Pondering Life

A spiritual lesson from dirty diapers

One morning when Trystan was about a year old, Shelly and I woke up to him crying. I groggily walked into his room to check on him and see his onesie is wet. It wasn’t long before the smell made it’s way into my sleepy nostrils and I realized that he had an explosive movement in his sleep and soiled not only his onesie, but his bed as well.

“Shelly! I need help,” I yelled across the hall into our room, “I’ll change Trystan, can you change his bedding?”

I unbuttoned and began to peel Trystan’s soiled onesie off him and realized that his leg was wet. I took him to the bathroom since the mess was bigger than I expected. “It’s okay Trystan,” I said as he continued to cry. I carefully lifted him by his armpits so as not to soil my own clothes and put him down in the middle of the bathroom. I turned the shower on then unbuttoned his clothing to realize that this kid had been marinating in grit, grains, and special s#*t sauce as his back was covered in poop. I quickly jumped away from the already crying toddler. “WAIT!” I yelled. He cried even more, confused by my reaction. “Stay right there!” I said, holding him back by his head as his arms desperately reached out for me.  “STAY!”  At that moment, I saw his face. I saw the embarassment, the sadness, the plea for me to console him. “ARRGHHH!” I said, “just wait a second.” I quickly took my clothes off, held my little “tar baby” tightly and climbed into the shower.

* * *

I really love being a dad. Learning to love my children is also learning how to allow myself to be loved by God. As a Roman Catholic, one of my favorite things to do is also one of my least favorite things to do… confession. Weakness is weakness and I seem to be taking the same sins into the confessional every single time I go. I’ve had the same weaknesses for as long as I can remember, sometimes I handle them better, other times not so well. Sometimes I even think that God must be getting really tired of hearing the same thing over and over. He must be getting tired of having to change my “dirty diapers” over and over. Really? Did I feel like that about Trystan almost three years ago before he potty trained? Do I feel like that about Zoey now as she is beginning to potty train?

No. I love my kids. I don’t see dirty diapers (even the explosive ones) as a sign of my children hating me, or as a reason for me to turn my back on them. As a matter of fact, it makes me happy when Zoey tells me that she went poopoo. The more she matures and progresses in her potty training, she will start coming to me BEFORE she poops. And hopefully, I can get her to the toilet in time before her “weak” untrained body can’t hold it in any longer. Sometimes I find myself “marinating” in my sins, holding it all in within my warm onesie of pride and stubborness. It never fails that the moment I cry out to my Daddy in heaven, and let him know that I have soiled myself, he comes to embrace me and clean me up. I KNOW this. If I, an imperfect daddy can embrace my son despite his mess, then so will my perfect Daddy do even more for me. Every time I bring myself to surrender my sins, I walk out of our church on cloud nine, with a skip in my step, feeling completely loved, embraced and freshly showered.

Seeing Trystan now, fully potty trained, gives me hope that I too will mature past my spiritual weakness.  He inspires me by his sheer will power.  I remember asking him once to stop sucking his thumb (after creatively explaining the consequences) and the subsequent days, Shelly and I noticed him fighting the desire to suck his thumb.  Now he has grown out of that as well.

I am still working on letting my Daddy know BEFORE I soil myself instead of hoarding it like a little kid.  In many ways I look up to my children, I can only imagine how Mary and Joseph felt raising Jesus.

* * *

“Zoey,” she looks at me “did you poopoo?” I ask because I saw her with her thinking face a moment before.
“No.” She says shaking her head.  Her face looks guilty and I can smell the fresh cookies in the oven.

Why? Why does she hide it from me? All she has to do is say yes and I will gladly change her diaper. Then after asking myself why, I just smile because I know that I do the same thing. Then I lift my heart to heaven and say, “I love you too Daddy.”

artist kids, kid art

Inspiring Friends

Life can get pretty crazy.  Especially when you’re doing a balancing act between what you love to do and what you need to do.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Alanna posted a picture of her tomato harvest on Facebook. “I’ll trade you for some basil,” I commented. More people started chiming in until a pasta dinner was proposed to happen at her house. During the pasta dinner our friends Karen and Dabney who had recently had a baby were telling me how they expected and planned on slowing down the pace of their lives once their daughter Alice was born. They are dance performers and instructors and travel a lot, so they naturally expected to settle and find more steady work. Instead, the opposite happened. They started getting more teaching and performance gigs, to which they were able to bring baby Alice with them.

I thought about mine and Shelly’s journey with the kids and it was very similar. The time that we started having our children was when her career started moving forward at an insane pace and mine started changing from technology to something more artistic. When we got pregnant with Trystan, neither of us were working; I got a job as an engineer at 3M just in time before the baby was born. Then, shortly after we had Zoey, Shelly got a career bump and we moved to New York for 6 months where we had many adventures and my life as a stay home dad started my journey to career self discovery. After doing so many creative things with the kids and getting out of my daily technological grind, I realized that I don’t want to be an engineer any more. Now I am a technical writer in pursuit of unleashing my creativity into my vocation and a career that I love. It’s so crazy! We’re about to have baby number three and we feel even more dependent on providence to make ends meet.  It’s new and scary but we know we’re doing the right thing. One thing that makes it possible is that we have lots of support.

