Sanity

Sanity, Dear Lord does it seem out of reach many times as a father. Managing kids, work, relationships, schedules, finances, personal responsibilities, goals, trying to sleep and have a litttle fun on top, it’s easy to fall behind. There are literally months upon months that I can think of when my eyes open in the morning, I am already down on myself because of progress, or what feels like everything has come to a standstill. 

Personal care has become huge for me, and I am not talking about massages and pedicures. If you know me you know that these are not my speed. I am talking about listening to the things I need from day to day. The things that make me feel on point. 

One day I was on a flight and it all started to click. I was listening to the stewardesses talk through how to use the oxygen masks. You know the part where they tell you to put on yours first and then help those around you. If you read between the lines, they are telling you that it matters that you have oxygen, it matters that you are capable, it matters that you are able to help others. And this paralleled my life directly, and provided a much needed window into a dilemma I was caught up in. 

It became apparent to me what was missing from my days. I didn’t give myself time, just for me. When we had 1 daughter this conversation was a bit easier to make a case for. We were able to manage time easier, even though we didn’t know it in the moment. Now with 2, and I would assume this gets increasingly challenging with more, you have to start making some larger edits in your calendar for this to happen. As you keep adding humans, I believe it to be that much more important for dad and mom to have their heads on straight. 

When I began to give myself some time, I immediately noticed that I felt better about my progress. Progress might not be the best word. I felt much better about where I was. I felt much better about where we were as a family. I was more mild mannered with the girls. I was more interested in..... well everything. You could say the blade just feels sharper when you give yourself time. What a discovery! It may sound simpleton of me to say this, but its easy to get lost with children. Its easy to not know which way is up. I mean I forgot to pee one time. Can’t tell you how that happens, the urge to pee doesn’t just go away. 

Over some months or maybe a year and some trial and error of how to make this schedule work, I came to a pretty workable routine. There have been 3 things for me that do nothing but improve my sense of well-being, and are worth “Gold." The first of these things is Silence. I need time in silence. I have done breathing exercises, meditation, cycling, just sitting in the dark, and combinations. Any and all of these just allow my body and mind to feel one. I get up at 3 am most mornings and this is first on my list. It is dark and quiet most mornings, and you can catch me cashing in on some serious “Gold” time. The days when I do this, I feel like a man on a mission, I feel like a man in control. The days I miss, I feel extremely reactive and behind the ball.  

The second one for me is Sip. It’s important to me and my soul to have hot coffee in the morning. It’s more than just a drink. It breathes life into this tired body. It is a source of joy for me every morning that I cannot explain. Just me and my coffee. We have moments 7 Days a week. Most days I try to have 2 before I see or hear anyone else. These times are also “Gold” for me. Just a little dose of ME time, does wonders for my sanity.  

The third one on the list is Sweat. I must sweat in the morning. I used to sweat in the middle of the day and his is overrated. The victory that you claim sweating in the early morning misty darkness is a majestic. I have changed the method to the madness over the years. Lately I have been riding my bike to and from work about 30 min each way, and this my friends is “Gold” for me. Everyone laughs at my Gold helmet that I wear on my bike. But that Gold helmet is much more than the coolest helmet on the road. It’s my Gold! It’s me out there fighting the good fight. That is my time, at at this juncture of my life, I am literally trading sleep for quality me time. Every time it is time well spent, even when its raining. Sweat for me is more than just the commute. I head straight to the gym to lift, and this makes me feel alive. Nothing is harder in the day than putting a cold barbell on your back at 4 in the morning. Perspective arrives in droves. Make yourself struggle early in the day, and you my friend have just won the day. 

There are plenty of things that have helped me along the way with the girls. But I am here to tell you that caring for yourself, even if that means 5 minutes of breathing, or grabbing a cup of coffee will do wonders for your sanity. Don’t underestimate the power of a calm mind, and a body that feels alive. Don’t underestimate the result of encouraging Mama to take the same time. Go out of your way to help her do what she needs. Relationships are about support. Support Mama. There are things that she needs as well. Hopefully you 2 are a unit as far as raising your children go. But each person is very much still an individual, its crazy to think different. Support each other, Make sure each individual gets their time, and this journey may just be much more enjoyable. 

