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The sound of the rain provided a soundtrack to our Saturday this past weekend as we played a never ending game of catch with piles of laundry that by volume alone would give the impression more than three occupants reside under our roof. We wrapped ourselves in blankets refusing to change from our pajamas if only to shower and change into another pair fresh from the dryer. We cuddled with the toddler that threatens us every day with glimpses of growing up too quickly; we studied her eyelashes and memorized the dimples in the fleeting fat of her flat feet as arches start to appear promising tomorrow she’ll be just a bit taller. Its not often the opportunity presents itself to cocoon inside our dwelling without any tasks to tend to outside of our walls or errands to run or obligations to uphold, its not often we get 24 hours all to ourselves to soak in the tiny treasures of our lives that hang on our walls and occupy our shelves and I’m sure as the days go by and Madison’s age starts collecting years at a rate we could never prepare ourselves for, times such as these will be even fewer and further between. This past weekend though, this past weekend was simply perfect.


March 30, 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).

She's jumping up and down in front of the mirror...
ME:  What are you doing?
MADISON:  Look! See my hair bouncing?


We overhear her playing in her room...
MADISON:  Oh no, Minnie. I've got bad news. I can't find Daisy.


At 4:00am she crawls into our bed...
ME:  Did you have a bad dream?
MADISON:  Yeah, there's a puppy in my room. He wants my toes.


While watching TV...
MADISON:  Turn this.
ME:  I don't have the remote anymore, you gave it to your Mama.
MADISON:  Well, that's just so sad.


ALLISON:  Did you poot?
MADISON:  No, Mama. I did not. I'm a princess. 


March 27, 2014

I shave far less than I probably should. However, when I do I find there’s something surprisingly refreshing about the process of hiding your face under a mask of foam and emerging again as a new, smoother version of yourself. The instant gratification of watching your reflection transform from scruffy to clean within minutes is almost meditative in how one is able to achieve the illusion of shaving years off their age with a single act.

Since I started shaving, I’ve used the popular brands of blades gracing the shelves of every store devoting a section to personal hygiene. I’ve used razors with replacement blades and vibrating handles. I’ve used shaving foam and shaving cream that starts as gel and ends in foam. I’ve used shaving soap and shaving brushes. Multiple promises of a closer shave have rotated through the revolving door of my bathroom at some point or another in the last 15 years. Most recently, the guys over at Dollar Shave Club sent me one of their razors and their version of shaving cream called Shave Butter.

I received “the 4x” which contains 4 blades that are comparable to those same brands of my past. The handle of the razor fits comfortably in my hand and the pivot of the blade head makes the task of shaving as easy as it should be. The Shave Butter offers an alternative to the generic experience of dragging a blade across your face by providing a transparent, non-foaming version of shaving cream. It’s smooth and nearly eliminates razor bumps or ingrown hairs. It also removes the need for an aftershave lotion as it hydrates the skin during the process.

I was hesitant about the Dollar Shave Club as I’ve noticed in life if most things appear too good to be true, oftentimes it’s because they are… yet the product here delivers. Literally. It’s delivered to your door once a month and at a price much cheaper than the constant expense of replacement blades the competition offers. With the ease of obtaining the necessary tools and the results they provide plus Madison reminding me “you need to shave Daddy, your face is rough” every time growth threatens to appear under my chin and above my lip, I might just start shaving more often.

Original image source. I received the aforementioned products in exchange for a review, but the opinions and facial hair (or lack thereof) are all my own.


March 26, 2014

I tell her she’s beautiful several times a day. I choose a different variation of the word almost every time the compliment unfolds itself within my speech pattern… pretty, gorgeous, stunning… but regardless of the word choice, the sentiment is always the same. I’m sure every father feels similarly towards his daughter, but I can’t help repeating myself time and again during the hours when the sun dances overhead and I tend to continue doing so even when it tags out with the moon.

I tell her because I want her to see what I see. 

