Archive for February, 2010

The Devlin Family

February 28, 2010

I spent Saturday afternoon in the charming household of the Devlin family: Daren, Stace and their 15-month-old son, Tige.

Stace and I had worked it out in the weeks prior, for me to come to their house to photograph them. As handsome as all three are, I couldn’t resist.

I arrived at their home at 1:30 p.m. as they were just returning from spending the morning together over breakfast at a small restaurant, formerly a train dinning car. The Devlin’s are the kind of folks I really enjoy spending an afternoon with.

A very close family, good values, and great company.

Tige was a champ, to be sure – and an absolute joy to photograph.

So full of life and smiles.

Now, I’ve photographed a good deal of kids before.

But Tige is the kind of boy, with is good looks and patience, who just kind of handed me the photos.

“Here ya go, Mister, I’ll make it real easy for you.”

After watching Stace and Daren interact, it soon made sense to me why Tige was so pleasant and content.

His folks really love each other – and take care of other.

As I was setting up the gear, I looked over my shoulder to see Daren straightening up the living room, tidying the sofa, and making it look good for the photos.

Dressing the set, as we say in the industry.

I like Daren. In fact, after the shoot, once back in my own home, I took a page from his book and I tried to do a bit more tidying than I normally do.

Sometimes it’s good to see how other dads role, and borrow good habits from them.

And for those of you who have been reading the blog for a while, you know that I think the best thing a man can do for his kids is love their mother.

No doubt, Daren is in that camp.

There’s a lot of love in their house.

I’m enriched, having spent time with the Devlin’s and I’m inspired to see such such love flourish.

And I’m grateful to have had the chance to capture it in photographs.

Thank you, Daren, Stace and Tige, for a wonderful experience!

Feel free to visit Luke Pinneo Photography for more portraits of families, friends and children.

Humpday, Feb 24, 2010

February 23, 2010

A few tidbits to get us through the week …

Babies.

There sure are a lot of people in my sphere of life who are having babies.

Little babies.

Such joy. Such stress. You get it all with all babies.

Here’s a few items that made life a bit easier during our stints with the lil’ dribblers.

The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-to-Be, Second Edition

When we learned that we were having a baby, like so many moms-to-be, my wife began stocking up on how-to books for the expectant mother. I, also new to the parenting experience, followed suit only to learn that there are comparatively very few books out there to prepare us rookie dads to be as supportive as possible.

I found  this one, and from page one, I knew I had  a great guide in hand. Just about everything you want to know, need to know, and should know is in this book. It takes you through, stage by stage right up until and shortly after birth.

Trust me guys, Ok? If you’ve never been through pregnancy before, get this book. You’ll be glad you did. Moreover, she’ll be glad you did. And a happy, healthy mommy means a happy, healthy baby.

•••

Your Baby Can Sleep: The Practical, Proven Method for Solving your Baby’s Sleep Problems

If you like corny, poorly produced videos, you’ll enjoy this. If you like corny, poorly produced videos that deliver amazing results – you’ll treasure it. It really works.

I’m sad to see they still do not sell this on DVD. It’s only offered in VHS format. But, that’s the irony of treasure, I suppose. If you read across the top banner of the box, there in purple, it reads, “RELIEF FOR EXHAUSTED PARENTS!” That sums it up.

They should just put that on the cover by itself, in big letters (and burn it to Blue Ray)

•••

A Man’s Journey to Simple Abundance

On the back cover it reads, “For Women to Understand Men, and for Men to Understand Themselves.”

And though it doesn’t discuss in any great detail the art of raising babies, I think it is an important book for any young (or not young) dad to read if he is starting a family. In a very readable way, written by a vast crop of authors, it covers a collection of topics permeating a man’s life, from fear, risk, life and death, balding, balls, and hunting, to name a few.

It is informative at most, and enjoyable at least. As well as being a great guide and compass point in a man’s life, it becomes a literary companion all throughout fatherhood, to keep on the bed stand or nearby shelf.

Enjoy the jumps. Come back and see us when you can …

Fame, Fortune and Families

February 21, 2010

Not long ago, I had the idea of writing a series on the highly accomplished men of our era; men who had achieved great successes at home in their personal lives, and fame and fortune in their professional arenas.

Great fathers, superb husbands and professional successes.

That was until Tiger Woods, the man who was to open the series, fell.

And he fell hard.

And ever since, I’ve been looking for a stand in.

Still, the whole Tiger thing is surreal to me. Not that it happened, but that the man portrayed before the scandal, seemed so, well, accomplished.

Unlike many, he is a man in tune with his great talent. Golf, moreover, his absolute mastery of it, brought him great wealth – and beyond that – made him whole.

He was respected by many in his profession and in his life.

He had what appeared to be a healthy family.

He was what I , until recently, would have called a true champion.

