Get Well Soon

November 10th, 2007

One of the things every parent learns quickly is that, even with great family discipline and organization, all calender planning falls under the category of “under ideal circumstances…” I had an enormous amount of success on my first Doctor Noize tour in California, and came home all excited to jump back to work and take advantage of the great momentum the tour’s success had given me. Instead… After being gone for three weeks, I seem to lose at least a few work hours every week since returning to family needs or illness.

First, we returned home to realize there was less than a week left on the warranty of our new home. So there were a few days of work checking everything in the house, making warranty claims, overseeing repairs, etc. Then, of course, there was the pile of three weeks’ worth of mail to get to — bills, etc. — which actually was more like a month of mail, because the week before we left was rather hectic. And, of course, the 776 emails I had amassed after being gone for a few weeks. (I’m down to 487 emails as of this writing…)

Fine. I sucked it up and took several days of work to do all that. Great. Mostly done, full speed ahead with the career, tomorrow morning I’m back to work, getting back on that momentum of success and good will from the tour… And that night, Riley (almost three years old) gets croup. This keeps us up fairly late, and then my wife pulls a super mom and decides to hold Riley in her arms all night, in the reclining rocking chair, next to the open window to help her breathing. So they get the best sleep they can. Way to go, mom! But, of course, the next day (Monday), Riley is too sick to go to school, Mom has meetings all day for work, so dad… Takes care of Riley. This is, of course, the same day I’m supposed to be heavily involved in the final day of book production before manufacturing the first Doctor Noize book. The book ends up done several days behind what was already several days behind schedule, and this costs me: XM Kids Radio was going to plug the book that weekend, but I was no longer sure the book would be ready in time for Christmas (a direct result of the lost work time over the last week), so I couldn’t give them the official info on the book in time for them to talk it up when they rebroadcast my CD last weekend. Bottom line: An opportunity lost.

This was frustrating stuff, so I made a wise decision and actually kept to it quite nicely: I decided to accept and forget these lost opportunities on Monday morning, and simply enjoy the unexpected day off of work to spend doing quiet and mellow things with my beautiful little Riley and her bad cold. And she was a wonder — low energy but high spirits, lots of hugging and reading books, napping in my arms a bit, taking a walk around the neighborhood on daddy’s shoulders, making me fall in love with her again. They way I see it, if you’re gonna lose something — work time, a business opportunity, some money probably — you might as well gain something out of it too. And getting to be with Riley and expecting to accomplish nothing else that day was, as they say, “nice work if you can get it.”

Before I get too gooey on the sentimentality, though, I will offer this reality check: Sure, it’s nice work, but if I do that kind of work too much, we’ll have to sell the house and live in a fine, upstanding tent in the hills somewhere soon. But there are times in parenting when, despite the fact that you really really were scheduled to do something very important for your career, your kid will need something, and there will be nobody but you to do it. At that point, you can either feel great stress over this lost opportunity, or you can let it go and realize it just wasn’t meant to be. And in a way, there is no greater feeling than truly getting to this point for a day, and realizing that you are happily sacrificing one of your goals to nurture the life of your little Action/Adventure Superhero Who Is Currently On Injured Reserve until she is good to go full speed again. So if you’re gonna take a loss, you might as well do it right, and embrace the gain too.

Still, my beautiful Riley, and I mean this both for your sake and for mine: Get well soon.

Reality

November 2nd, 2007

The fragility of life presented itself this week as a friend in her thirties unexpectedly suffered a massive stroke and passed away, leaving behind her husband and three year old daughter. Two weeks earlier, she had taken her daughter to a Doctor Noize show in California, and I had gotten to see them after almost a year away from the Bay Area. Little did any of us know that would be the last time we’d see each other.

I have experienced deaths of loved ones and friends before. My father and brother both died when I was in high school. In those experiences, I felt great sadness and loss, but also great opportunity for growth and appreciating what I have. I miss my brother and father to this day, but have sincerely used the lessons I learned from their deaths as a challenge and opportunity to grow and learn and love life. Most of my life was still in front of me when they passed away.

