Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

All the Faith I Can Muster

Again with the silver and gold wars. The economics of labor, competitive advantage, business growth and profits have always broken the backs of, divided and suppressed the masses. The haves and the have nots remain seemingly affixed to their hierarchical posts regardless of the -ism present: capitalism, socialism, populism, racism, sexism, humanism, spiritualism, ad nauseam. And then we rise up, we blow things up, become bitterly fragmented and hopefully come back together -- and it still comes back to the silver and gold wars.

But our girls don't really know all this yet. They haven't been discriminated against yet being women, or have been singled out to benefit over other women because they're white. They haven't been paid 80 cents on the the dollar to what their male counterparts get paid. They haven't been verbally harassed or physically abused because of their gender, or enslaved in a third-world country to make things we buy in our civilized super stores worldwide.

Thankfully there have been and are positive, collaborative movements that help us thrive within our own tainted Eden, men and women alike of various races, ethnicities, social class and religious backgrounds. Like the emboldened local Women's March that the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) helped to organize with other inspirational women and where our entire family (and community) had marched in. The global movement included millions of people around the world actually and is still strong in its positive insurgency. Like the magnet the Mama's mom got her recently -- KIND HEART * FIERCE MIND * BRAVE SPIRIT -- these words epitomize my wife and our girls and continuously inspire me.

Every few decades we experience a social upheaval, and here we are again -- from financial collapse and hope and change to the Tea Party a few years ago, to Bernie and Hillary and Donald Trump today. To the Women's March and the raucous town halls with our elected representatives throughout America where we demand that the many are acknowledged and their socioeconomic needs addressed by the few in power, not the other way around.

But our girls don't really know all this yet. Some of it, but not all of it. We talk about it and answer their questions generally. We also read to them about what's come before; we have a couple of the great picture books by Brad Meltzer about how "ordinary people can change the world." One about Rosa Parks and the other about Abraham Lincoln. For those with younger children, we highly recommend them. They tackle some pretty big adult subjects and make them accessible for kids' sensibilities and world views (and adults as well). We've read them many times with the girls.

Recently we read the I am Abraham Lincoln one again, and when we got to the part about the American Civil War, Bryce interrupted.

"You know, there are many silver wars all the time, but you know, there are gold wars, too. I've seen them."

"You mean civil wars, Sweetie," the Mama said.

Bryce shook her head. "No, silver wars, Mommy. Silver and gold wars."

Again with the silver and gold wars, the -ism's and the ad nauseam. We, the ordinary people, are again blowing things up in this country, and around the world, and I hope we can figure out how to put it all back together again for the better, knowing that silver and gold are here to stay. Hope may be a poor business strategy, but faith can sure as hell be a sound human one.

And for the sake of our kids, and yours, I'm holding on to all the faith I can muster. My girls got my back on that one.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Why We Celebrate Our Crazy Little Thing

“This thing (this thing)
Called love (called love)
It cries (like a baby)
In a cradle all night
It swings (woo woo)
It jives (woo woo)
It shakes all over like a jelly fish
I kinda like it
Crazy little thing called love…”

—Queen, Crazy Little Thing Called Love

I didn't really get it until days later. Yes, it was our Valentine's Day family date afternoon/night, and we did spend quality time together as a family, for the most part.

First, the girls and I needed to get our flu shots, being overdue in that department and still in the throes of flu season. Plus, I'm going to be traveling again soon, and will be exposed to all sorts of bugs Americana. The Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) had already gotten hers months earlier since she works in physical therapy and helps older, more susceptible patients who live in assisted-living facilities and also those who have home health care.

Kaiser Permanente is new to our area and now has a downtown office in Santa Cruz, so that's where we went for our flu shots. We switched to Kaiser recently due to the rising costs of health care for families (don't get me started) and the fact that their services are more reasonable (by far and so far) compared to what we had (which had increased by over 25%), along with us having Direct Primary Care, all of which is a whole other Get Off The Ground article for another time.

The shots didn't take very long -- I went first, and then Beatrice, and then Bryce -- but before the nurse practitioner had the needle ready and poised for Bryce's arm, Bryce erupted in tears. She's never been a fan of the shots. Who is, right? She cried and shook her head and said she didn't want the shot and cried and shook her head.

We all told her it would be a quick pinch, but she just kept crying and shaking her head while the Mama held her. Finally she stood still enough for the nurse to give her the shot, and then Bryce wailed and cried even louder. The nurse left and came back in with rubber duckies for both girls and that perked Bryce up.

