Sunday, November 27, 2016

This Is The End

We have been home from China for 17 days, meaning for the past two weeks and change, we have been the parents of two kids, under the age of 3 (Gunner is 2.5 half years old and Gray is 1.5). And the big lesson I have learned in this time is that This Is The End. You can put that on my tombstone. I have been given the clairvoyance of knowing the exact moment of my demise, it was the gargantuan leap from 1 child to 2. It's like the moment time went from BC to AD, when the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire, when NSync became just Justin Timberlake who then became JT. Life will never be the same.

I myself, like I am assuming most others, often wonder how people become "parents". I mean the tragic stereotypical Clark Griswald version of parents, where minivans and superstores and casseroles and cooking and cleaning and running household errands all dance around our heads like the visions of sugar-plums for kids at Christmas. And now I know. It's in the fine print when you bring home child #2.

The biggest lesson a new parent of their first child will learn is the definition of exhaustion. Those early months of a newborn baby are physically grueling on new parents. But eventually the dust settles, and with it, so does the child into some nice routines. The child learns the parents and the world in lock sync as the parents learn their child. And to a certain degree, life kind of goes back to normal. It is easy for one parent to watch the child while other has personal time. The 1 on 1 play time with your child also allows you to focus on a wide variety of games and learning and your enthusiasm is gobbled up by your child. I would say you feel like you're grooming the next President of the United States but Trump recently proved that position doesn't require any intelligence or moral compass to obtain so I'll say, grooming the Curer of Cancer or a Grand Humanitarian or the Head of NASA. Each day is full of hope and the endless optimism of growth and development.

But now enters child #2. And everything in that last paragraph vanishes. It's like opening your eyes after being unplugged from the Matrix and you see pink goo and robot spiders and really pale skin bald people with holes and wires all over their bodies in a land of no sun, dark clouds, fields of robot metal towers with pink goo balls as far as the weakened eyes can see. And you don't have a Louie Armstrong moment and think to yourself "what a wonderful world." You wonder what the F just happened. You have entered a post-apocalyptic wasteland and it's all about survival from now on.

And for those who think this description a tad dramatic, you will learn these sad truths.

1) Why do couples on TV always have to run to the store to buy just milk or bread or eggs or just 1 or 2 items? BECAUSE SOMEHOW IT IS NOW ALWAYS GONE. Yes, I have had to stop at the grocery for a staple food item or cleaning product almost every other day.

2) How can the fridge and freezer always be full? Yes, despite the endless consumption and depletion of foods and drinks, whenever I go to replenish the fridge or freezer, IT IS ALWAYS FULL OF CRAP. This phenomenon is remarkable. Kids are picky eaters, we only buy what we will eat, we always eat it and need it, yet somehow there is an overstock in the storage areas. Simply mind blowing.

3) There is no way to stop the never ending flow of chores. The sink and dishes will never be clean again. The trash cans will always be full and need to be taken out. Laundry baskets remain full of dirty clothes. And every room of the house is left in shambles. It's like we are having a New Years Eve party at our house every single day and night. Except the party ended at 730pm and there was no champagne. There is no cheerful ringing in the old year with gleeful anticipation of the new year and what the future may hold. Instead there is dread, of how this day will run on repeat like yesterday before it and tomorrow after it, but without the plucky comedic styling of Bill Murray to make the groundhog's day feeling uplifting.

4) Your kids are not besties. They aren't Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake, George Clooney and Brad Pitt, or Tina Fey and Amy Pohler. No matter how much you encourage it, you ain't forcing it. It's a natural bond that grows over time and is too strong to be meddled with by outside influence. So what does that mean? Exactly how it sounds. It sucks because it's more like a full day of bumper cars except when these cars bump, one over-dramatically cries bloody murder. They battle for toys, seats, time with Mom and Dad, everything. Sharing is a learned skill that for kids might as well be trigonometry or astrophysics. Patience is not learned, it's part of our temperament and while we work to consciously control it, for kids, control is not part of their repertoire. The clashes are legit intense every time, like Dakota Access Pipeline Protest intense. Literally, my son woke up in the middle of the night screaming crying.
Me: (hurrying to his room) G? You okay?
G: (whimpering) No.
Me: (laying down next to him in his bed) Oh no. What's wrong? Did you have a nightmare?
G: (still whimpering) Yes.
Me: (sympathetically) I'm sorry, What about?
G: (whimpering continues) Sharing.
Me: (taken back a little) Sharing? Like with Gray?
G: Yes.
Me: (no longer sympathetic) Jesus Gunner. You'll be okay. Back to sleep. I'll see you in the morning.
THAT CONVERSATION ACTUALLY HAPPENED. My son had nightmares about sharing! Sharing! With his sister! And it's not like we have a ton of super awesome nice stuff. It's just that's where these kids are, before they realize they can co-exist harmoniously they must first exhaust all attempts to avoid compromise. One friend asked me why we took so many fewer photos now with child #2 in the family, and it's because there are far fewer Kodak moments in the war zone of 2 kids than the sun filled meadows of 1 child.

