Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

B'eaming From Ear To Ear

"Let's go see Santa!"

Beatrice and Bryce were thrilled to bits to go see Santa this weekend. They didn't have long lists, but they did have their burning single requests ready to singe Santa's fluffy beard.

We arrived at Marini's Candies in downtown Santa Cruz, where Santa has had a regular gig for many years, and the girls lit up like Christmas stars. They immediately found themselves on each of his knees, smiles beaming from ear to ear.

And what made Santa beam ear to ear? When we told him we were just at an assisted care facility, one of the ones my wife works at delivering physical therapy, where we helped share a little Christmas cheer with the mostly older women patients suffering from varying degrees of dementia.

But that was the Mama and Daddy sharing proudly. What the girls really wanted to tell Santa was what they wanted for Christmas.

"That's a very nice thing you did today, girls," said Santa. "The nice things you do helps me do my job and give back to children all over the world."

The girls kept smiling; Bea looked a little nervous while Bryce was giddy with delight. We took pictures and encouraged them both.

"So, what would you like this year?" Santa asked Beatrice.

"Um...a Chuggington train for my tracks," Bea answered.

"And what would you like?" Santa asked Bryce.

"A space station!"

Santa laughed.

Right on, Girls. B movers and shakers. Always.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Blech with the Blessings Year Round

"I'm so excited for Christmas! I'm so excited for Christmas! I'm so excited for Christmas!"

Exclaimed Beatrice, excitedly.

"Me too!"

Echoed Bryce, excitedly.

And so it goes with our little girls at the holiday helm. The Christmastime magic is upon us, like a warm blanket on a cold winter's morn. We've actually had our share of frigid mornings recently here in Santa Cruz, with a cold snap leaving our cheeks and bums a chapped cherry red.

Just like ol' Kris Kringle, who the girls got to see this weekend at the downtown Christmas parade.  Santa rode by in his white carriage, pulled by two gorgeous steeds.

"Look, here comes Santa!" exclaimed the Mama and Daddy, excitedly. The girls bounced in place.

"Is that Santa's deer?" asked Beatrice as Santa approached.

"Reindeer? No, those are horses."

"Oh, yes," Bea said, and then laughed.

And there was 50% off giant candy! (See if you catch that one.)

Although, there is the little issue of not sleeping for Bryce, or more accurately, waking up at 3:00 am seemingly every other night, which we're told has more to do with neurological development than holiday magic. Bryce tip toes into our room and sits at the foot of the bed, talking just loud enough to herself for one of us to wake up and hear, and then she takes forever to get back to sleep. This happened with Bea, too.

Blech. Sleep deprivation just so happens to be an serial rite of parental passage from child to child. Bea wasn't so bad, but Bryce from 6-18 months about drove us both bonkers, awake nearly every hour and every night for months and months.

However, you take the belch with the blessings year round with kids. And there are certainly plenty of B's in our blessings around here.

This is why I'm thankful: my angelic muses carry with them a special kind of perpetual Christmastime magic.

And so does Daddy. Amen.

"I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite -- only a sense of existence." 

--Henry David Thoreau 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thankful for My Muses and Christmastime Magic

This is why I'm thankful: my angelic muses carry with them a special kind of perpetual Christmastime magic. The kind that casts imperfections into unique heartmeld spells of empowered adaption and inspiration. The kind that lights the world around me like triple suns rising one after the other, helping me make life-lesson connections I never would've seen before. The kind that guide me to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.

Muse Bryce has a fire in her belly that dwarfs even the Mama Muse's daily motivation. Her first year of preschool has gone well so far, even with her aggressive edge of reactive smacking, something we're working on. We're also still dealing with her exotropia -- a vision problem where one eye migrates outward and binocular vision can be difficult. This includes putting an eye patch on her right eye for one hour per day, since her left eye is the problem child. Hopefully early next year we'll find out it's helped, but this doesn't seem to slow her down; her belly fire only burns brighter, a dissonant dragon of do.

