Weekend and Father’s Day

Happy Father’s day to all of you fathers out there!  I want to share with you the wonderful day that I was able to have with my children and wife.   My children on this day reminded me how lucky I am to be their father.  It is very humbling to have such wonderful love shown to me in the form of words, gifts, and hugs.  I find myself again contemplating all of the “self improvements” I need to work on to be actually worthy of the title of father.  I am fortunate in that my kids don’t know better and accept me as I am.  (I still need to work on being a better father… even if they have low standards)

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Today was beautiful and began with a wonderful walk with Isabelle.   (It is nice that she helped me become a father and  it was  enjoyable… it is even nicer that she helps me become a better father every day… although maybe not as much fun… I told her in English what she did was called “nagging”… hope she doesn’t look that one up.).

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After our morning walk the kids were awake and were ready to start my day with gift giving.   I was not surprised that there were gifts since all of them had been talking non stop about my presents for at least a week.   I appreciate any gift (who doesn’t… ) but I especially love gifts that are made by hand.   I was not disappointed this years since each child made me a gift.

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My oldest daughter Hanna gave me this cactus in a colorful pot that she had “felted”.   I can’t wait to take this to work… I hope I don’t kill it!

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Ben with the help of Gwen and Sam made me a father’s day shirt.   Isabelle was a bit worried that they added well… weird art all over it… (you can’t see but they drew arm pit hair under each sleeve)…. I love it… I think this is an odd picture of me wearing a scarf (Inky Dinky Do scarf)

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Gwen made me a wooden puzzle in shop.  I love the idea of her building this for me and who doesn’t love wooden puzzles.   This is already more than I expected but she offered me several other odd “accessory gifts”.

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Wood glue in case I broke the puzzle she made
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a “gummy monkey”… hmm?

 

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And last a “grow a Unicorn”…ya… I think she is just messing with me…

The last gift was from Sam.  He went to home depot and got some plastic pipes, spray paint, and electric tape.   He used all of this to make me a “blow gun”.   It is actually a lot of fun to shoot.  I think he must have already tried it out since the moment I put it to my mouth his little brother Ben yelled don’t shoot me it hurts.  (the darts are cones made from post it notes… I plan on upgrading these cones with needles and cotton… which will really hurt! )

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As you can see I have wonderfully creative children and I couldn’t be anymore proud and feel anymore loved.

 

Happy Mother’s Day

God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.

– Rudyard Kipling –

I want to wish every mother out there (especially the ones reading this) a wonderful celebration and offer my sincerest words of admiration and gratitude.  Mother’s day… what a wonderful holiday… Motherhood is one of the central forces in our humanity and I am pleased that we have a holiday to celebrate it.

I would also like to celebrate… the “mothers” in my life… my mom and the mother of my children.  The feature picture is of my mom with my brother and sister.   (please… no making fun of the lederhosen)

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As a man I am obviously on the sideline with respect to motherhood.  While on the “sideline” I have been paying attention and I do not believe there is anything closer to our creator’s love than true motherly love.  I want to post something very personal (hopefully Isabelle will not mind).

Let me share some of our story…

 

In the beginning when I first was dating Isabelle I watched her with her sister’s children and immediately knew that she would be a fantastic mother.   I was a single father so “this time” I was wise enough to pay attention (or even care about this).   More over Isabelle wanted to be a mother.  She was someone much more brilliant than I… better educated… better career… simple she was better than me… period.  (I know… I definitely married up).   She had all of this but in her mind it was all second to the goal of having a family and being a mother.

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When we got married she wanted to have children right away and well being selfish I wanted to wait at least a little bit.  You know… have time together. (I was not ready to share)   I finally “gave in”… and this began all of our problems.   For some odd reason we just couldn’t get the “job” done. (not that I minded trying).   Month after month passed and still no pregnancy.  She cried often and I felt kind of helpless.  We decided to get “medical” help and while at her first visit they noticed a tumor in her breast.   Before they would do anything she had to have this removed.  This was the first “scary” surgery for us.   We got passed this and after a few embarrassing tests (both of us had to do these…) were told that we were going to need a little help.

