March 27, 2011


I wish I could see you 20 years in the future.  Just a glimpse to see where you decide to take your life.  As a toddler and almost a toddler, it's fascinating to watch both of you learn.  It's amazing to watch you experiment with new tastes and react to new sounds or sights.  This morning Joy put toast in her strawberry yogurt.  You said it was yummy.  The Bear dabbled in a little crawling.  Turns out it wasn't for you, quite yet.  Standing back and watching you girls is truly a learning experience.

When you get older, these learning points will get more complex.  Soon enough you'll be picking out clothes, doing school projects, and trying on relationships.  It's scary for a father to think of his two daughters getting older, but also exciting.  I don't think I'll ever be totally prepared for "the talk" or anything to do with that, but it will come and I'll embrace it and I'll smile as I watch you grow.  

But to really see where you take your life is one of those mysteries that holds Christmas-like anticipation.  At least for now.  Growing up, like any other kid, I used to dream about what I wanted to be when I grow up.  I guess I still do (growing up now means when I decide to get out of the military...), but what's more intriguing is thinking about what you're going to be when you grow up.  A doctor, teacher, engineer, administrator?  Any of those, and so many others, are respectable and useful professions.  Will one of you follow in daddy's footsteps and become a Marine?  Yikes!

Whatever it is, I hope your mom and I can give you the tools to succeed.  We will certainly try our best to lead you toward a meaningful life.  I pray the best for both of you, and wait with a sincere hope that wherever you take your life, you will give it your best effort.  And maybe you'll take your dad along.  Until then, I'll just watch and be amazed.

March 26, 2011

Don't kick the habit

There's a lot of bad to be done in this world, but there's also a lot of good.  I hope you girls have great dreams of helping this world out.  I wish upon you goals of doing something in life that's more important than you.  Serving God is of course the ultimate of these, and you should seek to do this through tangible means.

Sometimes though, these lofty goals can seem so far away that we think they're unattainable.  Girls, you need to start small.  Whether it's rinsing your coffee cup and putting it in the dishwasher instead of just dropping it in the sink or putting away your book now instead of leaving it out to be picked up later.  Ok, maybe these are my habits that I need to work on, but I think you get the point.

Do the right things now, starting small, and begin good habits.  Soon enough you won't even think about them.  These things being second nature, you'll be in the right mindset for doing bigger things.  Small habits lead to bigger habits that ultimately pave the way for a life of service.  Recognizing that it's not all about you, that there are more important things than just yourself are a part of service.  Let's start those habits early, together, so we won't think twice about making a difference in this world.

March 17, 2011

Set the tone

I heard you in your room this morning.  It was the second morning after moving into your "big girl" toddler bed.  Even with the guard that keeps you from falling out, you can climb out on your own.  With free reign of your room for the first time, you went to the door and started knocking.  From the inside.  In a sweet little voice you called Hello.  Hello?  Helllllooo?  I wish you would've slept longer, but it was so funny we couldn't help but start the day with a smile.  With that, you set the tone for the day.

You'll learn soon enough how important first impressions are, but a starting tone for any encounter is just as key.  Since you started the morning off so well, we were much more willing to look past the minor fusses and complaints of the day to enjoy our time with you.  If you had started off screaming and ornery, we would have met even the cutest times with a bit of exhaustion.

This is true for any encounter, from the morning wake up, a school lecture, or a business transaction.  When you first meet up with someone, be careful about what you say and how you say it.  If you start off crabby, even the most genius of comments may find a home in the garbage.  A bad mood from the start can turn people off, no matter what you have to say.  More importantly, a positive approach can work wonders.  People respond when you set a good tone for the day.  People will listen to you and will let you listen to them.

As a leader (if nothing else, both you and your sister will struggle to lead each other), the message you send depends on the tone you set from the start.  Make sure the two match up, and you will get your point across. You may even get your sister to do what you want.  Or get that second cookie from Daddy after lunch.

