Christmas 2022 – A Look Back

Hello, my friends. When I last blogged, we were gearing up for a big snow storm. While we didn’t get as much as they were saying, roads were still dangerous and as a bonus we got our white Christmas. I had to laugh at something I saw on Facebook, and had to share here. This pretty much sums up every winter storm forecast here in Michigan:

Snow was to move in on Thursday night and into Friday morning. Many patients called to cancel their appointments that night, so because of low volume, I got to stay home. It was nice to have extra family time. It is very rare to get that time.

I had already taken Friday off. Usually my boys will come over and spend the night and we do Christmas Eve morning as our “Christmas.” Because of the storm, we decided it was best to postpone things until the Monday after Christmas.

On Christmas Eve night, we usually go to Crossroads Village and do the drive through light display. It’s not too far from us and it is always a beautiful sight. On certain nights, you can board the train and see more lights, but the drive through is neat because you get to go through the little village. They pipe Christmas music through the speakers and every thing is just beautiful.

We got the kids dressed and ventured out. It didn’t take long to see just how bad the roads were. We hadn’t been out since the storm, but the roads were just awful. We take many back roads to get there and the wind was blowing across the fields and made the roads solid sheets of ice. It was actually pretty scary. I would have kept driving, but Sam told me to turn around and go back home. That’s what we did.

Earlier in the day we made cookies for Santa. Ella told Sam that Santa should drink milk from a “fancy” cup, so we put it in a wine glass. A few years ago, Sam’s sister Grace (who passed away earlier this year) made a Christmas plate. We have decided that as part of our Christmas tradition, Santa’s cookies would always be put on on that plate.

We placed the cookies on the plate and started to get things ready for the rest of the evening. We had to get the kids in their Christmas pajamas, they had to brush their teeth, and Santa had to get ready to build some stuff. After walking to the living room to gather up a few things, I walked back in the kitchen to see Andrew standing on Ella’s step stool – eating Santa’s cookies!!! Smart kid!

Once the kids were in bed, I went to work. I only had to put together a couple things, and I love being Santa. Ella got a Frozen Castle (she calls it the Elsa and Anna castle) and Andrew got a vacuum (he is all about the vacuum when we clean). They also each got a book from Santa and the rest of the gifts were from mom and dad.

It was nice to see the tree lit, with presents under it, and the baby gate out of the way!!

Honestly, I anticipated that Ella would be the first one up on Christmas morning, but instead, it was Andrew. We actually had to go in and wake Ella up. She seemed uninterested in getting up until we reminded her that it was Christmas and Santa had come.

Andrew loved his vacuum and played with it all morning. It was a hoot to see him “cleaning” the rug!

Ella loved her princess castle and when she got a princess dress, too, she had to put it on!

She was so into it and had all her princesses playing on the castle. I was lucky enough to capture this very cool picture of her playing –

I just love it! She had no idea I was taking this.

We were invited to Sam’s folks for Christmas dinner, which is always nice. My mother-in-law always puts out a big spread with ham, turkey, scalloped or potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and a ton of desserts. My nieces and nephew were there, so the kids all got to play together. It’s always kind of crazy with all of Sam’s siblings there, so I neglected to get any pictures.

Andrew gave us a memorable moment while we were there. Sam’s folks have one of those thin Christmas trees. Andrew, of course, is always curious. While my back was to him, he grabbed something on the tree (probably the string of lights) and started pulling. Naturally, the entire tree came crashing down on top of him!! When I turned around I couldn’t even see him! Thankfully, only one ornament broke. That boy is something else!!

I’m not sure when we left but it was later in the evening and Sam and I were talking about being a bit hungry. We decided to be like the Christmas Story family and we ordered some Chinese food and grabbed McDonald’s for the kids. As crazy as it sounds, we may need to do that every year because it was delicious.

On Monday, the boys came over in the morning. I made up some chocolate chip pancakes, sausage links, eggs, toast, and coffee for me. Ella and Andrew don’t see their big brothers often enough, but they seemed glad to see them.

My dad and Rose came over a bit later and I was glad that my dad got to see all his grandchildren. He brought Ella a Little People Barbie apartment, which is huge and now serves as a “neighbor” to Elsa and Anna’s castle. He brought Andrew some waffle blocks and a bowling set. The boys are older now, so the each got an envelope with cash, much like his mother (my grandma) used to give my brother and I.

As crazy as it was to get everyone together, I am so glad to have gotten this picture with my dad, Rose, and the kids.

As I stated in my Facebook post, it is never long enough when we get together, but I do treasure the time with them.

I am so glad to have had time with my wife, my children and my dad over the holidays. God willing, we will all be able to do it again next year.

Photos with the Jolly Old Elf

We took Ella and Andrew up to Cabella’s after their dentist appointment to get pictures with Santa yesterday. I thought for sure that I had posted some of my childhood Santa pictures before. However, after glancing through some of my past Christmas themed blogs, I discovered that I hadn’t. For what it is worth, it was a quick glance, so there is the possibility that I missed them. If that is the case, I apologize for repeating.

I thought it would be fun to check out some of these amazing photos from the past –

I cannot be sure which of these photos was taken earlier, but I think it was this one.

My dad wrote on the back of this that I am “about 2 years old.

My all time favorite photo with Santa is this one, in which I am wearing the craziest pants ever.

I joke all the time that the reason I am crying is because of those pants! I am probably 3 here, but I cannot be sure.

After that time, my folks probably decided to wait a few years before trying to get a picture with Santa. The next one that shows up is from when I was 6 years old, and it is with my brother and I.

I’m sure that we probably had more taken of us, but I have no idea where they are. Maybe a family member has a copy of one somewhere, but I don’t think I do.

I don’t know that we really ever took my boys to get their photos with Santa when then were tiny. So Fast Forward to 2009. Dante’ would have been 7 and Dimitri is 2 in this one. My brother actually took the above photo and put it in a frame with this one of them. It’s cool to see just how much they boys look like us.

One year later, we took them again to get photos at the mall. I remember this Santa. He was SO good!

I want to say that this Santa was the same Santa that appeared at an office networking party my morning show co-host, Stephanie, and I emceed in 2007.

