Happy 5th Birthday Ava!

It’s been a very busy holiday weekend for us, including lots of family time and Thanksgiving, but nothing could outshine our sweet baby girl’s 5th birthday. It’s a bit hard to believe that Jessica and I have been parents for a half decade now, but when I look at Ava and see how grown up she already is, it all kinda makes sense. Although her birthday was on Friday, I wanted to wait until the end of the weekend to write because I knew we’d be busy, and of course, we were.

Things started up for us on Thanksgiving. We all headed down to Kristy and Madi’s house that morning and basically just spent the day hanging out, cooking, watching football, and eating of course. We were joined by Uncle Jim, Aunt Brenda, and Kristy’s friend Edgar. Madi did a great job keeping the kids busy, and at this point I think it’s fair to say she will someday soon be a great babysitter. She really keeps them inline, and most importantly, they listen to her. She had some fun games setup for the kids, including a dinosaur egg hunt in the backyard. Breaking open their eggs and finding the baby dinosaurs inside ended up being a highlight for both of our girls.

Jessica, Kristy, and I spent most of our day in the kitchen together, and it was perfect. Thanksgiving is probably my favorite day because it’s all about the 3 F’s: Family, Food, and Football. As I’ve said before, I tend to associate memories with food, and this day will be no exception. Dinner turned out great, even though Ava and Elise couldn’t stop talking about what they would, and would not, be eating. To their surprise, Madi made sure they tried a little bit of everything on their plate, and not surprisingly, they liked most of it. I certainly didn’t need a second helping of dinner, but forced myself to eat it anyway, and was basically comatosed afterwards.

The only bummer that day was poor Enzo, who was having an adverse reaction to the liquid amoxicillin he was taking for an infection in his tonsils. The medicine was giving him bad diarrhea, so he was a bit out of sorts all day. He was such a little trooper though; I was proud of him for hanging in there and making the best of it.

We all stayed the night at Kristy’s, but of course we had a bit of difficulty in the middle of the night. The 5 of us were in Kristy’s room, while she and Madi were in Madi’s room. At about 4:30am, Enzo woke up asking for a bottle of milk. Jessica went downstairs and made it, then he got in bed with us to drink it, and (hopefully) fall back asleep. About 5 minutes after finishing his bottle, the poor little guy started throwing up all over Kristy’s bed! So now Jessica and I have to hop out of bed, start stripping Enzo down, and removing all the sheets and covers from the bed. Soon I found myself at 5:00am trying to separate a comforter from a duvet cover (at least I think that’s what it’s called), and not surprisingly I found myself struggling a bit.

We all eventually got back to sleep for a couple more hours, then woke up around 8:00. At first Ava didn’t realize what day it was, but when we said it was her birthday she lit up with excitement. The night before, Madi, Kristy, and Jessica decorated the downstairs for Ava’s birthday, so when she went down there to see everything she was absolutely thrilled.

Jim and Brenda came over that morning, and soon thereafter we all enjoyed a “Grandpa Elmer breakfast”, which is simply chocolate cake for breakfast. I had brought a little stringed instrument called a Merlin with me, so that morning I figured out how to play “Happy Birthday” on it, and did so while the rest of us sang to her before having cake. After cake we spent time opening presents and playing around the house for a couple hours.

That afternoon the 5 of us drove our car, and Kristy & Madi drove their car, down to the Seattle waterfront. We had a nice lunch at the Fisherman Restaurant, then afterwards we all went on the big Ferris wheel, which is right outside the restaurant. It was my first time on the wheel, and although I’m a bit scared of heights, I still had fun. Of course the kids loved it, and that was most important.

After the wheel we had to split up. Kristy took Madi to Pike’s Place Market for the first time, while the rest of us went home to prepare for Grandma and Grandpa, who were flying in that evening. A couple hours we got home, Tom and Amy arrived, so we spent the rest of the evening catching up and preparing for Ava’s party the next day.

Saturday we had Ava’s party at Chuck E. Cheese in Bellevue and it was great. In addition to Grandma and Grandpa, we were joined by Auntie Dana, our next-door neighbors the Schreiber’s, Solana and Ronin, and our friends the Palmer’s. The kids spent a couple hours playing games and collecting tickets, then we all sat down for a snack, followed by photo time with Chuck E., cake, singing, and presents. One of the highlights for Ava was getting to go inside the ticket booth, which is a glass booth filled with game tickets. For 30 seconds she got to stand in there while lots of air was blowing tickets all around her. The objective is to grab as many tickets as possible, so that you can trade them in later for a prize.

Before I move on, I want to say thank you to everyone we saw over the weekend for all the birthday gifts, and for making time for us. It was a very special couple of days for Ava and I’m sure she won’t forget it. Looking back on my own childhood, I definitely remember my 5th birthday party, so I wanted this to be special for Ava, and it certainly was.

Sunday was a pretty busy day for Tom and I. My Acura and Jessica’s van both needed some work, so we worked together all day on them. The van work was pretty minor, but in the case of my Acura, the check engine light was on and when I connected the reader, I found out it was my knock sensor. In most cars the knock sensor is easily accessible, but of course in my car it’s down inside the engine block, meaning we had to disassemble the top of the engine (intake manifold, throttle body, fuel rails, and injectors) just to get to it.