5) Get ready for a whole new level of exhaustion. With your first newborn, you learn the exhaustion of not being able to sleep more than 2 hours at a time. With child #2, exhaustion now mutates into a whole new Stranger Things type of beast. As previously stated in 1-4 above, there's a lot working against you. You can wake up, make that coffee, gear up to go guns blazing and gung-ho ready for the day, ready for anything! Then the kids gets up and you get going, ripping and running, parent of the year type enthusiasm, laughs and giggles flow like the chocolate rivers of the Willy Wonka factory....and with all this work you put in, you start to wind down full of pride beaming, then you look over at the clock and it's only 10am! Bubble burst. Enter the grind for the rest of the day. Like a constant drip on the rock, you feel the soft steady beating on your soul. If it's not 1 kid, it's the other, or the dishes, or the laundry, or trash, or toys everywhere, or clothes everywhere, or you need to go to the store....again! And there are times where you know you have to pull it together and not let the drip create the crack.

6) Everywhere always smells like something, and not in a good way. And that statement is exactly how it sounds. Every room you walk into or every time you get in the car, you feel like you smell urine, pooh, or rotting food. It's enough to drive you mad. Because you can never find the source so you assume it's just in your head. But it won't go away. It's the Inception crisis, Leo DiCaprio stormed your subconscious to plant the idea that your son has a secret passion of hiding apple slices in the slits in his car seat cushion. While that seems a low probability, the more you think about it, the more credibility it gains. Maddening!

My wife made a wonderful comment to me the other day. "Gunner didn't start sleeping through the night until he was 19 weeks old. That's when he got into all his routines and things weren't so crazy anymore. We should expect the same with Gray." And she is totally right. While the first 2 weeks have been crazy and draining, we are working hard on getting Gray settled into some good healthy fun routines and theoretically we should withhold judgement until she has settled in. But what if, even after that, the chaos ensues? Pray for me. God help us all.

This how I feel ALL THE TIME NOW....

 First meeting of Brother and Sister....quick take the photo before one throws a tantrum!
Day One evidence of some spatial issues....
But here we go....for better or worse....now a family of 4.... .
Moving along Day by Day...
At Read NOLA...
."Helping" Dad fix a toy piano....and we somehow did....Teamwork makes the Dream work....
Cuddling with Grandpa....
 A visit from Maddox....
 Hipster breakfast....
 Tantrum splits....must be a Chinese thing....
 "Really? With the magnifying glass? In my diaper? I could have told you what your face tells me you just found out"....
A different doctor....and a much better relationship....
Our little girl....
 Family Dinner with Uncle Derek, Aunt Kara (taking the picture) Carter, Mia, and Grandpa....
Peacock crossing....

Saturday, November 26, 2016

What Have We Done?

I flew halfway around the world to pick up my daughter and it made me realize how much I love my son.

6 plane rides, 60 hours in the air and airports, 14 days in horrible polluted Chinese air, 6 government office buildings, 1 7 hour bus ride to an orphanage, all for 1 little baby girl. My wife and I spent over 4 years in this process and we finally had our daughter. I was excited for her from the first day my wife and I spoke about adoption to when we brought her back to hotel room that first night we had her, laid her down to sleep for the night in the crib, and we all slept. But then we woke up….

The next morning when my wife and I started to engage our new daughter and begin to see her personality unfold, I was deeply struck with some of the worst stress and fear I have ever felt. Oh my God, what have I just done? What if this decision was awful? What about my amazing wife and son?

It has brought tears to my eyes every day since. I vowed to myself that my brother’s passing was the last time I’d cry, what could be worse than that. And that’s what hit me. What if I just ruined my son’s life? Or my wife's? What if my family will now be a complete mess? Of course this could happen anyway, regardless of our new daughter. But often, stress and fear is not based in logic or rational thought. I am supposed to be there for my son, to try to give him the world, help him be happy with himself, confident with himself, respectful of himself and others, to be fun, to be nice, to be honorable. And did I just ruin that by bringing an emotionally maladjusted little girl home?

