Friday, December 31, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. -- via SouleMama

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Baby Give-away

It's a slow day in our post-Christmas house, and I like it that way.  I've been stepping around new toys and packaging detritus all morning as I slowly move into my post-holiday let-down.  We don't do much with New Years and nothing really matches the big cultural Christmas push.  I'm not really a big holiday person, anyway, but I understand the significance for some people, and family has always been important to me.  For me, holidays are really about family. 

So I was stunned and saddened when I saw this story of a young woman giving up her baby to a fire department under the Safe Haven law in California.   I'm glad California has such a law if it prevents babies being dropped in dumpsters or other horrific places.  But really the story had me wondering, what drives a parent to give up a child, especially on Christmas. 

I think about my children and how I can't imagine my life without them.  I think about their first few days of life and how utterly dependent they were on us.  What compels a person to be willing to give up a child three days old?  I don't mean this as a condemnation.  It is a serious question.  I just can't imagine what would compel someone to do that.  Could it be financial hardship?  The psychological pain of not being able to provide for a child?  I live a fortunate life and don't have to contemplate those questions.  We don't live extravagantly, but we can always put food on the table. 

What kind of life has the mother condemned her child to?  Can the little girl overcome the challenges?  Will she learn of her past and wonder these same questions: what would compel a mother to give up a newborn?  What kind of psychological damage could this cause? What kind of damage will it cause the mother, who apparently has three children.  How does one make the judgment to say, I'm sorry #4 but I'm keeping the first three.  You must go.  I can't imagine a day would go by without me wondering what happened to my child.  Maybe the mother is hoping the child will have a better life that she can provide.  Maybe the mother, sleep-deprived and desperate made a rash decision.  I can't imagine the decision was an easy one. 

I guess it simply saddens me to think that someone would hold a newborn, feel its warmth, and the bond that only a mother can have for her child, and then give the baby up.  I hope that the baby and the mother find peace in a world in which such decision need to be made. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. -- via SouleMama

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Am a Bad Dad

I just went out in the interminable cold of 9 degrees with a wind chill around minus artic, scraped 3 inches of ice off my car (no I'm not kidding -- 3 inches, under 5 of snow, some of which went down my jacket and into my shoes), and drove down roads veteran Ice Road Truckers wouldn't use and nearly ran out of gas to get to a doctor so she could tell me what I and the four others in the house already knew: I got strep.  I will spare you the details of phloem and c#*p in the back of my throat, the headaches, chills, sweats, etc.

I'm on Amoxicillin now. I should be better soon.  Tomorrow is a must-work day that I may miss.  They'll be fine without me; I realize that I'm not as important as I wish I were.

I chalk all this up to my post about enjoying the quiet.  And by the way, though the boys have been trying to be respectful, they just can't stay away all day when their dad is home.  I get that.  But do they have to pull the blankets off me as a game?  Yea, I know.  I deserve it.

One final note: recently, WonderMom got strep.  Yea, I didn't even know.  I couldn't tell, other than her being a bit more tired than usual (which comes with poor sleeping nights).  So here I sit whimpering on the couch about how I feel, and she took care of a family of four and barely missed a beat.  Actually, I'm pretty lucky in that regard, but right now, boy, I could use some health.

Friday, December 10, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. -- via SouleMama

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Children and Strep and Quiet

I have a confession, and it isn't a nice one.  I admit that I found a bit of peace when my twins were in the depths of strep.  Let me also say that it was hard to watch as they whimpered or smoldered from fever.  The coughs, particularly in the middle of the night, I suspect hurt me emotionally almost as much as them physically.  It's the kind of cough that hurts the throat, but also seems to try to pull the lungs our through it.  And the occasional vomiting isn't easy either.  Sometimes the twins simply laid on the couch or floor, dozing in and out, only wanting to be snuggled or left alone.  And those are the moments in which I found peace. 

I hope I don't burn in hell for it, but despite my strong empathic response to their pain -- an empathy that never wains -- I enjoyed the peace of sitting on the couch between the twins and they snuggled under blankets, their eyes opening and closing like they were Disney animatronics.  I would read them books or keep them company.  It was quiet. 


If you've been in a house with rambunctious young boys, you know quiet is unheard of (Sorry, I couldn't resist).  Sometimes ours are even loud in their sleep, banging on walls or snoring or talking almost as incessantly as they do when awake.  Sometimes they even talk to each other in their sleep.  And so not since they were little babies really had I spent this much quiet time with them while they were conscious.  It was nice stroking their hair off of their sweaty foreheads and tucking them in or getting them ice water.  There was no screaming or competition.  It was quiet. 

Yes, I do feel guilty for finding this silver lining to their being very ill, but I won't lie and say I didn't enjoy it.  Now, they're recovering and asleep as I type this.  The quiet of illness is being replaced by the quiet of healthy sleep.  There are no chest-tearing coughs or raspy breathing.  And I'm thankful for that.  But in a few days, when they are fully recovered and running through the house screaming about Igloo superheroes or who isn't playing what game right, a tiny part of me might long for those tender moments of quiet on the couch.

Friday, December 3, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. -- via SouleMama

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Encouraging Our Children #8

Failure and defeat will only stimulate special efforts when there remains the hope of eventual success.

The latest in my endeavors to look at ways to encourage children is one I get.  No one wants to do Sisyphean acts, and as an academic I have to admit I think I do them regularly.  Sometimes when I look around our house at all the small, sharp-edged toys littering the floor that I will inevitably step on and then pick up, I think I do them regularly at home, too. 

But back to encouraging our kids and this piece of advice, we only need to look at the work of Lev Vygotsky and his zone of proximal development.  Here is Vygotsky's key quote on it:
the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.
In less philosophical terms, Vygotsky believes that the best learning takes place when learners are pushed just beyond their current abilities, but not so far that they cannot attain the goal.  Once a child is pushed beyond her abilities, an educator, parent, whomever should provide just enough guidance so the learner can complete the task.  So the work is challenging, but doable.  

Essentially, what I think Schafer is advocating with her eighth suggestion is to make sure when our kids do fail (which is different than making a mistake) or are defeated, that we make sure there is a hope of eventual success.  That hope will result in additional, or as Schafer calls them "special" efforts that inspire kids to succeed.  Ensuring success is far more attainable when we consider Vygotsky's zone and his suggestion that children be pushed into it, not beyond it.  It means that as parents, we need to provide the support so they can accomplish the goal.  It also means that we shouldn't push children into situations in which they cannot ultimately succeed.  We shouldn't have unrealistic expectations and transfer them onto our children, especially expectations born out of parental pride. 

