Sunday, December 29, 2013

Welcoming Kaelyn

Everything is different now.

On December 26th, at 11:00am, our family officially changed.  Once four, we are now five.  Once "Mike, Amy, and the boys", we can no longer use the gender-specific term for our children.  Once finished with those early childhood stages of parenting, we're now back at the starting line.

Yes, on December 26th, we welcomed into the world Kaelyn Grace Pilato, our beautiful new daughter.  Weighing 7 lbs. 15 oz., and measuring 20 1/4" long, she was no small package.  And that's appropriate, as her impact on our family dynamic will likewise be nothing short of monumental.

Christmas was a pretty normal day, really.  We opened gifts with our sons, enjoyed an awesome home-cooked meal at my grandmother's house, and then settled into a family viewing of the movie Epic. At some point, Amy left the room to use the bathroom, and didn't return.  She eventually called to me, at which time we determined that her water had broken.

Normality terminated.  It was go-time for a hospital trip.

Thirteen hours later, Amy was ready to deliver.  And deliver she did.  The sounds of her strenuous pushing were replaced with those of a crying baby girl, and Kaelyn was born.

Naturally, the local-area grandparents were quick to meet the family's new addition.

And to say that Kaelyn's big brothers are completely smitten by her would be a massive understatement.

Mom and baby — both in great health — returned home Saturday, December 28.  (Home itself is different now, too.  Once all but devoid of pastels, it now has way more pink and lilac in it than we ever dreamed it would!)

So welcome to the world, Kaelyn.  Our family which seemed so complete as a foursome is complete again as a party of five, and already we begin to wonder how it could possibly have been any other way.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

To Gavin, on his tenth

Channeling some Theodor Geisel today, I wrote a poem for Gavin to celebrate his tenth birthday.
To Gavin, On His Tenth
by: C. Michael Pilato

Today is a great day, a fun day for you.
It's unlike tomorrow and yesterday, too.

A day that comes by only once in your history.
Why such a great day? That's not a mystery!

Another year's over; another year's passed.
You've finished your tenth year (which was not like the last).

A one in the ten's place and none in the ones
For the firstborn among all my daughters and sons.

Yes today is a great day, a fun day for you —
But for the family that loves you? It's fun for us, too!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

"The Fifty States of America", by Aidan Pilato

Our youngest son, Aidan, woke before the rest of us today. Never one to sit idly, he focused his first energies of the day into creative writing and illustration. The following silly story resulted.

Once upon a time, fifty states woke up from bed. (Of course, California and Texas -- because there wasn't a bed the size of them -- had to sleep on the ground.)

One day, Washington was taking a stroll on a spring grass knoll when he didn't even notice that up in the sky a rain cloud was watching him. The rain cloud said, "Lightning Bolt, STRIKE!" But there was no lightning.

The raincloud struggled up to a rusty white cloud. He knocked on it.

In a silly voice, the lightning bolt said, "Yes?"

"It's me, Rain Cloud. Strike that Washington state!"

"Yes, sir."

Since the lightning bolt was dumb, he missed thirty times in a row. Since the lightning bolt couldn't even strike, all he could do is poke himself in the belly.

Apparently, Texas heard all about it. He gathered up all the states (even Washington, when he got back). They made a plan.

But Lightning Bolt and Rain Cloud heard about that. They made an army.

One day, as the plan said, Washington went out again where he found the lightning and rain cloud. They had been waiting for him. He saw them and started talking to them. He said, "We don't we start battling each other. If my army wins, you turn to the good side. If you win, we turn to the dark side -- deal?"


"Good. Charge!"


Washington was in the front. But California and Texas didn't have a weapon. They didn't need one -- they used themselves. They just kept smacking guys on the ground.

Finally, the battle was over. The states had won. The other army would join the good side. They started to cry. But the good side gave the leader a mouse.


I'm not sure what he has against Washington state. We've never been there. And to our GWB-hating readers, I can assure you that it's merely coincidence that Aidan had Texas tossing his weight around and taking the states off to war.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

... and Amy Makes Four

In 2011, our son Aidan completed his fifth and sixth seasons of soccer with the local Harrisburg Parks and Recreation youth athletics league. His team (the Kickin' Pandas) won their league championship! In fact, Aidan scored his team's only goals in the championship match. Our son Gavin returned to soccer after a two-year hiatus, and had a very successful season, too. His team (the Angry Birds) advanced to the finals, where they claimed a second-place finish in their league. As it turns out, Gavin also scored his team's only goal in the championship match. Daddy (Mike) played his third year of adult soccer with Harrisburg. His team didn't really do so much to speak of tournament-wise, and he didn't score a single goal the entire season. In fact, he completely blew a great scoring opportunity in the first match. But at least he had fun playing. And now ... could it be?! Oh, yes! Mommy's got a new pair of shoes!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Are You Considering Home Education in NC?

