Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Tony Dungy's goodbye to his son.

I just cried my eyes out reading Tony Dungy's eulogy to his son. He said his last goodbye to his 18 year old boy at the airport and did not get a chance to hug him.
"Hug your kids every chance you get. I'll never forget the fact that I did not hug my son that last time."
That was one of the saddest thing that I have ever heard. Tony Dungy has to live with that last memory for the rest of his life. And the great man that he is, he summoned the strength to tell that story to the world during the toughest time of his life.
It is truly humbling to know that a parent can do so many things right and the events of our world can overwhelm a young man with his whole life ahead of him. I realize today that I need to double my efforts and give everything that I can to my kids. I vow to hug them every chance that I can get.
But if their experience overwhelms them, then I have to learn some way to let them go in the courageous manner that Tony D. did today.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

This I believe.

The following is my submission to the This I believe segment on NPR:

I believe in the Dalai Lama. Anger is a vestige of evolution and it needs to be managed through patience practice. Negative emotions bring us a blind, selfish energy that too often results in harm to others. Our empathy and compassion towards others needs to be our guiding emotions in this life. I believe true happiness comes from connecting with and helping others.

I believe in Ben Franklin and Tony Robbins. I think that a positive outlook on life is one of the keys to happiness. Entrepreneurship, hard work and perseverance are inherent in all of humanity. Our perspective and the manner in which we apply our emotions to our experience color how we view each event in our lives. If we can exist without prejudice and see each new event as an opportunity then we are living life to its fullest. If we can enjoy our work, then we enjoy all of our days, instead of simply our days off.

I believe in Natural Healing and Dr Andrew Weill. Our bodies are perfect creations that have the miraculous ability to heal themselves. Listening to my body’s signals is essential and I respond with natural solutions to its messages. A vegetarian diet and yoga practice are examples of the disciplines that have resonated with me and my body.

I believe in my kids. If I instill loving values into my children then they will each do ten times the good works that I will accomplish. Therefore, every second that I invest in them will manifest itself ten fold in benefits for society. I practice patience with my children. I try to never interact with them when I am angry. I give myself more timeouts than I administer to them. I hug them and tell them I love them 30 times a day. I get them dressed in the morning and put them each to bed when I get home at night.

I believe in my wife. I think she is ringmaster. She manages more in a day than I could possibly hope to juggle in a year. I am grateful when dinner is ready when I come home, no matter what is prepared. I take a deep breath and say “Yes dear.” If she asks me if I know that I am supposed to take a right at the next set of lights. I insist that she take a nap on the weekends while I play with all 3 kids. I insist she get out of the house some nights so that she feels that her life is in balance. I believe in a mutually fulfilling and healthy sex life. I am thankful for Vasectomies.

I believe in an interconnected web of human relationships. I am happy when I see another person and I prove it to them by smiling at them with my mouth and eyes. I often witness another’s face completely change after they see my unassuming smile. I hope I instill each person that I meet with more positive emotion and energy. Then they can bring that energy into their relationships and lift up the web of life.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Reading to T's class

I love working close to home. It is one of the top things that I look for in my work. I was reminded of why today.

I took an early lunch and went over to my son's preschool to read some books to the kids. T picked out a dinosaur book that morning. I picked out a feelings book. As we were headed out the door, L suggested that we bring our family picture album. I was hesitant, but I brought it to appease L. The album turned out to be a huge hit.

I arrived at 11:30 to T beaming at the door. It was cleanup time and I got down on my hands and knees and helped pickup the toys. I spoke with D and K about where the hammers and stethoscope were stored. Then it was time to read.

I sat up in front of the class. 12 little beaming faces were ready to hear about dinosaurs. We started with Brontosaurus. The kids ooohed about how big he looked in the book. We talked about other objects that are 70 feet long.
"He was as long as 3 school buses." I said. "And much taller than the school."
I let that sink in and turned the page.
I asked the kids to pick their favorite color dinosaur from the next page. It was an even split between pink and green.
The T-Rex page was definitely the favorite. I hyped it up very well.

Next I breezed through the feeling book. The kids easily recognized the angry face and were able to demonstrate it well. They did the same with the happy face. This is another one of Todd Parr's excellent books.

The finale was the vacation album that J ordered from snapfish. That was a big hit with the teachers and kids. There is a picture of M at 14 months chillin in her car seat. The kids loved it as much as I did.

The look on T's face when I arrived at school was truly priceless. I loved meeting his friends and feeling the atmosphere at school. It was magic. I love that kid.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Encouraging awe in nature.

My wife and I went to the bookstore the other night. I love browsing with no topic in mind. I browse technology and fitness and see what pops off the shelf. I was in the science section and I found a great book called the Universe http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0756613647/qid=1132110085/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/002-8678562-1048066?v=glance&s=books.
It is a huge volume with creative images from the atom to the sun. Numerous shots from the Hubble telescope are featured. I knew the kids would love the astronomy section.
I showed the kids the book the next day. L and T asked me to take it down from the special shelf on 4 separate occasions. We poured over the maps of the stars. There was a section for the November sky in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
"Let's find the North Star." I suggested.
We poured over the book for a moment.
"Ooops!" said L. "We should be looking in the Northern Hemisphere for that."
She was right again. Daddy was on the wrong page. 5.5 years old. The kids really amaze me.
"There is the big dipper and there is the little dipper." I said.
"Wow." said T.
Later that night when I was putting M to bed the older kids were getting into their silly mode. This has been a pattern for the past few nights.
"Guys! Why don't you get your coats on and we will go out and look at the sky? Maybe we can find some constellations."
It was curious that I did not have to repeat that suggestion. The kids sprinted downstairs and had their jackets on in 1 minute. A new family record. M and I were the last ones ready.
We went around the house and shut out all of the lights. That was an exciting project. When the house was in pitch blackness the kids and I headed out back.
"Look! The little dipper!" T exclaimed.
He was right on. "You've got it T!" I encouraged.
M called out: "Moooo."
"Yes, M!" I said. "That is the moon!"
"Where are all the stars?" Asked L.
"It is a little cloudy tonight. We will see some more stars another night. But aren't the ones that we can see beautiful?"
"Yeah." Replied L and T.
I think these expeditions and learning projects build a sense of awe in the kids about nature. Throughout the day we talked about how many stars are in the universe. I think the kids will grow up with a healthy mindset, knowing the true nature of the universe.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Patience pondering

The following is a post that I left in response to a patience question on yahoo groups:

Yes, I would love to share some ideas on the patience topic. Your observation of thinking before you speak is a great thought to keepin mind. It has saved me many times and there are many times that Iwish I had employed it.

Also, you mentioned the challenge of parenting when you are tired or cranky. It is good to know when you are tired or your blood sugar is low. When I am operating in this mode I consider myself in the danger zone or Orange alert. I try to remain extra vigilant with my patience.
The classic patience technique is counting to 10 and taking deepbreaths. It is easy to say, but I think it is really hard to do in the heat of battle. It feels weird to stand up and walk out of the room without saying a word. It feels like you are giving in,somehow. But the several times I have utilized it, it has been a real homerun. It diffuses the situation and the adrenaline clears from my system.

Another physical cause of patience failure is when the kids are screaming and causing actually pain in your ears. I believe this is a biological reaction that causes us to become hyper alert.Adrenaline is again released into my system and I have to become consious of my actions. I have to consciously realize that the pain in my ears is simply temporary. My ears always feel better moments later.

Often times the kids will rope me into their arguments. One is crying because they were hit or one of the kids is yelling at their mother. The anger spreads through the room like wildfire. It is Ariel emotional master that can keep it cool in these situations. Don't take sides. I remind myself that this is not my anger, it is theirs. They are angry. If I can remain impartial and see things from all sides then I can offer healthy alternatives. Again if I am worried about my ears, or my peace and quiet then I am doomed. Also if I pick a side I am also not doing one party much of a service.

Another patience trigger is when I perceive that the kids are making work for myself or my wife. Intentionally spilling water. Making tons of noise after I have just put our youngest down. These actions really challenge me. I have to remember to breathe deep and recall that they are only children acting as children are supposed to. I also try to remember that the perceived work is seldom as much as I expect.

Whenever I put myself in the kids shoes I generally achieve the empathy that I need to successfully manage a challenging situation. I think of these things as patience "swing thoughts". At any time one of them may come in handy and I hope I am aware enough to bring it to the forefront of my mind.

Does anyone have any other good suggestions on patience?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Passing on values at bedtime.

Each night when I put T to bed he asks for a story. I use this time to convey my values to my little man.
Many nights we pick a profession where he can help humans or animals. For instance he will accompany Steve the crocodile hunter on a mission to save injured crocodiles in the outback. He rescues crocodiles from trees and fixes there cavities while Steve holds their mouths open.
Other nights T will drink a potion that he invented and turn himself into a dinosaur or some other creature. The creature will help mankind in someway. When he is a Brontosaurus, he can give children rides at the park. When he is a dragon he can help me burn stumps out of the backyard. T is always having fun and helping out.
Last night was one of our best. He said he wanted to be himself in this story. I told him that he could cook a meal for the Monday night supper for the homeless at our church.
"What do you want to cook T?"
T thought long and hard for 30 seconds. I waited patiently for his response, doing all that I could not to lead him.
Finally T decided: "Gingerbread cookies."
"Great! I am sure that they will love them."
"What ingredients do we need and how do we make them?" I asked.
"We need eggs, flour, sugar, milk and a great big bowl! And then we stir it!" T replied enthusiastically.
"Perfect. What should we use for eyes?"
"Chocolate chips." Replied T.
L was listening patiently and keeping quiet during T's story. Then she piped in:
"Dad, this is like when we made the grilled cheese sandwiches for the youth group lunch at church!"
"Exactly!" I exclaimed.
"And did those kids appear happy when they received their sandwiches?"
L paused. "Yes, they looked very happy."
"I think the hungry people at our church will feel just as happy to eat T's cookies."
"Yeah." replied T. "Now can I have a dinosaur story?"

