Direct from Jr’s Brain

I think that it is about time we get back to doing some writing…and publishing. Writing isn’t always the issue. Finishing what I start and starting pieces that get finished so that they can be published is much different than getting bogged down writing a year in review that is now many thousands of words long and many months overdue! Sometimes it is best to just start fresh, bringing it back to square and doing what you do and like best. For me, writing wise at least, that is biographing Junior’s life with plenty of cute, fun and even funny stories from our life that is!

The best way to start off a Dad’s Point of View New Year is some fun verbiage DIRECT from Jr’s Brain.

The other day I’m sitting around minding my own business when Junior whose mother has recently been referring to as, “Sir Talksalot” approaches me out of the blue and unprompted says, “My brain has a factory and it has big machines and little machines. The big machines make pooh and the little ones pee. And I have a big whole and a little one. From the big one comes pooh and the little one pee. And I also have a boy brain, a man brain and a person brain.”

Then he goes off again to play, like nothing happened, yakking away to himself the entire time, leaving me to digest what he just said.

Such things happen all day every day. Such is my life. Life is good.

There are more machinations going on in Jr’s World too. To point; this past weekend he and I went pond skating and we followed that up with some sledding. On one trip down the hill together our sled tipped and we banged legs. Of course there was no harm done but he took the opportunity to blame me for “breaking” his leg! He then progressed to explain to me that the wheels (gears I guess!!) in his legs had stopped and that the paper in his leg had ripped. After more explanation from Junior about the finer points of his anatomy I asked him, “If he would like to go down the hill again?”

“Yap,” he replied!

Here is another story straight from Jr’s brain. Are you starting to see a theme develop here? It seems to me that Jr believes he and his brain are separate entities. In fact when trouble strikes Jr often blames his brain for any impropriations that occur. Like this; the other day Jr approaches me after what was a day of many father-son lectures. He says (I am paraphrasing), “Dad. My brain is broken…and the reason my brain is broken…I mean the reason why I had troubles…I mean…the reason I had many troubles the last two days is that my brain is broken…now it is being repaired…my brain was broken and now it is being repaired (pause, deep breath). My brain will be repaired tomorrow and I will be good and behave. When my brain is repaired I can behave and be good a lot better. The reason my brain was broke is because it had bad water in it. Now I need to hydrate! and get the good water in and the bad water out. When I hydrate my brain will be repaired. AND that is what is happening!!!!!”

Also happening last weekend was a birthday party for one of Jr’s friends. It was a princess themed birthday party and the host had a real live princess (pretend of course but not to the kids) attend. She told stories, sang songs, played games and made balloon animals (you know Princess stuff!!?!).  All the kids both boys and girls were enthralled by the princess. The parents marveled at how calm they could all be when they perceived that something good was happening just for them. Sir Talksalot certainly let his “feelings” for the young lady be known with wide eyes and non-stop chatter. The princess was themed from a popular kid’s movie one most everyone had seen. Jr had not seen her movie in a while and told her so but unprompted promised to watch it again so that he (paraphrasing again), “could see her again/spend more time with her in the future.” (Something along those lines at least.)

Later, after we had arrived home we were watching the previews to a video I had put in to distract Jr with while I attended to the household chores. Low and behold a preview came on for the Princesses’ movie! Jr was shocked by his good fortune. He turns and says to me, “Dad, dad, Dad, DAD, Daddy! Guess what????? The Princess from that party! Do you remember the Princess from that party? She sent me her movie on the TV so that I can see her. Now I can see her in her movie…and I can go see her in her home!!!”

A little later this exchange took place.

“Dad?”

“Yes pal.”

“Dad. Is my birthday tomorrow?”

“No son. Your birthday is in month X.”

“Oh. When it is my birthday can I have a princess party like that girl had? With that princess?”

“Yes son. When it is your birthday in month X you can have whatever party you like.”

“Tomorrow?”

“….!?”

When you ask Jr how old he is he replies 4…and a half! That half is very important. I think this is how it works for 4 and a half year olds. Half of their time stream occurs in our reality and the other half is lived in an alternative reality called Imagination Land. There is more! These two realities are not mutually exclusive in a 4 and a half year olds’ eyes. They coexist! In this weird and wild way the 4 and half year old truly does live a fairy tale existence. An existence where incredibly anything can and does come true. A miracle to us is mere reality in the eyes of a child.

Peace and love all.

Daddio

Still Born Again and other conversations from around the home

This is an actual example of a conversation that frequently takes place in our home.

Jr, “Dad. Am I born?”

Dad, “Pardon me son?”

Jr, “Born, am I born?’

Dad’s Brain, “Hmmmmmm…”

Dad’s mouth, “Sure son. You’re born.”

Jr’s mouth, “hmmmmmmm.”

Jr, “ Dad?”

Dad, “Yes, buddy.”

Jr, “Am I still born?”

Dad, “ Hmmm…yes son you’re alive. I guess that means you’re still born.”

Jr “How about now?”

Dad, “Yes Jr if you’re alive then you’ve been born. Are you thinking and breathing?”

Jr, “Yes.”

Dad, “Then you’ve been born.”

Jr “Dad?”

Dad, “Yes son.”

Jr, “Are you born?”

Dad, “Yes, Jr I’m born too.”

Jr, “How about now?”

Dad, “Yes buddy I’m still born.”

Jr, “Are we both born?”

Dad, “If we are both breathing and thinking then we’ve been born.”

 Jr, “MOMMY. MOMMY!!! Guess what? Daddy and I are still both born again!!!”

Another example of a recent conversation went like this.

Dad, “Come along buddy. It’s time to go. Grab your (stuffed) guys if you want to bring them along.”

Jr, “Okay got them.” Then off he goes in every direction (both physically and emotionally) on his way to the car.

Jr, “Dad can I bring Humphrey and Blue (the stuffed guys) into violin with me?”

Dad, “Yes but only if they stay with me when you’re playing and only if they behave (because being tossed up and down while pestering others isn’t behaving for stuffed animals at violin).”

Jr, “Yes okay.”

Dad, “Promise.”

Jr, “Promise.”

Mom…starting, “…”

Jr interrupting mom before she gets the chance to roll on the lecture, “Yes mom they’ll behave. They’re not real you know!”

Mom, “                   .” Followed by laughter.

Dad laughs too!

How about this one;

Dad, “Be careful.”

Jr, “I will. I am always careful when standing on chairs.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Then there is this;

“Daddy, Honey Bear is calling you!!”

Then there are the logical conversations that stop you in your tracks.

Jr, “THE CAT IS EATING MY FOOD!!”

Dad, “Then stop feeding her.”

Jr, deadpanning, “Right.”

I often here this when energy levels are high.

Jr, “My legs are wiggly, woggly.”

Then there is the opposite when we are stuck doing things that we might not want to.

Jr drawing a picture with his words, “IIIIIIIIIIIIII’m tired. My legs are sooooooooooooo sleepy.” All while mimicking falling asleep whilst still standing.”

Today I heard this from Jr. “My brain is dirty.”

These ones are standard.

Dad (often after a big long parental monologue, “What did I just say.”

Jr, “I don’t know.”

Dad, “Why did you just do that (thing that you know you shouldn’t have been doing)?”

Jr hoping that he has the right answer, “because I did?”

There are also the sweet conversations that make life as a parent so worthwhile.

Jr, “Dad?”

Dad, “What is it son?”

Jr, “Dad…dad I want to give love.”

Dad, “What’s that son.”

Jr, “Give love. Dad I want to give love. You know? Give love like hugs and pisses (kisses).”

And this one is my absolute favorite.

Dad, “Goodnight buddy. I love you. Pleasant dreams”

Jr, “Night daddy. I love you too. Pleasant dreams too!”