But, like so many before him, he fell.

And so I am left to wonder: who among us is the highly accomplished man?

Who has gained the deepest respect of others in and outside of his profession? Who has discovered his work, his calling, and fully given himself to it. Who has mastered his mind, and his hands and thereby, mastered his work? Who has earned a deep and sustainable wealth?

And who, having achieved these things, has remained as devoted to his home and family?

What we see are many of the rich and most of the famous, who have more money than they will ever need.

Many have even won the deep satisfaction of being self actualized. One great quest of theirs is over. They are pouring themselves, whole heartedly, into their work, and thus, they are whole.

And yet, so many of these men, on their second, third or even fourth marriage, have a trail of broken dreams and shattered families in their wake.

Busy in their work, they neglect their homes. Too busy seeking fortune and fame, to tend to the family.

It’s not my place to say whether or not they are good fathers or husbands.

All I know, as I’ve often said, is the best thing a man can do for children is love their mother.

The truth is, some of the best dads in the world are pretty easy to recognize. In fact, a good percentage can be seen in a t-shirt or sweatshirt that says just that: “Best Dad in the World.”

I don’t know what they earn or do for a living. But if I had to generalize, I’d say these were guys somewhere on a middle scale. In fact, I’ve known alot of dads from the middle, right on down to the low, low end of the pay scale who were humble, simple and although they didn’t have comparatively much to give their wife and kids – no doubt, there was plenty of love and support at home.

Many of these men put their biggest professional goals on hold for their families. And in so doing, a part of them is forever empty, missing. Most, despite an ever-present, longing ache, never reclaimed those dreams – even after their kids had grown. Like the majority, they settle and make do with the life they have, the one the end up with … Bitter sweet, I guess.

So who among us is the fully accomplished man? If a healthy family life eludes so many of the famous and (arguably) fortunate, and great career success often escapes the humble dad, then who can be called fully accomplished?

I think I know.

But there’s a good reason I’ll never be sure.

These men, if they do exist, I may never meet, hear of, or write about.

I assume they are too busy living their lives to seek the spotlight.

If they are in fact present and fully supportive fathers, caring and deeply empathetic husbands, and high earners, working at full-potential in their chosen careers, they probably don’t have time for much of anything else.

And after all, really, what else is there?

Humpday, Feb. 17, 2010

February 16, 2010

A few tidbits to get us through the week …

Over the past year or so, while making a run to, say, the hardware store (as we dads do,) or during my daily commute, I’ve heard some superb, family-focused programs on National Public Radio.

The links this week are podcasts of some of them. Simply click the “Listen to the Story” link for each podcast. Whether you listen at home or work, I hope you find them as insightful as I have.

  • 20 Years Of Defending Death Row InmatesImagine what is would be like to spend all day visiting death row, and then come home, still with the smell on you, and kiss your wife and kids. You’d be living the life of Attorney David Dow, who has made a career out of defending death row inmates. I, like most fathers will, find his story incredibly hard to relate to, with one exception: an underlying theme of how troubles of a man’s work often lingers into the home, affecting everyone.
  • Parenting In The Age Of ‘Gossip Girl’How about a good, wholesome family talk about menage-a-trois. That’s right, sex – specifically threesomes. Lucky for me, my kids are not teens yet – but at this rate, as this story illustrates, it might not be too long before sex talk comes up during out dinner discussions.
  • Parenting Tips: Praise Can Be Bad; Lying Is Normal – I can’t help but rethink my whole approach after hearing this one. The headline really sums it up. But to elaborate without giving away the kicker, it turns out most of what we’ve been doing to curb our kids’ lying is actually making them more skilled and frequent liars.

Enjoy the jumps. Come back and see us when you can …

Blizzard 2010: Prepared to be a father

February 14, 2010

This week, after a history-making snow storm, I have a renewed perspective on being prepared as a dad.

But let’s backup a few years, to when my wife and I learned she was pregnant with our first son.

At the time, I had a much older friend and confidant, his kids had all grown, with whom I shared the news.

As we talked about it, I admitted that although I was nervous and the future was uncertain, I was ready.

“You’re never ready,” he said. “It’s really a question of whether or not you’re prepared.

He was making a comparison between comfort and survival and considering my marriage, career, and support network of friends and family, I indeed felt both ready and prepared to be a father.

But when it comes down to it, and many will argue about this, preparation is more a state of mind than anything else.

I’ve always considered myself an optimist, but only because in any situation, I immediately consider the absolute worse that can happen, and develop a plan for it.

It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid. I remember being six years old, laying in bed, and rehearsing my escape plan for if a meteor hit the house and destroyed it. In great detail, I’d build the scenario, play it out in my head, and go through each step until everyone in the house and I were outside and safe. Night after night.

As I got older, the scenarios evolved. “What if?” I’d wonder.

