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Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Salvaging the Day

In Family, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on June 28, 2010 at 7:59 am

The kids were looking forward to spending the day at a waterpark and sleeping in a hotel room after traveling two-and-a-half hours to tour a time share resort.  My wife and I had no intention of buying a time share, but we were willing to sacrifice 90 minutes for a gift card, free waterpark passes and a certificate for a 2-night stay at Great Wolf Lodge at a later date.  We had no way of knowing that the presentation would end so badly, or that the waterpark would turn out to be a huge disappointment.

The waterpark (located at the resort) was billed as an “indoor / outdoor facility” with a retractable roof.  As we entered the building, my wife and I were shocked to see that the roof was closed on a hot, sunny day.  If they thought that it was too hot, I would have understood, as long as the building was air conditioned, but it was not.  Quite the contrary!  The glass building felt like a greenhouse.  The heat was stifling, and the smell of chlorine and sweat permeated the air.  To make matters worse, there was almost no seating available.

Regretfully, we had to tell the kids that our time spent in the car, and the time wasted at the presentation (a post for another day), was all for naught.  There was no way that we were going to stay at the waterpark under those conditions, and there was certainly no reason to stay in a hotel in an area that offered nothing of interest to us beyond the waterpark.  And while the future stay at Great Wolf Lodge is something that the kids will undoubtedly enjoy, it wasn’t going to do anything to quell their disappointment in the change of plans.

After taking away something that they were looking forward to, I knew that I needed to do something to salvage the day, so I decided to take the money that we were saving from the hotel and spend it in a way that they would appreciate.

Before hitting the road for our return trip home, we took the kids out for pizza to discuss our alternative plans.  Thankfully, the negotiations with the kids went much smoother than the horrific sales presentation that my wife and I had sat through prior to our lunch.

I started by offering to take the kids to a place by our house that has water slides.  When I saw that they were only lukewarm to the idea, I offered to take them to a store to allow them to buy some new pool toys that we could bring to the pool in our complex.  Again, the response was less than exuberant, so I knew that I’d have to up the ante a bit to bring a smile to their faces.  I also knew that one thing probably would get the job done, so I went with a multi-pronged attack aimed at their “hot buttons.”

Our first stop on the way home was at the bookstore that we go to on a weekly basis.  Since our home is already a virtual library for kids, we usually do not buy books when we go to the bookstore.  But I told them that I would allow each of them to buy any two books that they wanted because we weren’t staying at the waterpark or the hotel.

As the smiles started to come back to their faces, I told them that we could have dinner at McDonald’s, followed by ice cream at a local place that they love, and then go to the pool in our complex until it got dark out.  By the time that I had laid all of these options on the table, the kids were more excited than ever.  Suddenly, the long car ride, the annoying presentation, the disappointing waterpark and the lack of a hotel stay didn’t bother them at all.  In fact, they were more excited about the new plans than they ever were about the original plans.  Their smiling faces would have been more than enough for me, but the jubilation in their voices made it even better as they excitedly shrieked…“thank you Daddy, thank you Mommy, you’re the best!”

All told, we ended up spending about half of what we would have had we stayed at the waterpark and the hotel, and the kids ending up having a great day just the same.  As the saying goes…“when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” Instead of looking back on Saturday with disappointment and frustration, I’ll remember it as a day that we (as a family) collectively shared a refreshing, ice-cold glass of lemonade.

As Edwin McCain sang so eloquently…“these are the moments…I’ll remember all my life.”

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Because of them…

In Family, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on June 21, 2010 at 7:27 am

Father’s Day has always been a bit bittersweet for me because I’ve never gotten the chance to celebrate it with my father and my kids, being that my dad passed away about a year before my oldest child was born.  When I lived in New York, Father’s Day always began at my father’s graveside as my mother and I would quietly ponder…“what if he had lived long enough to be around these kids?” Things would surely be different, and Father’s Day wouldn’t start off on such a somber note.  Unfortunately, there are times in life when we must live with the hand that we have been dealt…painful as it may be.

My father was one-of-a-kind.  He was always there to bring a smile to our faces with a story that we’d heard many times before, a goofy joke or a silly face.  He knew how to have fun, and he taught it to my siblings and me on a regular basis.  I know that he would not want me to spend the day mourning his loss instead of being there in the moment and having fun with my kids.

Yesterday, I didn’t have a choice but to live in the moment.  In my heart, I wish that I could have started the day by visiting his grave as I have always done since he passed away.  But it wasn’t possible being so far away.  So I decided to do the next best thing, and lose myself in my kids and have fun.  I can’t say that he wasn’t on my mind during the day, but I didn’t let it take away from the time spent with the kids.

We started the day by having breakfast together.  Nothing elaborate…just some bagels and juice.  After breakfast, my son and I played an awesome game of Madden 2010 on Wii.  It was back and forth all game.  He beat me with a long touchdown with no time left on the clock.  He and I both agreed that it was the most fun game that we had ever played against each other.  Although I tried my best to win, I was actually happy that he won in such dramatic fashion.  After all, the true joy of fatherhood comes from seeing happiness on your kids’ faces.

When our game ended, I went to check my e-mail, when my little one dragged me by the hand to come and dance with her during Yo Gabba Gabba.  It was very silly, but the smile on her face and the happiness in her eyes made it all worthwhile.  When the show ended, I asked her to take a bath so that we could go out to lunch, but she said that she would only do so if I played games with her while she took her bath.  The spirit of my dad must have taken over me without me even knowing it, because I was goofier than usual with her.  As we played, her infectious laughter echoed in the bathroom.  It was a sound that I know would have been music to my dad’s ears.

