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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Family Tree With Branches That Grow Legends

My name is Casey Grice. This is a picture of me and my two boys.  The following is the story of how I came to realize the importance of having a basic knowledge of my ancestry & family tree.

 As a young man I never really cared about where I came from. My parents were pretty cool and so were my grandparents and anything that happened before them, well, that was just ancient history that nobody really had time to care about. Atleast, not me anyway. Then one day I received an emergency collect call from my estranged Uncle Ned, pictured below:
Uncle Ned is an I.T. guy for a marketing firm in Jackson, Mississippi. His interests include high fashion, nature, and croquet. The left side of his face is 88% paralyzed from a bird watching incident that occurred in the spring of 1994. It involved a painters ladder, an aggressive woodpecker and a sidewalk, but those are the only details Uncle Ned cared to divulge.

It only took 2 minutes on the phone with Uncle Ned for that handsome silver tongued devil to convince me that I needed to lend him a helping hand. You see, he was on the road working on his side job, managing the career of my cousin Chico, an up and coming artist... 

(Quick aside: Not only had I never met Ned or Chico before this phone call, I also never knew they even existed.) 

Ned and Chico were passing through town and needed a place to crash for the night, due to a hotel room cancellation resulting from a sponsorship mix up. As a man with a passion for family...and art for that matter, I couldn't say no.

Well, as it turns out, Chico's art form of choice was that of the Mixed Martial variety. 
(This is a poster Chico gifted me for "tu hospitalidad.")

Not exactly compliant with my expectations but family is family...and like Chico said continually throughout the night, "Tu Casa es Mi casa!" I don't speak Spanish but I do believe that's something they say in their culture to express gratitude. 

We stayed up late that night exchanging stories of life and love. I learned so much about Chico through his broken English and intense facial expressions.

 Among other things, I learned that Chico is a man of many passions. He has a passion for gambling, fist fighting and beef jerky... as well as a serious passion for passion itself. Chico fights in the MMA featherweight division under the name "El Chupacabra."

By the end of the night Chico asked me to be the best man in his upcoming wedding. I was honored and I obliged even though I'm not exactly convinced we're related. The resemblance is uncanny though, so I was forced to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I know what you're thinking. "How could you put your family in danger by letting these strangers under your roof for a night?!"

I understand your concern. I really do, but as strange as these two men seemed, I couldn't escape the fact that the strong genetics from my dad's side were undeniably present. I just couldn't figure out why my parents had kept Ned and Chico's existence a secret for all these years. 

When I finally expressed my concern to Uncle Ned he explained to me how he had some of the same unanswered questions that he'd been juggling around in his unusually large brain. He explained to me how he recently uncovered a piece to this mysterious puzzle and as he pulled his Nextel phone from his pocket he suggested we extend an invitation for the night to my alleged half Uncle Early Ray who claimed to be travelling though town with the Pro Bowlers Association... One beep, one direct connection and one 10 minute cab ride later, Early Ray was ringing my doorbell with his nicotine stained fingertips.

Early Ray was unemployed. He had been bouncing around the underbelly of the amateur bowling ranks since 1998 looking for his big break, while growing his bangs. He blamed his unemployment on Obama... and Nixon... and every president in between. All the man seemed to care about was politics, smoking cigarettes, bowling, and smoking "left handed cigarettes" as he called them. After he finished venting about his understanding of the intricacies of divorce law, I was finally able to get some valuable family information out of him.

Could this night get any stranger?
 YES! The answer is obviously, YES!

Apparently this "family mystery" was something Early Ray stumbled upon late one night in a cyber cafe, shortly after his seventh divorce became official. He struck up a conversation with a waitress named Ernestine who was in the twilight of her life. After a few rounds of drinks and in between drags on her cigarette, she spoke of her great grandmother's long distance romance with a war hero named Ulysses. 

Now, you just don't hear the name Ulysses every day. Long story short, after a bit of prying, Early Ray was able to conclude that Ernestine was speaking of my Great Great Great Great Grandfather on my Dad's side: 

Ulysses S. Grice. 

Amazingly, these pictures survived the great fire of 1800 with minimal damage. He was an inventor, a scholar, a barber, a soldier and most importantly, a genius. He was single handedly responsible for 85 Indian scalps in the French and Indian war before he realized they were allies to the French and the point of the war wasn't to eradicate the Indians. (He fought for the French as a favor to the Great Marquis Duquesne who he befriended while bartering on the black market.) He was also responsible for the scalps of the President and all of Congress which he cut regularly at his barber shop in Norfolk, Virginia some time after the war. Some of his most popular inventions are the monacle (pictured above), the bifocal, the 21st century scissor (also pictured above, not to be confused with the 20th century scissor) as well as the 2 way mirror/window thing they use today in police interrogation rooms. 