It is tempting to give T exactly what he asks for each night. Stories filled with action and gore that scare the pajamas off of him. Instead I try to fill the stories with values like hard work, enjoying your work, and helping make the world a better place. I try to keep away from stories with villains and heros who overcome treachery. I hope T will build a world full of cooperation and win-win scenarios instead of win-lose. Especially when the winner needs to resort to violence to get the job done. Can you see where I stand on the Disney films?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween meltdown.

My oldest daughter L, 5.5 years has never eaten 5 servings of candy before bedtime until tonight. She also has never had an emotional meltdown of this proportion, ever. Coincidence? I don't think so.
The meltdown got started as I was putting M to bed. L and T were playing in the bathtub. I could hear that they were having way too much fun and I suspected water was flying everywhere. As I put M down I heard mommy address the troops.
"Alright, that's it. L in your room, T in your room. You are going to bed by yourselves tonight!"
L was furious.
"I want daddy! I want to go in to T's room with daddy."
I was working on T's reading with him in his room. He was making progress reading his first short book when L burst into the room: "Mom said I could come in if you said it was OK."
"It is fine L, if you can listen while T reads his book."
L immediately jumped up next to T. It is tough to get T to concentrate on a book, so I was a little frustrated when L began sounding out the letters for T. T became frustrated and threw the book across the room.
"L, I asked you to listen while T reads his book."
That was too much constructive criticism for L to bear.
That was another fine instance of daddy speaking without thinking. As the words were coming out of my mouth I knew she was in no state to handle them.
I let her cry for 30 seconds and then spoke:
"L, this behavior is keeping T awake. I will count to 60. When I am done counting you need to have calmed down."
I began counting. By 10 she had stopped crying. At 30 I tried to rub her back, but she pushed my hand away. By 60 we were all ready to brush the sugar film off of our teeth.
I loaded up the toothbrushes and L demanded that she get her teeth brushed first. T was right next to me so I ignored her request and started scrubbing T's teeth. Again this injustice was too much for L to bear.
"Daddy you're not nice! I wanted to go first!"
I knew nothing that I could say was going to help at this point. Luckily my wife arrived and swept L off into her room.
I told T about 3 minutes of his bedtime story. Tonight he wanted to be a gingerbread man. He and all his friends became the fastest creatures on earth. "Faster than a cheetah?" asked T.
"Yeah, faster than a cheetah." They were just finishing a game of freeze tag in gingerbread land when mommy came in.
"L wants you." J muttered.
I went into L's room and there she was with her arms outstretched waiting for a hug. I gave her a huge hug and squeezed her firmly for 2 full minutes. When I let go we talked about Trick or Treating, the neighbor's costumes and anything else we could think of. It was as if she had been exorcised. I stayed for 10 minutes and kissed her goodnight. She went to bed without further incident.
When L gets into those moods I try to remember a time when I was younger and was really upset. The time that I remember most clearly is when my favorite football team the Dallas Cowboys lost to the 49rs in the NFC championship game. I cried for 2 hours and was generally inconsolable. I threw many things around the living room as well. When I see L in that state I remember exactly how I felt when I was in her shoes. I hug her, but I also try to give her healthy alternatives to channel her feelings. The counting drill was one effective drill. Getting away and getting some quiet time to yourself is another method that works for me.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Bedtime zen master.

After 5 and a half years of parenting I may have unlocked the key to the nighttime routine. I have experienced 3 nights in a row of bedtime bliss. I have remained calm and collected while the 3 monkeys have screamed, hit, whined and cried. What has been the secret you ask? Letting go.
Number one.: I let go of the idea that I deserve to have peace and quiet in my home. We all live there. Occasionally someone's emotions will get the better of them and they will use their outside voice. The pain in my ears is momentary, but a pattern of angry reactions will leave scars on my little angels for a lifetime. When an angel uses an outside voice I gently remind them that they need to use their inside voices.
Number two: Human beings go to bed when they are ready. I can set them up for success with a calm and quiet environment, but the rest is up to them.
Number three: If the kids are over tired and yelling and screaming, it is them that is suffering, not me. I can feel their pain and empathize with it. I know how it feels to drive a hammer into my thumb when I am tired. I want to curl up and go fetal. My role is to be there for them as a calm and steady lighthouse in their emotional hurricane.

Enough theory. Time for some examples. The last 3 nights were legendary not because the kids were angels, but because they were sick and very challenging.
L first tried to break up M's bedtime routine. I calmly repeated my request for her to leave her sister's room. She complied. I realized that there is no way for L to know if I am putting M to bed when the door is closed. I may have L make a Do Not Disturb sign this weekend during project time.
Later L refused to let me have alone time with T. She claimed it was unfair and that T always got the most attention at bedtime. I reflected on this and realized that she had a point. I tried to let her stay in the room with T. Sure enough, this time T drifted off to sleep while his sister read quietly next to him in bed.
Next L and I played patty cake. We agreed on 3 games. We got through one game and then L decided to change the game slightly. I did not understand her new rules and I made a mistake at the end of the second game. L had a breakdown and began crying and yelling. I told her that I would finish the last game if she could calm down.
She was relentless. She screamed that she needed to replay the second game. She refused to start the third game until I fixed my blunder in the second game.
I told her I needed to get out of the room for a while and calm down. L followed me downstairs, yelling and sobbing uncontrollably.
I sat on the couch and closed my eyes. L hit me with a pillow and began waving her arms out in front of me, pretending to hit me. None of these actions have resulted in consequences in our home, so L masterfully tested the boundaries.
"Do not hit, me. Bedtime is over if you hit me."
"Two more games!"
I closed my eyes again and pondered the situation. I had already wasted 10 minutes of L's bedtime by not replaying the second game. It would take 30 seconds to play the game. I decided to consciously cave in to her demand in this case.
I opened my eyes and said:
"OK, two more games. Please give me a hug and I will carry you to bed."
Off we went. Two more games and L was out like a light.

The nights were full of challenging scenes like this. Especially at toothbrushing time. I really think we have a vanishing stepping stool. At 8PM they are in no condition to share one. But the techniques that I have mentioned are key to nighttime success. Model calmness and patience. The pain in your ears will subside and you will be the zen master of bedtime.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Patience with my Mom.

My mom was kind enough to sit for us on Saturday night. When I came home I was totally exhausted. I had played with the kids all day and conversed with buddies for the previous 3 hours. I was ready to hit the sack hard. My mom and I chit chatted a bit and she headed out the door. As she left she inquired: "Now where did I put my keys?"
The classic question of aging mom's. I shrugged and helped her look under the couch cushions. Then it was out into the driveway with a flashlight while my mom emptied her purse. I was tired and my patience is easily challenged when I am weary. Fortunately tonight I recognized this fact and collected myself as I searched the driveway.
I reminded myself that I lose my keys all the time. I also reminded myself that the worst case scenario was that I would drive my mom home to get her spare key and back. That would take a half an hour at the most. I would certainly survive that. My mom had also done me a huge favor tonight and deserves lots of key losing latitude.
I took a final deep breath and entered the house. "Where are those darn things?" My mom was starting to get a bit agitated, but was pretty calm for 11:30. I liked to think she was feeding off of my calmness.
In my calm state I picked up my moms coat. I had already checked the pockets, but thought I would check a final time. I patted the coat down and felt the lump of the keys in the middle of the left side. There was a hidden pocket there and mom must have slipped them in.
I produced the keys with a magicians slight of hand and a smile. "Where did you find those?" My mom asked, amazed.
"Right where you left them, mom." I replied.
"Thank you so much." She said. Good night.

I can think of many times when similar situations have gone poorly between myself and my mom. We used to get more agitated with each other when things did not go as planned. I hope my appreciation of my mother and all that she does for me has helped during these encounters.
I also believe these calm encounters will be witnessed by my kids and serve as examples. The kids are sharp. They will pick it up.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Computer time with the kids.

During M's nap I decided to try computer time with the kids. T on one machine and L on the other. L loaded her Blue's clues kindergarten CD. It teaches her about reading, math and science. It is great. T wanted to do Land Before Time, but I insisted on the Hooked On Phonics CD. He acquiesced and began working on his letter sounds.
The game asked "Which letter makes the sound UH". The letter "U" came up as a choice with a bunch of other letters. T was stumped. He looked at me to throw him a bone.
"Uh, Umbrella." I paused grasping for another U word. "Uh Underpants!"
T laughed so hard he almost fell off the chair.
"That's U". He clicked on the letter.
I worked on cleaning up the kitchen while I listened to T answer the questions about letter sounds. Soon he shouted: "I won, I won the game!"
I hustled over and gave T a big hug. "Great job buddy!"
His next game was a rhyming game. I remembered L had struggled with this one, so I sat down next to T while he learned the game. "You need to pick the word with the same ending sound, T. Get it?"
"I've got it." T exclaimed.
And he sure did. He ripped through the game in about 3 minutes.
I watched in amazement as he easily picked the rhyming sounds. At the end of the game we high fived and hugged.
"T, you have a very smart brain in that head!" I said as I tapped his skull.
"Yeah, I do have a very smart head!"
We continued this ritual as he breezed through another 8 games. We would hug and celebrate and high five as he sounded out the words and completed the levels.
Eventually he hit a level that was too advanced and we decided to take a break.

I think T made some great progress towards reading today. We enjoyed the time together and celebrated his learning and growth. We both had a blast.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Asking for help.