Muse Beatrice has a wonderful shy sensibility and sensitivity to those around her. Even with her processing delays, which she continues to work on and overcome, her intellect and grasp of concepts greater than her current age at normal development speeds is exciting -- especially since kindergarten is starting next year. In fact, her storytelling ability is more creative and rich than ever had at her age, and I was certainly an imaginative introvert as a child. She also has an eye for flexible patterns and design, something conveyed in her storytelling, as if she's working through problems unseen even by us. And of course, there's her Daddy love of Christmas, one that warms my heart and soul, us both longing for the holiday.

The Mama Muse has always been my primary sun burning bright who's prescient flares caress my surface daily, reminding me that no matter how harsh and cold things can get, it's the warming reaction of sunrise that makes all the difference. I've known that for 16 years since the day we met that one special day at the beach, the same date when we married six years later (this year being the diamond 10 celebration). Plus, falling in love again and again doesn't hurt.

And then there's the Nonna Muse, my mother-in-law, the Mama's mom, who lives with us and is a blessing to the girls. And then there are the other  muses I celebrate -- my sister, my sister-in-law, my niece, my Aunt Karen and Aunt Margene, and the much missed spirt of my own mother, whom I lost this time last year. And then there's the countless other female family and friends from then to now who I've learned much from. (Gentlemen, I'm still digging your influence, no worries.)

I'm blessed to have so much inspirational light from girl power and am thankful for muses and everyday Christmastime magic that feel like the warm sand from one day at the beach.

Us men need mucho more musing. Amen.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

To Be Back Here Again

They laughed and decorated their pumpkins. A picture perfect Fall affair.

Beatrice said, “An-an-an-an-and I’m making this for Nonna.”

Her classmates and her sister Bryce sitting around her at the table kept laughing and decorating. An older boy sitting across from her, no more than eight or nine, smiled at her. 

Such a sweet moment, I thought. I took a few pictures. It was the Harvest Festival fundraiser for Bridges to Kinder, the preschool where both Bea and Bryce attend.

“Buh-buh-buh-buh-but I want the gold pen now for my pumpkin,” Beatrice said. 

Actually she stuttered a little. A vestige of her processing and speech delays and a work-in-progress with therapy, Beatrice stutters the beginning of sentences sometimes as a way to get her thoughts in order. It’s like saying, “Wait a second and I’ll tell you want I want to tell you.”

I handed her the gold pen and then the older boy did something I did not expect. He made fun of her stutter.

“Buh-buh-buh-buh I wanna a gold pen!”

The mocking face, the animated dance, the shrill inflection of his words — I remembered it well, being a giver and a taker as a child. Christ, sometimes as an adult. To date I hadn't ever considered this would happen; I had kept myself in the dark to this painful part of growing up.

Then her classmate and friend sitting next to her followed suit, although it was obvious he was unsure of why he did, and his taunt faded quickly with the uncomfortable confusion etched in is teasing echo.

I waited, not wanting to overreact. Bea seemed like she didn’t catch the sarcasm at all. Completely oblivious. Thank God, I thought. This time. Everyone at the table went on decorating and laughing as they had before, and yet I still wanted to say something. I fought it like trying to suppress a cough itching it’s way up an infected lung.

You little shit, I thought. You’re lucky she didn’t understand. A father’s overreaction to be sure, especially in the context I witnessed, but still.

But someday she will, and neither the Mama or me will be able to fend off the teasing, the bullying and other forms of verbal abuse, the unavoidable rites of passage. And we shouldn’t really, because Beatrice will have to learn how to deal with it, how to defend herself when necessary, and when to deflect, reject and accept. We’ll help her and Bryce both, encouraging the most healthy responses and defense mechanisms they can develop, and letting them figure out the rest, just as we did ourselves. Just as we all have done.

My flash of defensive anger woke me up to the fact that their journeys have only just begun. Kindergarten starts next year for Beatrice, and Byrce will start in a couple of years. To be back here with them again, to experience grade school to high school to college again — with them and through them — is quite the surreal sensation.

