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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Stay at Home Moms Just Don't Get it...

My wife is a stay at home mom. My good friend Mike Smith is a stay at home dad. I converse with these two people on a daily basis, probably more than I do with anyone else besides maybe my Dad. It's safe to say that I've heard my share of "venting" on how "difficult" their "JOB" of being a stay at home parent is. Needless to say, this is a very difficult subject for me to broach because of these relationships. While I love them both dearly and I never mind listening to them vent, I just don't think they get it.

Job (noun): 1. A paid position of regular employment.

As for me, I wake up every morning before the sun rises and I drive 45 minutes to work. I get into a work truck, drive to a neighborhood and run in a race against the clock to finish my work allotment before I run out of time. All the while I'm being threatened by customers, chased by dogs and at the mercy of mother nature (Who is also a stay at home mom, coincidentally). When I'm finished I get back in my car and take the 45 minute drive home in rush hour traffic. I do this every day 8 a.m to 5 p.m (plus drive time) Monday through Friday. Every two weeks I get paid for my work and my family uses that money to pay the bills, eat and buy a few things we might need. I've done this job for 15 years.

What exactly does a stay at home mom do?

  • Rolls out of bed and takes a nice peaceful shower 
  • Makes a delicious breakfast to eat while catching up on some television shows
  • Enjoys a nice warm and peaceful cup of coffee on the back porch
  • Feeds the kids a Pop Tart
  • Scrolls through her Facebook news feed for a few hours commenting on a picture of a cute Pinterest idea and a status of another stay at home mom complaining about how her toe nail painting got interrupted by her toddler who knocked over her nail polish and how frustrated she is now that there is a big ugly stain on the  new  plush carpet she just paid for with money her husband made at his job.
  • Calls a friend and talks on the phone for an hour
  • Feeds the kids a sandwich
  • Does some online clothes shopping
  • Calls the kids over to pose with her for a picture with her new selfie stick.
  • Sits the kids down in front of the television until daddy gets home from work.
  • Sends a few texts to her bestie about how she doesn't feel like cooking dinner
Does that sound like a job to you? Would you "vent" about the "job" you had to perform every day if this was your daily routine? I don't think so. Some people just need a reality check. These people need to count their blessings and be grateful for what they have and the people who make it possible.

Don't you agree? I'm sure you all do and I look forward to reading your comments. There won't be any debating this one. It's pretty cut and dry. Thanks for reading and have a great day.

Oh, wait...

 Check your calendar before you start calling me a chauvinist and berating me for my jingoistic comments waging war against the stay at home parent.

Ah, yes, 'tis April Fools day. Well, it was when I wrote this anyway... I may be a child but I'm not a chauvinist. Allow me to offer you a second definition.

Job (noun): 2. a task or piece of work.

 Is there a more important piece of work one can be called to pour her blood, sweat and tears into? This leads me back to a question I asked earlier.

What does a stay at home parent really do?

  • Wakes up on command
  • Feeds on command
  • Struggles to make time to actually brush her own teeth and take a shower.
  • Changes ungodly diapers at all hours of the day
  • Cleans up mess after mess after toy after puke after coloring on the wall (you get the point)
  • Plans three meals a day
  • Pays bills
  • Handles Doctor visits
  • Shapes and molds tiny humans into well mannered and respectful children
  • Shops for groceries
  • Disciplines
  • Manages melt downs (for both child and self)
  • Forgets to feed herself lunch.
  • Remembers to feed herself lunch but the baby needs her so it'll have to wait.
  • Runs all of life's little annoying errands that come up at inopportune times.
etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. 

Do I really need to list anything else? Because I can, but I'd like to wrap this thing up and get some sleep tonight so I can be well rested for my job in the morning where I really just drive around in a work truck listening to sports talk radio and get some exercise running through sub divisions while occasionally dealing with an upset customer or an angry gang of chihuahua's who, for some reason, view me as a threat in their sub divisional turf war.