So how do I do this with my boys?  First, I have an confession.  I am easily frustrated.  Sometimes that even means I quit.  I don't want my boys to have that same response that I do.  I want them to see a challenge where I see frustration.  I think it will ultimately make them more successful in life.  So I commend effort.  More specifically, though, when one of my boys needs or wants help, I try to do as little as possible while ensuring that they are capable of succeeding, eventually, if they try.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes I just do it myself when the situation calls for it.  It isn't worth me being thirty minutes late for something or watching a complete tantrum, including a scream like a tornado siren because my child can't put on shoes with defective tongues by himself. Am I succeeding?  I guess we won't know until they're grown.  But I do see my boys work hard at things, occasionally failing, and working until they succeed. 

What do you do to help your kids work through failure or defeat, redoubling efforts so they can succeed? Do you have any great stories of you or your kids overcoming failure through extra effort?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Babies on Planes

I'm on a flight from Salt Lake City to Detroit, headed home to my family and willing the plane to fly faster and the jet stream to blow harder.  After over an hour of flight a baby across the aisle and one row up finally has quieted down, probably exhausted from crying and screaming on and off (more on than off) since I boarded the plane. 

Before I had children I was intolerant of the screams and frustrated to be stuck on in a small metal capsule thirty thousand feet up breathing the recirculated air people with who-knows-what strain of H1N1.  I would fume and turn my headphones as loud as I could bear so I wouldn't have to hear the child while I stewed and wondered why the parents didn't do more, including drugging the child.  I wondered why parents would even bring small children on planes.  Wasn't that what the proverbial family car trips were for?  That way the screaming would be confined to a much smaller metal capsule, zero feet in the air, and only the parents had to listen.

Now I am a parent and I have three small children.  I want them to know their grandparents and great grandmother in California so we fly across the country, carefully picking airline schedules to make the trip as manageable as possible (and paying for it).  I am fortunate that my boys travel well and we haven't had the infamous screaming child on a plane.  But I have been humbled by flying with my children as well.  I understand that there are reasons parents take their children on planes that are beyond going to the Happiest Place on Earth. I know how hard it is for parents, and having seen my own children cry from pain, I understand how difficult it is for everyone.  I no longer seethe, wondering why the parents don't do more.  I no longer wish the child would just shut up.  I feel bad for his pain, hoping his ear pressure isn't unbearable or he isn't so exhausted it physically hurts.  I cringe at my having wished parents would simply drug their children for my comfort. 

We don't make it easy for family to fly.  Airlines don't.  The TSA doesn't.  And fellow passengers don't.  I could write the equivalent of a short novella about our experiences flying and the generosity of others as well as others' inconsideration.  But this really isn't about me and my kids.  

The boy is still quiet and I am happy. 

For him.

Friday, November 26, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. -- via SouleMama

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Splitting the Baby

I’m sitting in the Salt Lake City airport waiting for a flight to go home.  I use the term home carefully here because I have two.  I have one where I grew up, in which my parents have lived for 35 years.  My other home is in Flint, in a house I’ve lived in for 10 years that contains my partner and three small boys.  The bond there is unbreakable.  But I’m sitting in Salt Lake City, in neither home, and because of a mechanical delay, I nearly spent the night here. 

Since making my reservations to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, sister and grandmother, I’ve felt like Solomon splitting the baby, nearly ending up with neither. (I better be careful since I’m still in Salt Lake.)  Why, you may ask did I leave my Flint family for California?  That’s a question with a complicated answer I won’t bore you with.  Suffice it to say that Thanksgiving is very important to my parents and I really want to see my 103 year old grandmother. 

Next you might ask, why I didn’t bring my Flint family.  That, too, is a long answer, but the short answer is that I didn’t want to travel with the boys on the busiest flying day of the year so they could see their great-grandmother for 30-minutes in which they will barely interact.  Does that sound callous?  Maybe.  Having just made the family trip to San Diego in August for my parents’ 50th anniversary, I just couldn’t do it again – even though the boys are great travelers.  I know my partner didn’t want the adventure. 

So here I am, looking out a bank of windows onto darkening snow-covered hill wondering if by trying to please everyone a little, I’m pleasing no one.  I’m sure my California family wants to see my Flint family, and my Flint family wants me there with them.  Every small child I see, and there are lots of them, make me wish I were home, waking with Twin M breathing softly on my face.  There is no right answer for me.  I suspect no one will be completely happy.  I really want to see my grandmother.  Did I write that?  I won’t have many more chances to see her.  But at approximately 4 am this morning (EST), my youngest woke up wanting water and burning with a fever.  So for the next three hours, I slept and woke restlessly knowing that I was now not only leaving Superwoman with three small boys, but with one who has a serious fever. 

I still left.  I had to drag myself out the door, and when I realized I forgot to bring a shirt I wanted, I almost turned around and drove back for it – the 45 minutes back home.  When my plane was delayed out of Detroit, a part of me wished I wouldn’t be able to make it to California so the decision would be made for me.  But I made this decision and I’m living with it.  I’ll have many, many more Thanksgivings with my boys, but not as many with my grandmother.  Did I mention I wanted to see her?

So here I am in Salt Lake City trying to figure out how I got here. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Encouraging Our Children #7

Don't view mistakes as failures.

Sure, that seems like easy advice to follow.  I admit when I read that sentence, I really imagine that we should allow our children to learn from mistakes. That seems obvious, and one can extrapolate the the value of allowing children to learn from mistakes.  Alexander Fleming is one key example of learning from mistakes. But that isn't really what Alyson Schafer's advice is.  She tells us parents not to view mistakes as failures.  Schafer claims:
We need to take away the stigma of failure.  Failure usually indicates a lack of skill.  One's worth is not dependent on success.
So I admit to be struggling a bit with her distinction.  Is she arguing that a mistake is not failure because failure indicates a lack of skill? So a mistake is simply an error or something that didn't go as well as it could have gone.  I accidentally colored outside the lines.  That would be a mistake.  Failure would be my inability to stay within the lines because I lack the motor skill and I have the attention span of a goldfish?  Okay, I could work with that definition, though it could get a bit tricky. 

