Washing dishes

Am I proud of my son? Heck yeah!

Last Sunday, Trystan didn’t want to take a nap so I made him a deal. 

“If you want to stay awake, then you have to do what the grown ups do while you kids are napping.”

“Okay Daddy.”

So he washed dishes with me and afterward picked up all his toys in the livingroom. 

Watching two boys wash dishes may not sound too exciting, I just love hearing what Trystan has to say…


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.”

How to deal with two babies

Almost two years ago, Zoey was born.  Shelly and I were in the nursery ward at Providence Saint Joseph and I was sitting on the couch which was also my makeshift bed from the night before.  Trystan was at a children’s party with Kayla.  Ben and Sheri took him when Shelly started going in to labor the day before.  Zoey was in her crib sleeping next to Shelly.  We were tired, happy and in awe of the new addition to our family.  I couldn’t stop looking at her.  After taking her out for some tests, they brought her back in with a little pink bow in her hair.  It was held on by a small drop of petroleum jelly.  This is one of the reasons we love this hospital so much; the amazing staff.

There was a knock at the door.  “Come in!”  Shelly said.  A Catholic nun walks into the room.  Everyday she makes her rounds in the hospital to read scripture and give communion to the patients.  We chatted with her for a few minutes before she continued on.  We learned something from her that day that we have lived by and I believe is what makes Trystan and Zoey’s relationship the way it is.

“Is this your first baby?” Sister asked.
“No, she has a big brother.”
“Let me give you some advice.  If both babies are crying, take care of the older one first.  The second one won’t remember anything, but the first one will and might hold it against the baby.”

So from that day on every time Zoey and Trystan would both need attention, it doesn’t matter which one started crying first, we would go to Trystan and make sure that he was taken care of.  About a year later, when both of them were in need of attention I went directly up to Trystan to see what he needed.  He saw me coming and stopped calling for me, instead he pointed and directed me to Zoey.  “Look Daddy!  Zoey is crying.”  Since then, little by little he began to look to her needs more and more.

Here is a heartwarming episode that just happened this morning.  Shelly had already left for work, Trystan and I finished breakfast, and Trystan was working on a homework assignment on his little table (yes, he already has homework at 3 years old).  I hear Zoey crying from the bedroom so I bring her to the dining room table to get her breakfast ready.  Trystan walks over and shows her his page of upper and lower case letter B’s and she smiles in approval.  He puts the paper back on the kiddie table, comes to the dining table and climbs on his chair.  He grabs a paring knife and about six strawberries and starts slicing the leaves off each one.  I wanted to capture him on video using a knife so I started filming.  After getting two good shots, I turn my camera off.  Then I hear him saying, “Here you go Zoey.” I glance back and catch him giving her all the strawberries that he had cut.  Then he takes his bowl of muesli and yogurt and splits it with her… Just when I thought the cuteness was over, he gets his step stool from the bathroom and brings it over to the kitchen sink.  He grabs his and Zoey’s cups, fills them with water and brings it to her at the table.

Well, Sister’s advice has worked amazingly for two.  Hopefully she will be at the hospital when baby #3 is delivered and she could tell us how to play Zone Defense.



Just a Spoon Full of Sugar

Zoey catches the chicken pox at one and a half years old.  Two weeks after my shingles subside, she starts breaking out with little blisters all over her crotch.  Shelly and I didn’t know what it was at first.  We thought it was a rash from sitting in her pee filled diaper, but that’s never happened before.  The day after I noticed them, I called the Dr Mechoso who was able to see us that same day; our appointment was for an hour after I called.  She verified that it was chickenpox and prescribed antiviral medication and suggested that I give Zoey baby tylenol for the pain once the blisters start breaking.

My little girl was clearly in pain the next couple of days as the blisters spread throughout the rest of her body. Yet, she didn’t scratch as much as I thought she would.  Zoey is so patient.  She would have moments where she would just cry and whimper while trying to get comfortable. She would shudder from the pain.  The Tylenol and Wonder Salve helped a lot but still she had some discomfort to deal with.  I found that a bottle of milk and a nice movie is a good distraction for her.  One movie that I put on this past week was Mary Poppins.  I love the quality of that movie.  From the graphics, cinematography, humor, costumes, and the many subtle messages embedded in it to inspire and instruct.  I cuddled with Zoey on the couch as the movie played and we got to the scene where George Banks gets fired, he comes home to a house full of chimney sweeps and his kids are covered in soot.  “It was that Mary Poppins! She tricked me into taking the children to the bank.” and Bert putting away his brushes replies, “…she’s the one what sings, ‘just a spoon full of sugar to ‘elp the medicine go down…”  It was during this interaction with the chimney sweep that Mr. Banks has a change of heart.  And it was at this time watching it that I realize what triggered that change.

I have seen Mary Poppins so many times.  It was my favorite movie as a child, and I even had a crush on ol’ Miss Poppins.  I’ve seen it with Trystan and Zoey before and we sang to all the songs.  But this day as Zoey lay on my chest, riddled with blisters, whimpering periodically;  I saw that Mr. Banks came to realize that HE should be the one giving his children the spoonful of sugar.  He realized that one of his responsibilities as a dad is to ‘wipe their tears’ and help them face the difficulties in their lives.

I cannot take away my daughter’s pain, but I can try to make her as comfortable as possible while she goes through it.  I have no control of the virus or her immune system, but I do have influence over her spirit.  How we deal with our children during their times of suffering will form their response to suffering later on in life.  We can teach them how times of tribulation can strengthen their spirit, or we can teach them that they become a burden when they need to depend on others for help.  Another image that came to my mind is from the movie Life is Beautiful.  I imagined Guido carrying his sleeping son through a misty night in the concentration camp.  He is trying to find his way back to their barracks and instead they end up in front of a pile of corpses.  Guido was a father who was able to bring a piece of heaven to one of the most hopeless and desolate places on earth; a Nazi concentration camp during WWII.  He made his son think that it was a game and that he had to follow certain rules to win it.  In the end, his son has no memory of tragedy, only a loving game that his father had played with him, that saved his life.

These realizations inspired me to smile while washing Zoey’s blistered body, so she doesn’t feel like it is a burden for me.  They inspired me to make sure we make moments just for laughter.  Things that would normally make me react with disgust or surprise or anger, were seen as sources of humor.  I want one of my responsibilities as a father to be to bring a little piece of heaven wherever I am on earth, so that my little angels will feel right at home.