Archive for May, 2009

May 26, 2009

May 26, 2009

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A few quick tidbits to get us through the week.

Well – this is it. Our last post for May. We wrap up our  “Mother’s Month” theme with a few last helpful mom links below.

But first …

The month of June, I promise you, is going to be nuts On Fatherhood. My wife and kids are leaving for Japan, and I’m staying behind to complete our move to Washington, D.C. by myself.

I’ll be joining them in Japan in July – and I have some great ideas for the blog while I’m there – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

June is going to be like that scene in Apollo 13, where they slingshot around the moon to try to build up enough momentum to get back to Earth. You remember that? Basically, they commit to going around the moon, and losing all communication with ground control. They have no idea what’s on the dark side of the moon, or if they’ll even make it back – but they have no other choice but to venture forward into the blackness of space.

It’s going to be interesting month. I’m keeping the same two posts a week schedule. So be sure to check in periodically for tips on, say, “How to keep your cat from eating your houseplants while driving a mini van through congested Maryland traffic.” or “Ten reasons not to tell the moving company what you think of their deliberately slow pace.”

Or, one of my favorite things, “How to hang pictures on the walls of your new house under your wife’s instuctions… via webcam.”

It’s going be an interesting month On Fatherhood. I can just feel it.

And now for the jumps …

  • Making First Mother’s Day Special –  I know we have a few new babies and first-time parents in the crowd. And even though Mother’s Day has come and gone … this is the kind of stuff us guys should do as often as possible. It is so easy to get so wrapped up in parenting that we don’t notice if our marriages are unraveling. Take time for each other. This short article is a great example to follow.
  • Work It, Mom! – In the last post, we had a glimpse into the life of a single, working mom.  This link is to a site devoted to working moms. From the site: [ … It’s not easy to juggle family and career while maintaining your own sanity. We created Work It, Mom! because we believe that having a community where working moms can share their experiences, advice, and support can make that daily juggle a bit more manageable …]
  • Bad economy: Many moms resorting to unhealthy behaviors – Moms, do you lately find yourself turning to some sort of unhealthy behavior, such as gambling, drinking, drugs or overeating to deal with the bad economy. If so – you’re not alone. More than 60 percent surveyed said they have “intensely negative emotions.” But really, the economy could be wonderful – and we would still have deep stress in our lives. I’ve posted before about stress, several times, because I think it is poisonous, and because it usually gets downplayed in families. But, as this article shows, its important to notice it and keep in check. Maybe you’re not stressed – great. But if not, take a look around you and notice if anyone else is. Sometimes, to regain a healthy perspective, all it takes is to talk through problems and worries. Take care of each other.

More to follow … enjoy the jumps!

Precious moments

May 24, 2009

Barb 05My friend Barb is a single mother and works full time. You may remember her from our Earth Day post, when she made us the great planet illustration. She made this illustration too.

This week, as we round out May – which we devoted entirely to moms On Fatherhood – Barb reminds us that the quiet moments are the ones that matter most. And although parenting is challenging, we mustn’t forget that all too soon, it will be over and our children will have left our sides forever.

This is Barb, on being a single mom and cherishing the precious moments:

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Barb 01Like any other mother, I lead a fairly hectic and heckled life between making sure my three-year-old daughter Katrina has a balanced meal three times a day, washes her hands, says please and thank you, and puts her shoes on the right feet.

It was during one of the latter moments that I had a startling epiphany.

My daughter was attempting to put on a new pair of Sleeping Beauty sandals given to her by the mother of a little girl who had outgrown them. I watched quietly as Katrina first put them on the wrong feet, left on right and right on left, then she decided they were wrong and set about to fix it. Even in the utterly simplicity of the task, Katrina was talking to herself, verbalizing the mistake in order to reaffirm the idea of which shoe goes where. When she was done, she was mighty pleased with herself, even giving herself a little clap for a job well done.

Barb 04And then I realized that I am going to lose her.

I am a single mother serving in the United States Coast Guard. Not only do I play the role of ”mommy”, but I must also fill the shoes of “daddy”. So this epiphany did not strike me as a singular, one-day-she-will-fly-the-nest kind of moment, but I experienced it as an almost a death-like loss.

One day, Katrina will fly the nest. No longer will she need me to remind her of which shoe goes on which foot, or how to sit properly at a table. Soon she will need help with school work, then with picking out just the perfect gown for her prom, and finally what kind of wedding dress to have for her big day. And I will have lost that little girl who I wake up every morning at 6:30 a.m., fix her Fruit Loops and apple juice while talking through her ABC’s and 123’s.

These moments are precious to me.

