Friday, December 01, 2006

Mindfulness is the answer.

I have been having great success over the past several months with mindfulness practice in my parenting. I have been meditating twice a day for 6 months. This has helped me practice returning to my breath when I become consumed by negative emotions. I can immediately deal with these emotions and then take the appropriate action, instead of flying off the handle.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Patience goals for vacation week.

I vow to treat my wife with respect all week long. I will listen intently to her ideas and stories and ask for clarification when I do not understand the emotions that she is trying to convey. I will laugh without abandon when she tells a funny story. I will be patient when I do not hear something she says or if I misinterpret something she says. Because she is brilliant and fun and worthy of the benefit of the doubt. Most of the time if I get snappy with her I realize that it was something that I misread or did not fully understand.

I vow this week to treat my children with respect. I will hug them and kiss them as often as they can possibly stand. I will tell them each time when they say something remarkable. I will tell them how much I enjoy their company and how much I want to be with them. I will laugh at their pre-school jokes just like when I was back in preschool, because it was funny then. I refuse to let my anger reduce our enjoyment of our vacation. I refuse to be selfish at mealtime or bedtime. If I want to eat a hot meal I will explain that to my kids and ask them to help me achieve my goal. If they cooperate, great, if not then I will continue to use my calm words to induce them to cooperate. There is no excuse for yelling at my kids. I will see life from their eyes this week.

I will enjoy time with my mom and my sister. I will laugh at my mom's jokes because they are funny. I will not poke fun at her. I will enjoy her company.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Best way to wake up.

I awoke to this conversation this morning:

I was sleeping in T’s room and they were in L’s room.

L: “I have a boyfriend.”

That statement woke me right up.

T: “You do not.”

L: “I do too.”

Daddy waits……

L: “It’s Daddy!”

Daddy’s heart melts.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Gardening with the kids.

L and T had a ball with me putting in our garden. I loved and cherished every second of the time that we spent together.
T and I worked on the garden during every spare moment of the Easter weekend. After his morning Easter Egg hunt we started putting up the fence. We struggled to push the wire into the clips on the fence posts. T and I would both push hard on the wires and finally they would clip in. We would smile at each other and hug.
After one tough clip T put out his hand for a high five.
"T, do you know that is the first time you ever offered ME a high five?"
T sat and thought about this and then smiled. "Wow!" he exclaimed. And then he slowly raised up his hand and offered me another one. I then received my first 100 high fives from T.
Later, L joined us for weed removal. L and T grunted and groaned and pulled up many weeds and stubborn roots. I hugged them after a big extraction and helped them with the humongous ones.
"Daddy you sure are strong!"
"You will both be stronger than me before long." I replied.
The kids like that answer.
T and L squirreled away many worms into their bug catchers. Later these would be deposited in the composter.
"Those worms are really going to mix up our compost!" I exclaimed.
"You betcha." Exclaimed T.
Finally it was time to get some seeds in. Broccoli and Lettuce were the crops du jour. The kids tried to dig rows, but they were very short and deep. I showed them how they could make the receptacle with their fingers.
L went to plant her broccoli seeds and realized that they had fallen out of the package. She looked crushed.
"oops, I exclaimed. Defective package. T, can L plant some of your lettuce seeds?"
T's response to these types of questions was always the same loving answer:
L was satisfied and she helped T sow his rows of lettuce seeds.
Finally it was time to water. The temperature was at most 50 degrees. But that did not stop L from stripping down and sprinting through the sprinkler. T was right behind her. My hair stood up just watching them.
"Watch out for the seeds!"
"OK, daddy."
What a blast we had. I had been telling the kids bedtime stories about our garden all winter. Each time we read a Winnie the Pooh book I would tell them that we would have a garden just like Rabbit's. Those seeds were sown this Easter weekend where every time I asked T if he wanted to work in the garden he responded with:

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Splitting wood with T.