I guess it just depends on your perspective. I could choose to describe my job the way I did at the beginning of this blog post or I could choose to describe it the way I did just now. I prefer the latter. However, no one should choose to describe the job of a stay at home parent, whether a mom or a dad, the way I did at the beginning of this blog post because it's the most important job on earth. The list of responsibilities is endless and thankless. To top it all off, Daddy (or the working parent) gets to barge through the door when he gets off work and be welcomed home like he spent all day saving the world when Mommy is the one who truly deserves that super hero's welcome. After all, she was protecting our world all day while Daddy was At work.

 Some people just need a reality check. These people need to count their blessings and be grateful for what they have and the people who make it possible...  it's usually us working parents. I know my boss is a lot more understanding than a couple of tiny tyrant toddlers.

Stay at home parents just don't get it...they don't get the respect and appreciation they deserve for the job they do. The next time you feel like taking a break and catching up on Grey's Anatomy, go right ahead. You deserve it.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Brothers Gotta Hug!!


These two have no idea how blessed they are to have each other.  I hope that one day they are able to look back on their lives and truly understand the gift they have in one another. The bond between brothers, brothers who really love each other, is like no other bond in the world. In my 34 years on this earth I've seen examples of brothers who would do anything for each other and I've also come across a few brother duos who didn't seem to care much for one another at all. "Love" might be the absolute last word I would use to describe their interactions together. I understand that brothers show their love in different ways, depending on a multitude of variables that may or may not exist in their relationship. However, there are certain behaviors I've seen or heard throughout the years that send up a major red flag; Words and interactions I hope I never see, hear or associate with my boys.

I have an older brother myself. His name is Stacy and he's 4 years older than me. I guess you could say he's a pretty decent dude, but we'll get back to him later.

I'll never forget one day years and years ago when my mom was babysitting for a neighbor who just so happened to have two boys about the same age as my brother and me. If I had to guess I would say that I was 8 and my brother was 12. The other two boys were probably 9 and 11. We lived on a lake and since it was a nice hot summer afternoon we all thought it would be a good idea to go swimming so we suited up and hit the lake. We were all so full of excitement and anticipation for the fun we were about to have.

 I still have a clear mental picture of the events that followed. I can't remember if we just ran down to the lake as my mom was still gathering towels or if he just waited for the first opportunity when my mom wasn't 100% locked in on us but the big brother of the other boys grabbed his little brother and held him underwater for what seemed like 5 minutes in my eight year old brain. I remember my excitement turning to fear and my eyes were probably bulging out of my head. I thought he was going to kill him. I just froze. When the little brother finally emerged from the water, a knock down drown out fight ensued until my mom could get them under control. It was like a good hockey fight but the ice was melted and they were trying to drown each other in it. I don't remember my mom babysitting those two boys ever again after this particular day. Hmm, I wonder why?!?

(This picture of my boys was taken yesterday 3-25-15 on the same beach I grew up on. We just happened to visit my home town. There used to be a big dock and a nice sandy beach but no one lives here now and it's all overgrown.)

Clearly, that moment has stuck with me throughout the years. Not only because it was scary but also because I had never experienced anything like it. You might be saying to yourself, "What's the big deal? It's just boys being boys." You might be right. Wherever those two brothers are today, if they haven't gone all Cane and Abel, they might be best friends. They might not even remember the incident. Maybe I sensationalized it in my innocent little boy brain. Regardless, I pray to God that I never see my older son treat his little brother in that manner. It's just not acceptable.

You might be thinking, "Oh, just you wait until your boys get older. You've got another thing coming," and maybe I do. Maybe I'll need to get a Mixed Martial Arts refereeing license and an octagon in the backyard in order to best parent my boys. I've heard some crazy brother war stories.

I've had conversations with friends and colleagues who despise their brothers. Some of them haven't spoken to their brothers in years and have no plans to put any effort whatsoever into that relationship because their brother, "is just a jerk!"

What a sad reality. How can a relationship between brothers make the slow transition over time from the picture above to a complete disdain for one another? How do we, as humans, so often let time harden our hearts and turn the precious gift of brotherhood into something we so easily take for granted and even consider a burden?

