On the Trenches: Part 1

And it was a grey morning and they all wondered how they would fare…

My dearest love,

I would usually use this space to talk to our boys, but I fear I might not make it.

It’s day three, twenty-oh-seven and we’re bunkered down. The General Reagan of the opposition has agreed to a ceasefire for the evening, and his understudy Koen is off duty in the barracks upstairs. Both sides are exhausted and you can see it in the infantrymen — swollen under-eye bags and marker-stained feet and hands tell a tale the history books will soon forget. The end is in sight, but certain casualties are still ahead.

The first shot was fired on a Thursday. Treaty talks had been ongoing leading up to that day, with Admiral Kelly set to leave town for important state matters on the coast. She was to gallivant with our allies and discuss important matters of high security clearance. We received word she had arrived safely and that important work was surely being done, but by then, the enemy saw their opportunity, and the gears of war were set in motion.

Our troops were caught off early with a hunger blockade. Captain Koen flanked us and refused to eat anything but goldfish for the whole evening. This blockade held our troops’ attention, all the while General Reagan used the cover of Koen chaos to inflict a tornado-storm of toys and little puzzle peaces all over the floor in the playroom. Possible chemical warfare tactics were employed on their own troops, as temperatures rose (physically and literally), as the opposition retreated back for the evening under the thin vail of Benadryl and Motrin.

Our other allies at Target and Amazon have kept us well-supplied with trendy clothes, humidifiers (both plug-in and free-standing configurations), and other essentials.

Friday saw reinforcements come in, and we welcomed cavalry from the nation of Juggle. They sent their most qualified and equipped girl Allison, who did her best to distract the enemy for a few hours, but even her best efforts couldn’t prevent further chaos and casualties.

BREAKING NEWS: 20:28 in the familyroom – ceasefire has been broken as General Reagan stood up and open coughed aggressively straight into my face. Treaty of Versailles be damned, there are no rules in war!

Troops were still showing signs of fever and fatigue Friday night, and the rest of the night saw medics tending to the wounded. Saturday brought signs of promise, as potential peace talks began during a shared breakfast of coffee, water, waffles and,” more waffle. No egg. No! Waffle. WAFFFLLLEEE!!!!” I took Admiral Reagan and Captain Koen to neutral grounds by the train tracks, with the promise of “maybe seeing a train” enough to lay the war to rest and begin times of peace. With spirits high, we attended a joint celebration of the birthday variety. This is where Captain Koen, ever the wildcard, unleashed the most vicious attack to this point of the war.

It feeds…

Of course, it started with a door. He was to man that post while his General had cake and went about his business very disinterested in the captain. As guest came and went, the ease at which the captain could man the door freely and as he chose became too much to bear. In an attempt to keep the peace and infrastructure intact, I attempted a maneuver to move the captain to a lesser traveled part of the house.

This was not the move he saw coming. Nor the move he would let slide.

Wild screams resonated throughout the house, and it was apparent that to prevent further casualties, we must take the battle back to familiar grounds. General Reagan sauntered about with the urgency of a runny nose to gather his water bottle and hat. As he trudged behind me and the captain, who was being held in a horizontal cross-grip because all tradition and pleasantries were out the window… as the admiral trudged behind, he slow dumped his water bottle down his shirt because he left the cap on the table.

Action has been slow since the enemy woke up from their mid-day naps. We were able to put the angry captain to bed without much fuss, but the night ahead includes a time change, which does give the enemy ammo for early morning aggression.

More to follow…

On 30A and Our First Family Vacation

Boys,

Sometimes it’s easy to get into a rut when you journal/blog/write to your kids, where you think that if you don’t have something profound to say, then you just don’t say anything at all. But I need to remember that I can just talk to you and not have to have it be about anything at all.

With that, it’s been a few weeks since we got back from a trip to 30A (aka – Rosemary Beach). Your mom and I talked about finding a place like this to get a vacation home in a place like this, so who knows, if we end up somewhere on 30A, then this post might have a little more meaning to you.

As it stands, we don’t yet have that house and it’s more likely than not that neither of you will remember anything about this particular trip. With that, I figured it would be worthwhile to recap some of the things we did and some of the ups and downs of that trip from how I saw it.

First, the flights were unique. Reagan, you did pretty good the whole time. You were excited about taking off and landing, and were on your iPad most of in between those two things. Koen, you surprised us with a solid A grade on your travel down. We did stop briefly in Nashville for a layover, and honestly, that was probably the toughest time you had as far as travel goes.

We did a lot on 30A (in 30A? It’s a stretch of road with a lot of little beach towns with names like Watercolor and Seaside). We rented a condo with a golf cart, and Reagan, you would have just taken that to all the places and been perfectly happy. The weather was good-not-great. Mostly sunny and warm, but not warm enough to heat up the community pool or allow us to get in the Gulf (we did let the waves chase us up the beach). We also rented bikes and rode them every morning.

