Sunday, May 31, 2015

Charlie and I are outnumbered: The adoption of Lady into our family

Since Charlie's human sister, Lily, entered the world, Charlie has felt a little less loved. It's not that we actually love him any less, however there have been times when Charlie may not have received the full attention he has become accustomed to because we were first taking care of Lily. The reality of having our first child radically shifted who we are and what we do. There has been much casual discussion (sometimes more serious than other times) about finding a canine friend for Charlie. Lily likes Charlie and he loves her, but we thought Charlie would appreciate having a permanent canine brother or sister.

We ultimately decided to take the steps to adopt a foster dog and submitted an application to Little White Dog Rescue, a non-profit organization in Omaha that rescues small dogs. Once our application was approved we frequently scouted the website and ultimately landed upon a four-year-old tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Samantha Jones. Last week we met her and she was a little timid, but sweet, and got along great with Charlie and Lily. Lily thought Samantha Jones was amazing; Charlie pretty much ignored her.

The first meeting went so well the foster mom left our house without the dog. Hours after our first meeting, we changed Samantha Jones' name to Lady. She immediately began exploring her new (to steal a tagline from Little White Dog Rescue) "furever home". Initially, Lady was very cautious around us. She cowered if we were anywhere near her and she liked to plant herself in places she appeared to deem safe: corners, along a wall, or in Charlie's bed. She enjoyed being held but froze when you moved toward her to pick her up. When left alone with Charlie in the back yard her demeanor changed completely. She followed Charlie everywhere and ran around happily. We quickly realized it would take some time for Lady to get used to us and feel comfortable around us.

Already, that is slowly happening. Lady still appears quite nervous but Charlie is her leader and she pretty much goes wherever he does. Immediately she wanted to cuddle with Charlie but he wasn't having it. Even though we bought extra dog beds for her both upstairs and downstairs, she claimed Charlie's. He nicely allowed her to use his beds and he sleeps in the new beds without complaint.

Lily loves her new dog sister, Lady. Charlie is starting to love Lady too. Charlie freely jumps up on the couch to snuggle with us while Lady hasn't quite figured out how to get up on the couch herself. She just waits near the foot of the couch and happily wags her tail until we pick her up to join us. The first time, there wasn't much room for her so she found her spot by laying on top of Charlie. He just allowed her to do whatever she wanted. He enjoyed having the extra cuddle-buddy.

The next day, I first picked Lady up before sitting on the couch, giving her dibs on the spot next to me. Charlie returned the favor by laying partially on top of her.

Charlie and Lady have quickly figured out it is much more comfortable snuggling when their human dad is out of the way.

Human friendships develop and transpire on various levels. Oftentimes instant connections are made between people and something just clicks making them inseparable. Other times friendship can be a more rocky terrain with trials and tribulations, full of tenuous situations or circumstances that somehow bond people together. Regardless of the journey friendships take, humans are social beings looking for connection. I see Charlie and Lady on their own unique friendship path. Dogs, too, are social beings.

I'm certain that Charlie and Lady will become great friends. It's only been a week and more time will help solidify how they change and grow along with our family.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mayhem of a bookworm

Long before I knew I was going to become a dad, I wanted to be a dad. When fatherhood was a certainty, I obsessed over on all the things a dad should do. I was concerned about locating a great daycare. I thought about car safety and car seats. I randomly wondered about the best way to respond when your baby cried. I could continue. . .

One that was an extreme concern to me was language development and reading. As a former English teacher, and a reader, writer, and lover of language, I probably dwelled on this topic more than most parents--and I still do.

Months before Lily's birth, I started her online wishlist of books I thought were a must for her childhood bedroom library. I imagined her and I snuggling up to books, reading, laughing, discussing, and appreciating the written word. My dream for her is that she will grow to appreciate the power of words, and a love for storytelling and its connection to the human spirit.

How would I foster this love for reading and books in my daughter?

That exact question is posed in How To Raise A Bookworm, by Leanne Italie, which my wife, Michelle, shared with me almost a year ago. The piece speaks to much of what I know about the extreme importance of reading to children, even as infants:
  • Parent's should read to kids every day.
  • The sound of a parents voice reading to a child turns on switches in their brain during the first two years of life.
  • Reading with a child is an important interactive experience that more parents should be told to do when they leave the hospital with their baby.
After reading How to Raise A Bookworm, my hope for our daughter to have a love for reading was reaffirmed. I want her to have a rich appreciation for learning language and to grow a strong vocabulary. I want her to question and be engaged in the world around her. I want her to see how stories teach us empathy and help build a foundation for strong emotional intelligence.

