#Sigh, getting caught up.

Blah, blah, blah, life is crazy. But in all honesty, we are rapidly approaching the due date for #4. For the last several weeks we have been rolling through the checklist of things before we become a family of six.

Such a daunting number.

Six.

Four kids teeming with life and wonder. Two adults living on coffee and love.

It is crazy to think that in what seems like yesterday we were excited to have one. Now, in a few short weeks, our fourth will be here. Our little home will be bursting at the seems, as will our hearts. This journey has been far quicker than the previous three. Continually fighting the hands on the clock to slow down, trying to capture the milestones. Meanwhile watching the other three grow and develop. It is both exhausting and invigorating.

But I am finally in a place to post some of the backlogged book reviews (yes, I am still reading a book a week for my 2018 Reading Challenge).  So, sorry in advance for the flurry of posts that you are about to see. Afterall, posting reviews for books 12-19 will be awesome. Perhaps I should stagger them a bit. We will see.

 

We hope to resume some level of reasonable posting in the days to come. Perhaps after our, MUCH NEEDED, short family vacation this weekend.

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

Finding strength in the moment

I stood there and watched, my heart barely beating in my chest. Her little legs stepping up onto the box. Amazed with her graceful, surefootedness, not showing a sign of the weight she was bearing. The once vibrant, now muted from use, frock covered most of her little body. Heavy with the lead inside, but undeterred by the little body under it. She silently listened to the instructions.

“Place your hands here”

“Move you head here”

“Bite down like it is a cookie”

She complied with them all. From my vantage, standing in the doorway, I could see the wild inside of her being quelled. Self-restraint. Such a strange thing to see in a five year old. But then again, she has been full of surprises since the moment she was born.

In a flurry the staff exited the room. Stoically she stood there. Her hands exactly where she was told to leave them. Frozen in that moment. The small room looked so much bigger then it was just a second ago. Just outside the threshold my body remained still and imposing. But my heart, it was in that room with her.

“I am right here, you are doing so good, I am so proud of you my little one.”

I spoke to her in my calm, metered tone. She smiled, just a little as to not hold her position. But that smile, it was for me. She knew that I could see it. Then, a moment later there was a whirring sound. The device began to move slowly around her head. Then there was… the cry.

“Daddy! No!”

I could hear the fear, and it tore through me. My heart lurched as it began to beat again. Adrenaline flushing through my veins with a fiery burn. The attendants shut off the panoramic x-ray machine and I rushed to her. She jumped into my arms, the added weight of the lead vest being only an afterthought. The smile gone from her face she held me tightly, I could feel the tears soaking though my shirt, into my soul.

She tried to be brave.

For her entire life my daughter, Zoey, has been showing the world how strong and brave she is. She has not had a choice in the matter. But being so little, and having a machine move around her head was too much. Heck, even I hate those things. But, it is also in this moment that she showed be what she does best.

Finding strength in the moment

While the x-rays did not happen the way that the doctors had hoped, something amazing happened in that room. My daughter fought all that was in her, casting aside every reasonable fear. She stood on that box, and she listened. In that moment, she dug deep and found her own strength. Perhaps she knew that it was in her, perhaps she did not.

In addition to this, she has, yet again, helped me find strength as well. It is a daunting task, this role as a parent. Further complicated by things such as Craniosynostosis, it is a real struggle some days. The worry and fears that I have about what the future will be like for her is, well, there have been many sleepless nights.

It is an odd thing to be in a position that my daughter is showing me that I can be stronger than I think. But it is reassuring that she is going to do so well in life, digging deep, and finding strength in each moment.

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

    A dad’s thoughts on what happened yesterday.

    It is not just a gun issue.

    It is not just a mental health issue.

    It is not just a faith issue.

    It is not just an immigration, rights, society, freedom, security, constitutional issue.

    It is not a love, hate, indifference, compassion, community, education issue.

    It is not just a family issue.

    It is all of these, and scores more. We’ve reached a state in our society that would newsbreaks of children being killed it becomes a headline and not a moment of sorrow . More and more frequently parents are having to worry about what’s going to happen with their child when they send them away from their home.

