Us: Date Night

Hope and I enjoy each other. As cliché as it may sound, we really are best friends. Even today, after 30 years of being married, we still enjoy sitting on the back porch and talking. As anyone with one or more children is fully aware, finding the time to talk with each other is a bit more difficult in the throes of child rearing. If you don’t force it to happen, it won’t. One thing Hope and I deemed necessary during this time was to have a date night every Thursday night. In our case, the word date was loosely defined as a couple of hours out of the house, together, regardless of destination or financial means. It was important to get away for a short period of time and see each other without interruption.

But there were impediments that had to be worked around. One was finding a person to stay with the kids while we were out and the other was finding the funds to bankroll the night, including paying said person who was staying with the kids. Our solution was to exploit poor college students with the allure of free use of the washer and drier (plus dinner) all for the privilege of hanging out with our children on a weeknight. Finding takers wasn’t as easy as we thought, but eventually God brought along the perfect person to fill the role.

My job at the time was with a start-up company that was creating interactive software for a new technology called compact disc-interactive. I was the manager in charge of the large art department, which included cell animators, computer and traditional illustrators and graphic designers. One of the interns that I hired to help us plow through the digital colorizing of the thousands of animation cells was Ron Nieto. Ron was not a typical college student in that he had served in the Air Force and was now back in college at Florida State, working to complete an art degree. He was also unique because he was earning school credit during his internship, as well as a paycheck, and, when I had to cut loose all of the interns, he was the only one I kept because he needed the credit to graduate. Maybe it was the raw desperation he showed in begging me to keep him around, or maybe it was my desperation in my search for a babysitter, but I eventually persuaded him to give our Thursday night “deal” a tryout.

And it ended up being a great fit. The kids loved him and he grew to love our kids. He got his laundry done for free and we even let him use our spray starch when he ironed in order to get the military creases in his undershirts. He took care of bath time, prayer time and bedtime. He was so good at it that Hope and I would consciously not return home until we were sure he had everyone down and out, even if it meant stopping by the bookstore to burn an hour after we finished dinner and whatever errands we needed to run.

It has been over twenty years since the first date night and we stayed friends with Ron. We were there when he met Eve, held their rehearsal dinner in our back yard, waited in the hall of the hospital when their first child was born and have enjoyed each other’s company ever since. All because a poor college student needed clean clothes and a poor married couple needed an occasional quiet dinner alone. 


Us: Driving Lessons

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There are a variety of ways our children are similar. That makes sense considering they were raised in the same familial incubator and with the same parental units. But they are also unique in many ways and that was never more evident than when we taught them each to drive. Since William was first, Hope took it upon herself to set some ground rules before he ever turned sixteen. As each of his friends gained driving privileges, she insisted they come by the house and take her on a drive around the neighborhood so she could assess their skills and determine whether we would let William get in the car with them. The first victim of this was a bit surprised at the request but, having grown up around us, decided it would be wise to play the game. He passed his alternative-driving test with ease. Others were not as fortunate but, after a stern word or two from The Instructor, they at least knew the expectations of driving our children around town.

William was also well aware of the expectations and adapted well, a first-born trait that he consistently displayed. I was always in charge of the initial education and we always started in a parking lot, practicing accelerating and stopping, parking and backing out—all the fundamentals before allowing them to drive on the road around live people. He was cautious, nervous, careful and observant as a student and he eventually morphed into a good driver after a slow start. Laura, on the other hand, was none of the above. The hardest part in training her was getting her to not look at you while she talked. For some reason she thought the adage that conversations had more meaning when you made eye contact should be strictly followed, even when driving through a neighborhood. Plus, she has an almost obsessive need to use her hands in order to speak and this caused a problem since the steering wheel is critical in getting the car to stay on the road. We eventually had to demand she not speak if she was behind the wheel. I do not remember William ever crying while learning to drive but tears always come to mind when I recount my time with Laura. She eventually pulled everything together and passed all state and Hope-approved tests to receive her license.