And while much of the teasing they’ll experience and even dish out will hopefully be harmless and roll of them and others, teasing unfortunately is a gateway drug to bullying and beyond. The beyond being things unthinkable, which is why coming back from my latest business trip and bought two bracelets by artist Julie Marie Chavez at the Life Is Good store. Julie's mission is to help some of today's most important charities: 25% of the gross bracelet proceeds going to support V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. This of course prompted me to get back to daddy writing and evangelizing for the better again.

Because I love you, girls. Simple as that.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Symbiotic Back-to-School Flavor Swirl

Two B's in a pod indeed.

One tastes of vanilla ice cream, while the other, cayenne pepper.

Together they're quite the tasty kick, a symbiotic flavor swirl.

And so continues the divergence of Bea and Bryce, loving sisters just under two years apart.

Both will be in school starting this year; it doesn't go as fast as you think when you control the film speed, like watching two flowers bloom real-time.

Conversely, however, you blink, and boom -- they've bloomed -- their vanilla and cayenne pepper pollen filling every room (as well as they shrieks of joy turned rough-housing turned into yelps of crying jags that drive us all nutso; parents are allergic to this kind of behavior, you know).

We sneeze a lot here, even the stalwart Nonna, and celebrating back-to-back birthdays makes this a very special time of the year, replete with laughter and crying jags galore. It's also the heart of our summer here in Santa Cruz, and they days feel longer even when they're actually getting shorter.

And these days extend into preschool and pre-K time for the B-hive. I attended their school orientation as I've done for the past two years (giving the Mama a break since she's much more involved throughout the school year, working in the class and volunteering). This is where they'll go to grade school, so the "preschool" program has been quite invaluable.

The school cafeteria was a-buzz with teachers and aids explaining all the in and outs for the school year, and with parents participating excitedly (mostly moms, but there were three other dads). While the teachers expressed their joy to having both our girls this year (and thankfully Bryce's eyes seem to be correcting and Bea has come a long way), I did warn them that while Beatrice remains a sweetie:

"Bryce will break stuff."

We all laughed and I added:

"No, really. She will."

Plus, she flies a mean dragon. (The flavor swirls leave a long-tail of memory.)

Happy Labor Day and Back to School, Kids!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Being What Happens Next

"Mommy, Daddy -- let's watch the superheroes!"

Those words, paying homage to The Incredibles, echoing in my head as I run at a decent clip, one step after another, one breath after another...imagining my girls running around house, outside, down the street, jumping in the air, standing on their tippy-toes to pick sour running a little faster to keep up with them...

I am able-bodied. I can walk and run. So are the Mama and the girls. That shouldn't make us superheroes, and it doesn't really, but to those who can't, it's different. Much different.

Different for those who live an alternative afterlife post injury or illness or birth defect, paralyzed from the waist down, the sternum down, or even the neck down.

Like my best friend, Robby. We've been friends since we were 12 years old. A long, long time ago...

And then there was a fateful spring day at a swim meet our senior year in high school. Him wanting to go with a group of us to the coast instead of his swim meet, knowing perfectly well he wouldn't miss his meet for anything. Us returning early that evening to discover shockingly that he broke his neck and crushed his spinal cord on a third false start, then us rushing to the hospital to see him, his mother claiming we were family so we could see him in the ICU the next morning when he was conscious.

Three months later he's brought by ambulance from the hospital rehabilitation center to graduate with our senior class, the class of 1984, me having the honor of pushing him into the football stadium and standing by his side throughout the commencement.

Thirty-five years I've known him, and even after the accident, no matter how many times he's relived his life pre-paralysis, and wished to have it all back post, he keeps saying to me:

"I want to be around to see what happens next."

No matter how hard it's been or it gets, I want to be around...

