Responsibility

What is your greatest responsibility? I’m sure the number of answers are infinite depending on who you are and what stage of life you are at. I bet most parents would say raising kids. That’s what I want to talk about in this post.

Perhaps I’m writing this from a place of anger – fair observation if you come to it. If you lived the last 3 hours of my life, I think you would understand. It’s hard not to be angry when you get another call from the school asking you to come get your 4th grader. What now?

We decided my wife would go get her this time. We thought maybe there was a legitimate reason for the freak out and my wife would be best to figure out what happened. School is getting harder by the day for her – both academically and emotionally/socially (friends, etc.). We were wrong. There was no reason other than she didn’t feel like she wanted to do the work. Let’s be clear on this “work.” Work for our 4th grader has been significantly modified to fit where she is at academically, as well as how much work she can tolerate at a given time. It’s important to also know this school is absolutely exceptional in how they have accommodated her academically and their willingness to work with very difficult behaviors. This is the same school that went out of their way for our adopted son that destroyed the school more than once.

Clearly they didn’t call us because she chose to not do her work. They called because she was breaking things, hiding under desks, leaving the classroom, stuffing her mouth full of broken crayons – you get the picture. On the way home from the school, she tore up our van and threw things at my wife as she drove her home. This was all completely unprovoked because we have learned we don’t talk about the incident on the way home, we don’t talk consequences, we don’t talk at all. We just get home to a place where we can figure things out and handle it. When they got home she refused to get out of the van – strapping herself down with three seatbelts in the back and then somehow wedging herself under the seats. It played out very similar to my post, “The Chase“. Anyway, back to the topic and what I really want to talk about. It ties in because my daughter’s brain is damaged so severely that she is not able to choose to not act out in these ways. The portion of the brain that makes decisions and regulates emotions has been damaged, and she is not the one responsible for the damage.

There is a crisis in this country that never really gets talked about. We love to talk about politics, guns, drugs, sex/gender/etc, but we don’t ever talk about the fact there are far too many people having kids in this country that simply shouldn’t. I’m sure that is uncomfortable to read. It is more uncomfortable to write because I will live what I am about to write.

There is a large percent of the population that would be more than happy to take away the rights of gun owners today. I believe they want to do that because they think it will reduce gun violence (shootings, deaths). I’m not debating gun laws in this post – maybe a different day. My point is we have a large portion of the population that cares a lot about someone else not having a gun and feel they are 100% right. I am surprised we don’t have a similar size group fighting for preventing people having children. As I write this, I think I know why. No one knows this is a real problem.

I believe there are many people in this country that have lost their right to have children. These individuals are those that have had their kids permanently taken away from them before. Those that have knowingly drank during pregnancy, that test positive for drugs at birth, that live in unsafe environments, that simply cannot afford to take care of a child’s most basic needs. I’m sure many people are either mad or feeling really uncomfortable right now. Good, it means you are engaged and will hopefully keep reading.

I feel so strongly about this because the impact from these individuals having kids is absolutely devastating. It’s devastating to the birth mother and father. It’s devastating to the future adoptive parents, assuming the kids are ever adopted (not a given). It’s devastating economically – to the State and community where these parents and kids live. Most important, it is devastating to the kids born into these situations.

Did I think about any of this before I met my wife – no. I was blind to it like most of the country is. Why have we allowed this to go on? Why is there not more outrage over people having kids only to have them taken away over and over and over? The only reason I can think of is this is a problem of the inner cities and super poor neighborhoods and it’s easy to overlook.

Let’s look at my situation. Two of our adoptive kids are biologically related. Their birth mother has a very low IQ, drank heavily during her pregnancies, tested positive for drugs at birth, and grew up in an absolutely terrifying situation. Their brith dad is a known gang member, drug dealer and pimp. We know they have several other siblings out there as well. It terrifies me to think how many more they may have actually had because those little kids are likely dealing with the same things our do.

Our other adopted girl comes from a birth mother that beat her and her siblings regularly, among other significant traumatic events. You need two hands to count her siblings and no one knows who her birth father is.

Each story reached a similar end for the biological parents – the kids were taken from them by the State.

I vacillate from hatred to sadness for the biological parents. I hate them because they have ruined my kids’ lives. They won’t ever have a normal life – everything will always be hard. They won’t have normal functioning brains. They won’t ever trust people properly – two of them would trust literally anyone they spoke to, while the other one doesn’t even trust us. I hate them because what they have done is the most selfish act you can perform. I hate them because they take no responsibility for their actions.

As time has gone on though, I have felt sadness for them too. I realize now the parents never had a chance either (I bet their parents didn’t either). Their parents were the same as they are or potentially even worse. They lived in the same horrendous conditions with little parental supervision or any decent role models. When you step back for a second and lose the anger, you can see this is nothing more than a vicious cycle with no end in sight.

We wonder why there has been no improvement in the inner cities or the super poor neighborhoods. I think the answer is pretty simple. We allow the cycle to perpetuate. Generation after generation deal with the same dysfunction. Poor choices lead to more poor choices. Ultimately, it leads to 100% reliance on others to survive because they can’t find their way out. This cycle has to be broken. Allowing kids to be born into these circumstances is unconscionable.

I’d love to think that with more education and a caring community we could fix this. Maybe it’d be slow, but we could. Unfortunately, I don’t buy that for a second. I don’t think you change a generational problem with more education or someone checking in on you once a week. The circumstances these people live in don’t change. Even if they had the very best of intentions, they can’t escape the chaos of their real lives. They will always go back to their same habits. These habits have helped them to survive.

I think the only solution is to prevent these individuals from having kids – medically. If I had the resources, I would immediately put those resources to work by paying men and women to not have kids. Obviously this is just a blog post and not a policy document. I realize this is a very complicated subject. I realize sometimes people make bad choices, lose their kids, get their shit together, and get their kids back. I am all for that and maybe they can have more kids. That is not the problem I am trying to solve here. I am thinking about the people I described above. I am thinking about my kids’ birth parents. I’m talking about those people that are completely unwilling or unable to live a responsible life, and by having a child immediately put that child in danger because they cannot provide proper care and love.

We cannot continue to allow kids to be born into these environments only to perpetuate this horrible cycle. We need to prioritize resources and our efforts related to this problem. The first step is to acknowledge there is a real problem here and it may not be that hard to make an impact.

Maybe education is a key piece of this, but not for those in the high risk environments, but for those in the middle and upper classes. People need to know what these kids have to go through. That the kids will likely end up having kids too (probably at a very young age) who will live out the same desperate lives as other generations. They need to understand that if the kids get adopted, that doesn’t mean all is well. The adoption story doesn’t always end on a positive note – often times it is ends with overwhelming sadness. We need to understand the human toll related to this, not to mention the significant economic impact this has on all of us. Education certainly has a place.

