Dear children, thanks for making me Dad

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An Open Letter to my Children #ThanksBaby #ad

It has been said that when a baby is born, a dad is born. Pampers believes that is true. That’s why this Father’s Day, and every day, they’re thanking babies for empowering Dad and empowering him to discover new roles as he journeys through this thing called Fatherhood.

That’s definitely true for me.

I had helped out at our church’s day care when I was in high school. I had also served in another church’s nursery shortly after Christy and I had gotten married. I’d even helped babysit some young children over the years. But when my son was born, everything changed.

Because being Dad isn’t babysitting. It’s not even close.

Me with the Kids #ThanksBaby #ad

When I held my son for the first time, my world changed. I had been warned that it would change, but I had no idea how much it would actually change. It’s unbelievable. You’re holding this little, tiny, itty-bitty human being and nothing else matters. Nothing. You’re responsible for everything. This baby is relying on you. Of course, mom’s part of the story, too. We’ve been partners in this journey since Day One. But when it hits you that you’re actually a Dad, it’s an overwhelming realization. It’s a beautiful thing. And it’s a scary proposition, too. You certainly become a new man when a child becomes part of your family.

Every one of our children has a completely different story about how they came into our family. And each journey has changed my life forever. For that, I’m grateful. So I’ve decided to write a brief note to each of them.

Dear Aiden,

Me and Aiden #ThanksBaby #ad

As the firstborn, you are the trailblazer. Everything is new. And I’m sure I’ve screwed up a lot over the years (still kicking myself for making you cry when I was coaching you on the baseball field).  And let’s not talk about the first time I changed a diaper. Let’s just say it was a comedy of errors.

I’m thankful that we’re blazing this trail together. I see your desire to help others, your natural leadership ability (on the field, at church, and in life in general), and your desire to make a difference with your life, and my heart explodes with pride, joy, and excitement. You’re going to do great things, my boy. In fact, you already are.

Even though we might disagree about which episode of Star Wars is the best.

Love,
Dad

Dear Weldu,

Me and Weldu #ThanksBaby #ad

I’m thankful that you joined our family last year. You filled the empty chair at our dining room table. You have made our family complete. Thank you.

I am proud to call you my son. I am excited to see you use your athletic gifts to the best of your ability, taking advantage of the opportunities that are before you.  Your English continues to improve and you are going to do great things wherever you are.

I may not be the biggest fan of soccer, but I’m your biggest fan. So I will continue to go to your games, even though I have no idea what’s going on half the time. Because you are worth it.

You always will be.

Love,
Dad

Dear Aly,

Me and Aly #ThanksBaby #ad

Oh, Aly.

Where do I begin?

You have always marched to the beat of your own drummer. I think you cried for the first 6 months, simply because you wanted to. That’s why some of our extended family still calls you “Waah-ly.” Thanks for growing out of that. Seriously.

Your love for animals, especially dogs and horses, is infectious. You have the biggest heart for others that I’ve ever seen. Ever. And your artistic ability? Mind-blowing. You certainly have an eye for photography.

Thank you for reminding me to explore new things and to make the most of every opportunity I have. You are our free spirit. But I hope you realize that wherever you go and whatever you do, you will always have a home right here in my heart.

Love,
Dad

Dear Mihret,

Me and Mihret #ThanksBaby #ad

You opened my heart, helping me realize that family is so much more than just blood. When it was time to leave you that first day, I had to put you back in your crib and go back to our Guest House. You cried when I put you down. It took all that was within me not to reach back down, scoop you out of your bed, and promise you that I will never ever leave you again. Ever. You broke my heart that day, but your smile makes my heart grow every time I see it.

You are the most determined little girl I’ve ever met. I think you’re the most determined little girl anyone has met.  And you have such a joy for life that it’s absolutely contagious. Thank you for challenging me with your determination. When you keep on pushing, never accepting “no” for an answer, you encourage me to have that same fighting spirit. You light up the room with your smile. And that laugh of yours? It just makes everything better. Thank you for being you and for inspiring everyone around you. You certainly inspire me.

Love,
Dad

None of my children are babies anymore, but I’m still grateful that each one of them call me Dad. It’s an honor that I do not take lightly.

I’m also thankful for companies like Pampers, who honor dads for simply being dads. They recognize dads for all of the amazing things they do – both big and small – to help little ones have a better, loving, and more fulfilling life.

