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Kids Turning 5

26 Jan

Today my oldest son (Max) turned 5.  It seems like he has been 5 for a while…but that may be due to the fact that he’s been reminding us of his birthday since Halloween.  He was keenly aware that Thanksgiving came after Halloween, then Christmas, then New Year’s, then his birthday.  He even asked if we could celebrate his birthday at his cousin’s birthday in December since it was almost his birthday too.  On January 1 he announced it was his birthday month and asked if we could have fireworks every day.  I explained it was my birthday year which apparently wasn’t very funny judging by the look on his face.  While understanding of the fact that we couldn’t celebrate EVERY day in January, he was slightly saddened and requested we use the Christmas advent calendar to countdown the days till his birthday.  That seemed okay…and here we are: January 26.

He has been very patient.  As patient as an “almost 5-year old” can be.  So we have been celebrating for 5 days and it has been hysterically awesome and exhausting.

DAY 1 (Friday) We got the ball rolling with his grandparents driving into town and partying at our house.  The boys are always so excited to see them and love showing them all the books they want them to read.  My wife Kate and I are always excited to have another set of adults to help with them and then after they go to bed the bourbon and wine flows freely!  Uncle Mark is a fan of not having to babysit.  Having outgrown his old Wichita State Shocker Basketball jersey I surprised him with a new jersey, hat, and sweatshirt which I think he slept in that night.  Kate and I revealed that tomorrow he’d be going to the game and sitting with Dada and both his grandpas.  This was greeted with insane dancing and excitement that roughly translates to “Hell yes!!!”


DAY 2 (Saturday) The guys took Max out for lunch, ice cream, and sodas before the game and then watched the Shocks thump Bradley.  Max always wears his “headphones” which are sound mufflers when we go somewhere loud.  He begs for them if there are fireworks.  A few minutes into the game he took them off and handed them to me.  “You can give those to Dodge, I’m 5 now and I don’t think I need them anymore.”  Well alright then.


After the game Max got to go into the locker room and help lead the team in song and high-five all the players.  He even got to meet his idol Fred VanVleet who gave him a big birthday hug, snapped a few photos with him, and signed his jersey.  Awesomeness overload!


Max even got to snap a few photos with Coach Gregg Marshall on the court!


After the game we went to Max’s favorite restaurant, Stearman’s in Benton, KS.  Its attached to the small airport and he likes to watch the planes takeoff and land.  He also likes all the plane parts and model planes inside.  Grandpa liked all of this too.  I’m not sure who had more fun…maybe Grandpa.  Max was pretty exhausted by that point and started to fall asleep half way through the first book at bedtime.  Hang on buddy…Day 3 is gonna blow your mind.

DAY 3 (Sunday) Was the day he had been planning and asking for since last year.  Max wanted to go cosmic bowling at The Alley.  They put the bumpers up, dropped the lights, turned on the disco music, we filled them full of sugar, and insanity ensued.  Bowling turned into less of knocking down the pins, and more into who could roll the ball in the funniest way or hit the bumpers the most.


The Alley also has video games and indoor go-carts.  We piled into the carts for a race with all Max’s birthday buddies and off we went!  Max was really upset that we were in 3rd place so Dada spun Isaac’s mom out and passed Kellen’s mom on the straight away before lapping Liam’s dad before the pits.  This made Max happy…and Dada too.


He got exactly what he wanted for his birthday and slept like a hibernating bear that afternoon before partying with all grandparents, parents and Uncle Mark that night.  Pretty epic Sunday!


DAY 4 (Monday) It was back to reality as Kate and I had to work and Max and Dodge went to school.  However, he was crowned the Birthday Boy at school by his classmates and surprised with cupcakes, songs, and birthday games.  Its good to be king!  He told me all about it at the dinner table that night where we played his new Star Wars board game.


DAY 5 (Tuesday) The actual day.  Today.  Max is finally 5…and with everything we’ve done leading up to today we sheepishly let the day begin like any other as if nothing were going on.  Per tradition, I told Max the story of his birth the night before (which is a very different story than what we tell adults or doctors).  The short story is, it was the day Mommy and Daddy met Max in person for the first time and we became a family.  There are songs, there are cuddles, there are hugs, and I get teary every time…I’m just an old softy who blubbers anytime I think about how lucky I am to be “dad” to these boys.

