Welcome!

Welcome to my blog about parenthood, husbandhood, and really anything in the ‘hood. Many of you know I’ve posted popular stories on the subject for years on Facebook. Over time, I’ll transfer those stories to this blog. Then I’ll organize them and publish them as a book about fatherhood with a clear narrative and purpose in mind — from my experiences with my father, to my own observations as a father to Sidney and Riley, to my adventures as a father figure touring and recording as Doctor Noize. I’ve added a few entires now; check back as I add more over time. But mostly, help me support and shape the next generation into something better than ourselves.

4 Degrees Of Awesome Grit

With apologies for the excitement and rah rah rah, I have a second happy grit and gratitude post about Riley in two days. She just went to her 6 month scoliosis appointment, and the result was unexpected and unusual: She has reduced her scoliosis curve from 29 degrees to 25 degrees through her brace, exercise and sports, nutrition, good luck, whatever. The doctor told us six months ago when she switched to only wearing the brace at night that her scoliosis curve would probably increase a few degrees and that was normal. But instead it was reduced by a few degrees, which is extremely rare. Even better!

She’s still been wearing the back brace at night the last six months, but now she’s all DONE — one week before starting high school, which was her goal. She has contacts instead of glasses, a strong back instead of an overly curved one in a brace, and she’s ready to drive the high school boys crazy. She’s all done growing and in the clear — her spine even better than when it was diagnosed. The doctor told her it would not have happened without her unwavering dedication to the treatment.

One story about this dedication stands out to me. On Wednesday night, two days before today’s doctor appointment where she was fully expecting to get the good news that she could stop wearing the brace, she went to a team bonding sleepover party with her new soccer team. These girls are all serious jocks, and I gave her the opportunity to leave the brace at home and not sleep in it, thinking that her “brace-ending appointment” was today and she probably wouldn’t want her new “jock group” to know she was a scoliosis girl if they didn’t have to know.

“No, Dad,” she said. “I don’t wanna mess anything up before my appointment. Let’s do it right. It’s just two days.” So she brought her brace, she taught her new badass soccer teammates how to put it on her before she went to bed, they helped her get it on, and she wore it Wednesday night.

That mentality probably has something to do with why her scoliosis curve is only 25 degrees.

Okay, sorry for all the Happy Proud Dad posts about my damn snot of a punk Riley. But this was a really big day and a really big deal for us. Have a great weekend.

Heart

I have a lot of admiration for my daughter Sidney, who is five years old.  I have never met a more naturally kind person — she is always looking after her little sister Riley, who can be a handful, and she makes close friendships at a young age with both other children and adults.  Sidney’s wonderful little girlfriends at her preschool — Reagan, Sammy, Kendall, others too — have been a great gang at school for the past year in Ms. Theresa’s class.  Now, they are all heading off to different schools for kindergarten.

I have been amazed at the maturity Sidney and her friends have shown through this dramatic transition.  They are leaving their friends behind and going to completely different worlds, and they really love each other, but they are handling the transition better than most adults would.  They show true friendship and an appreciation of both the friendship and the upcoming change:  For the last few weeks of school, whenever I would arrive with Sidney at preschool, her wonderful little friends would all yell “Sidney!” and they’d all run and hug each other, as a group and then one by one.  Then they’d play.  They would talk openly to me about the different schools they were going to and say they wanted to have playdates.

I thought Sidney would be distraught over this — leaving her friends, her preschool of the last two years, her teacher who she adores — but she has been an absolute champ.  I have asked her several times about her feelings about changing schools, told her I would love to talk to her about anything that might scare her about it, and leading up to school, she’s repeatedly said:  “I’m gonna miss my friends and Miss Theresa, but I’m excited about going to kindergarten.”  And she’s totally sincere.

I am so proud of her confidence — my big girl knows that her new teacher will appreciate the person she is and that she will make friends.  She knows it.  I remember, over three years ago, when we started our first preschool in California, Sidney was very nervous and shy and serious.  Not anymore.  She’s composed and confident.  She truly inspires me to be more poised and confident in challenging situations.  She knows she can handle it, and she’s only five.  I think of her when I’m nervous about anything — which admittedly is not too often — and it makes me smile and relax.

