Wednesday, June 26, 2013

ChilLAXing as One Should...

Laying in a pile of lacrosse equipment

We're not forcing our girls into anything. I can see on a pretty regular basis the impact of that, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I hope they're little pig-tailed and hair pulled back in a bun athletes. Lying through my teeth. It's the whole reason I started playing lacrosse again. I want them to grow up with that. I want them to be exposed to something that they can make a choice about later. Maybe it's something that they think is cool? Or maybe it's not? But if they never see it... I'll take babies chillaxing in lacrosse bags to be a good sign.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Gentle Reminder of a Powerful Feeling

I'm much too emotionally malleable. I read a story about a father and son and suddenly I don't want to leave my daughter's sight...I don't want to do anything but be with them, and soak up all of their amazingness. This morning I read an excerpt from Stephen Rodrick's latest book, The Magical Stranger: A Son's Journey in His Father's Life, and have spent the better part of my day befuddled. Lost. It doesn't take much. I'm very much an emotional creature, and just a few timely emotional blips on an otherwise empty radar can leave me lurching. Rodrick left me lurching.

The excerpt was nothing out of the ordinary, a five or six page slice of a 400 page hardcover book, the kind of excerpt that you typically find in any glossy magazine on the newsstands...Esquire, GQ, Men's Journal...but it's impact was extraordinary. I stumbled through my day thinking about time spent with my daughters, about the inherent difficulties of same gender parenting, of the choices that we make in our lives, about work and home and the role that we play in the lives of the people that we love most.

I grew up in a pretty mainstream, lower middle class, midwestern Canadian, rural/factory town kind of world. My life didn't look all that different from other kids. My parents were divorced, but it was 1982 and everyone's parent's were getting divorced. I played hockey and lacrosse. I had a dog. I could ride my bike for days. There wasn't a whole lot that identified me as different. There were the scars on my leg from a pretty horrific car accident, and of course, I was a twin, both setting me aside from many of my peers, I suppose, but tossed on the scale with the rest, I was your average kid. Stephen Rodrick was not. A Navy brat, and sadly, much too early in his life, a Navy son without a father, Rodrick weaves an emotionally mesmerizing story about his relationship with the magical stranger in his own home, his father. In it he breathes life and immediacy into the conflicts that rage in our children's hearts and minds when left to burn untended. There is rarely an adolescent who doesn't at some time take issue with his or her parents, but we rarely understand the embers that burn inside us, and we rarely lose the chance to right the wrongs. Not the case for Rodrick. He was a young boy, barely aware of his own feelings when his father, essentially a stranger, was ripped from him in a Navy mishap that left the boy un-anchored and drifting for the rest of his life. Rarely have I read something so startlingly capable of piercing the tough shells that we build around us as son and daughters, and then make thicker as fathers and mothers. When I was finished reading all I wanted to do was spend time with my daughters. Rodrick helps make it undeniably clear that the time we spend with our children, if it is positive, is our greatest contribution.

I think I'll hang out at home tonight, and invest in the future of these little girls who invest so much of their hearts in me. I'm not sure other generations were so blessed to be able to do such a simple thing. We are. Thanks to Stephen Rodrick I will. I probably would have anyway, but we all need reminding once in awhile. What if you lost that chance forever? What would you regret? I'm hoping my answer is, "nothing."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Before You Get Big...


Dear Maggie... Before you get big there are some things that I want to tell you. We won't always understand you, but we'll love you...and we might not always approve of your choices, but we'll accept them, so we'll expect you to accept ours. We won't always know the right thing to do, but know that we're trying, and that we want what's best for you. We might need reminding that what's best for you isn't always what's best for us, but we'll be trying to do the right thing...always. Don't forget that no matter what, we probably love you more than you love us. It's the strange undeniable truth of parenthood, and I'm sure it will turn us inside out, all of us. Before you get big remember that you were once small, and it was our job to help you grow. I hope we're doing a good job...a job that you can look back on and smile. We will.

