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cap10k_1212

This is my race bib for the Cap 10K. It’s my first race bib. This bib is yellow. Most bibs are white. This bib is yellow because I was going to run 6.2 miles in less than 45 minutes, and I was to be a “seeded” runner. That meant that before the starting gun, I would’ve lined up at the front of the other 18,000 runners. I would’ve been been lined up with other “seeded” runners. And behind the “elite” runners. Like the Kenyan guys.

I’m not running in my first 10K because two weeks ago I wiped out on a skateboard and injured my right foot so badly that I haven’t been able to put a running shoe on that foot since. I haven’t been able to run in two weeks and because of that, there’s a omnipresent void in my life.

In July of last year, for whatever reason, I put on a pair of Nike Lunarfly’s that were hand-me-downs from a friend. I went to the track at the local middle school and I ran a mile. Since that didn’t kill me, I went out two days later and ran two miles through the neighborhood. Before I knew it I found myself waking up before my alarm and the sun, and I was running 5.25 miles every day. And I was getting faster. I broke a 9 minute per mile pace. Weeks later, I broke the 8:30 minute mile pace. I kept shaving off time. I kept pushing myself. I was alone with my thoughts, my music, my cadence, my stride, my pulse in my ear, my fulfillment. I was alone and I’d found a kind of spirituality.

I broke the 8 minute mile.

I’d fallen in love with running. Running was something I thought I’d never do again because I was too old and I’d deteriorate my knees. My knees are fine — they love me. My right hip is another story. I have to treat my right hip like a high maintenance drama queen with whom I’ve had a 20-year love/hate relationship.

I was feeling really good and I was happy every day that I ran. I lost 25 pounds. I was eating right and fueling my body. I got my pace down to 7:15. On a really good day, I’d get damn close to 7 minutes. I had friends convince me to go on 10-mile runs. Never in my life would I have considered running 10 miles. Now I was waking up at 5 a.m. on weekend mornings to run long distances. For fun.

I was fueling my spirit.

On the eve of what would’ve been my first organized 10K I’ll have a pep talk with my right foot. We’ll run far and fast again soon.

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A really bad dream

I didn’t know what time it was. Somewhere in the early hours of the morning because the house was still pitch black. I heard it first. Elise was still asleep. I don’t know how I knew, but I could just tell that she was in bed next to me, not aware of what was going on.

I heard it again. I strained to hear it a third time. And I did. She sounded so far away. She sounded like she was being hurt. Our youngest was screaming and crying from her bedroom on the other side of the house. And it wasn’t a normal cry out that would usually indicate that she’s scared or hungry. This was a cry out that she needed help. Something was happening to her. There was a waver in her wail that allowed my subconscious to convince me that the waver was created by her crying and screaming while she was being carried away.

I swatted Elise twice on the leg as I began barreling out of bed. I didn’t make my attempted leap over her. She was out of bed and running just as quickly as I was. We made it to Mara’s room in no time. In the seconds that it took for us to get to her room, the cries persisted. While unsettling, it was reassuring that the cries were isolated to her room. She wasn’t being carried by a poltergeist.

Elise turned on the hall light, which allowed us to see well enough into Mara’s room. Her arms and legs were curled up underneath her stomach and she was still letting out her terrified screams. I don’t remember who spoke first, but we made her aware that we were there and that everything was going to be okay. I don’t think we wanted to immediately lift her out of her crib for fear of startling her too much. I think we both considered the notion of our baby enduring some kind of night terror. While we collectively know absolutely nothing about night terrors, I think we surmised that a victim should be given room in case panic strikes.

All of this has happened within seconds.

I was as our daughter seems to be coming to. While breathing very heavily, as if fighting for her life, she tries to pull herself up onto her feet. This is the part that has burned a horrifying image into my mind. I just remember her trying to get up. She’s mustering every last drop of adrenaline to fight and bring herself to her feet in her little, safe crib. As she tries with all of her might, still crying, she legs and knees are wobbling. She looks like a newborn calf or foal, trying to stand for the first time. She looks like that video of the Iron Man triathletes when their legs just won’t work any longer. They fall and as hard as they will themselves, they can’t come up again. Physically done. Victimized. She couldn’t pull herself up and I know she was still terrified. I knew it probably seemed a lifetime before realizing our presence and feeling one of our physical touch.