He sure looks like it to me. If it is, the picture above would have been taken 3 years prior to the one with the boys.

I found this one after I posted this blog! This must have been a year or two after the boy’s previous picture. They used to like their hair “spiked.”

Some of my favorite Santa pictures were not professional ones at all. Ella was born just before Covid hit at the world shut down. A good friend of mine was out doing an appearance as Santa and stopped by the house. I blogged about it here:

Jan was such a great guy. He passed away not to long ago. I can never thank him enough for making a special trip over for Ella. I miss him.

Andrew was only about 2 months old at Christmas last year. We went to Cabella’s and Covid was still a worry. They had a bench in front of Santa for the kids to sit on. There was no way he was going to be able to so that, so the entire family got our picture with St. Nick!

Ella knew that after her dentist appointment yesterday we were going to see Santa. She was very excited. We arrived about 30 minutes early for our appointment. I didn’t matter, there was no one there when we arrived and we were able to get right up for pictures. When Ella saw Santa, she yelled, “Hi Santa!” and ran up and gave him a hug! The photographer deserves kudos because she actually snapped a picture of that.

She made sure that he knew she wanted a “princess castle” for Christmas and then she sat on his lap. We placed Andrew on Santa’s knee and the tears started! The photographer snapped a few photos and we got the best one. It’s totally ok that he was crying. Like father, like son, right!? Ella never has cried when she has seen Santa, which still amazes me.

I think it came out cute. Maybe next year, they can talk about Twinkles, our Elf on the Shelf, and about how she reports things to him at the North Pole.

4 more sleeps till Christmas!!

Giving Thanks (Updated)

When I worked on the radio, we would often “recycle” bits. We would take something we had done in the past and “re-run” it, often updating it to be current. This blog is actually a recycling of an earlier Thanksgiving blog from three years ago, updated for 2022. I have gained many new followers over the past few years, all of this will be new to them. For those who have been with me from the beginning, I hope you don’t think I am being lazy. By recycling this, I am reminded of just how blessed I am!

Updated 2022

The blatant truth is that we should be thankful for everything in our lives. One of my favorite Bible verses is I Thessalonians 5: 18 which reads “In everything give thanks”. That means good things and bad things – and that’s sometimes hard to do! Believe me, I know from experience! Well, here goes…my list, in no particular order:

Things I am thankful for

My parents. Let’s face it, without them, I wouldn’t be here. I was blessed with a mother and father who raised me right. They supported decisions (good and bad) and were always there for me. Even though my mom is no longer here, her presence is ever-present. Dad is always around to talk music, old movies, and more. As with most holidays, he will be the first call I receive this morning. Laughing with him is always something I am thankful for. The kids always look forward to their Sunday morning video chat with Papa, too!

My wife. Without her, I wouldn’t be here either. She saved me and I am forever grateful. She came into my life at a very turbulent time – first as a friend, and then as someone much more than that. She made me smile and laugh during a time where there was little or no happiness. She cried with me and was a great support through very dark days. Thanks to her, I have found an unconditional love. I cannot imagine life without her, nor would I want to. She accepts me with all my faults and quirks. She makes me feel special. She makes me fall in love with her more each day. She completes me and I am thankful to have her in my life each and every second of the day.

We’ve experienced many changes over the last couple years. With the addition of our two kids, life is a bit more stressful and we’re a bit more tired. The “us” time has been lacking a lot. I need to make it a point to make more “us” time. I need to make sure that I don’t let all of the stresses in life make me forget how important she is to me. I need to step up – listen, love, and support her in ways that she truly needs.

My daughter, Ella. When I originally wrote this blog, she wasn’t even born yet. What a joy Ella is to have around. Her personality shines through now. It has been fun to watch her blossom into a toddler. She is so smart. Her imagination flourishes. I love sitting on the family room floor and “playing princesses” with her. I love watching Bubble Guppies with her. I could listen to her sing the songs from Frozen all day. She will forever have me wrapped around her finger! I’m so thankful for my princess.

My son, Andrew. He is the busiest baby I have ever had! Wow, do I wish I had his energy! Talk about a one track mind! He is forever grabbing for cell phones, TV remotes, and whatever toy Ella has. He was walking early and he hasn’t stopped. Now he is climbing all over the place. It is funny to see the relationship that he has with Ella. They truly love each other, but at the same time, they love to aggravate each other, too. It is rare to see him without a smile on his face. He’s a handful, but I wouldn’t change him for the world!

My sons, Dante’ and Dimitri. They could not be more different from each other. They both have their own talents. They remind me so much of my brother and I when we were growing up! They are creative. They are silly. They are loving. They are smart. They make me laugh and drive me crazy! I miss them when they are not with me and I love when we are together. I love to think back and remember the things they did as babies and I love to think about what they will do in the future. They make me proud of all their accomplishments. It is crazy to see how much they have grown. Dante’ is working hard and going to college, and Dimitri is in high school. I’m thankful for both of them.

My brother. Just like my sons, we couldn’t be more different. Growing up, we tormented each other! He has listened to me complain about life. He has offered advice on more than one occasion. He, in my opinion, is the more successful of the two of us! He has written – and published – books! He has made his way up the ladder at his job and is now a “big wig”. I am envious of him. Over the years, we’ve grown closer and are working separately (and together) on a project that will honor our mother. This project will only bring us closer – which I look forward to very much. Some of the stuff I have written for the project has been posted on this blog. There is still work to do, and it is slowly coming together. We really need to get together and see where we are at with things.

He has been an absolutely amazing Uncle to the kids. Ella just might have him wrapped around her finger, too. There always seems to be some package arriving for her or Andrew with Disney loot in it! Despite the miles, they kids love being able to video chat with him when they can.

My job. It’s really an amazing thing to help people. So many patients come in to our lab who are struggling with poor sleep, insomnia, apnea, narcolepsy, and other sleep disorders. To be able to offer advice, help them get therapy, and in some cases, save their life, it is pretty satisfying. I am lucky to have some pretty cool co-worker friends, too.

My education. For years, my mother begged me to go to college. She had sadly passed away before I finally enrolled in classes. I am grateful to have had some of the finest instructors and professors to guide me and teach me in my journey. Not only did I gain a degree, but I made many new friendships with classmates and teachers. I still hope to one day further my education.

