As 2019 its door and the start of a new decade opens, it’s a time to reflect and look forward to the amazing things on the horizon. As far decades go… the 2010s were as Larry David would say, “pretty, pretty, pretty good.” And considering this last one was my fourth… I know a good decade when I see one. But really… four decades… that is pretty crazy. I’m now 40 – as in 40 years old.
This decade saw so many ups and downs, So many gains and so many losses. However, all of the losses make the gains so much more exuberant. I became a dad and also an uncle (which is like being a dad, except you can just send the little tyke home when you are done playing with them!!!)
This decade was pretty nuts… I “went viral” as is the popular phrase these days for my Harry Potter Cupboard Under the Stairs that i build for the boys… so that in of itself is pretty indicative of what this decade was like!
If I had to summarize the last ten years in a sentence or two it would read something like this… I fell more deeply in love with my beautiful wife then I ever imagined possible. I lost my person, my grandfather, but I gained two of the most amazing little boys anyone could ever ask for. (ohh… and I won a Super Bowl)!
The decade started out with me taking the career path I always envisioned, as I took my first administrative job as an assistant principal, which I later parlayed itself into becoming a principal, including turning that first building around from a “Tier 3 Schools” in need of improvement to a “Tier 1 School of High Distinction, High Achievement and High Growth” in under three years. I’m proud of what was accomplished and I’m proud of the amazing students that worked so hard every day.
As I said earlier, there were losses. I lost my last two grandparents. Pop, left us the day after Thanksgiving in 2016. Jackson still talks about him, and unfortunately Oliver will only know him through the stories that are still told at the dinner table like folk tales. Steph lost her father, which was one of the hardest to explain to our little ones.
I was able to walk in the footsteps of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (four times). I caught wide receiver Jordy Nelson during a Lambeau Leap and visited Broadway a few times.
Stephanie and I moved into our dream house in an amazing community with some of the greatest neighbors anyone could ever ask for. Our children love all their new friends and we are so lucky to have amazing people around us everyday.
There is no better part of the last ten years than that of bringing into this world two of the most amazing little boys that have ever lived. Jackson and Oliver have made Stephanie’s and my life so much more than we could have ever asked for all those years ago. They have changed my life. They make every moment of my life better, more important and most of worth living.
It hasn’t always been perfect… but two decades have gone by with you and my hope is that the next many decades are spent by your side. Our boys are lucky to have you as their mother, their protector and their best friend.
We do this family Christmas photo event every year and every year it’s a debacle. I just don’t understand why we continue to put ourselves through it. More so, I don’t know why Staci keeps letting us back. Although, this year she smartened up and made us take photos deep in the forest where no one could hear the screams.
The best way to describe the process is to break it down into chunks. Each section brings its own problems and creates its own issues. All atr equally chaotic and none are mutually exclusive… they occur naturally and each that proceeds the next creates and increases the chaos.
The Pre Photo Phase:
The whole morning routine is thrown to shit. Everyone is up at the same time, which means my morning coffee is sucked down while trying to wrangle two cranky toddlers who want nothing more than some apple juice and a few episodes of Blaze and the MonsterMachines. Instead I’m squeezing their heads through matching button down flannels and cardigans. The screams can be heard from neighborhoods afar. Feeding them goldfish for each article of clothing they successfully put on is all I can do to stop child protective services from showing up at my front door.
Once everyone is layered up with enough fleece and corduroy to protect from even the deepest freeze of Mount Everest, we all realize that mom hasn’t even started to get changed. Her 12 outfits still lay neatly on the bed each screaming to be lucky enough to be chosen as this years Christmas’ photo regalia.
As the tiny humans begin to unravel downstairs they wait for their fashionista of a mother to emerge from behind the velvet curtains and through the fog machine to cheers and excitement like a Victoria Secret Model on some primetime fashion show.