I stepped before Elise and pulled our daughter up out of the crib. I couldn’t stand seeing her so helpless while trying so hard. I held her as Elise checked her over. Nothing was physically wrong with her as far as we could tell. It wasn’t long after we’d held our child that the screams and fright subsided. Apparently something was after her in her subconscious. She was scared. She was trying to escape and she screamed and cried out for help. Her mom and I were scared. The sound of your own child’s scream of fright & terror, and the sight of her physical helplessness are thankfully few and far between.

Mara slept with us that morning. She was burning up after – I guess we’re resolving to it being – her dream. I think she spiked a fever because the body’s natural response is to put off heat to “burn away the bad.” It wasn’t long before she was okay. We gave her water and made sure she was okay and comfortable enough to talk to us. I think the three of us had to allow time for our respective panic to subside. Eventually we all finally fell back to sleep, comfortably in Elise’s and my bed.

Seeing and hearing your child in that state is terrifying. It’s such a scary & unnerving feeling that sits with you for too, too long. And knowing that your child had to endure that experience is equally unnerving. Again, I’m just thankful this isn’t “normal” for us.

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Monthly Mara Letter: Month 21

Dear Mara,

You turned 21-months old today. This is your vocabulary:

“Hawaii” = hold me
“Mia” = Maly
“Baja” = Ghostbear
“Two Meows” = both cats’ individual name

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Thievery and a life lesson in colored wax

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We recently learned that our eldest took (I’m having a hard time typing the word “stole”) five Crayons from her school art class and brought them home. I don’t know how or why Elise found these particular Crayons among the thousands that our daughter already possesses, but she found them, confronted her, and now we’re faced with providing a life lesson on the subject of taking things that do not belong to us.

The challenge and end goal is for us to teach our daughter that stealing is wrong and has its consequences. We are in the throes of teaching her why it’s wrong, and coaching her through an exercise in humility and honesty. She’s going to have to admit to her wrongdoing, replace the Crayons and ask for forgiveness. Yesterday was the day that restitution was to be made. She took the five Crayons back to school and we expected her to return them to her art teacher and make amends. Elise has, for the most part, spearheaded this new exercise in parenting. I’m in the periphery, learning how “we” are handling this situation.

My daughter and I went for a walk yesterday evening and had the following conversation.

“Hey, I wanted to ask you about something. Let me preface this by saying that you’re not in trouble. Your mom told me about the Crayons and I wanted to ask you about it. Did you take them back to school today? What did you tell the teacher? And what did she say?”

“Oh. Yeah. I, um – I took the Crayons back to school but all of them got all crushed up in my backpack, so I threw them away.”

I did not expect or prepare for that outcome. Of course my first inclination to say, “Oh, whatever. That’s the biggest lie I’ve ever heard come out of your mouth.” Of course I can’t say that to my 7-year-old angel during this teaching moment. Her response caught me completely off guard and I was at a loss for words. There was a long pause. I don’t remember exactly what I said to break the silence, but I knew I had to provide my feedback and insight. It wasn’t much longer before we were engaged in this topic that I’m sure is making my daughter anxious and uncomfortable.

The obvious points we’re driving home here are:

  • We’re going to have to replace the Crayons
  • What would happen if every student took 5 Crayons home without permission?
  • Taking something that doesn’t belong to us is wrong
  • We all make mistakes
  • We often covet things
  • We have to right our wrongs as best we know how

And with the above, I reiterated what Elise and her had already gone over. The Crayons are somehow going to have to be replaced and an apology needs to be rendered. It was a lesson for us both in talking out how this was going to be resolved. Thankfully our daughter had no issues with accepting the fact that what she’d done was wrong. The hard part for her was figuring out how she was going to deliver the apology. It’s obvious that she wants to avoid the humility part (the original Crayons were crushed and disposed of). I think this is the hardest part of the lesson – the taking ownership and the face time required in restitution.

She proposed that she write a letter to her teacher. I can appreciate and understand her thoughts here. I think many of us are programmed to avoid conflict and stressful situations at pretty much all costs. A letter would all but remove the humility element, as well as the awkward and scary face-to-face conversation with her art teacher. However, I explained that a letter wouldn’t suffice. I used the words humility, anxious, scary and nervous in explaining to her why she was going to have to do this in person. I went on to tell her the story of how my parents once caught me shoplifting at a store. I was hesitant to relay this story, and I didn’t dwell too much on the details, but I wanted her to understand that most everyone, at some point in their life, takes something that doesn’t belong to them. And, like she was going to have to do, I had to go back to the store with my dad, tail tucked way between my legs and swelling tears in my eyes, and confess, return the stolen toys and apologize. I wanted her to know that her mom and I both empathized, and that our jobs were to help her in learning how to fix this situation based on our respective life experiences.