Then we were off to Bookshop Santa Cruz to buy books the girls had earned and for a Reading Flash Mob -- of which I had no idea what that was. Bookshop Santa Cruz has been an iconic community bookstore for over 50 years now. I came to learn that the reading flash mob was a gathering for kids and adults alike to come and literally read any book in the store for about an hour, whether purchased or not.

What I didn't know about the event (even though I'm sure the Mama told me more than once) was that the Live Like Coco Foundation, a Santa Cruz-based nonprofit, and the Santa Cruz Playground Project launched this series of “Reading Flash Mob” fundraisers to fund literacy panels at Leo’s Haven, the county’s first playground for children of all abilities.

And so we read for a great cause. Wait, two great causes. No, three great causes that included our own love of reading. We also found out that the Live Like Coco Foundation's executive director had a daughter named Coco who had died in a car crash at age 12. And so the foundation was founded to celebrate her spirit and for us all to "do good things" in our lives and in our community. Right on.

Out of all the amazing books at the bookstore, Bryce of course chose Dog Man Unleashed, another silly graphic novel series for kids from the creator of Captain Underpants (tra-la-la!). I read nearly the whole book to her during that inspirational hour while the Mama and Beatrice read to each other.

After that we were off to our family Valentine's Day dinner. All of us were hungry and we had a wonderful time -- until we didn't. Well, not the girls, the Mama and me. This is what happens sometimes in the adulting world. Life trips up your mindful happy along the way and fall flat on your fallible face. We both started worrying about our work and our commitments and the weeks aheads and all the other American crazy breaking down all around us, and then when one of us nearly dropped a plate at the end of the meal -- ka-boom.

We both got angry with each other unnecessarily and it deflated some of fun Valentine family we'd been having since the flu shots. For us at least, but thankfully not for the girls. The Mama and I survived the adulting fall and apologized, reminding each other that it's okay be get mad sometimes as long as we acknowledge it, own it and reconcile it. It still takes longer for me than the Mama, and yet we always get back to the heart of each other.

I didn't really get it until days later. Yes, a family bond is a crazy little thing called love, no matter how mad we may sometimes get with one another. And we will. And there will be more ka-booms between all of us as the girls get older. And more tears and shouts and laughter and love. And yet I cannot imagine, do not want to imagine, if any one of the ladies in my life -- these suns that rise in my heart each and every morning -- were gone.

This is why we stay in our moments as much as we can, hold fast to each one and each other, and celebrate our crazy little thing.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Until It Eventually Does

A week later Goldie Rose Macaroni was gone. She hadn't done very well from day one, barely eating all week, lethargic and listing, one of her fins slightly smaller and sickly like Nemo's.

"What should we do?" asked the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife). "I don't want to find her floating when the girls get home. Not after Jumpy."

"I don't know," I said. "Maybe we should just put her out of her misery and then tell the girls what happened, that she was sick and died."

The Mama shook her head. "No, we should tell them that we had to take her back to the pet store to see if the pet doctor can help her feel better."

I shook my head. "I'm not sure that's a good idea. They know things die. Jumpy died. We should just be straight with them."

Again she shook her head. "No, that's just too much right now and I don't want to worry about it, or them worry about it. Let's just tell them she went back to the store, and if she's gets well, then we'll bring her home."

I nodded. "Okay, that's fine. I get it. Although they may not buy it. What should we do with Goldie then?"

"You take care of it. I don't want to see it."

I knew what that meant. It was the only thing to do. One of the only humane ways to deal with dying or dead pet fish: the toilet flush.

"You take care of it."

"I will."

This was the second fish pet in two years. The first real pet the girls ever had, named Jumpy Tree Summer, was a handsome Betta that lived for over a year and half before he passed. We'd been at my sisters for Thanksgiving last year, and prior to leaving Jumpy hadn't been looking so good. Lethargic and listing, all his usual deep burgundy flowing fins were fraying and he looked more and more sickly. Then he'd stopped eating. We were only going to be gone for a few days, but just weren't sure he'd make it.

Which he didn't. The Mama saw him floating as soon checked out the tank, and while I continued to unload the car from our trip and the girls were playing in the living room, she took care of him.

Later that evening, the full impact of losing Jumpy hit both Bryce and Beatrice head on. They cried and cried, and although Jumpy wasn't ever a pet they could hold, hug or stroke lovingly -- or the fact that the Mama was the one who took care of him, keeping his tank clean and feeding him every day --  he was still their first pet, the one they picked out at the pet store and brought home. The one that died, because everything dies, and not something we had to address since my parents had died four years earlier when they were much younger.