One day it would be a shady guy who pulls a gun in the store. The next day, a baby falling into the river. Each scenario more original and detailed than the last.

But the goal was always the same: Save the day.

This week, it was a record snow storm.

The blizzard came in two waves a few days apart. The first wave crippled the roadways, left tens of thousand of homes without power, forced countless stores to close. During a day-long lull after wave one, and in the calm before wave two, people went into a stock-up-on-everything frenzy.

We couldn’t even buy a gallon of milk.

Seriously. The shelves were picked clean. It was surreal.

I broke my snow shovel against the first wave, and nobody had any left. None. It was a last ditch effort to check Target, on the far side of town. They didn’t have any either.

But they had milk, when no one else did.

I bought two.

I spent the next morning with Google Maps showing every hardware store in a 25 mile radius, from the big box places to the locally owned.

Between sips of my morning coffee, like an eager telemarketer, I went down the list.

Many, if not most, were closed. And when I did get someone on the line, it went like this pretty much every time:

Me: “Mornin’ … prob’ly a shot in the dark, but do you folks still have any snow shovels?”

Them: “Nope, all sold out, might be getting more next week”

Me: “Well, by next week my car will be trapped inside an igloo – but thanks anyway.”

I found one finally at a local shop, but I had to wait in line  – twice – to get it. I waited in the line that had formed on the sidewalk outside of the hardware store, where they were unloading the shovels from a truck, and I waited again inside to pay.

I bought two.

It felt like a bank run, for shovels. I felt like I should get three. Everyone else was. But I restrained myself.

During the storm, we lost power.

Now, call me crazy but I love it when the power goes out. It throws the usual routine out of whack. In short, it’s a mini adventure with an element of unpredictability.

So what if I’m adrenaline challenged, I find it exciting. It helps me imagine, if only in a glimpse, what it must have like in days of old. When life was was hard and going to work meant going to work.

I imagine a time when being prepared was a built-in part of every day life, for everyone.

When people were communities, not segments.

A time before cars, before TV, radio and before the light bulb.

Before we became veal patties.

But there we were, last week, without power.

We had candles, we had flash lights and batteries, and we had blankets. We had a full fridge and cupboards.

Taken to the extremes, I knew I had a hatchet, I had plentiful woods nearby and I was prepared to melt snow and process it for drinking if I had to. I had even started to consider a few ways to prepare squirrel. (I could lure them so easily using nothing but their own greed!)

And most importantly, we had each other.

The heat was out – but the house stayed comfortable. We skipped the boys’ baths (which we never do) because there was no point risking them getting sick. They had toy flashlights that made fine nite-lite substitutes.

And once they were in bed, in their fleece jammies and double blankets, my wife and I snuggled up under candle light, with some red wine and string cheese, and loaded a Netflix movie into the laptop.

And then the power came back on.

The next day was like any other, only with a blanket of snow and coating of ice.

And in the light of the early hours, despite the available radio, TV or toys, my boys instead spent the morning enjoying nothing more than each other’s company, their collective imagination, and a single book.

Although it wasn’t a survival manual, it was a book about heros. And that’s a start.

Humpday, Feb. 10, 2010

February 9, 2010

A few tidbits to get us through the week …

Been gettin’ alot snow round in these parts. Lotta folk been complainin’ ’bout havin’ to shovel it.

Now, we all know shoveling snow is not as simple as the video below makes it out to be. But in the links that follow, we’ve build a solid game plan to take on anything that Jack Frost sends our way.

  • Have Snow Shovel, Will Travel: A History of Snow Removal – For perspective, American’s have been shoveling snow for a long time. Think early 1700’s. So when you’re out there, cold and alone except for Jack Frost biting you in the face, just remember our forefather’s did it also. But they had no snowplow services. So they had to do clear their own streets too. They did it into the night. They did it without the North Face, without Thinsulate or lightweight plastic shovels. We don’t have it so bad.
  • In The Bleak Mid-winter: 10 Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling – [ …While most people recognize that snow shoveling is very hard work, and can put severe stress on your heart, fewer people recognize the stress and strain that it places on your back. So, as winter gets underway, we’ve outlined 10 tips for how to keep your back healthy when shoveling snow …]
  • Music and Motivation: The Power of Music – No doubt about it, music changes the way we look at things. And when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Music also stores memories. For some, a vivid memory of a high school football season is enough motivation to tackle that two-foot frozen sheet of snow covering the driveway. Pick the right tunes, and shoveling snow could rekindle a bit of dormant youth.
  • Easy High-Protein Meals – Unless you suffer a serious injury while shoveling, chances are, the aches and pains in the days that follow are most likely from overworked muscles. Muscles heal faster – and hurt less – when they get the protein they need. So eat up high protein and be well after shoveling.

… and don’t forget to stretch.

