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People often ask if she’s always as well behaved as she appears and while the majority of the time the answer is yes, for a brief moment today the answer was no. She’s not perfect and I’m aware I’m setting myself up for disappointment time and again if I think otherwise yet more often than not perfection seems attainable. Perfection seems to rest on the end of her eyelashes threatening to present itself with every blink, it seems to be waiting under the embrace of a random hug and if I listen closely I can hear it in the unprompted I love you she’s been whispering in my ear lately. We were warned from several sources the year following her second birthday would be the year to try our patience and test our parenting skills, but for the most part year two has been nothing of the sort (knock on wood).

Today, the toddler came out of her. She pulled a bow out of another girl’s hair. She said she apologized. She said she knew it was bad. She said that girl cried and inside part of me did, too. I know kids will be kids and this is hardly an event to drastically affect the up and downs of the self-imposed parenting success and failure that seem to fluctuate hourly. I know for certain this small act of unintentional inconsideration doesn’t offer a preview of the adult she’ll become, but for a split second I thought about it and I know I’m wrong. She knew she was wrong. Tonight she sat down with her mother and wrote a letter to that little girl apologizing for pulling the bow from her hair. We let her agree upon the message her mother penned before allowing her to sign it herself. A yellow ribbon looped into a bow was tied at the top and after the letter that may seem unnecessary to many, but completely necessary for us was slid into a designated envelope she said perfect. And it was, kind of, or as close as it gets I suppose.


February 27, 2014

(This is a sponsored post, but the words are all mine.)

Humans, by nature, are competitive creatures. We can all try to deny it, but it’s true.

Admit it, you’ve been in a room with someone trying to open a jar of salsa (or pickles or spaghetti sauce or other jarred item) and someone says confidently, “give it here, let me try”. They open it and smile. They pass the jar back with the lid barely resting upon the lip of the glass container and smile wider. You say, “I loosened it” and inside you’re desperately trying to convince yourself that you did.

You’re with your significant other driving to an unfamiliar destination and the GPS has you going in circles. One of you wants to stop and ask for help, one of you doesn’t. One of you knows you’re lost and the other knows that you know you’re lost yet is determined to prove you wrong. Thirty minutes later when entering a neighborhood that encourages you to lock your doors and say a silent prayer for four healthy tires, defeat plays through the speakers loud and clear. One of you says you should have been driving and the other thinks the situation would be worse if that were the case.

Sometimes a friendly competition is all we need to light a fire within.

I know with March around the corner, the New Year resolutions of getting healthy may have taken a slight detour. Maybe it’s all the snow. Maybe it’s the busy schedules. Maybe a new flavor of chips decorated the shelves of your local grocery store begging for a ride home. Whatever the excuse, now is the time to course correct. Now is the time to get healthy, for real. I'm serious.

Let’s make a bet! In fact, I’ve teamed up with Roo from Neon Fresh to host a DietBet and to make ridiculous faces. Think of it as the match to light that proverbial fire, a little friendly competition to get the calories burning (or your glutes).

If you're not familiar with a DietBet, the video below explains how it works.

It’s a great way to earn money while losing weight. It’s a great way to beat your friends and feel good doing so. The more people to enter, the larger the pot so tell everyone you know. ß(Mom, this means you. Don’t worry; it’s not that kind of bet. Gambling is a game of chance and losing weight is more of something we can control. Don't look at me like that.)

>> Click HERE to join our DietBet << The game officially starts Monday, March 3rd. And for the sake of a disclaimer, let’s all agree to do this the healthy way and remove the F-word from our vocabularies.

This post is sponsored by DietBet. The opinions and inflated cheeks are my own.


February 25, 2014

As a father of a daughter, albeit one that is currently a toddler, I'm discovering that raising a girl with a healthy self image in a time where it's not uncommon to find females placed upon a media constructed pedestal for being thin and provocative to be quite the challenge. While she hasn't yet illustrated any specific behaviors that would warrant concern, she has made it clear that she's acutely aware of her surroundings.

The other day, my wife and I were having a conversation regarding a previous meal where we regretfully overindulged and mumbled nonsense of feeling fat and bloated when the two year old we didn't realize was listening interrupted us with a question of her own...

Am I fat?

Immediately, we agreed to remove the F-word from our vocabulary. It's easy to forget life's biggest lessons are found in the smallest of moments. The words we choose as parents, and often the louder voice of our actions, build the foundation of adulthood for our children. We have to be more aware of how our choices affect them. We have to make more of an effort to build confidence, to enforce that beauty comes in all sizes and that size zero doesn't necessarily equate health. We have to start with ourselves.

The days numbered February 23 - March 1, 2014 have been declared National Eating Disorder Awareness Week; I wrote the following poem sitting in a college course, when I was 18, surrounded by whispered conversations of meal regrets and plans of self starvation.

hunger pains, coughed up bloody stains
avoided eating today
magazine wishes, pounds drop away
reflection blocked, insecurities in the way
mouth, corners down, frowns
flaw formed barricade
silent screams try to say
I want to be perfect today.

clear skin without tear stains
flat stomach no chest pains
convincing smiles within platinum frames
a single day without blame
hopeful wishes of a household name
flaw formed barricade
silent screams silently say
why am I not perfect today?

