Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fighting the Spirit of the Season

If I ever doubted the inherent sinfulness of man, all I have to do is look at my daughter on a Sunday morning.

(Wait, what?!?! How can you say that? She's adorable! And on a Sunday, no less! What kind of horrible father are you?!)

Now, hear me out. Sunday mornings are our "chill at home" morning. Caylah has this new thing of wanting to go out and get the paper all by herself (picture a 3' tall redhead running/toddling in Barney slippers and you'll understand why I smile every time watching it), and then we all read our own sections over breakfast. I read the pop culture magazines and the comics, while my wife, the more serious one, reads the "actual" news.

My daughter, not wanting to be left out, has taken to looking through the ads, which, at Christmastime especially, are plentiful. One habit that she's fallen into, which I don't know to do with, is pointing to different items and saying, "Me want (fill in the blank)". Me want this, me want that, me want doll, me want car.

I don't want to rain on anyone's Christmas parade here, but for all of our talk about this being a season of giving, there is definitely an over-abundance of "wanting" during this time of year as well. And my little two-year-old, as cute as she might be, is no exception.

So dads, here's my question - how do you fight that with your kids? When a highlight of every kid's Christmas is to go sit on Santa's lap and tell him what they want him to bring them, how do you then turn around and convince them that this is, in fact, a season of giving? How do you get your child to think of others, when they're really predisposed to think of themselves? I'd love to hear some practical suggestions on what you've done that's worked, and even roads that you've been down that haven't been as useful. I want her to enjoy the season in every aspect, and I'd love some thoughts on how to make that happen!

So, how do you parent your kids through the Christmas season, making sure they love to give as much (or even more) than they enjoy receiving?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Being Thankful

Tomorrow being Thanksgiving and all, I thought it appropriate to do a post about being thankful. However, instead of me telling you what I'm thankful for, I asked some moms that I know what they're thankful for about their husbands, specifically in their gifts as a father. Some of these below are grandmothers, others are just about to be moms for the first time. But they all had great stuff to offer up:
  • Wisdom and humility are the two characteristics that come to mind first. He has always let me say how I feel about something, and rather than telling me his point of view may be different, he begins asking me questions as to how I arrived at my position. 
  • I appreciate his ability to play. It's heart-warming to me to see him engaging with our nearly four year-old daughter on her level. 
  • One of the things that I love most about [my husband] is how he is so intentional to focus on the important things with our children, when I would usually tend to overreact... like when they break something, he immediately responds with, "Oh no, did it break? That's ok. It's just a (blank). That's not what matters though. What matters is that you're ok!" His calm, careful reaction helps me to do the same. 
  • He regularly asks me what he can do better in our relationship. I appreciate that he takes the initiative to improve our marriage.
  • He plays with our kids. He comes home after a long day and work and as soon as he changes his clothes he is down on the playroom floor wrestling our boys. He is always the fun instigator. His joy fills me up and relives the strain of day. 
  • I love it that [my husband] is such a great problem solver for our kids. He really has the patience to walk through with them options, suggestions and strategies to help them get through growing up. I also love it how he is such a protector. Especially now since [our daughter] is becoming a teenager. 
  • (As said to her) - I may not be the best at relating to people in the world as we know it, but you definitely want me on your side during the zombie apocalypse. 
  • I love when [our son] wants [my husband's] attention, he has it 100%, regardless of what major or minor task he is involved in at the time. I love the rough housing, and the encouragement and praise he gives [our son]. I love his sensitivity to when my patience is running thin and willingness to take [our son] at those times and his desire for [our son] to love Jesus.
  • I am looking forward to watching [my husband] protect and provide for our daughter. And I love how excited he is to hold her and love on her. (hopefully soon!)
  • I love that my husband recognizes that as a stay at home mom of 3 kids close in age - that I work and live in the same place. It's hard to separate yourself from parent to spouse- in many ways ! I love that he sees and wants to get us both away to reconnect. In turn , it makes you better parents. I love that [my husband] verbally tells the kids how cool their mom is and how much he loves her. It shows them our love and dedication to each other , but also shows them how to love / treat / expect love from their spouses in the future. 

I don't know about you, but hearing any type of encouragement like this makes my day. Honestly, I don't think I'm alone in that. I am thankful for wives and moms (mine included!) like these who make the time and effort to encourage their husbands in this crazy and incredible journey of fatherhood. Like nothing else, it helps us "dare to be daddy" even more!

Happy Thanksgiving!

You wives/moms out there reading this, what are you thankful for about your husband's gifts as a father?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Breakthrough!

Today's regularly scheduled blog post (which will be posted tomorrow and will be outstanding!) has been interrupted with some important news...

It happened.

And I have Dora the Explorer to thank for it.

My wife came home yesterday with a Dora potty (actually it was just the seat part - you know, the kind that you just put on top of the regular potty). It even made cheering noises when you push the side of it! Caylah was so excited to have it that she sat on the thing for about 20 minutes last night - nothing happened, but she wanted to sit there, nonetheless.

So, this morning (of course, after I'd already left and my wife is trying to run out the door once the babysitter had arrived) Caylah announced that she had to go pee-pee on the potty. AND SHE DID!!

Not wanting to miss celebrating this momentous occasion, I immediately called the babysitter from my office, and had her put Caylah on the phone. And, very loudly, I cheered, "Yay for pee-pee on the potty!!!"

And, yes, I think my entire department heard. And no, I don't care.

This is daddy-hood.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Time Has Come

I love the holiday season. Christmas music is being played on the radio. Shopping malls are decorated, and Santa's spot to sit and hear all of the wishes of the little boys and girls is set up and ready to be occupied. I'm already making plans to get our tree, and can almost smell the pine scent in my house. Nothing can ruin my joy at this "most wonderful time of the year."

Well, almost nothing.

We're approaching the thing that I have dreaded more than anything else, save Caylah's wedding day. I knew it would come, but knowing it's coming and have it actually arrive are two completely different things. If I had a "bejesus," it would be scared out of me at the thought.

It's potty-training time.

My wife says that our daughter is ready. I have no idea how she knows that. I guess that's where the "mommy instinct" comes in. To me, it seems like Caylah is more content than ever to use every ounce of her diaper and have that be that. Nevertheless, they brought back enough toilet books from the library the other day to potty-train an army and we've begun using the phrase "big girl" in every third sentence. Underwear is going to be shopped for, and M&M's (her prize candy of choice) are being bought in such bulk that you'd think we were stocking a bomb shelter. If she can be prepped for an event of this magnitude, we're doing it.

Still, I've heard horror stories of families trying for multiple weekends, devoting time to nothing else other than making continuous trips to the potty, stopping only to eat and sleep. And it still doesn't work. Some put tarps down in their house (?!?!?!) and just let their kids run around naked until they just magically decide they want to go to the bathroom in the bathroom (somehow, that seems to be effective).

Don't get me wrong. I want our daughter to be potty-trained. It just freaks me out. So I need your help, dads. I'd love to hear your experiences with potty-training. What did you do right? What do you wish you had done differently? What "method" did you use and how did it go? Thanks so much!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Get Out the Vote!