So they cried and cried, and even the Mama and I teared up. Prior to having the girls, we had three pets between us -- I had an adopted black and white Shih Tzu named Joshua, and the Mama had two cats from the same litter, a black and white boy named Charlie and a Calico girl named Chelsea. All three lived pretty long lives, with Chelsea living to be 22 years old. She was still living after Bryce was born and Beatrice was constantly pulling Chelsea's tail, something no cat ever likes. But in the end we had to put all three to sleep, an emotionally draining experience for anyone who's ever had to say goodbye to a beloved pet. Each time it was me taking them to the vet's office, holding them in the cold, white vet examining room, holding them in their final moments, balling my eyes out.

Because they are like our children, and siblings, an no one likes to lose a member of the family. And yet, after they've gone and you have growing kids of your own, you don't ever want another pet again, at least for us that is, for now.

Why? What do you mean why? Have you ever had to take care of your beloved children? They're a lot of work, and the parent that would have to take care of the pets as well, in this case the Mama, doesn't need another mouth to feed. You feel me?

Which is why when the ultimate softening came, the Mama agreed to get a second fish. Bryce wanted to surprise Beatrice, and so they went to the pet store and picked out a goldfish -- Goldie Rose Macaroni. Beatrice was thrilled and the girls were excited to have a pet fish again.

Until a week later and the final decision for parental euthanasia intervention.

"You take care of it."

"I will."

And so I did. Farewell, Goldie. Splash. Flush. Swirl. Goodbye.

This time it was more anti-climatic, being the short-lived second, although Bryce did cry later that night, unsure of what to think about Goldie going "back to the pet store to be fixed."

That's why no more pets for now. The girls have brought up hamsters, half-heartedly attempting to negotiate, which we've shut down. But then they'll go goo-goo over puppies and kittens when we see them on TV or in the wild. There was even a point where the Mama considered getting a pot-belly pig for a pet. I have no idea what she was thinking.

Forget it. Not going to happen. Until it eventually does.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

From Boys to Better Men

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” —Frederick Douglass 

Women's March signs made with #BhivePower
I was called a lezbian man-hater for marching. Not directly per se, but the person who posted it within that cradle of uncivil cyber civilization known as Facebook, directed it at my wife who is one of the local organizers of the Women's March (now Santa Cruz County Women's Action) and who had been commenting on the why of the march to those who didn't care for it. He simply lumped her and all the other women who participated into the lezbian man-hater hopper.

That's also how he spelled it -- lezbian. No matter. I'm neither a lezbian, or a lesbian, or a man-hater. I'm a straight man, a husband and a father of two amazing girls. And yes, I proudly wore the pink pussy hat during the march. However, I have no vagina agenda other than empowering our girls to be independent, strong, loving and caring members of society, in spite of them being girls, and because of them being girls. Someday they will hopefully be women leading the way with other women and men to ensure all our human rights are retained and sustained in the proverbial peaceable kingdom known as the United States of America.

There were many other men who marched -- husbands, fathers, grandfathers, brothers, sons and more. There were gay men and transgender men and military men and religious men and atheists alike. But the same can be said, albeit probably a different mix, about the men who marched the week after for the March for Life. Either way, all of us men marched for our families, our communities, our country and our rights.

Personal and politically polarizing reasons aside, I want to focus on the boys now. The boys from every socioeconomic stratum and culturally and ethnically diverse background in this country (and around the world) who witness all this social unrest, the misogynistic, hateful and retaliatory rhetoric from all sides. Those who witness the men (maybe fathers, sons or brothers) and even the women who spell lesbian wrong and degrade liberal women (and probably most women), and those men and even the women who also stereotype and degrade pro-lifers as fascist Christians who want to limit everyone else's rights.

Unfortunately the bigger losers in this environment are the girls and the women. They're damned if they do speak up and damned if they don't. I've seen it happen over and over again with my mom, my sister, my wife and many other women in my life -- some of whom I've been emotionally overbearing with in my own past. Because of all that, I have little empathy for the men who feel left behind, trampled by all these women and minorities who have supposedly cut in line and taken over. Those who perpetuate the elitist, sexist and spiritual divide giving them justification to continue to denounce, degrade and retaliate verbally and physically.

