Sunday, March 31, 2013

Farms vs. Better Judgement

Zo and Cato - Easter Sunday 2013

It's not that I don't appreciate growing up in the country, with horses in the pasture, and a barn that typically housed more than enough chores to keep my brother and I busy, it's just that I'm a big fan of just reminding myself of those times with timely visits to my Aunt's farm.  It's a beautiful thing to see your child so geeked about the whole thing, but I occasionally have flashbacks of mucking out stalls, and getting shoved around by half-retarded standard bred mares.  Screw that nonsense, I'll just visit and leave the pitchforks to the truly dedicated.

Maggie's First Horse - Cato, Aunt Cheryl's, Easter 2013

I used to embrace the notion that maybe I could return to that life, but it was all romance and nonsense...I like New York City too much, and LA, and book stores and not needing a plow to get out of my driveway in February.  The girls though...well, the girls like that life plenty, at least until they grow up and choose otherwise.  I think your average adolescent isn't built for rural life.  There are many who are, but most, including me, just weren't made for the isolation, the pace, and the responsibilities.  It all sounds nice, but someone has to do the work.  I like sneaking away too much.

A few times each year we visit my Aunt's farm and Zoey gets her fix.  I snap a few pics, and we idealize what is typically just a lot of work.  I like this set up.

I Hear Atlanta is Nice This Time of Year...

Michigan wins

I don't know when the optimist in me took leave, but at least in a sporting sense, I've turned into something of a naysayer.  Even with a twenty point lead I couldn't help but beg the universe to not let this one slip away.  Michigan came out of the gate slaying dragons, and quickly built a ridiculous lead on the Florida Gators, turning the Elite Eight match up into what looked a bit like a farce.  I never used to be that guy, but over the past decade or so I've found myself falling into some unflattering waiting for the worst to happen, and involving the universe in sporting events.  I don't know what happened to me.

I like to blame the 2009 American League Central Tie-Breaker Game for my trepidation but it's most likely more complex than that.  Somehow I've just stopped believing.  That's not cool.

Tonight the Michigan Wolverines punched their ticket to the 2013 Final Four in Atlanta, and the game wasn't even close, still,  I didn't enjoy it until the last two minutes.  That's how far I've fallen.  I held my breath for two hours.  That kinda takes the enjoyment out of sporting events.  It's not that I live and die with the Wolverines, it's just that...well, maybe I come really close to living and dying by these stupid f#$%ing games.  I need to get a life.

It's embarrassing how I react to this stuff...I don't know how many times I've said out loud that this is the last game I ever watch, or that I don't even care who wins, or I'll never pay attention to this stuff again...lies, all filthy lies of embarrassing proportions.  Somehow I've lost my balance and perspective, and misplaced whatever positivity and optimism I used to have in giant heaping piles.  Somehow I've got to find a way to just enjoy it all.

Michigan is playing in the Final Four.  Are you kidding me?  Nope.  See you in Atlanta.  I'll be the guy sporting all that sickening, soul drenching optimism. You can't miss me.

Happy Easter, etc...

Egg Hunter Zed - Easter 2013

We're not a religious family...never have been.  June never went to church, unless tagging along with a friend.  I only went on Christmas and the odd occasion that my Grandmother asked.  We grew up heathens it seems.  So each year when Easter rolls around we just kind of hide some eggs, talk about this weird Easter Bunny dude, and eat chocolate.  Jesus doesn't enter the picture.  We don't even have to get into the whole unpleasant discussion, but it's pretty safe to say that neither of us are in any position to be talking about God.  We do, a little, I mean, we've breached that subject a few times, but in the most gentle of terms.  Like many parents, we want our children to come to their own conclusions about those things, especially since we don't know jack about any of it.

Easter Maggie - 2013

Truth be told, to us it's mostly Easter Shmeester.  I know, straight to Hell with us both, and our un-baptized kids.  So be it if that's how you see it.  We're good people, and it's not as though we don't believe in a damn thing...we probably just don't believe in your particular thing.  We are, however, big fans of the bunny ears.  Who isn't?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Scratch One Off The Bucket List...

Zed Bear

My Bucket List has all kinds of random things on it...things like:

- Enjoy a perfect Round 1 NCAA Tournament bracket.

- Camp at Yellowstone.

- Watch a basketball game at Assembly Hall at Indiana University.

- Wander Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument.

- Cruise on a sailboat around Manhattan.

- Horse pack The Outlaw Trail and visit Robbers Roost.

- Drive the Pacific Coast from Mexico to Canada 

- Live one year abroad.

"Become a Zoo member," doesn't quite have the same ring to it as the above but it's always been a pretty big deal to me.  Today we checked it off the list.  This morning we purchased memberships with the Detroit Zoological Society, and I nearly burst with excitement.  Guess who can go to the zoo now whenever he wants, and never drop another dime walking through the gates?  Me, that's who.  Guess who gets to wander in through their own entrance?  Us.  Guess who has a really cool little ID card with a beaver on the front?  June and I, that's who!

Zo's a big zoo fan...naturally, and she could barely contain herself too.  It was a big day for this family! I dunno how you spent your Easter Saturday, but we spent ours with 14, 000 other zoo fans who poured into that awesome little treasure just off of the 696 on the very edge of Royal Oak, to enjoy some sun, and smell some penguin poop.

Can't stop smiling.