At the peace conference of 1763, the British received the territories of Canada from France and Florida from Spain, opening the Mississippi Valley to westward expansion. According to Ernestine, this is when Ulysses relocated to France to become the liason of foreign affairs. 

Ernestine provided Early Ray with a satchel full of letters her great grandmother received from Ulysses. The letters served as a detailed documentation of their romance up until the point where Ulysses informed her that he met an italian debutant named Catalina and he had fallen in love. This was as far as Ernestine was able to take Early Ray, but it was all we needed.

We used the information Ernestine armed us with and that night we were able to find Ulysses' biography on a French website where we found out that he and Catalina had a son who grew up in southern Italy and became the founder and owner of the best pizzeria in Southern Europe.
My Great Great Great Grandfather went by the name of Harry. He made a delicious pie. He had many years of kitchen experience having worked in cafeterias and bistros across Italy throughout his formative years.
Harry built a pizza empire. A Harry Pizza Empire. He became the richest man in all of Italy and it was due to his inability to settle for anything less than the perfect pizza pie... that, and whatever the secret ingredient in his sauce was. 

Along came fame and fortune and with that fame and fortune came power and with that power came dreadfully horrible decision making.

Harry's European downfall came when he used a dough roller to beat up a member of the media who wrote an expose exposing the fact that the hair on Harry's head was not actually attached. An anonymous source (most likely a disgruntled colleague) was quoted in the peice:

"Did you ever notice that, from the age of 19, Harry wore a hair net everyday? Did you ever notice that every job Harry occupied required a hair net to be worn? Coincidence? I think not. Did you ever notice that Harry grew a massive beard once a year and when he shaved, he pasted the clippings atop his head and unsuccessfully attempted to hold down the runaways with a hair net? Did you every notice that hairy shed like an English Bulldog?"
Harry was exposed and run out of the country as a fraud. He also had charges of collusion, racketeering and tax evasion which didn't help. Harry's birth name was actually Floyd. He changed it to Harry when his hairline began to recede. Maybe good desicions were never Floyd's strong suit.
He came back to America and had a son himself. 

My Great Great Grandfather Ace:

Ace was was a true champion. His only interests were throwing things and racing things. He lived to be 111 years old. He died from a self imposed dart wound to the neck. That dart ricochet off of the metal surrounding the bullseye and pierced his jugular. Had that dart stuck (in the board) it would have been his 455th tournament championship. 

Ace is in the Guiness Book of World Records... twice. Once for the longest "Red Bullseye" ever thrown (57 yards) and again for the most DUI's while riding a lawnmower (also 57). Ace had a self described "serious to somewhat serious" drinking problem that could also be attributed to the cause of his death.

Ace left behind two sons who made an impact on this world unlike many before them. 

 I introduce you to an entrepreneur like no other:

My Great Grandfather

Dr. Darryl Grice
Darryl was a Labor & Delivery Dentist. In fact, Darryl is the father and founder of modern day Labor and Delivery Dentistry as we know it.
What's that? You've never heard of Labor and Delivery Dentistry? That's because Darryl also invented the Epidarryl, which is known today as the Epidural. His patent was stolen by his partner, Dr. John Bonica in the year 1940 and the name was subsequently changed. The invention of the epidural anesthesia put Labor & Delivery Dentists out of work world wide.

You see, before the Epidural, laboring women would get their cavities filled, their root canals, their teeth pulled, etc. during child birth as a form of anesthesia. The good old distraction technique. This practice killed two birds with one stone while simultaneously allowing the mother to feel that sense of accomplishment as she was able to multi task while giving birth. It killed 3 birds with one stone actually. It was during this time that cases of post partem depression hit an all time low.
These pictures were taken during the Labor & Delivery Dentistry BOOM of the 1930's. Many world renowned doctors still refer to the 1930's as Darryl's Decade.

Darryl passed away during the birth of his only son Swinton (my Grandfather). For old times sake he attempted to perform a root canal in the mouth of his laboring wife. I find that it's best to leave the details out when telling this part of the story.

