Posted on May 26, 2017
Well, we hit another milestone this past week. Naomi went on her first road trip out to beautiful Apple Valley, Minnesota for a leadership conference at River Valley Church. She actually did pretty well on the way there and only exploded 2 diapers on the 5 hour trip…which was about 3 less diapers than what I was expecting. However, she did completely make up for it by throwing up on me twice while we were there, though! Lol
In spite of the puke-fest, the conference was absolutely amazing, the Grandstay Hotel was great, & as always Naomi was the center of attention everywhere she went…at least while she was awake, as the girl proved several times over that she can literally sleep through anything. (#winning!)
Can’t wait for the next one!
Posted on May 19, 2017
Posted on May 19, 2017
Well, after all of these years, and after all of the conversations I’ve had with myself in which I tried to justify the things that I have seen & the stories that I have read, it finally happened. Honestly, I figured it was only a matter of time, but I never thought it would hit me as strongly as it did. See, everything changed for me a couple of nights ago when I was holding Naomi and having our nightly conversation about how she needs to learn to say “Daddy” as her first word.
For whatever reason, she finds this conversation highly entertaining. It always begins with her watching me slowly sound out the two syllables that I know are going have me doing a full lap around the outside of the house whenever they exit her lips for the first time. After listening to me for a few seconds, she’s at a place now where you can actually see her trying to say something back. She stretches her neck forward, purses her lips, opens her mouth and releases some crazy baby-babble that never sounds anything like what I just pronounced. Then she just starts laughing like this is some kind of game to her, smh. Now, this foolishness can literally go on for up to 30 minutes at a time as her Daddy is pretty persistent when he gets an idea in his head…but, unfortunately for me, she takes after her father and is just a persistent in her enjoyment of tricking me to believe she’s going to give me what I’m begging for! Lol.
Anyway, it was during one of these conversations that she took a breath and released some extended stream of utter nonsense that left her completely breathless & left me in tears from laughing so hard. To make it even funnier, apparently, the look on my face while I was laughing was just as hilarious to her and she started laughing as well.
It was in that very moment that it happened. Maybe it was the way her smile touched every part of her face, or how her laugh momentarily shook her entire body, or possibly it was just the simple fact that we both found each other completely hilarious at the exact same time. But, in that moment I saw a very real piece of myself being reflected back at me… through her. And in my mind I heard the Bible verse in Genesis in which God says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”
With this experience, I completely went to another level in my respect for who God is as a heavenly Father, and along with that, gained an entirely new understanding on why He cannot stop Himself from chasing after our hearts the way that He does.
However, it was also at that exact same time that I lost all respect for any man who can look into a face that he helped create and not be willing to dedicate his entire life to being an active participant in that child’s existence. I will repeat that in a slightly different way: If you are a father, and you are not doing everything within your power to make sure that your child has everything he/she needs to be successful in life (which includes you), all of my respect for you as a person…poof…gone.
Now, I want to put a disclaimer here as there are some bogus women in the world who think that keeping a child from his/her father is the best way to get back at him for whatever happened between the two of them. If this is you, then you can kick rocks, too, because you are just as guilty. And if you are the father who is wrongfully being kept from your child, then I pray that God intervenes and provides a space for the reconciliation that would be needed for you to begin seeing your child. I say this because every child needs both of their parents…even if those two parents feel they don’t need each other.
“Every child needs both of their parents…
even if those two parents feel they don’t need each other.”
I look around and see so many incredible women raising children on their own, and I want you to know that you have my utmost respect. You are to be commended and celebrated for the things that you sacrifice daily, and for the difficulty you face that most people will never fully understand. I say this because I was in a conversation with my sister, Tookie, and she began educating me on just how difficult things are when there is only one parent in the house.
