Huge update coming.

    Not just the next couple of books. But something far more awesome.

    Dear readers, as of 1:34am this morning our family grew by one more. My beloved bride, KatiAnn, delivered our fourth child. It is my honor to present to you…

    Asher Fox Von Bank. Weighing in at 8lbs 1oz and measuring 21in long, this amazing bundle of joy has joined our family.

    More to come about his name, the birth, and what this means for our family in the coming days.

    #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.

    The tale of the CT scan

    Many of us know, all too well, that Cranio makes our lives forever different. This week we had a reminder of this.

    On Monday Zoey was playing with David on the couch. In a typical sibling outcome, she ended up getting pushed off the couch. Her arms failed to catch her, and with a sickening crack, she landed face first on the carpet. While in the middle of a meeting I received a text message from my beloved letting everyone know about this, and that she believed Zoey broke her nose.

    A flurry of fear filled me, and my heart was pounding. I tried to focus on what must happen, as I was methodically tracing my next steps. I was shocked with the thoughts flying through my mind. As an adventurous boy, and adult, my nose has ended broken 20+ times. I know the game. Ice, time, black eyes for a bit, and move on. But not for Zoey. For her, ‘normal’ has a new definition. Anything involving the face or head is not a small deal. So much time, so many surgeries, and more to come, all mean that things are different.

    We debated on rising her to the ER. Spending the countless hours waiting to be seen, all for an x-ray. Instead, we reached out to her Craniofacial team. We sent pictures, a narrative, and our fears. Then we waited. We waited for an email or a call. Something to tell us we were crazy, or what our next step was.

     

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    It came, a CT scan was needed. I knew what this meant. Surgery, either to fix or the next one we have been discussing was rushing back to the table. My fears were only lit aflame by the bruising that Zoey had the next day. It was telltale and bad. But every time I looked at Zoey, I could see the braveness forcing itself through. I saw my sweet little girl smiling, but I saw the pain.

    So, today we loaded up the family and made our trek to the hospital. Zoey was in high spirits. We told her what was going to happen. As our silver van sailed the laughter wafted from the back while Zoey and David joked. My heart was still.

    Check in was fast, and our wait was short. When it came to be our time, Zoey took my hand, and we walked. The long hallway caused our footsteps to echo, click, click, click. We almost made it past a beautiful mural filled with butterflies. As I feigned exuberant excitement to point them out to her, I looked at her. And my heart fell a little out of my chest. For the first time, in a very long time, I could see a little fear poking through her eyes.

    We walked into a room that, to be fair, I wanted in my home. Freshwater fish scenery adorned the walls and hid the machines. Bass, trout, otters, even a carp with moss covered rocks and flowing plants. There was a light show on the ceiling giving the appearance of rippling water on a lavender and rose summer evening. I bent down to look at Zoey. Her eyes missed all of this, and we’re locked in the machine in terror. Her little hand quickly tightened around my finger.

    For the next few minutes, we had to fight her. Her strength and agility were providing a great deal of surprise to the experienced technician. Every breath from Zoey was a scream of “No!”, “Mommy!”,”Stop”, and “Daddy.” That last one ripped shreds off my heart. It was full of fear, anxiety, and hurt. I fought tears as I kept reminding her that I was not going to leave her, that I was there, that I would never let anything bad happen to her. But I know they were falling on deaf ears. Undaunted by this, I kept talking to her. Holding her, and taking my place right next to her.

    The fretted bindings that were holding my heart together wholly unraveled as she fought through those that were holding her down. The technician looked at me and asked if I wanted to call it off. My heart was screaming “Yes, please stop this!”, but my mind knew better.

    It’s a tough row to hoe being a dad. Our entire job is, or at least it should be, vying for the welfare of our children. Protecting them from any harm that comes our way. And as my daughter lace screaming for this to stop, writing on the table, fighting against the straps, and the hands, I knew that this needed to happen. So, we fought on.