My wife and I did early voting last week, and more than one person mentioned how great it was that we were already teaching our kids about fulfilling our civic duty at such a young age. Truth be told, we both wanted to vote, and bringing them along was preferable to getting carted off by Child Protective Services for leaving them home alone. But, of course, I smiled politely and received the compliment, as if we totally deserved the praise.
Caylah couldn't get enough stickers!

On this critical Election Day, I hope you get out and cast your ballot for your chosen candidate(s). Here at D2BD, we don't play politics, other than to encourage to be a part of them. And be sure to tell your kids what you're doing, and why you're doing it. You don't have to go over the articles in the latest issue of Time, complete with highlighted passages of the foreign policy stance you most agree with, but I do want Caylah to know what voting is, and why it's a good thing.

Rarely do I get the opportunity to point out to my kids such an obvious example of being a part of something bigger than ourselves, so I don't want to pass this up. I'd love to hear, though, how you've explained and talked to your kids about voting and why it's important.  

What have you found to be helpful as they learn from you why taking part in Election Day is a big deal?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween, Pooh Bear, and Fear

Last night was our first Halloween as a family of four. Now, families all approach Halloween in different ways. There are some that will dress up their kids, but they themselves will only offer a slight nod to the costume tradition, if any at all. For these parents, a Halloween-themed shirt will suffice, as it's their kids that are actually the centerpiece of the evening, they're the ones that are heading up to front doors, bags outstretched, eager to see what goodies will be dumped in there. Other parents might don a pair of cat or lion ears and paint some whiskers on their face, or do some other type of halfway costume. This is normally because by the time they finished sewing on every last sequin on the princess costume (which, incidentally, was chosen one day earlier, as up to that point we were supposed to be wearing a girl pirate costume, until somebody changed her mind), it was all the parent could do to swipe an eyeliner pen across his or her face as everyone is running out the door.

And then there's the Vias. Neither my wife nor I grew up doing Halloween half-heartedly, and so now that we have kids, we get to relive our memories, and in 3-D, no less. As you can see to the right, our inspiration came from none other than The Hundred Acre Wood. If Caylah had her druthers, she would have worn that costume from first "up" when we bought it to final "night-night" time, every day it wasn't "icky." As for me, my Pooh Bear costume was piecemealed from thrift stores across town, teaching me that trying to find yellow pants in my size was a task more appropriate for Sherlock Holmes that a suburban father. Nevertheless, we ventured out to take on our block, determined to not return until the candy was ours.

On the whole, my daughter was a rock star. She would bound up each set of stairs to front door after front door, shamelessly using her cuteness to persuade each neighbor to give her their best candy. Mark my words, the girl will be training others in the neighborhood on the shameless use of cute before kindergarten.

When we got to a house about halfway along, however, she changed. The people in that house had constructed a haunted maze in their garage, populating it with some pretty scary characters, complete with ghouls in black robes, ready to freak out whoever would dare approach the interactive display. And "freak out" they did, at least Caylah. I'm sure the man in the black robe, black mask, and long nails that Freddy Krueger himself would have envied, was a nice man, but all my daughter could see was evil personified and she wasn't about to go anywhere near it. In fact, the rest of the evening, she wouldn't let me put her down to go to other doors, and all she could talk about was "that man scary."

My wife and I were talking later about where she might have learned to be scared of that ghoulish figure. We weren't scared of him. I don't think we even said anything like, "Ooooh, Caylah, that man's scary!" trying to get her to go along with the night. I think she was just plain scared. And as many times as we tried to tell her that it was ok, she was still scared. I told her that he wouldn't hurt her, but she still wouldn't have anything to do with him, clinging to me, in fact.

What is it about fear? There's the healthy fear that (sometimes) tells my daughter that jumping off the stairs might not be such a good idea, but this was different. This was the fear that someone (or something) could physically harm her. And it doesn't seem that it's a learned reaction. This is inborn, like smiling or laughing.

Unfortunately, I think fear is just a part of the human condition. Adam talks about being afraid in Genesis 3, and I wonder if fear was a result of the Fall. We don't see it mentioned before that, so it makes me think it didn't exist until then. And as many times as the Lord says, "Do not fear," we still continue to be driven by that emotion far more often than we should. It can be paralyzing, causing us to cling to what we know or what is familiar. It can be crippling as fathers, for sure, this fear thing.

This is much easier said than done, but it's important for us as dads to figure out what's worth being afraid of, and which things are...just halloween costumes. For me, it's important to try and discern the difference - pray, find Truth from the Bible, ask other people who have done this before. I do know, however, that the more I find myself strapped down by fear, the worse off I am as a father. So it's important for me to do whatever I can to move past it and strive to be the kind of father that I am called to be.

What about you? Do you ever feel like you're strapped down by fear? What have you done to move past it?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lucky Number Seven

My wife and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary last night. Here's a little before and after for your viewing pleasure...
Somehow, she's stayed just as stunning as she was in that gorgeous white dress. I definitely out-kicked my coverage, as they say. 

Seven years by no means makes me an expert on marriage, however, so I'm always looking for the wisdom of others to speak into my relationship with my wife. And I've discovered that wisdom can come from anywhere, so I pretty much ask anyone for their input. For instance, I noticed that our chef last night was wearing a wedding ring, so Christina and I started to talk to him about his marriage and kids, etc. He mentioned that this marriage (his second) was going on twelve years, so I asked him what advice he would have for us. He said to make sure that we laugh a lot (which we do), but he said that we need to make sure we keep communicating (always working on that one!). So, to our chef Damon at the Pepper Tree Restaurant (which was really good, by the way, for my COS readers), thank you for building into our marriage. We appreciate it!

Where's the most unexpected place you've ever received relationship advice?
What advice would you add on how to keep a marriage strong?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The First Priority of Fatherhood, Part 2

On Tuesday, I talked about why it's important for a man to make his wife his first priority. It's one thing to say it, but something completely different to walk it out. And I don't flatter myself to think that I'm any kind of expert - my wife will tell you I still put my "husband" pants on one leg at a time - but pulling from seven years of experience (on Monday), there are a few things that I've found that actually work that I'd love to share with you.

Continue to pursue your wife - Those of you who know our story, know that I relentlessly pursued my wife during our dating relationship. Many of us guys are good at that, and have worked tirelessly to make sure that she knew how amazing she is and how we would move heaven and earth to make her ours. But then, and I'm sure you've read stories like this, for some reason we have this mentality that this stops once we get married. And then once we have kids, life gets even more hectic, making the effort required to plan time away even more difficult. Make the effort anyway. Your wife (regardless of what she might say) needs the time away, and the two of you need the time to reconnect to continue to work on making your marriage strong.

Choose her over them every time - Whether they mean to or not, your kids will try to divide you to get different answers. If they succeed, they undermine your relationship with your wife, which is never a good thing. When my wife and I do disagree on parenting strategies or discipline methods, we continue to show a united front to our children and then talk about it later. Our kids need to know that their parents are a team, and nothing they can do will change that.

Solve conflict in front of them - Wait, didn't I just talk about how important it is to show a united front and now I'm talking about fighting in front of them? I don't mean have a knock-down, drag out fight at the dinner table a la "American Beauty", but, again for the sake of modeling, good conflict resolution is important is show to your kids. Don't feel like you have to excuse yourself from the room every time you want to have a different opinion, but show them healthy discussion and conflict, and that will show them that fair fighting does exist, and can, in fact, play a crucial role in a couple's relationship.