Even the moments, when she wakes me up in the middle of the night when she has a “little accident,” (even when I have to be up at 5:30 a.m. to make the ferry into work,) are special.

Or when she jumps in that puddle after I just bought her those new shoes. Or the countless bumps, scrapes and falls she endures while growing up.

After my epiphany, of knowing she’ll someday be gone, I had to call my own mother. In a very reserved and quiet tone, (which is not like me) I told her what I had come to realize about being a mother.

Having grown up with three siblings who are all about my same age, my mother reminded me that not only did she have this feeling to deal with, but she had it four times over, with all her children flying the nest at the same time.

Barb 03She told me to be thankful I realized it now, and in so doing, she said, “Cherish every moment you have with her now. Cherish every precious little moment. It can be the most trying, most frustrating, most tiring time of your entire life, but one day she will be too big to pick up, and she won’t come running to you when she feels upset. One day she will come to you, look at you with a big grin and say, ‘Guess what, mom? I joined the Coast Guard! I’ll be shipping out in three weeks!’”

Thanks mom. Now I know what you went through. And those are some pretty big shoes to fill.

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May 20, 2009

May 20, 2009

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A few quick tidbits to get us through the week …

  • This is really cool. Our On-Fatherhood friend and fellow parent Stacey, who we featured in our last post, is a hero. Early Friday morning, she came upon an apartment building in flames near the Naval shipyard where she works, and helped save the occupants. The writers at her local paper tell it best.

  • Speaking of heroic moms, take a look at, Super-Mom meets her kryptonite. [ … As the myth goes, a mother is capable of Herculean feats when her offspring are confronted with danger. Supposedly it is these deep reservoirs that give us the ability to power through courageously where mere mortals falter …] It’s a short, fun read.

  • This is for my good friend Jason. Congratulations to him and his wife who just had their first baby. It’s a girl. (insert long “awwwe” sound here). Now I have learned, as a husband and father, there are some battles you just don’t pick. It wasn’t always that way, but I learn pretty fast. When I read this piece in a parenting blog in the New York Times, I found myself thinking three unrelated things: One, “I understand how you feel,” two, “Have you ever tried inserting your foot into your mouth?” and three, “Jason, my friend, don’t go there.” The article was an interesting perspective – but the nearly 250 (and counting) comments were the better story IMO. For any new parent out there … read the comments. They’re very educational.

P.S. – Thanks for the stogie, Jason!

More to follow … enjoy the jumps!

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When is a mother a mother?

May 18, 2009

[ UPDATE: This is really cool. Early Friday morning, Stacey came upon an apartment building in flames near the Naval shipyard where she works, and helped save the occupants. The writers at her local paper tell it best.]

Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother. ~Oprah Winfrey

Mother’s Day has come and gone. But we’re keeping our promise On Fatherhood to devote the whole month to Mom.

This week, I wanted to explore the idea of parenting children who are not one’s own biological children.

DSC_0104So I reached out to my good friend Stacey in Washington state.

Stacey married Brandon in December 2007.

Brandon had three boys from a previous marriage. The boys live with him, and rightly so – he is without a doubt a pure champion of a guy.

Stacey, madly in love but with no experience as a parent, took on the all-consuming role of raising them as her own.

She’s a fellow writer, and when I asked her if she’d be interested in doing something for the blog, she whole-heartedly agreed.

Here is the tail end of her e-mail when she sent me the draft. [ … Thank you for asking me to do this.  It’s a very introspective assignment. It’s kind of what I imagine therapy might be like … ]

How true it is. Writing sets us free.

And that is the goal of On Fatherhood: To experience, to share, to heal and to grow as parents.

As Stacey admits below, it’s been a hard road to a happy place. From the beginning, she’s struggled, and through the power of love, she’s overcome.

In her own words, this is her story.

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Two big brown eyes, on a little round face, stared directly into my soul.  Looking past my smile, they pierced through my physical being.  It was as if they could see deep into every secret, truth and falsehood, causing me to look away.

The other two sets of eyes seemed to painstakingly exert themselves to look at everything but me. They wander in every direction but mine.  Through the window, tracing the trim around the doors, the floor, left and right, never once setting a gaze, and never once settling on me. Their busy eyes resembled what you might see on shifty suspects in an interrogation room.

I wanted so badly for them to see and feel my warmth, my kind energy and all my goodness.

How could they if they don’t, if they won’t even look at me?

008_8As colossal of a decision as it may seem, taking on the joint task of raising three boys, the decision itself was one of the easiest I’ve ever made.  I’ve always felt like I had a lot of love to give, and who better to receive it, I thought.