 

Danny Lesslie

Being "Tough" Enough to Be Vulnerable

Male vulnerability seems to be a pretty hot topic lately, especially when kids come into the picture. You see growing up as a man, there is a definite pressure to be tough. Men are supposed to be tough and women are supposed to be loving and nurturing. This is just how it seems to be growing up in the US. I personally believe there are two sides to this coin. Life has its times to be tough, and it has its times to be loving and nurturing, what is, I believe unfair here is the gender bias. Women have times where they need to be tough, and men have their times to be loving and vulnerable. 

As a grown man, there are plenty of situations that I have encountered that require this “tough” we talk about. There are also a plethora of opportunities for vulnerability. I as many other men were raised to take advantage of the “tough” ones and maybe not always the “vulnerable” ones. Somewhere in my mid twenties I began to value the vulnerable side a bit more. For me this changed the game. Getting married and having children definitely opens up this gateway further. And to be honest I am thrilled. Being plugged in emotionally is a big bonus in your relationships. Well I feel that it is. But its not an easy spot to be. Part of the deal is the exposure, being hurt is an option, and its available. But really what other choice is there, to not make yourself available. To just exist on your own little tough island. Sounds pretty terrible to me. 

Rue crushed me the other night. She is 2 and a half, and is in one of these phases now where she wants her mom when she is tired. She wants her to hold her, she wants her to put her to sleep, and she wants her to help her. Dad is a very distant second place. I am beginning to think she would pick just about anyone before she would pick me. On the contrary, this couldn’t be further from the truth when she is not tired. She loves her papa. 

Our bedtime routine starts out with Mama nursing Ace, and Papa giving Rue a bath and brushing her teeth. When we get to the bedroom we switch, and I put Ace (11 months) to sleep, and Mama puts Rue to sleep. Two nights ago, in pretty regular fashion lately, Ace could not fall asleep and she wanted Mama. She has been teething for 4 or 5 months now so its been fairly challenging keeping her asleep. So Rue is stuck with yours truly. And she was effin pissed. Screaming pissed. She had been whining and screaming for about 3 hours at this point. We were all pretty damn over each other. Everyone was tired, and had short fuses. Rue is screaming things like “No Papa” as I lay next to her in her bed quietly. Eventually the flurry of screaming subsided for a bit with a well placed binky, when she pulled her binky out and uttered words I would be thrilled if I never heard again. She said “I don’t love you papa.” 

The thud of these words was so deep in my heart, I almost lost my breath. Now, I realize this is not true, and she was out of her mind when she said this. If you didn’t know overtired children do all kinds of crazy things. But let me tell you about the burn of this. I still get pukey when I think about it. Vulnerable is an understatement in this case. I felt like I wanted to run out of the room, right through the wall. Sleep deprived, still a bit congested from being sick the past week, frustrated as hell with our children, hungry for dinner, and she drops this fucking bomb on me. Wow, hit a guy while he is down. I was crushed. And then she put her binky back in her mouth and fell asleep and just left me there in dark silence to deal with those vicious words. 

I didn’t say anything about this until the next day. I just sat on how it made me feel. I felt so exposed, so vulnerable, so hurt, and at the same time still hopelessly in love with my girl. Its quite a dilemma. I have always known my vulnerability was there, and sometimes I have spent years trying to get away from it. Children are plugged right in. They have access at all times.

Being a father is such a gift. Such a gift that is wrought with challenges and growth. As men we need to embrace our vulnerability, we need to embrace our feelings, and know ourselves. We need to be loving and we need to be tough. Our children depend on our leadership into these dark corners of our being. They have a lengthy journey ahead of them, and direction we must provide. Implicit in our role as fathers is work on ourselves. We must reach into those dark corners and understand our part in our journey. And moreover we must understand our role in their journey, and how our experiences shape our actions. And how our actions shape their learning. 

Children have to learn, well everything. They will learn what joy is, they will also learn sadness, they will learn anger, regret, and disappointment. They will learn these things from someone. They will learn how to communicate about what they are feeling as well. They will learn how to express themselves in all of these states. How do you deal with these things? Could you talk yourself through these feelings? Its really weird talking to a small child about navigating what they are feeling, and helping them to make sense of it. Especially when you are the brunt of the other side. This is a beauty of parenting for sure. Its also a really big damn challenge. A lot of adulting happening over here. 