After a full day with the kids I felt my patience slipping. I had just put M down. I had gotten L and T's teeth brushed. Now all I needed was some quiet time for T so that he could get to sleep. T was demanding a story, and I was looking forward to telling that story and listening to him drift off to sleep.
The monkey in the wrench was L. She was jumping and tickling T until he started kicking her. I knew I was going to have to physically remove L or coax her to leave the room. I felt my blood pressure rising and breath shortening.
I really wanted to give my wife the whole night off, but I was cooked. I took a deep breath, left the room, calmly walked downstairs and called in the reinforcements.
"J, can I get a hand upstairs. I just need you to take L for a minute while I put T down. Once he is out I will take over with L."
"Sure." She replied.
The story with T was a riot. He had shown up at this mornings soccer game with his buddy J. They were both dressed in full Power Rangers costumes. They headed padded muscles, swords and helmets. It was adorable. So tonight, the Power Rangers T and J traveled in their space craft to the planet TJ. On that planet there were many dinosaurs. T and J flew berries up to the Brontosaurus'. They also helped to keep the T-Rex's away by spinning them around by their tails and throwing them in the river!
T thought that was hilarious and asked me to tell it over and over.
I finished the story and did some sit ups while T drifted off to sleep. L was sleeping when I emerged from the room. The kids were all set.
I was happy that I recognized that I was losing my patience and that I went for help. In the past I would have tried to handle that myself and would have picked up L in anger and moved her into her room by force. I always feel deep regret when I do that. Or worse, I would have yelled at her and admonished her for her lack of cooperation. That is not very realistic or empathic towards her state of mind at that time of night. That was a huge win to finish off an all star day. I feel lucky to have my wife around.

10 kids in the yard.

Today was a dream day. L scored her goal in the morning at her organized game. This afternoon we had tons of neighborhood kids in the yard and our cousins A and P.
I thought it was a perfect time to get a pickup soccer game going. We only played for about a half and hour, but it was really fun. I played and passed with the girls. I think it was great for L and T to see some older kids play the game. They saw some good passing and dribbling and hopefully got some ideas for their games.
I loved having all of the kids around the house. My theory is that if neighborhood kids love to hang out at our house, then so will our kids. We we all be relaxed and hopefully can talk about anything as we play soccer of whiffle ball or whatever.
I also love mentoring A and P. A taught me how to do some gymnastics moves. She helped me do a walkover with a little help from M's baby slide. I walked up with my feet on the ladder while doing a bridge with my hands on the grass. Then I pushed off on the ladder and went up into a handstand and over onto my feet.
Later, A, P and my family went apple picking. P (11 years old) pondered how many apples were in the orchard.
"How could you find out?" I asked.
"I could count them." Replied P.
"How long would that take?"
"About 10 years." She replied.
"Could you estimate?"
"I could count the apples on one tree. Then I could find out how many trees are in the orchard and I could multiply."
I was blown away. That seems pretty brilliant for an 11 year old.
"Fantastic. How are you going to find out how many trees there are?"
"I can ask somebody in the barn."
"Great idea."

L scores a goal.

This morning's soccer game was fantastic. I led the kids through warm ups with the other coaches and then we started to play.
L plays in the under 6 league. The orange team kicked off and swarmed down the field. L played some super defense. I watched her anticipate where the ball was going and position herself correctly, without ever getting guidance from an adult.
I cheered for L and all of the other girls on the yellow team when they made great plays. I also gently reminded them not to use their hands, ect..
The orange team scored a couple of goals. Their coach whispered to me that their star player was a champion ice skater. Pretty cool.
Late in the second half, C on our team had a throw in. I was carrying M around the field as I coached the other girls. I called to C and told her that L was open in the middle of the field. C is an excellent athlete and hurled the ball toward L. L settled the ball like a pro and turned it up field. She split two defenders and had a wide open breakaway.
The butterflies started once she broke clear and for 3 seconds the only thought that ran through my mind was: "Please God, let this go in!" I said it at least 5 times as she dribbled toward the goal. She unleashed a powerful shot in the lower left corner and made the twine sing.
I watched her toss her hands in the air and run back through her teammates. They all hugged her. Then she spotted me and sprinted over and jumped up into my arms.
No more goals were scored during the rest of the game, but our yellow team had some great chances. The girls were a little down about losing. I tried to pump them up by reminding them of their fantastic play:
"K, you had 2 great shots on goal."
"A, you had 3 amazing saves."
"Ka, you hit the post on one of your shots."
"We can't control how many goals each team scores. All we can do is our best, and the goals will come."
The girls really perked up as I mentioned each of their accomplishments and I believe that they forgot about the final score. It was not mentioned again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I do anything to keep the kids around.

I just put M down for her nap and my super wife had just headed out for a beauty day. L asked if she could play on the computer.
"Not now love. I have a better idea."
"See the wood pile out back, under the clear tarp?"
"We are going to chop up all that wood and stack it in the garage."
No response.
"You guys get to do whatever part of the project that you want. You can start by bringing down the blue wheelbarrow. I will get the maul axe."
"Yeah! The big wheelbarrel!" Shouted T.
"Can I push one side, T?" Asked L.
"Sure." responded T.
They pushed the wheelbarrow across the yard. I laid down the biggest log to use for a base and was about to place another log on top to split. T grabbed the axe when I was not looking.
"I can split this one dad!"
He lifted the 8 pound axe and thumped it into the log. It made a much bigger dent than I ever would have thought he could at 4 years old.
"Wow, T! You almost split that log!"
He kept hitting it. Then L wanted a turn. I kept busy stacking some of the pieces that I had already split. Then I started shooting them into the wheelbarrow.
"Hey! Let me do that!" Called L.
She began filling the wheelbarrow with the split pieces of wood.
"T, can I take a swing now?"
"Sure, Dad."
I balanced a smaller piece of wood on the piece that T had been pounding. I asked the kids to stand way back because the pieces can fly. I easily whipped the axe through the air and split the wood with a direct hit. The 2 pieces went about 8 feet in opposite directions.
"Wow Dad, you were right. Those pieces do go far!"
I split a few more and then L and T wanted their turns splitting. I gathered up the wood while they diligently tried to split that piece of wood.
We moved 3 barrels full of wood into the garage. On the final piece I told the kids that they had really helped on that one.
"Guys, you got this piece started for me. It would have been much harder to split without all of your hard work."
The kids beamed. We all high fived and carried the last pieces of wood into the garage. T helped me stack while L rode her bike for a while.
"I love having you help me around the house, T."
"You are welcome, Dad."

The splitting may have taken a little longer with the kids, but it was so much more fun than doing it productively, but alone. We bonded, talked about the birds and the leaves and the cat and poop and whatever else came into our heads. I do whatever I can to keep them engaged in a project that I am working on. It is really a special time.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Choosing bed over the movies.

L was getting ready for bed when she realized that K's stuffed dog was in her bed.
"I need to bring this to K!" L exclaimed.
"Sure." I replied.
K and her siblings were downstairs. We were sitting for them while their parents enjoyed a well earned night out together. I forgot that my wife had put their kids in front of a movie until their parents got home.
L dropped off the dog and stared at the TV screen.
"I want to watch the movie."
I gently scooped her up and brought her back to her room.
"But I want to watch the movie daddy!" L protested.
"L, those kids aren't even interacting. The are sitting in front of a TV screen. You decide whether you want to feel rested for church tomorrow, or whether you want to waste your sleep time in front of the TV."
L did not mention the TV again. I was so proud of her as I watched her drift off to sleep. At 5 and a half she consciously made the investment in her coming day instead of wasting her time infront of a movie.
There were many a night that I wasted up late watching the Sox or some other irrelevant trash. I am glad L is learning to make these decisions consciously now.

I love you more than Mommy, Daddy.

L issued this statment the other night:
"I love you a little bit more than mommy." Whispered L before bedtime.
"Why?" I asked wondering where in the world this was going.
"Mommy gets angrier more than you."
I let that one go, but noted that my anger management and patience exercises may be paying off. My wife is an all-world parent and to have my patience placed in higher regard than hers was a nice compliment.
My parenting thought of the week has to be: "Their problems are their problems in the end." I can coach, I can coax, I can help as much as I want, but in the end their problems are theirs.
Nighttimes have become so much easier now that I stay out of the kid's fights. I also no longer micro-manage their bed-times. At 8 they are simply in their rooms and they can wind down as they please.
Another great parenting thought has been ignoring their yelling. At least not taking to heart like I used to. I used to feel entitled to a calm atmosphere in the home. I thought my eardrums deserved not to be split every night. But instead of getting angry when my ears are molested by a screech, I try to suck it up and breathe through it. I also remember that the cause of the scream is not my problem. I can try to help solve it, but in the end, I do not own it. The little human at the other end of the hurricane needs to resolve their issue with help from me. That is a critical difference.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Morning at the Bird Sanctuary

This morning the kids and I got up and went to the bird sanctuary a few towns over. I loaded up the double jogger and hustled the kids in the car. M already had her morning dump so there was no need for diapers or wipes, sweet.
We got to the sanctuary and asked about trails at the office. I let L do most of the talking. The woman behind the desk spoke to her as if she were an adult. It was refreshing. We got instructions on several trails and headed out. Our parting instructions were: "Look for Godzilla the snapping turtle at the Rock pond!"
We hiked down a rock trail and got to the first marsh. It was gorgeous. I put the older kids up on my shoulders one at a time and had them gaze out on the expanse of reeds and flowers.
"What a beautiful view. " Exclaimed T(4). I believe that quote sunk in after I have uttered it hundreds of times.
We continued on the trail. Each child would take turns in the carriage. When we got to the Rock pond we stopped and began looking for Godzilla. As we looked out on the pond two gargantuan blue herons soared into the pond from the heavens. The sight was so surreal that my breathing stopped.
The scene had the same effect on T: "Look! Two pterodactyls!" T exclaimed.
I did feel as if I had been transported back to the Jurassic period. There was something very nice about being alone with the kids in nature. I felt we had a much deeper connection than at the zoo where things are a little too hustle and bustle.
"Yeah, it looks like a Pteradon." Exclaimed L (5.5 yrs.) "The P is silent or it would sound like a Pa-Teradon" she proudly explained.
"That's brilliant L!" I exclaimed. "I didn't know you knew so much about silent letters."
L beamed. "And T, I feel like we are Chomper, Little Foot and Sara in the Land Before Time. Are those Petrie's parents out there?"
"Your imagination is great dad." Replied T.
I broke into hysterics at the whole conversation. We all laughed and headed to the rock ledge. I let the kids climb around on some pretty treacherous terrain. They handled it great. We had a ball.
We made it out to the beaver dam and then it was time for daddy to head back for his afternoon golf tournament with Uncle B. (We came in second and played out of our minds.)
It was another miraculous morning with the little angels.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Planting the garden.