My friends. Napoleon Hill said, “That man is rich indeed who had more friends than enemies…” I am truly a rich man! I am lucky enough to have made many friends throughout my life. Many of them I have known for over 40 years! So many good times! So many good memories! I am thankful for each of them!

My enemies. Yes, my enemies. First of all, they make me more appreciative and thankful for my friends! Second, they actually help me, too. How? Here is a great quote (I wish I knew who said it) “Your enemies evolve you at the core. They force you to defend and endure more than you thought possible.” Yes, my enemies may be full of hatred toward me. They may spread rumors about me. They may discredit me and bash me, but I am stronger because of their ignorance and loathing. Over the last few years, I have gained lots of strength!

My faith. It may not be important to you, but it is to me. I am thankful for God, His Word, His Son, and all that He has done for me. I am thankful for His unconditional love for me. No matter how many times I mess up, He is still there for me – loving me. That just amazes me.

Modern Medicine. We are blessed to live in a time where medical advances are curing diseases and saving lives! While there is a long way to go, and there are still many diseases that need a cure – we continue to make progress. I am thankful for the great minds who strive to find the answers, treatments, and cures. I hope to see cures for things like cancer in my lifetime.

Coffee. I was 12 when my grandpa introduced coffee to me (it was probably more cream and sugar than coffee, but I liked it.) Coffee has helped me through many overnight shifts on the radio, many 12 hour shifts in the sleep lab, and is just perfect to drink on a chilly autumn morning. I am also thankful for some of the wonderful flavors.

My country. I am thankful to live in the United States of America. I am thankful that we live in a country that allows us many freedoms. While I have not visited every state in the union, I can tell you that on a recent road trip, I was in awe of the beauty that I witnessed while driving. I am thankful and proud to be an American!

Cameras/Photographs/Videos. How many precious moments and memories have been captured by cameras? Without cameras how many things would be forgotten? Think about all of the historical pictures that have meant so much over the years. Now think about how looking at old family photos can immediately place you back in that exact moment with loved ones! Think about how awesome it is to watch an old home movie and hear the voices of loved ones who are no longer here. I am SO thankful for the memories that have been preserved for me on film.

I sometimes look like the crazy dad. I seem to always be taking pictures of the kids, but I do that because I want to remember these times. I don’t ever want them not to have pictures of themselves or their relatives.

Dreams and the ability to dream. I am thankful that every now and then, I will have a dream where I am once again talking with my mom or my grandparents. In the original blog, I mentioned that in my Facebook Memories for that day I mentioned a dream I had where I was hanging out with Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin – only in dreams!! The morning of the baby shower, I dreamed about my mom. Dreams are really interesting things!

My Past. Sometimes looking back at the past can be painful. Hindsight is 20/20, right? It’s always easy to look back and see the mistakes you have made and kick yourself for making them. I look at it another way – I am who I am today because of my past. The things that have happened to me along the way – both good and bad – are a part of who I am and have played a role in who I am today. Yes, I can look back and see people or events that disgust me, but without them – I’d be a very different person.

Air Conditioning/Heat. As someone who loves to go to museums and such, I always wondered how people got along without AC in the summertime or heat in the winter! I can’t imagine having to wake up in the middle of the night to add more wood to the fire or wood stove. I also can’t imagine working 8 hours a day in a place without AC! I am very thankful for those two modern-day conveniences!

Sunrises and Sunsets. One of my guilty pleasures is sitting and watching the sun come up or go down. When I lived on the west side of the state (Michigan), I was lucky enough to live right off the water. I would often go to the beach and just watch the sun set over the lake. It was majestic and beautiful! I am so thankful for these two simple things. Today, with my schedule, I tend to see more sunrises than sunsets.

Laughter/Humor. I love to laugh and I love the sound of laughter! I also love to make people laugh. I am so thankful for things that are funny and things that make me laugh. Charlie Chaplin said, “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.” Another great quote is “Life is short. Spend it with people who make you laugh and feel loved.”

Music. I am thankful for music in SO many ways. Music, is one of those things that can evoke all kinds of emotions. A song, just like an old photograph, can take you back in time. In radio, we used to play what we called “Oh Wow” songs. Those songs that make you say, “Oh wow! I haven’t heard that in forever!” or “Oh wow! That reminds me of my senior prom!” Music is one of life’s great things! It can convey things with or without words. One of my favorite quotes, which is attributed to Hans Christian Anderson, is “Where words fail – music speaks.” SO True! I am thankful for some of the many music blogs I follow. They often remind me of some of those “Oh wow” songs!

The Kindness of Strangers. I have benefited from the kindness of strangers more times than I can count. We saw a brief surge of random acts of kindness when the movie “Pay It Forward” came out, and it is a shame that those acts have fizzled out. The world would be a better place if we took a moment and thought of others. There have been plenty of times where someone in front of me has bought my coffee at the drive-thru window, and I have returned the favor. I remember one time seeing an elderly gentleman eating alone in a restaurant. He never knew who I was, but I saw his World War II Veteran hat. I bought his meal and told the waitress to tell him that I thank him for his service. Random acts of kindness are not just something we can accept – they are something we can do.

Those who have served in the Armed Forces. We live in a free country because of the men and women who have served in the various branches of the military. I am thankful to each and every one of them. I know that our freedom came with a price and so many men and women paid the ultimate price for me – and you. Those that have served, no matter what branch and no matter if you were in battle or not, you are a hero! I am thankful for you and your service! I have friends and family who all served, and I am thankful for these heroes!

The Changing Seasons. Here in Michigan, I get to see them all! Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall. The first snowfall is beautiful. Ice storms can be hell! Springtime showers and the grass turning green is a reminder of things becoming new again. Summertime is never long enough, but getting the chance to swim at the pool, golfing, and the smell of fresh-cut grass can always make me smile. Fall is my favorite season! This year we got hit with some early snow, so the joke is that Fall was the best “three days of the year”! The crisp cool air of autumn is perfect for bonfires. I’m sad to admit that we didn’t get to have any bonfires this year. The leaves changing colors makes for some spectacular rides on the highway. At any rate, I am thankful to get to experience each one of the seasons.