Flitterwick and Happy Zed - Detroit Zoo, Easter 2013

I want Zo and Mags to grow up in magical places, and to visit them with such frequency that the magic sticks to their skin like sweat.  For $89 USD we gave our daughters a chance to find a natural wonder around every corner, every weekend if they choose.  What did you do with your summer Saturdays growing up?  These girls are gonna hang out with polar bears and peacocks.  Not a bad way to foster something special, I think. Of might be as much for Dad as it is for daughters.

Daddy Mags Flitterwick

We keep telling ourselves that what our children ingest on a regular basis, what influences these earliest of memories are the the very things that matter the most.  We try to remind ourselves that in addition to humility and kindness and perspective and intelligence, we want to instill magic, and imagination, and a capacity for wonder that you can only harvest if you took the time to plant the seeds.  It's important...wildly important, and it's something that we talk about a lot.  You can't imagine what you've never seen, and you can't become what you can't comprehend.  Instilling wonder probably ranks pretty low on a lot of parents lists of priorities.  Not in this house.  At this particular address it's what we feed them.

The Best Good Friday Since Jesus...Wait, No...The Best Good Friday Ever. Period.

I'll be honest.  I quit.  I didn't have much faith.  Oh sure, the faith started creeping back in when Trey Burke started proving, with a soul crushing vengence a-la John McClane, that he's the best player in the country, but not until there were seconds left and the guys were down by a seemingly impossible three did I manage to fully drag my ass back up onto that wagon.  All year long it was a good idea to jump from the car rather than go over the cliff in some Buzz-James Dean-Rebel-Without-a-Cause-Chicky-Run patheticness, but then last night Trey Burke punched us all in the face, a good one too, right square in the mouth, and said, "climb back up here mother@#$%#, or we're leaving you behind."  So up I went.

That kid just made my year. From this point forward, and forever, Good Friday will be known as Trey Burke Day, and I will laugh because it will be a paid holiday.  We will remember forever the day that Bill Self died for Elijah Johnson's sins. Best Easter ever.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Something Clicked...


She's downstairs right now drawing pictures of owls, and the last time I checked she was practicing writing "hoot" and "Harry" over and over again on the page.  She came into our room this morning asking where her magic wand was, and asked if she could wear my striped tie.  WTH.

Something clicked.

She's been hearing her Dad talk about reading Harry Potter for a long time, and we slipped in and out of reading Harry Potter books at bedtime, but even after Halloween she was just a mild mannered, kinda-sorts fan...until this morning.  We did watch a portion of the first movie last night, and she was about a hundred questions an hour, but nothing explains her urge to pack a trunk for Hogwarts this morning.  I think we might need to take advantage of this newfound enthusiasm.

It's funny how unique all of our children are...what they fall in love with, how we influence that, what sticks, what doesn't, how their little inspirations and curiosities manifest themselves in behavior and mini-obsessions.  Every child finds their own weird things, and runs with them until, of course, they've petered out and are left abandoned by the side of the road.  The thread that seems to run through everything is Peter Pan, but it's wildly interesting to see her digging through the endless influences and coming up with a fistful of Harry Potter.

I'm officially starting the stop watch now, and we'll see how long her Hermione-ness lasts.  In the meantime...let's soak this up.  I think we might begin with a wand collection. Perhaps make some miniscule room alterations. Of course, all artwork from this point forward will most likely be Harry related.  Then there's this endless business about buying herself a new owl.  The old one is small and brown and much to Pigwidgen-esque for her liking.  Oh, he's cute and all, but Hedwig is white.

Here we go.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Month by Month...


She's an energetic kid, always moving, eager to stand and walk along the edges of something.  She's quite attached to her Mom but she gets excited when her Dad is around.  She leans out of her Mother's arms to reach for him, and it's a wonderful feeling for him.  The first six months are so disconnected for a breastless Father.  Now she's eager to spend time with him...happy to play with him on the floor...excited to be held by him.  We're getting closer and closer to an equal parenting equation, if that's ever possible.

I like this getting older business. Month by month Dad matters more.

Finally a Reason...

There are happy endings, there are, and as I approach the end of this Harry Potter obsession of late I'm quite certain that there is, even if I don't know what it is.  I'm confident that Harry and Ron and Hermione will find a sunny spot to get old together, and I'm equally heartfelt about my own life.  I'm starting to wonder if the trick might just not be finding a way to love forever, and despite anything, and it's recently struck me that J.K. Rowling has done just that.  She's created a place and people that will forever be hers, and ours, and I can't imagine a better way to live on forever, to find a happy ending even in the worst of circumstances.

I know it will end well, I just know it.  And so will all of this, I tell will all of this living, and these girls of ours, so too will go their story...happy and healthy, and never knowing an ounce of unnecessary pain.  I know it.

How had I never thought of it myself, not until now.  How I had managed to see it as something else.  Now I need to write down some stories...I think that I need to create something if only so that I have something to leave behind someday.  How brilliant and comforting is the notion that no matter when or where, regardless of what has happened, both Zoey and Maggie can always just open the pages of a book and find their father.  The notion has me emotional.  It's brilliant.  Of course it is.

Now I have a reason to do it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It's Not Too Difficult of a Notion...

He used to be a she, and I liked him.  He was cool.  He was kind, and thoughtful, and seemed to have gobs of perspective.  I liked the kid.

That's how my day started.  A lot of my days are like that, and it makes me think more deeply about the rest of my world, and where we all fit, and how we all fit, and what's the point, and about a billion other things and this was where our conversation led today.  When he asked me about my kids I thought, "I just want them to be happy."

