Back in the Saddle

Dogpile!

Writing is hard work.  It’s even harder when you’ve spent most of your mental, emotional, and physical stamina grinding it out as a worker bee, father, husband, and doctoral student.  I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve already written plenty recently.  All of this isn’t to say, “Come join me at my private personal pity party,” but instead to simply provide myself an out for slacking on dadblogging for the last…well, let’s be honest here…year.  Since it would be a monumental task to recap I will collect some fragmented thoughts, and then perhaps a few bullet points upon which to elaborate in future posts.

Deja Vu?

If I seem like I’m complaining about how much I have on my plate, I need only reflect on my duties as compared to the wifey and I am humbled.  The kids require a focus and dedication that is all-consuming.  I am even more humbled by people who have more than two kids.  I’m also mystified by the process of managing to procreate after spending your days .  Only a few generations ago family size was much higher.  Yay birth control!

Fragments

So here I am, it’s December already.  My “newborn” is nearly ten months old, eating solid foods by the fistful while refusing to be spoon-fed, and climbing up on everything.  My “toddler” is a full blown kid, making silly faces, telling jokes, living out mermaid princess librarian fantasies, and contesting bedtime on a near nightly basis with alacrity.  Woah.

Best, Chanukkah Present...EVER!

Charmer

I used to be one of those guys who would scoff at parents who would knowingly smile and proclaim: “Enjoy every moment; blink and they’ll be off to college, getting married, etc. etc. etc.”  barf.  Only now I find myself wondering where the time went.  Four years?  Two of which have been spent now in Long Beach.  I almost caught myself uttering the same cliche to some poor sleep deprived sap of a new dad the other day and did a double take.

Rainbow Brite?

Flamingo Fabulousness

We took a family vacation in late August, burning the last of our delta miles.  How a trip to Costa Rica cost fewer miles than to HI is beyond me, but it was a glorious time nonetheless.  Now that we have to pay full freight for Thing 1, however, vacation plans will be limited to day trip range.  I guess I’d better get a subscription to Sunset or AAA magazine or something for inspiration.

In for a fun red eye

Playa Flamingo Sunset

My Blog Banner is woefully outdated.  I am aware of this.  I will get to it eventually.  In the meantime, we’ll just ignore it.

Future Posts

Fat 2013

I’ve pretty much let myself go this year.  This is a repeat of 2010, when Thing 1 was born.  It was followed by Fit 2011.  Things will normalize in Fit 2014.

Physical Play

I’ve noticed a trend about the way I play with the kiddo as compared to wifey.  This is a good thing.

Second Child Syndrome

So have I evolved as a parent, or are second kids really easier?  Or both?

Sleep Debates

Do I go to bed early and get that much needed rest?  Or do I stay up “late” and partake in much needed “grown up time?”  Is there a middle ground?

Man Time

Dude time is sorely lacking.

Proactive Parenting

Are some projects worth the effort?

Influence

How much of a say do we have as parents in shaping who our children become?

Expectations Misplaced

What is ‘reasonable’ to expect of a child?  Or an adult, for that matter?

The Universe: As Interpreted by a Three Year Old

You should hear what my little big kid has to say about…well..everything!

Pictures

Because 6 months is a lot of cute to catch up on…

There's a resemblance I suppose...

Can't handle the cuteness

aaaand now I’m tired.  Night!

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Mach III Composites Carbon Fiber Laptop Case – A Review

Mach III Composites – Carbon Fiber Laptop Case

IMG_0677

Disclaimer: While I initially intended to purchase this case at a student rate, I was offered the opportunity to demo the product for free.

A few months back I was accepted as a doctoral student in a highly respected Ed.D. program nearby.  Of course this meant preparation.  What kind of student would I be now that I’m a working family man?  What kind of family man would I be now that I’m a student in addition to a worker bee?  Would I need to abandon my cyclist ideals to get a car?  How in tarnation was I going to find a way to fit it all in?

All of those questions answered (biking to work/class, 3rd party macbook air, still figuring out work/school/life balance)  I turned yet another challenge: what to transport my laptop in.  (I roll around town using a combination of ortlieb panniers which are great for outdoor adventure)  Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a research junkie.  I love reading reviews, analyzing product features and generally finding not only “the best” whatever, but also “the right” fill in the blank.  In this case it was time to research laptop cases.

