Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Picture's Worth a 1000 Words

Sometimes it's better to show than to tell.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bonded Like Super Glue

In the training Kelly and I were required to complete by Alameda County before we could be deemed "parent material," a great deal of attention was spent on the child/parent bond. Now, much of it was geared toward foster parents and those looking to adopt older kids, but it was a consistent theme in practically every meeting.

One couple was so freaked out that they sought constant reassurance by relating story lines from made-for-TV movies they'd seen on Lifetime in which children happily walked away from evil biological parents and into the loving arms of total strangers. After providing a synopsis of the show's plot, the husband would hopefully ask, "Does it ever happen like that?"

To hedge our bets, when we were matched with Gus, I suggested that we leave a couple of our tee shirts with Shirley, his foster mom, to put in his crib while he slept so he'd grow "accustomed" to our scents. In no uncertain terms, Shirley scolded, "No way there gonna be men's underclothes in my
house!" For what it's worth, even without our manly-scented tee shirts, Gus "bonded" with us almost immediately, bursting into tears when we took him back to Shirley's place after his first weekend with us.

What I find interesting is that not one minute of training time was dedicated to discussing how a parent would bond with a child. It was just assumed that we'd see the kid and, voila!, instant parental instinct.

Frankly, I never thought about whether or not I had bonded with the kids until last night. Niko has a pretty yucky cold. That means he needs the reassurance of sleeping with Kelly and me.

I think human beings are naturally programmed to flee from illness. I mean, those who run toward sickness are usually deemed saints by society. It's all about self preservation.

So when you're faced with 40-lbs of coughing, heat-radiating, nose-running sick little boy, your natural, survival instincts tell you RUN! But when the little hand reaches out for you and pulls a small body closer to you, and a tiny voice whispers, "Daddy," the only option you have is to pull him in still closer - fever, cough, snot and all.

Yeah, I think it's safe to say, I bonded.

Monday, January 23, 2012

One Foot in Front of the Other

Gus is finally at an age where he can start to do more outdoor activities with us. So this past Sunday after church, Niko went with his nouna to the aquarium, and Gus joined Kelly and me snowshoeing.

Since we're currently experiencing the driest winter on record, this was our first trip of the season. It was Gus' first trip ever.

He did great. Although the whole idea is not to fall into the snow, the newly-fallen fluffy powder, which gives Utah the greatest snow on Earth, was just too tempting for an 8 1/2-year old.

He can barely wait for our next trip.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Hutt Amendment

Recently, I read that the average New Year's resolution is cast aside within 3 weeks. That means that a lot of those promises to lose weight, quit smoking, or to be less stressed have already been tossed by the wayside.

Like everyone else, I've been more successful at some of my resolutions in the past than I have at others.

Success example: As 1996 turned to 1997, I pledged to find a new job; I gave notice 2 1/2 months later.

Less-than successful: this year, I vowed to wake up earlier every day. This morning, I didn't roll out of bed until 9:45.

I think publicly verbalizing resolutions helps me to keep them. Without publicly acknowledging them, without having witnesses, it's just too easy to forget or give up on them.

Which brings me to the point of this particular blog entry. I am adding a new resolution for 2012. After reading my blog, "I Resolve" earlier this month, my friend - and an incredibly talented business coach - Hutt, sent me an email asking why one resolution was missing from the list. He wanted to know when was I going to finally write a book about my experiences as a father.

I've been thinking about our email exchange for the past couple of weeks, and I'm finally ready to resolve: In 2012 I will start writing the book, Hutt's been bugging me about for 3 years.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

King Me

Unknowingly, I had a parenting epiphany when I was just 18 or 19. It came when my then 5 or 6-year old niece Lyndsey clobbered me at a matching game for the umpteenth time. Of course her amazing skills were aided by my purposeful missteps.

That's when I realized my Aunt Mimi had let me win all those matching games, rounds of Old Maid, and Candyland marathons. It's simply what a good human parent does to build their kids' confidence and skills.

Well, fast forward some 25-years later, and at his request, I taught Gus how to play checkers. To be frank, it goes against my basic nature not to try win. But my paternal instincts are stronger, and Gus won game after game - with an occasional victory for Dad just to keep it real and to help teach him that it is OK to lose.

