Dad's and Son's and Sports

I'm not "that sports dad" that shoved a football in his kid's hands for his first birthday. (I did have a Jimmie Johnson fire suit onesey however).  I truly don't care if he chooses acting, dancing, chess, or whatever other less physical pursuit as he progresses in life.  Gavin's always been extremely coordinated and has innate hand-eye coordination, timing when hitting a fairly fast pitched ball, etc. 

But over the summer, we asked the question of him as we've done for about a year..."Do you want to play a sport yet?  This time he said yes and chose soccer. Now of course since daddy played soccer this tickled me. 

He's been doing great and we've been talking about never quitting on the ball, following up until the play is over, going into open space and not bunching up, etc.  We also talked about aggressively taking the ball to the goal vs. taking a more defensive role.  (In under 7 it's 4 vs. 4 with no goal keeper so playing defensively doesn't help that much). 

We made a deal last night before the game.  "If you score a goal tomorrow, I'll take you to Culver's for ice cream".  The game was today and Gavin's team won 8 to 7.  Of the 8 goals, my boy scored FOUR of them.

Dad's psychology and coaching...or vanilla custard with Nerds candy on top.  Which do YOU think was the greater motivator.  Just let me have my moment OK...

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One Crazy Summer in Clive

The kids just left with Mimi for one last cool "spend time with grandparents" vacation before school starts later this month.  They will have driven with us and grandparents over 7000 miles this summer hitting CA, OH, and AL and everything in between. 

Now that they're 6 and 4, they have a bit more "outside freedom" that stretches a couple houses up and back too where they play from morning til dark with the neighbors.

Add into the mix the fact that we've become much closer with our amazing neighbors and you've got the formula for a weekly "camping trip" through our backyards that starts Friday at 4PM and leisurely takes us through Sunday afternoon.  "Plans" on weekends have become much more lax which is a dream for me.  "Let's see how things develop" and "What should we bring" are as deep as we get lately...and that's perfect.

The kids aren't overloaded with structured they can focus on bikes, scooters, doing "chalk art" on the driveway, or swimming in the 12 foot pool in the backyard.  They're getting up after 8 and staying up til 10 (or later) as the moms and dads bend the rules a bit since there's no pressing schedule the next day.

I wouldn't say this summer is flying by.  Rather, I'd say it's been like watching a super cool kids dream in slow motion. I've had some time in the kids absence to ponder what this summer must be like.  Are they enjoying it as much as I've enjoyed watching it evolve?  I think so. 

Each night as they climb into bed and literally pass out from a full day of "being a kid off of school" I'm very thankful for our neighborhood, our friends...and One Crazy Summer.

the greatest gift God can give

This is a re-post of my first blog entry.  I had no idea that I've created 750 posts and have been at this over 3 years already.  It seems like yesterday someone explained to me what a "blog" was anyway.

kids. wow. one can't really explain the joys and the miracle bestowed upon steph and I with our two little ones. it's truly overwhelming. (prelude)

begin flight from orange county airport (SNA) to Chicago (ORD) en route to Des Moines (DSM). 15 minutes into the flight, gavin pulls out the binky from his mouth, let's out a short cry, and proceeds to vomit profusely all over himself, the seat, the dvd player, etc. shocked, i scramble to "catch it" w/my hands and i begin to wipe. steph yells "blanket" or something and about 5 minutes later, it's done.

oh god help me. my son has made a puke fest out of row 33. @#[email protected]$%#^^%$^t. what to do. next thing i know, baby 2 is in someone else's hands, and steph's in the bathroom taking off boys clothes, and washing them. he's traumitized and the only worse trauma is mine.

they come back, he's in a diaper only. and for the next 8 hours, he remains that way, in airports, cars, etc. poor guy. had a fever for 2 days after so not sure if it was motion sickness or a flu bug.

i will never be the same...but this episode simply reinforces that i would literally die to take away the pain of my kids. i felt so bad for him, and would have done ANYTHING to bring back my spirited little trouble maker who worships the ground i walk on and waits anxiously every day for me to return from work to play on the pillows or outside. someday, i'll be telling him about how i held him in one arm, cleaned his poop, and how he was so cute when he said his own name for the first time.

what a gift.

