You rocked the 3 under 5 years old thing with the double stroller going solo that day. #focusonthegood

In light of all this, I’d like to revisit the bigger question of why it is that we are still actively blogging as a Cranio Family. First of all, my husband is thus far the only published Cranio Dad on social media. Go ahead and Google “#craniodad” and let me know if you find someone else. We would love to connect with him! I am among a few other moms who publically write about their experiences with Cranio, and a much smaller number who are still actively writing on their own pages after 2 years.  No one else is writing as a married couple that I have found, especially in regards to family living. We write together because we want to provide a more holistic view of family life when it is affected by Cranio, for the short-term and longer-term.

After 5 years, I continue to write about Cranio primarily because Zoey continues to surprise me, to encourage me, and to shine in new ways. Her story is unique and deserves to be told on a scale as large as I can offer to as many people as will listen. Her life speaks hope in a way that very little else can. I also write because our world needs to recognize more Cranio babies thriving as toddlers and students, and even into adulthood. So many social media stories stop after the scary skull surgeries. Yet most often there is an amazing collection of lives that continue on in an affected family. These families are forever softened to the once foreign diagnosis of craniosynostosis, and often to every other child with a complicated medical history as well. There is more to tell about how Cranio affects us, and I want to offer our family’s continuing story. Lastly, I write because others need to hear the positive stories lived in the aftermath of Cranio. Too many families are terrified of the vague unknown. Too many parents allow fear to change their family decisions so that they change jobs or don’t have any more children, regardless of what they wanted before their Cranio child entered their lives. I recognize that fear. I lived in that same fear for about 8 months after Zoey was born. I feared that I would never have the large family that I had always dreamed of. I feared that I didn’t have it in me to function as a parent beyond the demanding needs of Cranio. How could I handle it physically, emotionally, mentally? What if my second child had Cranio as well? I had so many questions, and the unknown was paralyzing. One of the most reassuring responses I received at that time came from a sweet daughter who is one of five children in her family. I think it was the second child who was born with Cranio, and their mom continued to have three more children afterward. This daughter’s response was so confident in speaking to my desires and fears as she commented, “Don’t worry, you will have more. It will be amazing.” I can’t really explain it, but I refused to let my fear of inadequacy cripple my dream of having more children once I was able to read such an affirming comment from this perfect stranger. I want to offer that same hope to others. I want to remind Cranio families that there is life after the diagnosis. There is family after the procedures. Despite how much our perspectives may change, the world continues to turn after the Cranio hurricane hits. Don’t let it crush you, but allow it to shape you into the next phase of who you become as individuals, and as a family. Don’t worry, it will be amazing.

 

 

Space: An adventure through little eyes.

The other night, we did something awesome.  We took our kids, to space!

For some time we have been all too aware of our children’s love for all things space. I can say that the rekindling of our childhood, for Kati and I, has not helped the matter. We have long felt that we would always embrace our children’s desires to learn.  Space, the final frontier. The wonder filled awesomeness that captures the hearts and minds of so many children.  Those that are lucky, this wonderment carries on into their adulthood.

My kids are in love with space. My three year old son can name all NINE (that’s right… #plutosnotforgotten) planets, in order. You can catch both David and Zoey outside, at night, just looking up at the stars. If the moon is out, it lights the smiles on their faces as they point and shout “MOON!” much to the chagrin of our neighbors.

So, the other night, we wanted to take our kids to space.

We rearranged the living room, brought out the projector that I use for Dungeons and Dragons, and set up for awesomeness. I searched for hours for something that was worthy of my kids. Something that would bring the similes and shouts long into the night. You might be surprised to find all the things related to space that exist out there. But, I wanted an adventure. I wanted my kids to experience space, the thing that the love so dear.

Secretly, my goal is to prepare them both for a trip to a planetarium.  I want to ensure that we do not get asked to leave within the first few minutes of the show starting. For me, there is nothing sweeter then the excited shouts of my kids with things that they love. It shows their desire to learn. Others, you know, adults, may not be as fond of it. After all, in an enclosed space (like a planetarium) their voices would surely echo.

But as I was saying, we rearranged the room. We prepared to launch our children into space, on the largest screen we could manage.

I settled on the first episode of Cosmos.

Cosmos: Space, it's whats for dinner.

I went with the Neil deGrasse Tyson reboot, purely for the visualizations for my kids. Trust me, as they grow older, there will be time for the original.  One cannot simply look at space and not think of Carl Sagan. For the next 90 minutes, they were glued. There were shouts of joy, and questions being asked. Both David and Zoey were fighting sleep by the end. They were sad to go to bed. However, there is something awesome about hearing your kids, in there room, singing the planet song. Even though they should be sleeping.

I cannot wait to surprise them with this again.

Ladies and gentlemen.  I took my kids to space… and it was awesome.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Baseball Season Is Here! Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

Growing up some of my fondest memories surround baseball. In the cool summer Ohio nights, my dad could often be found playing catch with us. As the sun set the game would get harder, transitioning from 500 to practicing our grounders. This was not just on the weekends. There were days that my dad would come home from work, and just after dinner we would head outside.

There were a few times when I was having a bad day, that he would take just me outside to play catch. We would talk about what was bothering me, and find solutions to make it better. All while tossing this little white ball with red laces back and forth. The smack of the impact in the leather gloves punctuating our thoughts. Baseball found itself firmly in a group of activities that promoted bonding, growing up and development.

baseball

Baseball was one of the many sports that I played growing up.  Mixed in with soccer, swimming, tennis and football, my parents did an awesome job of cheering us on, and letting us be active. Of course, things were simpler then. The streetlights were are alarm clocks, and passing notes was our texting. It was also something that we enjoyed watching or listening to as a family. Be it on the radio, tv, or the awesome time we were able to go to a game, it was part of life.