She talked about things like having to leave my nephew RJ in his car-seat on the floor in the bathroom while she took showers, and about how there was no such things as just running into a store when she just needed a couple of items. She expressed the frustration she faced of having to work a 3rd shift full-time job while also trying to be the mother that he needed during the day. She explained how difficult it was for her knowing that she had to find somewhere for him to stay each night that she had to go to work. About how there is no real down time as there is always another need, another bill, another appointment, another task to get done. She even talked about how that stress can build and begin affecting a mother’s patience, and impair her ability to maintain relationships with friends & family as she constantly tries to balance her responsibilities as a parent against her own personal need for space & time to just be.
Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love my sister…and while listening, my heart broke for her. I realized just how blessed Sonia & I are to have each other, and just how blessed Naomi is to have both of us helping each other take care of her. Now, I can’t sit here and act as if I’m the perfect husband, because I know that I’m not, and I’m sure Sonia could give you a list of things that she would love to see me do more of…but, in spite of any short-comings I may have, I can honestly say that I’m right here in the fight with her.
When she needs to take a shower, she can, because I’m here. When she needs to run to the store for a couple of items, she can, because I’m here. When she wants to stay in the bed for an extra hour, or catch a quick nap because she is simply tired, she can, because I’m here. When something needs to be fixed in the house, I take care of it, because I’m here. When her car needs gas, or when something on it breaks down, I take care of it, because I’m here. When the grass needs mowing, I take care of it, because I’m here. When groceries need to be brought in the house, I take care of it, because I’m here. When dog poop needs to be picked up in the yard, I take care of it, because I’m here.
So, when Sonia or Naomi need someone to laugh, or vent with, I can be that person, because I’m here. When stress builds and either of them need a shoulder to cry on, I can be that person, because I’m here. And when either one of them need someone to eliminate drama, set clear boundaries around them, & bring instant consequences to anyone who crosses those lines, I have been & will continue to be that person, because as long as I’m breathing I will be here.
This is my promise, as I have decided that this is the kind of father I will be. My daughter will know my voice. She will recognize my laugh from across the room. I will be the first person who takes her out on a date and the first man to express to her how beautiful she is & tell her that I love her. I will do everything in my power to make her feel special & understand the anointing that she has on her life. I will encourage her to chase her dreams, and will move heaven and earth to eliminate any obstacles that would stand in her way. I will be her #1 cheerleader and her fiercest defender at the same time.
And when the day comes that I take my last breath, I will not leave her with the responsibility of taking on a new debt for my burial, but instead will leave her with an inheritance that will allow her to continue living even better than before. As even in my death, I will provide one last gift that will remind her, “Daddy was thinking about you.”
I pray that this blog touches you, and if you’re already a great parent, then I want to encourage you to continue being that. But, if you are a father (or mother) who knows that you haven’t been leaving it all on the field, then I am pleading that you make a change today. The reality is that every kid wants to have a relationship with their dad, and it is never too late to decide what kind of father you want to be for your child. So, look into that reflection of yourself in his/her eyes and promise to be an incredible one starting right now.
Posted on May 10, 2017
Posted on March 18, 2017
Posted on March 17, 2017
Well, Naomi has survived her first month as a part of the English Tribe, and I have to say that outside of a few minor incidents (like the one pictured above where Naomi found out that elastic head-bands are not your friend when you pull on them and suddenly let go! lol) it hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be.
To be honest, that is partially my fault, as I had allowed people to scare me half to death with their horror stories of what their first few weeks were like when they had their first child. So, I had prepared myself to become part of the Walking-Dead-Daddy’s Club due to an extreme lack of sleep & and the random screaming of a new born who only has one way to communicate. However, being able to tag-team with Sonia and get Naomi on a schedule of feeding, then napping, has allowed us to take care of her needs while still getting the rest that we truly believed we would have to go without.