That's My Boy: A Reflection on your Pre-Kindergarten Years

From Wednesday August 20th...

1st_day_of_kinder_015 My son won't understand blogging for a little while longer.  He won't appreciate that an experience with him nearly 3 years ago was impetus for this blog.  My first post titled "The Greatest Gift God Can Give"
is still one of my favorite to read.  It was the first of nearly 750 posts over the last 3 years.

During that time, my son has gone from baby, to toddler, to his first day of kindergarten as a boy.  Today at 8AM Gavin's mommy and daddy turned him loose on the world of education, group dynamics, relationships, teachers, administrators, councilors, nurses, assemblies, bullies, lifetime friends, girls, school lunches, and recess. 

He was absolutely ready to get out into the world and slowly begin the process of becoming a man.  Oh there's a long way to go for that...but ask anyone with a teen driving mom and dad's car and they'll tell you to hold on as long as you can because before long...he'll be moving out and you'll wish you spent more time together. 

Yes today was the first step toward his independent thinking and emerging out from under mom and dad's wings...the first day of kindergarten

You can't imagine how much your mommy and I love you and cherish you.  Someday you'll know, most likely when you have your own baby.  You'll know that even in the most frustrating and painful times of misbehavior, inattention, and "hot button pushing"...that we'd simply give anything for you. 

Welcome to kindergarten.  Welcome to a new chapter in your young life.  You're on your way to being great man son.   

First Day of Pre-School for my Baby Girl

Well...this week was the beginning of a whole new era for my almost 3 year old.  She began pre-school.  She's starting at the same time her brother did last year.  He of course barely looked back and said, "Bye Dad".   She did the same.  She's always been the little girl in her older (and much Hammier older brother's) shadow.  He will walk up and introduce himself...while she turns into mom or dads thigh in embarrassment.  Perhaps no more.

I've written before that we're not absolute proponents of pre-school. For our kids, it seems to be be a joyous time of good behavior and learning about Christian values, singing, and forging relationships. (One kid relationship has evolved to a deep family relationship with another kid's parents, etc.)  If they would have cried or protested, we would have simply kept them home. They've thrived.

We took copious pictures and now with BOTH little ones busy 2-days a week for 4 hours, mom is off doing things that have not been possible for quite some time.  I think this will bring additional balance back to our entire family dynamic which has seemingly become quite frantic lately.   The hardest job in the world union has decided to give her a well deserved mini-break.

A Journey Back to the Heartland

I was contacted yesterday by someone from the Orange County Register News Paper, my paper of choice when living on the Left Coast.  Apparently I have a blog reader out there that found me and thought I'd be interested in this feature by Tom Berg called, "A Ride Back In Time to the Corn Fields".

The tale begins with Paul O'Brian, a Seal Beach, CA resident and successful designer trying to ready a 1935 Ford pickup for its trip back to Grand Mound, Iowa.  O'Brian's trek to the heartland is just something he had to do to reconnect with his father's legacy of values and work ethic.  Life sure wasn't easy back then, but the elder O'Brian set Paul on the right track with a steady dose of agrarian practicality and appreciation for what's important in life.

If you have family roots in agriculture, you'll surely appreciate this story.  If you don't, it will make you wish you did. 

Enjoy.  Thanks for finding an expat OC'er living the dream in Iowa.

Four Generations

I found myself seated around the patio table in Grand Junction, Colorado with 4 generations of Mitchell's on Monday night.  The stop back through on the way to Des Moines found another uncle and my grand parents relaxing in the dry and breezy comfort of a late summer evening in the west.  The kids scrambled around executing a much needed energy burn off while we caught up. 

