Category Archives: Blog

Six-Month Old Babies are the World’s Greatest Gifts

“It is the peak of baby.”

Newborns don’t speak. One year olds are closer to little children than little bundles. The exact midpoint, the six-month period, is the best time of babyhood.

“Wait until she turns six months old,” I’ve told people. “The beginning is fun, but that’s the age when it all comes together.” I knew it, I believed it, I saw the pictures of our first child around the key point in her infancy, yet it is always amazing to experience.

Noelle has been smiling and laughing for a few months, now. In fact, she is actually one of the happiest babies I have been around. Sometimes, it takes nothing more than a simple look in her direction to send her into a giddy glee, and every time her delicious cheeks swell, so does my heart.

I can, indeed, confirm that the use of the adjective ‘delicious’ is not hyperbole. I eat them. Daily. And I am sustained by her cheeks.

Apparently, she is, too.

So inclined to consume the most adorable part of her tiny being, I ate her face once. Then twice. When I went back for dessert, she was ready.

In fact, she was excited.

A child’s laughter truly is as magical as people say. Earning that laughter through any action is thoroughly rewarding. In fact, tickles would otherwise be considered an act of torture if not for a baby’s obvious desire for more.

Sometimes, it seems like an accident. Like the baby is clearly enjoying the moment, but unsure of why or how. Placing myself in the role of a tiny infant, I could imagine daydreaming about milk or stuffed animals or the universe’s dark matter, only to be jolted into elation by a giant face eating my own. I can’t image it’s desirable, but her actions tell me differently.

It was at this moment when I stopped to take a breath and gauge the situation. Had I eaten enough of her cheeks? I wasn’t hungry, per se, but I enjoy recreational snacking. With the added caveat that my meal was another human being, I waited for a reaction that I don’t typically receive from my meals.

Noelle stretched out her little, muscleless arms – baby arms are hysterical in the sense that they move as one giant unit without the use of elbows, flail around as if they have actual importance, yet struggle to do anything with ease. The touch of her hand on my face caused me to look down into a pair of eyes so strikingly similar to Tina’s that I would consider them identical if not for my eye color.

I looked down at the sweet face staring back at me, smiling. Smiling and waiting.

More in disbelief than confusion, I tested my theory by inching towards her face slowly, then eating more of my meal. The beautiful sound reached my ears and I backed away, beaming. Again, so was she.

Six months ago, I held this little girl’s hand minutes after she was born. I fawned over her incredibly swollen, yet adorable cheeks. I stayed up an extra hour or two to watch hockey with her or play a video game as she bounced in the carrier on my chest. I had waited, knowing that most of my actions would be lost into an abyss for nearly half a year.

As sudden as the brush of five little fingers on my own cheek, Noelle and I had turned a corner and seen the rest of the world in front of us. I looked down at her, smiled, and was overcome with the simplest of thoughts.

My little girl – my littlest girl – is playing with me.

Each baby has his or her own personality. Watching this develop is one of the great joys of parenthood. Through no doing of our own, Tina and I have already been blessed with two incredible daughters that carry their own separate strengths. For Noelle, her personality is as clear as the everlasting smile on her face.

I knew the day would come, but still was taken aback with excitement as I realized the moment was upon me. For over a year, I was aware that we would be a family of four. For six months, exactly, I was learning about the newest addition to our family. For weeks, I was enjoying every smile and laugh. I had enjoyed an infant.

Now, I’m about to enjoy a baby.

Phases, stages, and time have no concerns about the desires of parents, yet we still have our preferences. Some want to fly through the first year, while others dread toddlers. Unfortunately, a side effect to a baby’s magical powers is his or her rapid growth. Despite the months and milestones, they all go too fast.

Six months go too fast.

That is, until we arrive at the destination. Now that Noelle is here, at her “baby peak,” there’s nothing more to do than enjoy it.

Happy Six Months, Ellie!