I'll also admit to using an online dictionary to see how language archivists define those words. (Note: I am typically no fan of dictionaries because of their limitations, but I occasionally use them anyway because they do serve some good purposes.)  Here is what I found for failure.  Here is what I found for mistake. I can see a difference in degree, but they seem like they are nearly synonyms.  In fact, when used as a verb, they are

Enough ambling about in this post.  Help me out here.  What do you think?  First, what are the differences between mistakes and failure in relation to what children do?  Second, how do avoid viewing our children's mistakes as failures?

Friday, November 19, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. -- via SouleMama

Now that's a leaf pile!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Living in the City

I have lots of views and reasons for wanting to live in a city, and more particular views about living in my city, Flint.  For this post, I'm motivated by Carla Saulter's essay on Grist about moving to the suburbs. In her short essay, she has lots of great reasons to consider living in a city.  I encourage you to read it.  She has one paragraph that I want to focus on here:
As more people are living in close proximity to each other, more resources can be shared. Neighborhood parks replace large backyards; coffee shops and community centers replace home offices and playrooms; public libraries replace extensive personal libraries; and nearby theaters replace media rooms. Other resources, like power and sewer lines, can also be delivered more efficiently to densely populated communities.
I often wish I had a larger house with a larger yard.  I grew up in a relatively banal, social-climbing suburb outside Los Angeles and I am comfortable with ranch houses, large yards, and privacy fences.  But I am reluctant to move because I love where we live.  I'm not ready to give that up, and here is where Saulter's paragraph strikes me.  I often say that because we love our neighbors and neighborhood so much our "yard" extends far beyond what the Flint and Michigan say it is.  Our neighborhood is like a public space.  This past summer, I think I spent more time pushing my kids on my neighbors' swings than in our own backyard.  We play tag in our front yard and into our neighbors', and because we are friends and they are generous, my front yard is now twice as big (and I only have to mow half).  We share from our garden with our neighbors and they share with us.  And now that winter is coming, I can look forward to taking a snow-blowing break to chat with a neighbor who is doing the same.  I could go on with examples, but you see where I'm going.

I've lived quite a few places as I've moved my way east, and one thing I've learned is that finding neighbors you like is unusual and a blessing.  I don't mean that I'm cordial with my neighbors.  I mean I'm friends with them. I like them. We have beers together.  We hang out in a backyard while kids swim in the pool.  Heck, one family even encourages us to use the pool when they're gone.  How many of you have neighbors that don't mind you on their swings when they get home from work or want you to use their pool when they're gone (or home for that matter).  And did I mention I like them; they're my friends. 

And because of this, I think I have the biggest backyard in Flint, and they do too.  Why would we leave this?  Why would I want my kids to grow up anywhere else?  When people ask my why I live in Flint, I sometimes wonder why they don't. 

Tell me your favorite neighborhood story.  What do you love about where you live?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Encouraging Children #6

Alyson Schafer's sixth piece of advice for encouraging children is one of my favorites: Show your trust.  And as she notes in the short entry that follows that advice, "Of course, that means you have to trust your children.  Do you?  Trust must come first."

Okay, I have to admit that it's hard for me to imagine trusting my children and not showing it.  How does that work?  But I digress.

If we want our children to grow up and be independent, confident, and secure in themselves, we must trust our children, and, according to Schafer, show it.   And I think as a society we don't trust our kids.  That's one piece of why I believe we have Velcro parents; parents want to manage the lives of their children into college and beyond.  I think the doting parents do over their children shows an inherent distrust that their children can't make the best decisions for themselves.  Who knows, maybe they can't.  I was at a meeting recently in which a biologist noted that 18 year-old students' frontal lobes aren't fully developed (here).  But how do our children learn to make decisions for themselves once their frontal lobed develop if they never have the chance, or the chance without the parental safety-net/iron maiden?  So how do we trust our children and how do we show it?

I don't claim to be a parenting expect.  In fact, I think I'd put myself pretty far down the scale of parenting know-how.  I don't whoop on my kids.  I figure that's a good start.  Trust, though, comes relatively easy for me with my children in many instances.  Maybe it's laziness or passivity, but I let my kids make lots of decisions for themselves. 

One way that I often share with others is clothing for the outdoors.  My partner and I really try to let our twins decide what they want to wear outside, though we do make suggestions and talk about the consequences of choices.  They decide if they want long sleeves or short, pants or shorts, or jackets, depending on the season.  We occasionally encourage them to go outside and feel the weather before deciding. They do and often change their minds.  Other times, they make a decision I don't agree with or think is down-right ridiculous.  Still, I will let them decide.  And you know what?  They're pretty good at regulating their own body temperature.  If they get cold, they go in the house or get a jacket.  If it's summer and hot, they douse themselves with the hose, strip naked and run around the backyard.  They even like to wallow in the mud like a farrow of piglets to keep cool -- or they just like to play in the mud.  Almost never do they put themselves in danger when regulating their own temperature.  The only time I've seen that problem is when Twin M doesn't want to get out of our neighbor's swimming pool and his lips are blue.  And even then Twin M decides on his own to get out most of the time. 

My point with this ramble about choosing clothing or rolling in mud is that I'm showing them trust to make decisions about their own bodies.  And they nearly always validate that trust.  I could give other examples, such as how much they eat -- we don't make them clean their plates --, how high they can climb a tree, or how fast they should run with sharp sticks (As long as they aren't going to hurt their siblings -- I'm not that trusting yet.).  I show them trust in these things and inevitably they validate that trust. 

Ultimately it's too early to tell the results of this practice, but it's promising.  I'll let you know how it turns out in another 25 years, when their frontal lobes are fully developed.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. -- via SouleMama

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Poppy Seeds are the Devil

Don't eat this bagel!

I'm going to jump on the bandwagon here and write about Elizabeth Mort and Alex Rodriguez having their newborn kidnapped because Mort ate an everything bagel the day before giving birth.  You can read about it all over the intertubes, such as here, or a less opinionated piece here or here.  The basic details are these: She ate a bagel and gave birth in a hospital that has mandatory drug testing.  She had a false positive test because of the poppy seeds.  I think conspiracy theorists got this one right.  Again, lots been spread on the internet about this one, so I want to think about it for some reasons other than avoiding a draconian hospital and county.

