Six-Month Old Babies are the World’s Greatest Gifts

“It is the peak of baby.”

Newborns don’t speak. One year olds are closer to little children than little bundles. The exact midpoint, the six-month period, is the best time of babyhood.

“Wait until she turns six months old,” I’ve told people. “The beginning is fun, but that’s the age when it all comes together.” I knew it, I believed it, I saw the pictures of our first child around the key point in her infancy, yet it is always amazing to experience.

Noelle has been smiling and laughing for a few months, now. In fact, she is actually one of the happiest babies I have been around. Sometimes, it takes nothing more than a simple look in her direction to send her into a giddy glee, and every time her delicious cheeks swell, so does my heart.

I can, indeed, confirm that the use of the adjective ‘delicious’ is not hyperbole. I eat them. Daily. And I am sustained by her cheeks.

Apparently, she is, too.

So inclined to consume the most adorable part of her tiny being, I ate her face once. Then twice. When I went back for dessert, she was ready.

In fact, she was excited.

A child’s laughter truly is as magical as people say. Earning that laughter through any action is thoroughly rewarding. In fact, tickles would otherwise be considered an act of torture if not for a baby’s obvious desire for more.

Sometimes, it seems like an accident. Like the baby is clearly enjoying the moment, but unsure of why or how. Placing myself in the role of a tiny infant, I could imagine daydreaming about milk or stuffed animals or the universe’s dark matter, only to be jolted into elation by a giant face eating my own. I can’t image it’s desirable, but her actions tell me differently.

It was at this moment when I stopped to take a breath and gauge the situation. Had I eaten enough of her cheeks? I wasn’t hungry, per se, but I enjoy recreational snacking. With the added caveat that my meal was another human being, I waited for a reaction that I don’t typically receive from my meals.

Noelle stretched out her little, muscleless arms – baby arms are hysterical in the sense that they move as one giant unit without the use of elbows, flail around as if they have actual importance, yet struggle to do anything with ease. The touch of her hand on my face caused me to look down into a pair of eyes so strikingly similar to Tina’s that I would consider them identical if not for my eye color.

I looked down at the sweet face staring back at me, smiling. Smiling and waiting.

More in disbelief than confusion, I tested my theory by inching towards her face slowly, then eating more of my meal. The beautiful sound reached my ears and I backed away, beaming. Again, so was she.

Six months ago, I held this little girl’s hand minutes after she was born. I fawned over her incredibly swollen, yet adorable cheeks. I stayed up an extra hour or two to watch hockey with her or play a video game as she bounced in the carrier on my chest. I had waited, knowing that most of my actions would be lost into an abyss for nearly half a year.

As sudden as the brush of five little fingers on my own cheek, Noelle and I had turned a corner and seen the rest of the world in front of us. I looked down at her, smiled, and was overcome with the simplest of thoughts.

My little girl – my littlest girl – is playing with me.

Each baby has his or her own personality. Watching this develop is one of the great joys of parenthood. Through no doing of our own, Tina and I have already been blessed with two incredible daughters that carry their own separate strengths. For Noelle, her personality is as clear as the everlasting smile on her face.

I knew the day would come, but still was taken aback with excitement as I realized the moment was upon me. For over a year, I was aware that we would be a family of four. For six months, exactly, I was learning about the newest addition to our family. For weeks, I was enjoying every smile and laugh. I had enjoyed an infant.

Now, I’m about to enjoy a baby.

Phases, stages, and time have no concerns about the desires of parents, yet we still have our preferences. Some want to fly through the first year, while others dread toddlers. Unfortunately, a side effect to a baby’s magical powers is his or her rapid growth. Despite the months and milestones, they all go too fast.

Six months go too fast.

That is, until we arrive at the destination. Now that Noelle is here, at her “baby peak,” there’s nothing more to do than enjoy it.

Happy Six Months, Ellie!

29th Birthday – Revisiting Mario’s 28th Birthday Goals

I had not yet returned to my post, but it was always on my mind. Last year, on my birthday, I wrote a list of goals that I wanted to complete by today. I memorized them, and it wasn’t until I sat down to type this year’s version that I revisited what I had promised myself.