My Selection Criteria (In Order of Importance)
1. Protection
2. Weight (lighter = better)
3. Professional
4. Durability/Design Quality

So you might be asking why protection was my highest priority.  I want my laptop to have a marginal chance of surviving encounters like this:

Danger, danger!

or this:

Ouch.

The truth is, you could just say oh who needs such extreme durability, lightweight protection?  Most people don’t.  If you have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance, back up to time machine or cloud regularly, and have an overabundance of time to go through the hassle of loading all your customizations, software, etc..not to mention deductibles, etc.  By all means, carry your laptop around in a cheap neoprene case logic or whatever.  I know the daily hazards my laptop is exposed to and I wanted the best (naturally).  Something that would be light, snug and safe to keep impact and road vibration damage to a minimum.  In that, I have succeeded.

Mach III Composites Case – First Impressions

Right out of the package it just looks awesome.  The first word that came to mind was, “hi-tech.”  The carbon fiber has been polished to a high gloss.  It feels light, almost comparable to the weight of cardboard.  I plopped it down on my kitchen scale.  For your weight weenie gram counters out there:  508 grams.  Only slightly heavier than my 448 gram case logic neoprene sleeve.  But the protection is oh so much better.  Put it like this.  Why go to the trouble and expense of buying an ultra-light laptop if you’re going to put it in a 3 lb. case?  Some of the cases I was considering weighed almost as much as the laptop itself!  Kind of defeats the purpose.

Having brought this case to meetings and class, while nobody has complimented me by saying things like, “Hey, where’d you get that sweet case!?”, nobody has ridiculed me for having something garish or juvenile either.  I like to think of it as unobtrusive.  I’m not trying to call attention to my laptop anyway.

Clean Lines, High Sheen

The inner lining is made of a velvet like checkered pattern stitched into the case and glued down.  It has held up well from daily use and abuse, and continues to look good.  I thought the substance might attract dirt and lint but thus far I haven’t had any issues with it.

Padded Lining

Zippers snap flush with the zippered lining.  They actually snap, as if they were on some kind of spring.  This is so nice.  So many other zippers flop around and don’t form a really tight seal.  The zipper runs smoothly along all edges without any snags or hiccups.  I do wish the zipper pulls were slightly larger for big clumsy thumbs and fingers.

Snap-flush zippers

Yep, that’s real carbon fiber.  Not the cheap gimmicky carbon-fiber overlays that most crap comes with these days.  Seriously, do a google search or check ebay for carbon fiber functional products and usually the word “look” or some variant thereof is sneakily placed next to CF.  Sometimes they even attempt to pass them off as true CF.  That’s just bad business.  I like the high gloss mirror finish.  It’s been banging around the house, class, work, and in my saddle bag for about a month now and the finish looks no worse for the wear.  A few minor swirls in a few places, but hey, I didn’t get this thing to keep it looking pretty anyway.

Yep, REAL carbon fiber.  Not an impostor.

Mach III Composites CF Case – In the Wild

I’ve made a point of keeping my MBA sealed up inside the case at all times when I’m not using it as a precaution against mishaps.  As a result, I’m in and out of the case upwards of 3 times a day.  The zippers and material have held up to regular use and abuse.  The case size is small enough to still fit in laptop pockets of bags such as my THULE backpack and OGIO laptop satchel.  It also fits perfectly in my pannier, and once packed with clothes, lunch and other stuff, tends not to shift around too much within the bag.  I definitely bump into things with the saddlebag and have plopped it on the ground or other surfaces a little too firmly at times.

Mach III Carbon Fiber Laptop Case – On my Trek District

In Transit

As you can see, it sits exposed as it protrudes slightly.  Perfect for bumping into doors or walls as I round corners.  Both of which I have done more frequently than I like to admit.

Laptop Conveyance

Mach III Carbon Fiber Laptop Case – Around the house

Fit and Finish

Note that it rests in the footprint of the case nearly perfectly.  Most other cases I tried, even those “specifically designed for MBA” had the macbook air shifting around within, mashing into the corners or susceptible to additional vibrations.  Not so here.