I vaguely understand why a hospital might want to test patients for drugs, though I disagree with the methods, particularly for expectant mothers.  What really goads me is that institutions, in this case a hospital and law enforcement agency, really fail to understand the larger picture of their actions.  As a father who wholeheartedly supports breast feeding and attachment parenting, and one who has come to learn a little about these through living in a house with a devoted breast-feeder and attachment parent, I know the importance of those first few moments and days after birth.  They can't be replaced.

What is it about the law that denies those entrusted to enforce the law with an understanding greater than the narrow scope of what the law does and says?  So in this case, why would removing the child from the mother be a better choice than simply detaining the mother with the child?  Do they think the everything bagel is some kind of drug-addled ruse?  As I write this rant, I realize she may have been drugged by the medical-industrial complex, but that's a rant for a different day and a Rikki Lake movie (which I can't recommend enough). 

I admit to having joked about people needing drivers licenses to drive but not parenting licenses to have kids.  But they've only been jokes (with a kernel of truth the size of Milwaukee ).  But I can't imagine going this far.  I can't imagine thinking that a newborn would be better off in the first moments, the first hours of life without her mother.  It makes the term Child Protective Services an oxymoron, with emphasis on the moron. 

Are drugs in Jameson county so prevalent that it's worth disrupting one of the most personal and loving acts humans undertake? Excuse me.  I know you are about to give birth, but can you pee in this cup so we can make sure that you're clean?  I just keep asking myself: what does it say about our culture that we feel the need to intrude in this particular way; in this particular, significant moment in a family's life; and with these kinds of drastic responses to a drug test result that according to the ACLU is well below the minimum requirement for people in a work place? 

Is this really the police state we want to be?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Traveling for Work and Kids

Did you ever get the feeling that you wanted to go,
But still had the feeling that you wanted to stay.
-- Jimmy Durante

I've been a bit quiet on the blog lately because I've been consumed with work and family of late.  I was out of town at a conference in Baltimore and have been trying to catch up with my family and my work since I've returned.  Since I left I've been trying to get my head around the emotional and psychological piece of leaving the family for a few days, and I'm not quite sure how to do it.  So let me ramble and see if I end up anywhere. 

I travel a few times a year for professional conferences.  They range from one night to three and take me anywhere in the country.  I admit I look forward to the trips; I've always enjoyed my profession's conferences.  I get to meet up with friends I only see a couple of times a year, I talk with colleagues who I enjoy, and I get to learn a lot of great ideas.  Now that I have kids, I am conflicted.  I love the conferences for the aforementioned reasons, but I hate to leave my family.  I really miss them.  So here is one of the odd psychological things I can't explain. 

How come I begin to miss my kids the minute they drop me off at the airport, but I don't miss them when I leave in the morning for work? Is it that I anticipate being away and not seeing them for a few days?  Is it their cute little faces saying goodbye and asking me to come home soon? Am I making a mountain out of a the proverbial molehill?

I wonder how others who travel a lot leave their kids.  I don't even want to contemplate how military families split up for a year or more.  That is a whole other topic I can't dream of.  Job-Mom wrote a bit about how to help kids adjust when one parent is gone, and she has one for the parent who stays at home.  She doesn't really address how the traveling parent can cope.  Should I feel guilty about leaving?  Should I leave the conference early to come home (as I learned I and many of my colleagues did at the conference in Baltimore)? 

Now that I'm home, I've been conflicted on catching up with my work and catching up with my kids.  It's a tough balance, and I am dissatisfied with how well I'm doing both.   I know that work and home life have ebbs and flows, but I have just been trying to get my head around that experience of wanting to actively participate in my profession and to be a home-body curled on the floor with kids draped over me. 

I guess this rambling comes down to two things.  From the intellectual side, I'm curious about the nature of missing loved ones and how one manages competing interests. From the personal standpoint, I want an easier way to manage my emotional unease of leaving and wanting to leave.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sneezy Wheezy

I want to introduce you do the twins latest super hero: Sneezy Wheezy.  This one deserves a bit of an introduction.  In one of the recent windstorms, a giant silver maple tree fell from our neighbor's house across the street.  It feel into our intersection, took out a massive limb from one of our trees, and became the playground de jour until the City took it away two days later.  The picture above doesn't really do the tree justice.  It was massive -- and apparently rotten inside.  Our next door neighbors, who are wonderful with our boys, were joking that the twins must have knocked the tree over with their sneezes.  Well that created a sneeze-storm of sorts every time the twins see those neighbors.  One of neighbors suggested the twins make up a super hero named Sneezy, or something similar, and Sneezy Wheezy was born.  So, with no further ramblings, let me introduce Sneezy Wheezy.

Sneezy Wheezy 
  • sneezes bad guys into jail
  • is really stretchy [Ed. note: imagine Mr. Fantastic or Elastigirl]
  • is very strong
  • used to live on a planet called Sneezy Wheezy -- that's how he got his name
  • when he was a baby he sneezed a lot and then Sneezy Wheezy, the planet, blew up
  • and he wasn't in his rocket in time and that is why he is so stretchy
[Ed. note: the last two bullets seem to have roots in Superman, and I think the rocket was similar to the one Superman took to earth, but obviously Superman got into his rocket in time, thus he isn't stretchy like Mr. Fantastic or Elastigirl.  I can finally get some sleep understanding why Superman isn't stretchy now.  Whew.]

Friday, October 29, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. -- via SouleMama

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Encouraging Children #5

#5 Build on Strengths, not Weaknesses

This piece of advice on encouragement by Alyson Schafer seems simple enough.  Sure, I can encourage my boys by highlighting their strengths.  As any parent can attest, children do amazing things and as our progeny, we marvel at their successes and learning.  I am still beaming over my twins question about how Wonder Woman can find her invisible plane. My youngest has better language skills than I did at 14, but that may be more a statement about me than him.  So highlighting strengths doesn't seem too much trouble.  I would argue it isn't, anyway.

But there are nuances to building on strengths that could use some reinforcing.  First, I like to brag about my kids and their successes, but it isn't always to them.  It it often to others at work, family gatherings, or the guy at the freeway off-ramp. I think this kind of bragging is good at some level.  It reinforces for the parent the worth of the child.  But the child needs that reinforcement more.  And so it is more important that the parent reinforce the strengths with the child. This can lead us back to #3 among Schafer's other suggestions. 

