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car selfie

I couldn't tell if her face was red because of guilt or from the taillights of the car in front of us at the stoplight. I turned my focus back to the stalled line of traffic and let her continue with her story. Conversations under seatbelts without direct eye contact and music in the background are better than therapy if you ask me. 

Details flew around the car like confetti. I closed the sunroof to keep them in. 

She recognized that she hurt someone's feelings at school earlier but didn't know how to address it. An apology, sure. An effort to do better going forward, of course. Sometimes, though, once the damage has been done, repairing it isn't always a straightforward process. Sometimes there are curves and forks in the road you don't see coming.

I've learned this lesson many times, often the hard way. The light changed - green for go - and I gently pressed the pedal to move us forward. She shared stories of when her own feelings have been hurt. We talked about forgiveness. We talked about patience. We talked about understanding. 

It's easy to get wrapped up in numbers, in ages, but she's always been a bit wiser than her years.

Her mother nor I have ever really indulged her with baby talk. We've always spoken to her in our normal voices, in our normal way. When she asks questions, we give her the answers regardless of how difficult or uncomfortable the topic might be. Is this the right approach? As with all decisions when parenting, only time will tell.

I pulled into the grocery parking lot to grab a few last-minute ingredients for dinner. A strand of hair escaped her falling ponytail and danced in the wind from the air conditioning vent. I swerved into a parking spot but missed fitting in between the lines. She told me she prayed about her mistake.

I glanced her way to watch her grow up, another moment collected, right before my eyes. She tucked the loose strand of hair behind her ear. I put the vehicle in reverse, backed up, then pulled in a second time. She said she would reach out to her friend tomorrow.

Sometimes taking a step back and trying again is all we can do.


November 19, 2021

The Attic

Our anniversary was Monday. 

We celebrated the last 13 years the Friday before, just the two of us. With the kids at their grandparents' house, we opted for a casual dinner downtown. Conversation ran uninterrupted by toddler giggles and endless requests. We tuned in to each other without distractions of school day stories and preteen social dynamics. We saw each other as husband and wife instead of Daddy and Mama, a difference often overlooked but one always worth remembering.

When you've been with someone as long as we've been with each other, 21 years, there's a lot of ground to cover. When you've seen someone through every phase of life starting with their teenage years, there's a lot to unpack. When there's so much history, so many ups and downs, so many laughs, so many tears, it's easy to tuck them all away as memories and just look forward to tomorrow. When you've said all there is to say, sometimes it's easier not to make withdrawals from the memory bank.

Good thing we're both stubborn.

We spent Monday night, our actual anniversary, celebrating with the kids. A day like every other where we gather around the table for dinner in our unassigned, assigned seats. The meal was filling and the toddler giggles were contagious. The conversation leaned toward recess and YouTube celebrities while Allison and I played hide-and-seek with the wife and husband behind the mother and father. We snuck a few glances, shared a few smiles, and soaked in our children - the love between us personified.

We cleaned up the kitchen, ushered the kids upstairs for their bedtime routines, and listened as they said their prayers. We slowly pulled their doors closed, blowing kisses through the narrowing crack, then we snuck back downstairs to uncork a bottle of champagne. I secretly bought a bottle earlier completely unaware that Allison was doing the same. We grabbed our glasses and quietly climbed the stairs to visit one of our favorite places.

The attic.

It was our first Valentine's Day in the new house when we created a little hangout in the attic. Innocent enough, it was just to get away from our offspring for a few minutes, a last-minute romantic gesture in a season of diapers and lectures. A moment of quiet from the constant commotion of day-to-day life where we could see each other and hear each other. We never dismantled it and, instead, come back to it often.

The Attic Hangout

A few old beach chairs folded out with an even older chest between them. Leftover carpet left behind from the owners before partially rolled out for warmth underneath us, for Charlie mainly. A few strands of string lights, with burned-out bulbs that somehow survived the move, are strung loosely along the studs and the railing. A street sign bearing the name of a backroad between our childhood homes that we drove countless times on the way to see each other, racing to beat the clock from an impending curfew.

It's ours.

We raised our glasses and toasted, to what we had and what we have, what we've been through and what we're building, and we sipped while surrounded by boxes of seasonal decorations and random items the kids have outgrown. The attic, our grown-up version of a treehouse, is where we go to reconnect. It's a routine that developed unintentionally, but one we both look forward to.

It sounds odd, sure, but it's where we're able to see each other without any outside influence shading our view. It's where the conversation never runs dry even when the champagne bottles do. We give each other downloads of our day, we talk about our kids, we discuss our dreams, we note the goals we've checked off the list and those still ahead. We talk about this and that and everything in between.

We talk.