This should never happen. A brother should be a friend for life; A best friend given to you by God for no charge. A brother should be someone you can celebrate with, mourn with and confide in no matter the circumstance. A brother should be someone you know how to communicate with. A brother should be someone you love unconditionally. You don't have to put up with all his crap and like it, but you need to love him through it and get back on the same page down the road, after the dust has settled.

A brother needs to be like my big brother.

This is my favorite picture of the two of us as boys. You can tell we love each other here. Nothing has changed throughout the years. Sure, we could be closer. We have different interests. We both get caught up in our own life at times and forget that we live 2 minutes down the road from each other but that doesn't change the fact that this dude is a major blessing; A blessing that I took for granted for a large part of my life.

 My big brother never tried to drown me, although he probably had reason to. One interesting fact about my brother is that he is 38 years old and he's never had a sip of alcohol. Well... he may have had one "sip" depending on your interpretation of what I'm about to tell you. One summer when we were in our twenties and we went on vacation together he fell asleep on a picnic table by the pool. His mouth was partially open and I decided it would be a good idea to drop a "sip" of my frozen Pina Colada from my straw into his mouth. As you might have guessed, this didn't sit very well with him. He ran me down and threw me in the pool and finished me off with an elbow drop but he didn't try to drown me. If he ever wanted to this would have been the perfect opportunity.

 He never beat me up. When we were teenagers my friend Jeff would come stay at our house often.  The three of us always watched movies in my parents room on their bed. Jeff and I would wait for the clock to hit a certain time,  a time that we coordinated moments earlier, and we would "jump" him to try to see if the two of us could take him down. He was much bigger and stronger than us and I think he enjoyed the challenge. He had a go to move that was undefeated. He would just squeeze our feet until we said "uncle" and gave up.  It worked every time.

There is one particular night that we laugh about from time to time. I must have done something to make him mad because I took off running from our room towards the living room and I just knew he was going to catch me so I threw myself into the bookshelf in the hallway and told mom and dad that he pushed me into it. I think he ended up taking one for the team on that night.

He was never too cool for me. My brother and I shared a room growing up. That's probably one reason why we were so close. When we were still in school we used to stay up late looking through our yearbooks picking the "hottest" girl on each page. I bet all you girls from Keystone Heights wish you knew  the answers to that classic game. HA!

 He never made fun of me unless I deserved it. Honestly, I don't have one memory of my brother being mean to me in any way that I didn't deserve. Now that I think about it, maybe he brainwashed me?!? 

 He just loved me and put up with me and my annoying friends. He supported all my sporting and music endeavors. He picked me up from practice. He drove me and my friends around. He may not have always enjoyed doing all of this, but he did it. He was the perfect example.

When I was young I never would have said that my big brother was my best friend but when I look back on life he certainly was. That's why he was the best man in my wedding. Maybe I should mention the fact that he introduced me to my beautiful wife. Where would I be without him? (Don't let this go to your head Stace.) Sounds like I hit the brother jackpot.

I hope and pray that my wife and I are able to foster the kind of life long relationship between our two boys that my parents did between my brother and me. My parents deserve so much credit for our friendship.  I don't think they really gave us a choice. We had to learn to love each other and we did. I believe the first step is teaching the big brother to learn patience towards his younger brother. Let's be honest, younger brothers require extra patience. Don't drown him, just throw him in the pool. Don't beat him up, just squeeze his foot and show him he's still little brother. If you are blessed enough to have a brother in your life don't take him for granted.
Appreciate him.

Brothers gotta love each other!

Brothers gotta hug!

Or, if you're comfortable with it...

Brothers gotta throw on some super cool tie dyed shirts they found in Mom's old closet and crotch handshake!

 I'm fairly certain nothing signifies the bond of brotherhood quite like The Crotch Handshake.

Mom and Dad, I guess that's what you get for making us share a room.



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

My Dirty Little Secret: Coming Clean

So, if you follow the Dashboard Dad blog regularly, you've probably caught yourself thinking, "Wow, this guy really has life figured out. He's a guys guy who is exceptionally manly and he sets a good example of how a strong minded confident man should lead his family while still being in touch with his feelings enough to spit 'em out and express them through the majesty of blog. His wife must be the luckiest gal on earth, but I wonder how she was able to tame such a manly beast!?"

