Saturday, October 30, 2010

When your child exceeds you

When I was in high school I played football. I would say I was not so good at it. I played the line and my entire technique involved hitting whoever happened to be in front of me. I rarely actually knew the play nor understood what was going on around me.

I went to a small church school that had about 300 students and our football coach was also the priest for the school. He tried his best but there was only minor talent and he really had no idea how to coach. So we regularly lost and when I finished high school I never played again.

Which brings me to my son. He attends a church school also. But his school has 2500 students. And a football team that USA Today has ranked #3 in the nation. Their entire coaching staff is ex-NFL, the Varsity is sponsored by Nike and two of their games this season were televised nationally on ESPN. To them football is deadly serious. Last year the entire starting line had a football scholarship to a major college.

They learn techniques that most players never see until college. Where I used to just hit the guy in front of me, they study footwork and leverage points. They understand deeply the technique behind the game at a level that no one on my team ever approached. They also practice 6 days a week and off season their days start with a 6 AM morning workout.

This year my son played JV. For the 5th year in a row they were undefeated. The offensive line averages around 250 lbs. One team refused to play against them because in the prior game 6 of the opposing players had to be carried off the field. During that game I heard on team mom mention to another that "we are going to need more ambulances". And in this highly competitive mix, my son was selected out of 60 kids to move up to Varsity in his sophomore year.

Which brings me to the title of this post. For the first time, one of my children is clearly better at something that I could ever be. Even if he never plays college level he is still a better football player than I ever was. Which is sort of a funny feeling. It is like the time when they finally beat you in a footrace even though you are trying (instead of letting them win).

I find myself un-bothered though. I am fiercely proud of all my kids and very proud of my oldest son. To know that he is better than me actually makes me happy in a strange way.

What I do worry about is if in my pride I am putting an expectation on him that he cannot live up to. At the skill level he is playing at kids are thinking college ball and beyond. There is always the temptation to use performance enhancing drugs to stay ahead. I worry constantly that he will be pushed into something stupid. Especially since at "only"220 lbs (at 15!) he is considered "small" for the position he is playing.

So I encourage him to play while constantly cautioning him against drugs and reassuring him that even if he does not play college he will still have had the experience of playing with people who he will eventually see on TV in the NFL. And that experience alone is worth something! He will always know that he got selected for Varsity as a sophomore and was a success in a very difficult team. I hope that is enough. For me I could not be more proud of him and I don't care if he plays college or not. I just hope he believes me.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

In South Florida we have Lobster Mini-Season. For 2 days in at the end of July you can go out and catch lobster (up to 6 each person). Regular season starts in August. It is sort of insanity. It has become this huge deal where it seems like half of South Florida (I may be exaggerating there) loads up on boats and hunts lobster. What makes it really funny is that many of them have no idea what they are doing.

This year three of us at work decided to go lobster hunting with our sons. So the six of us loaded up on my buddy's boat and headed out. I was inexperienced but my two friends were veterans.

Each morning we met at my friend's house and loaded into his truck. We then headed to a private dock we have access to (public docs are overcrowded on this day and take forever). We launched out by 6 AM and hit the water.

Day 1: We get out into Miami bay and the boat motor refuses to work. After about 2 hours of back and forth calls with my friend's boat mechanic we finally get it running and head out to the Keys. We hunted lobster until 5 PM that night. I was waxed. C1 was with me and that is as tired as I have ever seen him. We caught only two lobsters we were allowed to keep. No problem catching lobsters, big problem catching big lobster. We did manage to stag one huge 17 incher and one smaller one. It was a cool experience though even without the lobster. We had a barracuda swim right by us (mean looking fish), had a wild dolphin play around us as we swam, and saw a lion fish (highly poisonous fish). We stayed way away from the lion fish. It is supposed to be like being stung by a hundred bees at once. No thanks! C1 got stung by a jelly fish though which he suffered through surprisingly quietly.

Day 2: Better luck with the boat so we got out earlier. We decided to dive some reefs fairly far out. All the dads SCUBA dove and the sons floated on the surface looking for lobster. Again, caught 15-20 but had to throw all of them back. I did see this huge black spotted eel though. It looked and me and I swam backwards fast!

As my buddy and I were complaining about the lack of sizable lobsters I suddenly realized that people pay good money just to come here and dive these reefs. And here I have them in my back yard and I am complaining. So I finished the dive and just enjoyed several beautiful reefs. What was neat was that you just drive around the Keys and look for reefs. Once you fins one you drop anchor and dive in. Most of the reefs had no one else even close to us when we dove.

At the end the dads decided this is a new tradition. We are going to try and go next year also. Maybe we will have better luck. I know we will have just as much fun!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lazy Summer days in South Florida

Well we just got back from our annual trip to Cocoa beach. I really love it there. Every day is so completely lazy. I don't wake up until 9 (which is unheard of, usually I am up before the sun). Then we either spend the day swimming or going to the beach. This year we also spent hours into the playroom where A and the RP lived. We stay at the Ron Jon Cape Caribe (you can look it up on the internet..awesome place).

