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I’m sitting here staring at a blank page… Once again it’s time to tell you – outside of a stolen whisper or cry across the house – how much you mean to me. I want to wish you happy anniversary, with words I’ve never used; I long to somehow manage the impossible by drawing something from deep inside me you’ve not yet heard before, or at least sing your favorite song with a new arrangement and perhaps a slightly different key. _But how could I ever do that?_ How can I say the same things I’ve said who-knows-how many times before and make them sound like a song you’ve not yet heard? How can I possibly paint a new hue of color, eleven years after saying “I do,” and nearly fifteen years after I first whispered “I love you?” As I stare at the blank page I feel a slight flutter of worry; perhaps this will be the time when the pure white of the unthought finally sends me to my knees. What if I finish the page feeling repetitive, dull, empty. Mechanical, dreary, mundane. Fortunately, that flutter lasts only a flash, because I know true love is bottomless. Spring blooming from a billion bulbs was no less beautiful after our last winter. Your giant eyes still roll to the back of your head when the right food is speared onto your fork. I doubt you’ll love seeing Audrey Hepburn tell “Fred” she’s going to marry the other man before he gives her money for the powder room any less than you have the last 100 times you’ve seen it. Probably more for the comfort of familiarity, which has always been a friend to you. Of course, the well is bottomless, all I have to do is lower my bucket. The ways to tell you I love you are far from fading, and like light from a star I hope they burn for millennia, long after I’m no longer here. Language, like my love for you, comes in endless blends. Today, on our anniversary, I wish to share some new ones with you. I blather on endlessly, and you listen to every word. I’ve made many mistakes while reaching for the stars, and sometimes nudged our family against the sharpest edges of danger. But you’ve tolerated it all, and encouraged it when you didn’t have to; always telling me I was doing the right thing, even when I was only on my way to that truth. Even when you can’t absorb all I say, you’re always willing to hear more. I love you for that. It’s easy to know you’re in the thick of love, and happier than you have any right to be, when you toss and turn at night, not because you’re beyond exhaustion, or because your mind is too cluttered, but because it’s more at peace than it’s ever been, and you know that once you close your eyes, no matter how beautiful the coming dreams might be, they will pale when compared to the morning’s reality. That is my world now, and so much of it is because of you. I love you for that. You are the sweetest, most honest, tender and vulnerable soul I know, sometimes so frayed by life that your every step seems raw and vulnerable, as if your chest might open at any moment, and spill your heart into a mad flop upon the floor. Yet, every day you keep walking, never slowing and always trying to do better, _be_ better, come closer to who you want to be, and for me. I love you for that. You give me rest when I’m tired and strength when I’m weak, never asking for much in return. Most times, you won’t even let me take out the trash because you somehow believe I’ll get less writing done if I take a short trip to carry garbage to the garage – even though we both know that’s ridiculous. I love you for that. We share our dreams and our future, all the ones we know might never come true, along with the many we’re right now staring in the face. We measure disappointments, knowing they are all a part of getting from here to there, while seeing the beauty of the winding road and stopping to smell the countless roses pocking the path. You’re not embarrassed to cry when hurting, or laugh when happy. You make me feel safe to occasionally weep while reading, and make jokes that should probably never be said out loud. I love you for that. There is never so much as a spark of jealousy between us. You have always encouraged me to be who I am, for better or worse, and always without flinching; fueling me with the confidence that I can – and should – teach our children to do the same. I love you for that. I may _not_ be capable of the truly extraordinary, but living with you makes me believe that I _am_. I love you for that. You might not be my perfect fit, Cindy, but perfect is never what I was looking for. You are the mirror reflecting the _me_ I can be and the places where I can go. I love you for that. Anyone smart enough to know you can clearly see that you’re a bright, capable, and tender woman, even if the pain inside you makes you try too hard, even when you have too little to give. I love you for that. After 11 years together, you are a little me and I’m a little you, because without you it is inconceivable that I would be the me I am today – not even a shadow of a flirt of a hint of the man now typing this sentence – with fatigued fingers I’m sure you’ll want to rub this evening, even if I say NO, and insist that they’re not hurting. I love you for that. Happy anniversary, Cindy. xoxo
