Archive for parenting

university of colorado footballIn 1968 at the age of 12 I was a rabid Denver Bronco fan. My Dad was never that much into the Broncos, though. Instead University of Colorado football was his favorite spectator sport. In the late 60’s and early 70’s he took me to a number of games at Folsom Field on the CU campus. Back then the Buffs had discount tickets for sale at 9 a.m. on game days. My Dad and I would leave our south Denver home early on Saturday morning to make sure we’d be in line to get a chance at these tickets.

“I always liked the college game better,” my Dad would tell me when comparing the CU experience to the Broncos. “I like the enthusiasm of the college kids,” he said.

The CU Buffs in the late 60’s and early 70’s had some very good teams – with much better won-loss records than the Broncos. While going to Buff games with my Dad did not change my preference for pro football, I came to learn that going to CU games was pretty cool, too! We saw some great players on those Colorado teams, like the Anderson brothers and Cliff Branch. I remember a high scoring 1969 game against Kansas State that had more offensive fireworks than any Bronco game I had seen (the Buffs won that day 45-32).

We always sat past the goal line on the east side of the stadium (section 121). In a family with five kids I didn’t get that much alone time with my Dad, except on those CU football Saturdays. With our tickets in hand at 9 a.m., we’d talk for hours as we waited for the 1:30 p.m. kickoff. Just me and my Dad. I remember after one game my Dad got lost driving home (he wasn’t the best at following directions), and we ended up in this little town called Louisville. We called home from a pay phone outside a gas station to tell Mom we’d be late for dinner.

I cherished those CU football Saturdays with my Dad. Years later, in the mid 80’s, I found myself living in that little town we had stumbled upon years before. As a young software engineer working at Storage Tech and living in Louisville, I would frequently drive up to Boulder for game days. Watching CU football rise to prominence under Bill McCartney was a thrill in those years. My Dad didn’t go to any games in the 80’s. Except for one.

On October 28, 1986 I treated my Dad to the CU/Nebraska game. I splurged and bought sideline tickets. I drove down to Denver to pick him up. We had lunch out together, just like old times. I wanted to thank him for all those CU football games he had taken me to in my childhood, and the Buffaloes did not disappoint us that day. Nebraska came into the game ranked #2, but CU upset the Cornhuskers 20-10. This still is the greatest Colorado game I have ever attended in person, and my Dad and I loved every minute of it.

There will be no more CU football games for my Dad, as he passed away last year at the age of 90. I will always remember those Fall afternoons at Folsom Field as some of the best times I had with him.

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When the little gremlins and goblins come to our house tonight trick or treating it will back memories for me of Halloweens past.  Our twin sons are off at college in their freshmen years and are doing very well.  But when they were younger, I had an active role on Halloween night.

Mom always worked with our twins in the month of October to pick just the right costume for each.  I didn’t have too much to do with that.  The boys eagerly would look forward to Halloween night, mapping out plans for all the houses they would visit.  That’s where I came in.  My job was to escort Andrew and Josh around the neighborhood while Mom stayed home giving out candy to other kids.

For some reason Halloween never seemed to turn out quite like the boys had planned.  We would often get an unseasonal cold spell in late October.  I remember one Halloween night going out with the boys with the temperatures in the teens!  Their enthusiasm for collecting candy quickly ended that evening after only a few houses – the cold weather got the best of them.

I remember the boys first Halloween at 21 months of age.  They were cute just having learned to talk earlier that year. We trained them to go up to the neighbors’ homes and say “trick or treat!”.  When the big night came, Josh went up to the first house, opened his bag, suddenly got a look of fear on his face, and said to our neighbor, “Put Candy In There!!!!”

This video, the following year at age 2, shows another Halloween that didn’t get off to a good start:

The boys and I continued our Halloween tradition all the way through 9th grade.  At age 15 they were independent enough to go out on Halloween night by themselves, but when they asked for me to accompany them I happily agreed.  “This would be my last chance at Halloween night memories!”, I thought.  Their friend Jeff came along as the Grim Reaper.  Jeff was taller than me – he really did look like the Grim Reaper!

Fast forward to 2012.  Our boys are well adjusted college freshmen – each at their own campus 600 miles apart.  We visited both on two separate trips in the past month and we were pleased to see them doing so well.  We had done our job as parents – raising two smart, sociable sons who had no trouble with the often difficult transition to the freshman year away from home.  Tonight as the kids come to our door we’ll remember those little boys we had so much fun with on those Halloween nights years ago.  We miss them.

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Quiet House Tonight

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We’ve just returned from an active three days of dropping our twin sons off for their freshmen years at college.  Josh is at Colorado State University, and Andrew is 540 miles away at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.

The house is quiet tonight.  After 18 years of activity, Josh and Andrew have gone their separate ways.  “It’s kind of hit me that I won’t see Josh for months …” Andrew texted me as we were with his brother in Ft Collins, Colorado getting Josh settled in his dorm room.

It’s time like these that this Dad thinks back to when our sons first noticed each other, like in this old home movie when they were 6 1/2 months old:

Even though we are now separated by miles I have a feeling we’ll still keep in touch.  Those cell phones I bought them for Christmas last year are sure going to come in handy …

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Good Night Daddy

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Instant Empty Nest.  That’s what my wife Anne and I are facing when our only two children, twins Josh and Andrew, are off to college in three weeks.  The boys have been such an integral part of our lives for 18 years.  One tradition I enjoyed with my sons was “buddy night” which I wrote about last June.