So we continued on our walk. She realized that this was real and that she was going to have to take this huge step in making amends. And she started getting nervous. I implored her to think about what she might want to say. I reiterated to her what her message needed to convey: I did this, I’m sorry, and here is what I’d like to offer to right my wrong. We rehearsed a couple scenarios and she decided on: “Mrs. Teacher, I took five Crayons that are used to color on black paper. I’m sorry and wanted to give you these Crayons to replace the ones that I took and that were crushed in my backpack.”

When we returned to the house after our walk, she relayed her proposed message to Elise and me. We both praised her for her approach. We suggested that she tackle this humbling experience as soon as possible, preferably this morning. She said she wanted to wait until her next art class, which will be next Tuesday. Elise and I bit our tongues as our collective inclinations were to tell her that the longer she puts this off, the heavier it’s going to weigh on her conscious. I think this concept might be a bit much for a 7-year-old to digest, so we’ve left it to her to decide how and when she wants to take care of her business.

So we’ll see how she does next Tuesday. Given the recent experience, I think she’s going to avoid this conflict again. If that’s the case, Elise or I are going to have to make arrangements to go to school with her and play mama bird, nudging her out of the nest and into the big, big world of humble beginnings.

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Overdue daddy and daughter day

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The first day of the new year was spent having a much-needed Daddy & Daughter day with Maly. For whatever reasons, she and I just haven’t hung out lately. Since it was New Years Day, the whole house was off to a late start. After a late breakfast, I gave Maly a belated Christmas present, which was a pair of roller blades. She’d long since outgrown her roller skates, and we’d put off buying her a new pair for over a year.

After I’d taken care of an hours worth of chores, Maly and I went outside to try out the new roller blades. We went up and down on the sidewalk a few times, Maly on her roller blades while desperately holding onto my hand so as to not fall. After a few slow runs down the street we decided to go in the house for lunch.

I made her favorite: Greek salad. After lunch, and because we’d spent the majority of our Christmas vacation in Des Moines sick with the flu, we extended Christmas by watching A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”) in the living room.

After the movie we played on the Atari Flashback. We played Frog Pond, Sky Diver, Hangman, Space Invaders, Yars’ Revenge, Asteroid, Basketball and Steeplechase. After an hour or so of Atari, Maly said she wanted to go back outside and try out her roller blades again. We sat on the driveway and I showed her how to put them on herself. After taking another run down our sidewalk she asked if we could go around the block. I obliged. We made a long trip of it and talked about nothing and laughed.

We made it back to the house where we found ourselves just sitting in the yard. Maly played with one of her toy ponies in the leaves. I just sat there and watched her play.

At some point we migrated to the backyard. She pulled weeds around her playhouse. We played dragons for a while. She was a water dragon. I was a fire dragon. Playing dragons really just meant I chased her around the yard.

At some point she decided she wanted to go inside. I don’t remember what the context was, but Maly proudly told Elise that she and I’d had a good Daddy/Daughter day. And I smiled proudly. It wasn’t really intentional, but it was definitely a much-needed day of just hanging out with my daughter. I’m not a resolution kind of guy, but I’ve definitely resolved to spend more spontaneous and unplanned time like that with Maly.

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Monthly Mara Letter: Month 19

Dear Mara,

IMG_5652You turned 19-months-old today. Just in the past few weeks it seems like that magic little switch has been flipped inside of you – that one where you suddenly become kind of a functioning and coherent member of the family. It’s almost like you’re communicating with deliberation and some kind of intent. This is awesome because it affords us all countless new opportunities to interact with you.

