Category Archives: da family



Yep, four.

Four is happening tomorrow.  We are waking up, having pancakes (shhh, don’t tell), buying RR a teddy bear (what she asked for…. besides cake), and heading to the amusement park to have dinner with Elmo (as ya do).

I cannot believe that we created such a beautiful human.  She is sensitive, smart, empathetic, talented, creative, and extraordinarily silly.  Every night, when I pet her head and sing her a song before she goes to sleep, I’m in utter disbelief that my wife and I are so lucky to be raising this wonderful child.


Going for the Gold

In the latest saga of Operation: Take Back My House, I’ve offered to take Duncan the Dog to dog training classes for the next five weeks.  CUE EYEROLL.

Here, this will take the edge off:


Maybe I’m just glutton for punishment?  In need of a hobby?  Maybe I’m afraid of going two months without any kind of weekly commitment (adult music class is off until the Fall, and drinking, sadly, doesn’t count).

My mother in-law and I took Duncan to a dog training class last night.  The class is specifically for dogs with something called leash reactivity.  Basically, Duncan cannot properly go on a walk without lunging and barking at anything that moves near us.  I sought out the training.  MIL footed the bill, since my wife’s parents are going to be providing his “forever home” (if you will).  This was an alternative agreement to them bringing a choke or electric bark collar into our home, which sure blah blah effective blah blah, isn’t for us.

Annnnd, since they are taking their time building a couple of gates in order to provide a secure and enclosed yard for Duncan at their farm house, he’s still hanging out with us until they get their shit together.  Which, honestly folks, could be five weeks.  BUT!  I will say that one asshole dog is WAY better than one asshole dog, three additional cats, two parents, and loss of access to 1333 square feet of your house.

Without going into the class details, Duncan is an asshole on a leash because he’s afraid, and being an asshole is his response to fear.  Lucky us!

After class, my MIL declares that she wants him to go, thinks he can totally benefit from the class and (wait for it), although she is a believer in everything the trainer has to say and train, she wants ME to take him, and she’ll come over occasionally and at her convenience to practice the training with him.  I wish I could write that in a way that it didn’t sound like I had just been suckered into training their dog for them.  But… err.  I don’t think there’s a way to write it.

I don’t FEEL suckered, but that’s also because I’m a pushover.  And I like animals.  Even, apparently, asshole dogs.  SIGH.

She, at least, went out today and bought him (and me) some “tools.”  Treats, an interactive food bowl/toy/thing, and whatever else the lady said last night we would need.  Said dog trainer lady, as much as I wanted her to insist that MIL attend the class, was like, “Meh, whatever.  As opposed to obedience training, we’re actually trying to rewire this emotional-processing part of his peanut brain, which isn’t specific to who trains him.  It would be NICE if you could come, but he’ll benefit from it regardless.”  Or something like that.  It also could have been her appeasing response to MIL’s crazy-eyes.

I kind of understand why she bailed?  I mean, they live an hour away.  We’ve talked about that.  An hour is a long time each way on a Wednesday night.  And, to her admission, she does not have the patience or, um, lack of shrillness (is there a word for that?), to do a kind of dog training that has been compared to “watching paint dry.”  Plus, as they live on a five acre farm, she really doesn’t have any place to practice with him because, well, no one comes around for him to bark at.

Then why does he need the training?

Bob asked the same thing!  (He says, “Hi.”  As always.)

Because sometimes this asshole dog will stay at our house when they go on vacation.  Sometimes he might come on vacation with them and need to be walked.  Sometimes strangers or neighbors may want to talk to you over your fence (he has anxiety about that as well), and maybe you don’t want to be seen as “those people with that asshole dog.”

As it is, I might buy some kind of costume to wear while we’re out training, because he’s such an embarrassment, and my neighbors know me.  Maybe I can get a shirt that reads, “This is not my dog.  I’m trying to medal in Karma.”