During all of this, Jordan was in the back seat, observing and taking mental notes, accepting the near death experiences with Laura in order to learn. He eventually claimed that we didn't have to worry about him because he would be the best driver of all the kids. Yes, part of this was Jordan being Jordan, talking smack as an art form, but it also is a microcosm of who he is. Since he saw driving as an essential gift of freedom, it was extremely important that he excel and get this part of life under his belt. When he is focused on something, he is a bulldog. The issue was always getting him focused on things that were important but didn't necessarily come up on his personal radar. This was not a concern with learning to drive. He was confident and used all of the lessons of his siblings to know what to avoid as well as what to concentrate on. As is probably not all that uncommon for a third child, he was the easiest to teach.

Through the ensuing years there have been wrecks and tickets and all the other expected sideshows with teenage drivers. Oddly enough, William, Mr. Cautious, has the most wrecks and Jordan the most tickets. Okay, that last part about Jordan isn't that odd. And Laura, true to her gender, has been stopped the most times by law enforcement but has never gotten a ticket. I am not sure what estrogen laced tips Hope taught her when she had Laura in the car but I obviously forgot to teach that to the boys.


Us: Extra Curricular

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Observing my grown children now at 21, 24 and 26 years old, it would be easy to guess their interests growing up. In simple terms, the boy's are musicians and Laura is a writer so they must have shown those interests early. If that were your guess, you would be wrong. I compare it to driving on a mountain road with a lot of winding, 180 degree cutbacks. A child will show and interest in something so, wanting to show support, we jump in and encourage them to pursue it by buying the equipment and the lessons. There is interest for a while and then, “Look! A pony!” Just like that we are on to something else. I am sure that a parent was the one motivated to start used sports equipment stores and the idea of band equipment rental.

William played one year of baseball, several years of soccer and flag football and a year of high school football. He also had drum lessons, played the tuba in middle school as well as bass guitar before taking his first guitar lesson in high school. Laura played a year of t-ball, a year of soccer, had ballet lessons and was a member of middle school and high school choir as well as involved in high school musicals. Jordan played several years of flag football and soccer and then, at 10, decided to give baseball a try and played that until his sophomore year of high school. He also took batting and pitching lessons, attended strength and conditioning training three times per week and had a couple of drum lessons when he was 12. As every parent knows, all of this represents money and, more importantly, time. Lots of time. It required many hours sitting in parking lots during lessons, standing on the sidelines through oppressive heat and freezing winds as well as the recitals, performances and tournaments. It is a big commitment and it will wear you out.

One Saturday morning I had to get Jordan to high school freshman baseball practice at eight. My parents were visiting and my dad accompanied me, wanting to see his grandson play some baseball. As we watched the team go through their drills, I made a comment in the form of a rhetorical question, not expecting an answer. “Why do we do this? We burn so much time chasing our tail, running to practice and lessons... for what? This is exhausting and Jordan probably won't play baseball past high school.” My dad said, “No regrets. We do it because we don't want to look back and say 'if only...' Your kids will find where they fit eventually but this is their way to discover. And there are a lot of life lessons along the way they can use the rest of their lives. Plus, this is your chance to build them up, support them, try to give them some confidence. Trust me, the world will eventually take care of beating them up and tearing them down. Enjoy it. They'll be on their own soon enough.”

And that is it. The drum lessons led to the tuba led to the bass that led to the guitar that led to a desire to lead his youth group that led William to decide to attend a college that taught him both music and Biblical principles that he will use forever. The ballet led to the choir that led to the stage that was always wrapped in relationships that Laura cherishes more than performance and that drives her writing and her recent forays into speaking and recording spoken word monologues. For Jordan, the sports led to the lessons and the training that led to discipline and focus that led to the desire to excel that led to a decision to pursue music after baseball was taken away that led to a desire to lead and attend a school that would shape him and bring all of the disparate threads together. All three journeys were different but, in a way, very similar. We, the parents, might have driven the van but God was working the GPS.


Us: Road Trip!