Dammit!  Tearing up now!  Keep it together Ryan.

Tonight I will leave work early, Dodge will stay home with a sitter, and Kate and I will take Max to the movie theater.  He won’t know what we are going to see but he’ll figure it out pretty fast.  Max is going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  I can only assume this will be greeted with the same happy dance he did on Friday.  He has watched all 6 previous movies and in my opinion proved he’s a real fan when he explained that Hoth was his favorite planet and therefore Empire Strikes Back was the best movie.  He also leaned over to me during Revenge of the Sith and said, “There’s a lot of these love scenes and not a lot of action.”  Agreed Mr. Max…agreed.  This is how Hayden Christensen’s acting career fizzled out…Jumper just sealed the deal.  Anyhow, Max is a superfan of Star Wars and honestly with as much marketing and merchandising as Disney has done I don’t know what kid isn’t?  Seriously…kudos Disney.  Almost EVERY gift Max got this year was Star Wars themed.  Even the birthday cards.  He even got a Darth Vader costume and lightsabers.


…and that’s how you do 5 days of birthday celebration for a kid turning 5.  All that’s left to do is measure how tall he is (he’s a giant) and listen to him ask how many days till he turns 6.  Easy buddy…enjoy 5 first, 6 will be here before you know it.  Real school, more independence, more rules, and your brother hopefully emerging from the terrible three’s.  Oh please let Dodge emerge.  Max is proof they do.

Cheers!  Here’s to another year!

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My Sister and the Special Ketchup

8 Jan

1980 Gates WichitaAt about age 5, I went with my mother and sister to run some errands at a store in Wichita called Gessler’s.  I loved going to Gessler’s.  They had a massive candy section, toys, and all kinds of gadgets to explore.  Most important (this was a different time period) was that we had a house account, meaning I could load up on candy and toss it on the account.  Well…the lady at the counter would always shoot me a look and say, “Ryan Gates…would your mother approve of all this candy?!”  Then she’d work out what she thought my mother would approve of and send me on my way.  On this particular day my sister and mother were going as well so there was an outside chance that if I threw a temper tantrum in the front aisle I might be able to get a new toy to shut me up.  The game was afoot!

348sAlas, my mom had a plan.  She pulled up next door at Nu Way, a restaurant known for their crumbly old-fashioned burgers and root beer floats.  She dropped me and my sister Lindsey off and told us she would be back in half hour to pick us up.  She gave Lindsey (who was about 10) money, and put her in charge.  “Rooooooot beeeeeeer floooooat!”  I sounded off like a hungry fog horn.  Lindsey looked to Mom, Mom nodded, and off we went.  “Make sure he eats some real food too!”  My mother exclaimed as she walked into Gessler’s next door.

2011-09-22 18.59.26I sat at the counter and immediately began spinning on the stool as the waitress in a 50’s skirt walked up to us and asked how we were doing and called me “Shoog” or “Hon” or something of that nature.  I sounded, “I’ll have a rooooot beeeeeer flooooat!”  My feet dangled above the black and white checkerboard floor with anticipation and excitement!  “Anything for you Hon?”  The waitress asked my sister.  Lindsey ordered up a float of her own and two burgers…one for her and one for me.  I gave Lindsey the stink-eye.  “I don’t want a burger!”  I insisted.  Lindsey shot back at me in her best angsty pre-teen voice, “Mom said you have to eat real food so you have to eat a burger.”  I shot her a look.  She dead-panned me and chewed her gum.  I replied, “Fine!  Order it!  But I’m not going to eat it!”  Lindsey continued chewing her gum and very nonchalantly replied, “Fine…but then you won’t get to try the special ketchup.”

Special ketchup?  Wait…no one said anything about special ketchup!  I mean, I LOOOVE regular ketchup so special ketchup must be…well…special!  I must try this special ketchup!