Cradled

Nitpicking:  Here are some future product modifications that I would love to see:

1. Grippy surface or nubs on one side, also as a way to distinguish top from bottom. On any kind of smooth or sloped surface, the case just slides around.  You could almost play air hockey with it on a table.  I’ve had to keep a close eye on it when I set it down on my classroom desk which has an 8 degree incline.

2. Zipper flexibility/elasticity.  It does get a little tight in the corners. If the material could just stretch a bit more, it might not be a wiggle game to squeeze it in.

Cornering

Tight Fit

Bonuses:

Customer Service, customer service, customer service.

Kevin and I went back and forth discussing my individual product needs and how his case might fit the bill.  As I discussed earlier in this post I had originally planned to pay the student rate (still pricey) for this fine protective shell, realizing it was an investment.  The original case was lined with a prototype material that I had requested.  Hand built to my specifications.  Dissatisfied with the material I sent it back for the traditional finish.  Kevin was responsive and helpful via email and open to my ideas.  He also was gracious enough to offer me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you all because he sees the value of this product in the urban cyclo-commuter market.

TSA Approved

I may not be a jetsetter but I do know how much of a PITA it can be to get through airport security.  As if partially disrobing isn’t degrading enough, add to it the need to undo all of your luggage snaps, clips and zips to send your laptop separately through the x-ray machine is just insult to injury.  Thankfully this case is allowed through the scanner, so it’s one less zipper you need worry about as you’re rushing to your destination.

USA Made to Order

This is not some mass produced china made asbestos-lined piece of forgery plastic designed to look like carbon fiber.  Kevin makes each of these to order and these can be even further customized with fancier lining like Alcantara (which is the suede they use for luxury automobiles like Bentley).  The point here is that the case is almost entirely sourced from USA parts and is certainly assembled in North Carolina.  That’s a rare thing these days and I for one still consider it a source of pride to support American-made consumer products.

Final Thoughts on the Mach III Case

Should you buy this laptop case?  That depends.  Only you can decide what your priorities and needs are.  In my experience over the past month, this laptop has exceeded my expectations in every environment from home, on the road, at work, or at school. At the end of the day, I was have only minor quibbles and I bet if I cared deeply enough I could take them up with Kevin and he would happily resolve them at little to no charge.  So in short, yes, I would buy this case if I had to do it all over again.  You can also give it a risk-free shot, because Kevin cares about customer satisfaction.  My guess is you won’t be going back to an ordinary mass produced case any time soon.  I sure won’t.

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Downtime Abbey

Just getting around to posting a May flashback.

This past weekend flew by.  I spent Saturday with the girls while wifey did some much needed post-pregnancy wardrobe purging and replenishing.  While I originally signed up for this thinking that she’d be gone for a half day at most, somehow it turned into a 9-6 outing.  Not assigning blame here, and I know that in its own way, the wife had a long day as well, since spending money she hasn’t explicitly earned is guilt-inducing, and because trying to find flattering clothes amid a sea of form-fitting skinny-this and slim-cut that in a post pregnancy body are not what I would call the pillars of self-esteem.

I expected the day to be exhausting.  I loosely understand what a full day of primary parenting is like, even when the girls are on their best behavior.  Not that I didn’t have sympathy or empathy for the wife before, but it definitely adds some perspective.  Our day didn’t include much in the way of activity.  Thing two napped intermittently, while thing one and I shared some floor time.  Of course, that’s a very loose summary.  We also took a walk down to the park, ate some lunch at the local corner grocery burger stand, and I even got thing one down for a nap of her own.  Yes, I am patting myself on the back.  You wouldn’t think that getting the kids to nap is such an accomplishment, but it’s no easy feat let me tell you.  I couldn’t tell you with absolute certainty,  but I was exhausted by the time J got home.  Somehow the day flew by.  My guess is because I was absorbed completely with meeting the needs of two dependent children all day.