I had gone out the night before and purchased a new sensor, plus some other tools we thought would be necessary, but once we got to it, what we found was surprising. As it turned out, the sensor was fine, but the wire connecting to it was basically gone. A little more investigating revealed the reason – a damn rat got inside my engine and chewed through the wire. It was obvious because there was rat poop inside there and the remains of a nasty little nest.

While purchasing the new sensor the previous night, I had also tried to purchase a new wire, and I went to 2 auto parts stores, but neither of them even carried it. They told me my only options were to special order it from the dealer, or find one at a junkyard. Neither of those options seemed viable due to time restrictions, so I crossed my fingers hoping it wouldn’t be necessary.

I have to give major credit to Tom because once we saw what the issue was I figured we were just out of luck and I was going to have to take my car into the dealer for the repair. However I was wrong. Tom came up with an idea to remove the wire fitting from the sensor, then cut out the other connecter that it plugged into, rewire it on our own, and solder the whole thing together. We went back to the auto parts store to return the sensor I had purchased, then went to the hardware store to purchase a soldering iron and a spool of wire. We ended up getting everything soldered together, secured with heat shrink, and protected with a sheath. The whole thing worked perfectly and I was thoroughly impressed.

Afterwards we put the top of the engine back together, reconnected everything, and it was good to go. The check engine light was off and the car ran perfectly. This was by far the most in-depth repair job I’ve ever done, and obviously there’s no way I could have done it without Tom, but it was a great learning experience.

As usual, the long weekend went by in a flash, and tomorrow it’s back to normal for me. This should be an interesting week at work, as we’ll be moving to a new building. I’ve been at the same desk in the same building for nearly 2 years, which is crazy considering in my 2.25 years at Amazon I had 5 different desks. I’m ready for the move though and even more ready for December, which is a slow time of year for us. October and November of this year were the two busiest months I’ve ever had at Microsoft, so we’re all ready to dial it down a notch.

Before I go I just want to say how proud I am of Ava. Of course I’m extremely proud of all three of them, but this one is about Ava. You’re growing up so fast I can hardly believe it. You’re smart, funny, talented, beautiful, and most importantly, filled with love. You’re also our little trailblazer, and I know you’re going to have a few tricks up your sleeve for us in the future, so I hope we’re ready. I can’t believe you’re so close to Kindergarten! Thank you for being such a good big sister to Elise and Enzo, and thank you for always being my sweet baby girl. As you would say, I love you around the sun, and around the volcano. Happy 5th birthday sweetheart – I hope you never forget it.

Getting ready to grab those tickets!

A little Thanksgiving fun

Elise enjoying some bread at Ava’s birthday lunch

Okay so maybe I was a little nervous on the wheel…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Moving Forward

Well, I’ve had a couple days to digest the outcome of the election, and while I strongly disagree with the results, I realize that I have no choice but to accept it, or at least live with it. For the first time in my life I understand what it feels like to seriously disapprove of my president and totally disagree with the direction the country appears to be heading in. It’s a tough pill to swallow, and honestly the loss hurt me even more than I would have expected. I’ve never been the type of person to sit around and complain, so Jessica and I have to find a way to move forward. I intend to use this as a learning experience.

There’s no question that this election has changed me as a person, and I’m thankful for that. I have no regrets regarding anything I said in my post on Tuesday, and I’m actually really glad I wrote it when I did, which was before any of the results started coming in. Had I waited until now, a very different post would have been written, so I’m glad I was able to express my true, uncluttered feelings before everything started going south.

It’s really difficult for me to understand the mindset of the Trump voter. The fact that he lost the popular vote and yet still won the election makes it even harder. I’m certainly not complaining about a rigged system, and I understand the electoral college, but it still stings. I have to accept the fact that, like most people in this world, I am a product of my environment. Having spent the vast majority of my life in this liberal, progressive corner pocket of America known as the Pacific Northwest, I can’t help but identify with the predominant mindset that occupies it. Obviously not everyone up here feels the way I do, but most of the people Jessica and I associate ourselves with do feel this way, so we’ve all had a tough time.

Tuesday night was an emotional one for us, and I suppose being so active on social media only made it worse. Consequently neither one of us has so much as thought of logging into Facebook since the results were final. I know that all the rhetoric on there would do nothing but upset me even more, and I simply don’t want to end up saying something that I’ll later regret. I’d rather use this blog as my platform, because at least here I can express my thoughts in long form, which is how I am most comfortable.

Throughout this election I’ve tried to understand and relate to those who have gravitated so strongly towards Trump. I’ve read articles, listened to Republican officials, and done my best to put myself in their shoes. While I understand what they’re saying, I can’t truly grasp it. I simply don’t come from that world, and don’t hold those concerns. That said, I certainly respect the fact that the vast majority of people out there, regardless of party affiliation, only want what is best for this country; it’s just that we all have different ideas of what that means and how to get there. There are certainly some very bad people who support Trump, but they are quite limited in numbers. Unfortunately their voice is louder than their numbers are strong.