    As a dad, when I watch the news, I am terrified about the world that my children are growing up in. It is my job to raise them, it is my job to protect them. It is my job to teach them what is right. It is my job just show them love, compassion, understanding, and safety.

    As a dad, it is time that I voice the fact that all dads out there, in fact all parents, need to own this.

    As a dad, I need to do better. Not just for my children and their future. Look for yours as well.

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

    Cranio Family Announcement!

    We are super excited to announce the gender of Baby #4!

    Click the links below the picture to download a little comic that Cranio Dad made!

    Page 1

    Page 2

    Page 3

    Page 4

    For those not able to view the links to download the four pages above, PLEASE visit out blog (www.craniofamilyblog.com)  and download from there. Make sure that you look at them in order. If you would like all four pages together, just let us know and we will get it out there.

     

    Let the reading begin!

    In true form, I have begun the task that I set fourth for myself. For those that missed it, HERE I set a challenge to read a book a week. One day in, I am about 3/4 of the way done with “The Giver”. Now, I will not be saying anything about this book now. For that, you will have to wait until next week when I post my synopsis on our blog. I have also created a wishlist for the books that I am going to be reading this year. As I purchase books, they will be removed. The books are loaded in reverse order of the order that I will be reading them. If you feel like helping, please do. If you want to read along, that is a starting place for you as well.

    Anyway, back to indulging myself in the finer things in life.

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

    Wishlist link (For those on other social media than our blog): http://a.co/0vBuT7E

    In the coming year…

    I know, you are most likely all TIRED of reading resolution after resolution. However, I wanted to document a challenge that I gave myself. See, not so long ago, in a land that seems far, far, away, I was an avid reader. How avid? It was a common occurrence for me to be working through three books, at once, all in a week or so. Yeah, that avid. I miss it. I miss reading. I miss what it does to my mind, and my way of thinking.

    So, the other day, I reached out on Facebook. I asked for 52 books that I have not read, first come first serve. All to get back into it. One book a week. That is my goal. Well, my friends responded rapidly. So, here is the list (below). These are the books, and the order that I will be reading them in, starting in just a few hours. Additionally, I will be posting a SHORT synopsis (300 words or less, directly correlated to the length and complexity of the topic(s) covered in the book) the week after reading it. I will most likely give each book a 1-10 rating and include a link to the book for any that are interested.

    I ask that you help keep me accountable on this. If you are not seeing a post on Monday or Tuesday, call me out on it. I miss reading, and I want my kids to see me entrenched with it as they are reaching their formative years of reading. 2017 was a wild ride, and I know that 2018 is going to be crazy. But, let’s all make the best of it. New year, new slate, new book… not just an empty page. May 2018 be amazing for all of you. If you are looking for me, my nose will be in a book.

    Live big, love bigger, and be kind always.

     