When his face lit up even I could feel the joy from five feet away, and it struck me that there are people who don't find any solace or comfort in that face, in that unadulterated happiness.  Some people just find a #$%ked up a that wide, cheek squishing smile...some people obviously see something different than what I see.  I saw someone who was happiest when they were able to be themselves and laugh and talk and make ridiculous jokes about ridiculously serious things.  I saw a happy boy.  They saw someone trying not to be a girl.  I like my version better.

I just want Zoey and Maggie to be good people, and be happy.  I want them to find purpose and comfort, and stability, and with all of that, happiness.  I don't much care how we're achieving that.  I just want to see their cheeks squish with smiles, and I want them to understand how much I love them.  I want them to care about other people, and embrace the affection of good people, not bad, and I want them to be optimistic, and to believe in things, and to try hard to change things, but mostly I just want them to be happy.

I sat and talked for an hour with a girl who is now a boy today.  He was happy, at least in that moment, and it struck me hard how a lot of people might never see his smile because they were less interested in it than they were his gender.  That's f#$%ed up.

I see it every day in nearly every situation that I find myself in.  People overlook the most simple of ingredients in a life well worth living...happiness.  I don't care who Maggie and Zoey find themselves being, or loving, or what they are feeling about themselves, as long as they're happy.

The best part of the day?  When the boy stood up and walked away he turned back and said unabashedly, "I bet you're a really good Dad."  He hesitated just a moment and walked out of the room, closing the door gently behind him.  I hope he's right.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Reminder of a Good Feeling...

Defending National Champion Loyola Greyhounds enter The Big House

At first glance he was an accomplished athlete, playing on a big stage...a very big stage...but then three goals later, a Loyola win, and a quick sideline reunion with parents and friends and he looked much different.  We met in the tunnel, shook hands and talked very briefly.  It was there, in the shadows of that infamous tunnel, that I noticed how young he was.  He was just a kid.  He was exactly the same age as his parents and I were in high school.  I told his Mom and Dad much later how the meeting threw me.  It staggered me a little and thrust me back twenty plus years to a high school hallway, or someone's Saturday garage party.  He was just a infinitely successful and skilled kid, but a kid.  We quickly exchanged pleasantries, and arranged to speak later this weekend to finish the story I was writing, then I walked up the tunnel and out into the bright sunshine of a pretty amazing day.

Zach Herreweyers - Loyola @ Michigan

I've walked up that tunnel dozens of times, and each time I think I've taken the time before just a little more for granted...until today.  Shaking hands with my friend's son in the belly of that incredible place, a place that embraces so many of my best memories, flipped me for an emotional hiccup.  I tripped on the experience a little, and was happy to let Zach visit his friends and family while I wandered away more than a little in awe.  The young man quickly creeping onto everyone's radar was, indeed, just a kid, and it struck me like a bolt of lightening how we, his parents and I,  no longer were.  This was my friend's child...a kid from back home, and I'd just spent the afternoon snapping photos of him for a magazine that would very likely print whatever words I gushed down on paper, words about a young man that I barely remembered as a baby that I'd never met.  It felt like I was shaking hands with my entire past in that tunnel.  I can't imagine how surreal the entire day must have been for Chris and Heather, how proud they must have been.

Sometimes we're not ready for the cycling of our own lives right before our eyes. Today was one of those days.  As proud as you'd think I'd be for Zach, I was more proud of his Mom and Dad.  When the universe blessed a nineteen year old girl with a son eighteen years ago she would never have imagined this.  I met that same baby today in Michigan Stadium's tunnel, or it felt that way.  Just a baby, on one of the biggest stages of his life.

Nice work today Zach.  Congratulations Chris and Heather.  It was a beautiful day to watch your life flash before your eyes.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Giving New Meaning to Pre-Game Prep...

Zoey: "Where are you going today Daddy?"

Dad: "I'm going to a lacrosse game.  I have to write a story about a guy."

Zoey: "What guy Daddy?"

Dad: (showing Zo a photo of Zach Herreweyers) "That guy.  His name is Zach."

Zoey: "What!  Zach!  Daddy, there's a Zach on Wild Kratts!"

Dad: (faking incredulous) "Really!?"

Zoey: "Yeah.  He's not very nice though.  He wears the same clothes every day, and makes robots."

Dad: "I think I'll be talking to a different Zach."

Zoey: "I hope Zo Dad.  That Zach is pretty bad."

Dad: "Well, this one's pretty good, I think."

Zoey: "Okay Daddy.  I hope you have fun then."

It's Kind of a Big Deal...

Zac Geek

I think a lot of people saw the date on the calendar and made a note to come.  I know that some people really understood how giant of a deal it was.  I think some people had no idea.  Michigan Stadium is kind of a big enormous, looming over all of your memories kind of deal.  It's Michigan f#$%ing Stadium.

Later this afternoon Zach Hereweyers and his Loyola Greyhounds will be taking on the Michigan Wolverines at The Big House, and an impressive number of hometown fans will be in attendance.  It's going to be a lot of fun...but nowhere near as much fun as I suspect Zach is having right now.

Kid in a candy store...a 100,000-plus seat candy store.