Though I must admit, when I met my now-husband’s two, four and six-year-old son for the first time, it was not what I expected.

He made me laugh when the world wanted me to cry.  He made all the clouds clear from the sky.  There were times when no one else existed – just he and I and the music. We would sing and dance with our souls free.  Together, we felt happiness.
The powerful friendship and deep-rooted romance I shared with their dad, I soon found evolving into a new parenting partnership.

For months I studied them, like zoologist study their animals.  Their ever-changing little faces, morphing with each emotion.  Their protruding bellies, warts, skinny little arms and legs.  There were scary, interesting, shocking, and appalling observations.

Every day was exciting and brought new challenges.

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I evaluated their moods and temperaments, and learned.

I came to notice the right moments to open my arms for a hug, to be met by a warm reciprocating embrace.

Physically caring for them came naturally.  But the dynamics of both families combined into a powerful spinning mass that any wrong move had the potential to cause devastating effects.

It created a tremendous amount of pressure.

I was crushed by whirlwind moments of family discord.  Often, I tried to wear a smile, but my heart ached.

This brought many questions in the beginning. Will the children ever look at me with eyes of love?  Will I be the kind of parent they need?  Will our families ever accept the situation?

Never had I been more insecure. I had never put myself into a situation that made me feel as completely vulnerable as I did then.

I arrived at a point where I realized the only way to find truth was to live my way into the answers.

I knew I had to let go of the fear, and embrace the unknown.

I could give the world my very best and nothing more.

I had to believe I would never live up to everyone’s expectations, only my own.

Realizing this has allowed my love for the boys to grow freely without the restraints of fear.

Love so strong draws on emotions, and feelings I’ve never known possible – feelings only a mother can know.

DSC_0317I remember one of my first “momma-bear” moments when Elijah, the oldest of the three, was riding his bike down the street. A car came speeding down the road, and blew through a stop sign.

It was hands-down one of the most terrifying near misses I have ever experienced in my life.

Or when he was attacked by an angry swarm of yellow jackets. I found myself scraping bees off his body with my hands and feet as he helplessly dropped to his knees in front of me.

Then there was blubbering cry-fest in my car, after dropping Jonah off at his classroom on his first day of Kindergarten.

DSC_0086He gave me a kiss and walked right in, turned around with a huge smile and simply said “Bye.”  He was so brave.

You’d think he was the one who would be crying.  But it was me who sat in the car with a tear soaked lap. I waited 20 minutes before I could see well enough to drive home.

I’ll never, ever forget the day Aidan proclaimed, “Today was the best day ever – I beat Chris today!”

Chris was the best second-grade tetherball player in the whole school.  Aidan was among the kids who had felt the sting of Chris’s defeat.

I watched him practice every day in hopes of claiming victory.

034_34And when he finally did, he radiated a sense of accomplishment. Seeing his wide-eyed, tooth-filled smile, I remember feeling proud in a way I had never before known. Stout-chested, I thought, “that’s my boy.”

I’m fortunate to be the parent of such amazing kids.

It’s been more than four-years and we’ve lived our way into the answers to the questions we started with.

As a family, we are forever learning, growing and looking outward in the same direction together.

Persistence and patience have paid off.

I’m ecstatic to finally say that my children now look at me with the eyes of love I’ve longed for.

DSC_0139I feel purposeful and successful in my role.

The boy’s don’t call me “mother”, but they are very much my children.

And that’s what matters most.

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May 13, 2009

May 13, 2009

humpday-jumps3

On Fatherhood surpassed 1000 hits this week. That’s pretty cool.


A few quick tidbits to get us through the week …

  • I tell my boys I’m not afraid of anything. Truth is, I’m scared to death of losing them. Did you know May 25 is National Missing Children’s Day? [With a focus on prevention, the campaign encourages parents, guardians, and other role models to spend time talking to kids to teach them ways to be safer.] I don’t want my kids to live with fear – who does? There is a natural tendency to avoid talking about this stuff with our little ones. I have found there are ways to educate them, without scaring them. We don’t need to explain why, or go over all the frightful scenarios with them. They just need to know what to do and what not in different situations. We go over the rules periodically at our house: the stranger rule, the touching rule, the gun-at-a-friend’s house rule. “What do you do if …” 
     
  • My friend Glen Rosenholm, fellow father, journalist and lover of trees, sent me this article from Philly.com: I’m a bad mother, and that’s OK. An excerpt: “It’s not about flaunting bad parents … it’s about being honest about motherhood – not lowering our expectations, but changing them . . . One woman’s secret can be another woman’s solace or solution.” The article also mentions www.Grumpymoms.com [part of the “bad-mommy” confessional genre, both online and in print, that has exploded in popularity in recent months as it exposes the less-than-blissful side of motherhood.] Many thanks for the link, Glen.
     