That leads me to Darryl's brother, my Great Uncle Gary. There aren't many known pictures of him. The first one to come up on a Google search is this police sketch from an aggravated manslaughter charge from the year 1940.
On the surface one might struggle to find any redeeming qualities in the character of Gary Grice. However, if one were to dig a little deeper through the wake of prohibition in the 1920's and the subsequent rise of the American Mafia in the 30's and 40's one would see a man devoted fully to his craft.
A few face tattoos and multiple arrests later Gary managed to engage in a crime spree that left no doubt in the mind of the notorius mobb boss Lucky Luciano that Gary was a legitimate bootlegger as well as a deserving associate and anchor of a burgeoning criminal empire. The transformation was complete.
Gary had taken on the alias Brutus Sampson and ingrained himself deeper in the American Mafia than any FBI agent before or since and Gary was single handedly responsible for the undoing of the American underworld. He's also the man who is responsible for why I never knew any of these profound men were a part of my family.
 We were put in the witness protection program but we weren't forced to change our last name because everyone in the mafia knew Gary as Brutus Sampson and Mr. Sampson was so dedicated to his craft that he had no traceable family.

What a legend.

It took a lot of digging but with the help of 
Ned, Chico and Early Ray I was able to uncover a relatively interesting family ancestory. How about you? Have you ever come across any characters like these in your family tree? If not, you should check it out. I'm sure this type of thing happens all the time. 

The first two sentences of this story are true. The rest is a piece of complete fiction.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What was your favorite part of the day?

Hands down, without a doubt, my favorite part of a typical week day is the very moment I walk in the door from work. I'm sure all of you working parents know exactly what I'm talking about. There's nothing else like it. I'm a hero simply for walking through the door and I'm home with the three people who mean more to me than anyone else in the world.

My wife freaks out, drops what she's doing and runs towards me with a smile that lights up the room. She tries to hug me with all her might but she underestimates how fast she's running and bounces off my leg and ends up on the floor as she frantically starts filling me in (two inches from my face) on which bad guy she's been fighting today. Scarlet Overkill? El Macho? The Shredder? If no bad guys have stopped by the house she enthusiastically fills me in on the latest episode of Bubble Guppies or tells me all about her adventures at school or in the backyard...

Wait a minute... I always get confused here... I think it's actually the kids who lose their minds when I arrive. Their mother is only slightly more calm. Slightly...severely... it's all the same. I'm still trying to figure out how to convince their mother that she should react the same way they do when I walk in the door. I should have her convinced any day now. I can feel it coming. I'll be sure to blog about it when it finally happens. ;)

Regardless of who reacts how, I'm just happy to be home in a house so full of love. I'm happy to see my wife's beautiful face whether she's in a good mood, stressed to the max, or just ready to tag me in so she can tag out and get a break. I'm happy to hear the excitement in the boys voices as they drag me into the playroom to help them find the Hulk or as they ask me to bury them in a pile of pillows. I'm happy to take a lick of my two year old's fake ice cream cones that he has developed such an affinity for. His favorite flavor is "Fadilla." I'm happy to be the bad guy that they've been searching for ever so impatiently while I was at work all day. I'm just happy to be home.

That's usually my favorite part of the day but every now and then something happens to overtake the reigning champ. The past two days have been prime examples. At some point during the dinner, bath and bedtime routine we usually ask the boys what their favorite part of the day was. The answers range from nonsensical and imaginary to sweet and heartfelt. My two year old's favorite part of the day often has to do with cheetahs. I'm still trying to figure out why. My four year old's favorite part of the day used to often be something like, "when I went to time out" or "when Fletcher bit my finger and I cried." At a certain point we sat down with Cooper and had a descriptive explanation of the definition of the word "favorite" and we got back on track.

We started getting answers like, "when we swam in the pool" and "when we hopped across the gym like kangaroos."; The type of answers we were looking for. My four year old has even started asking me and Mom what our favorite part of the day was. It always turns into a fun conversation.

Two nights ago I had just put the boys pajama's on when I remembered to ask them what their favorite part of the day was. Cooper's response was my favorite yet.

I looked at him with anticipation in my eyes.

"Cooper, what was your favorite part of the day?"

 He replied, "You Dad" ...accompanied by a "tackle hug" as he calls it.

Well, it doesn't get any better than that now does it? Thanks buddy.

Last night when I asked his little brother what his favorite part of the day was I got the same response from a tender and slightly smaller little voice.

"You Dad."

He must be paying attention to his big brother's example. I hope I never forget this.