Small Town to The Big House

Really Big House

It's a strange thing, talking to these people from high school, good people, nice,  always the same small town solid people, and talking about their son who is smack dab in the middle of a pretty stellar, high level, athletic experience.  They, as surely as he might, would have never imagined that they'd be driving to Ann Arbor, Michigan for a game at The Big House, a game with intimate ties to their family.  Sure, a lacrosse game, not a football game on a bright Autumn Saturday, but nevertheless, a giant event...a lacrosse game with the defending National Champion Loyola Greyhounds, and with half of his childhood staring down at him from the endless expanse of blue bleachers. Zac Herreweyers is a Loyola Greyhound but first he was a Wallaceburg Griffin...a Wallaceburg Griffin that's playing at The Big House this weekend.

I went to high school with Zac's parents, and all week long I've intermittently talked back and forth via Facebook and Twitter, and email, with two familiar people navigating entirely unfamiliar territory. No one imagines their child on this stage, not with any kind of certainty. Sure, we wish, we dream, but no one thinks in these concrete dream-come true terms. At best we hope. Most of us never get very specific about our dreams, at least as they relate to our children.  On Saturday Chris and Heather, Zac's parents, will squint down at their son doing something they could have never imagined.  The University of Michigan's Big House is a long way from the Wallaceburg Memorial Arena, despite the mere ninety minute drive.  This Saturday Zac Herreweyers will return home, or close to it, and in a big way, and someone will need to pinch his parents.  

I'm interviewing Zac for Inside Lacrosse Magazine, a national publication, perhaps the biggest lacrosse publication in the world, and that feels strange.  I scoop up freelance writing work from time to time, if only to keep my hand in a pretty cool game that started fifteen years ago when I was working in Sports Information at The University of Michigan.  I played Club lacrosse with John Paul, Michigan's seemingly omniscient Head Coach, and Lacrosse Magazine's Man of the Year in 2011. We were Athletic Department friends, John working in marketing, and I working in Athletic Public Relations.  It was John who rekindled my love of lacrosse, asking me to come out and play at Oosterbaan, and being patient when the clumsy Canadian kid couldn't switch hands.  Now I'm back on the same sideline as John, only this time the lacrosse is really good, we're really old, and I'm there to interview an opponent.  On this Saturday I'll have good friends in the stands and on the field.  I don't think I've ever shared Ann Arbor with that many people from my hometown.  It's going to be brilliant to see so many people out supporting Zach.  It's a small town with a big heart, maybe just the right size for a place as big as Michigan Stadium.   

I'll be cheering for Zach, it'll just be from the Michigan side of the field.

Friday, March 22, 2013

March Madness Makes Me Miserable

I really don't know why I do it. It's not just March.  It's being a sports fan all year long.  Admittedly, I'm much less of a fan now than I was for the bulk of my life, but nearly every bit of fandom ends in misery, and we perpetuate it endlessly.  It's not March Madness that makes me miserable, no, that's quite thrilling.  It's picking a bracket that does it.  It's caring about the outcome of games that I wouldn't normally give two #$%ts about.  That's what does me in.

I woke up this morning to watch the perfect bracket I had when I went to bed fade to one with three losses.  Damn you Harvard, and why didn't you show up UNLV, and Missouri, what happened?  On a typical afternoon I could care less about all three, and this morning, devastation. Well, mildly disappointed, but still, I should feel nuthin' but tired and kinda sorts excited that it's Friday.  Instead, I'm overwhelmed by a medium to medium-well bummer.  Damn you March.

Zoey doesn't care.  Maggie doesn't care.  Daddy and Mummy are the freaks in the house, pouring over brackets and checking Twitter and generally acting like a couple of idiots.  Every March my theory holds true.  Stick around long enough, and open yourself up wide enough, and the universe will make you feel like an idiot eventually.  For sports fans it's a much more regular thing than "eventually."

Why can't I just read Harry Potter books and, I dunno, build things out of wood or somethin'?

Bracketology you make me miserable.  I wonder what time the games start today?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Have Daughters...


I have daughters...two of them.  Two remarkably foreign creatures that confuse and befuddle me, and were both exactly what I wanted.  I wasn't sure I was capable of the "boy thing" and people tell me that I'm crazy.  That I'd have done more than manage the "boy thing." I'd have slayed it.  Shrug...maybe.  All I know is that from the minute we decided to start a family I knew that I wanted girls.

It's never struck me as an issue, not once until more recently when the obsession level went through the roof with:

- fairies
- the colors pink and purple
- tutus
- princesses
- Barbie
- Pinkalicious

Zoey's still game for some living room hockey, or to pick up her lacrosse stick and give it a go, but all it takes is a well placed set of fairy wings and it's estrogen city. It's what I wanted, and I would never complain, but it's funny how fast those things just bubble to the surface.  Someday she's gonna tell me to take my lacrosse stick and shove it...and one of these days she's surely bringing a real life Ken doll home to meet her Dad, the one that wanted this from the minute him and his wife decided to start a family.

The Smile Factory...

Maggie and June - Brooklyn, NY 2013

Two of the three girls in my immediate life smile a lot, and the third, not pictured here, well she smiles even more.  You could take lessons from the three of them.  They wake and almost immediately grace the morning with smiles.  Things are going wrong, and there still are the smiles.  Nothing shakes them.  Nothing wipes those wide grins away.  Nothing.  My God they smile a lot.

I have a nephew who has a similarly set in stone smile, and a niece and another nephew who rock these dimples that melt concrete.  I dunno where all the smiles came from but it's humbling.  It reminds you that sometimes all you need is a smile.  It sure helps.  I swear that you can accomplish a ton across the span of your life with just a decent smile.  People want to be around happy people.  People like to be smiled at.

