Our New Normal {Awesome Mack}

This post has been 1 year, 72 days and two hours in the making. Hands down the hardest post anything I’ve ever had to write. But it feels good. Cathartic.

Mrs. Dude already shared some thoughts on her fabulous blog. To offer a preface to this post, many similarities below. That post was a bit of a collaboration – Mrs. Dude’s words, my editing. No need to recreate the wheel.

The Mrs. has received some amazing comments and messages from her post – heartfelt, inspiring and loving. Awesome.

But the best message – impeccable timing, but completely unrelated to the post – came from our own house. Princess penned the below gem today in her daily journal…

Awesome Mack

I love our little Mack. He is so nice, kind and sweet. One day I think Mack is going to grow a long mustache and plant flowers. And do yoga.

Nailed it! Future Mack seems super rad. The Dude is going to dig that cool cat.

Yes, that awesome picture did accompany the journal entry.

So what’s all the hub bub about Dudeski?

There’s not a lot to say, and at the same time, there’s so much to say.

His first birthday was perfect. No walking, no talking. But every rug-rat develops at their own pace.

Then the stress kicked in.

We began to question things when the party was over. We heard concerns from both Grandmas:

“Does he say any words? None?”

“He’s not using his fingers at all…still raking.”

“Notice his right foot? It drags when you help him walk.”

We started to consult Google. 12 month milestones. Yeah, not hitting many…any?!

We missed our 9 month appointment. Life moves fast with three! But, thinking back Jazzy Mack hit milestones up to 6-8 months. Then the milestones started to slow down.

Still in denial, the Mrs. and I countered with:

“He’s a quiet kid.”

“He has his sister and brother to do everything he needs.”

“Some kids just develop slower.”

Since both Grandmas also happen to be longtime nurses, we decided to listen to their concerns. We made an apt with our pediatrician to get her input. Concerns confirmed. This appointment has now led to many more – hearing test, thyroid test, a developmental specialist…

The first step was a pediatric developmental specialist. I was traveling for work. Yeah, not the best time to be apart, but the appointment came quick. And we had confidence in our handsome boy.

The development specialist is great (so I hear). She spent 2 hours conducting a very thorough exam – playing with Jasper and asking a lot of questions. As the appointment closed, she said the words that are forever locked in my noggin,

 “I think Jasper has cerebral palsy.”

I wasn’t there to hear the words come out, but I sure did feel them on the other end of a phone.

The Mrs. called me on the way out to tell me the news. We talk (I cursed…a lot), some tears are shed, and we just sit on the phone in silence. Hearts breaking. And we can’t even hug.

What just happened!?!?

As the days march on, we continue with more appointments – an MRI and a neurology consult.

The neurologist shows us Jasper’s MRI for the first time. It’s abnormal.

“There is white matter on the grey matter. I see lesions on the right and left side and additional spots in the back. Was Jasper premature?”

Jasper Mack was born at home, 42 weeks pregnant. No trauma, typical everything. Big & beautiful. 9.2 lbs of total babe.

“This is deeper then what I would expect with a typical CP child.”

She mentions this could have been caused from a stroke in utero. It could be metabolic or maybe a genetic disorder.

Heads spinning.

She gives us an order for physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, and a leg brace for the right leg that drags.

“I’m not convinced this is cerebral palsy, I’m not ruling it out though. I want therapy, more testing, and then we’ll have the geneticist see him.”

We leave her office, more confused than when we entered.

After weeks of research, we had almost become used to the idea that Jas has a mild form of CP…even grateful that’s all it was.

We headed directly to the hospital for x-rays of his hips and legs, blood work and urine cultures. Genetic blood tests came a couple weeks later – but results are two months out.

Now we wait.

We’re getting good at patience.

In the mean time, we’re working hard. More importantly, Mack is working hard!

We have therapy sessions four times a week, and the little man is getting used to the new leg brace.

In four short weeks we’ve gone from no unsupported steps and no words, to a lot of new sounds (maybe even words!), some sign language, and walking…as many as 25 steps…on his own!

I LOOOOOVE this guy! With every bit of my heart.

Jasper is almost 17 months old, and as much as I want to hear him say a word – a real word – walk on his own, or use his two cute little fingers to pick up food, I really just want him to keep smiling.

If you’ve met Jas, then you know he can light up a room with his smile. He is the happiest person I know, and that happiness is contagious to anyone in the same room.

With so many unanswered questions and endless unknowns, we are doing our best to live in the present, work with Jasper as much as possible, and remember how lucky we are.

Keep smiling Jasper Mack. We love you to the moon and back.

This is our new normal. Awesome Mack.

‘Nastics Finale

'Nastics Finale

'Nastics Finale

Little Dude and The Princess have been getting their ‘nastics on for the past few weeks. For anyone not familiar with Little Dude speak, ‘nastics = gymnastics.

Little Dude loved the climbing, rolling, and jumping, but The Princess was the big success story.

I’ve mentioned Ms. Princess’ lack of athletic motivation in the past with the not-often-discussed soccer incident – two months, seven games, and 14 practices that evoked teeth pulling misery for the Dude and The Princess. We’re happy to let soccer fade into the past.