Spell Checker. Without this, I really don’t know what I would do! I remember all those spelling tests from school! The problem is, as I get older, I seem to have forgotten how to spell. Spell Check is one of those great features that got me through many a research paper in college. It can also be very helpful here in my blog. Of course, sometimes, you can misspell a word that is the correct spelling of another word, so it isn’t foolproof. I’m thankful for it anyway!

The often overlooked necessities. I could easily make these each an item on this list. I guess these are often things that are taken for granted. For example, my home. I am thankful to have a roof over my head to protect me from the elements. I am thankful for the clothes that I wear. I am thankful for fresh water and hot showers. Those two go together and, while it is often taken for granted, there are those who do not enjoy those simple things. I am thankful for electricity. While there are times I think it is cool to sit and read a book by candlelight because of a power outage, I’d rather have the light – and everything else that uses it. I am thankful for a good meal. Sometimes that meal may consist of a simple bowl of cereal, but the fact that I have food to eat is something that some people don’t have.

Bad Days. As much as we’d rather not have them, it is important to remember that when we have them, they remind us of just how awesome the good days are! I am thankful for bad days, but even more thankful for the good ones! I am also thankful that in the big picture – I have had more good ones than bad ones.

The Internet. It’s funny how we lived so long without it, yet we can’t really live without it today! I mean, without it, you wouldn’t be reading this! I am thankful for it and the good things associated with it. I am thankful to be able to connect with family and friends across the miles with social media. I am thankful that at any moment, I can open up Google and find an answer to a silly question. I am thankful that my kids and I can use it instead of encyclopedias to do research. So many things are at our fingertips because of the internet.

A good book/movie/TV show. I really enjoy being able to get lost in a good story. I love to read, but sadly don’t really get the time to do it as often as I’d like to. Same with a good movie. With movies, there are very few new movies that appeal to me. As most of you know, I prefer older films (you know, the ones that are so good some jerk in Hollywood decides to remake it and ruin it). I don’t need to see 20 minute sex scenes, car chases that are impossible to believe, blood and gore, or violence. I want a good story – and a good story is something that Hollywood has seemed to run out of. When it comes to TV, I rarely watch new shows. Most of them are “reality” based anyway and just garbage. I guess that’s why I am thankful for TV shows on DVD. Ok, last year, I kinda dissed on reality TV, and I should clarify that I mean talent shows, dance shows, and shows with singers in masks. To me, these are just a waste of my time.

My cat. There is no doubt that she is truly my cat. I know she doesn’t bug Sam like she does me. She takes every opportunity to come up by me when I am on the couch, a chair, or in bed. If they kids go to bed and I play my golf game, she is right next to me. She loves for me to pet her. As annoying as she can be, I really love her.

The five senses. I can’t imagine going through life not being able to see my children or my wife or some of the wonderful things I have already described. I can’t imagine not being able to smell fresh coffee brewing or my spaghetti sauce on the stove. I can’t imagine not hearing the sound of my children laughing. I can’t imagine not being able to taste a juicy steak. I can’t imagine not being able to feel a hug from my wife. I am SO thankful to have the ability to have all five senses!

Forgiveness. I am thankful for forgiveness. Sadly, it is one of those things that is rare today. It is, however, one of the great things taught in the Bible and throughout history. It is also one of the hardest things to do. I have trouble with it too on occasion. I am thankful that there are friends and family who have forgiven me for past transgressions.

Acceptance. I am thankful for those people in my life who accept me for who I am. They don’t try to change me. There may be things about me that they don’t like or agree with, but they love and accept me as I am. I try to do the same for others.

Encouragement. I would not be where am I today without the encouragement and support of others. It may have been the smallest gesture or a simple sentence in conversation, but the encouragement of others helped me to get through some tough stuff and I am thankful for that.

Change. This is hard for me to be thankful for, but I am. I have to be honest, I hate change! I am a creature of habit. When I lost 85 pounds, I did it primarily by eating the same meals every day. I do not like change, but I know it is important. There were many times over the last couple years that I had to step out of my comfort zone and accept it. I am thankful I did. Change is good – most of the time.

My Therapist. She, like many others, helped me to cope as life offered many challenges. She helped me sort out some feelings. She helped me to see things that I was completely unaware of. She helped me deal with the things involved in my divorce. She also is responsible for my blogs. I used to blog all the time, but was basically told that “no one wants to read that stuff”. I stopped writing. My therapist is the one who suggested keeping a journal. When I told her I used to blog, she asked why I stopped. When I told her why, she suggested starting back up. I told her I didn’t know what to write about. She basically said, “Write about whatever you want! It doesn’t matter if you are writing for others or writing for yourself. If you like to write – WRITE!” From the length of this blog – you can see that I like to write.

Facebook memories. This is a two-edged sword. It is a daily reminder or good things from the past, as well as times with people no longer in my life. I am thankful for it just the same. Many times it is a simple one liner I posted as a status, while other times it is my thoughts about my boys school events. Some pictures bring back good memories, while others bring back sad memories. I smile at the good ones and try to forget the bad ones, but again remind myself that I am who I am today because of the past.

I once believed that it was ok to let some of those memories pop up every year. However, now, I have found it is better to delete some of the past photos with people from the past. If my kids are in those photos, I leave them, but I have deleted quite a few pictures and posts that mention certain people. Why should I let that crap remind me of when I was miserable.

Pumpkin Pie with Cool Whip. Ok, so I finally had dessert while I was writing this. I love a good piece of pumpkin pie topped with Cool Whip.

YOU. Yep. I am thankful for YOU. You are reading this and I appreciate it. I am thankful for my followers and for those who read my stuff. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for following this blog.

What are YOU thankful for??

Christmas in September

To say that the past few days have been stressful is an understatement. There have been some very good moments and I tried to just take them all in. However, something was on my mind all weekend.

I’m not going to get into detail on that. I could, but I won’t. Let me just state that it is stress related to things outside of my home life. Read into that however you wish.

At any rate, after a particularly emotional and crappy Monday that was the culmination of all the things on my mind, I needed something – anything! My Monday evening walk with the kids helped. I was out in the neighborhood, counting squirrels, saying hello to our “puppy friends” and listening to AJ babble and Ella sing.