Tell (and show!) her how much you love her in front of them - I remember when I was growing up, seeing my dad kiss my mom, flirt with her, or even say, "I love you," made me want to cringe. But I also remember never doubting that my parents loved each other, which gave me an amazing sense of security about their relationship. It'll gross your kids out when you're affectionate, but don't let that stop you from being obvious with your wife about how much you love her.

What are your thoughts on these? What else would you add?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The First Priority of Fatherhood

My dad had this sign in their bathroom when I was growing up. As you can see, it's pretty plain. No stunning vista in the background, sports paraphernalia, or even "manly" font. But I believe that the amount of flashiness is indirectly proportional to the importance of the message - "The most important thing a father can do for his children is love their mother." Based on the fact that my parents celebrated 44 years of marriage earlier this year, it's something that my father believed in as well.

Some of you may read this and wonder, "How does loving my wife translate into loving my kids?" Let me give you a couple of ways that happens...

1. It gives your son a model for how to love his wife - When Caden gets to that point where he is pursuing a woman for the purpose of marriage, I want him to be able to look at how I treat Christina as examples of what to do, as opposed to what not to do.

2. It gives your daughter a model for how she should be loved by her husband - I see so many women in my experience in college ministry who don't believe they ever will treated well, much less think they deserve it. I want Caylah to see how her mother is treated to know what to expect of her future husband.

3. It gives your kids the best chance at being raised in a two-parent household - Loving my wife well is the best bet to never make divorce an option. And I'm hard-pressed to find hard evidence that a child is better off being raised by one parent than two (normal) parents.

The only thing that qualifies me to say anything is seven years of marriage, but on Thursday I'll offer up some practical ways that I've loved my wife well.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

News Flash!

I think I may have the world's next Diane Sawyer.

I'm serious. Caylah gets so many exclusives and breaks so many stories that I fully expect CBS to give her the main anchor desk tomorrow.

Just this morning, she ran over to us with her latest scoop...

"Mommy! Daddy! Baby Cakey awake!"

Watch out, Barbara Walters, you're about be replaced.

She comes to us multiple times a day with these kinds of headlines: "Me eat strawberries!", "Me wear cat shoes!", and, my personal favorite, "Baby Cakey toot!" running to us like if she doesn't tell us right then, the world will stop spinning. So, even though we were right there when all of this is going down - the eating, the wearing, the tooting - she believes that she's telling us this for the first time (every time) and, if it weren't for her journalistic instincts, we'd never know what really happened. 

And, of course, my wife and I act as if this really is worth getting excited over, and that if she hadn't told us, we really would be left in the dark. Why? Because she's not even three yet, so we don't expect her to recite Charles Dickens or Aristotle to us (that will come when she's five, right?). We're just glad she's communicating. We love the interaction. We are excited that she wants to connect. When we talk about her day before she goes to sleep, I want her to tell me everything she's done, even if I've been with her every second of it. She's my daughter and it puts me over the moon to have her engage with me.

Oh, how I wish I had that same mindset when it came to engaging with the Lord. I know He knows everything that I do, every place that I am, every worry that I have. He knows me better than I know myself. Consequently, I'm much more apt to just go about my day, knowing that God's there and watching over me, so it would be kind of silly to "fill Him in," wouldn't it?

In actuality, God's just like me with Caylah (I realized the huge theological dangers of comparing me with God, but just go with me on this). There's absolutely nothing that I can say that will surprise Him. No chance I can ever go to the Lord of lords and have Him respond with, "Whoa? Really? Totally didn't see that coming!"

He just wants me to engage. Wants me to desire to build the relationship and that intimacy. He doesn't expect me to recite Dickens or Aristotle (or whatever the God-equivalent of those guys is), He just wants me to talk to Him.

So whatever it is, I'm gonna to chat with the Lord today. Big or small, He already knows it, but I want to come running to my Abba with the same big eyes and excitement that I get from Caylah.

"Daddy! Me drink Starbucks!"

What can you talk to the Lord about today? 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"Guys With Kids", Part 2

I don't know if I plan to make this a weekly occurrence, but since the series premiere of "Guys With Kids" failed to satisfy last week, I wanted to give a follow-up from last night's episode.

One of the overarching themes from last night was parents comparing themselves to other parents. I hit on that here, so I won't rehash it, but I appreciated the struggle.

There were two aspects of the show that I really enjoyed (aside from the "almond-y milk" thread), especially as it relates to being a dad. Nick and Emily's daughter, Violet, was taking things from their friends' apartments, and I appreciated that Nick took the lead on confronting Violet about it. He didn't bumble it, come off as weak, or shy away from the opportunity to discipline. He treated it seriously, talked to Violet the same way that I want to speak to Caylah when we get in those kind of situations, and really handled the exchange well, I thought.

I also loved the community aspect of the guys that was highlighted in last night's episode. As I wrote about in an earlier post, the group of guys that a father has around him is crucial to his development as a father and a husband, and I really loved that they touched on that, especially as it relates to their respective relationships with their wives.

As it moves forward, I hope to see some more solid "fathering" moments. I've seen some in the previews that still haven't been in an episode, so I'm hopeful that those are still to come. Overall, though, definitely an improvement over last week.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the show - what did you like? what do you want to see?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Exhaustion and Stubbornness

Caden had his first case of being overtired yesterday.

There wasn't anything special to the day; he just chose not to sleep. Dads, if you've ever had a small child that was overtired, you know the havoc that it can wreak on a household - lots of crying, lots of wailing, but no sleeping. Ironically, when you're overtired, you don't sleep.

But there's something else that Caden wouldn't do because he was so exhausted...


Twice yesterday, my wife was trying to feed him, and he refused to take the food. He was so busy crying and wailing and being upset. He was so focused on being miserable that he didn't even take the food that was right in front of him.

I sat there helplessly trying to figure out what I could do - rubbing his head, shushing him, I even busted out a little "Mary Poppins" - nothing worked. Caden just laid there, screaming and ignoring the nourishment that was being offered.

I wonder how many times I do that. I wonder how many times we do that. Where we get so focused on how we feel, or what's going on in our lives, that we completely miss the blessings that are right in front of us. How many times have I woken up at the beginning of a day and decided to be mad, or upset, or bitter, and consequently was completely oblivious to all the great things that were going on around me.

I doubt if, as a three month old, he was aware of that dynamic, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. We miss the blessings that are going on around us every day - my daughter who wants to dance with me, my wife, who has cooked an amazing meal that I don't even really pay attention to because I"m so busy being upset, even my son, who needs to be held, and I get to be the one to do that.

Does life sucker punch us in the gut sometimes? Of course it does. Do the events that happen to us make us feel weak and tempt us to throw in the towel? More often that any of us would like to admit, probably. The truth is, though, we have a choice. We have a choice to let ourselves be taken out of the game - as dads, as husbands, as men. Or we can choose in - we can choose in to relationships, we can choose in to fatherhood, we can choose in to seeing what we've really been given, not what we haven't.

I'm going to choose the latter. That's how I'm going to dare to be daddy today.