So now we are back and yes you guessed it, back in the water! It is so hot that usually on the weekend we live in the pool. Then I cook dinner on the grill and we eat outside. The wonderful thing about living in the sub-tropics is that after the sun start setting the world cools down. So you have these wonderful evening breezes. We sit out by the pool and eat our dinner and it is super!

Other than that, not much going on. Still no hurricanes which is great! In other news, C1 is now driving confidently. We invested in a set of driving lessons for him and it has really paid off. He is confidently driving around. We picked up the Matriarch from her hotel recently and he drove her around! That was her first grandchild who could drive. So a great first! She survived the trip with only minor gasps and wimpers!

Oh yeah that is a rare picture of me (I am usually the one taking pictures) with the RP. I was trying to steal a kiss and she was having none of it. I have now officially gone on a diet after that picture. Time to get back to my fighting weight (though the shirt is sort of puffing out).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I have no camera and thus no fun pictures..I blame the dog

So I have lost my camera. That means no cool pics for the blog this week. Somewhere there is a red camera in my house. I am a bit skeptical about finding it. Last time I lost my Ipod I never found it. I think it is possible that my lab ate it. He eats everything else so it seems possible!

In the winter I always enjoy talking to my friends who do not live in the sub-tropics. As they freeze we still stroll around in short. It is hot now but in a tropical kind of way. So burning hot but a cool breeze. By evening it is still hot but you can sit outside and it is pleasant. These days though we pretty much spend 60% of our time in the pool trying to keep cool.

The family is leaving for Cocoa Beach tomorrow. In 2007 I bought a timeshare and I have never looked back. Each year I take my family for a week there and we love it. Everyone always warned me about timeshares but really this one works fine for me. Since I really don't have a big desire to go anywhere but the property I bought into I have never had a problem reserving the week I want.

During much of my childhood my family spent a week each summer at the beach. Now I have recreated that only in Cocoa! It is funny how you end up picking certain memories from your childhood and relive them with your family.

Anyway I just wanted to document something!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pirate Party

Today we went to a pirate party. As I have said before, it always amazes me how a 4-5 year old birthday party has not changed one bit since I started going to them 10 years ago with C1.

The party was actually a lot of fun. It was at a local park. They had a lady come in who was the entertainer. She dressed like a pirate and the party began with face painting. Then we had a series of games. They included a treasure hunt, races, dancing, etc. The kids had a blast! At the end A told the birthday boy "this was the best party ever".

It is sort of funny since we have been to far more expensive birthday parties where A did not enjoy himself half as much. This was sort of a party distilled to what was really important...playing with your friends. I have going to have to think about that when A's birthday comes up this summer. Maybe having fun is more important that some elaborate setup!

Another note is the playground itself. If you look in the background of the first picture you can see the playscape. All the playscapes here in my part of South Florida look like this. We have a merciless searing sun during the summer. But always a cool breeze off the ocean. That means that under shade even in the height of the summer it is at least bearable. So all the playscapes have huge tents over them to provide shade. I have been to a couple of playscapes without a shade and they are essentially unusable after April and before October-November. With the shade you can play all year.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Daddy I need a doctor

And so begins the dreaded sick time! A started coughing about 4 days ago. We took him to the doctor after it became obvious that he was not kicking it in a day. Now suddenly the RP is coughing and has a 100 degree fever.

I get way more worried about the RP than A. Like all my boys, A is a bruiser. He was born at 10 pounds and now at 4 is weighing in at a petite 45 pounds. So when he gets sick I worry like any parent but in the back of my mind is the fact that, like all the males in this family, he can take a licking and keep on ticking (showing my age there, not sure how many people under 40 would recognize that reference).

The RP ,on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish altogether. She is still only 25 pounds. You don't really notice it when she is healthy because she is always running around with her brother. She eats like a horse but never gains weight. She has one of those Russian model bodies that is thin without being skinny. However, once she is sick is becomes obvious all of a sudden. She is this wet little puppy dog who needs to be carried around all the time. At least she ate something tonight so hopefully that will help.

I think tomorrow we are doctor bound. Unless I see a fever break we are going to have to brave the doctor's office tomorrow for Saturday clinic. Thank God for a solid insurance plan, a calm daughter and a Kindle. I think all that together will let me survive the 2-3 hours that is going t0 consume tomorrow.

No beach for us! I just hope it stays away from C1 and C2.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lost Focus

Well I sort of lost focus on the blog recently. The Wife decided she needed a taste of Texas and took a week trip with the RP to Texas. Which left me as the single father of 3 boys. We survived fine. I will say that the house would be a lot more structured if it was just me. My wife is the creative, spontaneous one. I like structure and order. So while she was gone we hit our routine on Day 2 and there we stayed for the entire week!

This week I am dealing with hurricane planning. In South Florida hurricanes are a big deal. At my company we have an entire week of hurricane planning. Basically for the week we simulate what would happen if a bad hurricane was bearing down on Miami. So you have calls every hour, checklists to be filled out, plans to be reviewed and rewritten. It is incredibly busy. The first year I did it I sort of had a hard time getting into it. I approached it only quasi seriously. But I am surrounded by people who have survived hurricane after hurricane. And they are serious as a heart attack about the drills. This year I am really getting into it. You have to imagine what you would do if the hurricane was really bearing down on the city.

