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Her mother called ahead to make sure there would be at least two people there when we arrived. We stopped by a convenience store and I ran in quickly to purchase her first lollipop in hopes one experience would overshadow the other and once back in the vehicle we drove to the mall with her strapped in her car seat and us belted in the front with nerves filling the space between the three of us.

We walked into the store and made our selection of small gold studs, my wife signed a few papers and I distracted my daughter with potential earrings of her future, shiny ones and dangly ones and ones considered costume and others considered formal and finally we sat in the designated chair for occasions like this. I sat down first and placed her in my lap. We tore into the sticky distraction we brought with us and let her tiny paw hold it while we reminded her we were here to get her ears pierced.

We paid in advance and located the exit because we wanted nothing to hold us back from leaving immediately once it was over. A lady stood on each side of her smelling the cherry scented breath of the fourteen month old they were about to make cry and I looked past them at the gentleman glaring at us from the corner of the store. He stood with two girls, his daughters I assumed, and they took turns passing bracelets and headbands and necklaces back and forth. They laughed. He didn't. He stared at us in disapproval then told the girls it was time to go.

I didn't know if what we were doing was right, but I didn't feel it was necessarily wrong. Girls get their ears pierced every day. Allison had hers done really young and, with her fear of needles, it's probably best that she had it done during a time she wouldn't remember it. I questioned myself enroute to the store and again when the judging glances of a stranger were left in his wake, the judgment of a fellow father who found my parenting skills subpar when compared against his own.

The young ladies rubbed the small earlobes of the little girl in my lap, the little girl that just mastered the art of walking yet still had work to do when it came to maintaining enough balance to run, the little girl with a large smile and an even bigger laugh, and those young ladies put a hole in each of her ears simultaneously. They checked the backs to make sure the earrings were in and once given the okay we headed for the door, the parking lot, our vehicle, then home.

She cried. She buried her head in my shoulder, but only for a second. We threw her lollipop away somewhere between exiting the store and arriving at our parking spot and the tears from that act far outweighed the pain of the actual piercing. We should have allowed her to finish because in hindsight that's the thing she remembered the most, her first sucker being ripped from her grip in a hasty effort to disguise the act of decorating her ears for now and every day going forward.

This topic seems to be a bit controversial among some parents. Some disapprove while others encourage it, saying the advantage of doing it at a young age teaches them how to take care of them since they won't really know life without them. Some compare it to mild forms of child abuse in that one is inflicting unnecessary pain upon their child and some say it could be looked at in the same light of having your son circumcized, approved of or condemned for. Some say she should be given the choice, therefore, it should be delayed until she can make that choice herself. Some say they wish they had pierced their daughter's ears, or even their own, at a younger age.

Given the same choice to make under the same circumstances, we would do it again; we maybe would have chosen to do it earlier. We haven't had any issues with her ears or earrings, and at three years old, she hasn't complained once. Some may agree or disagree, but I don't think it's wrong either way... and such is parenthood, I'm learning.


June 29, 2014

For Madison’s first birthday, we wanted to include a picture of her on the actual invitation so we decided to purchase a cheap wooden number from a local craft store to photograph her with. We painted it a shade of pink from a leftover can of paint used as part of a previous project and set it in her bedroom window and took pictures of her as she discovered it. Ultimately, we used a picture of her from behind yet had we known this little picture project would turn into something we did every year… we probably would have used an option with her face instead. However, there are plenty of outtakes.

We plan to encourage this developing little tradition of ours by having a mini photo shoot of sorts every year before her birthday with her age represented in small, wooden form. One day (for now we’re thinking when she turns 18) we’ll compile all the photos into a book as a visual representation of just how quickly she’s growing up. We aim to keep these simple in set up and inexpensive in execution, but relevant to the celebration that particular year. For Madison’s second birthday, we filled a basket with apples and propped up a thin decorative frame we spray painted gold in effort to portray a few details from Snow White’s story and we borrowed the wooded lot behind my parents’ house as a backdrop.

This year, we handed her a fistful of balloons in the color scheme of her backyard carnival celebration and strung up a few pennants along the fence that frames the footprint of land we currently own. The growth from one to two to three is obvious and at first we thought this recurring project may seem silly, but when seeing them one after the other as evidence in photo form of our little girl collecting the years that make up her life… we can’t help but promise ourselves that we’ll do it again next year and the year after that and the year after that, etc.


June 22, 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).

We pass through another town and she sees a Target...
MADISON:  Look! I see Target. Where is Pet Mart?
ALLISON:  I don't think they have a PetSmart here.
MADISON:  Oh, no. They need to fix that.


ALLISON:  What's that smell?
ME:  (checking my shoes) It's not me.
MADISON:  It smells like diarrhea.