I tell her when she’s covered in dirt and sweat from a few runs around our yard because I want her to know beauty isn’t married to an ideal image of perfection. I tell her when she’s upset while tears cloud her vision because I want her to know beauty doesn’t always equate happiness and there are times where it hides under the layers of something seemingly less desirable, a disguise removed to reveal itself within the side effects of trying times or lessons learned. I tell her when she’s exceptionally kind because I want her to know beauty isn’t just skin deep. I tell her because I know, unfortunately, one day someone somewhere will try to convince her otherwise. I tell her before I kiss her goodnight and again after she wakes in the morning because I want her to hear it, I want it to ring in her ears as the bookends of her days.

I tell her she's beautiful because it's true.


March 23, 2014

Every year when Allison's birthday rolls around I always ask what kind of cake she wants and if she would prefer a store bought or those of the box variety or one from scratch. This year she requested a peanut butter cake and had no preference of where or how it was made only that it incorporate lots of peanut butter. I searched through numerous recipes before finally drooling over this one and with a few minor adjustments, Allison's Peanut Butter Birthday cake was created... and it's delicious.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup natural, unsweetened peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup natural, unsweetened peanut butter
1/2 cup (or one stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered / confectioner's sugar
up to 1/2 cup heavy cream (at room temperature)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt then set aside. In a large mixing bowl add the peanut butter, oil, and brown sugar beating until combined and creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat just until combined. Alternately add the flour and buttermilk to the wet mixture, starting and ending with flour, beating just until combined. Be careful not to over-beat or the cake will be dense/dry, a few small lumps of flour is fine. Grease two 9x3 inch round baking pans and pour the batter, dividing it evenly, into the two pans. Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out moist; if the toothpick is wet with batter, bake a little longer, if the toothpick is dry then the cake will be dry. Let the layers sit in the pan for 5 minutes then invert the cake onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Place the peanut butter and butter in a large mixing bowl beating until smooth and creamy. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, continuing to beat then add the heavy cream until you reach a spreadable consistency. This will be a fairly stiff frosting. Frost one layer and down the sides then place the other layer of the cake on top of the now frosted bottom layer; frost the top layer and down the sides using as much frosting as desired. Then have your toddler dump some sprinkles on top... optional, of course.


March 20, 2014

I feel like there are little moments in the day to day raising of a child that mothers and fathers often look back to remember as some of their favorite parts of parenting. Maybe it’s the way babies smell after a bath, fresh and clean wrapped in a towel with their wrinkled toes still dripping the washed off remnants of the day or the way they hold their fork when learning to use their utensils, a fist of confusion mixed with flying food or maybe it’s the way they climb into your lap unprompted to cuddle in for a viewing of their favorite cartoon of the week.

For me, one of my favorite moments is picking her up from preschool. Those minutes we share in the car completely uninterrupted by the chaos of household chores or mental reminders of conversations to have with other adults that come to fruition in their presence. Those minutes we spend just the two of us when she’s still running on the adrenaline that comes with being surrounded by fellow toddlers. She shares details of songs she sang and instruments she played and the favorite colors of her peers and we discuss what she wants for lunch and we disagree over the music coming from the speakers and I select a song I know she doesn’t particularly care for just so I can see that look she gives me and we laugh and we talk.

Although we have other moments where it’s just the two of us and she shares these same types of moments with her mother, Allison and I both agree one on one time is important so she has her own way of communicating with us individually, there is something about that short car ride two days a week when I pluck her from the hustle and bustle of other parents and their children and we cocoon ourselves within our vehicle and mute our surroundings for a little while. I have a feeling I’m going to miss it one day and so I’m holding onto that steering wheel with white knuckles while I can… I’ll take her any where she wants to go as long as she allows me to come along for the ride.


March 18, 2014

Last week, I watched the sun slowly climb into our bedroom windows until it filled them completely. I watched as that sun extended warm beams of light like open arms until they reached and wrapped themselves around her, a hug from the world on the day she was born. I looked at her now, more perfect than ever, and imagined her then in the beginning when her parents first thought the same. I’ve seen the pictures, the many pictures that accompany the first born of any family, and I’ve seen proof our lives existed before we found each other although it feels they never really began until then. I’ve seen the photographic evidence she once went through the stages herself that we take so much pride in watching our daughter transition through. The beautiful strands of red hair growing longer with every candle added to her cake, the growth spurts, the lessons learned and taught along the way, every choice that turned her down a path that lead to where she is right now… with us.