I knew, all along, that two things would happen. First, I would not write my goals for this upcoming year. Turning 29 only mattered in the sense that it was another birthday and, thus, a day on which I could reflect. But turning 30 – next year – is a milestone. Nothing I would accomplish this upcoming year could trump what I have been working towards for the past decade.

The second thing I learned over the course of the year – in reality, I knew it when I was typing last year’s version of this post – is that I wouldn’t complete my goals. Each one would have required a specific amount of time and dedication that I could not commit. I did, however, know that I would address a piece of each one, and whichever deserved more attention would receive it.

Admitting that I have bigger plans in mind for the upcoming year, I felt it would be disingenuous to not address where I stood 365 days ago. I generally have a clear vision in most areas, so I find it interesting to assess how accurate or off-base my ‘predictions’ were. More importantly, I find value in revisiting my thought process.

Regardless, this past year has been the most productive, yet exhausting one yet. I cannot attribute my success entirely to the fact that I made promises to myself, but I also can’t discount it, either. To that point, the first item on last year’s list – share more of my writing – was a direct voice I heard in my head as I searched for a place to write publicly. To my pleasant surprise, I found my outlet.

Considering that I had a general plan in mind for how this would play out, I was dealt a curveball. Rather than write more of my personal work for a slightly bigger audience, I was given the opportunity to write a more focused set of articles for a much bigger pool of readership.

This August, I will have written sports articles – mainly football and baseball – for XN Sports for one calendar year, where a significant amount of my work gets shared through When I promised myself that I would find a way to get more people to read what I write, I never expected this. Of all my goals from last year, this one was the home run, and I am truly grateful to everyone that was involved in me landing a writing gig at XN Sports.

Much like the first goal on my list, the second one – start a second company – came to fruition in ways I never expected. Unfortunately, until circumstances allow more to be shared, I will have to be content with simply stating that I decided to go in another direction last year, and I am currently in the process of taking the first real steps in this journey.

Posting a video of my playing a song and actually writing a song were two of my most definable goals, yet neither were actually completed in a concrete way. I never was comfortable enough to sit in front of a camera and play a song – this was a shame, as I wanted to force myself outside my comfort zone – nor did I find the time to sit down and craft art with an instrument. I did, however, practice my skills to extent with which I am extremely pleased – thankfully, my wife agreed from the first day that we moved into our house that I could leave my keyboard and guitar out, to encourage me playing at any time; it worked.

While extremely late nights of work cut into any time I would have liked to dedicate towards music, I did find that some of my quietest nights involved me leaving my chair to plug headphones into my keyboard and strike some keys. The power of music is amazing.

The only other ‘definable’ goal was the hope that I would reach 1,000 Twitter followers, although I openly admitted that this would be out of my control. As expected, this failed, but my writing has allowed the number of followers to steadily grow. The most rewarding part of this experience was also the interactions with some followers, as my sports articles – namely, this year’s football predictions that turned out big winners – allowed for some great discussions via social media.

When I consider the result of each of these goals in a ‘pass or fail’ grading scheme, I find that I would have well under-performed what I desired. But nothing that has transpired over the past year leaves me disappointed. In fact, it’s the opposite. Everything that has consumed my time has been in the effort of approximating the result that any of these goals would have accomplished. Maybe I didn’t do exactly what I wanted, but I did more with my time than I ever would have considered possible.

To that point, my only goal for the next year is that I find a way to take the foundation of what I built and complete the building.

After all, that’s the only plan I have ever had for my 30th birthday.

I Was There: Final Thoughts on Derek Jeter’s Last Home Game

I am not an artist. I am not a poet. As much as I enjoy writing and I consider myself a good writer, even using that term is a stretch.

I wanted to write nothing.

I wanted everything I had poured onto the keyboard for the last 24 hours to stand alone, unaltered by anything I could add to it later. At various points in the evening, I had to force myself to stop thinking about what I could share and instead consider the bigger picture.

There would be no words to describe it.

Even if I wanted to document what ended up becoming the most unforgettable night of my baseball-watching life, there were no words. In fact, I considered posting a blank screen as my ‘Description of Last Night’ article, but the reality is, I didn’t even want to try to capture the night.