We started fertility drugs and were told that at a somewhat precise time we would have to go to the hospital and “make” the baby there with the help of a doctor.   We were excited when the day came.  It was a Sunday and we hurried to the hospital.   I was less thrilled when I was given a cup and told to go into a small room.   The small room turned out to be a supply closet and I had to do my part there amongst the cleaning supplies.   To be honest it was a struggle and worse they kept talking to me through the door… somehow despite all of this I was able to “man up” and get the job done.  (wow that sounds horrible and it was horrible…   I kind of worried I would develop some weird thing for janitor supplies).

After less than an hour with the doctor everything was in place and fortunately all of this clinical stuff actually worked.   We were pregnant… and I witnessed Isabelle’s  joy despite the throwing up and increasing pain.   She was already bonding… talking to the baby… even writing a daily journal for the new life inside of her.

She started complaining all of the time saying that she knew something wrong.  When we would go to the doctor, he would do a quick ultra sound and say “everything is ok”.   I tried to comfort her and tell her “she was ok”…  don’t worry… etc… (really bad mistake… made me sound very unsympathetic )

One day I finally believed her and insisted that the doctor do something. He sent us to the emergency room.  They performed a CAT scan and she was taken immediately into surgery.   We actually had twins and one was ectopic.    Without going into too many details her fallopian tube had burst and she was bleeding internally.   I was scared to death… All of this “baby” stuff could make me lose Isabelle.   I remember staring at the wall during the surgery praying please let her live.  After what felt like days, the doctor came out and told me everything was ok with Isabelle.  I was allowed to go be with her as she awoke from the anesthesia.   The first thing out of her mouth was is the baby ok?   (I am such a dork… I hadn’t even bothered to ask).  Wow… her only concern was that of the baby.  Fortunately the doctor was there and could answer her question.  He explained everything and told her that we lost one of the twins but the other was ok.

After spending the rest of the pregnancy stuck in bed – “bed rest”…. along with a “down syndrome” scare… (nurse told us the baby had tested positive for down syndrome) we finally had a baby girl and we named her Gwenaelle.

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One week later…. we were back at the emergency room and Isabelle had to have her gallbladder removed.   (Jesh… I thought we were done with all of this bad luck) While she was having this third surgery  I was home with the week old baby… trying to convince her that a bottle was just as good as mom…  (lots of crying that night… both baby and I).   I remember thinking after all of this… at least she was able to have “one” baby and be a “mom”.   One is better than none…  after all of this there was no way she would want another… three surgeries along with a birth in one year.  (Her poor stomach looked like she had survived a horrific knife fight)

Less then a year later Isabelle said she wanted another baby… (I thought she was insane… plus… I was so not into going back to the supply closet)  I couldn’t imagine going through all of this over again… she must have some weird amnesia.  Her love and desire to have another child was well beyond any suffering or fear she may have had.  I again had to admit… she was so much better than I.   We were fortunate the second time and were able to do it all on our own.  We had Samuel and then with some coaxing from Isabelle we had our last child Benjamin.   Wonderful beings who I loved dearly… but I still wonder if I love them as much as I know their mother does.

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Looking back I can’t imagine going through what she did and being willing to go through it again.   I just wouldn’t do it.   I have witnessed first hand that special selfless love that a mother offers her child.   Isabelle was willing to sacrifice everything for them.   I honestly believe that the closest thing to God’s love that you will find on earth is that of a mother for her children.

Merry Christmas Everyone

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!   (is three exclamation marks too many?   I am having a Seinfeld’s episode flashback… I had better not use my exclamation marks so haphazardly )  For Christmas I would like to share a very personal story and if you don’t want to read my story I am including some random Christmas pictures of my family… hopefully the story or the pictures will making visiting my blog worth your time.

