Baby #3

Well, this is a surprise.

I always thought eventually my fingertips would type the words “baby number 3,” just not now. Things happen in funny ways. A few weeks back Lindsey and I were out to eat celebrating for something totally unrelated to the title of this post. And then, with syllables sneaking out of her mouth, our lives changed. Again.

It’s not that we never wanted a third child. Far from it, actually. We often spoke of having 3 kids. I think we both were surprised when we learned indeed a third one was on its way, though. As with all surprising news, it took a while to digest all of this. Thinking about our new reality and spending some quiet nights really reflecting on what a third child meant for us.

I don’t claim to know much. If you’ve read this site long enough, you would know I’m a much bigger speculator and learner than teacher. But, after having two kids I know one thing for sure. I know having a child no matter what point in your life is a big deal. A tremendous responsibility and major undertaking. For me, raising my kids so far has been hugely rewarding. Rewarding in so many ways I can’t explain, and I don’t think I’ve yet fully realized.

To be completely transparent though, parenting has (easily) been the toughest job of my life. I have always been a person who believes in utilizing some sort of system. If this works, then do this. If that works then do that. I’d like to think I’m a minimal, simple, do what works type of person. Up until parenting, that has always worked well. To fast forward a bit, implementing systems and my kids just don’t mix. Liam and Luca are very fast moving targets and I constantly have to try new things in order to feel like I am an effective parent. Thats just real talk.

Being a parent has taught me one important thing though. Not everything needs a system or requires a script of some sort. If you really think about it, obviously being a dad or mom isn’t solved or made easier by searching for a system that works. Of course trying to be a perfect role model all day, all week and all year is going to fail. The one important lesson that being a dad has taught me is a simple one: sometimes you just have to roll with it, go with the flow, accept what God gives you.

So thats what Lindsey and I are doing; rolling with it. Don’t let my musings of worry fool you, I am blessed beyond measure to call myself a third time dad. Of course I feel a little nervous about it, who wouldn’t? But I say this; I accept the challenge! My diaper game will be on point! I will be a swaddler of the highest degree! My formula mixes will be efficient and accurate!

I don’t want to get to ahead of myself though, we are still in very early days. Lindsey is still in her first trimester. At this current moment, I am just trying to concentrate on being as helpful to her as possible. It’s amazing how you forget how taxing pregnancy is on the woman, though. Its like after the baby is born, all is forgotten about how rough and uncomfortable 9 months of a little human in the belly was. I just want to be helpful to her for these 9 months. Thats a good immediate goal, I think.

I wanted say all this to say we are thrilled and excited. Still a little surprised, but definitely thrilled and excited. I still consider it an unbelievable, larger than life opportunity to be a father. I have a great one and I always try to remember how thankful he was for us.

Truth is, there’s no greater honor to be called dad. Well, except being called dad 3 times over.

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Attention as a Resource

The other night I had a dream. It was vivid, inspiring and downright admirable. Sometimes my dreams are so far in fantasy that I know I’m dreaming. That has to sound weird but it’s the honest to God truth. This particular dream was so soaked in reality, confusion wouldn’t begin to describe my emotions. I woke up realizing the unfortunate truth. This was only a dream.

I had a dream of a world where people can sit through long, dull conversations, without feeling the need to douse themselves with instant-gratification delivered through glowing plastic screens.

I had a dream of a world where people were aware of not only their own limited attention, but the precious attention of others and wouldn’t start texting in a movie theatre, totally killing the mood of a dramatic scene.

I had a dream where our devices would be comfortably allotted as the occasional supplement to our lives, and not used as a poor replacement for them. Where people would recognize that the constant and instantaneous delivery of information has subtle costs associated with it, as well as its more obvious benefits.

I had a dream of a world where people would become aware of their own attention as an important resource, something to be cultivated and renewed, to be built and cherished, the same way they take care of their bodies or their education. And this new cultivation of their own attention would have oddly set them free. Not just free from the screens, but free from their own unconscious impulses.

I had a dream where respect for attention would extend to the world around them, to their friends and family and the acknowledgment that the inability to focus is not only harmful to oneself, but harmful to one’s relationships and ability to hold and maintain intimacy with someone.