But I stand by my belief that she is very athletic when she wants to be. And we’ve see glimpses of this with her board-breaking TKD action.

Now we have some strong evidence of The Princess’ athletic prowess; gymnastics. A. She loved it, and 2. she climbed the learning curve quickly. In 6 short weeks she went from barely tumbling with the ability for a half cartwheel, to back-walkovers and round-offs on the high balance beam.

Impressive. Love to see the joy in athletics, and it is helping to build a lot of confidence in everything she does.

Below is a quick highlight reel from the ‘nastics finale. Organized chaos is the best way to describe it. 30 little kids, 6 gymnastic stations, loud music, and a whole lot of movement.

Nice work Princess!


Princess Tickles the Ivory…& Little Dude Copes

The Dude family started the day by donning our Sunday best and heading out to a piano recital. Awesome.

In a recent post, I mentioned that I regret not learning to play music earlier in life. Luckily, The Princess will not shoulder this same regret. She has been jamming on the piano for almost a year now. And today was the day she got to show off.

Super proud moment.

We huddled in the living room of the piano instructor surrounded by about 30 proud parents and relatives. And we watched a small group of kiddos perform strokes on the piano that I assume the majority of us have no clue how to play. Very impressive.

It’s awesome to see people learning new skills and having enough confidence in their growing abilities to perform in front of others. Very cool.

The Princess tickled the ivory to perfection. And she showed a lot of confidence in herself. Nothing better for a parent to see.

And Little Dude? Well, he managed. He managed to remain relatively quiet, and somewhat still until The Princess completed her performance. Then we broke for the exits. I have a feeling this will be a habit at most formal engagements with the Little Dude.

Here’s a quick video of The Princess tickling the ivory…and Little Dude coping with his first recital.



Choose Your Media Wisely

In addition to the core family-life focus of Dude Knows Best, I’ve been cataloging groovy ideas and links that I come across. These topics fall loosely under the category of “Dude’s Flow,” i.e. anything the Dude happens to be interested in at that particular time.

I love the idea of being able to look back on the evolution of the Dude Family and the Dude’s interests. Who knows what twists and turns lie ahead.

The internet connects us instantly to an infinite number of rabbit holes that we can explore, and leaving a trail of breadcrumbs – in the form of Dude Knows Best – seems like an interesting practice.

However, this exercise has underscored an important point for me. We need to be careful with the media we expose ourselves to. And more importantly, we need to be extremely careful with the media we expose the kiddos to.

This video from Miss Representation offers a great lesson for The Princess – and all the ladies in our lives – about being selective with where we put our focus.  We need to guard against overexposure to the wrong ideas and cherish the right messages.

Cause & Effect: How the Media You Consume Can Change Your Life


TKD IV: Princess Can Kick

TKD IV: Princess Can Kick

TKD IV: Princess Can Kick

The Princess recently graduated to a yellow-striped belt in Tae Kwan Do. This was her fourth two-month session in the past two years.

At the end of each session the kids break a board as part of the test to move up to the next level.

It’s a fun final session to watch. The room is full of excited parents, and even more excited kids. They demonstrate their skills, recite some knowledge, and end with a broken board.

It’s a great confidence-builder, for everyone, to see a little body breaking a board.

We’ve reached the age where the kids actually look like they know what they’re doing. It was an important session.

Princess went from stumbling around flailing her limbs, to a ninja in training. Check out this kick…


Tooth Fairy

Tooth Fairy

Tooth Fairy

The Princess has finally had a run-in with the Tooth Fairy. I made the bold claim that a tooth was loose two months ago. It has finally wiggled it’s way out.

Since this is our first encounter with a Fairy of the Tooth variety, I naturally sought some sage advice; wikipedia and the Tooth Fairy.

Here’s the key point of wikipedia’s explanation of the Tooth Fairy:

The reward left varies by country, the family’s economic status, amounts the child’s peers report receiving and other factors.  A 2011 study found that American children receive $2.60 per tooth on average.

Somehow, Mrs. Dude convinced me to pay above minimum wage. You’re welcome Princess.

The Dude has been known to be a bit of a pragmatist on occasion. I often questioned the idea behind leading children to believe in imaginary creatures that come bearing gifts. Although, I now see the benefit of nurturing a young’ins imagination, and I credit the Tooth Fairy with helping open my eyes. Thank you Rock.


Extra Sprinkles

Extra Sprinkles

Extra Sprinkles

This passed weekend, the Princess enjoyed a sleepover. Always an adventure.

The excitement could hardly be contained in her little body. Of course Mrs. Dude pulled out all the stops, including movies, pizza, and an ice cream party.

The ladies each had the opportunity to decorate their cones with a wide selection of goodies.

As the Princess added some extra sprinkles to her cone, the Dude walked into this conversation:

  • Amigo: That’s how people get fat.
  • Dude: You don’t need to worry about that. But too much candy could give you an upset stomach.
  • Princess: It’s over-sized.
  • Dude: You girls don’t need to worry about that.
  • Princess (to amigo): Over-sized is a nicer way to say it.
  • Dude: Well, I agree, that is a nicer way to say that, but you don’t need to worry about that.
  • Amigo: Well, I know who’s oversized, “J.” (Identities have been removed to spare the innocent.)
  • Dude (chuckling): We really don’t need to worry about that.

