Thursday, August 29, 2013

A letter to my son on his 1st birthday

Dear Jojo,

Such a dapper looking fellow
at only a day old
Happy birthday!  Well by the time this is posted we will be a mere hour from exactly when you were born (hopefully, don't know if I will finish in time).

By now you realize your mom and I are obsessed over you.  In a healthy way, my precious!

The joy, tears, love, laughs, and pain (small baby fists in the groin region of a half asleep daddy hurt!) you have brought us has been worth what we had to go through to get here.  I look at your smiling face and see our future; in more than just grandkids one day.  I look at raising you up to be everything I wasn't and should've been and needed to be.  Instilling my lessons learned from my mistakes to enable you to avoid them, but also to empower you to learn from, and push through, the snafus and blunders you will face.  I want you to know you can face your fears head on and that your mother and I will be there to help you through them.

"Hey Mista Bun-bun!  Want to hang out?"

Watching you go from being a tiny infant who had no control over his arms, to the little soon-to-be tot that tries to scale the side of the crib to get to Mr. Bun-bun, has really put a price on time.  No one will ever pay you what you are worth, and no money could ever be earned for that matter.  But you'll always have our support to pursue what you want; whether it be sports related, business, school, or to go off and do ministry work for God's Kingdom, we will support you.

It still amazes me that you are a little person with your own personality, strengths, weaknesses, quirks, and funny faces.  I love watching in my own awe and wonder at you learning, exploring, and going on our ahbenchurs (i.e. adventures) together.  Although you may not remember them I will always cherish them.  Especially when you are being a rather difficult teenager.

Every night that I am home to put you to bed I always try to tell you I am proud of you.  Every night I ask you if you treated your mom right.  That you were respectful to her and others.  That everything you did that day honored Jesus.  I will continue to do so until you are old enough to live on your own, even then I'll probably shoot you a call.  Why?  Because these are things I feel should always be at the forefront of your mind.  I want you to always know I am proud of you when you do the right thing, and proud of you when you recognize you did wrong and let me down, but are able to admit your fault and fix it.  I don't expect perfection, but I expect our love as father and son to be perfect.  There is a really good example of this loving father/son relationship in a book you and I read called the Bible.

I could get used to this "place of refuge"
I may not always be your friend, nor should I.  I am your father, first and foremost, and while I may not always want to be I will choose that role first for your benefit.  But know I will always be your refuge if you need a place to rest, talk, express your feelings, vent, cry, or just hold on to.  I hope to earn the 1st place slot in your life where you feel you can come to me and not worry about condemnation or judgement, but love.  Just like this past year of having you in our lives I know you don't judge your mom and I despite our faults and pasts.

There is such a pure love in your eyes I hope to understand and regain that full childlike love and wonder myself.  To be able to see the world through your eyes; new, fresh, exciting, and full of so many strange and unfamiliar things.  I, as I am sure many fathers, hope that you never lose your sense of adventure and awe at the vast world God has laid out before you.  That in everything you seek Him, and find Him in everything see.

"Look Daddy, no hands or teefs!"

I can only hope to protect you from the evils that prevail at times in our fallen world until you are old enough, strong enough, and equipped to handle them.  While I may not be able to fight your battles for you, I will gladly stand valiantly beside you and do battle together.

But for now the only battles we will have is with Mr. Bun-bun, knocking over towers, and not throwing your food on the floor.

Love you always,
You Dad

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Trip down memory lane

So a recently entry I did on having a little dad time brought back from memories from being a kid.  Namely racing bicycles at a parking lot and the chaos and fun that ensued.

Google Maps view of the "race track"

Kids nowadays, man that makes me sound old, seem to be only interested in the newest shoot 'em up video game that they play online.  And don't get me wrong, I was a huge fan of the Halo games, I enjoy a bout with my brothers and their friends online killing each other like rabid, ravenous raccoons at summer camp.  However, the adrenaline rush is just not there, it isn't the same thing to me and the physical aspect of it is definitely missing.

But where my brother Matt and I grew up, down the alley was a large funeral home parking lot that worked perfectly as a race track.  Partly because we liked speed, and partly because the park across the street chased us out for riding too fast in the 1/4 mile loop they had there.  So all throughout the summer and weekends during the school year, we would race.

Beforehand we would talk about how many laps, pick our "pit stalls" on pit lane (the line down the middle of all the cars in the image above), and then we would randomly select who would be lined up in each of the starting rows.  We always started with people side by side and then we would line up in 2's.  In order to have the person randomly selected we had a extremely scientific method of selection.  It has been passed down over the generations and always was tried, tested, and true.  Honestly you couldn't flub these results as even the world's best scientists would attest to the accuracy of the randomness of potential selection.

Our method went something like this:

"Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
Catch a tiger by it's toe
If it hollers let it go
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe "

And sometimes when people feel there was "cheating" in the method we would pull out the mother of all random selective methods:

"My mother told me you are it
That's Y-O-U
Not because you're dirty
Not because you're clean
Just because you kissed a dirty girl
Behind a dirty magazine
O-U-T spells out
And you are out of this entire game."

This was always done with the front tire in a circle on pit row, with any "pit crew" (usually younger siblings that couldn't safely keep pace) nearby to witness the coin toss as it were.  We were always looking out for the next generation's safety, I mean how could we let them into sanctioned races on old, steel bikes with kickstands, balloon tires, and no helmets?  We couldn't live with ourselves if something happened.....or our moms found out.

