Your mom and I have been in Nebraska since Monday, visiting your Grandpa Dale and Grandma Sue. Your Aunt Sara, Uncle Jerry, and Cousin Timothy will be arriving from Madison, Wisconsin later this week to celebrate Easter with us.
You have a lot of family here. Greatgrandparents Arleen and Paul live here as well. Aunt Nancy, Uncle Brad, and Cousins Allison and Jacob live in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Personally, I love Nebraska. I told your mom that when I first met her about five years ago. I first came to Nebraska about ten years ago, to a town called Ceresco, to visit my friend John from NYU. He and his family lived on an old farm in Ceresco and we spent a few days there before heading West to Yellowstone National Park. It's on that trip that I grew to love Nebraska.
The people are incredibly friendly and there's a complete lack of noise. After meeting your mom and visiting here some more, I realized that my first impression of Nebraska was right. Friendliest people ever.
As a born and raised Brooklynite, the friendliness and calm of Nebraska was a little hard to get used to. But now, it's something I enjoy. I look forward to coming to Nebraska because it's relaxing. I think you're going to love it here.
If Grandpa Dale and Grandma Sue still live in the same house when you come visit, I think you'll enjoy playing in their backyard. You could probably spend hours out there. I'll love kicking a soccer ball out there with you.
We probably won't be back for another year but this time, we'll come back with you in our arms.
PS - Just so you know, you will be a Nebraska Cornhusker fan. You have to be - no arguing.
Something happened this weekend that is wonderful . . . your mommy felt you in her belly. For months now we've known you were there but she had not been able to feel you. Then, on Saturday, during a workshop, your mom felt butterfly flutters in her belly. That was you!
At week 18, you are about 5 1/2 inches long and weigh about 7 ounces - which means you're about the size of a bell pepper. Your mom's belly is starting to show and she's gained more than six pounds.
I'm excited by the fact that she's feeling you now. One day I'll be able to feel you in her belly.
Tomorrow, I'll tell you about Nebraska - that's where your mom's originally from and where we are right now.
Keep moving and growing baby. Let your mom know you're there. She loves feeling you.
Today we're on our way to Nebraska to visit your grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousin Timothy. But, before we fly out, I wanted to share with you that on Saturday night, your dad started a chant at a stadium.
When you're old enough to understand the impact of one person in a stadium holding 25,000 starting a chant, you'll know how big a deal it is.
I was sitting with my friend Anthony in Section 221 of Red Bull Arena watching the NY Red Bulls Home Opener and nearby was a section of Chicago Fire fans. They had brought drums, trumpets, and fireworks and were singing the whole game. I was starting to get tired of them and in the 75th minute started with, "Let's Go Red Bulls!" Anthony joined in and, after a near-goal rally by the Red Bulls, the crowd joined in and soon the chant expanded to the whole stadium.
It was a brief moment but a great one.
And, the NY Red Bulls went on to win their season home opener of 2010. If you get the chance, look up video footage of the Red Bulls' Season Opener on March 27, 2010 and listen for the crowd's chanting at around minutes 75-76. I did that.
Looking forward to the days you and I get to start chants together.
Sometimes my students will ask me how I know so much about the world and I jokingly answer that, "I know everything." They get a good laugh out of that one.
Despite having won two March Madness Bracket Tournaments in a row a few years ago, the truth is I know nothing about College Basketball. Nothing.
Little Nugget, I went to New York University (NYU) where the Division III team goes by the name Violets. Intimidating, isn't it?
NYU doesn't even have a Football team. So, College Sports will never be a strength for me.
Every March for March Madness I fill out a Bracket and learn a little bit about the teams involved and then rely on pure luck. If you ever come to me for advice, well, don't. Don't ever come to me for advice on College Basketball or any other college sports.
Oh, but I do know one thing is true... never ever follow a team named after a flower.
Yesterday I decided that I'm going to found a group that organizes active citizens - in particular, parents and teachers - in ways that makes their collective voice stronger.
Perhaps it'll still be around by the time you grow up or maybe it's just a one-time deal in response to the disastrous actions taking place in NYC. I really hope it's just temporary and that you get to grow up in a country that places education before anything else.