Dad with a hug, “Ahh thanks pal. You’re the best little boy ever.”

Jr, “You’re the best DAD ever too!”

Peace and love all.

Daddio

Remember over this busy, festive holiday season it’s okay to abide but please drink responsibly and make sure you’re always able to be a good role model in front of the little ones. And if you’re driving, arrive alive. Never drink and drive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

 

 

Two years later…for dad

For the past month I have been working on a companion story to the story I wrote about Jr’s life two years after starting school at two. I thought it would be fun to tell you all about how my life has changed in that same time span also. As these things go sometimes I get bogged down in the details and as I am often wont to share I just have a hard time writing about myself. Really? How interesting could I possibly be…to others? Jr…now there’s an interesting character!! Dad…he’s so dull!!

I mean the story really isn’t that hard to place. I make some humble self defacing jokes about how I awkwardly stumble through dad hood, I make some poignant observations about how much smarter 4 year old Jr is than 40 year old dad and when it is all said and done the ending always, always, always remains the same; that I enjoy every grain of sand of life with Jr and my bride and that I am the luckiest guy on Earth. You know it is really hard to write all of the rest when you keep focusing on that ending?

You have to admit though that’s a pretty solid ending. Once upon the time there was this guy. He was as happy as could be and appreciated everything about his life. What a lucky guy he was? And then he lived happily ever after. The end!!!

That is so sappy!! Instead of going through all of that and putting thought to word (oh wait I did it anyways!!)  I thought we could just do some more fun catching up with Jr…okay and Daddio too, just a little bit.

Do you want to know how my life has really changed? Sunday mornings are the one morning of the week where I get a little free time to check some things off of my list. The other Sunday while Mrs. Daddio was out getting her exercise in it was just Jr and I at home. I really wanted badly to exercise a few items off of my list. Jr wanted help building some of the Lego models he had received for his birthday. How long could it take to push a few blocks together? Three hours later the Lego building was complete!! and I was exhausted!!! Have you ever tried to put Lego together with an anxious 4 year old constantly helping and asking, “is it done yet?” sung to the tune of, “Are we there yet?”

Needless to say my to do list is longer than ever…but we do have a neat Lego faux robot to show for it!!

Jr was going through a stage where he was saying, “Huh!” a lot. We can call this the “Huh” stage. I know he got it from one of his favorite TV shows and that it was mostly innocent but where we live HUH is not an acceptable sentence to be used in the English vernacular. To remedy the situation I explained to him that instead of huh he could say pardon me. Then we went through the “pardon me stage!” In similar rhythm to the high pitched, “HUH” grunt he started saying, “pardon me” in escalating tones whenever his thought process thought silliness was in order. Huh as it turns out isn’t so bad after all!

For the record I’m pretty tolerant with most everything but the silliness secretly gets to me and it is never really ever in order.

I have been trying to nurture Jr to be a leader. Every day when I drop him off at school I’ve been telling him to be a leader and to help out and be a good role model. As it turns out I think there was a little bit of translation loss in the message between dad and son. One day I arrived for pick up early to see the kids marching back to class from their run around time in the play yard. Poor Jr was in tears. When he saw me he cried through his tears, “Dad I keep trying to be a leader but everyone keeps taking my turn!” The poor kid, he thought I wanted him to go first all of the time! Afterwards when I explained to the teacher what had happened everyone had a smile. I re-explained what I had meant to Jr and he seemed to understand this time that I meant to be good and help. The teacher promised him if he listened and was prompt that he would get a turn at the front of the pack. Next time I saw the group marching back to class Jr was in front and everyone was happy. The next time I saw them in a similar situation after that? Jr was in the middle of the line playing his role listening and leading by example! Sometimes all it takes is a little extra communication.

Speaking of our little leader and stages he is going through a chicken stage. Chickens seem to be about the funniest thing on Earth right now and the butt of most to all of Jr’s jokes.

Jr, “DAD, DAD, DAD!! Guess what?”

Dad, “What is it buddy?”

Jr, “Chickens, ha, ha, ha…”

Jr, “Guess what?”

Dad, “ What is it pal.”

Jr, “UMMMMMMMMH, I gots something to AX you?”

Dad, “Okay what is your question?”

Jr, “CHICKENS!! ha, ha, ha…”

And on it goes…

We are constantly working on our manners. I firmly believe that manners play an important role in the civility and respect of a society. Jr is pretty good at working through his please and thank yous in English and also starting now in Spanish. When you ask him what his magic words are he responds all drawn out and happy. “PLLLLLLLLLLLEEEEEEEEASE and thank YOU,” he’ll say.

You are welcome is another story. Instead of you’re welcome he says, my welcome.

Dad, “Thank you pal for all of your help.”

Jr, “My welcome!”

Dad, “Thanks for holding the door for me son.”

Jr, “My welcome.”

I am not allowed to call my parents mom and dad in front of Jr. To Jr my parents are grandma and grandpa or as he says it, “mama and papa.” If I call them mom and dad he tells me, “Dad that’s not mom and dad that’s mama and papa.” I then have to apologize for my error, “Sorry Jr you’re right that is grandma and grandpa silly me.”

“Silly dad!”.

The other morning I’m lying in bed when Jr comes into the room. He is slightly off from the sleep but mostly awake, fresh and spry like both he and his mother wake. On the other hand I do not wake so easily. It does balance out though because later in the day when both mom’s and son’s energy wanes oh so slightly mine picks up (likely due to the caffeine). With that background in mind let’s get back to Jr coming into the room. Jr climbs up onto the bed and onto my chest just like a cat does. He pulls the sheets up and over us and whispers (loudly) with sprays of moisture into his groggy old man’s ear, “Dad, dad guess what! Guess WHAT! Dad, DAD, DAD!”

Dad, “Morning buddy what is it?”

Jr now getting right up into my face, “I’ve got a secret to tell you!”

Dad, eyes still closed trying to breathe through the extra weight on his chest, “What is it buddy?”

Jr, “Dad guess what? I have a secret. Last night I went to sleep. Now I am awake. And we need to build a robot and the tree out front we can decorate that for Christmas and I want to go to the North pole because  that is what I want to do, go to that white place and I want a robot just like me but only this big and can we build that?”

Dad, “Sure pal we should do that.”

Jr still on dad’s chest, “Dad, dad, dad guess what?”

Dad, “What is it buddy?”

Jr whispering (loudly) and spraying slightly “I have a secret…”

As it turns out I guess I was able to put that article together about how my life has changed over the past two years after all. It is funny but when I start out writing a piece I have a general idea of where I am heading but like a great adventure with many twists and turns I often end up right back where I started only wiser and more experienced.  If you read between the lines Jr’s life and adventures are also often mine and my learning curve is attached to his…and that great ending where I am the luckiest man on Earth…let me phrase it this way, with a story.

Jr is often at his sweetest first thing in the morning. The other morning was particularly nice. The sun was bright but not too intense; it was crisp and cool but fresh and just right to have the back screen door open letting some of that great clean air into the house. Jr was just up and we were in the backroom together. He thought he should have a look outside and see what the world had in store for him that day. I’m pretty laissez faire about his adventuring as long as personal safety isn’t an issue and of course stay near with an eye on him just in case. Jr opens the door all the way and pokes his head out and much to my surprise he breaks into song!

To the tune of Happy Birthday to You he sings, “Good morning to you…good morning to you….good morning to you…” To the world at large.

Could anything be sweeter than that?

Peace and love all.

Daddio 

 

The Good Deed

 

This Balloon represents more than just a smiling face

This Balloon represents more than just a smiling face

Late one Sunday afternoon we had just arrived home and were unloading the cars. We had been at our son’s best friend’s fifth birthday party. We had two cars with us because I had worked that morning and while Mrs. Daddio and Junior had been on time as per their modus operandi I had to join the festivities after they had already been well underway. Junior had a great time at the party and in spite of his parent’s not so secret wishes for the opposite, after hours of constant activity there were few signs of his slowing down.