I work for a utility so we are last out and first in. We are the #1 restoration utility in the world. Of course I always have to follow that statement with..because we have a lot of practice! Once the storm is coming our job is to make sure that we weather the storm and then get power back on as quickly as possible. That is a intense job that takes everyone in the company focused. You actually have two jobs, a storm job and a non-storm job.

Here is a sign of what a great company I work for. If you are out of town when a hurricane is coming they send a crew to your house to help your family prepare for the storm. I think that is cool. It would never have occurred to my old employer to do something like that. I was in Ireland on business once and a hurricane was bearing down on our town. Never heard a peep from them.

Anyway, enough gripping. I just wanted to get something out on the blog!

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Church

Lately I have been feeling like a lot of people have opinions about us as Catholics but they never seem to actually come to Mass. Or at least not my Mass.

This all started when I was at reading her blog. Her husband is dying of cancer and as she sat in his hospital room she prayed the Rosary. And one of her concerns was that she was Protestant and what would the Catholics think. And I read it and thought...Do people really see us that way? Do they really think we would have any issue at all with a woman whose husband of 20 years is dying taking refuge in the peace of the Rosary? Because I know any of the people in my parish would hand her their Rosary without hesitation. I just felt this deep sadness, first for what the woman was going through and second that she would even be worried about what people would think about her praying the Rosary.

And then on top of that I can't seem to open the paper without people endlessly speculating about what the Pope did and did not know about the sex abuse scandals. And even calling for his resignation! Like he was some errant city commissioner and not the spiritual father of over a billion Catholics. For him to resign means the Cardinals were not guided by the Holy Spirit when he was nominated and basically says that God has completely abandoned us. So I am going to have to go with NO as the answer to if he should resign.

So just to blow off steam I want to say what my Catholic church is like and what it is not like (despite what you may read in the New York Times):

1) We are a place filled with love. We care about the people around us and we support each other as much as we can.
2) We are not judgmental. We understand that sometimes we do judge because we are human and we fail in Grace but we do not see judgement of other people as a virtue. We do not see it as our job to decide if other people are less fit for God than us. We try to accept people as they are and if they sin we try to help them.
3) We love children. Children fill the Church. They are not assigned to classrooms so that the adults can get to the somber business of worship. In my Church they wander the pews and sometimes they are loud. But we understand that children are loud and that is okay. Everyone laughs, the priest speaks louder and we move on. Last Mass a two year old crawled into my lap. I thought it was funny and so did her dad.
4) We protect our children fiercely. We as Catholics have seen vividly that evil can fester in the midst of good. We have rigid programs to protect our children but still let them live a life filled with church activities. We have zero tolerance for the filth that infected the Church in the past. We failed in the past but we will never fail again.
5) We are a place centered on Scripture. Our priests see their job as explaining Scripture to their flock, not using Scripture to prove some kind of point. 90% of our service is based on Scripture.
6) The Pope is our spiritual Father. Anyone who has ever taken the time to read his books will understand he is a man deeply rooted in faith and connected to God. He is the person God chose to guide us through the current trials in the Church.

What is funny is I originally wrote this post right after Easter Vigil. Then I decided it was completely the wrong tone for Easter day! So I stored it away to post sometime later!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Day

So,having just returned from a 3.5 hour Easter Vigil Mass, I am going to have to reluctantly agree with Over-Caffeinated X 4 who responded to an earlier post saying that maybe that was not a good "starter" service for non-Catholics. We even lost some Catholics and they should have know what they were getting into when they showed up for the Mass!

The service I went to was in both Spanish and English (alternating) and I think that added to the time. Spanish as a language just seems to take longer to say the same thing as in English.

The service started outside with the blessing of the fire and the lighting of the Easter candle. Then it was inside to begin the service. We went through 9 sets of Bible Reading, Psalm, Prayer then over again. Sort of takes a long time. Then a homily, then the baptisms, then confirmations and acceptance into the Church, then a Eucharist mass. Whew! My absolute favorite prayer of the year though is the Litany of the Saints and getting to hear that is worth the entire 3.5 hours.

Great service though. I still feel like if some non-Catholics could come and actually make it through the service they would really understand what the Church is all about. It is an intense service but what a great experience!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Best Friends Today

So today at the beach my kids both met other kids, bonded in under 10 minutes, became best friends and played together for the remainder of the day. Sort of amazing. I wish I could make friends that fast. My son came to me and said "He is my best friend!". I laughed and said "You don't even know his name!". My son thought about it and then said "Well he is my best friend for today!

P.S. I let RP and A put the suntan lotion on my back and now my back looks like an abstract painting. They thought it was funny to draw big splotches with the lotion and yes I burned everywhere else!