    Finally, I found a way to hold her. Though it was not soothing her in any way, I was able to contain her. In a matter of moments, the X-ray and ct-scan were over. As they pulled her bed out of the machine, I can see the streams of Tears along her cheeks. Like Jewel filled streams of water against the blackened eyes from a broken nose. I Let Go. I stepped back just take a photo of this moment, preserving it and posterity and something else that she has yet again had to fight through. Something that her adult self may look back upon as she wonders about the journey her life has been. The time that she can look back and see her little 6-year-old body strapped to a table and remember that she overcame it.

    The moment that the straps were freed she bolted upright. She left into my arms and held me tight as I could quickly feel her tears soaking my shirt. I held her so damn close. Whispering to her that this was over, that she did it, and telling her how proud of her I was. It was at that moment that she finally saw the fish, the Otters, the plants, the light show on the ceiling. “Like daddy’s fish tank” for nearly hoarse voice proclaimed in my ear. With a shuttering thump, I felt my heart begin to beat. My smile matched hers as I looked deep into her eyes. That brilliant sparkle of wonder was finally returning.

    A few hours later, after copious amounts of cookies and regaling of her day, who received the long-awaited email. Her nose is fractured but not displaced. No worries about surgery at this time. Reading these words brought great elation to me after a long day.

    It’s my job as her dad to protect her. I do not, and will not ever, take this aspect of my life lightly. But it is also my job to remember these moments period to capture them for her and her brothers. So that some dark day, when I’m no longer here to do my job, she will remember these hard days when I did my best.

    Leading up to these events I was amazed private care an outpouring of affection that we received from so many others. Before the moment when we walked in that room, crossing the threshold, I was confident that this would have been easy for Zoey. “It’s just a CT scan,” I told myself over and over again. I had failed to remember the fact that nothing is as it should be. That many of the things that many other parents take for granted are entirely different for us. I’d also done the disservice I forgetting that my daughter can be scared. By failing to remember that countless things can disrupt the brave face that she puts on every single day. But for now, and I listen to her sleep in the room next to mine, I find peace. This was only helped by finishing some fine scotch and getting these words out.

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

    Early mornings

    Here I sit, listening to the sounds of my sleepy home. Being woken up at 3 am to the sounds of my daughter crying. Sometimes the medicine she has to take to help her use the bathroom works too well in the middle of the night. Having stripped bedding, started laundry, cleaned her up and put her back to sleep, my mind is in overdrive. These morning are spent validating my role as a dad.

    As I ruminate over the last five crazy years, I look at the changes that I have gone through. Culminating in the birthday celebrations of the previous four days, I now have a six year old.

    A six year old.

    Where has the time gone? Better yet, what have I done with this time that I have been given? As I listen to the sleeping sounds of my children, my pregnant beloved, and even our dog, I am left to wonder about it all. I see the struggles that no one else sees. The hard times we have been through. The mountains we have had to climb either dragging the kids with us, or chasing them upwards. I know, parenting, done right, is never easy.

    But what about rest? What about finding time to be still? “You need to stop and smell the roses” is something I hear far too often. However, even when I try in earnest, days like today happen. Over and over again. I took a vacation to spend time with family. To get away from stress. To rest and be still. Instead, every single day I have been sleeping less and less.

    But, there is time with the kids. There have been moments. Unintentionally amazing moments and memories. Laughter, tickle fights, nature walks, even lazy cuddle on the couch and watch Peg + Cat moments. So, why am I exhausted?

    It has been a full five years. From the moment Zoey came on the scene things needed to be different. There were new words to learn, procedures to discuss, pain and fear to work through. All while maintaining a brave face. Not for anyone other than Zoey. She never demanded, but has always deserved my best. Such a strong and brave soul is contained in that little body.

    This translated to being the dad that David has needed. He is the embodiment of the thing so many parents say under their breath. “Someday you will have a kid just like you…”. Yeah, I do. Smart, adventurous, aggressive, defiant, little version of me. Still, my little buddy. Showing me countless times that long after I am gone he will be there to take care of his siblings. I know he will do well, just have to keep him alive.