I have a lot of worries moving forward. Every issue I outlined on Tuesday is going to take a step backward, but nothing worries me more than the well being of our environment. To use Seattle as an example, this October was our wettest on record. We normally get 10 inches of rain between October and November combined. This year we got 10 inches of rain in October alone. Then tonight I heard on the local news that the first 10 days of November were our hottest on record. Must be a Chinese hoax. We need to start making positive changes now, but I just don’t see us coming anywhere near our potential under this new leadership.

Another major concern for me is the lack of checks and balances in our government. A Republican House, Senate, President, and soon to be Supreme Court is a bad thing, and you’d better believe I’d say the exact same thing if it was all Democratic. We need checks and balances. We need diversity. We no longer have that and it scares me. This is how dictatorships begin, and I’d like to think that we’re better than that as a nation, but I also thought we were above electing such a foul and disgusting man as our president. Obviously I was wrong.

A couple things I’ve learned recently about our country are: the political center is dead, yet racism and sexism are alive and well. I empathize with the parents of this country who wonder aloud what they’re supposed to tell their children. One might think that our kids are too young to understand, but such thoughts would be selling them short. When Jessica told the girls yesterday morning that Hillary had lost, Ava’s immediate reaction was “How could that bad man who says nasty things win Mommy? What am I going to tell my friends?” She then broke down into tears. Of course this caused Jessica to also break down into tears, so then Elise tried to reassure everyone by telling them, “Don’t worry, Daddy will protect us.” As you can imagine, hearing that news nearly caused me to break down as well.

In case you’re wondering how Ava, a 4 year old, could possibly have an opinion on Donald Trump, the answer is simple: she came downstairs one night and found Jessica and I watching the final presidential debate. She showed a surprising interest and asked us if she could watch along with us. After a short discussion we decided to allow it. So there she sat for the next half hour or so watching the debate, asking questions, and doing her best to understand what was going on. We were so impressed by this that we decided to explain to her, in terms that she could easily comprehend, where we stood and why. Anyone who knows Ava knows that she is like a little elephant; she never forgets anything. Since then there has been one additional Hillary supporter in our house. Regardless of where you stand, you have to respect her.

As a person who has always considered themselves very optimistic, I realize that the tone of my two posts this week has been an exception from the norm, so I’d like to end things on a positive note. I’ve said the things I’ve said, and formed the opinions previously expressed, for one reason: because I care. I look back at the first election I was old enough to vote in, and I didn’t even take the time to vote. I was too apathetic to find a polling station and check a box, let alone put in the effort to formulate an opinion. In that sense I have come a long way. I’m constantly amazed at how becoming a parent has changed me as a person, and this election has been an extension of that growth. While I will attempt to limit my emotional engagement in future elections, I now have a very clear understanding of where I stand, and ultimately who I am. I must admit I was impressed when Trump spoke of unity and togetherness during his acceptance speech; I only wish he had spread more of that message along the campaign trail. Obviously doing so would have hurt him with some of his more extreme followers, so he did what he had to do in order to win. I understand that, and am willing to look past it, but I still hold hope that we can begin to mend this great political divide and come together for a greater good. Our children depend on it.

Making Choices

Dear Ava, Elise, and Enzo,

On this historic day as we prepare to elect our first female President of the United States, I wanted to express to you the importance of making choices. For quite a while now, your Mom and I have been talking to you about choices: when you do something wrong we tell you “that was a bad choice”, and we you do something good, we praise you for making a good choice. It’s very important to us that you understand, from a young age, that life is about making choices, and that’s never going to change. As you get older, you’re going to be able to look at your situation in life and trace it back to a series of choices you’ve made.

Choices matter, and they come in many forms. You’re going to have to make choices about who you associate yourself with, what you do for a living, politics, religion, drugs and alcohol, hobbies, your appearance, etc. Some choices are more important than others, but I promise you they will never stop presenting themselves. Sometimes the choices you make will make other people angry, which is why it is vitally important that you always stand up for yourself and stand by your convictions. It’s also very important that you not judge or look down on others for the choices they make. Throughout your life you’re going to come into contact with people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and backgrounds, and their beliefs and choices will be just as diverse. Assuming those beliefs don’t condone violence or hatred towards others, it is extremely important that you always show respect. You won’t always agree, and you certainly don’t have to, but everyone deserves your respect until they prove otherwise.

It’s important that you take pride in your choices; that you embrace them and feel a sense of responsibility for them. When things go well for you, don’t be afraid to give yourself credit for making a good choice, and please don’t ever attribute anything to luck. As I like to say, there is no such thing as luck; luck is for losers. Anywhere you find yourself seemingly lucky regarding anything of importance, I’d be willing to argue that what you think of as luck was really just the manifestation of hard work. And just for clarification, there is a big difference to me between the concept of being fortunate, and the concept of being lucky. I am an extremely fortunate person, but I’m not lucky at all, because luck isn’t real. For example, I look back on the career change I made about 6 years ago and feel very proud of that choice. It wasn’t easy, and there were times throughout that process where I wasn’t sure I could do it, but I knew this was the only way to better my situation and give my family the proper care they deserved, so I stuck with it. That was a good choice. On the flip side, I have made plenty of bad choices in my lifetime and had to live with those consequences.