Sometimes for hours. Sometimes for minutes. Sometimes not at all. We turn on a playlist in the background and sing along or listen to the rain on the roof as the thunder vibrates the walls. We laugh. We cry. Sometimes we laugh until we cry. We revisit those kids 21 years ago who thought they knew everything but had no idea. We acknowledge their mistakes. We celebrate their wins. We show them love and grace and understanding and thank God we had each other every step of the way.

Monday night, we climbed the stairs with champagne flutes in hand and drank to the commitment we made to each other 13 years ago. Still young. Still believing we knew everything but still had no idea. We relived our wedding and our honeymoon, noting every detail we would change and those we wouldn't touch at all. We'll climb those stairs again, probably tonight, probably tomorrow night. God-willing, we'll climb them again another 13 years from now, surrounded by a life's worth of souvenirs, to revisit who we are today.

Cheers to that.

Attic Toast


November 12, 2021

Reflection in Window

I knew before the sonographer confirmed. One look at my wife, her eyes darting from me to the screen and back to me again, told me she knew too. Conversations without words, a favorite perk of our relationship. We didn’t say it out loud because we didn’t want to tell Madison yet. With a seven-year age gap between her and her sibling, we wanted her to be a part of every pregnancy milestone – ultrasound and gender reveal, especially.

This was just as much her baby as it was ours. This was family-defined.

We watched and listened as the heart was identified, small but strong. We saw movement on the screen, our baby in motion, while our first baby (bigger but little still) struggled to stay in her seat. She wanted a sister. She wanted a little girl to pass her clothes to and play dolls with. She wanted another version of herself, and she had mentally planned out their entire childhood in the last few months leading up to this appointment. 

“Congratulations! You’re having a healthy, beautiful baby boy.”

I smiled. Allison smiled. Madison fought back tears, but one single drop lost the battle and ran down her cheek. Having a brother had never even occurred to her. What, of hers, would she give him? When he was old enough to play, what make-believe world would they dream up? How could she possibly relate to him? All were thoughts she got lost in over the following days before coming to terms with the reality of it. Regardless, she was going to be a big sister, a fact that wouldn’t change, and as he grew so did her excitement to meet him.

“How are you going to raise a little boy?”

While I was so caught up in her, this question was tossed my way several times from several people. As if raising a daughter somehow made me incompetent to raise a son. It was insinuated that since I don’t hunt or fish that I was somehow unequipped to have a boy. It was inferred that since I’m not athletic or involved in sports that I wasn’t qualified to father another male. As if killing something or handling a ball demarcates masculinity. These unwarranted comments became my silent insecurities. These camouflaged insults portrayed as casual concern became my inner voice, whispering and shouting all at once, that I wasn’t good enough for this child.

So, fast forward three years – how am I raising a little boy?

I’m raising him to be kind. I’m raising him to be patient and understanding. I’m raising him to be cognizant of the world around him and the people sharing it with him. I’m doing my best to teach him that not everything will go his way, not everyone will be his friend, not every situation will be positive but to stay valiant and push forward anyway. I pray for him throughout the day and make mental notes of mistakes I’ve made before falling asleep at night. I’m raising him to be strong – physically as well as mentally and emotionally.

I’m raising him just like I’m raising his sister.

Being a boy doesn’t change the fact he is my child. Being a boy doesn’t determine his nature, good or bad. Being a boy doesn’t control the state of his heart, hardened or otherwise. Being a boy doesn’t quantify how many hugs he gets or how much love he’s shown or the way it’s received. Being a boy doesn’t alter the challenge of raising him, that challenge comes with the territory of parenting.

“Boys will be boys.”

If that means they’ll get dirty and smelly and play with cars over dolls or dinosaurs over unicorns, then sure. Although I know plenty of girls who checked those boxes growing up and never heard anyone question their parents. However, if being a boy means he gets a free pass to be inconsiderate or unkind or violent then, to answer the question, I’ll be raising him differently. Hunting, fishing, and sports can all be learned, and I’ll suit up if those are interests he pursues, but they’re outside interests. I’m more concerned with the core of him as a person. The rest will inevitably take care of itself.

What people fail to remember is that boys will be boys that will be men.

And what the world really needs, now more than ever, is men that aren’t afraid to raise boys – even when they’re questioned, even when they’re doubted, even when they’re terrified. Parenting is hard enough as it is, dividing it into categories doesn’t make it any easier. How am I raising a little boy? I’m raising him the best way I know how and deferring to God when my best isn’t good enough. I’m raising him with the acknowledgment of the boy he is today and the consideration of the man he’ll be tomorrow. Brave. Bold. Bright. Loved. 

Hopefully, I’m raising him well.