“There’s no such thing as special ketchup!”  I exclaimed.  Lindsey looked surprised.  “Wait, are you telling me Mom has never let you have the special ketchup?”  All of a sudden my world was busted open…not only was there some kind of special ketchup in the world but my mother was keeping it from me!  “No I’ve never had the special ketchup!  Do they have it here?”  Lindsey smiled and leaned in closer, “Of course they do…every restaurant has special ketchup, you’re just too young to eat it.”  This angered me, “No I’m not!  I’m five!”  The waitress brought over our root beer floats, “Here you go kids, those burgers will be right up.”  Suddenly I didn’t care about the frothy amazingness in a frozen glass sitting before me with a mound of ice cream balancing on top.  “Where is the special ketchup?”  I asked Lindsey.  She pondered a minute as if to ask herself if I was ready to be brought into a secret society, then she reached into the condiment caddy and extracted the special ketchup.  It didn’t look so special.  I had seen it before in other restaurants and been told I wouldn’t like it…but no one had ever told me it was special ketchup.  It was red, like ketchup.  It came in a bottle like ketchup…but this bottle was much smaller than the ketchup bottle.  Much smaller.  Much, much smaller.  My eyes grew wide!

1-4“Why is it so small?”  I asked.  Lindsey replied without thinking, “Because it’s so good.”  She handed me the tiny glass bottle and I tried to sound out the words on the label.  “T.”  There was definitely a “T.”  “Tab…tab…tabsco…tabsco?”  My sister took the bottle from me, “Tabasco…and you are probably still too young to try it.”  The fish-hook was now embedded in my cheek.  “Let me try it!  Just a little!  Quick…before Mom gets back!”  At that moment in time two burgers were placed in front of us by our waitress…it was special ketchup time!  As soon as the waitress left Lindsey popped the top bun of my burger off and started pouring the special tabsco ketchup all over it.  She grinned to me, “If you are going to have special ketchup, you might as well have a bunch!”  This was sound logic and we mutually decided to empty a second bottle onto my burger.

After the fourth bottle I could no longer contain my excitement and needed to eat that burger!  “Here,” said Lindsey.  “Let me hold it for you.”  She held the burger up to my face.  Special tabsco ketchup oozed over every inch of the bun as she smiled and urged me to eat.  I went in for a taste and the burger was taken back.  “No.”  Lindsey said.  “You don’t taste special ketchup…you take as big a bite as you can!”  How could you argue with that?  I opened my mouth as far as it would go, possibly even unhinging my jaw, to make room for the pile of ground beef and special tabsco ketchup.  As I took the largest bite I could, I saw my sister’s smile turned slightly evil.

When my mother came to retrieve us I was in tears while clutching a large plastic cup of ice water which I would periodically sip through a straw.  The waitress was consoling me while Lindsey stared off into space with a look of glee as she devoured her burger.  The waitress informed my mother of what had happened while Lindsey strolled outside and climbed into the front seat of my mother’s car.  A few minutes later my mother and I came out with a new burger and a root beer float to go.  I opened the passenger door where Linz was sitting.  She motioned with her right thumb over her shoulder that the back seat was where I was going.  I climbed in and whimpered.  We drove home in silence.

Back home I ate my burger and drank my float as the fire in my mouth subsided.  Lindsey was sent to her room at the front of the hall.  I’m not sure the conversation that transpired between them but I think Lindsey won.  Soon after, I got my hands on one of her Barbie dolls and pulled the head off.  Lindsey gave me a wicked Indian burn, I decked her, and we were both sent to our rooms.  I pounded my fists on the floor in anger till I heard my sister’s voice…soft and distant.  “Rye?  Ry-boo?  You okay?”  Her voice was coming from the air vent in the floor, our main channel of communication when grounded.  “Yeah.”  I whimpered back.  “Check your door knob.”  Lindsey whispered.  I went to my door where a piece of string was looped around the knob and then went back down the hall to Lindsey’s door, on the bottom loop of the string sat a Crayola Crayon box, and there was Lindsey cranking the string like a cable car – sending the crayon box to my room.  This was our second form of communication when grounded.  The box arrived at my door knob.  I opened the lid and found a folded up piece of paper inside.  I unfolded the paper to reveal my sister’s epic apology:


I looked down the hall at my sister.  Lindsey smiled and shrugged.  I smiled back at her…and that was that.