People always say that parenting is the most "rewarding" thing in the world. Well, this is the type of thing they are referring too. I can't imagine much more rewarding than this at this point of our parenting adventure. Unless, of course, I came home from work one day and my wife reacted to my presence the same way the boys do.

Now that would be rewarding and by rewarding I mean hilarious.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Quick Read: Brotherly Love!

This morning at Church my wife and I taught the 2 year olds class during the first service. We had 4 children including our youngest son, Fletcher.

After a few minutes of free play we sat them all down at the table, which is blue and shaped like a horseshoe.
Fletcher referred to the table as  "The Colts" all morning, which made me proud. You see, he is learning his NFL football helmets and he just learned the Colts a few days ago. 
That's my boy! Way to recognize a similarity. That's not the point of the story but I couldn't help but include that proud dad moment. Please, allow me to carry on.

Once we sat the children down we asked them all what they were thankful for before we prayed. Some of them listed off a few things like "toys", "mommy", "daddy", "my hair" etc.

Fletcher said he was thankful for his grandmommy and granddaddy which was very sweet. The best part though, was after every other child said what he/she was thankful for, Fletcher exclaimed passionately... "AND COOPER!" (his big brother) every single time. What an amazing big brother he must have. He just needed everyone to know that Cooper is so great that we should all be thankful for him. We just can't forget about Cooper.

As if this wasn't heartwarming enough, when we left church and headed home we overheard Cooper in the back seat talking to his little brother. He said, "Hey Fletch, I love you so much... and don't you ever get a..." which Fletcher replied, "dinosaur!"
If you keep up with my blog you know that is the right answer. If you've never read about it, you can do so Here: DON'T YOU EVER!!!

I'm so proud to see that love reciprocated between the two of them. What a great way to start the week. We can learn so much from our kids if we just try to. I hope this little story gets your week started on the right foot as well.

Don't forget to love each other!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015



You CAN'T!


There's NO way!

You'll NEVER make it!


Powerful words right? Especially to the fragile psyche of a child.

I don't know about you but when I was growing up it was always reiterated to me to keep that negativity out of my thoughts. Not just by my parents but by my teachers and coaches too. We don't say "CAN'T."

Don't use such negative words.

 Focus on the positive. 

You've probably heard the old saying, "Can't never did anything"  or "Never say Never." There are tons of similar ones. Well, from my experiences as a father, I happen to wholeheartedly disagree with those sayings.

I've seen CAN'T do a lot. It's power is impressive. It NEVER ceases to amaze me.

You're probably thinking that I am about to warn you about using these negative words with your children. However, that is not the case at all. I actually think words like CAN'T and NEVER get a bad rap. They can be some of the most motivating and encouraging words you could imagine. It really just depends on your perspective and who/where these words are coming from. Both of my boys have helped me learn this lesson over the past few years.

Don't get me wrong. None of us parents want our children moping around dwelling on the fact that he can't tie his shoes or she can't write her name or a million other things a child might be struggling with. I understand that. I'm not a complete idiot...close...but not complete. At the same time though, I don't think we should be teaching our children that words like can't and never are negative words. I think it's a good thing when a child recognizes that he/she can't do something and it's our job as parents to find a way to teach and motivate them.

I still remember the first time I heard my oldest son Cooper say "I can't." 

We were potty training. He was 2.

I instinctively replied, "We don't say I can't." 

I was frustrated. He was frustrated.

Potty training was one of our toughest challenges with him. I immediately wondered where he learned to say those words and why he was so easily ready to give up.

Then I said, "You CAN do it. I KNOW you CAN," in the most encouraging voice possible. I could tell that he could feel the positivity but it just didn't motivate him to try harder. This happened often. It was very discouraging for me as I'm sure it was for him. I remember thinking about how my wife and I are two of the most encouraging people I know. I wondered how could he possibly not find motivation in our encouraging words? We worked so hard to create the most encouraging atmosphere possible.

 If only I knew the power of can't and never at this point in my parenting adventure...

I made this discovery in the backyard one day a year or so later. It came from my complete and utter desperation to instill a love of sports in my children. We were playing baseball. Hitting from the tee. Cooper was losing interest. He started to notice every grasshopper and love bug in sight. I was losing him fast. The battle between father sports and  mother nature was about to be won by mother nature by KO with the help of her interesting little creatures.