On Monday morning I was heading into work:
"T, we can bring the flowers out back and plant them tonight."
"I already brought 2 of them out back, dad."
I looked over at the plants and he had indeed brought two of them around the house. He was as excited about this project as I was. He spent and hour with me 2 weeks ago weeding the entire area. We also spent time telling bedtime stories about how we were going to plant a garden. I guess he was excited.
"Thanks T! I gave him a huge hug and a kiss."
T smiled: "I will did some holes too dad."
Sure enough, when I got home, T (4 yrs.) had dug two holes with his plastic hand shovel.
Great job T.
L was also very excited about the garden.
I explained to the kids that I needed to put the plants in the back of the garden, because we needed to grind out a stump in the front of the garden.
"Guys, the stump grinding machine will crush our flowers if we plant them near the stump. We need to plant in the back."
No argument from the troops. I brought out some peat moss and while I dug, the kids brought handfuls of peatmoss over and mixed it in with the dirt. M (1.5 yrs) was also part of this assembly line. It was totally adorable. She was head to toe dirt.
The kids watched and got very excited if we hit a rock or a root.
"Get the pick axe, daddy!" Shouted L.
With a couple of swings I would remove the obstruction.
All 3 of the kids worked with a passion. Running up the hill to get more peat and dumping it in the hole. I tried to give as little direction as possible and let their creativity run wild.
After the last mum was in I said: "Time for the water."
L and T sprinted for the hose.
"You hold the hose and I'll turn it on." Suggested L.
"OK." Agreed T.
T watered the flowers for a few mintutes and then began watering, M. M did not mind too much. She may have realized how dirty she was.
Bath time was a little stressful that night because the gardening had made us late. I needed to breathe deeply many times as the kids lost their focus many times during the nighttime routine. We were able to make it through with no yelling, however.
When I put T down he asked for his story.
"T, remember when we read about Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh? We said we were going to make a garden like his someday? Well we did it, man! We weeded the garden, put up fence posts, bought the plants, dug the holes and watered the plants. We did it T! We made a garden! How do you feel?"
"Good." Replied T with a big smile.
I hugged him again and said goodnight. I read L a short story and tucked her in and headed out for a run.
Any activity can be turned into a heavenly adventure with the kids. T has spent several hours of focused time creating his garden. I am really proud of him and L for thier hard work.

Working on the garden.

The oldest 2 and I went to the flower store today to get some flowers for our garden. We missed vegetable season, but I wanted us to have the experience of getting some flowers in our garden.
We went to the store and waited for 20 minutes while the owner helped other customers with their flower arrangements. The kids played with the store's humongous tabby cat. Then we looked for a Bhudda statue for the garden. L kept looking at the cut roses and begged for some of them. I told her I would consider it, after we had met our original objective of getting flowers for the garden.
We all went out back and checked out some mums and other perenials. I let the kids pick out 2 flowers each. When we got back I allowed the kids to also pick out some roses. L pleaded for 5 roses and I thought that was reasonable, but T got to pick the color of 2 of them. L picked red and T picked white. Mommy was very excited to see those when we got home. But L was quick to point out: "Those flowers are for the whole family." I am not sure if mommy is used to sharing her flowers, yet:)
I was excited to get the flowers in the ground, but it was too hot. I did not want to overwork the kids and ruin an amazing morning, so we headed to aunt L's pool. Nighttime brought the concert in the park. It was and amazing day.
I am always amazed at how well the kids do in stores. We look around, but they are gentle with things. They understand the word "fragile". When we engage each other and tell stories and ask questions the time flies by.

Building self esteem at the park.

L was jumping from apparatus to apparatus at the park. She was zipping around on a huge wheel that was suspended in the air. Her feet scraped against the ground and she began screaming:
"Daddy help!!!"
I knew she was not in pain and that this was some sort of game. I bristled at the loud noise and prepared for another shout.
"What is it love?" I asked.
"My feet hit the ground! I don't want my feet to touch the ground! Help Me!" L half whined and half screached.
The pitch sent shivers down my spine, but I took a deep breath and tried to help.
"L, I will be glad to help, but let me get into the game. Please do not yell at me. I do not yell at you."
"Alright, daddy."
She got back up on a balance beam and began to tip towards me. I extended a hand that she could grab if she needed it. She chose to take it, and smiled. She was grateful to have her game continue.
She jumped up on the monkey bars and then up and over them. She slid across the zip wire and landed on a platform. She jumped for the wheel again and spun almost entirely around. The tip of her toe was almost touching the platform when she started drifting slightly back.
I nudged the wheel and gave L just enough momentum to make it back to the platform. She looked back at me and smiled a huge smile. The next time she made it through the whole obstacle course without touching the ground with no help from daddy. We gave each other a huge hug.

I could have snapped at L or ignored her requests for help. It would have been easy the way that she asked for it. I was thankful that I was able to breathe deeply and get through to a deeply rewarding experience for both of us. That is much better than an argument.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Patience failure in the morning.

This morning I was reading a new book to my son and youngest daughter at the breakfast table. The other two were happily chomping away at their cereal and listening to the book.
My eldest daughter came into the kitchen and exclaimed: "I want to read that book too, and I can't see it."
She snatched the book out of my hands and began reading it in her chair.
I got really angry.
"Fine, if that is the way you are going to behave then I will not read to anyone." I bitched.
What I could have said was: "I am taking my reading skills upstairs and taking a shower. NaNaNa."
At this point I felt my anger and was able to calm down. My wife took the book from my oldest daughter and everyone sat down to breakfast. The other two had hardly noticed that I had stopped reading.

I should have been more conscious of how much fun I was having reading to my two youngest. Then when L came along with her needs I could have realized that they conflicted with my own. Also, if I had seen her side of things I could have easily suggested that she move over to the other side of the table and read along with all of us.
The faster that I can feel that shot of anger down my spine the closer I will be to emotional mastery.
I believe I am getting closer.

Compassionate speaking.

I have posted a thought on patience on my cube at work: "Think about compassion before you speak."
This reminder has been working very well with my wife and kids lately. I find myself making fewer knee jerk remarks that make family members angry.
By trying to put myself in the other person's shoes before I speak, I have been managing the emotional content of our exchanges much more effectively. There will be more on this in posts to follow.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Reducing competition between siblings.

My daughter, L (5 and a half) looked troubled at bedtime.
"What's cooking?" I asked.
"Grampie said that he loves me more than anyone else, but that can't be true."
"Why not?" I asked.
"Because you and mom are with us the most. You must love us the most."
I smiled and realized my daughter's wisdom. "Parents and grandparents each have special love for their kids and grandkids. We all love you very much."
L smirked and said: "I know who you love the most....."
I froze and I felt a little sick to my stomach. I was not ready for my daughter to compare herself to her siblings. I wanted to nip this idea in the bud. My mind began preparing a lecture about how I love all of my kids the same. In my fear, I was about to launch into the diatribe when I realized that L had not told me what she was thinking.
"Who?" I asked.
"You love me, more than other kids. Like the girls that you coach on our soccer team. You love me and T and M more than them, right?"
She knows that I love all of my kids the same without me having to lecture about it. She lumped herself and her siblings together in the same package of super sized love. I was thankful that I had not jumped to my original conclusion.
"Yes, L. You are right. But I do try to love all of your friends as much as you. It is just that I love you so very much."
"I love you too daddy."

Friday, June 03, 2005

Stay out of the kid's fight.

T and L were playing in the living room. I noticed that they had not cleared their dessert dishes from the kitchen table.
"Guy's, please clean up the table." I urged.
The kids kept right on playing.
I got down on the floor and looked T in the eye. "Time to clean up."
He moved towards the kitchen. L was already at the table. She realized that there was some ice cream left in T's dish and she quickly gobbled it up.
At 7:00 at night this injustice was too much for T to handle. He broke down into a screeching wail.
L on the other hand, sat at the table summarizing, while licking the rest of her plate clean.

What are my options in this situation? I thought to myself, "I have no dog in this fight. I have absolutely no stake in this crisis. The only thing that concerns me is the ear splitting yelling. If I can get over that, then the kids can work this out on their own."
But no sooner had I thought that, than T, cranked the volume up a notch. Then I thought of a solution and acted on it without thinking at all.
I grabbed L's bowl out of her hand.
"Wait L, you took T's ice cream, save him one bite of yours"
Now I had two sirens wailing, but T's had toned down quite a bit while he watched L and daddy battle.
"I only ate some of his jimmies! You're not nice!" L screamed.
T cranked the screaming back up.
I consciously directed my anger into my voice.
"You want to hear not nice!" I boomed in my deepest daddy shout.
The effect was more than I bargained for. Both kids jumped 1 inch off of their seats. They jumped with the butt cheeks.
"You scared me T, whimpered."
I know guys. I was just trying to show you how silly you sound.
My 1 year old came to the rescue.
"Aaaaarrrrggghhh" she shouted as she stammered across the kitchen.
"Look!" I said, "M is yelling, now!"
We all looked at each other and burst into hysterics. We laughed for 30 seconds straight. L, tried to transition into a cry, but her giggles kept popping out.

That exchange was another roller-coaster of emotions. I failed by raising my voice, but recovered quickly with humor and the ability to laugh at myself. In the past those exchanges might end with daddy brooding and angry over the exchange. This one ended up better. Hopefully next time, daddy will keep his nose out of the exchange, where it belongs.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Building Self Worth and Helpful Attitude.