My son Ethan is surprisingly kind and incredibly generous. He is a clever, earnest, well-mannered boy, happy enough to earn the word giddy. He is mostly gentle with a dash of rascal – an old soul, with deep set eyes that are almost eloquent in their quiet expression. I’m not quite sure of their color, I suppose it depends on the light. They are sometimes hazel, often green, and always gorgeous. Ethan was born eight years ago on Father’s Day, probably because I don’t wear ties and Cindy didn’t know what else to get me. He immediately planted his flag in our family, claiming his rightful spot in a tribe that felt already full with only three. I threw so much love at Haley, I had no idea how I could possibly love another child half as much. But that’s because I did not yet understand the simple math of being a parent: love is whole, no matter how many times divided. Ethan was a year old when Cindy and I opened our preschool. In fact, his being a year old was one of the primary reasons we opened the preschool in the first place. Time was flying and I was working too many hours away from home. I didn’t want to blink and find my baby boy already five, and an hour and a half or so from high school. Sure, I work as many hours now as I did then, but these hours are different, more tailored to my ideal life. They are molded around my family. I’m home when my children wake up each morning, and home when they run in from the garage, back from school with wide smiles on their faces. Without our preschool, I wouldn’t know either of my children as well as I do. Haley had Cindy and me to herself for the first two and a half years of her years of life. The preschool helped Ethan make up for lost time with parents who were with him each day. There is not a day gone by that I’m not grateful for that time. I’ve loved watching my children grow, and enjoyed spending the many long but quickly fading days with them before they started kindergarten. That time gave my life a reboot. It is why, and how, I became a writer. Ethan was my puppy at the preschool, racing downstairs each morning, nipping at my heels and helping me prepare for the day. He never woke up later than six, always dressed and ready, from the time he was three to this morning as I type this. “Daddy, can I hold the dustpan?” Just one of a hundred sentences I could hardly believe were falling from my amazing son’s mouth. Ethan would Windex the windows, sweep the floors, and greet each of our mommies and daddies and wee students as they were dropped at our door. Ethan only left my side to stand at Cindy’s. Once calendar time and our morning learning was finished, we would walk to the grocery store, run our errands together, and nap. For the four years we ran our preschool, Ethan was my little man. He still is, now more than ever. As then, my son is surprisingly kind and incredibly generous; clever, earnest, well-mannered, and happy enough to earn the word giddy. Mostly gentle with a dash of rascal. Ethan moved from Thomas to Star Wars, and then to Indiana Jones. Now it’s mostly baseball. He is exactly the same and entirely different – still the first up each morning after me, and never past six. These early morning minutes together are sacred. I sit in the old armchair in the living room, alternating between paragraphs, emails, and Ethan. There is always coffee. Sometimes there are donuts. Watching Ethan grow has been one of the best parts of my life. He is one of those rare souls who make you feel amazing simply by being beside you. I am fortunate to live with him beside me a lot of every day. Sure, I wish Ethan annoyed his sister less, but I understand. I was a brother too. Slightly annoying is part of a baby brother’s DNA. Ethan will say the same things over and over and over again, like singing his homemade songs like, “Baseball is awe-awe-awe-awesome!!!” on repeat. Yes, the awe-awe-awe-awesome!!! song is annoying, but I will be sad when he sings it for the final time, and even when I’m annoyed I sometimes wonder with a flutter in my heart, when that final time will be. Ethan may be growing up faster than I am, but we’re still