  • The ball is now in Mom’s court: Here’s a revealing study that basically breaks down how kids, specifically teens, think. If It Catches My Eye: An Exploration of Online News Experiences of Teenagers – looks at what drives the online news consumption of young people. This is insightful in today’s world where we see newspapers folding by the dozens, everything migrating to the web, and marketers going to great lengths to reach increasingly segmented audiences – especially teenagers.


More to follow … enjoy the jumps!

The thought that counts

May 11, 2009

Mother's Day 2009Five years ago, my wife and I started a spur-of -the-moment tradition.

We decided that every year on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, instead of buying something, we would make gifts for each other.

She was about eight months pregnant with our oldest son Philo, pictured above. I made a drawing of her holding a baby that I imaged our unborn son might look like.

I was way off.

boysBut oddly enough, the baby I drew is a perfect match to our second son (left.)

I wanted to photograph all the gifts from Mother’s Day past, to share here On Fatherhood.

I asked my wife if she could dig them out, but they’re sort of all over the place. We moved in December, and are moving again in June. We’re not exactly settled. Digging through random boxes was not her idea of a fun Mother’s Day.

O.K., perfectly understandable. It’s her day.

But next year, I’m diggin’ them all out and turning the kitchen counter into a small photography studio.

I did find one of the gifts today in a basket near the coffee pot. Our oldest son, Philo, was two years old when we made it in 2007. I asked him on the down low what he wanted to make Mom that year. Without hesitation, as if he’d been planning for it, he said. “A pink turtle.”

O.K., great idea. It’s his gift.

He loved turtles, still does, and then at two years old, he probably thought, “Well, I love turtles, therefore everyone must love turtles.” It wasn’t until he was older that her learned different people like different things. Mom, for example, likes butterflies.

We kept it real simple that year: A Dremel, some scrap wood from the shed, Gorilla Glue, and two coats of pink paint.

Pink turtle 1, 2007Voila! Pink turtle.

She loved it – almost as much as Philo did.

We’ve tried to keep it simple most years, focusing more on sentimental meaning, and less on over-elaborate decorative glitz. No doilies and no glitter.

We save them for Valentines Day.

So, somewhere in the house is the rest of the Mother’s Day collection. In all, there has been:

• 2005 – Framed drawing of mother and child
• 2006 – Framed rainbow colored hand print on stretched canvas (OK, it was really some fabric from an old t-shirt, but you can’t tell under all the finger paint.)
• 2007 – Pink turtle wooden sculpture
• 2008 – Abstract collage of crayon and construction paper pieces

Today our boys, now four and one years old, gave Mom a dandy. Our youngest son, Hugh, is only one and a half. He’ll get his say next year. So again this year, it was Philo’s job to come up with the idea.

Mother's Day 2009, 2Rewind to about two weeks ago.

Dad, wispering: “Philo, what are we going to make Mom this year for Mother’s Day?”

Philo, replying instantly: “A pink butterfly.”

O.K., excellent. I think we still have some paint left.

We went with a new rendition of a timeless image.

The shape and lines of a child’s hand print hold great sentimental value.

This year was one part cardboard, one part construction paper, some crayons, paint, felt, pipe cleaners, glue – and a whole lot of rushing around at the last minute.

Pink butterfly, 2009Tada! Pink butterfly.

With two sets of hands, one smaller than the other, it worked out great.

Not too fancy, and not too shabby – simple, yet meaningful.

Honestly, it would be much easier and far more convenient to go the store each year, about a week before Mother’s Day, and have the kids pick something nice out.

But from what I’ve learned of marriage, parenting and life – meaningfulness and value are lost when ease and conveniences are sought.

As the boys get older, I hope our annual Mother’s Day projects translate into that lesson.

Looking back to the first year, when we started this tradition on a whim, I’m really happy we did.