I wake up to smiles every day and it makes my days a lot easier.  Me, I laugh.  I laugh a lot.  I have a big, inexcusable, booming laugh, recognizable, and oft times embarrassing.  I don't have the smile, but I've got the laugh.  I get by.  Wish I had the smile though.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fairy Funny

Tire Swing Fairy

If I learned anything this week it's that there are fairies for everything...winter fairies, water fairies, rain fairies...e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g...but tire swing fairies? Never heard of 'em.  Apparently they thrive in parks and in both rural and urban settings alike.  This one we found in Prospect Park, in Brooklyn.  She was radiant, well, hardy at the very least.  All bundled up for winter, she slipped out from her warm nest, or whatever dwellings they are that fairies slip out from, and took in an afternoon of sunshine and tire swinging.  Not at all dangerous, and much too whimsical to inspire any sort of fear or loathing, tire swing fairies are often remembered for simply being fun.  This one was most definitely that.

Keep an eye out.  I guarantee that you'll see one if you're paying attention.  Luckily we brought this one home with us.

The Importance of Being...Male

Maggie and dad - Brooklyn, NY - 2013

Read this and ask yourself, "at what price am I achieving things in this life. Ask yourself that question and then sit back and really think about it...let it ruminate a little...let it stew in it's own juices.

As we returned home from Brooklyn yesterday it was fully on my mind, "to what extent have I managed my life to put the important stuff first and the rest second?" I think I've done alright.  I mean, I've got a brilliantly limber, kind and accommodating child...beautifully so. I've got a staggeringly beautiful and engaging wife...thoughtful and meaningful work...I'm happy.  I do what I want mostly when I want. I have friends...friends that I wish that I saw more frequently, but friends nonetheless.  I managed to make it to forty without selling my soul.  I think that I've done alright.

Sometimes you need reminding of that.

I just spent eight days with five girls, two of which were bright, beautiful, kind women...the kind you're happy to spend time with, and I learned a few things listening to them talk.  As men, we matter.  Who we are, what we do, what we embrace and measure as important, how we interact, what we choose to value, where we choose to invest our time. It matters...a great deal.  It has impact.

Sidewalk chalk talk

I wish I'd have managed the week better.  I must admit that I wasn't my usual self.  I was easily thrown off my game, distracted and defensive by our daughters squabbling and general four year old-ishness, and I wished I was a better version of myself, but nevertheless, I was there to listen and contribute, and what I learned was invaluable.

I might not be the most successful man, and I might not be the wisest, or most intelligent man.  I might not be the best looking, or strongest, or most charming of men.  I might not be the best dad, or fight all the proper fights and walk away from all of the appropriate ones.  I might talk too much, and say too little, but I'm with you.  I'm present.  I'm engaged and eager and sometimes a little dog-like in my enthusiasm to be your friend, and get things right, and mostly I'm happy and desirous of properly fun experiences...mostly I want to be wherever it is that I am, with whoever it is that I'm with...and I want to be good at that...and I want to make people feel loved and valuable, and well, happy.  Mostly that's what I want to do.

Listening to the girls talk...not the four year old versions...I learned that us men matter...who we are...what we contribute...what we bring to the recipe that is always cooking between genders.  I want to be present and not sacrifice a moment, even the challenging oh-my- god-four-year-olds-suck moments, and I want to have impact...on my wife, on my daughter, on my friends...I want my presence to affect opinion, emotion, and change.  I want to be present, good, bad, or otherwise, although I desperately hope for good. Spending eight days with five girls will make you think about your manhood, but mostly I suspect it should make five females think about it too.

I'm not always the most patient, and I'm no prize of a guy to brag about in the most mundane of moments, but I have a heart and mind that have prioritized the women in my life, and have found it easy to appreciate even the ones who only occasionally orbit around my world, and even if I'm not too sure exactly what my role is on the planet I know that it matters that I get things right, and not just anything, or some things, but the right things.

Back Home...

Swingin' Zoey, Carroll Park, Brooklyn, NY - March 2013
Zoey swinging with Dad's help - Carroll Park, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn - March 2013

Ever since our friends introduced us to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn two years ago, it's felt like a home away from home.  There are people we know who ask why New York? Why all the time? We say Brooklyn.  It just feels like home.  For our friends, it was home, and on this trip we dragged them back, while we returned for no less than the fourth or fifth time.  We stayed in a different neighborhood, Prospect Heights, this up and comer, with more affordable rents, a little rougher feel around the edges, and less strollers and brownstones...more row houses and ancient tenements, but just a block and a half off of Grand Army Plaza, and still just a few subway stops from Manhattan.  It was a nice shift in scenery and attitude.  Home...not quite...awesome, yup.

After eight or so days we managed to make it home, and of course, there's likely a hundred things to blog, but for now, it's bed time.  twelve hours of driving have taken their toll, and tonight I'll fall asleep back home two blocks from the lake.

The first thing that I noticed when I stepped from the car tonight was the sky...stars...everywhere stars.  That's one thing New York doesn't have.  This might not be Brooklyn, but we got stars.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

East Bound and Downtown...

Zed's favorite houses

I don't blog well amidst chaos, not that this has been that exactly, no...but it's been busy, and busy translates to less thoughtful, more survivalist tactics. Blogging is certainly a thoughtful pursuit, and there's been precious few moments of solitude to type more than a few brief missives about half-nonsensical things that matter little to me or anyone else.  It's been a busy trip, that's for sure.

