The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Four

So, where were we? Oh yeah there was an electrical burning odor in the air, and the light was on but not turning off. What a great place to be! Sigh.

With militaristic precision, I called for my wife to flip the circuit breaker back to off. Knowing what I must do, I asked her to keep the kids out of the room while I ran to my favorite store, Lowes. About 5 minutes, and $5 later, I was walking out with a new light switch in hand.

Asking Kati to, yet again, corral the kids and ensure that the circuit was still off, I got to work. When the power is off, light switches and outlets are quick and easy tasks. This one was no different. I set the switch to the on position and put it into the wall. 

So we found ourselves facing, yet again, another moment of truth. With the kids in the living room anxiously awaiting the outcome I stood in the room. Glaring at the light I asked my beloved to flip the circuit. In a flash, the light came on and was bright! I walked over to the wall, confidently out stretch my hand, and flip the light switch. This time there was an exclamation for my wife as it was a pop at the circuit breaker and she informed me that the panel was now buzzing. Hearkening back to what my dad told me when I was eight, I knew what I had to do. 

Sometimes it takes me a little longer to realize that I am beat.

Begrudgingly I called Woodfin, a local electrician and HVAC company here in Richmond Virginia. They’ve done a lot of work for us in the past, and I’ve always been awesome with what they do. Thanks to the busy time of year, we were told they would be about a week before somebody come out. I explained that I have three children ages 5 and under, 1/3 of my house was without power, and the electrical panel has a horrible buzzing sound whenever power was running through it. Someone was there within an hour.

Electrician that came told me that he has seen it all, and this is actually pretty common here in Richmond. Between the houses built in the 70’s, a bunch of “fixes” and “upgrades” done between the 80’s and 90’s, and just general “craftsmanship”, having electrical issues is pretty common. He diagnosed that there was a long-standing problem with the circuit breaker. Apparently, I don’t know why, but installing a new light pushed the old circuit breaker beyond its breaking point. He helped sort out spaghetti monster like nest that I found when I remove the ceiling fan, it only contained one always live wire. In order to make sure that our house did not burn down he put in a couple of temporary replacement breakers. He also helped me make sure that everything was in working order before he left.

Woodfin descended upon my home two weeks later.

So after 2 weeks, over $2,000 later (beds $500, light $30, new switch and cover $5, replacing the entire electrical panel and breakers $1800), my kids now have an amazing bunk bed without a ceiling fan and light switch that works. I hope that this journey has brought some humor to you, in hindsight it has for me. I think the most important thing that you, my dear readers, can take from the story is the fact that you should always know what you can and cannot do. You need to know who you can call when you reach a point that help is needed. Most importantly, always over budget every single project.

This is my haphazard attempt at giving you guys part four, I had a really good one written the other day. If you look at the post from yesterday you can understand why I’m more than a little frustrated. As a father I’ve always come to expect the unexpected. This little project proved to be no different. I hope that never changes. Even through frustration and angst, it’s still so damn fun to be a dad.

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

The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Two

I did it. I clicked purchase on the beds. It was at that very moment that I started to feel that this was not the right option. Chalking it up to buyer’s remorse, I did my best to shuffle it off. Instead I focused what I long knew what was going to be the hardest part, taking apart the beds that I had built my children.

Hovering around the mediocre level of carpentry, it is a passion more than it is a skill. However, I wanted to do something for my kids as they outgrew their toddler beds. I found plans, modified them to bring out aspects of each child, and I built them. They were not perfect, but they were perfect for them.  The joy and surprise on their faces when I put each one together filled my heart with joy.

But the day had arrived, and I stood there, in the silent room, looking down at the beds. Stripped down to the naked wood that I had built them from. I could hear the kids down the hall, playing with the heavy box that had arrived. I knelt down and began to take the beds apart. Making it even more difficult was that I put these together without the intent of having to take them apart. So, not only did I just have unscrew some screws and bolts, but I had to take a circular saw to my children’s beds to get them out the door. There must have been some extra sawdust in the air.

The beds were apart, and the project was underway.

As the time came to take the beds out of the house Zoey and David walked into their room. They saw that their beds had been taken apart. “Bed not there anymore” are the words that ripped through my soul. Kati did an amazing job and changed the mood. She turned taking the parts of the bed out of the house into a game. The laughter and screams of joyful competition filled the house.

But what would happen next would start the spiral of costs for this project.  Come back tomorrow for more. Missed part one? Read it here.

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

The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part One

No, this is not some post about how I have gobs of money to spend on my kids. Quite the opposite in fact. This is the story about how trying to be frugal cost us quite a bit more. This is also the first part of this story. It all stemmed from this previous post. To be fair, these bunk beds were only $200. But those bunk beds were only the beginning. Or at least close to the beginning.

To bunk bed, or not to bunk bed, that is the question.

