Sunday, December 31, 2006

Lessons Learned - 2006

With 2006 drawing to a close, I bring to you my top 5 Lessons Learned from this past year.

Top 5 Lessons in 2006:
1 - I need to learn different communication styles for my children. Jaclyn & David now require a more mature approach.
2 - Parenting means sacrifice (in a good way). If you dont want to sacrifice what is "YOURS" for others, than parenting is not for you. Specifically, I sense that I will sacrifice for their education.
3 - You live with the choices you make. It is not simply because you were given a bad deal.
4 - I want to be the type of man that improves other people's lives. A man with soul.
5 - A holy family perserveres.

Writer Note: This list can also be named as top 5 things I remember at the moment as child rearing has increased my loss of brain cells.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Daddy is Santa Claus?

Friday night we celebrated Christmas with my family. When I was young, there was a tradition for my father to dress up as Santa - we still have the Santa suit. My sisters asked me to bring the suit & dress up for the kids (Jaclyn, David, JP, Abigail & cousin Isabella).

After dinner, I dressed in my sister's kitchen. I had the complete Santa suit on (including pillow as stomach) except for white beard, hair and hat. As I was trying to tie the belt, I turned around and David is standing at the kitchen door. David looks at me & says, "Wow, Daddy is Santa"

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Live Nativity & GATB Party

Last night Rachel, Jaclyn and baby Abigail participated in a live Nativity. This event was held outside our church in a barn with a live cow, sheep, llama and donkey. Jaclyn played the role of an angel, Rachel played the role of Mary & Abigail played the role of baby Jesus. We had a great time especially when the congregation said "Amen" followed by a long Moooooooo from the cow.

After the Nativity scene, Rachel & I went on a date to the Suarez Christmas Party. It was very good to be with my wife. Rachel fell asleep on the way there & ya know what - I loved it. The most fun was chatting with my college buddies about our lives, especially sharing family stories (good & bad). Rachel also mentioned that she shared parenting stories with the GATB wives. We had a lot of fun & laughs late into the night. Now remember, these are guys I have known since I was eighteen (almost 20 years ago). To share our current lives, especially OUR KIDS lives is very special.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

You Win Some, You Lose Some

I had a great day with the kids. After going to mass, I picked up Jaclyn, David & JP for Sunday School. Jaclyn & David went to school, JP and I played. We played in the park for 1 hour during this crisp December day. When done, JP fell asleep. Jaclyn & David came out of class & then we all played again in the park. We played until 1 pm. The fun continued at home as we played Thomas the tank engine, stoop soccer, baseball catch & puppet fun.

MAJOR MILESTONE: David & JP played Thomas the tank engine together. It was amazing to watch for about 30 minutes. Interacting, playing - lots of laughs.

The day ended with JP crying & complaining about going to bed. Well, you win some & you lose some.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Happy Birthday Rachel

This blog - Fatherhood Matters is about my children. But my children dont happen without their wonderful mother. Mom celebrated a birthday today. She is an amazing woman, friend, and community leader. November 26 also happens to be Abigail's 1 month birthday. Happy Birthday!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Pokeno & Happy Feet

Thanksgiving Day was spent at my sister Kate's home. Kudos to the OLeary-Vandaloo recipes. One of the reasons I love my sisters is because they are attune to family tradition. This year they purchased the game Pokeno. My sisters and I played Pokeno when we were young at our Italian family gatherings. We played literally for pennies with my Poppy, Nana, 5 aunts & 3 uncles. My sisters have now passed the Pokeno tradition down to my children. Jaclyn had a blast reading the playing cards ("Joker of Spades!"). Jaclyn even won a round. David seemed to have fun placing chips on the Pokeno card. JP was found throwing chips at Bailey (the family dog). It is surreal looking across the table at my daughter playing cards.

Today our family of 6 went to the Movies. I am not sure what to make of the movie, "Happy Feet". My gut reaction is I wanted more fun (ala Madagascar) and less thinking (the movie made me think of David). Beyond the initial fiasco of seating arrangements, the kids were great. At the end, with credits rolling - JP broke into dance (JP's dancing is really more of an intense running in place). While he continued his joyful stomp, I looked at Rachel with glee and said, "Happy Feet?!?!"

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stoop Ball - The Evolution

When I was young we played a game called Stoop Ball. Mostly I played with Mark, Paulie, Vinny & Matteo (can you tell where I grew up?).

JP and I played stoop ball yesterday. We dont actually have a front stoop. We played in the basement (using the stairs leading up to the 1st floor). It was fun as JP yelled "Stoop Ball!". JP was giggling as we threw the ball off the stairs. We caught it, dropped it, chased it and repeated. As we were playing and chasing the ball, JP kicked the ball around the basement. He stopped looked at me with those eyes & said, "Dad, this is Stoop Soccer!". Ah, urban life meet suburban life.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Happy 5th Birthday to David

It is 5:15 am in the morning. I am baking David a birthday cake. Why? I LOVE HIM. David's recent daily ritual is to wake up EARLY & come into our bed. Fun for David, not so fun for Mom & Dad who desperately need sleep. Today, I HOPE DAVID WAKES UP EARLY. I want to spend time with him before work.
Our goal 3 years ago was for David to attend mainstream Kindergarten (without assistance). I am happy to say we have met that goal. My honest assessment is that David does need assistance (an aide) at school - we are fighting for that. He needs most help with his social interaction (interacting appropriately with other kids) snd staying on task (jacket in cubbie, participate in music class). I am worried he is an outsider right now, going through the motions without being able to jump into the "real world". Why? His strong intellectual ability overshadows the details of what he really needs.

