… from the bungalow


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Getting Vulnerable

I think I’m going to take a break from the “promises” series. I enjoy writing them, and they’re great for transparency and personal accountability, but they’re being read by about, oh, three people. As much as I’d like to keep writing them, it’s apparent most people aren’t interested. It’s tough putting so much effort into something only to realize nobody really cares. But this isn’t about getting pity or sympathy; it’s about vulnerability.

A funny thing happens when you make a bunch of one-sided promises to people or spell out some of your most personal thoughts and ideas in a public forum: you feel vulnerable. Vulnerability is a good thing, really, but it can be extremely uncomfortable.

Belly-RubVulnerability opens you up to new experiences. The problem with being open is it can feel scary. Dangerous, even. That fear of danger or risk the ego’s way of protecting itself from harm. Think of it like this: A dog who loves and feels safe with its owner will roll over and expose its underside for some delicious belly rubs. The second there’s any kind of unfamiliar distraction, it’s on its feet again. Say a bee comes along and stings the dog on the belly while it’s turned over. Bam! Off and running. No more soft belly, no more exposure to risk, and you can bet that dog will think twice the next time it exposes its tummy for lovin’.

So if you’re making a public promise to be more and do better or if you have grand plans that seem to fall flat, be prepared to get stung from time to time. It’s nobody’s fault, really. It’s just the nature of exposing your belly.

Chris

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Promises Guide: 21-25 (5 of 20) – Little Bird

This post comprises five promises from a dad to his son on five separate pages. At the bottom of each promise is a link to the next promise, or you can jump directly to a page within this post. Comments left will be visible on any of the five promise pages.

21) “I promise to encourage your sense of persistence, even when I perceive it as stubbornness.”

Ever since he could walk, Little Bird has had a perfectionist streak. If something didn’t go the way he wanted it to, he’d want to do it over. I remember walking out of a dollar store to our car when he was a toddler, and he didn’t get to step off the curb the way he wanted to. We needed to get home, and he didn’t like the way I held his hand and sort of pulled him along as we stepped off the curb and crossed the parking lot. He cried the whole way home and for about half an hour beyond that because he wanted to do it over. Do overs: that was his thing. It still is to an extent and he’s almost 8. And he can be very persistent about doing something his way. He bargains, negotiates and blackmails to get his way. Well, he tries. And he never backs down when he thinks he’s justified, even when he knows he’s embellishing the truth (lying). I’m still learning how to redirect that stubbornness, but I admire his persistence. I’d rather not “break” him of it. He just needs to find ways to use it to his advantage.

Do This

Think of some ways in which you perceive your kid in a negative light, then put a spin on it. With a little perspective, opposition becomes critical thinking, manipulation becomes cunning, and mouthiness becomes outspokenness. That doesn’t mean let a mouthy kid talk to you disrespectfully. (I don’t tolerate that for one second!) But modeling appropriate behavior is way more effective than yelling or punishing. A little perspective goes a long way when it comes to maintaining your cool, and your sanity.

Take me back to the list!
OR
Continue to the next promise–>


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Promises Guide: 6-10 (2 of 20) – The Little Professor

This post comprises five promises from a dad to his son on five separate pages. At the bottom of each promise is a link to the next promise, or you can jump directly to a page within this post. Comments left will be visible on any of the five promise pages.

6) “I promise to let you dress yourself for school. My hurried schedule should not interfere with your personal development.”

Here’s a typical morning routine at the bungalow:

6:45:00-6:49:59 a.m. – Snooze
6:50:00-6:54:59 a.m. – Snooze
6:55:00-6:59:59 a.m. – Snooze
7:00:00-7:32:59 a.m. – Jump out of bed, frantically grab work clothes, turn on lights to wake up wife, go downstairs and wake up The Little Professor, set out TLP’s clothes, get screamed at, resist urge to dress TLP, leave to use bathroom, get dressed, return and re-dress TLP because 85% of his clothes are on backwards, leave again to brush teeth, fix hair, nuke a breakfast sandwich while he eats his applesauce with supplements and vitamins prepared by wife, kiss family goodbye, forget wallet and get in car while TLP puts shoes on wrong feet, return to get wallet, fix shoes, try to leave but bus arrives, walk TLP to bus, race to work.

le sigh

Not a good start to my day. But there’s a key component to the mad rush: he dresses himself. For a long time, I was in too much of a hurry to wait for him to fumble around at putting on his own clothes because he couldn’t miss the bus. I started getting up 5-10 minutes earlier so he’d have some time to try. The amount of help I offer wanes over time, and he’s gotten much better at it. You’d think putting his clothes on the right way would be a 50/50 shot, but he somehow consistently puts most things on backwards. Motor skills are tricky. When you struggle and struggle and you’ve got a foot in a hole, you go with it! Pants on backwards? Oh well. I’m dressed. It took me a while to learn that I need to give him space to grow, even especially when it comes to activities of daily living (ADLs to the IEP-savvy folks). Now if only I’d give myself more time.