There is a hook here, too -- and that is to not build on weaknesses, a far more insidious action.  It's easy to label our children (See #4), particularly to discourage them. Parents may lovingly call their children "monster" or "terror" or, as in our house lately "Godzilla," and those labels can stick.  Though the terms can be used lovingly, they also have a negative underbelly.  They imply a kind of destruction, a lack of control or maturity that shouldn't be applied at their age.    Simply labeling one child as the "reader" and the other as the "athlete," seemingly innocuous or even positive labels can reinforce the negative, i.e one isn't a reader and the other isn't an athlete. 

Phrases such as, "Why do you always ________," also stress the negative.  Stopping children from climbing the monkey bars at the park points to a parent's fear that the child may be not coordinated or can't make decisions about safe and unsafe or when to ask for help. 

Parents often worry about the success of their children, wanting them to have the best, most successful lives they can, by whatever metric one might use.  And invariably, that results in concern about a child's weaknesses and occasionally the dark side of parental competition: "My child didn't know her ABC's until she was 3, she'll never get into Yale."  Non-language cues can focus on weakness as well, such as the exasperated sigh or the obsessive focus on potty training.  Children are exceptionally good at interpreting parents' actions, and parents, quite frankly, aren't that good at masking them. 

Oh, by the way, no one really cares that Einstein wasn't an ideal partner or parent.  People care about his strengths as a scientist.  (Okay maybe he is a bad example for a blog about parenting, but I hope you get the point.)

So focus on the strengths.  Really.  Focus on them.  Meditate on them.  See you child or the children around you for who they are and you will see tremendous strengths and potential.  You will all be happier in the end.

Now that you've thought about your children's strengths, post them in the comments below.  Let's see how great our kids really are. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

5 Years

The twins turn 5 today.  It was an amazing day.  When I wasn't helping opening gifts from family or playing with the boys, I grabbed moments to think about the day they were brought into the world.  It was both terrifying and awesome.  They were so small I could carry each one in a forearm.  Now?  Not so much.  Now they make up super heroes, camp in the living room, ask complex philosophical problems and do geometry intuitively.  They can color inside the lines, and they can choose not to.  They solve problems using experience and knowledge of this world and fantasy.  There still is no barrier for them to move between the worlds, and the glimpses they've given me of their superpowers has been inspiring. 

Though my life is very different now than it was before children, I am a much better and stronger person than I was.  I know that is a cliche, but I've really grown in all of the cliched ways people talk about parenting.  Some debate whether humans should bring more humans into the world, and the arguments I see focus on two areas, quantity and quality.  For quantity, the argument is that the earth cannot sustain more people, and all of the issues that grow out of that, lack of resources, destroying the planet, space.  These may be true.  The quality arguments often surround many of the same issues, as well as the argument about bringing kids into a world that is going to hell in a hand-basket,  2012 by some accounts.  Few arguments I hear are about how children improve the lives of those already living especially family.  I'm not sure I would be as conscious or conscientious if it weren't for my having kids.  I am more observant of flowers and the change in leaves. I am more patient with children, the elderly, and those I used to have no patience for.  I am more willing to forgive those who wrong me, and I am more willing to ask forgiveness of those I've wronged, even when those I've wronged are only 5 and don't know I have wronged them.  They are the best gift a father could ask for, and it isn't even my birthday.  So today, I want to thank my twins for helping me become a better human.

Happy birthday boys.  I hope today was all you had hoped for, and that your future is as bright as your eyes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. -- via SouleMama

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mookie Minus

Here is the next super hero from my boys' creative minds.  Welcome Mookie Minus.

  • Mookie gets mad and turns pink.
  • His legs turn invisible, including his feet (emphasis added when they were concerned I didn't know legs included feet).
  • Mookie Minus makes minus numbers (e.g. 2-1) that are big and icky and sticky.
  • The bad guys stick to the big and icky and sticky numbers.
  • The numbers are made of bubble gum (I'm unclear if it is chewed or not, and since they haven't had chewing gum that I know of, I didn't want to broach that.
  • Mookie Minus is average size.

Who's your super hero?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Encouraging Children #4

#4 Separate the Deed from the Doer

For those of you coming late to this blog, I've been slowly (very slowly) moving through the 19 ways Alyson Schafer claims we can be more encouraging to our children in her book Honey, I Wrecked the Kids.  I want to explore what she advocates and think about the way it may or may not apply to me and our house.  #4 is much easier for me than some of the others.  Schafer essentially wants parents to describe the child's behavior using adverbs rather than adjectives, naming the action, not the child.  For example, don't say the child is mean, say she is acting meanly.  This divorces the action from the child's identity.  The child isn't mean, just acting that way at that moment. 

I've always known that parents shouldn't attach labels to their small children because they can stick.  I've never liked when parents say one child is the smart one and the other is the athletic one.  Worse than smart or athletic are other labels parents like to attach: wild, stubborn, "slow."  Children hear these labels and adopt them, or start to believe them.  You can read the wildly popular post by Single Dad Laughing on bullying and his take on the affect labels can have on people, especially children.

Now parents aren't bullies in the way described in Single Dad Laughing's post (though sadly some are), but repeating a label can be adopted by a child, especially when used by someone who has such influence on a child.  I'm not claiming to be totally innocent here.  I have had moments when I've called my children feral.  Sometimes I do think they act like they've been raised by a pack of wolves.  But I am fairly careful not to ascribe attributes to my boys.

It's awkward when others try to label the boys, especially when they aren't around our family enough to see the full range of the boys personalities.  Someone might say one twin is more outgoing or more serious, but the boys defy classification like that, as I suspect most children do.  It just depends on the day, the context, what they had for breakfast, what shirt they are wearing, if they're teething, sick, and if they believe they are a super hero or a fairy.  Labeling just isn't that easy.  But it would be easy to call names and label them.  We could ascribe roles that they may fulfill, but I'd rather they find themselves rather than grow into a label we have lazily applied.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Monsters Torment 7-year Old Girl with Huntington's Disease

Who torments who 7-year old girl with Huntington's disease, a disease that leads to coordination problems, mood swings, dementia and ultimately death?

I pilfered the Friday edition of the Detroit News while sitting in the Big Boy in Gaylord on my way to a conference in the UP.  The front page had the story of Trenton girl, Elizabeth, who was tormented by her neighbors because of her disease.  According to the story, it began as some bush-league-Hatfield-and-McCoy feud, with the Petkovs jealous that the Edwards family was getting too much attention because of their severly ill daughter.  Really?  I won't recap the entire story.  Essentially they teased her, including posting a picture of Elizabeth on Facebook above crossbones.  You can read the sad ordeal for yourself if you can stomach it.  I nearly wept right there into my lunch.

