Baby Frederico, Poet!

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*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story (or book review or movie) from our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. His backstory can be found here.  Enjoy!

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn and…Shel Silverstein.  Here is something entirely new:

It happened once many years ago

that there was a little green reptile by the name of Frederico.

His family called him Baby and there was even a lady

who once pulled his big toe.

Instead of a cry, he let out a giggle.

It was the kind of giggle that would make you wiggle,

and smile and laugh and giggle some more.

He often took naps with his grandpa (who would snore)

and he lived in the country with pets galore.

He had two chickens, two kittens, and a horse.

There was even a little black puppy named Charlie, of course.

His Momma was Italian and his Papa from Mexico

And together the three would learn to grow and grow

Into one happy family by the name of Frederico.

 Yes, that’s right.  It did happen once many years ago!

There was indeed a little green reptile.  His name?  Baby Frederico.

Dad, Where Are We?

You can’t learn before you set out, can you? You go along the road, and you learn as you go. - P.L. Travers

I love a Table of Contents. Whether it’s brand new or something I’ve read before, most every time I pick up a book I like to check its list of chapter titles. Sometimes I do it so I can learn something about the book, while other times I just like to see how many pages I’m in for! Either way, that Table of Contents does my brain good. It’s a key of sorts, a treasure map to get me on track and it often can help to clear a little path through a big forest of words.

And that is what I thought about when I captured this photo on our family’s hike through the woods last weekend:

Valentine Bigfoot Hike February 14, 2014

I’m not sure that you can really see it, but the brambles and thorny vines and ragged stones that envelop this particular area are especially arduous to navigate. Our littlest one is also just the right height to get swatted in the face by a stray branch. It also grows rather dark under the dense tree canopy here, even on the sunniest of days.  I can’t tell you how many times we had to turn back and detour around an obstacle while we were out there that day. At one point, we weren’t even completely certain which way was which. It was then that the girls would stop exploring and move closer to us and say, “Dad, where are we?” or “Dad, which way now?”  In other words, no Table of Contents.

It all makes me think just how much a hike with your family resembles life with your family. Sure there are sunny days and laughter and plenty of fun in the adventure of it, but there are also the thorns and the rocks and the brambles and the questions. Sometimes, we can answer their questions…and sometimes we can’t.  In other words, no Table of Contents.

The saving grace, though, comes in experiencing the hike – and life - together.  I’m certain of it.  Even the hard times have a silver lining when your family has your back.  There is simply nothing like it, not even a Table of Contents.

P.S.  There are two books about being a dad that have transformed my thinking and acting on the subject.  They are The Father Connection by Josh McDowell and These Things I Wish for You by Christopher Kimball.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. - Izaak Walton

I’m Lovin’ It

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If there is one holiday beyond Christmas that we celebrate big at our house, it’s Valentine’s Day. And in a house full of girls, finding new ways to celebrate such an event for nearly twenty years can be quite an endeavor. Thankfully, we take turns. Let me explain.

When our oldest daughter was five or six, I decided to surprise the girls with a prom. We moved all of the furniture out of the living room and turned it into a dance floor with snacks and punch and music, even a disco ball! We danced and laughed and quickly fell in love with the idea of turning Valentine’s into a holiday that we would not soon forget.

Since that day, we have transformed the rooms of our home into all kinds of things – the kitchen has been a secret garden (with long vines and gigantic flowers made of construction paper), a winter wonderland (with bags of sugar for snow!), a Star Wars movie scene (with a camping tent turned into the Millenium Falcon), an Italian grotto with live saxophone music and steaks shaped into hearts, and our kitchen table once became the Love Boat; our walk-in closet served as a mysterious bear cave; and our living room has been everything from a drive-in movie theater (with the two couches turned into a convertible car replete with a window speaker and concession food), to a Beach Boys-themed party with an ironing board surfboard and shark fins and blue paper for water.

Valentine’s Day is a big deal. We love the fun and the surprise of it all, but the memories continue to become the treasure.

This is why we look forward to dedicating this week’s writing to the holiday on Friday. Stay tuned for some great books and thoughts about the day. And whatever you do, celebrate big!