Have you experienced events that threatened to take you out before? Did you choose to stay in? How?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thoughts about NBC's "Guys With Kids"

Lots of new shows have been rolling out this fall, but one that has particularly caught my eye is "Guys With Kids". Coincidentally enough it's a show about guys...with kids (shocker, I know, right?). Being a guy...with kids...myself, I wanted to give it a whirl and see what it was like, hopeful to get some good fodder for the blog.

The series premiere was last night, so I sat ready to see how these guys...with kids...acted.

I don't know if you watched it, too, but I definitely was left wanting more. Oh, there were guys. But this opening episode really revolved around guys...with wives. There wasn't nearly as much about fatherhood as I'd hoped there would be. The promos I've seen on TV and online had some clips about how these guys interacted with their kids, but none of those were part of the episode that I watched last night.

So, in lieu of giving thoughts about what I actually saw, I started thinking about what I would like to see on a show about guys...with kids.

These dads experience success
Far too often, the dad plays the comic foil to the much more sensitive and together mom who seems to have the answer for everything. She is Mary Poppins while he does everything but blow up the house in a 30-minute time period. These guys gave hints that we're not looking at the next Al Bundy or Homer Simpson, so I'm hopeful.

They legitimately invest in their kids' lives
I can't even count the number of times sitcom fathers look at their kids as a means to an end. They need their offspring to cover up a gaffe, or make them look good in front of a neighbor they want to impress. Forgive me for waxing poetic about the days of "The Cosby Show," where Cliff would discipline his kids and take the time to tell them why and make sure they knew he loved them. I miss that.

Other dads can learn what to do, not just what not to do
I understand that I'm watching a sitcom, and not something on the Discovery Channel, but it would be nice to be able to look at these guys and think, "Huh, I never thought of that. That's good stuff." Quality TV, regardless of genre, always has some kind of wisdom to impart to its audience, whether it's through laughter or seriousness. I'd love to see these dads have some wisdom to impart that help dads become better.

What qualities am I missing? What else would you like to see from this show, or other shows about dads?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Away We Go

I've been traveling this week.

This is the best view I've had of my family this week
I don't know about you, but I don't do well without my family. As much as I love my job, it's tough to be away from them when I'm on the road recruiting.

I guess what I struggle with is how to be a good husband and a good father when I'm away. I'm not gone for long stretches at a time (a few days at a time), but as I mentioned in an earlier post, the first three months are crucial in being present for a child's development. Moreover, parenting is obviously much easier when you're actually able to be present while doing it.

So I continue to try and find that balance. I'd love to have some ideas, though, on how to strike a better one.

What are some ways you've found to stay connected when you can't be there?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Breaking Unknown Rules

I never should have done it.

You don't want to see the picture of the explosion, I promise
I fell victim to one of the oldest tricks in the book - putting milk in “the princess cup.”

It started off like any other normal morning, except that my wife was going out for the day and I was playing stay-at-home daddy. Breakfast began innocently enough, fixing toast and giving my two-year-old something to drink. Like any good parent, I wanted to give her a glass of milk to start the day. But she wanted to drink from her princess cup, a new non sippy cup that she loved because it makes her feel like a big girl. No problem, I thought, I’ll just put the milk in the princess cup. Innocently (and now, in hindsight, I know quite foolishly), I put the princess cup full of milk on her tray. Within seconds, my kitchen was a war zone, and my precious redhead had become the Enola Gay.

Whoever coined the phrase, “there’s no use crying over spilt milk,” had obviously never been in a situation like this one. I turned to my wife, who by this time had come down the stairs to see what all the ruckus was about, and asked, “is it a cardinal sin to put milk in the princess cup??” She looked at me and gave me “the smile.” You know that smile, dads. It’s the one that sitcom wives give to their husbands when they’ve done something everyone watching at home knows they shouldn’t have done, but they did it anyway. It’s that smile that says, “oh, you silly husband. Why did you ever do that?” It’s encouraging and humbling all at the same time.

So we brought out the Swiffer, and after a quick tutorial to yours truly, the kitchen had returned to its pre-catastrophic state.

This really comes down to routine, and this is where I think dads are apt to make some of our biggest missteps. For those of us who do the normal 9-5, we step back into our families, not having a clue what has changed and what has stayed the same. My wife, God bless her, sees these routines change daily and doesn’t think much of it. But it’s almost like we need a presidential-style briefing early Saturday morning: developments on speech, new rules that have been set down, allowances that have come about since last weekend. 

Short of a board-room sit-down, however, it’s tough to know everything that needs to happen. And it’s rather unrealistic to have my wife go back through every day and recollect it all. So I think the best we as dads can do is pay attention as best as we can while we’re home. That still won’t catch everything, so when those blow-ups happen (not “if,” but “when”), you just get out the Swiffer and move on. As frustrating as it might be to feel out of the loop, we need to keep engaging, adapt, and keep going. 

Just please, whatever you do, keep the milk out of the princess cup.

Do your kids have their own versions of a princess cup?
What routines have you unknowingly "violated?"

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Blog Community

As I mentioned in my introductory post, I want this blog to be a place where dads can learn from each other and be an encouragement. To that end, I'd love to hear about some of the other daddy blogs that you're reading that are helpful. I know there's a shortage of them, which is one of the main reasons I started writing, but I know that there are some out there.

So which ones have you come across? Which ones are you reading? Or if you're writing one, let us know that for sure!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Band of Brothers

Remind me never to do that again.

I climbed the Manitou Incline on Monday. For those of you who don't know what that is, basically, it's a staircase right up the side of a mountain that amounts to a climb of almost 2,000 ft, which, when you're already 6,500 ft up, is pretty high. But I like to call it, simply, "Satan's Laughing Place."

Now, I know I'm definitely not the most fit guy out there. I readily admit that. I've got a six-pack, it's just in a foam cooler. But I've done things that require a solid amount of physical fitness before, and I've held my own. This, however, was a totally different story. Let's just say that no one looked at me and was jealous for how well I was handling myself.

The only reason I made it to the top was because I went with some guys who encouraged me at key points along the way. I let them go ahead pretty early on so they could at least break a sweat, but they definitely didn't leave me behind. And after over an hour of climbing, as I was nearing the top but every step was more than laborious, one of them who had already summited came back down to where I was to take the last twenty steps with me. Without these guys, I know I wouldn't have made it. If I had been climbing by myself, I would have turned back before the climb even got that steep. Having those guys climb with me was crucial to me being able to successfully get to the top of the Incline.

You didn't want to see our Incline picture...
We need the same kind of community around as dads, don't we? Other guys around us who can encourage us, cheer us on, and even come get us when we get stuck in this climb of parenthood? And not all of us in this picture to the left are dads, but we're committed to keeping each other moving forward, even if our paces are different speeds, and so many times that transcends life stages.

We aren't meant to do this alone, guys. If you don't have men around you that are continually pointing you toward what it means to be a better father and husband, start looking for some. I know as guys it can be tough to admit that we need help, but it's important to your wife. It's important to your kids. Get some guys that speak openly and honestly to you, who don't always pat you on the back and tell you you're doing a great job, because sometimes we're not. Find some that are maybe a few steps ahead of you, who can help you steer clear of some of the pitfalls and missteps that they've taken. And definitely make sure that you have those guys who are encouragers every step of the way, who can remind you of the summit when things get tough, because we all need those.