29th Birthday – Revisiting Mario’s 28th Birthday Goals

I had not yet returned to my post, but it was always on my mind. Last year, on my birthday, I wrote a list of goals that I wanted to complete by today. I memorized them, and it wasn’t until I sat down to type this year’s version that I revisited what I had promised myself.

I knew, all along, that two things would happen. First, I would not write my goals for this upcoming year. Turning 29 only mattered in the sense that it was another birthday and, thus, a day on which I could reflect. But turning 30 – next year – is a milestone. Nothing I would accomplish this upcoming year could trump what I have been working towards for the past decade.

The second thing I learned over the course of the year – in reality, I knew it when I was typing last year’s version of this post – is that I wouldn’t complete my goals. Each one would have required a specific amount of time and dedication that I could not commit. I did, however, know that I would address a piece of each one, and whichever deserved more attention would receive it.

Admitting that I have bigger plans in mind for the upcoming year, I felt it would be disingenuous to not address where I stood 365 days ago. I generally have a clear vision in most areas, so I find it interesting to assess how accurate or off-base my ‘predictions’ were. More importantly, I find value in revisiting my thought process.

Regardless, this past year has been the most productive, yet exhausting one yet. I cannot attribute my success entirely to the fact that I made promises to myself, but I also can’t discount it, either. To that point, the first item on last year’s list – share more of my writing – was a direct voice I heard in my head as I searched for a place to write publicly. To my pleasant surprise, I found my outlet.

Considering that I had a general plan in mind for how this would play out, I was dealt a curveball. Rather than write more of my personal work for a slightly bigger audience, I was given the opportunity to write a more focused set of articles for a much bigger pool of readership.

This August, I will have written sports articles – mainly football and baseball – for XN Sports for one calendar year, where a significant amount of my work gets shared through AOL.com. When I promised myself that I would find a way to get more people to read what I write, I never expected this. Of all my goals from last year, this one was the home run, and I am truly grateful to everyone that was involved in me landing a writing gig at XN Sports.

Much like the first goal on my list, the second one – start a second company – came to fruition in ways I never expected. Unfortunately, until circumstances allow more to be shared, I will have to be content with simply stating that I decided to go in another direction last year, and I am currently in the process of taking the first real steps in this journey.

Posting a video of my playing a song and actually writing a song were two of my most definable goals, yet neither were actually completed in a concrete way. I never was comfortable enough to sit in front of a camera and play a song – this was a shame, as I wanted to force myself outside my comfort zone – nor did I find the time to sit down and craft art with an instrument. I did, however, practice my skills to extent with which I am extremely pleased – thankfully, my wife agreed from the first day that we moved into our house that I could leave my keyboard and guitar out, to encourage me playing at any time; it worked.

While extremely late nights of work cut into any time I would have liked to dedicate towards music, I did find that some of my quietest nights involved me leaving my chair to plug headphones into my keyboard and strike some keys. The power of music is amazing.

The only other ‘definable’ goal was the hope that I would reach 1,000 Twitter followers, although I openly admitted that this would be out of my control. As expected, this failed, but my writing has allowed the number of followers to steadily grow. The most rewarding part of this experience was also the interactions with some followers, as my sports articles – namely, this year’s football predictions that turned out big winners – allowed for some great discussions via social media.

When I consider the result of each of these goals in a ‘pass or fail’ grading scheme, I find that I would have well under-performed what I desired. But nothing that has transpired over the past year leaves me disappointed. In fact, it’s the opposite. Everything that has consumed my time has been in the effort of approximating the result that any of these goals would have accomplished. Maybe I didn’t do exactly what I wanted, but I did more with my time than I ever would have considered possible.

To that point, my only goal for the next year is that I find a way to take the foundation of what I built and complete the building.

After all, that’s the only plan I have ever had for my 30th birthday.

Second Birthday Blessings and Blues

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I had originally planned to write nothing. I had originally planned to enjoy the day as any other. I had originally planned to not feel this way.