If all this really happened, if all this was real, we would let freedom ring, from every village and every county, from every state and every city, we would have been able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, would have been able to join hands and sing “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we’re free at last!”

Maybe somewhere in the world, humans act like this. Hey – a guy can dream, right?

Yes, this was my dream. But i’m awake now. Its very clear smartphones have just about taken our full attention. Myself included. You could call this a dark outlook. I unfortunately call it reality.

Truth is every human has an ongoing war with their attention. Whether they know it or not, their attention is in high, high demand. Until we can start thinking about and treating our attention as a resource – a limited resource at that – we are all in very big trouble.

Starting Liam’s Summer Schedule!

Summer break is upon us! Today was the first day Liam’s schedule was put to the test. I am happy to report all went well! I was a little nervous about the time blocks and if I spaced everything correctly, but for the most part the day went smooth. More importantly, Liam seemed to enjoy it.

A surprise take away from today: Liam’s behavior was very good. Like, better than usual. He’s never a bad kid by any means, but he certainly has his moments, especially when we’re cooped up in the house. But today, he was a great listener and respectful all throughout the day. I came to a very early conclusion that this was totally based on attention given.

Today, the schedule structured the day around him. I think he felt that and responded in a good way. Although attention was still equally distributed to Liam and Luca. But it felt much more so on Liam because each part of the day was tending to him. Of course, this theory could all fall apart tomorrow, but I’m going with it for now.

Here is the schedule:

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As you see from the pic, thats the schedule I settled on. I was little worried about some aspects though, I still want him to feel like he’s on summer break and his days be fun, but I don’t want him to think the whole day is a free for all. I hope it’s a good balance and he has plenty of time for fun and free time.

Let me take some time to explain and breakdown why I chose these specific events:

• Breakfast and Brush Teeth – Liam always has a hard time “remembering” to brush his teeth. What he doesn’t have a hard time remembering is eating breakfast, (its about the only words he could get out of his mouth in the early mornings.) So I decided to combine these 2 events. No excuses anymore Mr. Liam.

• Chores – A big one for us. We really wanted to instill responsibility for Liam this summer. I thought he was a tad bit young to handle a bunch of chores. I also didn’t want his day bogged down with work. So this was a good start I thought. We made him responsible for the 2 rooms he uses most, his bathroom and his bedroom.

• Outside Time – This was a no brainer for me and if we didn’t live in unbelievably scorching heat, we would be outside all day. Outside time is simple, go outside (early in the day) and do whatever. No rules except no hospital trips.

• Bible Lesson – I’ve always wanted to spend more time with Liam in the bible. The summer enables this for us. I’m not teaching anything extremely deep (nor do I know anything extremely deep), but we cover the popular stories and maybe some not so popular. I implemented a section at the end of Bible Lesson called “question time.” Where Liam could ask any question he wants pertaining to what we just learned. Question time was a big hit on day 1.

• Play Time –  A little break in the kinda busy morning. It actually served well today. It was a nice break for everyone. Also it gives me a buffer if I want to make lunch for the kids before 12. We had a little trouble today with understanding Play Time doesn’t involve TV. A couple bumps in the road. Thats ok.

• Lunch – Self explanatory except maybe some days we’ll go to special places. But most of the time it will involve getting out of the house and picking up some food from a drive thru. Not the healthiest option, but Liam loves picking places to go.

• TV Time – Liam’s time to watch whatever (per my approval) he wants on the TV. This doubles as time for Luca to take a nap and me to either chill out or write a little. Its 2 hours because, well its summer. Give me a break.

• School Lesson – One of the main reason I wanted to do a schedule for Liam the summer was to keep him connected to school things and keep his mind working. To not mentally check out essentially. I wondered how I could do an effective school lessons in the summer, though. I tried taking some of Liam’s homework throughout the year and after he was completely finished, erasing the paper and making digital copies. That seemed to work really well. I have about 20 pages of copies of homework sheets. So School Lesson involves 2 of those sheets per day and his reading book.

• Free Time – If, and I stress IF, Liam was a good boy and did a good job on both lesson times, then he can use free time to do whatever he wants, inside or out. Free time pretty much goes on until mommy gets home around 5.

