Tag Archives: Will

What It’s Like Having Three Kids

Photo by Meri Belanger of Sootie Studios.
Photo by Laura Fiorillo of Family Tree Photography.

Imagine you’re wrestling an alligator with your bare hands while also trying to catch a monkey who is just out of reach and throwing feces at you. Then you’re asked to simultaneously tame a lion.

I’ve only been a father of three for six weeks, but this is the most apt comparison I can think of when describing what it’s like to raise a trio of children.

The jungle metaphor is overplayed, for sure, but it has persevered through the years for a reason — there’s truth at the heart of it. Granted, the “animals” involved are pretty damn terrific and the danger they pose is dwarfed by the cuteness they exude, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is hard.

Two was difficult. Three is HARD.

Two meant a divide and conquer mentality. Three means being outnumbered and out-manned at all times. Two meant we could still play man-to-man. Three means zone and the dreaded Prevent defense. And even though Tommy can’t talk, it seems he’s been able to telepathically communicate certain commandments to his older brothers, which have been mutually agreed upon.

  1. There shall be no time of day during which all three children sleep simultaneously
  2. No more than two brothers can be in a good mood at the same time
  3. One of the three must always complain of hunger or thirst at all times
  4. Someone must always be crying out for attention
  5. None shall allow either parent to defecate alone behind closed doors

But lest you think this is some sort of unbearable task or prison sentence, allow me to disabuse you of that notion posthaste.

This is awesome.

I love being a dad. Now multiply that love by three and you have my current level of elation. And gratitude, since I never forget this road we traveled was not easy and seldom smooth. So while MJ and I are exhausted zombies who wake up at all hours of the night, can barely keep our eyes open during the day, and have forgotten what it’s like to poop without a captive audience, we’re also two very lucky and happy people.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy, but it’s so easy to embark on journeys you know are worthwhile.

We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, but it didn’t matter. Now, at the young age of six weeks, Tommy makes us feel like he’s been here all along and both MJ and I can’t imagine life any other way. Three boys bring a certain amount of chaos to our lives, but what’s life without some commotion?

Screaming jags eventually cease and give way to the rhythmic rising and falling of tiny chests. What was just the bane of your existence mere minutes ago becomes the source of all your peace in an instant. Bedtime kisses between brothers, however fleeting the moment, live on for time eternal.


It’s hard, yet so easy. And so worth it.

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Superheroes, Toys, and Being Eaten Alive



No sooner had I opened the box of Playskool Heroes by Hasbro than my 7-year-old spotted the Rescue Bots box and demanded to tear into it immediately. His reasoning — because they are transformers that help people in need — made my heart soar.

Yes, I’m the obnoxious parent who seeks out toys that are not only fun, but morally defensible. So when Will and Sam wanted to play with HIGH TIDE (the bot in blue) on a rescue boat where they pretended they were part of some robotic Coast Guard, I happily obliged.

My wife and I drive home the need to think of others and always help people with our actions, but it’s a bonus when you can incorporate that into their play via toys. I smiled as they saved pretend sailors, whales, dolphins, and sea turtles from certain demise. Sure they fought about whether HIGH TIDE should be in bot form or submarine form and who should throw his life preserver out into the fake ocean, but their intent was still good.

Ditto for the Iron Man Armor Up Fortress.


This one is really cool because you can put Tony Stark on the platform, push a lever, and watch as he seamlessly snaps into his suit and becomes Iron Man. Sam, who is only 2, doesn’t know Iron Man’s backstory but Will is fluent in all things Avengers. Like me, he appreciates how Tony Stark is kind of a blowhard, but always does the right thing and saves people.

As he and Sam played with Rescue Bots and Iron Man, I silently patted myself on the back for being able to get them toys for the good guys. Toys that send a positive message. Toys featuring characters who seek to help people and make personal sacrifices for the well-being of others.