March 15, 2011

Open your eyes

It's hard to teach this lesson to a two year-old.  Joy, you love to close your eyes and flail.  I know you're not mad or throwing a tantrum, you just get excited and playful.  I love to see you happy and smiling without a care in the world.  I wish we could all be this way.  The problem is you do this while your sister is nearby and she sometimes finds a foot in her back or face.

How do I teach you to be aware of your actions and surroundings?  While you're not going to do any real damage, this clearly isn't acceptable.  A tiny kick now, even when you don't mean it, can turn into a crippling blow down the road.  How do I teach you that your actions have consequences?  And that you alone are responsible for those actions? How do I teach a two year-old that if you run down a hallway with your eyes closed, whatever happens to you or someone else, is your fault? (Though I will always pick you up when you're down, even if it is your fault.)

As you grow, actions will also become words.  The consequences of their use will be the same.  You will be responsible for both.  Hopefully you will use them to help people and society.  I pray that you learn how to use them for purposes greater than yourself.  Unfortunately, sometimes you may hurt people.  We all do it. Sometimes it's unavoidable, but many times it's simply because we don't understand what exactly we're saying or who our audiences are.  Whether on a personal level or a world stage, our words and actions have effects.  What those effects are depends on what is being said, who is saying it, and who is hearing it.  Whenever we speak or act, we need to be careful.

So how do I teach you be aware of yourself and your surroundings?  Hopefully I'm learning how to do this.  I'm trying to lead by example.  It's a hard lesson to teach to a two year-old.  Sometimes it's hard to teach to a 32 year-old.

March 13, 2011

I did not mean to blow your mind.

Now I know why parents embarrass us so much.  They don't mean to, most of the time, it's just a product of practice.  Apparently, both of you girls like hearing me hum Europe's Final Countdown.  In a falsetto.  Turned up to 11.  (Oh how that synthesizer makes the jean vest jump out of my closet. Yes it's there.)  You were both eating tonight, and somehow that song rocked my mind.  So, being the good father I am, I rocked your dinner with it, and other various 80's rock moves designed to blow your mind.

It hit me later that I've indoctrinated myself into embarrassment insensitivity.  It starts small.  Maybe Air Supply's All Out of Love came on hair nation and I didn't realize the window was down while we were driving by the drill instructors practicing at DI school.  I thought I sounded pretty good.  Maybe later I was practicing air guitar in the hallway with the front door open as the mail lady came to the door to deliver a package too big for the mailbox.  What does she know about good air riffs anyway?  Who really knows how it comes about, but eventually we, as parents, become unable to sense our own embarrassment.

So now I understand.  Parents can't help it.  It's a natural progression of life, adulthood, and parenthood.  We stop being preoccupied with what others think of us.  While we shouldn't turn this self-consciousness off completely, it probably shouldn't be turned up to 11 either.  Sometimes turning it up too high holds us back and we don't realize our true potential.  So if I continue to embarrass you, especially starting in about 10 years, I'm sorry.  I'll try to keep it turned only to 4 or 5.

March 11, 2011

I'm glad babies don't remember, so maybe I shouldn't write this down.

Sometimes we need changes in our lives to snap us out of the every-day routines.  Whether for our own entertainment or to wake us from potentially dangerous complacency, things happen that we need to be pay attention to.

You knocked over your high chair this morning, Little Bear.  With yourself in it.  Your mom rushed over and found you a little shaken up, but ok.  This is one of those times when a parent's heart stops beating and all the feelings of failure and inadequacy rush through the mind.  The actual threat to your safety may not have been all that high, but so many what-ifs ran through our minds about what could have happened.

We could spend days worrying about all the terrible ways you could have been hurt.  And for a bit, while emotions are still running high, we will.  Once we calm down, hopefully we'll take this for what it is: a shock from a normal day's routine to highlight the fact that we need to be careful and think about the things we're doing and how we're doing them.  You are basically helpless at this point, and we are the ones with the great privilege and responsibility of seeing that you grow up healthy, both mentally and physically.