So today we find ourselves as Americans faced with some very important choices, particularly in terms of who we elect for our next president. This has been an extremely tumultuous election cycle for our country, certainly the most of my lifetime to date. The two main candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are very polarizing figures, and people on both sides are up in arms about the other candidate. There is a lot of hatred and animosity being strewn about right now, and it’s dividing our country more than I can believe. Your mother and I have put in a lot of time and effort to research the issues that matter most to us, and align ourselves with a candidate who supports those issues. It’s important to me to keep it about the issues because it’s too easy to feed off of the low hanging fruit constantly being served up to us by the mainstream media. The juicy stuff is all about personal attacks, scandals, trustworthiness, lies, and previous transgressions, but we feel those aren’t the topics that should influence our decision. It takes a little more work to climb further up that tree to find the issues that matter most to you, and we were willing to do that.

I want to explain to you why we’re voting for Hillary Clinton, why we could never support a man like Donald Trump, and most of all, which issues matter most to us. Having lost my dad at the age of 14, I was never able to have this type of conversation with him, so to this day I have no idea which issues mattered most to him. I know he voted democratic, but I don’t know specifically why, so I would give anything to be able to look back at something like this to get a true account of his political sensibilities. This will never be an issue for you because even if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, you will always be able to look back on these posts and understand who we are as people, and what matters most to us. This is extremely important to me.

I don’t like focusing on negative stuff, but I need you to understand why I could never support Donald Trump for president. I’ll get that part out of the way first. Donald Trump is a business man with no political experience who promises to shake things up and turn Washington upside down his first day in office. He thinks he knows more than everyone about everything, and he plays to people’s fears. He says he knows more about ISIS (the world’s most formidable terrorist organization) than our military generals. He has no respect for women and has been caught on tape many times saying awful and degrading things about women, then has the nerve to say he never actually said them. He is xenophobic, meaning he has an intense dislike and fear of people from other cultures. He is a religious bigot and believes in separating people based on their religious ideology. He is a ‘rabel rouser’, meaning he speaks with the intention of inflaming the emotions of a crowd of people for his own political gain. He wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. He refers to climate change as a “Chinese hoax.” Some of his biggest supporters include:

  • The Ku Klux Klan
  • The Alt Right
  • North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin

He claims his business experience makes him a strong presidential candidate, yet his corporations have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy four times. During the 1970’s, while working with his father managing a number of residential apartment buildings in New York, charges were brought against him multiple times for racial discrimination. If you weren’t white, he didn’t want you living in his buildings. His business school, Trump University, has taken advantage of many students, and he now faces considerable legal challenges in the near future because of it. He refuses to release his taxes to the public because he is under audit, even though the IRS has said publicly on many occasions that he is completely free to do so. So you understand, this is the first time a presidential candidate from a major party has hidden his taxes from the public. Most of us realize that he is obviously trying to hide something from the American people, most likely his deep ties and debts to Russia. He hasn’t paid federal income taxes in approximately 20 years. To sum it up, he’s a bad guy. Even many of his supporters acknowledge that, but because he has played to their fears, they are still willing to vote for him. Obviously your mother and I are not.

Then there is Hillary Clinton, the democratic candidate. Let me start by saying she is not perfect. In fact, earlier on in this election cycle your mom and I supported another man named Bernie Sanders who was running against her for the democratic nomination. It was during this time that we started researching issues and and figuring out what matters most to us, but more on that in a bit. Some people distrust Mrs. Clinton because of an email scandal she had while serving as Secretary of State. She did something foolish and setup a private email server in the basement of her house, then used a personal email account for work purposes. When people caught onto this, she panicked and had all of her emails deleted because some of the content in some of these emails later on may have been deemed classified. This was a poor choice and it caused many Americans to distrust her. Unfortunately the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. I say this because she has been investigated by the FBI multiple times now, and each time has been cleared of any illegal activity. In my opinion, if the FBI doesn’t believe she broke any laws, then the American public has no grounds to hold her activities against her. Yes she made a mistake, and has publicly admitted so on multiple occasions, but the Trump campaign is keeping it in the spotlight, mostly because there aren’t many other negative things for them to focus on.

Then there are her accomplishments. She has fought for children and families for 40 years. Rather than take a job at a prestigious law firm after graduating from law school, she took a job at the Children’s Defense Fund, working with teenagers incarcerated in adult prisons in South Carolina and families with disabled children in Massachusetts. She helped to provide millions of children, as well as first responders to the 9/11 terrorist attack, with health care. She stood in front of a United Nations conference and told the world “women’s rights are human rights”, which at the time was a surprisingly controversial statement to make, particularly on a stage of that magnitude. She continues to stand up for LGBT rights in America, and abroad. She has expanded health care and family leave for military families. She negotiated a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. She preaches a message of unity and togetherness. And finally, she supports the political issues that matter most to us.

So what are those issues that I keep referring to? Well, let me begin by saying that my convictions today aren’t what they were in years passed. Honestly, I didn’t have many convictions in the past because I never took the time to research them with any depth. I will admit that as recently as a couple years ago I was starting to see myself becoming more conservative. I was growing older with a family to support, and in all honesty, I finally started making real money. Growing up, I had everything I could have ever wanted in life, but as I came to find out as I got older, we didn’t actually have any money. Like many American families, we simply got by. I knew my parents voted democratic, but again I didn’t know why. So when I started experiencing all these changes that I just mentioned, I felt it was somehow my responsibility to become a Republican, as silly as that may sound. If that’s what the wealthy people do, and I’m putting myself on course to someday become wealthy, then I assumed that’s where I belonged. Why should I pay a higher percentage in taxes now than I used to when I was just getting by?

