Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Blog Year in Review

It was a wild ride in 2013!

As has become a sort of tradition here at Luke, I am Your Father,  I will be bidding adieu to the current year with a feature highlighting my favorite posts of 2013, month by month.

The stories below aren't necessarily my most visited posts of the year, just my favorite for the given month. And, unless you have been a die-hard reader of this blog for at least the past 12 months (hi Mom), there is a good chance you might have missed a few, or many, of these posts.

Before I start the list, I'll just state the obvious.  2013 was the year that Annabelle happened in the LIAYF household. We brought our daughter home in late December 2012, but it was during the past year where we really got to know what her personality was like.  I'll give you a hint: We laughed a lot more around here in the past year.  And that was a tall order.

Lukas is still his amazing self - a force of comedic, loving, empathetic nature.  Now though, he has a sibling to direct a generous portion of this goodness towards.  Life is good here.

I hope you see that reflected in these stories.  Let me know what you think, and if you had a favorite.  Also feel free to share one of your own.

January ~ The Dark Knight Falleth :  White Nights, Dark Knights, and an epic battle by one dad to juggle two kids with competing demands.

February ~ Lance, A-Rod & Me : Where I come clean about my use of PED's.

March ~ Makin' Banana Pancakes : Where I talk of family traditions and a labor of love.

April ~ Sibling Revelry : It was apparent from the moment we brought Annabelle home, that our kids would form a lifetime bond.

May ~ The Daddy Chair: Where we discover a most unusual method of communication from our infant daughter, and the benefits it has in forming sibling relationships.

June ~ I want Scarves for Father's Day :  These are very special scarves, and I wear them both daily.

July ~ The Sucker Dad's guide to Not Surviving a Hike :  Yes, I am a sucker for a cute kid, and this one could have cost me.  But it didn't.

August ~ Han Solo Shot :  Read it.  Laugh it up.

September ~ Then We Battled the Ocean:  Perhaps my favorite post of 2013.  Sometimes you just have to let things go and have fun.

October ~ 1 is the Happiest Number: Proof we survived, once again, the tumultuous first year.  We celebrated, but we won't be doing that again.

November ~ It Happens, with an Sh:  A rather crappy night, ends well.

December ~ Thinking Small: What would you do with a Hundred Bazillion dollars?  Lukas, wouldn't do that.

Honorable Mention ~

Long Term Project:  I forego the annoying list of house projects once again, to focus on a couple long term projects, and enjoy myself along the way.

10 Things You Can't Baby Proof Once Mobility Happens: These are meant to be funny, but are also TRUE.

Friday, December 27, 2013

10 Things You Can't Baby-Proof Once Mobility Happens

My, my, my baby gets me so tired
Makes me say "Oh, my Lord"
Thank you for blessing me, but...
She's got a mind on crime with two tiny feet
You can't proof this! apologies to MC Hammer.

Now that our Annabelle is walking in earnest, she is a force to be reckoned with.  First crawling, then cruising, and now walking. This girl is fast, determined to get into EVERYTHING, and wearing me out.
"Muh!, Muh!

What am I having trouble baby-proofing?  Well, everything really.  But I made a list of 10 things that so far I, and I am imagining most people, can't baby proof once the kidos become mobile.  Check them out below. Do they apply to you too?

10.  The Christmas Tree ~ I know, this is seasonal and won't be a problem for long.  Hence, it's only #10.  But short of putting a baby gate completely around the tree it's almost impossible to baby proof.   We have had to hang all the breakable ornaments above her reach, leaving the ones "less special" to adorn the lower branches.  But you can't do that with lights!  They have to cover the entire tree, and they are SHINY and PRETTY.  This is a problem, especially when the baby keeps doing her Frankenbaby walk towards them with a finger outstretched, saying "Muh!" "Muh".

9.  The Cat ~ Let's assume for a second you have a cat. If it's an intelligent cat, this is not a problem for move on to #8.  On the other hand, if you have a less than intelligent cat, or like us, one that is so starved for attention that it would rather have it's fur yanked out in hand sized clumps by a giggling baby than avoid her, then it can be an issue.  You might even have to keep on constant alert for the sound of a squealing feline who has not been declawed, and whose tail is being yanked on.  In such cases you will need to intercede. Likely often.

8.  The Entertainment Center ~  Unfortunately One Step Ahead doesn't make latches for magnetized glass doors on entertainment centers, especially ones which have not been latching properly for any number of years. One could, in such a situation, duct tape the glass door closed to keep the baby from getting to your CD collection and reeking havoc. Warning: There will come a day when she figures out a way around this and grabs your new Pearl Jam disc and chews on it.  This will be a less than stellar day.

7.  The Bathroom  ~  The bathroom has any number of hazards for a mobile baby.  Hazards such as a toilet, a trash can, cat food, and cat water (see #9).  Of course, you can keep the door to the bathroom closed.  However, you never realize how many trips to the bathroom your family takes in a day until you have a mobile baby and one of you forgets to close the door on several occasions leaving the baby open to toddle in and head straight for the toilet, or alternatively try out the flavor of the cat food (or dump the cat water onto herself, necessitating a full change of clothing, just as you are set to leave the house for an appointment).

6.  The LEGO's ~  As amazing a toy as a set of LEGO's is, each piece is a choking hazard to an baby.  We have about a billion choking hazards lying around our house.  And, no matter how hard we try to isolate these tiny plastic bricks to non baby areas, inevitably they end up adorning the very floor she is walking on.  Unfortunately "What's in her mouth?!!" has become a common phrase uttered around our household.

5. The Kid Chairs  ~ Once a  baby becomes mobile, if you have any small chairs around for your older kids to use these become a hazard.  Especially when a baby climbs up onto them and brings herself to a standing position, while not comprehending that the next step will find her tumbling off, culminating with a face plant onto the wooden floor.  Said face plant does not deter the climbing of said chair over and over again.  Here, we have even resorted to hiding them in the bathroom.

4. The Refrigerator ~  With a mobile baby in the house, simply opening the fridge can be an exercise fraught with peril.  Say you are putting away some groceries, and from behind you you hear the distinct pattering of tiny feet approaching quickly.  You have to ask yourself "What's on the bottom shelf", and "Am I prepared to pull her away from it, causing an inevitable scream?"   Sure, you will successfully get the door closed most of the time, but do you realize how many times you open a refrigerator in any given day? (see #7).  Ultimately you will turn around and the baby will be toddling off quickly with a jar of pickles.

