Category Archives: Parents

Dad Was A Grandpa, Too : Six Years Later…

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Six years ago today, my father passed away.

Love you, Dad.

My family –  my mother and The Cinnamon Girl and me and our kids and my sisters and their kids (all the kids who can make it as most of them are not really kids anymore) – have taken an annual trip to the Colorado mountains for many years. We rarely miss a year, to the tune of only 1 or 2 in the past 20. In fact, Dad took this very mountain trip less than two weeks before he died.

It is kind of a big deal.

This year’s excursion was last week and, as we do quite often, we got to talking about Dad. It was joyous talk, fun talk, irreverent talk. It was kind of like him: laughing, smiling and saying things just a little off color, a little edgy.

At one point (and, perhaps, I was a few “pops” into my evening) I unleashed what I thought was a killer impression of Dad. It was like most impressions: not too realistic, broadly comic and capturing only a caricature. I am pretty sure I would not have shared it had Mom been in the room, but she was asleep and it was not mean spirited. It was funny and it brought the proverbial house down. I repeated it a few times to more laughs but then I realized it was so spot on it was making my youngest nephew sad. Whether it was because he missed his grandpa or because he thought it was mean, I do not know. But, thinking about my nephew today made me realize something else: that my kids and nieces and nephews know only a piece of what they are missing.

519.jpgI got to have Dad for 41 years, my older sister for, well, more and my younger sister for, well, less (I am not going to reveal their relative ages!). The kids barely got him for 10 years they actually remember… the littlest boys for less than that.

So, in thinking about them, I decided this year to put a bit of the eulogy I wrote to work in remembrance of, not just Dad, but his relationship with his grandkids.

“Our kids all love their grandpa.  But they simply cannot understand right now how much he loved them.  His youngest grandson will be told it was Dad who just a few short weeks ago went to get him his first bike.  Maybe we’ll even remind him of the time he locked his poor Grandpa in the shed.  And laughed.  His brother will remember Grandpa in his Rockies jacket sitting on the stands at his t-ball games.  Every time my goddaughter gets dressed up for a party, she’ll probably hear Grandpa asking “what costume do you have on today?”  My daughter may not have loved it when Dad would pick up a flashlight, turn it on, hold it to her ear and pretend the light showed right through from one side of her head to the other with no brain to block it, but I bet she’ll miss him doing it.  My oldest niece should know that every goal she scored on the soccer pitch really pleased her grandpa – he loved how tough she was, he was especially proud of her the day she accidentally broke another little girl’s arm.  That was the residual North Denver tough in him I think.   When my son got an X-Box, Dad drove him crazy saying to him: “X-Box?  Who cares?  I have a Z-Box” and you would have loved their arguments over the Wii video game system.  Dad insisted on calling the Wii a “They.”  My stepson first met Dad about five years ago on Halloween when Dad was completely dressed up as Captain Jack Sparrow… that, by-the-way, was quite a sight, Dad really sold out for it.  When my stepson saw Dad again a few weeks later and noted that Dad still had a protruding stomach, he was surprised. He thought that was part of the costume.  Who could blame him?

It is hard for us all to believe that we were on our Annual Family Mountain Trip up in Breckenridge two and a half weeks ago, sitting with Dad, teasing him, sharing meals, sharing our stories, panicking as the power went out because of his oxygen, watching movies he loved like The Sandlot and The Natural.  It was so important to him to go on that trip.  So important to spend time with his grandkids.  So important that they knew how much he loved them.  Guys, you all know that Grandpa would do anything for you, right?  You know that he did so much for you.

Just as he has done for me and my sisters throughout our lives.”


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Filed under Dad, Family, Fathers and Sons, Parents

Off to College (3 in 5 Daze) Part I: Sous Chef

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Over the course of the next five days, The Cinnamon Girl and I will bid farewell to all 3 kids as they head off to college – within a 120 hour period! I love how small the world is and know that we’ll all be able to remain in contact far more easily and more closely than I was in contact with my family when I went off to school more than a few years back.

Still, it will be strange to have no kids in the house… strange and sad? Strange and wonderful? Strange and… we don’t know. It’s just a new chapter for us all.

What we do know is that Sous Chef and I get in the car early this morning to make the drive from Denver to St. Louis. She is off to St. Louis University to begin her college journey.

