On Velcro-baby, Hey-Dad, and Trains

Boys,

It’s been a little while so I figured it’s time to check in. It’s summer and your mom and I are currently in French Lick, Indiana. We don’t get a lot of chances to go away without you boys, and while we do appreciate being able to sleep in (I haven’t been able to, BTW), we do miss you both a lot. Luckily, you’re in good hands with Deb Deb.

Bubble City

Koen, you’re going through what your mom and I call “velcro baby” phase. Basically, and I don’t think your mom would argue this, but I’m kind of your security blanket. If you get upset, you usually just look for me and run up and just grab my legs, stare at me with big tears, and hold on for dear life. Deb says I need to be strong and not pick you up, but you put the velcro grip on and I can’t get away.

Happy baby

Reagan, if Koen is in his velcro baby phase, you’re in “Hey Dad” (or Hey Mom) camp. Pretty much every conversation starts with “Hey Dad.”

Reagan: Hey Dad.

Me: Yes, Son?

Reagan: Um. I gotta tell you somethin’

Me: OK

Reagan: Um. I love you, Dad

Me: Love you too, buddy

You’re both very smart and it will probably frustrate you as you get older because you’re setting a pretty high standard that your mom and I will expect a lot out of you. Koen, you are 20-ish months and can say all your letters and pick out every letter if I ask you where a certain letter is. Reagan, you can pretty much read at 4 years old and you always surprise me with how much you know. The other morning, I was telling you about a trip to Japan I went on a few years ago and I was telling you how it was an island. I asked you if you knew what an island was (maybe a dumb question, IDK?), but you just gave me this “yeah duh, dad” kind of response. I guess that doesn’t necessarily show you how smart you were, but it made me think not to question you. Point taken, son.

Just normal human behavior

Reagan, you also LOOOVVVVVEEEEE trains right now. I was just running this morning, and there was this old, rusted out train near our hotel. And without hesitation, I had to stop my run and take a video of it because I know how excited you’ll be to watch it 1000x in the next few days once I get home. You also are in a phase where, nearly every morning when your sound machine turns green, you come down to our room, go pee in our bathroom, then jump up in our bed (whether we are in it or in the shower), and turn on Youtube train videos. Just one train after another, on loop, for as long as we let you. Eventually, we make you get dressed, and the train-dream gets put on hold until the next day.

You’re both at a fun age. You’re both also at a tough age because Koen, you’re just a few months away from really being able to communicate and, maybe more importantly, being able to be communicated to — not sure if that makes sense but I reread it and it makes sense to me. AP Style be damned! Reagan, you’re just headstrong and like to push the limits of your mom and my patience.

Either way, wrapping up and I love you boys so much. Until next time…

Love,

Dad

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 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

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 Sleep

Boys,

Now the thing about being a parent is that you’re unable to choose which child is your favorite. With that being said, if favorite child status were based on sleep — which it isn’t — then Reagan would be far and away the favorite.

Now I’ll say this: Reagan, you weren’t the poster boy for sleep when you were a newborn either, but your mom and I have been trying to go back in our minds and remember when it clicked and you became the great sleeper that you are today. It’s very possible that it could be later than where Koen is at now, and our brains just refuse to go back to that place.

I’ll also say this: I’m writing this to you boys the day after Koen decided at 3:45am that he was going to pull an all nighter on your mom and I, so there may be some level of bias in these words. Now three hour sessions like last night aren’t the norm, but they are more common than the “wake up once, take a quick bottle, and clock out” kind of nights that we’ve seen from you.

You’re cute, but not cute enough to keep me from sleeping.

Sleep is a funny thing. When you’re young like you boys are, you sleep all the time. I guess a lot of brain development happens when you sleep, which could explain why you’re a genius, Reagan. I can count on one hand the amount of times you haven’t slept through the night in the past two years.

As you grow into your childhood, sleep becomes something you almost resent. You don’t want to go to bed, try to stay up as late as you can, and generally have enough energy in the mornings to carry you through the day without ever really feeling tired. Then you become a teenager, and you start to appreciate morning sleep like you didn’t when you were a kid. I remember Sundays when I was a teenager and didn’t have baseball practice, I would try to sleep in until noon if my mom would let me. Then college comes and noon is an early day on a weekend.