Most notably in your newfound communication style is the drawing out of syllables, specifically in the word “more.” When you first learned this word, it was easy enough as you would say “mo” as you tapped your fingers together to give us the universal sign for more, which invariably meant more food. Now, it might be because you’re experimenting in your vocabulary, or it’s just the southern coming out in you, but the word has become three very distinct syllables: “MOOOO EEEEE YAAAH!” And “moo-eee-yaah” generally applies to most everything. You like to walk up to the closed refrigerator, point to the door and say, “moo-eee-yaah,” and the same goes for the pantry. Just this past week you learned that you really like dried prunes and apricots, so you get a kick out of retrieving the bags of dried fruit from the pantry, bringing them to your mom or me and saying “moo-eee-yaah” until we concede. This is also the case with the Halloween candy. We used to hide the Halloween candy in the lower kitchen cabinets and, while we have toddler-proof cabinet locks, you were able to open the cabinet door enough to look inside, see the trough of candy and say, “MOO-EEE-YAAH!!!” And as if saying it isn’t cute enough, you also look us dead in the eyes with your little orange eyebrows raised as if to imply, “hey, why not?! Give me one good reason why this isn’t the most awesome idea ever!”

IMG_3593One of my favorite things is that you seem to have figured out that I’m Daddy. You know “mama” for mom, and “mia” for Maly, and “meow” for the cats, and I used to be “mama” as well. But just recently you said, “hi Daddy,” so I think you’re finally putting two-and-two together and realizing who’s the one who’ll actually give you moo-eee-yaah Halloween candy.

You still have an undying fascination with airplanes. I’m more conscious of their overhead existence, but you catch each and every one that passes over. And I know exactly what you’re talking about when you say “ah-pane.” I envy this fascination, and I hope it, or something equally fascinating and something that adults otherwise take for granted, sticks with you. And airplanes are a pretty cool thing in which to take an interest.

IMG_5657Watching television is “hup-bah?” This is after a couple Saturdays past that I’ve excitedly asked you, “do you want to watch Texas football?!” So, “hup-bah?” is “football,” which equates to turning on the picture machine in the living room. Either way, it’s cute. You’ll sit down next to me on the love seat and look at the television set. You have no idea what’s going on, but I’m sure the scattered motion is interesting enough to watch. Invariably you’ll get bored however, and you’ll let yourself down off of the couch and find something to play with on the floor.

It still baffles me a bit, but you’re totally okay with going to bed. If your mom and I ask if it’s time for you to go night-night, you’ll nod your head and say, “night night.” And putting you to bed involves a bit of a ritual. For me, I’ll lay you down in your crib, lean over the railing and give you a kiss. Of course you’ll already have your Ghost Bear, and then we’ll have to put on your socks (you lift your feet into the air for this part), and then we turn off the lights and say “whoa!” at the glow in the dark stars on your ceiling. And when we get you up and out of your crib in the morning or after a nap, you’ll turn, point at your crib and tell us, “night night,” so we know where night night is.

You get so excited and serious about the words and ability to communicate with us now, and I’m excited to see you grow, learn and develop the ability to communicate even more. And while it’s exciting, it’s scary and a bit saddening because it means you’re growing up too damn fast. Slow down, squirt!

I love you, Mars.

Love,

Daddy

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On first birthday parties

2013-10-31_1211We have birthday parties to attend this weekend. And they’re not our birthday parties, nor our friends’ birthdays. This weekend we have a series of birthday parties for little kids. I was reflecting this morning on when we were those parents, subjecting our friends and acquaintances to our child’s birthday party. Two weeks before our oldest’s first birthday, we’d sent out the invitations, we have the decorations and theme all coordinated, we had matching plates, plastic silverware, cups, napkins, streamers, balloons, pinwheels, and even flowers, planted in pots that we’d painted to match the party’s theme. It was ridiculous and time consuming. The night before the party, we had guests and family at our house from out of town. My wife was up until 3 a.m., working feverishly on our daughter’s first birthday cake. While I didn’t stay up quite as late, I was charged with making sure that camera batteries were charged and ready to record every riveting second of the festivities.

I think we put on a good first birthday party for our daughter. Our guests feigned enthusiasm. They ate pizza and cake. Our daughter ate pizza and cake. We sang the Happy Birthday song and told everyone about how quickly a year goes by when you have a child, like we were the only man and woman team on earth to experience and endure raising a child through its first year.

And for our second child’s first birthday, which occured this past April, the four of us sat at our kitchen table, and clapped as we watched her eat spaghetti noodles and a single piece of cake that we bought for her that afternoon at the grocery store.

Our second child’s first birthday festivities lasted eight minutes. Maybe. And we’re yet to watch the three hours of video footage from our oldest daughter’s first birthday party.