May 6, 2009 – May is Mother’s month

May 6, 2009

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A few quick tidbits to get us through the week …

  • Not Becoming My Mother – This book is getting a lot of attention lately, and is the topic of a brief but great event coming to the Boston area, Wednesday, May 6. Harvard Book Store in Cambridge is hosting Ruth Reichl, editor in chief of Gourmet Magazine. Unlike the extravagant and peppy material of Gourmet, Reichl recently wrote a book about her mother, who like many of that generation, lived a depressing life of a bored and desperate housewife. Don’t misunderstand me here, this is not to say housewives are board and depressed in general, – they’re certainly not – but it seems they were in those days. This was in the days before women’s rights and independence, and before successful career women, a time when moms instead were popping, “mother’s little helpers,” every morning with breakfast and Valium with liquor at dinner. How far we’ve come. The book illustrates it much better than I do, as does NPR, who featured a a fantastic podcast and discussion on her and the book.
  • Love is a language – I’ve mentioned before, my underlying fatherhood philosophy is that the best thing a man can do for his children is love their mother. Thank God I finally learned how to do that. I remember some years back, I worked for a good man, Scott Carr. He was then and is now a father of four, and a devoted husband. I was about six months into my first round of fatherhood, and only about three years into my marriage. Suffice it to say, it was really tough. My wife and I were disconnected. We were both perpetually exhausted. Within 3 months of our son being born, we had moved into a new city – across the country – I had just started a new job, and on top of all the changes, we were both learning to do two things we’d never done before: Parent – and love each other, while learning to be parents. A lot wasn’t working. It showed at home, and at the office. My new boss, Mr. Carr, suggested I read this book. I did, and I promise you, my life got instantly better. I don’t claim that it is perfect by any standard, but reading the book, and understanding how different people express and accept love differently, made a huge difference for me as a husband – and by default – as a father. You can pick it up at Amazon for about 10 bucks. Trust me. It’s wonderful and is written for men and women. You can also start learning your language with this test.
  • Mother’s Day Central AKA, “Men, we’re going to make it really easy for you.” There are actually some pretty neat last minute gift ideas at this site. Because, you know, we really don’t know of any minutes other than the very last ones. But, as we strongly feel in our house, nothing beats the best kind of Mother’s Day gift: The one made from scratch, which is shaping up to be the next post

More to follow … enjoy the jumps!

April showers bring Mom’s flowers

May 4, 2009

mom-01I tell you, when it rains it pours.

April closed with a flu epidemic, we’re still in a deepening recession, two violent wars rage on, etcetera, etcetera.

The list of downpours seems endless.

I look outside, and I see a turbulent world. Deep down inside, I worry. I wish I didn’t, but I do.

It’s just in me.

But you know, I get to a point eventually where it makes me stop, and look inward at what I have.

I find peace in there.

As grey clouds linger into May, I find myself reflecting on what is the single most important and joyful thing in life: the closeness and comfort of my family.

I have charming kids and a remarkably beautiful and loving wife – who is also a caring and devoted mother.

On Fatherhood this May, we are dedicating the whole month to Moms – and we have some inspiring and exciting material lined up for each week.

Men, can I ask you a favor? Will you do the same?

Not just on Sunday, but the whole month. Whatever your thing is, can you give the whole month to Mom?

I’m a writer, editor and a photographer. That’s my thing and I’m sharing it with moms this month.

If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy … and from what I’ve seen, a lot of folk ain’t happy these days.

Maybe it will a make a huge difference. Maybe not.

But it will make a difference to someone. And that’s what counts.

So men, join me. Let’s give her the whole month. Who knows, you might get into some good habits. You might break some bad ones.

Feel free to let us know in the comments how it’s going. We’d love to follow your progress, if you’re open to sharing it.

This week, in honor of our own resident “mom”, we took a photographic trip down our memory lane and would like to share some of our favorite moments.

We close with some favorite quotes recognizing mom for all she does.

Enjoy – and be sure to check back with us often. We’ve got a good month lined up.

Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom with the dishes. ~ P.J. O’Rourke

All mothers are working mothers. ~Author Unknown

God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers. ~Jewish Proverb

A man’s work is from sun to sun, but a mother’s work is never done. ~Author Unknown

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother. ~Abraham Lincoln

It’s not easy being a mother. If it were easy, fathers would do it. ~From the television show The Golden Girls

Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them all. ~Oliver Wendell Holme

Mother’s love grows by giving. ~Charles Lamb

There’s nothing like a mama-hug. ~Adabella Radici

A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them. ~Victor Hugo

Any mother could perform the jobs of several air traffic controllers with ease. ~Lisa Alther

Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible. ~Marion C. Garretty, quoted in A Little Spoonful of Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul

If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands? ~Milton Berle

When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child. ~Sophia Loren, Women and Beauty

She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn’t take them along. ~Margaret Culkin Banning

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. ~Tenneva Jordan

A mother understands what a child does not say. ~ Jewish proverb

A mother’s love liberates.
 ~ Maya Angelou

I thought my mom’s whole purpose was to be my mom. That’s how she made me feel.
 ~ Natasha Gregson Wagner