We have surrounded ourselves with brave friends who are leaping into the future guided by their hearts instead of the promise of stability offered by a “steady job”. I look back at my past, and I am so grateful for the sacrifices that my parents made to give me and my siblings the opportunities that we have to follow our dreams today. My mom was a successful sit-com screen writer and piano teacher when we lived in the Philippines. She was happy doing what she loved to do. My dad on the other hand, never pursued a career in what he really loved. We moved to the United States because my dad wanted to chase the American dream. My mom left her dream job and eventually became a Court Reporter. We owned a keyboard and she was able to teach all six of her children the fundamentals of music and launched all of us into band and orchestra programs while we were in school. My dad taught me guitar as I took to that more than I did the piano. From a young age, it was evident to me that both of my parents were very artistic. But the message that I got from them was that I had to become an Engineer so that I could provide for my family with a steady income. Not only did I hear it with words, I also saw it with how they lived their lives. They were martyrs for their children.

Many parents did that in their generation. I remember watching a movie where a son wanted to become an artist but his parents wanted him to pursue “computers” so he could have a steady income to be able to provide for a family. One day, during his sister’s debutante ball (filipino coming of age celebration) his dad, a blue collar worker, goes up to the microphone after many of his sister’s friends had finished performing for her, and dedicates a song for her.  His singing captivated the crowd and blew everyone away. The son finds out from the older guests at the party that his dad used to be a professional singer and gave it up when they got pregnant with him.

It is important to teach your children how to be responsible adults. It is important to teach them to be selfless especially when it comes to their own children. I also believe that it is even more important to teach them how to listen to their hearts and take leaps of faith in the direction of their dreams. Don’t be reckless about it, and blindly jump into the future. A lot of listening is involved. This is the kind of example that I want to show Trystan, Zoey and Zachary. I want them to see their daddy following his heart, pursuing his dreams, while providing for their daily needs. Mommy is doing the same thing too. It would almost be impossible if she wasn’t. The ebb and flow of providence switches back and forth. It breathes. It has rhythm. Just like dancing sometimes she shines, sometimes I shine but both constantly listening to the music. And both listening to each other.

Now I know that I don’t have to walk the same path my parents and many in their generation did. Each person has a different learning style and for myself, it is definitely by making mistakes and going through what not to do before figuring out how to do something properly. So maybe my parents’ sacrifice was God’s gentle way of letting me know how to raise my children instead of making my own mistakes with them. Each person is created for a purpose, so parents need to teach their children how to listen to their inner compass. Without learning to listen to that voice within, then it will be difficult to hear the call to your vocation.

People get paid for everything!  If your personality and talents inspire you to love skydiving, there are jobs out there that would require you to skydive. Whether it’s as a stunt actor, sky diving instructor, paratrooper in the military, etc.  There is a career out there that fulfills each and every person’s desires. You may have to be creative in monetizing your passion, but the fruits are out there for the picking.

I consider myself so blessed to be surrounded by so many friends who are willing to go out on the limb to do what they love. We are breaking traditional models while keeping traditional values, we are breaking the mold while enhancing the flavor. Some are riding the waves of new trends while others are riding old waves with a new style.

After such a long time of pursuing something I wasn’t passionate about, I am still listening for my vocation. With grand plans and a desire to create, I am exploring options in writing and music. Pursuit of writing prompted me to create this blog and my pursuit of music inspires me to DJ (www.soentertaining.com) and play guitar and sing for church services.  Over 16 years of training and experience as an engineer in aerospace and biometrics has also given me a skill set that is very unique.  I am aiming for what I love; though it is more likely that somewhere between what I love and what I have experience in… that is where I’ll find my calling.

With all that said, I dedicate this blog post to all my friends who inspire me to soldier on into a brave new world of pursuing what I love. I will not post their names on this public forum but will list some of their websites below (most of them don’t have websites or blogs). I am so proud of all of you and thankful to have you in my family’s lives. Shoulder to shoulder let’s move forward!

Check out some of our friends’ websites:
http://www.paxbaby.com – All about babywearing and carrying, get in touch with activities in the local Los Angeles area
http://www.mamabirdpostpartum.com – Lots of information for new parents from a post partum doula.
http://www.retromodernmom.com – The title speaks for itself. A retro mom living in today’s world.
http://www.rhythmjuice.com – Learn how to swing dance from some of the top instructors in the world

If I missed anyone, or if you are one of the dream chasers post your site in a comment 🙂

Speaking of being artistic; here is a self portrait that Trystan drew at 3 years old.  He ran out of time at daycare so he doesn’t have any arms.

kid self portrait

and here’s a picture of him for comparison:

IMG_2398

 

You put in fun, you get out fun.

One beautifully annoying trait about children is that they magnify what you give them. When people ask me what it’s like having kids, I tell them truthfully that you get what you put in multiplied by a factor x. Where this multiplier is exponentially proportional to the number of children you have. In layman’s terms, if you put in 5 units of fun and you have 3 kids, you get 5x5x5 (5 to the 3rd power) units back. Yes, this is me geeking out and finally using my 20 years of engineering experience in one of my blogs.