I love you David. Happy Birthday Buddy!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Highlights from the Past 10 Years

I ran into a great friend, APKJr, whom I have known for 7 years (pre-kids). We talked life and a comment came about "kids aging you".

For you parents out there, would you agree how wonderful your children are & how you could not picture life WITHOUT your children. It is the most intense roller coaster ride. I would not change a thing.

On the way home that night, I thought of the past 10 years of my life.
1996 - Job Change & Dedicate life to Christ
1997 - Job Change & Engaged
1998 - Married (Rachel accepts 24x7 JohnnyO experience)
1999 - Mom diagnosed with cancer & Rachel Pregnant
2000 - Jaclyn born (WCW Baby)
2001 - Buy 1st home & David born
2002 - REST (I think) & David diagnosis
2003 - Pregnant
2004 - JP born & Job Change
2005 - Job Change
2006 - Buy 2nd home & Abigail born

I am sure I am missing something. But, you get the picture. My mom often encourages me through tough situations by saying, "You have nothing to fear, you have been through the worst by losing your Dad". He died a week before my 18th birthday.

So does the above list scare me? Nah. Does it scare you? LOL. My competitive nature says, "Bring it on Life!". So yes, I have aged but hopefully like a fine wine.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Kudos to Aunt Kate

My sister finished the NY City Marathon today in 5:23:36.
This is a major accomplishment and I am very proud of her.

It was on my heart to take 3 of 4 kids to cheer for her. Unfortunately, David's neck, the cold weather and having a 9 day old baby (with recovering mom), we stayed home. Our plan is to ask Aunt Kate to do it again next year.

Jaclyn, David and I watched portions of the marathon on TV.
Jaclyn and David pulled their chairs close to the TV screen.
I asked Jaclyn, "Why are you moving your chairs so close to the TV?".
She answered confidently, "We want to get close so we can see Aunt Kate!"

Correction, not only am I proud of her, but we all are proud (especially her neice and nephew).

Friday, November 03, 2006

One Week in my Life

One week ago, Abigail was born. I find her to be amazing - very strong, intense eyes, focused on her goals (feeding time). I find my wife Rachel to be amazing too - in fact, because of the above traits. Thinking about birth, I continue to be amazed of the strength of women including Rachel.

5 things we learned in the past week (Abigail arrived home Saturday):
Sunday - We learn at noon that last night was Daylight Savings Time.
Monday - We learn Abigail is cool, is a good eater and a good sleeper
Tuesday - Jaclyn and I learn that Halloween is AWESOME on our street
Wednesday - I learn that deep inside I do love Max (dont ask about his vet bill)
Thursday - I learn that parenthood is a 24x7 job.

Get Busy Living

Strange things inspire me. Rachel said to me one time - "you have a wonderful gift, you are a self motivated person". I am motivated to do a lot of things in my life at this time. The biggest motivation is to positively fight for my son. David has torticollis. The day Abigail was born, David was fighting a rash and fever. When those symptoms went away, he ended up with a stiff neck (turned to one side). Turns out this kink is torticollis. Tomorrow - physical therapy.

I now officially put my life under the category of "I can't make this stuff up". I plan to positively fight, inspire and battle life. I have a wonderful immediate and extended family. I have wonderful friends and coworkers. I am going to get busy living knowing that this too shall pass. Bring it on life - JohnnyO Bulldog is here........ with a smile.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Day My Daughter was Born

Abigail Elizabeth O'Leary
Born October 26, '06 @ 12:17 PM
8 lbs 11 ounces; 19.5 inches

"My water broke!" yelled my wife Rachel @ 3:40 am. Our neighbor Lisa came over at 4:15 am. We left for the hospital at 4:44 am. My mom came over at 5 am . My last words before we left the house, "Rachel, can you find my UNC hat?"

5 Highlights:
- Mom w/kids all day & Lisa arrival at 4 ("F*@# Incredible!" - Rachel)
- Rachel calls wrong number at 4 am. Rachel says, "Good Morning, Its time!" Unidentified awoken woman says "Great...Who are you?"
- Rachel in whirlpool during labor ("2 thumbs up!", says Rachel)
- Doula Services by Regina ("Phenomenal!", says Rachel)
- JohnnyO Baby Coaching Services ("You are Da Man!", says Rachel)

Scene of the Day
Nurse comes into the room to check on Rachel at 2:30 PM.
JohnnyO lieing on the couch. Rachel lieing in bed.
Nurse says "You must be pooped"
JohnnyO says, "Yeh, I am shot!"
Nurse says with a smile "No Dad, I was asking your wife"

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Fine Art of Conversation

In 4 years and 11 months, I never felt that David and I have had a phone conversation. Thinking about this, really hurts.

Our phone conversations are:
Me: "David, how was your day?"
David: "1, 2, 3"
Me: "David, I love you"
David: "thomas the tank engine pulls 3 freight cars"

Yesterday was our first real conversation:
Me: "David, how was your day?
David: "Great!"
Me: "David, I love you"
David: "I love you too"

David: "Dad, where are you?"
Me: "I am at work"
David: "Dad, Why are you always at work?"