When I was child, our vacations consisted of driving to two different places. One was my grandparent's house in Oklahoma and the other was to my grandparent's house in Mississippi. It didn't matter if we lived in Florida, Georgia or Texas, those were our two destinations. Traveling conditions were rudimentary, but, since my siblings and I didn't know any better, they were accepted as fact and we made the most of it. This included unwritten rules for sleeping space: smallest kid in the back window, next in line on the floorboard, attempting to adjust to the axle bump with the oldest and largest granted the entirety of the back seat. This worked well for me because, being the oldest and biggest, it gave me room to stretch out while passed out from half a Dramamine which I had to take in order to be able to read in a moving car.

My mom always packed food for us in a Styrofoam cooler, which meant that all of our lunches were eaten at a rest stop. It also meant that one of us kids was always having to adjust the lid when it skewed enough to start squeaking and driving everyone crazy. We passed the time by playing “I spy,” the billboard alphabet game and the always exciting search to find all 50 states represented by license plates. And when the whining and poking in the back seat reached a crescendo, my dad always insisted on at least three rounds of the quiet game. When we were all still very young, we carried a small, blue porcelain pot to pee in. This served two purposes: it kept us from having to stop every 30 minutes and it also shamed you enough that we learned self control in order to not have to use it. Sandwiched between all of this fun was hours of staring out the window.

I contrast that with all of the tricked out SUV's and minivans today and I can only wonder what it would have been like to watch a movie or play a video game while traveling to grandmothers. And it reminds me of the time Hope and I rigged a VCR and a mini television in our van in an attempt to entertain our kids on a long drive to Washington, D.C. To keep the two separate devices from sliding around we used an elaborate weave of bungee chords and duct tape and hoped the kids wouldn't notice that Barney was not very purple when viewed on a black and white television. And that wasn't the only method we tried to make traveling a little more palatable. Our favorite, and most successful, plan was leaving in the middle of the night. This allowed us to get a few hours of driving in while the kids slept all over the back of the van and it shortened their day because we were always several hours into the trip before they woke up. The games we played were a little more sophisticated, but not much. We went through a Mancala phase and, when they could convince Hope to climb in the back with them, they all enjoyed playing card games as well.

Although we lacked the sophistication of today's traveling families, we did incorporate some changes from my days in the car. With more and cheaper food options, we tended to eat our lunches at fast food restaurants, although we still packed a cooler with snacks. We also took advantage of the taxpayer-funded rest stops and allowed our children to use a proper toilet. But we also busted out the billboard alphabet game and “I Spy.” Some things are sacred.


Us: Eating... Well

Going out to eat as a family can be fun and special but it’s laced with hidden pockets of chaos. Hope and I would sit in restaurants before having children, smugly judging the families dealing with out of control kids, always punctuating our critique with, “That will not be happening on our watch.” And then our watch happened and another world opened up to us. And it was not a place we recognized. Initially, it was easy. The combination of having the world's most content child in William and he being the only child for 22 months made for a mostly drama free experience in public. Right before he turned two we added Laura and, as explained in a previous post, taking everyone out at once became dangerous while she struggled to cope with her new life outside the womb and was hardly worth the effort. It was a time to introduce everyone to take-out and the joys of eating someone else's food in your house.

Eventually, Laura settled down, then Jordan was born and we began braving the world of restaurants more and more. Granted, we were eating at barbecue joints, sandwich shops and pretty much anywhere that kids could eat for free or, at the most, for a dollar, but that also meant that every other family in town was going to be there as well. And that also meant more kids than adults and a chance to witness every possible form of behavior—good, but mostly bad. And like dogs being inspired to join in when one of their neighborhood brethren decides to howl, the kids tended to feed off the energy generated in the dining room and the potential for disaster hung like a fog over every table. I often had trouble enjoying my meal because I was so concerned with my kids losing all sense of composure and joining the Lords of the Flies gathering by the round table in the back. So in order to bring some control over my group of food nomads and for me to actually appreciate a meal, I decided to set up something called The Restaurant Rules.