OK. Now it’s your turn.

What do you have to say to your baby? What are you thankful for?

Share your gratitude on twitter by using the #ThanksBaby hashtag!

In the Limelight

It took me long enough. I was invited to participate in this project back in 2013. After dropping the ball and never getting back with my answers, I am pleased to finally be part of the ongoing “Dads in the Limelight” series hosted by Dad of Divas. I don’t really know why it took me three years to answer the questions. But it did. It was totally, 100%, completely my fault.

Hopefully it’s worth the wait. So why don’t you mosey on over there and check out what I have to say? While I don’t promise anything profound, you do get to look at some pretty fun pictures.

kisses

Father’s Day ideas for an Indiana fan

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In 49 states, it’s just basketball. But this is Indiana. We take basketball (and other sports) pretty seriously. And if your dad is a fan of Indiana like I am, you might be wondering what to get for him this Father’s Day.

I’m sure he’s going to love one of these suggestions.


Here are 16 Father’s Day ideas for the Indiana fan in your life:

Title Fathers Day Gift Guide - Indiana

Continue reading “Father’s Day ideas for an Indiana fan”

7 ways to make laundry more pleasant

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TryMembersMark #CollectiveBias

7 Ways to Make laundry More Pleasant - #TryMembersMark

Can I be honest for a moment? I’ve never really been a fan of doing the laundry. I know that doesn’t necessarily single me out as odd or unusual. In fact, I can’t think of anyone I know who actually enjoys doing the laundry. But it’s true.

When I was in college, I dreaded lugging my clothes down to our dorm’s basement to the laundry/weight room. I procrastinated as long as possible, which probably made things worse in the long-run. After college, my appreciation for doing the laundry never really improved. I think it’s because the job never stops. Ever. As soon as you’re done folding that last load of laundry, you know the dirty clothes are going to start accumulating again. It’s a never-ending cycle and it’s half-tempting to just wear the same outfit every day for a week just so you can have a small break from having to do the laundry again.

7 ways to make your laundry more pleasant #TryMembersMark

It’s tedious. And the amount of laundry that has to be done seems to increase exponentially with each member that is added to your household. Now that we’re a family of six (including three teenagers), that’s a lot of laundry to tackle. And since I’ve taken on the role of stay-at-home, homeschooling Dad during this season of life, the bulk of the responsibility for managing household chores has fallen onto my shoulders. And that includes the laundry.

I’ve discovered rather quickly that you really can’t avoid doing the laundry when you’re a family of six. The clothes aren’t going to wash themselves, unfortunately. And if you procrastinate, it spirals out of control in a hurry. So instead of dreading the chore of doing the laundry, I’ve decided to find some ways to make the never-ending cycle of sorting, washing, drying, and folding the laundry a little less dreadful. Here are 7 ways I’ve discovered to make laundry more pleasant.

1. Use a quality laundry detergent

If you’re spending all this time doing laundry, you want to make sure the job is done right the first time. You can’t waste time re-washing clothes that should’ve come clean after one wash. It’s imperative to use a quality laundry detergent. And if you can find a quality detergent at an affordable price? What’s more pleasant than that? That’s where Member’s Mark® comes in.

7 ways to make laundry more pleasant #TryMembersMark

We’re big fans of Sam’s Club. Being a member there means we can find great deals for our family. It’s our go-to place for stocking up on household goods.

Available in Fresh Scent and in Paradise Splash, Member’s Mark Ultimate Clean Detergent is specially formulated to get the job done, delivering excellent cleaning performance. It also helps brighten your colors and whiten your whites. The patented Ultimate Clean technology tackles tough stains in all temperature settings. Since it’s only available through Sam’s Club, it’s a great value for members.

Member's Mark collage

2. Keep things organized

“Dad! Have you seen my school ID?”

I probably hear this at least twice a week. Of course, this was usually approximately 30 seconds before the student of mine was supposed to be at the bus stop. So it threw us into a panic because someone would remember seeing it in the laundry room because it was in someone’s pants pocket. But it was never where anyone remembered seeing it. And with the bus barrelling towards the bus stop, we would find ourselves in a mad dash around the house in a vain attempt to find the missing student ID. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Not the best way to start your morning.