3.  The Kitchen Cabinets ~  Sure, you can put safety latches on those bottom cabinets, including the Lazy Susan,  Inevitably, you will fail to latch them, and the baby will get into that cabinet and shake a bottle of toxic Goo Gone up and down before trying to chew the cap.  Just hope you are watching at the time.

2.  The Dishwasher  ~  What is more enticing to a baby then an open dishwasher with all that shiny silverware, and noisy glass and ceramic ware? Apparently not much, because every time I open ours to load or unload these items, Annabelle makes a B-Line right for it.  If I am not slamming it closed just in the nick of time, I am instead grabbing her and depositing her across the room.  For the record, this does no good.  She is usually back before I can replace another plate... and usually grabbing for a kitchen knife. 

1.  The Stairs ~  Sure, you can put a baby gate at the top of the stairs, but what if your stairs fan out at the bottom?  How do you keep your now mobile and climbing baby from wandering off and climbing those suckers nearly every time you turn around?  Well, you don't. Annabelle is making a run at them constantly, usually carrying one of Lukas' shoes along with her (we don't know, so don't ask).  

Ultimately, we can't proof that!

If you are like Mrs. LIAYF and I, you just have to follow your newly mobile baby around as closely as possible, try to distract her with something more interesting when you find her in one of the above situations, and hope that you survive this developmental phase without anything being broken, injured, or cut in the process.

Because, of course, there are certain things you just can't proof.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Wrap

Kissing opportunity courtesy of Annabelle.

Merry Christmas all, from sunny Seattle, WA.   Well, at least it was sunny for a while, and fairly mild with highs in the mid 40's.  Not exactly a White Christmas, but I'll take it.

Christmas 2013 in the LIAYF household was filled with lots of music, food, excitement, laughter, and love.

Here are a few of the highlights from the past couple of days:

Lukas Wrote his Santa Letter on Monday.  You can see that he worked super hard on it, and also included a section mentioning what Annabelle would like.  I love that boy.

A labor of love...and hope.

Then we delivered it just in the 'Nick' of time.  Yeah, I know that's not funny.

Overnight this one please.

After that we got to visit with Santa.  Not the real Santa, who was getting the letter, but one of his helper Santas. (And a very good one, I might add).  Annabelle screamed and cried at first, but then Lukas held her hand and, as you can see, she calmed.

"Hold my hand, Brutha!"

You can see how much Annabelle has grown, compared to last year:

When this year's Santa asked what Lukas wanted for Christmas he said "I want a watch for Christmas"  Santa, not hearing him very well seemed a bit incredulous.  "You want a LOT for Christmas?" he asked.  "No, I want a WATCH" Lukas corrected him.  It was pretty funny to witness.

Then, after spending a very enjoyable Christmas Eve with Grandma, Grandpa, and the rest of the extended family at the farm (where, unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures), we woke up this morning to a tree under which many presents were waiting to be opened.

The kids, of course, wasted little time on this endeavor:

Yes, he did get a Luke Skywalker LEGO watch from Santa

Annabelle eyeing new things to run off with.

Afterwards, it was a lot of lounging around the house, eating, cleaning, building LEGO, preparing dinner and enjoying our gifts.  Although I did have to go out and get a prescription filled to take care of another unexpected Christmas gift.  But hey, we have kids in the house, and I am the last to get this particular bug.

Good times.

But really, it was only a small distraction.  The day was so much fun aside from the illnesses.

I have to say, having Annabelle mobile this Christmas has been a lot of fun.  Last year she was just a tiny thing and slept through most of the festivities.  But this year, although she didn't fully comprehend what was going on, she sure seemed to enjoy all of the new things in the house that she could make off with.

The Tutu is a gift picked out by Lukas.

It really was a wonderful Christmas here.  There is no better way to put it.  Having young children in the house is pure joy!

I hope your holiday's have been equally as wonderful.

And to all a goodnight.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thinking Small

I was out walking with Lukas last weekend - correction, I was walking while he was zipping back and forth past me on his Razor scooter - when he saw something shiny on the ground.  He thought it was a coin.

Turns out, it wasn't a coin.  Just some sort of trash that looked coinish (I'm making up words here, just roll with it) while scooting by at high speed.  Anyway, he was only slightly disappointed that the shiny piece of rubbish wasn't money.

More so, it got him thinking.

"I wish I found a hundred bazillion dollars dad."  he let me know.

For the record, I'm not sure where a bazillion falls on the money scale.  Is it more than a 'ga'zillion? Or less?   I'm guessing more because, friends, I think big.

Lukas? Not so much.

"Oh yeah" I responded.  "If you had a hundred bazillion dollars, what would you buy with it?"

"I don't know.....maybe some new Lego sets"  He clearly hadn't given this much thought.

"What else Buddy?  A hundred bazillion is a LOT of money".  I was trying to prompt him.

"Hmmmmm......"  he was really thinking about this.  "Maybe another app for the Kindle?" he offered.

"That would still leave an awful lot of money.  There has to be something else you might want to use it for." I was only slightly pressing him on this.  I was curious by now.

Would he pay off the mortgage?  Send us all on a vacation back to Lego Land?  Set up a college fund? Donate to the endangered Pandas of China?

As it turns out, none of those things were on his list.  Instead of thinking big, it turns out he continued to think small.  Very small.

"Well,  I would make sure that Annabelle had everything she needed dad.  I know she needs some new shirts.  Maybe I would buy some shirts for Annabelle."

Shirts?  I was thinking to myself that maybe paying for her daycare would have been nice.  But shirts or daycare, he was still thinking of his sister and how he could help her out.

"You're a good brother Lukas".   I responded as I patted his helmet.

And with that, he zoomed away on his Razor.  Once again leaving me a richer person for being his dad.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013 Best Albums Post

My favorite Album of 2013

There has been a lot of speculation in recent years that with the advent of music in a digital format, the album, or music released by one artist in a collection, would eventually become a thing of the past. Well thankfully, as 2013 draws to a close, that hasn't happened yet.  I, for one, love to listen to a group of songs cohesively put together by bands/artists which can give me an enjoyable listening experience lasting longer than 3-5 minutes.  And, as far a new music goes, 2013 has not disappointed.