That's when this Dad did some quick thinking. I started with a condescending laugh to get his attention. Then, when he looked over at me, I followed it up speaking the words, "You CAN'T hit a home run. There's NO way!" in the same condescending tone with a sneaky smile on my face. In my head I was thinking that those were the least encouraging words I had ever spoken to my son and I had no idea how he would react. Luckily for me, he saw it as a challenge just as I had hoped. At that moment, his face instantly lit up and he replied, "OH YES I CAN!" He stepped up to the tee and knocked one to the fence. I retrieved the ball and chased him to home plate just missing the tag before he got his home run. I dog piled on top of him and made a huge deal about how well he had done. Then I picked him up and we celebrated. He just giggled and beamed with pride. So did I. Cooper wins! Cooper wins!

Daddy wins actually! I never could have imagined how motivating the words "YOU CAN'T" could be for a child. I'm sure all children are not this way and I'm sure if I didn't have such a positive and always encouraging relationship with my children that these words would not have been interpreted in a positive challenging way, but I do... and they were.

To be honest, I don't think more motivating words have ever been spoken in our house. Turns out, my 2 year old, Fletcher, finds motivation in these words as well. Trying to get Fletcher to eat a whole meal of food at the dinner table is like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube. He would take a few bites, lose interest and start stuffing each bite into his cheek like a squirrel storing nuts. Take one guess at our most effective means of getting him to actually chew and swallow those stored nuts?

You guessed it.

Look at him with a shocked look on my face. Gasp aloud. Issue the challenge: "Fletcher! You can't chew up and swallow that bite! I say NO WAY!"

That gullible little joker bites every time. Both literally and figuratively. "I say YES way" he replies. Then he starts chewing his little heart out, which is frustrating. Why on earth does it take a challenge for you to chew up your food, son? Do you enjoy just sitting there holding food in your cheek wasting time at the dinner table? Really?

Are you kidding me? Oh well, I guess I can't complain.

It's safe to say that we use this technique quite often.

When the play room is a wreck: "Oh no boys, we're NEVER gonna get this place clean. I don't think we can do it!"

When hurrying to the bath: "If only you could take your clothes off and get in the bath by yourself before I count to twenty. You CAN'T can you? I don't think so."

When putting on lotion and pajamas or sunscreen: "You CAN'T freeze like a statue. Nope. No way. Not gonna happen. I don't think you can do it."

etc. etc. etc.

It may not work for your kids but it sure works for my little guys. I guess it all depends on their personality. Give it a shot if you'd like, you never know what might work. Remember, It's all in your delivery. I certainly had no idea these words would be so helpful. The next time you think about these words as negative words stop yourself and give them a little credit.



A tremendous thank you. You're not so bad after all.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Should We Do It?!?! I ask myself every day.

Every day.

Every single day.

I ask myself the same question.

Sometimes I ask my wife too.

I've been doing this since the day our second son was born.

I'm not exactly sure why.

I never have an answer.

She never really does either.

Well, I take that back. Some days I have an answer but the next day it changes. Then it changes back and so on over and over and over. Sometimes my wife and I have different answers on the same day. We both go back and forth. It's crazy! I've never struggled with coming to a decision like this before. Most of life's big decisions have come pretty easy for me. They've come pretty easy for my wife and I as a couple too.

Not this one.

When it comes to answering this particular question I'm like a teenage girl from the valley trying to decide whether to stay with my high school sweetheart or to break up with him and go get crazy at college. I'm constantly weighing out the pro's and con's and pondering the best and worst case scenarios.

(Cue the valley girl accent)

"OMG guys!! I mean, like, he is such a sweet guy, like, total marriage material. He drives a Range Rover. He sends the sweetest texts from his I phone 10...not to mention the snapchats. OMG! He bought me the most epic pair of rainboots. His parents are like totes rich and he has a totally sexy bod...but girls just wanna have fun you, How am i supposed to rage at my sorority parties with my besties when I've been dating him for 4 years?!? We're practically married old people already...ew... and there are so many other fish that swim to see in, whatever..."

Or something like that.

What do the cool folks say these days on social media?

Oh yeah, "The struggle is real" only I'm not an 18 year old sorority girl. I'm a 34 year old father of two young boys trying to make a tough life decision with the help of my wife and it's really difficult.

The question is:

Should we try to have a third child?

Toughest decision ever... but why is it so hard?

We were incredibly excited to have our first child. As soon as we felt like we had a decent grasp on parenthood we forged ahead with baby number 2 with no hesitation whatsoever but for some reason it's different this time.