No? You've never thought that?

Am I that guy whose self perception is so far off from how others actually perceive him that people shake their heads in agreement during conversation, when in reality they are wondering how on earth he could possibly view himself in that manner? You know that guy right? I think we've all had at least one or two in our lives at some point. So disillusioned, but you're not gonna be the one to break it to him. The way he (or she for that matter) views himself couldn't be further from reality.

Well, speaking of reality, I have a dirty little secret and I think it's finally time for me to come clean. Sometimes things are just not what they appear, especially when you take the time to look in the deepest crevases of someone's life.

A few years back I let a certain something creep into my life and hide in my closet. I'm well past the denial stage. Now I'm just blaming it on everyone I possibly can, other than myself. It's probably best for me just to put it out there so all of you can hold me accountable from here on out. I'm desperate. I feel like this might be my only hope.

Have you ever experimented with drugs?
I'm not talking about your run of the mill gateway drug like marijuana. I'm talking about hard drugs. The kind that really sink their teeth into you and refuse to let you go. The kind that turn the entire remainder of your life into a constant one day at a time battle of abstaining from using.
Have you ever experimented with that type of drug?

Don't answer that question. I don't really want to know. I hope the answer is a resounding NO from all of you. Me? The answer is NO. I've never experimented with any type of drug in my life. However, there IS a reason why I bring it up. Thanks to my wife, I do believe I've experimented with something just as bad. She's the one who introduced me. She stuck that first figurative needle in my arm and she continues to enable me year after year. I feel like a slave to these chains she's shackled me with.

I really shouldn't blame her but the sad reality is that I do most times, even though I know that I have free will and that I am the one who ultimately made such a poor decision. I am the one who decided to follow her down this deep dark path. No one else. I honestly thought I could just dip my toes into "the devil's water" and not get hooked. I was wrong. I believe the key is avoiding that first figurative injection of the season. I've failed to do that multiple times. Now I spend my days and nights asking myself questions that I'm not sure I'll ever have the answers to:

  • Are Des and Chris truly happy? They sure seemed to have something special between the two of them, but does she ever let thoughts of Brooks creep back into her head? Oh, what could have been!?! Has her stupid brother screwed it up yet like he did with Sean or has he managed to keep his stupid mouth shut this time around, now that the cameras are gone? Punk! Poor Des. Good luck sweet girl. You are my favorite.

  • What was Jake thinking? Vienna? Really, Jake? A blind and deaf person could have told you she was a vindictive hussy. I guess you found out in the end didn't you? You two deserved each other. Creep. Good Riddance.

  • Brad??? Emily??? Never would have worked. Emily, you are a beautiful woman but you just exude high maintenance. Brad, come on man. Temper tantrums? Really? At your age? That guy just seemed fifty shades of f...nevermind.

  •  Did Sean really pick what's her face? I can't even remember her name but she would have been like my 8th choice. She must have shown you something that she never showed the camera because I just didn't see it, brother... and please explain to me how on earth you were fooled by Tierra's "sparkle" for so long. Come on man!!!

  • Josh and Andi, you guys live in the same town and you got to date on a Bachelor budget. How could you not make that work? I guess it just wasn't meant to be. Kids these days! 

  • Oh Ali, sweet Ali... and Roberto. Out of every couple in Bachelor history to break up, yours hurts  me the worst. You two crazy kids really seemed like you had what it takes. I just need to know why? WHY? That chemistry you two possessed together on the baseball field that time!?! What happened to it? Where did it go? Could I have done something to help? If I had started a fundraiser to put you guys up for just one more night in the fantasy suite could you recapture the magic and live happily ever after?????
Ah, The Bachelor!

 Will you accept this rose?

Will you accept my man card?

I think I'm too far gone. Tell me there is a light at the end of the tunnel. At this point I'm not sure if I'm salvageable. I've been chasing the dragon for far too long. I think rock bottom for me was the time I was on my way to my flag football game one Monday night and I caught myself thinking about how grateful I was for our DVR. What is wrong with me? I'm supposed to be a man. How did I let things spiral this out of control?

