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The smell of funnel cake greeted us as we entered the fair, the powdered sugar teased our taste buds with every step forward and the sight of rides already in motion a small hike away welcomed us back. Last year was Madison’s first time experiencing the fair and she’s been asking to come again ever since we left the gates last fall.

We met up with friends near the barn of ponies and roosters and goats and lambs. We caught up quickly next to a cow behind a wooden divider while our children echoed and encouraged conversation by speaking moo, the type of friendships that allow for immediate updating without missing a beat always prove to be the best. Quality over quantity is applicable to more than just shopping.

Carousels. Slides. Trains. All the important stops were made before my little girl decided to step up to a tent with a pool full of plastic fish. “I want to play,” she said. It’s worth mentioning I’m not one to give in to the pressure of carnival persuasion and can often avoid the games (and the increased risk of losing given the nature of the environment), but there’s something about the brown of her eyes that weakens me.

The lady palmed the bills we handed her in exchange for a pole and explained the simple rule of hooking a fish to win a prize. Madison looked back at me silently requesting help and I knelt beside her deciding rather quickly to support her emotionally instead of reaching for the pole myself. Sometimes as parents we have to force ourselves to encourage their independence by watching from the sidelines.

She hooked a fish, passed me the rod and chose a small blue dog as her prize thanking the lady before she walked away. A few moments spent retrieving a fish for the sake of winning, but it was more than that, it was a chance to see the confidence we’re helping build come to fruition. Fair or not, it was a chance to see a glimpse of the person she promises to be… a game where the prize of potential far outweighs the actual task.

FAIR GAME

September 28, 2014


Before I started this space two years ago, I read through several blogs in effort to research the community and the audience that comes along with the territory. In doing so, I stumbled upon a blog from a mother who experienced the unfathomable, the unthinkable, the unimaginable pain of losing her twelve year old son in a tragic accident.

Anna from An Inch of Gray told her story with such raw emotion that it drew me in like a warm hug and refused to let go. I couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t stop myself from moving on to the next post and the next. I couldn’t stop wondering how and where she found the strength to overcome the horrible reality of waking up with your child one day and going to bed that night without them.

Anna’s gift of faith and hope and the remarkable relationship she has with God eventually found an outlet within the pages of a book called Rare Bird. Released three years after the accident that changed her life in ways no one could imagine, it's the kind of book that stirs your soul. If you have a moment, grab a copy (and some Kleenex)... at the very least stop by her blog.

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This post was not sponsored in any way. I've been following Anna's blog for a while and believe that her story is one of heartbreak and truth and healing that should be shared with anyone looking to understand the complex language of love and faith and religion and parenting.

CURRENTLY READING : RARE BIRD

September 23, 2014


"If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever."
Alfred Lord Tennyson

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It’s difficult to remember a time where she didn’t find a way into my every thought, to recall a time when every idea wasn’t centered around her or inspired by her or because of her in some way. It’s strange to wonder what my thought process consisted of before she entered my life and scary to think it was all for nothing until she did. Parenting has a way of consuming you, of giving you purpose, of fertilizing the better part of yourself in hopes it can find a way to the surface… and bloom. This season of my life might just be my favorite yet.

BLOOM

September 21, 2014

I'm not sure if these are amusing to anyone else or just my wife, 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 comments (click here for more).


ME:  I love you.
MADISON:  I love your face.

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Ending a call...
MADISON:  Who were you talking to on that phone?
ME:  Your mama.
MADISON:  Do you think she's buying a hat?

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MADISON:  I love celebrations!
ME:  You do? What do you love about them?
MADISON:  The bubbles and cupcakes... but really the bubbles.

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Tucked in bed at night...
ALLISON:  You look like a caterpillar in a cocoon.
MADISON:  No I don't because caterpillars don't have hands, silly.

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ME:  I think you're pretty.
MADISON:  Oh! I thought I was Madison.

CHATTY PATTY, VOL. 16

September 18, 2014


The blue water rippled as the breeze blew in inviting the sun to play with the sapphire undertones of the pool bottom. He watched from just over the fence as we introduced our subpar swimming techniques in hopes she would perfect them herself in due time. He watched a poorly executed breaststroke followed by a flailing attempt at floating. He watched as we splashed and laughed and dove and surfaced.