Now, I have to add a disclaimer here, as I know that our situation is not like the one a lot of other people have had to raise children in. About 3 and a half years ago we had a conversation about wanting to start a family and we put a plan together on the things that we wanted to do & pay off prior to having a child. Over the next few years, sticking to that plan allowed us to free up our finances by paying off all of our debt. It wasn’t easy, but I thank God for being able to testify that we participated in a credit repair program that helped significantly raise our scores, we successfully eliminated all our credit card debt, we currently own all 3 of our vehicles outright with no monthly payments, and the only bills we have are rent, utilities, and whatever other bills we decide to make on our own.
In addition to the financial strategy we put in place, which included many nights of rice & beans being our favorite meal, we also spent time traveling to places that we had always wanted to see in person. Trips to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, & a few other places allowed us an opportunity to not just experience some amazing food & sights, but to also get away from the hustle of daily life and help cement our relationship with each other first and foremost.
During those years we learned the best ways to communicate with each other, and how to manage our emotions when conflict came up in our relationship. We learned how to love our extended family, but also how to set boundaries for their involvement in our lives. We learned how to say “NO” to church folks! (I’ve received my honorary PhD in Random Request Rejection, lol) Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my church family, but I Timothy 3:4-5 tells me that my first responsibility is at home. So, I understand that allowing my duties at church to come before the solidarity of my house is completely against God’s will for my life. As a pastor, living life this way has made peace much easier to come by between my wife and myself when dealing with outside influences.
Probably most importantly, we learned how to manage our finances and to have real discussions about who is spending what, and when that spending should (or should not) happen. Whether you realize it, or not, money/finances is consistently listed as one of the leading causes of stress in most relationship surveys. So, our ability to work together with joint accounts & limit opportunities for the dollar bill to be a stressor has paid great dividends for us in our marriage.
Now, I can hear you thinking, “I thought this blog was supposed to be about Naomi’s first month!” And I want you to know that it really is. It is because of the decisions that we started making 3 years ago that the first month with her has been everything we dreamed of.
With God’s blessings & our finances under control, Sonia has been able to be the stay at home mom that she always desired to be. In addition to that, I was able to spend the first 3 weeks of Naomi’s life at home as well, which has been an amazing experience for me personally. And even though I have returned to work, I have the flexibility which allows me to be completely present in her life, which has always been a secret desire of my heart.
With our time free, we have been able to tag-team-love her around the clock, with us taking shifts based on the needs of the other person. We have taken literally hundreds of photos, and hopefully have Naomi thinking that smiling and laughing is supposed to be a permanent part of life; as that’s about all she’s seen her parents doing for a solid month now.
In a nutshell, this first month has been completely amazing! I wouldn’t trade this time for anything in the world, and openly admit that I have been VERY selfish with it. I am not ashamed to say that my priorities have completely shifted, and if it’s not good for Sonia & Naomi, then it’s not good for me. Honestly, at this point, I couldn’t see it being any other way; I mean, we literally made a person! I’m sorry, but that is still incredible to me. And sometimes, I just sit and stare at her, thinking of the wonder of creation. Thinking about how amazing God is to allow us to be like Him, and create another person in our own image! How can anyone deny that He exists when looking into the face of a child that has features of your own?My sister likes to mess with us and say that she is going to be completely spoiled. You know what? She’s absolutely right! If hugging, kissing, holding, & giving her all the affection she deserves around the clock is spoiling…then we plan to spoil the fear of love & commitment out of her!
If encouraging her, disciplining her, protecting her, & doing everything in our power to provide her with every opportunity to succeed is spoiling…then she is going to be an incredibly successful spoiled mess.
And if spoiling is me modeling the behavior to her mother that I hope Naomi grows to one day expect when her turn comes to find a spouse…then I pray that God helps me to spoil her rotten and accept nothing less than the best that He has for her. I say this because there is one thing that I am absolutely positive of: The normal we create for her now will become the normal she will subconsciously search to re-enact for the rest of her life.
So, my prayer is that God continues to make me into the father she needs so she can become the woman He created her to be.