P.P.S. A claims it is my fault since they did "all the parts you told us to" and yes I am arguing with a 4 year old.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

El palacio del el jugos

So this week I became very bold. One of my coworkers and I have gone to a really cool Cuban place on Flagler a couple of times. It is called La palacio del el jugos (The palace of juices). The whole place is set up like a market. There are fruit and vegetable stalls and between them are food stalls. A huge amount of food cheap. And they make this drink out of pure sugar cane that is awesome! You literally watch them grind the sugar cane into juice and then drink it right there. It is a great place to eat but not somewhere you should go more than once a month if you don't want to gain 100 pounds or so.

The only issue? I have always gone there with a Cuban. No one working there speaks English. Or at least they will not admit they speak English. When you really get into Little Havana the people there often mess with you by speaking Spanish even when they know English. They especially like to do it to obvious Anglos like me. So for me to go to La Palacio meant I was going to need to test my Spanish skills. But I really, really wanted some food and juice last week so away I went.

As I walked in people sort of looked at me funny. Then the lady upfront turns around and says
"AquĆ­ viene un tipo blanco" to the folks behind here. "Here comes a white guy". I actually think she was trying to be helpful and see if there was an English speaker in the back of the room. However, I was ready! I boldly strolled up to the counter and declared "Yo necessito cinco tamales por favor y un guarapo tambien".The person then looked at me and said "Quince dolares". I paid my money, got my food and got out of there! A victory for the "blanco"!

Funny thing is that all this occurred in one of the largest cities in the United States. Welcome to Miami!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Break 2010

So today I was hanging around with this girl and guy I know and we decided to hit the beach in Ft Lauderdale for some spring break fun. There were tons of cool college kids everywhere and we partied until dark.

Everyone was there, even a blimp!

Well...that is what I would have written about 20 years ago! The real story is that A and the RP and I decided to hit the beach today. When The Matriarch (my mom and yes at 42 I still call her mom) was in town last week we talked a lot about going to the beach but sanity prevailed (it is spring break in South Florida) and we decided to have a nice day at the zoo instead. But I had promised A and RP I would take them this week no matter what.

When I say there were a ton of college kids, I mean a ton of people sitting in their cars making a 20 minute trip to the beach take an hour. What a mess! Traffic was backed up for miles with folks trying to get on the main strip for Ft. Lauderdale. I was trying to get to the local part of the beach but to get there I had to sit in traffic with a bunch of people with license plates from all over the country. Once I got to the beach where we usually hang out there were very few people (it is way away from the action by the hotels) but getting there was a chore.

Anyway, we had a perfect day. Set up the tent and spent three hours on the beach. We built sand castles, picked up shells and swam in the water. Actually we waded in the water, the ocean is still a bit cold. Lots of Notherners splashing around but us Floridians need warm water!

The Day Begins - 75 degrees and perfect weather

The Wife thinks she looks terrified. A was laughing in
this picture, not scared. But I guess I can see
what the Wife is saying....

The game was to run from our beach tent all
the way into the water and back again. They did
it about 10 times which may explain how tired
we all are!

Ahhh...nothing like a cool ocean breeze and
a daddy leg to sleep on at the end of the day.

We did actually stay almost until dark!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vivere senza rimpianti

Vivere Senza Rimpianti

So I have been thinking about this phrase ever since I saw it on the internets (As the Bloggess calls it). It means "To Live without regrets". I am not sure it is really possible to ever achieve this ideal but lately I have been trying to follow it in regards to my kids.

I am keenly aware of the sands of time slowing slipping away. In 3 years C1 is off to college, C2 is in high school and A hits the 7 year old range. In 4-5 years even RP will no longer want to hang out with me all the time. Right now it is a given that if I am going somewhere on the weekend then at least the two youngest children will be with me. But I know that will end. My time as the number one focus in my children's life is slowly ending. And I live each day trying to capture and enjoy as much of the time I have with them as possible.

I think I drive the Wife crazy because on the weekend I never stop. It is one adventure to another with my kids. She does not understand my need to frantically drink as much of the experience as I can. The need to make memories that I can hold to when the kids are older.

I do have a life outside of my kids. I work, I go to Mass, I spend time with the Wife. But for me right now in life this is the key focus when I am not trying to make money. Today I spent 5 hours at the zoo, next week I will go to the beach or the park or somewhere. Because I refuse to look back at the years I have now and think that I missed something. To regret even a moment of the time I had with my children. I refuse to live with regret.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Silly Made Up Song

So when my oldest child was only one, I made up a song to sing him to sleep. I have a horrible voice but none of my children seem to care. The Wife does care but it is not her I am singing to!

I had a starting and ending verse when I started 14 years ago and for each child I have added a new verse over the years. Each verse for each child is tied to a thing that child loved to do with me when they were young. Each verse captures a memory of my children. It goes like this:

Hey little boy
Will you play with me
He said "I'd love to dad
Just you and me"

For C1 I added
Hey little boy
Let's go to the park
We'll run and we'll play
we'll stay out past dark

For C2 I added
Hey little boy
Let's go to the pool
We'll splash and we'll swim
We'll look real cool

For A1 I added
Hey little boy
Let's go to the beach
We'll dig and we'll build
There's a lot I can teach

For RP I added
Hey little girl
Let's go to the zoo
We'll look at the animals
We'll act real cool

Hey Little Boy
Your Daddy loves you
He said "I know Dad
I love you too"

A silly song that I have now sung to four children. When I sing to the RP I have to change all the "little boys" in the song to "little girls" and all the "hes" to "shes". But the song still works and after 14 years it is still putting children to sleep.