Gunner is amazing. Sure he has toddler traits and does some less than desirable behaviors but he is 2.5 years old. For a kid his age, he is simply fantastic. He listens, he communicates, he plays quietly and creatively on his own, he plays happily with others, he playfully engages friends and family, he gets excited brilliantly at new things and fun things, he is cheerful and delightful, he is polite and sweet, and he is all these from wake up to eyes closing at night. He is our perfect son.

My wife tells me it’s the sleeplessness of last 19 days since I have gotten an average of 3 hours of choppy in-and-out sleep per day in this stretch. But it feels like a ton of bricks dangling, a guillotine swinging, a judge and jury, all hinged upon my ability to do right for my family.

When my brother passed, I would tell others who were also suffering all the clichés in the book, to help comfort…. yada yada yada all crap. Clichés are blanket truths applicable to all scenarios, which make them completely irrelevant to your own personal intimate scenario. Your pain is not solved by a generic coffee table book comment. I tell myself these clichés daily now, try to empathize with my new daughter's plight but there is only one hard sad truth of our first week home….

Gray is loving her new home. She is happy, having fun, feeling and reveling in the love and attention. My wife as well is enjoying our expanded family. And while I am elated at this, the physical stress on us and the emotional stress on Gunner are not allowing me to bask in and enjoy our new bundle of joy. Hopefully, I will be able to soon. She is a sweetheart and will make our family better….eventually.

Our first moments with our new daughter....
 First night, sweet dreams....
 Our first smile....
 Warmed up early, loving to play and be silly....
 "Chinese Dream"....
 Playful lil' nugget....

 Immediately attached to Mama and loving every minute of it....



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Baby #2 on the Way

So long before G was our son, my wife and I decided to adopt a little girl from another country. Many people asked us why? I would say, "Because our planet is already overcrowded" to which my wife would say "you can't tell people that". So then I'd say, "because we want to open our home to child in need of a home" to which my wife would say "you can't tell people that". Then I would say, "I'm selfish and didn't want my wife to go through 9 months of uncomfortable pregnancy, a grueling laboring birth, and the physically and emotionally exhausting burden of a new born baby" to which my wife would say "you can't tell people that".

You notice the pattern here. My wife talks to me like I talk to my 2 year old son. "No we don't nose dive into the couch", "No the chalk isn't for drawing on the cat", "We don't say Ta-Da after sticking the landing jumping off the toilet, it's not the balance beam".

So 4 years later, we now have baby #2 on the way, a beautiful 1.5 year old girl exactly a year younger than Gunner, what can we say? Well....

First we can say preparing a 2.5 year old for the imminent arrival (there will be 3 months from when we received the referral notice with the name age and sex to when we bring her home) of his little sister's arrival is a funny thing.
Dad: G, you excited about Gray (her name) coming home?
G: Yes.
Dad: Y'all going to play with together with all your toys?
G: No. They my toys.
Dad: But don't you want Gray to have fun and you can teach her about all of your toys?
G: No. I don't want to have fun.
Dad: You don't want to fun? Ever again?
G. No. No more fun for GG.

So after we pushed passed this horribly apocalyptic view of becoming a big brother, we continued the prep work.
Dad: G, come help me set up Gray's room.
G: Okay Dad.
Dad: Thank you. This is your old room. Now that you're in the big boy room with the big boy bed, Gray is going to sleep in here.
G: No this is GG's room.
Dad: No you are in the big boy room. This room is for a baby. See the crib.
G: That's GG's crib.
Dad: But you have the big boy bed. Let's let Gray use the crib.
G: No that's my crib.
Dad: Maybe we should share with her since you have two beds.
G: She has a lot of stuff.
Dad: Okay good talk. Let's just go to the playroom.

Of course, when I overhear my wife coaching up G for the arrival of Gray, I hear...
Mom: So how are you going to play with Gray?
G: We going to play with the phone, bingo, the slide. Make her happy.
Mom: That's right. And when she is sad?
G: I get a bottle and a blankie and be silly. Make her happy.
Mom: That's right. Are you going to be the best big brother?
G: Yes.

Clearly, she is having the more effective communication with him at the moment on this topic.

Either way, this is the last blog post with us a parents of only child. In a little over two weeks, we will have returned home with our new daughter and be parents of a two child household.

A pirate for Halloween....with a tattoo....Heart Mom....
 Making da pizza....
That's how you watch soccer, on a levee at sunset in city park....
 We are all excited for Gray's arrival....

