As Christmas gets closer and we start to look to time off from work, I start to ponder how Christmas is going to shape up for my kids. I have worked hard over the last few years to maintain a relaxed holiday for the boys, but I have also focused on define some traditions that the boys will remember.

Growing up I remember stringing up the lights on the tree, helping dad put the lights on the house, baking cookies with mom, and participating in the many holiday activities that came our way. I remember that for a few years my Dad pulled out his old trumpet and my mom sat at the piano as we sang Christmas carols. We did eggnog by the fireplace, and setting up the tree was always a highlight. Yet, none really felt like “traditions” to me at the time. There was always fun activities, but often they did not seem consistent from year to year.

It was not that my parents didn’t try or that we, as kids, didn’t have a good time. It was just how things flowed. We were often traveling for the holidays, either to visit family or escape to a resort somewhere. When visiting family we often took on a few of the traditions exercised in their homes. Some cousins would open a single gift on Christmas Eve, some of us would put on skits or shows, sometimes we would have puzzles going, and sometimes we would just relax around the fire. Different family members handled each holiday in their own way, so that was how we celebrated … yet as time past I saw the patterns, those patterns are what became our Christmas traditions. As we built our own family we defined a few Christmas traditions of our own, these traditions were based off the patterns we saw growing up – just molded to fit our lives together.

Traditions are the threads that string together generations, they bind our future together with our past.

Over the last couple years, as I forged a new home, I worked hard to maintain the traditions that had defined our family. I was steadfast in my mindset of ensuring consistency for our children, not just in the rules of the household but throughout their life. Even as my world collapsed I did not want to expose them by disrupting their patterns and our family traditions. Our first separated Halloween and Thanksgiving we spent together as a family, we put up the Christmas tree together, and we spent our Christmas eve together. Over time this had become more difficult as we were also attempting to forge new lives. That first Christmas eve things fell apart and almost none of the activities I wanted to do as a family panned out. She had invited family friends to join us for the evening where I had expectations of a quiet “family” evening with the boys and no outside distractions. Truth be told, I was hoping for a chance of reconnection – a last ditch attempt to create a spark – and I think she was looking to ensure a distraction. We made the best of things for the boys … but it was obvious that it was uncomfortable and didn’t go the way either of us wanted. That was the last of our ‘joint’ family holidays…

While I told myself that it was for the boys, that I wanted them to see us continuing to work together and live as a unit, what I realized was that it was really me that didn’t want to lose the family. I was trying to force the image of the old world on what was quickly becoming my new reality. I needed to make my life my own, and this meant rewriting a lot of the previous patterns. It meant holding onto those things that I found most important while adjusting them to fit my adjusted family unit.

Traditions are not just the fluff and the ceremony, but the foundation on which our family cultures are built.

Over time, the boys and I created new traditions for our family. We start first outside the typical holidays and ceremonies by creating “Super Fun Fridays”, where we would go eat dinner at a local Steak ‘n Shake after I picked them up from their after-school program. This was an intentional bonding time I had manufactured to ensure dedicated time together every week. For a while we held a daily-reading period each night before bed, or sit Sunday evening after dinner and watch a movie. These were intended to grow into everyday traditions that the boys could hold onto as their world changed. Events and activities they could wrap themselves in like an old cozy blanket.

Some traditions, however, I have maintained as their ceremony remain at the core of how I want to define my family culture. So like every year since the boys were born, we shared in putting up and decorating the Christmas tree. Each year roles have changed as the boys have gotten older and grown into taking on new roles. However, it remains something we do together, it is how we start the season.

Traditions are what you make them.

Recently we made some modifications to our parenting plan surrounding the winter break schedule. During negotiations there were a few choices I had to make that would define how our Christmas split would be handled, and thus directly impact some of the ceremonial traditions that I have defined. So I was left torn over the situation, unhappy with my options, but I was reminded that current traditions are no set in stone – they are not an all-or-nothing scenario. They can be adjusted to fit your life or current situation.

Your traditions help define you and your family culture, they can be as unique as you are. If you can’t find your footing start small by defining a simple pattern. What starts off as scheduled time together can blossom into a tradition.

It is the emotions of the event that make them special and their consistency that brings comfort. What, where, or when isn’t as important as what is defined by doing it.

Happy holidays from our family to yours!

Dirty Laundry


Tonight I was back plugging quarters into a machine, hoping to get laundry done so I had socks to wear for tomorrow. I don’t exaggerate by much for I stretched it about as long as I could. But alas, deliver of my new washer could not happen before Thursday, the previous delivery attempt arrived with a dented washer unit so only the dryer was installed and the washer was returned. One-week has turned into two as the expected delivery is scheduled for this coming Thursday. Thus, my birthday enthusiasm for a new washer/dryer had to be tempered for a bit longer.