I know I'm coming to this story late, apparently it went viral on Facebook, but I felt I need to say something here on The Family Bed.  I just can't comprehend how cruel some people can be and how they fail to realize how fragile a 7-year old child can be.  It ranks right up there with taping your toddler to the wall because you think it's funny. Or teasing someone so much that they commit suicide.  Please forgive my rant, but I'm just outraged.  No one should be teased or bullied like those covered in the news recently.

There is a silver lining to Elizabeth's story.  First, good people were so moved by Elizabeth's story that they donated $20k by the toy store and $5k by the Huntington Disease Society Michigan Chapter.  Yes, that's $25,000 in a bad economy. I'm always impressed by people's generosity.  But it gets better.  Elizabeth only spent $2k of the money on her shopping spree, so the family donated the rest to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor.  It's beautiful to see the generosity of people and one girl's ability to rise above the cesspool of life we sometimes find ourselves in.  It gives me hope.

If you'll excuse me, I need to go make a donation.

Friday, October 15, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. -- via SouleMama

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

4-Year Old Super Heroes

Recently my twins have taken an interest in super heroes.  Since I was never an avid comic book fan, I didn't have the answers to all the questions a pair of 4-year olds could ask about Spiderman, Superman, Batman and any other super hero they could find out about.  First, I'd like to thank my friends who have graciously answered my boys questions via Facebook (I have a list of questions I'm supposed to ask.  I'll get to that later.).

Anyway, as 4-year olds are want to do, they found in their quest for super hero data inspiration for their own super heroes.  I'll present them over a series of posts.  I tried to get them to draw pictures of the heroes for posting, but they weren't interested.  I've tweaked and reordered their descriptions slightly for clarity.  So, with no further ado:

Super Candy
  • She shoots candy from her forarm/elbow area.
  • When bad people eat the candy, they tell the truth like Wonder Woman.
  • Super Candy got hit by radioactive candy.
  • Super Candy's house is 2 feet wide and has 100 rooms.
    • The house is made of sicky, icky suckers.
    • Only Super Candy and Spiderman can touch the house without getting stuck because they are radioactive.
  • Super Candy is very pink.
  • Super Candy is super fast and flies without a cape.
  • Super Candy has a lot of pets that help her; there are too many to count.
  • All her pets live in a cave deep underground like Batman
  • Super Candy takes a bit twirly, whirly slide to the cave.  Twin J: "It's [the slide] as fast as me."
  • "One More Thing": Sometime Super Candy Flies up and shoots candy at people; they eat it and tell the truth.

Next up: Mookie Minus

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Back Off!

My 103 year old grandma said to tell you to back off and give me a break or she'll come and beat you with a stick. 

Really.  She said that.  I'm a bit shocked, but she really does rock. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Daddy Blogs

 Okay, now that I've posted about the dearth of father blogs, I'm finding them all over the place.  Single Dad Laughing is blowing up on the internet.  Backpacking Dad seems to have picked up the pace (though of late with lots of guest blogs).  Then an friend tipped me off to a blog, Rice Daddies, that had the following video.  I'm not a big fan of the "news" show in which talking heads sit around and make stupid small talk, especially when it's the mainstream media.  But since I whined publicly about it, I thought I should point out that there are lots of father blogs/websites out there.  I'm going to withhold a bit of judgment at this point on my recent discoveries since I opened my mouth prematurely a few days ago.  Here's the video if you care.  I'm not sure it's worth watching (how's that for an endorsement), but it is about fathers online.

As noted on Rice Daddies, there are a couple of interesting statistics that show up at the end.

p.s. Thanks kh. 

EDIT: Okay, as a means of procrastination I've looked at three of the websites of those interviewed in the CNN clip above.  I stand my my original claim.  On one of them, I clicked on a link of the "most commented" post.  19 comments.  Really?  On Soulemama there were 19 posts to her This Moment post in fewer than 12 minutes.  I'm not kidding.  As of this writing, there are 208 comments. The post below that, 236.  Single Dad Laughing does get a high number of comments, so people are reading and commenting there, at least.  It makes me question CNN's selection of bloggers. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.  -- via SouleMama


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Awesome and Inspiring

Read this story of father and son who sent a HD video camera 19,000 feet up to film outer space.  It's an awesome story and an amazing video.  It's also inspiring to me as a father who like to tinker and to teach.  I could blather on about the importance of parents working on projects with their kids (and not just school projects involving Popsicle sticks), but it's hard to compete with images from space.  I think I've got some work to do. 

Does anyone know where I can get a weather balloon?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New Style

I've been tweaking the style a bit for this blog yesterday and today.  There are a number of reasons beyond aesthetics, but let me know what you think. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Blogging Father in a Mother's World

As I spend more time reading, studying, practicing, and blogging about trying to be a good parent, I'm constantly reminded that there aren't many men out there like me.  Sure there are lots of men working to be good parents, some writing about it in different venues.  Alfie Cohen is a good example as are a couple of the blogs I've listed in my blogroll.  But I find there are far, far few fathers writing blogs and sharing their experiences online than mothers. 

Some of the fathering blogs I check in on, though very heartwarming, insightful, and informative are infrequently updated. There are a couple of fathering websites I've found, but they seem a bit vacant to me.  For example, I visited and there seems to be some helpful information.  I visited the forums page, where fathers can gather and chat about just about anything.  It's practically dormant. is another example; the forum doesn't look like anyone's contributed in nearly two weeks. 

For a comparison, if you go to many sights by and for mothers, a forum post two weeks old is so buried in the forums it's hard to find.  On the Mothering website forum, numbers of posts are often measured in thousands; on the fathers', they would be lucky to be in the hundreds.  For this post, I decided to search the Mothering forum for "Fathering" and see what came up.  An early hit was for a woman looking for resources for her envious husband, last posted to in July.  There were a total of six posts in the thread, none listing specific resources.  They claimed an internet search found some interesting sites, but listed none.  Mothering Magazine recently listed a number of fathering websites, such as The Father Life Magazine, which is updated regularly, but the community is vastly smaller than that for mothers. 

