I wrote some Thank You Notes to my children

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Pampers for this promotion. You can learn more in my Disclosure Policy. As always, thank you for your continued support. 

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!

This is why I got misty-eyed at Aly’s final choir concert

Aly's Final Concert

A few weeks ago, we gathered in Aly’s school gym for one final time as the 8th grade choirs gave one final middle school concert. As they gathered to sing the final song, I have to admit that I had a bit of an emotional moment. I even got a little misty-eyed. I probably wasn’t the only one. But it probably wasn’t for the reason y’all think.

Yes, it’s crazy that our Aly is already out of middle school and is going to be a Freshman next year. It’s a little concerning how fast everything is flying by. I was warned about such things, and I’ve tried to soak in as many moments as possible. And it’s amazing to see how our little girl who used to talk to bees and make mud angels in the puddles grow up right before our eyes. But that’s really not the reason I felt this wave of emotion come over me. And it’s not because this was her final choir performance, since she’s not planning on participating in any of the choirs or singing groups in high school.

No, there was a much more personal reason. In order to explain why I felt the way I did, I have to give you a little bit of background. So let’s rewind the clock some 25-ish years.

I hated middle school.

There. I said it. It’s out in the open for everyone to know. I hated almost everything about middle school. I hated riding the bus.* I hated algebra. I hated the cliques. I hated the inside jokes and the slang everyone would try to use. I hated being made fun of. And having come from a relatively small school where you knew everyone and everyone knew you, I hated being at such a large school where it was hard for me to know anyone.

I wasn’t a Jock. I wasn’t a Prep. I wasn’t a Hood or a Nerd. I was an outsider who didn’t really fit in with the rest of the outsiders. And I most certainly didn’t fit in with the popular kids. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. So I was overwhelmed throughout most of my middle school  career.

Me in 6th grade

I hated middle school.

I’m sure there were good things about middle school, but I’ve unintentionally blocked them out. OK, that’s not entirely true. I do remember some good things. I was baptized while I was in middle school. I became heavily involved in Scouting and came under the leadership of some pretty amazing mentors who poured life into me, even when I was silently miserable. My parents did the best they could. They’d never parented a middle school student before. And that’s funny, because I’d never been a middle school student before. Looking back, I’m pretty sure we were all just making it up as we went along. In spite of the struggles, I did know they loved me. But school itself?  I’ve blocked out most of my middle school experience. A lot of it is a blur. And I think I’m OK with that. Because here’s some of the stuff I do remember…

I remember the beginning of Summer Break between my final year of elementary school and my first year of middle school. I was told that the rising 7th and 8th graders had a “hit list.” You didn’t want to be on this hit list because that meant you were going to get beat up. Every day. At the beginning of Summer Break, a well-meaning friend told me that I was on the hit list. That ruined my Summer. It probably helped ruin the first semester of 6th grade, too. I was never beaten up in middle school. Never got anywhere near a fight.** My friend did. Once. Kind of. Actually, he was just pummelled while the rest of the school watched because he refused to fight back.

Speaking of that friend, he was one of the only friends I really had in middle school. And I remember constantly teasing him and mistreating him because I thought it would get others to think I was cooler than I really was.

I remember people making fun of my hair. Relentlessly. Repeatedly. Nonstop. Unceasingly. You get the picture?

Me in 8th grade

I remember feeling so much pressure to be accepted that I lied to people about having a girlfriend who lived out of the country. While I really did know some girls who live overseas, I want anywhere close to being in any type of dating relationship with any of them.

It was horrible. I can’t imagine what life would’ve been like if social media was thrown into the mix. You have no idea how thankful I am that it wouldn’t exist until long after I was out of middle school.

I hated middle school.

About a year ago, I had the chance to attend a class reunion at our middle school. I originally planned on attending, but work obligations prevented me from making the trip to my hometown. There was a part of me that was bummed. In spite of my horrible middle school experience, some of my middle school classmates did become friends of mine. In high school. So it would have been nice to see them. But I have to be honest. I was mostly pretty OK with not going back. Why relive such an ugly time in my life?

So as I watched Aly perform on stage, I thought about how positive her final year of middle school had been. Of course, there have been some rocky moments during her middle school career. That’s part of the middle school experience. But she is moving on to high school as a grounded, confident young woman.

I secretly shed a little tear and secretly wiped it away before anyone could see it. Because while I know high school can have its share of drama and challenges, it is so much better than middle school. I know that it feels like middle school never ends. But there is a light at the end of that tunnel and it can lead to better things. Much better things. I’m convinced that Aly is going to love high school.