He watched without us knowing until our little swimmer pointed him out.

“Look!” she said. “That tree looks like a giant bug.” Her mother and I turned following the extension of her tiny index finger to what looked remotely like a large green bug, a tree with two antennae branching out from his shrub of a head.  In three year old terms, it was definitely an insect and a big one at that. “Get it, Daddy,” she said. “Get that bug!”

I made my way over to the fence with drops of water surrendering to gravity with every step I made and once in front of what could be considered the largest tree bug I’ve ever seen, I pretended to get its attention and swat it then squash it. Content in my effort, I turned to see the disappointed face of a little girl who immediately exclaimed that she wanted to do it. “Let me show him my Elsa power,” she said.

Then her mother and I sat back to see our daughter unleash imaginary powers of ice and snow and flakes of fury upon a tree with unfortunately placed limbs. She opened her palms and threw her arms in front of her with as much force as her toddler frame would allow, her wet hair curling under the heat of the summer sun overhead. She turned and smiled directly at us, “I got that bug,” she said.

THE TALE OF THE BIG GREEN TREE BUG

September 17, 2014


There’s an inherent need I have to string words together, to lead one sentence into another introducing a story made up entirely of their connection. There’s a pull I can’t explain that calls my fingertips to tap the keys in rapid succession translating thoughts from my mind to the screen, a therapeutic conversation completely silent in vocal effort yet loud and clear in purpose and intent. Regardless if I wrote in this space or not, I think there’s a part of me that would always write something somewhere.

For a while, I went without writing. It felt like the severed relationship of a friend I’ve known since childhood yet two years ago I reacquainted myself. Two years ago I sat down in the corner of my living room and allowed the glow of a table lamp to shed light on a familiar feeling of joy and bliss in the literary form. Two years ago I created this place to rediscover a passion I knew as a young boy and became close to as an adolescent only to abandon entirely as a young adult, a passion as much of a part of me as anything else could be.

On a warm Tuesday night in June, when my daughter was born, there was a silent promise to become the best person I could be in effort to help her discover the best person she could be. After all, leading by example is more than just a phrase… it’s a way of life. While I certainly fail more than I succeed in keeping that promise, it’s imperative that she know dreams are worth chasing and if you run hard enough you might just catch one.

TWO

September 14, 2014


Although I know there will come a time where I’ll disappoint her, I fight the reality of it every day. I make an effort to answer any question she asks and give her my undivided attention whenever she requests it and match every smile she gives me with one of my own in return. I’m not sure if this is how I’m supposed to react… catering to her every whim… but it feels wrong if I try not to.

I’ve heard people mention that she’ll come to expect the same treatment from everyone and there are certain times when I’ve seen glimpses of truth in those statements, but more often than not I chalk it up to coincidence.  I could be in denial or maybe I’m na├»ve or there’s always the possibility of refusing to see the error of my ways. I don’t know.

Fatherhood isn’t the same journey for every man. We all have mental lists of milestones we hope to check off along the way from infant to adult. Crawling. Walking. Running. Talking. Similar obstacles serving as bullet points in the beginning until there’s a fork in the road and we’re forced to choose our own path of parenting. Grades. Changing tires. Manners. Sports. Life lessons we want to share with our offspring in hopes they’ll learn from our mistakes avoiding them all together and take our experiences perfecting them as they go.

I only want the best for her, to be the best person she can be and to make the best decisions of the choices that present themselves. I want her to love hard and dream even harder. I want her to smile in the mirror in recognition of how beautiful she is from the inside out. I want her to know I’m always behind her.  I’m always there for her. I’m always here for her.

Regardless if it’s me or someone else that eventually lets her down, I want her to know I’ll be there to help her up. I’ll always be there to brush off her knees and wipe her tears and hold her tight. I'll always be there to tell her it's okay. I’ll always be there to catch her when she falls. It's not only my job as her father, it's a privilege.

CATCH

September 8, 2014

I'm not sure if these are amusing to anyone else or just my wife, 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 comments (click here for more).


Allison was moving a chair by carrying it over her head...
MADISON:  Mama, you look like a pineapple.