PS – For all that he is an asshole, he’s actually a nice dog.   He has good table manners and likes to play fetch and sleep.  He obviously came from a broken home (literally broken – we took him in the night before his owners were being evicted from their house.)  He’s really just an asshole on a leash.   Or, you know, when he wakes up at 5:55am to pee, but that’s just payback for having a kid who has always slept until 8am.  Right?

2,018 Miles

For those of you following along at home, after seven days, seven nights, three planes, five hotels, one stomach bug (or altitude sickness), countless trips to McDonald’s and Cracker Barrel (and one Bob Evans), even MORE countless continental breakfasts, about thirty bruises, and driving 2,018 miles, going no more than 60mph, I’m back home.

My first moment fully alone came on Thursday afternoon, when I drove the big moving truck solo.  The parents were in the smaller truck, and I got the chance to listen to Midwestern country radio stations and call my wife and RR without having to talk in a hushed voice.  I missed them so much.

On Saturday, we WILLED both trucks up and down the mountains of West Virginia and Virginia.  The big truck quit three times, but was revived each time long enough to keep going Eastward.  We pulled into their home in Virginia at 7:15pm, and then drove the hour to MY home, where I barged into the front door, past the dogs, and into RR’s room (where my wife was delaying bedtime), when then I scooped her up and she clung to me in a giant monkey hug.  I kissed my wife.   Home safe.

It was a long trip.  11-12 hours a day, driving.  Most of which was spent next to my mother in-law.  There are stories of ice and pickaxes, and sharing a hotel room with both of them (awkward), and mostly being exhausted every night, but getting up every morning to two OTHER exhausted (and much older) people, where then I had to crack the whip and move them along.

Seriously.  They may have stayed in our house until June.  They weren’t kidding.

That said, they’ve been at their house all day today.  Potentially actually moving in.  Potentially actually staying there tonight.  I have no words.

A Cabin in the Woods

That sounds kind of like a horror film, hm?  Anyway.

In nine days, RR will be three years and seven months old.  In all that long time, my wife and I haven’t spent a night together without her.  Sure, there have been trips when one of us has been away (conferences, sick/dead mom, etc.), but in three years, and nearly seven months, if we’ve spent the night together, RR has been close by.

Apparently grandparents do things like… watch your kid while you go away for a weekend.  WHO KNEW THIS?!  And furthermore, if you knew this, why didn’t you TELL someone?

So one weekend in February, we’re headed to a cabin about 45 minutes north of town, but by ourselves.  Just me and my wife.  It’s like a hybrid Valentine’s Day/Anniversary mini-vacation.  We’ll go up after bedtime on Friday, and come home Sunday afternoon.  I’m ridiculously excited.  The last time we went away together was March 2010, just a few months before RR was born when we went to the beach for a week to celebrate our anniversary.

Alone time, especially in the wake of having people at your house ALL THE TIME… well, I just can’t fathom it.  “Whaaaat?!  No way!” as RR would say.

Speaking of people in your house all the time, the in-laws have been spending a lot of time fixing up their new house. Which would be totally more exciting if they did this while we were home, but they do this all during our 9-5’s. Somehow, someway, they make it home before we do every night.   Curiouser and curiouser…

It’s a lot.  It’s hard to be your best self all the time.  Sometimes, I just wanna come home and not be my best self.  It’s exhausting.

But then again, M’s mom hugged her last night when she got home from work, and I was kind of (really) sad that I can’t hug MY mom anymore (sad trombone) so I suppose all of this family time is good.  Plus, RR hugged both of them last night before bedtime, which was the Very First Time she’s hugged her grandfather.  Slow to warm, that one.

It’s day 15 of the Whole30, so I’m technically halfway through.  Notable discoveries include the fact that I’ve learned that I like brussel sprouts and it is feasible that I can actually tire of eating eggs every morning.  Thank goodness for Primal Fuel and smoothies.  And bacon.