I'll admit, the title of this post is a bit of a misnomer.  Are these the BEST albums released in 2013? Everyone, of course, will have their own opinion.  For instance as I scanned the best of lists by some of the major music publications (Rolling Stone, Paste, Spin, NPR Music), there was almost no consensus on the to 50 albums of 2013, much less the top 10.

What it boils down to is personal preference.  And the 15 albums below are the ones I found myself going back to time and again in the past year.  Ones that were for one reason or another compelling to me.

With that, I present the top 15 albums of 2013.  Let me know what you think, and please post yours in the comment section.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Oh Scary Tree

It's that time of year readers.  And despite illness, we were feeling the holiday spirit in the LIAYF household.

We put up our Christmas tree this past weekend.  Usually this is a family affair, where the whole clan gather up, don our Winter apparel, and drive out to the National forest to cut down the perfect tree.  No worries, we always make sure we shake out any nests that are lodged in the branches before we head home.

Okay, truth?  We actually take the red wagon around the corner to the local nursery, where we pay exorbitant city prices for a beautiful Noble Fir.  This way we don't have to drive anywhere on the weekend. It's not as lame as it sounds.  Really.

As I mentioned, usually this is what happens.  This year?  Well, since everyone else in the family was sick and feverish, I had to handle the epic quest for the perfect tree alone.  Not to worry though, as it took me all of about 20 minutes.  That's door to door.

And I really did end up with a pretty good tree too, despite my skeptics who were both full of helpful advice as I was leaving.  Point to Dad!

For the most part the tree was a huge hit once I got it home too.  There was one little set back though. Small really.   Kind of funny even,  now that we look at it in retrospect.

It sorta scared the hell out of Annabelle.

You see, she was asleep when I set out on my quest.  And, as previously mentioned, since I was so efficient in picking the perfect tree, she was still asleep when I returned.  Still asleep when I got it set up in its holder. Still asleep, even, when the lights went up.

Then, when she finally did wake up and I brought her downstairs, I don't think she actually saw it at first.

So when I put her down and she started walking towards it she finally stopped, looked up at it for a moment - as if taking in its magnificent beauty, and with a look of pure horror on her face fell onto her bottom and began to cry - uncontrollably.

While, when looking at her this is what I saw:

I'm pretty sure this is more like what Annabelle was seeing:

Of course I quickly gathered her up and consoled her.  "It's nothing to be afraid of" I reasoned, "It's just a Christmas Tree."   I then executed a classic move straight out of the Parenting Handbook (page 1152 if I am not mistaken).  

That's right, I slowly carried her over to the tree, extending her hand to the still green and soft needles and said "See, nice tree.  Nothing to be scared of."  She looked dubious, but not too long after that she let out a big smile.  At that point I knew we were golden.  

And soon the tree would be too.

Tis the season all.  Can't you feel it?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What He Gets From Me

Kids, you gotta love em.

Lukas wrote a story during his early days of 1st grade.  It was about catching the bus.  It was very well crafted.

I will remember none of it.

 Instead, I will remember how he described himself in the 'About the Author' section.

Sure, he may get his math and spatial abilities from his mother, but he obviously gets something from his dear old dad too.  (His ability to write slightly embellished humor)

In case you need help translating 'Early 6-year-old', here it is in all it's glory:

My but stinks today
My name is Lukas
I can shoot out of my eyes tornadoes
My favorite thing is to build with Legos

Err..............That tornado thing is pretty cool, eh?  You can even see it illustrated in the picture!

Okay.  Yes, we have since bathed him.

Monday, December 9, 2013


I mentioned it in passing in a recent post, but team LIAFY spent Thanksgiving week soaking up the sun, and playing with Legos in So Cal.

We, of course, were visiting Lego Land California.

Finally! The Promised Land.

We went in honor of......well in honor of Lukas being 6 years old and crazy about building with Legos. Oh, and we also went in honor of the fact that Mrs. LIAYF and I needed a vacation. A vacation somewhere where the sun DO shine, so to speak.

Mission Accomplished.

Annabelle checks out the sand.

Carlsbad, CA didn't disappoint on either front.  The sun was shinning, with temperatures in the mid 70's most days - except the one day it was in the low 60's and the park was filled with locals in heavy jackets and tokes.  We must have looked like obvious tourists from the north country, in our shorts and T's.

As I mentioned, we did spend some time on the beach in Carlsbad, and at the hotel swimming pool.  But this trip was mainly about the theme park.  And we spent the better part of 4 days there enjoying nearly everything the Lego Land had to offer.

Life size X-Wing Fighter, made of Legos!

Including the rides.

This included a plan.  As soon as we would arrive in the morning Lukas and I would make a B line straight to the roller coasters and get in line.  Mrs. LIAYF would join us as soon a she could stroll Annabelle there to meet us.

Mrs. LIAYF and Lukas after surviving the coaster

We were especially excited the first day, as Lukas had never been on a large roller coaster before.  I had been waiting for this day for a long time.

And, although I tried to warn him that it would be a bit scary at first, he really had no idea what to expect. None at all.  You all remember your first big coaster, don't you?  After coming up from the first big drop the sheer look of horror on our son's face was priceless.

"I REGRET IT!  I REGRET IT! I REGRET IT!" was all he could say, all color drained out of his face.  I had to chuckle to myself.  But I just reassured him that he was safe, and by the end of the ride he was jumping up and down at the opportunity to go again.  And he got to, too.

That was one unexpected advantage of taking Annabelle to Lego Land.   We were able to 'Trade Off' on nearly every ride.  Once one parent rode with him, we switched places and the other parent got to ride with him without any of us waiting in line again!  So, because of his little sister Lukas got to double down on every ride. How awesome was that?

 "Super Duper Awesome!" apparently.  As was Star Wars Miniland, which was filled to the brim with mocked up scenes from several of the movies.  All built out of Legos.  We went back there multiple times.

Lukas and dad at Star Wars Miniland.
An added benefit was that at almost any place where there was a line, there was an opportunity for Lukas to build with Legos.  He took advantage of this opportunity often.  Once, another dad who was watching him build even asked as I walked up, "Are you an engineer? (I'm not).  It's fascinating watching him build"

This of course was a high compliment to Lukas who, if we had to put money down on it, will be an engineer someday.  It's just how his mind works.

