Family Life / Growing Up

Bethlehem Calendar / DIY Christmas

In November of last year Candyce came across an artsy blogger who had just finished a “Bethlehem Calendar,” which is kind of like an Advent calendar. It’s a wall hanging for kids to get excited about the coming of Christmas: Mary and Joseph travel through Bethlehem and on the 25th day, they end up in a manger. You get the idea.

So Candyce showed this calendar to me and said that she was going to make one just like it. Why not make it a little exciting? I sketched some things out and then shared them with her and she wasn’t at all curious with my big ideas. So I got the project started myself. Two-and-a-half months later, I finally finished it. Here’s some photos of the project, and what it looks like on the wall here a year later.

“Hold You Me”

Since becoming a father three years ago, I’ve struggled to write about the beautiful and profound shift that has occurred in my life.

It happens like this. At least twice a month I sit down to write a blog about some meaningful part of my daily life as a dad, and I end up getting frustrated twenty minutes into it because the words that type don’t do this subject justice. I want to share a glimpse of the magic of fatherhood in at least one blog post, but as sentences turn into paragraphs, that magic gets lost inside of sentimental storytelling.

I don’t publish these blogs not because I’m afraid to be soft, but more because the stories end up reading like every other story I’ve heard parents share with other parents my whole life. Stories about the innocence of children. Stories about skinned knees. Stories about tender kisses and hugs.

Why is it this way? Why these same stories? Becoming a parent changes your very being, so it shouldn’t make sense that something so epic could be distilled so perfectly into short, sentimental stories. But somehow they do. The story is just a drop of water, but it is the essence of a great ocean. This is why parents share these very familiar stories, because behind every one of those simple stories is a profound relationship with another soul.

Last night Norah woke up twice before midnight crying about her legs hurting. Both times I sprung out of bed and quietly but quickly walked down the hall to comfort her before she woke up Stella. Both times her face was wet with tears. She twisted around on the bed, reaching back to grab her calves and repeating the word “Hurt! Hurt! Hurt!” Both times I prayed over her legs and asked Jesus to take away her pain. I rubbed her legs and feet. I sang songs to her. Somewhere between the second and third song, she stopped sobbing and joined in during the few words that she understood. Slowly… very slowly… she drifted into sleep. After a few minutes of deep sleep, it was okay for me to tuck her blankets and return to my own bed.

On the third outburst of screaming, I told Candyce that I was out of ideas and that it was her turn to try to comfort Norah. Five minutes later, Candyce came back into the room and said with desperation and defiance: “Norah told me she doesn’t want me there. She wants you to help her.” So here I was, my third trip down the hall to comfort an agitated little three year old in the middle of the night.

I did the same thing. I prayed. I rubbed her legs. I sang. But after she fell back asleep, I decided to stay put, to keep holding her close and let myself drift into sleep.

I woke up four hours later to the sound of my cell phone alarm. It was time to get up for a full day of important meetings, maybe the most important meetings that I’ll host this year. I still had so much to prepare for in the two hours before the first meeting. But I pressed snooze anyway, not because I was dreadfully tired, but because it afforded me another few minutes to cherish the sweet sweet little girl whose warm breath fluttered on my cold cheek.

The two years of graduate school was punishing for me, mostly because I had to steal time away from my family for class, meetings, homework. Class. Meetings. Homework. Then I came home to a loving but tattered little family. Norah took it the hardest. Her little heart was raw, and it showed up sometimes in bad behavior, but mostly in tears. I did my best to make time for her every day, but some weeks and months were impossibly busy. It’s a terrible day when you are too busy to see your own child.

On those difficult days, I would wake up in the middle of the night and give Candyce a kiss on the cheek. Then I’d walk down the hallway to find a sleeping Norah. I laid next to her, scooped her into my arms, told her how much I loved her and then fell back asleep. I would be gone by the time she woke up, off to fight another day. My hope was that even if she were not alert to the fact that I held her that night, maybe her little heart, her little soul would somehow feel closer to her Dad.

You hold your child because you think they need you. And in for that abrupt moment, that’s true. But the truth is that you hold your child because you need them.