This topic has been on my mind for some time now. I wish I saw a better way out, but I don’t. We have to find a way to break the cycle for no other reason than not one of us would want our kids or our grandkids being born into these environments and circumstances. Something has to change.

#fetalalcoholsyndrome #ivegot2more #7kids #endure #grind #accountability #noexcuses #blendedfamily #betterthanyesterday #fewwillhunt #trauma

I Am The Worst…

Aggressive title I know. It wouldn’t be the first time I have been accused of using aggressive language. I think the title fits what I am about to write – let’s see.

Over the past year or so, I have been doing a ton of self-reflection. I’ve been in the right place mentally to do this because of where my life is at now. This is mainly a credit to my wife. I don’t think anyone would say I have an easy or simple life, so it’s certainly not that (see previous blog posts). What we have empowers me each and every day. Our crazy love and devotion to one another. Our amazing partnership that keeps our crazy life together. It’s given me the peace and confidence to really look inward and try to figure some things out about myself. Why am I the way I am?

The only way to improve at anything in life is to challenge yourself. You aren’t going to add muscle if you lift the same weight every day. You won’t run faster if you run the same speed every day. You won’t become a better student if your study habits don’t change. The same goes for who you are and how you live your life. You have to be willing to take an honest look at yourself and own your truth. Only then is it possible to make the necessary changes to improve and grow as a person.

This is not an easy task. Taking an accounting of your life is likely not going to be a pleasant experience. It takes a lot of time and a ton of quiet thinking. Things will pop up from your past that embarrass you or hurt you. You will question your character at times. You will almost certainly question your purpose. You have to decide though, are you willing to own your shit? I mean it. Are you strong enough to take ownership of it all – the good and the bad. This post is the beginning for me, likely one of many exploring this topic. I see myself standing at the bottom of a large hill and we all know what flows down.

Looking back on my 40 years I can certainly pick out some common themes. Some are good, some are bad, and there is a bunch fitting somewhere in the middle. One in particular has drawn my attention though because it’s honestly something I have thought about for a very long time. I can remember thinking about this idea all the way back to high school, and it is still something on my mind regularly. It’s something I call being a “floater”. I made this up. I couldn’t find a suitable definition anywhere, so let me explain.

I couldn’t really explain what I mean by floater until this past weekend. It all finally came together as I was sitting in my Jeep between my daughter’s volleyball games. Almost always when I travel or watch my kids play sports, I listen to podcasts. I enjoy learning about new things and people’s experiences in life. These events are really the only time I am willing to sacrifice my time to listen.

That day, I was listening to Colin O’Brady on The Joe Rogan Experience. The last 15 minutes of the podcast shook me up. Finally, I thought, this is what I was looking for. This was the framework I needed to get all of this out of my head. I’ll paraphrase his thoughts below (in italics).

I think of life as the totality of life experiences between numerical 1 and 10. A 1 being the worst day of your life and 10 being the best. What I’m really afraid of is living a life range bound between 4 and 6. Too often people seek comfort and then wonder, “why am I unsatisfied, why am I not happy?” They live a life of quiet desperation in the middle and a lot has to do with the fact we are afraid of the 1’s. We don’t want to experience discomfort or pain. The totality of life experience is like a pendulum. To experience the highest highs you must embrace discomfort, challenge and pain. You don’t experience the 10’s in spite of the 1’s, but because of them.

He went on to talk about how easy it is for us, particularly in the western world, to live this range-bound life due to the almost inherent comforts and security we typically experience in this country today. This range-bound life idea is what really struck me and gave me the words to get this out.

I call the life lived between 4 and 6 the indifference zone. I’ve loved a line from a Lumineers song for a long time and have it in my head often when I am thinking about how much I care about something, “It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all. The opposite of love is indifference”.

I will speak for myself, but from what I can tell, I am not alone. In fact, I think I am in the majority. I’ve lived the majority of my life firmly stuck in the indifference zone. The worst part of that for me is the fact I knew what I was doing all along. This is why I titled this post, “I Am The Worst…”. There is nothing worse to me than knowingly making a poor decision. And to top it all off, I did nothing about it until only recently.

In the podcast, they make reference to a quote by Thoreau. This succinctly describes how I have felt for most of my life. I bet it hits home for many others as well.

How did I get here? Many well-intended and good decisions. Weird, right? It’d be nice if the decisions you make during your life all had very clear and final consequences. What can and should be interpreted as a good decision can have very negative long-term unintended consequences. It seems as you age, the decisions you make have greater and greater longer term consequences. I think more often than not, we are blind to these unintended consequences. As we float around in the indifference zone, our thinking becomes lazy and less informed. We are simply following the herd in my case, or taking the easy way out. This kind of thinking and acting can lead you to being trapped very, very quickly. Trapped in a career you hate. Trapped in a loveless relationship. Trapped in a suffocating financial situation. These are just a couple common examples of what you can see every day if you look around.

If there is one thing that can be said about me, it’s that I am very deliberate in my decision making. For most of my life though, that meant I chose the easy path. Why did I choose the easy path? Simply put, it always seemed like the right thing to do. Why did it seem like the right thing to do? I’m not really sure. Maybe I have it in me to avoid risk, failure, and putting myself out there. I know there is a great deal of conditioning going on as we grow up. This is natural during the course of your life. The people people around us and our environment contribute to our world view and influence our decision making. The other major contributor that stands out to me is the pressure around cultural norms. Cultural norms certainly drove a big chunk of my decision making, which is incredibly disappointing to me now. I have never really cared what others have thought of me, often times taking contrarian views because debating a topic was always more fun than living in an echo chamber. The reality is, I was just a sheep in the herd.

I’ve lived most of my days treating my life like a checklist. This mentality was encouraged by those around me. Of course it was – the things I was checking off the list were good things. They were achievements. I was doing it; I was becoming a successful adult.

I put a by the first five items on the list really fast. All were accomplished by the time I was 25. This is about as safe and secure as it gets. The world typically perceives this as being a high achiever. Someone that has it all figured out. Someone that is put together. What it really did was plant me firmly in the indifference zone, and I didn’t even know it. I was so busy crossing things off the list, I never had a chance to think about me and what I wanted. I was too busy doing what I thought was right.