So…  The first few weeks of elementary school have gone great.  Sidney doesn’t have super close friends there yet, but she is game to go every morning (three days a week for kindergarten).  She has had concerns about the bus that have been difficult to pin down — she likes the bus, but somehow she has seemed afraid that she’s going to miss the bus on the way home or that I don’t know where the bus goes when she’s on it.  So we solved that problem together:  I followed the bus in my car, both to school and from school one afternoon, and then we talked about everything about the trip.  Now she seems more relaxed about it — I think because I know all the places she’s gonna be — and I’m glad she told me about her concern.

Nonetheless…  Despite Sidney’s excitement, courage, and brave face, Janette and I have noticed more nervous stress indicators in Sidney over the last few weeks.  She chews on her hair.  She fidgets.  She is thinking about things and occasionally absent-minded.  We ask her if she’s okay, and she confidently says:  “Yes.”  We ask her if she likes school, and she says “yes.”  But tonight, she did a very uncharacteristic thing for her:  She just broke down and cried and cried and cried, for almost twenty minutes, about her decision to get out of the bath a few minutes early.  (Daddy and Riley and Sidney were taking a bath in the big tub, something we do a few times a week — a joy to describe on another day in this blog.)

She regretted the decision and was crying, crying, crying about it.  She was inconsolable.  This is unlike her.  We hugged her and got mad at her and hugged her and told her to let it out and told her to stop and hugged her and got frustrated and tried to make her laugh and hugged her and finally something worked.  (As you can see, we were not altogether consistent or impressive in our response to Sidney’s extended emotional outburst, in part because we haven’t seen much like it before.)

After she calmed down, we put her right to bed.  I told her what I often tell her beaming and proud and loving face as the last thing before I leave her room:  “Sidney, there is no one in this world I admire more than you, because you are smart, you are fun, and most of all, you are kind.  I don’t know how you do all that at such a young age.  Thank you for being my best friend and for inspiring me to try to be those things too.  I am the luckiest daddy in the world.”  And she smiled that impossibly sincere and appreciative smile — the one she gives me every night at bedtime — and said, as always:  “I love you Daddy.  You’re the best daddy in the world.  I want you to always be my Daddy.”

And I left her room, thinking:  Even on Sidney’s worst night, when the weight of a world-changing transition is suddenly hitting her, when she doesn’t understand her own emotions of fear and anxiety, when she thinks she’s sad about the tub but she’s really sad about something so much larger — having to change her school, her circle of friends, her methods of transportation, her five year old comfort zone — even then, this extraordinary girl with a heart of pure love and courage will look up at me after pretty much her longest cry ever and tell me that she just wants me to know that I’m the greatest.

How many people will ever give you that kind of love?  I’m the luckiest man in the world.

Betrayal Of A Pink Princess

It’s Independence Day!  That’s July 4th for those of you who are not American history scholars.  And as a father of two wonders and husband of an additional wonder, I can tell you in no uncertain terms that while independence has its merits, it is certainly not all that it was cracked up to be by our Founding Fathers.  If I was independent of my three babes, my life would be far less meaningful, far less rewarding, far less loving, and far less fun.

On the plus side, I’d get to watch more movies with either Will Ferrell or hot naked women.  But all in all, I’ll take fatherhood, husbandhood, and my lack of independence any day.  (As further clarification, by “any day,” I mean “on most days.”)

Today we are going to our city’s Independence Day parade and celebration, and then Sidney and daddy are going on a dream date to see the Colorado Rapids (the local Major League Soccer team) play in their beautiful brand new stadium.  After the game will be a giant fireworks show.  Sidney and I went to the July 4th game last year too.  Sidney’s on a soccer team now and truly shares her daddy’s love of soccer — both playing and watching it.  That is so awesome.  God I love that girl.  Riley will come to the games in future years too when she’s older.  Returning home at 11 PM is probably still a stretch for Riley.

Our love of soccer segues into a story I would like to share with you.  This is a soccer story.  It is also a “man wearing a pink princesses shirt” story.  And it is a story of betrayal.  So listen up Coach Steve:  I’m calling you out!  But don’t worry, I’ll still be your assistant coach next season.  I’m just that big a guy.