Board K

She is the first of our kids to leave for school and the first of her friend group to leave for school. Though she doesn’t know it, she is also incredibly ready for the transition. I hope that I am!

Hard to believe it’s time, but it is and she’s ready – more ready than she knows.

Kateri Portrait

From this…

SLU Photo

… to this in the blink of an eye.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…


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Filed under College, Education, Family, Fathers and Daughters, Parenting, Parents, Sous Chef

Anniversary Photos – Mom & Dad

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51 years ago today, my parents married marking another chapter in their ongoing love story and, though he died almost five years ago, their love story goes on…

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And There Came Mothers Day

I originally posted these comments about the moms in my life two years back… they still say what I want to say…


When I think back on growing up, it seemed my mother, The Mater, rarely had a moment of peace. She had three children, two of us close in age, one of us five years younger and I can only imagine that just when my older sister and I completed one stage of life – learning to walk, potty training, you name it – mom had to be ready for my little sister to come upon the same thresholds – to, literally, walk in our footsteps. That must have happened through our childhoods and into our young adulthoods, too. High school choices. Graduations. Marriages. Grandchildren. Every event followed by another.

My mom must not have had a moment to breathe or a moment for herself.

Take one today, Mom. Think about what you’ve done and all that you’ve accomplished. We are not who we are without you. Supportive, caring, loving, ever present – you were those things for us when we were growing up and you are those things for us now. You and Dad made a great team, but all three of us know that you were the quarterback – you had the plan. Hell, Dad knew it, too: “Go ask Mommy” he would say. He was saying that up until he died.

I still do. I still go ask Mommy. I’m more stubborn than I should be when I get the answers, but I suspect I will always keep asking you the questions.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom.

Happy Mothers Day, too, to the mother of my children. They are the best thing we did together, without question.

The Step-in-Law is one of the most generous people I have ever met. She is also amazingly quick with a story – about parenting, about teaching, about her childhood – and those stories leave me and anyone within earshot in stitches. She knows more about life than I could ever hope to learn. And she’s happy to share that knowledge!  Happy Mothers Day to you, Step-in-Law.

My grandmothers – gone now – also were formative for me. It was, in fact, The Mater’s Mater who convinced me to stay at the university I had selected when I wanted to come home my freshman year. Had I departed, Sous Chef and Stretch wouldn’t be around. And my father’s mother needs a blog post entirely to herself some day. Talk about larger-than-life.

Nothing I do as a parent and nothing I am as a man is possible without The Cinnamon Girl.  The manner in which she raises our children, the mother she was to HJ, jr before I ever came along, the confidence she has in parenting – all of it inspires me. She is kind and funny with the kids. They never know what she is going to say. She treats them as adults, and that’s appropriate. She sets boundaries for them that allow them to reach, but also keep them safe. The Cinnamon Girl has incredible instincts. She knows when to leave the kids alone – to let them figure things out for themselves. She knows when to go to them and comfort them or engage them. She knows how to challenge them while always letting them know that they are loved and they are safe. She is an incredible role model for them – especially for Sous Chef (one of my great joys is seeing the young woman my daughter is becoming because of the influence of my wife). She has a distinct relationship with each of our kids.

She loves them.

And they love her.

She is also an incredible caretaker of me, of our kids, of her own mother.

The Cinnamon Girl is someone who never gets a moment’s rest. She deserves a moment. She deserves more than that.

I am blessed with these wonderful mothers in my life. Completely blessed.

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Filed under Holidays, Mom, Moms, Mothers Day, Parenting, Parents

Homework Bound, I Wish We Weren’t…

On his blog the Socratic Review ( my good friend The Junior Senator posted a very thoughtful essay on high school homework assignments you can read HERE. He’s published a number of compelling thoughts in the last few days. Take a look.

In this really good treatise on the subject, The Junior Senator poses a number of interesting points from a number of differing perspectives such as:

  • He puts together a sample student schedule in terms of school work, homework and extra curriculars. Truth be told, his faux-student Sally actually has it easy if I compare her schedule to that of Sous Chef, my daughter who is a high school junior.
  • “How much homework is enough/too much?” he asks, noting this question could be from the perspective of a teacher, student or parent.
  • “My subject is very challenging. To succeed in (subject), students need to do x hours of homework every night.” This is a comment I heard from many teachers – it was a comment I often challenged.
  •  He posits that high school students are more busy today than they have ever been.
  • He concludes that questions around homework create a healthy tension.
Image from

Image from

Please be sure to read his article linked above. He’s much more articulate on the subject of homework than I am here and, as I agree with the overwhelming majority of his points, I won’t restate them.