So thats the rundown. Obviously, this is all early days, 1.0 software stuff. I guess I will see how this works and maneuver the schedule accordingly. But for now i’m sticking with it and hoping for the best as I walk the thin line between daddy and drill sergeant. Mental Note: more daddy, less drill sergeant.

Any ways, what was the point of this post? Oh ya…Day 1 over!

Happy Summer time!

Liam, the Graduate

I remember my first time dropping off Liam at K-3. To be completely honest, I was uncomfortable for a few reasons. Leaving him all by himself, with a bunch of kids he never met before. I was worried how the other kids were going to treat him. Looking back, I just didn’t want him to be scared or feel lonely. The memory of leaving him that day and just parking near the school for a half-hour has never left me.

We’ve come a long way, fast forward 3 years and here we are; Liam’s K-5 Graduation day. Sure, he’s had his struggles, but also triumphs. He’s come home stumped by his homework, only for him to work hard at it and overcome. He’s excitedly prepared for weeks in advance for his “Show and Tell” days. He’s had to deal with the struggles of having major allergies to common foods and watch his friends eat foods he couldn’t on a regular basis. He’s had to work extremely hard on his day to day behavior and has made great improvements. You name it, he’s gone through it in the past 3 years.

Liam’s learned so much in his time in Kindergarten. To list a few: coloring, recognizing shapes, reading, writing, writing in cursive, writing numbers, learning to count with fingers then counting from 1 to 100, learning bible stories, understanding how to tell time on a clock. Thats just the school side of things. On the personality side; learning to play with others, sharing toys and thoughts, letting people talk and having a conversation. Being nice to friends, showing respect to teachers. I also think school has made him a better big brother. Ever since he started K-5, he has been significantly friendlier to his little brother Luca. That’s been great to see.

Going back to what I was originally saying, I was nervous when he started. I guess thats just being a parent or guardian. But looking back, i’m not sure why I ever doubted Liam. He is a young boy with amazing perseverance. Truth is, whatever challenge Liam has had in his short life, he’s overcome and continues on.

Congratulations little buddy! You earned every bit of graduating Kindergarden. In your future, challenges will await, but you will overcome. If the past has taught me anything; you will continue to make your mother and I proud with your big heart and caring demeanor. Congrats on this super great day! We love you.

West Mims Fire

My days have been turned upside down as of late. I know I  mentioned a few weeks ago the fire blazing through Okefonokee Swamp, but now I have a much more hands on feel for it.

My Battalion Chief informed our whole shift that we would be swapping days and going down to the West Mims fire to help with structure protection. I was kind of surprised because earlier talks suggested we would not be making the trip. But, to the front lines we went.

I have been down twice for 2, 12 hour shifts as of typing this and it has been quite the experience. I’ve been a firefighter for 3 years now, I’ve seen a decent amount of events. Many house fires, car fires, intense medical calls and calls I wish I could erase from my memory. But, this is a whole different beast.

First you have to understand what were doing. Basically, we go to a staging area where everyone is, then wait for our “assignment.” Command will tell us where to go and then we make way there. Usually it’s a house or a few houses in the middle of nowhere. We arrive, we park in such a way that we could escape easily if things go bad fast and then just wait. Wait for fire.

Waiting really eats up the majority of our time. But its never a comfortable wait. There is always an eerie feeling like conditions can change in a moments notice. It’s quite the experience. Hurry up and wait. But waiting for a fire is never pleasant, as you could imagine.

I am unsure how long our stay at the West Mims fire will last, but I am learning a lot and getting a ton of experience. I hate it that all these people were forced to evacuate from their lives, though. The town of St. George, GA has been nothing but great to all the firefighters. They have offered free everything to everyone.

Hopefully this is over soon, but in the meantime I’ll be out there doing my small part in this huge effort.

2 Days with Dad

It’s always extremely sad for me to say goodbye. I’m not a good “goodbyer.” We’ve spent the past two days with my Dad and Diane and it really has been such a great time. Since I’ve moved to GA, my family has been extremely good about coming to visit, especially in the beginning. Since I’ve been down here a while, their visits have tapered a bit, but I still really enjoy them. Seeing them never fails to remind me home is never a place, building or walls. Their visits frequently teach me how home is a reflection of familiar faces.

