On Koen is Almost One!

Koen,

As I write this, we are about 12 days away from your first birthday. It’s crazy to think about all the stages of this past year. But just so you have something to reference, here they are:

STAGE 1: ‘So this is what all those sounds I heard from in there is all about’ stage

STAGE 2: ‘I understand sleeping, but I refuse’ stage

STAGE 3: ‘The hold me and bounce me or else’ stage

STAGE 4: “OK I’ll sleep at night, but all bets are off during the day’ stage

STAGE 5: ‘The hold me and bounce me or else — part 2’ stage

STAGE 6: ‘So these teeth are coming soon? Well, then everything hurts’ stage

STAGE 7: ‘Hey look I can crawl! But I still need you to hold me and bounce me or else’ stage

STAGE 8: ‘I’m on the carb-only diet, TYVM’ stage

Catch me outside

So that is about it. I was going to elaborate on each of these a bit, but I think it is pretty well understood what was going on during each of those stages just by the titles. At the end of the day, the important thing is that through all the holding, chasing you around the house, and angry meal time screaming because we’re trying to get you to eat something other than Ritz crackers, your mom and I kind of like you.

As a second child, it’s really hard not to naturally compare you to Reagan. I want to describe your looks, temperament, personality, etc. to the way Reagan was when he was your age. But I realize that as you look back and read this, that isn’t really fair to you. You’re your own person and while some things might be very similar, they are inherently yours.

SWAG

You’re very much a monkey-see-monkey-do kind of kid. Maybe it’s ironic that I call you “monkey.” But you love doing a voice, waiting for me to do the same voice back to you, and then doing it again. There is a game we play (usually when I’m changing you or getting you ready for a bath) where I’ll look away and wait for you to make a noise. As soon as you do, I’ll whip my head around to face you and you will just gut-laugh. Your laugh is one of my favorite things in the world. I will I could save it on my phone and play it on repeat all day long.

Another thing about you is that while you just started crawling not too long ago, it almost seems like you’re over it and ready to walk. You love pulling yourself up on furniture or toys and using those things to move around the room or around the house. I’m always nervous when you’re on the hard floor that the toy is going to move a little faster than you, and you’ll faceplant into the floor. So, you usually ask that I follow you around and make sure that doesn’t happen. (When we’re on the carpet, go nuts! I’ll be over here).

We’ve been on a few runs together, too. I don’t think we’ve done a 1-on-1 run yet, but you mostly enjoy going in the double stroller with me and Reagan. I’m glad we have a good running double stroller, but even still, you two are NOT easy to push on that thing. Actually, the pushing isn’t the hard part, it’s the maneuvering. There is a little bit of a wheelie-and-pivot thing going on and it is a momentum-killer. I’d say you enjoy our runs for about 85% of the time. But, if we stay out too long, you let us know about it. There was one time you had enough and we were about 2 miles from home. I think I broke some course records getting us all back, all the while talking you down and explaining to Reagan that it was really hard to keep a conversation about trains with everything else going on in those 15 minutes (he is such a talker during our runs!).

Rauch Run Club

Right now in our lives, there are a lot of bad things happening to the people we love around us. I don’t think this is the right place to talk about it, but ask me in a few years and I’ll let you know what was going on. But with so much out of my control that happens in this world, I am so thankful that you are healthy, more-or-less happy, and (along with your brother) bring me so much joy. I know all of that can change in a minute, but I want to acknowledge you now and pray that continues throughout your life.

I love that you are the one that completed our family. Your mom is great about getting pictures of you and your brother (and dog Rogue) up all around the house. And as I’m sitting here now, watching you sleep on your monitor, I’m looking at pictures of all the places we’ve been in such a short time and I am so happy to have all these great memories with you. I was running by myself this morning and thinking about the cicadas that took over earlier in the spring, and how it will be another 17 years before they come back — you’ll be almost 18 the next time they come back and won’t have any idea what these things are or how they got here. But I’ll think about this first year of your life and how crazy of a time it was for our family.

Derps for days

So cheers to a wild first ride around the sun, and cheers to a lifetime of new memories that we’ll look back on one day and cherish forever.

Love,

Dad

On Facial Hair

Boys,

Who am I to speak to trends decades from now, when other males your age may or may not find that growing facial hair is something worthy of pursuit? What I can speak to is that in today’s world, men of just about any age can coif a scruffy moustache or tightly kempt beard and look flier than a feather in zero gravity.

Before I continue, I should apologize. There are many things I will pass on to you both — rugged good looks, unparalleled athleticism, witty word-talk n’ stuff, and I’ll show you both how much one man can love his boys. But what I need to apologize for is that which I cannot give you — facial hair.

You see, I started getting facial hair the same time as most other boys my age growing up — 22 or 23 years old. However, my facial hair has always been thin and, frankly, embarrassing. After a few days without shaving, your mom would whisper sweetly to me that I look like someone who, if I were to do the things that she suggested I look like, would carry a minimum sentence of 25+ years.

This is actually a picture of me on my 21st birthday.