Why am I writing about baseball?

This past weekend, and through most of this week is opening day. Baseball season has started. I realize that for many this means little. There has been a steady decline in attendance and viewership over the years for my beloved sport. However, there are many out there that hold this time, this season, near and dear. I, for one, cannot wait for another season of ‘stadium nights’ with the family.  Were we grill hot dogs, fry pickles, and put the game on.  It is also possible that we will get to a few Richmond Flying Squirrels games as a family. Watching their eyes light up as the distinctive crack of the bat fills the air means the world to me.  If we are really lucky, perhaps we will be able to make it to a Washington Nationals game as well.

Baseball holds a space in my heart that reminds me of countless good times as a kid. It hearkens back to all the things that my dad did to take care of us, and how awesome of a job he did. It should be no surprise that baseball is a love that I hope to share with my kids as they grow. A bond, a season, a team, a rivalry, all as a chance to remember the simpler times in life. Baseball is a great medium for me to teach my kids how to…

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Updates, Updates, SOOOOOO many Updates

We are STILL getting caught up on everything.  It does not help that we are at the busiest part of the year.

We have started the slew of birthdays for our extended family.  We average one a week for the next two months. Seriously.

There is also the garden, that is starting to come along nicely.

Plus there is the general building, fixing, creating, making, that we all do.

I also have some projects that should be starting soon, and I still need to share my most recent.

 

Life, all-in-all, is awesome! We are not complaining, but we hope to get back to all the things soon.

 

Thanks for hanging in there and helping us…

 

Live big, love bigger and be kind, always.

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired

It has been a rough couple of months.  For all the reasons that many of us her on the East Coast know all too well, we have been inundated with colds and sicknesses. I have watched as my family has gone from being leveled by an illness, to healthy, back to being sick.  The cycle has been vicious, and none in our house has been spared.

For me, this is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to parenting. Dealing with wave after wave of sickness is a grueling practice.  For the older two we can give Tylenol for a fever, Benadryl for a runny nose or cough, and they get better.  We can give them juice, water, or Gatorade to drink to keep them hydrated.  Though it is painful to watch any child be miserable, we can deal with what we see.

However, this whole process is complicated when it also involves our youngest, Jacob. There is not medication to give him for his stuffy nose, and cough.  There is nothing to do but hold him, cuddle him, keep him upright, and let him know that he is loved. We know, from what we have experienced with Zoey and David that this will help to make him strong. Furthermore, we know when it gets too bad to take him to a doctor.  But that does not make any of this any easier.

Oh the Joy!

Being sick sucks. Being a sick parent, with sick kids… well that sucks even more. I feel like I am going to jinx myself (again) by saying that we are all doing much better than the week before.  However, thanks to this awesome weather (25 degrees Fahrenheit today… it was nearly 80 last week… 50’s by this weekend) I am certain that we are not done with this awesome ride.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Something awesome happened to me at a crafts store

I want to take a moment to share some awesomeness from last night. After dinner my beloved bride indulged me and let me take everyone to Michael’s so I could pick up some items for the D&D craft (that I cannot discuss yet). I strapped Jacob in the Baby Bjorn onto myself, while my beloved took the other two in a cart. We did our shopping, and all the kids did an awesome job. When it was time to go, she took the older two out to put them in the van, while I waited in check out. Behind me there was a woman and her grand-daughter. Here is the following conversation:
 
GM: “See that man right there? That is what you need. You need to find you a man that one day will not be afraid to go craft shopping at night and caring a baby! Stop wasting your time with those knuckleheads and look for a man like that. If he won’t carry your baby, you should not carry his.”
 
I looked back, the girl was obviously a little embarrassed and looked not a day over 16
 
Me: “If it helps, I love carrying my kids, and the crafts are for me”
 
GM:” Even better!, See honey, that is a real man”
 
I just wanted to share this because it made me feel awesome. There is something warming about having it pointed out that carrying my son on my chest is what makes me a real man. Further to have this pointed out to a young woman as something to look for.
 
Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

Home Garden Preparation: Seedlings and Tilling

I am excited to report that we are in the midst of preparing for our home garden again this year! You may remember that last weekend we broke down the raised border from last year’s garden. This weekend we planted our seed starters and tilled the soil over the new garden space.

On Saturday morning, we sat down together as a family in our living room to plant our vegetable and flower seedlings for the home garden. Why were we inside? As I mentioned before, Michael and I were still recovering from what was most likely the flu. Even the thought of corralling the kids aCranioDad showing Zoey and David the seedling trays for the home garden.way from mud puddles and the road while trying to provide Preschool Seed Planting 101 was exhausting. Hence, we limited them to a rag rug on the floor and stayed in pretty much one place for the entire duration of preparing our seedlings.

We used some helpful little kits that included soil pellets, trays, loosely-fitting covers, and a few labeling guides for the trays. We also added our own Popsicle stick labels to help organize our seeds. We planted tomatoes, carrots, onions, lettuce, peppers, green beans, and cucumbers in the vegetable trays.


We also gave the kids a bucket for some Marigolds, and a separate starter tray for sunflowers. The kids enjoyed watering and planting their flowers almost as much as getting dirty.

Tilling the home garden.Supervising the home garden.
That afternoon we ventured to the backyard for some much-needed fresh air. Michael continued with tilling and expanding the plot for this year’s vegetable home garden. If you haven’t yet, you can watch more of this stage in our video: How Does Your Garden Grow? – A DIY Adventure in Tilling.

After our thrilling and unexpected success last year with zucchini and cucumber, we are preparing to roughly double our garden size. The soil isn’t completely ready for planting at this point, but we are now a few steps closer. We estimate the seedlings will be ready for planting in early April, which gives Michael a few more weeks to build a new protective border around the tilled soil.