ALLISON:  It's time to eat chick, let's go.
MADISON:  I'm not a chick. I'm a lady.


Standing up from the dinner table...
ME:  I'm full.
MADISON:  I know. It looks like you have a baby in your belly.


MADISON:  You hear that?
ME:  What?
She pulls the straw in and out of her cup repeatedly...
MADISON:  There's a chicken in my slushie.


June 21, 2014

Last Saturday we had our closest friends and family surround us as we watched our little girl exchange age two for age three while her mother and I allowed the party itself to distract us from the bittersweet reality that the baby phases are now behind us. We celebrated the joy she brings to all of our lives and we did so in a modified version of a backyard carnival.

With tickets as invitations and a bounce house in place of games, there were sno cones and popcorn and cotton candy and lemonade. There were corn dogs, fifteen to be exact, which warranted curious looks from the drive-thru attendant when I ordered them yet her raised brows relaxed to frame the wink she gave me once I explained they were for a party. 

We lit candles and sang the repetitive lyrics that one does at an occasion of this sort and I held my breath as she made her wish followed by several attempts to extinguish the three tiny flames, a task she achieved much quicker than this time last year despite the addition of another waxed torch thrown in the mix. Frosting spotted plates and clean licked forks littered the tables as the evidence of bare feet littered the lawn and the sun slowly made the setting journey west bringing an end to a day that will forever be hers.

Happy Birthday, Madison.

Regardless of how old you are, you'll always be my baby.


June 20, 2014

To know me is to know that me and Mariah go back (like babies and pacifiers). It’s not a secret that I think she has the greatest voice of my generation and arguably all time. Some love her and some hate her, but at the end of the day no one can argue with the undeniable talent and force of her pipes.

The woman can sing.

A few weeks ago, Mariah released her fourteenth studio album titled Me. I Am Mariah… the Elusive Chanteuse and it should come as no surprise that I purchased it that day. A day that also happened to be Madison’s last day of preschool in which I took the afternoon off work to spend with her once the farewell festivities came to an end. An occasion that both Allison and I were surprised to find Madison as upset by as she was and once we dried her tears I made it my mission to cheer her up so I pressed play on Mariah’s most recent offering of vocal perfection and waited.

Let the record show, I’ve never forced the musical catalog of Mariah Carey on my daughter. She has, however, heard the name and seen a performance or two (or a dozen) to recognize the name and the voice and the face yet I’ve never made her sit and listen or watch Ms. Carey sing. She did that all on her own and who am I to argue with good taste?

That afternoon we listened to the song selections completely through once and then Madison requested a few songs on repeat and while she’s not a stranger to the word no, I found this more a time of picking your battles and this wasn’t a request worth denying. There’s a song on this album where Mariah sings with her twins and Madison made it her mission to memorize every giggle, every key change, and every melismatic run she could within the four minutes from beginning to end. 

We let the CD play in the background throughout the afternoon as we assembled blocks into castles and puzzles into completed pictures and as I broke away for a moment, I heard something from the other room… attempts at high notes. I immediately grabbed my phone and recorded what I intended to be a video shared only with her mother and maybe her grandparents as one of those things only we would find entertaining yet I found myself posting it to my Instagram shortly thereafter. 

She still sings songs from this album, a valid attempt at note for note at the top of her lungs when in the car and she requests certain tracks all on her own without any prompting from me. Her mother cringes at a few subject matters approached lyrically and I agree the words may not always be age appropriate, but the break from a certain soundtrack is very much needed. See for yourself…


June 17, 2014

It’s been said that time flies when you’re having fun and while I’m not willing to compromise joy in exchange for minutes, I wouldn’t necessarily object the option of certain phases in life lasting just a bit longer. In a few days, I’ll watch my little girl collect her third year and as excited as I am for her, it’s bittersweet to near the end of the toddler chapter. I feel like I’ve said this about every age thus far and I may continue the trend going forward, but this particular year… age two… has been my favorite.

Her mother and I sat on the edge of our seats this time last year waiting and begging for her vocabulary to expand, waiting for the moment when multiple syllables would flavor her taste buds and roll out sentences full of innocent insight and childlike discoveries. She started preschool and the words came almost immediately, conversations we've come to treasure littered with laughter and joy.

This past year has seen growth in every facet of her being, as I'm sure every year ahead will, too, but something about the curved arches forming in her feet and the curls touching her shoulders and the dimples appearing in her cheeks as her face loses its defining baby qualities all seemed to happen much quicker than we were prepared for. Yet it's all so unbelievably amazing to watch.

This year she made friends and developed opinions and changed her mind and learned to run. She’ll tell you her favorite color is purple with pink as an alternate and her preference for cartoons bounced from a self-proclaimed toy doctor to a feline Sheriff with a woodpecker for a Deputy and the endless songs from a selection of two sisters whose icy relationship only rivals the warmth of her own heart. 