(RP told me last night that "this is my favorite song daddy"

Saturday, March 6, 2010

In which I try to go to the zoo but fail in a good way

So today RP, A and I decided to head for the zoo in Miami. For anyone who is visiting Miami the zoo is a good break from the endless beach and water. If you like zoos, and like walking a lot. The zoo is laid out in a 3 mile loop and you walk the whole thing. It has a monorail you can ride but if you do you miss all the animals. It does have Surrey Bikes for rent if you are willing to bike. My family signed up for a membership last year and I would say we have been about 7-8 times. So not every week but still fun enough to go back once a month or so.

Anyway, we were heading to the zoo when we saw the Railroad Museum (hard to miss since you have to drive by it to get into the zoo). And we saw a huge Thomas the Tank engine sign. So we never made it to the zoo.

If you are ever in Miami and your kids love trains, the Railroad Museum is a must. Forget the zoo. At the Railroad Museum there are all these old trains that you get to crawl around in. Based on how dirty you want to get, you can really crawl around some of them. The place is chock full of old, real trains from the last 50 years. It also has the world's largest (INHO) train playroom.

So instead of the zoo we went and saw Thomas. Of course that also involved ice cream (funny how many activities we do seem to involve ice cream at some point :-) ), and a bouncy house and a lot of other fun things to do. It was fun. Then we waited in line and saw Thomas.

We decided not to ride him though. You don't actually get to ride him, you ride in a coach pulled behind him. I can do that any week at the Railroad Museum. I don't need to do it with Thomas. So we passed on that but the rest was fun. I realize the kids will probably not remember Thomas but we will have pictures and I will always be able to show them that we met him in person!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Feast Day

So today was the Feast day for St.Katherine Drexel, the patron saint of our local church. They really did it up for the event. The Archbishop was there and he gave most of the service. The whole thing was outside in a local park and the entire church showed up.

Then we had free hot dogs, hamburgers and cake! Well sort of free. They asked for donations and you sort of felt like you had to contribute something.

Afterwards there was a big fair that everyone hung out at until 4 PM. Lots of people brought chairs and blankets and there was a DJ. For the kids we had bounce houses, a rock climbing wall and a bunch of games (sack cloth races, soccer shootouts, etc). The kids had a blast. Except A got sunburned so now I feel like a bad parent for not putting sun block on him.The sun kind of snuck up on us. In the morning we were all in coats but by 1 it was sunny and warmer. So I ended up carrying around a whole bag of coats by the afternoon. Some people left and came back in shorts!

Ana had her first cotton candy also! She voted a big yes on the American treat!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

One long random ramble of thoughts :-)

So it has been crazy time in our house lately. Seems like every child in A's school is having a birthday within the same 4 weeks. It must have been a busy month 9 months ago!

I was sitting at a birthday party for A and I realized that I have been going to these birthday parties for the last 10 years. And they are still the same! I am at least starting to get to know the parents that show up there. Mostly moms though. I keep hinting that maybe the Wife should go but so far it has been a no go. So I go and chat with them. You always end up talking to the same couple of people though since you spend most of your time chasing your kids and whoever those kids hang out with decides which parent you hang out with.

In our house we also had the great bed move. 10 years ago I purchase a set of Cargo bunkbeds that has probably been the best investment I have made. They are built like rocks and even three children have been unable to make a dent in them. This weekend was the great passing down of the bunk beds. The beds have gone from C1 to C2 and now to A.

To accomplish the great bed move was a closely orchestrated ordeal. First we had to disassemble RP's toddler day bed. Then the queen in A's room went to her room. Then the bunks went to A's room and finally C2 gets a new bed! All accomplished by your's truly with much groaning.

To celebrate we bought a bed tent for A. Sort of fun. It is basically a tent that sits on tops of the bed and lets the kid sleep inside. I found one with good reviews on Amazon for $70 and away we went!

I also included a couple of fun pictures above. Notice my little Catholic girl with her Aquinas shirt! Apple of her daddy's eye of course.

I have decided to buy a new camera. This whole year I used my camera phone. It is super convenient since I can snap pictures whenever I want. However, the quality is not so good. I bought a picture frame (15" from TigerDirect for only $99!) and it really shows the quality difference between my old 5MP camera and my wimpy 2MP camera phone. So this Saturday during the great Walmart run I will pick something up.