By the time this was over, we watered up, lined up, and on the "3,2,1, GO!" we were off!

This is always how we felt in turns
And of course how we looked

As we all grew older we got faster on the bikes we had, but the inevitable happened.  Someone showed up with a hot rod of a bicycle; you know the kid whose parents had a little bit more income.  Usually the spoiled only kid who didn't know what it was like to cram 4 kids into one bedroom while repairs were going on in the other bed rooms.  You know that kid who had the Talkboy BEFORE Christmas and he wasn't Jewish, but his parents had money coming out of everywhere so they just celebrated Chanukah for the spiritual experience despite being Catholic.

It was that kid who showed up on the 10 speed.  At this time, the early 90's, neon EVERYTHING was in fashion and they showed up in their Reebok Pumps with neon green laces, their multi-neon-colored bike, neon colored water bottle and non matching bottle cage, and their neon color 4 digit cable lock around the seat stem.  For some reason, despite our experience in the scientific method of random selection, that kid was always put last.  Those races went from being fast, to who can keep the "rich" kid in back.  It was literally all against one.

I can still remember hearing the kid catch up to me, hear the derailleur shift the chain into a new gear, and then watch helplessly as they moved on by while I am pedaling to beat the band.  That guy always would win, and we would stand huffing and puffing in the pits at the end while our stinkin' pit crews were by his bicycle ogling it and being general traitors.

And he held his place on the podium until the next year when someone showed up with a 12 speed, and until I showed up with my 18 speed Huffy mountain bike.  Then it was on like Donkey Kong....

A little "dad" time to himself

My wife is amazing; she doesn't complain about taking care of our son when I am at work and she is either at home or nannying for the few families she does.  And I try to get her the time she needs in the evening or on weekends when she asks for me to take the Jojo for a while.  Which means father/son time and momma gets time to regain her sanity....that means a better house for everyone too!

The getaway vehicle....
Now if I had this when we "raced" as kids, I'd be king!
One thing I am passionate about, other than my God, my family, my nation, and my freedom from traditional work (soon...soon), is cycling.  I used to ride a lot as a kid, my brother and I would go to this local parking lot that had an oval shaped parking area and a "pit lane" and we would race with the neighborhood kids.  I can tell you we had some spectacular wrecks!

Being a car nut now, and having owned a race car, I can tell you it just gets faster and more expensive.  We used to ride on single speed bikes with coaster brakes; my favorite was this red bike I got as a hand-me-down from another family that said "The Clean Machine" on the chain guard (I would love to own another).  That thing was a beast, it was heavy so in crashes it won, and with me being one of the older kids I would dominate most of the other kids.

But that memory will be another story for another time....

I love to ride, sometimes it is an early morning thing where I get up at 6 and get out for an hour or so; a weekend ride for 50+ miles.  Sometimes it is just commuting to work and home; I will say there is no better feeling than getting the chance to move through traffic that is sitting still and shaving 10 minutes off my commute.  Plus the physical fitness aspect of it really helps too, I have lost 35 lbs just to eating a little better, taking organic supplements, and riding more.

Interesting sights, like this fine
gentleman taking an eternal nap.

I ride mostly my old Schwinn Continental I got off Craigslist a year ago, but sometimes I jump on my old Trek 800 for local runs.  I bought the Schwinn to just ride to and from work to avoid the parking hassle that has become the norm in the little industrial park the company I work for is situated in.  But I found myself going out on weekends, or riding in the evenings versus driving.  I even did my first Century ride last year (that's a 100 mile organized event).

This year, 2013, I have put around 1300 mile on my bicycle so far and want to top 3000 by years end.  I will bike anywhere I can, and if my wife is going there to I will cycle out, bring the car rack, and drive home.  It has taken me to some really cool places, as well as not so cool, neat sights, and allowed me a little "dad time".

Why no money?
Because racecar.
Currently I work 40+ hours a week at a good company and my wife takes care of our son and nannies part-time.  This has afforded us what we currently have, but I feel all fathers (and mothers crying) should have something that they can be absorbed into for a little bit that isn't unhealthy or super expensive (relative to income of course).  My wife might slightly disagree on the money I have spent on my bicycles, but at least it isn't a race car.....just sayin'.

Riding allows me to "get away" from it all, but not really.  I think about my family and our future mostly as I ride.

That "get away" allows me some alone time, and time with God.  I find that I can recharge my batteries both emotionally, physically, and spiritually on a bicycle.  Sometimes I get a chance to hang out and ride with others who have the same passion.  Mainly it allows me to clear my head and refocus on what I need to do for my family.  It also allows me time to reflect on where we are at, the blessings in our life, or sometimes that pain on my calf from it cramping again....dang it!  Sometimes I ride with music or some sort of audio playing, sometimes it is just the wind, car noises, and life around me.

Although Joseph is a bit too small to go for a ride, I was graciously given a kid trailer that he will be able to use next year when he is big enough.  Hopefully it will become a complete family affair we can all partake in and enjoy the world around us and some time out together.  I hope to one day get Joseph (or a future kid) interested in cycling and something we can do together, just the 2 of us.  I will be excited for the day that instead of my kids trying to keep up with their dad and me razzing them about it, they pass me and I struggle to keep up.  All the while they toss a slew of, "Hey old man, need a rest?"

Then training for The Tour begins.

But first to find that hereditary noggin a helmet.....Hmmmmm

Are you pondering what I'm pondering father?
Where do we buy me a helmet?