They arrived late Saturday afternoon and came over to hang out a bit. My dad brought this interesting contraption that should allow me to get every channel on my tv for free. I haven’t hooked this thing up yet, but I’ll keep everyone posted on that. Also, they stopped at a J. Crew outlet on their way and bought everyone some cool shirts, very nice and thoughtful of them.

We headed out to a burger place on the water. Jeremy, Cristen, Lindsey and I ate there some weeks ago and it was just a nice atmosphere; peaceful and good food. My Father, Diane and our gang ate up on the 2nd balcony deck. It was awesome. They seemed to really enjoy their crab cakes and, of course the view.

After dinner, we came back home and played catch with a stuffed animal monkey. It was pretty much pitch black out, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time. Liam especially loved every second of it.

On a side note, Luca took my to my dad extremely well! I was interested in how he would react to my father. He has only seen him a couple times. That didn’t seem to matter though. They got along famously. Come to think of it, we have a picture of my dad on the fridge and Luca has always pointed to it and said: “Nonno,” so I should of known better. He’s a sharp little guy.

Sunday was no doubt a hectic day. We had church in the morning which Diane and my Dad attended and then we headed straight to Amelia Island where we ate at Arte Pizza, good food as always. After eating way too much, we all walked around the shrimp festival which was on it’s last leg. I think we were there a few hours before they were shutting down. So cool to see people’s hard work and attention detail in the little booths.

After much walking we headed to my dad’s hotel room which was right on the beach so the kids could play a little before church at 6. They had a blast. My dad must have slid Luca down the slide over 100 times. Luca loved it.

After church our trip ended the way it was always meant to, at a hair salon giving each other haircuts and talking. It was a special way to cap off our two days together. It has become something of a tradition for us, me getting my haircut and then my dad constantly teaching me when I cut his. I don’t mind it one bit. It’s his way of showing me he cares. I always think to myself how important those moments are. They stick out to me so much more than others.

Like I mentioned earlier, saying goodbye is always very difficult for me. I’ve never been good at it. I don’t like distance. I never have. I understand technology makes things easier, and I’m thankful for it. But, nothing replaces actually being with my dad and listening to him talk.

The older I get the more I learn he was right about many, many things. And the older I get I am realizing what really matters in life. Spending time with loved ones who genuinely care about you. Even if it isn’t everyday at DiLeo Hair Studio in Naugatuck, CT, we could still connect and just be around each other once in a while. I’m thankful for those once in a whiles now, far more than I could ever express or anyone will ever understand.

Love you Dad. Thank you very much for taking some time and spending 2 days with us.

Liam’s Summer Schedule

Summer is near and that means one thing and one thing only…. I will be home with both my kids all day. I guess I should say this up front: I am very thankful to be able to spend the whole day with them. I know some parents wish they could.

But I will say staying home all day has its challenges. Especially with my oldest, Liam. Liam needs structure. Actually, maybe I need the organization more than him. Anyway, we both need some sort of schedule. So today I worked on an early draft of what our schedule will be for the summer.

This is basically a daily schedule that changes every half hour or hour. Like for example: 8:00am to 8:30am would be wake up and breakfast, etc. You get the idea. This year is a tiny bit more challenging though. Liam is older and Luca is actually mobile. So I have to figure in all the new opportunities of mischief that can and will occur.

Also, Liam needs to be challenged way more this summer. He’s a smart kid but 2 months of just watching “Wild Krats” or “Moana” isn’t gonna help his cause. To keep his brain active on school things I’ve made copies of his work sheets from school. They are blank and he could continually work on them throughout the summer. Also, I am going to have a reading slot somewhere in the day with random books. This doesn’t have to be a super educated time slot, maybe even comics or something fun like that.

I don’t know, the other side of me feels sometimes I am too hard on him. I don’t want to be that kind of dad. I just want him to not disappear into the tv abyss for the summer. I want him to learn and experience some new stuff this year. Making good habits is also important to me. Hopefully we could start on some good hobbies this summer and revisit them every summer. This is what I would like to be spending our time on.