They were simple, not complicated by any stretch of the imagination, for one reason only—I needed them to be understood by small children with the attention spans of a ketchup packet. The rules were 1) no running around, 2) no yelling or loud talking (i.e. use your “inside voice”) and 3) no pitching a fit for any reason whatsoever. Consequences ranged from a withering stare (from mom) to leaving the establishment with a parent and sitting in the car until the rest of the family was finished eating (dad duty). We had a shaky start and we were tested, as is common, but after missing a meal while sitting in the car with dad once or twice, mindsets were altered and things settled down quickly. And it always helped that Laura considered herself an adult since she turned three and was more than happy to assist in policing the boy's behavior by shushing and adding her own version of a withering stare. The first few times we ventured out as a five-some, I would stop the car in the parking lot, turn to the back seat and go over the rules, slowly reiterating the ramifications if rules were broken, and end with, “Is everyone clear?” Once they all three verbally agreed, we would enter the restaurant. That exercise evolved into saying, “Remember, Restaurant Rules” as we were walking in and it finally became a simple, Remember... and they would mutter, Restaurant rules, yeah, yeah. Of course, by then they were teenagers so their lack of enthusiasm was almost understandable.

What never seemed to get adjusted was the cone of destruction that we would inevitably leave behind. From our view, the table surface always seemed fairly tidy. Most of the kids food was on their plate or in their hair, but at least it was contained. And then we would stand up, wipe everyone down, load up the bags and supplies and begin the process of paying and leaving. And I would make the mistake of looking back and discovering the floor around our table looked like a battleground. Cracker and bread shrapnel mixed with discarded vegetable ammo and utensils scattered in a messy circle, letting the world know we had been there. It was humiliating and it only got worse. As we began eating out with friends who had kids, the crumb explosion expanded and got deeper. But short of getting down on our hands and knees and cleaning it up ourselves, we were usually reduced to an embarrassed, Sorry for the mess comment to the woefully underpaid bus boy. Yes, our offspring were pigs but at least they behaved. And there really is some consolation in that.


Alone Again, Unnaturally

“Jesus used many similar stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand. In fact, in his public ministry He never taught without using parables; but afterward, when He was alone with His disciples, He explained everything to them.” Mark 4: 33, 34 (NLT)

I wonder if there is a parallel in these words with our present day lives and our ability to understand, well, anything? Sometimes I think my life is one giant parable, occasionally making sense on one level but giving off the vibe that there is something deeper going on. It is a lot easier to just ignore the possibility of another layer, but should I? What would it take for me to glimpse, much less understand, what is going on below the surface? 

In a biography by Eric Metaxas, I read that Dietrich Bonhoeffer used to have his seminary students spend one hour every morning quietly contemplating a small section of scripture. Alone. (There was initial resistance to his methodology—and this was before cable and the internet!) We live in such a loud, busy, fast world that we barely have time to spend with friends face-to-face so we relegate our relationships to the digital realm via texts, retweets, comments and “likes” on Facebook. As crazy as it sounds to our 21st century ears, maybe getting alone with Jesus gives Him space and time to explain things to us. We just need the discipline to carve it out and do it. 

How? I can’t answer that for you. Only you know what will work for you, what will need to be given up (yes, there will need to be sacrifices), what will need to be done. But it is worth consideration even if it isn’t easy.

Here is an added bonus for contemplation from Charles Spurgeon, commenting on Genesis 24; 63, “Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening.”: “We would all know more, live closer to God, and grow in grace if we were alone more often. Meditation chews the cud and extracts the real nutriments from the mental food gathered elsewhere. When Jesus is the theme, meditation is sweet indeed.”


Us: Evolution of Leadership

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I am not sure if anyone is a natural parent. Even if you are prone to nurturing and selflessness, there are too many variables that kick in once you bring a newborn home from the hospital. You can have all the help and advice in the world but there will always come that time you find yourself facing something you never thought possible, an event no one even hinted at, and you realize you are truly alone. The next step is all yours. Like when William was two and Hope called me into the bedroom to show me how the Bubble Yum that he had somehow found was now attempting an exit from his little body and was pulling like taffy from his backside. That was never mentioned in a book; we were left to our own devices to work things out.