Credit that to the genes he got from Mrs. LIAYF, who is equally spatially oriented.

Mrs. LIAYF and Lukas built this Snow Scene in short order.

Unfortunately, although we did spend 4 days there, we didn't see everything by any stretch.  There were a few exhibits we either missed completely or could have spent a lot more time getting to know and enjoy.

I guess it's a good thing we opted to buy the annual passes.  Not that we will be able to travel there again within the year.

The fact is, if we didn't have to buy so many Lego sets, we'd probably be able to travel a couple of times a year.  But with our Lego building crazy son so focused on new sets (he spent a good couple hours at the main store trying to pick out the perfect set to take home), I don't see that happening.

But you never know.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Oceans 13mo

Best caption?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

'Deck' Your Halls - Sol Republic Giveway

For a music lover (look for my '2013 Best Albums' post soon), I have to admit that I have had a pretty horrible home delivery system for quite some time.  Pathetic, really.

Loathe to spend any of our discretionary funds on a new stereo system, especially with small children in the house, Mrs. LIAYF and I have been literally using the same 5 disc changer in our house since the last millennium.  Saying 5 disc changer is actually generous too since, at any given time, at least 3 of those disc slots don't even work.

As a result, like most of the modern world, we have been moving to listening to our music via a digital format (phones, tablet, and laptops).  The biggest problem with that has been the speaker systems with our devices when we are not listening through headphones.  If we tried to turn the music up to any sort of reasonable volume (where it can be heard more than 10 feet away), it sounds like it' being filtered through a tin can.

You get the picture.

Up to recently, to listen to music out loud in the house we have had to put in 5 discs we like and end up listening to the one or two of them that actually play, over and over, and over again.  Yeah, nice.

Comes in a variety of cool colors.

I said until recently because a few weeks ago the fine people at Sol Republic x Motorola offered to send me their Deck Wireless Speaker system to review.  I have to admit that I wasn't sure exactly what to expect from the system, but when it arrived it was exactly what we needed!

The speaker system operates off of blue tooth technology (wireless), or direct connection to pair with your device and provide 360 degree high quality sound throughout your rooms, all in a fairly compact little speaker.  The wireless has great range too, as I paired it up with our Kindle Fire HD and carried the speaker to every room in the house without losing connection. (it has a 300ft range).

This wireless speaker instantly allowed me to access all our digital albums and playlists, as well as Spotify, Pandora, Tunein Radio, and more with a sound output that the whole family is happy with.  It even has a 'Heist' mode, where up to 5 different friends can hook up to the speaker with their own devices at one time.

This feature was obviously not designed for my demographic.

From the moment I turned it on, we were happy.  First, we listened to a Recess Monkey album that Lukas had not yet heard, then danced around with Annabelle to some Caspar Babypants songs.  It was then that I remembered that she was wearing her Jimi Hendrix onesie, so I pulled up his catalog on @Spotify and tested the volume of the speaker with All Along the Watchtower!

I can't say that my little girl was overly impressed with such a loud sound, but I certainly was.

As a bonus, Sol Republic also offered a 2nd Deck Wireless Speaker (MSRP $199) to me to giveaway here on the blog as I saw fit!

Very cool.

I have to admit, I'm old school.  You won't have to go through any of that Rafflecopter nonsense here.  Just leave a comment on this post (preferably telling me what your favorite album of 2013 was) by December 13th, and you are entered.  I will also give an extra entry for anyone who newly subscribes to Luke, I am Your Father through RSS or Feedly.  Just let me know that you have.  Sorry, only open to residents of the US and Canada.

Full disclosure: As I mentioned, Sol Republic provided me with free products to review, however the opinions expressed are 100% my own.  I really do love this speaker system.

And the winner is:  Jeff Bogle!  Congrats Jeff.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

She Walks! She Really Walks!!

It's official.  Annabelle took her first independent steps while we were on vacation at Legoland CA this past week!

I was walking with her in front of the Lego Millennium Falcon at Star Wars Miniland, lending just one of my fingers to her for support when it happened.  Judging by her progress I had a sense that she might be able to take a few steps on her own, so I called to Mrs. LIAYF who was not far away to take a look.

Then I let go.

It was at that point, holding her arms in the air for balance that she looked up at us, with concentration blanketing her face, and stepped once, twice, then a third time in our direction - before plopping down onto her bottom.

We, of course, were thrilled.  We had been waiting for that moment for the past couple of weeks, knowing that it was imminent.

I immediately scooped her up and Mrs. LIAYF and I gave her appropriate kudos, smiles, and hugs.  She was all smiles too, knowing she had made us happy.

Check another milestone off the list.

It was obviously coincidence, but for Annabelle, Luke's sister, to have her first steps take place in front of a model of The Millennium Falcon, seemed oddly appropriate.

Yes, I'm a geek that way.

Bonus points to anyone who got the titles Mrs. Butterworths syrup reference.

Monday, November 25, 2013

It Happens, With an Sh

As parents, we are all aware that sh*t can go south in an instant.

I know this because that happened to us just last night.  Let me set the scene.

We had just finished dinner, and were going about our bedtime routine with the kids, which involved taking them upstairs and getting them undressed, cleaned, a ready for stories.   However, with our garbage pickup being the next day, I needed to take out the trash, including the diaper bin.  So, leaving Mrs. LIAYF with the 2 now-naked kids, who were playing near the bookcase in Lukas' room, I made my way to the basement.

It couldn't have been more than 2 minutes after I left that I heard the screaming.

It didn't seem like a pain scream, but it did sound traumatic. It was Lukas.  I waited a second (a prerequisite) to see if it resolved itself, but when the screams of horror continued I ran back up the stairs to see what was going on.

That's where I found my wife, shirt on backwards, holding Annabelle whose feet were slipping around on the floor and on top of some books. Lukas was sobbing in the bathroom.

Apparently, as Mrs. LIAYF walked down the hall to change into PJ's Annabelle, unbeknownced to Lukas,  pulled some of his books off the shelf, and proceeded to play with them whilst also going about some of her other nightly business, right over the top of them!

It was at that point, we are surmising, that he reached down to grab a book and came up with a handful of baby sh*t instead.

The horror!

He immediately screamed and ran out of the room leaving Annabelle, who started crying uncontrollably as well,  crawling over the books and tracking her poo everywhere.