growing up together. And I am forever aware that time is not on my side. That’s why when my son and I are holding hands and he looks up at me and says, “Can we skip?” I say, of course, even though I’m 6’ 3” and look quite ridiculous doing so. I can’t wait until this weekend when we celebrate with what Ethan wants most for his birthday – a “sleepover with Daddy.” Cindy and Haley will have their girl’s night in the living room while Ethan and I barricade ourselves in my bedroom, watching movies and playing games until he starts snoring, probably six or seven hours earlier than he expects. Because as big as he is, Ethan is still so very small. _Ethan, _ _Thank you for always being such a wonderful, sensitive, silly boy. Thank you for being so much fun. Thank you for being the type of person the makes people happier simply because you’re in the room. Thank you for being you._ _You bring tremendous joy to those around you, and I think you are awe-awe-awe-awesome! Watching you play the troll in “The Bridge” last month was amazing. I’ve never seen you more expressive or quite so confident, and I can’t imagine feeling a molecule prouder of you than I do. _ _I love that the first thing you do when you wake each morning is run to the armchair so you can wrap your arms around me, before you crawl into my lap and ask me to close the lid to my laptop so I can cuddle you. I love when you lay in my lap, curled against my body, pushing your head against my chest as I slowly sip coffee and pull you closer to me, listening to the birds outside, both of us knowing it won’t be long before our morning moment is broken. _ _Thank you for always giving so much of yourself, and wanting so much of me each morning. _ _I love how funny you are, and how funny you try to be. I love how hard you try and how much of yourself you put into everything you do. I love your imagination, your unlimited affection and the contagion of your laugh – the most infectious I’ve ever heard. _ _I am grateful for everything you are and everything you’re working so hard to be. I am lucky to have as much of you in my life as I do, and couldn’t be any happier that you are my son. _ _Thank you for giving me the best Father’s Day I will ever have, the day you came into my life, and adding to that gift each day since. _ _Happy Birthday, Ethan. I love you! _ _Daddy_
Sweet, sweet Cindy I wish I had more time to write for YOU. Like the mom who is always last to eat, or the cobbler with tattered shoes on their children’s feet, you rarely get the words you deserve. But I promise, even when I’m writing about spaceships or zombies or the end of the world, every sentence rains in your garden. I have more words than anyone I know, yet they’re sand between my fingers when it comes to saying I love you, or telling you how much you mean to me, and how much you’ve shifted the plates of my world. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, AND HAPPY EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES. Thank you for being such a wonderful mom to our children; the first to praise and last to complain, the one who greets each morning with the scent of coffee and encouraging words. Ethan, Haley and me could all count on you as much as the sun in California. Even more in Ohio. Your faith in me has made these last four years possible. Without you I never would have picked up the pen. And even if I had, crawling through the slime in the serpentine tunnel would have been too much for me to bear. I could only inch toward the light at the end of the tunnel because you were always holding the beam steady. You are forever patient, with me and the children, listening to us all, even if that means setting your own desires at the back of the line. You are an amazing friend and a remarkable mother; the heat at the end of my match and the flame that keeps me burning. I am so proud to have you as my best friend and wife, and know that the night I called you back was the single smartest thing I ever did. I love to spoil you because no one ever did, and love to make you laugh because every smile murders more of the sadness inside you. You deserve to have the most beautiful birthday, and celebrated Mother’s Day of your still young life. You are as beautiful to me as the day I saw you on the other side of my counter, smiling and hoping and waiting, now infinitely more alluring for the million or so seconds we’ve shared since. I will stare into your giant chocolate eyes forever, knowing they are the one place in this world where I am truly home. MY WORDS ARE FOR YOU. Thank you for how much you make it possible for me to write so many of them. I love you so. Happy birthday, and happy Mother’s Day!