Reality sets in really fast when you check off that fifth box. What is next for me? Retirement? I am far too young for that. So what’s next? I don’t know what I am supposed to chase now. You begin to realize that all this time, you’ve been chasing things while a void was growing larger and larger inside you. It was easy to ignore the void during the chase, but now that is mostly over you have to face the truth. All those right decisions you made along the way didn’t equal happiness or fulfillment. Now you start to hear the clock ticking. If you don’t figure this out soon, you will lose your life.

Naturally, you start searching for what is missing. You pick up a couple books to help you along your way, maybe even find some motivation in them. You realize fairly quickly though that this isn’t going to be easy. Time is not your friend. You already have a busy life. How do you find time to figure yourself out? You fall back on what you know. You go after the low hanging fruit. Get a couple easy wins and you will feel better. Maybe this is just a rut that you have to get out of. So you lose yourself in your work – go get that promotion and the big raise. They quickly come and go. Nothing changes though. You don’t feel different. You even start to realize you don’t really care about the promotion or the raise. They feel arbitrary and don’t fill that void inside you for long. Time continues to pass and the desperation you are feeling becomes more and more consuming. You also start feeling this dull, but steady panic in the back of your mind. You are running out of time. You better get your shit together.

All along, you are feeling the obligations of our culture. You have to keep up with your Facebook and Instagram “friends”. After all, their perfectly curated lives look amazing. Maybe they have it figured out? So you start to chase the things that can be purchased – nice vacations, fashionable clothes, a new car, maybe a bigger home.

You want to be an amazing parent too. Today, it’s pretty clear that means signing your kids up for a million activities. How else can you show the world you are a super involved parent and have well rounded kids? What’s most important about this choice is you can wear the grind as a badge of honor. The insane travel from home to work to home to activities to home proves to the world in each social media post just how much you are willing to sacrifice for your child. And being busy and on the run always looks good.

Unfortunately, these things aren’t helping either. Deep inside you the search is intensifying. This can’t be what life is all about. You start to feel isolated. You question if you are the only one that feels this way. Is everyone really happy slogging away at a job they have no passion for? Are they happy spending all their free time away from their spouse as kid duties are split so they can participate in everything they want? The desperation is growing exponentially now and begins to eat you from the inside out.

This is probably a good spot to pause. I am sure I need to clear a couple things up. If you are slogging away at a job you hate because it is the best way to put a roof over your head and food on the table, then obviously that is what you need to do. I’m also not anti kid’s activities. I’ve truly enjoyed watching my kids participate in their extracurricular’s and spent many years coaching them as well. I use these as examples because they are visible every day in real life and in social media. Every day, you can find people stating how much they hate their job, but doing nothing to change their situation. You can find posts from parents completely exhausted from driving their kids all over the place, almost every day of the week, but are unwilling to ask themselves why are they doing it. The bottom line is if you are happy and content doing these things or doing whatever you do, then keep doing them. What makes one person happy and fulfilled doesn’t necessarily translate to the next person. My goal is to push the question – are you happy? Are you fulfilled? Have you ever contemplated those questions?

I believe strongly there is a natural balance to all things, including how we live our lives. It’s never perfect, but when you find some balance, things seem to fall into place. I think giving all of yourself to things or other people is unhealthy for most of us. You may think you can do it all. You may even think it is courageous to sacrifice all of yourself for other things and people. I’d argue it’s actually selfish. Doing that for a long enough period of time will ensure you change, and you won’t even know it. When you are not true to your core, you become a different person, someone you were never meant to be. Letting this go too long will eventually come front and center. It’s only a matter of time. Unfortunately for most people, you face up to this reality when it’s far too late – when you are out of time.

In this post, I’m speaking to the people, like myself, that read the words above and see themselves. The people that want to live a life they are truly proud of. The people that feel that desperation in their soul and those that feel that searching feeling in the back of their mind every day. I’m speaking to the people, like myself, that know there is something more out there, but it always feels like it’s just a little bit out of their reach.

I don’t have this figured out. I still make decisions regularly that I question. Was that the right decision or am I simply following the herd? I think about those regrets above and others all the time. Keeping them in focus will help me improve each day. I won’t let them leave me because I know I need the reminder. I need to be pushed.

Over the past five years or so, I have been very fortunate to make several decisions that put me on a new path. A path towards happiness and fulfillment. These opportunities came along in a very unsuspecting way. I didn’t realize how much impact they would have on my life until much later – unintended consequences don’t have to be negative! I have confidence, clarity and happiness like I have never had before.

I want to say it again, I DO NOT have it all figured out. I have very little figured out. It is important to keep in mind that there really is no destination here, it is all journey. I think of it this way – you are on a sail boat in a never-ending ocean. What you want is the wind at your back. You want to move forward. You’d prefer not to face a headwind all the time. More than anything, you don’t want to be dead in the water or not moving forward. I don’t expect to find holistic happiness and fulfillment. I don’t expect every aspect of my life to be balanced or where I want it to be. I do expect to work on all of me, all the time though. I do expect to embrace this process and make it a life long priority. Most of all, I want to find fulfillment and think about those regrets a little less each day I am alive.

#fetalalcoholsyndrome #ivegot2more #7kids #endure #grind #accountability #noexcuses #blendedfamily #betterthanyesterday #colinobrady

FAS – The Chase

Two of our children have fetal alcohol syndrome (it’s possible the third adopted child does as well). Having FAS is life changing. Living with someone that has FAS is life changing. These kids never had a chance at a normal life and will never experience most things you dream about for your kids.

Lately I have had these lines by Eminem in my head, “Have you ever been protested and demonstrated against? I have, I’ve been protested and demonstrated against.”

They have been rattling around my brain as we have gone through some craziness with our FAS daughter. Let me try to bring you into my world.

“Have you ever chased your child through the neighborhood as she attempts to runaway? I have, I’ve chased my daughter through the neighborhood as she attempts to runaway.”

“Have you had to physically restrain your daughter so she doesn’t harm herself, others, or your house? I have, I’ve had to physically restrain my daughter so she doesn’t harm herself, others, or my house.”

“Have you had your hands bit (and I mean chomped on) by your daughter as you try to protect her from harming herself? I have, I’ve been bitten by my daughter as I try to protect her from herself.”

“Have you ever had to pull your daughter back through a second story window as she threatens to jump? I have, I’ve had to pull my daughter back through a second story window as she threatens to jump.”

The first three happened yesterday. I guess I threw in the fourth for good measure.

It went down around 5:30 PM. I’m sure many are thinking there had to be things you could have done before it got to the point of restraining. My wife and I would give anything if that were true in this situation. I’m not sure there is anything we hate more than this.

We know with our daughter once she crosses a certain point there is no going back. There is also no successful negotiating. Incentives don’t work. Threats don’t work. Nothing works.