Hearing this transpire, Mrs. LIAYF had haphazardly dressed, led Lukas to the bathroom to rinse his hands, and was now holding a crap covered Annabelle at arms length when I arrived!

It was a chaotic scene for sure.

She handed Annabelle off to me without full explanation and headed for the bathroom to run a sink full of water for her leaving me holding a poo covered baby girl, wildly kicking her feet, in my arms.  Of course it wasn't long before I had received a tiny brown foot imprint on my shirt.  It was oddly reminiscent of  a father's day card her daycare had sent home this past summer.

Good times.

Then, after depositing Annabelle in the sink full of water with Mrs. LIAYF, and consoling a still sobbing Lukas who had realized his room was in need of a scrub, I was informed that there were a pile of the books in the tub which needed thrown away.  Seeing that they were 'Little Critter' books, I didn't feel so bad but when I reached in to grab them I instantly realized why Lukas was so traumatized as I came up with my own messy handful.  Yeesh!

"What are you doing?!" my wife emphatically asked as I went to rinse the books in the other bathroom sink.  "Not there!  I wash my contacts in that sink!"  So, instead I reached into the tub and turned on the faucet to rinse off the books there when the shower head turned on instead, soaking me from above!

"Ahhhhh!!!" I yelled out, water streaming down my neck and back.

Apparently, he felt better seeing this transpire.  Like an elixir,  witnessing me get the brunt of the water made Lukas laugh uncontrollably.  His laughter was contagious too, instantly spreading to Mrs. LIAYF who was still bathing Annabelle, and finally to me.  We all got a pretty big kick out of the crazy scene that just took place.   After all it WAS pretty funny.

We then cleaned up his room. And with that, thankfully our crappy night had just turned into a pretty funny story.

Plus, I got to throw out recycle a couple of Little Critter books.  Not my favorites.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Like Vegas....Only a Daycare.

"Okay, NOW I'm ready."  I let Mrs. LIAYF know last night as I readied the camera.  "You can let her go NOW."

And with that my lovely wife released Annabelle, whom she was holding onto by the arms.  They were both in the middle of the bedroom floor, and with a disturbed look on her face our little girl, barely 1 year old, plopped gently down onto her behind with a thud and a whimper.

This, of course, was followed by another attempt.  Same results.

It was apparent that we had missed our opportunity to record -  best case scenario - her first steps, or at least her second stint of standing unsupported on her own.  Her doing that last bit had precipitated me running down the stairs with abandon moments earlier to grab the camera that now sat in my hand.

"I guess we'll try again later." I declared, secretly hoping that a few moments break would give her the second wind she needed.   And there was indeed another opportunity, but again things didn't quite work out.  In the end I didn't get the photo I had hoped for.  You know, the one where she is looking straight into the camera with a giant smile and look of accomplishment, arms out to the sides, as her foot is poised to move in the direction of the camera.

But I did get this one:

One pinky! That is all that's supporting her.

For now, It's better than the nothing I had before.  But the 'walking' watch is most definitely on.

Something tells me I shouldn't be as excited about this as I am.  But hey, it's a mighty big deal.  My parents don't have any pictures of my first steps.  And what dad doesn't want to give his kids better than he had?

Not this one.

That brings me to this morning, when I dropped Annabelle off at The Circus Circus.  It's also known as her daycare.  When the caregivers asked me how her night was, I let them know what had transpired, and how close she was to walking.

Then I reminded them, in no uncertain terms, that I considered her next several trips there to be like a Vegas vacation.  What happens there stays there!

That way, one day at her wedding, when I tell my little girl that it seemed like yesterday when I watched as she took her very first steps, it will be the 100% truth.  At least as far as I know it to be.

Then, I'll whip the picture, or better yet video of the event out of my tuxedo so we can watch it together as I walk her down the aisle before letting go of her.

It will be the perfect moment.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Gifted Dad

With a genuinely puzzled look on my face, I looked back at the mother in line behind me and asked "Do you have any idea why this isn't working?"

It was early in the morning and I was dropping Lukas off at the before school program he goes to a couple of days a week.  Granted, I am rarely doing drop-off at this particular location.  That would be Mrs. LIAYF's job, while I am dropping off Annabelle at her daycare several miles away.

But this particular morning I had both of them.  And I was in a hurry after learning last minute that I was needed to do his drop-off as well.

So as I entered the building with my baby girl in one arm, and the mother I mentioned above - acting like she was also in a hurry - queued up behind me, I approached the check in screen and pressed the button to get the process started.

Nothing happened.

I then pressed the button again with the same result.  Then again, and again.  "What the....?" I thought to myself.

It was at that point I turned to the mother behind me, as described above, and asked what I was doing wrong.  I was obviously stumped.

"You might want to try using the mouse" was her reply.


For the Gifted Dad!

Yeah, like an idiot I had been pressing the button on the computer monitor over and over expecting it to respond like our Kindle Fire tablet.

"I guess we live in a touch screen age!" I sheepishly replied, feeling pretty foolish.

Thankfully, as I mentioned, I don't drop Lukas off at that location very often.

I'm sure she won't remember me.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Long Term Projects

As if from a squirt gun dipped in a tea pot, the tiny stream of hot water unsuspectingly sprayed me right  in the middle of my left eye.  "Gahd!" I yelled, and shook my head as I grabbed the dish towel from the counter-top next to me and wiped off my face.

I should have known it was coming.  After all it has been an annoyance for a while now.  There is a microscopic hole in the top of our kitchen faucet.  And when I turn the water pressure up high enough, it sprays out its steady stream about 8 inches into the air.  This, the spray that is, only happens when I am using the sink for specific tasks that require a steady stream of water.

Like the dishes.

Okay, as you may have guessed this is becoming a major nuisance.  You might even think I would have done something about it by now.  But alas I have not.

Neither have I replaced the porcelain sink bowl of our main floor bathroom.  That cracked a few months ago when a thick glass container fell off a shelf above and smacked it hard enough to take a chunk out of the outer ring which is where the approximately 7" break begins.  Then, of course, there is the paint that is peeling away from the north side of our house, and the deck boards out back that are beginning to rot away.

I had hoped to get to those jobs before the rainy season began. But we live in Seattle where we have a saying that we have two seasons.  Winter and August.

Yes, as funny as that sounds, it's a fallacy. Really.  The truth is we had plenty of great weather this Spring and Summer when I could have worked on those house projects.  Those, and the multitude of other house projects that Mrs. LIAYF and I would love to get to.