Sam knew the weekend and Monday had taken a toll on me. She never said it was her plan, but she suggested taking a trip to Bronner’s in Frankenmuth to look for our annual “ornament hunt.” Bronner’s is “The World’s Largest Christmas Store” and I have blogged about it before. You can read about that here:

We packed the family up in the car after Sam got home and we made the short drive there. It was the perfect day to go. Tuesday morning in September. Sure, there were people there, but not the normal crowd that is there. The sounds of Christmas music were playing through the outside speakers as we walked in.

(Johnny Mathis’ version of Marshmallow World was playing as I walked in. I found myself thinking that the Dean Martin version is FAR superior to this version. As a bonus, Dean’s version played before we left!)

I hadn’t thought about it but this was Andrew’s first trip to Bronner’s. He was in awe of all the lights and him and Ella were anxious to touch everything!!

Every year, we get an ornament that marks some big event that happened in the past year. We have an engagement ornament, a marriage ornament, a mother-to-be ornament, and two “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments. So what big event could we commemorate this year?

Neither one of us changed jobs. We didn’t get a new house or new car. Now that I think about it, the only big thing that happened this year was my vasectomy! I doubt they had an ornament for that, but then again, they have thousands of ornaments for just about every thing! They probably DO have something for that!!! Maybe I will call and ask …

Instead of an ornament, we got a snowman family plaque. You have probably seen what I am talking about. It has mom, dad, and snow-kids.

The one above is not the one we got, but it is similar. So we had them put our family name on it and then each of the snow kids had their name written on them. It came out really cute and we’ll either put it on the mantel or hang it on the main entry door.

Next year, Sam has said that she wants the kids to go and each pick out their own ornaments. I think that is a great idea and a good way to make it a tradition. We want them to have that experience and then every year when the holiday rolls around, they can look back on the ornaments and relive memories.

The kids were both getting a bit antsy, so as soon as the plaque was personalized, we headed out. We stopped for photo ops and walked outside. As we exited the building, there was a huge Santa Claus. Andrew saw it and began to point to it. It was a perfect (and frame worthy) photo.

It was just want I needed to get my mind off all that transpired over the past few days. A welcome distraction with those that I love.

One thing is for sure. Despite all the feelings that are churning around inside me, especially as I think about things, I think on the reasons why I keep going. The people who mean the most to me. I think of my wife and her never ending support and love. I think of my two older sons, and of course, the two little blessings who accompanied me on our trip to “Christmas in September” …

THEY are why I continue to do what I do. THEY are the reason I need to focus on getting healthy. THEY are the reason I am happy.

Hardly Prepared For The Real World

I have made it no secret that Math (Algebra in particular) is NOT my best subject. I did poorly in my high school algebra classes. Yes, I did pass the college Algebra classes I had to take, but it was harder than I could have imagined. It didn’t help that I hadn’t looked at an algebra problem in almost 30 years.

Luckily, my oldest son only needed my help a few times with his math stuff when he was in school. My middle son, on the other hand, brought home some really tough stuff from his summer school class last month. I really struggled to help him. I had my college books, my college notes, store bought aids, and even a friend who is good at math all at my disposal, but nothing really helped. He squeaked by … just barely.

I want to go on record stating that I never really had a problem with basic math. Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division and other basics like finding percentages, figuring out mileage, counting money and making change and balancing checkbooks were all things I did well with. Those basic things are still taught in school today, yet it doesn’t seem to be something people are retaining.

Case in Point:

Normally, before work I would make a pot of coffee and bring a cup with me in the car on my way in. Today, I forgot to make some, so I drove through the local Tim Horton’s to get one. Most of the time, I would just hand the person at the window my debit card and the transaction would be complete. Today that was not the case.

They are usually pretty quick at Timmy’s, but something seemed to be slowing the line today. There were two cars ahead of me. I saw them pass an iced coffee to the first car and they drove off. The car in front of me tendered their money and the wait began. Almost five minutes later, a hand reached out with their change and then passed out a small coffee cup.

I wondered if the customer was waiting because they had to brew a new pot of coffee. Or maybe they were changing cashiers and they were switching out the till. It just seemed weird that it took that long to get a cup of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate for that matter.) When I got the the window, things became clear.

It was obvious that the gal at the window was a new employee and in training. She was having a discussion with the manager before she even opened the window. Directly to her right was my coffee. It was ready to be handed to me as soon as the money changed hands. I was paying cash, so it shouldn’t be too difficult, right?? Wrong.

When she finally opened the window, she told me that I owed $2.85. I order the same thing every time, so I had $3.00 ready and handed it to her. She typed into the register what I handed her and she placed the three $1 bills in the tray with the others and stopped. She stood staring at the till.

My change was 15 cents. For some reason this seemed to stump that gal at the window. She looked at the till, then at her manager. The window was open, so I could hear their conversation. The manager said, “He gave you three dollars. You owe him 15 cents.” She stood there looking stumped. The manager pointed to each one of the compartments at the bottom of the drawer saying, “There you have 25, 10, 5 and 1.”

Is real money such a new thing to this gal? Has she never seen a dime before? The whole thing was like something out of the Twilight Zone! The manager literally told her “give him a dime and a nickel.” She could have given me a dime and five pennies, two nickels and five pennies, three nickels, or 15 pennies – I didn’t even care if I got my change! Honestly, I would have drove off without the change if they had handed me the coffee!

Finally, this gal delicately grabbed a dime and a nickel and handed it to me with my receipt. She told me to have a good day and stared at me. She obviously wondered why I hadn’t left yet. Her manager said, “I’m sure he would like the coffee he just ordered.” I’m not sure how much longer she stared at me, but eventually, the manager grabbed my coffee and handed it to her and she finally passed it out the window to me.

As I drove off, I looked at the 4 cars that were behind me wondering how much longer each of them would have to wait. I also wondered what kind of grades this 30 something year old gal got in high school math class ….

Celebrating My Children!