I will say this, however: towards the end of my tenure as a high school administrator, I didn’t find the a tension around the subject of homework completely healthy. Rather I found that those (such as me) who argue that many educators are too bound by homework often had their arguments quickly undermined.

This talk about homework became a third rail. It really upset people.

When some teachers say (in increasingly agitated and defensive tones) that, in order to be rigorous in the classroom, in order to meet high enough standards and in order to convey the curriculum of “X” course, a substantial amount homework (determined solely by the individual teacher, thank you very much) must be assigned and then follow those comments with the accusatory question “Don’t you believe in academic rigor?” the cause of open conversation is lost. That kind of intellectual bullying is not healthy. Who is going to argue that it’s high time to lower standards on academic rigor? No one. Discussion over.

Conversations about homework – reflections on all that teachers do in the classroom – are healthy and necessary but teachers and administrators alike must come to them as free of their own personal baggage as possible. Only then can the tension be healthy and can open conversation occur.

Teachers, having that conversation and those reflections is your homework assignment for tonight. I hope it doesn’t take over 45 minutes. I hear you’re busy people.

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Filed under Education, Parenting, Parents, Teaching, Uncategorized

Thanks, Dad… I Still Stay To Move The Chairs

It rarely occurs to me, at the end of a gathering at church, a meeting at school or a conference break out session to leave the whatever room I have been in before all the chairs are picked up and put away. I often grab the chairs near me, the table at which I’ve been sitting, throw away the trash, recycle the recyclables.

It feels very built-in. Pre-programmed and I know from where the impulse comes. It’s more a nurture thing than a nurture thing. It comes from my parents.

It comes from my dad.

Mom and Dad would take my sisters and me to all kinds of church functions when we were kids and, inevitably, after each one, we’d have to wait for them to clean the place up and to pick up the chairs. As I got older – big enough to handle a chair or two on my own – I began to pitch in. Over thirty-five years later, I haven’t found a reason to stop.

My Dad died three years ago today (You can see other thought about him HERE, HERE and HERE). I think about him daily and I could blog paragraph after paragraph about the lessons I learned from him – a few bad, most good, some a little bit of both – and thought to do that today. But somehow, in some simple way, staying to move the chairs, long after everyone else had made the gate sums up who my father was.

Dad always stayed to move the chairs.

I love you, Dad.

I love you, Dad.

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Filed under Anecdote, Family, Fathers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons, Parents

Fathers Day 2014 – What Would My Dad Do?

As I wandered around Denver Comic Con with The Junior Senator yesterday, it was all but impossible for us not to be engaged in a significant amount of people watching. A few paces ahead of us, it looked as though a massive tragedy had befallen Comic Con. Fifteen or twenty people were huddled together, bleeding and broken, body parts dangling uselessly at their sides. There were, of course, made up as zombies. Down another aisle stood an individual posing for pictures wearing a skin-tight, spandex Superman costume. Body image problems he did not have. Sitting at a table were three women of various shapes and sizes wearing Wonder Woman costumes.

There was much to see at Denver Comic Con.

My attention was caught each time I saw a father and son combination. There were many, many fathers and sons at Comic Con yesterday. The duos that were both in costume (more than a handful of them featured dad dressed as Batman and son in Robin togs) were pretty cool to be sure, but I was more interested in the ones that weren’t fully decked out. I was interested in the pairs featuring a dad clearly just along for the ride – the fathers and sons where the son was obviously into it and the dad… wasn’t.

Because that would have been my dad.

When I was a kid, my dad would have given up his Saturday, would have given up the $60 for tickets (and shelled out more cash to buy me some merchandise), would have given up a bit of dignity as he waited in the lines and endured the costumes. He would have allowed me to drag him to Comic Con. He would have asked questions and made wry observations and wandered around the Convention Center and bought me a Coke.

Today, Dad, as every day, I miss you and I love you. I love you so much that I am glad I never had to ask you to take me to Comic Con.

You would have hated it, but you would have taken me.

See, my dad would do anything within reason to make his kids happy.

Happy Fathers Day, Dad.



Filed under Anecdote, Comic Books, Family, Fathers and Sons, Parenting, Parents, Superheroes