The superhero mythos is about having extraordinary powers and using them to do good and help others (unless you're a villain, which I hope you're not). Unfortunately we take for granted the extraordinary powers that move us forward every single day, physically, mentally and spiritually, to see what happens next. But not just seeing what happens next -- being what happens next.

Prior to my run this morning, I was up looking around Robby's house, the house that we've been coming to see him in since he moved here five years after his accident. He's an artist now, and a comic book collector, an aficionado actually, and his collection is quite extensive. He's also has shelves and boxes full of comic book figures and figurines -- both heroes and villains -- in nearly every room. It's a fascination with amplified characteristics from hyper-reality fiction, an alternative afterlife of how imaginative minds tell our human story, the one we live everyday, to see and hopefully aspire to be everyday.

The irony isn't lost on either of us that he dressed like Superman for Halloween our senior year, six months prior to his accident. No matter how much we joke about the past, or long for it, the irony is never lost.

The Mama and I want our girls to "B" what happens next, regardless. To be an everyday superhero like my best friend, Robby, no matter the kryptonite we keep.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

In Light and Shadow

I stood up from the couch and then a little voice said:

"Stay, Daddy. Sit here."

I looked down. There was youngest's bright, smiling face and clear blue eyes beaming back at me like a lighthouse on a foggy summer morning. And so I sat in safe harbor next to Bryce, the Mama on the couch next to her and Beatrice on the floor in front of us, just a few minutes from leaving on another work trip.

My flight, diverted from San Francisco to Oakland due to the Korean airline accident yesterday at SFO, nagged at me. I have no fear of flying and never have. I'm sure there were many passengers on the flight yesterday who felt the same way. But it's not the flying, what may or may not happen in transit or at the final destinations, or the business travel itself -- it's the being away from the girls. Fortunately they are powerful homing beacons; signals so strong that I will always find my way back, no matter what happens or where I'm at.

I love them both so much, and while neither is a favorite as parents of two-plus children joke about, there is a little stronger affinity with Bryce, probably because there's a "male" energy in her, much more than Bea has had to date. Bryce is a rough-and-tumble, no-fear, highly expressive little girl. Bea is not (although being around Bryce all the time has helped Bea with her own confidence). And while Bea has made huge strides with her processing delay and her communication skills, Bryce has no such similar issues that we've identified so far.

However, she's had her own physical problem that's become more prominent during the past year. She has exotropia -- a vision problem where one eye migrates outward and binocular vision can be difficult. It affects only about 5%-10% of children and show's itself between 2-3 years of age. There are exercises we've encouraged her to do via our visits to the eye doctor, with limited success (because it's hard telling a two-year-old to work her eye), but it may be something that will self-correct in the next few years, especially if she works to strengthen the weaker eye and her visions aligns. She does make a conscious effort with or without our prompting, although glaring light on foggy/overcast days really bothers her. We've even bought a viewfinder to look through to help her work on the weak eye. Otherwise, if it doesn't self-correct, there's surgery, something we don't want to have to do, since multiple surgeries tend to be the norm before the correction takes hold.

One thing I've come to know quite well in my lifetime is that we're all imperfect. It's the tiniest of flaws, a mere matter of degrees, failed cells and synapses, that force us to adapt, fusing survival with everyday struggle and success. It's in these imperfections where our love can grow stronger if we so choose, forever tethered in light and shadow.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Celebrate the Nonna

At first my heart hurt watching the little boy carry his little suitcase through the airport security line. In front of him stood who I assumed was his grandfather, behind him his grandmother. She said something loving to him and rubbed his back. I couldn't see the little boy's face, but I could feel his warm smile radiate around him.

My parents won't ever travel with my girls like that. Even when they were alive, they were too ill to do much other than us come to them, which we're thankful for. The time spent with them was more precious than precarious, especially the past few years, and Beatrice will remember them, even though Bryce may not.