Can you imagine your child going up to a stranger’s door and telling these unsuspecting people she wants to live with them instead of you? I can, that happened yesterday too.

Back to the chase. My wife drove down the street of our neighborhood and quickly spotted our daughter. As always she was optimistic. Even on this dreary winter day she saw nothing but rainbows. She thought she could deescalate the situation. I don’t think she really thought that, but she puts on a good front and I had a brutal day at work. She was trying to ease my load – we really are a great team. She made all the standard passive and loving attempts to get things under control with no success. Similar to our son, when things get really crazy we are willing to give anything to get the situation under control. It never works though. Ultimately all this talking led to my daughter running further from home. At this point our daughter can’t really be contained in an open area by my wife. If she wanted to keep running that was what was going to happen.

I, being the realist in the relationship figured this was going to continue to escalate and sure enough I got the call from my wife. As I drove up, our daughter took off. She made it into a different neighborhood. This neighborhood connects to our via sidewalk. The chase was now on foot.

At this point we have no hope left. It’s clear nothing is going to work (nothing ever works, but we always try). My job changes. Instead of negotiator, I play the part of arresting officer. I have to get her back to the car by any means necessary and ideally without anyone in this neighborhood calling the police.

Let’s be honest, an adult white male, carrying a thrashing 10 year old black girl doesn’t look great.

Let me reset the stage. My wife and I are on foot. We have two vehicles in the general area. I have a thrashing ten year old in my arms. If anyone was witnessing this there is no other conclusion one can come to other than this is a kidnapping.

I decide our monster van (Bertha) would be best given there is more space and this short car ride home wasn’t going to be easy. My wife quickly unlocks the side door and rips it open. I manhandle my daughter into the car while she is screaming “Stranger Danger” (what the hell does that even mean? this can’t be the best thing we come up with for kids to scream if they are in trouble). My wife quickly slides the door shut and we drive away. Like any good van the windows are tinted, so no one knows what is going on inside – it wasn’t pretty, but we were in the van. I’ve played this game before, it’s almost over.

We get home, success! Not time to celebrate just yet. The inevitable battle of wills/wrestling match is ready to commence. This can go on for an hour if we are unlucky. Luckily today it only lasted five to ten minutes.

Now the sadness kicks in. No she isn’t feeling sad, we are. When she breaks she really breaks. It’s not gradual, it’s immediate like a glass shattering. The best way I can describe what happens now is uncontrollable ugly crying.

I have no idea what she is thinking in these moments. There is no apology. There is no more anger, but there is also no remorse. I have to think she is realizing, again, that her brain is not normal and she is trying to process what is going on. It is so sad!

I don’t think the breaking is the worst part though. The worst part and what scares me to death is how often she doesn’t really have an explanation for what triggered this extreme reaction. It just happens and then there is no going back.

Obviously this isn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last time we face something like this. Luckily my wife and I know what to do when it happens to keep everyone safe. We are hopeful though because it does seem like the amount of time in between each episode is growing.

#fetalalcoholsyndrome #ivegot2more #7kids #endure #grind #accountability #noexcuses #blendedfamily

FAS – Christmas Tree Edition

Two of our children have fetal alcohol syndrome (it’s possible the third adopted child does as well). Having FAS is life changing. Living with someone that has FAS is life changing. These kids never had a chance at a normal life and will never experience most things you dream about for your kids.

I think I’m going to start every FAS post this way. I think it is a needed reminder – it is for me.

My wife and I take two very different views on some of the craziness we experience every day. I tell her all the time I don’t know how she can laugh at some of the things that go on in our house. She always says if she doesn’t laugh, she’ll cry. I think the real answer is she is a great mom and meets our kids where they are. She really is the very best, and she inspires me to be better.

One of my daughters jokes often that we could do a show, “Keeping Up With The Carter’s”. Sadly, I think our family has enough going on that it would be very interesting for people. You’d likely run the gamut of emotions each episode. I remember the famous Jim Valvano ESPY’S speech where he said, “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” I think we’ve met that criteria by 8am most days.

Where to begin? Let’s start with a tradition of ours. We like our traditions, just like every normal American family. What’s more traditional than cutting down a tree and sticking it in your house for a month?

We are fortunate because my wife’s family member owns a tree farm close by, so we can go out as a family and cut one down each year. It’s also helpful we can do it whenever it works for us. I can feel the tension building as I type these words, just like it does as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday.

Why tension? Mostly because I live in reality and my wife lives in a world of rainbows and butterflies.

I’m mentally preparing for the worst (I’m mostly expecting it with 1, but possibly 2 of the kids). I’m prepared for someone to make a run for it (no, not me), unpredictable and weird violence or fighting, the use of objects that I didn’t know could be thought of as weapons, the fact I have a saw (enough said). You get the picture.

My wife, on the other hand, is all giddy with Christmas spirit and looking forward to getting the annual family photo. Usually this entails balancing her camera on the car while we try to get everyone halfway close together and looking in the same direction.

She doesn’t appreciate my attention to detail as we plan this amazing adventure.

We drive separate vehicles because there are no vehicles out there that fit a family of nine and a Christmas tree. If there are, I don’t want to hear about it because my wife may want to buy it.

As my oldest son drives to the farm, I prepare in the passenger seat like it’s game 7 of the World Series.
> Step 1 – Get everyone out of the vehicles.
> Step 2 – Find a tree as fast as possible.
> Step 3 – Set a record for how fast I can cut a tree down.
> Step 4 – Realize again that a soft top Jeep is not a great vehicle for hauling an unbounded tree.
> Step 5 – Get the hell out if there. Shit – times up, we’ve arrived at the field.

It’s a chilly, overcast day. Overall though, it couldn’t be a better day to kill a tree for no good reason. My wife’s cousin and wife meet us there. “Fuck” I think to myself (let’s be honest, I’m sure I said it out loud). I wonder what fireworks they are going to witness. They were there to guide us to the trees that wouldn’t be sold and likely felt some obligation to provide support on this adventure. My guess is they wanted to protect their trees from the storm that was about to come through.

Step 1 is an overwhelming success – high fives all around. Not really, I don’t celebrate victories the way I should. Instead, I only can think of Step 2. Crap, forgot about the family picture. My wife finds the perfect location. I play my part – kid herder. The picture is actually a success as well. May be one of the better pictures we have taken. I’m surprised, but quickly my mind turns back to Step 2. Let’s find this tree. This many years into our life of crazy, my wife is actually on board with moving quickly through activities when our 8-year old son is present, so we are in alignment and the search is on.