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Monthly Mara Letter: Month 18

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Dear Mara,

You turned 18-months-old today. You’re now a year and a half old. It’s amazing and scary how quickly a year and a half can go by. And it’s even more amazing how much you’re capable of growing, changing and learning in only a month. Your vocabulary continues to grow and evolve. You know most of the vowels now. You know all of the parts of the face, head, hands, fingers, toes and that the cat is not a cat but a “meeeew.” You’re very polite and know when and how to say “thank you.” When you’re eating, you’re very good about letting us know when you want “more” and when you’re “all done.” You’re still very fascinated by airplanes. Every one else in the family is trying to do a better job of being cognizant of when a plane is overhead. You’re doing a great job of saying, “ah-pay!” whenever you hear that subtle roar in the sky. I went to the toy store a couple weeks ago and bought you a toy airplane. It’s somewhat of a babyish airplane, and it’s not the one I was wanting to get for you. I want to get a die-cast scale model commercial airliner airplane for you. I think that’s what you’re looking for. We’re going to be flying to Boppa and Gran’s for Christmas this year. I wonder if you’ll understand and appreciate that you’ll be on an “ah-pay” this time.

IMG_3490I think your biggest milestone this month is your ability to run. It’s not very graceful, or straight, but your ability to get from point A to B faster is being honed. I think this is because you’re trying to keep up with your sister, or maybe the cat. Another cute thing is the “fast feet” thing you’ve started to do in the evenings when your mom or I are putting on your pajamas. You like to stand on our bed and kind of jog in place. If you’re doing it to me, I’ll laugh, move my head in closer to you while you’re doing “fast feet,” and then, invariably, I’ll gently push your belly so you lose your footing and fall backward. And then you get up and we start all over again. You like this game because you keep laughing. I like this game because I keep thinking that you’re training to be a running back.

IMG_3545And I’d say the most awesome quality that is continuing to grow with you is your sense of affection. I’ll find myself standing in the kitchen when all of the sudden, out of nowhere, I’ll look down to find you bear hugging my leg. Or we’ll be sitting on the floor or couch and you’ll randomly throw your arm around my neck and give me a big hug. Or when I’m carrying you, you’ll sometimes just put your head down on my shoulder. And what makes these random acts of loviness so awesome is that they are so random yet so perfectly timed.

Please don’t ever let go of that loving side. The opposite of love is fear, and life’s too short to live in fear. And especially don’t let go of that loving side with me. One day, whenever you’re a parent, you’ll understand how much it means for your child(ren) to love and care for you.

Just do me a favor and never stop being you. You’re adorable in every sense of the word and if you stayed this small, innocent, lovable and were only able to maintain your current 14% English language proficiency level, well, I’d be totally fine with that.

I love you, Mars.

Love,

Daddy

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Monthly Mara Letter: Month 17

Dear Mara,
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You turned 17-months old today.  I’m afraid to blink or turn around for fear that I’ll turn back and you’ll be 17-YEARS old.  You’re my reminder that life happens very fast, moments are fleeting, childhood is precious, and that cooked rice is much, much better tucked inside furniture crevices.

This month has brought with it your new ability to string two words together in something that almost resonates as conversational English.  You’re starting to say things like: “All gone!” and “Thank you!”

One of the huge highlights for not only you, but the rest of your immediate family is that you’re finally sleeping through the night.  And in your own room!  For the first 16-months of your life you slept with your mom and me.  Your mom transitioned you to a bed in your own room last week.  I think for the first few nights you would wake up, cry out, and your mom would spend the rest of the night in your room with you.  And now, ever since then, you sleep through the night in your very own room.  It wasn’t until a couple days ago that I really took notice of this new and welcome change in our house.

IMG_5597“Wasn’t there once a small, loud, crying, writhing and wailing thing that nestled in close proximity and 

used to keep us awake every night for over a year?”

“Yes, dear.  That was our second child.  She’s been sleeping in her own room for two weeks now.”

“Oh.  How nice.”

Part of our evening ritual before putting you to bed is to take you into your sister’s room to say goodnight.  Many years ago I covered your sister’s ceiling with little glow in the dark stars.  While I’m usually reading a Harry Potter book to your sister at the time, we’ll turn out the lights momentarily so you can see the stars on her ceiling. And with this you indulge us all in a “WHOA!”  You apparently get a kick out of glow in the dark stars.  I promise you I will get you your own stars for your room.