Okay, I think I've belabored this point for a while.  Why the whine?  It's just an interesting observation, and I can only speculate why this is the case.  So here I go. 

Mothers are still the primary care givers in the home.  Yes, there are many exceptions to this, I know, but I still think moms rule the roost. Mothers are more interested in sharing their parenting experiences, and many, such as SouleMama, have used their skills to turn their websites into profitable businesses.  I know it isn't that men aren't interested in sharing experiences or turning their experiences into profitable businesses; I see it all the time on other forums, but less so for parenting. 

What does all this mean?  I'm not advocating for a secularized, digital version of  Promise Keepers rally.  I don't think dads should all come together and sing Kumbaya  It means I spend more time reading mother's blogs about family matters than father's.  That's mostly okay with me, though sometimes I feel like a stranger in a strange land.  And maybe my stranger metaphor is the reason so few men write about their experiences.  Maybe they are strangers in a strange land of parenting. I'll leave you with that, saving a discussion of fathers in the land of parenting for future posts.  But in the meantime, what are your thoughts?  Let's play armchair-sociologists.  Why do you think the disparity in online presence?

I hear little ones starting to stir upstairs and I'm on pancake duty this morning. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.  -- via SouleMama

Monday, September 27, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Biking Is Not a Crime

On my ride to work today a woman honked at me (which is dangerous and illegal) so she could get my attention and yell out her passenger window that there was a sidewalk.  I was well aware of the sidewalk, but I think she was trying to tell me that I was supposed to ride my bike on it.  I yelled back at her that I had a right to the rode, but I doubt she heard me.

I have two goals for this post.
1) I want to inform people about bicycling laws in Michigan.  Read this.  There that's done.

2) In my search for Michigan bicycling laws, and my desire to procrastinate, I stumbled across an interesting fact.  According to the League of American Bicyclists, Michigan is the 16th most bike friendly state (here).  I have to admit to being a bit surprised, pleasantly.  Though the grades aren't great, we beat out 34 other states.  Michigan is in the top third of something, and it isn't related to crime urban decay, or unemployment.  Given our history as the vehicle state and the abuse our state gets in the media, that was nice to see.  I wasn't surprised to see that Flint was not on the list of bike friendly communities (pdf).  Sure Flint doesn't have many bike lanes, many bike racks, businesses catering to bicyclists, but since I've been regularly commuting via bike, today's incident is only the second time someone has been inconsiderate.  Actually, I've been amazingly impressed with how courteous drivers typically are when I ride.  I'm not sure if they think they'll catch bike cooties or if drivers are intentionally courteous, but drivers typically move as far from me as possible and regularly wait to pass me until it is safe.  And I'm appreciative of that.  I particularly appreciate it because I have children, so if I get hurt, it hurts more than me. I definitely bike for me, but I also think of the message it sends my children and the health benefits as I age and try to keep up with perpetual motion machines.

Flint has a great and growing trail along the Flint River, it has a Critical Mass ride on the last Friday of every month, and it has a road race.  Heck, they even added bike lanes to Saginaw Street.  Maybe we're on our way to being added to the list of bike friendly communities.  

Maybe biking and courteous drivers is something the mainstream media can pick up on about Flint for a change.  Hey, Bobby Crim, add a bike race to your festival of races.  Hey, Flint Journal, why don't you write a story about bike commuters in Flint?  Make it a feature in the Sunday magazine.  You can reach me here.  I'll be waiting.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Aligning Stars?

Kids Art: But it's not an octopus!

Thanks to my wife for pointing this out to me. 

(There is a little creepy factor because the post date is Wednesday, September 22, but it's still the 21st here.  I assume it was published across the dateline from us.) 

#3 Commend Effort

In my latest examination of Alyson Schafer's suggestions for encouraging our children, I need to examine one that is a little problematic for me.  For me.  Not the parenting advice.  At a teacher, commending effort is fine, and I believe teachers should commend effort.  But the dark side of that is those that believe effort equates with success.  Effort does not equate with entitlement, and entitlement is a problem teachers encounter on a regular basis.  It seems to be becoming pervasive in the classroom.  Now I sound like an old crotchety teacher (now I am an old crotchety teacher?) On the flip side, commending effort is backhanded way some teachers can say something isn't very good.  Teachers can simply commend the student on their effort rather than the work they did.  Gee, Jenny, I see you worked very hard on that biology lab: 53%. 

I would prefer to not head too far down that path, and I'd like to instead focus on the parenting and commending effort.  But I did want to express my apprehension of commending effort before I explored it from a parenting perspective.

I appreciate what Schafer is trying to impart to parents.  It is important for children to see that their effort will reap rewards.  I often try to commend my twins for their patience, especially when it relates activities involving their little brother.  Sometimes I need to focus on our littlest one and the twins simply have to wait.  Waiting can be a challenge for 4 1/2 year old.  Sometimes the twins are less successful at being patient that others, but I appreciate their efforts and commend them accordingly.

In "The Secret to Raising Smart Kids" Carol Dweck states, "our studies show that teaching people to have a "growth mind-set," which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life." I like how later in the article Dweck describes two kinds of praise, praising stable traits (e.g. You are a good soccer player.) and praising process.  Her research found that praising traits can lead to a child being fragile or defensive.  Praising process, on the other hand, can help a child overcome challenges.

I'm less successful at commending effort when it comes to activities such as art.  I try to comment on focus or attention, but I find it hard to not make positive qualitative comments about their work.  Dweck has one example of commending effort that appear to my lay eyes to be a positivist comment ("You did a good job drawing. I like the detail you added to the people's faces."). Other examples are far more effort-oriented (I like the way you tried a lot of different strategies on that math problem until you finally got it.").  Twin M is very critical of his own work and he can be very focused on it.  As a parent who wants his children to be happy, I want to tell him that his art looks great.  And to me, it does.  It wasn't that long ago that he ate crayons rather than colored with them.  But he may be dissatisfied, occasionally resulting in a tantrum.  His opinion is valuable and I shouldn't be quick to dismiss it as a mean to ease his frustration.  He should be the judge of his own art.