 I've put the blame on my wife. I've even put the blame on Chris Harrison. I think I've finally found the person who deserves to have this blame resting squarely on his shoulders though. From here on out I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways. No message could have been any clearer. If I wanna get my man card back I need to take a look at myself and then make that change.  Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Na Na, Na Nah!

My name is Casey Grice and I'm a bachelorholic.
I admit that I am powerless over it.

One day at a time.

From here on out I will NEVER even think about The Bachelor again!!!!!

I'm a Man!!! I WILL overcome!!! I've got this!!! No doubt!!!

P.S. Did Chris really just pick Whitney over that pretty virgin girl Becca?!?


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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WARNING: Dear Dad and Mom

What if I told you that I could time travel?
 What if I told you that I found something of yours from the future and brought it back with me? 
What if I told you that what I found was something carefully crafted by one of your children?
Would you want to see it?

I don't know about you, but if YOU told ME that you could time travel and that you found something that belonged to me I would tell you that you are certifiably CRAZY! However, I would want to see what you had just to satisfy my curiosity.

What could it hurt?

What could it possibly be?

I bet it's something amazing!

If I had to guess, I'd say that one of my little geniuses probably grew up to be the guy who finally invented the hover board from the movie Back to the Future, and you brought one back for me.

Am I right?

I'm right aren't I?

Weren't we supposed to have those by now?

No? That's not it?

Unfortunately, it's not something that cool. It's actually just a letter. A letter written by someone's child once he/she had grown up and done some real thinking as an adult, but I'm not sure who it belongs to. Check it out if you'd like, but don't say I didn't warn you. The future can be a dark and scary place depending on the decisions you make and the habits you develop along the way:

Dear Dad and Mom,

                     Hey guys it's me. I am writing to let you know that married life and parenthood are fantastic. By fantastic I mean, a real challenge, but you already knew that.  For some reason I've had a lot on my mind lately and I just wanted to get it all out there and off of my chest. I'd like to start by saying that I appreciate everything you've done for me throughout the years. Now that I've been on my own for a while I'm really starting to realize all the sacrifices you two made for me. As a child I never really understood how much time and effort you put into my life. It seems like something happens pretty much every day now that helps me put it all into perspective. You invested in me.  You provided for me. You taught me how to take care of myself. You taught me how to treat others. You told me all about love and the values to look for in a spouse. Thank you for that.

I do have a few confessions and questions though. There were a lot of things that I saw or heard while growing up that you never knew about. Maybe you guys didn't think I was paying attention? Maybe you guys didn't think I was old enough to understand? Maybe you guys got too caught up to realize exactly what was going on? Whatever the reason may be, I just need a few answers. I made many observations throughout the years but I just never knew how to properly address them.
  • Dad, I noticed that you would drop what you were doing to help a friend in need no matter what they needed, yet it always seemed like when Mom needed a favor you treated her like she was asking for the world. You just never had the time.
  • Mom, you were always so patient with me when I made mistakes. You were patient and forgiving of everyone's mistakes, besides Dad's. Sometimes it seemed like you enjoyed pointing them out, actually. It never made sense to me. It seemed like he was the one person you had unrealistic expectations for.
  • Dad, you always told me how much you loved me. You always showed me how much you loved me. Is there a reason why you didn't do the same for Mom? You taught me that we are a family and we're supposed to love each other. Is there some kind of exception to that rule between you and Mom?
  • Mom, you always taught me to speak to others with respect and I was held accountable when I did not. I never understood why you spoke to Dad the way you did  when you thought no one else was listening.
  • Dad, you always expected me to be forthright and honest with my feelings. You stressed to me how important it was to communicate with others but you always seemed to shut down and hold your feelings inside when it was time to communicate with Mom. Why?
  • Mom, you didn't fight fair. You fought to win the fight, not to resolve the problem. 
Alright, it's all off my chest. I think I feel better and I hope you guys understand. I'm sorry I never said anything sooner but I just didn't know how to articulate it properly. I'm old enough now that I do. Sometimes I catch myself  falling into some of these behaviors in my marriage and I don't like the way it makes me feel. You guys taught me to marry my best friend and I did, but it just made me realize that you guys did not. Or did you? Were you ever best friends? Do you love each other? I  know it's too late to change any of this for my sake but you can do it for yours. I love you.