Do This

Think about ways in which you might be enabling, coddling, or otherwise stifling your child. For me, it comes from both a place of wanting to take care of my baby boy and a place of wanting to move the frak along with our day. Whatever the intent, he needs that opportunity to learn. Give him that assist when he needs it, but make him feel like it was his victory.

Take me back to the list!
OR
Continue to the next promise–>


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12 days that amaze, Day 8: The most difficult thing

This is the eighth (we’ll call the beard poll #7) of 12 “amazing” installments of “12 days that amaze.” I am pushing myself to write 12 posts about things that amaze me leading up to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser in Chicago that Karin, Deb and I are participating in. In doing so, I must also be open to the everyday amazing things that happen around me.


I didn’t have a great day yesterday. I figured I’d miss a day out of my 12-day series at some point. Frankly, I’m impressed that I made it halfway through before dropping the ball. So I asked you for your suggestions on Facebook.

There were a few good ones, but I’m going to take the very first one, submitted by Lynda: “What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done on purpose?” Easy.

Deciding to have children

My first wife and I got engaged very quickly, and married very young. We both worked for the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and bought our first house in Ypsilanti, MI. By the time she was finishing up her master’s degree at EMU, I was itching for something more. I got bored. I started to feel like my life was incomplete and lacking in purpose. Sure, we could have adopted a dog, but I had always wanted kids, and even looked forward to being a stay-at-home dad. It was something we talked about before we got married, and I was feeling ready.

We mulled it over for a few weeks. We thought about it, talked about it… We even made a list of pros and cons sitting in a booth at a diner over many cups of coffee. In the end, the pros outweighed the cons (by a narrow margin) and we decided to ditch the birth control.

Fast forward about four months. We were eating out one night (I want to say it was Bennigan’s) and she threw up in the parking lot after dinner. That night, she took a pregnancy test, and it was positive. That was a happy, tearful night, equal parts exciting and terrifying.

The very next day, she was laid off. Within 18 hours of finding out we were going to have our first baby, more than half of our income was cut. F*ck me. I was able to find a better paying job that was drivable from where her parents live, and we moved to be closer to family. We knew we’d need help. What we didn’t know was the extent to which that would be true.

We read the books and knew what to expect (or so we thought). The pregnancy was, for the most part, a breeze for her. When it was time for him to be born, he was in a breech position, and her amniotic fluid was low, so they performed a C-section. There were no other complications, and there he was.

Then everything changed. Continue reading


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12 days that amaze, Day 6: Parental biology

This is the sixth of 12 “amazing” installments of “12 days that amaze.” I am pushing myself to write 12 posts about things that amaze me leading up to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser in Chicago that Karin, Deb and I are participating in. In doing so, I must also be open to the everyday amazing things that happen around me.


I know it’s late, but we had an eventful day.

This afternoon, we decided to go to Kensington Metro Park to take a walk, visit the nature center, and spend a little time at the playground there. When we arrived, we ate the lunches we brought, then took off on the shorter trail since the Little Professor is still recovering from his broken leg. (We brought his wheel chair, but it’s not exactly easy pushing him through a dirt path.)

Yes, we let them dress themselves. Yes, those are rain boots.

We had a nice walk, even if we did have to repeatedly remind the small ones to use level 1 or 2 voices only. I stooped to snap a shot of this moss. I don’t know why, but I love moss.

Moss: full of texture-y goodness

We made it to the playground; although, it took what seemed like an hour to walk from the van with the Little Professor treading oh, so carefully on his bum leg. Here he is swinging.

Swing, baby, swing!

I swung for a few minutes, too, and the other boys had fun playing tag with a kid they met there. Everything was going great, and we figured they’d all sleep deeply tonight. We were wrapping things up, and our middle child wanted to show us one last thing: how he could walk across the chain walk without holding the rails. Great, show us how awesome you are!

Just one last time...