The Travel Phase:
Each of the past five years has ended in some sort of travel mishap, or disaster. The cars aren’t the same, but the results always are. Somehow, someway the travel phase always results in violation points on someone’s license and children so tightly squeezed into their booster seats that their eyes are likely to pop out.
Each round trip to and from family photos has produced some pretty significant accidents and lofty fines. Two accidents (one involving the photographer herself), a half injured turkey, and a speeding ticket (or two). We’ve been lost so many time we now know the backroads of New England better than Cookie Monster on Waze.
The Photo Phase:
Cue the most amazing photographer who’s ever walked the Earth. “AUUUUNNNNNTTTTIEEEEE STAAAAAAACCCCIIIIIIIIIII!!!!”
You can heat them from across the Christmas tree farm. You can see her turn slowly, like it’s a horror movie. Her hair flips slowly as her wide smile turns into a grin that is half happy to see you… maybe it’s more half paranoid about what’s about to happen.
She smartens up each time she meets us, this time she has set up stations. That’s the trick with toddlers. Keep them on the move, keep them guessing and don’t let them catch their breath. It’s almost like running the hurry up offense. Keep the clock moving and keep the entire defense on the field. Eventually they’ll tire out.
Props are just par for the course when taking Christmas photos. They can provide the perfect backdrop for two brothers. The trick is getting that photo snapped before the props become weapons. The beautifully painted wooden “Let it Snow” sign that bear the calligraphy of a professional become shields for chocolate-chip cookie ninja stars.
And the tricycle that was perfectly set up in between two symmetrical Douglas firs quickly becomes a get away vehicle.
The Post Photo Phase:
Pictures happen quickly. There are lots of moving parts, lots of bribery and lots of tears. It takes the patience of a saint. Staci, Saint Staci that is, has it. She perpetuates sainthood. She’s good, she’s really good.
The photo session comes to end with as much anticipation as the end of a root canal. With puddles of tears, new clothes stained and tattered, the cries slowly quieted (and that was just from mom and dad). The kids on the other hand were hyped from the 15 Candid Cookie Eating takes, but I digress.
After herding these animals back towards the parking it was finally time to breathe a sigh of relief. Kids are tired. Parents are tired. Hell, the photographer is tired. It’s time to hitch a ride out of there.
Things are never easy and we always say we’ll never go through it again. That is… until we see the magic that Staci, Jax and Oliver have created. They are magicians and the photographs will forever be magic.
Christmas. It’s a time to appreciate what you have and reflect on the important things in life. It’s a time for giving and a time to enjoy the most important people in your life. That is unless your have kids. Then it’s about winning. It’s literally about winning Christmas (obviously winning is about being the best present giving “parent” since Santa is the best overall).
Setting aside all the magical gifts that Santa delivers down the chimney and under your barely standing, brown five week old Christmas tree, parents often both agree on an amount to spend on their children, or at least decide together what gifts will be bought for the kids. The thing is… if your anything like us it’s not just about the season of giving. It’s about the season of “who got the best gifts.” You want to try to take it easy… you know, just get little Susie an Easy Bake Oven, but it’s easy to want to go overboard and become the favorite parent. It’s amazing how fast that Easy Bake Oven turns into a live unicorn.
Although, the other side of this… Just understand you may wind up sleeping on the couch once your partner catches wind of your plan. Steph and I haven’t gotten to that point yet, as long as the kids are happy on Christmas morning… that magic of the holiday twinkling in their eyes… that’s the real gift.
Buying for the little one is easy. Oliver would go nuts over a toilet paper roll, or a box of tissue paper. Put a few random legos in a coffee can and you have created the greatest gift of all time. You can’t measure happiness in money or gift amounts, but you can however measure happiness in laughs and smiles. We all want to make Christmas morning as magical as possible, so it’s best to take advantage of how easy it is to please the little ones now.
