Tuesday, September 30, 2008

All My Life's a Circle

I love this picture. I am three years old standing in my grandparent's living room wearing a t-shirt that reads "Shady Oak Fish Camp." The look of amazement, bewilderment, concern and surprise is due to the message coming from the other end of the phone. My parents are calling me from the hospital and telling me that I have a brand new sister. "Her name is Erica" they told me. I am so grateful my Grandma thought to take the picture.

I got another phone call today. This phone call was from my little sister, Erica, who is now all grown up, 31, married and living in Boston. She called me from the hospital. She had a baby girl.

Funny how life always seems to find a way to work itself out, to make the edges round, to become the same all over again, to come full circle.

These are the best parts of life, aren't they? There is nothing I enjoy more than seeing the face of a friend who is a father or mother for the first time. Knowing what they are going through, the experiences and emotions I have felt, they now have too. They are different, but in the end, they are very much the same.

All of us, humans, if you will, just trying to carve out a space in this world, trying to build relationships with people from father, mother, brother, sister, friend, co-worker or the stranger walking by that nods and smiles, hello. We're all better because of each other. Today, I am better because my sister and her husband know one of life's greatest joys. They are the parents of Austin Elouise Maite Archabal.

So I welcome my niece into this world and hope that in 25-30 years or so she has the same experience her mother is having now. I hope she realizes that this is a joy passed down through every generation, through every person that has ever lived.

I would be remiss if I didn't reference my favorite Harry Chapin song here. As you many know, Harry Chapin is best known for his song "Cats in the Craddle" but his best work is burried on albums that aren't mainstream, with songs that never made it to the radio because they were deemed too long. Why are we in such a big hurry?

Here is Harry Chapin singing, "Circle" - it runs about five minutes long, but I am sure if you look close enough you can find the relevance in your own life, and more importantly, the lives of everyone around you. Don't be in a hurry, sit back and enjoy.

The lyrics are below.

by Harry Chapin

All my life's a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
Moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.

All my life's a circle;
But I can't tell you why;
Season's spinning round again;
The years keep rollin' by.

It seems like I've been here before;
I can't remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;
That we'll all be together again.

No straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;
There's no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.

I found you a thousand times;
I guess you done the same;
But then we lose each other;
It's like a children's game;

As I find you here again;
A thought runs through my mind;
Our love is like a circle;
Let's go 'round one more time.


Monday, September 29, 2008

My sister is in labor!

She has allowed me to co-author her blog while she waits. You can read about it here: http://littlearch.blogspot.com/

Friday, September 26, 2008

Caroline perspective

I picked up Caroline from dance on my way home from work yesterday. Its always nice to have one-on-one time with any of my kids so I usually shut the radio off and we talk about things.

So I asked her what she thought Bella and Drew were doing at home with mom.

"Well, Bella is probably being good, watching tv or something," Caroline said, "Drew is probably going crazy because he's pretty much a meatball."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Caroline has a boyfriend

So there is a young man in Caroline's preschool class that apparently is head over heals for my sweet Caroline. To protect the innocent, I'll call him "Conner." So anyway, this Conner kid doesn't just have a little crush on Caroline, he like LOVES her. (Daina's words.)

Apparantly at the pretend center the other day, Caroline was making pretend pizzas and this kid started crying that he couldn't make pizzas with Caroline. He tries to hold her hand. He basically worships the very ground she walks on. Caroline likes him, you know, as a friend. She doesn't get the whole thing and just thinks its a boy being nice.

I'm onto you Conner. This is too early for me to be worrying about this. I knew the day would come when I would start sweating this stuff, but I imagined it was Bella when she was 15, not Caroline when she's five! I mean, the kid isn't even in kindergarten yet.

So Daina assures me that this Conner punk is actually a fine outstanding young man. A class act. When Caroline grows up she wants to be a pig farmer. Its cool to have dreams when you are five. This Conner kid, when he grows up? He wants to be a financial planner. Just like his dad, apparently.