It struck me today, staring out of someone else's window at the snow falling, that I need much more solitude than I typically allow myself.  It's been a full house, and fun, but at times stressful and way beyond relaxed.  The adults manage things fine, but the girls wander between BFFs and warring chieftains.  There are moments of disagreement, smalls fits of possessiveness and demands, and occasional bouts of ambivalence toward one another.  Probably not much different from any adults only in smaller, less understanding four year old frames, and so more dramatically inclined.  We've all embraced the good, deflected the bad, and dealt with the ugly across seven days so far and we're still having fun.

We push Zoey a lot, we know.  We demand a lot from her tiny little body...miles of walking, inconsistent meal times, a random mixture of adult and child-centric endeavors, and we're lucky she's as good a sport as she is...but we push it, and we know it.  That only leaves others the burden of keeping up, or venturing away on their own, and our friend, Mel, has been Olympic in that regard.  Zed's strides are double those of her little friend, Elle's, and Zo doesn't nap, and Zo eats very little, and roars through moods and parent demands...they're very different girls, and still there's Elle tramping around mid-town, or scooting around the park or trudging up subway stairs...a hesitant champion, but a champ no less.  I'm sure we've to a lesser extent thrown Zoey off of schedule than Elle, but both have bore the weight of adults hell-bent on good Mexican food, Manhattan shopping, and making quick train transfers while dragging little bodies behind.  They deserve medals, and instead, often get our sharp words about getting along, and not being selfish or demanding.  It's very much the pot calling the kettle black and I can admit it.

With less than 24 hours left in the city, and Maggie rocking a cold and a slight fever, Zo's nose pouring boogs all over, Elle dropping asleep like a narcoleptic marathoner, and Daddy seemingly coming down with something, it's only June and Mel who seem to be left standing, and after seven days of grueling Brooklyning, it's no surprise.

Daddy Daughter Date Day

Dad Daughter Day Park Slope

Our last day in Brooklyn and everyone slipped off in separate directions in search of some quality, selfish time with their kids. Zo and I snuck off to Park Slope for breakfast and coffee, and had perfectly good intentions of heading into Manhattan but got totally sidetracked by 7th Ave toy stores. We burned through almost five hours of window shopping,toy experimenting, and snowflake catching. It was pretty glorious. Before we knew it lunch had come and gone, so we snatched up some terribly indulgent eats at Flipsters, a burger place on 7th and 9th streets. Zed wrapped her teeth around a hot dog and fries, while I tore into Wagyu Kobe beef burger that nearly made his head explode with awesomeness. Them Japanese cows sure know what they're doin'.

  Kobe Burger

The snow was gently falling, and the streets were full of Saturday families hustling and bustling about. I asked Zo if she'd had a good time back in Brooklyn, which she answered abruptly...of course she had. I asked her what her favorite part of New York was, and she responded with, "the tall buildings...and how busy it is," which was a good enough answer for anyone, let alone a four year old. I like it for those same reasons too, and Kobe burgers for lunch...and toys store in what seems like every neighorhood...and gently falling snowflakes...and Daddy Daughter date days.

BTW...that is indeed Knuffle Bunny in Zed's clutches.  He was a happy by-product of the day...a good one.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dinosaurs vs. Daughters

Good morning Brooklyn!! There used to be a time when I wanted to sleep in, and when I loathed waking up early for anyone, now there are three girls that get me excited to roll over wide awake at 6 or 7 am...of course this morning there's also the notion of wandering around the American Museum of Natural History, which helps make my wake up call just a little more exciting. Dinosaurs are cool but not cool enough to make me happy to happy to shake off sleep. These girls are.

The Gender Gap

Fairy manicures Yesterday two little girls got dressed up and went for tea, and had manicures, and it was insanely cute...embarrassingly indulgent, and really not like anything we've ever done. Their wings even lit up. Yeah, kinda awesome, except that I've maybe never felt more stranded on a testosterone island in my life. Princesses, fairies, pink, purple, fancy shoes and nail polish, and me left befuddled, quite literally. I'm on happiness' side so I'm down with whatever but wow, there's no way a regular guy can fathom the very deeply rooted, Disney inspired, little girl stoke that's all wrapped up,in a purple and periwinkle tutu and new lime shoes...impossible. In a moment most definitive of the comprehension gap, Daddy was out buying lacrosse mini-sticks for Zo and him to play with in the park while that same girl was getting a manicure and eating finger sandwiches.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

City Girl

Zo Central Park

Someone really digs this city...I mean REALLY digs this city.  She's a Central Park kind of girl, it seems, and we're okay with that.  She's on her own if she wants to pay rent here though.

Retail Enlightenment


I can spend a couple of hours in a Patagonia store, in fact, it's long been my secret shame that I would give up my entire career just to fold pants at a Patagonia retail outlet.  So today, while the girls rolled out some strange incarnation of fairies and princesses and manicures and tea and such, I slipped into Soho and spent the afternoon with some very cool people.  I bought things, sure, but I mostly just absorbed the vibe.  I used to live that life...the one that these dirtbags put front and center on their resume, but that time and life and obligation usually stifle.  Now I mostly just make plans to return to it. Sometimes I manage them, and sometimes I go to Ikea.