But then my heart lifted, because of another grandmother in our lives: Nonna as she's known to the B-hive, my mother-in-law, the Mama's mom. Nonna has been a blessing to us all, living with us and helping with Bea and Bryce. The girls adore her and I cannot imagine the time when that changes, will not imagine. I've been gone so much of late that having Nonna with us lifts my heart even further 

No mother-in-law jokes here. Sure there are "wait, what?" head-scratcher moments, but there were many of those with my own parents, and them with me. We've all got 'em, kids. It's what we do with them that makes all the difference in the moment and beyond.

This Father's Day, when I'm on the road yet again, I will celebrate the Nonna. Thank you for all you do. We love you.

The warm smile radiates around me.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Let's Unimagine and Untangle Together

It all started with Tangled, this need to unimagine.

Our girls love the 2010 Disney movie. L-o-v-e it. Rapunzel let your hair down and all that -- singing and dancing and independence and love and happily ever after. It's loosely based on the Grimm fairy tale, which if you know that one, it's a depressing one that eventually ends happily. There have also been different interpretations and iterations through history, but the one twist in the recent Disney adaptation is the one that bothers me the most.

Why? Because of the abduction of the little girl, Rapunzel. That's the part that twists my heart into a knot of what if's and why's.

Like the Elizabeth Smart's of the world, or the Amanda's and Gina's and Michelle's of the world held captive for years, and many other much sadder stories of girls (and boys) and young women (and men) kidnapped and killed and all the horrible things in between that can and do happen, many of which globally never make the mainstream media coverage, much less any coverage.

A little girl Rapunzel kidnapped because her hair kept selfish Mother Gothel young and beautiful. Finally, years and years later when Rapunzel is a young woman, the horrible Gothel is destroyed and then Rapunzel is finally reunited with her mother and family (with her loving Prince Charming by her side). 

I know it's just another sweet family movie that doesn't have to explain the years of counseling Rapunzel may need, the constant nightmares she may experience and how long it may take to trust others again (regardless of how resilient she remained and how much love she had for the good guy).

Last night as I read to and played with our youngest daughter, Bryce, laughing just as giddily as she was, I couldn't imagine that happening to her (or our oldest, Bea). More accurately, I refused to imagine it. 

But as parents who strive to create and maintain a loving, safe home as well as a collective mindset in their community at large with other responsible parents, we do everything we can to unimagine it. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, in the U.S. alone, the most recent comprehensive research reveals that over 800,000 kids are abducted every year with thankfully a recovery rate of 97%. Globally the numbers are a lot more dismal -- according to the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, an estimated 8 million children are report missing every year.

The what if's and why's aren't as important as the focused diligence to prevent them today and tomorrow. This includes the fact that from 1981-2010 the global economy has lifted 1 billion people out of poverty. If you don't think there's a correlation between economic stability (food, healthcare, shelter) and loving/nurturing caretakers and future generations of children reducing the number of their missing compatriots, then you'd be wrong. Time and again. 

Let's unimagine and untangle this ongoing narrative together. The B-hive thanks you (and loves to dance at the end of the movie, living happily every after).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Fueled By Girl Power

I remember the disappointment, the questions of why not, the remarks about legacy lost and lack of family pride. All because we weren't going to have children.

But we weathered it all anyway, because we really didn't want to have children. Ever. Even after being together six years and finally getting married (which we're now on our way to 10 years of marriage and 16 years since the day we met), we still didn't want children.

Let it be known though that we didn't disparage any couple of any combination who did. Ever. Living fairly free and independent in a country like ours, these are choices we made, and those we knew with kids made. We still celebrated all our choices; we celebrated life, nurturing it together without judgement. We had many friends and family who wanted and had children happily, and those who struggled to have them, happily or not. But again, it made no never mind to us.

Of course, my family probably blamed the now Mama somewhat, my lovely wife, since she was the woman in this man/woman union equation, the one with a supposedly fertile uterus with eggs o'plenty just waiting to co-mingle and bind with Daddy's DNA. Although they were a little shocked that I was even more adamant about it all at times.