Caroline came home from school the other day with pictures that Conner had made for her. These weren't made at preschool, they were brought from his home in his back pack and delivered to Caroline at the end of her half day class. I mean, I wasn't making mix tapes for girls until at least junior high. Passing notes with girls started around the same time. And now I have Pablo Picasso giving my little girl his art. What gives?

Caroline and I spoke. She can hang with this kid. Two conditions. No hand holding and no kissing. Caroline thought this was cool and agreed.

So come to find out today that Caroline and Conner had a lunch date at Happy Joe's today. I asked Daina who drove? Mom's were there with siblings so it was a controlled environment. They apparently had a great time and partied at the ski ball machine. Daina assures me that Connor is very nice, polite and comes from a good family.

And as much as I am joking throughout this post I am concerned how I am going to handle punk ass teenage boys making the moves on my girls. It aint going to be a pretty time for me. I have now turned into the Dad that I dreaded meeting as a kid. Those dad, like me now, know exactly what a young boy is thinking.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Slippers and Skim

Got Drew to bed around 8 last night and the girls were watching some Phineas and Fern garbage on TV. I said, "enough, turn it off, lets talk." So the three of us sat in the living room. We started with the standard questions from Dad.

"What did you learn at school today?" This was followed up with lots of "Well I played with so and so," and "I don't remember."

I also try to remember to ask "What did you do today that was nice for someone else?" This was followed up by "I held the door for the class, I picked up my friends paper on the floor" that kind of stuff.

"So, Bella" I said, "What did you have for lunch today?" Her eyes lit up, she had some material and she was going to share it.

"Well dad, I had salad bar and skim." Bella said.

"Skim?" I asked. "Do you mean skim milk?"

"Yeah, Dad, I had skim."

Daina would later confirm that for the first week at school she was drinking something called "Whole."


So then they wanted to play the "Guess the person game" - which is basically 20 questions. Is it a boy? Is it someone we know? Are they on TV?, you get the idea. We had everyone from Jesus, Uncle Wolfgang and Hannah Montana's friend on her tv show.

So it comes to Caroline's time to have us ask her the questions. Bella goes first. "Is it a girl?"

Caroline nods yes.

"Is she in a movie?" I ask.

Caroline nods yes and says, "And she wears glass slippers!!!" as if the hint was a good one.

Bella yells "Cinderalla"

Caroline screams, "Yes! You got it!"

I'm lucky to be their dad. Good times.

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's going to get louder....

So I had the kids all day yesterday while Daina worked. I got them up at about 7 a.m. and we were on the road at about 7:30. We have a plan for mom's birthday that the kids are helping me on. This was to be a big secret, but Drew blew my cover five minutes after Daina came home.

There are some things that Daina still doesn't know about this surprise and it won't be posted here until "The Big Reveal" - sorry, I digress, too many home improvement shows. I am going to digress further. The problem with home improvement shows is that I watch them, get a lot of great ideas, but never get motivated enough to do anything with my own house, except for staining the stuff I have, which I did yesterday, for the third time for the deck, but I digress further.

So after our 8-9 a.m. adventure the kids were squawking for breakfast. I wanted to introduce them to the Waveland Cafe. Now they have been to the new Waveland in Boonville, IA, but the one on University in Des Moines, is old school, righteous and ideal for a Sunday morning. Its great greasy spoon fare with terrible service and poor cleaning ethics, but mom wasn't around and Big Red wanted a Lumberman. A lumberman is a plate of hashbrowns, topped with four biscuits, topped with two fried eggs, and then a bunch of sausage gravy. Like I said, mom wasn't around. We parked and walked to the door to find people standing outside. Boo. I knew my crew couldn't wait.

"McDonalds?" I asked, figuring it was a quick and cheap solution right around the corner.

"No McDonald's!" yelled Bella from the back seat.

"What, why?" I asked.

"Because they don't have toys for breakfast!" Bella informed me. (Note to McDonald's - breakfast happy meal people, get with it!) I digress again.

So we hit the HyVee for breakfast. French toast and bacon a plenty. No happy meal toys, but plenty of happy faces.

Straight from HyVee to church. Caroline and Drew made it to their Sunday school classes and Father Vince had a great homily about being generous. I guess that's all well and good but then I looked at my check book register. I guess I'll have to be generous later.