On Sunday I spent from 9:30 AM to 7:30 PM dismantling, transporting, and reassembling a giant wooden play structure for the kids.  For those of you who know me well, you’ll know that I am marginally handy.  Or, as they say, the tools do not make the man.  While I generally relish dismantling things to try and get to the source of a problem, I seldom take the same pleasure from reassembling them.  This is usually because somewhere along the line I fail or reach a point where I lose all hope and want to crawl into a dark hole and hide from the world. Growing up I participated in Boy Scouts, played with LEGOS, and occasionally used a tool to help with some kind of project around the house.  But I am hardly a carpenter or handyman.  It’s enough to fix an occasional loose doorknob, fix a leaky faucet, or unclog a garbage disposal every now and then.  But assembling a giant (read: heavy) play structure was going to require some support.

Fortunately, I had some assistance with tear down and setup.  In spite of the extra helping hands the whole thing took most of the day.  In an effort to be conscientious about time with the kids, I know that the wife spent most of her day keeping the kiddoes entertained while I toiled outside, also hard work at times.  I made sure to thank her.  Needless to say, we didn’t get around to eating dinner until close to 9 once the kids were down, and at that point we were so burnt we just made eggs and toast.

climbing wall  Roof

tear down

There’s something deeply satisfying about seeing the fruits of your labor come to bear in such a tangible way.  Maybe I didn’t  build a house, but I built something.  I’ll admit that I felt pretty badass, all things considered.  After all was said and done, there were only two extra parts left, too!  Tonight my plan is to mount and secure the ladder, climbing wall (carriage bolt was stripped), and install the slide.  I wish it weren’t crooked, but that’s the fault of our sloped backyard and not my poor craftsmanship.

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished

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Snapshot of Early Childhood Development

Thing 2 is going to be four months old in just about a week.  Four months.  Holy cow.

Ahoy, Matey!

While I haven’t been as good as photodocumenting every little nuance of her life as I did with Thing 1, I’ve certainly caught a few glorious moments.  She is inching closer to rolling over, sitting up by herself, and has been smiling almost constantly for about the last three weeks.  I can’t help but wonder some days if this isn’t some kind of ruse to ensnare us in dropping our guard as parents, but it’s just so disarming to see your little one greet you with a smile at every turn.  Especially when Thing 1 invokes her alter-ego, Scowly McScowlerson, Miss Personality with unpredictable alacrity.

Speaking of which, this post is really dedicated to Thing 1.  Year-end parent teacher conferences were last Friday, and while I couldn’t make the meeting at 11:30am on a Friday after taking time off for vacation recently, I did review the comments.  This is not about bragging but more about how just a few sentences strung together (aka, a paragraph), can so beautifully capture how my daughter is adjusting to society.  It’s utterly heart-swelling to read this stuff, not only as a matter of pride, but also from an understanding that there is something truly magical about how we unfurl and blossom as human beings.  It’s so easy as parents to forget at times that this little creature is only three years old, and yet we ask/expect so much of her.

If you had asked me before I had children how a three year old might act, think, and feel, I would have been totally off the mark.  I continue to be amazed and humbled by these little creatures.  Here are the narrative sections of her eval:

Personal/Social Responsibility:  T1 continues to make tremendous strides socially, emotionally, and conceptually.  She is beginning to demonstrate an eagerness to participate in classroom procedures, choosing an activity, and working independently.

Physical Development:  T1 continues to refine her small motor skills, sense of order and taking care of the environment in the “Practical Life” area.  She enjoys the art area, pouring exercises, and food preparation.  These will continue to help her improve her fine motor development.

Sensory Education: T1 has mastered the memory of her primary and secondary colors.  She is working on replicating patterns and memorization of a rectangle.  She is working on counting consistently to 10 without skipping.

Language Arts:   T1 is beginning to contribute to classroom discussions and express herself effectively to get her needs met.  She is drawing picture and dictating the meaning behind her drawings.  She is showing interested in the auditory analysis of the first sound in 3 letter phonetic words.

Summary:  T1 has adapted well to school and enjoys the social interaction.  She enjoys puzzles, toast/jam, pattern matching, and drawing.

beating the heat

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Friday Fragments

I witnessed a couple of interesting things this morning on my ride in to work:

I saw a dad driving a car packed to the gills with children to what I have to imagine is school.  He seemed perfectly nonplussed by it all.  His secret?  Headphones.  Genius.