Ah, out of the mouths of babes.
Question to myself - "Yeh, why am I always at work?"

Monday, October 16, 2006

Bike Riding

Jaclyn learned how to ride a 2 wheel bike on Saturday, October 14.

Well, she actually has been learning to ride for sometime (with my assistance). But she really mastered it and rode on the driveway by herself (with my guidance).

She was proud, quick, fast and laughing all the way. A pure joy except when she stops (we have to learn the fine art of stopping with grace).

I enjoyed every second of being with my daughter. This will be a milestone father and daughter will look back on with great joy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Heart Aches

Seeing your son or daughter scrape a knee.....hurts you. Seeing your son under anesthesia after an operation.....mucho mucho heart ache. Seeing your son with a swelled up eye..... more mucho mucho heartache.

In the course of the week, JP had a swollen eye from an apparent insect bite and David had surgery to replace ear tubes. JP was amazing - swollen eye and all - happy as can be. During the week he even got his finger caught in the toy chest - but continued to play, clean up. All this while I applied ice to his finger. Simply amazing.

David was equally amazing handling the operation. Lots of scariness during and lots of post op hecticness, but he really bounced back well.

I know the pain on my heart with these minor setbacks. How will I feel when my daughter starts dating in 20 years (she is 6).

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. - Nelson Mandela

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Everyone Loves a Parade

On Labor Day (Sept 4), we went to the Newtown Labor Day Parade. There is also a Newtown Labor Day Road Race. Next year I plan to run.

The Labor Day Parade was great - we all had a blast. It felt like a small town parade. We had a tough time getting David to come to the parade. Rachel's great idea was for him to wear computer headphones (he is sensitive to loud parade sounds). David wore his headphones and we finally made our way to the parade site. Ya know, there were a lot of loud noises - drums, trumpets, gun fire, trucks - but David was really great. I covered his ears when I sensed a very loud sound (fireworks).

David - every day and every moment you surprise me. You make me proud to be your father.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

David likes trains. David loves Thomas the Tank Engine. We went to a friend's house on Labor Day Weekend. All the kids played outside, David stayed inside with the Thomas Train set. He does play, but doesnt do well with others impeding on his train time.

We were blessed with our friend Lisa Cap, who understood and helped the other kids recognize and respect David. We also gained some wisdom from her on maybe reversing his train obsession - giving him train time every day. We will try it, monitor it and hope for the best. As Drew Cap would say - "Day by day, Agape"

True and lifelong friends are a gift from God.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

First Day of School

School started on Tuesday, August 29. Jaclyn started 1st grade & David started Kindergarten. All 5 of us walked to the bus stop on Tuesday morning. All 3 kids had backpacks and lunchboxes. We were welcomed by 10 other families at the bus stop. They yelled "Hurry up O'Learys - we are waiting for you to get in the picture!".

Bus arrived. David and Jaclyn ran onto bus. Bus took off. JP stood there in shock as the bus drove off. Mommy stood there in tears. Daddy continued to video tape.

JP, Mommy and Daddy walked hand in hand back home.
As we walked home we felt the following:
- Sense of comfort that our kids were excited to go to school.
- Nervous with how their day would go.
- Happy with our move & the welcoming reception of the neighborhood families.
- Sense of accomplishment that our kids are moving forward.

Why do I feel like the years are going too fast?

NOTE: David had a PPT meeting on Monday. We are extremely happy with the attention give by Newtown Special Services for David. They are evaluating him for the next 30 days and we reconvene in mid October. Shout out to fellow Spellman alumni, Marisol Troche (David's Superkids teacher) for being a strong advocate for us at this meeting.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Taking Your Kids To Work

One major memory I have of my father is going to work with him. He worked in the World Trade Center Twin Towers as a telephone technician. Imagine the excitement of a 10 year old spending the day with his father. As my father setup telephone systems I ran around corporate offices, stairwells, areas marked "employees only" and essentially was "behind the scenes" of 2 large towers.

Today David and Jaclyn came to work with me. They met a boy, Evan who is the son of a co-worker. They played and ran throughout the office. They attended meetings with me.

Our exchange as we walked out of the office.
Jaclyn: "Daddy, I love you and I love when you take us to your job"
David: "Yeh Dad that was cool"

I always worry about David in these social settings. Especially seeing him interact with his peers makes my heart wrench. He wasn't perfect, but he was great.

This might be an experience for today but hopefully will be remembered for many tomorrows.

Friday, August 11, 2006

New Beginnings

I have not posted since May 31. Why? We sold our home in Stratford and now live in Newtown, CT. Needless to say, June and July has been unsettling yet exciting.

We spent the 1st night in our new home on August 6. That night prior to going to bed all 3 kids were running around the house. Since we have no furniture they found this fun. David stopped his running, looked at me and said, "Dad, this place is great!". Jaclyn stopped running, looked at me and said, "Dad, this place is so cool!"

That made this move all worthwhile.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Love on his Terms

It is hard to believe that it is been a couple of weeks since my last post. My beautiful daughter's sixth birthday was May 18. I also captured a lot of wonderful moments on video. Our imminent family move has captured a lot of my time and attention.

Interesting show on ABC News Nightline about Adults with Autism (watch video). It made me stop in my tracks. I never pictured David as an adult. I never pictured caring for David as an adult. It made me wonder - what will his relationships with friends, co workers be like? Will he have a girlfriend? Is he capable of having friends, a job, a girlfriend?