Even if their young minds couldn’t realize the lessons they were learning, I was confident it would sink in on a subconscious level. Like subliminal advertising, they would absorb the message without ever realizing they were being taught. Soon they’d be volunteering at soup kitchens on their own accord, signing up for Habitat for Humanity, and eventually winning the Nobel Peace Prize all because of the toys I –



And just like that, my lovely and selfless children made the eyes of the Indominus Rex from Playskool Heroes Jurassic World light up as his neck bent down to eat his poor, unsuspecting trainer. Swallowed him whole and didn’t think twice about it. Then they cheered and danced around his gnawed up body like characters from Lord of the Flies.

Oh well. Two out of three ain’t bad, and nothing can compete with awesome dinosaurs.


Many thanks to the awesome people at Playskool Heroes for giving me and the boys these toys free of charge. Although I was compensated for this post, all opinions are 100% my own.


(Ages 3-7 years | Available: Fall 2015)
Your kids will love the compartment below the hull that rotates out, as well as the sliding pieces that allow HIGH TIDE to transform and get ready to save people at sea. My kids also loved the crane that attaches to the front of the ship.

(Ages 3-7 years | Available: Fall 2015)
Remember how cool it is in the Iron Man movies when Tony Stark gets into the suit in real time? Well now your kids can relive that, complete with sound effects and flashing lights. It comes with two Iron Man suits and you can reconfigure the setup. Requires two AA batteries.

jurassicworld thumbJURASSIC WORLD TYRANNOSAURUS REX playset
(Ages 3 years & up | Available: Now)
You can’t go wrong with dinosaurs, and this Tyrannosaurus Rex doesn’t disappoint. While young kids should probably stay away from the Jurassic World movie, this bad boy is the ultimate dinosaur for preschool JURASSIC WORLD fans to track and capture! Features light-up eyes, a roaring action, and a poor trainer who doubles as lunch. Also requires two AA batteries.

Instagram: @Hasbro  •  Twitter: @HasbroNews  •  Facebook: Facebook.com/Playskool  • www.hasbrotoyshop.com

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Why Kids Need to Be Outdoors

trustees8If left unchecked, my 7-year-old would spend all day on the iPad playing Minecraft.

I don’t mean “all day” as hyperbole, either. I mean it in the most literal sense possible — he would spend an entire day glued to the iPad building his virtual Minecraft world without even peeking through the window at the ACTUAL world that awaits outside. Which is why, as his father, it’s my duty to step in and make sure he communes with nature — even when he doesn’t want to willingly.

I’m not a religious man, but the closest I come to feeling spiritual is when I’m out enjoying nature. When I’m camping or hiking, it fills my soul and suddenly I can breathe again. When I take the canoe out on the reservoir or trek through the woods to my favorite fishing hole, the pulled-in-all-directions frenzy of life gives way to the welcome tug on the end of my line, and I feel unburdened.

All of my childhood summers were spent outdoors at summer camp, playing Man-Hunt, Kick the Can, and swimming in a pond. And while it might be a different world in many respects today, I still want my sons to experience all nature has to offer. That’s why we buy an annual Massachusetts State Parks pass every year and explore our state’s many hidden gems. It’s why we put the canoe on top of the minivan and explore every pond, river, and lake with access.

And it’s why we take the kids to properties owned and operated by The Trustees of Reservations.

You’ve probably visited a Trustees property and you don’t even know it. This group of 100,000 members maintains more than 100 properties — that’s 25,000 acres of land and hundreds of miles of trails — and seeks to protect the ecological treasures the Commonwealth offers.


We were lucky enough to attend an event in Ipswich at Appleton Farms, one of the country’s oldest continuously operating farms. It was our first trip as a family of five and it was outstanding, namely because it got the kids moving and excited to be outside. Not Tommy so much, but we’ll cut him some slack because he was only 2 weeks old.

Appleton Farms — a 1,000-acre distinctly New England farm with grazing livestock, perfect stonewalls, and rolling green fields — was just what the doctor ordered. The highlight, of course, were the cows, goats, horses, and turkeys roaming the grounds which my boys flocked to immediately.


