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.

Saturday with 2 kids.

This was an all world Saturday. My wife let me sleep in and then headed out to work on her church fundraiser. M went down for her morning nap. L and T and I started the morning with some yoga. We did head stands and bridges. T threw himself up toward the wall and sometimes maintained his balance and other times slammed to the ground. L has the knack of the headstand and can balance for 100 seconds. When daddy got up, the kids would push me down after 20 seconds or so.
After mommy came home I loaded up the two oldest kids and headed food shopping. We went to Trader Joes and had a ball. The kids helped me find everything on the list. L decided how much Red Pepper and Tomato soup to pick. "I think 4 daddy. That will be great." We demolish the stuff, so I let her load it up. T chomped away on his Pirate's Booty corn puffs and picked out his cereals. We split a cane juice soda between the 3 of us on the ride over to the children's museum.
The museum was a riot. We ran and jumped and slid and laughed for 2 solid hours. The kids immediately made friends with a 5 year old named Tyler. They played tag for a few minutes and then we began exploring the museum. T and I played in the sandbox up front for a while. We build castles and sifted sand. Then we moved to the back of the museum and found a pendulum. The pendulum had a bucket that allowed sand to flow through it. It was fun to watch T fill the bucket and make different shapes by swinging the pendulum in different directions. Then L came over and began contributing ideas for shapes.
"It looks like a snowflake!" Screamed T in excitement.
"Yeah. Great job T!" L loves to tell T when he is doing a good job.
We played a video game on the computer for 20 minutes. The kids laughed as I narrated the crazy game of dumping water balloons.
They have a big shark head on the wall so we pretended to hunt the shark for about 10 minutes. We would run around the museum and come back and catch the shark. The kids were really excited.
T got dressed up in a lion suit while L and I played in the shadow room. T came in and made some lion shadows with L struck up some proud warrior shadows. We finished with a game of checkers by T's rules where he can jump anything. L again said "Good job T." As he jumped all of our checkers.
On the way home we stopped into a nursing home to visit an elderly man from our church. He is 91 years old and suffering from dementia. He does not know us, but it feels good to give him some company. Today he was in the lobby, so the kids were able to make the 6 seniors in the area very happy. We spoke briefly about our church and about the activity that was scheduled for Sunday.
We went home and had dinner with our mom's. The kids love their nana's. It was nice to have them both over. Not only because my wife's mom cooks dinner, but it feels good to hear about their days. It also feels good to know that they have someone to have dinner with.
After dinner, L and I prepared for the father daughter dance at the YMCA. I got dressed up in my suit and my wife curled L's hair. L just turned 5 and she really looked like a big girl tonight. The night at the dance will warrant an entire entry, but we got home at around 9 and my wife immediately got L into bed.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Connecting with a kid at church

This week we started our Secret Buddies week at church. Adults draw names for kids and then send them secret messages for the next 2 weeks. The event is designed to connect a child with an adult and bring them closer together.
I drew one of my favorite kids in the church. J is a good friend of my daughter L. I have written her a couple of notes this week.
In the first note I made a reference to a birthday party that we both attended. In the second note I told her that I was a man and what sort of sports that I liked to play. I made a soccer reference that should have helped, since we played soccer at my daughter's B-Day party last month.
I like to think of the excitement and the challenge around the new game for J. I like to picture her getting excited for the mail and trying to guess who I might be. I think it is nice to bring that excitement to a young person's life. Especially when the person is outside your immediate family. That is truely a bonus. I can augment the already great support that J gets from her own parents.