Derek Jeter, once again, had done that for me.

I woke up this morning after a dreamless sleep. I considered questioning if everything I experienced at Yankee Stadium was my dream, instead, but then learned the truth: even my imagination couldn’t compete with what actually happened.

Various memories throughout the night began to flood my mind as I brushed my teeth in the early morning silence. These thoughts were fragmented and scattered, ranging from what I had hoped the Yankees would do to celebrate Jeter to the atmosphere in the Bronx to multiple times I was moved to tears. I had no intention of trying to unify these, but I did have one responsibility for the day.

I had to write.

I always do. For approximately a year and a half, I write a minimum of 750 words every day. I have written about this and shared milestones as they have come and go, and it’s been great for me. But it also is a requirement.

Some days I have no desire to write anything more than a running diary. So I do. This morning, as I considered how difficult it usually is to find something to say on a Friday (my week has winded down and I generally look ahead to the weekend), there was no way to avoid using these words to document last night.

This is neither a formal piece on Derek Jeter’s last home game, nor is it continuous, cleanly written, or serve any purpose other than a journal. It will not be edited, and it will not be molded into anything else.

Quite frankly, I couldn’t possibly capture last night in any words that would make sense, anyway. So I won’t. I will just share my unfiltered thoughts.

The weather. It didn’t rain. Of course it didn’t rain – I say this despite basically guaranteeing a rain-out because I was attending the game. But this, like the entire night, was bigger than me. It didn’t rain because Derek Jeter needed it not to rain.

In addition, there was one radio host, in particular, that felt it was ridiculous that the Yankees were trying to force the game to be played. What’s ridiculous is that notion.

Not only do I applaud the Yankees for recognizing the moment (every moment), but I am eternally grateful that they fought to keep the game alive. In truth, seeing the incredible amount of merchandise branded and sold for the final game was certainly the driving factor, but I can’t fault them. They had their selfish reasons to play the game. I had mine. Thank you, Yankees. Thank you, weather.

The predictions. After witnessing (not in person) the famous Mariano Rivera sendoff from last year, it was difficult to imagine how the Yankees could top it for Jeter. The only two actions that would have been unbeatable were the following: Jeter is removed in the top of the ninth inning (more on this later) and the Yankees play with no shortstop, and his parents are the ones to remove him. This thought literally brought me to tears every time I considered it.

The tears. Which ones? The pregame thank you video from the fans or the one from Jeter? The final few times he took the field or the final at-bats? Name a point in the game where something powerful unfolded and there were bleary eyes involved. The most important moment being the end, when Derek Jeter, for the final time, sent me jumping and screaming and burying my face into my dad’s shoulder.

As I wrote yesterday (and a hundred other times), Jeter has provided more emotional celebrations than I could count. Last night was the most impactful. Those tears will remain unmatched until my own children jump into my arms in jubilation.

The moments. I thought about this a lot last night. It wasn’t just the memories of winning or the Flip Play or the Dive. It was barely even the plays themselves that made everything so special. It was the moment just before the play would unfold that made Derek Jeter who he was.

Jeter will always be remembered for his unmatched level of hustle on every play. But the description of the Captain that will be used in future arguments over his greatness boils down to one word: clutch.

Derek Jeter was clutch because of the moment before he delivered, not during.

We watch sports so that we may see something amazing happen. We watch television because we want to be entertained. When the two mix, there is no greater viewing pleasure.

Whenever Derek Jeter would step to the plate in a big situation, everyone simply believed he would deliver. It’s that simple. It wasn’t just that he did, it was that we knew he would and he did not disappoint. We chant his name and cheer him on because, for once, as a sports fan, we believe in what is going to happen next.

We don’t miss it.

That’s what drove tens of thousands of Yankee fans to the stadium last night, myself included. We knew we were going to see something amazing even before it happened. And we wouldn’t miss it.

The crowd. Possibly the most underrated factor in last night’s epic memory was those of us who went to see it live. Since the new Yankee Stadium was opened years ago, there has been a steady belief that the crowd simply isn’t the same. It’s true. I went to a playoff game in 2009. It was quiet. Quiet. For a Yankee playoff game.