T and I had just finished reading a book. I had moved back to the baby books so that T (almost 4) could recognize the words more easily.
What is that word T?
"Baby." he replied. And then he sounded out the letters in an exaggerated fashion. Just like daddy does it.
"T, the word hug is on this page. Can you find it?"
I switched to T trying to find words instead of sounding them all out. He seems to enjoy this more and is making great progress.
He scanned the page and sounded the word out loud: "hhhhuuuugggg".
He pointed to the word hug on the page.
I smiled and laughed. "You are doing it man! You are reading!" He smiled a huge smile and hugged and kissed me back.
Next he recognized the word play. We hugged and kissed and celebrated all over again. His face was beaming.
We put the book away while T was on a high note and I asked him what he would like to do next. He was not sure. It was pouring out, so our options were limited.
"T, do you want to help me clean up my golf balls for the golf tournament next weekend?"
"Yes!" T exclaimed excitedly.
We went to the basement and pulled out the bag of golf balls that we had retrieved from our walks on the golf course that winter.
I extracted all of the Titlest proV 1 balls and T got the rest. T got the bowl of water and I grabbed the soap and a towel. We scrubbed and scrubbed the balls.
"You know T, when I am at the golf tournament next weekend, every time I use one of these balls I will think of all of the great work that you did."
T smiled and said: "Thanks dad."
I found a couple of Noodles and Nike balls and knew that my partner Bruce would be thankful to play those balls. "T, can you clean these for Uncle Bruce? He loves this brand."
We hugged and kissed many times as we cleaned up the golf balls. Next we went upstairs and cleaned my clubs. T was scouring the house after we were done, trying to find more golf balls to clean. We had a great time.
I gave Uncle Bruce his golf balls the following weekend and he was really excited about T's effort.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Soccer equipment shoping with L

L and I decided to have a special morning to go shopping for her soccer equipment. This is her first year playing and she needs cleats and shin guards.
Our first stop was home depot. The mirror that mommy had purchased last week had come without hangers. We needed to pick those up.
L and I talked about school and her day with nana during the car ride to Home Depot. We laughed when our uncle Pete let us out into traffic at a busy intersection.
We also talked about the great body mechanics of a runner that ran by the car.
At the returns desk L became slightly restless. I asked her to play a game of I Spy. She spied a grill. It was just to my right. I went next and picked an American Flag. By the time she found it was our turn to speak to a cashier.
A manager came over and assigned a clerk to help us. We traveled around the store with the clerk and found the piece to the mirror after about 10 minutes. L and I continued playing I Spy throughout our journey. L found another mirror. She also found where mommy had bought the original mirror, which was a big help.
When we were finished, I said to the clerk: "Thank you so much for all of your help. That was some good detective work."
He seemed touched by the acknowledgement, blushed and said: "No problem."

I told L that I would like to head to Sports Authority to check their prices. L said that she would rather go to Dick's sporting goods. I complied and we were off to Dick's for cleats and shin guards.
The only cleats in L's size were $20. She tried on 2 pairs and found a pair that she really liked. Next we went to find the shin guards. They were $15, but L loved the color of bright blue.
I had done some shopping at some other stores and had found packages for $30 that included a ball. I was disappointed in the price at Dicks, but thought it unlikely that Sports Authority would be much better. Besides, we had the items in hand and were almost out the door. But when I overpay for something I feel lazy and wasteful.
As we were trying on the shin guards a woman stopped and began speaking to me. She said that Sports Authority had a deal for cleats, shin guards and a ball for $20.
"Thank you so much. We were just about to spend $35 for just the cleats and the shin guards."
"No problem." The woman said as her face lit up with the knowledge that she had helped us.
I was concerned that L had become attached to her cleats and shin guards.
"L, we need to put those cleats and shin guards back. If the items at Sports Authority are not as good we can come right back."
"Okay." L said without any complaint.
I was very excited with that level of cooperation. When we got to the car I told her that I was very happy with her behavior in the store.
"Thank you for not acting up during that change in plans. That was very mature behavior. "
We drove the 2 minutes to Sports Authority and asked the clerk about the deal. The packages were all stacked in one area. We found the size 1 cleats, the shin guards with ankle pads, and a perfect little ball for $20.
L tried them all on and begged me to let her wear them out of the store.
"Okay. I replied. Mommy will love to see them on you."
As we checked out L begged for a coke at the checkout counter. L, read the ingredients on that can.
"I know dad. It has high fructose corn syrup. Can I just have water?"
"You bet."
L was kind enough to give me a few sips of her water on the way home.
"L, we got great stuff and we saved the family $15. Thank you for using your patience and trying Sports Authority. You did a terrific job shopping today. I am very proud of you."
L showed her mom her soccer wear when she got home. She changed out of the gear for lunch, but put it back on for playtime at her friend’s house later.
I think L learned some great lessons today.

How do you use your day to teach your kids?

L shares a secret

What is your favorite time with your child?

Bedtime is a very special time for my oldest daughter and me. We use the time to tell each other about what happened during our days.
I explained all of the teamwork that went on in my day at work. I told her how happy I felt about all of the software that I had produced that day with my friends.
L asked a few follow-up questions and then proclaimed:
“I am going to learn soccer very quickly.”
This is L’s first year in a soccer league. I am a little concerned about how much she will enjoy the game. Whenever we have played with a group of kid’s L gets very upset when someone steals the ball. I have been explaining how that is part of the game for many nights.
“Yes L, I am quite sure that you will pick it up very quickly.”
“And I am going to learn to pass the ball.”
I had lectured on passing, also.
I was preparing to launch into another soccer soliloquy when L suddenly changed the subject.
“You know who is a fast learner? W from my school.” L proclaimed.
I wanted to make my point about the possibility of L getting mauled on the soccer field by a pack of little ball hogs, but decided to give her a little latitude.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yup! He learned to pump on the swings today.” L stated.
“Great!” I said. L has been doing that for 2 years. Why is this a great accomplishment? I wondered.
“Do you know who I might marry someday?”
Jackpot! By holding my tongue and using some listening skills I was able to let L share something deeply important about her day. And I was there to be a sounding board for her and validate her feelings.
“Who?” I asked.
“W. He is really nice to me. He is not like the other boys who push and wrestle all the time. He is very nice.”
“That’s great babe! I am really glad that you have found someone who is so nice to you.”
“Yup. And we will have a baby. I might have a baby in my belly or we will adopt a baby. If I do not have any milk in my boobs then I will give the baby a bottle. Right Daddy?”
L was on a roll.
“Sounds great.”
I really wanted to ask her how W was nice to her, but she continued to talk about all the crushes that the kids had in the class. It was adorable.

When do your kids open up? When you are playing catch, riding bikes?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Getting your wife her rest.

What is your role in insuring that your spouse is happy? It is their responsibility to look after their own happiness after all. But I think spouses can help tremendously.

It was 4 o'clock and the kids and I had been together all day. My wife had just gotten home from some church meetings. She had also had some time to get a petticure and manicure. In the old days I would have headed for the driving range or headed for a nap myself. But today I knew that my wife needed some rest.
I suggested that she head up to her room for a rest while I bathed with the kids. She protested because she felt guilty for having been away all day. I insisted that she relax. I know that she does not get enough relaxation time during the week, so I believe that it is important for her to make some time for it during the weekend. And I was determined to help.
She acquiesced and took a half an hour to read a book in M's room.

The kids and I made dinner while she rested. L cut all of the broccoli and washed and nuked the potatoes. T used the salad spinner to dry the salad. I loved watching them excel at all of the parts of making dinner that they could handle. But that is for another entry.

J came downstairs and was well rested. J really seemed rejuvenated. She read enthusiastically to the kids while I finished getting dinner on the table and we all had a great meal together.

It really makes me feel good to help my wife in this way. If I recognize that she needs something I try to get it for her. Today she really needed some rest, and she did not feel comfortable asking for it. So I got it for her.

This was not a selfish act in hope of some future payment (Although I was handsomely repaid). I was not feeling guilty about my round of golf with the boys tomorrow. I am comfortable with that use of my time. This was a gift for her.

Cute T story.

M put T's T-Rex in the dishwasher while we were cleaning the kitchen today. T (3) walks up to the dishwasher and pulls out the plastic dinosaur and proclaims:
"M, that is unacceptable."
That mommy-ism put a huge smile on my face.
I used that excuse to give T his 100th hug and kiss of the day.

Cranky yard work.

Do you have any activity that you perform where you have noticed that you have become often irritated while performing it?

Mine is yard work. I can recall numerous examples of me losing my patience in the yard. Today I was trying to get the garden hose off of the Reel-Easy. I had split almost all of my knuckles trying to loosen the hose from it's connector. At the same time L was desperate for a push on the swing. She was whining desperately at the swing for assistance.

"Dadddddyyyyyyyy, Pleeeeeaaaaase push meeeeeeeeee?"
"One minute, L. I am trying to fix the hose!"
"Pleeeeeeeeaaassseee!!!!" She whined in an even higher pitch.
"Just one minute!" I shouted back without thinking. "If you whine like that again I will not come down there at all!"
I really am disappointed in myself when I speak without thinking. This was one of those times. But I immediately realized that I had done it, and got up and walked around to the front of the house. I could still hear L yelling in the back.
I got another wrench and the hose came off easily. Then with a clear mind I was able to walk down the hill and push L for a few minutes.
I wonder if it is needing accomplishment in yard work that causes me to lose my patience. I believe I get attached to the projects and feel the need to complete them or at least make progress. If the kids interrupt me while I am working, I sometimes feel angry that I am losing my window of accomplishing something around the house.
Also, the fact that I do not plan effectively around the yard also contributes to my anguish. If I had stored that Reel-Easy properly I would not have had that chore to begin with. Gravity, poorly organized tools, and a host of other culprits can cause a feeling of "woe is me".
I think I am doing a better job of catching the anger as it arises and diffusing it. I did not throw any objects today and I only raised my voice once. That feels like progress.
I also realized that I had not eaten all morning. I rallied the troops and brought them inside for a nice lunch.
The remainder of the yardword for the afternoon was very pleasant. Again proving that peace is generated from the inside out, not from the yardwork in:)

Can you think of any time where you might tend to lose it? Bedtime is a close second to yardwork for me. Any others?

Build Kid's Self Confidence at the Park

What is your favorite way to build your child's self confidence?

My favorite spot is definitely the park. I can spot them on most activities and help them stretch their little bodies to the limit. I took L(5), T(3) and cousin O(3) to the park this morning.