In the Bible, in Psalm 127:3-5, it reads:

“(3) Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. (4) As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. (5) Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them”

My quiver has been blessed four times! I am certainly a lucky man to have been chosen by God to be a father to my children. Each of them, different in their own special way, fill my heart and soul.

Dimitri (holding Andrew), Ella, and Dante’

Dante’

My first born. He’s the one who made me “dad” for the first time. He is probably the most like me. He has a love for old music, old movies, and loves information on older celebrities. He is loud and boisterous at times, but is also a gentle soul who loves to help people. His random acts of kindness make me so proud of him. He’s a hard worker who loves to have fun and loves to be surrounded by friends. In a sense, he is my “Mini-Me.” He is currently studying hard with college and continues to thrive!

Dimitri

My second born. He is also a bit like me, but in another way. Now a high schooler, I see him mimicking many of my study “habits,” which is probably not good. I was the same way – waiting till the last minute to do homework or projects, forgetting to do things I need to and only doing the things that I WANTED to do, and never really studying like I should. I try to use those things as “teaching opportunities” with him. He is, however, a typical teenager right now. He is learning how to golf, so I cannot wait to go play a round (and rounds) with him. He has a bright future and in the years ahead, I know he will do great things!

Not unless there is a miracle

After some tests, I was asked if I was done having children. At the time, I was. The doctor said this was good, because based on the test results, I only had about a 4% chance of ever having more children.

After my divorce, and after I remarried, my wife and I discussed children. She is younger than me and wanted children. Knowing what I knew, it would take a miracle to have more. We discussed adoption at one point and even looked into other methods of getting pregnant. Then the miracle came ….

Ella

I will never forget the day Sam told me that we were having a baby. I will never forget they day we found out that our miracle was going to be a girl! I will never forget the day that she was born. For some reason, God decided that I would once again be a daddy and he sent me this beautiful little girl. What a joy it was to relive the first tooth, the first steps, the first words, and all the things that come with having a baby. She is so smart!! She excels at so many things! She her laughter is music to my ears. When she breaks out in song, I could listen all day. I love our moments playing Little People, reading books, and watching Bluey together. She is my sweet princess and I look forward to those special daddy/daughter moments.

Andrew

Another miracle! Ella was about a year old when we found out that Sam was once again expecting. It was truly a huge surprise to both of us! He is the opposite of Ella in so many ways. We never had to baby proof anything with her, but he is always into something. He is WAY ahead of where he should be. He was walking early and no doubt will be talking early. He is doing all he can to keep up with his sister. He is one of the happiest babies. There is something about his smile that just makes everything better. His laughter is just as musical as Ella’s. His first year is flying by and I look forward to teaching him to throw a baseball and those great father/son things.

My dear children –

Thank you for each being so special to me. I am so honored to be your father. I love you with every ounce of my being. I hope that I will live up to the responsibility that God has given me to teach you, to raise you, and to prepare you for life. In the time ahead, I will be happy to listen to you, to help you, or to give advice. I promise to be here for you till the end of my days.

Love always,

Dad

Her Name Up In Lights – Sort Of

There is never a dull moment at our house! It was a weekend full of some really memorable moments.

Saturday was a laid back kind of day. After dinner, I took the kids for a walk around the neighborhood. It was a bit warm and I was sweating pretty good afterwards. I knew that if I was hot, the kids were probably hot, so I grabbed the hose and let them play with their water table.

Normally, I’d put them in their bathing suits, but I just let them get wet. They had so much fun. The only bad thing is that at that hour of the day, the sun is blocked by the trees, so they were in the shade. Combine that with the fact that the hose water is ice cold, and it didn’t take long before they were shivering!

We have hardwood floors in the house, so I had to mop up the puddles after I stripped them down. By the time it was bed time, they were both pretty tuckered out.

One of the most “exciting” moments of the weekend was provided by Andrew. Ever since he started walking, Sam and I are always chasing him. He get’s into everything. He is so fast, too. You take something away, turn your back, and when you see him 2 seconds later, he has something else he isn’t supposed to have.

We actually started calling him Bamm Bamm because he is forever banging stuff. He’s our little strong man. It’s hilarious to hear Ella yell, “Here comes Bamm Bamm” when ever he walks into the room.

Walking and exploring comes with bumps and bruises. When he was wearing his helmet, it took most of the bumps. Now that he is walking and helmetless, the potential to get hurt is much greater. Case in point (and the “exciting” moment I mentioned a bit ago), He was in our bedroom as Sam was getting ready for work. We’re not sure exactly what he tripped on, but he fell against the bed.

He hit so close to his eye and actually got a nice scrape which was bleeding. We couldn’t really tell how bad he cut was, but it led to a trip to the Urgent Care/ER. I swear, we have been there more times with him in 8 months than with Ella in her lifetime! Thank goodness the cut didn’t reach his eyeball.

The picture doesn’t do it justice. It looked much worse when I left the house to go. By the time we actually saw the doctor, I felt stupid being there. It started to look much better and he was acting normal.

Monday, Andrew turned 9 months old. I don’t remember picture taking being as difficult with Ella. Sure when she was like 11 months, she wanted to movie around a lot, but we always got more than one or two good pictures. I feel like we are lucky to get 1 good picture of him when we try to pose him.

We had taken about 7 pictures of him in his crib with the sign, and later I tried to get a few of him sitting on a living room chair. I had more luck here.

You probably remember my story about the stroller’s front wheel coming off our double stroller a week or so ago. Sam has been on the hunt for this wagon/stroller and decided to just get it. Let me tell you, I absolutely love it. It is so easy to push and it handles all terrains pretty well.

There is an ice cream place by us that does the coolest thing. Every day, a new name gets put up on the board out front. If you have that name, you get a free ice cream cone. Sam and I both follow their Facebook page, and she actually saw it first – Ella’s name was up there on Monday!

After our walk, I took her, Andrew and Dimitri out so she could get her free ice cream. She told me that she wanted chocolate, and I told her that I would make sure she got some! Upon arriving, we did what all the other Ella’s did – got her picture in front of the sign!

The funniest thing was that there were probably 3-4 other parents sitting outside calling their own “Ella’s” for various reasons. Every time she heard her name, she’d look at whoever called it. I had to keep telling her “she wants HER Ella, baby, not you.” When I called her name, another mom had to tell HER Ella the same thing.