    Following the twin tornadoes (seriously what David and Zoey can do to a house in five minuets is mind blowing) comes my respite. Sweet little Jacob. The most mild mannered of the three. Happy to run and play, or cuddle just the same. Quick with a smile, a hug, a laugh. But, he is nearing two, and the signs are there. This is going to be a fun round of the terrible twos.

    I know not what #4 will bring. What special kind of chaos he will add to this mixing pot of a family. But, I am as ready as I can be for him to arrive.
    All of this is a good kind of exhausting. But does it need to be exhausting? This is the question I ask myself over and over. I am sure that, someday, I will be able to find a pattern that will allow sleep. Though it really is not about the amount of sleep. It is about finding time to be still.

    Time to go change the laundry, and empty the dishwasher.

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

    *edit notes: So, I tried to use speech to text, during the hours of 3 and 4 in the morning, while exhausted, to write this post. All that I have done today was fix some grammar and word use issues that were driving me nuts.

    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.

      Building the Bridge

      So, just to make sure we are all on the same page, let’s recap. I have realized that there is something that is stirring in me. There is a change that I need to make to get back to my roots. That I have realized that I let my daughters Craniosynostosis identify me as a dad. I want to add to this that there is NOTHING wrong with this. That is why my identity is not changing. I am not casting off the moniker of Cranio Dad, and I doubt I ever will.

      This change will be a recovery of divergence, wherein I will focus back on my original goal of answering the all-important question: “What does it take to be a great dad”. Moving down the path that I have carved, I want to gain better sight to all the parts of this question that I have gleaned. Continuing to blaze a trail while working on building a bridge to the louder voices. Tired of yelling into the wind, I need to bring all that I have learned into the fray.

      The Big Reveal

      By the time you read this, I will have launched a new site, Fatherly Fieldnotes. This will be a place that I will be pouring all of my focus into answering that nagging question. Moments of insight, uplifting tales, heartbreaking failures. I want to take my unique voice and tell a better story for other parents out there.

      I am harkening back to a former life, when anthropology was the direction that I KNEW my life was heading. I will be taking the approach of being an anthropologist embedded with a tribe or locals. Those locals are my children. I want to expose all the things that I do to try to prepare them for the world that they live in. Further, and this is the biggest realization, I want to show all the things that these local savages (hey, I am their dad, I can call them that) are teaching me about what it takes to be a great dad.

      I do not know what this journey will bring, but I know that it is going to be an amazing trip. So, when you have the time, check out my other blog. It is young, with little detail. But I will be working hard to make it grow. You can also follow my page on facebook. I will still be posting here. This will be my place to talk about just being a cranio dad, and cranio family. But, I will be striving for good, meaningful and (hopfully) hilarious content over on Fatherly Fieldnotes.

      So, if you would like, head on over to Fatherly Fieldnotes and join me on this adventure.

      While you are at it, follow on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.

      Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always

      I Will Carry You: By Angie and Todd Smith. A Review. Book 6 of 52

      I knew that I would be experiencing some roller-coasters during this reading challenge. Still on a high from ‘Crash the Chatterbox’ this one hit me. It hit so hard that I had to visit some places in my heart and mind that I have left barren for some time now. “I Will Carry You” is a breathtakingly raw look into dealing with life after loss. Not just any loss, the compounding and exhausting emotions around carrying a child that was found to be ‘incompatible with life’.

      This book raised to the surface things that I, purposefully, have ceased any conversation on since my daughter, Zoey, was born. Many, many nights this week were spent crying in the dark, reliving my own losses. From a lifetime ago, the pain still exists. I am not going to lie, it wrecked me a little.

      Okay, a lot.

      But Angie and Todd Smith have a quote about dealing with the loss that I think that so MANY out there need to know.  For countless parents out there, working through a miscarriage or stillbirth will leave your lives scrambled, hearts broken, and faith shaken. I know that I felt abandoned by God for a long time. It did not stop me from reaching out, but the thought was always there. Anyway, the quote (as I am running out of my word limit):

      “..all the while He is just waiting for the time that is right. He hasn’t forgotten, nor has he abandoned us.”