Koen, I think you thrived at a cool little collection of shops, restaurants, and live music stage across the street from our condo called “The Hub.” We stopped by most mornings for coffee where you got to explore the empty stage, and also most nights for some live music. You were fascinated by the live music and even put a few dollars into the tip jar for all the musicians.

We found a cool little town called Alys Beach where all the buildings were white, and we took the golf cart down to get donuts one morning. The other town we liked was called Watercolor, and they had really cool shops, some great food trucks and bar food, and was just a great place to watch all the people buzzing around.

This was our first trip with just the four of us. Rogue was with us in spirit, but told me before we left that he didn’t want to deal with the travel so he decided to sit this trip out. We had a lot of fun, there were a handful of stressful moments, but all in all, I loved being on vacation with you boys and exploring a new place along side you both (and your mom, of course).

I’m sure there will be a lifetime of trips like this, but there is something special about this one that I will remember forever.

Love,

Dad

On To Koen

Koen,

You are an amazing, wonderful, funny, sometimes psychotic, other times love magnetic, absolute honor-to-be-your-dad kind of kid.

There is so much I love about you. Your personality has exploded in the past few months. You love your family, and your dog. You will walk up to Rogue and tuck your head into him, just like you do your favorite characters in “Everything is Mama.” You love your dad. My favorite way to start the day is when your brother is still asleep, you and me get up early, come downstairs, I pour you a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios, and you sit on my lap and we have a snack. It doesn’t matter what’s on — Mickey or sports — you’re happy to be there with me as much as I am with you.

You’re exploring your voice, too. You grunt, yell, change inflection, learn, forget, learn again. You babble. With your Mima, you ramble but with changing sounds and tones and it’s like you’re just chatting with an old friend. Your laugh fills up the room. Your cries also fill up the room, but that’s another post.

You’re playful. You cheers like the world is ending and you dance when you see your mom dance. You fit into our family so perfectly and I can already see a day when you’re your brother’s age now, and you’re going to be so different in so many ways. But there are going to be things that stay constant with you, too. I love your heart, your passion, your presence, your joy, and the way you look; asleep in the monitor.

No matter what our life looks like in the future, I will love you through the bad times, celebrate you through the good times, and awe in the boy you’re becoming.

Love, Dad

On Reagan’s Poop-Phase

This isn’t an easy topic to cover, but sometimes you have to call out your own son on some sh…

Reagan,

This is me taking the power back. As I write this, you’re less than a month out from your 4th birthday. You’re very kind, love trucks and construction equipment, enjoy playing in your room with me, and are just genuinely in a place where having fun is your top priority. However, you’re also going through a “poop-phase.”

Now this “poop-phase” isn’t like the horror-movie, enter the room and cue the shrieking sound effects, “decorate the walls” kind of “poop-phase.” It isn’t a “curiosity with the utility” kind of “poop-phase.” Thankfully, that side of the coin is kept mostly under wraps.

No, your “poop-phase” has to do with the word itself — “poop.”

The face you give every single time you say the word, “poop.”

I think being a good parent means that I should engage with you and ask you questions. I think I should challenge you to explain how you feel or why you reacted to something in a specific way. I want to stimulate your brain so that you expand your sphere and think bigger, outside-the-box thoughts that will change your world.

I think I might be a tad ambitious, because as of recently, your little brain just defaults to “poop” whenever I try to ask you questions.

  • Me: Reagan, what’d you dream about last night?
  • You: Poop
  • Me: You dreamed about poop? Do you have to go to the bathroom?
  • You: Poop!
  • Me: Uh-huh. Did you dream about anything else?
  • You: Pee
  • Me: Good talk, son. Go brush your teeth — excited to pick up on this conversation when you get downstairs.

Oh, and guess what song you want to listen to non-stoppity-stop on the reggie — The Poop Song by The Toilet Bowl Cleaners. I hope that you read this when you’re an adult and click on the link and it still works somehow and you listen to it and say to yourself, “why was I such a strange kid?” Guess how many unique words there are in this song — not 2…not 3….not 4…

Now I want to build a relationship with you and your brother where you can tell me anything — good, bad, embarrassing — whatever it is, I want to know about it. With that being said, too much of anything can tiptoe toward too much, and I think that is where your “poop-phase” has taken us.

Your grandma told me that your uncle Tyler had a “poop-phase” too, and that it was super annoying at the time, but funny looking back at it. I’m sure that is how I’ll feel one day, but I also wouldn’t be mad if we moved on from the “poop-phase” in the near future.

I digress. In truth, I know this is just you exploring your silly side and I love seeing you find your sense of humor. Everyday you and Koen become a little more unique, say and do new things that I’ve never seen or heard, and it becomes more and more fun to be your dad. Would I enjoy being your dad just as much without us going through this “poop-phase?” Maybe. Probab…yes. Yes I would.