In our family, I have to give the nod to Hope as being the parent who “got” it the fastest. I have no doubt it was born out of necessity as well as a gift from estrogen, but, regardless where it came from, she slid comfortably into the Parenting Classroom Called Life, ready to learn while I was still on the playground, sneaking cigarettes behind the slide.

I look back on my evolution as a dad and see there were levels. Newborns are awesome, fairly easy to maintain, and I figured I was pulling my weight by changing a diaper or two and letting the babies fall asleep on my chest every night. Lying on the floor, watching them try to lift their heads was fun and I was the king of funny noises and rolling around with them. All of that fit into the category of maintenance. Plus, I had to get back to work.

For the majority of our children’s early, formative years, Hope was home with them. It was a desire of ours and God, along with tight budgeting, made it happen. This meant Hope did most of the heavy lifting in child rearing while I was away at work. To compound matters, while Hope was pregnant with William and I was working at the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded and the local economy tanked. I eventually found a new job in Orlando, which was a blessing but it was also 55 miles of driving each way. My time away from home got extended. Suffice it to say I was having trouble even maintaining levels of maintenance as a parent, much less growing and learning how to get better. We made it work but it was dysfunctional.

When William was four and Laura was two, I accepted a new job in Tallahassee and we moved, leaving behind a lot of family and friends but returning to a city we loved that also had family and friends. I also inherited a 10-minute commute and a lot more time at home. I did not make a quality adjustment to my new life. I never saw my shorter drive as anything other than an opportunity to sleep later, even when Hope consistently got up to deal with the early rising children. I did marginally better evenings and weekends but I had little issue with Hope carrying the load, handling the hard stuff which was anything except playing and yelling, two of my gifts. Consciously or not, my thinking was what had worked before, could work in perpetuity.

I was wrong and it was time to step to the next level.

Hope finally decided to have a talk with me and let me know that the current situation was not working. It was in the family’s best interest that I make some changes. Not being one to miss a chance to get defensive and whine, I asked for specifics. She said I could start by getting up earlier in the morning and eating breakfast with the family. I was reasonably sure I could do that, so I vowed to adjust. After a couple of weeks of me sitting at the breakfast table reading the paper, Hope decided we needed to talk again. I can see the entire scene in my mind even as I type this today. Where I was sitting, where William and Laura were and, more importantly, what Hope said to me from the kitchen. And I can remember because it not only took me to another level as a parent, it changed my life.  She was exasperated and she said, “Look, if you’re just going to sit there and read the paper and not even look at us, just stay in bed.”  It was one of those rare occasions where something said in frustration actually got through; it left a mark but was necessary. I realized it takes more than just showing up to be a father. I had a lot to learn and the first step was actually paying attention to what was happening around me, taking my eyes off me and scanning the room. Those little eyes staring back needed me, not the back of the sports page.

That day began my journey to being a lot more attentive and purposeful when interacting with the family. I began the slow move from being strictly the breadwinner and funny guy who yells to William, Laura and, eventually, Jordan’s dad.  And, in the process, a much better husband to Hope.


Us: Security

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All three of our children coped with infancy in different ways. William took to a pacifier easily so we let him. Jordan exited the womb sucking his thumb, literally, and had no interest in a pacifier. Laura screamed. For the first eight months of her life she was eating, sleeping or screaming. And it was numbing. Looking back, eight months out of 24 years is a small ratio, but when you are living it and it is all you know, eight months out of eight months is exhausting. At one point I spoke out loud what Hope and I were both thinking: Is there a warranty on this one?