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Getting up in the morning...
MADISON:  Look at my arms! Look at my legs! I look bigger today.

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While eating dinner...
MADISON:  I'm done.
Noticing she cleared her plate...
ME:  Well, hot dog, you are done.
MADISON:  No, Daddy. It was chicken, not a hot dog.

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Watching The Lion King...
MADISON:  Simba's dad has a biiiiiiiiiig face.

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At the beach and she notices a phone mounted on the wall of the cottage...
MADISON:  Phones don't belong on the wall, they go in your pocket.

CHATTY PATTY, VOL. 15

September 4, 2014



She sat on the third step from the bottom, the same place as last year this time, with her striped backpack beside her and she smiled. She smiled a big three year old smile and I realized just how much difference a year makes. Her mother and I gave her more than enough kisses and hugs before leaving the house then twice that many once we arrived at the preschool.

I walked her in and felt the wet tears on my shoulder as her arms gripped tighter around my neck. For the first time in her life, I was the one to initiate our parting and it hurt. It hurt as the teacher pulled her away offering distractions of toys and books and stuffed animals with names and it hurt to leave her in tears yet I did it anyway.

I spent the rest of the morning in a carousel of parenting emotions… worry and reassurance and fear and anticipation… all rotating and spinning within a restless mindset. I often wonder if other parents experience the same up and down rollercoaster ride of feelings and self doubt. Surely, I can’t be the only one trying my best and questioning if it’s good enough every step of the way.

I remember when my wife told me she was pregnant and I remember crying from the sheer weight of responsibility that entailed. I remember coming to terms with the life changing realization of having a child and I remember crying from the overwhelming excitement that followed. I remember seeing her face for the first time and I remember being so paralyzed by her beauty that I couldn’t cry at all.

When school let out, her mother and I wrapped our arms around her and buckled her in taking her to the toy store and for ice cream, the kind with sprinkles and white chocolate chips per her own request. Attending preschool a few days a week is the right decision for us and as last year ended, that couldn’t have been more apparent yet we want her to enjoy it so the first day is (and will probably always be) something special.

We sat around a small table and asked how her day was between spoonfuls of cold comfort and listened to every detail she offered us. The size of the playground and the abundance of new books and then she looked at us both and said with a frown… I cried in the beginning. I assured her it would be okay, and I’m comfortable it will be, because I remember all too well what crying in the beginning feels like.

PRESCHOOL 2014

September 3, 2014


The air was still until it wasn’t when nature’s breath blew in leaving whispers in the limbs of the trees that line the rear of my backyard. I stood there and watched it stir, the thick trunk rooted deep in the ground with arms that branched out in every direction with hands full of leaves at the end of their extensions. Some had blooms while others promised potential and just as quickly as the breeze forced itself between the open spaces of the foliage it disappeared again leaving a few fallen leaves in its wake.

The other day I listened to a mother vent about the frustrations of raising a teenager and shortly after that conversation I listened to another woman with similar struggles and I found myself completely engrossed in their stories. I find that I’m all in any time a conversation about parenting is approached because while I don’t necessarily agree with the parenting styles of everyone I meet, there is something to be learned from the lessons they’ve taught. There’s hope that I can gain insight from their mistakes and share in their triumphs and apply their experience to my own parenting journey.

Life has a strange way of allowing reason in when we least expect it. Regardless of how solid we feel and how many directions we pull ourselves in, all it takes is one strong wind with purpose for us to hold on as tight as we can to what matters the most. In those times, we realize which dreams are the ones we’re intended to chase and which ones are disposable, left to swim in the cloud’s current while the rest sway with the constant give and take.  We must hold firm to what we know is true from the most concrete part of our foundation and instill the same strength in our children.

Every child is different and no two parents have the same adventure in raising an infant to an adult yet there’s something intriguing and inspiring about the stories of fellow fathers and mothers that leaves me craving for more information. After all, I think it’s fair to say we’re making up the rules as we go. We all want the best for our children. We all want them to be decent human beings with the emotional range of showing compassion and concern and to be cognizant of the way others feel, as well.  In the end, if we aren’t able to do that then we’ve failed.

TREES OF GREEN

September 2, 2014

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