I find it more difficult to find opportunities for growth or knowledge or appreciation in this case. Maybe I have lost a bit of my strong-willed youthful insistence on drawing something valuable from each difficult experience. But there simply seems to be nothing good or fair or valuable about nature, fate or God taking a good mother from a three year old girl. My wife and I have spoken of it a lot since it happened, and we are at a loss for a valuable meaning or lesson from this occurrence. Sure, we want to appreciate what we have and value each day we have together. That’s a given, an obvious lesson from all this. But that’s about us. What about this beautiful little three year old girl? She is not old enough to draw such a lesson. The memory of her mother will simply fade away with time. The lessons she learns in life will have little to do with the wonderful woman who was her mother. And the only thing I can constructively do to respond to that thought is to cry. So here I am, writing this momentarily pausing to literally cry like a little boy with no answers.

The thing is, the unpredictable circle of life and death seemed more acceptable to me before I was a parent. Until my early thirties, I was the young generation, I was the child, I was responsible for myself, my wife, my friends, all the people my age or older who I cared about. But this event makes me feel differently. I feel great sorrow for this child, and I also suddenly feel great personal fragility and fear — what would happen to my beautiful girls if I suddenly, unexpectedly died tomorrow? Who would be there for them like I know I will? And the answer is: nobody. Nobody like I would, or like this girl’s mother would have. Sometimes, a loss is just a loss. There is no gain.

And suddenly, as a parent who feels a great responsiblity to my children and who has now seen a few friends die and leave their kids behind, I understand on a much deeper level the pain my parents felt when my brother died in his teens. It was just a loss. There was no great gain or lesson or insight for them — no “go live your life to the fullest and pursue your dreams in honor of your brother, young man.” There was just a loss. My father felt so inexplicably guilty about this loss that he didn’t even last a year after my brother’s death.

I will write about that some other time. But not tonight. For now, please think good thoughts or say a prayer for a little three year old girl and her daddy in California. They have some challenging times ahead of them. I hope those of us in their circle of friends can give a little more than we would have otherwise. But I realize it won’t be anything like she would have gotten from her mom.

So now, as I write that obvious and not very insightful fact, here I go again. Sometimes crying, and learning to accept the loss, is the only solution for a while.

If you love someone: Tell them.

I Gotta Run

August 21st, 2007

So, one of the things that you notice about being an involved father or a teacher (I’ve done both) is that you get sick more. This is because you are essentially living your life in a giant petri dish. You are part of a group of people who are happy to get messy and wipe that mess on each other. This is sort of a drag, but the little snots are worth it.

The latest example of this is the plague that has wreaked havoc on my kids’ preschool the last month or so. The school is called Creme de la Creme (I know, I know, we’ll talk about that name some other time, but the reality is my kids love it there, I personally chose it after visiting five other schools twice each, and I am grateful to the school for what it does for my babies…)

So over the last month, just about every kid and parent at the school has caught what has become lovingly referred to as the “Creme Crud.” It’s an upset stomach, the runs, some experience a bit of a barforama, everybody who gets it has to go to the bathroom about once an hour for a few days. Then you’re back to business as usual. It was so contagious that a large percentage of the school was out the first week, and they started quarantining classes of kids who hadn’t caught it yet.

This didn’t work — they all still got it, and all the parents I know at the school got it too. I went a month without getting it, and I was pretty proud of myself, thinking I must be super strong and resilient. Foolish pride will always be your undoing. I thought I was home free until I played a Doctor Noize show for the great kids at Creme de la Creme on Friday, and then yesterday…

If you’ll excuse me, I gotta run.

This One Doesn’t Go To Eleven

August 12th, 2007

Let’s talk Big Numbers.

Here is a great thing Riley (2 1/2) did the other night at dinner. She was counting on her fingers. “One, two, three, four… ten!” As everyone knows, little kids counting on their fingers is very cute. I could watch her do that over and over again and not get bored. Okay, I have watched her do it over and over again without getting bored. But then she animatedly and excitedly added a new insight…

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten… Ten… And… There’s no eleven there, Daddy! Look Mommy! There’s no eleven there!

So, unlike in Spinal Tap (if you haven’t seen Spinal Tap, you owe it to yourself to rent it…), this one does not go to eleven.

That’s my girl.

Here’s a great Big Numbers thing Sidney did. It was about a year ago now, but I didn’t have a blog then, so I’ll tell you now. I was reminded of it the other night with Riley’s Big Numbers Epiphany.