What I do know is that I love David unconditionally. We have a special bond. I do know that he can love, in his way, and on his terms.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mother's (& Father's) Day

Yesterday was Mother's Day. May 14 is also my father's birthday (he would have been 62). So it is a bittersweet day for me.

Our Mother's Day went as follows:
1. Attended 9 am mass at St. James
2. Stopped at gas station (coffee and donuts for the OLeary gang)
3. Went to The Shore Line Trolley Museum. We bought our tickets and the kids ran to the trolley (all except JP who was cranky). Short 20 minute ride up and down the line (along with a tour). I really enjoyed myself simply watching Jaclyn & David get excited about the trolley.
4. Went to Pepe's pizza in New Haven. We sat, watched them make pizza, ate, and ran out.
5. Kids fell asleep on the way home
6. Dad fell asleep on couch when we arrived home
7. Mom fell asleep after Dad
8. At bedtime, I asked Jackie - "Did you have fun today?" Jackie replied, "Yes, I loved the donuts!"

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Fun Ending to a Long Day

When I arrived home from work tonight, all 3 kids were playing in the basement. I roared (in my best lion voice). I hear David say "Run for your lives". Jackie says "It's a monster". JP just ran in circles. That was fun.

Jaclyn asked David and I to sit down. She played teacher and instructed us in Global Studies (passing around a Globe; asking us to name different countries on Abu's Globe). That was fun.

Next I played teacher (Mr. Page). I asked David and Jaclyn to write their name, draw the sun, the moon, a house, a picture of me, and something they get on their birthday (David drew a present and asked, "Dad, er, Mr. Page - can I draw a bow on my present"; Jaclyn drew Barbie)
That was fun.

Lastly JP pulled me upstairs by the finger (per our routine). Into my bed (per our routine). We laid down looking at each other and practiced our snoring (per our routine). We then stop, open our eyes and yell at each other "HELLO!". JP cackles and we repeat (per our routine). That was fun.

Being a Leader

One of the pressures I find with being a Dad (as well as a husband, friend, co-worker) is that others lean on you. In some sense, I want that. I am a fiercely passionate and loyal person. Building a relationship is built on "I will be there for you". Vice versa, I need to lean on others at one time or another.

I remember being a Dad for the 1st time and that overwhelming feeling of "WOW, now I really have to get my act together!". Currently, I sense that my children are watching how I respond to daily activities - whether I am joyful, angry, sad, peaceful or in control.

That is the hard part for me now - being a leader not just during the easy times, but at all times. Being a leader in word and action. I feel like I am failing a lot lately - I have work to do. I love my family. Rachel, Jaclyn, David, and JP - I accept the challenge of being a leader for our growing family.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Little Red Car

This evening, all of us walked in Second Hill Lane school's Relay for Life. This event honors cancer victims. We walked in support of Nana (a.k.a. my mom).

The kids were tired from walking, so Rachel went home with Jaclyn and JP. David and I went on the Second Hill Lane baseball diamond. I can't explain it, but I just love the smell of a baseball field. David ran around the bases and I showed him how to pitch. We ended our time together with 2 things. The first is that I felt guilty for not purchasing a baseball glove for my son. The second with David peeing on the outfield grass (when a man has to go....a man has to go)

David and I walked hand in hand to my car. Upon arriving he asked me if he can "open the red car". I showed him which key and he opened the car door. With door ajar, and just about to step inside, David looked up at me and said proudly, "Dad, that was a great night!"

Leap of Faith

Picture me in my best ring announcer voice.

"Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls. Please welcome, live on stage, the one, the only, the handiest man in town......<>Mr. JP O'Leary!!!! <>

We all watch in amazement as JP jumps off a box, approximately 12 inches off the ground. Simple yes. But JP is not even 2 years old yet! I am truly in awe of his accomplishments. All the credit in the world goes to Rachel (the captain) , Jaclyn (co-captain) and David (1st mate). He follows their every move. He wants to be like them in every way.

This simple leap reminds me of our family's leap of faith. If it is God's will, we are moving in the next 60 days. Keep reading as I keep you posted.

Friday, April 14, 2006

My Love Is A Covenant

I learned something today. Well, better put - I learned how little I know today. My experience with Fatherhood continues to be a learning experience. I learned my love for my family is NOT a contract. That is, I do not love because contractually I am being loved back. That is hard for me personally because in many relationships I wonder "How am I doing?" As a father, your performance is difficult to gauge because with young kids - feedback is rare.

My love for my wife and my children is UNCONDITIONAL. It is covenantial love. I wonder how many times with family and friends I placed "a contract" on that love, that friendship? Are the feelings I have for my family and friends freely given (without expectation of reciprocation)? Something for me to think about.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month. Still researching something to do for David & the family. Maybe a 4 mile run or a Walkathon? Maybe attend a seminar? Not sure. But certainly will do something this year. What I continue to learn is that fatherhood is a journey, a roller coaster - so I am joyfully holding on for the ride.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pictures Are Worth 1000 Words

For all those faithful followers of this blog (and you know who you are), I will probably start posting photos. So stay tuned. Why do you ask? Well, there are just some moments that need to be shown not told.