Busy Busy June and July

Travel has been pretty intense through June and July…

  • San Diego, CA (Post graduation trip with the family)
  • Pittsburgh / Steubenville, Ohio (Franciscan University Youth conference)
  • Kansas City / Atchison, Kansas (Benedictine College for LTLC)
  • Prescott, AZ (Camp Tepeyac)
  • San Diego, CA (Family Vacation)
  • Hiawassee, GA (Family Visit with parents)
  • Atlanta, GA (Steubenville Youth Conference)
  • Tiger, GA (Family at Camp Covecrest)

I don’t know if there will be time to reflect on the experiences that I had in each of those places. I’ve got plenty of stories and cool photos, but not enough time to collect them into a blog. It’s a good thing that Candyce has a blog too.  Soon she will stack her blog with photos and sweet memories.

This recent 2-week vacation to Georgia (we got back a couple days ago) was really good for our family. I got to spend a lot of time with my daughters, with Candyce, my parents, sisters, brothers, and my grandmother. I also spent a lot of time with teenagers (2500 at Steubenville, 220 at camp) who benefit from my hard work throughout the year at Life Teen. It was encouraging.

Just for fun, I’ll be impulsive and write about whatever is on my mind. I’ve got 20 minutes before I have to go.

  1. I need a haircut. We’ve been out of town so much that I couldn’t schedule in a trim with my barber here in Tempe. I told myself that I could get a haircut while out of town, but we were always having so much fun that it seemed like a waste to ruin the party by driving down the street for a haircut. I don’t even recognize myself in the mirror.
  2. Oil change. Seriously, it’s been over a year since I’ve changed the oil in my car. While I was in Georgia I rented a loaded Chrysler 300. I love that car. It was fun to ride around in style.
  3. Recession etc. My classmates and I felt confident back in 2009 that by the time we graduated in May 2011, the recession would have passed and the economy would be on the rebound. To a degree, we were right. However, the “rebound” is hardly a reality. I spent a lot of time with students entering college over the past few weeks, and each of them talked about how they were grateful that they could weather the recession through four years of college.
  4. Sharp-dressed man. It’s hard to dress well every day. My standard attire during the work week is a pair of leather shoes, chinos, and a shirt with a collar. I’ve been doing this for about three years and it has its benefits. But the downside is that I spend a lot of time ironing pants and shirts. When I meet the girls for lunch, Norah usually wrinkles/dirties/thrashes my well-pressed attire. I take it in stride, but again, it’s hard to dress well every day.
  5. ReadyMade. I learned this morning that my favorite magazine over the last 10 years is closing up shop. I think the Internet ran away with their zeal for DIY.
  6. Facebook. It gets boring in the summer. Every time I login I am remarkable uninterested. For the sake of documenting technology as it happens, Google+ started a few weeks ago. It may or may not be a replacement for Facebook, LinkedIn, and SomeThing Else.
  7. Rebuilding Interest. With school done, I’m trying to get up to speed with new technologies/trends/innovations/Apps.
  8. Compassion. There is a lot of hurt in this world. Everyone needs compassion and love.

Well, time is up.

Sweetest Saturday Morning

Saturday, May 19, 2011

This photo means so much to me. On my back is my precious Eleanor Grace. This is the little girl whose world was rocked by me leaving for two years of graduate school.

I snapped this photo early Saturday morning at REI, about twelve hours after I walked across the stage at graduation and received my diploma. We never bought the backpack, but we had a lot of fun running around the store, jumping in and out of isles. I could hear her giggling in my ear. She swooned my name with such joy.

I can’t help but be surprised how the memory of this morning almost feels nearly as sweet at the day Norah was born. There wasn’t anything particularly exciting about the morning. Candyce was hosting her ladies prayer group at our house, which meant that Dad and I needed to take Norah and spend the morning away from the home. We spent some time at the coffee shop, and then explored a mall before any of the stores were open. We finished with an exploration of REI.

It was my father, my oldest daughter, and me. No place to be, but completely happy spending time together. There was no distraction from work or graduate school. Just family. Just happiness.