As we went about our business Jr stood with us chatting away happily on the front lawn. When some neighbors from up the road passed on a walk across the street Jr struck up a conversation with them, loudly! He was laughing and joking. He is going through this funny little stage where he teases people. I’m not fond of it and like other “bad” habits we are working and talking our way out of it. For now if you run across him please know that there is nothing personal when he says, “Ha, ha, na, na, NA, NA you can’t catch me.” Followed by a Jekyllish laugh of, “Ha, ha, ha!”

This time he had a balloon that had been gifted him by the hosts of the party we had just been at. I had wanted to tie it to his wrist before he had gotten in mom’s car for the ride home but he had insisted otherwise so I relented. I was making my way towards him to;

  1. have a talk with him about how he was teasing the neighbors who were kind enough to have stopped to talk with him from across the road and
  2. protect his “balloon(ing)” interests before they went up, up and away forever like so many 20th century stock market bubbles.

I was juggling the various odds and ends that I had removed from the trunk as I approached him. He was at the neighbors, “Na, na, ha, ha. I have a balloon and you don’t.” Thankfully everyone took his humor in good stride. As I neared the point finally tipped and up it went. It wavered for just a few second, the breeze stilled by the houses. I was right there and it was in reach but by the time I had juggled everything into one arm and bent to leap the wind pick up again and it was gone…and we were all so sad. The tears flowed. Jr cried. Between tears and sobs he projected, “that he would never see that balloon again. It had gone to the stars.” And up, up it went until it was out of view. The neighbors hung their heads and went home. In we went too, dealing in damage control as best we could.

The next morning I woke early. We had arranged for a day at the beach and a barbecue with friends. We were responsible for the tube steaks and fixings and I needed to get to the grocer early to pick up supplies. Jr and Mrs. Daddio remained in slumber as I fixed myself a coffee before heading out the door. Dawn had just broke. I was excited to be on schedule as I headed out the door.

About a month prior I had installed a little faux picket fence at each yard corner. It was my little tribute to Americana. As I stepped out the door wasn’t I surprised to see attached to my little faux Americana tribute a red novelty balloon similar to the one we had lost the night before!!!

My first thought in foresight seems silly, “How did someone track down that lost balloon?”

Of course upon closer examination the balloon turned out to be different. Our lost balloon had a Mickey Mouse caricature on it and the new one displayed Elmo’s smile. Can you believe that someone took the effort to go out to the store late at night to replace Jr’s lost love and woke up before the sun to tie it to our fence? Do you believe that someone took all of that effort in today’s world where the message is so often negative to mend our son’s heart…and mine too? Do you still believe in people?

The other morning I was thinking how ironic this entire story was. A number of months ago I changed my signature tag line on my e-mail to partially read; “Help yourself by helping others. Participate in random acts of kindness and be nicest to those that mean the most to you.” Never in a thousand years though did I expect such a random act of kindness to be practiced upon us!

Peace and love all.

Daddio

 

Two years later

“Rain, rain go away, come back another day,” as the saying goes and also as Jr tells us when precipitation forces our activities indoors. Of course when you have a healthy three year old in your home you very rarely have any rain days if (with all honesty) proverbially speaking you have any at all. When you do that’s what rain boots and umbrellas are for. A rainy day is only just an opportunity to splash in some puddles and to catch rain drops on your tongue. 

Of course it goes without saying when you’re the father of a happy go lucky three year old little boy you really don’t have any rainy days. With our little Jr now closer to four rather than three every day seems filled with excitement and joy. Having just finished his second year of school milestones seem to be adding up. Time does fly when you’re a parent and the past two years especially have been powered by some high test jet fuel! 

Looking back fondly upon two years ago when Jr started his preschool Montessori program I certainly had my doubts. He was just barely two years old, the youngest and smallest in the school at that time. Now two years later he finished the year as one of the tallest in his classroom which included kids 4 and under. I feel that two years later we had better slow down and take it all in for a few moments before the moment is gone. Two years later I think it is time to pause and watch, pause and observe and pause and record  what this special time in Jr’s life is like. 

What is our Jr like at 3 ¾ years old? What does he do? What makes him go? Let’s see…

He likes hugs, both giving and getting and kisses too, only he calls them, “pisses!” 

He loves his family…and people who he associates with family and the concept of family and families of stuff like the weeds in the driveway he won’t let me pick. Every time I try and clean out the weeds from the driveway he says to me, “Dad don’t do that. They’re a family. They need to be together.” What is a dad to do? I pick the weeds at dusk when he is snuggled in watching a bedtime show.

He is very sweet and humble and innocent. Very sweet…especially when he wants a treat! Lately he has a special place in his stomach for what he calls, “Circulo bumpy treats;” peanut butter cups.

He knows some magic, words that is. They are please and thank you and he uses them appropriately all of the time.

When he misbehaves or does something he shouldn’t that forces my hand and makes me act as “stern” dad he quickly resolves the situation by asking me if I need a hug! Now that’s conflict resolution.

I was worried about his hearing because when he watches television he often asks me to turn it up because, “he can’t hear.” I am no longer worried about his hearing because if he hears mom or dad whisper a bad word two rooms over we are in for a scolding. “That’s a bad word,” he’ll say. His hearing is fine.

We’re going through the “I’m just” stage right now. It goes like this;

Dad, “Junior, come here please.”

Junior, “I’m just climbing this 40 foot high fence.”

Dad, “Jr come here please.”

Jr, “I’m just feeding this hungry lion.”

Dad, “Junior can you stop playing with that, please.”

Junior, “I’m just playing with the emergency exit row seat door at 10,000 feet.”

Okay those are exaggerations (a little) but I think you get my point.

Dad can be a pseudonym for little boy’s man servant. I spend much of my time fetching, feeding, cleaning, cooking and did I mention feeding? If I take too long in getting something to our little guy when I show up with said treat or meal or refill he will tell me that I almost forgot. He’ll say, “Dad, you almost forgot,” with a wide grin that thanks me for my remembrance. 

He says daddy in the sweetest voice. It would make your heart melt. It does mine.

Now that we’ve established that his hearing is just fine I am quite certain that listening might be the issue at hand. I can be a little slow sometimes and when three years later I suspected that he wasn’t listening to us I began to ask him, “What did I say,” after I told him something. It goes like this.

Dad, “Jr, two more minutes left to play, okay? Jr, did you hear me? Jr, please come here?” Followed by the sound of dad’s footsteps walking towards Jr. Dad again this time making eye contact with Jr and speaking in the same calm tone, “Jr two more minutes okay? Did you hear me? What did I say?”

Jr staring up at dad, waits a few minutes and then replies, “What? What did I say!”

Dad, “Jr please listen to me Can you listen please? What did I say?”

Jr staring up at dad takes it all in then says, “I don’t know!!”

Dad, “Listen, please.”

Jr, “Yes dad, listen.”

Dad, “Two more minutes, okay.”

Jr emphatically, “Two more minutes!!”

Dad, “Thank-you!!!”

Jr, “Thank-you too!”

Junior likes machines, only he calls them merchines.  He says he has merchines in his stomach. He also has robots and batteries in there. Sometime his robots and/or batteries are broken. Then he needs to have some food! His words not mine! He also hears noises…in his ears, but that is a story for another day.

Sometimes when he gets a scrape he likes to have a band aid. He calls them boob aids after boo-boo aids. I give his boob aids a magic kiss before I put them on. Then he feels better.