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Sam (my oldest son) asked me what my favorite Christmas present was… and added an emphasis of “ever”.  I am old so he thinks “ever” is close to forever ago.   I remember very well what my favorite Christmas present was and I have decided to try to share that with everyone here.   I have to go back many years… I must have been 6 or 7 years old.   (I don’t have an exact memory so I apologize if I don’t have all of the facts exactly as they were… I do promise to write here exactly how I recall things so many years ago and in the way my young mind perceived things during that very special Christmas)

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That year, I remember when mom and dad brought home the Christmas tree and it being so small that we could put it on top of the television.  I don’t remember that being a “bad” thing… maybe size back then didn’t really member.  I have a very clear memory of making “stain glass” cookies with my sister and brother.  Stain glass cookies were basically sugar cookies formed in the typical Christmas shapes.   The center was cut out and we would place crushed life savers in the middle.  When they were cooked the lifesavers would melt and create “stained glass” in the middle.   We decorated the tree with these cookies and if I remember correctly one night our dog ate them all. (Sorry I diverge… I will get back to the story)

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Every Christmas eve we would visit my “Oma and Opa” who invited the whole family.  All of my aunts, uncles, and cousins would come and we would celebrate Christmas eve together with a large family meal… some singing… and even a family quarrel once in while.   I remember we would open one present and then come home late at night to try to get some sleep before Santa came with all of our gifts and presents.   This time coming home was different.  I could feel that something was wrong… my parents were acting weird.

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I was wondering if I or my siblings had done something wrong and we were about to get into trouble.   My father began to speak and I didn’t hear anger I heard sadness.  I remember feeling bad for him and I noticed how sad my mother looked.   We were than informed that Santa was not “actually real” and that this year had been a very difficult year financially for my parents.   My parents told us that this Christmas there would not be presents in the morning because they could not afford to buy us any.   I was disappointed… and I was really sad.  I was not just sad for myself but also for my parents.  I think I felt (maybe for the first time) true empathy for what must have been a horribly difficult time for them.

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I think the rest of the ride home was very quiet.  My young mind was already starting to adjust expectations and cope with the fact that not only did the “magic” of Christmas not exist but that I had already opened my only present that year.   We arrived home to our very humble apartment and as we arrived near the door I realized I could not see the door at all.  Amazingly there were presents stacked so high and wide that our door was no longer visible.  In fact it took us several minutes to make room enough just to get through the pile of gifts and enter into the apartment.   I was thrilled (obviously) but had to wait until morning to open the gifts that were left for me… in fact for all of us that special night.

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I have had many presents through out the years and have forgotten most of them.   I haven’t forgotten what I got that morning.   I got a helicopter that would fly around in a circle and you controlled it with one lever that would make it go up and down and another that would make it go forward and backwards.   I found a YouTube video of the helicopter and I will share that with you since I am probably explaining it horribly.

 

This helicopter was awesome… but not my favorite gift.   That night I was given a gift much more special.  I was given back the gift of “Christmas magic”.  I don’t know who gave it to me… somebody in my neighborhood…. maybe my church… maybe even strangers… regardless… whomever did this wonderful act touched me deeply.   They made me feel cared about… made me feel loved.  What a priceless gift and the only way I have been able to say thank you is by trying to pay it forward all these years since.

I hope all of us remember how fortunate we are and that we should find ways to bring the gift of magic (love) into the lives of those less fortunate than us or those who may be struggling during this time of year.

Merry Christmas everyone… May you all feel the true love of Christ and help others by sharing it!

Being Thankful!