A Picture Says a Thousand Words...So Here's 14,000 Words















Zoey's Baachan might not be such a big fan of caterpillars, but it seems as though her granddaughter is. I don't remember the last time that I saw her laugh so hard for so long. It helped me realize how important it is just to get outside and see things, and do things, and find your own fun...sometimes all it takes is larva. Now that's a lesson is living.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wrap It All Up At The Beach

Beach night. This time of year we like to take the days as they pass and wrap each one up at the beach. Dinner at the beach. Playing on the beach. Meeting friends at the beach. Watching the sun fade into the horizon from the beach. When you live next to it you'd better be using it. We do. It's one of the main reasons why we live here. There was a time when we dreamed of wrapping up each day in sand and sun, now it's a reality. It's not Encinitas, CA but we'll take it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

There Are Some Moments...


There are some moments that I want to remember, that will very likely sustain me in the million other moments of my finding my daughter sleeping upside down in her bed with no covers, or when she watches TV while lying on my chest, or those rare moments at lacrosse practice when she wants to take a break from water bugging around and just hang out...those are the moments that I worry  that I'll somehow forget.


She likes this game that I like, and I hope that she likes it enough that it still speaks to her after four decades, but if not I hope that she grows up remembering how much fun we had together, and how much her being involved lit my face up and renewed my excitement about something that always seemed to do that simple trick.  There are some moments that define us more than others and I hope that these are those.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Father's Day began like this...


...and then it ended like this...


Reading is a powerful thing.


Happy Father's Day everyone!  I'd write something super sentimental and overly nostalgic but my back hurts and I'm tired.  You don't think I've been absent from this blog for no reason at all did you?  Someone kindly donate some new Rhomboideus Major muscles and I'll be right back in business.  Until then I'll stick to reading.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Going, Going, Gone...

It was nice...a pretty big deal...graduation night left me feeling a little thrilled.  It's been five years since I started working with these students, and since the first year hardly counts, this was the first time I've gotten to watch some of them graduate. This is the first group that I've known for four entire years.  It felt momentous, perhaps even more momentous than my own graduation, which I'm sure it was.  At the time I'd have had no idea how big of a deal it is.  I would not have appreciated it. This time, however, sitting high in the crowd I was overwhelmed with smiles and emotion and occasionally nostalgia.  I'm glad I went.  I almost didn't.  I almost shrugged it off.

"I would have made you go," June said afterward, "I would have forced you out the door."

Sometimes I do that.  To be honest, I do that a lot.  I disassemble things and diminish their meaning.  I shrug them off.  I would have regretted missing this.

Some kids hugged me, and many more ignored me, embarrassed to talk to me in front of their friends, or worried sick that their parents might find out that we speak.  I might have gotten a sideways glance and a smile, of if I was lucky, a wink.  That part makes me a little sad...that my job is such that I must be kept a secret, that I can't be shared.  It's not that I'm eager to meet their parents or friends.  I'm usually not.  I know too much, and from only their perspectives, so what I know may not even be entirely true or accurate.  It's just that I wish that I wasn't such a stopgap in their lives. I'm sure I get forgotten about quite easily.  A lot of people disagree vehemently when I say as much, but I suspect that it's true.  I think immediately of the young man who I drove home from the park at midnight, in tears, hell bent on not seeing the sunrise, and how he has graduated now, and will not as much as look in my direction when I pass him at the arena, or on the street.  He still texts me, even now, in college, but he won't stop to talk.  Those moments upset me, even if they do make sense.

After the ceremony I waited for a few students, and found them excited and bouncing with energy.  The rest of their lives were ahead of them, as surely as they felt just a few short months ago that there was no hope.  It's funny how fine a line we draw between happiness and despair.  It's paper thin.

I watched the boy walk across the stage who no one thought would...who doesn't talk to me anymore because I ratted him out before a fight that would have gotten him kicked out of school, and sent to jail, as he had other charges pending.  I did it to keep him out of jail, to see him walk across the stage with a cap and gown, but he didn't understand that, and I felt proud to watch him even if he had no idea that I was there, or cared.

There was the girl who always came to me twisted in knots about that boy, always teary, and always desperate, and then always left laughing and emboldened.  We made jokes of most everything.  She walked right past me and only barely offered a glance.  He was with her so I understand.