The point is, I can’t grow it and my guess is that you boys probably won’t either. OR — life will play a cruel joke on your dad and give you both glorious facial hair. And you’ll both probably wear it over when you come to visit your mom and I, braided down the chin like Aquaman or something — like I said, I don’t know what kind of facial-fashion 2040 has in store. And the nuts of it is that your uncle Jordan, Papa Rauch and all his brothers, even everyone on your Grandma’s side of the family…can all grow facial hair. Why can’t I?!?

You know, I made this blog as a way to kind of talk to you both as I am now to who you’ll be some day when you’re old enough to pick up on some of my humor and tone. I hope that as you age, you’ll appreciate these posts in different ways and I hope they are something you can come back to and find a piece of who I am, who you both were, and what our lives were like outside of the pictures and videos of us from this time.

But it’s also therapy for me to vent and acknowledge my shortcomings in a way that makes other people smile and allows me to laugh at myself.

So whatever you take from this, just enjoy the ride and I hope that you can find moments of brevity when you can step back and appreciate life’s silly moments. And if I can end on a poker analogy, a 2-7 off cracks aces 12% of the time, so make the most of whatever squirrely chin hair you end up with (or do the smart thing and just keep a clean shave).

Love you, boys.

Dad

To My Son, Koen

Koen,

I think I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again — sometimes I want to write to just one child. Part of me feels like I’ve written to Reagan for two years before having a chance to write to you, so there is some making up I need to do. In either case, I want to write to you because I want you to know how special you are to me, your mom, Reagan, and our family. (Not to mention, your grandparents and just about anyone else who meets you).

Your mom sometimes calls you a COVID baby — I’m hoping by the time you read this, that won’t make any sense to you. But because you were born in 2020, the sad truth is that your birth year will also be remembered as the year that COVID-19 – aka “coronavirus” — took over the world. This was a time when everyone was forced to stay indoors and away from people. Because of that, you haven’t been acclimated to the world the way a normal baby would the first year of his life.

Chilling out maxing relaxing all cool —

Despite the struggle to find normalcy this past year, you’ve been such a bright spot for me. Sure, the lack of sleep didn’t earn you many brownie points with me or your mom, but you’re starting to get the hang of it and we’re actually starting to get some sleep at night (you + your mom and me). You getting a good night’s sleep I think has made you a happier baby throughout the day, and that is just a good thing for everyone.

Right now as I write this, you’re 7 months old. Its hard to say the things you like and don’t like, because you’re still figuring out this whole world-thing, but I think there are a few things that make you more happy than others.

  • Being carried — especially in this “strap-you-to-my-chest-facing-out” thing I wear. When nothing else works, I strap you up and we just walk around the house.
  • Baths – your mom is usually the one who gives you baths, but the amount of Instagram videos or pics there are of you, naked-butt, being held by your mom getting selfies in the bathroom mirror before your bath is borderline concerning — but it is super-cute and you eat it up so I love it too.
  • Bouncing- whether it’s in your bouncer or being held under your armpits and just hopping on my stomach, you like to jump.
  • Raspberries – aka the thing when you get your belly blown on and it makes the big fart sound.
  • Waking up from naps and seeing your mom or me – you are kind of startled, but as soon as you pick up on what’s happening, you get the biggest smile.
  • Your blanket — Reagan calls his “Mel” because it’s shaped like a giraffe and we named him after the character in Madagascar. Your looks like a lion, so we tried to name him “Alex” or “Al,” but we’ll see if that sticks.

I just want you to know I’m super excited to be your dad. We have moments like tonight where you and Reagan got up at the same time, so I got you out of bed and we went into Reagan’s room where your mom and he were sitting in his bed. I laid you down next to Reagan and we had a family moment and it just made me really happy. This is just a tiny taste of what the next 15-20 years will look like as a family, and I can’t wait for all the moments — both little and big — to happen.

In the meantime, I just want you to be happy. Keep on figuring this sleep thing out, then we can work on crawling, popping some teeth out, and turning you into the happiest, healthiest, perfectest little person there is. Your mom and I are so thankful to have you complete our family, and we both love you so very very much.

-Dad

On Confidence

My idea of confidence is constantly evolving. The more you’re willing to fall, and the more you’re willing to learn, the more confident you’ll be.

Boys,

Websters dictionary (dot) com defines…. just kidding. Truth is, I may have written to you, Reagan, about this before. I might not have. Either way, I think its important to recognize that even as a 35 year old man, I don’t always have everything figured out.

Its funny because I know that everyone reading this in the time I’m writing it (Feb. 22, 2021 @ 7:10 pm), would look at that and say, “yeah, duh. We’re all just making it up as we go.” But I have to imagine you boys stumbling across this when you’re eight, 10, 15 at the latest (or else I really let this blog go…). But I would like to think that at those ages, I would appear as though I have things pretty figured out. I know my parents were constantly in flux at that age, each in their own way, but I still believed they had their shit together.

…big mood

I do believe every year I get things a little more together. But I can also admit that when I evaluate my own ideas and thoughts, they aren’t always the same as they have been even a short time ago. And that’s OK! No one expects anyone else to have it all figured out. I guess this is just all a long-winded way of saying that my idea of confidence — confidence in my role as a husband, dad, even confidence in myself in who I am as a person — it’s all changed so much in the past year or two.