This remained my mindset for the better part of a year, but then something happened. The current presidential election cycle (which ends today) got started, and I started paying more attention than ever before. Early on I had no idea who I wanted to support, so I decided to give every candidate a fair chance. One day I’d be researching John Kasich, then the next day it would be Carly Fiorina. I found myself taking online polls to better understand not only which candidates appealed to me, but more importantly, which issues were nearest and dearest to my heart. Once I discovered the campaign of Bernie Sanders I felt like I had tapped into something that mattered to me. Some of the main issues he preached, which I will cover in a second, made a lot of sense to me and I quickly declared him as ‘my candidate.’ In the end, this wasn’t Bernie’s time, and Hillary ended up winning the Democratic presidential nomination. At first I didn’t know how I felt about this, so I started researching Hillary a lot more, and I was pleased to find that she also supported basically all of the same issues that the Sanders campaign brought my attention to. Certainly there were some differences, but in the end I felt that of all our presidential choices (including those not coming from major parties), Hillary was most inline with the issues that mattered most to me.

I’ll start with climate change. There is deep divide in this country on many issues, and climate change is no exception. For the past decade or so we’ve been seeing drastic changes to our planet, including irregular weather patterns, melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, thinning of the atmosphere, and an overall rise in global temperatures. As someone who has never formally accepted religion into their life, to a certain degree our planet is my religion. I say this because I care deeply about our future generations. The nameless and faceless matter to me, and I want to ensure that they have a healthy planet to live on. Luckily 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is real, and that the burning of fossil fuels is the main cause. Basically the mass industrialization that we have created over the past couple hundred years is having very adverse effects on our planet, and if we keep up at the pace we’re going, we will drive ourselves into extinction. Most of the Republican party argues against this and says there is nothing wrong, but of course they have their incentives. Mega corporations and political stakeholders have funded them into taking this position because they are more concerned about their bank accounts than about our planet. Donald Trump refers to climate change as a “Chinese hoax” and supports initiatives and practices that will cause great damage to our environment. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, takes an opposite approach and supports stricter legislation and regulation that will reduce our national carbon footprint, reduce pollution, and invest in clean renewable sources of energy.

However it doesn’t end there for me with climate change. Your mom and I are also committed to doing everything we can to have a positive impact and reduce our own carbon footprints. We stay away from certain products at the grocery store, we don’t waste energy, we compost, we recycle, I take the bus to work as much as possible, and we plan to retrofit our next home with Elon Musk’s solar roof. There are certainly more things we can do, and we plan to continue to better ourselves in this respect. The issue is simply too important to us.

Next, I want common sense reform to our nation’s gun laws. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to have this conversation with people on the other side because all they hear is “You want to take my guns away? Hell no!” This is certainly not true. As I’ve said before, I have absolutely no problem with anyone owning a handgun, a hunting rifle, or a shotgun. Whether you want it for sport, or your own protection, I’m not against you in any way, assuming you purchased the gun legally, you went through a background check, and you’re trained to use it. I think California got it right by instituting a mandatory 30 day cooling off period when someone goes to buy a gun, and I would like to see that made into a national law. I want to end loophole laws allowing people to purchase guns without a background check when buying them at tradeshows, or from private sellers. Finally, I don’t think any civilian should be allowed to own a machine gun, assault rifle, high magazine clip, or any other military grade weapon. To quote Ronald Reagan, who was a Republican president for most of the 1980’s and is generally considered the patriarch of the modern conservative movement, “I do not believe in taking away the right of the citizen for sporting, for hunting and so forth, or for home defense. But I do believe that an AK-47, a machine gun, is not a sporting weapon or needed for defense of a home.”

Whenever you get into the conversation of gun control, people like to start throwing the Second Amendment of the U.S. constitution at you, which gives citizens the right to bear arms. I respect the Second Amendment, but love to point out that it wasn’t written for individuals, it was written for militias, at a time when every able-bodied man in this country (of any age) was required to enlist for service in a militia. Should you fail to do so, you would be imprisoned. Additionally, you were required to supply yourself with your own guns and ammunition. Also, the types of weapons that were available at that time were quite primitive compared to today. Does that sound like the world we live in today? I didn’t think so. Considering how much our world has changed since these laws were written, wouldn’t it make sense to revise them so they have more applicability to modern society?

Next you have women’s rights, including the right to have an abortion. Losing my dad at a relatively young age meant that through my most formative teenage years, I was under the care of a single mother. This experience forever shaped my respect for women, and it has never dithered. Now, as the father of two incredible little girls, my feelings towards equality for women are stronger than ever. It disgusts me that a woman doing the same job as me most likely gets paid 15-20% less that I do. For the life of me I cannot understand this, and honestly it angers me that in this presidential election, you have a woman who is likely the most qualified candidate of all time, fighting tooth and nail for the job against a man with literally no experience. I wouldn’t hire someone for a job as an assistant manager at a Cinnabon without any experience, yet I’m supposed to consider electing a man with no experience to the highest office in the world? It just doesn’t compute with me.