A dad walking his daughter to elementary school.  Holy crap, that will be me in just a couple of short years.  And you’d better believe I’m going to walk my kids to school, even if it means getting up a little earlier.  It’s rain-free 340 days of the year here and there’s no excuse for driving a quarter mile.

A car that passed me with inches to spare as I was claiming the lane on 3rd street.  This is the portion without a bike lane and no painted “sharrows” on the road.  99% of my vehicular interactions have been pleasant since living in this town, but every once in a while you get a jerk who has a bone to pick.  Even though there was no physical contact between me and the car, the experience was bone-chilling.  In a way when you’re on a bike you’re exposed to a lot of potential body trauma.  A helmet only covers a small fraction of that body, albeit a very important fraction.

To top it off, my mom ‘doored‘ some poor rider last night.  An accident of course, but then who ever really intentionally opens their car door to clothesline a cyclist.  They’re called accidents for a reason and the event is an indictment of our car-culture and failure as drivers to really give a proper nod to sharing the road.  All of this is also a reminder to be extra cautious while riding as my family depends on me and also to encourage friends and family to please shoulder check your driver’s side door whenever you are about to get out of your car.  Even if it’s a private suburban street.  You might save a life, or at minimum, plenty of head/heart ache.

Mother’s day is this weekend.  I’m terrible at planning special occasions, but I do have a few things up my sleeve this year.  Juggling a mom, stepmom, mother in law, wife, and two girls makes me really focus on priorities.  There’s a ford commercial that’s been airing a lot lately where they play on the options ‘and’ versus ‘or’ with regard to specialty features.  Aka you can have your cake ‘or’ you can eat it?  How does that make sense?  Mother’s day is turning into one of those instances where it winds up being ‘or’, due to personality conflicts.  It’s not about me, but who comes first?  I’d wager it’s my wife, but technically she’s not -my- mom, but the mother of my children.  So when the kids are older the onus is on them to do something special…right?  I don’t know what the Mother’s day pecking order is, but I’m going to operate under the assumption that wifey’s at the top of the list.  Happy wife, happy life.  Which reminds me, it’s my year to plan anniversary festivities.  I’d better get on top of that.

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Dog Days of Spring

Update time!  Wheeeeee!

Now that daylight extends into the evening hours, we’ve resumed our weekly trysts to the local farmer’s market. This is the first time we’ve gone with both kiddos, and if lugging two small children to an open marketplace brimming with small children and commotion isn’t enough, we also brought the dog along. As a general rule, farmer’s marketplaces disallow all dogs except registered service ones (for health reasons), so it should have been clear to us from the onset. Maybe I thought that the adjacent field would be a fine place to park everyone while we got dinner in shifts. I was mistaken.

Thing 1 happily scurried off to play with her friends, climb on rocks, run around, etc. Great. I can watch her from afar. Wife left to procure food. My mom and I stayed with Thing 2. Lately I’ve noticed something’s happened to the dog. I think he’s reached a tipping point where we can no longer take him out in public. I don’t think he’s a menace to society or anything but he’s certainly not his usual self ever since we had our second. I think his place on the bottom rung of the family totem pole has been cemented.

izzyscrapper(edited)

Dog training is a funny sort of business. It’s a misnomer, really. What it amounts to is actually dog owner training. If you don’t commit to making the changes in how you handle your pet, nothing will change, even if said pup is a star performer in class. Needless to say, ours has always been a good little fellow, even if some issues like jumping, barking at anyone who passes our house, and recall have remained challenges. I suppose those were always things we could live with. So long as they remain in the house.

When we first had the kidlet back in 2010 I noticed a gradual change in the dog. On the whole he seemed to mature, becoming much less puppy-like at home. He certainly mellowed out, and settled into family life. When we’d go out to the park with him and munchkin, though, he was incredibly aggressive toward anyone who came near. Our outings with the dog came to an end when he chased down some poor 5 year old boy who was playing with a ball nearby…driving him to tears. Talk about embarrassing. Then to top it off last year he bit some poor lady’s hand who was trying to throw a ball to her dog at the dog beach. Fortunately it wasn’t serious and the woman was pretty accommodating…but that was the end of doggy outings.