My baby is a baby no longer. My baby hasn’t been my baby for a while. This weekend our firstborn child, Haley, turns 10 years old. I’ve been arguing with the calendar for months, taking turns with Cindy as we point our fingers to the sky and curse the impossibility. But the months continue to smear our logic with their mocking smiles. We can argue all we like, but we will never return our faded years. Cindy is cursed with being married to a man who will reflect on moments gone by in excruciating detail, while I am married to a woman who mourns their passing. Together, we promise to make this birthday wonderfully unforgettable. Maybe it’s arbitrary, her years moving from one digit to two, but it seems significant to me, and a telltale sign that a wedge of our future that was once so far away is now moving in for good. When I was younger, the hallmarks of my possible future hung like portraits along the walls in my mind: finishing high school, buying my first business, getting married, having children. Back then, my future was about me, which is where it stayed until I became a man. I wasn’t a man the day I turned 18, despite what the law insisted. Nor was I a man when I quit high school or bought my first business. I became a man the day I looked at my life’s horizon knowing it would be empty without Cindy beside me. Then, my future was about _us_. My goals were still important, but there was another side to the prism, casting my wants in a clearer light. And that’s where it stayed until I became a father. Haley changed my life in a second, not the day she was born, but rather eight months earlier when the blue line that didn’t lie reminded me life could be planned but even a perfectly blueprinted house will fall if the sand is soft beneath it. My future is still about us, all of us. Me and Cindy, Haley and Ethan. A future that started 10 years ago, 10 years and 9 months if you count the incubation. Now I’m thinking about their finishing high school, their first businesses, their getting married, and eventually making me a grandfather. Maybe it’s odd for me to be thinking about becoming a grandfather while still knee deep in my mid-30s, but it’s the way my brain works and why I write about time and cycles of death as often as I do. I cannot help but acknowledge the passing of time, and the week when our daughter turns 10 is the perfect time to take a step back and see it with the awe it deserves. Yesterday my baby was a tiny peanut. We brought Haley home from the hospital and those first six months flew by. Back then, everyone we met said a different version of the same exact thing: _She’s just SO alert!_ And she is. Haley is and always has been an old soul. She is far older than her 10 years, which is one of the things that makes her such an absolute joy to be around, and sometimes difficult to parent. Like her father, Haley has a fierce command of language. And like her mother, a fierce command of her will. Haley’s first two years were “batteries included.” She was filled with personality – smart, funny, creative, and over flowing with life. Remarkably observant and the only child in the house, she was relatively easy to parent. By the time she was three, Cindy and I were desperately in need of her batteries. She learned the words NO! and turned into the swirling tempest and creative tornado she is today. I look at Haley dumbfounded by the breathing proof of all that has happened to our family in the last decade. I had a partnership before her, but Haley turned me and Cindy into a family and laid the bricks for her baby brother to crawl down 2 1/2 years later. I am beyond lucky to have such an amazing, articulate, wonderful daughter. And I am proud of everything I have given as her father. I have no regrets, and feel fortunate for the time we’ve had together as a family. Yet as she turns 10 I’ve never been more aware of the passing of time. It was easier a few years ago. Cindy and I had our preschool and a lot of time with our children. But then Haley went to kindergarten and I became a writer, my new profession quickly swallowed hours without chewing as I did everything I could to keep us afloat. Time is flying and I am flying by time. I must go faster for a little longer so I can afford to slow down. But I must go faster with the full realization that no matter how much my hard work now will help me afford everything I want from life, I cannot afford to lose appreciation for all I have right now. Haley’s 10th birthday is a beautiful, and perhaps needed, reminder of what I want from this world and for my family, and what I must do to ensure it happens. The next eight years will fly by as fast as these have, probably faster. I don’t want to lose them like raindrops drying on the ground. My daughter stands at the lip of innocence, still loving the things that children love. I love that she watches Phineas and Ferb, and that she is trying on new behaviors like they were dresses off a rack. I love that our last Christmas passed with her hanging onto her belief in Santa, even if it was only spiderweb thin. This year we will lose many of those things, and next year even more. I don’t yet wish to ponder the year after that. My baby is turning 10, and it won’t be much longer that I’ll be able to cuddle her like I do and tickle her with abandon, and it won’t be much longer before she stops wanting me to. Now we curl on the couch and I hold her close, and while I know there will always be