Was this your letter?

I hope not.

Could you imagine receiving this letter from one of your children one day?

...Or even just knowing that your child had to struggle with these unanswered questions throughout life and there was no way you could go back and change things?

Wouldn't it break your heart?

Wouldn't it make you wish you could just go back and somehow find a way to do better? To be more kind and more loving towards your spouse; to be more like we teach our children to be?

I'm so glad I've never personally had to think about these things regarding my parents. My parents are both 71 years old and just as in love as ever. I could NOT have had a better example. I know that is not the case for everyone. I consider myself blessed to have never witnessed any of the examples in the letter above. I hope that my boys are able to say the same when they are my age.

I've never understood why we choose one person to commit to for THE REST OF OUR LIVES  and then we proceed to show love, kindness and patience to everyone else in our lives more than we do to the person we chose to do life with. It just doesnt make sense. I understand that we spend a lot of time with our spouse and conflict is sure to arise but we need to rise above it. We need to be more like teammates and less like adversaries.

We all need reminders from time to time. My wife and I are no different than anyone else. What's important is that we are able to step back and re focus. My wife does a great job of that. She's not perfect, but she always steps back and tries to see things from my perspective and I appreciate that.

Okay, she's perfect. Who am I kidding?

Remember what is at stake here. Find your proper motivation. Remember why you chose your spouse. You picked each other for a reason (last time I checked we dont really do prearranged marriages). Regardless of what that reason was, we all deserve to be treated like a best friend. Our children deserve to be able to do as we do, not only as we say, and still be on the right path.

I will leave you with a quote from the wise philosopher Jackie Moon:
"Everybody love everybody!"

Let's all do better.
We can do it!
Don't just be.
Be Happy.

P.S. Unfortanetly, I cannot time travel. Just in case I had you convinced.
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Thursday, March 5, 2015

FLETCH: So this is why people shake babies.

Meet Fletcher.
 Our 2nd born.

Fletcher has taught me so much about life in his 22 months on this earth. He has taught me how to truly love someone unconditionally. He has taught me a level of patience that I never knew existed.  Fletcher has brought me closer to God than I've ever been before... I hate to say it but Fletcher also taught me why people shake babies. Trust me, that last one was harder for me to type than it was for you to read...

A few weeks ago my good friend Mike Smith (Sunshine Dad) wrote a blog post about how crazy and difficult his second child can be. Why is the 2nd child crazy?  While reading Mike's post my wheels just started turning and I was reminded that I really have a  great story to tell. A story that can help expectant parents who may one day find themselves where we were in the months following the birth of our second child. A story that can also help parents who have been where we were but may still be facing challenges as a result of their own personal Fletcher.

Ahhh, the first cries of a new born baby. Such a welcome sound to the ears of a parent in the delivery room. You cannot wait to hear that cry. For the most part, it means that everything is okay. You can relax. Your new baby is breathing and really taking those lungs on their very first test drive. Give it all you've got, son. Let her rip! In a few moments we'll begin learning how to soothe you. We'll get you fed and swaddled... but for now, just stretch those lungs. 

Then we never want to hear you cry again... Ever! Ha! That first cry is the only one we'll ever look forward to. We'd rather just sit back and reap the rewards of being "amazing" parents, just like we did with our first born. I remember being convinced that our second son would be just like our first. Why wouldn't he be? We're not going to do anything different. We've got this. We've been here before. We know how this is done.

Wait! What?

You have other plans?

Unfortunately, Fletcher spent most of his first 5 months doing just what he's doing in the picture above. 



Look at me. I had no idea that the wrath of Fletcher was on it's way.  
Poor guy... (that goes for both of us)

Now, before you read any further please keep in mind that Fletcher is perfectly healthy. So many parents are unexpectedly hit with a diagnosis that has life changing implications just after the birth of a child. I'm grateful that was not the case with us. I want to be sensitive to that. The last thing I want to do is come off as a parent who is complaining about simply being a parent when there are so many others out there wishing all they had to do was deal with a whiny baby. Babies cry. I get that. Sometimes they are really hard to soothe. However, It can wear you out, frustrate you and beat you down mentally.  