Quick stop after church at home for pasta lunch. No spaghetti sauce, but butter, parmasean cheese and some sort of Italian spice I bought six months ago that is running on empty. There were like six different selections, but we are now on the last two. "I want mine with butter, cheese and spice" Caroline said, "Me too" said Drew, "Just butter and cheese" said Bella. I got it right.

I made those kids scarf their meals down and we made it to Drew's Flag Football practice right on time. Big game against the Panthers next week so we actually started running plays today. The whole idea that three year olds can comprehend the game makes my encouragement from the sideline seem even all that more ridiculous. Drew would see someone bending over to hike the ball and he would get in front of them and get in the same position, all the while his but in some unexpecting kids face. Sometimes Drew would tip over. Each time he laughed. Its great to see him just standing there looking into the clouds thinking about stuff, thinking about anything other than the task at hand. What do I care, he's three.

Home from flag football and its "Happy night night time" - kids down for a nap. I stained the deck for a couple of hours, she's all done for now, or at least I thought it was until Daina pointed out a spot to me when she got home.

So Daina gets home at about 7 and I made dinner. Tacos, from a box, not the meat, but the rest of it was. At this point I told Daina that I need about 15 minutes of quiet. I somehow found a beer in the fridge - and it was a good beer, a micro brew I actually bought at a company auction a year prior. It had aged well. It was like found treasure. I went upstairs and geeked out on football for about 15 minutes and came back downstairs.

"You feeling better?" Daina asked.

"Yeah, just needed a little quiet" I said, "I've had the kids all day and it was getting loud."

"Well," Daina says holding her pregnant belly, "It's going to get louder."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Chicken, a Snake and some Toilet Paper

Apparently the incident occurred during some kid related shuttle activity so I got the short version of the story from Caroline when I got home.

There was a bird, I am told by Daina that it was a hawk or some kind of predator. I'm going with a hawk. Although Daina described it as a hawk with talons and a large wing span. It was swooping down onto the street and eating some road kill that was recently unsuccessful crossing the street. As traffic came by, the hawk would fly up and then swoop back down when all was clear. The road kill I am told was a snake, but that's debatable. I've never seen a snake meet its demise on a suburban street, but that's the story Daina told me.

So Drew says, "What that chicken doing?"

Daina decided to turn the car around and go back to witness this bird of prey and its easy lunch. The kids enthralled.

Caroline says, "That freakin' chicken is eating a dead snake."


On they way home from a friends birthday party, we saw that the highs school had been toilet papered, AGAIN. Bella says, "Well it wasn't me!" Caroline says, "Those kids should clean up that mess and apologize." Guessing she heard that from her mother. I said to her, "Caroline, you're pretty funny." To which she replied, "Yeah dad, you should put that on the blog. And the freaking chicken."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bella reaches a milestone

As of this month, Bella's 2nd cornea transplant has reached one year. She went to Omaha to see her doctors a couple of weeks ago and everything looks great. 18 months with the transplant is the real hurdle but we are miles ahead of where we were with the first transplant.

I still find it amazing what the combination of great doctors and a child with the most amazing resilience I have ever seen can achieve. Not to mention a strong mother that makes all of it come together.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Flag Football

High drama and comedy at the YMCA fields are granted - provided you show up with a three-year-old who is interested in playing flag football. Yes. They start at three years old. So Drew, doesn't really get the concept. He understands that part of the game involves pulling off people's flags. We have had two practices so far. Our third practice is Sunday at 1. Then the games begin.

Drew, wears #7 for his team, "The Jayhawks" - don't even get me started on that. Anyway. My little #7 has a blast running around the field, learning to hike, hand off and "play defense." Basically this is a good excuse to run. And certainly wears the boy out for nap time at 2 p.m.

So back to this not understanding thing. Since it has only been practice, Drew and his teammates have been scrimmaging (if you can call it that) against each other. The ball is hiked to one kid, he hands it to another kid, kid with the ball is prompted to run and the rest of the team chases him around trying to get the flags. Pretty simple, right?