But we are. Today we're perfect in our imperfections. As soon as we realize this, so will our children.

original image source


February 23, 2014

I'm not sure if these are amusing to anyone else or just Allison and me since we're her parents, but I have a feeling we'll look back one day enjoying that we captured some of Madison's random little comments. (Click here for more.)

Holding out her hand for a handshake...
MADISON:  Nice to meet you.  My name is Sally.  I have purple hair.


MADISON:  Let's watch Care Bears.  Downstairs.  Foreverrrrrrrrr.


Standing behind a lady holding a cake in line at the grocery store...
MADISON:  Caaaaaaaaaaaake!
The lady turns and smiles...
MADISON:  (smiling back) I want some.


She dropped something in the car while strapped into her carseat...
MADISON:  Oh, no.  This is terrible.


MADISON:  Daddy.  What's this, Daddy?
ME:  A stethoscope.
MADISON:  Nope.  It's a lasso.


February 20, 2014

Once in a while, she holds up her tiny index and middle fingers closing and opening them like cutting shears before asking if she can trim my hair. When she asks, I drop everything to allow her. Then again, I’ve made a habit of doing so regardless of the request; I suppose I always will, too, although I’m sure the difficulty of her questions will run parallel with her age. With a smile like that, who wouldn’t do the same?


February 19, 2014

Her mother was several sentences deep in a conversation with someone when she walked up to her and initiated a conversation of her own. She repeated the only name she knew to get her attention and so "mommy" filled the room until finally the pointed finger signaling just a moment and the quick hold on inserted mid-sentence failed at their attempts of buying time. Her mother’s sudden reminder not to interrupt surprised her, but not as much as the salty water of regret collecting in the corners of her eyes.  

She tried not to blink.

She tried to control the trembling of her lower lip.

She did what most adults find impossible to do in times when their pride is bruised, she walked away. She left her ego and the words she wanted to say behind her and buried her face in her hands hidden behind the wall of an adjacent room. I avoided comforting her right away because sometimes parenting requires us to let them fall without immediately catching them. Sometimes there’s a lesson to learn and if we don’t allow the pieces to scatter, we have nothing of use to rebuild.

She wiped her eyes and turned around, startled to see me standing behind her then relieved in the same breath. She took a few steps and collapsed in my arms, adjusting her head until she found the spot on my chest that dips into my shoulder… her spot. I could tell she wanted to cry again, but enough was enough. I assured her we always want to hear the words she brings to us, we always want to see the picture she has to show us but it’s important to have respect for other people. Should she want to interrupt someone, a simple "excuse me" will allow her that opportunity. I’m aware that terminology and reasoning can get cloudy for a two year old, but I can only hope talking to her as I would speak to anyone else is doing more good than harm. Maybe the words I choose will marinate and make more sense over time. There isn’t an instruction manual in situations like these and as any parent can attest, we’re simply doing the best we can.

She gave me a hug and said she wanted to talk to her mother then she turned on her heels and left. I heard her mother finishing the conversation she had trouble maintaining earlier. I heard the footsteps of a little girl fade from one room to another then stop. I heard her say just above a whisper "excuse me, mommy" then the conversation came to a halt. In that silence I heard her say "I’m sorry, mommy, come play with me". Her daughter’s manners wrapped in an apology turned invitation surprised her, but not as much as the salty water of regret collecting in the corners of her eyes.

She tried not to blink.

She tried to control the trembling of her lower lip.

I watched as she kissed her on the cheek and squeezed her tight knowing it would never be tight enough. I watched as they both turned towards me focusing the big brown eyes they share in my direction and I fell in love with them all over again. There is nothing more beautiful than the relationship between a mother and her child, the constant give and take of forgiveness and understanding and learning as they go. 


February 17, 2014

Watercolor hearts, in shades of pink and purple, painted by toddler hands hang from our mantle. Sweets in the form of sprinkled cupcakes and candy with engraved messages of affectionate sentiments loiter in our kitchen, begging and tempting us with their additional calories disguised as flavor and comfort. Dolls sit scattered in places and positions designed from a two year old imagination, each with a scent all their own and a corresponding story crafted by a little girl with a smile and an extended bedtime. Boots belonging to me and to her and her, too, sit nearby hoping the warmth of this home can somehow thaw the cold soles caused by old man winter. Bags of Valentine’s huddle together assembled and assigned with the names of her preschool peers, ready for Madison to spread the love, a love so big we couldn’t stop it from overflowing even if we tried... not that we ever would.


February 13, 2014

Mother Nature has a habit of being fairly selective with the covering of her winter blanket yet we’ve seen our little piece of land on the receiving end of her crafting talents three times this year already. Large white snowflakes, each one different and equally beautiful as their skydiving friends, tumble from the heavens until they each land, one on top of the other, upon the yard that promises to memorize steps of the growing toddler feet running barefoot during every other season.