As of this moment, months before you're born, New York is proposing budgets that will layoff thousands of teachers, increase class sizes to 28+ students in a first grade classroom, and cut Arts, Music, and other Enrichment programs. I really hope this is not the environment you grow up in.
I would love to see you attend a school with 21 students in each class. I want you to go to a place that is fully staffed, well managed, with great community participation. I want you to have Art, Music, Dance, and Tai Chi. And, I would love to raise you in a place where education funds are never cut because the politicians in charge of these decisions fundamentally believe that you are the future and nothing is more important than educating you.
So, I may be starting something called P.E.A.K. (Parents & Educators Advocating for Kids); it depends on whether people want to join and be active. In the end, I hope it leads to a stronger voice for those that want better for our kids. But, I also hope it's something we won't need when you go to school.
Your mom and I have been having fun with "What if?" scenarios recently. Basically if we see something on TV, in the street, or experience it in person, we ask, "What if baby (that's you) does _____?" Basically, we're trying to ready our responses to different situations that may arise.
Some have been simple and easy, like, "What if our baby boy decides he wants to try modern African dance?" Answer: "We find a modern African dance instructor and encourage him to do his best."
Others take a little more thought. Like, "What if baby comes home at the age of 16 with a piercing through her cheek?" Answer: "Send her to grandma's house and hope she comes back alive."
We're actually thinking of compiling our What-ifs so that we can refer to them if we ever need them. There may be some benefit to writing down our thinking now at ages 29 & 30 and comparing it to our thinking when we get to our 40s or 50s.
We've got some wisdom to absorb in the next couple of decades and I hope the end-result is a happy, healthy piercing-free childhood for you.
Your mom and I went to a NY Red Bulls game on Saturday night at the new Red Bull Arena and it was awesome.
It's a big deal because it's the very first soccer specific stadium built in the New York City area. It's been a dream to have a solid soccer team in this area for a long time and it finally feels like we have one.
I was taught about soccer, or futbol as I like to call it, by my grandfather. He would watch the important matches on TV and would often have matches he didn't even care about as background when he was doing something else. When I went to Ecuador as a child I realized that futbol was the sport that made the world go round. I hope you'll realize this too.
Often my cousins in Ecuador would get me to play a game. In Ecuador a game can be started in the middle of the street with four rocks to make goalposts and a ball. Unfortunately, with little practice and little athletic ability, I was awful. But, the love for the game stuck. I was just recently thinking that a possible dream job would involve being a sports writer focused on soccer. How awesome would that be?!?
Your beautiful mom bought me my first Red Bulls jersey last night and I love her for it. Someday you'll inherit my jersey if you want it - I'm sure it'll be a little retro but I hope retro will still be cool.
Well, after fifteen years of following the local NY-area team, we finally have our own soccer stadium. Every seat is a good seat, it's got real grass, and the upper level makes incredible noise that I hope will help intimidate the opposition. When you're old enough to handle the noise, we're totally taking you to the Arena.
I do plan on introducing you to the beautiful game as early as possible and will encourage you to play it so that you stand a better chance at it than me. Remember, futbol is the game that the whole world plays. At any given moment, somewhere in the world, soccer is being played.
I want to share futbol with you. I hope that you'll love it as much as I do. And, if someday you become a major soccer star, well, how awesome would that be?!?
Recently a Fitness and Nutrition instructor at my school has been using music to teach the students how to work out specific muscles. It's been fun to watch all the little ones get excited by music and break out into dance.
In case you weren't aware by our Justin Timberlake rule, your mom and I are big fans of dancing. We'll actually stop and dance whenever we hear a good song. Sometimes we'll even dance to no music. We just like dancing.
After watching all these shy students begin to lose their inhibitions and start dancing freely, I hope that you will learn from us and just dance. Never worry what people will say or think. Never worry what you'll look like or if you're good enough. Whatever you do, however you move, you can't be much worse than your parents.
In ancient Hebrew tradition, dance was a form of worship and praise. It was an expression of joy and reverence. I will encourage you throughout your life to move when the Spirit moves you, to move when you are happy, to move when you hear a good song, to move just because.
Little nugget, I can't wait to dance with you.
PS - Your mom does a great "Dance of Joy." I'm sure you'll see some of those in your lifetime.