And when you wake up in the morning, you’re programmed to usually be in a good mood, and to be very observant of your surroundings.  You like to look and point at everything for which you have a name – BOOK - BIRD – FAN – BABY!  You’ve also become quite astute at standard animal noises.  You know “meow,” “woof,” ”moo,” and little noises like a chirp for a bird, hiss for a snake and a smacking sound for a fish.

IMG_3451You’ve taken a keen interest in dogs these days.  When I get home from work, I like to take you outside and we’ll just hang out and play or talk in the front yard.  There are always folks out walking their dogs, so when you see one, you like to rush over to the sidewalk or to the edge of the driveway and excitedly point, wave, look back at me and say “WOOF! WOOF!”  And I’ll acknowledge you and say, “yeah, that’s a woof!”  And you’ll maintain your genuine enthusiasm until the woof has passed by with his owner.  And then you’ll either blow a kiss or say, “bye bye” while waving.

And something that I’ve taken for granted and am guilty of not noticing are the airplanes.  You apparently have a thing for airplanes.  You notice them. You hear them before anyone else.  And you can look up and excitedly spot an airplane 4 miles up in the sky and say, “whoa!” and “plane!”  It’s really cute and bewildering at the same time.  Like I said, I guess I’ve just taken airplanes for granted.  And maybe they’re just a novel concept for you – but maybe they’re not.  Maybe you have a natural affinity for planes and flight.

And shoes.  You definitely have a natural affinity for shoes.  It’s ridiculous.  Cute, but ridiculous.

I love you more that you can imagine.  I love every fleeting moment and am blessed to have you in my life to remind me that life is so precious and short.  Now Please stop growing up so fast.

I love you, Sugar.

Love,

Daddy

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First day of Second Grade

First day of school today:
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First day of 1st Grade last year:
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First day of Kindergarten 2 years ago:
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First day of school 3 years ago:
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First day of school 4 years ago:
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First day of school 5 years ago:
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Monthly Mara Letter: Month 15

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Dear Mara,

You turned 15-months-old today. This month was chock-full of milestones, the most significant being that it was your first time to California and DISNEYLAND! And, of course, you’re not going to remember anything from Disneyland, so you’re probably going to want to go back at some point. Well, tough. We’ve already been there and done that. Sorry you were born when you were. We have some photos that you can look at later in life. I jest. Of course we’ll go back at some point. While you’re too young to remember most of what we did while in California, I think you had a good time. But you also have a good time eating bugs and pooping in the bathtub.

IMG_1150So this month we went to southern California. You were able to spend lots of time with your Aunt Lisa and Uncle Ron and Aunt Terri and Uncle Craig. We all went to Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, Disneyland, California Adventure and the beach. While the adults and big kids were able to ride the big rides, you had fun in the toddler and little kid sections of the parks, the merry-go-round at Disneyland and the Little Mermaid ride at California Adventure. And of course the zoo was a great experience for you, and you were able to tell us all how every animal in the zoo says, “moooooo!”

Your new favorite word is “WOW!” It’s amazingly adorable when you say ‘wow’ because you do it with such genuine excitement and enthusiasm. You raise your eyebrows and truly enunciate the “W-O-W!”

This month you also got your 7th tooth. So you now have four on top and three on the bottom. These extra teeth help to accentuate your already adorable crooked smile.

IMG_2939This month you learned a handful of new words. You can now imitate the sound of a bear, dinosaur, dog, cat. You also can proudly say “hippo,” “turtle,” “baby,” and “cheese.” You love to carry around and take care of whatever baby doll you happen upon in the house. You’ll carry said baby around and let us all know that you have a baby. And you’ll usually carry your baby around affectionately while saying, “baby baby baby baby baby” until you get bored or distraction, which will cause you to just drop the baby and leave her where she fell.

Whatever you do and whenever you reach a new milestone in life, it’s just so stinking cute because you do it your little dainty and precious ways. You’ve carved out your own little niche in the family. You have your own little personality, voice and idiosyncrasies. Usually I wait until 18 months, but I’ll go ahead and say that we’re going to keep you. Welcome to the team, squirt. We all love you around here and we’re in it for the long haul with you!

I love you, Sug.

Love,

Daddy

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Monthly Mara Letter: Month 14

Dear Mara,

You turned 14-months-old today. At 14-months I think you’re finally figuring out the benefits of communicating. While you’re insistent on letting us know that every animal, human and inanimate objects says “moo,” you’ve also learned the sign for “more.”