Years later Lindsey shoved a kid to the ground that was bullying me.  In middle school she’d come over from the high school to have lunch with me.  When I got into a fight with a few kids after school she pinned the leader against his locker and asked if he wanted a fist sandwich.  She gave me my first beer.  She taught me how to sing.  She taught me how to be myself.  She taught me how to not get caught smoking.  She gave me my first CD in a world of tape decks…Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Violent Femmes.  She gave me her car.  She held my hand when she went in for surgery from Crohn’s Disease.  She was my first call when I got expelled from high school senior year.  She helped me get my first job in New York.  She gave me a place to crash anytime I needed it.  She made me the “Man of Honor” in her wedding.  She let me help take care of her baby, Jake, when he was a newborn and she needed someone to watch him while she went to work.  She called me when turmoil hit her life and I drove 8 hours through the night to be with her for a few hours before needing to drive 8 hours back to be at work.  She let me teach Jake (now 10) how to swim to the bottom of the lake and touch the rocks at 12 feet deep.

2014-04-21 13.54.42She is the best sister a guy could ask for.  She is an amazing aunt and a powerful example to my boys about the kind of people would should all strive to be.  She is an amazing wife to her husband David.  She is a phenomenal mother to her son Jake.  She is a wonderful daughter to our parents.  She is smart, she is gorgeous, and she is so talented it astounds me every time I see her on stage or on-screen.  She is my sister, and today is her birthday.  I’m in Wichita today and she is in New York…which bums me out.  However, I’ll be having lunch at Nu Way today and I will be sure to put tons of special ketchup on my burger.  I’ll sit on the same stool from 30 years ago.  I’ll have a rooooooot beeeeeer floooooat in her honor.  I’ll miss her…greatly.

I love you Lindsey.  Happy birthday darling.


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The Crappiest Thanksgiving

3 Dec

Norman-Rockwell-Thanksgiving-thanksgiving-2927689-375-479My wife Kate and I look forward to Thanksgiving all year because it is the holiday that combines food and family…something we both love…though I’m partial to food (sorry family).  Every other year we spend the holiday with Kate’s family in St. Louis which means there are tons of kids running around, multiple turkeys in the ovens, hundreds of relatives and friends, and general family awesomeness.  This year we were especially looking forward to it as our oldest son (Max) is almost 3 and can run with the big boys now without needing constant supervision.  Our youngest (Dodge) is 9 months and there would be so many people who wanted to hold the baby that Kate and I could drink and feel like real people for just one day.  It was going to be magical…but things didn’t go to plan.

ShockersSprintRonBakerMax was so excited to stay in a hotel that he couldn’t contain himself.  On Tuesday morning he asked me as I headed out the door to the office if we were going to go to the hotel.  “Not yet buddy, after your nap we’ll pack up the car and drive to the hotel.”  Max ran upstairs immediately, read himself a book, and promptly tucked himself in for a nap at a little after 8 AM…5 hours before his regular nap time.  We got to Kansas City that night and checked in to the hotel before heading to a Wichita State basketball game and leaving the kids with a sitter.  Max was eating room service in bed and watching cartoons while Kate and I chugged beers at the Sprint Center as we watched the Shockers win the CBE Hall of Fame Tournament.  It was a great night and everybody got what they wanted!  That was when the fun ended.

When Kate shook me awake the next morning I could tell it was going to be a rough day.  The double Makers Mark on the rocks from 2 AM with a Coors Lite chaser at The Quaff Bar & Grill had left my head split in two and Kate wanted to hit the road within the hour.  So…Dada rallied.  I rallied hard.  Shower, breakfast, Advil, checkout, valet, and on the road in 45 minutes.  Nice.  My headache ebbed somewhere around Columbia and it was clear, vacation had begun!

Gates Boys PajamasWe arrived at the St. Louis hotel before the rest of the family and checked in to discover they did not have adjoining rooms as we had requested.  On one hand this meant privacy from my mother and father-in-law while on the other it meant more space and extra hands to help with the kids.  I’ll take extra hands and a party over privacy any day so I set about negotiating with the nice woman at the front desk.  The hotel was under renovation so some rooms were vacant but slated to be revamped the following week.  I was able to finagle a deal with the older rooms to get a king bed in one room for the in-laws and 2 double beds in the other for me, Kate, Max, and Dodge.  Sure they weren’t the 2 queen beds we requested which would have been better…but who cares!  Its vacation!  When we went into the room it was obvious why they were renovating…the room was pretty rough around the edges and I said, “Who cares, it’s just a place to sleep at night…we’re going to be out and about all day.”  Kate agreed, “Who cares.”  Famous last words.