There's the bathroom light switch that resides in back of the open door, the dining room light that hangs seriously off center, the bedroom closets that lack any semblance of insulation - resulting in icy wood floors each winter, the curtain rods that need rehung, and the painting.  Seriously, everything could stand a fresh coat of paint around our house.  And that's just scratching the surface of what we want to do.

But to say it's difficult to get many of these projects done these days is an understatement.  Hell, I can't even bring myself right now to fix that annoying kitchen faucet.   The reason?  I know it will take a block of time to replace the whole thing.  A block of time that, to this point, I haven't been willing to sacrifice.  It's even more difficult to imagine getting to the larger projects I mentioned above, much less any of the serious remodeling that Mrs. LIAYF will occasionally propose.

With both Mrs. LIAYF and I working full time, and with young kids (Annabelle just turned 1), what little free time we do have is spent nurturing them, cleaning up after them, and making sure they are safe, happy, & most of all well loved.

So, as I write this it is Sunday night.  Another weekend has passed without the curtain rods being rehung. Without the closets being insulated.  Without a fresh coat of paint being slapped on any surface of our house, inside or out.

And most of all, without that insanely annoying faucet being replaced.

You'll miss certain things if you are otherwise
engaged on house projects

However, and thankfully there is a however.  However, I did have a productive weekend. Yes I did.  I had the opportunity to follow Annabelle up the stairs several times, making sure she was safe and not tumbling backwards down them.  I was also able to spend many hours of quality time with her during this critical juncture in her development.  If I hadn't I wouldn't have watched as, for the first time today, she stood on her own for a few moments after letting go of the gate she was holding onto for support.  She is so close to walking.

I also had the opportunity, along with Mrs. LIAYF, to take Lukas to a local Lego Robotics competition.  He is an amazing Lego engineer in his own right, just from his own devices around the house, and it was a very cool opportunity for him to see what other kids his own age are making as well.  He is set to start a Lego Robotics class in the new year.

I also read to him, played with him on the playground, and watched a classic Fred Astaire movie with him and his mother.  He really enjoyed that.

The point is that while, once again, I didn't take the time to tackle a few of the little annoying projects around the house this weekend, I still had a very productive weekend.

There were a couple of small, and definitely not annoying, large projects that I think I made amazing progress on.  Those were unbelievably fun projects, I have to say.

So, I suppose the house has been here for over a hundred years.  And I guess it'll still be here when I have more time to devote to it after a few more.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The House on Parkour Ave

Lukas flew by me in a flash, headed for our living room.  He was a ball of energy with a new found purpose.

After a few long running strides he leaped up, with his feet coming down on the arm of our leather easy chair - before his momentum immediately carried him right off the other side.  Then, once his feet hit the carpet he curled into a roll as he reached the cushion of our sofa, sprung up,  ran the length of it and jumped from there onto our purple easy chair and back onto the wood floor, before again sprinting around the corner into our kitchen with a spin or two thrown in for good measure.  He finished as he had begun, in a flash diving onto the love seat that resided in the extended family room a few feet away.

"How was that?!" he smiled broadly.

"Awesome!" I responded. "But this is how it should be done.  Watch and learn."

And with that I ran gingerly around our kitchen island,  put my shoulder softly into our refrigerator on the other side, spun off of it gaining my momentum as I found a bar stool a few feet away, rolled my backside deftly across it it one fluid motion before doing a 360 degree spin and jumping up with my right foot onto a dining room chair, and pushed off landing with both feet on the ground and arms raised in emotion.

"Parkour!" I shouted.

This was all precipitated by a conversation Mrs. LIAYF had with another mom at a party last Friday night. Apparently there was a third mother who had placed their bouncy young child in a Parkour class and were amazed at the results.

Neither of us had heard of Parkour before.  But at the mention of a new exercise class for a bouncy 6 year old, our interest was obviously piqued.  A quick Google search had returned some video clips of people of all ages doing some amazing acrobatic leaping and climbing.

This looked pretty cool!

It was at about that time that Lukas entered the room, and without much forethought we showed him the video.   At the same time, I had asked the question of my Facebook Dad Blogger group if anyone had heard of Parkour.  Brent from Designer Daddy responded almost immediately that whenever someone mentioned Parkour, he thought of this scene from The Office:

I found this pretty hilarious.

Of course Lukas, having seen the first video started to immediately run around from room to room leaping, and bouncing off every piece of furniture we own.

As for my performance?  It was definitely more reminiscent of the The Office Parkour video I had just watched.  Just not as graceful.

Then, after a few more in house, out of control, acrobatic display's by Lukas, and hearing of another response I got from a fellow Dad Blogger about all the spectacular accidents he'd seen attributed to Parkour over the years, Mrs. LIAYF turned to me with a troubled look on her face and declared:

"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea!"

I smiled at her.   "Parkour!" was all I could muster in response.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Stares Bother Me the Most

Oh, sorry about that.  You can't spell check a title.

I meant the 'Stairs'.  What bothers me most as a parent right now are the Stairs!

Annabelle is bound and determined to climb these suckers.  Over and over again!

It was funny.  On the first day this happened another Dad Blogger from our Facebook group asked the question of how to prevent his 15 month old from climbing them in his house.  One response suggested he "Butter the stairs".  

I had to laugh.  

We do have a gate at the top which has been there since Lukas was born, and which works wonderfully to keep the kids from falling down them.  But we have nothing at the bottom to prevent a determined baby from climbing them.  The layout there is not conducive to a gate.  And believe me, Annabelle is determined.

I am pretty sure Mrs. LIAYF and my solution will be the same as it was with Lukas, which is to just keep a set of eyes on her at all times.  And to follow her up them until she is well skilled in art of the climb.

Plus, a few extra stair climbing reps certainly wouldn't hurt for another member of the family right now either. He is partial to coffee, bacon, and the occasional frosty beverage.

I bet you can guess who that is.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Good-Hearted Boy

I hesitated for the briefest of moments when I saw Lukas dash toward the boy.  I suppose it was just natural human reaction that caused me to pause.  I immediately realized, with a smile, that I shouldn't have.

We were in our community square at a Halloween festival and Lukas, in his Ninja costume, was excitedly going from business to business trick or treating for candy.  More than candy, the experience was a social event for him as he also begged the proprietors to "smell my feet...." before breaking into genuine laughter.