That tear also leaked out because of my great sense of relieve. Two of our children have successfully navigated the middle school minefield. We’ll have three high school students at the beginning of this school year. That means we only have one more kid to go through middle school. So in my head, I gave Christy an imaginary  celebratory “high five.” They made it through middle school. And I think they’ve turned out to be some pretty amazing kids. Just one more to go.*** And that’s a few years away.

We’ve got this.

If you know a middle school student, especially one who is struggling, please be there for him or her. Be an encourager. Be a shoulder to lean on. Please pass on the message that it will get better. So hang in there.

Middle school was not the end of the world. It gets better. So much better.

And I guess that was a good lesson to learn. No matter the circumstances that surround you, it’s not the end of the world. Like my Grandmama used to say, “This, too, shall pass.”

*I did think George, our bus driver was pretty cool, though. He probably let us get away with more than we should have during our daily commutes, but he tried to ease the boring bus ride. In spite of his efforts, I still didn’t like riding the bus. I was much happier walking to school like I did in elementary school.

**Shoot, the only time I was ever in anything close to a fight (other than with my brother) was when I was in 1st grade. And that was more like people running after each other and taunting each other.

***For a variety of reasons, I’m glad we didn’t enroll Weldu in school as soon as we got home. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like for him to try to navigate the final semester of 8th grade. Middle school is hard enough when you’ve grown up here in the States!

Aly, Bella, and Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind formula

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

Bella Close Up #BrightMind #ad

It wasn’t meant to be…

Nine years ago this Fall, our family walked into a local animal rescue shelter in Upper East Tennessee, determined to bring home a dog named Bella. Christy and Aly had been there earlier and they had fallen in love with this beautiful, gentle giant of a dog. As we all walked in to meet Bella for the first time.

As we entered Bella’s cage to meet her, a family walked in with a leash. They had just adopted her and were taking her home. We were sad. I think Aly was pretty close to devastated. They already had a connection with this dog and we were looking forward to  having her join our other dog, Diego, as part of our growing family. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.

Perfect timing.

As we walked around the rescue shelter, wondering what to do next, Aly watched a family bring in an adorable 10 week old puppy. She was white with some brown spots. Nobody was sure what breed she was. Maybe some type of beagle/pointer mix?

The details really don’t matter that much. Because Aly was instantly in love. As soon as the family left the building, we made a beeline to the volunteer who was working that evening and instantly began the paperwork to adopt this precious little puppy.

We named her Bella, in honor of the Bella we were originally planning on adopting. We left home that night, fully intending on bringing a Bella home. It just wasn’t the Bella we were expecting.

Puppy Bella

The photo above was taken shortly after we brought her home. Just look at that face! Who can resist those legitimate puppy dog eyes? We instantly fell in love with our Bella. And Aly has considered her to be a sister since Day One. And their personalities really do mirror each other. It’s kind of spooky how much they’re alike sometimes. These two have a very close bond. They have very similar spirits and temperaments. It’s almost like they’re soul sisters.

She’s growing up like everyone else.

Bella’s definitely not a puppy anymore. In fact, now that she’s older than 7 years old, she’s considered a senior. Now that Bella’s older, her nutritional needs are changing. Like any other family member, we want to give her what she needs to remain healthy. And providing the proper nutrition is pretty important. The experts at Purina  have discovered that a dog’s brain chemistry begins to change significantly. This change can have a pretty big impact on a dog’s memory, awareness, and decision-making. That’s why Purina has created the Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind for adults. Their formulas were created with senior dogs like Bella in mind. Owners who include Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind as part of their dog’s daily diet may see an improvement in their dog’s memory, attention, and trainability.

#BrightMind available at PetSmart #ad

We want the best for our dog. After all, she’s kind of like family. So we went to our local PetSmart to give this new formula a try. Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind includes enhanced botanical oils that promote mental sharpness in older dogs like Bella. Some owners have seen improvements in their dogs’ mental sharpness in as little as 30 days. That’s pretty remarkable! So we wanted Bella to give it a try.

Purina Pro Plan #BrightMind #ad

Because changing dog food can cause unnecessary stress on a dog’s digestive system, it’s important to take a few days to transition to a new dog food. For Bella, most of her diet consisted of the original dog food with a few bites of Pro Plan Bright Mind mixed in. Each day, we increased the amount of the new food while decreasing the amount of the old food. By the end of the week, she had transitioned completely to the new Bright Mind formula. Transition to Purina Pro Plan #BrightMind #ad

It might sound like that was a lot of transition, but it really wasn’t. It only took a few extra seconds to mix the food. And it was worth that extra effort to ensure a smooth transition for Bella’s digestive system. After all, she’s like family to us. And we want to do what we can to care for her properly.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Aly already has plans for Bella to be an integral part of her bridal party if she gets married somewhere down the road. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Aly and her “soul sister.”