Also, exercising willpower is actually a THING.  As in, the first five days, it was hard to pass the rice at the dinner table, but yesterday it was actually pretty easy to carry down a huge tray of leftover sticky danishes and pastries for another office to devour.  Oh, and I’m beginning to like the taste of black coffee.

In other news, my Christmas lights are still hanging from my gutters.  Gotta get on that.

Orphan, 2.0

So RR is putting together the pieces of our family puzzle.  These folks are cousins.  These folks are her mamas’ sisters.  Granny and Pop Pop are mama’s mom and dad.

The other day, she said to me in a big revelation, “Granny is mama’s MAMA!”  I said, “Yes, she sure is!”

Then she paused and said, “Granny is not your mama.  Who is your mama, mama?”

SIGH.  Big fucking sigh.

As if that wasn’t awkward enough, she followed up with, “Is Pop Pop your daddy?”  I said, “No, he’s not.”  Which she then retorted, “Well, we’ll call your daddy Pop Pop!”  I said, “If he were around, he’d probably like that.”

And then she tootled off without anymore questions, and that was that.

The last time my sister visited, she dropped off a bunch of old pictures for me to sift through, including a lot of pictures of my parents (oddly enough, none of them both together… but whatever).  I suppose it might be a good idea to pick a few out of my parents and put them somewhere where RR can see them.  I have a few of my mom with RR, which is great.  But, the most recent picture of my dad is circa 1989.  I think the only family picture I have of us is this old, tattered (but scanned) one below.  I’m what… two?  I can probably dig up something more recent of him.


I don’t think this requires any big prayer meetin’ (as my mom would call it) for explanation’s sake, but having them around would certainly make me feel a little less like an orphan some days, and would make other days where these questions come up, a little easier to answer.

Explaining to her that I totally have parents is one thing.  Explaining where they’ve gone off to is another.

Happy Birthday, RR!

I have a “Dear RR – 3 Years Old” letter hanging out in draft form.  One day this week, I’ll finish that sucker up.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday, RR, my sweet girl!

This morning, she had a monster shake (spinach, almond milk, pineapples), a cinnamon bun out of the oven (of which she just licked the icing and top cinnamon layer off), and some yogurt with smiley face blueberries in them (about as Pinterest as I get).  All served on a Superman plate.  Happy girl!


We dropped her off at school this morning in her blue dress, placed her friends’ birthday party favors in their cubbies (Matchbox cars), and I hope she’s had a wonderful special day so far.

I just got back to the office after running home after a text message from my sister alerted me that something perishable for RR had been delivered.  Everyone can rest east now knowing that chocolate covered strawberries and cake pops are safe from today’s heat and hanging out in the fridge.

Tonight, you’re having pancakes for dinner.  Followed by a chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream.  Followed by some kind of sugar-high hiccup-sobbing tantrum.  Hoo boy, can I see that coming.  At least we’re prepared!

But seriously.  We love you SO SO much.  You are my special, sweet, darling girl.  Happy Birthday!

Amazing Woman

That’s how everyone has been referring to my mom for the last two weeks, almost to the day.  My mom passed away on March 15 after suffering a stroke and spending a couple of days in ICU (frighteningly similar to last time).  This time, however, she was less lucky with any chance of recovery.  She passed away at 5:59pm with her family by her side.  In a moment that still breaks my heart completely, RR got to say “I love you” to her Grandma prior to her physical departure from us.  This week, I’ve made it back to work now that I’ve nearly stopped sobbing uncontrollably.

I’m still not particularly stable enough to write about it, so time will pass and then I will write… of faith, funeral arrangements, and the overwhelming feeling of being an orphan at the age of 34.  Until then, I will share one of my favorite pictures of my mom with RR, from her visit to us at Easter of last year.  She was one of the very first (and few) people that RR warmed up to almost instantaneously.  My mom made her smile and laugh, and this picture captures their relationship:



Happy Anniversary to my wife.  It’s been seven years since we exchanged rings and vows, barefoot on a chilly, windy beach – just me, you, some seagulls, and a random, smiling lady who was beach-combing at the right time.  We’ve managed to keep numerous plants, two cats, one dog, a toddler, and each other alive this whole time.  Here’s to all the years to come.  I love you.