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You have also grow to appreciate and understand the value of kisses. You are now officially proficient and have excelled in the art of giving smooches and blowing kisses. When one of us can convince you to grace us with a kiss, you loudly do the whole “mwwwwah!” sound. And you’re very giving with blowing kisses to friends, family, strangers and moos alike, especially when ways are being parted.

IMG_2856There’s something that I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here: Ghost Bear. I don’t recall who gave him to you, but he is your security and comfort toy. Ghost Bear is a white teddy bear head on top of a soft, napkin-sized blanket which makes him look like a ghost bear, hence the name. You seek Ghost Bear whenever you’re tired, scared or sad and you always sleep with him. Yesterday I noticed how filthy he’d become. You usually snuggly closely with him. You’ll often gnaw on one of his ears. When he’s not needed, he’s on the floor, getting kicked around and stepped on. Your mom washed him yesterday and he went from a dingy grayish-brown to bright white again. I’m hoping you enjoy a cleaned Ghost Bear. As I’m typing this, you’re asleep in your crib with him. I wonder if he’ll be one of those things that’s hard to part with, or if he’ll be thrown out and forgotten in days soon ahead. It’s kind of sad to think of how a tangible thing that provides you with safety and comfort today might be lost and forgotten tomorrow. I might hang on to him forever for you.

IMG_2769Your interest in dolls has surfaced this month. When you’re not carrying around Ghost Bear, you’re usually lugging one of your sister’s dolls. You like to give your dolls kisses and tell us that your dolls say “moo!” You also like to try to carry two dolls at once, which is funny seeing how most of the dolls in our house are around the same height as you.

What else, what else. Ah, yes. You’ve also learned to sign for flower. To do this you wave your open palm in front of your nose and make a sniffing sound with your nose.

You’ve also learned to say “cat.” It actually comes out more like, “KAAAAAAAAA!!!” but you do acknowledge the existence of our cat. “Mara, where’s the kitty?”

“KAAAAAAAA!!!”

This month has also brought you the ability to give fives, of the high and standard/low variety. We do high fives whenever you do something cool, like put mud in your ear or eat a bug.

IMG_2792And more recently you’ve taken to reciprocating my head nods. Usually while you’re sitting in your high chair or across the living room from me and we catch each others’ gaze, I’ll toss you a simple head nod where I’ll lift my chin in your general direction; you, in turn, raise your head high, and then drop your chin to your chest, and then up again. It’s very exaggerated, but cute nonetheless. And you don’t have to try hard to be cute.

I love you, Sug, more than you’ll ever know.

Love,

Daddy

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Yesterday was Father’s Day

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Ever since my dad died six years ago, Father’s Day has been pretty bittersweet. I never really liked Father’s Day when my dad was still alive. Nor did I like Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day. I’m not a big fan of the Greeting Card Company made up holidays. This is due mostly because I have healthy relationships with my family. But, you’re still supposed to show your appreciation for this special person on their special day in some way special.

I would usually get my dad a card, and then I would struggle to figure out some kind of present to get for him. My dad was such a practical man that frivolous gifts were just that, and I never wanted to clutter my dad’s life. So, that usually left me to buy him a bottle of scotch. I’d buy him a bottle of Dewars and a funny card that would cut the awkwardness that was me giving my dad a token of my love and appreciation.

I decided that this year I would’ve purchase a nice knife sharpening gadget for my dad. I don’t think I’ve ever considered a gift for my dad since he died. This year I thought it’d be nice if I provided him with a practical gift — something that I knew he’d use. I’d see a table-mounted, motor-powered, belt-sanding knife sharpener at the local world’s most foremost outfitter a few months ago and thought to myself, “man, dad would probably get a kick (and a lot of use) out of that thing.”

I probably would’ve bought that gadget for my dad. And he probably would’ve been sincerely appreciative of the thought. Hell, the thing might’ve actually worked alright in helping my dad to sharpen his knives. But it’d probably never sharpen a knife to a razor’s edge like my dad could do with an old wet stone and some elbow grease.

I don’t know why I’ve been thinking of all this, or why I’m compelled to write it here. I guess I’m just reminding myself of something that my dad might’ve told me. Something like, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing the right way.”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you, and sure do miss you.

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