According to our pediatrician, he may have been born with a somewhat premature digestive system. According to a million other genius armchair doctors he had Colic.

Colic? What is that?

 I mean, I know the definition of the word but
am I the only parent who thinks it's kind of strange?
 When I first heard someone say he had Colic my initial thoughts were:
How do we get rid of it? What's the cure? What type of medicine do we need? Let's get him all better.

"Oh, no no no. Colic is not a sickness or a disease. There is no medicine. There is no cure. Your baby is gassy and discontent which causes him to scream in pain at the top of his lungs for hours. We're going to call that Colic so we can technically have a diagnosis and hopefully that will make you feel better even though there is nothing you can do about it but try a few home remedies and give him gas drops."

Maybe it's just me but I would prefer you just tell me I have a gassy discontent baby and to buckle up for a wild ride because only God knows how long it is going to last... Yeah, that's probably just me.

 There were many times that I thought he had cried so hard for so long that he might literally explode before my eyes. This was the most heart breaking thing I have ever experienced, while simultaneously being the most frustrating thing I have ever experienced. How is it possible for a baby to cry this much? He's clearly not satisfied with the parents the doctor sent him home with. Why was this so easy the first time around and so difficult this time? Did we forget what to do? Why is burping this baby like solving a rubix cube?

 Daphne and I used to joke that in his first five months he cried more than our 2 and 1/2 year old had in his entire life. It was true. We would get him to sleep at night and 30 minutes later he would wake up screaming. He would continue to scream for anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour until we finally found the secret position that got him back to sleep. He kept us guessing. There was never any rhyme or reason to this:

Who could forget the old upside down crotch grab? One of our most successful positions.

When that didn't work I would resort to the two armed baby holster. I would hold him like this, bend over at the waste and swing him back and forth. Yes, we had a swing but he didn't care for it most of the time. He would prefer his Daddy get a little work out.

One night I played him to sleep with the Bubble Guppies guitar. My real guitar came in handy on multiple occasions as well.

Here we are under a dock on a beach on the North Carolina shore after a good 2 a.m. screaming sesh. 
Thank God for the ocean waves.

Ah yes, the night he wanted to prop his face in my hand and sleep sitting up.
Seriously Fletch!?!

Give us a break. Please, just one break? Fletcher could turn a 30 minute drive into a 2 hour adventure in which the only time he wasn't crying was when I stood in the Burger King parking lot in the glow of the drive thru menu imagining myself trying to disguise him as the kids meal toy and handing him over to the cute little girl in the backseat of the approaching Chrysler Town & Country and running for the hills. Oh, Fletcher!

What made trips like this even more enjoyable was the fact that his older brother was a "Team Crier." Oh boy, if Fletcher was upset Cooper was not about to let his poor little "bruhder" cry this out alone. Thanks Coop. We appreciate your concern. Really, we do.

My poor wife. When I was at work she was at home with the two boys all day. I don't know how she made it through this five month stretch. She deserves some kind of medal. No, she deserves more than that. She deserves a lifetime supply of Ice cream. Daphne, if you're reading this, I appreciate you and I will make you Ice cream 'til death do us part. I promise.

I remember taking a few days off of work just so she could have a "mental health day." I knew how helpful that extra set of hands was. There were nights when she needed to go out with the girls. Make no mistake, it was a NEED, not a WANT. I acted like it was no big deal but as soon as that door shut behind her I just prayed. There was also a two week stretch when I basically locked myself in the guest bedroom with Fletcher so Daphne could get some good rest at night. This involved a lot more prayer.

 Let me be clear that Fletcher's discomfort was more heart breaking than anything else but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't the most frustrating thing I've ever experienced. Some nights nothing worked. NOTHING! I'll never forget in my most desperate moments thinking, "So, this is why people shake babies." I'm sure that multiple times in your life you've seen the mug shot of some loser on the news who just went to jail for shaking a baby. Well, I've always been the type of person who immediately passed judgement on that guy and said a few choice words about him. I also made my thoughts clear on what they ought to do to him in jail, but I didn't know it could get this bad. I didn't know babies were capable of this kind of misery. 