Of course, Andrew loved every bit of his vanilla ice cream. I think I wound up wearing a little less than he ate,

I treasure each moment with my kids. I am so grateful to be their dad.

My Heart is Full

Recently I posted a blog that was difficult to write. It was regarding some things with my son. It dealt with some hurt I was sorting through. I am happy to say that I was able to see him today.

He is currently having difficulty with a summer school math class. He asked if he could come over and see if I could help him. I told him that I would do my best, but math – algebra, in particular – was certainly not by best subject.

Last night at work, I had a patient who was a no-show. Honestly, I wanted to pack up and head home immediately. However, there were studies that needed to be scored and submitted, so I stayed and did that. I was able to leave work about two hours early. When I got home everyone was still sleeping, and rather than crawl in bed with Sam (who had Andrew sleeping next to her), I went out to the couch and fell asleep.

When they woke up, they came out and woke me up. I helped Sam with some things and then went to bed so that I could at least have some sleep before my son arrived. I had told my ex to bring him over at around the kid’s nap time so that I could work with him. To my surprise, my oldest son wound up bringing him over.

We got to spend a bit talking about some things that needed to be addressed (some of the things in the previous blog), and just catching up. My oldest son was going to meet me at where we normally do drop off and pick up later this evening.

My son and I spent about 3 and a half hours looking at problems and searching my old college algebra books to see if we could figure out how to do them. I even called my buddy from school who is my “go to” math guy a couple times to see if he could help. We didn’t do fantastic, and I hope that it is good enough for him to pass the class.

Sam left for work about 5:30 and I packed up the kids around 6 to head to the drop off. When I arrived, my son was already there. He is in college, has a job, and is always with his friends, so Ella and Andrew rarely get to see him. Ella knows who he is because of pictures on the wall. She prays every night for her big and little brothers.

She was in her car seat and I rolled her window down so she could say hello. She asked to get out because she wanted to hug my oldest. Is was so cute. I naturally took Andrew out of his seat too, because my son wanted to hold him. He commented that he had the bluest eyes. He was surprised when I told him he was walking. I told him they are getting big very fast and he should come over to visit more.

It was the first opportunity in forever that all four of my kids were together in one place. My oldest tried to snap a selfie, which was cute, but I wanted a picture of all of them.

We found a place in the parking lot where they could all sit and after a few tries to get everyone looking at the camera – I got one. It is perfect. All four of them together.

My blessings – Andrew, Dimitri, Ella, and Dante’

I am overwhelmed with joy as I look at this photo. I never really understood unconditional love until I became a father. I understand how God loves me, despite all of my faults and screw-ups, unconditionally. I understand it, because, I will always love these amazing kids that way – no matter what.

One of the coolest moments happened after the picture was taken. I mentioned to Ella that the boys had to get going because they were going to stop by a classic car show. She said ok, and when they stood up, as my oldest began to walk, she ran up to him and grabbed his hand and held it all the way to the car!

I was so glad I still had my phone in my hand so I could capture it. He helped her into her car seat and actually buckled her in as I got Andrew in his seat. She looked at him and said, “I love you, Dante’!” which I think really took him by surprise. He said “I love you, too!” and then she told Dimitri she loved him too. What an amazing moment to witness. They both went to Andrew and and he smiled at them, before we all got in our cars and left to go home.

After we video chatted with mommy at work, we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. Ella was excited because she got to see 4 puppies who were out walking while we were. She had to get out of her seat and say hello to them all!

We came home and it was bedtime, so I helped her brush her teeth ad within minutes of hitting the pillow, she was asleep. Andrew took a bit longer to fall asleep. As soon as they were down, I fixed a salad and began typing this. I’ve only had 3 hours sleep today and really should have just gone to bed …. However, I wanted to share my happiness while I was still smiling about it.

Tonight, I head to bed with a heart full of love, joy, gratitude, understanding, and happiness!

Thanks for reading.

My Father’s Day Weekend

Father’s Day began for me on Saturday morning. We celebrated Saturday because Sam had to work on Sunday.

When I returned home from work, my kids were already up and waiting. Sam had texted me that Ella was anxious for me to come home to get my present. Ella was excited because she had seen something in the store and wanted to get it for me weeks ago. Same ordered it online so it would be here for Father’s Day.

Ella and Andrew got to play with markers (which only happens on special occasions) and decorate the gift bag my gifts would be in. She was so happy to hand me the bag.

She waited for me to reach into the bag and could hardly contain herself. When I pulled out her gift to me, she shrieked with excitement! It was really the perfect gift.

We watch Bluey together all the time. It is probably my favorite cartoon that she watches. Bandit, the dad on the show, is what ALL dad’s should be! He’s awesome. This book is just wonderful. We read it before bed last night. I don’t know who was happier about this book – Ella or me!

Andrew got some help from mommy with his gift. As I have mentioned, I’m an older dad. One of the reasons I started this blog was to write my memories and such so that in the event something happens, the memories are here. Sam took it a step further for Andrews’s gift to me.

I’m not sure who came up with the idea for books like this, but they are great. I had originally gotten one of these for my mom to fill out before she passed. She was just too sick and too tired to ever really do it. I wish she’d been able to do that.

At any rate, there are a lot of thought provoking questions in this book and Sam thought I could take it with me to work and fill it in when I was on breaks and such. I love the idea!

After nap time, the family drove up the road to look for some new pajamas for Ella. She’s starting to not fit in her current ones. We went to the Carter’s store and looked around. She was forever handing Sam and I things for Andrew or herself that she found on a rack somewhere. The funniest thing of the trip was a foreshadowing of Ella in her teen and adult years. She kept asking for shoes and even began to make a pile of ones she wanted!

Just the beginning …..

After our shopping trip we came home and made dinner. I didn’t want Sam to have to take me out anywhere, so we made chicken on the grill. We also made corn on the cob and other sides. It was the perfect way to wrap up the day.

I was out grilling the chicken and I was using a brush to put BBQ sauce on a few of the pieces of chicken.

As I am doing this, Ella is standing there watching me. She see’s me dipping the brush into the BBQ sauce and putting it on the chicken. She then says, “Daddy! You’re painting!” Priceless!