When we first started out as a married couple we thought we wanted to have four kids. However, we got a late start. We didn't start having children until our thirties. We also had no idea how much work a child is when that child is ours... full time.

We have plenty of love to give to a third child but do we have the patience to go back to a life just trying to stay afloat in a sea of breast milk with a constant barrage of mid-night feedings and diaper changes, gas, indigestion, teething and God forbid...COLIC?!? Our first child was an easy baby. Our second child tried to kill us in his first 5 months of life. They were both perfectly healthy but I think our second child has scarred us. The "What If''s" and "Will we's" are constantly rattling around inside my brain. (Her's too, I'm sure... though they may have different priority and she may not ask some questions with the same frequency that I do.)

What if we have another baby? Will we have enough time to give all three of them the attention they need and deserve? Can we afford it? Do we want to afford it? Will we ever have sex again? Will our children miss out on fun because of the change of family dynamic? Can we have a third child and still be friends? Will we still find the time to go on dates? Will my wife go crazy? How will our boys react? Once they out number us will they start a mutiny and overthrow us? Things are as easy as they've been in years. Do we really want to take the chance of messing that up? Will we ever have sex again?...

 What if we have another miserable baby? What if we have twins? What if we have a baby with a birth defect or some kind of developmental delay? Downs Syndrome? Autism? Some kind of rare disease I don't even know about?

Or worse... what if we have A GIRL!?!?!?!

We are both scared to death of having a baby girl. My wife often says that she "speaks boy fluently" and would be lost trying to learn "girl." I think she's more scared than I am of having a girl, which is odd to most people. She's said on more than one occasion that if we could guarantee a third boy then she would sign off on getting pregnant a third time. The only difficult thing about having a boy in our eyes is having to care for the circumcision as it heals. Your heart breaks for the poor little guy. What made it easier for us was just looking at it as a pretty small price to pay for never having to buy a prom dress, tampons or pay for a wedding.

Winner! Winner!

I guess it's all about perspective.

Oh, speaking of that, I left out one "What If."

What if the baby is PERFECT? What if he is the perfect final addition to our family no matter how he turns out? What if she is the perfect blessing we didn't think we were ready for? What if we just need to pray a little bit more and have faith that God won't give us anything we aren't capable of handling?

I think we'll be just fine whether we try for a third or not. It's just crazy to me that we haven't come to a conclusion after putting so much thought into it. Patience. Patience. I know. It'll work itself out.

Do you guys have any advice on the subject? Have you struggled with a similar decision? The same decision?


...and oh yeah,  I can't believe I forgot to mention this...

If we did have a third child I wonder if we'd be able to find time to have... oh, nevermind... maybe I did already bring that up once or twice.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

DISCIPLINE: It's okay Dad. You're doing the right thing.

Oh man! 

Parenting is the best. It really is. There is nothing like it. It's the most rewarding thing in the world. There is no way to understand a parents love until you become one. I love my kids more than life itself.

Sound familiar?

If you are a parent you've probably said all of these things and you've probably said them multiple times at some point or another along your parenting journey. You probably also meant them too because they are all true statements.

However, parenting is not only the most rewarding thing in the world. It's also somehow simultaneously the most frustrating thing in the world too. I'm not breaking any news. I'm sure this also sounds familiar. In parenting circles we typically replace the word "frustrating" with the word "challenging" because we don't like to admit that the children we spend most of our time trying to convince others are angels, are actually not. They are nowhere close. I guess challenging is a much more positive word and it makes us parents, especially those of young children, feel like we haven't been defeated...yet. Truth is, they are VERY frustrating and its okay to admit that.

Why? Because once you've spent enough time around a two year old you come to the realization that it's a lot like being in a relationship with a tiny bipolar tyrant midget who doesn't speak English very well and makes way too many demands for someone who has such a major deficiency in the tenure department.

The good news is that we, as parents, hold the power to turn these tiny tyrants into human beings who resemble something a whole lot closer to angels than belligerent drunks with an attitude problem. That's where DISCIPLINE comes in. Ah, yes, it is such a necessary evil. There is nothing I look forward to LESS than disciplining my boys. It's simply in my nature to be loving and fun and nurturing and I don't feel like any of those things when I'm sending my boys to time out or God forbid, giving them a spanking. However, I also understand that implementing and adhering to a sturdy set of rules teaches a child his boundaries and if followed through on, one day turns him into an accountable young man.
The above picture is what we're trying to prevent down the road. I don't think they'd look near as happy in real jail.