Home education has been a core value of our family since before the birth of our first child. From his first moments outside the womb, teaching Gavin about the world and his role in it has been one of our family's greatest joys and most important responsibilities. Amy and I strongly believe that the task of educating a child falls squarely to that child's family — parents, siblings, grandparents, and so on, natural, adoptive, or otherwise. The family is the building block of society, and where the family and its members are ill-equipped, society is weakened.

In our family, which now includes two school-aged children, that means taking advantage of the opportunity for Amy to formally educate those children in our home. To assist in this task, we are members of a larger community of families in our area who have made similar choices, the Cabarrus County Home School Association. We've been actively involved in the CCHSA for over two years now, and greatly enjoy the benefits of this local homeschooling support group.

If you're considering home education in North Carolina, and you'll be in or around Concord, NC on Monday, October 25, 2010, you may wish to check out the CCHSA's public Informational Meeting. Here's a snippet from an email notification we received about the meeting:

Hi! I wanted to let everyone know that our first CCHSA Informational Meeting will be held on Monday, Oct. 25th at 7PM at the West Cabarrus YMCA on George Liles Blvd. We will have speakers talking about the "why" of homeschooling, what to know about homeschooling in North Carolina and in Cabarrus County, what resources are available to help homeschoolers, and a variety of "special topics" for a Q and A session.


The Q and A speakers will be answering questions about things such as sports opportunities, advantages/disadvantages to various specific curricula, how to prepare high school students for college, how to help special needs learners, or how to juggle multiple ages/grades.

For a map to the event location, click here.

To be clear, Amy and I don't believe that the public school system is evil. We don't believe that parents who choose to avail themselves of public education are negligent or failing their children in some way. Many of our dearest friends work every day to ensure that public education in our area is the best that it can be. Our challenge to all families is simple and universal: take ownership of your children's education, and use the best mechanisms and approaches and services you can to do so.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Surprise Beach Mini-vacation

Hearing the excitement in two young boys' voices when they learn that the family is going to take a four-day vacation to the beach is one thing. But hearing that excitement when they learn this fact as you pull into the parking lot of an oceanfront pier takes it to a whole new level!

Last Tuesday, Amy whisked the boys out of the house early in the morning for a quick errand to her parents' place while I sneakily dropped fully packed suitcases into the trunk of our other car. Upon their return, she and I announced to the kids that we'd be taking a field trip. What we didn't tell them was that the "field trip" was to be a four-day excursion to North Myrtle Beach.

Amy had the boys' schoolwork all prepared, and they spent the first two hours of our three-and-a-half hour journey doing that work: reading books aloud to each other, taking math and science tests, etc. When they'd finished their work, they naturally began to wonder just how far away this secret field trip location was, but were easily distracted into various other activities — more reading, drawing and coloring pictures, imaginative play, etc. Our ruse became more difficult as we neared our destination, with nearly every highway sign screaming out the number of miles remaining to Myrtle Beach or North Myrtle Beach. But we managed to keep up the distractions until we finally pulled into the parking lot of the Cherry Grove Beach pier. Ocean in full view, our sons finally realized where we were. And then we told them we'd be staying for a while.

The weather was cloudy or rainy for most of the trip. Some would call that unfortunate, but in reality it was wonderful. The air and ocean water were warm enough to enjoy comfortably. The rains held off every time we got into the mood to go down to the ocean. We never had to fuss with sunscreen. We never had to deal with heat exhaustion. It was just perfect! I got rained on only once when I intentionally went for a four-mile jog in the rain on Wednesday morning while Amy and the boys did their schoolwork for the day. (It was a great jog, by the way, dribbling a soccer ball up and down the coastline, playing keep-away with the surf!) We were able to visit resort's indoor pools every night of our stay except for the final one, which we spent treating the boys to a surprise trip to Medieval Times.

The boys had a surprise for us, too, it seems. The first night that we visited the pools, both boys started swimming a bit on their own without flotation devices! That provided many hours of excitement for the family, and quite a bit less fatigue than usual for Amy and I.

And the aforementioned resort offered its own lovely (if geeky) surprise. When I visited the hotel's community computer system to print off our tickets for Medieval Times, I found that it was powered by none other than Ubuntu Linux (a free operating system and extremely viable alternative to Microsoft Windows and MacOSX)!

Truthfully, there's very little to not have been thrilled about on this trip. We left Friday morning (our first sunny day), drove further south to Surfside Beach for some seashell hunting and beach soccer, and then aimed our car toward home, very thankful to have had such a wonderfully relaxing family vacation.

Parents, when was the last time you took your family away from it all for a bit of respite? Make and take those opportunities now before your kids are grown and your family dispersed!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, and Asheville vacation

Every once in a while, you take a vacation that's great not just because of where you went or what you did or who you were with or how your kids behaved or just how much you needed the time off, but the amazing cross-section of all of that simultaneously. We just enjoyed one of those vacations.