      Folks, the long and short of it is this. This kind of loss, it is devastating. You must know that you are not alone in what you feel, what you are going through. But that does not mean that it is not unique. Or, that it is any easier. I think that there is a post building in me about this. Though I am not sure if it will ever come to view. Regardless, if you are in this moment, dealing with this, know that you are not alone. Know that there are many out there that understand that the pain you feel, will never go away. But, we have found some ways to make it hurt a little less from time to time.

      “I Will Carry You” By Angie and Todd Smith is a MUST read, for everyone. Weather you have experienced loss or not, read it. Without a doubt 5 out of 5. Very, very emotionally hard to get through, but happy to own, and will read again.

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

      Something is Stirring

      Perhaps it is because I had to experience the awesomeness of #dad2summit through the lens of my cellphone instead of through my eyes.

      Then again, there was so much to unpack from “Crash the Chatterbox” which I just finished reading for my 2018 reading challenge.

      It could be stemming from preparing to add #4 to our brood in a few months.

      Or that our oldest, and only daughter, is turning six years old even sooner than that.

      But something is stirring. Something deep. Its rawness is sharp and its weight is heavy.

      It all stems from this quote from Steven Furtick in the aforementioned book “Crash the Chatterbox”:

      “Every second you spend wishing God would take away a struggle is a forfeited opportunity to overcome”

      But, what is the struggle that I am talking about? Better, which one from the endless list of shortcomings or pain points does this have to do with? I could marinate on these two questions. Dear readers, you know me. I could launch into a winding torrent of a diatribe as I dabble with it all. But, this time. I am not. The answer is too clear for me to use that tactic this time.

      Fatherhood

      The way that I see it, I started down this road on a mission. I wanted to ask the questions, and find the answers about what makes a great dad. Then, all of a sudden, the picture perfect dream of fatherhood was upended. Shattered as I spent my daughters first few days in the NICU. Listening to monitors, researching Craniosynostosis, and getting involved in lengthy and weighted conversations about what my daughter’s future may look like. These things drown out the pictures and images that I had already formed. Hiding the voice that I had harbored for so long.

      Somehow I missed something. I have been saying it all along and I never applied it. I let my daughter’s condition define me as a dad. NEVER, EVER have I let it define her. But it is who I am. I know more than most doctors and pediatricians about her condition, and the countless variants. I can speak for days about what the surgeries are like, what we have been through, and how amazing my daughter is. Time and time again I have said how thankful that I am to be found worthy of being called “daddy” to such an amazing little girl. But I let my focus of fatherhood be consumed by her condition.

      It is becoming more and more clear that I need to enact a change. I feel like I know what the next few steps are. Nervous and excited I have already started working on them.

      I have more to say on this, but I am actively putting things together to make it all make sense. Stay tuned over the coming days for something awesome.

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

      Crash the Chatterbox: By Steven Furtick. A Review. Book 5-52

      On the heels of finishing “The Giver” quartet I dove into “Crash the Chatterbox” by Steven Furtick. I know of the author, as my beloved bride and I watch some of his sermons from time to time. But, I really was not ready for what this book stirred in me. This is what excited me the most about this book.

      There is so much that Furtick hits you with, from the start of the book. Heavy, heavy stuff. But this is displaced with fairly transparent views into how the very topic that he is asking you to think about has affected him. But that, in no way, made them less challenging. There is one quote that has been sticking with me since I read it.

      “Every second you spend wishing God would take away a struggle is a forfeited opportunity to overcome”.

      As a dad, there have been so many times that I have wondered about some of the struggles in raising children. We all have them. Some of us write about them, others do not. However, being a cranio dad. Man, let me tell you. The times that I have been on my knees crying and screaming at God are countless. Begging to take on the pain for my daughter, to have her get a break, to not have to go through whatever event we are going through. Man, my conversations with God are awesome.

      But, still reeling from the context of this book, something was made clear for me. Look for more on this topic in the days to come.

      All in all I would say 4.7 out of five.  Add it to your shelves and devote some time to what may come from reading this book.

      Live big, love bigger, and be kind always.