There was the boy whose Father died just a month ago.  I shook his hand and offered a quiet smile, but I kept moving to offer him a easy reprieve from any conversation.  He didn't stop me.

The girl with the many problems, the ones too enormous for words, and often action, whose secrets only I knew, never spoke a word to me, despite multiple discussions each week across two years.  She carried the biggest burdens of any child that I've ever known, and was always so desperate to talk, still...not a word.

Those moments are tough.  Still, there were others, eager to hug, and easy to find tears, happy to acknowledge a connection, and eager for a picture.  All of them made me proud, even if only some of them could own me out loud.

It's a quiet job that I have...quiet and solitary...with few gauges for success. A diploma isn't one of them, but it's a big deal nevertheless.  It's mostly void of thank you's and in all the years I've only ever had a small handful of parents say anything.  That's difficult to swallow some days, but last night it was erased by two or three amazing students determined to not let years of urgency fall away from their memories like locker combinations or phone numbers.  Last night it felt as though I was more than just a tournaquitte that stopped the bleeding.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dad and Daughters

Daddy Maggie Canatara June 4, 2013

I have two daughters, and they've got my number.  They don't know it yet, but they've got me on a string, for sure.  I try to be tough on them, Zoey at least, you know, firm.  I try to hold her accountable for things.  I try to soak her in affection and acceptance.  I talk to her.  She doesn't know it yet, or maybe she does, but I'm her biggest fan.  I want more for her than she might ever imagine for herself, but mostly I want her to be kind, and find purpose and happiness.  Until her sister came I thought she was the center of the universe.  Now I know that she's not.  We're just orbiting around one another.

There are three women in this house...three women, and me.  I've never felt so drenched in affection.  I have two daughters who think that I'm the best thing since daylight and hugs.  They look at me to understand a men and women should look together, how they should be...They watch

I have two daughters and now I finally understand what it means to be a man.

The Price of Freedom...

Dawn over Juno Beach - Normandy, France

They were just like us...not much different.  They worked on farms and in factories. Some of them were school teachers, and accountants.  They were dads and husbands...nowhere near superheroes, but what they did was heroic...what they did was selfless and courageous and beyond any kind of sacrifice that most of us can imagine now in this time of unfettered freedom that came on the backs of their enormous sacrifice.  My grandfather came home from the war but he didn't talk about it...not ever.  What he must have seen.  What he must have endured.  It's humbling beyond what my mind can reasonably conceive.

When June and I visited Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC the most awe inspiring and emotion triggering thing was the ages engraved on each tombstone.


They were boys, not men...boys.  I was that age once, and most likely incapable of such selfless sacrifice.

I'm a man now, but am I?  Am I really?  If so it's only because those boys buried under those cold stone markers in places like Arlington and Flanders Field, and in countless other nameless, uncelebrated places across Europe and Asia, and Africa and the South Pacific died young so that I could to grow old, as I  Am I a man?  Certainly not any more than those boys were.  Whatever I'm capable of now it pales to what they did then.

Today marks the 69th anniversary of the D-Day invasion and I find myself moved to near tears if I think about it too much.  Again, as I always have, I can reach down beneath my shirt and feel for his dog tag, the one that he wore on June 6th, 1944 and the one he stripped from his neck shortly afterward to never wear again...a symbol of every horror he ever endured.  He kept them, if only to remember the men he called friends who were unable to pull them from their own necks but instead had them stripped from their lifeless adolescent bodies and mailed home.  He kept them, I don't know, perhaps so that maybe his grandsons could have them to remember that freedom is never free.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

One Year Ago...

One year ago...

One year ago we didn't know what we were doing.  Two kids. What were we thinking?  Two?  Best thing we ever did.

Backyards, Beers, and Random Reco's

A girl that I know told me that I should listen to Steve Moakler, and I have to be honest, I have no #$%&ing clue who Steve Moakler is.  I plugged him into YouTube and clicked on the first video I saw...BAM.  Now I want someone I know to have a wicked backyard party...

Oh, and the dude sounds pretty solid.  I don't want to listen to anything else now in case he sucks.

Okay...I couldn't resist.  He doesn't suck.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

You Know Who's Great?

