“We read a book every night to Amelia… We both want to have that as a strong part of our home.”
Can you introduce me to your family?
Leah: I’m Leah and I’m from Arizona originally. I like reading and I like designing.
Kyle: She’s one of the designers at Bennett Communications, so Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Valley Bride — those are her projects. She started doing that job right at the same time I got my job at Blickenstaff’s.
So Leah, you’re able to do the big design projects while raising a kid?
Leah: Yeah, it has been really fun. I have a work station downstairs so I can work and take care of Amelia. I worked on latest issue of UV Mag from home.
And Kyle, tell me about yourself.
Kyle: I’m originally from Houston, Texas and then I moved out here to Provo for school. I graduated from BYU. My biggest hobby is breakdancing. Well, it was breakdancing, but I haven’t done it seriously for probably ten years now. Lately I’ve been trying to pick up some new hobbies. I’m really trying to get into hand lettering.
Leah: He actually hand-lettered our baby announcements that we mailed out to everyone!
Kyle: It’s just a hobby that is fun and engaging, but doesn’t require the same amount of time that breakdancing did. A lot of the guys I danced with were up in Salt Lake, so it took an hour to get there, then we had a two to three hour practice, then another hour back — by the time it was over, I’d lost an entire night.
How did you get into breakdancing?
Kyle: My senior year of high school my family moved to Singapore. I was forced to take a P.E. credit that didn’t transfer. So I signed up for a dance class thinking that it was going to be me and a bunch of girls. I loved the class and that was kind of the jumping off point. I met another guy — who I am still best friends with — and we started breakdancing, moved to BYU, met a bunch of guys who were into breakdancing, moved into a house with them, and failed multiple classes at BYU because I was pursuing breakdancing. If you looked at my GPA from the time, you would see that it was horrific.There were a few years at school I was thinking, “This is it! This is my calling!” Long story short, it didn’t work out, so I pursued other options. When I applied for the MBA program they were all like, “Your grades are awful. You’re not even from the same planet as the other applicants. Why are you even applying?” So I showed them some breakdancing clips, told them how I had been working so hard on that, and they actually let me in.
Was it starting a family that caused you to quit breakdancing?
Kyle: It was just the time. Leah will attest to this, but I am the kind of person that always wants to do everything all at one time, and I want to do them well. Hand lettering, I want to be the best hand letterer; breakdancing, I want to be the best breakdancer; marketing, I want to be the best marketer. Best this, best that, best everything — and I realize now that it’s impossible to be the best at everything. That was a crushing realization when it came. There was a span of my life where I was saying, “I’m going to read for two hours, I’m going to breakdance for two hours, then I’m going to go to the gym for an hour — I had every minute of my day just packed… That works for a little while, but no one can do that every day. Especially with a kid and a family. Now if Amelia is asleep, I’m going to grab thirty minutes of sleep while I can! I guess that priorities just shift during life. But I wouldn’t trade where I’m at now. I love being a father.
Now you can be the best father, right?
Kyle: Oh yeah. That’s my newest goal: Best Father Ever!
Leah, what do you think about Kyle’s ambitiousness?
Leah: That’s why I fell in love with him. I love how driven he is. I love how he wants to do everything. Obviously with a family it is a little different now, but I still notice and love his ambition. He sets very serious goals and accomplishes all of them. I’m very much like, “I want to try this!” but then I forget about it and never accomplish anything (laughs). He is different. For example, I speak Spanish, and now Kyle is trying to learn it.
Kyle: I’m playing catch-up. I got an app on my phone, so when Amelia and I have tub time, I will take a Spanish lesson.
What has been an aspect of your life that has changed since having a child?
Leah: I feel like my ability to love has changed. Now that I have a daughter, I feel an overwhelming capacity to love her.
Kyle: We’re both new parents, if you can’t tell. I leave for work and I think, “I’m sure Leah’s fine, but is Amelia alive?”
Do you feel that the love for Amelia also increases your love for other people?