She skinned her knee for the first time and she walked away without a single tear despite a bow in her hair that would lead you to believe otherwise, she’s tough. She developed an aversion, by her own choice, to pants and spent most of the year in dresses as a result, a preference that will undoubtedly carry her into age three. 

She learned that pushing the pedals of her tricycle causes it to move and she did so until her tiny calves burned. She conquered fears and learned lessons and grew a little more every day. She had her first haircut, her first trip to the zoo and experienced the fair. She transitioned into her toddler bed. She became a butterfly for a night. She saw her face in a book. She watched princesses trade their slippers for ice skates instead when we went to Disney on Ice

The tantrums and time outs were few and far between while the hugs and kisses were not. She loved us a lot and we loved her in return and we all learned more about the purpose of life than we ever could have imagined within the span of 365 days. She's sweet and funny and charming and smart and friendly and warm and creative and beautiful and... perfect. 

Age two, despite the reputation that proceeds it, wasn’t terrible at all. In fact, it was quite the opposite.


June 12, 2014

The windows were cracked just enough to let the smell of a pending summer through and we watched landscapes of crops and trees and isolated houses blur from our focus as we passed by. We answered random questions from a toddler’s inquisitive mind regarding the sun setting and the consequential darkness that follows, the relationships of her cousins whose house we just left and listened as lyrics of songs she knew interrupted her own thought process and we made our way back home.

Somewhere along the paved lines that connect us all together, beyond memories and shared surnames there will always be geography and somewhere along the way she asked where all the cars were going. “Where are they going?” she asked and I wasn’t sure how to respond because I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant. I informed her they were going home just as we were and it seemed true enough that she accepted my answer without asking the same question again.

The last few hours were spent with family celebrating the birthday of my uncle (her great uncle) over strawberry cake with trees in place of the houses she’s used to seeing that line the perimeters of our neighborhood. There were hammocks and trampolines and stretches of grass that could hold several backyards the size of ours and it dawned on me that we were two kids from the country raising a seemingly city girl instead. Not that we’re living in skyscrapers with concrete playgrounds yet the space we’ve claimed as our own is far from the moonlit fields of our childhood and it’s interesting to see her eyes widen when given insight into our past.

We drove along the roads we knew as teenagers with the product of a love we found back then strapped in the backseat and we felt the wind of our hometown blow in through the cracked windows, a predetermined space we allowed and determined was appropriate… just big enough to feel the familiarity but small enough to stop it from consuming us. We controlled the breeze and the nostalgia and let our headlights light the trail we knew all too well until we were within the city limits again.

The streetlights illuminated the dashed markings of the highway and the stoplights filled our vehicle with shades of red and green forcing us to abide by someone else’s rules. We were almost home and the little voice I’ve come so accustomed to in such a short time said the cars were back. “The cars are back, Daddy,” she said and I realized what she meant all along. She wasn’t asking before where they were going, she wanted to know where they went. 

Why were we the only headlights among the fields of darkness? Why was it just the three of us? It’s easy to forget the simple things in life when we’re trying so hard to climb the next hurdle. It’s so easy to let our past dissipate while we try to collect our future, but it’s moments like these when I realize just how everything is supposed to unfold. This journey where a slight detour through the corners of our mind help highlight the paths we’re traveling, where we’ve been and where we’re going, where we’ve left off and where we’ll meet again; this journey where all the cars are going in different directions only to come back together in the end. 


June 9, 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).

ME:   Your birthday is less than two weeks away. How old are you going to be?


We ran over a small hole in the road...
MADISON:  What was that?
ALLISON:  A hole in the road.
MADISON:  Or maybe it was a bear.


She's walking back and forth shuffling her feet sideways...
ME:  What are you doing?
MADISON:  Side walks.


ME:  What do you want to do today?
MADISON:  Let's go to Lowe's.


MADISON:  That man is nice.
ME:  He's the owner of this restaurant, did you know that?
MADISON:  Yep, I did.
ME:  You did?
MADISON:  Yeah, I know everything.


June 5, 2014

She walked into the store determined to buy something. If it was purple or pink or sparkly, in her mind, it had her name on it. She held up dresses next to her two year old frame and she ran her chubby fingers through the racks and over the endless accessories of ribbons and bows while her eyes bounced from one corner to the next not sure where to land like a pinball sprung loose in a machine of excitement. Her mother and I watched as she carefully selected an item before putting it back in exchange for another. We watched our baby, who somewhere along the way morphed into this little girl, walk around the store commenting on each option available and we smiled along with her and laughed at her verbal musings that only parents tend to do and when she finally decided which new thing it was she wanted to bring home with us, we seized the moment to teach her the lesson we came to learn.