While M slept, I put up a tire swing for L and T. They were having a ball with it. I let them play while I went inside to get a chainsaw and maul axe. I figured I would split some wood while they played on the swing.
T was curious as to my project.
"What are you doing dad?"
"Chopping wood."
"Can I help?"
I cut up the trees that I had dropped last fall. T collected the smaller pieces and loaded them into the barell. He tried to split a few of them with the 8 lb. maul axe. Since he only weighs about 40 lbs. he did not generate much force:(
He landed a few direct hits and then gave up.
Then daddy started splitting the bigger logs.
T would run for cover as I sent the wood flying. Then he would hustle and scoop up the scraps and load them into the wheelbarrow.
"I am going to carry the wheelbarrel up the hill!" exclaimed T.
"Go for it my man!"
I did not think T would be able to budge the wheelbarrow. The hill was steep and there was a fair amount of wood in the barrow.
But to my amazement T got it moving. I watched him move it for 20 yards until the hill got extremely steep and he got stuck.
"Need some help T?" I called out.
"No, dad!"
T tried non stop for 5 minutes to move that wood up the hill. I watched him push and pull and then push again. Finally he lied down spread eagle at the base of the barrow, defeated.
"Dad! I could use some help!"
I ran over and started to pull the wheelbarrow. I was amazed that T was able to move it an inch. I could barely move the thing. Then I looked back and saw T hitching a ride.
I figured that he had earned it. During the ride up the hill I told T about persistence and how he had plenty of it. I told him that the characteristic would help him to become an astronaut or a scientist or whatever he wanted to be.
T looked pleased.

Father Daughter dance at the YMCA

The second annual YMCA father daughter dance was a resounding success. J bought L a party dress for the event. I got all spiffed up in a tie and jacket. It was a cute date night for daddy and L.
L and I danced the night away. L's favorites were the Macarana and YMCA. I enjoyed doing both dances with my little princess.
We had an absolute ball. I spun L around, over my head, through my legs, on my shoulders, ect... I even tried to do some splits!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Sick day with M.

The family has been sick. Mommy has a stomach bug. M has oral herpes that is killing her teeth. T and L are coughing and fatigued. Mommy called me at work on Tuesday and said that I had to take Weds. Off.
I looked at my calendar.
"Weds. Is the worst day of the week. I have staff meetings and 3 other meetings." I said.
I thought hard during the silence.
I scanned my calendar and was amazed to see that Thursday was wide open. "How about Thursday?" Can you hang in until then?
Mommy replied begrudgingly that she could manage until then.

I slept with M on Tues. And Weds. Nights. Tuesday was rough, but Weds. She slept right through. I felt good going into Thursday with the kids.
M's teeth have been extremely sore. Everyt time something touches her mouth she is sent into a crying fit. Mommy had been in this hurricane for 3 days straight. She desperately needed a break. I realized however that when we are all around the house that we can hurt each other as much as we can help each other.
If I stayed home and was defensive and irritable then I would be no help to her at all. I meditated on this idea in the morning. I vowed to be of service to my wife today. I vowed never to react to her emotions and to always respond with empathy. This week had been tough and her nerves were frayed. This day would bring out some difficult personality traits. When our personalities clashed I vowed not to escalate it into an argument.
It did not take long for the challenges to begin. M would not go to me in the morning. She desperately wanted to cling to momma, who she had been attached to for 3 days. Eventually I was able to coerce M into the tub and the kids and I took a bath.
Mommy headed into her office to get some work done.
After the bath it was time for a family project. I jumped on the web and looked up a volcano recipe for the kids. We made volcanic eruptions for the next hour. I took my eyes off of M for a second and she was head to toe in green food coloring.
"Look dad, M's playing Shrek!" announced T.
I busted a gut over that one.
Back up to the tub for papa and M. Luckily I had left the bath water in the tub, just in case. The older kids joined us after a few minutes.
After we got dried up, mommy tried to take the older kids to the library. J already looked refreshed after just 2 hours of peace. Once M saw mommy, however, she was not to be denied.
"Mommy! Mommy!" She wailed.
I patiently tried to coax her off of mommy's leg, but to no avail. J was about to turn on the TV when I said.
"Wait, she might go for some videos on the laptop."
"D, I have had 3 days of this and I can't take any more!" J replied and she turned on the TV.
I took a deep breath and tried to empathise with J's plight. I deeply dislike feeling overwhelmed and I even more deeply dislike expressing that I am overwhelmed. I realized that my pride was not important at this time and a use of the outside voice from momma should be overlooked.
With the TV on, J was able to make a hasty exit.
I later coaxed M off the couch by offering to cut her toenails. I found out today that she loves this activity! We had a ball chomping the nail clipper on her piggies.
I put M down for her nap at 11:30 as J had requested. I made a salad for her and hotdogs and fries for the big kids.
We had a nice lunch when the rest of the family got home. J suggested that the older kids and I go for a hike.
We cut through the back yard to the golf course and for the first time the kids beat me to the course. L was on the 5th fairway making snow angels and T was asking to be picked up. We hiked for over a mile and covered many areas of the course that the kids had not seen.
When we got back M was awake. J seemed OK that she had been with M for a while. But soon M was crying again and mommy was getting visibly flustered. I scooped up M and tried to take her out to the car for a quick ride. She would have none of it. She screamed and hollered and fought to get out of her car seat.
Mommy came out after a few moments and took M out of her car seat and hugged her. I took a long deep breath and followed J back into the house. M was calming down now. We would need to put her infront of the TV again, however. This time she quickly lost interest and began wandering back down towards mommy's office.
"D, can you keep her out of here" Mommy scolded.
I again breathed deep and tried to think of something else to do. I retrieved a ball from downstairs and we began to play catch. This quickly became hit the kids in the head with the big ball. We played this for about an hour. Until M finally got caught in the teeth by an errant shot and began balling her eyes out.
Mommy arose from her office and shot me a look. I breathed it and let it go.

