Our Modern Family



Stepping Onward

So before Nolin entered our lives, Jenn & I started unconsciously planning for our family.  It started off with a neighborhood stray cat that we began taking care of, moved on to a stranded dog that we took in, then opening our home to an amazing foreign exchange student for a year, and also working with foster children through Stepping Onward an organization that we were part of.

On the weekends, we would meet with several foster children in the Boys Town program and run with them.  While probably only a few of the children enjoyed the actual running part, I think all of them enjoyed the attention and the opportunity to have someone take interest in them.  It was a fun time in our lives and a great learning experience for our future.  As our lives changed and the children and foster parents moved in & out of the program it became a little more difficult to keep the program up.

Stepping Onward’s motto is Every Journey Begins With The First Step…so it was only fitting that Nolin’s first road race  was the fun run at the Candy Cane 5K benefiting our friends at Boys Town. Continue reading “Stepping Onward”

All The Single Parents Put Your Hands Up

Nolin, I have to say that you are lucky that you are not just relying on me as a single parent to take care of you.  And I am also very lucky that I don’t have to count on me as a single working parent.

It started when Teresa’s spring break vacation got extended due to a little problem with Southwest Airlines.  I don’t see why the top of the plane ripping off should cause them to cancel several flights, but none-the-less, they went with the safety first approach over any concerns for our daycare needs.  Therefore we had to find someone to watch Nolin on Monday while Jenn & I went to work.

Our friend Kelly stepped up to the plate and took great care of Nolin, but I quickly learned the careful orchestration that goes into working parents having to get their kids ready for day care and get to work.  I think we take for granted exactly how good we have it.

It started as I had to wake Nolin up in the morning to head over to Kelly’s house.  He wasn’t too happy about being woken up, but he got over it pretty quickly. As I rushed around like a chicken with its head cut off, dropping things in the street and running back and forth, Nolin just kept talking/singing.  I think he was just letting me know all of the things that I was forgetting to do.  Luckily I did have the sense to buckle Nolin in, score one in the good parenting department for me.

I dropped Nolin off with Kelly ran through a quick list of things to do and headed to work.  I was only 30 minutes late.  Kelly had an appointment in the afternoon, which worked out perfectly because after a conference call I would pick up Nolin and take him to the doctor to get some medicine for his cold.  One problem…Jenn had my wallet in her purse which meant at lunch I had to run across town and pick it up.  With an extra hour out of my day, we got that taken care of.

When I got to the doctor’s office we didn’t have to wait too long to go back and see the doctor.  It was nothing serious, just a cold and she gave us some low dose medicine to use for the next 3 days.  When the poor doctor went to check his ears, Nolin quickly turned into Linda Blair from The Exorcist.  He freaked out, and didn’t stop screaming until we left the room.  It’s really hard to look like a good father when you can’t even quiet your son down.

With slightly frayed nerves we got back in the car, Nolin had a bottle and I made my way to the drugstore to pick up his prescription.  When I got there Nolin was dead asleep.  Now the dilema…do I wake Nolin up to get the prescription, leave him asleep in the car and make the 6 o’clock news, or do I just count this as a wasted trip and come back later?  I decided to just come back once he woke up.

We got home and I let Nolin continue sleeping, but then realized I couldn’t leave while he was sleeping to walk the dog.  Poor Pancake’s eyes were floating at this point and there was nothing I could do.  Finally Nolin woke up, we went for a quick walk and then jumped back in the car to the pharmacist and then to the store to pick up stuff to make Jenn & her mom for dinner.

I got home and needed to quickly start dinner.  I realized at this point though that Nolin had not eaten much solid food during the day and he was starving (and therefore not too happy).  So I pulled his high chair over towards the oven and with one hand I was feeding him and the other hand I was preparing dinner.

My back started hurting from the back and forth and I just wished that someone had been filming the situation because I know it would have been a pretty comical scene.  At one point I had baby food all over me in addition to chicken marinade, the TV was blaring but the remote control was not within arms reach, and Pancake was barking to be fed too.  Luckily as I was about to just sit down and quit, Jenn and her mom walked in the front door and everything was easier.

For any parents out there who are single working parents, or even just have to be a single parent a lot because your spouse travels for work…you have my full respect!  I barely lasted 12 hours and I can’t imagine always having to be on point like that and still keeping your sanity.  Hats off to you all!

A Year Full of Pancake

Today marks one year since Pancake became a part of our family.  It is crazy to think exactly how far we have come since that time.  We were just finishing up our adoption classes that would bring Nolin into our lives and we were about halfway through our year with Axelle.

It was cold and raining that night when I left work.  I stopped by Target to pick up some dog treats and toys on my way home.  I remember walking into the house expecting to see a dog that look liked Fergie the English Springer Spaniel that I grew up with, instead I found a little lap dog with a smashed face that looked like he had been through a carwash.  He got down off of the couch and started hoping around on his 3 good legs and you couldn’t help but think he was pretty cool.

We put up signs around Jenn’s school and only ever received one call but it was for a different dog.  I often wonder if Pancake’s owners are out there wondering what happened to him and if they would laugh at some of the adventures that we have had.  He is still a crotchety old man who loves Jenn and Nolin and secretly loves Teresa and I when no one is looking (he has a reputation to maintain after all).  For whatever reason he loves to get frisky with new houseguests that come over…it is sort of his signature handshake.  And he loves to run, not to get away, but just really to get you to chase after him.