Don't get me wrong. I've never had sympathy for someone who has made such a detestable decision. It's completely unacceptable. Empathy, however? Yes. Now that I understand how it happens, I completely understand how someone who is sleep deprived, frustrated and perhaps lacking the proper mental tools to have a child to begin with, can make such a horrible decision. After all, we literally tried everything besides shaking him and most times, none of it worked. The thought of it makes me sick. What if my mother hadn't put in overtime to teach me how to control my temper? What if God had decided to give my sweet little Fletcher to someone incapable of learning this unconditional love and special level of patience? I cringe at the thought as the tears well up in my eyes. Sometimes you just have to love someone through a situation and rely on faith that the reward is there even though you may not be able to see it. Thankfully, God gave Fletcher to Daphne and Me and we made it through that chapter of our lives together.

I'll never forget a conversation we had with an older woman when Daphne was pregnant with Fletcher. She had two children. Two sons who were in their late teens/early twenties at the time of the conversation. They were close in age like Cooper and Fletcher would be. She told me that from the day her second son was born she could tell he was just difficult. She said he was just different and he's been that way his entire life. Then she kind of rolled her eyes.

Today her oldest son is very successful. He's confident and thriving at life. He's a contributing member to society and in good standing with mom and dad. Her youngest son continues to make poor decisions and seems to be the black sheep of the family. I've often found myself thinking back to this conversation, especially during Fletcher's "dark days." I bet she would tell you that she was given a "bad egg." She would say that she did the best she could with him but he just always made things hard on himself. I just can't help but think that she may have expected her second son to be just like her first son and because of this expectation she never let him just be himself. Maybe she always held him to a standard set by the temperament of her first son and because he came nowhere near fitting into that mold she just wrote him off as a bad egg and therefore parented him in a completely different manner than she parented her oldest son. 

I remember those thoughts creeping into my head: 

"He's just so difficult." 

"Typical Fletcher."

"We're fighting a losing battle. Things will never change"

"What's wrong with this child?"

When they did I would think back to that conversation and how I felt like her second son just got the raw end of the deal. It just wasn't fair for him. He didn't get the same encouragement and praise because he was difficult from day one. When you really think about it, he probably deserved more encouragement. He definitely deserved more patience. He needed more patience and I couldn't help but feel like she gave him less. I made a deal with myself that I would NOT under any circumstance short change my Fletcher. I promised myself to always let my sympathy for his discomfort win the battle with my frustration for my own discomfort. His first few months were hard enough. The last thing he needs is a hardened and impatient heart from someone who should be opening his heart even wider for him. I was not going to let that happen.

They say that parenting is a "labor of love" and they are right. I can honestly say, now that we have passed this phase, that I wouldn't change a thing. I've grown so much through these trials and I feel like Daphne and I have won a battle. We used to ask ourselves questions like, "How is it possible for a baby to cry this much?" Today we ask ourselves  questions like, "How is it possible for a toddler to find so much joy in so many things?" He gets so excited about so many small things in life and brings so much joy to us on an every day basis. He's definitely still a handful. He's just a much more manageable handful.

 Today, Fletcher is almost two years old. He's the kind of kid who will walk into the kitchen, see his high chair and think, "Man, I'm hungry. I've got to find a way to get up there." Sure enough, if I turn my back on him for one minute he'll find a way into that high chair. Its incredible. I need to hide a camera in the kitchen to figure out how he does it.

 What makes it exceptionally mind blowing is the fact that once he gets up there and tells me how hungry he is, he simply refuses to eat anything...besides maybe the marshmallows out of Lucky Charms cereal.

We find Fletcher shut in a dark closet, shut in the pantry or stuck somewhere in the house once or twice a week minimum.

Oh, Fletcher! You've really made your mark on us. You've redefined the way we approach parenting and life in general. You've taught us so many lessons. I'm still trying to grasp the one where you potty while standing on your head.

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