I’ve been assembling a cedar playhouse for him. It came in a kit and it is quite impressive. It has also taken a bit of time to assemble but finally it is finished. One day he was quite upset at me because I wasn’t sharing with the assembly. Yes his words were that I wasn’t, “sharing the work!” He likes to help and has his hands in everything. He’ll easily make a bottle of soap disappear “doing the dishes” or spill half a bucket of water helping to wash the floors but in the end his willingness to help is all worth it. I mean after all he isn’t even four yet and he fetches me the drill and screws, holds boards in place for me while I attach them together, vacuums, does dishes and washes floors and even cleans the windows!

He loves building things. When in the mood he will get this glazed over look on his face and focus on some crazy building mission. One hour later he’ll have made some massive project out of whatever is available. Some of his favorite sources for materials are packaging materials, string, tape and ropes. He is especially adept at building roads and can often be seen with the measuring tape sizing things up. As I write he sits in front of me tying a piece of artwork to his Plasma Cycle. He never stops.

And for every Ying there is a Yang. It seems that I entirely clean up the house at least twice if not three times a day. I have been wondering why this is for a couple of years now? I know that Jr is the cause but when you look in on him he is just all sweet and innocent. Then the other day I was watching him play when the answer hit me. About once an hour he goes on these little spurts where he touches, moves and plays with everything in the house once! Then he goes back to being sweet and innocent. I swear that if you left him by himself in a large manufacturing plant overnight he would have everything disassembled by morning with time left over for a nap!

Once in a while out of the blue he will call me sir! We are not quite so formal at home so I find this funny. “Yes sir, no sir.” he will say with a straight back. Sometimes this routine is followed by him calling me captain, “Yes captain,” he will say with a salute.

When he has something to tell you he says, “I have something to tell you.” It goes like this.

Jr speaking, “Dad I have something to tell you.”

Dad, “Okay son what is it.”

Jr, “What?”

The other day he comes up to me and tells me that we are matching. He says that we both have eyes, ears, a nose, a head, hands, feet and a body. Yes son you are right. We match.

Sometimes when I ask him what he is doing he’ll look up at me with those eyes that say, “Don’t you know?” before he responds verbally with, “I’m thinking.”

In the morning when he wakes he will often start his day by letting me know that he needs to be changed. He really is as honest as the day is long and I hope he can continue with that and with communicating with his dad as long as forever. I routinely tell him that he will not get in trouble for coming to us with the truth no matter how difficult that is (for all of us) and so far so good.

He says that things are pretty. If he especially likes them they may be, “Pretty, pretty, pretty!”

He speaks Spanish (when he wants to) as a second language and in the least comprehends it quite well. He also speaks just a little bit of German. “Dunkenshein,” he will say, just like that. Multilingual he may be but he sometimes struggles with figures of speech. You have to be very careful what you say sometimes or he will take you literally. If you say I’m just pulling your leg he won’t differentiate what the words say and what they mean and might just take a step back as if you were going to actually do so (pull his leg that is). You will never win a logic battle with him because with pure honesty comes pure logic. He is very if not all logical. He also has trouble with homonyms. Currently we are confused with aunts and ants so I say little bugs and aunties.

He plays the violin, reluctantly. He prefers the bongo drums. He also is strangely attracted to pianos but not so strangely he is more attracted to his selection of “noise makers.” They include his harmonica, a plastic horn and the World’s loudest whistle which just so happens to be shaped like a famous blue train engine. He likes to sing but tells dad, “Don’t sing, dad,” when I join in. He can turn just about anything into a drum set and will make rythms out of any combination of sticks, wooden spoons or random kitchen utensils.

He likes rainbows and calls colors his rainbow colors. He likes to go out in the rain with maybe his favorite possession his umbrella and look for rainbows and worms and puddles that he splashes in while wearing his rubber boots…or not (wearing his boots that is)!

He has a pet cat that he adores even when he is stuffing her in a box or lying, er I mean giving her a great big hug.

He gives the neighbor’s dogs treats.

He likes horsey rides either at the store (for a penny!), on his toy pony that rocks back and forth or on dads back when dad is innocently cleaning the floor or bending down to pick something up. He also likes airplane rides in the laundry basket, only he is starting to get just a bit heavy.

He likes pirates and monsters and robots of course. Who doesn’t like those things, robots especially!

He also likes money even though he doesn’t quite fully know why. He does know that you can get things with it but a penny and a thousand dollars hold about the same value to him. He does own some “monies.” He keeps them in a jar. Soon, I think, he will be getting a small allowance. Maybe his “monies” will grow.

When I tell him he can have a little bit of something he will say, “No! Lots…Please!”

When I say, “Okay lots.”

He’ll reply, “No thank you just a  little bit, please.”

Then I will do this with my mind, “!!!!!”

He tells people that he is a big boy and has a “big boy heart.” He does.

He is very caring. I was digging in the garden and he was very concerned about the one tree that highlights the area. He started talking to it and reassuring it that everything would be fine. Then he gave it a hug.

When dad gets upset he asks me if I need a hug. After he gives me one I feel better!

If you say he is a little boy he will tell you that no, “He is a big boy. My grandma tells me so.” Then when you correct yourself and tell him that he is a big boy he will say that no, “I am just little.”

Then your mind does this, “!!!!!”

He likes his ABC’s, numbers and colors and refers to them as, “MY,” ABC’s numbers and colors. Lately he will ask me what do those numbers say as he points to some sign. When I read him what the sign says he will  only be somewhat satisfied as if he is not sure whether or not I am being fully truthful.

He likes peas. He drinks apple juice by the gallon and is a meat and potato man. He also likes peas!

He has a great sense of humor…even though he may be funnier to himself than to others at times. Still he has a great sense of humor and is beginning to develop a penchant for practical joking.

He is very well travelled. His little passport is full of stamps and short on blank pages. He collects air miles like once kids collected stamps. He has been on three continents, in 6 countries, to 3 Canadian Provinces and every State in a bee line from New York to California and more. Now that is a well travelled 3 year old! When we take a plane trip now he has the routine down pat. Before you know it he’ll have his buckle done up and will be looking out the window waiting for take off. He always wants to go over the safety instructions with me and says, “Why, why, why” to every answer. Then he laughs and makes jokes about the plane crashing. Imagine if you were afraid of flying and you sat down beside a 3 3/4 year old veteran flyer who was making jokes about that!

Sometimes when he is under the weather and gets a cough he’ll brave it out and just say that his, “throat tickles.”

Junior adores going to the park especially when it involves a bike ride. We just upgraded from a tricycle to training wheels and he is a natural. I suspect (touch wood) it won’t be more than another summer before he is two wheeling it…but of course there is no rush.

He has spider strength or maybe better put the strength of a spider. Little kids when given the opportunity to play and develop are so strong in relation to their size compared to adults I wonder if it is they that are in such great shape or us that are so out of shape. I’m pretty certain that if there were adult size play structures like the ones kids played on most adults couldn’t handle half of the apparatus. Jr can flip himself head first over a swing and hold his body weight in the air in perpetuity. I can’t even think about being upside down without falling on my head!

The other day when we received some pictures of a bird’s nest and eggs  I showed them to Jr. He pointed out the blue bird’s eggs and mentioned that there was a baby bird inside. I thought for sure at that point we were done for and he would never eat eggs again. No worries friends, not five minutes later he was asking me for bacon and eggs.

Upon waking up one morning he asked me if I was, “going to get a coffee to fix my eyes.”

Potty training has been a big part of our lives the past couple of years. We still have the odd accident but mostly things are “flowing” along pretty well. Accidents often happen because we wait until the last possible second to tell mom and dad we need to go. The back pressure must be incredible! Sometimes if we are having some family time he will make me pause the TV and then we will all have to run to the potty together as if we were racing for our lives. Then everyone has to go, “Woo hoo” as if we had just won the lottery. #1 is always referred to as pee pee and #2 is pooh and, “we don’t do that in our pants because that would be bad!”