We are a time out family. Nine times out of ten time out is an effective way to discipline both of our boys (ages 2 and 4). Taking away a privilege is another effective tool and a spanking is certainly not out of the question but it is used as a last resort and rarely do we visit that resort. (Hmmm, speaking of resorts, visiting a "resort" sounds nice right about now.) 

Anyway, consistently disciplining your children is tough. Resisting the temptation of letting a threat become empty may seem mean and unnecessary at the time, but it's actually the best thing you can do for your child.  I always thought the whole, "This is gonna hurt me more than it's gonna hurt you" thing was a bunch of hippy dippy bologna but it turns out there's a whole lot of truth to it. We all just  want to see our kids be happy and the last thing we want is to be the cause of unhappiness. Unfortunately, when we follow through on our disciplinary threats, our children associate that unhappiness directly with us. Who knew it was this tough to be on the other end of the discipline?

Like any difficult part of life a little encouragement  goes a long way. My wife and I do a great job of communicating our feelings to one another as we discipline our boys and it helps to keep us on the same page and keep us accountable for our actions. We are firm believers in disciplining out of necessity and teaching rather than disciplining out of anger or frustration. Our boys understand that we love them tremendously as we discipline them because we always make sure to communicate that to them but sometimes it's a little more challenging when both of us aren't home.

Tonight my wife was on a girls night and I was home alone with the boys. My two year old, Fletcher, was being especially challenging at the dinner table. Something I'm very used to. Fletcher had a rough go at it for the first six or eight months of his life. You can read about that here. Since then, however, he's been such a perfect addition to the family... except for at the dinner table. If it's not a pop tart, grilled cheese or cereal he usually does not want to eat it. It really just depends on the night. Tonight he was doing his typical "store the food in the cheek like a squirrel and no one will notice I'm not actually swallowing" routine. Needless to say, the stash of "nuts" in his cheek built up and I wasn't in the mood. So I hastily sent him to time out and told him he could come out after he swallowed his bite. We went back and forth for a good thirty minutes and my 4 year old, Cooper, devoured his meal and began to play. 

At this point I began to get discouraged. Doubt started to creep into my mind. Was I being too hard on him? Should I just give in and let him eat something else? Is he just exhausted? I really wanted it to be a fun night and this was the furthest thing from fun. What should I do? I didn't have my partner in crime, my wife, there to ask for advice. Just then I heard the sweet voice of my innocent little four year old from a few feet behind me

"It's okay Dad. You're doing the right thing."


Did he really just say that?!

Yes he did.

Is he infinitely wise beyond his years?!

I don't know if he said it because he thought that's what mom would have said if she was here or if it's something he's seen on a movie, or if he was just really enjoying watching his little brother get sent to time out, but whatever it was, it really helped. It helped me remember that I was fighting the good fight and that this would pay off in the long run as long as I was coming from a place of love.

I just replied to him, "Thanks buddy." and he said, "You're following the instructions."

At that point I began to wonder if his mother had left a set of instructions that I wasn't aware of.


Oh well.

I just gave him a big hug and carried on, feeling encouraged, and knowing that I was doing the right thing.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Everybody Loves Byron: Death in the Facebook Era

Disclaimer: There are so many people more qualified than me to write this post but I just felt the need to take advantage of the forum that I have... out of respect for a friend... and to bring light to some pretty amazing observations I made in the days following his passing. Much Love...

Grieving is not something that anyone ever wants to do but eventually we all have to do it. There are no instructions for grieving. Unlike many things in life, no one ever really sits you down and teaches you a lesson on how to grieve or mourn the loss of a loved one. As a general rule, I'd say that most people just figure out what works for them as they go, because everyone grieves differently. What works for some may not work for others when facing some of life's most difficult situations.

For some, grieving is a very private matter and they don't want any added attention on them during the process. Others, however, want the world to know just how much they miss the deceased (no matter how close they may or may not have been) and they seem to enjoy the attention. Their grieving can become a very public ordeal, even more so living in the Facebook era. Everyone else falls somewhere in between. I'm not judging people for the way they deal with loss. I'm just pointing out the fact that people are very different. When it comes down to it, whatever helps you feel better... DO IT!  (Unless it's smoking crack. Don't smoke crack under any circumstance!!) Hopefully, we all get some good advice or a shoulder to lean on from a family member or close friend in times like these.