What compounded the issues with Laura was how easy William had been up to that point. Even at two years old he was thoughtful, obedient and sweet and Hope and I thought this whole parenting gig was going to be pretty easy. Four months in with The Screamer, we had alienated most of our friends, a few family members and were on the watch list for every grocery store in our county. Even a Winn-Dixie manager gave us the stink eye one time and everyone knows how hard it is to get the attention of a manager at Winn-Dixie. When we tried to go out to eat as a family, we always had to split the meal up in shifts, me walking her around outside while Hope ate and trading off when she had finished. We tried to ignore all of the stares and head shakes of disgust as we traversed the public square but it wasn't easy. What they could not possibly know was they were only getting this symphony for an hour; we were living it every hour of every day. One evening, Hope and I agreed that we would gladly trade what little parenting credit we received for William if people would stop blaming us for Laura. No one took us up on the offer.

One of the downsides of pacifiers, thumbs and any other form of security is eventually the kid needs to move on. William was extremely attached to his pacifier and was determined to fight us to the best of his ability as we began the process of weaning him. We tried a lot of things, but the idea that eventually worked was when Hope started slowly snipping of the rubber end of the pacifier, making it shorter and harder to hold on to with his teeth. Every couple of days she would trim a little more until he decided it wasn't worth it to work so hard and quit wanting one. Since Jordan sucked his thumb, slowly trimming his actual digit was not a viable solution but, with enough coaxing, warning and, eventually, ridicule, he also gave up his security device, only lapsing when he was very tired and almost asleep.

Laura turned her corner one Saturday morning and, like quitting cold turkey, she stopped and never looked back. That morning I woke up and stared at the ceiling. Something was wrong. It took me a few minutes to realize I had actually woken up on my own. I wasn't forced out of bed by losing rock-paper-scissors to Hope again then stumbling across the house to pick up Laura before she woke William, causing the dominoes of a painful morning to start falling. I climbed out of bed, walked as quietly as possible toward her room and peaked through the slightly opened door. And there was my daughter, lying on her back, grabbing at her toes and singing to herself. I should have enjoyed the moment and watched her a little longer, soaking in those first moments of witnessing the real Laura emerge. But I chose to go wake my wife and share the great news that, yes, might could have waited until she got the satisfaction of waking up on her own (and Hope’s response taught me a lesson that day). But nothing could dampen the fact that what had gone down screaming had woken to song. And Laura was done. It was like the mechanism in her soul that was fighting the transition from womb to Florida just gave out. And from that day forward she was the happiest baby we raised. But I still wish she had chosen the pacifier.




Today, my youngest child turns 21. For Jordan, “then” and “now” pictures represent a significant pilgrimage, even in his relatively short life. From athlete through multiple surgeries to musician, all of the cul de sac’s and relentless side roads were frustrating and confusing and, more than once, self-induced. But with fresh eyes we glimpse how God was directing his journey (regardless how hard he tried to fight against His blueprints). We have all learned that hard isn’t always wrong, and sometimes it is the only method that works. And, yes, it worked.

Happy birthday, Jordan Davis Colle. You have brought much joy, life (and prayer) to our lives and we are thrilled God entrusted your early years to our care. It has been fun and I have zero doubts it is going to get even funner. 

Photo courtesy of Crosswild


Us: Bed Time

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One of the earliest decisions we had to make in our parenting life was what to do with the newborn at night. The first few nights home from the hospital, Hope would get William out of his bed in our room, feed him and then, if I was lucky, she would return him to his bed when done. A couple of times she did not make it to step three and William would spend the short time between feeding lodged between us. We were sleeping in a full size bed at the time, so having a small, new life wedged between us freaked me out. I could not sleep for fear of rolling over on top of him so I would lie there, perched perilously on the extreme edge of my side of the bed and watch him and his mom sleep. (Hope received special New Mom Dispensation for her need to sleep at this time for obvious reasons. What I didn’t know was, once offered, she would claim this dispensation forever.) No, it wasn’t an enjoyable bonding moment but it didn’t curdle into resentment and anger either. It was strictly survival and I could see my future if we didn’t discuss the situation. So we talked and decided we would make a conscious effort to avoid sharing the bed in the future.