As you can all see we have a very sweet, innocent, fun loving, busy, imaginative little boy who is happy and smiles a lot. He is not afraid to express himself or fearful of adventure. He has confidence. When he says he’s sorry with sincerity he can wash away all grief and clean any slate. He is charming. 

He asks for ice-cream for breakfast and will rhyme off 20 items that he has played with and refer to them as, “All those things.” He is proud to be himself and happy with his skin just the way it is. He is happy being our Junior.

If I thank him for his help he’ll reply by saying, “thank you for your help too!” before he flashes me a great big grin.

What is our little guy really like? I think this sums it up nicely. The other night I was tucking him in when I told him that he was the best little boy and that we were very lucky.

It was then that he looked up at me and said to his mother and I, “You’re the best mommy and daddy too!”

Yes we are all very lucky.

Peace and love all.

Daddio

 

 

 

 

Finding Center (Ah F**?K)

After Junior’s morning at school if we can I usually make an effort to let him play outside for 45 minutes to an hour in the park and yard behind the community center where his classes are held. Sometimes some of his classmates and their parents join us, other days we are alone. Today was one of those days. It had rained in the morning and had just cleared up around pick up time. In the morning I had dressed Jr in his rain boots and more durable spring coat. We had also brought along one of his favorite outdoor possessions, his umbrella.

Afterwards buoyed by the dryness of his rubber boots he splashed in some puddles and stood just above ankle deep in others. He made mud, played with mud and generally had a good time. After we were done playing we washed the mud off of our hands in one of the deeper clearer pools of puddled water. The only thing missing were peer age playmates. I was not the only one who noticed as Junior took a break from his play to ask me, “Where are the other kids at?”

It may be sad and true, I wonder how many of my little guy’s peers have never splashed and gotten wet prematurely or have had the opportunity to learn how to rinse their hands “clean” without the use of a human made faucet?

After months of race reports and photo essays I think that we ought to get back to square one and do a little family writing. I still owe you race fans a report on my adventures at the Barcelona Marathon and I’m pretty certain that some of the 4000 plus pictures I took in Europe will find their way into another photo essay as will some more from our family vacations to the mountain valleys of the upper northwest and of course Junior’s first Disney visit should warrant another one but those will all have to wait a few more days.

As they say in the yoga world I think that it is time to get back to center. I think it is time that we catch up again with the ever racing, ever growing Junior.

While we travelled recently (a month in Europe and a week in California) and shortly after another one in British Columbia/Washington State surprisingly I had little trouble fitting in my exercise time. It seemed that everywhere we went I had a 40 pound blond haired weight vest to carry around. Its legs were often broken …so he said when he didn’t want to walk. Such is life for a dad who refuses to use a stroller for his three year old.

Jr is actually closer to four than three. This is such a fun time for us. The other day I asked if we could have another three year old. You know how it works; a little birds and bees and then we place our order with the stork and 9 months or so later a bouncing three year old boy or girl shows up, sort of. In response to my request and explanation of events I received a bit of a pained look.

Three year olds are great. As a parent you assume things will become easier as your young children grow more independent and learn to do some things on their own. The only thing is that it doesn’t (get any easier that is) because even though they can do things on their own, like dress, put their shoes on, brush their  teeth etc. doesn’t mean they will. Now they are bigger, quicker at moving (quicker than the parent likely) away from you, think that is funny and still want you to do most everything for them! For example at one time during our potty training escapades I swear I had Junior on the way to wiping his own butt. Now though, I am often beckoned by cries of, “Dad come here. I need a wipe.” When I arrive on the scene there might Jr be with his butt high in the air and his head at his toes waiting for a cleaning. This is all something I never expected!

The other week I was out cutting the grass. It was early spring and it was a nice day just drizzling a little. Jr was close inside and I knew that he would get me if he needed anything. When I looked and saw him on the porch though I received a bit of a surprise because…because there he was in his birthday suit! At first I thought he had wet himself and had stripped down and come to get me to change him but of course things are never quite that simple.

When I asked him what he was doing he replied, “That the rain was like a little shower and that he was having a shower.”

I couldn’t argue with that. He was right. Soon his shower was over and I dried him off. It wasn’t long before he was snuggled into some warm clothes with a snack at his side watching “his” TV again. The really funny thing about all of this is that Junior hates showers. In fact when he is acting up the mere mention of a shower will often smarten him up. Sometimes things all seem strange.

Another time recently I walked in on Jr talking to himself. He was practicing how to say ah f**?k. Honestly it was pretty funny. He was role playing and trying to get the intonation just right. I quickly moved in and we had a discussion on why that was a bad word and how we should never use it. He promised me, “never again.”

Since then he has let it out a few times, mostly for shock value. When recently he said it in front of someone else at a family gathering we again had an appropriate conversation on why not to use that word. He was very good about the whole thing and when pressed said that he had heard it from his mommy! I of course chuckled happy to have this time at least not been the butt of Jr’s joke and also because I am not perfect either!

This parenting thing; there is no better way to learn about the world.

Peace and love all.

Daddio

 

Adventures in marathoning; the 2013 Flying Pig in Cincinnati

 

15th Anniversary Piggly Wiggly

15th Anniversary Piggly Wiggly

 

Worn out toe box result of hopping 12 plus miles on one foot

Worn out toe box result of hopping 12 plus miles on one foot

 

15th Anniversary Piggly Wiggly

Worn shoes from a special effort at the 15th Anniversary Piggly Wiggly

 

Taking a bite out of some "fools" gold!

Taking a bite out of some “fools” gold!

15th Anniversary Piggly Wiggly

Peace sign, medal…the one that almost got away!

Bling 4 Marathons in 4 Months

Bling 4 Marathons in 4 Months

A TEAM is a group of individuals that work together to accomplish feats greater than could ever be accomplished by the sums of the individuals.

Last Sunday I completed my 4th marathon in 4 months (completed from start to finish in a span of 93 days) to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through their wonderful endurance training and fundraising platform Team in Training. I have been involved with Team in Training since 2010 as both a coach and participant. This Spring’s challenge of the 4 marathons in a short span was my way of giving just a little back and paying a little toward the future too. Lifetime now with the help of my friends and family we have raised approximately $7,300 towards funding cancer research, helping families in need and to support advocacy for change. The $1,500 that we raised this season was part of approximately $300,000 raised by just over 200 participants who completed their spring efforts at the Flying Pig Marathon last weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio. Thank-you everyone for helping me make a difference.

Quite honestly my quest to run 4 marathons in 4 months only miraculously did not fall this last marathon short. If I had not the weight of all my supporters behind me it would have been very easy to call it a day. Our son had been sick earlier in the week. Near home that was coupled by unusually high pollen counts, a side effect of our heavy rain late spring bloom. Being Junior’s human Kleenex and this being my year to be affected with spring allergies I had come down with a bad case of bronchitis that was getting worse by the minute. On the drive down I had emptied out nearly a box of tissue before the hour drive south out of Michigan was complete. By race morning breathing was a chore.

If this had just been only for me than I likely would have ended it there but because of all of the supporters, honored hero survivors and also honored heroes I was running on behalf of I knew that I would have to give it a go. I was running good until mile two and decided to give it a shot at letting loose but when I tried to take a deep breath in it felt like “ALL!!” of my insides rejected that thought. Have you ever tried to run with bronchitis? Think gag reflex because that is your body’s response to such activities; coughing, hacking, expelling and choking. I continued on, taking only short breaths. This allowed me to continue running even if it wasn’t at the pace I wished.