J and I had several other tough confrontations like this throughout the day. I did not react negatively to any of them. As a result, I believe, we had dozens of positive and loving interactions. At any rate, we definitely had more positive interactions since we were not dwelling on any arguments that we had throughout the day. J was also very loving and fun to be around for the majority of the day as well.

It is important to note that I did not hold all of these exchanges inside where they would eventually blow out into a full blown fight later. I was able to reduce my sensitivity to those exchanges and truly let them go.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

How many people love L?

My wife popped in on my daughter L and I during her bedtime routine. I was spotting L on a handstand in the corner.
"Helping her wind down, daddy?" scoffed J.
"This is our last set, right L?"
I eased L down onto her belly and scooped her up into bed.
"Daddy, who gave me this blanket?"
"My friend, J from college."
"Why did he get it for me?"
"Because he loves you." I replied. "Lots of people love you. Would you like to count them?"
"Yes!" L replied enthusiastically.
"T and M love you. Mom and Papa love you." I continued on for a bit. I ticked off her school friends and L began to make a face.
"J doesn't love me, she loves mommy." I realized that this was true and laughed.
"OK." I replied, "Who else?"
"C loves me."
"Great. And how about your teacher, Mrs. H."
L confirmed that one.
"What about uncle E and auntie J."
"Good one." I replied. "And their girls A and P."
"What about M?" retorted L.
We continued on and on.
"How many is that?" Asked L.
"55." I replied.
"Wow. Can you please write that down so we can start from there tomorrow night?"
I smiled. "You bet, and maybe we can start the list of people that you love."
"OK." L replied.
I gave L a huge hug and went downstairs for some yoga.

Fantastic New Years Eve with the kids.

We had our annual New Years Eve party last night. The kids ran around the house, mixing with the adults at times and conspiring in the play room at others.
My favorite part of the evening is the simulated ball drop at 8 PM. All of the kids huddled in the living room and counted backwards from 10. When we hit 1 all the kids whooped it up and screamed and hollered. After dust had settled L began chanting:
"Again, Again."
My buddy J yelled out, OK, now let's do new year's in Iceland.
"10, 9..."
We did the countdown no less than 30 times. We hit a dozen time zones and scores of cities. The kids were shouting out their favorites and soon began starting the countdowns themselves. At that point the joy was selfsustaining. No adult intervention was required.
Another magical moment with the kids that I will never forget.