Just make sure they don't trick you into doing the Incline with them...

Do you have guys around you that serve this purpose in your life? How have you seen them as helpful?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Via "Staycation" of 2012

Guys, you're gonna thank me for this, I promise.

The students for the fall semester at the Focus Leadership Institute arrive today, so my wife and I decided that I would take some time off to spend with the family before the term kicks off. Trying to save some money, we decided that a "staycation" was a much better idea than trying to make last-minute hotel reservations, toting the kids and all their accoutrements somewhere, and paying for food for practically every meal.

As a teacher, my wife instantly went into "planning mode" as soon as the overall plan was settled upon. What she came up with was a six-day schedule with activities, crafts, books, movies, and even snacks that all revolved around a daily theme. And I have decided to share all of it with you, for one reason and one reason only...

Husband points.

We all know we need them, and we all know how hard it is to get them. And if you're like me, when your wife turns to you and says, "what should we do?" your mind instantly goes blank, and any good idea you might have had enters a black hole, never to be seen again. And that's just for date nights. Trying to plan an activity for your family where everyone has fun and you don't have to touch the college fund to pay for it is like living in a swing state and trying to avoid political commercials. So when you are asked such a question, now you will have an answer, and the husband points will rain down on you like manna from heaven.

So here you go - a blow-by-blow schedule of our staycation. And if you don't live in Colorado Springs, don't worry. Most of these are doable (with a tweak or two, perhaps) where you live.

Day 1 - Fitness Day
AM Activity - rock climbing wall. City Rock was where we went, and had a wall totally appropriate for our two and a half year old.
PM Activity - Park with frisbee, football, soccer ball
Snack - Cliff Bars
Craft - Fitness brag book: we took pictures of Caylah doing different activities - swimming, jumping, climbing, etc - and glued them onto construction paper (one per activity), which was then all tied together to make a book.

Day 2 - Nature Day
AM Activity - Nature Center with morning grasshopper experience
PM Activity - Nature walk at the library
Snack - gummy worms, ants on a log
Craft - Butterfly baggie
Books - On My Leaf, The Very Lonely Firefly
Movie - "Creatures - Kids in the Garden"

Day 3 - Animal Day
AM Activity - Zoo
PM Activity - Feed ducks at local lake
Snack - Animal crackers
Craft - Giraffe Tube
Movie - "The Lion King"

Day 4 - Water, Water Everywhere
AM Activity - Pool: our YMCA in El Paso County had a number of pools in the area. Check out yours.
PM Activity - Denver Aquarium
Snack - Goldfish
Craft - Homemade Aquarium
Book - Ten Little Fish, Poke A Dot: Who's in the Ocean?

Day 5 - Things That Go
AM Activity - Pikes Peak Cog Railway
PM Activity - Colorado Springs Balloon Classic
Snack - Cookie Cars
Craft - Block Towers
Books - Go-Go Baby, Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo
Movie - Thomas and Friends, "Hooray for Thomas"

Day 6 - Fun and Games
AM Activity - Arcade in Manitou Springs
PM Activity - It'z
Book - Players in Pigtails
Movie - AthleticBaby All-Star

And now, I'm exhausted. If you have any questions about any of this, let me know!

What kind of activities have you done with your family that are really fun, as well as inexpensive?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Letter to Ann Romney

Dear Mrs. Romney,

I watched your speech on Tuesday. You were articulate, compassionate, and it was clear that you do have a deep and abiding love for your husband. So thank you for sharing that with us.

In the first part of your speech, you took some time to address the women in the audience, mothers more specifically. I understand your desire to connect with women, and it sounded as if they really appreciated your ability to empathize with their situation.

As a dad, however, I respectfully take issue with those comments. As a dad, I felt like a second-class citizen in your estimation. Does my wife work hard in our family to make it work? She definitely does. Does she sigh at the end of the day, relieved that everyone has survived another 24 hours. Oh, yes. She is a daughter, a mother, and a big sister, and performs all of those roles with an amazing amount of grace and love that shows me day in and day out why I am blessed to be married to her.

I strongly disagree with the insinuation that men do not work just as hard, do not care just as much, do not worry just as often that our families will be OK. We go to our jobs, blue-collar and white-collar alike, wishing we were respected more than we are. I say often that the most fragile thing in the world is the male ego. I see evidence of that everywhere I go. We fight for respect at work, and many of us then try our hardest to come home and play a significant role in our family, where society many times tells us we are inept.

Biblically, I believe that men are called to lead their households, which means that, ultimately, the buck stops with me. Consequently, it should be the men that hold this country together. Please don't hear me say that, in any way, I am a proponent of the archaic, "Women should be seen and not heard" mantra of decades ago. But I see that men have been given the responsibility to...lead, and I have had so many conversations with fathers, married men, and single men, who have to fight voices and paradigms like what I heard last night in order to even feel capable to accept that responsibility, much less take that challenge on.

I do believe that your intention was not to add the overwhelming undermining of men's roles that is already out there in society today. As you continue to refine that message, I would ask that you find a way to empower women without making light of the struggles that fathers face on a daily basis.

Chris Via

Did you watch her speech on Tuesday night? What were your thoughts on her message to moms and women?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I'm Ready for My Close-Up

Like a lot of families are doing, we did maternity shots and newborn shots with Caden, to document this transition in our lives. I'm including them for a couple of reasons. First, I love showing off my family. I know what you're thinking, "How did he land a stone cold fox like her???" I ask myself the same question all the time. My wife's genes obviously won out when my children were being knit together, which to me is more proof that there is, in fact, a God.

But I also wanted to give props to our amazing photographer, Tracy Aung. Click here to go to her website so that you can see some more of her phenomenal work. She was so great to work with and we highly recommend her!

Something interesting came up during our maternity shoot, however. During one of the shots that was just of my wife while I was occupying Caylah, Tracy commented to Christina that she was surprised that I wanted to be included in the day. Her experience has been that dads, typically, don't really participate in the photo shoot, if they even come at all.

Admittedly, my theatre background and my inborn "ham" nature definitely plays a role in my desire to be in front of a camera. The bigger piece, though, is that these are family pictures and I am the head of my family. Granted, it's my wife was the one carrying our babies for nine months, but these are our kids, and so it should be us involved in every stage of their lives, even something as seemingly insignificant as posing for a picture against a tree and smiling until every joint in your face begins to ache.

Now, I'm well aware that probably most dads don't look at a camera and instantly want to flash that million-dollar smile. Or maybe you're insecure from too many passed up hours at the gym. Or maybe you just aren't a picture guy. However, photo shoots fall under the same general lesson is taught over and over again in your life as a husband and a parent - it's not about you. It's important to your family. As I was talking to Tracy about all of this after the fact, she reminded me that "pictures bring back happy times, and if dad wasn't present both physically and emotionally, something would be missing!"

So say "cheese," dads, and smile because you're daring to be daddy!

You guys have any great photographer recommendations to share? We'd love to have 'em!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dare to Dream??

I started dreaming again today.