120The following morning, Thanksgiving Day, I awoke with the stomach flu.  Kate thought I was just being a wuss from the hangover the previous morning, rallying, and then drinking with the family Wednesday night.  Nope…something was severely wrong.  Having spent my life battling various issues with my gastrointestinal tract, stomach bugs hit me hard.  I wasn’t going anywhere that day no matter how hard I tried, and by 2 PM it was obvious I was going to miss Thanksgiving dinner.  I cried.  Yes…I cried.  I tossed and turned in my double bed (which I’m too big for) with fever dreams of gravy-laden turkey legs, Iowa corn, homemade stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie as tears rolled down my face.  I was a grown man crying over food.  I told Kate to leave me, that she should take the kids to Uncle Shaun’s house and have fun.  Then she locked eyes with me, set Dodge down on the floor, and ran to the bathroom just in time to make a kneeling donation of her own to our reverse Thanksgiving feast.

WELCM_EXTR_1_EWe spent all Thanksgiving Day taking turns in our Holiday Inn bathroom that desperately needed to be renovated.  The sagging wallpaper that had once been a funny joke was now a reminder that we were in hell.  “Who cares!”  Ha!    Friday was slightly better but  we were weak with dehydration and nutritional deficiencies.  The boys were fine however.  The family began to speculate that it must be food poisoning since only the two of us had it while they and the boys were fine.  The consensus was that it was the homemade venison jerky my uncle Carl had given me in Kansas City…a treat I look forward to all year.  I refused to throw it away and insisted that it had to be something else…but no one else was sick.  “It must be food poisoning.”  I almost cried again over loss of food.

Gates Thanksgiving 2013On Friday I managed to eat 3 bites of eggs and half a pancake before going for a walk in the Laumeier Sculpture Park next to the hotel.  That night we had a little gathering at the indoor pool of the hotel for those brave enough to visit.  I washed my hands profusely just in case.  I had a little left over turkey (cold) and drank 1 light beer.  I felt better…not 100%, but better.  We had planned to stay till Sunday and either catch the Shockers play in St. Louis or the Chiefs play in KC, but after 60 hours of living in that damn Holiday Inn with one excursion to IHOP and one 20 minute walk in the park I was ready to call it quits and just go home.  We raised the white flag, packed the car, and started driving west down I-70 first thing Saturday morning.

20131130_165137Somewhere west of St. Louis and east of anything else Kate and I both heard it…a sound only a parent knows.  It’s the sound of your child’s stomach about to wretch.  “Kate!”  I shouted as she turned around to try to get a plastic bag in front of Max who was dead asleep.  It was as if someone turned on a sprinkler in the back seat of my car…my beautiful car.  Only the sprinkler didn’t send water across the leather seats and wood-grained dash…it sprayed eggs, potatoes, french toast, milk, orange juice, and of course…maple syrup in all directions as my poor sweet little 2-year-old woke up in horror.  Why did we give him french toast that morning?  Why?  I’ll never be able to smell it again.  Max’s poor stuffed animal “Muffin” the bunny rabbit took the brunt of the puke.  The rest was actually pretty well contained to his clothes and of course every crease and crevasse of his car seat.  In all truth, I could care less about getting a little kid-puke in the car and was more concerned for my little man.  He was a champ.  Plus, now I knew it wasn’t the venison jerky!

We pulled off at a truck stop immediately and Max stood by the car totally terrified where both Kate and I comforted him and explained he had done nothing wrong.  I went inside and bought…

  • 2 rolls of paper towels
  • 1 industrial size wet-wipes container
  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1 64 oz Mountain Dew trucker mug
  • 1 Powerade
  • 1 Banana
  • As many plastic bags as the man at the counter would give me

Max and CupKate took Max and Muffin inside to get rinsed off while I removed french toast bits from the car.  Most of the trouble makers were in the car seat so I pulled the cushions and wiped everything down.  Okay…not bad.  Max came back in new clothes and felt right as rain but we knew that wouldn’t last.  Some college kids pulled in next to us and vacated the car in disgust as their dog had just puked in the back seat.  Apparently I-70 is the Pukeway to Hell.  Their dog had gotten into a bag of pork rinds that hadn’t settled well with the little fella.  Kate laughed at them in understanding and motioned to me cleaning the car, the soaking wet stuffed animal, the car seat in dismay…the college kid said, “You win.”  Yay!  We win the Puke-a-thon!  We piled back in the car and taught Max that if he felt his tummy get ouchy again to put his chin into the 64 oz Mountain Dew mug and let er rip.  He puked 3 more times between St. Louis and Kansas City and passed out with the mug in his lap where “Muffin” should have been instead.  He was yet again a champ!