As fathers we need to show our vulnerability. Our children need providers and protectors, but they also dearly need to be loved and they need to be nurtured. Step up to the plate in the vulnerability department and I think you will be very happy with the result. Being plugged in with your family truly is a very freeing experience. The switch over from the rigors of the outside world to the innocence of the world of a child is sometimes a pretty challenging transition. Dealing with traffic and road rage on the way home after a long day, and then walking into your front door to smiling faces is a pretty drastic environment change. Sometimes I imagine walking through a car wash right as I open the door to the house. It helps me visualize the transition. 

Be available emotionally for your kids. Be available emotionally for your wife. Be vulnerable in your life. I am not too worried about your ability to be tough, we men have a knack for being pretty solid in this department. We need men that are emotionally connected. We need men that are tough enough to be vulnerable. 

No Papa Do Work

Changes are the enemy when you have little kids. They are sultans of routine. If they know the rules, and they know who is there, and they have the things they need, usually keeping the day pretty even keel is fairly attainable. It’s when changes start coming that stuff gets weird. The shitty part for us adults is that we know change is a constant in this life. This whole existence is about change. There is no day that is the same as the one before. 

We have recently been through a lot of changes in our household. There has been nothing earthshaking, well at least to the adults. My wife has gone back to work, which is hugely fulfilling for her, and I honestly could not be happier for her. But this means the girls don’t spend as much time with mama. I take it as a bonus, because I get to spend more time with them, but they still see it as change. We now use a nanny each day, which puts another person in the mix. This is quite the luxury for us, and to be honest really good for the girls, but it is still a definite adjustment.  

When you have small kids 3 and under logic is not a part of interaction. It is starting to be sometimes, but when sleep is running low, hunger is banging down the door, or something is out of place, logic was gone hours ago. With 2 of them, this basically makes up 92% of the day. You can see where this goes, and it goes there faster than you can blink most times. Diversion tactics begin to become implicit to existence. How do I take this little forsaken mind to another place quickly? How do I divert from this intense tantrum to blue skies and marshmallows. Not literally marshmallows, unless they work, wink wink. 

They just get locked into the frustration part, and they have no outlet for this. So logically they scream, cry, throw things, bite things, and many more glorious behaviors. To stay out of the emotion of these situations when you are sleep deprived, late for your day, and frustrated is unquestionably what embodies sainthood. Getting caught up in the emotional tornado that is whirling out of control is so easy its terrifying. I can assure you nothing good comes of this. There is a definite teaching moment here if this happens, and it is no doubt, a look in the mirror moment. Look at yourself, and get your Sh*t together. Your job is to lead them, to show them how to work through things. Some days it feels impossible, and I hate to say this is more often than not in the beginning when everyone is learning. Its a relief to know, that children get over things very quickly. Now see if you can. Don’t hold grudges against your 2 year old. 

During this employment rotation, we went on a fantastic week long vacation to my parents farm. The girls could not have been more at home, and more free. Then we flew back to LA. A man had a seizure 2 rows up from us on the plane. He survived thanks to a medic on the plane, thank the Good Lord. Then we landed at LAX to 4 billion people, with 2 sleepy kids. Huge change. This sent them over the edge for about a week. Our job at this point was to reestablish routine, and go about our days as if everything was cool. THIS EFFIN SUCKS is all I could think for about a week after. People may tell you having kids is the greatest, and it definitely is. But don’t you forget. The sun is only so bright, because the night is so dark. These emotions they express are the exploding contrary of the polar opposite. 

It was about 4 days or so into this week after the trip, that we were all just cooked. We hadn’t really slept normally in days. We were all short tempered. Routine was a joke. Eating was a joke. Sleep was a joke. Attitudes were in the damn drain. We were pretty much striking out on all cylinders. This is when she said it. My oldest said “No Papa do work.” (Translation: Papa don’t go to work.) I almost died. She basically just stomped on my soul. We had just spent a week with them and to see their faces, and the joy in their every moment was breathtaking. Now we were back to our lives. We work, and thats just how it is. Kids don’t know vacation, they don’t know the work week, they don’t know about time, they don’t know about money, they don’t know about space, they don’t know about meetings. All they know is us. And thats all they want all the time. 