Once we were all ready, we set out to go to lunch at P.F. Chang’s.  I had never been there before, and I thought that Father’s Day would be a good time to try it.  In the back of my mind, I had a hunch that it was going to be very crowded, and that there would be a long wait to be seated.  My hunch proved correct, so I decided to take the family to a local burger place that I had tried on my own one day.  Aside from the incredible burgers, we also shared some milkshakes.  Needless to say, the kids were not at all disappointed that P.F. Chang’s was crowded.

When we were done with lunch, it was too hot to be outside, but too early to head home to spend the day in the house, so I decided to take the kids to the bookstore (our favorite local hangout).  Surprisingly, we were able to grab three of the big comfortable chairs which are almost always taken.  We sat and read for a while, enjoying our day together.   When the man sitting in the last of the comfortable chairs saw my son and I looking at a book about Tony Romo, he told us that Tony Romo was sitting in the chair that I was sitting in just an hour before.  My son’s eyes lit up, and I felt really bad that we didn’t get there earlier in the day (even though we had no plans to do so).  I just know how much it would have meant to him to meet the quarterback of our favorite team.

Shortly after hearing about Tony Romo, my wife got a call on her cell phone letting her know that the specialty market across the street from the bookstore was selling black and white cookies (something that we had looked for, but had been unable to find since moving to Texas).  Even though we had already indulged on milkshakes with the kids, we weren’t going to pass up on the chance to get our hands (and mouths) on black and white cookies.  The kids loved them.  My wife and I thought that they fell considerably short of what we were used to in New York, but it didn’t matter.

When we got home we took the kids to the pool.  A perfect way to end a great day.  After spending a few hours hanging out and playing at the pool, we went back home to have pizza.  Clearly, this Father’s Day was not about eating healthy, but that’s ok.  Without planning it, we ended up eating a lot of my father’s favorite things.  If he had been here with us, he would have loved this day.  And though he couldn’t be here physically, he was with us in spirit.

Because of my father, I learned what being a great dad is all about.  All of the little things that he did have stuck with me far beyond his time on earth.  Because of my father, my kids are getting to experience many of the same joys that I did as a kid.  Hopefully, they will look back on these days with the same fondness that I do on my childhood.

If not for my kids, Father’s Day would be a much more difficult day to deal with.  Because of them, I get to keep my father’s spirit alive, while giving them a chance to experience the love of a man that they (sadly) have never met.  Because of my father, my son and my daughter, yesterday was a great day.  And for that, I’m thankful.

Sharing the Moments

In Family, Pursuit of Happiness on June 19, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Time seems to fly by more quickly when you’re busy.  Lately, there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, days in the week, or weeks in the month to get everything done.  This is part of the reason why it has been several weeks since my last posting.  The other reason is that my days have been fairly repetitive, leaving less to work with in the way of inspiration.  A small part may also be due to some burnout on my part.  Whatever the case, my plan is to start posting with more regularity again.

While I have been particularly busy with one of my projects, I have also been spending more time with my family since the school year ended.  During this time I’ve noticed that the bond that I have with my son has been taken to a whole new level.  He and I have always been very close for a number of reasons, not the least of which is sports.  It has always been a big part of our bond since he was old enough to pick up a ball and attend live sporting events.  However, his attention span for sports on TV wasn’t always very long (other than football, which is his favorite), so I basically watched everything else by myself…until recently.

As my wife and daughter slept, my son and I would stay up and watch the Stanley Cup and the NBA Finals.  We couldn’t have picked a better year to start doing so.  The storylines and the games were better than any that I can remember in recent years.  The resiliency shown by teams that were basically written off by sports reporters and fans was an excellent lesson for me to teach my son while we were enjoying the games.  But even if there was no lesson to be learned, I still looked forward to each game because it is a great bonding experience.  Truth be told, I’ve been looking forward to this moment ever since the doctor uttered the words…“It’s a boy!”

Sharing these moments with my son is something that means more to me than any words can ever describe.  It is especially meaningful to me in light of the fact that our move from New York to Texas last summer had my son very distraught.  Even though the move was meant to make his life better, I still had tremendous guilt feelings for uprooting him and taking him away from the only place that he has ever called “home.” Thankfully, he adjusted to the move even better than I could have hoped for.  His grades in school for the year were in a stratosphere that I never even came close to (finishing the year with a 97, 98, 99 and 100) in the four major subjects.

The grades made me proud, but my greatest satisfaction comes from the fact that he continued to be a “model student.” His teacher told us that her job would be a dream if she had a room full of kids just like him.  But perhaps the most gratifying aspect of the move is the fact that my son has made a lot of friends in his short time here (as evidenced by the amount of kids that he had at his birthday party today).  Even the ones that couldn’t make it because of scheduling conflicts were disappointed that they couldn’t attend.

As I watched my son with all of his friends today, it gave me great pleasure to see him thriving beyond the classroom.  Even though he spent most of the time with his friends, I still felt like we were sharing a special moment together.  When we came home, we played some games and then went to the pool.  Our time in the pool has been another great chance to bond.  It doesn’t matter whether we are swimming or playing water football or just hanging out and talking.  It’s always a good time!

Sometimes it can be difficult to see how fast the kids are growing up.  I think that most parents want to freeze time to some degree to make these moments last longer.  I am certainly no exception to this way of thinking.  But at least I can take solace in the fact that, as the days pass by, the bond between my son and me only continues to grow stronger with every shared moment.

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