Reading requires an ability like no other--one that can be applied (and is important for) other life activities--requiring a stillness of body and mind, intense focus, being able to calm oneself in order to become immersed in ideas and a depth of thought.

So... it is fair to say, I am completely obsessed about reading with Lily. I read with her often.

Today when we arrived at home from work/daycare, Lily was being quite fussy. I couldn't figure out what she wanted, and I tried a variety of solutions I thought might pacify a demanding one-year-old girl. Then it dawned on me. She was pointing to the books on the bottom shelf of the bookshelf near the floor in the corner. And she wanted to get to them. She wiggled her 19-pound body into the cramped area and one by one pulled books off the shelf, opened them, spoke some sort of baby-gibberish while flipping through pages, and then reached for another. Mayhem was left behind.

Then, when we were making dinner, Lily was slowly pulling items out of her bag. I thought she was simply doing what she always does: removing items from something and then returning them. This is a regular, favorite activity.

However, she was actually digging for her books.

I'm well on my way to raising a little bookworm.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The mom club is better than the dad club

I distinctly remember an event that will forever be ingrained in my mind. There are those moments in life that, as they are happening, when I experience them, I'm ever-aware of the significance they hold. This doesn't happen often, these rare, impacting moments. The one that I'm thinking of took place almost a year ago, a week after we brought Lily home from the hospital. I was in the back yard and so was our next door neighbor. He has an aura about him that I just can't place. He is a welcoming man--a father and grandfather. He is the type of guy who came over to greet us when we were considering moving into the neighborhood and house which became our current home.

Now, every time I talk with him through the backyard fence I'm reminded of the 90's hit TV show Home Improvement. Our talks are sometimes reminiscent of those between the characters Tim "the toolman" Taylor and his neighbor, Wilson (minus the weird grunting noises). My neighbor is like Wilson: cool, experienced, collected, and wise. I oftentimes feel like Tim: flying through life untethered, making mistakes every which way.

My neighbor and I were both in the back yard, separated by the red-stained wooden privacy fence. He wanted to know details of Lily's birth. I still hadn't fully comprehended what had just happened to our lives. We were new parents. I was relaying the birthing events to him and talk turned to our wives. I mentioned that I was in awe of the entire experience, saying that Michelle couldn't have been more strong throughout the process. My neighbor's eyes filled with tears, and he gave a faint smile, saying, "She will continue to impress you."

On Mother's Day, I can't get this moment out of my mind. It was the look in his eyes and the fact the he was willing to share the emotion welling up in them. My neighbor couldn't have been more correct: I've grown more fond of my wife, Michelle, now that she is a mother. Her one year of motherhood has shown her resilience, dedication, and unwavering devotion.

She reads countless books about baby development and parenting, incorporating how she wants to parent, all without becoming completely obsessed about one "right" way.

She worries.

She is always planning and preparing everything for Lily--at home and at daycare--while she expertly balances the life of a career woman.

She rolls with the punches when things don't pan out as planned.

She is a career woman.

She laughs.

She never complains through the trials and sacrifices of breastfeeding.

She is often tired.

Have I mentioned she is a career woman?

She is grounded.

She is the best mom.

She continues to impress me.

Fatherhood seems to be an exclusive club among other men. When guys who are dads find out that they are both dads the conversations linger on our kids. In those moments you learn a great deal about the other man. This happens to me all the time: among close friends, colleagues at work, guys at the barbershop where I get my hair cut, and even strangers I randomly meet. The cool thing about this exclusive dad club is that we also talk about our partners--the moms. While we know the dad club is cool, we also recognize the mom club is soooo much cooler. My daughter, Lily, knows this too. She is perfectly fine and happy when her and I are alone together, however the moment Michelle enters the room I become chopped liver and she definitely prefers mom. Oddly, though, Lily says "dad" when prompted to say "mom." Lily smiles and laughs every time she does it. I think she might be enjoying this little trick, almost as if she is planing some sort of surprise, building the anticipation for when she decides to spring the word "mom" on Michelle for the first time.


In honor of the most amazing mother, Lily and I did some shopping and secret scheming for Michelle. Check out our secret-planning selfies:

We've been anticipating spending this Mother's Day celebrating such an amazing person.