Friday, October 21, 2016

Generation Y Parenting

I was born in 1982. My wife 1983. My brother 1980, sister in law 1981. In looking at our characteristics and those of our friends, relatives, and co-workers with similar birth years to those in Generation X before us or the infamous Millenials after us, we deserve our own generation as we share more with our predecessors than our successors. I don't care what modern anthropologists are saying, Generation Y deserves to stand alone, the 1980 to say 1986 window. Once you get a late eighties birth year then you really weren't old enough to truly value what the 90s had to offer. Saved by the Bell, Fruit Roll Ups, Duck Tales, Nintendo and Super Nintendo, AOL IM, Tupac vs. Biggie, Baseball before steroids, Basketball before defense, Football before concussions. We set the foundation for which the Millenials would explode upon.

My point on the importance of our Generation Y status is that each generation, with their unique and beautiful nuances, will also have their own majestically poetic style of parenting.

G: (extra fidgety while playing in the playroom)
Dad: Do you need to go to the bathroom?
G: No I don't need to go to potty.
Dad: It looks like you need to go potty.
G: Yeah, I need to potty.
Dad: Okay good. Let's go potty.
G: (starts running excitedly to the bathroom) YEAH! LET'S GO POTTY! AND GET TREATS! GREAT IDEA DAD!
Dad: (shaking my head with a giggle)

A Generation X parent will appreciate the positive step in potty training. A Millenial parent will appreciate the transition from calm defiance to the funny enthusiasm in avoiding the mess of a potty accident. But then there's us Generation Y parents. What do we enjoy the most? The brilliant inclusion of getting TREATS. It's Seinfeld meets How I Met Your Mother. Witty and clever and teasing our playful humor as a generation of parents. How dare we discourage the excitement of an action we appreciate while also how are we to promote the self-determination of a reward for that behavior that will become a normal expectation for situations moving forward? Classic Zack vs. Slater dilemma.

The above referenced scenario occurs quite often in many different moments throughout the day with a 2 year old. The only thing I have learned in how to deal with it is: it is always best to just have fun with it and make sure your kid has fun with it also. Don't waste good humor on trying to be a good parent as the most important thing we can teach our kids is how to laugh and make others laugh.


And when we fingerpaint....

Sunday, October 16, 2016

It All Comes Back to Coaching

In business school, you learn early on that some of the best management principles come from sports coaching. These principles also exist for parents; goals, expectations, motivation, reinforcement, dedication, focus, all for the achievement of success. With that in mind, I often allow my parenting philosophy to be molded by some legendary sideline heroes. Do you really think Phil Jackson, the Zen Master, 6 time NBA Champion, revolutionary visionary of the Triangle Offense, would have a hard time getting a 2 year old to eat his dinner? Or put on his shoes when leaving the house? Or not throwing chalk across the playroom? Not a chance. He kept Shaq and Kobe from killing each other and Dennis Rodman out of wedding dresses. It is important to learn from his genius.

Always Maintain Solid Defensive Shape

It doesn't matter if you have Michael Jordan scoring 50 points a game if the opponent scores 130. So focus on the matchups.

1) Identify your best man to man defender. That is usually always Mom, but depending on the situation, it may be Dad. Make sure that defender is aware of their responsibility going in as they will be put out on an island and expected to come out on top. The Bulls unconventionally used Scotty Pippin, a small forward, to mark and shut down Gary Payton, a point guard and the catalyst of the Sonics offense, in the '96 Finals, stroke of genius.

2) Maintain a positive numbers up scenario as much as possible. Ideally, you always have an environment to be able to double team your opponent. Mom and Dad vs. 1 kid is a winning 2-1 formula. It will be very difficult for the kid to break your defense down. If you have 2 or more kids, grandparents can come into to maintain the a positive ratio. The Bulls in '97 and '98 Finals, would double team Hall of Famer Karl Malone and make Byron Russel, yes someone you never heard of, try to beat them, master class from the Coach.

Unfortunately often the double team isn't available. This is where it's important to then to play a strong man to man, 1-1, defense. And don't take it lightly. Sometimes Dad can man up great at the grocery store but get slaughtered at dinner time. Good 1-1 defending is crucial. For families with 2 kids, it's often very often 1-1 so PRACTICE and PERFECT that good defensive technique.

3) Avoid zonal defending as much as possible. This obviously piggybacks on the positive numbers up strategy. Once you as a parent are outnumbered, the zone defense kicks in, 1 parent vs. 2 or more kids, feels like the Raptors surrounding the humans in Jurassic Park. You just sit in fear praying for the T-Rex to smash through the ceiling. Zone defenses are the least effective but necessary to sustain until a numbers up scenario can be achieved. For those parents with 3 or more kids, sorry but you won't lead the league in defensive stats and categories. You can't defend Kobe with Jason Kidd or Allen Iverson but you can't zone them either as Horry and Fisher can hit open shots also, way too easy for the Lakers in '01 and '02.