Our story starts on Sidney’s first day of soccer practice.  She has joined a team for the first time (at age five), and I have volunteered to be her assistant coach.  Once upon a time, I was quite the ambitious soccer guy.  I was a successful high school varsity boys soccer coach for three years.  Before that, I was actually on the varsity soccer roster at Stanford for a time, a distinction I enjoyed obtaining more than I actually enjoyed playing on the team, which was very time consuming and prohibited me from the proper time to chase music and girls in college.  So I retired early from college soccer.  At this point, my job as an assistant coach for the Pink Princesses consisted entirely of showing up most of the time to practices and games and doing whatever Coach Steve told me to do.  And I was very fond of that level of job responsibility.

Anyway, on Sidney’s first day of practice, Coach Steve’s wife gave every girl a pink T-Shirt that had a soccer ball and the words “Princesses” on it.  Also, the image of the soccer ball had a pink crown on it.  A nice touch.  Practice jerseys.  Cool.  The girls loved them.  Oh my god did they love them.

Then came the unexpected:  She pulled out two adult size pink princesses soccer shirts.  One for me and one for Coach Steve.  ‘Okay,’ I thought, I’m dedicated enough to my girls and comfortable enough in my incredibly pronounced masculinity to take one for the team and wear a pink princesses shirt that is several sizes too big for me — thus emasculating me in just about every conceivable way — in public.  Coach Steve put his on.  Hey, I thought — if Coach Steve is gonna wear his, I’m gonna wear mine.  No problem.

So each Wednesday night for practice, and each Saturday night for games, I could be found prancing about in public in my pink princesses T-Shirt.  Coach Steve did too.  We always wore our pink princesses shirts.  I got quite used to this.  Unified in our selfless support of our girls.  Our family would often stop at the Whole Foods Market, that Lola Granola haven of grocery stores, on the way home from games on Saturday to get groceries and have lunch, where I would proudly don the pink princesses shirt I was swimming in for all to see.  No problem.  I didn’t even take it off between the game and the grocery store.  I waited until we got home.  Because I’m such a man.

And now for the betrayal:  picture day.  We show up on the morning of the game that team pictures are being taken.  It’s a bitterly cold Colorado winter morning; everyone’s wearing coats, hats, and mittens until the last possible moment before the pictures.  Our team gets up to the photographer.  Time for the team photo.  The jackets come off and we all rush to the team photo spot.  The girls are all wearing their game day uniforms.  I am wearing my gigantamongous pink Princesses shirt the coaches always wear to practices and games.  Last thing, Coach Steve takes off his big jacket and sits down on the other side of the picture from me beside the girls… in a very manly and perfectly fitted red collared shirt with a macho official soccer coaching logo on it.  What? my mind is thinking as the photographer tells us to look forward and smile for the picture in the frigid cold thirty degree temperature.

“Steve, where’s your pink princesses shirt?” I ask him immediately after.

“Oh, I um, forgot it,” he says with a sincere lack of conviction, after approximately ten straight appearances in the pink shirt.  The referee blows the whistle.  We start the game.

I will be bringing Coach Steve a very special scarf, necklace and flamboyant hat to wear for next season’s team picture.  Until then, please enjoy the following team photo:

http://www.corycullinan.com/Images/PrincessesSoccerTeam.jpg

It’s An Amazing World We’re Living In!

I knew Riley had woken up from her nap one day this week because she immediately began joyously singing one of the many great songs by children’s musician Zak Morgan. Zak is one of the world’s nicest and greatest people, and Sidney and Riley watch his DVD for their “Learning TV Time” whenever they get the chance.

You can get his DVD and albums at his website, www.zakmorgan.com. Or at Wal-Mart starting in May. And you know, if it’s at Wal-Mart, it’s gotta be cheap good.

Anyway, Riley, Sidney and I love his DVD. As you will see upon watching it, Zak is very creative and almost as talented as his grandmother. (Watch it, you’ll see.) One of his albums was nominated for a children’s music Grammy in 2006. He probably would’ve won it, too, if he had thought to ask Riley to sing this song on his CD. Not to worry, though. You don’t know who won the children’s music Grammy that year and either do I. In fact, I’m fairly certain that the only person who knows who won the children’s music Grammy on any given year is the person who won it.

