You’re Wight Dere

(***Note: Now that the weather is getting colder, I expect I’ll be posting with more frequency. Between the weather and our daughters just handing me posts, it is difficult to not share some of these little moments. Of joy and otherwise…hehe.)

Listening to my 3-year-old discover the English language is one of the joys I have in life. The letters “r”, “l”, and the “th” sound are three difficulties at this point. Just listening to her attempt to say “parallel lava lamps” causes me to giggle.

A few weekends ago we took the girls to Chicago. One afternoon we took them right downtown. It may have been the last good afternoon of the season. We were very blessed to enjoy great weather. I couldn’t wait to get our 3-year-old to Millennium Park to see the Cloud Gate, otherwise known as “the bean”. This great reflective work of art is an attraction. And on a nearly cloudless day it is even more impressive.
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I didn’t realize getting from the parking ramp to “the bean” was to become a feat of endurance. For the first time we were going to have our 3-year-old walk instead of ride. That meant, in a time of poor judgement on my part, she would be walking the 8 block walk from the ramp to the park. Then walk through the park with us and walk back to the parking ramp. She started whining at the half block mark and I knew my patience would be tested on this trip. Seriously, a half block and she was already complaining about being (insert complaint here: I’m hungry, I’m tired, I’m sweating) that’s right sweating one half block into the walk. After a rest at block 4 things did get better.

If you haven’t walked on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago on a nice afternoon you may not realize it can get rather crowded. My wife is not a fan of crowds. Because of this I watched our 3-year-old even closer than I expected. Not only because of the crowd of strangers, but also just to make sure she wasn’t going to show signs of claustrophobia or problems handling crowds. The good news is she did great in a large group.

When we got to “the bean” I took the 3-year-old around it and underneath it. Those pics are fun to take as well.

While underneath I asked her how she was doing? I also asked if she was frightened. (Lately she has said, “I’m scared” a lot so I just wanted to be sure she was fine. I was just making sure.) Her answer, “Nope.” When I asked why she wasn’t afraid she pointed right at the reflection on “the bean”, “Because you’re wight dere.”
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To translate, “Because you’re right there.” It does a heart good to know she felt safe because I’m near.

My mind went right to our faith. What if we could always see God, “wight dere”? How much better would we feel? How different would we act?

It amazes me how sometimes a small sentence from a 3-year-old can get a mind going.

“Do not fear: I am with you;
do not be anxious: I am your God.
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Or, to quote the chorus of the David Haas song “You Are Mine” I had stuck in my head the rest of the afternoon:

“Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine”

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Her First Trip to the Polls

Pic courtesy of freeimages.com.  Taken by szaszlajos.

Please allow me to preface this post stating that although it is a story about voting in the midterm elections, it is not political.  (Gets up on soapbox).  I solemnly promise NOT to tell you how you should vote.  I promise NOT to belittle you for whatever your political choices were in the election.  I sincerely do not like the negativity that comes with elections.  Not just the advertisements.  But the discussions within social networks about how one side is “dumber” than the other side.  Consequently, I won’t talk negatively, or positively, about any specific candidate/party.  Finally, I sincerely apologize in advance to those who read this and live south of the cheese curtain.  To those readers you will understand at the bottom of the post.  (Steps off of soapbox).

Since I was a little boy, I’ve always been a fan of the political process.  You only need two fingers to count the number of elections I failed to cast my vote.  And one of those times I literally ran across town to the poll only to get there at 8:01 as they were locking the door.  It is important to do your civic duty and get out and vote.  Having a 3-year-old who asks tons of questions just seemed like a good time to take her to the polls and have her watch the process of voting.

She appeared enthused about the prospect of going with me to the place to vote.  It was a little daddy/daughter time.  She even seemed ready to do all the steps.  (Even standing in line.)  When we finally got to the first step I explained how I had to sign a paper showing that it really was “me”.  Plus I could point out how Mom had already been to the polls and voted earlier in the day.

After receiving a number, she actually walked with pride as she carried the number to the woman who gave us the ballot to fill out.

We went to a polling station where there was a chair so she could sit and watch as I took the black marker and connected the arrow for each candidate I feel is best for the job.  With each arrow connecting my little “critique” partner became more and more vocal.

I cast my vote for Governor.  She said, “Hmmm.  Dad, that’s a good one.”  (Of course I think she was referring to my drawing of the line from one part of the arrow to another.  But it made me smile.)

Then the next vote was cast, or arrow was drawn.  “Good one Dad.  You’re pretty good at this.”

A louder and seemingly more positive reaction greeted each vote cast.  It felt like I had my own cheering section of one.