We all know why. It has been long documented that those people filling the stadium now are businessmen who could afford the expensive seats or the casual fan who was given free tickets. When the diehards show up, they are the minority.

Except last night.

Anyone who paid a ton of money, traveled hundreds of miles, or braved the weather and traffic, wanted to be there. I don’t think they showed more than five celebrities on the screen (besides ex-Yankees) all night. For Derek Jeter’s last home game, this was surprising, yet awesome.

Only the diehards came out last night, and it was the best atmosphere I have felt in the new Yankee Stadium. I would argue that it rivals any crowd in any game for the past 20 years, but the two exceptions might be 1996 and 2001 (I was at game 5 of the World Series and that was previously my number 1 memory of Yankee Stadium).

Regardless, boos were louder and more intense. Passion was reinstated. The cheers at the end of the game were deafening.

The crowd helped make last night what it was.

The ending. “You should be watching. Trust me, it’ll be special soon.” This was the text message I sent to Tina around the 8th inning. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but I knew it would be worth watching, sports fan or not.

Trying to capture exactly what unfolded in Derek Jeter’s last home game is beyond impossible. In fact, it shouldn’t even be attempted. There existed a series of multiple ridiculous events that needed to unfold even to lead to the final at-bat: Ichiro making the final out of the 8th inning, Girardi leaving Jeter in to finish the game, Adam Jones hitting a two-run home run, Steve Pierce hitting a home run, the rookie Jose Pirela leading off with a single, pinch running with the fastest man on the team, Gardner bunting, and finally, the rest of the heavens aligning to allow Derek Jeter to bat with a chance to win the game.

Even if you tried to make it up, you couldn’t have thought of all the ridiculous circumstances needed to place Captain Clutch at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Of course, we knew what would happen. Everyone knew it. Because, as I wrote earlier, Derek Jeter is a walking legend because he allows you to know greatness is about to occur, and then delivers.

First pitch. Single. Game over.

Never again will a moment in sports be greater, because never again will there be another Derek Jeter.

The goodnight. After staying for Jeter’s press conference, my father and I finally left Yankee Stadium. The night had carried a feeling of sadness from the beginning, but the only way to quell the tears was by the game reversing course and turning into the final celebration of Jeter rather than a sendoff. With the way the game finished, it finally became a moment to truly remember. When I tell the story to my grandchildren, everything about the night will be overshadowed by the miraculous way it ended.

The only unfinished business left for me was the one reason why I hesitated to go to the game in the first place – Hayley.

I had gone into work a little late yesterday, solely for the purpose of playing with my daughter for a few minutes in the morning. This mattered to me. I also knew I wouldn’t be able to tuck her in. This mattered more.

When I finally got home, kissed my wife and rubbed her pregnant belly, I went upstairs to Hayley’s room. I shifted her to the center of the bed and sat down on the floor next to her.

She may have already been asleep, but I still read her the book we always read, and recited the lines we always say before I left. Finally, all sadness from the night was long forgotten.

I had made the decision to go to last night’s game for one reason: Derek Jeter is my guy. There was no one before, and there will be no one after. My dad had recognized this, and, over the years, as much as he loved Jeter personally, he felt an extra tug because of how much the shortstop meant to me.

My dad had his guy. I had mine.

Going to Derek Jeter’s last home game was a closure on the part of my life that is now gone. I know and accept that I will never have this same experience again with any athlete.

But I hope to someday have the same experience my father had.

He was able to watch his son idolize a man who never let him down. He was able to take his little boy, at 28 years old, to the closing of a career. He watched Jeter through different eyes than I did, and now we both have lost something in his retirement.

The hope is that we gained something as well.

As I move on from watching my own hero on the field, I hope to be able to enjoy the next one: my child’s hero.

Whether it’s Hayley, the baby currently scheduled for a Thanksgiving arrival, or any of the ones that may follow, there will be a hero that captures their hearts.

Or, as I was moved to tears thinking about Jeter’s parents, I considered the alternative.
What if one of my kids is to become the hero?
Whether my own, my child’s, or my child, his or herself, it won’t change the most important fact:
I will be there.