Conclusion

Parenting a 2 year old is fun but testing. The increased energy and mobility lead to an increased desire to play. This desire is at the expense of listening and cooperating. This is where the solid defensive techniques come into play. How well we defend produces the outcomes of learning we want for our kids and hopefully returns a somewhat sane home shortly.  You can read anything you want to about feelings and coddling, but feelings and coddling don't have 6 Championship Rings and a spot in the Hall of Fame. Trust me, listen to the Zen Master, and when this long arduous season ends, you will be lifting the trophy on center court as the confetti falls!

Loving some donuts....
 Vacation with 9 adults to 1 kid....Making Phil Jackson proud....
 This really happened....just as described....
 Ballon fun lasted 13 days....simple pleasures....



 Modelling....

 No shame....
 How we lounge....
 Da Beach....
 Safety first....

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Just Go With It

Nearly 29 months of fun in the sun, well into year 2 of fatherhood. So what is different now? Well for starters, the world for a 2 year old is so weird that the world with a 2 year old must follow suit. I can only best describe this as “Just Go with It” because pretty much everything that will occur in a day comes with the parental dilemma of either 1) Need to Discipline, 2) Do I Redirect, or 3) Do I Just Go with It. And your 2 year old loves to live, whether intentionally or not, in the majestically annoying grey areas, the overlapping of 1 and 2 or 2 and 3 and even sometimes wander into the seemingly impossible realm of overlapping 1 and 3.

To the non-parent, it probably seems like parenting falls nice and neatly on a delicate china plate on a soft white linen table cloth in an elegant grand dining hall of leisure; how is this difficult you wonder? Oh, all parents know. Your child just instinctively knows that to learn, one must forgo all prior truths and truly immerse oneself to all possibilities of desired outcomes.

Example: Your Child: (in his head) “If I draw on the white couch with a blue marker, I bet a box of chocolate ice cream will appear.” Why? Because he has no reason to believe it won’t appear. So he does it and he gets #1: Discipline. Now he knows a baseline but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen again. Next time, he performs a cost benefit analysis beforehand. People without kids will say “You should have known better giving him a blue marker around a white couch.” Well my 2 year and 4 month old son can write MOM and HAT on a dry erase board so ask anyone with kids and they will tell you that the white couch looking like a blue striped zebra is a PARENTING WIN so suck it!

Another Example: You want to expose your child to foreign languages so you educate in speaking Spanish. It goes very well, especially numbers and colors. Your Child: (excited and very much OUTLOUD) “Rojo, azul, ammarillo, verde, negro.” SKZZWZRKWRZ!!!! The record scratches and the music stops. Why? Because he is 2! While negro in Spanish means black and there is parental pride in his learning, enjoying, and mastering of a foreign language, he simply can’t go walking around saying negro everywhere he goes! He gets #2: Redirect where we just focus on every other color and the Spanish flashcard for the color black “magically” found its way into the trash. Black can wait until Spanish class in school when he has a better grasp of socially appropriate and respectful behavior.


Another Example: Your child is about to do something wrong. You say quickly and abruptly, “uh-uh!” to which your child immediately grunts back in complete frustration “UH!” This prehistoric rhetoric goes back and forth at least 4 times before your child throws whatever is in his hands, kicks whatever is closest to him, and moves on to something else. CLASSIC GREY AREA MIND GAME! The throw and kick were not acceptable, the angry grunts were not ideal, but the emotional settle down and move on to something else is desired. You can do any of the parent decisions available, so which one? People without kids would say “You can’t let him get away that behavior right?” What behavior? He wanted to do something. You wouldn’t let him. That bothered him. I want to win the lottery. The moron on TV didn’t pick my numbers. I threw the wasted ticket in frustration. It’s science everyone. Just go with it.

G basically spent the entire month of July at the beach....here with Maddox pretending to race cars....
 Here ACTUALLY racing cars....
 Needed a big boy doctor's appointment....and handled it like a champ....blood pressure and pulse....
 And the EKG....
 Early tired beach mornings in bed....
 The Majestic Whites Sands of....Orange Beach Alabama....
 Soaked from the pool....
 Flavor Ice....Classic....
 "Um, Mom? Dad? What the....."
 These two must approve all photographs before publishing....