I used to think that confidence meant projecting I had all the answers. I used to think that to be a confident husband, I had to be firm in every decision I made with your mom — that I had to have the answer as soon as she asked the question and would have to be able to lay it out in a way that was quick to the point, but also profound and with deep meaning.

Working though the toughest problems.

I used to think that I would have to prepare 10,000 stories for any given situation you boys might find yourself in someday… so that I could sit you down as soon as you did something wrong and illustrate the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, love and hate… all in a way that would keep with you for the rest of your lives. I wanted to be able to tell you stories that you would use on your own boys when you were teaching them how to be men.

I used to think that confidence was something I had to project, when the truth is I was afraid to ask for what I wanted in life.

But confidence is something else entirely. Confidence is being comfortable with knowing that you don’t know a lot of times. Confidence is being able to confidently say to your wife that I know where we want to go in our marriage, and that I need her help in figuring out how best to get there. Confidence is watching you boys make mistakes, then sit you down and tell you that I don’t know the right thing to do, but that I’m planted solidly in your corner and I will do whatever I can to help you find the best path forward.

When I look back at who I’ve been the past 35 years, I don’t think of myself as having been a confident person. There were always situations I was more sure of myself than others, but I think I would look at more situations than most with an “afraid to fail” attitude, when I wish I would have looked at failures as an opportunity to learn.

Your mom has made me a more confident person, but I think that you have to find confidence on your own terms, too. Growth is something that is both exciting and terrifying, but critical when it comes to finding confidence. I’m sure you both will struggle at some point in your lives with confidence, and that is OK — it’s normal even! But you have the best mom and a pretty good (if I do say so) dad to help you along the way and make sure that you both will grow into confident men.

Love you both so much!

Dad

On Changes

I don’t know if “changes” is the appropriate title for this post. But when I kind think about where I want to go with this post, the thing that comes to mind first is how much life has changed for our family in the last few months. Going from one boy to two has been a huge change and a huge challenge for your mom and I — we used to be able to hand you, Reagan, off to the other and go for a run, get some work done, etc. Now, as soon as one of you goes down for a nap, it feels like it’s a mad dash for one of us to take care of something while the other holds his breath that the sleeper doesn’t wake up.

That probably makes it seem more dramatic than it really is. The truth is that life with two kids is much tougher than I think either your mom or I were expecting. She and I will always put you both first above all else, but we also want to take care of ourselves by working out, spending some time together as a couple (and not after the chaos that is “nighttime routine”), and even getting some time to ourselves to reflect and find our focus for what all we want to accomplish as a family.

I remember working with someone who had his second child and would tell me how many changes happened when they went from one child to two. I’ll admit that I probably nodded along when he told me about it, but in the back of my mind, I thought that your mom and I would have a better handle on things and we could thrive where others might not be able to do so. I think if you asked either of us in an honest moment, there is probably more surviving and less thriving in the past few months.

Sidebar: as I write these blogs, (and I think I’ve mentioned this before), but it all comes out as a stream of consciousness. Rarely do I go back through and do any major edits outside of grammar and making sure it doesn’t read to clunkily. Sometimes, I realize that the direction a post is going isn’t how I intended it to go, but I think it offers you a real insight into what life is like for us at this time, and I hope that you might take something from that should you read it later in life.

As I continue to reflect on changes — mind you, I’m doing so as you’re both sleeping, so it probably is a different perspective than it would have been an hour ago — the thing that keeps me going are the little things. Earlier today, Koen was lying on his mat-pillow-thing and the rest of us were huddled around him cheering him on as he was trying (not max effort, but there was some attempt there) to roll from his belly to his back. We eventually helped him out and cheered like he did it all himself. Then, Reagan took his hand and mom was holding the other, and then I took Reagan and mom’s hand and we kind of made a little family circle. It wasn’t a huge moment worth making a statue for, but it’s one of those million little things that make up for the craziness that fills most of our days.

Changes are hard and no one really knows how best to handle those changes until after the change already happened. Most days, I feel like I’d be a better parent-mentor than actual parent because I can tell someone, “here is what I didn’t know and wish I did. If I had the chance to go back, here is how I would have handled it.”

On that note: parents — spend the money and buy Taking Cara Babies (not a sponsor). Watch the videos. Do the things. Know it is going to be hard but worth it. Did it the first time and swore by it, then took the “throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks” approach to naps and nighttime with #2 — love you Koen!

Changes are hard but they’re also necessary. I want to reference some movie your mom had one the other day where there is a line about how diamonds are made from carbon absorbing all the heat and pressure from the earth — not that I’m using that analogy because I’d probably be the zillionth person to do so, but if I did, I’d tie a bow on it by saying that to get our family to where we will eventually be, we need to get through all the heat and the pressure of these big changes so that the two of you can shine. Again, wouldn’t ever ACTUALLY do that, but if I did, well, I’m sure it would be a good way to wrap up a blog.

Sorry not sorry,

Dad