So I have to reiterate to myself, what possessed me to think bringing the dog to the FM was a good idea. It was already clear he was struggling when we got there; his whole body had tensed up and he was literally quivering with nervous energy. I hardly blame him. Kids running amok, shrieking with joy (and anguish), all manner of toys flying to and fro. In other words. Utter chaos. So I kept a pretty short leash on him. But it all got messed up.

As I went to give my mom the dog, something fired inside of him and he took off, yanking the leash from her grip, and trailing behind him in a whiplash fashion as he bolted toward some dog across the green. Caught in the crossfire was an innocent bystander who was all of 5 or 6 years old. The leash, having not fully retracted into its housing as the dog sprinted off, flailed and lashed around the girl’s ankles like a bolas, then quickly unwound and snapped into place. Horrifying. I instinctively left Thing 2 for a second to recapture the dog, then try to soothe the parents and girl. I assured them the dog would not be making any return trips and apologized for the accident. I don’t know if it was enough, but I don’t know what else I could have done. It was sucky to be powerless, and I was also filled with empathy for the parents, who I felt handled the situation very well.
I think it’s fair to say that I spoiled their night since they packed up their picnic and promptly left.

He's No Angel

He’s no Angel

The girl was a mess, wailing inconsolably. I don’t blame her. She had pretty bad rope burn on both ankles where the cord had wrapped and then pulled. No blood, but still enough damage to feel rightfully terrible. Her parents expressed a mixture of concern for their daughter’s well-being and consternation for my errant dog (and most likely his irresponsible owner). As if the guilt of having just inadvertently caused this child’s misery wasn’t enough, just about every parent within earshot fixed a cross glare upon me and my cavorting canine. At that instant, all I wanted to do was get the hell out. Of course, with my family scattered to all four winds at that moment, it wasn’t an option, so I just stood around looking sheepish.

A little sheepish?

All of this is to say that while I love my dog, and accidents happen, this could have been prevented. I’d be upset if this happened to my girls, but I imagine things of a similar nature are bound to happen at some point and all I can do is keep a first aid kit and soothing voice ready.

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Book Review: Duct Tape Parenting

So it’s been a while since I’ve written a book report.  Maybe since elementary school.  It’s still worth sharing some thoughts about my latest foray into being the best dad and husband that I can be.

Duct Tape Parenting

Most first impressions of the title would imply that the book’s premised is based on:

1. Using duct tape to keep your children in line
2. Developing MacGyver-like solutions to parenting challenges with duct tape, a matchstick and whatever other random pocket lint you can find.

This book advocates neither.  Instead, author Hoefle offers up tips for being mindful in your approach to child rearing and changing your way of thinking through the following techniques/metaphors.

- Weed control.Pulling Weeds
No, you shouldn’t smoke weed to cope with your child’s antics (tempting as it may be), and no, your kids are not the weeds either.  Their unwanted behaviors are.  The author starts off by identifying how we as parents are responsible for the behaviors our children exhibit. Any problem you can think of is equated to a weed. To get rid of weeds, you stop watering them with, you guessed it, your attention and focus. Easier said than done, right? Think about it. Any time Thing 1 whines and we tell her to “use your big girl voice,” or, “we can’t hear you when you whine,” we’re still giving her what she wants. The same with tantrums, acting out, etc. Kids don’t grow out of behaviors, they grow into them. The challenge is to leave your child no other option but to recognize that you no longer will respond in any way to undesirable behaviors and develop new positive ones in their place.  This requires great time and patience (and duct tape!) on the part of parents, who instinctively want to placate and pacify our thespian children.

- Band aids and bullet wounds.Bloody blood!
Time outs, sending them to their room, punishing, lecturing, talking through, reminding, rescuing, bribing, taking away, counting, the list goes on… these are “quick fixes” to problems that continually surface. Symptoms of one of two issues: either the relationship with your child is damaged, or your child has not been fully taught or trained to do something and thus issues arise that result in your need to intervene. The solution? Keep reading. Like any book would give you the answers in chapter two.