So, without further ado, I now invite you to click on this link to see Riley wake up to sing Zak’s great song. She actually knows all the words to the song, but as you’ll see, she’s pretty focused on this one line she really likes from the chorus at the moment. I would imbed the video into this blog directly, except I’m not smart enough to figure out how to do that, and it’s too late in the evening to call Weldon, my Apple genius geek buddy. But I’m fairly certain you won’t regret it if you click here.

Thanks to the creative genius tandem of Zak Morgan and Riley Max Cullinan for this collaboration.

Families Who Sinus Rinse Together Stay Together

That’s right, families who sinus rinse together stay together. This is primarily because sinus rinsing is so intrinsically disgusting that nobody else wants to hang out with you when you do it. I’ve seen the babysitters faces when they see us sinus rinse. They never want to come back. So sinus rinsers stick together so we won’t be alone.

What is a sinus rinse, you say? Ah, you naive non-allergic, non-nasty-Colorado-winter-cold simpleton you — I envy you. A sinus rinse is basically a little plastic bottle of water and some salty tasting mix that you are supposed to shove up your nose and squeeze hard until the water (and all the snotty guck that’s stuck in your sinuses) comes out of the other side of your nose and your mouth. Spit, wipe your face, repeat. That’s it. It’s lovely. The doctor has commanded that we do this after our fifth — FIFTH! — cold of the winter season.

It really is nasty and it really does work. It clears you up good for a while. My girls are troopers. Let’s be honest, sinus rinsing sucks, but they do it — even my three year old. She likes it when we do it together and trade off. She doesn’t enjoy the process much, because she’s sane, but she likes trading turns and the joy of conquering a difficult task. And my five year old is quite possibly the World’s Greatest Sinus Rinser, a title she wears with great pride, which is nice, because probably nobody else would. I love her so much for this. “Daddy, look! It’s coming out the other side of my nose! Look at all the mucus I’m getting!”

Ah, the beautiful words only a father would love you for. And I really do love her for them, too. She is such a good girl. Anyway, anytime your family would like to come over to our bathroom for a sinus rinse playdate, give us a buzz. We won’t stay up waiting for the phone to ring.

A Visit To Doctor Dread

So we all got bronchitis last month! Here’s to bronchitis and all the havoc it wreaks. Sidney, my five-year-old, got it the worst. She had to go on a nebulizer machine four times a day because her air passages were so congested and blocked, and she was wheezing. Sidney is such a trooper that we didn’t really know how sick she was. I took the girls in to their pediatrician for something else — their yearly checkup — and didn’t really even mention the cold. Anyway, the doctor examined her and then scolded me for being such a bad parent that I didn’t bring her in for her cold. She especially thought I was an ass because we had all had the cold for about a month. She was like: “Dude, you’re a moron, colds don’t last for a month, it’s something worse, you gotta bring her in, you total dumbshit.”

Okay, so that’s a paraphrase and not a direct quote, but I could read between the lines, if you know what I mean. She thought I was a dumbshit parent. But we knew so many people in town who had this nasty cold for about a month that we just kinda thought everybody was doing it.

It was only after this that the weirdness happened. Apparently, this doctor decided that I was the kind of parent who would ignore all signs of illness in my children, so she had to whip out the scare tactics. (This was very ironic, because I am actually the pansy parent who usually takes his children in at the slightest trace of a medical problem.) So the pediatrician says, with my 5-year-old and 3-year-old in the room: “I’m not kidding, you have to take them in when they’re like this, they could DIE FROM THIS.”

I glance at my kids, who are taken aback. Great, thanks for sharing, doc. I say to her: “I get it, we need to come in earlier next time, we’ll do that.”

But she continues: “I’m serious, I had a young patient die just a few months ago because the seriousness of her condition wasn’t recognized and we didn’t get her on the nebulizer early enough. This is serious business, dad.”

Okay, I tell her, I got it, we heard the extreme worst case scenario, we’ll come in earlier next time, so now let’s talk about how to treat the normal manifestation of this illness, like we have here. But she obsessively continues:

“I went to the kid’s funeral.” I look at my two children, who are handling this situation much more responsibly than their pediatrician. It has suddenly become obvious that this doctor feels guilty about her patient who died, and is presently focusing more on working through her horror over that tragedy than on the situation at hand with my children. I square the pediatrician in the eye:

“We get it. Move on.”