Yep, Derek was right again. Right to be paranoid, scared and anxious. Not 120 seconds after the picture was complete, my 8-year old son was done with this family tradition. Back to “Big Bertha” he goes (this is the name our children have given our ridiculously large van). Ok, not the end of the world. I don’t love that he is in the van by himself, but we still have a chance. All kids are accounted for and no violence has broken out.

Step 2 is complete. We found a tree very quickly (under 10 minutes) and I start Step 3. I am getting after that tree, which, by the way, had the most crooked trunk I have ever seen. My dad has taught me many things, but maybe the most important is to never cut down a Christmas tree with a crooked trunk. Those words would mean something in a normal family and situation. We found a tree, and by God, I was going to cut that thing down. Let me give you a little window into my brain. As I saw the trunk, I was thinking to myself, “this tree is like our family – it’s like a disabled tree – perfect for our family.” I think the stars aligned and this tree was put on Earth for us. And regardless, I’ll make the damn thing straight at home – keep cutting.

I was able to get that tree down real fast. As I finished up though, I could sense something was up. My wife was nowhere to be found. Maybe it’s OK, I thought. We have a baby and 2-year old, so maybe she is back in the van keeping them warm. Unfortunately, I never really believe these optimistic thoughts. They are almost always wrong, and then I feel let down.

My 10-year old daughter has also decided she wants in the van. So we have both FAS kids in the van at the same time. Them being together and fighting was inevitable. I love that sometimes they are very predictable. I should celebrate that more often.

The van turned into the site of World War 3. The war ended with a very detailed death threat made by my 8-year old. Don’t worry, at this point he is mostly harmless due to his lack of coordination. It took about 10 minutes to get this all settled down. When things like this happen, we are literally willing to give anything at all to stop the madness. You want candy? Sure! You want a Minecraft world? Why not. More often than not, this doesn’t actually help deescalate the situation. It takes a lot of time and some weird, unpredictable distraction to settle things down. Ok, it’s under control. He will ride in the van and she will ride in the jeep.

Step 4 is always a trip. My soft top Jeep is less than ideal to haul a Christmas tree around. The van is not an option because there really isn’t a good way to keep a tree on top of it for a 20 minute ride home due to the way it is set up.

Flashback to 2018: I didn’t bring anything to put on the roof (to protect it) because I was certain it would be fine to shove the tree in the back of the Jeep with the backseats down and back window out. This idea made total sense to me and honestly still does. Another quick glimpse into my brain – if I say I am going to do something, I am going to do it. So you better believe I shoved that damn tree in the back of the Jeep in 2018. We were a sight to behold driving home that year. More on that in a second.

This time I had planned it out more. I brought a blanket to set on top of the Jeep so we could get the tree strapped down. With my wife’s cousin’s help, we got the tree loaded on top of the Jeep. There is just something about an unbound Christmas tree on (or in) a vehicle to make you feel completely ridiculous while also giving off the aura of, “I give zero fucks what anyone thinks.” I just cut down and loaded a damn tree. I have 7 kids in tow, ranging from less than a month to 15 years old. There isn’t anything I can’t survive. Step 4 complete.

After more negotiation with my 8-year old, we were ready to go. My anxiety is still maxed out because I don’t love he is in the same car with the baby and 2 year old. It’s not over until it’s over as the saying goes.

You may be thinking, “Man, you are really paranoid. Chill out.” Let me take you back to 2018 again. At this point, one traumatic event replaces another in my brain, so I don’t recall the events leading up to what I am about to tell you. We had successfully completed Steps 1-4 and were on our way home. I have the tree tucked snugly in the back of the Jeep. My wife has the van and all the kids. To be efficient, we take the highway home. Abruptly, my wife pulls the van to the side of the highway. I’m behind them and am panicked. What is going on? It can’t be good if she has pulled off on the highway – she hates doing that. My 10-year old is angry and is attempting to open the side door of the van to jump out while on the highway going 70+ miles per hour. This is the kind of stuff we are living with every day. When I say it is not over until it’s over, I mean it.

Back to 2019. My ride is calm. My 10-year old is with me and is very quiet and under control, especially considering her life was just threatened by her brother. We have a good conversation most of he way about all kinds of random things – basically anything she sees out the window. We get close to home and she turns to me and says in a really somber tone, “in his heart, I know he loves me.” I assured her that was true. It was heartbreaking to hear her say that. It was also a little bit of recognition that she knows he has major issues. She is also starting to understand her brain is different too. As much as it can appear that she despises him, deep down, she loves him and has a ton of empathy for him.

What a day. By day, I mean under 30 minutes. And those 30 minutes felt like a lifetime. We had some laughs, there was a ton of thought, and tears were shed. It was a full day.

Oh, our disabled Christmas tree proved to be as much trouble as what it took to get it home. After getting it up and the lights strung, it decided to fall over during dinner. My 2 year old thought that was hilarious. The only option was to cut a large part of the trunk off. Our tree was great this year, just a little shorter than normal. And like all of our trees, it had a story to tell!

So what would you do, laugh or cry?

#fetalalcoholsyndrome #ivegot2more #7kids #endure #grind #accountability #noexcuses #blendedfamily

You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup

This phrase seems to be really popular right now. It makes sense. Take care of yourself, so you can take care of others. Taking care of yourself is great advice we should all try to follow.

As I thought about it, I wondered if it really was something that applied to life. Something about it didn’t makes sense to me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Eventually it came to me, I didn’t like the empty cup part. Having an empty cup implies you have nothing to give. For most people I think that is rarely the case. Let me explain how I think this phrase can be modified and then applied.

I think of our cup as full of milk. If you are doing a good job taking care of yourself then you have fresh milk in your cup. You can share that fresh milk with others. You are in a great position to positively impact those around you. You are able to give your very best to your spouse, kids, friends and everyone else you come in contact with.

What if we don’t take care of ourselves? This is where the empty cup idea doesn’t work for me. No, I think the better metaphor is we end up with a cup of spoiled milk. That spoiled milk makes you sick and can contaminate others too.

I say we have a cup of spoiled milk, instead of an empty cup because most of us try and continue to give regardless of how we feel. This is certainly true for me. There isn’t much that can negatively impact the volume of what I am capable of giving to my family, work, etc.

The change from fresh milk to spoiled milk is something we have to see and own. What does it look like and what does it feel like when we don’t take care of ourselves?

When our milk is spoiled it generally shows itself as irritability, lack of patience, lack of quality effort, not being fully present, and a million other ways. All ways that have a negative impact on you and those around you.