Sidney was getting excited about her age, and the ages of girls she admired who were a few years older, and how every year we all get to have a birthday and get a year older. Usually we also get to have some sort of birthday party — except, of course, those years in which we as adults become foolish enough to lament our birthdays as one more step toward our inevitable doom rather than celebrate them as reminders of our birth. In that case, we stop having birthday parties and hope nobody notices it’s our birthday, which is, of course, just sad.

But hey, kids don’t have this sadness — they can’t wait for their birthdays because of the sweets and presents involved, and because they get to be the center of attention, and as adults we’d be wise to rekindle this insight every year and get with the program like we did when we were younger. Sure, on your birthday you’re a year older and a year closer to your death — but isn’t that stark insight all the more reason to at least get something out of it and let the people you know kiss your ass for a day and feed you junk food? I sure as hell think so.

Anyway, I’ve digressed but I’m back on topic: Sidney was interested in the concept of birthdays. So Mommy and Sidney were talking about how she was going to turn four years old soon. Sidney thought that sounded pretty big and mature and cool. Then Mommy told Sidney that Daddy was 36 years old. Sidney gasped — awestruck, dumbfounded, impressed, in disbelief. And then she exclaimed:

“That’s a lot of getting older!”

Uh-huh.

Your old friend,

Cory

My Dinner Date With George

August 7th, 2007

Okay, okay, so it’s Tuesday, and I’m supposed to post a Scene From Fatherhood every Friday. Well, here’s what happened on Friday: I picked up my three babes at the airport after they’d been away since Monday. So all day Friday after I picked them up, I played with said babes. And I forgot to write a Scene From Fatherhood because I was too busy living one. Sorry about that.

I can’t really remember the details of what we did on Friday, except that we had fun and my two girls and I had a bath in the big master bath before they went to bed. After the bath, we took a shower. You know, just because. My girls are suddenly very interested in taking a shower — they think it’s cool to walk through the water as it comes down from the spout. And guess what? It is cool. In fact, it’s especially cool to be with people who are young enough to think it’s fascinating to take a shower. Because they’ve only had a shower a few times in their life. The first few times they showered, they were a little fearful of it, and wanted to be held. But now, they want to walk in and out of the water and, of course, paint the water condensation on the glass door with their toothbrushes. Don’t you do that in the shower? If not, you should — I have learned it is a quite enjoyable, albeit temporary, artistic endeavor.

So my week without my girls was fairly lonely, as I predicted, but also as predicted, both Jack Bauer and I made it through. Jack killed more guys than I did, though. In fact, truth be told, I didn’t kill anybody. And nobody tried to kill me. I can’t say the same for Jack — the poor dude is always on somebody’s hit list. But I did a pretty good job of almost getting myself to bed on time, and I obsessively worked. I worked, exercised, played a few sports, and spent about ten minutes total every night eating dinner standing up at the kitchen counter in front of the soccer channel. Actually, not every night…

On Wednesday night, as promised to our wives, my friend George and I went to have dinner at Hooters. George has two daughters the same age as ours, and his wife and kids are visiting relatives in Korea for four weeks. Four weeks! And I was all pouty about being away from my family for five days. Pathetic. Anyway, we went to Hooters for dinner on Wednesday. I know you’re impressed, ladies. In any event, ladies, you will be even less impressed with my character when I tell you that, truth be told, George and I were not that impressed with the entertainment value — I mean waiting staff — at Hooters. I feel badly saying this, because they were all very nice young ladies, but — how should I put this? — they did not look like the buxom blonde bombshells in the Hooters ads and brochures.

Now, I had not been to a Hooters in about a decade — having once been to one in Florida in the nineties — and I suppose my expectations of a Baywatch-era Pamela Anderson approaching us as our waitress and suggestively asking what we’d like this evening was a bit too much to ask. In fact, next time, perhaps George and I should just order a pizza and rent a few episodes of Baywatch. It’s just a thought. George astutely speculated that perhaps Wednesday nights was the “B Team.” (Ladies, I can give you George’s email address for your direct responses to this truly horrifying albeit hilarious comment. Did I say hilarious? Of course, I didn’t think it was hilarious. I was laughing at, um, something else.) I can’t say for sure whether his observation holds any water. I suppose that, in the name of research and thoroughness, we’ll have to go back sometime on a Saturday to know for sure. I’ll keep you posted.

This entry has officially lowered the bar on “Scenes From Fatherhood.” And sometimes, that’s just the way life is.