Then, last night, we played a game of checkers before bed. And for the third consecutive time, without any assistance from me, Gus beat me. Fair and square. He outsmarted me - cornering and surrounding my last king, just like I showed him how.

But the best part was that across from me sat a confident winner, who mixed just the right amount of teasing with mature grace, congratulating his opponent - his father - on a game well-played.

Tonight, while Gus was at Scouts, Niko asked me to teach him how to play checkers. Yes, he won.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I Shot an Arrow Into the Air

One of the advantages about raising boys for Kelly and me is that we have a pretty deep combined knowledge base of what it's like to have been little boys. See, for the women out there (and the moms who only have experienced little girls), boys...well, boys can do some pretty stupid things.

With two dads in our family, we've often thought that we have a leg up on the poor schmucks with just one dad to keep the little dudes on the straight and narrow. See, the good news about being a dad is that you can teach your sons to avoid the pitfalls that you experienced in boyhood.

But it's a false sense of security because the bad news is sometimes your sons' ideas are so damn compelling, you just can't help encouraging them.

For example:

- good news: Gus learned that my parent's garage is not pock marked with worm holes, but because of the arrows I shot into it growing up;

- bad news: today I looked out the kitchen window to see Kelly shoot an arrow straight into the air, as Gus and Niko watched admiringly.

So today at Murray Park, we saw a little bit of both.

Yes, they are pushing ice around on a frozen river...

Yup, now they're dumpster diving...

And now they're poking a dead fish....

The trick is to find a balance between harmless boyish fun, and pushing the limits too far.

And yeah, sometimes a dad's inner boy just gets the best of him.

Moments later, Kelly and I decided to play "Who's The Bravest" and walked out onto the ice together. I bet all the women reading this know exactly what happened next...
my foot's still a little cold.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Is My Nose Really That Big?

I've worked with the media for the bulk of my career. And believe it or not, I actually remember my first encounter with a journalist. Back in 1977, my sixth grade class wrote down the name of a famous person we most wanted to be like and their attribute we most admired that we hoped to make a part of our future careers. For example, I remember my friend Diane admired Carol Burnett and wanted to make people laugh one day. I wanted to be like Thomas Jefferson (come on, I had just spent 3 years with bicentennial fever...)

As we locked these dreams in the school's vault - to be opened upon our graduation from high school (something that never happened) - a reporter from the Midvale Sentinel was on hand to interview us.

When the paper came out,I remember how excited my yia yia, aunts and my parents were to see my name and quote in print. I was horrified. I'd assumed that the reporter would, well, make my quote a bit more inspiring, something akin to:

"I wish to emulate Thomas Jefferson - America's third president, author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of Virginia, visionary purchaser of the Louisiana Territory, and inventor of the dumbwaiter! In my humble career I shall strive to work meekly for equality and justice for all people, and in all my deeds."

Instead it read something like: "Um, I wanna be like Thomas Jefferson, and stick my neck out for people and stuff."

Who would have ever guessed that a quaint human interest story would have such an impact on my professional life 35-year years later? Because if nothing else, I learn from past experiences. So now I work hard to make sure that I'm not the one being interviewed!

But if I have to speak with a reporter, I try to be meticulous, thinking carefully about each word and every phrase. I often analyze the printed or audio result over and over. Sure, part of it is my OCD. But part of it is an attempt not to sound like a 12-year old again.

Well, yesterday it was discovered that someone stole a bronze statue from in front of the autism center that is part of my company. Its likely destination? A salvage yard to be melted as scrap.

With our CEO on a plane, and the center's director out ill, when the television cameras showed up, it was I who stepped in front of their mics. Perhaps the worst part - yesterday I decided it'd be riotously fun to wear a bow tie!

Tonight I showed the boys one of the stories. Gus was completely unfazed by seeing me on TV, jaded no doubt by his own experience a couple of years back being interviewed by Utah mainstay Rod Decker about a proposed loosening of car seat laws.

Niko, however, grinned from ear-to-ear and excitedly asked me what I was doing on TV! In disbelief, he asked to watch it again.

I focused on one thought: is my nose really that big?