Leah: I definitely think so. This is kind of a religion-based answer, but I was talking to Kyle recently and asked him how Jesus Christ could love everyone. Now that I have a child, I feel like I have a tiny taste of how that love works, and I can feel it spreading to other people around me.
Kyle, what has been the biggest adjustment in life since having a child?
Kyle: Oh man, there is poop on the walls.
Is that an expression or something?
Kyle: No. It’s real. I’ve never seen poop on a wall before. I woke up in the middle of the night to Leah screaming and she’s like, “Get in here!” I walked in and there was poop on the walls! It was like an explosion. I just remember thinking that it was impossible. How does something like that even happen? Kyle pauses for a moment…
OK, so maybe that’s not the biggest adjustment…
Yeah, you kind of made that sound like it happens everyday.
Kyle: No, that just happened once, thankfully. But for me, that’s the first memory that pops into mind. Probably the biggest adjustment is, again, time. That’s how it was when I got married. I got married when I was twenty-six, so I got very used to having my own schedule all of the time. If there was a breakdancing competition in Vegas, I would just go. I didn’t need anyone’s permission, or even anyone’s acknowledgement — I just went.
Leah: He did that the first month we were married.
Kyle: Yeah… I learned very quickly that wasn’t a great thing to do: “Hey, I got a competition in Vegas, a bunch of guys are going down — did you want to come? No? OK, I’ll see you in a little bit!” Yeah, that was one of those things that I probably should have ran by my wife beforehand. So that timing thing was the biggest adjustment in marriage, and it is also the biggest adjustment in parenting. After three years of marriage, I finally got to the point where I was understanding the timing aspect in marriage, and then we had a kid. Now everything is poop on the walls, poop on the schedule — I don’t have any idea anymore. Amelia will get up at three in the morning and Leah and I just look at each other and say, “Well, it’s three in the morning. You’re up. I’m up. Amelia’s up. Am I supposed to be productive now? Do I read a book? Do I go to work?” Man, it’s crazy. But it’s a good crazy.
So what are you excited about most in being a parent?
Kyle: I’m excited to know that I’m going to show Amelia Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and tell her that what she just watched is a classic. I’m excited to have her read good books. I’m excited to have her listen to Justin Timberlake because he is the best singer ever. I get to teach Amelia about all kinds of fun stuff, and I am so excited for that.
If you could pick one lesson you hope that Amelia learns from you, what would that be?
Kyle: When I was growing up, my parents drilled one lesson into my head. Whenever something difficult came up in my life, my parents would tell me, “You can do hard things.” That’s kind of a cheesy blanket statement, but my parents said it enough and made us do enough hard things that it became a true principle for me. My schedule growing up was nuts: I had early morning seminary (a religious institution for Latter-day Saint high school students) at six a.m. My mom made the whole house get up to do chores before that. So I’m vacuuming at five in the morning before we had family scripture study, before we had seminary, before we had school! During that time when there seemed to be a gazillion requirements, my parents always said, “You can do hard things.” That lesson will always stick with me. I want Amelia to know that she can do hard things. She needs to know that she can do anything if she is willing to do the hard work.
Leah: I want her to value the principle of learning. That was very important in my home. Both my parents were teachers, so school was always at the forefront of my childhood. I want Amelia to have the same thing. I want her to learn. No matter what she grows up to be, I want her to understand the value of learning, and I want to foster that in our home.
So do you remember any traditions from your own childhood?
Leah: My dad is from Mexico City, so his family grew up celebrating Three Kings Day. When I was a kid, we celebrated that. When everyone else was taking down their trees on December 31st, we kept our tree up until January 8th. The night before, on January 7th, we put out our shoes under the tree and got little presents put in them to find the next day. Traditionally, Three Kings Day is the day that the Wisemen got to Jesus Christ and presented their gifts to him.
Kyle: I’ve only been Trick-or-Treating once in my entire life. When we lived in New Jersey, there was some kind of scare with needles in the candy, so my mom was like “That’s it. This is how Halloween is going to work from now on: We’re all going to go to the store. You are going to pick out a bag of your favorite candy. We’ll go home. We’ll pour them all into one giant bowl. We’re going to watch a new movie that no one has seen yet. We’re going to stay home, and no one will be eating needles.” We started doing that when I was in second grade, so some of my younger siblings have never been trick-or-treating. All of us actually liked that way more than going out and getting candy we didn’t like.