Around mile 10 I made a joke to a fellow runner and when I tried to laugh whole heartedly like I sometimes do I was reminded of my condition and almost ended up holding my lungs in my hands.  It was about this time that my hamstring began to hurt pretty severely. It had been tight earlier in the week and with the early morning start and activities I had little time to warm it up. By mile 12 it was all I could do to lift my left leg and shortly after those that know me really well would tell you that they could know for certain that it was serious because I had stopped at a medical tent for help.

Funny this medical tent, none of the volunteers that were available were confidant in wrapping up my hamstring so I ended up doing it myself. Of course by the time I got up it was more sore and I needed to jump start myself with about a dozen hops before I could get going again. By between mile 14 and 15 whatever inflamed areas of the muscle tissue there were finally tore. I was now on one leg entirely. I was now entirely hopping forward on my right leg using the left only as a support. If you have ever seen pictures of a one legged person or of Terry Fox running I was an exact duplicate in form.  I still had 12 plus miles to go and only one good leg with which to get there. “How,” I thought would I do this?

A funny thing though I never doubted that I would finish. It was only HOW would I get this done that crossed my mind. What would I need to do to finish what I started? It was never I can’t do this or never this is too much. Somewhere deep inside I had turned on a switch; the never give up or give in switch. I pressed forward one hop, one limp, one bracing step at a time.

Another funny thing began to happen. As I lagged further and further behind my pace group and as droves passed, people began to cheer for me (not a nonchalant ubiquitous sort of way people cheer on others but for me specifically); random strangers, other runners, police officers that were there for crowd control. Nearly every person on the course had words of encouragement for ME, for hanging in there and overcoming and not quitting. There were pats on the back, and cheers and offers of support and help. As I struggled up hills nearly dragging my left leg I had to avoid eye contact at times so that I didn’t meet the gaze of wet eyes and start crying myself. I became more determined than ever.  I had to finish not necessarily for myself but also for all of these people now too.

Around mile 18 my bandage had loosened up and things were becoming extraordinarily difficult. I had to stop again to get my hamstring rewrapped, this time professionally. When I stood up to get going again I nearly fell down. There was now no response at all from my left leg when I tried to make a running motion and on the fly I had to quickly retrain my body to hop-step forward. I edged on and began to pass timing clocks that normally would be showing my finishing time. Undaunted I pressed. Occasionally I was passing the odd person now. It was my turn to cheer people on. I patted them on the back and encouraged them to egg on. Most did. Thanking me as they continued their journey. As the miles climbed into the 20’s I grew thankful and began to count them down.

Around mile 22 I spotted a struggling fellow Team in Training teammate just ahead of me. He was running with a coach and I could tell they were having a difficult way of things. I endeavored to stay steady so that I could maybe catch up to them to help them finish. Over the next two miles I never wavered from this. Concentrating not to slip on the painted and now slick rain soaked road lines. I kept steady, focused and forward hopping one legged the whole time and near mile 24 I had pulled alongside my peer.

I gave him a pat on his shoulder and encouraged him not to give in, to keep up with me, after all I was only using one leg. Buoyed by this he pulled in alongside me and off towards the finish we went, he hobbling me walking. My new friend (an Air Force Sergeant from Dayton) and I kept this up for the final couple of miles. When one of us began to lag the other helped encourage him on and vice versa. If you’ve never run the last couple of miles of a marathon you really should read Stephen King’s (writing as Richard Bachman) The Long Walk. It really is a battle of horror and attrition, pain and suffering. As your body runs out of real energy I can only think that it is the mind’s will overcoming the powers of reason that allows one to finish. All this time I had still been battling the bronchitis. The hopping I found I could do. Even though my one “good” leg was now becoming exhausted from doing all of the work for the last dozen miles not being able to breathe properly and absorb oxygen was completely zapping. It was wearing me down. Those last couple of miles at times were pretty “special”. All of a sudden with the finish line near we were joined by another friend who had come down from Michigan to help coach the Team in Training athletes.

Buoyed by stubborn pride I began to push hard and hard we pushed. At times I pressed so hard my eyes were closed. Other times I grunted away the shots of pain that coursed through my legs. I fought back the urge to reject the phlegmy mucous that was filling up in my chest and I gave it my all. I stumbled, nearly fell and fought all the way through the finish line and just like that in as surreal a moment as you can imagine it was all over. There was a man hug for my Sergeant friend and I sought out a few others who had finished around us for congratulation pats and shakes. I respectfully declined multiple efforts to put me in a wheel chair and pressed through the throng of the finishing area. Save those for the ones that really need it, I thought. I’m fine. Today I am a champion.

My eyes were clenched, closed with focus when I crossed the finish line so at the time I had no idea my finishing time. That was not important what was important was that I had overcome and finished. That I had never once waivered in resolve and that I never once gave in to what are forces of despair. Of course now as I look back my finishing time of 4:45:56 was the slowest of what are now 13 completed marathons and really not what I would expect from myself. My second half time of 2:54:03 was only 20 minutes less than my personal best time for a whole marathon of 3:14:33. At mile 6.8 despite fighting the bronchitis I sat 604 out of more than 4,135 runners that would finish. By mile 13 in spite of the bronchitis and an already hampered leg I was still in 904th place and by the time I finished my ever deadening pace left me in 2344th. In spite of everything I still out paced nearly 1800 others.

Writing this now four days later my left hamstring still won’t support my attempts to make running steps. Believe me when I say I’ve tried, the results of which have left me unsupported. My chest hurts and my lungs and sinuses fill up as fast as I can drain them the whole sick mess worsened by the exertion of the marathon. The switch has now been turned off and looking back upon the race I find it hard to believe what I accomplished.

The average finish time was 4:31:52. In spite of everything I went through including hopping at least 12 plus miles on one leg I finished only 14 minutes behind the average finisher. It astounds me what the human spirit can will the human body to accomplish when faith and courage never waiver. Somehow unable to breathe deeply and hopping on one leg in the rain I ran the 1382nd fastest last mile, faster than 2750 others on this day. My friend from mile 24 said that even in all his years in the military he had never seen anything like it. It is all and only for one reason because I never gave up or gave in. That is the strength of courage that being a part of a team gives you.

My team starts with my wife and son who are always there for me and I must thank them first. I also wish to thank all of those who supported my 4 marathon in 4 months effort financially with donations to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, with their advocacy and with both their vocal and quiet support. My team also includes all of the honored heroes that allowed me the privilege of running on their behalf and those too that have touched me so that I would run in their memory.

Honored Heroes

  •          Richard Johnston
  •          Pat Watson
  •          David Tanner
  •          Alicia Buisst
  •          Bradley Bowers
  •          Kim Miller
  •          Sydney Balzer
  •          Cathy Skotzke
  •          Tracey Gerus
  •          Michael Larson
  •          Philip Brabbs

In memory of;

  •          Antonio Rego
  •          Neil Fielden
  •          Mary Tonkovich-Antonelli
  •          Tony Ilkanic
  •          Cousin “Ronny”

This 2013 4 marathon in 4 month journey has been very special. It has spanned from February to April over a time of 93 days and has been a bridge for the third and fourth decades of my life (yes I turned 40 over the streak). It has included two wicked bouts of bronchitis, a two and a half inch spike of wood that needed to be removed from my foot with a Vise-grip and a race completed on a torn hamstring. I have crossed thousands of miles, the Atlantic ocean, run in three US states, two different countries and on two different continents. I have driven across state and states, over and through mountains, in a blizzard and on sunny days. I have run on trails, through forests, over rivers, in a blizzard of snow and wind up, mostly up but sometimes down, many, many hills , on well travelled roads and a few paths less taken. When it is all said and done I can say that I did THIS and no one will ever be able to take that away from me.

Never forget that humanity is a family. That there are greater things in this world to discover together than we might discover on our own and never ever give up or give in.

Peace and love all.