So, we'll learn from this.  We'll put you back in your un-knock-over-able high chair with its 5-point harness and make doubly sure that wherever we put you, there are no readily available dangers.  Including yourself.  In the mean time, we'll wait and see what the doctor has to say at your appoint today.  And we'll worry.  Hopefully it'll make us better parents.

March 7, 2011

Stop Learning What I Teach You

So I was trying to describe to you why, when someone farts, it doesn't always mean they pooped.  This clearly was an important topic over the weekend.  A certain member of your family, name to remain anonymous to protect her tiny little identity, was having some issues.  You decided to notify the rest of us each time that she needed a new diaper.  This is my explanation for why she didn't need one just yet:

"There are two types of poops: solid poops and air poops.  Solid ones need a new diaper, air poops do not."

Since for the last two nights you have been vocalizing it each time you have an air poop, loudly I should add, I've either failed miserably (says your mom), or attained triumphant victory (maybe, Dave Barry  might have covered something like this in his Guide to Guys).

Either way, I imagine this is another one of those areas, like bras and other lady topics, your mom will probably take over.  Oh well, this topic is for the dogs anyway.

March 5, 2011

Follow Your Heart, That's What I do

Your mom and I watched the Social Network last night, after you two went to bed.  It was a great movie.  It's quite apparent, even if you didn't know it beforehand, that the director had no love lost for Mark Zuckerberg.  If he's successful in anything, it's showing just how detached from people Mark is, to say it nicely.

I'm a firm believer that there is something to learn from everyone.  In this case, The Facebook's creator has one quality we can look up to: an aggressive drive toward accomplishing a goal.  He had an end in mind and would not accept failure.  This is an admirable quality.  He wasn't worried about perfection.  He wasn't worried about what people thought.  He simply knew that this was what he wanted to do, and he drove toward that end.

Unfortunately, there are many bad things we can learn from this portray of Mark, like don't forget your friends.  Don't steal from others; ideas, money, or anything.  Don't be a jerk.  The list could go on.

Sometimes we get so caught up in doing things perfect the first time that we forget to just do.  Sometimes we get too caught up in how other people are going to view us for doing what is important to us.  Sometimes we just don't think we're good enough to accomplish anything big.  Sometimes we just need to follow our heart, and do what we put our minds to.  If it makes us $26 billion, that's just icing on the cake.

March 1, 2011

When it Positively has to be There, but Maybe not Overnight

This might be my second favorite leadership principle: Know yourself and seek improvement.  (I don't necessarily plan on hitting all of the Marine Corps' eleven principles, but there are a few that stand out prominently in my mind.)  I think it pretty much speaks for itself.  One problem with the way it's interpreted by many Marines, however, is that it focuses on the negative.  It could be rewritten to say:  Know your faults and seek improvement.

This is still great advice, as it implies that we should seek our shortcomings so we may recognize and improve ourselves.  Nobody is perfect, and most things we do take practice to get good at.  Getting better at things we struggle at is certainly a good thing, and I'm sure I'll write plenty more to you girls about this in the future.

What's also important is for us to search ourselves and recognize our strengths.  We were all given certain gifts, and whether or not we like them, we should take advantage of them.  There are some abilities each of you girls will be better at than others.  Joy, you are great at organizing.  Little Bear, people are drawn to you.  You may find these talents stick with each of you, and you'll develop others.  Of course, you'll have to practice these things as well to get truly good at them, but that is the point: Find the things you're good at and harness them.  Work on them.  Strive to be better and improve yourself.  Improving upon things you excel at will build self-confidence, and that's a trait that's missing in us today.  It's a trait I want to help you develop.

In just the couple years of your short lives, I've been fascinated by the changes I've seen in you two.  I look forward to seeing what talents you develop as your characters and personalities form and mature.  As you grow, I hope I can help foster a learning attitude in you.  As you both realize your strengths and weaknesses, I hope you seek to improve.  As I get older too, along with finding gray hairs (I'm on 6 right now I think), I hope I'll find new qualities as well.  I just hope that we can all help each other foster our strengths and build self-confidence.  God willing, we can do it all together.