some version of this perfect comfort between us, it won’t stay the same for too much longer. While it’s easy to look at this 10 year anniversary of becoming a dad with slight sorrow at a decade gone, I’d rather stare in the eyes of all that is good and acknowledge how lucky I am to have a daughter like Haley, even if I cry as I write this. As a father, I could never hope for more. _Haley, I love you way past the moon and all the way to the furthest star. You’re my baby girl and you made me a daddy. If possible, you made me love your mommy even more. You are turning into the most beautiful, articulate, creative, compassionate, wonderful person I could ever imagine. We will spend the next 8 years getting to know each other better, and follow it with another lifetime after that._ _A very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you. You are everything a father could hope for from a daughter, and a galaxy beyond. Thank you for making me Daddy, and starting off the past 10 years of my life. _ _I can’t wait for the next 10._ _xoxo_
Ho-ho-ho and happy holly Kris Kringle's jingle bells are jolly Cards and cookies, candy canes Twice checked lists and lots of names Hanging stockings, flocking trees The inside warms the outside freeze Christmas music crisps the air And lights the smiles everywhere December days, they inch on by Going slow while flying by For children waiting till the Eve Close their eyes as they believe The morning comes with stockings FAT Santa's footprints on the mat Carrots gone, milk is drained The mantle has been candy-caned Presents piled, giftwrap glowing Mom and dad, their smiles knowing Shredded paper; torn and tattered Happy, gleeful, minds are scattered Morning fades, like tide receding Dinner's coming, time is bleeding Until the next year's Christmas morn More magic memories will be born
My daughter, Haley, is writing a book. Her book, “Mia Maria and Two Times The Kindergarten” is a wonderful little project, though Haley is slightly devastated she missed her first deadline. Yes, she's only nine, and yes, I did give her a deadline. We've been working on _Mia_ since early this year, starting back in late April. Every Wednesday night we would sit in my office for an hour or two, starting with our outline and working through the chapters one by one. The finished outline was 3,000 words and provided a thick skeleton for her full story. Haley diligently added pages over the last several months. I promised her that as soon as she finished the rough draft, we would work together to get it finalized and published by the end of the year. Haley’s voice is especially strong, the book is semi-autobiographical, and we were working from a solid outline, so the plan seemed sound at the time. But the months faded too fast, and the end of the school year seemed to arrive ahead of schedule, even though it was on the exact day the calendar had promised. We drove to California, stayed for five weeks, then hurried back to catch the tail end of summer and school at the end of August. _Mia _was stalled at the end of chapter 11, where it remained a chapter from finished for approximately forever. David and I have published a couple dozen titles this year, but had to schedule a publishing pause in December so we could streamline our catalog, tie a few loose ends, and write the second of Yesterday’s Gone before the start of the new year and our next 90 day quarter. Our final publishing date was November 30, so Haley’s deadline for the _Mia _draft was November 15, at the absolute latest. I told Haley it was no big deal either way, yet as her deadline loomed I could see the stress starting to simmer. I hated it, and myself a little for giving my daughter the deadline the first place. Yes, deadlines are important and must be honored, but you don't need them (or the canker sores) when you're nine years old and working on your first book with daddy. When she missed the deadline, her biggest emotion was relief. Haley is a lot like her father. She loves to work on 1,000,001 projects at once. Missing the deadline gave her a short reprieve to finish up a few things on her plate and hit the new deadline, which is December 20, for a publishing date of her birthday, January 14. This last weekend, Haley finished her rough draft. I'm so excited to be working on this project with my little girl. I'm blessed with many amazing co-writers, but this is the first one to share my gene pool. I love Haley, I love this project, and I've never been more excited for my first baby’s birthday!
The holidays are here. Time for family and friends to gather under the umbrella of good cheer and genuine connection. Keeping things simple and sweet is the secret to living a balanced life every day. Our last few Christmases have been hard, juggling life, family and finances. But those years have helped us grow. Here are 10 ways a buckled economy can help keep things in check over the holidays. 1. LEARN TO SAY NO. Saying yes, when you should say no, leaves you resentful and overwhelmed. When people are really your friends, and your family really loves you, they understand when you can’t participate in a project or activity. When funds were tight, staying in became our new “going out,” and to this day an evening under our roof is our preference. 