Yesterday I received a letter from my mother.  No, not an email.  Not a card, either.  An actual letter.  With an actual stamp.  And actual somewhat illegible handwriting.  With underlines.  You know, underlines?  I LOVE and MISS you ALL so MUCH.  Substitute the caps with three (THREE) underlines under each one.   She does this on Hallmark cards, too, you know.  She’ll write a little something inside the card, but then will proceed to underline the stock poem/message written on the inside.  But only every few words, you know: “I MISS the TIMES we used TO spend TOGETHER.”  For example.

I digress.  So she’s written me a letter, largely in response to our conversation on Sunday that I cut short, I’m sure, although she didn’t say as much.  You know, the conversation I cut short there at 30 minutes.  I was talking to her out on the back deck while my wife had things under control with RR in the living room.  Under control as in, not complaining in screams or demanding a refill or a massage.  I had put off calling her for two whole weeks, and in the last conversation we had, I complained that her telling me how long it had been since our last conversation wasn’t really the best way to encourage me to keep calling.  It was sort of like being in a confessional:  Forgive me, Mother, for I have not called for two weeks.  I also had told her (gently) that long gone are the days of hour-long conversations with her, since I could maybe manage 10 minutes at best here and there.  She could understand, right?  She used to be a mother to an infant once upon a time.

In those precious 30 minutes, she proceeded to tell me about such fascinating day-to-day details such as her other grandchildren’s bus schedule.  You know, somewhere in between interrupting the part where I was telling her about RR smiling, and grabbing, and starting to smoke.  So at 30 minutes, RR started to have a bit of a vocal whine, and I took it upon myself as a sign to go.  She reluctantly let me get off the phone that very instant (perhaps thinking I was lying, since she couldn’t actually hear RR fussing herself), which was the first time she didn’t actively try to keep me talking when I tell her I have to go.

So then I get a short two-page letter that, honestly, I can’t remember of what the content was.  All I can recall is the underlines.  I think the point was, she loves and misses me.  Oh, and that she would have loved to hear RR cry, which sounds really odd, but I guess make sense for a woman who refuses to learn how to use the internet and see all of the beautiful pictures and videos we have posted of RR smiling, grabbing, and making me a sandwich.  This is all despite the fact that she has a beautiful new laptop, has bought an internet subscription through her cable provider, but unfortunately for her, the internet does not come with instructions, and my free time and patience are all used up.

My response today was a typed-out letter in Word that I’ve printed out and plan to stick a stamp on and send her way with a couple of pictures.  Welcome to 2010, Mom.  I’m sure I’ll get another letter subtly complaining about the lack of using my own handwriting.  Maybe I can reprint it in a handwriting font.  Do you think she’d know?  But seriously, with gems like this picture posted by my wife sitting out there on the internet waiting for consumption, it seems unfair to complain that we’re keeping the goody from anyone.

She only knows how to be an in-town Grandma.  The kind of Grandma you drop your kids off with so that you can go out to dinner, or go Christmas shopping, or play their XBOX.  I don’t think she has any idea how to be a Grandma to a kid she won’t see or talk to on a daily basis, and in return, probably won’t know them as well as she does her other grandkids.  And that it’s really OK that she doesn’t immediately know RR’s shoe size and favorite color of the week when she’s eight.  Well, and whereas I think that’s OK, she might consider it devastating since she can only show love through giving gifts of clothing.  It’s a learning curve, mostly, but one that might come at the expense of sending letters via horse or pigeon.

Anyhow, seriously, have you seen this picture?  I would underline it three times if I could.