I can't emphasize enough how complicated this all is -- our development and interpersonal relationships are never simple, black and white and wrapped in pretty packages with bright blue (or pink) bows. But it does start with building strong, empathic children, who eventually learn impulse control and to be safe with their bodies and with others, who are willing to listen to others even when they don't agree with them. Especially when they don't.

The other day my wife and I were in the other room when our oldest Beatrice cried out. Her and her sister Bryce had been playing, rough-housing actually, when Bryce got really mad, picked up a toy chair and whacked Bea on the head. We immediately invoked Kidpower safety rules and talked through why it happened and how instead they should've reacted.

The Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) brought out the "hold tight power."

Hold tight power meaning, "Okay girls, grab onto to your pants and say 'hold tight power.'"

Whine. There's always a little whining.

"Hold tight power."

"Okay, if you really feel like hitting or throwing, you can use your own personal power of hold tight power — the power inside of you to not hit or throw and act in an unsafe way."

To then take a beat and be safe and to think about more appropriate responses using our "calm down power" (something we could all use a lot more of right now). I can't emphasize enough how simple and powerful this and many other Kidpower exercises are for children (and for teens and adults).

Because according to UN Women and the current global available data: Between 15 and 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, according to the available country data. Most of this violence takes place within intimate relationships, with many women (ranging from 9 to 70 percent) reporting their husbands or partners as the perpetrator. Across the 28 States of the European Union, a little over one in five women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a partner (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, 2014). 

Are targeted. Choice words, yes, and this kind of violence is different than sisters hitting each other because play went awry -- a slippery slope however -- but too many boys are still growing up too violent, and no one's ever asking for it. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. Less than 20 percent of battered women sought medical treatment following an injury.

It's horrific and complicated, and prevention and awareness still seems to be one of the best paths forward for both children and teens. The organization A Call to Men is one of many like Kidpower working to prevent violence against all women and girls, and ultimately teach safety and prevention skills for all kids, teens and adults of either gender. (Kidpower also teaches self-defense for emergency people safety skills, too.)

For those of us with children, girls and boys, but especially the boys, we have an ultimate responsibility to instill in them their own sense of personal responsibility, empathy, compassion, to be safe with their bodies and their minds, to "hold tight" and not react inappropriately and violently, and to encourage all of the above with others. We need to be clear that violence against women and girls, including sexual assault, harassment, bullying or anything related is never okay.

Whether you feel left behind or taken over -- and no matter where you take a stand in this world -- it's time for us to ensure our children grow from boys to better men.

“It was just before sunrise
When we started on traditional roles
She said sure I'll be your partner
But don't make too many demands
I said if love has these conditions
I don't understand those songs you love
She said this is not a love song
This isn't fantasy-land
Don’t go too far…”

—Rush, Cold Fire

Sunday, January 29, 2017

More Science and Less Me

The hypothesis seemed simple and clear enough. We'd already talked about it for weeks, along with another idea that our oldest wanted to explore, but our youngest tipped the scales in favor of the catapult and the flinging of stuff. Actually per the Super Cool Science and Engineering Activities with Max Axiom Super Scientist book we used, we literally made a trebuchet, which is a siege engine most frequently used in the Middle Ages that used weight and gravity to fling stuff. I kept calling it a catapult, though, so that's what the girls called it.

The planning also seemed simple and clear enough. The Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) would be at Kidpower training during the days all weekend, so the project window would be Saturday midmorning. Everything was set -- the poster board, the notebook, the weight scale, the catapult (trebuchet), a landing board, a ruler, pencils and all the stuff we'd fling.

But no matter how well I planned, there were three variables right in front of my face, including literally my own face, that I didn't account for: two children and the Daddy, who is not the Mama.

So the hypothesis went like this: Smaller and lighter things will fly a farther distance than bigger and heavier things using the same force – because it takes more power to fling bigger and heavier things just as far as the smaller and lighter things.

There we were gathered around the table. The smaller and lighter things -- Beatrice and Bryce -- flying all over the place, laughing and playing. Bryce climbed under the table and tickled Bea, and Bea laughed and laughed.

"Girls, c'mon, if we don't do this today, we won't get it done before the science fair this week," I said, doing my best to remain calm.

"Do what?" Bea said, laughing maniacally.

The bigger and heavier thing, me, felt powerless to channel the girls frenetic energy into productive science.

"Okay, so now let's fling the marble and see how far it goes," I said.

I flung it and marked where it landed, but Bea wanted to mark it where it rolled to.