    Book Title Author Start Finish
    1 The Giver Lois Lowry 1/1/2018 1/6/2018
    2 Gathering Blue Lois Lowry 1/7/2018 1/13/2018
    3 Messenger Lois Lowry 1/14/2018 1/20/2018
    4 Son Lois Lowry 1/21/2018 1/27/2018
    5 Crash the Chatterbox Steven Furtick 1/28/2018 2/3/2018
    6 I Will Carry You Angie and Todd Smith 2/4/2018 2/10/2018
    7 The Goal Eliyahu Goldratt 2/11/2018 2/17/2018
    8 The Alienist Caleb Carr 2/18/2018 2/24/2018
    9 The Magician: Apprentice Raymond Fiest 2/25/2018 3/3/2018
    10 The Magician: Master Raymond Fiest 3/4/2018 3/10/2018
    11 Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger 3/11/2018 3/17/2018
    12 The Art of Learning Josh Waitzkin 3/18/2018 3/24/2018
    13 The Remains of the Day Kazup Ishiguro 3/25/2018 3/31/2018
    14 Appointment with Death Agatha Christie 4/1/2018 4/7/2018
    15 Jesus Land Julia Scheeres 4/8/2018 4/14/2018
    16 The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling Henry Fielding 4/15/2018 4/21/2018
    17 The Bone Clocks David C. Mitchell 4/22/2018 4/28/2018
    18 On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Steven King 4/29/2018 5/5/2018
    19 The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chobosky 5/6/2018 5/12/2018
    20 The Sin of White Supremacy Jeannine Hill 5/13/2018 5/19/2018
    21 The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingslover 5/20/2018 5/26/2018
    22 A New Kind of Christian Brian McLaren 5/27/2018 6/2/2018
    23 The Last Arrow Erwin McGinnis 6/3/2018 6/9/2018
    24 Ghost Soldiers Hampton Sides 6/10/2018 6/16/2018
    25 The Color of Magic Terry Prachett 6/17/2018 6/23/2018
    26 House of Leaves Mark Z. Danielewski 6/24/2018 6/30/2018
    27 Argall: The True Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith William T. Vollmann 7/1/2018 7/7/2018
    28 The Ocean at the End of the Lane Neil Gaiman 7/8/2018 7/14/2018
    29 Dragon Teeth Michael Chriton 7/15/2018 7/21/2018
    30 Cat’s Cradle Kurt Vonnegut 7/22/2018 7/28/2018
    31 Contagious Jonah Berger 7/29/2018 8/4/2018
    32 Cryptonimicon Neal Stephenson 8/5/2018 8/11/2018
    33 Outlive Your Life Max Lucado 8/12/2018 8/18/2018
    34 Storm Front Jim Butcher 8/19/2018 8/25/2018
    35 1632 Eric Flint 8/26/2018 9/1/2018
    36 Inverted World Christopher Priest 9/2/2018 9/8/2018
    37 The Magicians Lev Grossman 9/9/2018 9/15/2018
    38 Astrophysics for People in a Hurry Neil deGrasse Tyson 9/16/2018 9/22/2018
    39 Some Buried Caesar Rex Stout 9/23/2018 9/29/2018
    40 Invisible Cities Italo Calvino 9/30/2018 10/6/2018
    41 Jennifer Government Max Berry 10/7/2018 10/13/2018
    42 Liberty Defined Ron Paul 10/14/2018 10/20/2018
    43 The Heart Goes Last Margaret Atwood 10/21/2018 10/27/2018
    44 The Circus of the Earth and the Air Brooke Stevens 10/28/2018 11/3/2018
    45 The Three Body Problem Cixin Liu 11/4/2018 11/10/2018
    46 Boneshaker Cherie Priest 11/11/2018 11/17/2018
    47 Leave it to Jeeves PG Wodehouse 11/18/2018 11/24/2018
    48 Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea Guy Delisle 11/25/2018 12/1/2018
    49 The Stupidest Angel Christopher Moore 12/2/2018 12/8/2018
    50 At the Mountains of Madness HP Lovecraft 12/9/2018 12/15/2018
    51 Unholy Night Seth Grahame-Smith 12/16/2018 12/22/2018
    52 Prodigal Summer Barbara Kingslover 12/23/2018 12/29/2018

    A Picture Says A Thousand Words

    Here I sit, on the days counting down to Christmas, in my office. Headphones on, the surreal sounds of Bach’s Chaconne, Partita No 2 in D Minor enrobe me. In true form, I take pause, and find myself reflecting. Not just on this day, not just on this season, but on the last five and a half years. All while staring at a picture frame hanging on my wall.

    Yesterday the team that I lead and I celebrated the holidays at lunch. It was a time of food, gifts, and conversation. We did a Secret Santa drawing this year, the favored gift being that of Starbucks Gift Cards. Hey, my analysts live on caffeine. I was given a beautiful bottle of scotch, which I cannot wait to open. Then, amidst the fanfare and thankyous, a bag was handed to me. My team got together to get me something. This was unexpected. But they informed me that there were two things in the bag. One is kind of a gag. The other, very much not so.

    I reached in, opening the gag gift first. I actually really loved it. It is a set of boxing gloves that they all signed. There is a lot of meaning in them. Albeit a humorous gift, it is one that I have on my wall for all to see. Then, I reached into the bag. My hands found something hard and square. As I withdrew it, the tissue paper fell away.  The shadow box I was holding contained so much for me to take in

    I noticed that the table was silent as I looked at the picture.