Dodge GatesWe pushed on through to Wichita despite the plan to spend the night in KC…ragged and weary we stumbled back home where we had the hardest conversation ever with a 2-year-old…explaining why he can’t have any dinner before bed other than a little more Powerade and a few crackers.  Though he put up a fight he was exhausted and asleep in his own bed hugging a bowl before his head ever hit the pillow.  Dodge cried all night and vomited the next morning.  We were officially all sick.  Yay!!!

081Being sick sucks.  Being sick when you have to care for kids sucks even more.  Everyone being sick at the same time sucks more that the previous suck, and having it all happen over Thanksgiving and missing out on all the fun, food, and family is like the Turducken of sucks.  It’s a sucks, inside a sucks, inside a suuuuucks!  So this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for family that doesn’t mind getting sick with you to help take care of kids, adjoining hotel rooms, Powerade, Immodium, interior car detailing, my wife for taking care of me before she got sick, and my kids for being amazing once they got sick.  Turkey and gravy is nice…but family is better, and I’m thankful I got to spend Thanksgiving with my family…albeit in a Holiday Inn bathroom in Saint Louis.

The family photo in the park...my 20 minutes of freedom from Holiday Inn.

The family photo in the park…my 20 minutes of freedom from Holiday Inn.

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The Meaning Of Father’s Day

17 Jun

YoungBudRyanWhen I was little I remember Father’s Day meaning my dad would sleep in, we’d make breakfast in bed for him, give him cards, and then he’d watch golf all day while my sister and I went off and did whatever we’d normally do.  I would always ask why there wasn’t a Kid’s Day?  My mother would tell me, “Every day is Kid’s Day.”  I don’t think I really understood that till yesterday when I got the real deal Father’s Day for the first time.  I celebrated this holiday when Max was a baby, then when he was 1, but yesterday…2-year-old Max, 3-month-old Dodge, and my wife Kate, and my parents taught me the true meaning of Father’s Day.

I woke up to tiny morning-breath in my face.  Max, my two-year-old, was pretty much standing on top of me waiting for me to wake up.  I sleepily opened my eyes and Max blurted out the words Kate had instructed him to say, “Happy Father’s Day!”  I thanked him and pulled him in for a hug which also came with a morning-breath kiss.  Kate and Dodge brought me breakfast in bed where the four of us sat and watched cartoons together as Max became more and more hyperactive.  Max gave me a homemade giraffe he had made at summer school, dodge coo’d and smiled in my arms, and Kate made everything easy.

Max_RobotHeadI then moved downstairs where I claimed the entire couch to myself and filled the TV with SportsCenter, movies with explosions, and Discovery Channel mockumentary about mermaids.  I napped as well.  Food was brought to me, kids were kept at a distance so I could sleep, and things were fantastically relaxing.  Max decided he was going to be ROBOT MAX for the day (he places a colored box over his head and says “ROBOT MAX” to everything) which is great because you can give him commands and he will execute his duties…he also takes tiny steps and is easy to chase if need be.  If he takes off running it usually ends abruptly with him going box first into a wall or inanimate object.  I love ROBOT MAX.

The afternoon was spent at my parent’s house where family play-time was bountiful.  “Papa Doo & G.G.,” as the grand kids call them, have toys that are kept at their house so it is like a reunion every time they go over.  Plus there is the pool…and let me tell you, I think Max might be a fish!  For the past few weekends since summer arrived in Kansas we have been working on Max at the pool.  While he enjoyed the zero depth pool at the YMCA, he has been deathly afraid of any water higher than his waist…till recently.  Once I found the right life vest for him that fit him the way he liked…he began spending more time aquatic than on land.  This is fine with me as I am a water person!