Kenny Kodak Moments:
1. SETTING: Sunday, March 19 @ Nana & Poppy's House. Nana & Poppy have a piano. So lets see - 3 kids, 1 piano = lots of noise. Picture all 3 O'Learys bangin' away at this piano - Kodak Moment

2. SETTING: Sunday Night, March 19 @ Trumbull Marriott Hotel. 1 Hotel Room, 2 Queen Beds, 2 Adults, 3 Kids = A Bonding Family Experience. Honestly, I expected mayhem. In reality - I carried a sleeping 40 pound boy (David) up to the hotel room (1 asleep). Jaclyn & J.P. cackling away while J.P. finished his milk - Kodak Moment.

3. SETTING: Any Weekday morning prior to School, OLeary household approximately 7:45 am. Post Breakfast Parade. Jaclyn puts on her backpack, invites J.P. to put on David's backpack (which is twice J.P.'s size) and they march around the house - Kodak Moment.

Me: "Rae, quick get the camera and take a photo of me with J.P.
Rachel: (camera in hand) "Great photo honey, um, but...but...your hair"
Me: (fully knowing I look disheveled) "dont worry, just focus on J.P."

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Yes, I know I am a couple of days late with wishing everyone a Happy St. Patrick's Day. However, I have a grace period since my kids now outnumber my brain cells.

I try to have a tradition of spending time with my Mom on St. Patrick's Day. Since I was young she always made this day special for me - wishing me a "Happy Name Day" - my middle name is Patrick.

This year, Nana (my Mom), myself and David went to the Bridgeport St. Patrick's Day Parade. It turned out to be a real nice day, or a "treat" as my mother would say. Upon arriving, David got scared of the marching band drums and loud music - actually holding his ears and running away. We calmed him down and he was able to see balloons and trucks about a 1/2 block from the parade. Slowly over time, we worked our way to front of the parade crowd. We bought a Green Trumpet and David had a blast. He saw the Bridgeport Bluefish and more trucks. We even had more marching bands come by - he was visibly upset by the sound - but intently stayed to watch. I was so proud to watch him overcome his fear and have courage knowing I was by his side.

The day ended at a local Irish establishment you may have heard of - McDonalds. No corn beef only McNuggets. Upon leaving David said, "Nana, would you be my Valentine?"

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Jackie and the Retrievers: Part II

Yesterday was our last game for Jackie & the Retrievers. We had a great season. What I enjoyed most was seeing the growth in the kids - not only in their basketball skills, but also in their bond together. That is why I love to coach - watching individuals develop into a team.

Jackie: I enjoyed coaching you this year. I enjoyed watching you happily dribble the ball up the court. I was so proud of the way you shot the ball and the way you played defense. Most of all, I enjoyed the nights taking you to practice. I loved spending time together, just you and I. I love you momma.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

David Beats Goliath

This is a must read article J-Mac's meaningful message for Autism.
Even better, if you download ESPN Motion, you can see the video.
Bring the tissues, if you decide to watch.

Things I learned today:
1. I must always give David a chance whenever possible.
2. David faces miniature hurdles each day that often aren't readily visible to me or those on the outside.
3. There is no known cure for what David faces.
4. I have hope, faith, promise and love for David.
5. David must be included in all things, so he can live a relatively normal life. By providing him with experiences, he can excel at a much greater level than if he were isolated.
6. Find a positive environment for David, an environment of adults and kids who accept him for who he is.

With the news of my previous post, I know siblings are blessing for David. Jaclyn and J.P. have been a great support system for David. Why? They interact with him with no strings attached. They love him, play with him, tackle him, play hide & seek with him, play tag & dress-up with him. He responds to them (and to other kids) so beautifully. They simply love him for who he is - their brother, friend and playmate.

Keep going David - you will defeat Goliath!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

3 + 1 = 4

I have news, and thinking about how to say this.....well, I will just blurt it out - I AM PREGNANT! There, that was easy.

O'Leary Baby # 4 expected at end of year. Stay tuned for more details.

When I heard the news of the impending birth of each of my children (from my wife) it felt surreal. Also each time I wondered about the impact of the baby on the other children. It's funny, but I can not picture LIFE without Jaclyn, David or J.P. Interestingly enough, I get the sense they can not picture life without each other as well. I can not explain it all here how much they learn from each other and how much they love each other. That is what is exciting for me - they are building memories together. I just happen to be Dad - the captain of the ship. Of course having a baby is a sacrifice in many areas - $$, time, and sleep (to name a few). But life is so precious - I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be their Dad. I can not imagine having my life focused on other things outside of building a family.

Exchange between my wife and Jaclyn:
Rachel: "Jaclyn, mommy has a baby in her belly?"
Jaclyn: "Really, can I kiss it and bless it?"
Rachel: "Sure honey, - you know mommy is going to have a baby."
Jaclyn: "When, tomorrow?"

Friday, February 24, 2006

Another Birthday

Today I am 36 years old. Birthdays are milestones and I often like to gauge progress (its the Project Manager in me) at this time as well as on New Years Eve. Things can always be better, but I am happy with my family, friends, and work. My gut senses I have to work on the play part - the social aspect, but that time will come (in 25 years when the kids are out of the house)

Jaclyn knows exactly how she feels about her birthday. She has told me what she wants for her birthday since December (her 6th birthday is May 18). That level of excitement for my birthday is just not there. Not that I am unhappy. I feel more excited about my wife's birthday or my children's birthday. Maybe that is maturing? I realize that I truly love serving my family more than being served.