Once William got moved to his own room and began his night tethered to his parents via room monitor, the issue went away. He was sleeping through the night and 90% of the time when he woke up crying could be handled by one of us rooting around to find the pacifier he had lost contact with. (We eventually began leaving six pacifiers in his crib, strategically placed in each corner and along each side so that we could go in, quickly find a replacement for him and get back to our own bed without actually opening our eyes and, sometimes, without waking up at all.) The decision phase came right after William moved into his “big boy” bed and achieved total mobility. Every night he attempted to leave his room and spend some bonus quality time with his parents and every night I took advantage of my obnoxiously deep voice and told him to leave us alone and get back in bed. Being the first born, he obeyed.

But it was after we had gone to bed followed by the sound of his little feet padding across the living room, warning us of an incoming violation of air space, that we had to actually put a rule in place. My suggestion was to just keep yelling, something I was good at and tended to use as my default response to everything. Hope, on the other hand, came up with an actual solution (a common thread in our parenting, tag team, relationship). She decided that constantly turning away the child was a touch cruel but opening the gates of our bed for an every night visitor (and you know that would happen) was no less cruel. So she created a palette on the floor, a couple of blankets and a pillow, and designated that spot for William (and all the other kids moving forward) when they decided to visit us during the night. No need to check in and let us know you are there. No fees or taxes would be applied. Just come in, lie down and go back to sleep. And it worked. They accepted the rule and were content to be in the room with us and we were content to not know they were there, sleep undisturbed. Occasionally, I would disrupt the peace by stepping on one of them getting up in the morning but that only happened a few times, early in the process, before I trained myself to check.

Some evenings one of them would come in before I was asleep, usually Laura (she inherited my lack of need for sleep whereas the boys fell happily into the genetic arms of their mother’s need for “at least eight hours, if not more”), and I enjoyed spying on them as I faked being unconscious. It was fun to watch them march in and command their space, happy to have entered the sacred sleeping grounds of the adults. And Laura always brought a purse with her. I guess she wanted to be prepared in case we decided to start charging after all.


Us: The Power of Three

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When Jordan was born in 1991, Hope and I looked up and found ourselves with three little people in our house all under the age of five. Now, why we did not do the math before deciding to have a third child at that particular time, I couldn't tell you. All I know is the house was suddenly smaller and a good deal louder. We had always talked about having three kids; that number, for some reason, had just felt right. Of course, talking wistfully as newlyweds is a lot different than having a serious discussion about adding a third child to the mix when you have actual evidence to apply to your argument. And  one evening one of those pieces of evidence, our daughter, while taking a bath with her brother and giving Hope and I a few minutes of rest, pooped in the tub, causing her brother to straddle the water, his feet balanced on each side of the tub, screaming, not in pain, but in disgust. It was the perfect time to say, “Yeah, let's add some more excitement to this house.”

And we did. Now, I am getting ready to share something with you that may make you hate both Hope and I, but it is germane to the topic at hand. Whenever we decided to have a baby, we got pregnant within a month. And we did this three times. Hope's dad had warned me that this was possible before I married his oldest daughter. He told me, “Jay, be careful. These Davis women are fertile. Hope's mom got pregnant every time I hung my pants on the bed post.” At first I figured he was giving me veiled warnings against premarital sex (which worked), but it was later that his words became prophetic. And it was those words, combined with experience, that caused Hope and I to both get fixed after Jordan was born. We weren't taking any chances.

Part of the reason we wanted to have three children was that I come from a long line of threes. My dad was the oldest of three (boy, girl, boy) and I was the oldest in my nuclear crew of three (boy, girl, boy). The odds of Hope and I doing the same thing with the same birth order was, well, I have no idea, but it had to be a safe bet that something in there would be different. But we ended up pulling the hat trick of hat tricks and finished off our family with the third boy, girl, boy sequence in a row. (Note: Hope came from a family of four kids so she had to imagine that everything I was saying about the Power of Three and any other nonsense in this arena was of value and worth listening to. I always took her head nodding and glassy stare as silent agreement, never once considering she was thinking of her happy place and tuning me out.)

