Big Incoming Post, New Furniture & Connecticut

I’ve mentioned previously that working on big, long writing entries have been far, few and in between lately. Well, at some point in the next week or 2 I’m going to post one that I have been working on a while. It has to do with silence, or the lack of quiet time in our lives. I hope everyone enjoys it. **By the way, I have put my most recent “deep thinkers” in a widget either on the bottom or side of the site (depending on mobile or not) for easier accessibility.

In other news, Lindsey and I just bought a bunch of new furniture for our home. We moved in almost 2 years ago now but never really furnished our house the way we would have liked to. Recently, we purchased a bunk bed for Liam and Luca, a new media table for our tv and electronics. A bunch of “homey” type things for the walls and decor purposes.

Then Lindsey went to the Restoration Hardware outlet in Jacksonville and really got some good buys. We’ve always loved Restoration Hardware but can barely afford anything there. The outlet offered some great deals and we took advantage of it. We got 2 gorgeous dressers for the boys bedroom and our bedroom. Also we got a great kitchen table that fits our home well. All in all, our house is shaping up quite nicely before arrival of baby #3.

Lastly, Lindsey and myself will be going to Connecticut in a few weeks to celebrate my Grandpa’s 90th birthday. We are super excited to spend time with him and all of my family! It is quite an odd trip for us considering we are going alone. No kids. We are both looking forward to enjoying some sane time again, but i’m sure we will miss the kids within hours of leaving. All in all, I love going back to Connecticut, though. I lived 27 years of my 31 year life there and as much as things change, everything in CT seems to stay the same.

That’s about all the updates for now. You may have noticed I am not posting everyday. This is half intentional and half because of how hectic everything has been lately. But for now, I’m going to focus in on finalizing my “deep thought” post on silence and hopefully upload it within 2 weeks.

Fidget Spinner & Rubik’s Cube: The Tale of Distant Cousins 

It’s no secret today’s kids get a lot of flak. They don’t dress right, they have zero attention span, they stare at a glowing plastic screen all day, etc. etc. etc..

Sure, I’ve heard all of these statements. But the other day I was watching someone at work spin this toy thing on their finger for minutes upon minutes. Finally I asked: “What is that thing?” “A fidget spinner” he replied. And so it began.

Something about it struck me as odd. Well, many things about it struck me as odd. First, apparently this is a country wide phenomenon, to the likes of the infamous Furby revolution. They didn’t exist and then bam, there they are. The 2nd thing was how no one was making the obvious comparisons to the Rubik’s Cube. It’s a no brainer for me. Make sense or not, these things are cousins. Well, distant cousins.

The toys have some major differences though, the Rubik’s cube was a problem solving mechanism. It had a mission statement. That little cube stared at you, playing or not, and demanded to be solved. For the majority, the RC was a puzzling, difficult contraption that was a bicycle for the brain. A tool for young and older minds alike.

The Fidget Spinner is none of that. It’s a thing that spins, thats it. It doesn’t even try to be advantageous. It has no motivation or drive. It just spins. Even someone as dimwitted as myself could see the potential for some kind of gaming experience or challenge inducing feature. Like just thinking out loud, maybe a digital counter to number the spins. So when you pass it from person to person, they could compete for the most spins. I don’t know, you get the idea. But no, the Fidget Spinner effortlessly lacks the ambition.

So your probably asking why are these things distant cousins? Simple reason I tell you, the masses are consuming it. Sure the majority of certain demographics play with other items in large scale. Video games, cell phones come to mind, but this is a plastic little toy.

Here’s why this is somewhat scary to me. The way my brain works is odd sometimes. I try and reverse situations to make sense out of them. So here I go. If the Fidget Spinner was released when the Rubik’s Cube was (1974), is it a hit? Is it a run away, hands down worldwide sensation? Or what about the Rubik’s Cube? If the Rubik’s Cube took the stage in 2017, does every young child to early adult lust for one?

I mentioned in the first paragraph what the general consensus of the young generation is to some. Lazy, unambitious, and mostly idle, a zero competitive spirit, etc. Personally, I don’t really believe that. I’ve always believed you can’t judge by the majority, you have to do your due diligence and judge on a person to person basis. Thats how I would want to be judged.

I will say this though, with the rise of the Fidget Spinners, I’m scratching my head harder then ever. Truth is, the Rubik’s Cube wouldn’t make it in today’s world. It’s problem solving, thinking required, mentally intimidating demeanor would be unattractive in comparison to the Fidget Spinner customers. Which makes me wonder more than ever; after the Fidget Spinners time in the limelight is long gone and the masses spin their last fidget, what comes next?

Could it be that the these toys mirror the current state of cultural and societal span of attentions? I seriously hope not. But it does raise the question quite boldly.

Split

If you know me, you know how hard its been to not review Split. I know it’s been out a while and some people were puzzled at the vacant presence of my opinion to M Night’s latest. Let me just say this: I needed to see Split more than a couple times to really put my words on paper for it. So at long last, here we go.

DISCLAIMER: *There are no spoilers here, I have another post for all that goodness.*

Channeling a Hitchcockian stillness while playing in a genre kingdom of his own making, M. Night Shyamalan reestablishes himself with “Split,” the director’s return to form film. A horror film that hides itself as a dramatic thriller, revealing its chilling secrets with creeping intensity, “Split” is an effortlessly riveting, completely engrossing work of cinema.

Beginning by introducing a terrifying event into a banal afternoon, “Split” swings a narrative hammer that revolves around man whose dissociative identity disorder leads him to commit violent acts. As a psychologist attempts to comfort and control him, the man’s varying personalities wait for the coming of something monstrous.

The story’s secrets will not be revealed here, but they are compelling to say the least. Observing mental illness and mental fracture, the narrative paints an enlightened image of disorder and examines the results of mental and physical trauma. It observes the personas of victim, enabler, and perpetrator, and it observes the raging mix of characters that one mind can conjure. These observations give the film a particular depth that is both layered and invitingly melodramatic, even for a top notch M. Night film.

As usual, Shyamalan frames his story in a landscape that is vibrant and textured. Shadows and shapes pour from corridors and corners, creating a sense of mystery. Unlike his last few movies, editing is sharp, and shot selection, while straightforward, builds a dramatic energy. Shyamalan conducts the work an operatic intensity whose rhythmic tension is delicious and a call to the previous, previous Night works.

Aside from composition and cutting, the key to that tension is James McAvoy who creates such palpable characters as the DID afflicted man that the audience expects more than one antagonist to be haunting the film’s locations. His performance is chilling and dynamic. He is able to cause fear one moment and empathy the next; and, as with the production and story, there is something operatic about the character. McAvoy communicates that quality with ease. Anya Taylor-Joy also fulfills a rewarding arc as a foil to McAvoy’s divided character.

Potently impactful and appealing, “Split” is a fine piece of work. Shyamalan assembles something with impassioned grace and grit, while developing a tangible sense of tension. It is an all-enveloping experience that thrills, shocks, and, ultimately, surprises.

After thinking long and hard, I would call Split M. Night Shyamalan’s Silence of the Lambs; a tight, confined chiller premise infused with empathetic intimacy. Shyamalan has never been a genre auteur, but a genre doctor, diving into various ideas and flavors and breathing a personal touch into their framework. The Sixth Sense isn’t *just* a ghost story, Signs isn’t *just* an alien invasion picture, The Visit isn’t *just* a handheld/found footage exercise; they’re all explorations of trauma and grief, of lost time and how it passes by like seasons in the year, of cinema’s capacity to merge a thrill with a tear.

Welcome back M. Night. Now please, don’t leave again.

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.

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:

FullSizeRender

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.