Happy 1st Month Naomi!
Posted on February 21, 2017
So, the 3-English-Circus returned back to their hometown of Kenosha, WI this weekend. With that return, they are proud to announce the addition of a new & incredibly entertaining act that has been dubbed “The Narcoleptic-Poop-Patrol”, in which the participants change as many poop & pee-filled diapers they can while operating on the least amount of sleep possible.
I’m happy to report that there has only been one mishap, which involved the one being changed deciding to go off script and wait for her diaper to be completely removed, and THEN start peeing all over my, I mean her father’s, side of the bed. This taught a very valuable lesson to the other participants as to why you should never remove a diaper before you are absolutely sure you are ready to put on the new one. Trust me when I tell you that this sheet-staining lesson will definitely be remembered for all future performances.
In all seriousness, though, this has been a wild and crazy weekend to bring home a newborn. We came home Friday night, I had the Poets In Autumn event all day Saturday, and then 2 services and a leadership meeting on Sunday. Needless to say, I have an amazing wife who took on the brunt of the work on the first couple of days with Naomi. Between Sonia, and the help of some amazing friends & family, we have managed to make it work with my crazy schedule.
The challenge for me has been in adjusting to things once I get home. Just a week ago, it would be nothing to just walk in the door, kiss the wife, and tell her that I’m exhausted and on my way to bed for the night. But, this weekend, it was walking in the door, kissing the wife, telling her how exhausted I was, and then her answering by handing me Naomi and her diaper bag and saying, “your turn!”
We have been working to get her used to a 2-3 hour schedule for eating. So, unfortunately, with her being exclusively breastfed, that means that both of us also have to be on the same 2-3 hour schedule as well. Now, my job as part of the Team English Feeding Committee is to be the official Baby-Waker-Upper whenever eating time arrives. It is my fault that I have this role, as thanks to me not being the…uh…most quiet of people during the pregnancy, our child can sleep through anything…literally.
So, with that being the case, I have learned to be pretty creative in getting her to wake up. Everything from tickling, to diaper changes, to cold wash cloths have been utilized; and if the faces my baby has been making could be translated directly to words, I’m sure I would need to bleep out a large majority of what she has been saying to me over the past few nights!
An interesting wrinkle to this weekend was that Jazz has been living in his own personal doggy suite at Wolfman’s Lodge since early Wednesday morning. This suite included multiple feedings, 5 chaperoned trips outdoors, his own personal bed and a television playing movies & cartoons on a 24 hour loop “for his entertainment”. So, Sunday after church, against Jazz’s bougie wishes, I went to pick him up and bring him back to the real world to meet the family’s new edition.I know that I constantly make fun of Jazz and his antics, but I have to honestly say that he never ceases to amaze me with his ability to adapt to whatever life throws at us. This dog came in the house and promptly began treating Naomi like she has been a part of the family for months by hardly paying any attention her at all…except for that one time Sunday night when she was crying. This clown started howling in the same pitch, matching her intensity & tone for about 3 straight minutes. I nearly had to go repent as we were laughing so hard at him that we nearly forgot to check on Naomi!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trusting him to give her horseback rides through the house. And we definitely have to keep an eye on him to make sure he’s not running around licking her on her face, or lips, the way he purposely gets me from time to time. (Especially when I know exactly what parts of his anatomy he daily spends 10-15 minutes licking. Lol) But, truthfully, this meeting between the two of them had been a major concern for us, and it couldn’t have gone smoother.
I will end this post by letting you know how happy I am to say that I have successfully navigated through my first weekend as a new parent. It has definitely had its share of challenges that Sonia & I have had to work through. Our ability to work together as a team has made all the difference in the world, but the challenges are still there, none the less. However, those challenges all fade into the background whenever I sit and study the incredibly beautiful face of Princess Naomi Anaya, the Valentine’s Day Cutie who has staked her claim on my heart.