I also wanted to include an outside activities slot per day. Maybe like an hour where we could just go outside and do whatever. No rules or anything like that. Just a fun time. The thought also crossed my mind to take part in some hobbies that he could see progression in. Like planting a tree and making sure we water it everyday. etc.

Who knows? I’ll keep a log of what ideas I came up with. What worked and what didn’t. I guess zooming out and looking at the big picture, the ultimate goal would be to keep his screen time less than an hour a day and his brain engaged. I mean, maybe some days he could watch a movie. But those would be special days.

Am I being too harsh? I really don’t want to be. I just want whats best for him.

Buffering, Bitrates & Frame Rates, Oh My!

Bitrates, buffering, frame rates and resolution scales; thats what my day consisted of. My goal today was to finally fix some big lingering issues with the video side of things at my church. This didn’t happen. In fact the opposite occurred. I am no closer tonight to fixing anything then I was this morning. That’s a big bummer.

To get you up to speed, recently I completely revamped my church’s live streaming and video production operations. This was something I started at our church back in Connecticut. From the ground up, I was the guy. CT’s streaming setup and operations were pretty smooth for the most part. Of course your usual hiccups here and there, but for the majority of the time, it was an easy and rewarding situation.

When Lindsey and I first moved to GA, I starting helping with the streaming and video side of things. The people who were in charge understood what a big change the move was and allowed me to ease my way into it. Slowly but surely I grew more and more involved. Fast forward to today and the operation is basically mine.

When I took it over, the equipment we were using was simply outdated. And as is true with mostly every church situation, the money was tight. So I decided to take it all on myself. My opinion and vision was, we needed to rid of everything SD and make the plunge for HD. We also needed to change our broadcasting software and where people actually could watch our services. So to say this was a big turn around is an understatement. But to me, these were things that just needed to be done. Sure it would be expensive and sure it would be time consuming, but I really wanted to help move this thing forward.

This is were some headaches were introduced. You see, what a lot of people don’t understand is how many moving parts there are when it comes to this amount of technology all working together. Undo this and it effects that. Switch the setting on that and you’ll ruin a preset over there. Long story short, this was and is a massive undertaking and Comcast and their falsely advertised upload speeds hasn’t made things any easier, but I digress…..

I’m not complaining, far from it. I enjoy every second of it actually. There’s just something about helping people who are at home for whatever reason and experience church and receive something that may help them. Call me corny or whatever, but I genuinely feel that the streaming ministry is important and I feel privileged to be a part of it.

So ya, today was rough. I spent the majority of it away from my family talking with Comcast people and staring at screens, and we’re not any closer to figuring out the biggest issues that have plagued us for the past few months. But I will continue on. Do the research, change settings and bitrates. Rescale resolutions and frame rates. That’s what I do and I feel its important. It’s my place in the church and I enjoy it.

S-Town

I am an avid podcast admirer. Something about the medium really speaks to me. Whether it be the intimacy of conversation or the simplicity of audio only interface, podcasts and I just click. I have written at large about Podcasts in the past, so i’ll direct you there if you’d like a little more podcast history.

Recently, I re-experienced ‘Serial Season 1,’ a stellar Podcast from the people at “This American Life.” ‘Serial’ revolves around the mysterious death of a young teenager, with her ex boyfriend, Adnon Syed, as the main suspect. Throughout ‘Serial’ we are privileged with speaking to Adnon from prison and hear his side of this amazing story.

Serial was a fascinating cultural phenomenon, though. Before its release, I dare to say podcasts weren’t on the mainstream radar. Maybe a few of us lonely 3rd shift workers (at the time I worked for Home Depot, 3rd shift) but for the most part, podcasts were an unknown medium. But then Serial, and boom! Podcasts started garnering mass market attention and here we go. Corporate America took notice.

Right around the time my re-listen to ‘Serial’ ended, This American Life announced a new Podcast entitled: “S-TOWN.” They would release ‘S-Town’ all at once, all 7 episodes from the start. I was intrigued, but to be quite honest I wasn’t holding my breath for a masterpiece.

I’ll be up front about it, ‘S-Town’ isn’t a masterpiece by any means. It does however have all the ingredients for something special. There were moments of shock, awe and complete disbelief. Not the murder mystery ‘Serial’ is, ‘S-Town’ is its own breed.