Another practice I’ll miss is saying good night to the boys every evening.  Good moods or bad, happy times or sad, we always say good night to each other, as this old home movie shows:

Our 18 year olds still continue this ritual.  These days instead of kisses I’ll get a quick “high five” accompanied by “good night, Dad”.

I just know one month from today, with Josh and Andrew away at school, I’ll knock on their doors out of habit before bedtime.  But their rooms will be empty.  Our little boys grew up so fast.

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Toastmasters: Like Father Like Son

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I have mentioned in the past my guest blog post on Susan Cain’s Power Of Introverts site about my positive experience in Toastmasters.  I overcame my fear of public speaking thanks to Toastmasters!  I am not sure if my blog post encouraged anyone to give Toastmasters a try, but I know of one person it influenced – my son.

Josh is an introvert like me.  For his senior class project he was asked to come up with a proposal that would be a stretch for him.  After hearing of the impact Toastmasters had on my life Josh decided to take a similar step.  “I often have trouble speaking in front of even a class of people, and I want to overcome that fear,” Josh wrote.  “I also know that speech and communication skills are necessary for almost any possible career path that I can enter.  In the future, when I need to make a presentation or lead a group of people, I am
certain that the skills I learn from this project will aid me immensely.”

Josh found a nearby Toastmaster club, visited a couple of times, and joined right after his 18th birthday.  Walking into a club of 20+ adults must have been scary at first, but Josh was warmly welcomed.  He got his first taste of speaking in front of the group with a short one minute impromptu speech.  That went well, but the big test was to come – the 5 to 7 minute icebreaker speech!

Josh was nervous the night before the speech.  “Write a blog about it,” I told him.  “Say exactly what you are feeling before the speech in words, and then right after the speech tell people how it went.”  I told him of another introverted high school student, Brittany Wood, who described her Toastmaster experience in her excellent blog The Shyness Project.

Josh’s first speech was a big success!  He came home smiling and telling us how the speech went much better than he thought it would.  He received many evaluations (pictured above) with words of encouragement and constructive criticism on how to improve.  And Josh did take my suggestion to write about the experience – you can read his before and after first speech thoughts on his Mastering Toastmasters blog.

“This project is a learning stretch for me because I am in no way comfortable right now speaking in front of a large group of people.  I have done (school) presentations and similar speeches, but I have always been nervous beforehand and not satisfied with the end result,” Josh wrote in his class project  proposal.  “This project will bring me way out of my comfort zone by putting me in front of a group of people that I don’t even know to give speeches to.  It will be a hard transition, but I know that in the end my leadership and communication skills will be miles better than they are now.”

You are well on your way to becoming a good speaker, Josh!  And it brings a smile to this Dad’s face to see his son have a positive experience with Toastmasters just like I did 30 years ago.

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Josh and Andrew Fall 1999

Sunday is Father’s Day, and I am celebrating it with my wife Anne and twin sons Josh and Andrew (age 17).

When Anne and I were married I was open to having kids, but I really didn’t have much experience being around them.  My four siblings were each single with no kids of their own, so I had no nephews and nieces to play with.  “Would I be a good parent?” I wondered.

Josh and Andrew were born in 1994.  When they were 2 years old I started a tradition called “buddy night”.  Anne worked a full time job in addition to being a mother of 2 toddlers, and I figured she could use some time for herself.  So I would take Josh and Andrew for a boys night out while Anne had dinner with friends or family.

A memorable “buddy night” occurred when Anne had to take a business trip for a week, and I had the task of taking care of the twins solo.  One evening I took them to a local pancake house for dinner, and ordered Josh pancakes covered with chocolate sprinkles.  “Surely this would be a treat for a 3 year old!”, I thought.  Josh was less than thrilled.  “I’m not eating this!” he said.  “These pancakes have dirt on them!”  Other challenges during that week included giving the boys a bath.  “Daddy got soap in my eyes,” Andrew said as he talked to Mom on the phone.

Most buddy nights turned out better than this.  The boys and I had lots of fun on our evenings together.  I would take them to sports events, to restaurants, to indoor amusement parks, miniature golfing, and more.  I remember Andrew as a 3 year old singing his rendition of “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” to a delighted crowd in a food court on a Christmas shopping expedition with Dad.  Another time before leaving for one of our adventures the then 4 year old Josh said, “I love buddy nights!”

The picture above is of Josh and Andrew before I took them to their first hockey game in 1999.  We had dinner at Wendys before heading to the arena.  I remember this night in particular because of an older man who walked up to our table as we were finishing our meals.  He had his 20 year old son with him.  With a sad look in his eyes he said to me “those are great boys you have.”  I glanced at the man’s older son, then at the boys, and I thought to myself, “don’t grow up too fast, guys.”

But grow up they did.  After years of buddy nights we are now nearing the end of this tradition, as our 17 year old twins are about to enter their senior year in high school.  This week we had another boys night out; I took Andrew and Josh to see the movie Super 8.  It’s a great “coming of age” film of middle school age kids combined with science fiction twists and thrills.  On the drive home we talked about how much we enjoyed the movie, and about our favorite films we had seen this year.  It was a different experience than taking two toddlers out, but still fun in its own way.

In another year Andrew and Josh will be off to college, and our nights together will be few and far between.  I’m feeling the first pangs of empty nest syndrome.  For this Dad who was unsure of what kind of father he would be had learned to relish the parenting experience.  I’ll miss buddy night.

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