For the past month or so, ours has felt like a bit of a mad house. This time of year is always extremely stressful, with all of our birthdays and anniversaries happening between early March and early June, my and Amy's wedding anniversary in late April, the wrapping up of school years and soccer seasons, the reintroduction of yard maintenance and spring cleaning, and so on. In addition to all of that, we've been dealing with a bit of a kitchen makeover. (You know the type: supposed to be simple, but winds up complicated.) But this past Wednesday, the last of our kitchen crew finished their work, and Gavin and Amy completed his homeschool year. So after A.J. finished his last day of preschool on Thursday morning, we headed out of town with our good friends the Batsons (Paul, Liz, and their two kids) for a few days away from it all.

Paul and I had arranged for our lodging to happen at the historic 1927 Lake Lure Inn & Spa, where Amy and I had spent our first night of marriage together over twelve years ago, and we did so as a surprise to Amy. The hotel was in much better shape than I remembered (excepting the pool, which had just sorta opened for the season but clearly hadn't had its pre-season maintenance). The staff were pleasant and helpful, and even though the rooms in that old place are small, it turned out to be a very nice play to stay.

We arrived Thursday afternoon, checked into our rooms, then went out for a walk by the lake just to get out into the air and kill some time before dinner. The four kids enjoyed playing on and watching ducks from the docks. After our walk, we drove into the town of Chimney Rock for dinner. Now, Chimney Rock isn't a particularly animated place on its most populous day, but on a Thursday evening in late May, it was practically vacant. We managed to find an open family restaurant, which was … less-than-impressive. But the ice cream shop a few doors down allowed us to forget our lackluster dinner, and fueled the kids for a trip down the riverwalk to play on the rocks by and in the river. As sunset approached, we decided to head back to the Lake Lure Inn and test out the pool. (To completely exhaust the children before bedtime, of course!)

Friday morning we returned to Chimney Rock, where the little town's culinary reputation was wholly redeemed by Medina's Village Bistro. Medina's is a tiny place, but serves up a mean breakfast — killer cinnamon rolls, big fluffy pancakes, eggs, meats, etc. With happy stomachs, we left there to tackle our primary activity of the day: Chimney Rock Park. At Chimney Rock, we hiked around the Chimney itself and then out to the base of the Hickory Nut Falls. I love hiking. But I really love waterfalls. (This was one of the best moments of the vacation for me.) Despite the long walk, the kids all did a great job of keeping up the pace without complaints (which was a bit easier for little Ella, who had the challenging task of riding in a frame carrier on her Daddy's back).

Lunch after our hike was a quick one, as the ladies (Amy and Liz) had spa appointments at Shoji Retreat near Asheville. While they went off to get pampered, Paul's kids napped, mine failed to nap, and then the lot of us visited the pool again. After a short swim, we got ready to drive up to Asheville to meet the ladies for dinner. It was at this time that we realized just how much Amy and Liz were probably weirded out hours earlier as they drove to their spa appointment. Shoji Retreat is off the beaten path. I mean, way off the beaten path. We're talking hairpin-turns-up-the-hill-past-the-toothless-dude-by-the-moonshine-still, here. Poor girls must have been running on sheer faith in their husbands by the time they arrived. But both gave glowing reviews of the spa itself, so Paul and I didn't lose too many husband points in the process.

After meeting up with the ladies, our two families continued into Asheville for dinner at Steak & Wine. Now, here's where things could have gotten crazy. This is a white-table-cloth environment, into which we just dragged four tired children under the age of seven. But amazingly, the kids were able to deal with the situation pretty gracefully. Our meals were wonderful (I'm already trying to make up excuses to get back there at a future date!), and thanks to the stash of kids books in our car, we were able to keep the children quiescent after they finished eating and while the adults wrapped up their meals. We stopped by the now-famous drum circle in Pritchard Park (just outside our restaurant, which was chosen largely for its location) before walking to a creamery for dessert. It was a late evening, with all the children nodding off in the cars during our drive back to Lake Lure, but even now I'm completely amazed at how well the children handled some of these not-so-kid-focused situations.

Saturday morning, we checked out of the Lake Lure Inn, hit Medina's again for breakfast, and then made our way to Rutherfordton (or, as Paul claims the locals call it, "Ruffton") to visit the KidSenses children's museum. The children had a great time visiting the exhibits, doing some crafts, and so on, and it was a suitable reward for their excellent behavior the prior days of the trip.

After a final meal together at Mi Pueblito, our families officially parted ways, and the vacation was complete.

I can't remember a more successful vacation for our family, where success is defined by our ability to actually escape from the craziness of life. I'm thankful for a great family, thankful for great friends, and thankful for a great job which helps to fund these types of occasional getaways.