Regarding abortion, your mom and I are completely pro-choice. We have an implicit trust in the women of this country to make the right decisions about their body and their reproductive life. We don’t feel the government has any right to dictate to any woman what she can and cannot do with their own body. The other side will paint disgusting pictures related to this topic that play on your fear and your emotions, but they are not realistic, and ultimately I cannot condone any form of leadership that dictates such personal matters and decisions.

Now we’ve got minimum wage. The fact is that currently in many states throughout our country, you can work a full-time job (40 hours per week) at minimum wage, and still be in poverty. I feel there is something fundamentally wrong with this. I don’t care what type of job you’re doing either. If you’re working full-time then you’re contributing to the system, and you shouldn’t have to live in poverty. Consequently I support raising the minimum wage to a livable wage on a national level, and I’m most certainly willing to put my money where my mouth is in the form of increased taxes. As the old saying goes, a rising tide lifts all ships.

Another very important topic to me is education. Obviously I want all three of you to go to college someday and obtain a higher education like your mom and I did, but I don’t want you to graduate with an enormous debt that takes you decades to pay off. Something is inherently wrong with our upper level education system, but luckily there are already major universities like Stanford and Harvard that are instituting programs to make college more affordable for everyone. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think all education should be free, because I think you would value it much less if it were, but the cost structure needs to change. Plus, not everyone needs to go to a fancy school to get their education, and I’m a prime example of that. My bachelor’s degree came from Colorado Technical University Online. Ever heard of it? I didn’t think so, but that doesn’t matter, because it’s all about what you make of it and what you put into it. The simple fact is that if you want to further your education, and you’re willing to put in all the hard work, there should always be affordable options. Unfortunately I’ll be paying off my education for many more years to come.

Next up for me is LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) rights. Although I don’t personally associate myself with any of these groups, I feel it is awful that people who do can legally be treated differently in certain situations, than those who do not. The fact is that our world is continuing to change in many ways, and I want to be part of a society that celebrates people for their diversity, rather than shame or exclude them. I see this change as a form of progress. I want people to be able to marry whoever they choose, and identify themselves in a way that best suits them.

Another big one for me is reform to our drug laws. It’s hard to believe, but our country is full of prisons that are private, for-profit institutions. In other words, the more people they lock up, the more money they make. And what is the most common crime people are locked up for? Well, it’s drugs of course. For my entire lifetime, the country has fought the ‘War on Drugs’ and it’s a losing battle. We need to take the stigma away from drug addiction and accept the fact that it is a disease, but unlike many other diseases, this disease can be cured. We need to learn from the numerous countries around the world that have already dealt with this problem in a better way than ourselves. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying drugs are all good, or that they should all be legal – I fundamentally believe that most drugs are bad and certainly if any of you ever find yourself using drugs and I get wind of it, you can rest assured your mom and I will be getting involved right away. That said, the way we criminalize such activities makes no sense. There is also a racial component to our drug laws that is completely unfair to anyone without white skin. The whole thing disgusts me and I will always support candidates who promise to work towards reforming these draconian laws.

The final one is health care. Unfortunately the United States is the only major country in the world that does not guarantee health care to all of it’s citizens. This isn’t something that negatively affects our family because I am fortunate enough to have excellent private insurance through Microsoft, but it is a major problem for millions of Americans. In fact, it used to be a problem for us too. Neither your mom or I had health insurance for the first few years of our marriage because we didn’t have jobs that provided it, and we couldn’t afford the cost of private insurance. In the end, nothing bad ever happened to us, but it certainly could have. We actually had to get on an insurance plan provided by the state of California when we found out we were pregnant with Ava. I realize that the current situation with the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka ‘Obamacare’) has it’s flaws, but I will always be in support of candidates who work towards guaranteeing health care to every American, regardless of their age or financial status.

I’m sure I could dig up a few more issues if I had to, but I think you can see where I’m coming from. Let me be the first one to tell you that because I’m writing this letter in a publicly accessible place, there will certainly be people who read this and wholeheartedly disagree with me, but I can’t worry about that. It may even go further than that; I may receive nasty comments like your mother did recently when she did nothing more than post of photo of herself on Facebook wearing a Hillary Clinton t-shirt. She didn’t even say anything, and yet two family members (one from my side and one from hers) made negative comments towards her.

Obviously if anyone ever has something negative or hurtful to say to my wife (or any of you), rest assured that they will also be hearing from me, as they did. In the case of my cousin, the conversation that transpired turned out to be a very positive one that I felt was healthy in the end. We were quick to tell each other that we loved one another and there will be absolutely no issue moving forward. In the other case, we both expressed our frustration with the comment that was made, and made it clear (in a polite way) that we were offended. Your mom even went so far as to ask for an apology, which she still has not received and probably never will.