 

B is for Birthday Girls

B is for Birthday Girls - A to Z Challenge

This week is always a fun week at our house. Two of my three favorite girls celebrate birthdays this week. The other one’s birthday is in October.

You might think of this as a cop-out, but that’s OK. I’m still going to keep this post short because there’s a whole lot of celebrating to be had.

Aly and ChristyHappy birthdays, Christy and Aly!

Christy, I can’t believe we get to share our lives together. I love you more today than I did yesterday. And I’ll love you even more tomorrow than I do today. I don’t know how that’s possible, but it is. I’m so thankful that you said “yes” all those years ago and gave me the opportunity to take this lifetime to show you how much I love you.

Aly, I am so proud of you. I love you with all my heart. You captured my heart when I held you in my arms for the first time and I continue to be amazed each and every day by your creativity, spunk, and compassion.

**I’m participating in the April A to Z Challenge. This post is part of that endeavor. A lot of people are doing the same thing. You should check out some of their posts!**

 

Too many Selfies?

To Selfie or not to Selfie

A few days ago, Aly saw me post this picture…

Oh, you know…Just whipping up a grilled cheese and pulled pork sandwich. #metoday #fmsphotoaday

A photo posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

The following conversation ensued:

Aly: You’re probably the only person I know who gets paid for posting Selfies.
Me: What do you mean?
Aly: You know. You get paid for posting Selfies.
Me: Uh…No. I don’t. I don’t get paid for posting Selfies.
Aly: Yeah. You do. Isn’t that why you post so many of them on Instagram? 

While I do jokingly claim that I helped create the Selfie trend (I’ve been taking them for almost 20 years), I haven’t posted that many pictures of myself. And I certainly haven’t been paid for any of them.

I mean, I did create this video as part of a larger post. I was compensated for that post. It includes a Selfie.

I ambushed @cgfootballboy25 with some Avalauncher snowballs. #NorthpoleFun A video posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

I was also compensated for this post. It also has a video.

A smooth face for a #SmoothSummer. #shop A video posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

I’m sure she’s thinking about this video that was part of a Father’s Day campaign. She knew I got paid for it:

What makes me smile? #powerofdad @lifeofdad @oralb

A video posted by Matt Todd (@mattdantodd) on

 

But other than that? There really aren’t that many selfies I’ve posted Instagram this year. At least, I don’t think there are. Let’s see… Continue reading “Too many Selfies?”

Flipeez hats are crazy fun

Flip your lid with Flipeez

Promo disclosure

Flipeez Peek-a-Boo Monster hat

When I was asked if I’d like to check out a Flipeez action hat, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew this would be a perfect fit for Aly. So when we received the Peek-a-Boo Monster in the mail, I couldn’t wait to give it to her.

I’ll admit that she was a little confused when I brought it into the room. She couldn’t really figure out what it was or what I was going to do with it. But then I put it on her head and she didn’t take it off the rest of the night.

FlipeezShe wore it to school the next day and  her friends really liked it. They loved making the monster’s arms flip by squeezing the air pump in her hat. Several asked where they could get their own. She even used it as part of a costume for a class project!

They’re available online, by the way. $19.95 plus shipping and handling. That ain’t too shabby!

Not only are these hats fun for ages 4 to 104, but they’re highly functional, too. They boast a super soft inner fleece lining that’s sure to keep your head warm during these long, cold, winter months.

They really could be the perfect Christmas gift for kids of all ages.

My featured artist

For Father’s Day, I’d like to call your attention to this art gallery. While it features many talented artists, there’s one that soars above and beyond all others. She does in my book, anyway. Can you figure out which one I’m talking about? I’m sure you’ll be totally surprised when you see her subject matter. 🙂

I’d like to thank Designer Daddy for putting this gallery together and for giving me yet another excuse to brag about my daughter.

I guess I’m doing something right with this parenting thing

It saddens me to know that I’ve lost the Star Wars battle with my children. When ranking his favorite Star Wars movies, he continues to say that Attack of the Clones is his favorite. This really should not be. It makes me question my parenting skills, thinking I’ve failed him somehow.

There is some hope in my child-rearing skills. It might be a small glimmer of hope, but it’s still hope. Today I took Aiden to the doctor for his annual checkup. While I was waiting for him in the waiting room, this happened…

When I told Aiden about it later, he laughed. The fact that he got the reference makes me smile. The fact that he turns on Livin’ on a Prayer every time we’re in my car makes me smile, too. There’s hope for him yet.

And every time Mihret’s in the car? She wants to listen to ‘Tuba Taco’

They may have awful taste in movies, but they definitely have some good musical preferences. Maybe I’m doing OK with this parenting thing after all.