Matt Kearney, that's who.  If you don't listen to Matt Kearney like it was your part time job then we really should sit down and talk.

Bachaan Rode a #$%&ing Camel...and Other Assorted Tales of Goodness

Riding a camel!

Bachaan rode a damned camel!  She did.  At the Zoo...the Cleveland Zoo.  Her and Zoey paid $5 each and sat on the same damn wobbly camel and trotted off in search of comfort.  They found none.  It was a bumpy ride, no pun intended.  Bachaan got thrown around like one of Zoey's dolls and all we could was laugh and snap photos.  Zoey was grinning from ear to ear, but Bachaan may very well have ridden her last camel.

Two worn out passengers

We spent all day Sunday at the Cleveland Metropolitan Zoo, and it was easily the best zoo that we've ever been too, hands down, which may be one of the weirdest phrases ever...what the hell does hands down even mean?  By day's end we had a long drive back to Canada and a quiet van.  The trips' two besties, Bachaan and Zo slipped into a sweet, well earned slumber.

Le sigh.

Everyone should have a Bachaan like we do.

"Goooo Daddy. Go!"

Maggie and Zed playing besties at Dad's lacrosse game - Birmingham Seaholm High School, Birmingham, MI

I played the entire game with a golf ball sized knot in my left calf.  That sucked.  Aside from that half crippling turn of events there was remarkably less rust on the pipes than I anticipated.  I ran, I whacked guys, and I had a good time.  I could hear the girl squealing from the end zone...the echo of, "Go Daddy," ricocheted off of the stadium seats, and I turned as often as I could and waved to a thrilled little girl.  That was part of the whole point of all of this. Tonight was the first night of the Champions Men's Lacrosse League in Birmingham, MI and as thrilled as I was to play, I was even more excited to know that my daughters were watching.

Daddy getting ready to launch a poke check that playin-it-cool Sparty is gonna remember.

I wanted my daughters to see a vibrant and alive father, not one who settles into his hammock and complains about cutting the grass.  It worked.  Zo was ecstatic and couldn't sleep the entire hour long ride home. There was just an endless stream of question in place of snores...

"Daddy, why don't you have a pink helmet?"

"Daddy, how come you're limping?"

"Daddy, did that player's shot hit you in the head?"

"Daddy, I liked your shorts."

Her Dad now plays in Birmingham, Michigan, at Seaholm High School, for Champions Lacrosse, and he didn't do a damn thing to get ready to play tonight...but he also couldn't stop smiling the whole ride home despite the knot in his calf and the burning in his lungs.  It helps when you've got yourself a cheering section who have come all the way from Canada just to watch.

Daddy forcing Sparty wide, and then playing catch up - Seaholm High School,  Birmingham, MI

I'm the only Canadian playing...the only one who's children aren't at home in bed...and the only one who is just as excited to stop at the Whole Foods and Trader Joe's stores before the game as he is to play.  Shrug...a guy grows up, but he's never too old to play.  The knot in my calf and kink in my back say something different however.  Just seeing the look on Zo's face was worth the efforts.  I'd have played with a prosthetic to hear that little voice, "Goooo, Daddy!! Go!"        

Monday, June 3, 2013

Dancing in a National Park...

Zo June Dave

It technically wasn't Zoey's first concert, but, it was certainly the first one that she'll have any recollection of.  It was her first Dave Matthews Band show, and something like Mummy's fourteenth...or maybe sixteenth.  We'll have to look that up.  She loved it.

Dancing was invented by four year olds, I think...or if it wasn't, it should have been.  She was a whirlwind.  As rain fell in light doses across much of the night, and Maggie and Mihoko hunkered down in a nearby hotel, Zoey danced, and danced, and sang lyrics that only she knew.  There was a steady stream of neighbors propping up their cell phones to film her, and not an ounce of insecurity or obvious restraint.  She just danced.

What did she dance to?  This:

DMB Set List - June 1, 2013 @ Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls, OH

Dancing Nancies
The Idea of You
Belly Belly Nice
Save Me
Say Goodbye
Big Eyed Fish
(Preacher Man)
Why I Am

So Much To Say
(Too Much Fake)
Ants Marching

More pics to follow.  What a fun weekend.