November 5, 2021


Classic Colonial Home

A year ago... we weren't looking, but we weren't not looking either. At least that's what we told ourselves as we stalked real estate listings in our area over the course of five years (give or take). We knew what we didn't want, but more importantly, we knew exactly what we did want. With two kids and a golden retriever in tow, we wanted our next move to be our last move.

After narrowing down a few neighborhoods, we were on high alert for any houses that popped up. We're obnoxiously picky when it comes to spending money. Call it penny-pinching or cheap or tight or whatever you want, but we know what we like and, more often than not, we're not willing to settle - especially when it comes to big-ticket purchases like a house.

Then it appeared. A near-perfect listing.

We were nervous. We crunched numbers. We moved cautiously, slowly, too slowly, and it got away. Back to waiting we went. We were fine with it. Bruised egos and hurting hearts, sure, but still fine to wait. The first house we purchased a decade ago, as a young married couple, was suiting our needs. It was the house we brought both of our children home to. They crawled then walked on those floors. They said their first words within those walls. Bittersweetly, as children do, they were growing up and we were sadly outgrowing the space.

So, we prayed.

We prayed and we saved and we paid down the last of our debt from our frivolous spending in our 20's. (Lessons learned. No regrets.) We waited patiently. We waited through hard-earned promotions and career pivots, highs and lows, then a pandemic hit. Our waiting suddenly turned towards defeat and we almost gave up the hope that our dream home existed. We almost gave up the hope that the house we were waiting for was somewhere waiting for us, too.


However, God has a plan, as He always does. Our white flag was us letting go but little did we know it would be exactly what He was waiting for us to do - to surrender. We continued to pray. Although our house prayers were slipped in towards the end of bedtime as an additional PS before falling asleep or sandwiched between immense gratitude for making it through another day of uncharted times in a COVID-world.

Then it appeared. The perfect listing.

It was a Saturday, a day reserved for household chores and family time not for looking at recent real estate listings. That task was designated for weekday mornings over coffee, but there we were... looking but not looking. And there it was staring back at us. Screens can be deceiving, so we immediately reached out to our realtor for a showing first thing Monday morning. We counted the minutes, our blessings, and our finances for the next few days until we pulled into the driveway.

God's presence. Crippling fear. Sometimes they accompany each other.

The floorplan was everything we wanted. Open but with subtly defined spaces. So, I built walls. The layout was perfect for our family. A natural flow with plenty of space to spread out but would always lead us back to one another. So, I closed it all in. There were a few changes needed to make it feel like us. A fresh coat of paint to highlight all the stunning moldings throughout among other updates. So, I said it was a deal-breaker. The house was impeccably built and maintained, so I mentally tore it apart.

I was scared and nervous. I self-sabotaged, as I tend to do, and we walked away.

Over the next several days, I stalked the listing completely unaware that my wife was doing the same. We couldn't get the house out of our heads. It checked every box on every list we ever made. Plus, it added new boxes that we weren't even looking for but couldn't stop thinking about and checked them off too. We toyed with the option of building our own and toured a few new builds in various stages of progress, but in the end, what we wanted was already built. We both knew it.

I learned that in order for dreams to come true, you have to wake up.

We reached out to our realtor again for a second showing. With the patience of a saint, she let us in to walk through the house another time. This time, though, we envisioned our kids running through the halls leaving waves of laughter to wash the walls in their wake. We pictured birthdays and holidays celebrated in the dining room. We saw ourselves picking glitter and confetti from the cracks of the floorboards decades from now wondering how long they'd been there. We saw this house as our home and once we allowed ourselves to feel it, we couldn't imagine it any other way.

An offer was made on the spot. We attached a letter I wrote and crossed our fingers.

And just like that, we were back to waiting... and praying. From that point forward, we were strapped in for a ride that we couldn't seem to get off of. Things happened quickly. There was a mix of white-knuckling and throwing our hands up, but the ride moved on regardless. There was some back and forth, competition in a ruthless market, and we attempted to prepare ourselves to let it go if we had to. Then our offer was accepted. Our current house was listed, a buyer submitted an offer we couldn't refuse as soon as it hit the market, and we rolled with it. Strapped in. Both hands up.

I guess what is meant to be really will be.

It's hard to explain how important a house is when you're a homebody by nature. To most, it's just a dwelling. Four walls to close you in, a roof to store your things under, and a place to rest your head at night. I can understand that. For me, though, it's much more. It's where I let my guard down after a guarded day. It's where I recharge as an introvert in an extroverted world. It's where my wife and I are chasing and tackling one life goal at a time, where we're growing old together as we've grown up together. It's where the joy in this season of life is bottled, where my kids face their fears without judgment. It's where they'll establish a part of themselves that they'll always return to even when they're adults, even if it's only through recalled memories.