This afternoon I watched Madison bury her hands in mittens a size too large (a debate her mother and I have over almost every article of clothing but more so concerning winter staples) then waddle towards the door before bracing herself for the chilly embrace of temperatures lower than my age. I watched as she placed one boot covered foot in front of the other finding balance and security with every additional step then suddenly she discovered her confidence and ran through the yard leaving shrieks of laughter in her snow packed footprints … and it happened. The kind of moment where I find myself lost in the memory of the little girl she used to be; the same song and dance she just performed but with much more hesitation this time last year during her first snow experience.

Last February the flakes came as a few flurries before falling fast all at once until the ground was covered within an hour; they stopped as abruptly as they started and disappeared by sunrise the following day. Luckily, we managed to take a few pictures between attempts of catching snowflakes on our tongues … just a few images as proof that sometimes it snows in our neck of the woods. Although this year would lead you to believe accumulation of this type is far more common than it really is. I suppose this could be a case of the grass is always greener yet how would one really be able to tell under the mask of a white lawn.

Read a few additional posts regarding our snow days here and here.


February 11, 2014

There was a time when I hated hearing people refer to their partners as their other half. I couldn’t understand why someone would consider being less of a whole or partially incomplete without the companionship of someone else. The whole theory seemed silly and rather ridiculous.

I knew instantly I was in fact part of something far larger than I had ever imagined. This life was much bigger than I gave it credit for and seemed utterly useless without someone by my side to share it with, someone to witness the journey and to help course correct as we went; someone to challenge me, to encourage me, to compete with me in times where unconditional love falls short and to complete me in times where it’s all that will do.

While the last two and a half years have been consumed with various stages and transitions of infancy into toddler phases with previews of the woman our little girl promises to be, it’s never been more apparent just how true the expression being half of a whole proves to be. In this season of our lives, my wife and I are half of a parenting team. While our roles of husband and wife have somewhat taken a backseat to the various animated characters we’ve come to know on a first name basis or the impromptu hopscotch game created to avoid scattered toys in a place where they were just collected, our partnership as players of a team require us to suit up and make our home run. 

Some believe Valentine’s Day is a holiday crafted by card companies and flower shops to boost business and while that may be accurate, I choose to believe it’s only half of the truth.  I choose to believe the holiday is a day designed for parents to step back from the ever-growing list of things to wash, to prevent, to prepare for and to take a shower uninterrupted instead of the typical rushed ritual squeezed into a 24 hour time frame for the sake of sanity disguised as cleanliness. Valentine’s Day is a day reminding Mom and Dad that they are a wife and a husband, halves of a whole that need not be ignored or forgotten.

Although my wife has never been more beautiful to me than when she is wearing pajamas in the floor of my daughter’s room surrounded by a scattered mess of books, dolls and dreams we’re fertilizing into fruition, sometimes I have to make a conscious effort to acknowledge the woman she is instead of just the mother she has become. Sometimes I have to remind myself to be cognizant of the half of this relationship she helps support… after all, I think it's obvious hers is the better half.


February 9, 2014

Last year, Allison and I found a small blue mailbox and adopted it as a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day in our home.  We leave it out before bedtime on the last day of January and when Madison wakes the first morning of February a small gift waits for her inside… this happens every day leading up to the fourteenth in which the mailbox disappears until the following year.  The gifts range from two chocolate kisses (one from Allison and one from myself) to crayons to one larger gift we typically leave for Valentine’s Day (this year it will be these since she’s been asking for them constantly).  Some days there are gifts left by her grandparents and some days there may be a simple note.

Speaking of gifts, the folks at Printstagram gifted Madison a set of their sticker books; with pictures pulled directly from my Instagram feed and turned into stickers, it’s the best of both worlds.  It amazes me that toddlers know how to navigate through a phone well enough to browse through photos or better yet how to flip and tap their way through the Instagram app… combine that joy with the stickers I find stuck to my couch or my arm like a tattoo sleeve and it’s nothing short of perfection.  

In addition to the book of stickers Madison found in her mailbox, Printstagram sent me several square prints from my feed as well.  The photos themselves measure 4”x4” and have the perfect weight to them.  In a time where I find myself craving actual pictures to hold but never find the time to print them, having those moments printed for me and delivered directly to my door was not only convenient but very much appreciated.  Stop by Printstagram to get in on the action and/or get the app.

I received the aforementioned products in exchange for writing a review, but the opinion is my own.


February 4, 2014

Thirteen years ago when Allison and I exchanged glances from across a classroom we had no way of knowing what the love we discovered and explored over the years would produce long-term, it was impossible to predict its potential. Yet here we are riding that same wave of luck and happiness and fate with seemingly endless smiles and laughter crashing all around us, enjoying the ebb and flow of marriage and parenthood, the constant shuffle of burying our heads in the sand then our feet only to repeat it all the next day. Then there’s Madison… perhaps the most obvious, accurate physical embodiment of the love we found and nurtured and created between us.  I’m hoping this never loses its excitement, this act of discovering each other again with every sunrise, the kind of fun had from building our lives together.


February 2, 2014

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