This has been a big deal for me, silly I know and one most people don’t understand. It is a small thing, but a practical item of life. I know, first-world issue right! However, unlike a new car or a fancy new TV, the washer/dryer is a core household item and I feel represents stability and independence. Most of my life I had access to W/D units, even in university I only spent two years where I used coin-operated laundry facilities. My only true “laundry mat” experience came during my first year of marriage as our place didn’t have room for our own. So, when I was moving out after 14-years I was leaving behind a lot of what had been built together, and part of what I left behind was the washer and dryer units.

I put the best spin on it I could, selling myself on much of it as I went. I turned down places with coin-operated facilities, choosing instead for a place with hookups but no units. Only later to find my circumstances did not go according to plan and buying, even used, units seemed too expensive. I was finding my rock bottom, and it was going to be a while before I could find some secure footholds to start climbing out.

At the time, I brushed it off. I like being humbled from time to time and thought this would be a good experience for the boys. So started our 2-week trips to the laundry mat, I made an adventure out of it as much as I could. The kids always found other kids to play with, and helped out more and more each time. Yet, inside, I hated it. This wasn’t me. I was a grown man with kids. I had a solid, well-paying job. Yet, I could not even provide that basic amenity. It infuriated me.

It was months before we moved, and in that time I made the best of it. I would take the boys when I could, always felt it was a good experience for them. I would bring a book to read and spend the time expanding my mind, and escaping the pressures and stress of the world. But I was happy to once again have 24/7 access to a washer/dryer at the house.

Not all foot holds are secure. The units that came with the new place were old. It was only a couple weeks before they boys mother was complaining that their cloths stunk of mold (thanks for the support!). The dryer finally died, taking a few of my cloths with it, and leaving me air drying clothes around the house which was a lovely image for guests. A craigslist replacement only quelled the problems for short time, so when the washer finally died I said “enough is enough!”.

It was time. I had the funds. I had the plans. So the weekend following my birthday I bought; I bought what I needed, I bought what would work, I bought a little for luxury, and I bought what wouldn’t break the bank. To me it was another affirmation that my life was returning. I was back! … and at least could do a load of laundry.

Tonight, standing there under the florescent lights I smiled. I only needed to wash the cloths, I could dry them at home.

The Mothers in my life


To the mother of my boys…

It was just over 11 years ago where I was holding your hand and watching an amazing show of strength and commitment as you brought our first born into this world.  While I know it wasn’t you first child, it was mine and it was incredible.  At that point I had already known you were going to be a fantastic mother, in fact that was one of the things that drew me to you.  I know I joked about staying out in the hall, or in the lobby, I wasn’t about the leave your side.

Today, you are still the incredible mother I saw when we first met.  Your choices, not always easy ones, have often been the best ones.  You continue to be an inspiration to me in parenting, and choices I make are often tempered with guidance I got from you during our years together.  The result speaks for itself, we have two wonderful children that provide more joy in my life than I could think possible.  And I have to say, it is because of you.

Happy Mother’s Day!


To my mother-in-law…

You supported us through the years with your love and your affection.  You have offered stability, compassion, and motivation in the face of adversity, which has helped keep me going and growing.   As for our boys, they treasure the moments they share with you, their grandmother.  It is a thrill for me to see the excitement that they show before and after visiting with you.  You show such patience and support as they share their latest skills and stories with you.  We all look forward to our next visit.  Thank you for continuing to accept me, it means so much to me.

Happy Mother’s Day!


To my mother…

There is no greater force in the world than the love of a mother.  I have seen it and I have experienced it.  You continuously drop everything to aid your children.  Throughout the years, all thirty-nine of them, you have been there to listen to my tears of joy or my tears of sorrow.  You have provided advice and guidance to many of life’s challenges, and it is clear to me that I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for you.  Thank you.

With the birth of our first child you also became a grandmother, far too young for many but some things can’t be helped.  However, as the perfect mother you are also a perfect grandmother (a.k.a. Nana).  The boys have such stories from the adventures at your house, reminds me of the times I spent with my grandparents and those are memories of a blessed life.

Happy Mother’s Day!


To my grandparents, aunts, and friends…

As mothers you have been the vessel the brought life into this world, and that is no small feat.  Yet, none of you stopped there.  You continue to show love and affection to the children in your life, not always your own.  I have seen and experienced the mothering attention shared with my boys and with me over the years, and that is something special.  You have heard said that it takes a community to raise a family, well, I am proud to say I have a strong and loving community of mothers so when I grow up I know I will be something special, and I also know that my boys are in good hands.

Happy Mother’s Day!


A Rose for mothers
To the mothers in my life … all my love.