I’ll talk to you soon.

Cory

What Would Jack Bauer Do?

July 27th, 2007

Hello,

Well, next week I am going to have to be a big boy again — I’m all on my own for most of the week. Janette is going to company meetings all week in the Bay Area, and my girls are staying at their grandparents there too. So from the time I drop them off midday Monday, until the time I pick them up Friday afternoon, it will just be me in this big house working working working. It is true that I’m at a point where I have a backload of work to do for my entrepreneurial business, so I suppose it’s a good time for me to have no other responsibilities but work. But I will miss my girls — in fact, this will be the longest time I will have ever been without the three of them.

Not unlike my Hawaii trip a while back, I am going to use this as an opportunity to prove to myself that I still have a life, and am a functional and useful human being, even without my girls. That is probably a lie, but I’m gonna try to live that dream for five days this week. For starters, I have rented the first eight episodes of “24 Season 5″ on Netflix. This is a man’s show if there ever was one.

The Counter Terrorism Unit’s Jack Bauer would never admit to sissy boy loneliness when his family was on vacation, and god damnit, I’m not gonna act lonely either. Jack makes a decision, and then he commits to it with ruthless efficiency without second guessing himself. He saves U.S. citizens and Presidents alike, always sacrificing his own personal fulfillment in the process, without so much as a request for a commendation from the government or its peoples. It’s a trait I’ve always admired in Jack, for four seasons running now.

So I’m gonna be like Jack and not complain about my lot either. Jack, you go experience great personal trauma to save the country, and I’ll hold up my end of the deal by not complaining about my girls being gone, and we’ll meet up every night at 10 PM after work for an episode of Season Five while they’re away. It’s a deal.

There are, of course, things I can do next week that I can’t do with all my chicks around. For example, my friend George (whose wife and two daughters are also out of town) and I swear we’re going to dinner at Hooters in Denver on Wednesday night. Now, knowing George and me, this will probably never happen — we’ll probably just hang around and watch sports on TV, or go see the new Simpsons movie or something instead. But maybe, just maybe, we’ll work up the courage to go out and be lecherous bastards for an evening. I’m rooting for us. I hope it happens. But history indicates it probably won’t.

Would Jack Bauer go to Hooters on Wednesday night? This is the philosophical question that has preoccupied my mind this morning. I can see the pros and cons to Jack going. I will try to glean answers to this question from the episodes I watch Monday and Tuesday nights before making my decision about Wednesday.

I’ll let you know.

Sincerely,

Cory

Sick As A Dog

July 20th, 2007

Hi,

I’m sick as a dog today. Nasty head cold. The pressure in my ears is absolutely killing me, even drugged up on Advil and Sudafed. So please feel sorry for me. By the way, where did the expression “sick as a dog” come from? I can’t remember many dogs who were sick. And they certainly never whine about it like I just did. This leads via stream-of-consciousness to one of my great insights in life:

If more people were more like dogs, the world would be a better place. Dogs are loving. They love to exercise. They keep in shape. They are honest. They show their joy and their fears without fear of ridicule. They enjoy a fine meal like nobody’s business. And they are potty trainable.

Dogs don’t bitch about their situation in life as much as people do (no pun intended). They know that food, exercise, a strong work ethic, play, interaction with others and love are all that is really necessary in life. So, by all means, hug a dog today. Unless you’re allergic. In that case, find a dog and shower it with praise. It will only vaguely understand your epiphany, but it will humor you anyway — dogs are empathetic and kind that way.

My point is this: In a pinch, if you haven’t read all the parenting books, then just pretend that your kid is a dog, and raise the child thusly, and that kid will probably turn out all right. Don’t get too overwhelmed by all the other details.

It’s funny being a parent and being sick. I try to act all macho and not whine to my kids about it. Then, when the kids go to bed, I instantaneously shed my machismo facade and look for sympathy and hugs from my wife. She is a good woman, that Janette. So here’s a big shout-out to the babe I’ve built my life around: Thanks for the hugs.

Until next time,

Cory

Straight Talk From The Smart Set

July 13th, 2007

Here is one of my favorite conversations with one of my favorite kids. The names of those involved have been changed in order to protect the guilty…

My kids and I were hanging out with one of our little buddies. Let’s call him Ulysses. We’re at our house playing. Ulysses’ parents are not with us. Out of the blue, Ulysses says to me, as if he is about to unravel the truth about one of the world’s great wonders to me, thrilled that he possesses this wondrous knowledge:

“Hey Cory, you know what? I have to tell you something!”