I did warn everyone in the title that this was just one long rambling post. I have been reading a lot lately and she really shows me what a real blogger is like. Not sure my scribbles count as blogging but at least if people want an RP update you get one!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Really funny

I read last night for the first time (thanks Expatress) and I think I spent about 2 hours reading all the historical posts I could take. I literally stopped because it hurt to laugh so much. She has exactly the same sense of humor I do (only she is way funnier). What is really funny though is that I think I could read the entire thing to either The Wife or C1 and they would both look at me like I was crazy and NOT laugh once. Then C2 and I could read it all over again and be rolling in the floor.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

And here comes Lent

So I have a bit of a confession to make. I like Lent (gasp) and Easter (gasp again!) and not because of the bunny. I never really spent much time thinking about the season as I was growing up but now as I get older it has become one of my favorite times of year. Done right Lent and Easter are really great times to think about your relationship with God.

It all kicks off with Ash Wednesday and the external debate of too wipe off the ashes or not. I always feel this internal struggle between the desire to wipe them off and not stick out in this increasingly secular world and to wear them all day (not proudly since there is nothing proud about the rite) with courage. I think somehow this is easier for a woman than a man. People seem to expect a woman to be religious but when a man is they seem to look at you suspiciously. Like you are going to drag them to the nearest fountain and try to baptize them or something.

Anyway, you spend 40 days with this low level awareness that you are participating in a really ancient rite surrounding Christ and the Church. Fish on Friday gets a little old but at least you feel like you are participating in your faith outside of the Sunday Mass.

I love the Easter vigil. It is probably my favorite services all year. I am really worried though that it will not be as great down here in South Florida as it was up in Tampa. In Tampa my church did it right. We had this huge bonfire (lit by Boy Scouts of course). We would all gather around the bonfire as it was lit and then process into the church. Then the whole vigil (not for the light hearted, it lasted 3 hours in my old church) would go on with the First Communion (all the little girls in their wedding dresses and the boys in their suits) and the first baptisms of new adult members. Then we would feast outside the church.

There is this great feeling of happiness at the end of the service that you just don't normally feel. It is truly a celebration that somehow even eclipses Christmas as the peak of the year. If you are not Catholic but you wanted to go to one really cool service that is the one I would recommend. Brace yourself though since it is a long one and tends to involve a lot of ups, downs and kneeling!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

If there were no women in the world

Today was my birthday. This year I am telling people I am 38 I think. I usually pick a somewhat random age to tell people I am each year. It has to be believable and of course not be my real age. I was once 41 for two years running!

I grew up in a household with a large number of children. So really birthdays were the one day you got 100% attention. It is funny because to me birthdays are hugely important. On the other hand, the Wife grew up with only one brother. She totally does not see why your birthday is so important. We had a huge argument early in our marriage because one year she tried to completely skip my birthday!

The pictures above were taken during the cake eating event that occurred in my house this evening. The Wife was upstairs at the time and would have been completely mortified to witness what was going on!

As we had fun eating cake I suddenly starting thinking about what the world would be like with only dads and no moms. I think that it would be a different place! There would:

1) Be no forks or spoons. Probably no plates either. Only bowls and a whole lot of slurping as we downed our food.

2) Be only 4 types of stores in the world. Hardware, Food, Clothes and everything else. And the stores would be called "The Hardware Store, The Food Store, The Clothes store and Walmart".

3) Inflatable furniture that you could clean with a hose

4) Be two types of shoes - white and black

5) Be no such things as clothes that matched. it would be perfectly acceptable to wear vibrant orange and red together.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A milestone in the family

With my sons I was used to them telling me that they loved me from a very young age. I am a pretty tactile person and there is a lot of hugging going on in the family too.

Last night my daughter gave me a huge hug and told me she loved me. As I sat there I realized that in the year and a half she has been with us that is the first time she has said that without any prompting. I think it is a huge milestone in the attachment process!

Winning over the RP was a slow process. She and I have always gotten along really well and I got a kiss from her early. I have always suspected that the ladies in the orphanage knew that the dad was the one they needed to win over. They really want the kids to be adopted and if you can hook the dad the wife is an easy follow. So when I was visiting the RP in the orphanage she suddenly called my Papa the second or third time we met. She also kissed me on the nose. I have always wondered if she was coached. Smart ladies if she was, I was hooked early!

But getting to a spontaneous hug and an "I love you"has taken a long time. When she first got home I got the sort of "stranger hug". After several months I started getting the deep hug and now finally we get "I love you".

So I guess we are making progress!

Friday, February 5, 2010

What a difference a family makes

When we met
her she was
quiet and scared.

She did not laugh much and she just sadly looked at us. This beautiful, abandoned child.

She had people to watch her but it
was just a job for them.

When we took her home she owned nothing. We
had to bring her clothes to come home in.

Now she laughs all the time.

She dances and hugs. Sings and runs.

When I pick her up
she tells everyone around us
"That's my daddy!"

I saw on the web someone who asked
"How can you love someone else's

I can't get the answer out of my head. "She is not someone else's
child. She is my child"

Everyone should have room to love just
one more child. A child who needs you.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Things no one told me about raising a daughter

So I thought I was a pro. Three sons under my belt, how different could a daughter be. Well, over a year into my adoption of a beautiful little girl and I have learned:

Shoes: I really thought the whole women and shoes thing was a learned trait. However, after watching my daughter I am convinced it is gender related. At 3 she not only loves shoes (she has like 8) but 98% of the time she can pick out shoes that match her success rate is more like 50%.