He made it across toward me with no problem, and we were ready to call it a day. Then he decided he’d turn around to go back to the other side, and for an instant, I had that feeling. Do you know that feeling? Where you think, “This is where someone gets hurt. Just one more time, they say.” And just as quick as I had the thought, I brushed it off as irrational parental worrying.

Continue reading


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Blissfully Bald: Why my wife and I decided to shave our heads

This post is now available as a podcast! You may either download the file from archive.org or listen below.

Karin and Chris at the Dali MuseumMany of us have a cause that we connect with; something we can really get behind and champion. Now I’m no champion, but I’ve recently added an incredibly worthy cause to my list thanks to one incredibly brave little girl and her courageous parents. More on that in a moment.

We all know that language is powerful. It’s why we read the blogs we love and love the blogs we write. The main function of this blog is to connect hearts and minds by sharing my experiences with honesty and hopefulness. My mission is simple: equality. And one of the things that falls under the category of equality is access. I feel strongly about equal access to education/higher education, for example. But there’s one aspect of life to which access is sometimes taken for granted.

Living.

Most of us don’t have to struggle daily just to stay alive. We might struggle to pay bills or struggle to understand our children/partners/coworkers/neighbors/you-name-its. More likely, we’re “struggling” to get through a Monday morning or complaining about having enough coffee to get us through said morning. And our kids? If they’re lucky, they complain about which flavor of ice cream you bought or how they only got 30 minutes of Nintendo DS time.

Thankfully, I’ve never had to make decisions month-by-month or day-by-day that would dictate whether or not I’d live, for how long, and at what cost. Even more thankfully, I’ve never had to make those decisions about one of my children.

But Mary Tyler Mom has. Sadly, so have countless other parents. According to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, more than 160,000 children are diagnosed with cancer worldwide each year (that’s about one every 3.5 minutes), and one in five children diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. will not survive. But as sad and angry as that makes me, this post isn’t about numbers, and it isn’t about death.

This post is about hope. It’s about life. It’s about gratitude.

Karin read Donna’s Cancer Story as it was published in series last September to recognize Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and it changed her life. (I’m hoping she’ll write a post about that herself.) I, on the other hand, hesitated. I had read so many powerful statements by folks who had read it, and honestly, it scared me. I liken it to the feeling I had before my ex-wife and I decided to try to have children. Change, even positive change, is stressful, and I knew this story would change me.

One day I decided to start reading Donna’s Cancer Story. I was in the right head space to do it, and I was going to read as many as I could straight through. BUZZ! Wrong. I got three posts in and already I was starting to feel traumatized. I took a break that lasted a few months. In the meantime, Karin and I got married and held a “Donna dance” at our wedding reception in lieu of a dollar dance, and raised about $130 from our very small, very generous group of friends. And it felt good. It felt right. Guests dropped their donations into a box and we danced to Katy Perry’s “Firework” (You MTM lovers will know why) and it was glorious. That money will go directly to Donna’s Good Things.

Donna dance at Chris & Karin's wedding

We rocked out to Firework as folks dropped bills (U.S. and Canadian), half-used Starbucks gift cards, and whatever else they had into a donations box. I danced with my 6-year-old while Karin wiped away tears and greeted dancers. Meg pulled up her pants. (She's actually a sexy dancin' machine.)

So when we read about the Donna’s Good Things/St. Baldrick’s event Continue reading


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‘If Only I Had the Time’ and Other Excuses for Being Unhappy

If only I didn’t work a full-time job 35 minutes away from home…
If only I weren’t so tired at night…
If only the kids weren’t so demanding…
If only I had a laptop and faster internet service…

If only I had the time…

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali. Source: http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79018

Excuses. Distractions. Dwelling on what’s already happened or has yet to happen, forever ignoring the “right now.” Sound familiar?

If I had to put a number on it, I’d estimate that 8-15% of my time during any given 168-hour period (that’s a week for those of you who may not be as mathy as I) is available for use as I see fit. That’s roughly 13-25 hours per week. (See previous post: Striking a Balance.)

25 hours sounds like a lot, but it’s half as much time as I spend at work. And by “at work,” I mean actually working, driving to work, driving home, taking potty breaks, pretending to work, or sleeping with my eyes open at my desk. And Facebook. Let’s not forget Facebook, for Pete’s sake.

But so many of those 13-25 weekly “free” hours are seemingly frittered away on things like putting out metaphorical fires (like  breaking up arguments between any combination of our three boys or making a second or third grocery store run that week) or being depressed and/or pissy. Lousy SAD.

So let’s pretend for a minute Continue reading