- Stop being “the maid.”The disgruntled maid.
Hoefle spends some time shattering the myths we have come to believe:
1. Mother/Father Makes it Easy – “My kids shouldn’t have to work or encounter hardship; there’s plenty of time for that when they’re adults. Kids just want (and deserve) to have fun.”
2. Mother/Father Knows Best – “I’m faster, better, neater, (and a bit of a perfectionist); it’s just easier if I do everything.”
3. Mother/Father Looks Good – “If my kids and home don’t look good, behave politely, play fair, and do the right thing at all times, I’ll look like a slacker parent with loser kids.”
4. Mother/Father Need to be Needed – “I don’t want my child to grow up and not want/need me around, so I’ll make sure they need me enough.”

In each of these cases, Hoefle states, we have convinced ourselves that doing things for our children is better than letting them do it for themselves, but as it turns out we’re robbing them of independence and self discovery. Kids don’t want maids. They want to be self sufficient, capable, and have ownership of their experiences. This also means letting them fail and use the lessons from that process in personal growth, resilience, and independence.

- Negativity is counter productive (duh?) to building healthy relationships.Always look on the bright side of life!
Learn to refocus your perception of your children in a positive light and strive to bring out the best aspects of those traits. I have been striving to do this with Thing 1 lately. It’s tempting to focus on her sensitivity and the negative behaviors that are linked to it. At the same time, those are amazingly wonderful traits that can serve her well as an adult in both her personal and professional life. Snuffing out all of that and focusing on it as a problem will only cause grief and heartache. Instead, as with the theme of the book, the author encourages parents to seek out ways to reinforce the positive aspects of the traits instead of focusing on negativity. Acknowledging rather than praising will reinforce the relationship and again, focuses kids on the process rather than the blanket outcome. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve absentmindedly blurted out “Good job” for whatever menial task. I am really trying now to focus instead on pointing out the effort she is putting into things, or calling out successful results based on hard work or difficulty, or patience. Basically the moral here is to constantly remind your child that you believe in them.

- Watch and listen more, speak less.Listen and watch.  Say next to nothing.
Let your children learn from their own mistakes. Allow them through the process from beginning to end without mucking it up with your parental presence. You’re also better able to assess what your child can do, can do but refuses to, and genuinely cannot do. A gap analysis of sorts. With that information you can go about setting a plan to address deficiencies and help your kids grow and take on new and more complex responsibilities.

- Make a plan and know where you’re doing.
We make such strides in academia and in our professional lives toward purposeful and strategic courses of action, but why aren’t we applying the same standards to family life? That’s not to say every aspect of our children’s lives need be mapped out, but anticipating what we need to focus on as parents can guide our actions and behaviors in a way that results in a mutually respectful relationship. Even in early childhood. So it all begins with watching and listening to your kids. Developing a parenting mission statement to guide your actions. Inventorying what your kids can and cannot do, what you think they should be able to do, and where you want them to be when they’re 18 and set foot out on their own into the wide and unforgiving world. Then you can actually focus on parenting and training them where they are deficient. The book offers a roadmap metaphor as a suggestion but it can take any form really, as long as you’re mindful in the approach.

Why do we keep repeating the same mistakes with the same outcomes if we’re not satisfied? Why is it so hard to break free of our trapped mindset? Is the status-quo really that much easier to tolerate?  The author recommends some resources to make small steps toward considering new approaches, and also gives a nod to the fact that it requires some courage!

My only complaint about the book is that it doesn’t really quantify or identify when certain things can be started. Can I do all of this hands-off stuff with my three year old? Do I need to wait until she’s older? Will it be too late?  What should or shouldn’t a three year old be expected to do?  How long will it take?  The list goes on…

The girls.

Also, none of this stuff matters if your partner isn’t involved in the strategies you hope to employ. Implementing these ideas requires both parents to be on board so we’re in agreement about whether or not to starve weeds or try some other approach out. So I will continue to nudge le wife to read this book in full so we can have a meaningful conversation about how to be better parents now that we’ve got two and simply can’t allocate our parental resources the same way we did when we had only one munchkin.

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