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I've often said that thanks to - or because of - the boys we experience events Kelly and I would never have on our own. Tonight's family outing is a perfect example of that.

The tickets for this extravaganza were a gift from my friend Nick, from whom I buy ad space on a couple of local TV stations. When I handed the tickets to Gus and asked him to read what was written on them to Niko, I watched with amusement as he read, MONSTER TRUCK WINTER NATIONALS.

Gus' eyes grew saucer size, matched only by the grin creeping across his face. Niko jumped off of the couch, throwing his arms around my leg jumping up and down - trying to pick me up? - while repeating, "THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!"

Yeah, Nick was right: the boys were going to enjoy this.

When we arrived, and looked at the rather sparse crowd, I immediately thought of an acronym my friend Aimz had taught me back in high school: NOKD - Not Our Kind, Dear. Yup, we seemingly weren't the typical monster truck attendees. As a matter of fact, we hypothesized that we were the only organic-eating, minivan-driving, gay vegetarians in the entire audience.

Frankly, Kelly and I were surprised at how excruciatingly dull it all was. We joked that in 2 1/2 hours there were only 12 minutes of action. Seriously, how many times can you see souped-up trucks sporting ginormous tires crush over a handful of old clunkers at ear-splitting sound levels?

But every time it occurred, the audience - our boys included - whooped in appreciation. Kelly and I looked at each other and yawned.

To be fair, on the other end of the cultural spectrum, Kelly and I did fall asleep while watching the Kirov Ballet perform Swan Lake in St. Petersburg.

The end result is it wasn't their parents cup of tea, but the boys really enjoyed it, and that's all that counts. So in spite of the noise (we did have the foresight to bring ear plugs), and the dust, and the exhaust fumes (and my $11 beer!), it was fun for us as a family.

Is it something we'll ever do again? I certainly hope not. But I'll never say never.

As we waited to exit the parking lot, 2 men and 2 boys in a minivan surrounded by pick up trucks with tires as big as Gus, Kelly turned and said, "OK, so next time it'll be either demolition derby or professional wrestling." I can't wait.

For those of you who may want to experience a little of the evening's excitement, here's a very short video clip Kelly took.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Someone's In The Kitchen With Daddy

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of being in the kitchen while my yia yia cooked. I'd sit on the white-washed step stool she kept next to the furnace and "supervise," as she liked to say.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of the cooking at our house. Partly because I was off for a week over the holidays, and partly because I enjoy it more than Kelly does. Having the boys "supervise" me is a great bonus.

Like me, when my yia yia used to ask me to stir or maybe taste something, the boys actually enjoy helping as well.

Take the other night: we made a really simple dinner of (veggie) sausages and "Greek" spaghetti (browned butter and Romano/Parmesan cheese), with a nice tomato and cucumber salad - a meal I learned to cook at Yia yia's side.

Using a butter knife, Niko carefully sliced the sausages into medallions, while Gus stirred the spaghetti - raising a few strands out and hovering them over the water just like I do. He doesn't know it, but it's the way Yia yia did it too.

When they help with dinner, they're more invested in eating it. Sure, sometimes the cutting skills wouldn't win praises from the judges on Top Chef, but it still tastes great.

We're big believers in sitting down together as a family at dinner time - listening to the classical station on the radio - and just enjoying the meal. It's such fun to hear the boys tell Kelly exactly what role they each played in creating what's on the table. Even if it's just "I stirred it" or "I closed the oven door."

Sometimes, when the boys and I are whipping up dinner, I swear - out of the corner of my eye - I catch a glimpse of my yia yia sitting on a step stool, "supervising."

She's always smiling.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I Resolve

To be patient with my kids

To be appreciative of Kelly every day

To remember Gus is acting like an 8 year old because he is an 8 year old

To not rush Niko into growing up faster

To be content with my life every day

To find the positive in bad situations rather than to expect the worst

To cherish time with my parents and siblings

To see good in those with whom I disagree (I'm sure Rep. Bachmann is, um, well, nice to her family!)

To walk a little slower on doggy walkies with Gracie

To let Athena lick my hand if she wants

To be less snobby about my mom's wine choices :-)

AND to write my blog more frequently

May 2012 bring us all happiness and contentedness!