So I find myself lost. I find myself searching. I find myself unsettled with this whole experience. I don’t have a lesson from all of this for you. I am not sure if I can even come to a conclusion about this experience, but I can tell you I think about it, and it is like a needle is pricking my soul. It is gushy in there, my girls go right there all the time. They know how to find the part of me that is pure and vulnerable. All I can tell you is that I want more of that. I am not sure how much of this is available in our lives, but I can tell you I am gonna pursue it with vicious hunger. I am going to chase this connection down for as long as I can. I figure what a better way than to spend your time seeking this connection with your wife and  kids. After all, the only thing that is truly priceless is time. Yours and mine is expiring by the day. Seek connection, find the greatest wealth any of us will ever know. 

Family is where its at.

Dad Movement Monday : Sit to Squat (Baby Assist)

Dad Movement Monday : Sit to Squat (Baby Assist)

Hip Mobility, Hip Mobility, Hip Mobility. The longer I am in the fitness world, the more I appreciate hip mobility. If there was one thing I would say that is lacking the most in men and dads for that matter it is hip mobility. Spending time on the floor with your children is such a joy. I find myself on the floor with them all of the time instead of the couch/bed/alternatives. Letting your lack of flexibility literally inhibit your experience with your children is pretty serious business, as far as quality of life goes.

 

 

Take it in the Teeth

Take it in the Teeth

Recently, I have been spending a lot more time with my girls, as Mama has gone back to work. Managing the erratic movements of two small children can become quite cumbersome at some points. Our oldest is 2 going on 27, so walking and talking are pretty commonplace. Its a trip what she is actually capable of. She constantly is doing things that we miss as parents, an great example is her closing the gates behind us when we forget. She actually is quite the team player until she gets hungry or tired, which is pretty much like her papa.

Dad Movement Monday: Sledge Hammer Strike

Dad Movement Monday: Sledge Hammer Strike

I am gonna use my man Eka as an example on this one. What you see in the video below is a beautifully executed sledge hammer strike. I am not going to go as far as to say that using a sledgehammer is only a male thing, because it is not. But it is a skill that I believe every man should have in his tool belt. It ranks right up there with changing a tire, baiting a hook, and building a fire. There are just certain things as humans we should know, survival type things.

Growth and Progress

Growth and Progress

Linear movement is not life. Life is about growth. Growth happens in all directions. Blinders are all too familiar to those that are in pursuit of something, but don’t let those blinders hinder your growth as a person. I have been exponentially guilty of holding myself to a course to my fault. I have been guilty of evaluating my success on single metrics, while ignoring wild success in plenty of other areas in my life. Let me be the first to admit my gross underestimation of the things that actually matter. 

The Shaking Reality

The Shaking Reality

Step outside of your day to day. Step out of changing diapers, and rocking children to sleep, and reading books, and cleaning up after a crazy toddler, and your tiredness that is thick as a dense fog. Step outside of this. Think. Take a moment or a couple and think. Do your actions follow your beliefs? Do your actions really exist as more than just reactions. We as parents need to be prepared. By prepared, I am not referring to knowing how this parenthood thing will go, or knowing everything about raising kids. I am referring to knowing your own direction, and your own values. Know who you are and what you are aiming for. Know the path that you want to walk this child of yours on. Have a picture in your mind broader than your current frame of vision. 

Dad Movement Monday : 3 for 3

Dad Movement Monday : 3 for 3

The morning is always the worst. Getting out of bed on little sleep pretty much always insures some cracks and aches. I definitely had this present before our new roommates (children) came on the scene. But now, there are many days I find myself literally crawling out of bed to my phone across the room. I am slowly regressing to the life of a toddler. Crawling is now a daily practice. At some point, I settled myself with the aches, and just decided that it was time to find a solution. Because these aches are staying around. 

Time is of the essence for me in the morning. If there is one thing that can completely derail me from square one, it is being late. I need enough time in the morning. I need to be able to make a cup of coffee and let my body wake up. Any thing that happens is pretty essential to my functioning if I am going to adopt it. I head straight to the gym to work out, so my body needs to be awake. I need blood flow. This is not unique to me. Movement requires blood flow. If you plan on moving your body today, you would definitely benefit from some blood flow. 