But what I wasn’t expecting was their interest in cooking via the Appleton Cooks program.

The fine folks at Appleton Farm told us we were heading into the kitchen to do some cooking, and I immediately panicked because I figured there was no way my precocious 2-year-old was going to maintain anything resembling the necessary attention span to get through it.

We set up shop around a large counter and set out to make bread. All the kids had different items for which they were responsible, and Will took great care in measuring out the vegetable oil while Sam patiently waited to dump his flour in the mixing pan. Then, while the bread was baking, it was time to do something I had never done before — make butter.


The kids had a blast shaking the bottle of heavy cream until it turned into delicious butter right before our eyes. And much to my amazement, Sam was attentive and engaged the entire time thanks to the staff’s ability to hold his interest and work quickly.


The whole day was magnificent. The only thing is, if The Trustees hadn’t invited me to this I wouldn’t have even known it existed. And when I checked into it further, it turns out they’re making a push to include more families by holding events all over the state, which you can view by clicking here.

It’s an inexpensive way to reconnect kids with nature and it’s even educational to boot. So if you’re looking for a great way to have an affordable family outing (and even sneak a little learning in), visit The Trustees today and go explore the site closest to you.

Check out The Trustees on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to learn more.

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One Good Thing

onegoodthingI believe the only metric for parental success is whether you raise human beings who are a credit to humanity.

To that end, my wife and I are trying very hard to raise three boys who are a benefit to the world instead of detriments. One way we’re doing that is to impart the importance of compassion, empathy, and kindness to our kids. And that’s not always an easy feat.

Will likes to help people, but he’s only 7 years old and doesn’t fully understand the impact of his words or the importance of tact. Such was the case during the first week of school when he mistakenly thought his idea of helping a girl in his class was to give her unsolicited fashion advice and critique her wardrobe. He thought he was helping, but we had to explain to him how hurtful words can be — even when that hurt is unintentional.

First we explained why it’s not proper to criticize the way anyone dresses because it hurts feelings, and then we had him apologize the following day. But we also saw an opportunity to take things a step further. In addition to apologizing to the girl, we also asked him to figure out something nice he could say to her and give her a compliment.

He was hesitant at first, but he did it. Will told her he really liked her glasses. And then he said “Mom, dad — she smiled. She was really happy and she said thank you. I liked making her smile because I never meant to hurt her feelings the first time.”

And just like that, “One Good Thing” was born.

We told him since he liked complimenting her, he should do it again — except this time to someone else. And he did. Every single day for the last three weeks, Will has gone into school and given someone an unsolicited compliment. He has complimented boys, girls, and teachers. He has positively commented on Minion jackets, cool jeans, how someone got an answer correct in class, and dinosaur shirts other kids have been wearing. He’s complimented friends as well as kids with whom he doesn’t usually talk.

When he gets off the bus, the first thing he does is tell us who the recipient of his “One Good Thing” was, and the specifics of the compliment. It’s become his routine, and a way to inject some positivity into the world.

I won’t lie and pretend he’s an angel who did this without resisting a bit. At one point he rolled his eyes and said “Why do I have to keep doing this all the time?” So we spent an hour or so talking about Karma, and the idea that the good you put out into the world will come back to you tenfold when you need help from others. He looked at me like I was crazy.

But guess what? He no longer thinks I’m a nut.

Will brought his beloved arrowhead to school earlier this month for show and tell, but accidentally dropped it while showing it to friends. It shattered into a million pieces. Will’s art teacher told him she’d do her best to fix it, but it was beyond repair.

However, she had other plans.

She knew Will got the arrowhead at Clark’s Trading Post on a trip this summer with his grandparents. So she graciously took the time to call up Clark’s in New Hampshire and buy another arrowhead for him on her own dime. However, she was talking to one of the owners of the store and upon hearing her story, he generously agreed to send her a new one at no cost.

Boom. Karma explained in a way my meager words ever could.