I spent yesterday alone & did not like it. I never enjoy spending too much time away from my wife. Now with children - that feeling has grown exponentially. You figure I would enjoy the time - but honestly, I felt lost & misguided. That feeling felt odd. I missed Jaclyn. We spoke on the phone and I enjoyed just hearing her say "I love you Daddy". I missed David. He asked me on the phone "How is your day?", I answered "Great, How was yours?" and he said something about the Letter C. I missed looking into J.P.'s eyes.

Happy 36th Birthday to me!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Sibling Interaction - New School

Upon arriving home from work - I played with all 3 kids in our basement (kids playroom). I just spent time with my siblings (see previous post) and now I am watching my children (and their sibling interaction).

First Jaclyn and I played catch. Then David and I played catch. Then JP and I played catch. Now you must picture this playroom with 3 kids. It is completely filled with toys for 3 diiferent age groups (2, 4, 6). There is no lack of fun things to play with (although they fight over the same toy).

Next it was time for the microphones - David and I sang "C is for Cookie", Jaclyn and I sang "I Love You" and JP and I sang "blah, blah, blah, blah" spitting all over the microphone.

Next was dancing time - "I like to move it move it, da da da....dadada da da da da da da". Jaclyn does a swan ballet, David says "Spin me Daddy" & JP does a combo of JohnnyO Caveman dance/Disco Duck

All 3 children are similar yet different. I am sure in some ways not unlike my sibling interactions. I wonder what their relationship will be like when they are older. Or maybe it will be just like it is now - just matured.

Sibling Interaction - Old School

On Thursday night (anniversary of my Dad's death), I met my 2 younger sisters @ The Bayou in Mount Vernon, NY.

I hope we meet on this day every year. We toasted our Dad, had some laughs, ate some voodoo wings and drank purple haze. We listened to jazz, saw Elvis and had a figurine of Peter Criss on our table.

Driving home I was thinking that our sibling dynamics never changed. In some ways we interact as if we were in our formative years. I dont say this in a bad way - it just is and it is okay. These are 2 people that have known me my whole life. We are similar as well as different in many ways. We have shared lots of memories together and I am very glad they are my sisters. I would not change them in anyway.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Death and Taxes

"In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." - Ben Franklin

Today is the 18th anniversary of my father's death. Today, I have officially spent half my life without my father (Yes, I will be 36 in 8 days). When I think about this for long, it is interesting how it brings back memories & feelings. That is a good thing - I remember and celebrate. In some ways (which I find odd) my pain has matured along with my questions. I wonder what fatherhood advice my father would give me? Is my father proud of my relationship with my children? Am I turning into my father? Will I impact people the way my father has? Since space is limited (wait a second, this is my blog - I can do whatever I want) - I will share 3 Good Memories and 3 Sad Memories. ***

3 Good Memories:
- Going to work with my Dad (World Trade Center). My dad was an installer for NY Telephone. On a 4th grade class trip, he arranged for a special tour of the observation deck (on top of the WTC).
- I still envision my Dad's wallet, wedding ring and watch. I remember his smell and touch.
- My Dad taught me to drive a standard car in the Orchard Beach Parking lot about a week prior to his death. The morning of his death I was tested immediately with these driving skills. I needed to move his car before 8 am (alternate side of the street parking rules were in effect)

3 Sad Memories:
- Overwhelming sense I needed to become "the Man" at 17 years, 357 days old.
- My father never gave me the Birds & the Bees speech.
- My father never taught me how to shave.

This is a boulder I carry for the rest of my life (credit for this line given to the book, 700 Sundays by Billy Crystal). However, I honestly feel how you handle your hardest moments, define you and define your greatest triumphs. Very simply - my mother held us together. My father died in the very early morning. Upon arriving home from the hospital, she brought her 3 kids to Mass (it was the 7 am service) clearly showing us where strength is found. I will never forget that 1 action within that life-changing day.

Yes - nothing is certain in life but death and taxes (that reminds me to get this done this week). But it is still tough to say goodbye to your heroes. Time will tell, but I hope to be at least half the father that Mr. Jack O'Leary was.......I love you Dad.

*** author note on memories: these 3 good and 3 sad memories are not all encompassing, in any particular order or paid for by any sponsors. they are simply 6 things that I can remember at 2 am in the morning.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

David Goes to Yale (Part II)

Yesterday we completed the Yale evaluation. I don't want to speak for Rachel, but I would say we are very happy with the services they provide - they provide a "no holds barred" report to us about David along with suggestions for his development.

Good News
- David is extremely bright - intellectually, reading, letters, numbers
- David likes people, he is social

Bad News
- David needs lot of improvement in social and emotional growth.
- David is currently at about a 2 year old level socially and emotionally.

- Because of his intelligence along with his rugged good looks (he gets from Dad), people externally don't see a lot of things wrong. In the case of the school system, he ain't that bad (therefore school says we don't have to concentrate our efforts on him). The doctor used the phrase - "The Devil is in the details". Which in the case of David means that at first glance he looks great BUT when you look deeper there are issues to work on - IMMEDIATELY. David relies or reverts back to his strengths - letters & counting to make up for his social or emotional weaknesses.

This is the end of our relationship with this Yale group - we now will work with another Yale team (across the street) for small children. All of the staff loved David (they were all women) and they will miss him. They hope that we continue to share with them his progress - which we plan on doing.

As we departed, the chief of staff looked at me and she said "You really have a wonderful rapport with your son". I smiled, welled up a bit and said proudly "Yes, That's my Boy!"