Daddio

Adventures in marathoning; The 2013 Umstead Trail Marathon, North Carolina

Done with Finisher's pint glass at the Umstead trail marathon 03, 02, 12

Done with Finisher’s pint glass at the Umstead trail marathon 03, 02, 12

Carolina Pines at the William B. Umstead National Park, Raleigh, NC

Carolina Pines at the William B. Umstead National Park, Raleigh, NC

(Editor’s note-This story was started over a month ago now just prior to my running the Barcelona marathon on March 17th 2013, hence the time gaps.)

Hey gang. I’m writing this from my hotel room in Zaragoza, Spain. In less than two days I will be hopping on the train to head to Barcelona, Spain to attempt to complete the third marathon in what will hopefully end up being 4 Marathons in 4 Months to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

My wife asked me the other night if I was nervous about my upcoming race?

Simply I replied, “No.”

 I am in a foreign place where I have no idea of where I am or going and speak little of the native tongue. I am nervous about getting my race package picked up and to the start line.  If I can get those two things accomplished THEN! I can be nervous about the race!

Just about a month ago now I celebrated my 40th birthday two days after it  by finishing the second leg of my journey the extremely challenging Umstead Trail Marathon in the William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh, North Carolina. This by far was the toughest of the 11 marathons that I have completed. Not only was I still not recovered from the Ground Hog Day Marathon in the snow and icy cold conditions in Grand Rapids, Michigan a month earlier but this was also by far the toughest course that I’ve faced. This was a not for wimps event!

I ended up 109th out of 179 finishers in a time of 4:31:37 but that is only a smidgen of the story. Out of a field of 225 entries only 179 were able to finish in the 6 hour time limit. That means there were 46 “Did Not Finishes” or just over 20% of the field (1 in 5) couldn’t complete the course. If you were wondering that number is extremely high as in, “I’ve never been involved in a marathon close to that difficult.” My time was over 1 hour and 15 minutes slower than my personal best time and was only my second finish out of 11 where I’ve exceeded 4 hours. During parts of this race I couldn’t help but laugh at how much I was getting my butt whipped!

This was an “Old School,” race put on by a local North Carolina (NC) running club (The Godiva Track Club). There was no fancy timing equipment just a clock and hand timers as well as trackers on the course. There was no pretense. There was no one there that looked like this was new to them. It was simply a test of human versus trail and not all of the humans won.  In one of the greater understatements I’ve come across in this lifetime on the event website the course is described as, “scenic and hilly.” I’ll say. The hills started at the start line and they went all the way up…and up…then they turned…and then they went up again!

Morning started at a reasonable time. The evening before I had driven into the Raleigh, North Carolina area with my brother riding shot gun and sharing the driving duties. We had left early in the morning from my family’s home in Michigan so that we would be able to arrive at a comfortable time after making the 12 hour drive. We avoided any sort of dodgy spring weather through the mountains and I was able to pick up my race packet and instructions at a reasonable time in the niche community of Cameron, NC. Afterwards I drove cross town to drop my co-pilot off at friends where he was spending the night and then I drove back to the side of town where I had originally been. This all took a couple of hours and as the sun was going down I finally arrived, 15-16 hours after leaving home, at my hotel for the night. I settled in for the night and participated in my favorite out of town pre marathon activity, laying in bed watching some professional basketball on TV. I had only one concern now. It wasn’t prerace jitters or worrying about my performance the next morning. It was getting to the start line. Being a trail run in a sensitive environmental area we had specific instructions of when we could enter the park and from where. Since I had only a notion of my surrounding area and we could only enter the park within a certain time frame I was a little concerned. After all I had come all this way and committed myself to this event as part of my 4 marathons in 4 months initiative. The Raleigh area is a maze of highways and by-ways and it would really suck to get lost on my way to the race and not be able to find my way back in time.

As it so happened I made it into the park early enough and to my assigned parking area (which consisted of spaces where you could find them amongst the roots and rocks in between the Carolina Pines). I hadn’t expected what came next but looking back it is certainly what I should have expected. The staging point for the race was a large communal log cabin in the woods. At one end was a giant hearth that contained a fireplace. A fire had been lit in it and a group of would be runners gathered around it. The morning air was chilly especially for the locals who were more used to warmer climes than I. The fire was a reassuring sight for sure.

In the cool Carolina air the open cabin was the perfect backdrop for this affair. I was there a good hour plus before the race and also in good humor, after all this was my idea of celebrating turning 40. What better way to celebrate a milestone birthday than to enjoy the opportunity and ability to do something special. As I had nothing better to do I took in the scene. Soon the greens and browns of the forest cove started to fill with runners in their neon yellows, oranges, pinks and my favorite color, something I like to refer to as old tracksuit faded grey (if you see that on a Crayola remember you saw it here first). The organizers (locals from the Godiva Running Club) were registering runners and setting up what little there was of a start finish area. The whole feel of everything was rather laissez faire.

Soon it was time for those gathered around the hearth, to join those in line at the “port a potty”, to join those stretching under the trees, to join those like myself who were just wandering around aimlessly and all of those other lucky hippies who had gained entry into the race at the start staging area. I had actually gotten into the race on a second chance entry when someone else dropped out. Spots to run the Umstead trail were limited to preserve its environmental integrity and the parks sensitive environment. It was a privilege to be amongst the les than 200 few who gathered behind the start line.

Then without pomp or circumstance we were off…straight up hill and around the bend which led to more straight uphill!

The first half of the course took you up hill into the tall Carolina Pines leading to a long winding single track portion (true trails one runner wide) through forest beds of pine needles, tree roots over rocks and across rivers. It was up and down and up and around and up and down again. Despite lack of local knowledge and in spite of common sense I attacked early. Prudence will say, “the longer the race the more you need to lay back and conserve your energy.” Prudence is very wise. Still I like to press and I tend to force my body to do work early in races. This method has allowed me to excel at times even if it might bring the pain later. As we age we often lose our will to compete. We fear failure. Going for it might mean lack of success. It may bring down the median but not going for it can mean that you’ve lost the will to compete. Somewhere deep down within my fire still burns and when the circumstances are right I still want to know what I’m made of. It is true that often times the only thing to fear is fear in itself. If you are afraid of competing against yourself than that fear must be overcome.

Up the bridle gravel trails we went. I soon found out what I had in store for me and where my body was at for this race. The first mile went well but I didn’t have what it would take to keep the front runners in sight. My legs were a bit sluggish and the Carolina air was a little different than what I was used to up North and my lungs were working to adapt. If you asked me to sum up endurance running in one word I would have to say oxygen. Aerobic activity requires oxygen as a fuel substrate. Without ti everything falls apart. Your ability to absorb and process as efficiently as possible huge volumes of oxygen is a key component in your body’s ability to move at pace. After about a mile and a half I settled into a groove where I felt that I was working hard but also not to the point where I was burning my lungs and setting my feet into quick sand.

There were a number bandits amongst our crew. Bandits are runners that either don’t register for a race or race with another athlete’s bib. It’s a running thing and it is mostly frowned upon. The pre-race mail outs were strident about warning that this activity would not be tolerated and sure enough as we rounded the first few check points these non registered runners were taken off course. It was about that time the pack started to slot itself out.

We continued upward along the groomed gravel and hard packed forest road. In most areas the road was about a pick-up truck wide with room for another half vehicle to pull to the side. The road was closed to traffic (vehicular that is) and we ran mostly in small groups or singled out in a small rows. Running companions chatted and complete strangers shared the spirit of competition. We were still running mostly up (up means down…eventually I hoped) with some dips but there was a definite trend to the course elevation. I would soon discover why.