Once she made her way downstairs, Madison and I served a crystal cake dish holding peanut butter layers divided and covered in a peanut butter frosting as requested that we made from scratch the night before. A task Madison dreamed of since she fell asleep before the actual baking commenced, but it was a team effort nonetheless. Madison presented her with a card rivaling any of the designs a pocket on a store shelf has to offer and we poured ourselves cold glasses of milk while coffee brewed in the background. With that sun still shining through our windows alarming the world to begin their morning routines, we crowned her with a triangle hat displaying the message she would hear so often throughout the day and we hugged her just a little tighter and we sang.

Happy Birthday, Allison. Happy Birthday, dear Mommy! Happy Birthday to you.


March 16, 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.)

After eating a lollipop and getting it all over her fingers...
MADISON:  Mama, I'm sticky. Pull my fingers off.


Her version of "are we there yet" while riding in the car...
MADISON:  Closer and closer and closer and closer and closer and closer.


MADISON:  It's dark outside.
ME: I know. The sun went down.
MADISON:  Well, turn the day lights back on.


She plucks all the magnets off Grandma's fridge and walks into the living room...
ME:  What do you have in your hands?
MADISON:  Maggots!


ME:  Remind me to get some Sharpie pens.
MADISON:  Okay. Got it.
Once we get to Target...
ME:  What was it I needed?
MADISON:  Bobby pins.


March 13, 2014

You know that feeling you get in your stomach before you realize you’re about to be sick? You know that moment when you realize you have approximately one minute or less to find the nearest restroom in effort of avoiding the worst case scenario? You know, that moment. That moment when you’re held hostage for 48 hours by the path between your bed and bathroom while you have no control over what your body decides to keep in or down or force back up or out. You know, that moment when you feel like the most disgusting creature in the world and your head is pounding and taking your temperature seems to require too much energy and the fact the world spins has never been more clear and everything aches including your eyelids and you just want to sleep it off or die, whichever comes first, to avoid the feeling of being turned inside out again. You know, that kind of feeling in your stomach that remains after everything else has left in such a hurry, without warning or any real reason.

That was me this week, but I feel much better now.

Allison locked me in our bedroom and practically sealed off the rest of the house before throwing on a hazmat suit to protect herself and Madison; she was determined whatever virus I had would start and end with me. She slept on the couch and Madison’s bedtime routine happened without me… a slight fist bump was all the interaction I received from either one of them over the course of a few days. A few days of consuming nothing but water and crackers that left me desperately craving a hot cup of coffee and some kisses from two of my favorite girls, both of which I received at the rise of the sun today. Good morning? It was indeed.


March 12, 2014

I've never been much of a fan when it comes to pecan pie. If given the option, I would choose a slice from the apple or chocolate variety. However, when my father (who happens to love pecan pie) asked for one as a gift for his birthday, Allison made it her mission to find the best pecan pie recipe she could... with just a slight adjustment what she made was the perfect pecan pie. He thought so, too, and after a bite turned slice of my own I couldn't help but agree.

1 whole frozen pie crust
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
3/4 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup melted butter (salted)
3 whole eggs (beaten)
1 cup (heaping) chopped pecans

Mix sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, butter, eggs, and vanilla together in a bowl. (Spray measuring cup with cooking spray before pouring in the corn syrup to make it easier when pouring back out.) Pour chopped pecans in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell. Then pour syrup mixture over the top. Cover top and crust lightly/gently with foil. Bake pie at 350ยบ for 30 minutes. Remove foil, then continue baking for 20 minutes, being careful not to burn the crust or pecans. NOTE: the pie should not be overly jiggly when removing it from the oven. If it shakes a lot, cover with foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until set. Required baking time seems to vary widely with this recipe. Sometimes it takes 50 minutes... sometimes 75! Allow to cool for several hours or overnight. Cut into slices and taste pecan perfection in pie form.