Potty: No matter how much a little girl wants to stand up and pee in the toilet like her brothers it is not going to work and it is quite messy.

Private Parts: It is one thing to have a boy proudly display his privates. However, when a little girl does it, daddy has to be peeled off the ceiling by a laughing mommy. If I could afford a therapist I would be there right now.

Fighting: Little girls don't get mad they get even. A was roughhousing with RP. She took it the whole time with a bit of whining. However, I will never forget the smile on her face when she slammed shut the door on A's hand five minutes later. I feel sorry for the man who gets on her bad side when she grows up!

Clothes: In the last 14 years none of my sons has danced around the house telling everyone "My clothes are pretty!". My daughter does it all the time.

Food: My sons eat the entire pizza and then start eying the box. My daughter eats a bit of 5 different foods, grows almost a foot but does not gain any weight.

Bedtime: With my sons, if they woke up they came straight out of their rooms. It never seemed to occur to them that they were going to get put back in there. My daughter will wake up and carefully sneak down to her big brother (C1). Sometimes it is hours before we realize she is in there watching him play Xbox.

Well that is about all I can think of right now. I am sure I will come up with 100 more as soon as I hit post!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Today I will accomplish nothing!

So today I am proud to say I accomplished very little and in all likelihood I will forget this entire day in a year or two.

I woke up this morning with A and the RP as usual. We actually slept into 7:45! Last night was a night of musical beds though. A and the RP went to bed in their rooms and the Wife and I slept in our room. Somewhere around 3 I woke up with A, RP, the Wife and myself all in one bed. So I grabbed the RP and she and I went to A's room (he has a queen bed) and went back to sleep. Then around 5, A woke up and went looking for me. He then climbed in bed with the RP and I. So I wake up in a queen with two kids and the Wife is sprawled in her own king bed(what is wrong with this picture)!

But I digress. So having woken up successfully, we woke up C2 and went to Starbucks. For some reason C2 has gotten very clingy lately. He wakes up for breakfast with me everyday and now he wants to be woken up on Saturdays for the breakfast trip. Surprisingly enough on Sunday's when we have Mass he seems fine with the the idea of sleeping in and missing church!

After Starbucks it was off to Walmart and then(drum roll please)....nothing. Absolutely nothing.We spent the rest of the day sitting around, reading and watching TV. C2 and I spent a bit trying to clean up the playroom (sort of a never-ending task we tackle every once and a while) but other than that we have been gloriously unproductive. A is actually running around with no cloths on and watching TV (he is only 4 so I guess it is okay).

I think it is great sometimes to just stop and enjoy life. I spend all my time endlessly doing something but every once and while it is great to look at your day and say "Today I will accomplish nothing!"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fun things about living in South Florida

I thought I would put together a list of some of the interesting things I have experienced/learned over the last year living in Miami:

1) Every Saturday morning a Spanish language newspaper is delivered to my house. I have no idea why or who is paying for it. I don't know how to speak enough Spanish to figure out how to cancel it. But the paper has not stopped in a year and it just keeps coming.

2) By my office close to the airport in Miami there are people who sell fruit and water bottles beside the road. As you stop they run out to the cars and sell their wares. It is like being in a foreign country! There was even a guy who sold these great churros (a sugary pastry) but he disappeared one day and I have not seen him since.

3) The further south you go, the more optional the stop lights become. I was driving home recently and basically both sides of a stop light were running the lights. So all the people with the red light were driving through it. That meant that the green light side was stopped. So when the green light started to turn red that side started going...and ran their red light. Then the cycle began again!

4) Cuba is not just a concept down here. It is very real. You meet many people who fled the country and they are not amused by Castro at all.

5) It is really that hot. You get about two weeks of cold and then it peaks back up into the 70's and 80's during the day. At night it is in the 60's. Most neighborhood pools are heated so people swim all year here. You can go to the beach in January and it is packed with people sun bathing.

6) People think a lot about hurricanes. They are sort of the elephant in the corner of the room. No one wants to talk about them but you always have to think about them. People sit around talking about the best way to maintain generators and what neighborhoods have the most buried power lines.

7) The Caribbean is literally in your backyard. For 25-$30 you can hop on a boat and go over there anytime.A boat leaves from the port 20 minutes from my house. It goes out every day at 8 and is back by 10PM.

8) It is really one long city. From the tip of Miami to the north of Palm Beach is 100 miles of residential neighborhoods all stretched along the coast.

9) The freeways are huge and rarely full. Most of the major roads here are built to get a lot of people out of town as quickly as possible(hurricanes again). I rarely drop below 80 on my morning commute. I am frequently passed by police doing 85-90!

10) It is actually a great place to live if you do not mind that you have to learn some Spanish and you basically have no seasons.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A typical weekend

This is not going to be an interesting post. Mostly me just getting background down in the blog for later posts. I really hope through this blog to better remember my two youngest children's early years. Now that C1 and C2 are getting older it seems like I cannot remember much of what it was like when they were really young. I know we had a blast but is all seems a bit vague. So through this blog I am hoping that in ten years I can look back and remember better all the great times I had with the kids.