I ponder this today because at the end of the past few days, I’ve found myself tired and cranky at the kids. My schedule has shifted towards the early morning as I go to bed with the kids at 9:00pm and wake up anywhere between 3:30 to 5:00am because my body has gotten its 6 hour sleep quota. I drop the kids off at daycare at about 8:45am, go to work and get off at about 6:30pm. By the time I pick the kids up from daycare, my emotions are exhausted and I get really sensitive. So I’ve been taking field data about kids in general, after all, I’m the one who changed his schedule, so the kids are the control variable.

Naturally, getting off of work so late in the day, the first priority in my mind is schedule. I map out how long it will take us to get home, make dinner, bathe the kids, read books and then put them to bed. One day it was more difficult for me to be patient with Trystan as I tried to get him in the car and he just wanted to goof around. He ran around the car as I chase him to get him in his carseat and buckled up. I get impatient and he gets frazzled, so I get frustrated and he gets upset, I get angry and he starts crying. One morning, he got sad because his paper airplane, which was visibly worn from mileage, wasn’t flying as well as he wanted it to. I took it as my chance to see what happens if I just use the him to help me unwind, instead of giving him the opportunity to wind me up.

After work, I took a crisp piece of paper and made a paper airplane that even Howard Hughes would marvel at. I drove to the daycare and picked him up before Zoey. He gave me a big hug and thank you as I gave him the new paper plane. We spent about 5 minutes on the grassy lawn in between his building and Zoey’s building just flying the plane. “Look Daddy! It flies even if you throw it backwards!” He was happy when we picked up Zoey. So he made Zoey happy. The car ride home was spent talking about his day, talking about the new paper airplane, singing kids songs and making animal noises, or fart noises with our mouths.

As a performer, I’ve learned the art of having an “emotional curtain” where there are things you keep backstage and things that you perform for your audience. In this case my audience is Zoey. I smell a very ripe odor coming from her general direction so I ask, “Zoey, did you poop?”
“Noooo.” She replies shaking her head.
“Do you need a diaper change?”
She points to between her legs and nods. So I grab the changing mat, wipes and diaper. Gauging by the flavor and potency of the atmosphere around Zoey, I knew it was going to be a stinky one. So I open the stage curtains as I peel back her diaper.
BACKSTAGE: Oh my gosh, I want to gag. My eyes sting.
ONSTAGE: “Zoey, are you joking with me? I thought you didn’t have a poopoo?”
Zoey laughs.
I try to play it off by taking short breaths through my mouth.
Zoey: Happy Birthday To You!!!

Yes, she started singing the happy birthday song. I guess she interpreted my breathing as blowing out the candles on a birthday cake.

Oh yes, there are many times when I have to bring the curtains up and create a magical play for Trystan and Zoey, but it sure makes life more fun. Instead of bringing them into the backstage madness of missed lines, quick changes and conflict between cast members, I feed them the energy that I want to get back as I stand onstage with the spotlight on me.

I love you too Daddy.

When I started this blog, I chose the name based on my friend’s question, “what do you like most about being a dad?” and I replied, “hearing my son say, I love you too daddy.”  Then when I got the shingles and was thrown into isolation, I got a lot of time to ponder and the title for my blog became symbolic of my desire to please God the Father.  I wanted to tell him “I love you too, Daddy” with my whole being.  This past Good Friday, I got a message from my uncle that my dad had been rushed to the ICU in the Philippines.  On Saturday another message that he was non-responsive.  On Easter Sunday, my daddy passed away.

I never really knew my daddy.  I believe he had a tainted childhood which made it difficult for him to open up to other people.  I remember growing up, listening to my mom tell us about her side of the family; how my grandfather wooed my grandmother; how my great-grandfather forfeited his family’s fortune to marry my great grandmother; how my great-great-great-grandfather was a famous writer who went under a woman’s pen name because the women were the storytellers in the Philippines.  But if I asked my dad how he was doing, “I’m okay.” was as much as I would get.  “How is work?”, “It’s good.”  In the past couple of years, after moving to the Philippines, his phone calls would last no longer than 5 minutes, and would consist of “How are you?, how are the kids, how is Shelly,” and end with “I love you.”  I might be able to tell him a bit more of what we were doing immediately but part of me was angry at him for leaving, so I was in less of a talkative mood every time I saw his “Dad” on the caller ID.  As angry as I was and as short as our conversation was, after he said, “I love you.” I always said, “I love you too.”

Most of the time I didn’t even know what to talk to him about because I had no clue what he was into, or what he was doing.  I feel almost a bit of a jerk for not reaching out more when I saw him last Christmas.

Since he died, some crazy things have been happening that I can only attribute to grace and his intercession.  One of my friends told me that she would offer up a prayer that my daddy could love me more completely in heaven than he could on earth.

My daddy was far from perfect.  He had trouble showing how much he loved me.  He suffered silently.  He laughed silently.  As difficult as it was for him, I know that he tried to say, “I love you.”

Now that he is gone, I feel his presence even more and I say, “I love you too daddy.”