The Puker

The Puker

Having 2 kids is a challenging situation. Hell, having 1 kid is a pretty challenging situation. 2 just lets you know further more that you are not in any form of control, even though you may think you are. You see, when you have 1 child and something goes wrong, you have 2 adults capable of finding solutions. Even if 1 of the adults is gone, the other is fully capable of dealing with whatever may arise. Now when you have 2 kids and something goes wrong, you are outgunned and on your heels. Immediately when something happens with one, you have to secure the other, you immediately need more hands. 

Dad Movement Monday : Banded March

Dad Movement Monday : Banded March

This is crazy. I started doing these Dad Movement Mondays a while back hoping to reach some dads out there, and give them some ideas. I received a message awhile back with a request. The request was an exercise that would relate to your kids hanging on your legs. How could we as dads train for this intensely labored walk? How could we make our Dadlife easier? How can we make our bodies better, for the direct benefit of our children’s experience? 

Well here you go my friend. If there was a way to torture yourself the banded walk would be right up there. As you will notice in the video, the bands are anchored to arms that come off the squat rack. Make sure the anchor point is steady because the tension you are about to apply is pretty great. Once you have a band/bands anchored to the floor, grab a belt, and some sort of strap to attach you to the belt and not cut it. I found some Husky storage straps at Home Depot that work fantastic. They come with an attached carabiner that make it really easy. 

Dad Movement Monday : Farmers Carry

Dad Movement Monday : Farmers Carry

Maybe one of the simplest movements to practice, and for sure the most overlooked. You are only as strong as your grip. And fatherhood will most definitely test this. Pick up something heavy, and walk as far as you can. Then repeat. The faster you go the easier this is, to a certain extent of course. I can’t honestly tell you that running with your bodyweight in each hand is helpful to the cause, but for sure slowly creeping along like a jungle cat stalking prey will not rank highly eitherTime under tension is your best friend and your worst enemy. Its amazing the shapes the rest of your body will make whilst your grip begins to fail. Shoulders roll forward, facial expressions become epic, you may walk up on the balls of your feet, seemingly trying to imitate a preying mantis. Grip is so deeply connected to all of our tissues, and this movement will expose this relationship. 

Is that juice?

Is that juice?

So yesterday I took the girls out to a local spot I frequent. I will leave the name out for what will soon be an obvious reason. Shameful hilarity is a good way to describe what went down. When I drop into a place with both girls, it is rare to find a seat. On this day the seat was open. After leaving the cash register with our handful of goodies, we very thankfully sat down on a open couch. Ace was sleeping in her car seat, which is always a gift, and Rue was clutching her prized kitty cat. She was fast on my heals asking to open the snacks we had purchased.

Dad Movement Monday - Wallballs

Dad Movement Monday - Wallballs

These may be the best and the worst all at the same time. Can your legs hold up? How strong is your belly? Can your thoracic spine stay in extension? By the way, how is that intense burning in your shoulders? Can you decelerate with the assistance of a 20 lb medicine ball trying to bury you, and come back up for air? 

You see strength training is one thing, and cardiovascular training is, most of the time, another flavor. What happens when you combine the two? A racing heart rate, and a muscle fatiguing monster. What you have is the wallball.  If you have ever been in search of the quickest method to bambi legs and a light headed pukie sensation, make a run at 100 of these bad boys. If your just learning about wallballs, do yourself a favor and don’t go for 100. Try 20 on for size, see what happens, and use a lighter med ball. 

Resources

Resources

Where do you get your answers? Who do you ask your questions to? Who guides you through this fatherhood thing? Are you just feeling in the dark? Do you just listen to your wife/the mother of your children? I can tell you I have just been feeling my way through the past 2 years, more or less doing as I felt best. My wife always has good tips for me when I am lost, and I have been very blessed to have some fathers around me that have cued me into some things that really steered me in the right direction. I consider myself very fortunate in this regard. 

Dad Movement Monday : Dead Bug Series

Dad Movement Monday : Dead Bug Series

The dead bug. Its vicious and glorious all at the same time. Hold your spine against the floor, then move all of your appendages. Achieve range of motion in your big engines (hips and shoulders) and keep your spine in the same place. You see throughout our days our spine moves with us, all of our movements the spine works with the system, meaning if you have a limitation in your shoulder or hip, your spine will likely be part of the adjustment to achieve a task. This is fantastic as far as locomotion goes, but this hides inadequacies in mechanics. You see our bodies are masters at adaptation even when your not necessarily cued into it. In some cases this leads to eventual breakdown of the system, or as the athlete view it, injury. Our trunk is an amazing piece of machinery, it holds us together and supports us, it also moves with us. We must develop all of these. 