We have often talked about that decision. There were times during Jordan's middle and high school days when we talked about it a little more than we probably should have. But, we also talk about what our world would be like without Jordan. The powerful mix of William, Laura and Jordan was exactly what Hope and I needed and, I believe, what God intended. Three distinct personalities requiring three distinct parenting styles and three distinct levels of prayer. Plus, without Jordan, Laura would have never suffered payback for her early bathtub antics because Jordan took care of that when he pooped in the tub while taking a bath with her.


What It Is

My wife and I have been blessed beyond all levels of common sense and fairness with three incredible children. They are all adults now (well, the youngest will be 21 in less than a week but I refuse to get into a bout of legalism on my own blog) so the planting, watering and pruning is over and Hope and I are now able to enjoy the fruits of our labor. (Yes, I am equating them to produce but they won't mind, mainly because I have called them a lot worse over the years.) But, if I am honest (and, really, why wouldn't I be?), Hope and I know better than anyone that, without the grace of God, we did way more to screw the kids up than to make them turn out as functional, sane and pleasant as they are.

And that is why we always get a horrified look on our face whenever someone suggests we write a parenting book. Okay, sometimes I just laugh nervously but I am making a horrified face on the inside. I promise. Just to entertain the thought that I have anything concrete to offer someone out there who is genuinely seeking advice on how to raise their spawn makes me feel nauseous. If pushed, I could tell you, “Pray often” but that would be a really short book as well as lacking a shred of originality. (Although a short book might actually get read, and I would only need one bullet point.) So, no, there will not be any how-to books forthcoming from us. But I am willing to work out a compromise. Since trying to tell you what to do with your own children makes me uncomfortable, I am willing to share with you some insight on how to raise William, Laura and Jordan. I know, it has already happened and, odds are, your offspring are nothing like my three are or were—there are no two alike. Like snowflakes. (Heck, sometimes the same kid has more than one person living inside them.) I didn't say this would be a fair compromise, I just offered it as a solution. (You notice how I am acting like you, the person reading this, are one of the people that has asked us to write a parenting book? Pretty clever, huh? I refuse to consider that you didn't even know I was married...)

So, starting tomorrow, I will pepper this blog with stories from the Colle family that may or may not shed some light on what to do with your children. But, I am confident you will walk away thinking less of Hope and I and look at my kids as the miracles they are, crafted and carved by God's grace and saved from the all-to-human ideas and suggestions of their thoroughly confused and clueless parents. Come back and join the fun...


The Prodigal Post

In case anyone noticed, I took the month of July off, deliberately staying away from all kinds of digital input, affording myself a chance to clean out the gutters and reevaluate what needs to stay and, more importantly, what needs to go in my little cocoon. (Yes, my cocoon has gutters, but they weren't cheap.) I won't bore you with the details, not because it wasn't a successful exercise—it was—but because to spout off about this type of activity can start sounding self-absorbed and entirely too navel gazing for my taste (and, I assume, yours). Let's just leave it at this: I learned some things and I changed some things. It was worth it.

In trying to determine what should stay or go, I never really considered dropping this blog. I have been posting here since 2005 so it garnered style points for longevity and that was enough to keep it around. What I had to reevaluate was the content. Forever it has been a smörgåsbord (yes, my cocoon is decorated by Ikea) of any and everything, not really having an identity aside from its attachment to my brain, as fragile and tenuous as that can be. I have tried out new story ideas, posted drawings, family photos, teased you with obnoxious vacation photos and dropped the occasional thoughtful screed when it felt right to do so. That tradition may still go on but I have decided to give myself something to write about. A theme to write to and build upon. Something to keep me interested with the distinct possibility of it having the exact opposite effect on you. But I am willing to take that risk, whether you ride along or not. And the subject will be unveiled tomorrow so return to this spot if you are interested. I may actually talk about my cocoon some more.