It struck me today, while talking to a grizzled but impressively slapped together dude, that the things that I've always wanted to be, never much matched the ambitions my guidance counselor laid out for me.  I suppose I always knew this, but it was on full display today as me and two Patagonia staff sat around and talked.  When they asked me what I did I told them.  They got interested.  We talked some more.  Naturally the conversation went to inspirations and expectations and how we all had landed in that one particular space and time.  I babbled the typical stuff, about not knowing what I wanted to be but really knowing what I didn't want to be...and about wanting to have stories, lots of stories, and then somewhere in the middle of all of the back and forth it struck me what I really wanted now as an adult. I wanted to be a good guy, sure, but what I really wanted to hang my coat on was being the kind of person that the more you got to know me the more impressed you'd be.  Sounds arrogant, but what are we shooting for here, abysmal?  We're frequently warned of the dangers of getting to know the people that we like too much for fear of being disappointed.  I want to somehow manage the know, most of the time.  Naturally, I'll reserve some crap moments for only my closest friends.  There are worse things to aspire to, and sitting amongst some pretty awesome people this afternoon I became convinced that being the best human being you can possibly be isn't just a noble pursuit, it's practically mandatory.

So, there was all that free enlightenment and some expensive shirts.  God bless you Patagonia.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Happiest Girl Ever - Carroll Park, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, NY. March 2013

Carroll Park seems to be this place of unbridled enthusiasm for Zo...of course, most New York parks are brilliant and no slouch at making kids happy.

We were introduced to Carroll Park by our good friends, the Cowgers, and it's been a favorite ever since.  It's been the site of much hilarity over the years, and skipping it would have out s in serious jeopardy of being the worst parents ever.

Brooklyn BFF's ...

Zo and Elle - Brooklyn-March 2013
Zoey...Elle...St. John's Place, Brooklyn, NY

Recycled Dog Hair and a Double Pissing

There is not a single New York moment from the day that can hold up to the evening's shenanigans.  First, there was a conversation with Zo about recycling in which she decided that as soon as we get home we're focusing extra hard on recycling everything from bottles and cans to dog hair.  Long story, especially since we don't have a dog.  Next, there was Zo waking up in the middle of the night having caught herself starting to wet the bed...unfortunately she just barely caught herself and Daddy ended up feet first in a tub scrubbing a palm sized pee stain out of a sheet that he doesn't even own...Zed then spent the rest of the night wrestling with herself and keeping her 2am pee sheet scrubbing Dad awake, which was perfect for the 4am bed wetting that her BFF, Elle, did in the bed right beside her...pull ups on and everything.

Dear are as equally amusing as you are a total roaring b!tch.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Blog...Don't Blog...Shut Up and Drink Wine

Pete Zaaz - Crown Heights, Brooklyn

First day back in Brooklyn...

Prospect Park Saturday Farmers Market...muffins, cameo apples, two excited little girls.

Apartment move in and orientation.

Playing with other people's toys.

Dinner at Pete Zaaz in Crown Heights...traditional Brooklyn pizza...and a baked potato pizza...27 out of 30 Zagat score, and two $3 Pabst Blue Ribbons with one righteous freebie from Pete himself. at Pete Zaaz's...Pete himself is the coolest dude.

Wine store.

Grocery store.

Playing with other people's toys.

Three girls in a bath.

Peter Pan shadow cut-out for the girl's room.


Wine...Jamie the custodian stories...and Judy Blume references.  


It's so, so good to be back.

Friday, March 8, 2013

No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn...again

Actually there's one sleep but you make this trip and you kinda gotta reference that song. Like if you don't,  you suck. No one wants to suck.

It'll be Saturday to Saturday, and we're scooping up some Cowgerellis for the trip. This is gonna be anything but sucky.

If you thought texting and driving was bad I shudder to think what you might say about blogging and driving. See you next in te Borough!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

An Unexpected Lesson...

I nearly panicked. No, let's be honest, I did panic.  The text was incomplete, just part 1 of 4 and it was accusatory. It read, "my Mom really respects what you said but was so hurt because..." and that was it.  That was all that I got.  My head spun and shot immediately to a situation that I should have  handled better, but didn't, and I immediately thought the worst. I quickly melted into a pile of self-doubt and anxiety.  Had I done the right things.  Did I say the right things.  Never put all your faith and trust in a kid.  Never do that.  Who are you?  You're nothing.  They're not committed to you in any way, shape, or form, and they owe you nothing.  Never take sides.  Certainly never express judgement or drive any point home that makes wider any kind of gap that the kid has with their parents or school.  Never do that.  Oh, what were you thinking. Of course you have said something disparaging about someone, or aligned yourself without doing your homework.  Surely you've screwed up on a giant scale.

Nope.  Wrong text. Wrong person.

"Sorry dude.  My phone's screwed.  I just sent you a message that someone sent me.  Sorry."

...and that's what you call a conditioned response or a conditioned reflex.  It's kind of the basis of post traumatic stress, which leads us to another whole discussion.  I react like that a lot.  Makes you wonder doesn't it?  Me too.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Retribution and Lego

Toews Lego

Uncle Ian arrived late last night from Chicago.  He brought gifts.  It was almost the very first thing that he did, besides hug his niece.  He asked Zoey to close her eyes, then he dug into his bag, and pulled something out...

A #19 Toews jersey.

Glen, you wily bastard.

No matter if it's a Al Capone or Glen Byers, retribution from Chicago comes swiftly, and has, I suspect, always been that way in the Windy City.  Don't mess with a south sider, I suppose, is the message here.  I knew the winds of misfortune would blow back my way after sending Meredith's father a Prince Fielder jersey following last season's White Sox collapse, and I suspected it was nearing retribution time when the Blackhawks decided that they weren't going to lose a hockey game for weeks on end, but I must admit, the Toews jersey caught me by surprise.  A hail of 'take that' gunfire from a passing car, and there lying in a pool of his own a daughter in a Blackhawks jersey.