There were also an impressively large gathering of other Ninja's milling about as well, and our son wanted to great each and every one of them, brothers that they were, with a "Hello Ninja!!"   He was more often greeted with a cold shoulder. I assured him that those Ninja's, if they really were Ninja's, were probably "on a secret mission for candy." and couldn't talk.

Despite his focus on making friends there was candy to be had, and Lukas' bowl had gathered a decent store of candy as his grandfather and I walked with him towards the end of the business loop.

And that is when I, turning, saw Lukas dashing towards the boy who was perhaps 4 years old and accompanied by his parents. The boy, who was dressed like a pirate, had just lost his bowl of candy which went scattering onto the ground amongst a group of people.

I'll admit that my first thought was that Lukas was going to start filling his pumpkin with this boy's hard earned candy.  I'm not sure why I thought that.  I absolutely know better than that by now.

Instead of filling his own bowl, my empathetic boy quickly gathered up all the candy he could, and to the surprise of most of the adults there started dumping it back into the little pirates bowl.  Seeing this I felt a dash of pride as my own father looked on.

As I said this shouldn't surprise me.  Lukas is an extremely empathetic boy with a heart the size of the Moon. Over and over again he is the first to respond when another child is hurt, emotionally or physically.  For instance, at a recent soccer match there was a girl on the opposite team who was at least a year older than he is, who had earlier scored a goal against his team.

However, when a kicked soccer ball struck her in the face, he was the only person to go to immediately go to her assistance with genuine concern.  He put his hand on her back and walked her toward the sideline where the two of them were met by the opposing coach.

Those are the kinds of act of empathy and kindness that we see often from Lukas.  Of course, that's when he isn't being a silly, social, and loving 6 year old boy.  Those are the traits, in part, which Mrs. LIAYF and I recognized in him that convinced us that he would be an excellent sibling, and that any child would be blessed to have him as an older brother.  We were spot on in that assessment too, as he continues to be such a terrific brother to Annabelle.

So, again, I am not sure what led me to hesitate when I saw my son rush towards another boy whose candy had spilled out onto the ground.  But afterwards I felt a bit silly for doing so.

Especially after he, seeing that the other boy who was sad because he had lost one sole piece of candy to another child in the incident, then dug through his own bucket, found his own favorite treat, and deposited it in the Pirate's bowl.  All without one bit of prompting.  I just rubbed his head afterwards and emphasized to him what a kind boy he was.  It was one of those nice parenting moments you don't soon forget.

Witnessing such moments, Mrs. LIAYF and I would love to take the credit as a parents.  Of course we've had had influence on who he is, but the reality is that Lukas is his own person now.  And that person is continues to be a good-hearted person.

I'm proud of him for that.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Warriors.....Come out and Get Candy.

The strangest thing happened to me last night readers.  Realizing how cute she was in her baby Rat City Roller girl Halloween costume, I was pretty sure that Mrs. LIAYF and I had sat Annabelle down with her orange pumpkin candy receptacle before taking her picture for posterity.

But when I looked back down at her, the plastic pumpkin was gone!

I thought I was just old and losing my mind, until later when I looked on the camera and saw this on the digital picture!

It was a Ninja.  A Black Ninja had stealthily snuck in and stolen away the pumpkin!!  Can you see it happening in the picture above?   Don't blink or you may miss it.  Anyway, If it weren't for the magic of digital photography this mystery may have forever gone unsolved.  

And, putting two and two together I realized that this Black Ninja might be the same Black Ninja who appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, in the gaggle of kids we were out trick or treating with later that evening.  

This particular Ninja would always be the first to the door, knock, and when the unsuspecting patron opened the door he would grab a handful of candy and have slipped away into the night before the homeowner had even detected him.  All that was ever heard was the echo of a "Thank you" from somewhere close by.  This would obviously leave the poor dad, and yes they were usually the dad's handing out candy, confused and also a bit frightened.

I was impressed.  I just wish Lukas would have been there to witness the amazing moves of this particular member of the Ninja brotherhood.  But for some reason I couldn't find him until later, at home.

I was able to witness this, only because I was walking among the aforementioned gaggle of kids, carrying Annabelle, or 'Hell's Belle' (her roller derby name) from door to door to collect some candy of her own.

Hard to see, but I have a bruise above my right eye
for authenticity.  I got it practicing my walking.
Honestly, it's been about 18 hours since we finished our 1.5 hour tour of the finer homes of our neighborhood and my arms still feel like jelly.  Jelly!!  Carry a 25lb baby - face out, chest high, up and down stairs for 90 minutes will do that to you.

But it was totally worth it.  Totally.  To see Annabelle, who turned one the day before,  reach down with a smile and grab out Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers,Twizzlers, (and even once a two pack of Twinkies) for her daddy was enough to warm my heart.  Not to mention making our friends and neighbors very happy and willing to give out extra goodies.

The night was extra fun, because it was also Mrs. LIAYF's birthday on Halloween too!  Happy Birthday again, sweetie.  We celebrated with gifts, cake, and presents in addition to the trick or treating.  It was certainly a pretty fun evening all around.  So much so, that I think we'll do it again next year.

With a first birthday party, two family birthday's and Halloween all in the course of a 4 day period, this dad and husband is completely spent.  

I think I'll go sleep now.  Or maybe once the sugar rush wears off.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

1 is the Happiest Number

Happy All Hallows Eve Eve all.  And more importantly happy first birthday to our beautiful baby girl Annabelle!!

Annabelle, you have been an amazing baby, bringing so much joy and additional love into our home.  Lukas is over the moon about his little sister, and your whole family loves you to the stars, and back!

Readers, as you can probably tell from the photo above we had her birthday party this past weekend. We celebrated with a couple dozen of her closest friends and family in attendance to lovingly mark the passing of the first year of her life and for Mrs. LIAYF, Lukas, and I the enormous accomplishment of keeping her safe, healthy, and well loved throughout her 4th, 5th, 6th, and even 7th trimesters.

We celebrated with a hearty brunch, cupcakes and party hats for the kids, and mimosas and party hats for the adults.  It was a silly hat party as you can tell by the photo below.  Of course I would be a joker.