Enjoy the jumps! Come back and see us when you can …

“Unky”

February 7, 2010

My older brother Corey, and his lovely fiancé, Jessica, visited us last weekend.

I’m not exactly sure where the name came from, but my boys have started calling him “Unky.”

Short for “Uncle” no doubt.

Unky.

It’s the kind of word that sounds cute when the kids say it, but looks weird when you write it. And if you know my brother, you’d know it can’t be spelled with an “ie.”

“Unkie,” just wouldn’t match Corey’s intensity.

Corey, my only brother, was born with 93 octane coursing through his veins.

My earliest memories are of him somehow always involved watching him build what seemed like mile-high, 45 degree plywood ramps from which to launch himself into the great beyond on anything fast enough to take him there.

More recent memories are of seeing him plummet to earth from such attempts, followed by the sound of him gasping for air after having the wind knocked out of him once again.

He still has scars on his shins from the snowboarding accident, shoulder pain from the dirt bike surgery, and a crooked finger from the other injury; another story for another time.

There’s the old cliché about pesky younger brothers always wanting to follow the older one around. But with Corey, I could never keep up. He’d be up early, rain or shine, snow or sleet, and out the door and long gone before my milk even hit the cereal. And when I did have the chance to tag along, it was just too intense. The bikes were too fast, the jumps were too high, the weather was to extreme or the days were too long.

I was the turtle and he was the jackrabbit.

Never have I know anyone with such intensity, energy and stamina.

Never, that is, until my oldest son Philo was born.

He and Corey undoubtedly share the same blood type. And I think it’s O, for “octane.”

They both have one gear. Full speed ahead with no signs of stopping.

There are some people in the world, among them Corey and Philo, who have an inexhaustible surplus of energy. God love ‘em. I don’t know where they get it. I wish I did.

My mother has a theory about this, and she traces it back to birth.

Corey was born breeched and blue. When he emerged from the womb, backwards, the umbilical cord was wrapped several times around his neck, cutting off his air. It was forever described in our family as a near miss.

Given his dare devil life that followed, you might say birth was his first flirt with death.

Similarly, Philo had close call at delivery. Up until then, the doctors told us it was a textbook pregnancy.

That was until game time, when contractions became so intense they put immense pressure on Philo’s cord, and cut off the flow of blood and oxygen.

I remember early on in the delivery room, they had a heart monitor, as standard procedure, hooked up to my wife to track the baby’s rhythm.

During a cycle of contractions, they intensified.

As they grew stronger and stronger, I heard the baby’s heart beat slow down more and more – and eventually stop altogether.

We’re talking flat line.

It was terrifying.

As the nurses all scrambled, one pounded the big red, bedside button labeled “code,” while another began chest compressions on our unborn son.

It was awful.

Life has a way of persisting, however.

And soon, we were back to textbook pregnancy. After only about two hours of active labor, our son was born.

And ever since, he has been a force of nature – just like his Unky.

My mother thinks these episodes at birth somehow sparked a lifelong capacity for vigor and power within both of them.

I don’t know. Could be.

But what I do know is that while Philo is intensifying, Unky is slowing down.

And that’s a good thing.

He still has his bikes and his dirt tracks and his machines. But he also has a fantastic woman in his life. In the fall, they’re getting married. That usually helps to quiet a man’s inner turbulence. If babies should come later, all the more reason to slow one’s roll.

And now, after all these years, I finally feel like I can hang with my big brother.

After only half a day with the boys, he said to me straight faced, “Man, I’m whooped … the boys really wore me out … I don’t know how you do it everyday.”

I thought about it.

“You just gotta pace yourself,” I told him. “It’s a marathon – not a sprint.”

Humpday, Feb 3, 2010

February 2, 2010

A few tidbits to get us through the week …

I’m always interested to see how men in the spot light raise children. Moreover, I think it’s healthy to sometimes take a step back – way back at times – and look at fatherhood from an entirely different viewpoint. Given my average lifestyle, a celebrity viewpoint is vastly different.

A few insightful reads below on fatherhood, by some familiar faces.

  • Dave Grohl – Front man for the well-known rock band, Foo Fighters, and former drummer of the grunge gods Nirvana, Grohl says he embraces fatherhood, and reflects on how it permeates everything he does personally and professionally.
  • Michael Douglas – With an older son in jail (again) on drug related charges, and a busy acting career behind him (arguably), Douglas, now 65 years old, gets a second chance with his two younger children and admits the importance of putting family first.
  • Matthew Broderick – Many of us know him as Ferris Bueller, the inspiration of countless hooky days. Nearly 25 years later, (how is that possible??) Broderick is now married with three kids, two of which are twins still in diapers. I like Broderick’s perspective on being a dad, specifically that he sees parenting as “basically improv.” I get that.

Enjoy the jumps! Come back and see us when you can …