In yesterday's letter I wondered aloud what you're going to be like in school. But, I also wonder what I'm going to be like in the future; what am I going to do?
Since childhood I've had grand visions for what I should do - from being a doctor for the elderly to being an astronaut to being a lawyer, politician, teacher, health advocate, personal trainer, lobbyist, and pastor/deacon in the Church.
Still, at the age of 30, I'm not certain of what I'm going to be in the future. I've felt called to help people and to teach people but I'm just not certain of the where or who or how. I pray every day for help and direction and sometimes God has a great sense of humor about it.
Just the other day I was running in the rain and praying about what I'm being called to do and three random women stopped me and asked me for directions. I take that as either God wanting me to lead the lost or become a NYC Tourism Guide.
So far I've done pretty well for myself. I have a good, steady job that I enjoy and that allows me to teach and help others.
Is this where I belong forever? I don't know.
I do know that right now I'm being called to be a good husband and father and I'm working hard to make sure I do both well. You and your mom are a huge part of who I am and what I do and you always will be.
Just bear with me if I happen to change careers during your lifetime.
Yesterday I had to attend the most dreaded of days a teacher experiences, Parent Teacher Conference day. I don't shy away from interaction with parents, I actually think there should be more of it. When you have 190 students, this day can be stressful, overwhelming, and can leave you feeling beat. Your mom and I have 15 years of teaching experience between the two of us, so I hope that all we've learned in that time can help you.
As I sat and talked to all these families, I wondered what it will be like when it's my turn. What will your teachers tell me about you?
Will they tell your mom and I that you sing too loud and off-key? If so, you got that from me and I'm sorry.
Are you going to be the child that stuffs chicken nuggets in their pockets? Yes, we've seen some of those.
Are you going to be the child that can't sit still?
Are you going to be the one that does well at everything but needs to participate more because you're too quiet?
Or, are you the one that participates too much and needs to give others a turn?
Will you be the one that is scared to go to the bathroom and, therefore, has an accident every day? If it happens, just know that we've all been there before.
I can't help but wonder who you are going to be. And, I can't help but be excited by the opportunity to meet you.
I hope you get the best of your mom and the best of your dad. Especially when it comes to singing.
Regardless of what peculiar character traits or academic learning style you have, just know that we'll love you, support you, and teach you as best we can. And, we'll go easy on your teachers at Parent Teacher Conferences . . . but only if they teach you well.
Today, March 16th, is National Artichoke Hearts Day. I usually wouldn't mention something like this except that your mom and I happen to be huge fans of the artichoke. It's a fun food and I think you'll enjoy it.
The artichoke itself looks menacing. A tough skin and pointy needles make it a wonder how anyone even decided to eat the thing in the first place. But, someone did, and for that we are forever grateful.
There are a lot of foods out there that you're going to try that look weird but turn out to be great. I want you to be adventurous with your food; it's a great thing to be able to discover new flavors from strange looking foods. And, you're really lucky, nugget. By the time you start eating solid foods, most of the foods of the known world will have been discovered. You can confidently eat things that are deemed safe and learn to enjoy new flavors.
I often wonder how many people got sick, sometimes fatally, in trying to determine what was good to eat and what wasn't. You should thank those anonymous people; I do.
Also, if you don't like a certain food somewhere along the way, it's ok. Your mom and I are not big fans of the olive. We've tried eating them but we're just not into them. If you don't like something, you'll know it pretty quickly. Just give it a chance and try to eat it every now and then, you never know when your palate will change.
And trust me, try the artichoke. It's really fun to try whole and it's really easy to just eat the artichoke hearts. I'm pretty sure you'll like it.
And always give thanks to those who came before you; the adventurous who decided to open the vegetable with the tough skin and pointy leaves as well as the brave who didn't make it after eating a food we now know is poisonous. It is because of them that we can eat pretty safely.
This week we've had a lot of rain in New York City and I want to share with you my thoughts on rain. Rain is good, despite everyone's complaining.
Rain brings things back to life; it makes things green. Rain will bring the trees, flowers, and plants back to life in the Spring after a cold, snowy Winter. Rain brings fresh water to the farmers for their crops. Rain fills up the wells for those who rely on them for drinking water.