Lost student IDs, loose change, medicine, unused gum, unwrapped candy – all of these things get stuffed into pockets at our house. And then they’re discovered while loading the washing machine. We used to just sit these random articles on top of the dryer, hoping someone else would eventually claim the miscellaneous items. But before someone could claim them, they would get lost again.

No more.

7 Ways to Make laundry More Pleasant - #TryMembersMark

Now there’s a specific place for all of these lost articles. I created a simple box to store all of my laundry equipment. There’s room for dryer sheets. There’s a space for the contents of everyone’s pockets. There’s a spot for a lint roller, because I can never find one when I need it. There’s also a great place to store my Members Mark laundry detergent. And I don’t have to worry about causing a mess by spilling the soap. It has a no-mess dispenser that prevents leaks and minimizes spillage.

It was really easy to make and I love having all of my supplies in one place. You can easily customize it however you’d like, but here’s the basics of what you’ll do.

What you’ll need:

7 Ways to Make laundry More Pleasant - #TryMembersMark
1 cardboard box (approximately 2’x1′)
box cutter (or scissors)
1 roll contact paper
1 roll dry-erase contact paper

What you’ll do:

  1. Remove flaps from top of the box. Please be sure to use proper cutting tool safety techniques. You don’t want to wind up like me when I misused an ax.
  2. On each side of the box, cut a line from the top corner to the lower corner, creating triangle-shaped sides to the box.
    7 Ways to Make laundry More Pleasant - #TryMembersMark
  3. Remove the front of the box, keeping approximately one inch at the bottom of the box. This will allow you to easily see and grab anything in the box, but it will also keep all of the items in the box.
  4. Cut out a 1 inch by 1 inch notch in the front lip of the box, allowing the no-mess dispenser to stick out of the box.
    7 Ways to Make laundry More Pleasant - #TryMembersMark
  5. Cover the box with your favorite contact paper, smoothing out air bubbles along the way. Be sure to keep the back panel free for the next step.
  6. Place a sheet of dry-erase contact paper on the back panel of the box. Be sure to hold on to your remaining dry-erase contact paper. You might want it for tip #7.

That’s it! It’s pretty easy and took me less than an hour to make, when all was said and done. Once you’re done, you can put a few small baskets or bowls inside the box. I like to keep our dryer sheets in the box, too. That way everything is in one place.

3. Make and keep a schedule

Like I said earlier, it’s far too easy to let laundry get out of control. You have to stay on top of it. And if you wait to do all of your laundry in one day, you’re going to spend all day doing laundry. And no matter how pleasant we try to make the laundry experience, spending all day in the laundry room is not my idea of a good time. In order to prevent this, it’s necessary to divide and conquer. Wash a different type of clothing each day.
Like I said earlier, it’s far too easy to let laundry get out of control. You have to stay on top of it. And if you wait to do all of your laundry in one day, you’re going to spend all day doing laundry. And no matter how pleasant we try to make the laundry experience, spending all day in the laundry room is not my idea of a good time. Here’s one idea:

Monday: clothes – bright and dark colors
Tuesday: clothes – tans and grays (we have a lot of this color in our house)
Wednesday: towels and washcloths
Thursday: clothes – whites and delicates
Friday: bedsheets and blankets
Saturday: catch up on anything missed earlier in the week

Obviously, this is just a suggestion. You need to figure out what works best for your family. And if you have kids in sports, you’ll probably have to make room for their special sports-related equipment.

Of course, if you practice the next tip (#4), your schedule will look completely different. But that’s OK. The important thing is that you have a schedule and you keep to that schedule. Otherwise, things will just get out of control. And your clothes just might grow their own legs and try to walk away.
spilling out of dryer

4. Consider sorting by room instead of by color

I haven’t been brave enough to try this one yet. But here’s the reasoning: Why take extra time to un-sort everyone’s clothes into big piles of darks, whites, delicates, etc., only to turn right back around and re-sort everything? Simply keep all of the clothes from one room together and wash them together. Once you’re done washing, drying, and folding, they go right back into the basket that they came from.

This makes total sense to me in theory. It eliminates what might be unnecessary middle steps. And I’ve put some of this method into practice. I generally wash one load of whites from a room and follow it by a load of colors. So each room generally has two loads of laundry washed when I’m washing from that room.

If this is part of your laundry routine, I’d love to hear about how it works for you. Please share your insights in the comments!