As soon as the pediatrician leaves the room, Sidney turns to me: “Daddy, I don’t want to die right now.”

“You won’t, honey, we’ll take care of you,” is what I say. ‘FUCK that doctor’ is what I’m thinking. I give Sidney a big hug and tell her for the millionth time what a wonderful and mature girl she is. On the phone, later on, I let the doctor’s office know that I never want that ridiculous scenario to happen again — if they feel the need to scare me into taking my kids to the doctor earlier, or work out their anguish over a patient tragedy, they can talk to me about it when my kids aren’t around. What I didnt’ say is this: Better yet, maybe we’ll get a new doctor.

So Sidney’s been on the nebulizer for almost a month, and after many weeks of hard work on it, she has gotten better. She has been absolutely fantastic about it. It has been a huge drain on all of us — 20 minutes four times a day is a huge chunk of time out of our schedule. It’s been an especially weird thing because, frankly, it never seemed to be that bad of an illness. Sidney has been in good spirits the whole time, she always wanted to go out and play, she has as much energy as usual. But we played it safe and reduced our activities the last month. God, I love that girl. She is so strong and positive. Totally my idol, totally inspiring.

Something else happened in the last couple weeks. I’m trying to remember what it was… Oh yeah, Christmas. We had a beautiful white Christmas here in Colorado. Santa came and brought a big-ass Barbie dollhouse, which, frankly, was not at all what I wanted. But there is a happy ending to that misunderstanding, because my daughters really seem to love it. Or maybe it was intended for them in the first place. I’ll ask him next year if I see him when he stops by.

Happy New Year!

Unplanned Vacation

I am on an unplanned vacation this week due to girls with bronchitis and wheezing and the 527 doctor’s appointments and trips to the pharmacy associated with said bronchitis and wheezing. So I am taking a week off from the blogs. I’ll be back next week — hopefully with tales of vanquishing bronchitis and wheezing. Wish me luck!

Feelin’ Chicken

Hello Earthlings,

Just a quick post of gratitude this week to say: Thank you, thank you, thank you to Mother Nature, God, and The Tooth Fairy that Riley does not have chicken pox.

Apparently some kids at school had it, and Riley’s teacher said Riley seemed to be in the initial rash stages of chicken pox when we picked her up from preschool on Wednesday. So we said to Riley, “It’s okay honey, if you get chicken pox, we’ll take care of you, no problem, we love you.” And after Riley went to bed, we said to each other: “Shit, shit shit shit shit.” (This is the adult translation of the previous kid-friendly quote.)

I am chicken of chicken pox for the following reasons:

(1) We really cannot afford taking the time off work that would be required to look after a Chicken Pox Child this month (we’re already taking a week and a half off work for Christmas and New Year’s).
(2) I have never had chicken pox and don’t want to get it.
(3) I am unsure if I have had the chicken pox vaccine, and can’t immediately find out because I still haven’t transferred my health records to my new doctor in Colorado. (One of those things on my big list of things to do.)
(4) Chicken pox sucks.

Anyway, Riley woke up the next day and the rash marks were gone, and it’s two days later and she’s fine, so it looks like it was a false alarm.

Now that I’ve posted this blog entry, raise your hand if you think I will be punished for it by waking up to not one, but two girls with chicken pox…

Put those hands down! Really, positive thinking, please people, positive thinking.

See you next week.

Goodbye Garrett

Sidney has decided who she is going to marry. Again.

Now, granted, I know there are a few red flags in the above paragraph. First of all, Sidney is only five years old. And I think most experts think you should be at least six or seven before you settle on a choice of husband. (Six or seven, incidentally, is the emotional age most husbands remain for perpetuity.) And secondly, her decision to leave one fiancée for another — without even a break between fiancées — appears, on the surface at least, to suggest a certain lack of commitment.