With one swoop and a dip we turned. The trail changed and down we went. We had left the park road and now descended on a trail of pine needles littering the forest floor. Out poked a tree root or was it a jagged quartz like rock outcropping. My eyes needed to focus on the trail beneath my feet as opposed to the adventure ahead. I had worn my trail shoes in expectation of the unexpected. They have extra deep treads to grip with and a reinforced sole and toe box which has in the past I am sure saved me from more than one broken toe. We live in the city and I seldom if hardly at all have an opportunity to run trails. Instead I would be considered an almost exclusive road runner. My muscles and joints aren’t used to the jarring and jabbing that this kind of running commands, the total body effort involved or the combination of muscles used to participate in this kind of activity. In a word it was fun.

I coaxed, jarred, accelerated and edged my way up and down the switch back trails. We wound up around the trees and down amongst the rocks. By bridge and stones we crossed rivers and on earthen trail and muddy lane we traversed their banks. Multiple times I half leaped half braced my way down steep slopes or off of bridge exits. After a spell I grew more comfortable and started to stretch my legs. A risk this I knew it would be but quick glances at my watch throughout showed I was slowing in pace. The time for a risk was now. My strength was the flat forest trails where I picked up ground on those around me passing where I could and my reckless competitive spirit kept me in touch on the descents but my lack of experience failed me on the climbs where I would often lose ground again. I began to pound as hard as I could and eventually my pace evened out even if it was also wearing me out.

Then just as I was getting used to things, just as I was really grooving with the glory, mystique and mysticism of the trail we exited back on to the hard packed sand and gravel bridle path again. Back on comfortable footing again I let my legs do my talking as I rolled through the halfway mark by my estimates in pretty good shape, upper middle of the pack and on pace to run 3:30-3:45. I should have done just a little bit more homework!

It was about the halfway mark that my legs began to collapse. I think that all of those up and down switchbacks on the trail had wore me down. If it wasn’t that I am sure that running my second tough marathon (the other being in a snowy blizzard a month before) and all of the travel were making huge impacts on my performance. Oh and the lack of training wasn’t helping either, I am sure! My hips hurt and my lower half was rubber. It was about this time that we started going straight up hill again…without the benefit of any elevation equalization.

My legs grew more and more weary and my dreams of an age group award were diminishing faster than seconds click off the clock. Were we going straight up hill? Why was there no descent? Was I delirious? I stopped checking my watch and began to Chi my way ahead. I simply tilted, leaned forward and began to fall flatfooted forward with each step. By the time the down hills did come my forward quadriceps ached so much I dreaded each step. It was a shocking case of be careful what you wish for.

Still I pushed. What else could I do?

Despite my predicament I continued to run with a smile on my face. I couldn’t let any of the odd spectators or my infrequent fellow participants know how I felt could I? After all it couldn’t possibly be obvious! The aid stations were well stocked with gels, electrolyte replacement drink, snacks and orange wedges. They were staffed by the most awesome volunteers. Of course they were awesome; they were keeping me alive after all. I made sure to stop and thank each one of them at every stop and even talked to one little dog that was helping out. It wasn’t hard to do (stop that is). I wasn’t moving that fast anyways. Now that I think about it, was there really a dog there? Maybe I was hallucinating?

Still I rambled on. At one point I had slipped to a pace that would get me home in about 5 hours. In my own head I found this a little embarrassing but not as embarrassing as giving up would be. People that I  knew shouldn’t have been were passing me. Not having a clue where I was and too stubborn to give in I kept going. Then I hit a hill so named, “The Corkscrew!”

The corkscrew was a gift from hell’s fury itself! It wound up and up and up. Making matters worse its long winding trail lay visible in front of you so that you knew with each step just how long, how up and how far you had to go…sort of. The only thing not exposed was the next bend or was that the last bend or is that the next to last bend? I sucked it up, sucked it in, took a deep breath and hit it hard…and exceedingly slow. I made every effort to continue running, if what I was doing could still be called running? I climbed and climbed and climbed for what seemed a very long time. And then all of a sudden, there was no more cork screw. I had done it. And though I was finished, I wasn’t really. Somehow I decided I was going to finish this event if I had to crawl the rest of the way. With more than a few miles remaining this (crawling) would be a very real possibility.

Somewhere soon after around mile 20/21 there was an aid station. I stopped and fueled up real good for what would be my final effort. There was a sign just up ahead on the side of the trail that said, “welcome to {such and such trail}.” I thanked everyone very graciously for their support and headed off to see what this such and such trail was about.

Unnecessarily I still fretted over some of the runners that had passed and were still passing me but that was all ego and I needed to set that stuff aside to finish this thing. This was an out and back trailhead and as I glance over my shoulder, going the other way I spied the 23 mile marker. “Okay,” I thought, “Get to the trail head turn and get to that marker.”

About a half mile later I began to feel better, in waves. There would be a wave of okay then a wave of, “Oh not so good!” The trail began to wind downhill and I began to dig a little deeper. I began to run a bit harder again wondering if this was a last gasp or if I would fail to make it back up the hill. At the bottom of the gully stood a river, could this be a water crossing? No, it was the turnaround. I had made it. I don’t know if it was all the orange wedges I had consumed, adrenaline or just good vibrations but as we headed uphill I began to feel better and so did my legs. Somehow the rubber that had filled them before was steeling up and where as all of my efforts before could only muster up a stumbling lurch forward I was beginning to actually run again. As I climbed the hill many of my competitors were now falling. I began to pass the weary that just moments before also included me. I passed mile 23 and was feeling better by the moment and as I hit the aid station again I made sure to not be a fool and took the time to load up on fuel. I again thanked everyone and took off.

Amazing as it is this late race spurt is a trademark of mine. To foreshadow my next marathon story to be told later it doesn’t always happen but it has happened often enough. Somewhere from the depths of I don’t know where like a miracle at sea the fire that burns inside produces what I need for a final flourish. As bad as it seemed in the middle of the race over the last few miles it seemed like I could do nearly what I wanted. I ran hard and finally discovered where the down hills were…at the end of the race. I continued to pass my way in and to make up time. I remember one particular unfriendly soul that I definitely felt should not finish ahead of me, he didn’t. As I drew close to the finish line I came up upon one more individual that was failing and I encouraged her to sprint in with me but alas I sprinted home alone feeling good that it was over and feeling proud that I had conquered the Umstead Trail in celebration of my first 40 years and just as importantly what will come in the next forty.

Afterwards I traded barbs and stories over a spread that included the best burritos ever. If you want to taste some really good food then deplete your body’s energy reserves to zero by doing an excessive amount of cardio aerobic activity, like running a tough marathon.

For some it may seem that doing something liking running the Umstead TRAIL Marathon to celebrate a milestone birthday is an odd celebratory dance. To me though I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate how far I’ve come in life, to appreciate the opportunities I have to do physically and mentally challenging tasks and to look forward to what lies ahead for me.

Being an introspective soul I look back now nearly two months later and retrospectively ask myself, “Why does it feel good to do something so hard?”  Maybe that’s just it, that it is hard. How often do we challenge ourselves as we age? How often do we leave our comfort zones? What happened to the dreams of our youth, the adventures we were to have and the accomplishments we would achieve? Why can’t we stay young right up until whatever comes next?

My original celebratory wish was to climb Mount McKinley (Denali) North America’s highest peak in Alaska. Finances and time restraints made that dream undoable this time but that doesn’t mean the dream is over. Who knows maybe I’ll need an adventure to celebrate turning 50 with.

Never give up or give in

Peace and love all.

Daddio

Second photo essay of Jr’s 2013 tour of Europe

The Carrusel Zaragoza 2013

Jr and I came across this “carrusel” one night wandering around Zaragoza, Spain. I’ll let the smiles on his face write the rest of the story.

Peace and love all.

Daddio

The Nautilus

Spain Germany 2 134

Spain Germany 2 112