5. Listen to something.

When I’m outside mowing the grass, I’m usually listening to one or two of my favorite podcasts. When I’m doing the dishes and cleaning up around the house, I’m usually listening to a local sports talk radio station. When it’s time for laundry, I need to listen to something with a little more…oomph…to it. Depending on my mood, I have three different go-to playlists that I listen to while sorting, washing, drying, and folding the laundry (you can listen to them here, here, and here). So while my son is either doing schoolwork on his own or practicing soccer outside, I can plug in my earbuds and focus on the task at hand. It certainly helps make the chore go faster.

6. Pretreat stains as soon as possible.

The label on the Member’s Mark detergent says that after checking a hidden area for colorfastness, rub a small amount directly on the stain before washing. You want to do this as soon as you can. The longer you wait to pretreat a stain, the harder it is to get out. Believe me. I know this from experience.

7. Never forget your hangers again.

Need hangers

Has this happened to you? You have a shirt you don’t want to dry in the dryer. It could be for a multitude of reasons. You want to make sure a stain is out. Or maybe you’re afraid the fabric will shrink. Or the shirt’s care instructions say you should only line-dry it. Whatever the reason, there are times you want to hang up an article of clothing after running it through the wash. So you’re there at the end of the spin cycle, ready to transfer all of the clothes from the washing machine to the dryer.

And you do exactly that.

You take everything that was in the washing machine and run it through the dryer. Even the clothes you really wanted to line-dry. It happens to the best of us. I promise.

I tried putting hangers on the washing machine itself, thinking that if I had to remove the hangers in order to get to the clean clothes, I’d remember to hang that amount of clothes. Unfortunately, the hangers accidentally find themselves on the ground sometimes. And then you’re back to putting all of the clothes in the dryer again.

Here’s what you do – remember the dry-erase contact paper you used for the box in Tip #2? Cut off a sheet of that and place it on the lid of your washing machine. Now you can write yourself a note. You know, something like, “Don’t forget to hang up your your favorite shirt!” or “3 items to hang” or something like that.

You can store your dry erase markers in the handy-dandy organizing box. And you’ll never forget to hang up an item of clothing again. How great is that?

Your turn!

I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to improving your laundry experience. I’m always looking for new ways to improve my methods. What laundry tips do you have? And while you’re at it, go ahead and try Member’s Mark Fresh Scent or Paradise Splash. Let me know what you think.

My family needs more of everything. Including data.

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #DataAndAMovie #CollectiveBias

Our growing family uses more of everything. Including data. #DataAndAMovie

We’ve been home with our new son for almost a month now, and I must say that I’m pleasantly surprised at how well things have been going. Sure, every day has its share of awkward moments, but we get through them. And we’re growing through those awkward moments as we navigate through our new normal as a family of six.

One thing that has surprised us about adding a teenage boy to our family is how much more we need of everything. The amount of laundry has increased exponentially.We go through an insane amount of milk and juice each week. And, over the last month, I think I’ve flipped more pancakes and scrambled more eggs than I did during the entire year last year. OK. I might be exaggerating just a little bit. But I think you get the point. Continue reading “My family needs more of everything. Including data.”

This is the most amazing dancing you'll ever see.

DSC06810
During our trip to Ethiopia, we dedicated Thursday as a day of celebration. The Transition Home where Weldu had lived hosted a goodbye coffee ceremony for him (and for us). And later that evening, we went to 2000 Habesha, an Ethiopian cultural restaurant. We had been to a similar restaurant when we brought Mihret home. And we had a great time. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the end of all of the red tape and the fact that Weldu was really, truly, going to come home with us in just a few days!
The food was amazing, as one should expect. The dancing? Amazing. It was a great evening of celebrating with family and friends. Our hearts were as full as our bellies by the time the night was over.

Continue reading “This is the most amazing dancing you’ll ever see.”

Nesting and packing and nesting and packing

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"If the family were a container, it would be a nest, an enduring nest, loosely woven, expansive, and open." - Letty Cottin Pogrebin

If the statement that a family is a loosely woven and expansive nest, then it’s safe to say that our nest is about to get bigger. It’s already grown in our hearts, but things are about to get real. Real world real. Because that empty chair at our dinner table is finally about to be occupied. Forever.

Rumor has it he’s a pretty good soccer player. And he’s a big fan of Manchester United. So I’m trying to get the hang of it. I was never a very good soccer player. And I haven’t really been much of a fan.

