Six Months of Dad Life Has Me Stunned!

My cutie cute

Sofia has giggled her way into my life and stollen my heart along the way. I had no doubt that this was going to happen when she burst into our lives six months ago (ok, officially seven months tomorrow, but dang where did the time go?). But I didn’t know exactly how much my life would change.

The moment she was born I knew I couldn’t stay the man I was, even if maybe I was a good man. I had to learn to say no! Not to Sofia, at least not yet. I have to say no at my job. I’ve been a teacher for well over a decade and I love my students, but if I want to be more than a good man, and maybe even a good dad, my baby girl has to be a priority.

Two of my former players.

The first no was a very difficult one because it was to a good thing. Before the pandemic, I coached high school girls basketball. We weren’t the winningest team, but we were a team built on love. As much as I love my girls team, I had to say no to coaching basketball this year. My former team needed an assistant coach at the start of the year and I wanted to say yes, but I knew I needed to be home with Sofia. Saying no gave me time to take Sofia on walks, soar her through the air, and change her diapers. Fortunately me saying no to basketball was also good for the team. They ended up winning nine games this year!

Saying no to work has challenges. I am not sure my new boss is a fan of work life balance. When I was on paternity leave, she made it clear she wanted me to keep working. Even going as far as telling me that my grades weren’t posting when I was on break. Since I have been back to work, she keeps insinuating things about working more, but I’ve been learning to balance my job and little Sofia (as well as April, Gryffin, and Phoenix). I am not sure I have been successful, which might be why this blog is coming out a month late. Whatever is happening though, I want to choose my family first.

I love the students I teach, but when I first started teaching I thought I could pursue my dreams of writing creatively (not just blogging and you all might have noticed that’s been a struggle lately too). But I have had to say no to any writing due to emotional exhaustion. Even in the summer after the school year has ended, I need about a month to decompress. Sofia and her cutie cute smile has me thinking that things need to change.

Sofia and her blankie.

Not only am I learning to put my family first by saying no to work (even the good parts of work), I am putting my family first by being active in caring for Sofia. When she’s crying in the middle of the night (and I hear it), I do my best to help sooth her. For the past month or so, this has meant letting the little one sleep in our bed. We are hoping to transition her to her crib here soon because April and I want our king sized bed back. I also do my best to change as many diapers as I can. Sofia typically cries when being changed, but I love making her laugh. A belly fart typically does it. The other night I had her laughing up a storm just by saying the word dog.

Sofia has me saying yes too little or no sleep just so I can care for her. I’m sure April (who gets way less sleep than me because Sofia prefers breast milk over bottle) would say I say no to late nights, but how can I say no if I am sound asleep and I just don’t hear anything. Both April and I see any of the late night feedings or diaper changes as chances to love on Sofia, and in that way Sofia has me saying yes all the time.

Last night we had to say no to Sofia. We started sleep training and so she found herself in her crib which is located in her own room. I’ve grown used to having our little lady in the room with us, but if April and I want to sleep well, we have to help Sofia sleep in her own room. So there were tears, not just mine, but Sofia’s. We checked on her after five minutes, then 15, then 30. She fell asleep, but then woke herself up and puked. We cleaned her up and April fed her some more only to try again. She passed out. I felt horrible for putting Sofia through that ordeal, but it will be good for her. I will readjust to her not being in our room. It is okay that I didn’t sleep well, what matters is that Sofia did.

And so even on little to no sleep I’m still saying yes to singing for Sofia. I’m not sure when Sofia was born that I knew I would start singing around the house again. I used to sing quite a bit (especially if no one was listening) but now it is my go to for Sofia’s entertainment. I guess in a way, I am saying yes to some things that make be feel a bit awkward and scared.

I’ve been trying to speak Spanish to Sofia which has been fun and awkward. I’m not the best at Spanish even though I lived in Guatemala for three years and was tutored privately because speaking incorrectly makes me scared. But I want to help my daughter be able to speak to her abuelos so I am saying yes to speak more Spanish.

Sofia and her abuela.

I’ve also said yes to April’s parents moving in with us. April’s mom has been watching Sofia while April and I go to work. At times it is difficult because my house feels crowded, but I want to be a dad who helps his family and April’s family is my family. Both abuelos love Sofia so much and I want Sofia to know that her entire family loves her.