Don’t get me wrong, I think you can have an empty cup. That is a very serious situation though and doesn’t apply to what I’m trying to get at here.

I think we’ve all experienced spoiled milk at some point. That general irritation you feel about everything going on around you. The desperate need for a break, a vacation, a nap, a couple minutes of peace and quiet. I call this the reset.

It’s important to be self-aware and also listen to those around you. Reacting quickly when your cup is spoiled or turning is vital as it allows you to quickly course correct.

Many, including me, think we are great at hiding how we feel and continue on with our daily responsibilities. Believe me, those around you see it. They see you. You aren’t hiding. Put away the ego.

When you have spoiled milk it’s time to take a break. You need a reset. Resetting is a personal thing and different for everyone. Find what grounds you, what gives you that chance to connect with yourself again. This is the time to truly focus on you. It could take minutes, hours, or days. Regardless of how long it may take it’s worthwhile effort as it positively benefits you and those around you.

Take care of you, then take care of those around you!

#ivegot2more #accountability #endure #grind #7kids #fetalalcoholsyndrome #blendedfamily #noexcuses

Perspective – Kobe

I just released a blog post on perspective. I had written it weeks ago, but given the passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and three others (unidentified as I write this) it felt like the right time to release that one and to write this one. Why write this one though?

My 12 year old non-basketball fan texted me to tell me he had passed. Our conversation continued about how sad this all was, but more specifically how close in age he and his daughter were compared to her and I. I’m not sure why, but I was really surprised his death had hit her radar. It seemed to have reached everyone very quickly based on all the reactions on social media.

Unfortunately or fortunately what goes on in a celebrity’s life reaches far and wide. This can be a good thing or a bad thing obviously. I hope it goes without saying that his passing is no greater or lesser a tragedy than anyone else. Every death is an unimaginable loss for someone.

Back to my daughter, I told her how sad I thought it was and how I can’t really comprehend a loss like this. His wife lost her husband and a daughter. I can’t fathom that. I can’t picture what my wife would be like in the same situation. I can’t picture what I would be feeling in that situation. The pain and the grief must be overwhelming. I’m embarrassed I can’t find words to do this justice. So very,very sad.

Obviously I don’t know Kobe and have no interest in speculating about his life. I can say this though, I loved his killer instinct – the black mamba. I loved his willingness to do whatever it took to get the job done. Take the final shot, play relentless defense, play through injury, and when necessary throw everyone on his back. His relentless focus, pursuit of his goals, and accountability resonated with me.

I want nothing more than his family and friends to heal from this tragedy. I also desperately hope that this tragedy will wake at least one person up to how limited our time is on this Earth. This is very real – time is running out.

Take advantage of every minute. Take nothing and no one for granted.

#fetalalcoholsyndrome #ivegot2more #7kids #endure #grind #accountability #everymomentcounts #mambamentality #perspective

FAS – This is Real Life

FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) is a very complex condition. Two of our children have fetal alcohol syndrome (it’s possible the third adopted child does as well). Having FAS is life changing. Living with someone that has FAS is life changing.

FAS sucks – period. The worst part of it is these kids never had a chance to live a normal life. They will have struggles forever that most of us cannot comprehend. As a parent, it is heart breaking to know they won’t get to experience the things in life you dream about for your kids.

As a parent of a child with FAS, you realize (eventually) and hopefully accept that FAS is about change. As a parent of a child with FAS, YOU must change. You won’t be able to change the majority of what comes with FAS (I am speaking of my experience – there is a spectrum so to speak with this syndrome – our two FAS kids are on the severe end of this spectrum). You likely won’t be able to change the impulsiveness and unpredictable and often times aggressive behaviors. Maybe you can somewhat control them with medications, but even that is a process and often times fruitless. It’s important to keep in mind at all times that the cause of all of the behaviors and craziness is brain damage.

I’ll have to write several posts on this topic. It’s far too complex and all consuming to get it down in one post. I think I’ll start with the some of what we have learned and adapted and save the craziness and extreme things we have dealt with for a later post.

Man how I dread that question. You know the obligatory “how are the kids?” question. I never know what to say to it. One, I don’t really think most care to really know how the kids are doing. My wife thinks I’m crazy for thinking that and she may be right. Two, I never know how to answer when it comes to my FAS kids. I probably should answer, “how long do you have?”

I feel like to really answer that question, I have to give a lot of context. You need a foundation before any answers will make sense. A major reason I wanted begin this blog is to get some of this out in the world. I’ve been very diligent to keep this part of our life private. It seemed necessary because we were (and still are) trying to figure this out and get it under control. I think we have reached a point now where it is a good time to make a change. Who knows, I may change my mind again.

First it’s important to point out this won’t ever be ok. This life is going to be challenging forever – mainly emotionally, but certainly the management of day to day life for kids that won’t be able to really take care of themselves. It is very hard to work through this every day. My wife and I have to be very structured and always on the same page to make this work. All these words are hard to read and even harder to type, but they are my truth. The only chance you have at living your best life with this terrible syndrome is to change. You need to change. You need to change in ways that don’t feel natural, that don’t make sense, and the change will never end. You will not figure this out.

One of the most important words we use as parents in this world is Accommodation. I am not sure I used this word much before I came into their lives. It is probably the word that best describes our parenting philosophy and all the success we have experienced.

We have learned over the years and through an insane amount of trial and error that almost all battles with them are not worth it. The emotional and physical scars my wife and I have are proof of that. Not to mention the scars on our home. I’ve read that many parents with children with FAS have PTSD. I used to think that couldn’t be possible. I can absolutely see it now. The ups and downs that are 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds can change a person. I don’t know that anyone is born to parent this way. I think it is a learned behavior – learned based on our survival instincts.

The most significant accommodation my wife and I have made relates to medications. We believe medication is a last resort, not something you default to. Our two FAS kids take a significant amount of medication now. We are very fortunate to have worked with a doctor that is an expert with FAS kids. He helped us navigate most of this. We are working with a new provider now. She seems great, but there is a lot to learn about what we have going on.

We need special approvals for many of these medications as they aren’t normal for kids to take. We have tried and moved on from more medications than I can remember. I’m certain my wife could be a pharmacist at this point.

The medications aren’t there to cure anything. That isn’t possible. It took me a very long time to realize and come to terms with that. The medications are there to help the kids live their very best life. Most days that means simply surviving this world. The medications below are just the morning routine. We do the same thing in the evening. And it’ll probably change again next month.