I started my spotting by helping L zip across the parallel handle apparatus. She grabbed each handle and shuttled herself across easily. "I did it she exclaimed."
"You sure did." I replied.
"Again, Again."
We went back and forth about a dozen times. I kept sliding the handles back to her so that she could shuffle her little body across the poles. Next she wanted to spin on the giant steering wheel. I held her lightly while she hung from the big wheel. She moved herself around easily. She jumped down on her own and then it was T's turn.
"My turn please!" T shouted.
I boosted him up and he held on tightly. He was not strong enough to move the wheel. I spun him around while holding his bum on my forearm. Then I started spinning him faster. I pretended (slightly) to get dizzy and feel backward onto the sand. I cradled T for a gentle landing. We laughed and staggered as we both got up.
Next it was O's turn to learn the fireman's pole. He was too afraid to jump off with his back foot and commit to the ride. He kept shying back from the pole. I finally convinced him to jump off to the pole while I held his feet.
"I did it uncle Dave!" Oliver exclaimed with pride.
"You sure did O." I responded.
The most heart warming part of the day was when L and O climbed up onto a high stair on the jungle gym. T was really struggling with it. I started coaching T through the climb.
"You can do it, T. You've got it."
L and O also got into the act. "Yeah T, you are doing it!"
T, was laughing while trying to shimmy his way up onto the platform. "I haven't done it yet." He said through constant giggles.
Finally T got a foothold on the pole to his right with his dinosaur boot. That got him high enough where he could wriggle the rest of the way on his belly.
I took T at least 2 minutes to get up onto that stair. He really persevered and made me extremely happy to see that persistence. I was also so excited and proud to see his sister and cousin cheering him on. They truly seemed to care about T's success in that endeavor. They were also emulating my cheering and I was happy to be a model of that behavior.
Finally I loaded the 3 of them into the tire swing. O wanted to spin, L wanted to swing, and I think T just wanted to sit. I helped them reach a compromise of swinging and spinning. Everyone seemed quite happy with the result.

So how about it? Do you have a special way that you like to foster self confidence in your kids?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Emotional Rollercoaster.

Have you ever completely misread your partner’s reaction to a situation? I did this morning...

My day started at 3:30 with my 3 yr old son T crying in our bed. My wife was doing an excellent job consoling him, so I left our bed and headed for his. I immediately fell back to sleep. Some time later I heard my 1 year old daughter screaming to get out of her crib. Most mornings I will leave her in her crib and she will settle herself back down. My five year old L had other ideas.
L was up and proclaimed that she had taken M out of her crib.
"Did you lock the saftey gate to the downstairs?" I asked.
"Yes daddy." She replied.
I slowly began to motivate to get out of bed. This usually takes me about 5 minutes. Somewhere in those 5 minutes I heard my wife yell:
"M is out of her crib and the gate is not up!"
That got me moving.
I bounced out of bed and tried to locate our youngest. My wife had M in her arms and she briskly handed her off to me and headed back to bed. I recognized that she had been up with T in the night, so I figured I would suck it up and take the morning shift. What time was it anyway?
5:15. Ouch. I ordered my oldest back to bed and lied on the floor in M's room while she played around me. After about 30 minutes it was clear that M was not going back to bed anytime soon. I got her dressed and began to head downstairs. I was met in the hall by L. It was 6 by this point, so I figured she could join us.
I began cleaning the kitchen with M in one arm. L cheerfully reported that she had poured the last bowl of cereal. I reached in the cabinet and produced a breakfast bar for M. She snatched it and was distracted enough so that I could put her on the floor. I made much more progress tidying the kitchen with 2 hands. I also induced L to cooperate with washing the table and clearing the dishwasher. We make quite a team sometimes.
Next the 3 of us read a Spanish kids book on the couch: No es mi gatito. M is great at picking out all of the textures in the book. Each page has a furry belly or a rough tongue. L is also starting to pick up some Spanish. Win win.
Friday mornings become stressful for me around 7. Friday is trash day and if I am not working on the trash by 7 then I will be late for work. Today I decided to put M in the Baby Bjorn and carry her while I pulled the trash up the hill. L even offered to help. And did she ever help. She pulled the biggest barrel of trash up the hill for me.
It was also recycle day, so this process took almost a half an hour. When we had moved our last barrel up the hill I saw my wife in the doorway.
Now, I am thinking that I will get a hero's welcome when I come in the door. The possibility of putting the kids in front of a video for some adult time is a valid scenario in my mind. Imagine my surprise when I am greeted with:
"We need to talk about the events of this morning." My wife exclaimed
Oh Sh*t, I think to myself. We need to talk are really serious words in this relationship. Adult time is definitely off the table.
My wife continues: "That was a really dangerous situation this morning..."
"I agree. It really was." I honestly still had slight stomach pains over it. That is brain damage or death if our youngest goes down those stairs.
"Now how am I supposed to go away this weekend when things like this are going on?"
This was the fourth or fifth time my wife has asked this question. The other times were semi-joking so I thought I could let them go. This one made me really angry. I spoke loudly and without thinking my response through.
"Honestly, I don't care whether you go away this weekend or not. If you do not trust my judgment or parenting abilities then stay home. Do whatever the hell you want to do."
I believe my parenting skills are on par with my wife's. I resent it when she questions my skills in this manner. She continued:
"I don't see why you could not just get out of bed with M for one morning? Would that have been too much to ask? Why do I have to get up and rescue her from falling down the stairs?"
"I get up slowly. It takes me a few minutes to wake up." I responded.
"M needs to take a nap." My wife stated.
"I will put her down." I replied.
I hugged M and sang to her for 5 minutes before putting her to bed. During this time I reflected on the argument with my wife. My expectation of a heroes welcome was a definite problem in that altercation. I felt entitled to a thank you, but when I did not get it I became defensive and angry.
When I emerged from the bedroom I apologized to my wife. She apologized back. It would take us each a few hours to cool off, but we were fine.

Have you ever let false expectations generate anger? When?

Monday, March 28, 2005

How I talk to L

Here is an example of an IM conversation between L and myself today. How do you talk to your kids? How do you try to build their self esteem and self confidence?

[09:55] HOME: here is L
[09:55] DaddyWork: hey babe!
[09:57] HOME: daddy ilove you:-*
[09:57] DaddyWork: Thank you! I love you too. How are you feeling?
[09:58] HOME: good:-)
[09:58] DaddyWork: :-D
[09:58] DaddyWork: I am glad to hear that.
[09:59] DaddyWork: How about Mia?
[10:00] HOME: amidontno:-*
[10:01] DaddyWork: What are you doing with Momma? Are you playing games?
[10:02] HOME: no>:o
[10:02] DaddyWork: Are you helping in the office?
[10:02] HOME: yes:-)
[10:03] DaddyWork: very nice. Thanks for being such a great helper:)
[10:05] HOME: your welcome
[10:05] DaddyWork: Did you try any of Mia's pedialite orange drink?
[10:09] HOME: yes:-*
[10:09] DaddyWork: How was it?
[10:10] HOME: daddy ididnt
[10:10] DaddyWork: OK, if you have some later you can tell me about it.
[10:11] DaddyWork: Orange water, he he
[10:11] DaddyWork: Are you playing with Tom?
[10:11] HOME: no;-)
[10:12] DaddyWork: :-o
[10:16] HOME: daddyweydidyoudo that:-)
[10:17] DaddyWork: why did I make the surprise face? :-o Because I am surprised that you are not playing with the man.
[10:22] HOME: youarethe greatest daddy:-)
[10:23] DaddyWork: Thank you L. That makes me feel very good. You are an amazing girl! I am very proud of you:)
[10:24] HOME: thankyou:-)
[10:25] HOME: daddy iseeme:-P
[10:26] DaddyWork: I love that picture!
[10:26] DaddyWork: :)
[10:29] HOME: daddy do youseeyourself:-)
[10:30] DaddyWork: Nope. Mommy does not have my picture setup on her AOL instant messenger program. I set you up as my picture:)
[10:43] HOME: ireally want you to see your self:'(
[10:44] DaddyWork: I really love you. You are a great kid. I can see myself in all of the great pictures of you and I at my office.
[10:45] HOME: daddy:-)
[11:02] HOME: iloveyou:-*
[11:03] DaddyWork: I love you too. It has been nice writing with you today:)
[11:04] HOME: byby:-)
[11:04] DaddyWork: adios:)
[11:05] HOME: seeya:-*

Please share ideas about building self confidence in the kids

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Teaching empathy.

Tonight for T's bedtime story I decided that we would talk about A and T the superheros. "Superheros do good for their community, right T?" I asked.
"Your first task is to get Amanda's kitty Emily down from a high tree. How are you going to do that?"
T thought for only a moment, then his face light up: "We can fly!" He said.
"Great, you flew up there and got the kitty down, now what did she say?"
"Meow." Said Tom.
I laughed inside at Tom's correct grammatical interpretation of my question. "Great, and what did Amanda say?"
"She said thanks."
"Your next task is to help a little old lady across the street. How are you going to do it?"
"I can grab her arm and A can carry her walker."
"Awesome! And how did that make the woman feel?"
"Good. She said thanks too."
"Next you read a sign on a phone pole that there was a lost dog in the neighborhood."
"What's a phone pole?" T asked.
"It is a pole that holds up the wires that we use to talk on the telephone. Our voices travel over those wires to get to the other phone."
"You guy's have super hearing, you know?"
"Yeah, we can hear the dog!"
"Yes! You flew up and found the dog. Then you brought him home to his family."
"That's 3 good deeds. Good work, time for bed."
"One more Daddy!"
I was cooked, but one more good deed would be OK. I thought for a second.
"You flew by the park and saw some kids running away from another boy. You could tell the boy just wanted to be part of the fun, but the kids kept running away, calling him the monster. What did you and A do?"
This one was a reach. I was not sure what T would say. I was fishing for him to tell the kids to include the boy in their group. T came up with a better idea.
"We could play with him." was T's reply.
I was so proud of him. Another moment when my heart leapt in my throat.
"Yes Tom, that is an excellent idea."
I kissed my angel and turned out the lights. I stretched on his floor for 30 seconds until he started snoring like a chainsaw.