As I walked away, I overheard…

  • Amigo: Yada, yada, yada, then “J” kicked me…somehow. I don’t know how, his legs are tiny.

Now I have the image of a cartoon character in my mind – over-sized with tiny violent legs.

Hilarious. Glad the Princess is always trying to protect feelings…even if they are the feelings of an over-sized cartoon character with tiny, violent legs.

2 Wheelin’!

2 Wheelin'!

2 Wheelin'!

Last weekend we enjoyed a fab Memorial Day. Some grilling, crabbing, a little poop on the deck, first trip to the pool. The unofficial start to the summer is the bestest! So much to look forward to.

But the highlight of the extended weekend was  the Princess breaking out of her shackles (i.e. training wheels) and two wheelin’! Yep, we have another bike rider in the Dude casa.

It was an interesting experience filled with some apprehension, a few tears, a couple breaks to rest tired legs, but in the end, there were some big smiles and a complete and utter success. Quite the milestone. A skill, and an experience, not to be forgotten.

We’re super proud of you Princess. Get to peddling on that freedom machine!

The Mustache Polka

I’m not sure why this post has taken so long. I really should have gotten it out immediately. If for no other reason than Princess’ aunt Shi-Shi is across the country and couldn’t take in the spectacle….did I say spectacle?…I mean recital.

My guess is that my tardiness is the result of what has come to be known as the Barry Hangover. The Lady in the Shoe and her brood came for a weekend visit to watch the Princess’ dance recital. Their last name is Barry – hence, the Barry Hangover.

Life with six kids under one roof is a blur. So much so that I can’t even attempt to explain the weekend. However, I do believe this one example sums up the weekend pretty well. As I stood at the kitchen sink overlooking the backyard, washing some of the dinner plates, I noticed a little body climbing the steps in the yard. This little dude was carrying a flaming stick from the campfire through the yard chanting “MARSHMALLOWS – MARSHMALLOWS – MARSHMALLOWS.”

The natives were restless. Clearly time for s’mores. A very Lords of the Fly type of scene for a very Lords of the Fly type of weekend.

Hence the Barry Hangover – and my tardy posting.

Anywho. Back to the subject at hand. The Recital.

After a considerable payment (Thank you Nina), the Princess has spent every Tuesday afternoon for the last eight months learning to “dance.”

After eight months of preparation, we reached the culminating point of the year, the recital. An ungodly amount of makeup was worn, costumes and wardrobe changes were prepared, celebratory flowers were purchased, and family came from miles around. The big day.

There was clearly a lot of effort poured in the show and all of the preparation. It is great to see people care about an activity so much, and without them the community would be missing a vital art. Hats off for the effort and commitment.

This was the Dude’s very first experience with any type of dance recital. I typically try to avoid anything that takes place in a theater environment. I’m not sure what to think about the result. I think the Princess enjoyed herself. But at the same time, I think we could have said let’s go to the beach, and she would have been like “Ok, see ya later dance.”…as long as we promised she could have the flowers.

She was definitely excited about the makeup. Is makeup genetic for girls?! The Princess and my three year old niece are completely mesmerized as soon as they see it. Kind of like a ball for Little Dude.

She also LOVED getting the flowers at the end and ate up the attention. But I think she could have done without all that dancing in the middle. Perhaps I’m mistaken, but it all appeared chaotic to me, and I’m not sure the Princess digs chaos.

In the end, we all enjoyed the show, and it was great to see the Princess smiling from ear to ear.

Ah, but I see your wheels spinning. What’s the Mustache Polka all about, you ask? One of the songs the Princess danced to was the Hopscotch Polka. But to torture her, I sang the Mustache Polka all day long. Hilarious, right? So much fun being a dad!

The beauty of this video can be found in the small details. Five year old dance recital madness.

Breakin’ Wood Part Deux

Breakin' Wood Part Deux - Axe Kick

Breakin' Wood Part Deux - Axe Kick

As I may have mentioned on a few occasions, the Princess is a bit girly. And by “a bit,” I mean completely.

She once claimed she didn’t want to be a dancer because dancing made her ribs tired!? And I somehow passed up the opportunity to write post recapping the soccer season – I think I blocked the experience out of my memory – but let’s just say that the last game consisted of lots of tears and absolutely zero running until she realized there was a trophy at the end…anything for jewelry.

But that all changes when she steps into the dojo (That’s not the name in Tae Kwon Do, but it reminds me of the Karate Kid so deal with it TKD purists.). She becomes assertive and strong. She stays focused and doesn’t shy away from the physicality. She listens and understands the power of discipline.

Tae Kwan Do has quietly become our favorite Princess activity.

The other night The Princess broke her second board, and got her second yellow stripe, passing her test with an Axe Kick.

I didn’t include an entire 80’s montage, but I did catch the magic moments.