    A collage of photos of my daughter. Mixed in were some of our family, but she is the star. This surrounded a letter. As I began to read it, my eyes filled with tears.

    The letter read:

    “We are pleased to inform you that a $200 gift has been made to Children’s Hospital Foundation in honor of Zoey to support Craniosynostosis services at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU by The Business Performance Team”

    Picture Frame

    I have never, ever, had to fight back tears so hard in my life. My heart swelled, my breath stalled in my lungs, and the most unintelligible string of “words” ever to leave my mouth in my adult life… happened.

    I cannot fully describe what this gift means to me. As a leader, a mentor, a dad, a Cranio Dad, an advocate, or just a person. To have the team that I work with do something like this hits somewhere between validation and encouragement. That others are seeing what I have been doing. That they see what it means to me to be so lucky to be Zoey’s dad. I do not think that I will ever be able to thank this team enough.

    Now, it hangs, in full glory and view, on the wall in my office. Serving as an ever-present reminder that I have an amazing team. Adding to the reasons that I love my job, what I do, and who I work with. It has already been a conversation piece. A catalyst into a conversation what my life is like as a cranio dad, and for our cranio family. I hang it proudly, with a set of signed boxing glove next to it.

     

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

     

    An open letter to my beloved bride on the event of our seventh wedding anniversary

    My beloved,

    Well, here we are. Rounding out the seventh year of our marriage. My, oh my, look how far we have come. Last night, as we sat and tried to watch The Crown, while dealing with a very sick baby, there was a moment of pause. The TV volume was low, you were bundled up under a blanket, sleepily transfixed on the story. Salem, our beloved border collie, was asleep at your feet. From down the hall the sounds of our sleeping children filled the air. All stuffed up with the weather changes, the chorus of snoring was… beautiful.

    You had your hands cradling your stomach, gently holding our unborn fourth child. Had the propane not run out just the day before, there would have been a fire. That will be fixed today. Sorry about that. But that fire would have brought a warm orange glow under the trove of stocking that we hung yesterday. Who knew that so many socks would look that impressive on such a long mantle? Or that the little ceramic village that you have been collecting over the years would look so amazing? I am sure that you did. You have always had an eye for design.

    Perhaps there was something that you saw in me, seven years ago. For I can think of no real reason why I am so lucky to be your husband. I am always in awe of your love, support, compassion, and endearment. Even through the frustrating times that we have seen, you have been amazing. You have been steadfast in your desires for me to do my best. You have been my rock, and allowed me to be yours. Through everything, you have been the earthly embodiment of all things good and perfect for me, and our children.

    Yes, our children. The growing brood of independent, smart, witty, funny, laughing, stress-us-out extension of our love. Never before has there been such proof to be careful what one prays for. Regardless, even when you think that you are failing, you are excelling in ways that many others could not even come close too. In the rare time that we find ourselves taking a step back and evaluating our little ones, what do we see? A rambunctious group of defiant protesters? No. We see brilliant minds testing the limits of their existence, and reason, with the purest intentions of figuring out life. We see teamwork unhindered by ability. Above it all, we see compassion and joy. All that is good in them comes from the work, love, and patience that you pour into them. We are all better for it.  I never grow tired of exclaiming your accolades as a mother, teacher, and counselor.

    When we started this journey, there was us and a dog. We knew not what mountains or valleys we would have to transit to get here. Heck, we did not even know here was a place. But, it is where we are. It is still us and the dog, but now we have three amazing kids, and one more on the way. Countless seasons behind us,. All of the unknown, untamed, wilderness ahead of us. But that is the thing. No matter what lies ahead, we will tame it together. For seven years we have been side by side, hand-in-hand, walking through this life. Occasionally one of us standing in the gap (mostly me, it is what I do) but always moving forward.

    I am so happy that it is you. Over the last 2,557 days, I have found more than 10 times that number of new reasons that I love you. Every day, another reason (or a list of reasons) is added. So, here is to seven amazing years my love. And to an eternity more.

     

    Love,

    Your husband.

    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.