We still celebrated our own mother's, even with differing family struggles as children in each of our own camps. We celebrated family and embraced most of the times as adults we could spend together in both camps, however difficult it was at times -- and God knows how difficult it was at times.

It ain't all hugs and kisses, kids.

And yet, so it was. Without children. Without being a father or mother. Until it wasn't. Until we changed our minds, without judgement for those who never did, and never will, whether because of horrible childhoods or something simpler, less traumatic.

On this Mother's Day, I celebrate my young daughters, the Mama and her sister and her mom, my sister and our mother (who passed last December), our grandmothers and great-grandmothers and other family and friends alike. I celebrate all the women who have had mostly positive impacts on my life, mothers or not, because of teaching me love and patience and mindful presence and a balanced life and empathy and communication skills and team-building skills and community-building skills and --

But for those who don't celebrate it, who say they despise it's very commercialized lie (I'd argue that Valentine's Day, Easter and Christmas are worse), and/or because it perpetuates the myth that women must have babies because it's God's will and/or it's biological and unnatural if they don't, and/or because they had crappy moms and families they want nothing to do with, then I get it. No judgement. Just walk away from today and wait for tomorrow. It'll come soon enough for you to embrace your Zen.

I, however, am fueled by girl power. Happily.

In a fair and equitable way, of course.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Play that Funky Music, My Girls

"Hi Daddy, I went to the music store."

"Right on, Honey."

Because Bea's kind of digging the violin, something I just learned while away this week. And so it begins...which would be fantastic if she really wants to learn how to play. Thank you Little Einsteins, because the Mama and me play rock, pop, classic disco, soul and R&B, baby. Sometimes cool kid music too, but never classical. Do the Star Wars soundtracks count? What about that funky Meco version?

No? Well, that's all right. There's a musicality in our B-hive that's upbeat, elevating and moves our hearts and souls; both Bea and Bryce bang on the life drum all day and those sounds meter my longing for home.

And that's why it's especially poignant when I miss it all, going from 0 to 60 mph this last month with work travel again, relegated to phone calls and FaceTime. But the sweeping crescendos are no less powerful when I hear:

"Love you, Daddy! Are you flying on an airplane?"

Yes, my sweet B's, I'm flying home for a jam session with you both and the Mama (and Nonna, too).

Play that funky music, my girls.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Crossroads Lit In The Morning Light

In the paralyzing anguish of watching crossroads vanish like an oasis mirage, I doubled over suddenly from sucker-punch knowledge only moments old, curling fetal on a hotel room bed in the dark 3,000 miles away from home and family.

The boy who bobbed along manhood's sandy surface called out for his parents, but they had already passed months earlier. I called for them yet again, a futile cry for solace, and then I prayed, something I don't do very often.

I prayed for insight and guidance, protection and continuity, stability and resilience. The yellow light from the streets below seeped through the sheer curtains and caked like pollen in the corners of my swollen, wet eyes.

Moments later I wiped them clean and called my wife, my friend, my lover, my confidant, my muse, the sun to my moon, the mother of my beautiful daughters.

I recovered and said, "I love you so much."

"I know. It'll be all right," she said. "We always have what we need; it always works out."

"Yes, you're right. I just want to be home with you and the girls. I'll see you tomorrow," I said.

"I love you," she said.

"Give the girls a kiss."

"I will."

Prayer answered, I fell fast asleep and dreamt of crossroads lit in the morning light...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Dear B and B, here's to babbling profound

Dear B and B,

Your beauty astounds. Not just because I'm your daddy and think you're pretty and sweet, but because of your literal purity of ever-expanding thought and longing to explore and learn. That's tough to maintain as you get older, and yet still very possible to do. You probably won't understand most of what I'm talking about at this point, but soon enough you will, like waking one day and reflecting back on all that's come before, what lies ahead and what makes today.

You'll also learn soon enough that daddy likes to babble profound, and I'm sure you'll continually remind me of that someday.