Super Bowl 20

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I know, I know.  This year’s Super Bowl is number 48, not 20, but it is the number 20 that I am celebrating here in 2014.  It is where the official count stands of consecutive years that I have been watching this major American football event with my now 83 year-old grandparents.

They live just across the street from us, so I see them every week but there has always been something magnetic for us about Super Bowl night.  My grandmother, who prepares a smorgasbord of snacks that would rival the buffets of Golden Corral, is also the house statistician and virtual encyclopedia of certain players – she knows numbers and histories and stories of their faith and families.  She even saves certain newspaper articles about the event for us to read at commercial breaks!

My wife and daughters are also there for the entire event and have been for most all of these 20 years.  The tradition actually began in a funny way – my grandparents were always fond of buying magazines through the Publishers Clearinghouse campaign.  This allowed them to be entered into the Publishers Clearinghouse Giveway, which was normally an enormous some of money and a large bouquet of balloons that would be delivered to some unsuspecting family at home on live television during halftime of the Super Bowl.  For some reason, that was our pull – not really football or sports or teams or halftime superstars, but that one in a zillion chance that the balloon guy would show up outside their door.

Though there is no such event during the Super Bowl these days, we still relish the chance to get together and talk about our favorite commercials and holler over missed calls or bad calls or awesome interceptions – and turn the channel during halftime.

But somewhere, in the back of our minds, we can still imagine hearing the rush of balloons as some guy in a yellow sportcoat holding an oversize check makes his way to our front door.

Celebrate Me Home

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There are a million things to do and be when you are a parent.  The list is so long and varied and overwhelming and joyful and exhausting that to write about all of them in one post would be, well, long and varied and overwhelming and joyful and exhausting.  However, there is one particular thing that my wife has taken a special interest in over the years since we first met and that one thing is CELEBRATING.

She has always enjoyed celebrating just about anything, anytime, which became especially useful when we started welcoming children into our lives.  I remember when our first daughter began Kindergarten and, even though we always drove her to school, my wife constructed an amazing schoolbus-shaped cake complete with passengers and the name of the school scrawled in icing across its side.  I’ll never forget that night around the table as we celebrated Emily’s first day of school.  Looking back on it nearly 15 years later, I realize now that it was also a way that my wife was teaching us to celebrate our life together as a family.

We have celebrated so many times since then, especially these smaller moments, that our younger daughters now happily reap the rewards of my wife’s experience in this area.

Just last night we celebrated our youngest’s 9th birthday with her school friends here at the house.  It was what she and my wife dubbed an “Almost-Sleepover Party” in which six of her girlfriends from school came to the house for just a couple of hours and played games and illustrated their own pillowcases and painted their nails and even had me read them a Baby Frederico bedtime story.  The event allowed us to get to know everyone a little better and meet parents and see the friendships among our kids bloom and grow.

Because we only had two hours, my wife had the girls enjoying themselves and smiling and laughing within seconds of entering the house.  Near the end of the evening, a little girl even asked us, “Can this party last longer please?”

A few days from now, we will be celebrating again with our middle daughter as she turns 14 and has invited a handful of her girlfriends from school over for a 1950′s-style sock hop.  She is a Motown music fanatic and loves old records and Chubby Checker dances and Jackie Wilson lyrics.  Her grandfather Mike customized a 50′s sock hop music CD for each attendee.  There will be hula-hoops and soda pop cupcakes, rootbeer floats, and retro-candy like Mike and Ike’s, Sixlets, Pop-Rocks, Jujubees, Cherry Bombs, and Chiclets.  My wife even secured a half dozen poodle skirts and may beat them all in the bubble-gum blowing contest!  The party will culminate in a 1950′s dance moves contest straight out of an Elvis Presley movie – from The Hand Jive and The Twist to The Mashed Potato and The Swim.

These celebrations are among my wife’s favorite ways of helping the girls tell their stories to their friends and to themselves, of hearing what their loves and hobbies and interests are in that particular year, and then creating with them and for them a celebration as personalized as their very names.

I love this place, living among people who love to celebrate life.  The world is so full of difficulties and gloominess and trouble that these brightly shining events really help us and replenish us along the journey together.  I’m thankful I married someone who knows how to celebrate and is willing to help us tell our stories in this way.

So in the immortal words of Loggins and Messina, “Celebrate me…home.”

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