In my 34 year life I've been blessed to be able to say I haven't lost anyone too terribly close to me. However, a few years back I lost a childhood friend from my one red light hometown to a freak accident. His name was Scott and he was a great guy. I was able to see how the viewing, funeral and celebration of life afterwards really brings people together to grieve, grow and come to some kind of closure or acceptance of their loss... a process that seems impossible when the news first surfaces.

It was truly a beautiful thing to see everyone go from devastation and tears of sadness to tears of  happiness and acceptance (considering the situation) as they recollect a life cut short. I was overwhelmed by how much that process really seemed to help, which brings me to the reason for this post.

Three days ago I lost another childhood friend from my small hometown of Keystone Heights, Florida to a car accident. Don't go feeling sorry for ME. That's not what this is about. He has family and much closer friends who need your condolences. His name was Byron Nelson. We called him TANK. We grew up playing baseball together in our elementary years.

We were always on the same team.

Byron was only slightly more handsome than I was. Mostly because I was too busy trying to be cool.

 We both always used the same bat to get us out of a slump. We called her "Old Faithful." We didn't always use Old Faithful because, in reality, she was a pretty ordinary bat but she just seemed to get the job done when we needed her most. To this day, when Byron and I would run into each other Old Faithful was always a topic of conversation. Oh, the good old days!!

 We were friends in high school but we weren't super close. As adults, other than Facebook interaction, we only bumped into each other once every couple of years, but I was always met with the biggest sincere smile, a giant hug and great conversation. Byron was a friend for life. Apparently, he was a friend for life with every single human being within a 100 mile radius of our hometown and probably beyond, which is no surprise if you knew Byron. This explains why Facebook EXPLODED when he died. I just have a few things I'd like to say about this explosion and the fallout afterwards.

On the grief spectrum, if there is such a thing, I fall very strongly on the side of a private griever. I share my feelings about a lot of things with the world on social media but I'm not the kind of person who takes to Facebook to write my own personal eulogy to someone when they die. When I heard the news of Byron's accident I was really sad. It was a gut punch. However, I am by no means one of Byron's closest friends and I didn't find it necessary to express my sadness on social media. (I certainly didn't expect to end up writing this blog post.) I thought I would just leave that up to his closest friends and maybe comment here or there on something that struck a chord with me...


Three days straight of nothing but Facebook statuses about Byron and the impact that his life had on almost everyone. LITERALLY, ALMOST EVERYONE. Everyone but was like I was the only one who decided not to shout out to the TANK and THAT really struck a chord with me. I've never seen anything like it. This guy got more out of life in 35 years than most people could squeeze into 70. He touched so many different people in so many different ways just by being himself... just by being happy and sincere. It was sad but beautiful to watch this play out over the last three days. It was like I was watching the whole viewing, funeral and celebration of life process that I spoke of about Scott's funeral before. It was playing out in front of me on social media and it was big and it was amazing, just like Byron. No matter how sad people were they couldn't help but share stories of good times because that's really all there was to share, even though Byron had been through more than his share of loss in his life. If you are reading this and you are friends with him I know that you know what I'm talking about.

I got to thinking and I realized that if everyone just grieved privately (like I chose to do)... and kept their comments to themselves during these sad moments... and left it up to those closest to the deceased... then the impact of that persons life would never truly be felt the way it should be. I felt the impact of Byron's life over the last three days like nothing I've ever experienced thanks to people who grieve differently than I do. Thank you for that. I definitely learned a lesson from you all. In the world we live in today, like it or not, people communicate on social media about everything and death is certainly fair game. A lot of people criticize Facebook and social media for causing drama and strife but fail to see the good that can come from it in a close knit community like ours in such a difficult time.

I just hope that somehow Byron knows that on the day he died he almost took the internet with him. He almost broke Facebook. I hope he knows that he was grieved and celebrated on social media like the rock star that he is for at least three days straight. I hope he knows that his death made everyone stop and wish they were a little more like him. I hope he knows that when we all think about his smile from this day forward we'll get chills knowing exactly how sincere it was and how treasured it should have been. I hope he knows that his death and all his friends caused me to do some deep thinking and share the effect his light had on me rather than keeping it to myself like I had originally planned.  

You know, it dawned on me earlier today that the one person I still specifically remember seeing and having a meaningful and uplifting conversation with years ago at Scott's funeral was Byron. He is and will always be truly memorable.

Definitely not ordinary, just Old Faithful!

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