In the meantime, know that you have an amazing mother and grandmother who take care of you and I'm so thankful for them. I'm also happy I've been able to work from home and help when I can. In fact, if I can instill anything in the both of you during these early years of life, it's for you to continually explore, learn, ask questions, empathize without compromise and always encourage your fellow "brothers and sisters" to be the best that they can be, because that in turn will inspire you to do the same, creating reciprocal motivation to truly make this world a better place.

There will be those who scoff at this kind of positive idealism, and you will yourself at times. You will learn that this is how your daddy ticks, how his hopeful outlook comes from knowing heroes abound -- we're the heroes who save one another every day in single moments -- incremental yet transformative interactions where we share relevant information that is absorbed, adopted and applied in new contexts that propels each other forward.

And so it goes. This is the beauty of learning and growing and how everyday heroes are born. Each of us offering ideas that continue to build on one another, creating bodies of work that are similar to the formation of rock over a geological span of time. We can see the layers of growth and progress in one another, because of one another, where a better world emerges from the layers below -- generating a new level of wonder and wisdom.

The beauty astounds and it's what makes it all worthwhile.

You are my heroes. Here's to babbling profound.

I Love You,

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

It's Your Birthday, Baby, So Let's Dance

Sometimes spontaneity sputters and burns with the white hot flame of a mindfully present love.

And those can be the best of times.

It's not a indictment on what doesn't happen day after day in a long-term relationship, complete with kids. The Mama and I love each other no matter what and through it all -- whatever "no matter what" and "it all" bring. The girls are our world and we wouldn't have it any other way.

The "romance" may not be as regular as in olden days before children (which was years in the making), but there is romance, alive and well, usually semi-scheduled but always enjoyable. (You big kids with kids know what I mean.)

And then there's the spontaneity, so precious and memorable that even the seemingly simplest of actions light up the memory centers of head and heart.

We took the Mama's mom out for her birthday a few weeks ago just before Valentine's Day, and one of the first stops we made was at a local winery. In the middle of our tasting, a mixed gender barbershop quartet appeared and entertained all us tasters with some classic a capella. Then they fired up some sweet 1950's doo-wop and that's what sparked the white flame.

The Mama called me out from the bar and we danced a little swing and a little traditional hustle, at least the moves we remember from our dance lessons years ago.

But remember them we did. Dancing with her in that moment was delightful, just as it was the day I married her, when we actually made up our own dance, years before the lessons.

Who says that an old married couple with kids can't cut a rug? We don't, and neither do our girls. We've got a colorful disco ball in the living that we light up for B-hive dance parties, birthdays and other special family occasions.

It's your birthday, Baby, so let's dance.

"I wanna with rock you, yeah, all night..."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

B a blasting cap

The youngest always tend to get the short end of the stick, but my youngest is actually the short stick of dynamite with a blasting cap on top -- with a capital B.

There is so much truth to how you coddle your first compared to the kids that come after. It's not that you don't love the second, third or fourth (that goodness we only have the second), you're just less apprehensive, more relaxed and tired (which aren't the same thing, mind you) with the second than the first; you're raising exponentially and metaphorically a gaggle of children, not only two. You spent so much energy trying to figure out what the hell to do with the first one without screwing them up too much, that with the second you think, "Oh, do I really need to put the frayed electrical wires away?"

Plus, there's the whole thing about the rest of life and work and providing for family and maybe taking care of other family (as we did the past few years with my parents)...

Yep, you usually lighten up with the second, coddle them a little less, not necessarily ignore them, but you definitely allow them more freedom than the first (and write less about them than the first -- sigh). And then while all of that is going on (or less of stuff going on), there's the doubled efforts of the second wanting to be more like the first.

Our youngest, Bryce, is just under two years younger than the elder B, Beatrice. Seemingly she's been scrambling to keep up with Bea every since she was born, upstairs. Bold, brazen, bossy and as sweet as apple pie laced with jalapeno and served with a wedge of lemon -- Bryce is my barrel of monkeys with dynamite and blasting caps. Bea is the politer Curious George of the two.