March 6, 2014

My hands were full, but I carried her anyway.  I often do. There’s just something about having the whole world in your hands… that is until you need those hands for something else. I fumbled for the keys and accepted the fact I wasn’t going to find them buried in my coat pocket unless I put something down and so I stood her on her feet beside me. I grabbed the keys from my pocket and unlocked the car then I turned to see what my world would look like without her in it: dark, pitch black, even in the middle of the day with the noon sun shining.

She was gone.

I dropped the items I had in my hands ignoring the direction everything rolled in and desperately tried to look for her among the grid of cars in the parking lot. The minivans and the SUVs and the cars I heard humming warnings of mobility at any moment were blocking my view. I weaved in and out following the muffled sounds of her laughter.

“Find me, Daddy” she said in between toddler giggles and I was trying as hard as I could.

I yelled her name several times, each syllable growing louder before breaking in half. I could see her feet under the vehicles temporarily occupying their spaces and it felt like a lifetime before I finally got my hands on her again, before she tripped on a rock and stumbled within inches of some stranger’s bumper, before I lifted her up and squeezed her in my arms so tight she could barely breathe. I fought the urge to sit in the middle of an empty space outlined in white, surrendering myself to the hurricane of emotions swirling in my stomach. I swallowed the lump in my throat in effort to calm the storm within and strapped her into her car seat. I tightened the straps of the harness even though I knew they were tight enough.

We sat in the car for a moment before making our way home; we sat in silence with her in her car seat and me behind the wheel with a pending conversation filling the space between us. I was furious. I was ecstatic. I was scared. I was relieved. Several minutes passed before the words formed the lecture I gave her and to be completely honest, I’m not sure what was said. I have never felt like more of a failure.

It all happened so quickly. I put her down for just a second and took for granted how much her age allows her to listen. They say there’s a first time for everything and this was the first time she ever ran off. What if it had been the last? What if something happened to her on my watch? In my care? I don’t remember the things I was holding, or what ultimately happened to them, that seemed to be so important at the time that I couldn’t have set them on the ground instead. My whole life, our whole lives, could have changed in that short span of time. Instead it was just my point of view that was traded in those seconds between letting her go and getting her back.

“I was playing, Daddy” she said. “It was a game.” 

Obviously, I wasn’t clear of the rules for this game. It seemed the difference between winning and losing it all was divided by a very thin line. A game she invented to test my comfort level of this whole parenting thing, I assume. A game illustrating that parenting is about letting go, but still being there to catch them when they fall. 

Every time I teach her a lesson, I learn something new in the process. Every time I let go a little bit, I find I’m only readjusting my grip. I'm learning as parents, we never really let go completely but rather find another way of holding on.


March 5, 2014

The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings. 
- J.M. Barrie -

One day several years ago, as Allison was walking into a random gas station she held the door for an older lady who was exiting. The stranger looked her in the eyes to express her gratitude and, without any real reason, said “your grandfather visits you through the birds” then this lady with her convenient store selections concealed in a plastic bag simply walked away. She left Allison with a message and the memory of her grandfather who passed when she was very young; the little time they had together was often spent bird watching so it seemed entirely plausible that he would visit her in the form of a feathered friend.

Ever since that day, we take note of the birds along our path and silently wonder who may be visiting us in that moment. Sometimes it feels as though they connect with us, almost as if we had an entire conversation in a glance before expanding their wings taking flight back towards the heavens. Maybe it’s true and maybe it isn’t, but the words delivered by a stranger in the threshold of a gas station had an odd way of lingering long after the sound of her voice subsided.

There’s a bird currently reconstructing a nest in the shrubbery of our front yard; whether it’s the bird that occupied that same nest last year, the same bird that felt safe enough in our presence to lay her eggs within our reach until they hatched into miniature reproductions of herself is up for debate. However, one thing is for sure, we’re trying to teach Madison to acknowledge the beauty in all of God’s creatures for who really knows if what we find ourselves watching isn’t watching us instead.


March 3, 2014

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