It's all good fun.  I kind of like the Blackhawks.  Well played Glen Byers...well played.

The hilarity of the moment lasted all of twenty minutes before Zoey suggested that we all settle in for a late night game of Lego.  So I built a grey fighter jet and shot the hell out of that jersey any chance I got...but the Gods are fair guys, and in my thoughtless cathartic fiddling it seems I taught my daughter how make the gunfire noise while pretending to fly a genuine Lego plane.  Oops.  Glen Byers 2...Brian DeWagner 1.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Observations, Odd Remarks, Annoyances, etc...

- I rode the bike for an hour each night for two weeks, and then I didn't touch it for a week.  I think that's called a "funk."

- The cheapest Detroit Tiger ticket used to be $5, and it was the worst seat in the, in just one off-season that same crappy seat has risen to $12...but Mike Illitch will not foil me.  I went to Stub Hub and scored $8 Bleacher seats to five games two rows from the field.  I purchased five games for a grand total of $115.  Take that pizza guy.  I hope your Red Wings miss the playoffs.

- I called the Toronto Maple Leafs Nazim Kadri "Indian" this week...out of ignorance...and absolute hilarity.

- I have a pair of jeans that I haven't washed since Zoey's birthday...and I'm going to try to make it to her next birthday before I wash them again.  That's both gross, and awesome.

- In a whole gymnasium full of Moms helping their kids play there was one woman who was a little overdressed, who had obviously stood in front of a mirror before she'd came, who was perhaps too fashionable in only the kind of way that oversized, heavy rimmed glasses, skinny jeans, and red plaid shirts can make you, and who was unwittingly getting sideways glances from other women, but who I watched be the only one who wasn't looking around at others, who was solely focused on her child, and who was running and laughing and playing without much of a care.  I think that's called confidence.  She also seemed to own no Lululemon, which probably says something about her too.

- I didn't cook once this week...see previous comment re: funk.

- It was pointed out to me this week that I've never seen a single episode of "Dexter" or "Modern Family." I think that probably says something about me.

- I'm much happier when I'm not watching sports, and yet, I continue to watch sports.  That definitely says something about me, I think.

- Disorder is starting to get to me, for the first time in my life. I don't like chaos.

- Rich and old are a bad combo set in contrast with expectations and manners.

- I'm on Royce White's side. I don't care what anyone says.

- Don't ever tell a Canadian farmer that you buy groceries in the United States, because they will get upset with you.

- Every once in awhile you stumble into a moment or a conversation with someone unexpected and you think, "hmm, I think I like that person more than I thought I did," and you're probably right...until the next time you see them.

- I think you miss the people that you only think you know the most.

- I've been asked to stand up and say nice things, and funny things, a lot of friends weddings, and from I can gather it rarely means much after that evening.  In fact, 8 times out of 10 I think it might be a curse.  Of all the weddings I've been asked to be a part of I think only two of those people have ever been to my house.

- I think the answer to a better world is education, but don't ask me how we make all those idiots any smarter. I haven't a clue.  That's a big job.

- Sometimes I think I'm too quick to be hard on my daughter, and for very little things, but then she reminds me that something we've done is working.  Of course, I'm also consumed with affection and played like a fiddle on occasion.  There's balance to the equation at least.

- I own all of my anxieties...they're mine, and that has nothing to do with the outside world.

- I can tell that Spring is close when I go on a spending spree of embarrassing proportions.

- I think we've finally reached that stage where Maggie is choosing who she lays her affection on, and that's exciting.  It's not just about boobs anymore. It took me a lot longer to get out of that stage...a lot longer.

- That was a terrible joke and I'm sorry (not really).

- I don't have a problem with hipsters as long as they're nice hipsters, and they have some kind of appropriate world view.  It's fuc*twits that I don't like.

- How good is wine?  Jesus H. Sideways. I could own a vineyard, but I'd be dead.

- I don't remember the last time that I punched someone in the face and that's both good, and sad.  It's good because we're not supposed to punch other people in the face, and it's sad because there are so many people who really need to be punched in the face.

- Speaking of which, there's a person I know who recently did a slimy thing and I hope that person becomes diabetic, and then contracts cancer just when they get the diabetes thing all figured out.  I do.  I can't punch you so...

- I think I want to get really healthy so that I can do more unhealthy things

- I wonder if previous generations were as into justification as more recent ones.  We justify a lot.

- Disappointing me might be worse than disappointing a lot of others 'cause chances are I believed in you.

Friday, March 1, 2013

In Case You Weren't Sure What Beautiful Looked Like...This Is It.

June girls combo

Just in case you've completely spazzed out and somehow forgotten what beautiful looks like...this is it.


My good friend Ally posted this, and I had to embed it here.  It's brilliant.  This kid is brilliant.  Makes me want to up and move my family to Squaw Valley, Ca and be his neighbor.  Who are his parents?  I wanna meet them.  Take five minutes to think about what he says.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  I wanted stories that people didn't believe...and I wasn't so sure what I wanted to be but I knew damn well what I didn't want to be.  Most of all, I wanted to be happy.

Watch, Absorb. Acknowledge that this might be the coolest kid on the planet earth.