Another big difference, which says a lot about their personalities, is that while Bea still refuses to each much meat except for tuna and fish sticks, Bryce is a carnivore. Not a lot if any red meat yet, but pork, chicken and fish are all yum in the tum for Bryce.

Good to know that at the end of the world, Bryce could turn out to be our little hunter, while Bea will help with gathering.

Every time we take the girls outdoors to explore, romp and play, Bryce is the fearless investigator. Actually, she's fearless everywhere, but what's even more interesting is that there's a reciprocal big sister scrambling to be like Bryce, injecting a little of the bold, brazen and bossy Bryce into Bea's more reserved bloodstream. It's fascinating really how different they are and how much they complement one another.

Trust me, if you're ever feeling like the short end of the stick, B a blasting cap.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Being Back Here

I couldn't get the song out of my head once it started. It was 2:30 in the morning, last night, the night before my Mom's last memorial, which was earlier today. (That's what strung out feels like, kids. We were up for hours last night...)

The song was Still Fighting It, a bittersweet reflection on growing up and having children of your own, by Ben Folds.

"It was pain
Sunny days and rain
I knew you'd feel the same things...
Everybody knows
It hurts to grow up
And everybody does
It's so weird to be back here
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We're still fighting it,
we're still fighting it..."

Because at that moment, while I watched the Mama (my wife) hold and try to console an inconsolable stuffy Bryce (my youngest daughter), and Beatrice (my oldest) and me laid awake unable to sleep, I thought of my Mom and all the times she consoled and took care of me and my sister growing up, much of it without help with we were young children.

It's so weird to be back here...

Whether it be a cold, or the flu, or chicken pox, or allergies, or asthma -- Mom always took care of us and did everything she could to make it all better. Always.

Even the time I nearly ate an entire bottle of orange flavored baby aspirin and our family doctor at the time told Mom to make me throw it all up. Now that was a joyous memory. If you've tried to convince a young child to throw up for their own good, you know what I'm talking about. So no, I never did throw up that time, but fortunately it all worked out and all that yummy aspirin didn't affect me adversely.

I watched the Mama hold Bryce and remembered Mom and those are/were the memories that live now and forever in the tidal pools of my heart, a universe within universe within universe without forgetting once the "sunny days and rain" shared amid torrent and still water like glass.

Two weeks ago we said goodbye in Oregon, leaving Mom and Dad forever in the bay where they loved and lived in the end, where their souls reach to heaven...and today we said goodbye with local family and friends in Visalia where we grew up and where it all started for us, another tide rushing in to scatter memories from pool to vibrant pool...

Thank you for always being there, Mom. We were there for you as much as we could be in the end.

We love you.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Smile Game

It's the Smile Game. An engaging, fun activity where Beatrice explores her ever-expanding universe of family, friends, teachers and other adult figures of varying degrees.

Bea starts the process:

"Let's make...[insert name here]!"

Then I continue:

"Is [name] a boy or a girl?"

"A girl!"

"Okay, now what about her face..."

We continue on, making the new "virtual" person in Bea's social network, adding their nose, hair style, eye style, eye color, hair color, clothing color, body size and shape, glasses and/or freckles -- and last but certainly not least, the smile.

And it's always the same smile. A simple, sweet line curved up at the ends. Everyone smiles in Bea's world. We should all be so inclined. Yes, it's toddler naivete, but she doesn't know the difference.

Again, we should all be so inclined.

Forget that it's a first-generation Nintendo Wii where you can make the different people that end up appearing in the different games you can play. To Bea, it's the Smile Game where familiar faces bring comfort to a still very new person in this big friggin' sometimes sad and scary world. A world where you can lose both parents in only four months.

On a lighter note, baseball may be a few months away, but we can play with family and friends everyday.

"Daddy, let's play baseball!"

"You got it, Bea. Batter up," I say, smiling.