But as you get older still, and the teen years and college are in the rearview, sleep starts to become something you, dare I say, look forward to. It doesn’t happen right away. You’ll find yourself in your mid-20’s, and midnight hits a little differently than it did a few years ago. You might have Orange Theory in mind for the (not-too-early) morning and decide to bypass that last drink in lieu of getting to bed at a “reasonable” hour.

Now you’re in your late-20’s or early 30’s, and bedtime is kind of the “event” of the evening. Like, you’ll go out to dinner and get a drink with friends at 7 so that you can be home, flossed up and in bed by 9pm on a Friday — big win! If you get a workout in on the weekend, better believe you’re going to at least get an hour on the couch while football is on TV (or Bravo for your mom).

Then come kids and that thing you’ve grown to love, that sweet sweet sleep…. just goes away. Baby naps are inconsistent at best, and parents never really get restful sleep at night in between feedings because the tiniest little movement or sound that comes out of your mouth gets a full sit-up and monitor check from both parents.

Parents make jokes about “going on vacation” to a hotel where they just go to bed early and sleep in. There’s a reason that these jokes hit home with anyone who has lived with a baby for more than a few days.

Listen, I love you both and I’m just venting because your mom and I are in the thick of it right now. I’m sure that, Koen, sooner or later, you’ll figure this sleep thing out and then your mom and I can count on at least a few good hours each night, which would be super fun. But until then, just keep being healthy, hitting us with those 3am smiles that make staying up with you a little bit easier, and we’ll all figure this thing out together.

Love,

Dad

On Reagan’s Special Day

Reagan, today was your special day. Your mom had the idea to go out — just you, me, and her, and make an afternoon all about you.

I’ve said it before, but I don’t think every post I write has to be able something bigger than it has to be — sometimes it’s worthwhile to just highlight a good day we had and let that be that. Additionally, I can already feel a twinge of guilt writing a post that will be about a day that was special for Reagan, but I think that I need to be OK writing to one or the other of you boys. I know there will be posts ahead that will be directed to Koen, but this one is for Reagan.

Reagan, today was your special day. Your mom had the idea to go out — just you, me, and her, and make an afternoon all about you. We built it up last night by making sure you were ready for your big day today, and teased a few of the things we were going to do. One thing I love about you is that your steel-trap memory made it so that the first thing you said to me when I got you up this morning was “today is my special day!/?”

[“!/?” means it was a partial statement, and partial question. Almost as though you were telling me it was your special day and looking for validation — or were you asking me if it was your special day in a way that would tip me over the edge just in case I was wavering?]

So for your special day, me, you, and your mom went down to Bridge Park for check out some ‘struction ‘quipment and make a day of it down there. First, we saw said ‘struction, then crossed the bridge and wandered down to the toy store. Your mom said you could pick ANYTHING in the whole store — two days before Christmas — I know, right? Anyway, you check some things out, and settle on a diecast toy VW bus (see it in the main picture of us on this post). Not exactly “big time move,” but you were happy.

Then we crossed the bridge again, got some lunch a Rebol, and capped the day off by hitting up the chocolate store. With your mom and I being pros in the chocolate game, we hit up the counter and got some good stuff — chocolate covered oreos, chocolate grahams, etc. Once again, we gave you a free shot at anything in the place, and you took a little chocolate santa. And I should say, Santa came only after we had to talk you out of some bottom-shelf chocolate coins that were probably the least exciting thing in the entire store — you’re welcome.

We had a little in the store, but you really dug into Santa once we got home.

Now I’m writing to you a few weeks past your special day. As time has passed, I think about how much I enjoyed spending time with you and mom and hope that we don’t have to wait until 12/23 again to do that!

Now this goes for both you and Koen — but while you’re brothers, you both deserve to be made to feel special because you both are just that — special. Taking days to celebrate one of you, or even both of you, are days that should be done often. Plus, your mom and I had a ton of fun taking you around and doing something different with you guys.

This is your unique, er… “special” new picture smile!

Anyway, this won’t be a long one (partially because it’s taken me 3 weeks to finish this!), but just know that you are special Reagan. Koen, don’t be mad, you’ll get a post too and I’ll remind you that you’re special. But its OK that sometimes, I acknowledge how truly one-of-a-kind you are and how blessed your mom and I are to call you our son.

Love,

Dad