“Yes, Ulysses, what is it?” I said.

“Cory!”

“Yes.”

“My parents… My parents…” he paused for dramatic effect.

“Yes?” I said.

“BOTH of my parents PICK THEIR NOSE!” he proclaimed proudly.

“Ulysses,” I said, looking him in the eye with great respect for the deeper bond that was just forged between us, “on behalf of both of your parents and myself, I want to thank you for sharing that with me.”

As usual, this incident reminded me of several insights that we tend to forget as adults, particularly in our interactions with other adults. The first is that honesty is cathartic, and kids are far, far more honest than adults. Sure, I know that kids will often exaggerate or lie to cover up mistakes they’ve made or massive gaps in their knowledge. Adults do that too. But kids also really, really want to share personal and private bits of information — you know, the things we try to hide as adults.

Imagine for a moment how much easier your emotional life would be if, instead of hiding your less impressive moments in life, your questionable thoughts, and your emotional baggage, storing it up inside, you just shared it immediately with everybody as you experienced it. If you didn’t fear the consequences of other adults’ reactions, and the thoughts they’d form about you, you’d probably do just that — share them and get them out there, then move onto the next feeling, thought or event in your life. So for one, I am greatful that kids I know feel comfortable sharing information with me — it means they trust I’ll love them anyway.

Ulysses’ mom is one of the few adults I know who often shares whatever is on her mind, even if it does not always paint the most pristinely perfect picture of her — and it’s one of my favorite things about her. It’s like a breath of fresh air in the adult world. Kids do this a lot more than adults.

And on that note, I will take the cue and state for the record, right here and now, that nosepicking is one of the great underrated simple pleasures in life. I tend to only engage in nosepicking in private — so, for example, my kids won’t tell you all about it when they come over to your house — but engage in it on occasion I do. It is less addictive than alcohol and it doesn’t make you drunk, it is easy to clean, it adversely affects nobody as long as you don’t pick so hard that your nose bleeds (my daughter Sidney sometimes does that), and frankly, it clears your nasal passageways for less money than a shot of saline solution. So I would like to invite all readers to pause for a moment to enjoy the enlightened mining of a fine booger nugget right now — but please do wash your hands before you touch the keyboard or mouse again.

The second insight is that kids love the simple joy of sharing experiences and knowledge with friends. When adults (particularly men) share knowledge, it is often in order to impress others with what we know (particularly when we’re sharing it with women). Sure, there’s an element of that with kids — ‘I know something that you don’t know, ain’t I cool?’ But there’s also this fantastic joy of sharing deep and meaningful information with each other. My 2 1/2 year old daughter Riley, for example, loves to share with me all sorts of information, just to make sure we’re on the same experiential page.

“Daddy?” Riley will say.

“Yes, Riley?”

“The man is driving the orange tractor!” Riley will say.

“He is?” I’ll say.

“Yes Daddy, look, the man is driving the orange tractor!”

“He is! That looks really fun,” I’ll say.

Riley will pause to think about this for a moment, then say:

“Daddy?” (She always waits for my response to make sure I’m listening. If I don’t respond, she will repeat: “Daddy?”)

“Yes, baby.”

“That looks really fun for the man to drive the orange tractor.”

And so she has incorporated my thoughts on the subject into her thoughts on the subject, we have shared information, and we are closer. She’s like a wonderful, engaged color commentator on life combined with a very, very active listener. It’s the best of both worlds — giving and receiving in a conversation — and because of this, I love talking to Riley about anything.

And in this way she inspires me to try to be a better person. I try to be like Riley now when I talk to other people, kids or adults. Somebody who really gives and really listens in a conversation. It’s hard for me — and most adults — to remember to be that way. It’s easy for Riley.

Boy do I love her.