How do you teach values? Do you have any other times of day that are perfect times for this activity?

Weekend with the cousins.

Our cousins M and R were here this weekend. Their little boy played with L and T all weekend. It was truly adorable. After we got the kids down to bed we had a great night of talking about he kid, parenting, religion and patience. It was all that we talked about for 3 hours. Our dreams for our kids. Our fears about what we are doing right and wrong. What we want to do like our parents did and what we want to change.
My wife and I do this almost every night, but it was great to get some new ideas into the house and to hear perspectives from other great parents. It was much more fun than talking about the RedSox.
Do you get enough chances to talk about parenting in a social situation in which you are totally comfortable? How often?

Easter Egg hunts are the best!

When I quizzed my kids about the best part of the weekend tonight, they both agreed that the Easter egg hunt was king. They both also agreed that the spotted eggs that contained the hershey's kisses were also the best egg. I interrogated them in separate bed rooms, so one was simply not agreeing with the other.
We let the kids loose on the Easter Egg course around 11:00. L and T are slightly faster than their younger cousin, so they got to the eggs first. This caused a meltdown with little A. He tossed his basket and pieroetted to the ground in anguish. We all knew the feeling, but were not sure how best to continue. L had stopped hunting and was watching A, but T was still off hunting. A's mom was holding him and trying to calm him down. My wife suggested that we postpone the hunt and go inside for a few minutes and regroup. My kids were fine with that idea, so we stopped the hunt. I thought that was terrific thinking on her feet by my super wife.
While the kids played inside I went out and made some special egg hiding spots for L. I balanced an egg on a 7 foot high stick. I also balanced one on top of a bird house.
When they attacked the course again, A was fresh and we had coached our kids to try to help A find a few more eggs. L was fantastic in this regard. She dropped all of the blue eggs that she found into A's basket, because she claimed it was his favorite color.
When L got to the stick with the egg on top she leapt for it. I think my 5 year old believes that she can dunk a basketball. She jumped 2 more times and then turned to me in frustration and growled: "Dad, can you help me?"
"Try to think of another idea."
The moment that she knew I was not going to help her she wounded up her big pink boot and kicked out the stick. The egg landed on the ground and she scooped it up with a big smile. The bird house was even less of a challenge. I watched as L picked up a stick (The bird house was also quite high) and tipped the house so that the egg rolled down onto her feet.
Have I mentioned that I love to watch them succeed? It make my heart swell.
We let the kids have a couple of candies and then I quickly shuttled the rest of the jelly beans and hershey's kisses into the trash. I do the same thing on Halloween and the kids never miss them.
Later in the day L was complaining that she had not received an Easter card. I told her that she had received several over the past week and one that day. She continued to complain until she finally had to ask: "Daddy, will you make me an Easter card?"
I felt a little dim, having not picked up on this hint, but decided better late than never. I drew a picture of the tree with the stick propped up next to it with a green egg on top on the stick. There was a smiling girl next to the tree and I signed it Love Daddy.
She looked at the card and laughed and said: "Daddy, that egg was pink. But, that is OK."
I could tell she was pleased with the card.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Playing Ball with T

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids?

T and M were up at 6:30 this morning. As I changed M's horrific, gritty dump, T found the foam baseball bat under the couch.

"Have you seen the ball that goes with that?" I asked.
"It's downstairs, in the playroom." T replied.
"Do you want to go hit it?"
"Yeah!" T responded enthusiastically.

I threw T pitches for about 20 minutes. He ripped many of them. I watched him beam with pride on each connection. I also tried to pump him up on each miss.
"Just missed it T! You will rip the next one."
"You betcha!" T replied.

Watching any of the kids improve at anything is one of the highlights of parenting. When the ball flies towards T's bat I get butterflies in my stomach. When he hits it my heart leaps. If he whiffs my heart sinks.

What are some of the favorite things that you like to watch your child excel in?

Comforting T at night.

It was 10:30 and I was about to dig into my bowl of Chocolate Soy Dream. I heard cries from T's room. He was sobbing. He had complained about pains in his legs before bed, so I suspected that those pains were back.
I hustled up the stairs and lied down next to him in bed. He sensed me there and laid his head down on top of my chest. He continued to moan and hold his legs. I felt really helpless.
I began telling him stories about T and the beanstalk. Our version is that T crossbreeds some redwood seeds with peanuts to create a new super breed of tree. By spreading peanut butter over the seed he helps it grow all the way to the moon. As I told the story his whining stopped and he drifted back to sleep.
I stayed with him, rubbing his head and back. I felt a little trapped and was longing for my bowl of ice cream. I tried to slide out from under him, but he woke up again. I quickly resumed the story and this time he was back down for good.
At 11:00 I was back down in the kitchen with my bowl of soy dream.

I find it very hard to empathize with someone when I have other plans. It can cause me to get very frustrated if I was really looking forward to my plans. This was a minor example.

Please share any stories about how you put your own needs on hold while caring for your little one.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The bum walk

Yesterday L came out of the bathroom and said - "you know what? Tom went pee and left the toilet seat up and when I went to go I fell in to the toilet!"

I replied " did you fall in the pee?"
L - "yes, but don't worry I wiped my bum on the black rug"


Please share a classic story about your precious little quote machine!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Questions about Jesus on Easter

One of our friends asked us this question:
Have you talked about the meaning of Easter with L? Namely, Jesus dying on the cross? My daughter is asking questions and my husband and I have kind of put it off -- I guess we're wary of talking about death with her and haven't thought about a simple enough explanation to suit a child. If you have any thoughts to share on this, I'd love to hear them.

I think she is really smart and resourceful to go outside her family to ask such a question.

Here was my response:

I would open up the death conversation ASAP. Start talking about worms, butterflies, goldfish, grandparents ect...

We have had numerous occasions to discuss this with Lauren and it has prompted many brilliant questions from her.

Lauren has never asked about Jesus specifically, so we have stayed away from that topic. When she does ask I will tell her the story or Jesus. I am lucky, because I believe it is only a story and can emphasize that. For people who believe those events actually happened, and then it might get a little stickier, but not too much.

I would start with... Men were afraid of Jesus. They conspired to hurt him because they thought he could take their money and power away. So they killed him.

If she asked how he died, I would say something like: "back in history that they used to nail people to the cross when they had really bad behavior, but that is not done any more."

It seems like a good lesson to teach how fear and anger can lead people to do really mean things. Those people wrongly killed Jesus because they were angry with him and afraid of him. "How are you going to manage your fear and anger, young one?"

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Angry while Getting L ready for school.

We were running a little late for school this morning. I asked L to please sit down and eat her breakfast. She started to sit and remembered the trampoline that Nana had brought over last night. She hustled into the living room and began bouncing on the trampoline.
From the kitchen, in a louder than normal, but measured tone, I stated: "L, I am getting angry that you are not getting ready for school."
"Aaaaaarrrrrrggggggg” was L's response from the living room. It is difficult to do L's angry scream in words. She was really upset that I was raising my voice.
I went straight into the living room.
"I am sorry that I raised my voice. That behavior was not appropriate. But it is time to go to school. Please move to the kitchen. The trampoline will be going into the garage if you do not move to the kitchen."
L pouted for a few moments in the Living room, but then resumed her breakfast in the kitchen.
That argument could have easily exploded into a shouting match. I recognized that I was the one who escalated the argument in the first place and it was my place to apologize. I did so, without relinquishing my control as the adult in the relationship. Despite my mistake we still needed to get to school and we did so.

Please share some moments when anger got the best of you, or when you were able to let it go.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Driving Meditation with L

When I am driving, I try to comment to my daughter when I can help someone out in traffic. If we are at an intersection and we can let someone in another car out into traffic I say: "L, we just let that person out of their street. Doesn't that make you feel great?"
She often giggles and laughs when this happens. She will point it out to me if I do it subconsciously: "Good job letting that lady out from that Stop Sign Daddy!"
Reverse road rage. The gift that keeps on giving:) It even works when someone cuts you off!

What are your ideas about Paying it Forward?

Monday, March 14, 2005

My 5 year old is smarter than me.

I felt tonight that I am truly glad that my 5 year old will be smarter than me. We were going through our bedtime routine when we began to talk about our trip to Florida. She said she wanted to bring her Piglet toothbrush along for the trip. She also said that she accidentally threw it in the water when we were fishing.
"I need to catch the toothbrush!" L exclaimed.
"I'll pass you the net." I said.
"I got it!" L proclaimed.
"Is there anything else in the net?" I asked?
"Yeah, there's a huge crab! And he's got the toothbrush in his claw!"
"How are we going to get it out, I asked?"
L ran into the bathroom and got her toothbrush.
"Here dad, hold this. You are the crab and I will get the toothbrush."
I held the toothbrush in my left claw. I said:
"Watch out for the right claw..."
L slowly reached for the tooth brush and I nipped her with my right hand in a claw like motion. Lauren looked at me confused. I began to advise her on how to approach the situation:
"How can you get the toothbrush out of the crab's claw without him nipping you with..."
She ripped the toothbrush out of my left claw while I was lecturing. I never knew what was coming. I felt a quick rush of competitiveness where I felt bested. Then I realized that my child is brilliant and that is my real goal.
I looked her in the eyes. She looked triumphant and exhilarated. I burst into hysterics and L followed suit. We belly laughed for a solid 2 minutes.
After that we began to figure out other ways to get the toothbrush out of the crab's claw. "I could use this magazine to protect my hand!"
"Good. Let's try it."

Have you ever had a moment like this? Please share it.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Egg Timer at Night Time.