Maybe in the future I’ll be saying yes to playing dolls and painting nails with her. Whatever God has for my family and me, I want to say yes to Him and His adventures. I want Sofia to know what faith looks like. I want Sofia to see me saying yes to my own dreams so she knows what a real adventure looks like.

I Never Thought I Wanted To Fail At This

In My Year of Becoming I’m Learning I Must Fail And Be Human

To err is human, but I want to be perfect. My therapist (does admiring I am in therapy break your perfect picture of me) reminded me that it is okay to fail because that means we are alive. Yet, I still strive to be perfect and I am failing at it. So I am learning how to become okay with failing.

Failure is not an option! The year I started teaching in the states I worked at a school that had posters all over the building telling our students that “Failure Is Not An Option!” By November we announced as a school that we were closing. We failed! Maybe if failure had been an option the school would have found success. I am learning that failure and success works like that.

I’ve been failing quite a bit lately. My sleep has been rather horrible. Fail. I haven’t been writing as much as I would like. Fail. I’ve let work make me feel like I am not good enough. Fail. I’ve not been much help to April (my wife) and my puppies in the morning while they are preparing for the day (see sleep failure). Fail. But mostly at being perfect. I am not sure where my perfection comes from, but I sure do have high expectations of myself. I want to get the perfect night sleep so I try to make everything right in my room. I have a ridiculous routine before bed that would make Adrian Monk seem normal. I like comfort and sleep, what can I say? So anything to help calm my anxieties, I try to do. Yet, having the perfect set up for sleep hasn’t always led to a full eight hours. That is where my therapist comes in. We were having a conversation about my frustration at not sleeping well again. I told him all about what I do (from journaling to taking melatonin) and he said I need to keep doing those things, but that it has to be okay if they don’t work. Failure has to be an option. I have to be able to go to bed and when my brain says, “Hey! Hey! Hey! Over here! Listen to me! I’ve got a thought for you! YOU’RE NOT GOING TO SLEEP! Now dwell on that for the next 10 hours! Goodnight!” I have to be able to think, okay, that’s fine. When I don’t fight back, I let God win the battle for me. This is a very kind thought, which is what my therapist is asking me to do. Being kind is to not pressure myself into perfection. Kindness helps me live in the moment and let go of my worries about the future. If I expect perfection and then fail, I am a mess.

This has allowed me to be gracious with myself when I have a bad day at work. Why should I worry about what my coworkers think of me? They are not the ones who define who I am. That is Christ’s role. Speaking of Jesus, His option of me is that of a friend and brother and he is the only one who lived a perfect life and yet things didn’t always go his way. Two weeks ago we celebrated Easter (April made a delicious carrot cake) at my parents house. It was amazing to be able to celebrate together because last year we were all in strict Covid isolation. Easter of 2020 was far from perfect and Easter of 2021 was no where close to a fail. I think living in-between perfection and disaster is human. Jesus brought that balance when he died for us. He asked God to not have him sacrifice his life, “not my will, but yours” he said. In a night of extreme anxiety, he prayed to have the cup pass from his lips. God didn’t grant him his wish and Jesus went to the cross for us and then three days later defeated death so that I could lie in bed telling God he needs to let me fall back to sleep! No, so I can be gracious to myself as I remind myself that I am loved and life in that freedom. It is this love that defines me and makes it okay to be a human who fails.

And so the biggest fail of the last two decades happened to me two weeks ago. I forgot to spend time in prayer. Fail! My brain was on fire at three in the morning, letting me know I had failed to spend time with God. Now, hear me out. I started reading my Bible and writing in a prayer book during my Freshmen year of high school. I wanted to look Godly and attractive to this girl I was digging on a mission trip to Costa Rica. God used my selfish desires to help build a strong relationship with Him instead of the girl.

I remained inconsistent in my Bible and prayer time until my sophomore year of college. I was on a mission trip to Belize and a strong desire to grow closer to Jesus prompted me to make a decision not to miss a day in pryer. I was struggling with feeling connected to the group I came down to Belize to serve with and I felt Jesus tell me he loved me and that he saw me as His friend.. If Jesus is my best friend, why would I not want to spend time with Him everyday day.