2. YOU DON’T NEED A GYM MEMBERSHIP TO STAY IN SHAPE. Living in California made it easy to walk everywhere since the weather was usually perfect and there were always plenty of activities in walking distance. Walking is one my favorite family activities because everyone benefits from the fresh air, conversation, or silence. There have been many times this practice has helped Haley and Ethan find their inner calm. A brisk walk clears my mind, and the absence of distractions evens the playing field. I love the rain and snow in Cincinnati, and feel invigorated by the brisk air. Plus, I have a favorite raincoat and boots to splash in the puddles! 3. HEALTHY EATING DOESN’T HAVE TO COST A LOT. When scarcity was knocking at our door, our food choices were at their healthiest. We worked harder with less. It killed me watching people with EBT cards and carts heaping with the trashiest, most processed junk imaginable. EBT cardholders had totals over $200.00. Mine were under $60 for fruits, vegetables and grains. Our children never knew how hard it was, because Sean and I made our shopping into a math game. _We have this many dollars, what can we do? _We found plenty of delicious recipes and one pot meals, and had fun cooking everything from scratch. 4. STICK TO A BUDGET. Before going shopping for food or gifts, we always decide on a budget. Sean is excellent about helping the family stay disciplined within the borders of a pre-determined budget. You cannot buy happiness, even with an avalanche of gifts. I’ve been guilty of trying in the past, but time has taught me well. Now that we have children, I feel our family must work together to donate time, supplies and food to benefit others. These memories will always last far longer than the battery operated toys beneath the tree. 5. BE GENEROUS TO OTHERS WHO HAVE LESS. This year Haley and Ethan decided they didn’t want to spend money on gifts, but rather, they wanted to use their allowance to buy necessities for Operation Christmas Child, St. Joseph’s Orphanage, and the YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter. Bringing holiday to cheer to others feels so great and the glow on their faces and the recipients is priceless. 6. BE REALISTIC. As our family grows and changes, so do our rituals and traditions. The holidays are not about perfection. Let the children decorate the tree in their special way with homemade decorations. And be okay with a mess after making cookies and gingerbread houses. Being fiscally responsible forced us to initiate and maintain a simple lifestyle with activities filled our hearts and spirits with love and compassion. That is what we will remember 20 years from now when we’re sitting around the table at the holidays saying, “Remember when…” 7. PLAN AHEAD. Part of the reason everyone gets so crazy this time of the year is because a lack of planning creates unnecessary crisis. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and make your shopping lists ahead of time to prevent last minute scrambling for forgotten items. 8. IT’S ALL IN THE PRESENTATION. You don’t need fancy appetizers or filet mignon to impress. Present simple foods with flair, made with love. Kick it up a couple of notches by adding real plates, flatware that doesn’t match, and colorful mismatched cloth napkins instead of the ironically expensive and tacky paper/plastic products that can cheapen even the classiest food. If you are like me, doing dishes is actually a pleasure since it builds in down time when the holiday cheer becomes overwhelming. 9. TURN THE ORDINARY INTO EXTRAORDINARY. Don’t depend on being a fancy pants to create the holiday glow. Great people, simple food, and time to talk and laugh are the essential ingredients to a memorable holiday. Add twinkling lights, silly games, and genuine good cheer, and you set an awesome precedent for you and your family that will be remembered for years to come. 10. DECORATE WITH NATURAL INGREDIENTS. Don’t buy expensive holiday decorations. There are plenty of natural materials like evergreen shrubs, pine cones, holly, and real fruit (apples, oranges, pears) to spray paint gold for center pieces. Strings of cranberry and popcorn garland, plus plenty of candles, cloves, cinnamon and cider simmering on the stove can turn your home into holiday aromatherapy. Don’t let a sagging economy drain the fun from your holidays. The core of capturing the festivities, fun and family comes from devoting care and thought to taking what you have and making it shine. Keep it simple and everyone will be smiling, not stressing.
I’m tired, I’m hungry, I didn’t rest I’m grumpy, I’m grouchy, not doing my best I wish I felt better, I should’ve heard what she said When mom tried to feed me and send me to bed I said I wasn’t hungry, and disagreed with my tummy Even though the spaghetti smelled wonderfully yummy I yelled, “I’m not tired!” though I woke before dawn And all my insistence was deep in a yawn It’s time to surrender, I can’t take anymore My pillow is waiting for my face and a snore Next time I’ll listen, my mommy was right Right now I’m so tired – YAAAAAWWWWWN… good night…