The details of the gathering aren't so important.  What is important is that our children, the 4th generation present that day...have a burned in image of that place...and those people.  Also, what's important is that word...Family

The word Family has always meant "Mom and Dad" to me.  You see my dad was in the vanguard, charting course for our family early in life by moving us out of the world he knew and into the wild blue yonder of Southern CA after a 4 year term in the Marine Corps. Sure we saw family here and there...but honestly I can count the number of times I've seen most uncles...cousins...and even Grand Parents with my digits (no toes required).  That independence from "family" has been passed to me...for better or worse. 

Now, it's my turn to make choices about how important family is to my brood.  It's a balancing act no doubt and my wife thankfully reminds me of that often. It seems that the rogue Captain's gene hath been passed...witnessed by the voyage of the good ship Mitchell...plotting its own course...arriving at a nice plot of land in the Middle West after a lifetime of Southern California relationship building.

However, that explorer gene is tempered by an understanding that family relationships...especially those cultivated and grown give a sense of perspective and depth to life.  I think that hit me as my uncle walked me through "the family history picture wall".  I stood there viewing pictures I've actually seen before of my father's father's father's father and I realized how much of what I them.  I'm an amalgam of DNA probably mutated here or there but I can sense a certain spirit and ethos that has been sent down through the gene sequence over generations .  (If I'm not careful here I'll start to sound like Patten).  The bottom line is that I will do my best to inspire that sense of family in my offspring with the guidance and leadership of my wife.  And...even If I've not really been a "family man" thus far in life, there's still time to change that for my kids.

Thank you family for hosting a marvelous evening of food, fun, and family.

A Promise Called Iowa (on IPTV)

All I can say is wow.  I put the kids to bed last night and decided to watch TV for an hour and accidentally came across, "A Promise Called Iowa".  (The link gets to you to the home page for the program and includes video clips, etc..).

I sat there mesmerized by Iowa's ex-governor Robert Ray as he help unfold the story of Iowa's lead role in stepping up to take refugees in the post-Vietnam war era.  Of most interest was the acceptance of an entire community of refugees at one time, the Tai Dam, that took a special exemption from President Ford. 

Maybe every Iowan walking around already knows tales of this era...but as a transplant I was completely ignorant. 

I'd highly recommend that you seek out and watch this program.  If I read things properly on the website, I believe it's on again June 21st, at 7PM.  It's an invigorating and humbling experience. 

I am a proud Iowan.

Final Moments of Clarity

I have a friend in CA.  He's a fraternity brother of mine and a former roommate...and he's about my age (35).  He's got a few kids, a wife, a nice house...etc.  He was the one that studied while my buddies and I drank PBR and smoked Camels.  He has a heart the size of the solar system.

A couple of years ago, he was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer that creates tumors in very bad places, like the spinal column.  Those tumors begin to suck one's own blood into them causing the need for transfusions, etc. The cancer spread until his leg was a cancerous mass and had to be amputated.  I've seen him a couple of times since his diagnosis and each time he's been pale and sunken.

About 48 hours ago, his condition worsened and he's on 100% oxygen and will require a ventilator soon to breathe.  His wife has signed the paperwork to let him pass without this step.  His kidneys have stopped working and its effectively a waiting game until he's gone.

I don't write this message to elicit support messages so please, no need.   It just never ceases to amaze and shock me how short life can be...and how many people I've lost to disease or otherwise in my short number of years on the planet.  If you had two years to live, you'd probably make some changes in your attitude, how you treat your spouse, how much time you spend with your kids,  and the decisions you make about starting a business or leaving a crappy job.

I can't imagine the last 24 months of life being such a fight and having to compress...(message began at about 6:30PM.........just received the call as I was typing that he passed away at 6:45PM).

compress one's life into some final Moments of Clarity before visiting the other side.

Godspeed Bradford C. Bridenbecker. 

A Day At the Ball Park With My Boy

Img223 I just spent the afternoon with my boy at Principal Park in downtown Des Moines watching the Iowa Cubs.

My boy is less interested in baseball than he is in crushing peanut shells, squirming in his seat, and reading the players numbers off ...and that's just fine by me.

...and all was right in the state of Iowa.