Sam kept telling Ella to say, “Happy Father’s Day” to me and it kept coming out “Happy Mother’s Day” which just made me laugh even more.

On Sunday, or “Father’s Day in real life,” as Bluey might say, we had a wonderful breakfast. I made everyone eggs, sausage, and fruit. Ella stated that it was “Deeee-lish-ous!”

We called my dad to wish him Happy Father’s Day. My oldest son called me to wish me the same. Sadly, I never heard from my second oldest son. That’s a whole blog in itself and I will spare you those details for now.

After Andrew’s nap, I decided to take the kids to the Barnes and Noble. I wasn’t sure that there was anything I wanted for myself, but I though we could pick up some new books for them.

While we were walking Ella and I were just talking. Andrew was in the stroller and Ella was walking next to me. I don’t remember what we were saying, but a woman stopped me and said that she wished she had videoed the exchange we were having. She said she was very impressed with how we were interacting. She reminded me of a teacher or something. Ella then said hello, grabbed a puzzle with dogs on the box and showed the lady.

The lady, without skipping a beat, got down on the ground and they counted dogs together, asked about the colors of the dogs, and talked about what “doggies say.” It was so cool to see. She thanked Ella for showing her and Ella put the puzzle back. The lady was so impressed with how polite Ella was. Proud parent moment.

After we got home, we had lunch. Sam took Andrew into our room when it was his nap time. Sam suggested that since one of the local ice cream places had free cones for dads on Father’s day, we should go. We wound up going somewhere a bit closer, but it still worked out because dads got a free scoop of ice cream there, too!

Ice cream is not exactly on Weight Watchers, but I had some anyway and ate carefully the rest of the day. Ella asked for “white ice cream with sprinkles” and that is what she got!

Dad may or may not have had to help her on occasion because it was melting faster than she could eat it!

She talked to everyone who came to the ice cream place! She recommended getting banana ice cream to many, even though she was eating vanilla. She was a real hoot. The owner came out and asked how her ice cream was and she said it was the “best ice cream ever!”

After the ice cream, dad decided to walk the neighborhood. Sunday, she didn’t want to ride in the stroller. So we walked together. The workout was a bit less intense than I had hoped.

About half way through the walk she tripped and skinned her knee pretty bad. So I wound up picking her up and finishing the walk with her on my shoulders. That brought the heart rate up a bit and I probably burned off about half of the ice cream calories!

When Sam left for work, it was just me and the kids. We were playing on the “nugget” and having a blast. Andrew was climbing up like nobody’s business. Once he was on the top, he would start to walk off it. Most of the time, I was there to catch him. There were a couple times where he’d do this little stuntman fall. He is fearless!

Thank you to my wife and my kids for making the weekend such a special one for me!

A Fun and Busy Weekend

To say this weekend was not a hectic one would be a lie. In all honesty, the entire month has been busy for Sam and me. Sam has been running back and forth to various doc appointments and helmet appointments, plus helping her folks out with her sister. Both of us are running on little to no sleep. How we are making in through our nights at work and our days at home, I really have no idea.

Sam was up early on Saturday. I cam home and slept about 3 hours before having to get up and get my son. I picked him up at his mom’s house and then we drove to Sam’s parents’ house. She was there with Ella and Andrew helping out with her sister. I picked up Ella and came back home.

It was beautiful on Saturday! There was a lot of sunshine and it was close to 80 degrees. Ella wanted to play outside, so she ran around the yard playing with her toys as Dimitri and I worked on a couple projects. The biggest project was the swing set that Sam bought for the kids. It took about 3 hours to put together and I was pretty impressed with it.

Back in the day, I remember my dad having to dig or drill holes for the swing set poles to set into. Then he’d have to pour cement in them and it had to dry before we could use it. This set was neat. It had “shoes” that went on the bottom of each leg. There was a stake that you “screwed” into the ground and then you bolted the shoe to the stake. That thing is solid, let me tell you! I was pretty impressed.

Ella loves going to the park and swinging on the swings and Andrew had never been on one. We ordered a toddler swing to go put on it (it came with one) so both kids could swing at the same time. They absolutely loved it!!

The kids got to swing for a bit and then we went in and had dinner. We all went to bed early, because we were all wiped out.

Sam had to work Sunday, so she was up for a bit and then went back to try to get some sleep. So I decided to take the kids for a walk before it rained. Ella wanted to take her baby doll for a walk too. So I loaded up Andrew in the double stroller and she grabbed her baby doll and we walked the neighborhood.

What made me really smile was to see the people who were passing by in cars looking at Ella, waving at her and smiling. It was awesome. She really enjoyed being able to walk her baby. After we got home, we played outside for a while. Andrew was so interested in everything. He loved just playing around on the blanket out on the lawn.

I had planned on Dimitri staying until the evening, but I guess he had some dinner to go to. So Dante’ came to pick him up and take him to the dinner. Dante’ is working a lot and going to college, so it is rare for me to see them both together. Even though it was just for a few minutes, it was nice to have them both there. I had to fight them to get them to pose for a picture!

Dimitri helped me put the swing set together and also helped me take down the remainder of the Christmas lights. Yes, I know, it is almost May! That should tell you just how crazy life has been our way. On the days I wanted to get out and do it, it was either freezing, raining, and most recently – snowing! I’m glad they are finally down!

He also helped me move some furniture around. Andrew is having some separation issues. It has been a challenge to do anything without him attached to us. If we are not in the same room with him, he loses it. He’s never really slept well if it isn’t in our arms or in our bed. So we moved the crib to our bedroom, got him his own sound machine, and hoped that he’d start sleeping in it.

Yep. That’s his crib … at the end of our bed! I’m really hoping that he gets into that crib sooner than later. Sam and I would welcome a night of sleep without getting a helmet to the head or kicks in the stomach.

Finally, some big news that is NOT family related…

As a life long Detroit Tiger Fan, it was very cool to hear that Miguel Cabrera joined an elite club on Saturday. He got his 3000th hit! Miggy has certainly made baseball fun to watch here in Michigan. Now, we just need to get back to the World Series – and win it! Congrats, Miggy!!