_“Do you think she still believes?”_ I whispered. “Hard to say,” Cindy scrunched her nose. “I’d like to think yes, but it’s probably wishful thinking. If so, we have one year left, max.” That was last year. This year, it feels like we’re on hanging to belief by our fingernails (and denial). Our daughter Haley is nine years old, a few weeks shy of 10. Much to our delight, she still believes in Santa Clause. Or at least she's smart enough to not allow her remaining faith to fade to nothing so close to the morning of truth. Yes, of course we know Santa is silly tradition. But it’s one of the most lovable traditions there is. I loved believing in Santa as a child, so did my sister. And I longed to share the magic with my own children. Cindy, who had a zombie apocalypse childhood compared to my relative Disneyland, longed to do the same. Now the façade is crumbling. Whether or not Haley still believes in Santa Claus neither of us can say for sure. But we agree the writing is on the wall. There aren't too many 10-year-olds who truly believe. Cindy has spent 20 some odd years as an elementary school teacher, the majority as a 4th grade teacher – the same grade Haley’s in right now. She said 4th graders who really believed were about as common as snow in fall. Whenever she asked her 4th graders questions like, “Was Santa good to you?” she was most often answered with a rolling eye or quiet smirk. I don't remember exactly when I lost my own belief in jolly ole’ Nick, but I think it was around 8. And while I can’t recall the when, I do remember what happened immediately before. I’d just called bollocks on the Easter Bunny. And as soon as I knew the Easter Bunny was a sham, Santa and his eight tiny reindeer ho-ho-hoaxed right behind. Ethan lost a tooth last week, I watched Haley’s reaction like a hawk. Haley has a beautifully analytical mind, and it’s difficult for me to believe she hasn't toyed with the idea that Santa’s a sham. She sometimes sees the wires and seams which split the magic of a movie’s special effects. I find it impossible to believe she hasn't tried to unravel the mystery of Santa. Once she started, how could she arrive at any other conclusion? Probably the same way we all do. How many times have you lied to yourself, focusing on the 5, 10, maybe 20% of you that truly believed something, completely ignoring the 80% that didn’t? For me, more times than I admit. While that isn't always the healthiest thing to do, right now and for the remainder of this year, I'm glad that's what my daughter is doing. And once the kitty’s out of the bag and purring, I hope she can keep a secret. WRITER DAD
You know who your children are. It’s a rare parent-teacher conference that shines new light on your child’s character, at least if you spend a reasonable amount of time with them, and are mildly observant. There are two types of parent-teacher conferences: honest and eggshells. Honest conferences leave you with tools to improve your role as your child’s first teacher, eggshells rob you of the opportunity. I know who my children are, so do the teachers who are with them through the majority of their weekday daylight. I need those teachers to confirm what I know and illuminate what I don’t. A conference should help parents nurture their children to become better learners. A teacher’s professional perspective – how they see your child interpreting their responsibilities as a student – will help you effectively navigate the best possible path to get them where you want them to go. We work hard, so do our children. But all four of us would rather work smart than hard. A potent parent-teacher conference gives us an opportunity to work smarter TOGETHER. Haley and Ethan’s parent-teacher conferences were yesterday. Haley is in 4th grade and sees four different instructors throughout her school day. Cindy and I were able to meet with each of her teachers, plus Ethan's. Haley is a tornado of ideas with a bottomless well of creativity. She loves to be the boss, loathes to be wrong, at least publicly, and is nowhere near as confident with math as she is with art or language. Ethan is an earnest, honest, and endlessly enthusiastic learner, eager to please and keep pace with his sister, but needs help understanding, no, believing, that slow and steady most often wins the race. There’s wasn’t a single observation Cindy and I didn’t already know and wholeheartedly agree with. What made our conferences so wonderful was that all five teachers used direct language to praise our children for all we know they’re good at, and equally frank words to tell us what they could do better, then take the ball and keep charging, developing strategies we could all use to move forward TOGETHER. We know Haley needs help with her confidence in math, but to hear her math teacher say, “When Haley doesn’t want feel confident in a subject, she’ll try to avoid it entirely. WE CAN DO BETTER.” We agree, she can, and we’re thankful for a teacher who will say so. Haley’s teachers agree she’s a wonderful communicator, and that while they don’t want to dim her enthusiasm, we all need to collectively work toward her understanding that there is a time and a place for everything. Which we are. We know Ethan has been racing through his reading, blazing through Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban in days rather than the weeks it took him to read Chamber of Secrets, simply because he’s trying to keep pace with his sister. And yeah, I’m sure he read every word, but that’s like saying you read every sign you passed, speeding by on your way to work. Ethan’s teacher told us he needs to slow down on his reading so he can get more out of it, same thing we've been saying since he started Book III. I love honesty, more than most things. And despite my tendency to go on and on (and on), I greatly appreciate direct language. I want to help my children be the best that they can be, and am thankful for teachers who make it possible. WRITER DAD