I was sitting with a buddy of mine at breakfast, an impromptu one at that, and I started to talk about dreams I had. Now these aren't the kind of dreams where I find myself on stage without a clue what my lines are, or even the one where I win the $50 million Powerball jackpot. This was the kind of dream where I get stoked because it "scratches that itch," if you will. Where it connects with something deep down that only God could have planted there. Something that hits at the core of who God has called me to be, and what He could be calling me to do.

In the middle of that dream, however, other thoughts began to creep in. I'm a dad. I have a wife and two young kids that have very real needs, needs that don't get fed by dreams. As much as I wish I could take my dreams to the store and hand them to the kid at the end of the checkout belt, I don't think he'd be too apt to want to give me my groceries in exchange for dreams. The young lady at Gap Kids is really nice, but dreams aren't exactly an acceptable form of currency for her.

So for now I'm living in the tension. God has called me to be a father and a husband, and I believe, at this point in our lives, anyway, a provider for my family. Now, I don't think that this means that I have to put those dreams on the back burner, but this obviously looks differently now than it would have when I was single, or even without kids. To completely leave my wife and kids in the dust while I go out and do something, as cool as I think it is, is irresponsible, and not really honoring to the Lord. So therein lies the tension.

This isn't the end of this, however. I do believe that the Lord will bring this about somehow, in some way, in His own time. My role for now is to be faithful to what He has given me, while continuing to pursue what I believe He wants to give me.

I'd love to hear from some of you that have experienced or are experiencing that tension. How did you navigate it? What should I look out for?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Life of a Stay at Home Dad, Part 2

“So what do you do?” The all too common question concerning one’s profession. “I stay at home with my son.” My answer (and me for that matter) was dismissed with what could be described as a look of pity. Apparently, according to this guy, what I do each day is quite lame and not worth discussing. Exaggeration? Maybe. But his look surely wasn’t one of approval.

The Mr. Mom gig wasn’t planned. And considering my great disdain for emptying the dishwasher and folding laundry, I never really pictured myself in this position. Truth be told, all that kind of stuff isn’t exclusively my responsibility. My wife and I are the sharing type. But being home all day results in doing certain things more often than you’d like. No, I became a stay at home dad out of necessity. After losing my job and going back to school I was already the one at home when my wife gave birth to our son, Eoin (that’s Owen for all you non Irish). So naturally, it made sense. It’s a hard job, harder than I expected. But better as well.

Any mom or dad knows parenting is a battle of wills, requiring much patience and even a child’s perspective. My pride is repeatedly squished as I realize over and over again that I can’t yet reason with my 1 year old Tasmanian angel. You find yourself thinking he should understand all of what you’re saying, especially in those meltdown moments. I know he doesn’t yet get it but still I find the need to tell him to “calm down” countless times a day, foolishly expecting him to comply. Instead he gets crazier…throwing, banging, dancing, running, laughing in a tornado of activity that usually results in a giddy father son wrestling match on the floor. The problem is forgotten and I’m lost in the joy of playing with my boy, even if he continues to think eye-gouging is legal.

If he can’t understand my pleas for him to chill, he certainly knows how to communicate his needs and doing so almost always reminds me of the immediate importance of attention he requires. Not attention for food or those pesky dirty diapers but simply the need to be paid attention to. I’m the king of distracting myself. I’ve probably done it a hundred times while writing this and I do it with my son as well. Sometimes those meltdowns are because he wants me to read him a book, chase him around, or just sit with him and revel in the strangeness and coolness that is Yo Gabba Gabba. He just wants me there. And I don’t want to be anywhere else (most of the time).

I actually pity the guy who asked me that all too common question. I find it sad many have a narrow view of what fatherhood is or can be. Sure, being in this position makes you reevaluate your identity because it’s still not all that common of a place to be. But when I do ultimately return to the professional world I will miss Eoin and probably some of that craziness too. In numerous ways, he and I are the best of buddies. I never thought a little guy of 16 months could be that for me. Being around him so much during his brief life thus far has been a blessing and an experience many fathers and sons don’t get to have. I like to think both he and I will be better off because of it.

So what are your (if any) preconceived notions about stay at home dads or about being a stay at home dad? And what should I give my kid for lunch today? 

Patrick is a SAHD living in DC. You can connect with him at "paddythatch@yahoo.com" or just look for him doing an Irish jig with Eoin in the parks around our nation's capital.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Life of a Stay-at-Home Dad

Editor's note: This week I'm highlighting some dads that have a different kind of crucial role in their families. They're the ones who stay at home while their wives "bring home the bacon." These guys are not only greatly overlooked, but in many ways, as you'll see from these guys' stories, questioned for their choices. But these men have valuable things to share. I'm sure you'll agree...

“You are going to do what?!”  That is the typical reaction I received two years ago when my wife and I initially decided that she would continue working while I stayed home with our new baby boy.  The difference in our salaries was so large that it really wasn’t even worth discussing.  Within two months there I was alone with a newborn while my wife went off to work…. My friends thought I was crazy.  

People without children thought I had it made… watching TV, napping on the couch, snacking.  That’s what I do all day right?  As any stay-at-home mom can tell you… that is not quite right!  Basically what I have is a 6am-6pm job Monday-Friday.  With an active 2 year old (Brayden), a 7 month old (Noah) who is now creeping about and a massive pile of laundry and dishes… there is no time for any leisure dad-time.  Even during the luxurious 1:00 hour when both boys are sleeping at the same time and the couch is looking ever so comfortable, there is laundry to be finished, dishes to be washed, and a work out that needs to be completed so that I can actually keep up with my adventurous boys!

One interesting part of this set up has been the reactions of complete strangers to our living situation.  Without even asking for any opinions, typically both my wife and I get them.  Apparently I should feel pretty bad about “letting” my wife have the only job… she in turn should feel just awful that (as a mother) she leaves her small children each day.  Luckily for us, what we actually have is this amazing understanding and compassion about the other person’s rough day.  She knows how hard it is to stay at home and take care of two kids all day.  I know how hard it is to leave the house and go to work everyday.  Any venting on either side is always met with empathetic ears.  

Not that I don’t have my days!  Certainly the hardest part for me has been the lure of all of the electronic temptations floating about our house… from laptops, desktops, iPads, smart phones, and of course the TV, I am never at a loss if I would like to disengage and catch up on some scores.  What I have learned though is that when Brayden is given all of my attention, whether it is playing pretend in his tent, pushing cars with him outside, building towers upon towers of blocks, or just sitting next to him while he watches Disney and has a snack, he is the most compliant boy!  After spending all of Noah’s nap giving Brayden my undivided attention, he really has no trouble playing by himself while I attend to Noah’s needs.  He trusts that when I am finished, he will get his fill of dad’s time and love.  

With any 2 year old, we obviously have tantrums.  But for every bad day, we have at least 10 good days to follow.  Approximately 60% of this, I credit to my wife.  While most think of her as a fellow new mom of two, she actually is a Behavior Analyst with 14 years of experience dealing with everything new parents have to deal with on a daily basis!  She trains parents to help their children to decrease tantrums/hitting, learn how to talk, follow instructions the first time they are asked, and basically anything else you can think of!  The other 40% then, is me swallowing my pride and following her advice exactly.  I now have seen it in action with our boys so it is no longer even difficult to listen…. I follow her advice and the problem gets better instead of bigger.  