The people around us started giggling.

The second last vote cast was where she noted that the desk I had set my ballot on had a few black marks from earlier voters.  That was when the comparison got me laughing because as I completed another arrow she said, “WOW!  At least you aren’t like this person.  (Pointing to the black mark on the desktop).  They don’t know how to vote right.”

I felt a little hand pat me on the back as I cast my last vote and the most encouraging congratulatory voice she said, “Good job.  I can tell you’ve done this before.”

I gave her the ballot to put into the machine that tallies and counts the vote.  As our vote was swept away she said, “Is that it?”  Almost asking if she wanted more steps.  I could only think of one.  I grabbed a sticker, which normally I would not do, and placed it on her coat.

“A STICKER?!?”, she exclaimed, “I LOVE VOTING!”  She turned back toward the crowd of people with their heads in the booths voting, “GOOD JOB EVERYONE!”  And, with a wave of her hand like a politician, she walked out the door to the exit with me.

I voted.  You should too.
One of the highlights in the voting process

As we walked out of the library where we voted an older gentleman was walking toward the door.  Another couple was right behind us walking out.  My daughter asked, “OK, now can we vote again?”

“No”, I replied.

“Awww, why not?”, she sadly bemoaned.  The gentleman walking in smiled at me after hearing her sad tone.

“Because we don’t live in Chicago”, I replied.

Good thing there was a bench for the gentleman walking in to sit down upon.  He started laughing pretty hard.  The couple behind us started laughing too.

Again I am sorry Chicago.  I must apologize, but that punchline was right there and I couldn’t help myself.

The Difference Between a House and a Home

The next couple of posts will revolve around a little time away from our house as a family.  We were able to take the girls out of the small town we live in to Chicago.  Oh the things you can learn when you travel with anyone, much less when you travel with family.

We are also trying to sell our current house.  To prepare our 3-year-old for an impending move I’ve talked with her about the difference between a house and a home.  I never realized how the talk about the difference changed her thought process in such a beautiful way.  The concept is as simple as I could put it.  Any building you can live in is a “house”, but a home is where we all are (mom, dad, and the girls).  I was using the description to show how wherever we live is our home as long as we are together.  My hope was this would make a new house transition a little easier.

When we arrived in the Chicago area the first step was getting everyone into our hotel room.  Then, my little quirk, I walked out and filled the ice bucket.  I did that alone.  When I came back to the room our 3-year-old said rather loud, “WELCOME HOME!!!”  It felt like I was away for hours and not the couple of minutes it took to fill an ice bucket.

My wife, unknowingly, corrected her, “We’re in a hotel room, not home.”  Our 3-year-old wasn’t phased.  (Which was a surprise too.)  Instead she waited until she could catch me all alone and whispered, as if we were sharing a secret, “Mom doesn’t know?  You need to tell her when we are all together we are home.”

Cute on it’s own, right?  But then she took it the next step.  You see we stayed at the same hotel I stayed at on and off for over a year working on a project.  She knew this was the hotel I stayed at because we made a big deal about staying where daddy stays when he goes to Chicago.  That was when she said something I never expected.

“You stay here a lot.  But it wasn’t OUR home until we came here with you.”  Then I got a huge hug.

I guess she hugged too tight.  Because she caused a few tears to sneak out of my eyes.

She really got the message.  I don’t think I did until that moment.

The First Sign of Sisterly Love/Respect?

As a somewhat new dad to two little girls, the oldest is 3 years old and the youngest is 10 months, I’ve been waiting for those times where I start to see “sisterly love” and trust between the two of them.  I’m not looking for the little extra smile that our youngest shows when her older sister comes in the room.  That has been there for sometime.  I’ve been looking for a larger gesture or reaction.  A sign of trust.

(A side note. I think every guy goes through adjustments as children enter his life.  Our home used to be quiet.  Sure you may hear the radio or TV on, but there was a lot of time where one could get lost in thought or enjoy the silence.  Well, those days left almost 3 years ago.  And with two, those days have certainly moved further away.  That’s not a complaint.  It is simply an adjustment.)

So that gesture I’ve been looking for came in a very, well, how do I say it, a “daddylike” way?  (At least “daddylike” from my childhood).

It was bedtime.  The older sister went to bed pretty well.  The 10 month old just wasn’t ready to sleep.  As parents we tried nearly everything in our arsenal of tricks to get her to sleep.  She just wasn’t liking any of the attempts.  At a certain point, you just have to try the self-sooth-cry-herself-to-sleep.  My wife put her in the crib.