Now that we are in Miami we have settled into a pretty good weekend routine. The routine starts on Saturday at the bright and early time of 6:30 AM. A and RP are used to waking up then Monday through Friday and they don't really care that it is Saturday and we are supposed to be sleeping.

So up we go at 6:30-7:00 AM. We load up on the bike and ride to our local Starbucks (about 4 miles away). We eat breakfast and sit around there for about an hour. The Starbucks folks are used to me and my kids showing up in various stages of undress every day. I am dressed but sometimes the kids are in PJs!.

After we get back home it is time to clean up the downstairs and figure out our shopping list for the week. Then the RP, A and I head to the Super Walmart. We tried to shop at the local grocery store but when you are feeding 6 people it is just too expensive. The 15-20% I save at Walmart is well worth the 10 miles I have to drive to get there.

So that leads to a nice 1-2 hour adventure in Walmart. We usually end the ride with several opened items in the cart since the kids seem to view our load of groceries as free game if they get hungry.

By the time we are done it is lunch time. So back home we go. Saturday afternoons are sort of free time for us. Usually A, RP and I end up on some type of adventure. The rest of the family sometimes joins, sometimes not. It is really variable. Right now we have built a sort of menu of amusement options. We can go to the zoo, the beach, the playground, the train or some other adventure to be named later. Usually it is just the 3 of us though.

Sunday starts the same way around 7. Except we drive to Starbucks. There are three Starbucks in my area. We call them near, far and downtown (the Starbucks is in the town center). Since we ride our bike to near, usually Sunday is far or downtown. After Starbucks it is time for church.

Church is really an adventure. It is usually A, RP, myself and at least one of the older children. After Church you get to go to brunch which is a big treat. I do not like to eat out (too many kids) so that is the best chance the kids have of going somewhere fun.

Then Sunday afternoon is open time again. Usually on Sunday we combine something local with some work around the house. Then Monday starts the work week again!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How to make Cuban Coffee

I had a request to explain what the heck Cuban coffee is. Cafe Cubano (as it is called down here) is a very strong mix of sugar and espresso. The Cubans tell me that you should be able to taste a good cup of coffee for a solid 10 minutes after you drank it. As a certified caffeine addict I begged one of the ladies in our office to teach me the secret of making it.

So you start with an espresso machine (like the picture here). This one cost me $35 at Walmart though I saw it on sale during Christmas for $26 or so.

You are also going to need a small pot to mix the sugar in(see above). I use a metal creamer but a coffee cup works also (though it is harder to use).

For every cup of coffee you are going to need 2 TB of ground espresso and 2 TB of plain white sugar. You pack the ground espresso into the machine just like you always do when making espresso. Then you take the 2 TB of white sugar and put them in the mixing container. Then you crank on the espresso machine.

The next piece is critical. You capture the first 6-8 drops of the espresso right as they come out of the machine. This is the hottest and strongest of the espresso.I thought this was sort of silly when I started making the coffee but it does actually make a difference. Then you put the espresso pot onto the machine and let the machine brew the rest of the espresso.

While it is doing that you are going to mix the sugar. Taking the first drops of espresso you carefully pour a little bit onto the sugar and start stirring it hard with a spoon. You have to get a thick light brown colored paste. Too much and it is liquidy, too little and the sugar is still too granular. So you essentially whip the sugar and the drops of espresso together.

Then you pour the espresso over the sugar paste. Stir that mix and then pour it back into your espresso pot. In the end you should have a cup of espresso with a thick, light brown head on (almost like a beer). Then you drink it! Usually at work the Cubans will drink the coffee from a 2 TB little cup. It is definitely a sipping drink.

Thanks Annie

This is what is left of the buttermilk pie I made based on Annie's recipe on her blog One Mother's Day. This was T + 5 minutes after oven removal. I suspect it will be gone be EOD. And it was easy enough that even a guy could make it! This is about the most complicated cooking I have done in several years since it did not come out of a box (plus water and eggs)!

Ana-Saurus Rex!

I will be the first person to say that when it comes to raising a daughter I am winging it. I come from a family of 7 boys and 2 girls (both older). C1, C2 and A are all very male and now there is the RP (who is very female). So often I make up stuff as I go.

The RP gets frightened very easily. I am not sure if it is the fact she is adopted or just female. At first I would pick her up whenever she was scared. However, one day we were watching Blues Clues and I saw Steve pretending to be Steve-a-Saurus-Rex and thus was born ANA-SUARAS-REX(see picture above).

So now whenever Ana gets scared we play this game. She will say "I'm scared" and I will say "Ana might be scared but I bet Ana-Saurus-Rex is not!. Then I say "Show me Ana-Suarus-Rex" and she roars and makes a dinosaur face. And she is not scared anymore. So, probably not an Emily Post approved method of handling the situation but it seems to work. I pity the first guy who scares her though. He is in for a big surprise when Ana-Saurus-Rex comes roaring out :-)