The Paneras

Yesterday, I had my first extended outing with RR on my own.  Well, my mother was with us, too, but we might as well have been on our own, ifyouknowwhatImean.  (Yes, my mother.  Yes, she’s back.  But she’s only been here since Wednesday afternoon and is leaving tomorrow.  No, no one has killed anyone.  Yet.) What’s made the visit tolerable so far is the fact that my wife has been at work yesterday and today, making me the only person spending all day trying to let her comments and conversations roll off my back.  Seriously – I should only really subject myself to this sort of unique torture.  Well, me and RR – we did have a pep talk and fist bump beforehand, though.

Sometime yesterday morning, my mom said she wanted to take us out to lunch, and left it up to me to decide where to go.  Now, I don’t know if other parents of unpredictable screaming inconsolable infants do this, but we try to limit ourselves to eating places where we can a) we can walk up to the counter and order (thus taking out the wait-staff middleman) and b) sit at an outdoor table (where we can escape quickly, or at least the screaming can be muffled by outside background noise).  This has seemed to work pretty well so far, so I suggested the nearby Panera.  Or, as my mother calls it, The Paneras.

Around 12pm, RR woke up from her morning nap and I began the pre-house-leaving preparations.  My mom, sensing RR’s unpredictability (and the fact that she still screams whenever she holds her), gave us the optional out of not going if I didn’t want to… you know, if it was going to be stressful.  Me, sensing that there was no other lunch food in the house other than crackers,  pickles, and ice, insisted that we go.  I fed RR from 12pm-12:20pm and the clock started ticking from when she would want to eat again.

Now I don’t mind feeding RR in public.  We (finally) have a system that works that doesn’t involve feeding her a cold bottle (angry baby is angry!), but by the time it takes me to MacGyver a bottle in public (thanks, Dr. Brown, for making the most complicated bottles ever, even if she hardly ever spits up) RR usually has lost her patience.  Whereas my wife and I have a pretty smooth system down (proud members of the bottle-fixing pit crew), I wanted to avoid having to feed her with my mom in tow.  So tick tock!

I packed the diaper bag and we were on our way.  Triumph #1: RR didn’t fuss at all in the car, despite being awake.  We arrived at The Paneras, finally ordered our food (“Read me the sandwiches on the menu,” my mom says), and lifted RR’s car seat sun shield so that the ladies behind the counter could wave and coo.  Still alert, still not crying, and in fact, looking particularly adorable – triumph #2.  By the grace of God, there was an outdoor table available, complete with an umbrella.  They strolled over and got comfortable while I fetched our food and drinks.

My mom had situated RR’s stroller so that she was the only one who had access to her, but that quickly changed when RR decided to fuss.  (Shit – this lady again?  Mama, where’d you go?!)  I took charge, wheeled her over to me, and rocked her stroller with my foot as I started to eat.  She fell sound asleep – triumph #3.  We had a nice lunch (“Oooh look at all this fruit in this salad!” my mom says) and I tried not to engage in my mom’s game of CouldaShouldaWoulda, where she reminisces about all of the decisions she’s ever made.  Ever.  Made.

RR woke up, and we strolled out of the heat and into the CVS to pick up some prescriptions.  More ooh’s and ahh’s from some kids in the waiting area, and one mom who said she thought RR was having some gas.  Seriously – what?  Are you commenting on my daughter’s potential fictitious gas during the five minutes I’m waiting in line?  I digress, as that’s a whole other post.

It was hard not to run any other errands while we were out strolling, especially those errands involving ice cream, but I checked the clock and knew that our time out had expired.  We strolled towards the car and made it home in time to warm a bottle and feed RR before even a hint of a meltdown – triumph #4.  She then proceeded to sleep for four hours straight.  Apparently my mom can wear down and exhaust even the littlest of ears.

This is all to say, if there was one day, one time, one lunch that I needed RR to pretend that she is a child who can be out in public without incident, it was yesterday.  All we’ve heard since from my mom is how good she was during lunch.  She even called people.  Several people.  It made me look like a competent mother, and made RR look like a cooperative infant, both which are arguable depending on the day.  But to look like a good mom in front of my own mom?  Totally fucking badass.