Either Drew is not very fast or his athletic pants are too big. Probably blessed with his father's gift for speed. He'll break no records but certainly gives it his all. Drew has never caught the guy with the ball. Yet, he has managed to catch #10. I think the kid's name is Quincy or something. He is slower than Drew and they basically compete for bringing up the rear of the pack, with Drew smiling the whole time. So the play will break up with no one ever catching the kid who actually has the ball. But that doesn't stop Drew. Drew goes and takes the flags, both of them off of #10. This wouldn't be as amusing if 1. #10 didn't cry, 2. Drew didn't laugh, and 3. It didn't happen 30 times during one practice.

Pictures of the big game soon.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Potty training

Drew is about 95% there when it comes to going on the potty. He wears a pull up diaper through the night and usually wakes up dry clamoring to go in the potty. When he does go potty, he does a pee pee dance, and sings "Drewy made a pee-pee" over and over again. He sings it to the rhythm one would do a conga line too. During the day time he is all about big boy underwear and is pretty proud of himself.

He will occasionally have issues, shall I say, going #2 in the potty. Sometimes he sneaks off into the playroom and goes in the girls little dollhouse tent thing and pinches one off. He knows he shouldn't but he does. He hasn't reached the "low maintenance point" quite yet. We're getting there.

Tonight, I was trying to wind him down as he sat next to me in the bed watching some football drinking his cup. All of a sudden he start making these weird noises and I am convinced I will be cleaning up dirty beep beep underwear. So I say, "Drew, did you just go potty in your pants?"

"No Daddy," he says, "I didn't poop, I just yawning, I just tired."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Baby names

So most of you probably know that we are expecting, again, yes, that would be four, and no need to remind me how it happened cause I know. And quite honestly we are thrilled.

We decided to wait until after the first three months to tell the kids. We decided to go to Cold Stone and have some ice cream and tell them there. The kids all went for the cotton candy flavored ice cream mashed with marshmallows. Yeah, not what I would have chosen but I am sure the sugar high was great. This ice cream color was smurf blue and the marshmallow were aplenty.

As we were eating ice cream we told the kids that mom indeed have a baby in her tummy. There was speculation, the kids had seen an ultrasound pic, and we had told them all along we thought there might be a baby in there but we had to be sure though.

Caroline was very interested. Is it a boy or a girl? When will it be here? Where will it sleep (We have four bedrooms, four kids, plus mom and dad so this was big stuff to consider for Caroline.) Then Caroline asked, "What will we name it?" Caroline had a girl name already picked out. "Lilly" was her choice. Any boy names? Caroline didn't have any boy names, so we asked Drew.

"Drew, what would you name the baby? Drew replied, "Marshmallow Ice Cream"

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

37 Years

As of September 4, that's how long my parents have been married. After successfully raising three kids who have avoided jail time or any major self inflicted drama I have to applaud this feat. You see, its because of them that my sense of self is strong, that my family values are so important, that I love my children as much as I should, that I laugh as much as I do.

They have been married all of my life, like it should be for all kids. Growing up, I took for granted the fact that divorce surrounded us. It effected everyone of my cousins, too many of my friends and even ended great friendships my parents and had created.

As a child, I remember my parents arguing once in front of me that I can remember. Mom got mad and went to the the bedroom. Dad sat there with a blank look on his face - not knowing what to do. It appeared that he had never had to comfort her after a fight so didn't have a clue as to what to do next. My sister and I went to my room and worried that they would get a divorce. That seems almost laughable today. My parents will always be together, that was the true certainly and the only real truth I knew as I grew up. That was everything to me. It still is.

My parents love for each other inspires me to be a better husband, a better father and a better man. Even though I know I will never live up to the high expectations that they have set for all three of their kids. The bar is set pretty high. I suppose if I can do half a good a job as they did I will have to consider my life, my marriage and my family an overwhelming success.

I love this picture because there are so many stories I could tell about this moment and about these people. The story that is most worth telling is that this picture to some extent represents my parents life's work. Three happy kids, and their adoring spouses. I'm not sure who is luckier, my parents or their children. And that is definitely a debate worth having.