Let me address the second point first: The notion that Sidney is unable to commit and remain committed is absolutely false. Sidney was planning to marry a very nice young man named Garrett for the past year and a half. Now, a year and a half may not seem like a long time until you place it into perspective with two very significant facts:

(1) Sidney is only five years old. Thus, a year and a half constitutes 30% of her life (I know this because I did the math in my head, then double checked it on the Mac Calculator application). When taken into further context — that only three of those five years were spent with the ability to effectively use language to communicate — one could reasonably argue that she spent 50% of her socially cognizant life engaged to Garrett. And that’s not slouching.

(2) Sidney only spent 6 of the 18 months of her engagement to Garrett living in the same state as her fiancée. That’s right — she decided to marry Garrett just about six months before we moved from California to Colorado. Then, for her entire first year in Colorado — more than that, actually — her heart remained true to Garrett. There have been other nice boys in her life, and other boys who obviously had affection for her, but she stuck with Garrett, even though she didn’t see him for almost a year after we moved. (For those who are eagerly tracking the details, we saw him six weeks ago at Chevy’s in South San Francisco. They were shy with each other for about ten minutes, then it was like the good old days after that, with lots of laughing and playing.) And I think #2 here is really the decisive point — what 30 year old woman would remain steadfastly devoted to a man she didn’t see for a year, let alone a four/five year old?

So let’s give it up for Sidney and her big heart of gold. Sidney has good taste too — Garrett is a very nice boy with a very sweet and kind streak, especially for a five year old boy. Okay, fine, especially for any boy. Okay, fine, especially for any male of any age of most species.

And now, on with her surprisingly unpainful decision to move on, given her previous steadfast devotion to said Garrett. On Friday, after picking Sidney up from preschool (where she goes three times a week) Sidney let us know that she’s going to marry Harrison. Harrison? Janette and I had never even heard of Harrison. But my first question was not about Harrison. My first question was:

“What about Garrett?”

“I’m not going to marry Garrett anymore, Dad. I’m going to marry Harrison.”

Very decisive. Very bold. Very empowered. And with that, the long and storied Garrett era was apparently over. This was confirmed by our three year old, Riley, who said very authoritatively to me on Sunday:

“Daddy?”

“Yes Riley?”

“Sidney’s not going to marry Garrett anymore. She’s going to marry Harrison.”

But getting back to Friday’s announcement in the car… So my wife was immediately, instinctively shocked and nervous by all this. “I didn’t have boyfriends when I was five,” she said. I calmly reminded her that we’re not talking about a boyfriend here; we’re talking about a fiancée. For some reason that did not ease her discomfort. Then I asked Sidney what had made her switch to the heretofore never mentioned Harrison. Is he in her class at school? Yes. Why are you going to marry him?

“Because he asked me if I would be his girlfriend.”

(You see what I say about commitment? This girl doesn’t do anything half-assed.)

“And what did you say?”

“I said yes.”

“And what else did you talk about?”

“He asked if he could sit beside me at lunch the next school day.”

“And what did you say?”

“I said yes.”

“And he asked if he could sit beside me in art the next day.”

“And what did you say?”

“I said yes.”

“And why do like Harrison?”

“Because he can spell, like me.” (For the record, Sidney really cannot spell. Maybe a few words, like her name. But it’s a very good sign that she’s looking for a fine intellect in a fiancée, not just a pretty face.)

“Is Harrison nice to you?” I asked.

“Yes. He’s always nice to me,” Sidney said.

So I turned to my wife and said: “Well, he’s always nice to her, and he can spell. That’s more than most women get in a fiancée.”

So there you have it. Case closed. I hope I get to meet Harrison before they marry. Oh, and one more thing. Ladies, this one’s for you. Today (Monday), in the car on the way home from school, I asked what happened at school. I can see my wife tensing up out of the corner of my eye, getting ready for more Harrison love stories. A few happy, trivial items were casually reported, nothing about Harrison, which I believe put Janette at ease. And then, as if Sidney had recited this harmless set of details only to set her mother up for the shock of her final comment, was this nugget:

“And Harrison asked if he could sleep next to me.”

I looked to the passenger seat at Janette beside me. She had not passed out, which was encouraging. So I tried to soften the blow a little bit:

“You mean at naptime, right?” (The school has an afternoon naptime, although the five year olds usually get to blow it off.)

“Yes, at naptime,” Sidney happily said.

“Right,” I said. I looked over at Janette again. She was still breathing.

I’ll keep you posted.