Thursday, February 09, 2006

David Goes to Yale (Part I)

Well, technically yes - we went with David to Yale today. However, dont be alarmed, I still have 13 more years until I figure out how to pay college tuition for 3 kids (Read previous post of Jaclyn & the Retrievers and see if I have any shot of a Basketball Scholarship)

Today was our return visit to Yale Children's Center for David's evaluation by the Children's Developmental Disorder team. Our initial consultation was almost 3 years ago when David was about 18 months old. They essentially run through a battery of play challenges and assess where David is developmentally. So today helps us understand how much (or how little) progress David has made since 2002.

I had a great 1/2 day with David at Yale. Tiring yes - I was grouchy by lunchtime (sorry Rae). But David and I were Playtime Partners. I sat in the room with David as different people came in to run through each of the "play" evaluations. Interestingly enough, I remembered the place, the room and even some of the exercises. At the time of this writing we have not received the final evaluation but my cautiously optimistic feeling says they are pleasantly surprised with his growth. My brain says he still has areas of improvement. David was funny, cute (from what I overheard from the nurses), smart, defiant, and perplexing - a 4 year old boy. After 2+ hours David figured out this was really some "pseudo-play". David's question after every exercise was, "DAD, ARE WE DONE YET ?"

Two great things happened today:
1 - When David awoke this morning, he came into our room and said, "Hey, Where's My Dad?". Shocking because I am not part of his morning routine. My morning funk is growing on him.
2 - During one of the exercises at the clinic he played catch with one of the staff. While throwing and catching the ball with her I became very emotional. Suddenly he stopped and said - "HEY DAD, CATCH!". I instantly opened my arms in great joy to catch the ball thrown by my son. It became one of those Classic Sports movie moments where everything goes into slowwwww motionnnnnn. I open my arms, steady my hands, big smile on my face waiting for a ball thrown by my son and...........I DROP IT.

David - I was so proud of you today. You are one of the most courageous little boys I know. You are the B.M.O.C. (Big Man On Campus). To answer your question - NO, WE ARE NOT DONE YET and WILL NEVER BE DONE. I am your life advocate and I promise to brush up on my catching skills.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Jackie and The Retrievers

I coach a basketball team named The Retrievers. This team consists of 10 wonderful 5 year old kids including my daughter, Jaclyn. I have coached other teams before and I really enjoy coaching. If I could do anything in the world (without worrying about paying the mortgage), I would coach. I have forgotten how wonderful it is to see the formation of the team - from first practice to the last game.

This team is especially interesting for 2 reasons. The first reason is because for some, this is their first exposure to basketball. The second reason is because I am coaching my daughter.
For Jaclyn, it is a combination of both of the above reasons - so in reality we are both not really there for the basketball - it aint the main thing. It it time for us to spend together - an informal date of sorts. We drive to practices & games together, we hold hands, she sits on my lap during breaks in the action. I sense she is proud that her Dad is the coach or at least that is what I gather from the conversation I overhear with her teammates.

Driving home from practice tonight, I was thinking how I reached this point in my life. WOW - I am coaching MY OWN DAUGHTER basketball. I wondered: What impact will this have on her life? Will she remember this basketball team? Does she realize how special this time is for me? Is it special for her? Then from the backseat I hear her say "Dad, can I do gymnastics?"

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

James and the Giant Peach

Tonight I read Chapter 14 of James and the Giant Peach to David and Jaclyn. The reading of this book started with Jaclyn a couple of months back - it was our thing. We would read a chapter every so often - whenever the mood struck us during bedtime. So tonight for some reason, David was interested as well. Jaclyn sat in a tiny chair next to me. David stood behind me on a toy chest with his arms wrapped around my neck. We had a blast.

I read the chapter and we stopped at this line "We are about to roll away inside this great big beautiful peach to a land a land of - "..."Never you mind" said the Ladybug.

We stopped because David was cackling. It was hysterical - he wanted me to repeat this line again and again - laughing at the phrase - "Never you mind". In thinking about it - that line does make me chuckle. At one point all three of us were laughing hysterically.

It is moments like this that I treasure. It is an inner joy, only other fathers know about spending time with their children. But this was a life moment - James and the Giant Peach was a favorite book of mine when I was a kid. So in a sense, I am passing something along to my children. And I wonder - what will tomorrow bring?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Nurse Jaclyn

I have been under the weather for the past couple of days (since Sunday). Not sure why - but it was an evolving sickness - first feverish, then tired, then stomach virusish, then more tired. The scale tells me I lost 5 pounds this week - but who knows.

What I do know is that I love my daughter. She nurtured her daddy over the past couple of days. Reporting to mom, when I felt hot or looked tired. She walked me up the stairs to bed. Came in the room in the morning to see how I was feeling.

What is most surprising to me is that she is evolving from a baby to a little girl. Very smart, outgoing, loving, free-spirited, a little testy at times but oh so joyful. What scares me is she really is like a miniature person that I can talk to and interact with. I guess what scares me the most is that she will be 6 years old in 2006. It is mind boggling to imagine I am now becoming a veteran of fatherhood - and I feel like I have so much more to learn.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Three's Company

Mornings in the O'Leary household are like a like a pot of boiling water. The bubbles start slowly but get faster and faster until they reach the boiling point. The OLeary household starts out quiet....then slowly one child arises, then another, then another until..... everyone is up (including mom & dad). During the week, I am usually already on the way to work prior to wake-up time. However it is a joy when I do get a chance to see the kids in the morning. Now we all got our funk in the morning - some are cranky, some are tired, some are joyful. But yet, there is a lot of stuff to be done - bathroom, getting dressed, brushing of teeth - and my wife makes it happen. She is amazing about the things she multi-tasks and gets done.