But, there are also other examples of rain bringing good things. In fact, not only do I think the rain is good, I think it's grand!
On Sunday, May 1, 2009 I ran the NJ Marathon. It was my second marathon and I was hoping to beat my old time. The problem was, it was raining. At first it was an easy drizzle. But, as the marathon progressed, around Mile 20-22, the rain got stronger and the wind got harder. It wasn't easy and I was soaked and very cold at the end, but I finished thiry minutes faster than my old time...in the rain.
Another great example is the day that your mom and I got married, Monday, February 18, 2008. As we were getting dressed for the ceremony, it started to rain. Your mom and I had decided to get married at the beach in Negril, Jamaica, your mom had a beautiful white dress to wear, and the rain didn't look like it was going to stop.
I was standing in the balcony of my friend Bill's hotel room staring out at the beach hoping and praying that the rain would stop. They say that rain is good luck on your wedding day and I was hoping the good luck would come quick. It did. With five minutes left until the ceremony began, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Your mom couldn't look more beautiful as she walked down the sandy aisle. It was a great ceremony and afterwards we danced on the beach...in the sun. The rain did bring us good luck that day.
So, if we ever end up living in the Pacific Northwest, you'll understand why. We like the green. We like the life. We like the luck. We love the rain.
Chicken Nugget, may the rain bring you as much life and luck as it has brought us.
There's a rule in our home that you will be expected to follow: whenever you hear a Justin Timberlake song you must stop what you're doing and dance! Your mom and I follow this rule religiously and will probably cause you some embarrassment.
It's not a hard rule to follow - though in your early months your mom and I may help you a little - and it's definitely fun.
I'm almost certain that Justin Timberlake will be around when you start listening to music because, simply, he's a genius. Not genius like Mozart or George Harrison, but a pop culture genius; he always seems to know what the people want. For more information you should Google his stints on Saturday Night Live, his music videos, and live performances.
As for the embarrassment that comes with stopping in the middle of something and dancing with your parents, too bad for you. Though, if you want to look cool dancing to JT you should definitely learn from me. Watch daddy. That's all I'll say about that.
Today is March 11th, which means that it's my aunt Bella's birthday. She would have been 62. In Spanish, I called her tia Marola, so you'll often hear me use the names interchangeably. I miss her and I'm sad you won't meet her here on Earth.
She passed away on December 29, 2001 at the age of 53 from Ovarian Cancer. But, as it's her birthday, I'll focus this letter on giving you a brief introduction of how she impacted my life.
My aunt's name was Bella Marola Escudero and she was the third in a group of seven children born to my maternal grandparents. My tia was like a second mother to me. Having been raised by a single mother, my aunt helped to raise me. She lived with us for most of my life and played the part of second parent beautifully.
During the summers after she came home from work she would take me for walks around the neighborhood so that I could get my feet wet in the open fire hydrants. She taught me about baseball; she watched the Yankees and the Mets and I, poor sap that I am, chose the Mets at the age of three. My tia Marola taught me about forgiveness, the courage of admitting to your mistakes, and the strength of the apology.
My aunt Bella taught me about the Church, religion, and the beauty of a church's physical structure. She had a great laugh to match her sense of humor, she had a fearless sense of adventure, and would dance and sing when the Spirit moved her. And, she gave me my first allowance. She gave me a lot actually and I miss her.
Little Nugget, there aren't too many people in this world that we consider Saints or saintly simply because they're not common. But, my aunt Bella was the closest person I've met to being just that. Even in her most painful moments she thought first of God and family. Her faith in both was unwavering, even towards the end. In fact, I think her faith only got stronger.
My aunt's wish was that her ashes be spread from the Staten Island Ferry over New York Harbor - and that's what we did on March 11, 2002. We also bought a brick at the NY Mets stadium, CitiField. It marks her life and her love of baseball. When we go see a Mets game together I'll point out the brick to you, the one that says Marola Escudero.
And every year on March 11th we'll wish tia Marola a happy birthday and give her thanks for making your dad a better person.
This letter will hopefully save you from some language confusion as you get older. Let me explain.
The word "anytime" is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as, "at any time whatever." In other words, there is no defined hour, date, etc.