That doesn't mean I can't say I don't like it; it just means I need to refrain from positivist statements of quality that undermine his judgment.  Instead, I should focus on his attention, his focus and work ethic.  But in the moment, that can be hard, and I need to accept that he will be disappointment and I can't fix everything.  I need to be skillful at commending his effort so when he is disappointed, he will persevere until he accomplishes his goal to his satisfaction. And I know it won't be too long before he is teaching me something about technology, and I hope he commends my effort as well as my success. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Defying the Laws of Physics

Arnac Le Brela

Today I learned what a pooptagon is. Do you know? Apparently, according to my twins, a pooptagon is a poop in the shape of a letter, commonly the letter J I've been told. If the poop has been stepped on, it is no longer a pooptagon.

The burning question. How does a pooptagon defy Newtonian physics? According to my twins a pooptagon has no sides. I find that fascinating.

Editorial note: Okay, I can't help but editorialize. This is actually a great learning demonstration for my twins. They obviously have been learning about shapes, which is geometry, something I learned as a sophomore in high school, and they made it into a game demonstrating first that they understand what a shape is and that it has sides. And then they thought it would be funny to have a shape with no sides, defying the rules they learned for other shapes. I know part of this grows out of a conversation they had with their grandfather about circles having only one side. They had guessed it had no sides (smartly I might add (assume?) because they deduced it had no sides because it had no corners -- a logical extension of an assumption about sides and corners). Kids are smart and encouraging them only makes them smarter, more playful, and generally fun to be around.  And I'll never be able to look in a toilet the same way again. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

2. Work for Improvement, Not Perfection

Part two of Encouraging our Children is work for improvement, not perfection.  In this entry, Schafer argues that parents need to reconceptualize how they encourage childrens' achievements.  I must admit that this one seems a bit touchy-feely to me.  I am a perpetually frustrated perfectionist and I generally have high expectations for others, including my children. 

But I don't think Schafer is really saying parents should lower their expectations, or at least I hope not.  No.  I think she is saying parents should take a different approach to how we encourage our children to achieve the best they can.  And she has some simple advice for doing it.  Essentially her advice is to encourage what the child has done, rather than what he hasn't done and to encourage the child to do more within reason.  It reminds me of Vygotsky's zone of proximal development in which the parent or teacher pushes the child or student just beyond their understanding, but not so far as to stifle any learning.  Of course, it's more complex than that, but it makes sense to me as a parent and a teacher. 

On a more practical level, I like to use the example of climbing a mountain.  If one looks to the top of the mountain from the bottom, it looks daunting -- enough so that a novice hiker might quit.  But, if the hiker simply keeps her eye on the trail a few feet in front of her (e.g. a reasonable distance to climb), she will find herself on the summit before she knows it.  This has certainly been the case for me when I've biked up steep hills.

So with my boys I am going to try to remember to encourage what they have done and not to correct or fix what they have haven't done or done well, especially when it involves something with the rest of the family, such as cooking.  I am going to try to offer jobs to my boys that push their skills, even though it may mean the food isn't perfect or they make a bigger mess, so they can learn by experimentation with cooking as well as developing their fine motor skills. 

This morning, before I had even reviewed Schafer's book (writes a proud father), I was working with Twin M. on making and freezing sausage patties.  It became a great lesson in freezing and cooking.  First, we discussed why we flatten the patties, why we want them thin (they cook faster), and why it is important to be careful with them so they freeze flat.  Then Twin M. got to practice flattening patties and placing them gently in a freezer bag.  (Full disclosure: I did "perfect" some of his patties by flattening them a bit more -- shame on me.)  He was happy to help prep for one of his favorite foods and I was happy to have the focused help.  Hopefully there will be lots more moments like that one. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

21 Month Old Interpretation of the Interrupting Cow Knock Knock Joke

Knock knock. . . . cow . . . . . moo. . . . .(much laughter) . . . . funny

I Want This!

This is what I need to go to the Flint Farmer's Market with the boys!

Find out more about the Cornucopia Bag here

I wonder if I could put E. in the top and my food in the bottom?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

1. Avoid Discouragement Revisited

Just a day or so after I posted about my work on avoiding discouragement we were going to go on a family walk after dinner.  The twins wanted to pull their sleds (yes, snow sleds) to the local hill and ride down it.  Plastic sleds on sidewalks and asphalt are loud and dragging them along scraping the bottom wears them out fairly quickly.  So, I at first said no, we should leave the sleds home.  I said they wouldn't go down the grassy hill very well.  But I didn't resist fervently.  Then I backed off a bit more because I really didn't care that much, I thought it was more of an annoyance.  I told Twin M that he should ask his mother, who has more sensitive ears than I do.

She initially said no and offered to take the boys and the sleds to the hill in the morning after breakfast.  That was the beginning of a meltdown.  I thought a bit more about it and realized it really didn't matter much.  Sure, it would be a bit noisy, but that's about it.  As long as the twins were willing to take the sleds the whole way, there and back, why not?  So, my significant other with sensitive ears and I agreed.  The twins were happy and off we went.

Despite the small annoyance of sleds occasionally hitting our legs, the walk was fine.  We got some curious looks from neighbors, but given the other oddities of our family, I suspect they weren't surprised.  When we got to the hill, the twins sat on their sleds and asked for a push.  I did what I could and was surprised at how well the sleds slid down the grass.  It wasn't great.  They stopped about 3/4 of the way down the hill, but the twins loved it.  They loved it.  Fun and hilarity ensued.  They tried lying on their sleds as well as standing on them.  They even let little E. ride with them.

The outing was an amazing success.

And all of this goes back to my original discouragement and the changing of my mind.  I discouraged them because I didn't want to be inconvenienced with the noise and potential pulling of the sleds.  I didn't want to have to argue about pulling them down the sidewalk in the sled or who-knows-what.  As a member of the family and a participant in the walk, my opinion does matter.  If it was going to be too big of an inconvenience, then no still would have been an acceptable answer.  But it wasn't going to be too big of an inconvenience and all three boys had a great time.  Avoiding discouragement is a learning process and I think we (I) do it all the time every day. I hope to do less of it so my boys will be able to explore and learn for themselves and so they can have more times like last night.

p.s. Even at the hill I had a small moment of discouragement.  Twin J was standing on his sled trying to get it to start down the hill.  He was on the flat part of the hill, so his sled was sliding nowhere.  I told him he should move to the hill so he could slide down, which he did.  Twin J is pretty bright, and I'm sure if I had said nothing, he would have learned that for himself and he would have moved his sled.  Sure, this wasn't much discouragement, but I need to give my boys time to figure things out for themselves.

p.p.s. Why didn't I bring the camera?