Although it has been said many times…. You really don’t get these early years back.  At 2 years old and 7 months old, I have to say that those boys are my best friends.  I wouldn’t trade in my job for anything and I feel blessed that we are able to raise our children this way… but we are definitely only having two!!!

Are you a stay-at-home dad (SAHD)? Have you ever thought about trying it?

John Yakich is a phenomenal SAHD who has turned their garage into an amazing playroom for their energetic boys. To connect with him, you can email him at "jlyakich0707@gmail.com"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

One of the Best Storylines of All

As I was watching the Olympics last night, it seemed as if the theme of redemption was being weaved through most of events, especially on the track at Olympic Stadium. Allyson Felix finally won gold after only capturing silver in Athens and Beijing, and Brittany Reese jumped the farthest of any of her competitors in London after a heartbreaking fifth place finish in the long jump in Beijing. The U.S. women's soccer team is looking for redemption in their rematch with Japan in today's gold medal match, after a nail-biter of a loss in the World Cup finals last summer, and the examples go on and on.

I think we all like a good redemption story, don't we? "Rocky," "Braveheart," "Cinderella Man" are all good tales where the main character finds some sort of atonement near the end of the movie. And if your kids rule the DVD player, you can probably relate more to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Toy Story" for a redemptive theme. Regardless, there's something about us as humans where we seem to be rooting for the underdog, the one who has always had the chips stacked against him, and finally has the chance to redeem himself. We like hearing about and watching stories with that kind of happy ending.

Here's the thing about happy endings, though. They always come at the end. And that's the image that sticks with us - Sly Stallone winning at the end, Mel Gibson leading his men to victory, Woody getting back in the good graces of the rest of Andy's toys. The majority of the story focuses on the hardship and conflict that the main character has to endure, but we tend to forget that because it's not pleasant or fun, and we just want to skip to the end to see how it all turns out.

I fall into that same trap as well. I've had some hardships and conflict in my life as a husband and father, and I spend tons of time wishing I could just skip to the end of it, and just get to the redemptive part. I find myself chomping at the bit to get to the time when my daughter is through and done with the terrible twos, or I don't have to deal with such and such hardship anymore, and just get to the redemption at the end.

However, it's the hardship and conflict that ultimately brings my family closer together, not to mention brings me closer in the my relationship with the Lord. God is constantly working His redemptive purposes here on earth, but that means that He's got to work through a lot of shhhhtuff first in order to get there. And if Caylah were the perfect child (dare to dream!), I know we wouldn't be nearly as close as we can be if our family figures out how to navigate through conflict and hardship well together.

So, as uncomfortable as the hardships are, I need to continue to remind myself to press into them and make sure I'm learning everything I can from them. The Lord always has lessons to teach in the midst of those times, and I need to be careful not to look past them so that I can just get to the happy ending. Because as sweet as the redemption is, they aren't nearly as valuable without the hardships that have come before them.

Not to mention all of the great stories Caylah's future boyfriends will get to hear about her temper tantrums...

What are some of your favorite redemptive stories?
What are some things you've learned that help you get through the hardships as a dad?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dads at the Olympics

I love watching the Olympics.

I love the drama, the intrigue, the twists, the turns - and that's just the social media response to NBC's handling of the Games!

And maybe it's because I'm always on the lookout for content for this blog, but I've become highly aware of the role that dads are playing in London during these two weeks.

Here are some of my favorite "dad spots" so far from this year's Games:

Dick Franklin: Missy Franklin is only 17 and swimming at her very first Olympics. However, her medal haul (4 golds, 1 bronze) belies both of those things. Then, when you see the video of her reunited with her parents, you are reminded that she isn't too old to need her mommy and daddy. I love seeing her dad go crazy for her in the stands.

Rick Raisman: We've all probably seen the video of Rick and his wife, Lynn, practically performing their daughter Aly's performance on the uneven bars for the team gymnastics competition...from the stands. While some have questioned whether this is the best example of healthy parenting, I know I do my fair share of "body english" while watching these events, and my only connection to Aly Raisman is that we live in the same country. My favorite part of that clip is Rick's release of stress by letting out a barbaric yawp (every good post has at least one "Dead Poets' Society" reference) at the camera at the end. I can totally see me doing the same thing as a father.

Bert le Clos: This guy is far and away my favorite dad of the Olympics. His son, Chad, stunned the crowd at the Aquatic Center last week when he beat Michael Phelps (his idol, by his own admission) in the 200m butterfly. I didn't come across many South African men, especially one from a rural setting like Bert, that were emotional about anything. But this guy kept gushing about how proud he was of his son. In an interview right after the race, he praised his son's work ethic, and said, "He's the most beautiful boy you could ever meet. Look at him he is crying like me. I love you." Baie lekker, bru!

What have been some of your favorite "dad spots" from London?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Me I Might Have Been...

I came across this comic in my Sunday paper on Father's Day of last year. Every comic that day had some sort of focus on dads, but this one caught my eye because of the last part of Heart's entry. I'll admit, I got a little misty-eyed as the ramifications of that statement hit me - "the me I might have been."

I cut that strip out of the paper, and it now hangs just inside my office door, so that I see it every time I head out of work to go home to my family.

Dads, please don't ever forget the impact that you can have on your family. They are always better with you than without you.

What type of signs or mementos do you have to help you remember the importance of your role?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Independence Run Amok

My wife and I have officially been rendered useless, according to my eldest, Caylah.

It's surprising, really. I mean, she's only two, and, contrary to her own belief, cannot, in fact, drive our SUV. Nevertheless, the terrible twos have brought along a phrase that you'd think, according to the frequency with which she uses it, is as important to her as breathing.

"No, me"

Caylah, can Daddy help you with your shoes? No, me.
Caylah, do you want Mommy to buckle you into your car seat? No, me.
Caylah, how about Daddy lifts you out of this basket of poisonous rattlesnakes? No, me.

People who know much more about child development than I do will tell you (at least they've told me) that Caylah is at that age where she's beginning to figure out her individuality. Kids at her age are realizing that they have an opinion that could be different from Mommy and Daddy and are exercising their right to choose. So even though I know that emptying the dishwasher will take her for-EEEHHH-veerrr (hello, "Sandlot"), as she has to hand me




it's supposed to be important for me and Christina not to squelch that independence, but instead to encourage her to try things on her own.

And while I get that on one level, I've noticed there's a very thin line between independence and rebellion. While there are instances where Caylah truly wants to see if she can accomplish something on her own (like the girl is really lacking in self-confidence with yours truly already wrapped around her finger!), there are numerous times where the "No, me," seems to be coming from a place of pure obstinance. She's refusing moreso because she can than anything else.

But before I get too conflicted between dealing with her stubbornness and the fact that she's absolutely adorable (which she's already learned to use to her advantage), I can't help but think that this is nothing more than a ramification of the Fall. That original rebellion that Adam and Eve had against God laid the foundation for the reality of Caylah refusing to stay in her Time Out chair. Additionally, it laid the foundation for the blatant disobedience I have toward the Lord.

Chris, how about you give Me the worry that's consuming you right now? No, me.
Chris, can I help you figure out what your next step should be from here? No, me.
Chris, why don't you let Me be the focus of your marriage? No, me.