I was told many things a little over two years ago, as my wife was preparing to have our first child. At the top of the list was how drastically my life was about to change. Those who spoke these words spoke the truth, but for a number of different reasons.

For starters, all the warnings of losing sleep or missing milestones did not fall on deaf ears. I heard, and I chose to listen or ignore. Either way, I was aware of a decision and I thank those who warned. But the warning of a life change is different. It is a unique experience for all, and no one could have prepared me for exactly how I would be impacted.

The first year did not fly by. Now that the second year is coming to a close, I can say with confidence that, by comparison, there is no comparison. The first year was filled with every milestone, picture, and video that could be recorded. In that way, it will probably be the most eventful year of my child’s life.

The second year transpired in one week.

Every part of my life has, indeed, changed, but not because of my daughter’s presence, but rather who she is as a person.

For the exact reasons why the first year was so satisfyingly drawn out, the second year, as the direct opposite, was a blur. We purposely stopped trying to count Hayley’s age in months as an effort to stretch the year across 365 days, and still found it unable to work. In the end, I sat on my couch tonight,  amazed at what my daughter had become during her second year of life.

Those same people who warned me about how fast childhood goes also warned me that it gets worse when a routine has set in. Typically, this means school, and it will only speed up at that point. But that has also contributed to the blazingly quick past twelve months. Tina and I felt like we had finally hit our stride with our daughter, and life was going to be business as usual from that point on. It was, and that was the problem.

Now, as I watch the video of Hayley’s first year with us, I sob. Tina asked me why. She asked if I was sad. She asked me how I could be so upset.

I am neither sad, nor upset, nor sobbing out of depression.

I am blessed.

I see the face of my daughter on the television, and it is the same face (slightly smaller) than the one sitting to my right with her hands on Tina’s knee. I hear her laugh on screen and it mimics that which I heard minutes earlier. I see her smile and I see Hayley smile.

I cry because I know that, as much has changed throughout the two years, that’s how little has changed. While each day goes by, and absolutely nothing new has transpired, I discover that, somehow, I am able to fall more in love with a person. I don’t see it coming, and I didn’t see it pass. I only feel it when I look back and see what has multiplied throughout the past two years.

Then I cry because I know she loves me too. I see a video of me and my daughter dancing, and I know that, in ten minutes, we will be dancing again. I see her wrapped in my (our) yellow blanket, and I see her bolt off the couch to grab it again. I see her falling asleep in my arms on screen and I see her falling asleep in my arms upstairs, tonight.

The series of images pass my blurred eyes, and each one brings a different emotion. I find a soft smile in how adorable my daughter looks in most of the typical pictures. I find the pained yearning for last year when I see the videos. I find the swelling of love for a life lived when I see moments unfolding.

As always, it is the moments that bring the impact.

The moment when the tree fell on our house and Hayley was beaming with happiness because she got to stay up late and sleep downstairs with mommy and daddy. The moment when I accidentally found a fat, round Jets stuffed animal and realized that Hayley was hysterically laughing at it (and the moment we bought it). The moment when the heat in our house was broken and Hayley had to wear a winter hat inside for a few days.

It is the moments, whether captured or not, that make life memorable. It is the recognition of these moments that make life special.

I had planned on not writing anything tonight because I found it difficult, at first, to pinpoint how I felt about my daughter’s second birthday. Part of me wanted it to be “just another day” so that I would not be forced into a position of sadness, but a bigger part wanted it to be special, regardless of the consequence.

I planned on simply wishing my two-year old daughter a Happy Birthday and continuing on with business as usual. Then I saw the video and remembered how important it is to accentuate the moments and break away from the mundane.

I remembered who caused me to feel this way and why she deserves everything she has received.

I remembered why children are the greatest gifts of life and why a altering a plan is always worth the story it tells.

I remembered how my life has been forever changed.

And I will always remember who changed it.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Hayley!