It’s unfortunate that things can turn out this way, and I’ve always been under the impression that family comes before politics and religion, but not everyone sees it that way. In the end, I want each of you to realize that it’s not really important what everyone thinks of you. In my younger years I was much too concerned with what everyone thought of me. I wanted to please everyone, but you know got the worst out of that? It was me of course. Because I was wasting too much energy worrying about what others thought of me, I ended up not putting enough energy into figuring out my own thoughts. Plus, in the end people can sense when you’re trying to play both sides of the fence and will ultimately lose respect for you. I’m not saying that today I don’t care about what anyone thinks of me, but I am saying that the opinions I truly care about come from a very select group of people, and they all know who they are. Obviously this includes the three of you.

Let me also be the first one to admit that for each point I just made, there is an intelligent counterpoint to be made against it. I have no problem with that, in fact I embrace it. As I’ve said many times, I will always be a proponent of diversity in thought, even when it most assuredly eventually comes from each one of you. It’s never going to be ‘my way or the highway’ with me, and I promise to always do my best to see things from your perspective. All I ask is that you do the same with me. Above all, I would encourage you to always respect and embrace the differences of opinion you will eventually encounter with those around you. Unless you plan on becoming a politician (which any of you certainly could do if you wanted), I would recommend not worrying about trying to change people’s minds or opinions, particularly on polarizing topics like the ones I just mentioned. Focus on yourself. Focus on being the best you that you can be. Focus on tolerance and respect for others. Focus on love and unity rather than separation. Focus on making positive change rather than ineffective complaints. Focus on the people and things that you love and respect the most.

I’m not preaching to you just to hear myself talk. Someday you can expect to hear all this stuff from me in person, but I feel that this is too important of a time in our lives for me to put this off for another time. Again, I never got to have these talks with my dad because he was gone before I would have been old enough to appreciate it or truly understand. It’s natural as a parent to want better for your children than what you had, and what I want most for each of you is to always feel that you have a deep understanding of who your mom and I truly are. Again, I could die tomorrow, but the lessons and stories that I want you to hear will always be there for each of you to fall back on. That’s why I take the time to write to you, and why I throw caution to the wind when I think about the fact that anyone can get such deep insight to my thoughts and feelings, knowing that they may potentially try to use them against me someday. Although I may not be lucky, there is no one in this world who is more fortunate than me. After all, here is the privilege I get to wake up to each morning.

You’ll never know how much I love you

It’s Raining Bats and Dogs!

Halloween 2016 was a wet one. I don’t think it stayed completely dry for any of our October festivities, and there were a lot of them. We visited our first pumpkin patch for the season on October 3rd with our friends Solana, Ronan and Finn. It was a wet confusing mess for us all because the patch itself was only partially open for the month. We made the most of it and spent the majority of our time at the giant sand pit playing with trucks and racing tricycles on the hay rack race track. It was a great way to kick off the short season. All on all we ended up visiting 4 different patches and going a total of 6 times.

Our 4th trip to the patch for the month was a field trip with the girls pre-school. Both classes met together for a combined tour of our favorite pumpkin patch/farm. We dropped off Enzo beforehand so he could hang out with some guy friends for the afternoon 🙂 This made it easier for me to get down and dirty with the girls and their classmates. We made corn kernel angles in the corn bin, jumped on a bouncy, went up and down the large hay slides, pet the bunnies and goats, watched a pig show and duck race, and had creamsicles with their classmates. We even got our own private tractor ride around the pumpkin fields so that each child could find his or her perfect pumpkin. It was a great afternoon, I really loved the special time I got to have with them both and I know they felt the same way because it was the only trip to the patch this season that they thanked me for, several times.

We kicked off Halloween weekend of Friday by decorating our little pumpkins from the girls field trip. Elise wanted a cat and Ava a fish. We ended up with Stinky the cat, a baby pumpkin with painted black ears, green eyes and whiskers, and Sticky the fish, a purple fish silhouette with glitter scales, lashed eyes and a small smile. Both girls were incredibly proud of their little creations and had a hard time just leaving it on the front porch. Elise wanted to carry hers all over the house and play with it.

That night was our annual neighborhood pumpkin carving party. Our party loving neighbors Cara and Jim host this every year and we have been lucky enough to join them for 2 years now. Michael unfortunately had to work late so I took the kids over solo. I didn’t bring a pumpkin for our family to carve because I knew it would be too much for to take on 3 kids and a jack o lantern at once. This was the primary reason I suggested making pumpkins earlier that day. Ava still managed carve one of her own thanks to the help of Jim and she was so happy with herself when we carried it home and lit it up. She would have slept with it had I allowed it. Elise as planned was happy to hang out in the garage with all the big kids and compliment everyone else’s creations while showing off hers from earlier. Meanwhile Enzo hung out in the kitchen, near the food and the adults and was happy to be eating and dragging around an old monster truck that he spotted as soon as we arrived. They all had a great time and love being at Jim and Cara’s parties. We did leave the party a little early because Michael was just getting home and the kids wanted to tell him all about their day plus we had a big day planned for Saturday.