Your mom, on the other hand, defines "anytime" as "now."
I am convinced that this confusion in definition stems from your mother's natural politeness. She's not a terribly bossy person, in fact, she's not bossy at all. But, she is a very active one. She's a doer. And, she does things now.
If you ever encounter a statement like, "Anytime you want to sweep up the dirt your sneakers dragged in, that'd be great," you should take it as, "Sweep up the dirt now, please." Note that I include the please because I am certain if I asked her to rephrase her statement she'd still keep it as polite as possible.
The point is, never take the word anytime to mean anything less than now. Not after you finish typing your blog entry, not after showering, not after resting for a bit, not after anything. Anytime is now.
Another way of tackling this confusion is by simply replacing the words so instead of your mom saying, "Anytime you want to take out the garbage..." you instead understand, "Now you want to take out the garbage..."
Yes, she did just tell you what you want to do right now and yes, you're going to do it.
If ever you're confused by mom's use of anytime, you can see me for help. I'm available anytime.
Today you are 15 weeks old in your mom's belly. Only people who know her well can tell that she has a little baby bump.
On Sunday, while at church, one of the older ladies came right up to your mom, placed her hands on your mom's belly and asked, "Are you expecting?" In the future you'll know this is a dangerous question to ask because it could be that a lady simply had too many french fries for lunch.
But, I have a feeling that the older ladies at church have been around long enough to know when it's a french fries belly and when it's a baby belly.
Your mom's belly is growing because you're growing. Right now you're about four inches long and weigh about 2.5 ounces. Inside your mom's belly, you're about the size of an apple.
So, no, you're technically not like a chicken nugget and haven't been for a while but you're stuck with the name, kid.
Soon I'll be scanning a series of drawings I've made of what I think you must look like in your mom's belly - starting from Week 8 when I kind of made you look like a Smurf.
The picture above is soooo much better than what I drew, as you will soon see. Just remember, nugget, your mom is the artist. Get your art genes from her.
Anyway, keep growing baby! Be strong, be healthy, and make your momma fat.
I feel sick today - stuffy, runny nose, and general malaise (look it up!). Something you're going to learn as you grow up is that your father is a whinera baby a little sensitive, but only when it comes to being sick.
I enjoy life, little Nugget. I love having great energy and going out for runs and generally keeping a positive attitude about most things. But when I'm sick I have trouble keeping the energy levels up and doing the things I want to do. So, I put on my "sick face," as your mom calls it.
I'll curl up on the couch with my baseball blankie (which I've had since I was seven and I hope you will inherit), half-watching the TV, half-napping, and just waiting for the sickness to go away. If you ever have the chance to see me in this sorry state, your best bet is just to keep walking.
You'll never hear me arguing about who is stronger, women or men, because my own pathetic sensitive nature during an illness takes me out of contention. I do believe women are stronger. If you ever need evidence, ask your mom about the day you were born (which as of this entry is yet to happen, but I'm sure will be epic). Also, ask her to tell you about the day she and I raced the Staten Island Triathlon in 2009.
And while you stand in awe of what your mom and other women can do, be kind to your father wrapped up in his blankie. He's just a little sensitive.
The letters that follow will hopefully teach you something from my own life experiences and, where there is nothing to learn, I hope it helps explain the crazy father you have.
I decided to write these letters because I want you to have a record of our excitement and joy as we prepare for your arrival. I want you to know what your parents were like before you got to know them. I want you to know that they were young once too and have experienced many of the things you will experience. I want you to know that we loved you even before we met you.
I grew up without a father (he passed away before I was born) and I would have cherished letters from him. As I have none, I hope to give you that and more.
Someday, when you read these letters - and you'll only have access to these when you're old enough to understand them - I hope you'll chuckle at the idea that I started calling you "chicken nugget" at a time when I was basically a vegan. Your mom and I found out on New Years Day 2010 that she was pregnant. Having no clue what you looked like, how big you were, or what shape you had, I called you "chicken nugget." And whenever I talked to you through your mom's belly that's what I called you. I apologize now for whatever damage this causes on your character.
I am very much looking forward to your arrival, whenever that may be, as is your mom. We can't wait but will hopefully use the next six months wisely as we prepare.