Having a blog named “weird weekends” makes it difficult when you want to share something more than just “weird” stuff you do.   This week I have been thinking a lot about being thankful and gratitude.  I am not sure that I have anything really profound to say but I want to write out my thoughts anyway.  (if this bores you I will share a couple of pictures of our Thanksgiving dinner and you can skip the words)

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I and the children have always given Isabelle a break by preparing thanksgiving dinner.  The children and I love this time together although I am not sure that it is really a break for Isabelle since she always ends up cleaning up after all of us…

This Sunday a thought… or maybe more of a question came to me.  My inner dialog quickly dismissed it with “of course” as an answer… but often when you are less than truthful with yourself the question never really goes away.  Here is the question:

“Am I really thankful?”

I am not sure that I appreciate everything that I have or that I show the appropriate amount of gratitude for all that I am blessed with.   How many things do I take for granite and accept as normal instead of recognizing how truly wonderful things are for me.

I want to share two experiences that have lead me towards these introspective thoughts.  One happened Sunday and the other Thursday at thanksgiving.  I will start with Thursday first.

Thursday:

At the thanksgiving dinner my step mother asked the children to tell her what they were thankful for.  Ben my youngest started with his iPad.   I think he recognized that we were waiting for something “better” so he ran upstairs and brought down his favorite stuffed animal.   My older kids laughed because they have been around the thanksgiving table more than once and knew that there were “expected” answers.   Ben then stated…”My family” and everyone in a subtle way congratulated him for saying what was expected.

I stopped myself and wondered why can’t he be thankful for the ipad or his stuffed animal… Why did we react to his first two responses that way? Did we just teach him to be unappreciative?  Should we not be thankful for everything even the superficial?

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Sunday:

Sunday brought back memories from a year ago. (can’t believe it has taken me an entire year to really ponder and try to learn from this experience) About a year ago a neighbor needed help…  not just a one time help… but the every week for an undermined amount of time kind of help.   Her husband had brain cancer and after surgery needed volunteers to come twice a day and help him “stand-up”.    Luckily (boy am I not horribly selfish) I live in a fantastic neighborhood and we had many volunteers which meant that I only had to go once a week.

I remember the first time I went to help.  I didn’t have feelings of charity.  I was kind of annoyed (this is embarrassing to admit).  I had to stop what I was doing (probably something very “important” like watching tv) and walk all the way across the street.  His bed had been moved into the living room.  We helped him sit up and then pulled him up into a standing position.  He held that position for about 15 seconds and then it was over… he was totally exhausted.    I remember thinking… hmm this isn’t so bad as I walked home after spending a total of 2 minutes (I think I can time this during the commercials and not miss anything “important”).

I continued each week with these “standups” and things started to change.   First of all, I began to see the standing times last longer and longer.  I joked to the family that they should write down the times to see “who was helping the best”. (I was only half joking)   Not only was he standing longer but he began taking small steps.  Each week I was excited to see how many steps my neighbor (now friend) could take… I of course talked about this often at work and I told all of my friends that I was kind of a “miracle worker”.   I honestly looked forward to each visit and they  seemed to become too short…  (I found myself even stopping by  with silly excuses like dropping off a moochies sandwich… )

One day we reached a huge milestone (he walked from the living room to his bed room). I think I was just as excited as he was and then he said something to me that I can’t forget.  He said “you know this is the first time in two years that something in my body has gotten “better instead of worse”.   He was so grateful for this… he was still in pain…  still dying… but he showed only gratitude.  Unfortunately he died several months later.   I honestly miss my “stand-ups” with him.  Initially I had no idea how fortunate I was to be invited to be a part of the last moments of his life and how sweet those memories would become to me.  Most of all…  I wished I would have thanked him…  I wished I would have been “thankful”.

Sunday his widow talked about him and her experiences.   She stated that it had been more then 800 days since they first found about the illness and everyone of those days she has cried.  She said that she cried because she was depressed, angry, hopeless, scared…  then she said “of all of these tears I have cried…90% of them I have cried in appreciation for the love and support I have felt”.   She went on thanking God and everyone.   Wow… these words made me rethink gratitude and my attitude… Am I truly thankful?

Thank you (I am saying this earnestly not ironically) for reading my post and for posting wonderful things for me to read and enjoy…