But the pleasure I find are the moments in time - moments you can't recreate or get back with the kids. This morning was one of those moments. But like I said above - we all are not always in synch in the morning - some take longer to get going then others (not mentioning any names.... David). We have bunkbeds - David on top, Jaclyn on the bottom. Now J.P. loves to explore and do what his older siblings do. Being on the top bunk is one of those things. This morning - J.P. decided to climb the ladder to the top bunk - which he succeeded in doing. Next thing we know - Jaclyn followed her baby brother up there ("just to protect him" - so she says). Meanwhile I am trying to get dressed and I hear my wife say, "John - you have got to see this".

I walk into the kids room and see all 3 kids on the top bunk - as Nana would say - they were "Happy as Larry". It was a priceless moment in time for all 3 kids to just be up there. J.P. running back and forth, Jaclyn providing stability for her mobile baby brother, and David playing with his car. Three was not a crowd on this morning - Three was pleasant Company.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Fathers Playing Catch with Sons

Today I played catch with J.P. for the first time. J.P. is 18 months old and is David's younger brother. What I find most interesting is that I love both of them so much, however David and J.P. are so different. For instance, at this point in time, I have never played catch with David. But today, for the first time I played catch with J.P. I really played catch with him! It was amazing, how he comprehended the fact of throwing the ball (albeit a miniature plastic rock) and then catching the ball (well, sometimes grabbing the rock from me). It was an amazing experience. You must experience the J.P. belly laugh - it can't help but bring a smile to your face.

Interestingly enough, during my catch with J.P., David came by with his helicopter. J.P. was okay with this fact and being 18 months old, went on his merry way. So David came by and laid on my lap and we played with his helicopter. This evolved into both of us giving each other a hug and then laying on the floor playing with the helicopter together.

At one point in time in David's short life, I believe it bothered me that David has no interest in playing catch. I wondered is it just his like or dislikes or is it him "being in his world". But ya know, today I didn't care today about that, I really didn't. I really just enjoyed that moment in time with him.

So I think - I am now accepting David for all he is - and that is great and maturing for me. But yet I wonder - it just ain't right for a son not to want to play catch with his father.

Monday, January 16, 2006


One of things I love most about David is his laugh. My goodness, his laugh is soulful and contagious. Now please understand it is hard to know what makes him laugh. Yes, of course, simply tickling or picking him upside down does the trick for any 4 year old. But I guess this blog is my search of CONNECTING with David. Because for a long time in the first days, months and years of his life - I could not connect with him. I really love him so much.

Sunday night he was telling me that he had his socks on - very convincingly I might add. Now clearly I am looking at his feet - and there are NO SOCKS ON THESE FEET. I am staring at these cute toes and saying - David, I see toes, so if I see toes there aint no socks. He tells me again he has socks on. Well, I respond in my most convincing Bronx Italian accent - "David, if I see toes..... FORGETABOUTIT!". Well he starts cackling. We repeat this for about 15 minutes (of course with my beautiful 5 year old daughter jumping in)

Sure enough, he wakes up this morning, sees my wife and says - "Mom, if I see toes....FORGETABOUTIT!". My wife is convinced that David and I are officially crazy.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Good Days, Bad Days & GUM

What I find most interesting about my son is that I can't figure him out. For example, right away we know upon wake-up at 7:30 AM whether it will be a good day or a bad day. Saturday was a bad day - where as, upon waking up, David did not want to get dressed. This led to defiance for everything that day - brushing teeth, eating breakfast or getting into the car. So imagine the struggle of me and my wife (who spends the bulk of time with him at home during the week) to do the simple things throughout each and every day. And to top it all off, this past Saturday also included a basketball game for my daughter (whom I love coaching - but that is a story for another blog).

But that was yesterday, and today is Sunday. Today we attended Jeremy's christening. David has anxiety when experiencing new places. Today we went to a church for the first time and a reception hall for the first time. But surprisingly, Today was the exact opposite of yesterday. David was cheerful, happy, engaged, and a joy to be around. Still a bit vocal of what he wants by saying a defiant NO or a joyful YES. But all in all - I had a barrel of laughs with him today. We tried a new technique today. We gave David a piece of gum before entering the church and reception hall. From my comments above we found it to be a success. We feel it provided stimulus to him. After 4 years, another lesson learned. But why do I have this lingering question "What will tomorrow bring?"

Welcome to My Blog

I have been meaning to start this blog for quite some time. How many of you have said that about something at one time or another in your lifetime? My son is now a bit over 4 years old. I feel I am starting this blog a little late since so much has transpired. However, I also feel the Lord has provided me inspiration to do this now - so it is the right time. Ultimately I am starting this blog now because I find this battle of Autism to be never-ending. That is, once I feel we take 1 step forward, we take 2 steps back. There is so much to say and I hope to just freely express myself in this blog. In the end, I hope it helps me, helps others, educates all of us and in the meantime provide me with a historical perspective of all the wonderful progress my son has made. I love him more than words can ever express.