The next morning we got up and got going right away with breakfast and clothes and all the morning rituals. Normally on Saturdays we all take our time waking up and relaxing together at various times in the living room. But today we had a birthday party to get to at the zoo and everyone was dressing up in costumes for the occasion. We were originally planning on dressing Enzo up as a politician this year, thinking that it would be funny with the up coming election but it never came together the way were envisioning it so he was Batman. Not a very original idea but he was still super cute in a little black cape. It worked out better in the long run anyway, because our original idea included a suit for him and it was so rainy and miserable out that he spent most of his time in the stroller where you couldn’t really see what he was wearing. It was only because he had on a very recognizable costume that anyone knew what he was. Elise was Zuma, her favorite dog from paw patrol (a Nickelodeon show). Ava was Judy Hopps from Zootopia. I dressed up as well although truthfully it was a pretty lame attempt, I was a lumber jack. We met the birthday boy, Ronan and family at the zoo entrance and together a big group of us took on the rain. We had already planned on meeting up with Madi and Kristy at the zoo on Halloween weekend for their pumpkin bash so we combined the two and it was a sloppy, wet success. We spent nearly 3 hours wandering from one covered exhibit to the next. It was raining pretty hard the whole time but not one single kid complained, not once. They were too busy running around with each other, checking out all the costumes and decorations and eating lots of treats. I was super impressed with how our family handled the situation. We did finally reach our breaking point, once the adults were cold and uncomfortable enough we decided to have Madi and Kristy come over for lunch and more pumpkin decorating.

I headed home with all of the kids while Michael and Kristy stopped off at the grocery store for fried chicken and pumpkins. After lunch we set up shop in the garage, turned on a heater, some music, and got everyone situated with their prospective pumpkins. The adults carved out a group pumpkin and all the kids painted theirs. By the time we were all finished with our pumpkins the weather had finally cleared up so we got out the scooters and bikes and raced up and down the cul-de-sac for a bit. It was a fun, festive day and we were all wiped out by 6:00, so we spent the rest of the night relaxing.

Sunday night we attempted another Halloween activity but it was a bust. The church closest to our neighborhood hosted a party that we thought was going to be a Truck or Treat, similar to what we had visited there last year. In previous years, they had a huge indoor area filled up with cars that were all decked out, on the trunk end, with their own themes. This year was much different. It was called, I spy, and it was like a pokemon style hunt for specific costumed characters. They gave everyone a pamphlet when you walked in with all of the characters that you were supposed to find and have sign off on your sheet. You won prizes for the most people found. Im sure it was a lot of fun for the older kids but our kids were not interested in standing in line to get someone’s autograph to then turn in for potential prizes. They wanted candy and they were not afraid to say so. We did have a good time wandering around and seeing all of the costumes but the kids were a little disappointed in the lack of treats. Not to worry though, they bounced back quickly, and we ended spending the rest of the night at home with some Halloween movies and treats.

On Monday I had intended to take the kids to a pumpkin patch one last time but it was raining yet again and after the soggy weekend I just didn’t have it in me. The forecast for Monday evening was supposed to be light to no rain so I decided that I would take the kids to Mill Creek Town Center for a little pre-trick or treating before meeting up with Michael at home around 5:30 to head out in our neighborhood. We got to town center right when it started, because in our experience early to kids functions is always better. We hit our first store at 4:20, even though it wasn’t supposed to start until 4:30. We took our time walking our usual route through most of Main Street. The kids had a lot of fun seeing a place that we visit so frequently (this is where they have pre-school) so full of people, decorations, firemen and police! Its no surprise that they had the most fun doing some actual trick or treating and filling up their plastic pumpkins with candy! It took us about an hour to walk the length of Main Street, we stopped for a few candy breaks and one bathroom break but we also took our time walking slowly and chatting with kids and adults around us. The girls made sure to visit every store that was open and they stopped a few times along the way to say hi to other kids that liked their costumes or vice versa. Ava was loving all the attention and at one point turned to me with a huge smile and said “They all know me Mommy, I’m famous”, to be fair they knew who she was dressed up as, they did not recognize her. Elise got a kick out of all the other paw patrol costumes and would run up to a little kiddo dressed as Chase or Marshall and scream a version of “Im Zuma! Paw Patrol to the rescue”, It was hilarious and adorable.

By the time we were heading out, Town Center was packed full with families and just as we were packing up into the van the rain started to come down hard. We barely missed it. It was a very light drizzle for our walk along Main Street but by the time we got home you could say it was pouring. We came home and the kids had some dinner and once Michael got home we all bundled back up for some neighborhood trick or treating. Several of our neighbors round up their kids and head out in a large group for the night but most of their kids are quite a bit older than ours and they are a lot faster than we are so we were only able to keep up with them for a few house before we broke off one our own. Ava was pretty upset at first because she wanted to be “with our team”, but after we explained that Enzo wanted to walk door to door with both of the girls she conceded. It rained on us, pretty heavily for our entire trip around the neighborhood. We only visited about 15 houses but the kids were able to once again fill up their pumpkins with candy and they were more than happy to come home when Michael and I suggested it.

There wasn’t much time left in the night once we finished up trick or treating but we did manage to get in a Skype call with Rita for her birthday and then everyone headed off to their beds to either sleep or read. It was a rough morning on Tuesday for all 3 of the kids and I was definitely expecting it. They were all tired from the long fun fill weekend! I helped ease the kids out of the post Halloween blues by reminding them of all the great things to come in the month of November. Now we have officially switched gears and our focus is on Thanksgiving and Ava’s 5th birthday. We’ve got plans to spend both occasions with family and it is sure to be the topic of many conversations over the next 3 weeks. Now if we could only get a few days without any rain!