I’m not a raging hippie or a New Age guru. But I absolutely believe the good you put out into the world is palpable. And contagious. I know it sounds naive to believe the world would be a better place if everyone just did a little more good, but that’s OK. It might be naive, but I also think there’s some truth to it. So I’ll continue to practice small, random acts of kindness. And I’m going to teach all three of my boys to do the same.

One good thing isn’t a lot, but multiple ones add up quickly and this is an easy way my kids can be part of the solution instead of the problem.

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The Other Side of the Table

mewill2ndgradeThe Cinema Pub is a run-down joint in the back of a strip mall that shows second-run movies. And we love it.

I love it because it only costs $7 per person to see a movie. My son loves it because we can eat full meals and snacks while we enjoy our silver screen experience. Instead of regular seats, there are rows of tables and chairs that swivel and roll. There is a waitstaff who checks in with us before and during the movie, and they bring us anything we want. Where two tickets, popcorn, drinks, and candy would cost about $50 at an upscale theater, I paid $40 at the Cinema Pub and received two tickets, two drinks, delicious grilled pizza, perfectly greasy mozzarella sticks, and ice cream. Including tip.

Anyway, this weekend I took Will to see Jurassic World. It stunk worse than a steaming pile of Brontosaurus shit, but I’m not a movie critic and that’s not the point here.

Will is now 7 and starting the 2nd grade. He’s caught in that weird place  between little kid and big kid, where 5- and 6-year-olds are babies but 9- and 10-year-olds are big kids with whom he can’t quite keep up. He strives for independence and to shake off our parental shackles, yet he retreats back under our canopy of protection when he’s bitten off more than he can chew in Big Boy Land.

When it comes to movies, Will gets scared. But he won’t admit he’s scared because he’s “not a baby anymore!” At the Cinema Pub, we’ve always sat down on the same side of the table because he inevitably gets spooked and wants to be within arm’s reach for comfort — which I definitely love.

So imagine my surprise when, without a word, he walked over to the other side of the table and sat down. Defiantly. Sending a message.

I said nothing, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little verklempt on the inside. The kid grew 3 inches in less than three months, he’s stronger than ever, and he’s smarter than I can describe. Too smart at times, if you know what I mean. And while he no longer needed me to ride a bike or read a book, I figured he’d still need me by his side during scary movies. Maybe he’d even WANT me there.

The lights dimmed, our snacks came, and soon we were lost in a world of prehistoric shenanigans. But then the genetically modified Indominus Rex — part T-Rex, part Raptor, part Chameleon, part Death Machine — began killing everyone and everything in its path. I looked across the table and thought I saw Will wince, but other than that his expression was glass. Total poker face. Unfazed.

I turned my head back toward the screen just as Death Dino ripped yet another man in half, and started kicking myself for falling into the parenting cliche of wondering WHERE DID ALL THE TIME GO??? But seriously, where does it go? It’s here one day and the next, well, three years have gone by and your kid is completely different. He’s grown up. He’s moved on.

When I turned back toward Will I saw that he had literally moved on. He wasn’t there.

My head whipped around for a couple of seconds in panic before I felt a hand on my leg. It was Will. He had ducked under the table and was popping up on my side to take the chair nearest me. He sat down in front of me, grabbed my hand without looking back, and put it on his shoulder while continuing to watch the trail of dinosaur carnage.

I said nothing. But I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, the tears in my eyes had nothing to do with Chris Pratt’s underwhelming performance. I can say it’s nice to still be needed. I can say that.

As he skipped out of the theater, I asked him how he liked the movie.  “It was OK. Not as scary as I thought,” he said with all the false bravado he could muster.

I don’t want him to be scared. But as his dad, sometimes I don’t NOT want him to be scared, either. Just as he’s caught somewhere between little kid and big kid, I’m still finding my way as the parent of a soon-to-be big kid. I’m adjusting to not being needed so much, while reconciling that as a bittersweet sign of progress. Painful, inevitable, necessary progress.

“But…” he uttered slowly. “I’m still glad you were there. You know, just in case it had been scarier.”

Sometimes that’s fatherhood in a nutshell — just in case.

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