It wasn’t but a few days prior that a certain little someone walked out of a store with a pack of pink gum hidden in her tiny palm. A pack of pink gum warm from her grip that she presented to her mother once under the glow of the parking lot lights revealing her grocery store souvenir with the obvious declaration of “it’s pink!” and it was indeed. It was also not paid for. She walked back into the store, ushered by her mother’s maternal sense of conscious, and apologized for her mistake and the manager accepted her sweet sorry delivered with a slight nod of her chin then smiled in return while some other customer mumbled how cute our little girl was. 

In fear this lesson wasn’t perfectly clear in that moment, no doubt as a consequence of a toddler frame of mind, we took her shopping several days later and stressed the importance of paying for things we want before we leave the store with them. Once she committed to a set of three bracelets in various shades of plum, her mother handed her the paper withdrawn from her porcelain elephant bank that sits high on her dresser that would allow her to make this purchase. We stepped back and watched her walk up to the register and lay the merchandise on the counter, we watched as she waited for her total and we watched as she handed over the cash in exchange for the bracelets. We watched as she grew up before our eyes in just a matter of minutes and as she turned around to look at us with a forearm full of bangles and a face full of pride to hand us the change leftover from her first transaction, we encouraged her to keep it… both the change and the lesson learned.


June 4, 2014

We started collecting books while Allison was pregnant with Madison because we hoped to make reading stories a part of her bedtime routine fairly early. There were some titles we knew we wanted from our own childhood (like this one) and others we stumbled upon along the way or were gifted by generous friends and family. Some stories we read until every word was memorized and others we may have hidden after the initial read through in hopes it wouldn’t be found again in the near future. Regardless, all three of us have developed our own favorites from the vast collection of books stacked and stored in the open pink edged linen boxes that sit next to her bed and if asked to share our top three, that list would look something like the ones below.

OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO [by Dr. Seuss] An encouraging tale of life’s journey and the ups and downs discovered along the path all phrased in the engaging, rhyming voice of Dr. Seuss. Perhaps one of my favorite opening lines of any children’s book resides in this one -- Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!

CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM [by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault and Lois Ehlert] A story where the characters are actually the letters of the alphabet and the voice its written in is almost one of song. I may or may not have read this book by rapping it instead. As embarrassing as one should be by admission of rapping a children’s book, this particular one has a subtle way of encouraging it.

LOVE YOU FOREVER [by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw] *spoiler alert, ending revealed* I remember my mother reading this book to me as a child and as the story goes, a mother loves her son so much that she tells him over and over through the course of his life -- I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be -- and eventually he has a daughter of his own and he finds himself singing that same song to her, just as I’m reading it to mine.

I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE, MY LOVE [by Nancy Tilman] As beautiful as the illustrations are in this particular book, the story rivals it in message by stressing our children can follow any dream they wish, take any path they discover, become whoever they’re destined to be and in the end we would recognize them regardless because they’re ours. Using animals as examples, the opportunity of inserting their respected noises presents itself on every page.

WHEREVER YOU ARE: MY LOVE WILL FIND YOU [by Nancy Tilman] By the same author of the selection above, this book follows a similar formula by incorporating illustrations that almost make one want to rip them out to display behind framed glass as art. This author has a wonderful way with words and with this story stresses how our love will always find our offspring despite wherever it is life takes them.

PAJAMA TIME! [by Sandra Boynton] To avoid having the same book on all three lists, Allison asked if she could include it on hers yet this is the one story we’ve read so many times we know every word by heart and it could easily be the winner of every list if one had to be chosen. This is the book we read after every bath for the first year of Madison’s life; it was the only one that earned the smile it did and that alone was enough incentive to read it as often as possible.

LET’S TALK ABOUT DISOBEYING [by Joy Berry, Orly Kelly and John Costanza] This book is one from Allison’s childhood that, for some reason, has drawn the attention of Madison as of late… so much so, that it has quickly become one of Madison’s favorites. Recently, it’s the one we read the most and coincidentally teaches the lesson that listening to your parents is very important, a lesson every toddler needs to grasp.

ONE RAINY DAY [by Tammi Salzano and Hannah Wood] Madison loves this book. She loves to count the boats and find the purple towel, she loves to turn up her nose at the mudpies and hop as if she’s stomping in the puddles herself. For a while this was her first choice every time, however, now it’s probably her second favorite with the one above having replaced it.

THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR [by Eric Carle] A timeless tale everyone has probably read a time or two. It transcends generations. It’s simple and fun and perfectly illustrated. If forced to choose a book that Madison read as her first, it would more than likely be this one as she nearly quotes it word for word… the way she flaps the spine at the end after the butterfly emerges is completely optional, but personally I find it’s the best ending ever.

The links in this post are not affiliate links; I just wanted to share + document a few books we love.


June 3, 2014

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