Not that long ago we decided that we needed to create more space. With three kids ages five and under, an amazing border collie, and two adults our home was feeling like a belt at thanksgiving. This is to say suddenly and unexpectedly too small and confining.  For some time my beloved and I have been debating about bunk beds for our older two. We both grew up with them, and we know our kids far too well. Based on the, um, exuberance that Zoey and David both have we knew what this would mean. That their bedroom would devolve into some Orwellian nightmare, with a little Lord of the Flies thrown in for good measure.

Regardless, we decided that it was time to make the move. My beloved bride was in need of a craft space, and I needed some separation in my office. The Dungeons and Dragons party that I have been running was growing, and we were outpacing the space that I had set aside. So, we begun making the many changes that were needed. Boxing up things, moving them around, making space. The plan was to purchase the bunk beds, and then move Jacob into the room with the older two. This would free up the smallest room in the house, the nursery, for my wife to have as a craft room.

We also knew that in order to not have a dire situation on our hands that the ceiling fan in the kid’s room would need to be removed. There is not a single room in the house that is suitable for bunk beds where a ceiling fan would not be at hand, or head, height. Little did I know that the moment that I clicked “purchase” on those bunk beds our bank account would be forever changed.

Come back tomorrow for another installment of the $2,000 Bunk Beds. Also, there are more updates to come. It has been a crazy last month and a half. This story, is only part of it all.

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

A quick update on all things

Things, as always, have been nothing short of chaos for the first half of this month. There are times that my beloved and I just want to kick back, relax, and breathe a little.  But, no, that is not how things are.

  1. I think that we were a little taken aback by how much the daily vlogs for Cranio Acceptance Month were going to wipe us out. It took us over a week to just recover from the grind.
  2. We were able to take a small vacation to the beach with the family. It was a much needed break. Kati and I were on the tail end of exhaustion. But it was so good to be able to see the family.
  3. I am preparing to run a rather large group for Dungeons & Dragons. This is extremely exciting, but there is so much work that goes into running a game. I have worked hard to update and reconfigure my home office to accommodate for game night. Now, I have a little over a week, to test all of the systems and prepare for awesomeness.
  4. Kati has been doing an awesome job for her role as an Usborne consultant. She has learned a ton, in very short time. Every party that she hosts is exiting. It does often mean that our conversations late at night are dominated by ideas, but I think it is cute and I love it.
  5. Zoey has lost her hearing aids twice in the last three weeks. Want to know what can stop everything in a household. Have a $2500 medical device go missing. These are critical because Zoey has been doing such an amazing job with her speech therapy. From the moment that she has put her ‘super ears’ in she has rocked it.
  6. Jacob is nearly walking. By that, I mean he is at 6-7 steps in a row. It is amazing to see the look on his face when he is walking around. His smile is amazing.
  7. Both Zoey and David are killing it with homeschool this semester. David is doing an amazing job with addition and subtraction. Both are starting to read. Considering that neither would be in school yet (Virginia law states that if a child is going to start, the must start by the year that they are six), I am ecstatic at what they can do.
  8. Last but not least, we were surprised to find out that our daughter will have her yearly craniofacial clinic in early November, rather than December. For those that read my beloveds post about cranio, this is when things get real for us. We know that there are more surgeries coming, we are exactly where they said we would be when forecasting when we would be discussing the next one. My heart… well, my heart resides in my children, but I do not know if my body can take the stress that I am feeling right now. I am sure that we will talk about that more once we know more.
  9. Seven years ago (last week) my beloved and I went on our first date. Time flies, make sure you live in the little moments.

That is all I have for you guys right now. Thanks for hanging in there on our crazy, chaotic, life. We are doing the best we can to…

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

A letter to my son, on his first birthday.

My darling son,

Jacob, my sweet little boy, yesterday you turned a year old. In the time that has passed you have grown so much. As have I. It is a strange thing, being a parent. As we scroll through the endless rants and raves on social media, one could arrive at the conclusion that being a dad is chaos. The long, sleepless nights. Endless bumps, scrapes, and falls each day. But, my dear Jacob, that is not how I feel, at all.

While many prostrate themselves as their sails deflate when a child is born. I stand resilient in the tempest winds, and unfurl my headsail. You have been born into a family of strength. We work hard, so we can play harder. Being tough is part of our nature. Because of it, we grow, together, in all that we do. We regale in each other’s successes (even the small ones), and we shoulder the burden each time any of us fall. Individually we are great, but together we are amazing.

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When you joined our family, you came in screaming.

But, as a glimpse into your awesomeness, you cuddled, and looked around. You are a brilliant ray of sunshine. Piercing any darkness that may encroach, you radiate joy. Even when you have been sick, or teething, you bring peace with you. Somehow there was an imperceptible niche in our family, which you exposed and filled. You make our clockwork run smoother.

It is my hope to be the dad that you deserve and need, which may be lightyears beyond what I am capable of. But, between you and your siblings, I have all the reason that I need to stretch myself beyond my limits. The three of you are persistent wind that fills my sails, driving me to greatness. But this greatness is not for myself, it is for each of you.

Happy birthday darling. And thank you for choosing me to be your dad.

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

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.