With Max clearly comfortable in the pool I have started working on skills he can use at the lake this summer as well as rules.  The rules are simple:

  • You must wear a life vest if you are by the pool
  • No running no matter what by the pool
  • No getting in the water without an adult

The skills we have been working on are jumping in the water and how to swim.  Swimming is easy in the pool where there are no waves but in the lake there is always some motion and our bay tends to swirl slightly causing everything to drift to the west…like a current.  Max is good at using his legs but hasn’t quite mastered the arms part of the doggy-paddle which he’ll need to navigate the waters of Lake George.  He has become fantastic about jumping in from the side of the pool to my arms and can easily get in and out from the steps…but there are no steps at the lake and the height from the dock to the water is a bit higher.  So I taught Max how to go up and down the ladder in the pool and to jump to me from the diving board.  Pretty awesome for a 2-year-old!

Shortly after that video, Max dove head-first into the water from the diving board and I started teaching him how to dive.  He is fearless.  The other great thing is that he is comfortable swimming in the deep end which is great since the lake is about 6 feet deep off our dock and about 15 feet at the raft.  My biggest fear is him having no fear of the water so at the end of every swimming session I have him take off the vest and step into the pool to me.  He sinks like a rock to the bottom without the life vest and comes scrambling to the top with his arms going and his feet kicking.  I give him a second to recover before he is about to go under again, then I grab him and scoop him up in my arms where we talk about our water safety rules and why we always wear a vest by the water.

Luger SteaksThat night we had a feast.  Peter Luger’s steaks on the grill, dining outside, my boys, my dad, my family…it was great!  I got my dad two goofy cards and a submersible iPhone case like the one used to record the videos above of Max.  Dodge sat in my lap and smiled at me as we drank fine wine and talked about the world.  Then, my dad gave me the look.  I know this look well.  I love this look.  It’s the look that means, “Night swim?”  I nodded back and we slowly snuck away from the table and cleaning duties.  It was our day…why not.  Three generations of boys climbed into the pool as the stars lit up the sky and the water cooled our bodies.  It was perfect.

Gates Boys PoolIts true…every day of the year is “Kid’s Day.”  Yesterday was my favorite Father’s Day with my dad because we got to share the experience together.  I remember him teaching me to swim, playing games with me, and also how we gave him some time off to just relax.  I thought Father’s Day was just about the relaxing part…but after my morning of napping I got itchy feet and wanted to do something fun with my kids.  I wanted to feel like a dad on Father’s Day.  There is no finer feeling than having fun with your child and feeling them hug you.  As I tucked Max in to bed 2 hours past his bedtime he told me, unprompted, that he loved me.  He looked me right in the eyes and said, “I love you Dada.”  Nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.  I squeezed him tight and asked if he had a fun Father’s Day?  He said, “Yup, let’s do it again tomorrow.”  I explained it was once a year and then I asked him a question I should have asked when the day began, “Max, do you know what Father means?”  He had no idea.  I explained that “Father” is another word for “Dada.”  He replied, “…and Mama is the other father.”  No,” I explained, “Mama is the mother.”  You could see him realize what Mother’s Day had been all about and what Father’s Day meant.  He hugged me once more and whispered in my ear, “I love you Dada…Mama’s my sweetheart.”  I called Kate into the room and asked him to repeat what he had just said and he did, “You’re my sweetheart Mama.”  Best feeling ever!!!  There is no better feeling than knowing your child loves you…but hearing it means all the world.

Mom…Dad…I love you.  I know you have taken on the roles of being grandparents to my and my sister’s kids but you will always be our parents.  Mom, you are MY sweetheart.  Dad, I will always go night swimming with you.  I love you both and I can’t thank you enough for spending my childhood teaching me how to be a parent now.  I am simply following your example and in return…my sons love me.  Thank you.  Happy Father’s Day.  Happy Mother’s Day.  Every day is kids day…but it should be Parent’s Day.  I love you.


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Dodge’s First Few Hours

1 Mar

Dodge’s first few hours have been very calm and he is a happy guy. He went skin-to-skin immediately after delivery and rooted right away. He fed immediately and is in great health. So far the first 12 hours of his life have been full of eating, sleeping, and being held by grandparents. Very precious time and we are looking forward to taking him home Sunday morning.









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