Well, the girls share a room.  A sleeping 3 year old is something to be cherished and witnessed.  Hearing her wake up is not what you want.  But sometimes you just have to let the baby cry and risk the 3 year old waking up.

The 10 month old went from a whimper, to a whine, to an irritated cry, to ticked off and getting louder with each step.

(Another side-note.  Just a few weeks earlier I was mentioning to the 3 year old that an awesome part of being the big sister is if you hear your little sister crying at night you could quietly whisper a comforting, “It’s OK baby, I’m here” and maybe your sister would calm down knowing she was safe in the room with her big sister.  Ahhhh, a father can dream right?)

The ticked off cry became more of an angry yell/cry when another voice came from the bedroom yelling, “Quiet baby.  Baby.”  (then a louder)  “BABY!  SHUT UP!”  That’s right.  It was the 3 year old.

But….that yell was followed by….silence.  And everyone went to sleep. 

Well, everyone except my wife and I sitting in the living room stifling our giggles of amazement. 

The big sister helped quiet down the little sister.  Not quite the quiet comforting whisper I was hoping to hear.  Yet it worked.

Who knew that my first sign of sisterly love/respect would be one yelling at the other.  For the record, they really love each other.  And they are LOUD.  I have been told, but haven’t heard yet, the “Frozen” “Let it Go” duet where the 3 year old sings loud and the 10 month old yells trying to sing too.  But sounds more like she is just yelling at the top of her lungs.  Like my first side note says, those days of a quiet house have gone away.  I couldn’t be happier.

Things The Bad Catholic Dad Does

At work I’m surrounded by a great group of Catholics. I love listening to the techniques employed by many of them in raising their children over the years. Plus, working with Father Rocky gives me an opportunity to listen to him speak. He has a particular talk where he encourages praying the rosary with your family. Even saying it is a great event to do with even the youngest of children. Although, recalling his words, it can be a “full contact” rosary with young children. The first time I heard him say those words. I thought, “That seems a little exaggerated. I’m sure if my time to be a dad ever happens it won’t be like that.”

Boy was he right and I wrong on that one. I have to admit being around an active 3 year old will keep me young well beyond my years. And going to Sunday mass has often become, to borrow Fr. Rocky’s words, a “full contact” sport.

I’m not complaining. I’m just realizing that the perfect dad isn’t the one that is comparable to Ward Cleaver. He is more like…well…a gifted verbal juggler. And sometimes a full on juggler. For my 3-year old daughter and myself, the verbal exchanges just keep coming. Plus, I keep getting reminders how even the most quiet of actions are always being recorded by a 3-year old mind.

We haven’t started praying rosaries with her yet. But we started from almost day one doing smaller prayers like the bedtime prayer, the prayer before meals, and the Guardian Angel prayer.

A 1 or 2-year old is easily distracted and that has caused me to occasionally reword a prayer. For instance if our 3-year old starts eating prior to everyone else sitting down I may reword the phrase, “which we are about to recieve” to, “which she is already eating/scarfing/inhailing”.

But the nighttime is sometimes “accidentally misworded” by me in order to distract her, get her to giggle, and refocus so we can say it correctly. The correct one we pray goes like this:

“Now I lay me,
Down to sleep,
I pray the Lord,
My soul to keep.
Guide me safely,
through the night.
Wake me with,
the morning light.
Amen.”

Well, when she is distracted, or not really ready to pray yet I may start her off with:

“Now I lay me,
Down to sleep.
A bag of peanuts/big ol’ pizza,
At my feet.”

The giggling usually starts followed by her saying, “That’s NOT how you pray it. Do it like this….”

Then she prays it the way we know.

A few nights ago I got up after going through out nighttime routine and a dresser drawer was left open just a little bit and I banged by foot against it. I only grumbled a little bit to myself and walked out of the room. (For those of you who really know me, you would be proud. No loud yell. No foul words. Literally just a grumble to myself and that was it.) I didn’t even think our 3-year old heard me. I was wrong.

The other night, my influence was heard by my wife. She went in to do nighttime prayer with our daughter. Our 3-year old improvidsed the following prayer. I think you will see my influences clearly.

“Now I lay me down to sleep.
A big ol’ pizza at my feet.
Guide me safely through the night.
Because a drawer is in my way. Amen.”

I wasn’t in the room to hear this lovely prayer. But I’m pretty certain the neighbors could hear my wife and daughter roaring with laughter followed by the real prayer.

I’m not sure my word substitutions would be given a Fr. Rocky stamp of approval, but I think my daughter watching out for our feet sure gets my approval.

And it is really important that I remember I’m being watched and listened too much more than I realize.

Just learning and living the #dadlife everyday.