We try to take it easy. We (Santa) buys lots of books and puzzles. This year we are going to have Jackson pick a few old toys to donate to someone in need, as he replaces those he donates with new ones Santa brings him. We aren’t naive to think that Christmas isn’t about presents, but I think this mom and dad also relish in the little things as well… a healthy and happy family. Two little boys who love each other and most importantly the fact that we got them to sit long enough with each other to get a decent Christmas card! It’s a Christmas miracle.
Half and hour in and my four year-old has already made approximately 187 references to Elfie (his #ElfonTheShelf). Check out @thedadexperience on Thursday, December 20th for a hilarious look at how that damn Elf has ruined parents everywhere. There’s also an in-depth look at the #Hanukkah equivalent of the Elf called #MoistureOnAMat
What breakfast, lunch and dinner looks like with two children
“The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”
I share a lot on here, but one thing I refuse to do is to share pictures of our Elf on the Shelf. We’re not a Pinterest family (well Steph tries to be, but her projects usually look like the after on a failed Pinterest page… but the effort is there).
Our elf doesn’t recreate movie elaborate Christmas movie scenes depicting himself dressed up as the main character. He doesn’t tend to use props and for the most part he sits in the same place he was when everyone went to bed (usually until someone panics first thing in the morning because we realized we forgot).
Tonight, however, I watched my wife, the mother of our children, help Elfie (yes our Elf’s name is Elfie) toilet paper the Christmas tree… if you could call it that. Now I don’t know what kind of childhood this woman lived… wether it was under a rock or simply spent in a bubble, but the fact that she didn’t know how to toilet paper something is telling.
I walked down stairs to multiple rolls of toilet paper carefully patterned and intricately placed like lacy garland on the ensues of the tree branches. I watched as Elfie sat, embarrassed perched high atop the Douglas Fir. Embarrassingly realizing that he would have to take credit for this “prank”.
What toilet papering should look like:
What Stephanie’s idea of toilet papering looks like:
Luckily there was someone in the house with a bit more knowledge and experiences when it comes to toilet papering. I won’t say who he is for confidentiality reasons… but I know Elfie appreciated the more random and vandalized look of his prank now that an expert lent his expertise.
Jackson really enjoys finding him each morning and this year is Ollie’s first time being interested…even with that though, it’s a good thing we don’t do the social media thing with our elf… he would have been embarrassed by this who situation. Sorry Elfie. Sorry.
Every toy has been unwrapped, opened, put together, had batteries installed and played with. Now to shove them in a corner so the boys can play with the toys Jackson got for his first birthday three years ago. Matching outfits are packed away never to be seen again until the above picture comes out at some holiday get together 20 years from now.
Elfie has returned to the North Pole… (thank god)!!! Santa has come and gone and in his wake is enough cardboard and wrapping paper to pollute the Mississippi River (I still can’t spell without that little tune we learned in third grade). Only one wine glass was broken yet somehow 30 more boxes of decorations than we owned last year seem to have made their way into the attic.
I’ve written about this before, but I still contend that the day after Christmas (especially for someone with OCD) is the worst “day after holiday” of the year. Yea, I know what I’m saying… I was up all night and celebrated a Packers Super Bowl win just a few years ago and had to get up early the next day for work, but that was a joyous wake up… my team won the Super Bowl, so who cares about that day after… I get it… but for me the day after XMAS has always been a disaster.
However, this year… I tried to let it go as best as I could. I let stuff stay out, I didn’t pack up ornaments or the garland on the mantle. the leftovers weren’t nearly packed in separate Tupperware (yup… that’s right, I just covered them with tinfoil). I allows my children to play with their toys and didn’t even make them put one away before playing with another. I sat comfortably while a fire burned warmly in the fireplace, and enjoyed watching my two little boys play together with all the new toys Santa left them the day before.
This Christmas was about them… not me… not anyone… just them… and I enjoyed that much more than a day of OCD controlled cleaning and organizing like I usually do on December 26th… (at least for today).