Love you boys.

Dad

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

On T.B.M.o.K or (your) Mom’s Night Out(s)

Boys,

Your mom is a part of a secret society and the very fact that I’ve said as much puts me in danger. As I write these words — July 2, 2021 — your mom and four or five other moms are standing on the driveway, wine in hands.

Since we moved to our house about this time last year, your mom has been assembling a network of other neighborhood moms to be a part of this secret society. Their HQ is the main bar at Kinsale. They’re fueled by white wine and High Noon. They call themselves… The Bad Moms of Kinsale.

Like I said, I’ve already said too much. Of course, I’ll have to keep from posting any pictures on this post so not to further put myself in harms way. This secret society of ‘Bad Moms’ meet up no less than 1x per month “officially,” but I’ve cracked their iCal and they’re getting together more and more on nights just like tonight.

T.B.M.o.K. are not a violent bunch, physically. In fact, they probably wouldn’t even be the most intimidating bunch at Kids Club, but what they lack in physical prowess, they make up for in volume.

Volume as in, like, turn it up to 11 not volume in the sense that there are a lot of them. I mean, there are a lot of them, but once properly lubricated, they’ll let anyone know who they are and… who they are.

WE’RE THE BAD MOMMMMMSSSS!!!!

all the moms, probably

Here’s the thing. If you stoke the fire from time to time and stay on T.B.M.o.K.’s good side, then you’ll be OK. Give them just enough encouragement to keep it within reason, but not too much rope to let them run completely wild. Could you imagine? We’d never see your mom again until we’d get word that she somehow overthrew the management at Kinsale and was pirating the clubhouse like Jack Sparrow on a rum charter.

Have you heard the story of the grasshopper and the ants? Long story short, the grasshopper controlled the ants because he was bigger/faster/stronger/#chaingamestronger than every ant in the colony, so he ran the show. But as soon as the ants figured out that by working together, they could drive the grasshopper out.

Here’s what I need from you, boys; consider this the first seed. Did you know that the word uprising comes from the latin word upris, which means to take action.

That’s not true at all. I made that up. But it would fit really well with where I’m going here, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, be the ant, boys. We can take back this house and take back this neighborhood and make it a respectable place to live. T.B.M.o.K. will have their time in the sun, but we, too, will rise and have our time to shine one day.

It all starts here…

-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 Becoming a Boy

Son,

You change every day. At the same time, you do so many of the same funny things every day. For example, you wake up and have the same conversation every morning…

Us: Goodmorning!

You: Two Mels! Boats. Mima, Papa. Hi Rogue! Mama. Two Mels!

Us: Can I have you?

You: No! Nap. Hi Rogue! Two Mels!

It’s really an inventory check on your crib items and a recap of the same dream you have every night (the same dream that you pre-plan every night when we ask you what you’re going to dream about — yellow boat with all your favorite people).

Lately, you’ve been making a lot of subtle changes that let me know you’re becoming a little boy. You take direction. Sometimes, you ignore direction, but you understand what we’re asking you to do. You negotiate. Sometimes you need your matchbox cars when you eat, and if I ask you to eat three bites to get your car, you might tell me “two bites.” Or, when we’re wrapping up watching a show (usually Peppa), you’ll tell us “one Peppa,” (which means you just need one more episode to get your fix).

IMG_8656

The other night, we got dressed up to go to a party. We usually rock the messy hair look around the house, but that night we put some of my product in your hair. You stood there and was patient while I put the pomade in your hair and brushed it. It was like you knew we were getting dressed up, and understood that you needed to be still while I got you ready.

You’re also just more confident in your movements. You still fall from time to time, and still blame stationary objects for getting in your way while you tornado through the house (no-no floor! Don’t you jump up out of nowhere and trip Reagan!). But, I don’t worry about you running from one room to the other. I don’t worry about you climbing on or off couches, or stepping off the step onto the porch.

The other thing, and maybe the most visual way, that you are becoming a little boy is that you’re just getting longer. You have little definition in your legs and your body is just stretching out. When you lay in your crib and spread out, you look huge. You still don’t weight a ton and you’re probably still on the shorter side of kids who are almost two, but to me you just look huge.

IMG_7818

I’m very excited to see you changing so much. You used to be so much fun just to look at, but now you are making decisions, having conversations, communicating your thoughts, making jokes, and everything else that makes you so much fun to interact with.

The other thing that has been fun is seeing you and Rogue interact. You now help pour his food in the morning and give him his pills. You also call him up with us when we go up the stairs and kind of double-tap your butt to get him moving. You tell him to, “lay down,” “sit,” and always give him a much bigger hello in the morning than your mom or me.

OK, son. All for now.

Dad