You will meet a man named John B. McLemore, a quite obvious genius. As the story went: John B calls ‘This American Life’ to come investigate what he thinks is an unpunished murder in a small town in Bibb County, Alabama. That gets you in the door. But, ‘S-Town’ is so much more than words could express.

It won’t be long before your completely entangled in John B’s rants on current world issues, the shortcomings of a youthful generation and his complete disdain for his hometown of Woodstock, Alabama. Brian Reed is reporting for ‘This American Life’ and I couldn’t help but connect with so much of his thoughts and opinions as he navigates through this small Alabama town and deepens himself into this unique and bizarre world.

I have so many thoughts and conflicted ideas about how I’m supposed to feel about S-Town, John B. McLemore, Bibb County residents and the story that unfolds. Thats a very foreign feeling for me. Usually I have a decent hold on a piece of art I experienced. S-Town is different though, mainly because so much of it rubbed me the wrong way, but I couldn’t stop listening. It was engrossing to hear John B’s total hatred for his home, but how he felt so connected to the people and surroundings, he just can’t bring himself to leave.

Check it out if you like podcasts. S-Town progresses like a novel. The character of interest, John B, will stamp a lifetime place in your mind. I constantly find myself thinking about him, his actions words and his tireless contempt for his local surroundings and the world itself. He uses vulgarity far more than I am comfortable listening to, but some of his words rang so true, It was hard to turn away.

As uncertain I am about John B. McLemore and S-Town, I know for a fact they will create a unique escapism for listeners. S-Town is no Serial, but its a worthy listen if you have the time to experience something new and the energy to withstand John B’s rants on pretty much every subject in the entire world.

If you do decide to give it a go, I would love to hear your impressions and thoughts.

The Conversation Triangle

This is kind of a follow-up post from my previous. I was informed that Lindsey and 2 close friends embarked in an in-depth conversation last night. Not that anyone needs my permission or anything, but I strongly approve of moments like this. This isn’t the first time and probably won’t be the last I harp on a such a subject as important as conversation.

I have told Lindsey many times I feel like the art of conversation is slowly dwindling away. Especially, meaningful conversations where one can grow and learn. I mean think about it, when was the last time you had a significant exchange of words with someone who was 100% invested in what you were saying?

With the rise of social media and the style of “connecting” it spawns, all the little nuances of actually sitting down, looking someone in the eyes and listening to them are lost. Social media disables you to “feel.” You can’t read heartbreak on someone’s voice when you’re reading text on a computer screen. You can’t sympathize through pixels. What social media unfortunatley does enable is quick judgements, silent spectating and empty assurance. It really is a poor excuse of connecting and if thats all the next generation of humans have; they will be sharply cheated out of real, genuine companionship.

In-depth conversations are not only profitable, they are needed. As living, breathing people, we long for connection and bonding, at least I do. And it’s a rare feat when it happens. But when it does, you can bet you’ll know. You feel the presence of something special. Something foreign that only happens when you invite it. From my experience, it takes honesty, patience and listening. The conversation triangle.

Regardless of what subjects were talked about during Lindsey and their conversation, if one yearned for understanding and achieved some sort of answer, thats all that matters. To be able to sit down and reason is a God given right and a necessity.  Sometimes we lose sight of the simple things. Like just listening and learning from other people. Even if you don’t agree; switch your brain to learn, its unpopularly profitable.

In conclusion, I’m super thankful we have good friends and family where this is possible; good conversation. Sure, it’s a rarity in todays life. But almost all the battle is having the other half to talk to. We do. When Lindsey told me about their conversation, it served as a great reminder that we have friends who are there to talk when there is a need. And to me, thats priceless.

I had this client in Connecticut named Fred Russel. Fred was a warm, insightful man. He is one of my favorite people i’ve ever met. He was one of those individuals that you just wanted around. When he walked in the room, the atmosphere lit up with positivity.

I’m left thinking of something Fred always said at the end of his haircut. He would never fail to say: “Dan, another long conversation that seemed too short.”

I’ve always thought to myself: “ya, thats the mark of a good connection.” A long conversation that seemed too short.

Sprinkle some honesty, patience and listening on top, and you have something extremely rare and uniquely special.