While he isn’t exactly the dog I had envisioned when I thought about owning a dog, he has definitely found his place in our family.  We are not exactly sure how old Pancake is (we think he is probably about six), but I guess today we can officially say he is one year old.

Independence Day

This is the story of our two boys who have both discovered their independence in different ways.

We’ll start with Pancake.  His story began one day back in September.  Don and I were unloading a box truck and Pancake was supervising as usual.  That is until Pancake decided we no longer needed his supervision and took off.  It was about 10 minutes later when I realized he was no longer around.  I made a mad dash out the door looked left, then right, and left again to see if I could tell which way he may have gone.

Right about that time, a car pulls up and asks if I am looking for something…I guess it was probably pretty obvious.  I told her yes, my dog had gotten loose.

Is it Pancake? She asked.

Well apparently he has made a name for himself.  Hopefully it wasn’t in his typical greeting in which was recently described by Jenn’s second cousin as piggybacking on my back. I told her that I was indeed looking for Pancake and she nicely informed me that he was in her car.  It was at that moment that the New Jersey came out of her in a big way.  She took the next two minutes to scold me on why I shouldn’t let him loose, how the number on his collar should be answered at all times, and why it was irresponsible that I was not actually at my house because had she gone there and no one was home, she would not have known what to do. I bit my tongue and thanked her again for finding Pancake.

The next day as Pancake and I were walking around the neighborhood, Jerseylicious’ car again stopped me and said “Hey, I helped you find your dog the other day, and it inspired us..we’re having pancakes for breakfast this morning.”  I gave her my uncomfortable laugh, and thought to myself that is actually kind of twisted.  I thanked her again and kept walking.  Jenn and her parents thought I was exaggerating both encounters.

That is until this past Friday, when Pancake pulled a Houdini once again.  This time on Don & Teresa’s watch.  Once again it seems our favorite New Jersey Housewife did not need to travel far to bring Pancake home.  She knocked on the door and proceeded to tell Don & Teresa how they should be taking car of a dog.  She also informed them, that if they didn’t know how to take responsibility for Pancake than she would.  It was at that moment that I think Pancake realized his new-found independence may not be such a good thing.  I am pretty sure that even Snooki couldn’t live with that woman for a day.

Next we have Nolin.  He is growing up way too fast and asserting his new personality more and more every day.  He has now taken to climbing stairs, pulling up on everything and pulling everything out.  If he wants it, he will get it.  It has become quite the game for him.  He will look over give you his little smile, and then quickly turn around and take off like a race horse.  I just hope that he does not one day run off towards Ms. Jersey Turnpike’s house…I can only imagine the scolding we would get at that point.

Nolin has also decided that he no longer needs you to hold his bottle for him because he is plenty big enough to do it himself.  This is the one that may be the most difficult to accept.  Up until now he has relied on Jenn and I for everything.  I would be lying if I said that the first time he held the bottle himself I didn’t feel like this was this beginning of him becoming his own person.  You can see his personality forming right in front of you as you look into his eyes and see him just making sense of everything around him.  It is so exciting to watch him grow up, but maybe we could get just a few more years (like 30) before he decides that we are no longer cool and he gets to become too independent.

Another Saturday night


I spent my Saturday with our dog Pancake as he was getting an anal gland drain…what did you do?

This is not a question I really ever envisioned myself being able to ask.  Like a lot of things in my life, I’ve learned to just go with it. To be honest, it wasn’t just an anal gland drain (although that makes me laugh like a ten year old), but we also got him fully groomed.

It was the first time since Pancake joined our family about ten months ago that he has been groomed and I have to say that I think Pancake enjoyed his day of pampering.  I also think our friends Lee & Kelly will appreciate the fact that Pancake is not rubbing his butt on their carpet while he spends the holidays with them and their dog Benson.  I guess it is the least we could do.

The grooming did a lot of things, most notably made Pancake look a lot younger and a lot less grumbly.  I have to say that I think it has also affected his overall mood.  When you look good, I guess you feel good too.  He doesn’t seem to be as crotchety these days which is nice.

As I mentioned, we are preparing to send Pancake on an extended play date.  That is because we are getting ready to head up north for the Holidays…and I can’t wait.  It will be nice to have time off of work and to spend some “Forced Family Fun” with the family.  I also can’t wait to introduce Nolin to the insanity that is an “O’Brien Christmas”.

Santa is getting his sleigh packed and setting up his annual Christmas Eve routes across the Virginia Beach area, but I think this year there will be an extra special stop.  Let’s just hope that Nolin is as excited to see Santa as Santa is for this year.

One thing is for certain…no matter what happens, Nolin will be all over the place during the holidays.  Something that Jenn & I talked about when we first brought Nolin home is how much fun he would be during this time of year, and now that he is crawling it will be interesting to see how he reacts.  Eitherway, it is becoming difficult to contain myself and I tend to think that for me, this Christmas will be just like being a kid again.

Nolin crawling…it’s not pretty, but he is a baby on the move…

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