Maybe it has to do with our level of experience as parents, or perhaps the lack of time to stress over every little detail of raising her with another child in the household, but as rough as it has been at times, this year seems to have gone by much faster than it did with Lukas.   As a bonus, and a testament to how long I have been blogging here, you can see his 1st birthday post here.

It is so amazing how much a child grows, develops, learns, and bonds in the first year.  With that we feel so lucky that we were able to adopt Annabelle from birth.  

I would have never thought it a year ago, but it seems so odd now to write, or to even mention that our daughter is adopted.  She is such and integral part of all our lives, and fits so perfectly into our family that if we didn't mention it no one would know.  In fact, just the other day a woman we met in the neighborhood told Mrs. LIAYF and I that Annabelle was a perfect mix of the two of us. "Thank you" was our only response.

We love our weekend mornings together

And thank you too Annabelle.  We love you very very much, and are looking forward to all the laughs, tears, and triumphs the next year has in store for us. ~ Dad, Mom, and Lukas

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dad's 5: What I'm Enjoying Now

It's been several months since I posted one of my monthly 5 lists, which really doesn't constitute a monthly list.  Hence I have renamed it as my 'Dad's 5' list, and like before will post it whenever It occurs to me.

Whatever you want to call it, here are 5 things I am enjoying at the moment.

Drinking: Pyramid Brewing Outburst Imperial IPA.  I was happy to recently find this Imperial IPA in a 6 pack at the local grocery after previously only finding it in larger singles.  It has a pretty high ABV at 8.5% but still retains a refreshing flavor.  Best of all, it's priced competitively with other micro and craft brews on the shelf, making it a beer I have bought on many occasions recently.

Reading:  Mayflower By Nathaniel Philbrick.  I had really enjoyed In the Heart of the Sea a story about the events that inspired Mellville's Moby Dick, also by Philbrick, so was excited to find Mayflower at a local used book store.  Billed as the story of the Pilgrims, this book is really two stories.  The first part is about the Pilgrims initial journey and their struggles in the new world.  However, about half way through the book jumps forward 50 or so years and becomes the story of King Phillips War.  Both parts made for compelling stories, I just wished the transition was handled more deftly.

Watching: Justified Season 4:  Mrs. LIAYF and I are always looking for a compelling series to stream, and Justified fits that bill.  I had previously heard Justified mentioned as a TV series, but dismissed it thinking it had something to do with Justin Timberlake. Amusingly, I couldn't have been further off on that assumption.  Justified follows a quick triggered US Marshall who is reassigned to an office near his home in Eastern Kentucky. Much lawlessness, gun fighting, and mayhem ensue.  Great series, and highly recommended.

Listening to:  Lightning Bolt by Pearl Jam.  Yes, the 10th studio album from the Seattle Rock legends is more of the same.  Some fast songs, some slow songs.  But the reason they evolved from grunge newcomers to the countries greatest living rock band is because that formula is a winning one.  With every listen of Lightning Bolt, I am enjoying it more.

Using/Playing (App):  Dragon Box.  Disclaimer: I am not playing Dragon Box, but Lukas is and he loves it.  It's a game, that's not really a game, but your kids won't realize that.  Dragon box is an app that cleverly disguises the basics of Algebra into a game app.  It's a genius idea, and one that is well worth the lofty $5.99 price tag for an app.  Heck I was never good at algebra in school, so I should probably start playing myself.

Tell me readers, what are you enjoying right now?

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Cause and the Cure

I've been reflecting

It's hard to articulate how much my kids mean to me.

As Annabelle's 1st birthday approaches I have actually taken a few moments to reflect on the past year and the enormous responsibility that has come along with it.  And moments are at a premium these days. It would be an over simplification to say that Mrs. LIAYF and I are 'tired'......although in a sense exactly what we are.

Sure, most new parents are tired, or at least some level of tired.  But for me that generalization only scratches the surface.  Moving beyond tired, I'd say that this past year, as wonderful as it has been, has taken a toll on me personally.  Both physically and emotionally.  More so than I imagined it would. Thankfully I am a strong individual and will be fine, but in addition to being worn out, I am feeling mentally taxed too.

As I recently posted, I turned 46 last month.  But it isn't all about being an older father of an infant. As most readers already know, that is hard enough in it's own right. But combine that with a consistent lack of sleep, both Mrs. LIAYF and I working full time jobs (mine reaching a stress level well above anything in the past) and the lack of a support system to help lessen some of the parenting load, and you can perhaps understand why this has been a year where the weight of responsibility has begun to take it's toll.

The stress from work has only compounded the effects of my lack of proper sleep.  Thankfully, there is light at the end of that tunnel.  It is amazing how stress can wear on the body, especially when you are already sleep deprived.  By lack of support system I am talking someone to jump in during those times when you need someone to give you a much needed break from the responsibility of always being present and at full & heightened attention while you are with your kids.

Speaking of that front, for the past year other than when they are at day care or school, Mrs. LIAYF and I have spent a combined 2 hours away from our children.  Yeah, 2 hours.  I didn't drop any zeros there. Having a nearby friend or relative to spell us for even a short time is not a luxury we have right now.

I don't want to over dramatize this.  Mrs. LIAYF and I are both doing fine, and I know that there are many parents who would love to be in the position we are in.  I'm not whining or complaining.  And I know from experience that as the kids get older certain aspects, like the sleep and need for constant supervision will get easier.

The reason I bring any of this up is because while I was pondering the past year and how it has affected me, It really hit me thinking about the things which always draw me into a better place during the times I am feeling overwhelmed.  That would be my terrific kids.

Coming home, and sitting down to dinner with their smiling faces, humor, love, and enthusiasm is a magical elixir which will cure nearly any ill. Seriously.  It's amazing, all I need is for Lukas to make a silly joke and flash me a genuine smile, or for Annabelle to point her little finger at me and emphatically say "Da Daaaa!", or for either of them let me know "I love you Daddy" in their own unique way, and I feel 100% better.  They are wonderful, compact bundles of happiness.

And they never fail to shift my perspective.

Sure, I wouldn't be so tired out if it weren't for the kids.  But I knew it would be a lot of work when I signed on.  And they always remind me, just by being their amazing selves, why I love being a dad so much.

Like I said, it's hard to articulate how much they mean to me.  I guess I'll just say that as hard a job as being a parent is, there is nothing I would give it up for. Nothing at all.

And I guess that speaks for itself.