Why are traditions important to have?
Leah: I think that traditions really help to unite a family. If I didn’t have traditions growing up, I would have felt a little lost. Traditions also help children remember their roots. My family’s traditions helped me to remember my Mexican roots and I am grateful for that.
Kyle: Every child deserves to be able to say, “Do you remember when?” Whenever I get together with my siblings now, all we do is tell stories about our past. I want our family to look back in thirty years and tell stories about crazy dad hiding candy in all the cupboards and dressers…
Leah: When did that become a plan? There aren’t going to be any Whoppers in the beds…
Kyle: Oh yeah, there’s a story. When I was in college, I had a bowl of Whoppers next to my bed. The next morning — this is when I knew I had a little bit of a problem — I woke up and there was chocolate all over my hands. There was chocolate on my face. There was chocolate on my pillow. There were Whoppers ALL OVER inside my bed. The bowl next to my bed was completely empty… It didn’t change any of my candy-eating habits — I just realized I had a bigger problem than I originally thought.
Do you have any traditions as a family?
Leah: We read a book every night to Amelia. My mom did that when I was a girl, and I loved it. My mother was a kindergarten teacher, so she was all about books. I was the nerdy kid who was always reading. Kyle loves books as well, so we both want to have that as a strong part of our home. I want Amelia to love books as much as we do.
Can you tell me about how you two met?
Leah: We met my freshman year at BYU, so his senior year. It was the first day of class. He was taking his last GE class and the class was mostly a freshman class. There were only fifteen of us, so the teacher asked us to introduce ourselves. Kyle’s turn came up and he said, “I can breakdance.”
Kyle: To be fair, the teacher did say to share any special talents that we had!
Leah: All I know was that within thirty seconds, Kyle was breakdancing in the middle of the classroom.
Kyle: Again by invitation!
Leah: Either way I sat in my seat and thought, “I am never going to date that guy.” I mean, it was cool, but he was probably just doing it to get girls or something. But we did become really good friends. We went to lunch every week, but just as a casual thing. Kyle would tell me about the girl he was dating, and we actually had lunch every week that entire semester. When the end of the semester came, I thought that our lunches were over and that was that. Then he said, “So we’re having lunch next semester, right? Call me when you get back from break.” We did that lunch thing for two and a half years.
Kyle: Then I got engaged to someone else.
Leah: And it didn’t work out. So he moved back to Virginia. He planned to leave permanently. Before he left, he went and said goodbye to all of his friends, and I was the last person that he said goodbye to. I went over to his house to say goodbye, and that was the night that we realized we didn’t want to say goodbye. I started crying! We kissed that night.
Kyle: I had no idea that she was starting to like me. I was completely clueless.
Leah: So we kissed, and then he left still wondering what was going on. But me, I was thinking that we were in love! We dated long distance for seven months, then he moved back here in January and we got married in September.
Kyle: It was a miracle that she even married me. After two and a half years of lunches, Leah knew everything about me. She knew my problems with girls, my bad grades, my lack of money; I’m still kind of surprised even today.
Is Provo your home forever?
Leah: Neither of us are from Provo, so we don’t have family here. That is a little difficult sometimes. If we did move, then it would be for that. But right now we love our jobs, we love our home, we love the area, so we will still probably be here for a while.
Kyle: To be honest, Utah has grown on me. And I love my job more than I could ever even explain. Something life-shatteringly different would have to happen for me to want to leave the job I have.
Like Justin Timberlake wants you to be a backup dancer?
Kyle: I’ve had that dream before. Don’t even get me started! In my dream I was dancing on-stage with him and I was thinking that it was the best thing ever. We were on tour together, we were having fun, we were dancing… Then I woke up and thought, “Well, I love this life, too.” But if that opportunity ever came along, that would be enough to make us move. There’s always a little bit of hope, right?
Leah: Sure, honey.