What Dad Really Wants!!

What Dad Really Wants!!

As we approach Father’s Day, I figured I would weigh in on what Dad’s really are concerned with. I am gonna take the long way to get there, but I will bring it home inside of 635 words, I promise. You see the journey into fatherhood does something to a man. Your sense of value changes, and your sense of purpose changes. Having no idea that something like this is headed your way, makes these travels a bit rocky sometimes. For the first time, you start worrying about having more than beer in your fridge. For the first time, you start to value of cleaning. For the first time, I started to be conscious of saving money. For the first time, I started to think about longevity, when all along I was basically worried about the next couple hours, and what the hell I was going to eat next. I realized that my day to day mindset needed to change into a much broader, and much longer frame. And unfortunately these changes don’t just happen. Much like the weights don’t lift themselves, I had to start doing some lifting, lifting of priorities, and vices. What are the things that I value? Is everything I do pointed in that direction. If not, cut bait and go. Some of these decisions were very easy. Some of these decisions feel like standing on the edge of a giant abyss looking into fog. 

Sitting Amongst Giants

Sitting Amongst Giants

This past weekend I attended an event hosted by Richard and his son Bert Sorin. The event is called Summerstrong and this is the 10th year. Sorinex is there brand, and if you are not familiar with the world of weight training, they make the best equipment in the business. Walk into their building and you will immediately sense greatness. I would say the first 1000 square feet or so is Pop’s collection, and basically the history of weight lifting. They have everything from the first bar Papa Sorin got when he was five, to anvils, to circus dumbbells, to the bar and the plates used in the heaviest deadlift ever recorded, and the heaviest squat ever recorded, the bar was made by Sorinex. They have 1 of 2 gold bars made by Eleiko on the planet, and they use this one still. It is like an encyclopedia of weight training. I was lucky enough to get a personal tour from Pops in which he showed me all of these things and had stories for every piece. I was and still am blown away first of all by the enormity of what is there, and secondly the kindness and care of this man. You see there were easily 500 people there this weekend, and he didn’t know me from Adam, but he led me around and told me story after story, and I couldn’t be more grateful. These people are different, and different in the best kind of way. 

Tears, Empty Space, and the Important Things

Tears, Empty Space, and the Important Things

On Tuesday I took my girls to the airport and sent them off to the east coast without me. If you have ever sent your whole family away from you onto a plane you can share this sentiment. I was crushed. I sat in my truck and cried. A grown man, with one beautiful beard, fully in tears. This was not a strange result to me, but this didn’t help the blow. There was an uneasy feeling in my belly all day as I knew they were on a plane, and I could not be there to help if something were to go wrong. A long time ago I decided that if I could make it possible we would always travel together. Today this was not true. Finally in the early afternoon I received a text that informed me they had landed. Huge sigh of relief from this fella. You see I can’t bare the thought something going terribly wrong. I believe everyone has a glue that holds them together. The glue in my life is my girls. They give me purpose, they keep me happy, they warm my soul, they give me joy, and they hold me together. Through all the bullshit that goes down, and all the frustrations, they keep me anchored when I need to be, and they keep me sailing in the right direction, even in treacherous waters. This is a big shift for me, I have always subscribed to the "I am gonna do this because I want to" method. I wouldn’t really let anyone change my mind without a pretty compelling proposition. The funny thing about this change is that I don’t even miss the old me. I don’t have any inkling to ever go back, although I do heartily appreciate the journey to get where I am, and wouldn’t do anything differently. The past makes you who you are, it made me who I am, but it doesn’t dictate today.

Dad Movement Monday : BB Push Press

Dad Movement Monday : BB Push Press

Have you ever had to put anything overhead that was a tad heavier than say the light dumbbells you strict press. Try to toss a increasingly growing child up into the air for fun. Because this actually is a game that kids love, just watch the height, as I can’t condone flinging a small child 20 feet into the air, asking for a amateur cheerleading fail. Either way overhead is a challenge for a lot of people, especially when you add some weight.