And just like we do with Caylah when she's blatantly disobeying, I can totally see times where the Lord has put me in Time Out. He did it to the Israelites, for 40 years, in fact (hmmm...I think I'll store that little tidbit away for when Caylah gets upset with me for grounding her for a week). There are times when my disobedience can only be dealt with by giving me time to "think about what I've done." But if I'm using that time wisely, I come out with a greater intimacy with the Lord, as I've come closer to understanding how much He loves me and how my disobedience was damaging that intimacy. Unfortunately, my memory resembles my two-year-old more often than I'd like to admit, as lessons are having to be repeated by my Abba over and over (and, yes, over) again. But I know that it's always done because He loves me, and the discipline is to draw me back to Him.

 Maybe THAT'S why Caylah always gives me that cutesy smile when I go and get her from Time Out...

How do you go about affirming independence, yet keeping that rebellion in check?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Being a "Successful" Dad

A couple of days ago I posted this article that spoke to the importance of fathers engaging in the lives of their children from the very beginning. First of all, props to the University of Oxford for focusing on fathers in the first place. I hope more researchers follow their lead in order to shed more light on the importance of the role of the fathers in helping to form a healthy child.

What got me is the finding that fathers can have a negative impact even if they are physically present - I can be home every afternoon, every weekend, but if I fail to engage with my children, it's as if I'm not even there. That's one thing when we're talking about Caylah, who's just over two and is tough to miss as she's dancing around to songs from "Tangled." Those constant cups of tea from her singing teapot, though imaginary, are an irresistible invitation to join with her, regardless of what's on the television and how tough work was that day.

Three MONTHS old is a different story. When Caden is has been crying for the past 30 minutes, I'm completely clueless as to how to fix it. He doesn't engage, so how can I? The boy eats, sleeps, and poops, and while I can be an expert diaper-changer, it's tough to feel as if I'm making much of a difference. And it's challenging for us as men to make an investment in something if we don't get that immediate feedback. Not a chance an eight-week old is going to thank me and give me props for the slick way I got that clean diaper on him before he had a chance to spray me.

And let's not even get into the different dynamics of a marriage when a baby enters the picture. While the wife (especially if she nurses) is often the main care-giver, the husband can easily feel like he's been reduced to the role of spectator, both as a father AND a husband. And I don't know many guys who appreciate being a spectator, unless it's along the first base or 50-yard line.

All of this puts us guys in a difficult...conundrum. The time that is most crucial for us dads to engage with our kids is the toughest time for us to feel as if we can, at least successfully.

You know, God's funny sometimes - the timing He uses. Two nights ago, as I'm in the middle of writing this very post, my wife asked me to hold Caden so he could fall asleep (this story fits, I promise). So I walked him around until he was solidly in dreamland...at least I thought he was. As soon as I put him down to sleep, his eyes got all wide as if the two-second catnap suited him just fine, and now it was time to be awake again. I can't even tell you how many other methods I tried to get him down, and it was just not working. Eventually, my wife took him back again to feed him. Extremely frustrated, I handed my one-month old son to her, commenting, "Well, THAT was a waste of time." The way I saw it, I had failed at my task, which was to get him to fall asleep. I had been given a job to do and I didn't/couldn't do it. I had just spent 45 minutes doing, in my eyes, absolutely nothing, and was so aggravated.

What my wife reminded me, however, was that I had just spent 45 minutes holding my son. For the better part of the previous hour, I had just engaged with my newborn. What to me was a very unsuccessful, failed task, was, in fact, what that article is begging fathers to do. I was successful after all.

So I wonder if we dads need to redefine what we mean by success. When our kids are that young, the times when we'll know for sure if we're doing it "right" are few and far between. Engage anyway. Hold them anyway. Even if we don't know why they're crying, or fidgety, or don't seem to be growing or changing. The idea of "measurables" is not something we can, or even should, put on our infant children, as tempting as that might be. I have to choose to trust that what I'm doing is making a difference in the life of my child. To trust that I will be able to reap the benefits at some point. That my effort is not in vain.

But, just this once, can't he fall asleep anyway?

What does being "successful" with your kids look like in your context?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Article on Investing Early

Don't know if you guys have read this, but I came across this article over the weekend (it was also highlighted on "The Today Show" last week. Don't judge...my wife told me about it) that speaks to the importance of fathers interacting with their kids during the first THREE MONTHS of life. The effects of this last much longer than I ever expected. I'll have more to say about this later on this week, but I wanted to go ahead and put this up now to start some discussion.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What's in a Name?

Up to this point, my posts have all been pretty reflective and vulnerable. I believe that vulnerability is a positive attribute, and have really appreciated how many of you have mentioned that you gain a great deal from such entries.

This, however, will not be such a post.

Zero depth and even less heart-wrenching tales and insight.

I just want names - names of grandparents, actually. Who picked the names that your kids would call your parents, and how did you decide what they would be? Did you have a name all picked out, only to have your son or daughter come up with something on their own?

And, most importantly (not because it has any direct bearing on my own situation, of course), what do you do if parents want to be called the same thing?

Would love to hear your stories!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Taking It to the Next Level

Something clicked the other night.

Caden had had a rough night. The schedule we had him on (well, sort of), wasn't happening, and, as newborns are wont to do, he was crying and we couldn't figure out why. So I was holding him close in a feeble attempt to calm him down, and he gave me "the look." Dads, you know this look. It's the one where they stare deeply into your soul, so deeply that it catches you off-guard, mostly because it comes from an infant who can barely focus on anything else.

It was during this non-verbal exchange that it hit me. I am his father. He is my son. And as such, I have a responsibility to raise him up in the way of the Lord and teach him how to be a man. And regardless of how great a community he grows up in, and how much his mother - my amazing wife - loves him, God has given me that responsibility more than anyone else. Most of my past decade of discipling college guys has been spent helping them answer those questions of manhood that their father should have answered for them but didn't. For whatever reason, their respective dads shirked that responsibility. For some reason or another, they bailed. And whether those fathers felt like they had a good reason for their actions, their sons were left doubting their ability to hack it.

I don't want my son to need a...me...in 20 years. I want him to know that he is a man. That he can hack it. I want him to be sure he knows how to love a woman, how to treat people, and how to follow God. And I don't want anyone else to have to pick up my slack in those lessons.

So as my newborn son is staring at me with deep blue eyes, taking me in, and his little three week old synapses are beginning to fire, making the connection of my face to "daddy," all of this is going through my head. And, granted, Caden's lucky just to be able to pick his head up, but it's definitely not too early to start thinking about these things, how to begin to help him become the man that God is calling him to be.

I just hope that man begins to sleep better soon...

For those of you with sons, what is the most important thing you can teach him on that journey to become the man that God is calling him to be, tangible or otherwise?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Guest Post on 3n1Men

Matt Snyder at 3n1Men has been gracious enough to let me guest post on his blog today. Matt worked at Adventures in Missions, and participated in the World Race, and it was there the Lord awoke in him a desire to launch a full-out attack on human trafficking, specifically finding ways to inspire other men to get involved in the fight. So check out my post on holding men accountable, but then take a wander around the site and see what the Lord lights up in you!