Some other ways we accommodate that are in opposition of our parenting beliefs. We are fairly strict with our other kids related to time on electronics. For our 8-year old, we have essentially given up on that. Time on his ipad is his favorite thing in the world and the only way we have seen him learn anything in years. We have tried many, many things to help him learn basic things (numbers, letters, etc), with no success. This includes school, which failed in an epic manner. His school accommodated him more than I could have ever dreamed of. They couldn’t have been better with their willingness to adapt and their overall patience. The only thing he can talk about that kind of makes sense is Minecraft. Thank God for Minecraft.

We’ve learned that the 8-year old hates leaving his safe place – his bedroom. Going outside, including to relatives houses or simply running through a pick-up line at the grocery store (in the car) is too much for him. He doesn’t go on family vacations anymore. It is difficult to know if he just doesn’t care about not going or doesn’t even know we are gone – how sad is that? A couple years ago he decided he can’t handle the feeling of clothes, so now he only wears pajamas. You are probably thinking we didn’t try hard enough. We took it to the extreme of taking all PJ’s from his room, leaving only sweatpants and soft shirts (which closely resembled his pajamas) to see if we could break it over a period of time. What happened? He chose to only wear underwear and socks for a week straight. Needless to say, he is still in PJ’s. I assume it will end at some point, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I’ve gotten over what I used to be embarrassed by related to this – I changed.

Our 10-year is a little easier to work with because she can communicate in a way we typically can understand. She has also gotten to a spot where she can self-select out of things. We were at her grandma’s house for Christmas. She chose to leave early because there were too many people there. This wasn’t a big deal for us because we know we need to drive separately to events now.

We have locks on almost all doors in our house, including our refrigerator and freezer. We have moved knives to a locked cabinet. We have several cameras in our home to try to get ahead of any escalations and also keep them safe. It also gives us comfort if we do leave them home with a sitter.

Unfortunately, none of these actions were proactive. These are all reactionary and us learning from what our reality is. It is vital you own your reality, not pretend that it is something better or some improvement is just around the corner. You are doing no one any good with that idea – not yourself, but especially not the kids.

We have built an incredible structure in our home, which I am certain helps these two live their very best life. They need the structure. They crave the structure even though they can’t say it. They also need accommodations in almost every area of life. We are learning these every day and will continue to learn them each day because this never gets to a steady state – it’s a constant evolution.

Almost everything above is against my nature as a parent. As a parent, I expect my kids to follow the rules, use common sense, be responsible, and so on. That doesn’t work with these two. I have learned to adjust. It is a constant work in progress though and many days I feel like a failure. I’ve also learned to not give a shit how people (strangers and sometimes family) look at us when a kid is behaving a way that makes no sense and can seem crazy.

I have gotten far more from these kids than I’ve given to them. They have helped me change the way I see the world. Change how I view individuals and their behaviors. I see the world as an even more complex and constantly evolving place. Most important, I realize how little I can actually control.

#fetalalcoholsyndrome #ivegot2more #7kids #endure #grind #accountability

Getting Started – My Life, the Short Version

I have been curious about blogging for some time now. Getting things that bounce around my head all day on “paper” seems beneficial – even if it’s just for my sanity.

I also think blogging, and social media generally, could be a nice add-on from a parenting perspective. Don’t misunderstand me, I think parenting should be face to face 99.9% of the time. But I think we should consider the impact that social media and technology has on all of us, especially our kids. It seems foolish not to take advantage of another way of potentially reaching our kids and young adults. Maybe there is an impact, maybe there isn’t – I don’t think it hurts to get in front of our children any way possible.

Ok – let’s begin with some context.

The serenity prayer hangs on the wall of my office. It hung in my wife’s grandmother’s home for many , many years. I think my wife knew the words in that frame would come to define how we live our lives and that I had to embrace them to find real happiness.

Living those words each day is my goal. More often than not I fail. I hate that I simply can’t flip a switch and live them each day, I am proud that regardless of what went on yesterday, I get up and try again. Let me give a little context about why those framed words resonate so much with me and our family.

My wife and I have seven (YES 7!) kids. Nothing about how we got here is normal. We didn’t set out to have a big family. We have a big family because we chose each other and never looked back. Let’s do the math on this:

I have two kids from a previous marriage. They are in high school and middle school. They are exceptional people. When I thought about being a parent I never dreamed it could be this good. I’m consistently proud of who they are as people. They are kind and amazing with our younger kids. Watching those relationships develop has been really rewarding. They make me think I’m not screwing it all up – and some days I need that feeling.

My wife adopted three kids while she was single (after we married I adopted them as well). They are all very close in age. Two are in elementary school. The other unfortunately can’t attend school at this time (we’ve tried many options at this point with no success). Two of the three are biological siblings and have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Most people I know don’t know what FAS is (I certainly didn’t), so talking about it with others can be difficult. I find myself hesitating to answer questions about them because I feel like I need to give enough context to help it make sense for people. It’s been a major struggle for me. I’ll get into the reality of FAS in other posts because I do think those dealing with it or similar disabilities need as many people as possible to relate to. Raising kids with FAS is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The non-biological sibling doesn’t present with FAS signs, but based on the environment she came from, it isn’t out of the question. She has significant emotional trauma and attachment related issues. Honestly, with where we are today, it is hard to believe I’m typing this, but navigating how to raise her may be harder than the two with FAS.

I find myself feeling overwhelming sadness for them at times. I think it happens more now as they age and fall further and further behind peers. I think it’s also because lots of the emotional trauma they’ve experienced in the past is being processed by me with a slightly more mature mind.

They have a ton of issues and likely won’t lead anywhere near a “normal” life. My anger at that reality likely won’t ever end. They will live these lives simply because their biological parents made horrific decisions. These kids had no control, no choice in the matter. I see now after a lot of thought that their biological parents didn’t have a chance either – its a never ending cycle of bad decisions that have ramifications that last generations. I have very strong opinions on what can be done to solve some of these problems, but I’ll save that for another post.

All that said, they all have unique personalities, things they enjoy and things they can’t really tolerate. More than anything, they have a ton of good in them. It’s not always obvious and sometimes you really have to look hard, but it’s there.

Finally, my wife and I have two little girls. The older of the two is absolutely amazing. She is a fun, independent ball of energy. A day doesn’t go by when she doesn’t amaze me with the words she uses or what she is able to do on her own. Our littlest is just a baby and going through the phase where there are smiles and more awareness of her world – we can’t wait to see her personality develop.

That’s my immediate family. It’s fun. It’s almost always crazy. It really, really hard at times. I’m not sure it could be more complex – blended, adoption, biological, and disability – that’s a lot. And I guess something that never really comes up, but throw race in there too.