I recently incorporated an Egg Timer into the kid's nighttime routine. It has been helpful for setting time limits on kitchen cleanup and nighttime story hour. The kids have been whining slightly less now that they know that they are "On the clock".
But the timer has had an added benefit that has been much more helpful for me. It has acted as a ticker of mindfulness.
You can actually hear the seconds of your life ticking away as the egg timer makes it's decent towards the bell. This tool has helped me over the last few nights to realize how precious the few minutes before bedtime can be.
Bedtime can degrade into a routine of telling a few stories and shouting the kids into bed. With the timer I become more aware of how I am spending the time and try to tell the best stories that I can in the time allotted.
Last night the kids and I reflected back on the trip we took to the Portsmouth Children's museum. The museum has story hour and they told the Japanese story of the faithful dog Hachiko.
Hachiko book
The kids had a great time remembering the story and talking about the moral. They asked me the meaning of Loyalty.
"It is when you stay with someone no matter what." I said. "For Example: I will never leave the two of you."
"You leave for work." My oldest replied.
"Yes, but I come home."
"Mommy is more loyal, because she stays with us more." She replied again. "But you were very loyal on our vacation to Florida."
"Thanks." I replied.
I milked every second on the timer. We had a great dialogue and went right off to bed.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Flying a kite with my oldest.

I put the kite together and went to the other side of an open field to get some running room. The wind was not strong, so I knew we would have to run pretty fast. My daughter begged to be the first to try to get the kite in the air. I acquiesced and held the kite while L began firing her little legs across the field. I was amazed that she got the kite 20 feet in the air.
"L, you're doing it!" I exclaimed.
She looked up in the air and grinned.
My heart jumped up in my throat while watching her succeed in this project. Her face was beaming and I could sense that she felt as proud as I did. She neglected to let the line out, so the kite floundered and crashed to the ground. But we were both bolstered by our first flight. We ran back to the other side of the field and tried again. This time I explained how to let the string off of the spool.
The next flight was golden. L let out the string perfectly and the kite took off 50 feet in the air. She ran and ran until we ran out of field. We continued into the empty street and began walking with the kite. We talked about how pretty the kite was and well it was flying. Finally it got caught in a low branch and our flight was over. I retrieved the kite and wound up the string. We walked back to the house, commenting on all of the beautiful homes on the road.
That was a really special time with my daughter. Whenever we get time to run or play outside together it feels like it brings us closer together. She told me she loved me many times over the remainder of the afternoon. I believe that our kite flying had something to do with that loving feeling.

Flying with M

I was concerned that my 1 year old daughter would be a wild woman on our flight to Florida. We boarded the plane and I strapped her on to my chest in her baby Bjorn carrier. She sat quietly for a while taking in the other passengers. I fed her crackers and other snacks for a while. When I glanced to my right for a moment, M reached to the chair in front of us and grabbed a fist full of the woman's hair who was seated there. We apologized and began playing more interactive games with one another.
I started with find daddy's hat. M found it quickly. I moved to daddy's hair. That was tougher. I think M believes it sounds like ear, because she almost pulled my ear off. She easily identified my eyes (eye gouge) and nose (by pulling out my nose hair). She found me teeth and mouth, next. After that I showed M where all of those parts were on her face. After that, it was hide and seek under Daddy's hat. She was screaming with delight. After every peek a boo, M would giggle and giggle.
Finally I glanced at the seat back in front of me to see how far our flight had progressed. When I looked back at M, she had another fist full of hair in her hand. After I pried her hand loose she began to fuss a bit more. She wanted out of her seat. My wife offered to take her, but I knew if we went down that road we were in trouble. She would have bounced around on her siblings and things would have gone downhill from there. Instead I walked with her to the back of the plane. We played in the bathroom for awhile and enjoyed the mirror.
Then I walked her to the front of the plane and again to the back. That was enough to rock her off to sleep. I hugged her at the back of the plane for almost an hour while she snoozed on my chest. Another dad and I chatted with our little girls on our chests.
After M's nap we settled back into our seats and prepared for landing. My wife was excited that the flight had gone so well. I enjoyed our last few minutes of "name the body part" and then our flight was over. It turned out to be a magical ride. I was concerned before the flight about how M would be able to handle that amount of time in a confined space. We did terrific. I have no worries about the return flight and am totally looking forward to bonding time with my smallest baby.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Puzzle night with my boy.

My wife took my oldest daughter to a girls high school basketball game last night. My youngest daughter went to bed at 6. That gave T and daddy some 1 on 1 time.
"What would you like to do T? "
"Let's play a game. No lets do a puzzle."
T got out his favorite dinosaur puzzle. 50 pieces. I think he has it memorized, because he cut through it really quickly. I handed him the pieces as he went and popped a few in around the edges.
When he finished we high fived and gave each other a huge hug and a kiss.
"Let's do the big puzzle next!" said T.
"OK, I'm game, but that is the last one because it is almost past your bedtime."
We worked on the big puzzle for quite a while. T knew this one also, but the colors of the dinosaurs were very similar and the pieces were much smaller. While we were struggling together on the top left corner T said: "I really love you dad."
"I really love you too, T." I replied.
"But your not doing too good, dad." T was remarking on my inability to place a piece in the last several minutes. Oh the highs and lows of parenting.
"I will try to pick up the pace T." I replied.
We plugged in a few more pieces and the rest of the puzzle fell into place. More high fives hugs and kisses. I said: "T, you know what I am going to call you from now on?"
"Puzzle champ."
T thought about this nickname for a while. He resists nicknames with a passion. T, Mr. T, Mr. Handsome, Dog, Chomper and a host of others have all been met with hostility.
"I like puzzle champ." T replied with a smile.
I gave the Puzzle Champ a piggy back up the stairs and him the Poo and Hefalump story for bedtime.
One on one time is really precious.

Unselfish Meditation

I hit on a great meditation the other day. I got the inspiration from an incident that occurred with my wife. We were making airpopped popcorn and it was loud in the kitchen. I had just placed my 1 year old daughter down for the first time in the hour that I had been home from work. I thought I had a second to grab a set of nail clippers and prune my nails back. My wife however began to shout over the popcorn maker, trying to get my attention.
"Babe, I can't really hear you." I responded. I was mildly irritated that my moment with 2 free hands had been interrupted.
My wife fed off of my irritability and shouted:
"I just wanted to tell you about T. He called himself the puzzle champ today. I assume he got that from your daddy/son puzzle tournament the other night."
I smiled and reflected on the magical night that my son T and I had the previous night. Of course my wife was right. That conversation is much more important than any selfish chore.
When I was alone that night I reflected some more on how damaging selfishness can be. Even this somewhat harmless exchange brought unnecessary tension into our marriage. I began to think about acting unselfishly. That if any of my tasks are interrupted, that I should not be irritated. I should be thankful for the opportunity to converse with another human. I also vowed to do a similar meditation on the ride home from work the next night.

On the ride home from work I breathed deeply and tried to envision myself patient and calm. I did not want to act irritably or selfishly. I vowed not to react in anger if my wife interrupted me or made a comment that might initially irritate me.
Later in the evening I got a chance to put my meditation into practice. As my wife was heading off to sleep she quipped: "Honey, how are you going to try to keep me awake tonight?" She was referring to my letting the bathwater out at 10:30 last night. The upstairs drain has a really loud echo as the water flows out.
She continued. "Last night the bath water was bad enough, but then the shower. You kept dropping stuff in there. It was really annoying."
As I watched my wife's facial expression I could see that she realized that she had just crossed the line from funny to irritating. I think that she was about to apologize when I replied:
"Oh, I dropped your toothbrush while I was cleaning my testicles."
We both laughed about her dirty toothbrush phobia and I headed downstairs for some yoga.
That meditation helped me to react with humor instead of anger. Being unselfish gives us a thicker skin. I did not get angry at the insult, which was really just a tired effort at humor. I returned the attempt at humor with a real witty remark and diffused any potential problems. Emotional Mastery in action.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Father daughter dance with L.

When my life flashes before my eyes, I am sure that I will have some images of this dance fly by. We had an amazing time. I got dressed up in my suit and my wife curled L's hair. We walked downstairs together holding hands. I imagined L walking down those stairs in her prom dress in 12 years.
We took some pictures and headed over to the YMCA for the dance. We were right on time. Most of the dads were sitting down in chairs and only a few were out on the floor. I was afraid that things would be slow. I asked L if she would like to dance, but she declined and seemed a little nervous about being the only person dancing in the huge gym. We walked over and got some snacks.
I challenged L to try to jump up and touch some of the balloons that were hanging from the basketball hoop. She jumped and jumped, but I had to give her a little lift before she could hit them. That loosened L up and we headed for the floor. We requested dancing queen from Abba and the DJ gave L a valentines puzzle for a gift. There was a disco light shining large images on the floor. L and I tried to jump on the images as they flashed around our feet.
More and more dads began pouring in and many of them began heading to the dance floor. We began moving to the electric slide and the macarana. Saturday night fever had little L pointing her finger at the ceiling for the first time.
Then she began breaking out lots of moves from her gymnastics. L would do side splits and forward splits. I followed her as best as I could and we looked like a dance team. Then I grabbed her hand and began twirling her under my arm.
We took a potty break and L asked me why she could not spin me under her arm. I told her that we could try it.
When we got back on the floor I ducked down and spun under her little arm. We also held hands and spun under each other's arms at the same time.
Next L began asking me to hike her between my legs. I grabbed her hands and let her slide down through my legs to the other side of my body. Then she would pop back up through my legs and go flying high in the air.
I was amazed at how many dance moves that she and I created. It felt great to be making up dances with my little girl in a perfectly care free environment.
L asked if we could spin around in an airplane ride. I thought it might be dangerous with so many kids around. We headed over to the far corner of the gym. I spun L around and around until she screamed for me to stop. Her heels flew up as high as my chest at some points. She giggled and squealed and begged for more spins. We kept this up for quite a while. After each spin I would do a dance like I was dizzy and about to fall over. This was not a stretch.
L finished the night with the limbo contest. She also played volleyball with some of the balloons.
I did a rough head count and figured there were between 80 and 100 dads at the dance. I felt happy to know that there were so many dads in my community who wanted to spend a Saturday night with their little princess. It made me feel very hopeful for our kids future. I was happy to be in the presence of such allstar company.
L and I headed home and talked about our favorite dances. Hers were the hike and the spin around airplane rides. Mine were the gymnastics moves and the twirls. I loved when we were making up dances together.
When we got home we told mom all about our adventure.