But I am now.

Because he is. That’s kind of how the game is played. So I’m learning about soccer  football. We’re also learning how to be fans of Manchester United. It’s a whole new world in the Todd household, y’all.

There is a sudden flurry of activity in our house. In the midst of our busy school and work schedules, we're trying to put the final touches on this house, making room for one more person. So you could say that we're in full-on nesting mode, helping this family container of ours expand some more.

Fortunately, his side of the Boys' bedroom is ready. Chalkboard and all.

image
But we're not just nesting. We're packing, too. So we're kind of in this weird state of cleaning and rearranging a bunch of things while also pulling stuff out to pack. Fortunately, I didn't really fully unpack from my trip a month ago. But now there's two more people flying out with me and one more coming back with us.

So we're nesting. And packing. And nesting. And packing. And waiting. And getting ready. And nesting. And packing.

Because soon this journey to bringing Weldu home will come to an end.

And the real journey will begin.

My appearance before the judge

Dad and Weldu  - first trip last day

On Tuesday morning, December 22, I joined a dozen other families from around the world in a small 30 foot by 30 foot room on an upper floor in an Ethiopian courthouse. All of us were there for the same thing. So one by one, families were ushered into the adjacent judge’s chambers for an interview. When the family would complete their interview, they would leave the judges’s chambers with smiles on their faces. And they were greeted by congratulatory handshakes and the occasional high-five from the people around them.

When it was finally my turn, I was escorted into the judge’s chambers. The door closed and I shook the judge’s hand as I sat down in a chair in front of his desk. He began to ask me questions in order to confirm our family’s eligibility to adopt “W.”

None of the questions were tough. And none really came as any surprise. But they have me the opportunity to share my heart and show how we hadn’t entered this adoption journey without serious thought and prayer. I love this boy. And Christy loves him, too. Our whole family loves him. And that’s how it should be. Right?

The first of many hugs to be had.

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on


Weldu Josiah entered the world more than a dozen years ago. He entered our world about a year ago. In our hearts, he’s been our son since that day we first laid eyes on him. He was our son when Christy met him in July. He was our son when I met him shortly after stepping off the plane in Addis.

And on December 22, we were legally declared capable of adopting Weldu into our family. On December 22, Weldu became a Todd.

Dad and WelduIn a few weeks, we’ll have an appointment scheduled with the US Embassy in Addis. Then we’ll be making one more flight to the Land of Coffee and 13 Months of Sunshine. And we’ll take Weldu into our arms and bring him home. 

It’s been a long journey. But this kid is worth it. He’s so worth it.

 

This is what love feels like

Tobymac concert 2015

I think this is my favorite song on Tobymac’s newest album. Because of the reunion of dc Talk on What Love Feels Like, it already made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy all over. But then I heard Mister Mac’s (or should it still be Mister Tobymac’s?) intro to the song at his concert in Indy a few months ago. Tobymac concert 2015

He shared that he wrote the song in the wake of his father’s passing. CCM.com has a great writeup on the song. You should just go over there and read it. Go ahead. It won’t take you very long. I’ll wait.

Powerful stuff. Right?

I have loved this song since the first time I heard it. Its sound kind of echoes dc Talk’s style from a decade ago. I’m sure that’s an intentional nod to the beautiful music Toby, Kevin, and Michael made together.

But the more I hear this song, the more I think it describes our adoption adventure. There have been times where the process has been frustrating – especially when it has come to waiting. And there have been some days where we’ve felt disheartened and maybe even a little defeated.

As I sit here in the airport, waiting to board my flight to Ethiopia, I m must say that I’m pretty spent. I’m physically exhausted. My nerves are a bit raw. And last night I felt like I was on the verge of a meltdown while helping a guest in the middle of the store. Not a temper tantrum type of meltdown. More like the way you feel when you cry so much that you’ve kind of melted into the floor. Yes. That kind. Anyone else ever feel that way?

I’m completely spent.

I’m empty.

And that’s where I really love this song. Because empty never felt so full.
Tobymac concert 2015
Poured out.
Used up.
Spent.
Exhausted.
But ready to fight tooth and nail for this boy I’ve never met.

Just like I will fight for the rest of my kids. Because in my heart and in my soul, this child is mine. I hope the judge in Ethiopia agrees.