It's home. And there's no other place like it.


October 29, 2021

Gone are the days of her mother and I picking out her Halloween costumes, a clear indication of just how quickly she's growing up on us. While part of me is sad about letting go another aspect of the parenting journey, there's a larger part of me fascinated by her creativity and imagination. There's something magical about watching her become her own person. Smart. Determined. Never afraid to say what's on her mind. Traits she shares with Hermione Granger, no doubt.

Included in the many things that define her is now the title of Big Sister, a revelation I've yet to make in this little online space of mine, but it's true. A screaming Mandrake from the world of Hogwarts and the pages of Harry Potter, but a squishy little brother within the walls of our home. Some will tell you that magic isn't real, but when I look at these two - my daughter and my son - there's nothing else that describes it. Magical, indeed.

View previous Halloween costumes:


October 30, 2018

The leaves crunched under her feet. The sun highlighted the cobwebs in her path before setting completely. Darkness was near and the shadows from the trees followed her every step like old friends dying to catch up. This year she asked for spooky and scary. She's been a duck, a white tiger, a monarch butterfly, Dorothy, Belle, and Veruca Salt all of which lend themselves to the sweeter side of the Halloween costume selection. When her grandmother gifted her a webbed dress and a pointy hat to match and the Sanderson sisters started occupying our television screens daily, she asked if she could be a witch. Somehow, even with a spider on her face as requested, her charm managed to shine through her evil facial efforts... like a whispered spell on All Hallows' Eve. Spooky. Scary. Sweet.


October 28, 2017

I suppose I should have posted a sign if one were available. Maybe enforced an auto reply or an illustration of sorts. I should have provided a placeholder or given a heads up.  I should have sent out a warning in case someone happened to be concerned, but it's possible anyone reading my random thoughts in this space for any length of time would have noticed the trend. June comes around and the words escape again like Houdini until the fall. There must be something about listening to my daughter state her age, new and foreign in her constantly maturing voice, which forces me to take a step back in the documenting. 

One would think, after six years, the opposite effect would prove true. She celebrates another birthday and I would immediately start juggling words by the syllable, alarmingly fast with sharpened skill… but no. That's not the case. Every summer when the leaves tighten their grip on their limbs, I find myself holding on with white knuckles too. Every year around this time, I’m left holding on not willing to accept what’s coming. The inevitable shift. I subconsciously know the final tug, a deep breath, just before the leaf gives in and releases itself from the tree will confirm we’re onto the next season. Summer ends and we have to let go.  

There’s always something bittersweet about the accepting of one phase’s end and the beginning of another. The speed in which the transition occurs leaves little room for hesitation or embracing, comfort and coasting aren’t available states in the world of parenting. To parent is to exist in a constant place of restlessness with a never-ending pull forward. They don’t warn you about that part. They focus more on the milestones ahead, but fail to reveal just how often you’ll look back. One minute she’s a baby and then she’s not. One day it’s June, then it’s September and you’re left holding the season you’re in with everything you have.

Let go, they don't tell you that part. Let go, but not until you have to.


September 22, 2017

We’ve been kicking balloons from room to room for a week. They’re leftover from when we filled her room the night she fell asleep as a five year old and woke up as a six year old, trading one year for another somewhere between prayers and dreams and the sunrise.

Her mother and I celebrated her with surprise after surprise the entire day because six years ago she started doing the same for us. We had a few of her friends, some since birth and the other her best forever, show up randomly at places we already were. First, the indoor trampoline park where they jumped from walls to floor to foam pits and air bags then later, the bowling alley and arcade where the laughs rolled faster than the bowling balls.

We ate lunch at her favorite restaurant and cooled off with ice cream from her favorite creamery before collapsing on our couch at the end of the day. Over pizza with pepperonis displaying her age and candy she declared her favorite from last Halloween, we watched a movie and looked back at the last six years.

Then over the weekend, we watched her take a deep breath and blow out her candles surrounded by friends and family. Entertained by obstacles and gymnastic challenges, her and her friends tackled them all before she was strapped in and swung from the ceiling. Later she told me it was the best birthday ever and maybe because the words came out crisper and cleaner than ever before, spoken from someone with another year of life experience, I believed her.

When she was three, she couldn’t wait to be six. Now that she's six, she can’t wait to be twelve. Meanwhile, I’m just trying to soak it all in and hang on for the ride. If the next six years fly by as quickly as the last six did, I better tighten the straps. One thing is for sure, whiplash included, she’s the best gift we’ve ever received.

( Read more about previous birthdays : Five, Four, Three, Two )


June 21, 2017

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