Until next time,

Cory

Conflicted Alohas

June 13th, 2007

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

32,000 feet. I’m on a plane headed for Hawaii for the first time since my honeymoon twelve years ago. No aisle seat. No window seat. Crammed between a guy from Milwaukee and the girl I started dating 17 years ago. Nothing on the agenda, no responsibilities, pure freedom. The definition of heaven, right? Yeah baby. Yet here’s the truth…

I’m nervous and conflicted about this trip. I had trouble sleeping the night before leaving. I didn’t fall asleep until after 3 AM, worrying about whether going on this trip was the right decision for my two little girls. My wife and I cried a bit before we left for the airport. Okay, fine, I almost cried, and she cried a lot. Such a girl. (I included that sentence as a means of blatant pandering to chauvinists who feel that any man who writes a blog called Scenes From Fatherhood is a pansy. I hope, but doubt, it worked. Anybody who reads this blog will realize that I am, in fact, a fully committed pansy.) And I am actually wondering whether I will be able to figure out what to do with myself for five days without my kids. Seriously, I am wondering whether this is really a good use of my time, and whether I will feel like a truly good person leaving my kids for five days.

What the hell happened to the guy who used to cruise from land to land with brazen confidence and uncontained personal ambition? The answer is very, very simple: I created the two greatest things I ever could — Sidney Grace (age 4) and Riley Max (age 2) — and now, on my way to supposed paradise, I am having trouble even imagining what purpose I could possibly have except for assisting, teaching and learning from them as they embark on their action/adventure superhero lives. What if I miss a key moment in their life? What things that don’t involve children am I even interested in anymore? What do I do with time on my own? What is my purpose or value without them? Holy shit, I’ve gotten… old.

It is the first time in 4 1/2 years that my wife and I are going somewhere, together, without our kids. I have never been apart from my kids for more than 48 hours. I have worn this as a badge of honor, arrogantly proclaiming it to others as if it makes me the coolest dude in the universe. Instead, I suddenly realize it’s made me too dependent on them. Now Janette and I are leaving them with a water bowl and seven pizzas on the floor of the kitchen, and high tailing it to Oahu for five days. (Okay, fine, their grandparents are gonna be with ‘em too.)

So it occurred to me that right here, right now, crammed between Milwaukee and my Original Baby Doll — who, incidentally, is still all that, and I will strive to remind her of that on this trip — this is the perfect time to finally start writing Scenes From Fatherhood, the book / blog / sissy boy observations and musings I have been meaning to write for two years. Several moms who spend time with me with my kids have suggested I write something like this. In fact, several have suggested I teach a class on it — a fathering class. “I’d sign my husband up,” more than one mom has told me. Oh sure, I tell them — like my goal in life is to become known as the World’s Biggest Asshole to all the fathers in my neighborhood.

But upon reflection over the last several years of my life, particularly after the birth of my second child, I don’t think most women should choose a man quite like I’ve been over the last few years as a husband and father. I think they should aim for someone in between me and the Traditional Man. So perhaps as a few Traditional Dads review their lives and increase the priority they place on their kids, attempting to create a more even balance between their work and family life, I will attempt to balance my life out as well, and get back to one where I am both a devoted family man and a satisfied and successful Traditional Working Man as well. Well, maybe not a true 9 to 5 Traditional Working Man — I’m just not really cut out that way — but at least a man whose ambition stretches beyond the vision of his children. I certainly used to be a man fueled by Big Dreams Of Grandeur and Glory.

There was a time when I was an up and coming composer writing and producing cool music for albums, documentaries and a few TV shows and movies. And there was a time when I was a popular and successful high school music teacher, soccer coach and arts department head, devoting long hours to a calling I loved. Further back than that, there was a time when I was the guy everybody thought was gonna take the world by storm with my energy and ambition.

All of those things seemed of trifling and selfish importance after the birth of the great warrior princess Sidney Grace Cullinan on September 21, 2002. I fell so in love with that girl, and found that looking after my kids was so natural and enjoyable to me, that my primary identity instantly became Superdad. Coincidentally, my wife’s career started skyrocketing at the time — after all, it takes a superhero to birth a superhero — and she was spending a fair amount of time working. It seemed wrong to have her spending her personal time on family business chores rather than playing with her kids, and it also seemed wrong for me to continue to work long hours on a teaching job I loved but that didn’t pull in nearly the dollars per hour my wife’s job made.

Also, my superhero wife is legally blind and doesn’t drive — you try being legally blind, getting an advanced degree from Stanford, becoming Director of Content Design for a major corporate training company, and being a great mom whose kids adore her who even cooks a few meals for dinner each week, and you’ll understand why I am one smart dude for snaggin’ this kick ass cutie from the ranks of The Unhitched — so by default I am the only member of the family who can drive kids to doctor appointments or go pick up the groceries.