Seventeen years later I had not missed a day. God has used my quiet time to help me decompress, heal, and be filled with his love. Through my daily interaction with God I moved passed insecurities and addictions and I have come to know I am loved. This has set me free, especially when I fail. So when I awoke with the thought that I had not read my bible nor written in my prayer book, I rolled over and went back to sleep. Okay, I did briefly think about waking myself up all the way and spending time in prayer so I could “count” it for the missed day. I mean I didn’t even miss a day while in the hospital with pneumonia, which included two major surgeries. But why spend time in prayer if it is just to check a box? I do not need to be perfect for God to love me. Maybe if I fail more often I’ll feel that love because it is only in our fallen state that grace can come in. To forgive is Divine.

So I am learning to fail and forgive myself. This act of kindness covers me with grace which is like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to my body. This might free my writing up so that I do not worry about having the perfect blog. It will also help me love my wife better because she too is loved by Jesus and does not need a husband who is constantly worried about being perfect. So here is to failing.

April deserves a husband who is human and so is like my young puppies. They do not care that our backyard is in shambles right now, they have joy in their hearts because they are together. Also, they love that they can climb all over the fallen fence. They see life as an adventure and in adventures it is okay to become immersed in the mess. If I can love and live the way my puppies do, I can be live in joy with my wife because we are together. It won’t matter if I sleep or if my job is going perfectly. The mess of life will just bring out the beauty in us. So here is to failing inside the mess.

Stress, Sleep, and Surrender: September 2019

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Maybe you are reading this because you haven’t mastered the tick to falling asleep.  Maybe you are like me and sleep has started to evade you.  Surrendering to sleep seems like a weird thing that we do every day.  Sleep is vulnerable, we lie there, prone and oblivious to all that is going on in the world, and yet without it we will waste away.  Worrying about what will happen to me while I sleep is not why I’ve had trouble slipping off into sleep.  What I get anxious about is plain old sleep and work.  My brain just won’t turn off sometimes because I am stuck in a cycle of anxiety and stress.  As I have struggled to sleep God kept reminding me He wanted my heart no matter the situation. I couldn’t control my life.  He was taking back the things that were his anyway.  God wanted me to surrender and open up about my struggles.

Finally, a little over a year ago, I told my older sister that I was struggling with sleep.  She said, “me too.”  That moment of connection was what I needed.  It was as if I had been heard.  I started to sleep soundly again.  Yet here we are deep into 2019 and I am taking a small amount of sleeping pills during the work week and I still occasionally wake up sweaty.

I am not sure why my sleep patterns haven’t fixed themselves and I am doing my best not to stress over the answer.  The best thing to do while going through a difficult or painful situation is not to ask why or try to interpret what is going on.  Struggling to figure out the meaning of my sleepless nights only led to more sleepless nights.  Maybe part of why sleep has not come easy could be my silence; my refusal to surrender to God’s will and share what He has been doing in my life.

But this September I felt challenged to open up about my sleep problems.  Every September I celebrate how God showed up when I was in the hospital due to Necrotizing Pneumonia.  I realized if I can share about how God used that pain, I needed to open up about what God was doing in my life now.  I was being selfish by holding back on talking about my sleep pain.  I would rather have God use my pain than waste it.  So I am opening up.  Millions of Americans suffer from sleep deprivation and maybe I can help.

I have learned that instead of asking God why I am awake in the middle of the night or unable to fall asleep, I want to ask God what are you doing in me?  He wants my heart no matter the situation.  So each night I am practicing letting go of my own desires.  God has taken care of my finances, my wife, my health, and everything else I have surrendered to him.  If I do not sleep well, he gives me what I need to make it through the next day.

I do not want to keep silent about my sleep or lack thereof because God has been too good to me and I want to praise him for that.  At night when I can’t sleep, I have decided to sit with Him and pray.  Some nights I leave my bed and go to the couch where I sit with my hands palm up on my knees.  I breathe deeply and listen for God.  I think of the beauty I have seen in His world and know that He is in control.  I surrender to him and trust that if He can make a world where Aspens exist, He can love me even in my stress. He might never heal me of this sleep problem, but all the while He is making me into the man he created me to be.  And isn’t that the ultimate adventure?

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