I think my wife and I are pretty damn good at it though. It’s not easy navigating all of it. The wide age gap in kids, the needs (including significant special needs), logistics, and just all the stuff that comes with a large family.

My wife and I define success based on the love in our home and the safety that each of our (7!) kids feels every day. I think we are succeeding. Regardless, I know we show up every day and try – that is really what life is about – you have to put in the effort.

We are showing them every day, through all the ups and downs what a family really is. I’m grateful to be able to witness all the wins and all the losses each day and know we are growing together.

Oh yeah, I also am an executive at a venture-backed start-up with headquarters in another state (which means I have to travel from time to time). More on that part of life later.

#accountability #ivegot2more #endure #grind #7kids #fetalalcoholsyndrome #blendedfamily #noexcuses

Perspective

I wrote this one on January 17. With the recent passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and three others (unidentified at this time) I felt it was the right time to publish it.

I work really hard at maintaining proper perspective day to day. Often times I realize I’m giving things far more attention and thought than they deserve. It’s something I really have to consciously work at. I think it’s something most of us need to work a lot harder at.

It seems it’s easier and easier to get lost in our need to scroll. Five minutes away from the feed or the favorite app creates anxiety.

We care more about the opinions of others than ever before, even though those opinions are coming from people we don’t know, will never meet, and likely don’t really respect. The reasons for all of this are very complex. I’d argue it boils down to one reason, but it’s hard to hear – it’s laziness. Today, many aren’t living their own lives because it’s easier to live in the technology, live anonymously, not really live at all. Sorry for the tangent. The point I am trying to make is it’s very easy today to lose perspective because we are jumping from one thing to the next so quickly.

In the past two weeks I’ve come to know about two young (under 40) individuals that went from being seemingly fully healthy to being diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer – one has since passed away. If that doesn’t give perspective, I don’t know what will. I don’t mean that. I am confident it won’t give you perspective. It may buy you a couple minutes, maybe a conversation about the topic, but nothing that will stick – time to see what’s new in my feed…

Maybe it has to hit closer to home. I’ve been fortunate not to experience too much ill health or death in my life. That said, over the last couple weeks my perspective on things has changed due to some family things we have going on.

As I type this I am holding my baby girl, while my wife is having surgery (outpatient). The details aren’t important, but she is under anesthesia and they had to go over all the worst case scenarios with us. I have no reason to be worried, but that “chance” something could go wrong is terrifying. And no, I’m not terrified because I have seven kids 😀. (Update – surgery went great and after several days to recover – general soreness, etc. she is doing great).

Right after Christmas I spent time in the emergency room with my oldest son that put a good scare into me. Luckily, he is totally fine, but things like this immediately reset your idea of what matters and what doesn’t in this life.

How can we hold on to this feeling? I wish I knew. I fall back on the only thing I know, which is to be deliberate with my thoughts. Reminding myself often that whatever is consuming my mind likely isn’t that important, and even if it is, it will pass in minutes, maybe hours, or sometime days. The only way I can live my best life and be at my best for everyone else is to keep perspective. Everything that matters takes work – you have to put in the effort.

A couple quotes that resonate on the topic for me.

“Man is affected, not by events, but by the view he takes of them.” -Epictetus

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” -Seneca

#accountability #ivegot2more #endure #grind #7kids #fetalalcoholsyndrome #blendedfamily #noexcuses #perspective

You Got No Control

So why that phrase for the blog? It was inspired from a song by one of my favorite musicians – Jack Johnson. But before I get into that, it has a ton to do with me, my personality, and how I tend to operate.

I’m a fixer. If there is a problem, I feel like it’s my responsibility to find a solution. It doesn’t matter what the problem is or if there even is a solution. Thanks to my wife, I’m slowly starting to learn that not everything has to be fixed.

I hate asking for help. It mostly still feels like weakness when I do. What is messed up is I only apply this to myself. I truly enjoy helping others and find a ton of value in doing so and I never view those needing help as weak.

More than anything though, I’ve spent 4+ decades thinking I have control of my world. I am a slow learner and I guess I am getting old (not really, I’m still 18ish in my mind).

Let me be very clear, I do believe there are many things in our lives we can control. We control our effort, we control our attitude, and we control how we respond to people and circumstances. What I’m beginning to own though is the fact I can’t control the outcome of every situation, no matter how hard I try. I can’t control how others will interpret a circumstance or how they choose to act. It’s especially apparent in a couple of our kids. No matter what I do to try to prevent or get ahead of situations where their behaviors may rear their ugly head, I am shown again and again that I can’t control them. I can’t control how impulsive they are and the poor decisions they make. What I am learning is I need to change my mindset. I need to control my expectations.

Controlling expectations or eliminating them is where the focus should go. Doing so helps drive better responses and reactions to situations, especially stressful ones. The other component that is not kid related is limiting the stuff you give attention to each day. There are so many things flying around us each day, trying to make it into our world. It is vital to limit distractions and only give attention to the things that deserve it.

I’ve been reading a lot over the past two years on ways to get better at these things. During this time I’ve stumbled into Stoicism. This philosophy really resonated with me. I’ll get into more details on this in a later post. In short, my natural instincts align very closely with this philosophy, and I can see a positive path forward by getting deeper into its teachings. Regardless of all of that, it has helped me maintain a better mental condition each day – especially when it seems like everything is on fire at once. Seven kids and a high stress job can get you to an overwhelmed mental state very quick if you aren’t willing to evaluate why you are feeling a certain way. It also requires brutal honesty with yourself and self-awareness.

Taking care of yourself mentally is vital to being the very best person you can be, not to mention being the best husband and father I can be as well.

Back to the phrase, it comes from the song my wife and I danced to at our wedding – I Got You by Jack Johnson. He is one of my absolute favorites. His lyrics seem to always carry a deeper meaning (I am a sucker for lyrics) about life and the world as it truly is. You can find the song lyrics here: https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/jackjohnson/igotyou.html . The whole song is great and a metaphor for my life, but the portion below is what really drove me to use it for the title of this blog.

We went walking through the hills
Tryin’ to pretend that we both know
Maybe if we save up
We can build a little home
But then the hail storm came and yelled
You need to let go, you’ve got no control. No

This weight’s too much alone
Some days I can’t hold it at all
You take it on for me
When tomorrow’s too much
I’ll carry it all
I got you

This life my wife and I lead is complex and messy. Some days are amazing, some days we don’t know what really happened. We know the control we thought we had or could create doesn’t exist and never will. We also know that no matter what, we have each other’s backs and are in this together – forever!!

#ivegot2more #accountability #7kids #loveofmylife #jackjohnson #endure #grind #fetalalcoholsyndrome