And here’s what happened, in retrospect: Over the last few years, in my everyday attempts to be a great dad and husband, I lost sight a bit of my own personal Big Picture. I made myself too one-dimensional, a bit too dependent on the success of my three girls for my own happiness, spending way too few hours a week on my own career to feel totally fulfilled, occasionally wondering what happened to the guy who used to accomplish big things in music and teaching, but finding no solution to this dilemma in our overbooked San Francisco Bay Area schedule.

So after spending much of the past few years focusing almost exclusively on my family responsibilities, I’ve readjusted my focus. We shook things up and built our dream home in a new state — Colorado — leaving behind the place and most of the people with whom I’ve spent the previous 36 years of my life. I’m working full time again, having launched a new career as Doctor Noize that focuses my ambition and energy and allows me to combine my love of parenting, music, writing, creativity, and teaching. And I find myself more motivated to make money than I ever have been before, as if I want to make up for lost time over the past few years or something. For more on Doctor Noize, visit www.doctornoize.com or Doctor Noize’s Blah Blah Blog….

This blog — Scenes From Fatherhood — will be filled primarily with scenes from my adventures as a parent. It will reveal the Great Things discovered by my children and their little friends on their action/adventure superhero journeys. It will also reveal the Great Reminders that our kids offer to the Obsolete Children in their lives (Dr. Seuss’s great nomenclature for adults), giving us a chance to relearn them. It will occasionally include philosophical meanderings like today’s premier installment. And it will eventually include some of the less impressive moments I have represented and encountered, both as a parent and as a child who observed his own parents dealing with unwinnable situations.

But for now, I will close with this, my first alleged Pearl Of Wisdom: My kids, and the kids I’ve had the privilege of teaching and playing with, are the best thing that ever happened to me since my own childhood and my wife chose me as her man. Yours are too. And they are generous enough of spirit, every single day, to let us Obsoleters join in and relive that state of childhood again. Don’t miss out on it.

Here is the main thing I have learned about kids of any age, from infants to the most sullen and zit-infected high school boy I ever taught: They see through the bullshit of social artifice in adults. They see through it much better than adults do. Here’s the proof: It is very, very easy to become someone kids love and trust, and there is only one prerequisite for developing this trust and being someone kids flock to. It is not being funny. It is not being cool. It is not being rich. It is not being someone who spoils them with candy.

It is simply this: You must actually enjoy the privilege of spending time with them. If you don’t, they’ll sniff you out in a second and move on to those who’ll live in their world with them. Considering that we’re talking about people who can’t properly shop for their own groceries, assess their own emotional state of mind, and in some cases dispose of their own bodily waste, kids are shockingly efficient at quickly analyzing your true interest level in them and adjusting their priorities accordingly.

If you are in a place where spending time with your kids is a burden and a stress, rather than a gift, you should leave that place for wiser pastures. Adjust your life so that time spent with your kids is a blessing, not a curse. Conversely, if you’re in a place where actually not spending time with your kids is a burden and a stress (as in… “Shit! Now I have to accomplish some sort of project or emotional state that is in no way associated with my kids…”) then you should also leave that place for wiser pastures. I’ve been to both extremes, and I assure you, you’re not alone in the quest. Start today and good luck.

So with embarrassingly mixed feelings, I’m leavin’ for Hawaii. I have now finished my first Scene From Fatherhood, on my laptop computer on a plane to paradise, with several hours to go before we touch down. And I’m proud to say that I’m now gonna watch some in-flight infotainment I don’t give a shit about. (This is one of my new goals in life: Finding a little time each day to spend on things that add no measurable value to my life, things that are not a part of my goals and plans — just existing inconsequentially for several moments each day without thinking I should be doing something more useful with my time.)

And I’m loosening up a bit and trying to look forward to five days without my kids. I’m gonna baby my wife on this trip. She deserves it. And I look forward to seeing a few hot chicks in bikinis on the beach. Is that too much to ask? And after 4 1/2 years of watching my tongue, I’ve decided I’m going to swear a bit for the next five days. Fuck yeah. With apologies to my mother and my fine Mormon relatives… That feels good.

Until next week… Aloha.

Cory Cullinan