"No, it went here!" she cried.

"No, Beatrice, we're marking it where it lands."

"No, it went here!"

"No, Bea."

Bryce kept scrambling all over and under. I forged ahead, the situational gravity sucking the light and patience out of me.

I flung the little piece of wadded tape. It landed and rolled farther.

"Mark it there, where it landed."

"No, it went here!"

"Beatrice, why are you doing this? We agreed it would be where they landed first."

"I'm just teasing you, Daddy."

This kept going for nearly 15 minutes and I realized that I just needed to chill out and let them have fun. We'd get it all done once they calmed down. There was no rush. We had all day. But then Bryce sat back in the chair next to me and started slamming the weight scale onto the table and laughed even harder. And Bea started flinging the stuff all over the place.

I asked Bryce three times to stop slamming the scale, and Bea to stop flinging. And then, because it takes more power to fling bigger and heavier things just as far as the smaller and lighter things, I clamped my large hand down onto her smaller one and stopped her from slamming.

"That's it girls! I'm done! We're not doing this anymore! I don't understand why you're acting like this! This was supposed to be our fun time together doing the science fair project! Go away from the table!"

Bryce cried. Beatrice went white. And I felt like crap. Immediately. And then I felt justified. Yes, they're just kids, but it had to be done if we were going to get any of it done.

A minute later Bea asked, "Daddy, can we still finish the project?"

"Yes, I'm sorry girls. Bryce, I'm sorry. It's just frustrating when we're trying to do something together and you don't want to do it. It's okay if you don't, but I'd really like to finish it."

"We want to do it, Daddy. I'm sorry."

"Bryce, do you want to come over and help finish?"

Bryce nodded. Beatrice smiled. And three free elements finally came together to fling stuff, measure stuff and analyze stuff. And it was awesome.

The girls love science and we'll continue to encourage them to learn about the world around us and those beyond us. Unfortunately women continue to be underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields (STEM), but if we can have anything to do with it, then we'll help ensure their imaginative wonder will never cease. (God knows we need more wonder today than in recent memory.)

A little later after flinging stuff...

"Daddy, you know what?"

"What Bryce?"

"Last night, I had a dream that Mommy was Donald Trump, and Daddy was Taylor Swift, and Beatrice was Lady GaGa, and then I looked at myself in the mirror and I was Darth Vader with a light saber and then I hit you all in the face with a big stuffed animal, and then a Storm Trooper said 'would you like a cupcake' and then I woke up."

"Wow. Where did you hear this stuff?"

"You, Daddy."

Note to self -- more science and less me. #BhivePower indeed.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Transcendent Beauty of Inclusive Community

I could've been called worse considering the context. The girls and I each wore one of the many knitted and sewn pink "kitty" hats of the Women's March, mine with a Santa Cruz patch pinned to it. We walked across the street downtown at a brisk pace, hand in hand, on a mission to Bookshop Santa Cruz to buy some earned books for the girls. The peaceful march crowds were already thick and growing steadily and I needed to hurry us so we could me the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife) at our designated meeting time.

"You're not even a woman, man," someone said to me.

Two young guys, probably early twenties, passed us crossing the street. One of them had made the crack. Peripherally I could see each had long hair and scraggly beards. They were laughing.

We kept moving toward to the bookshop against the clock, my comeback coming too late.

Yeah, well, you look like a women, man, I thought, but didn't say out loud.

It was dumb, I knew. Even inappropriate considering the sentiment of the day. But as quickly as it happened, it faded from immediate memory when we entered the bookshop.

The girls and I had already had a busy morning and then we headed back to downtown Santa Cruz to have lunch and go to the bookshop to buy a book each because of their latest star earnings for reading. The back-to-back rains we've had in California gave us a reprieve for most of the day, so we went to our local community center first where there's a fun playground for kids.

That's where we ran into the Mama. Being of the local organizers of the Women's March, she was at the community center setting up for the post-march community event (the community center is called Louden Nelson, named after a former slave who lived in Santa Cruz in the 1850's). The Women's March mission is to stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families -- recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country. 

Of course there's subtext here due to our recent contentious U.S. election, but it's about so much more now for us and millions of others around the world. The Mama's inspired activism and civic duty has moved and motivated me more than any moment since the day we met. I've never been involved in anything like this before. Neither has my wife. But we've always looked out for our family, our freedom and our future.

We're both white and come from broken homes from one the lowest of socio-economic stratum, me from a conservative Christian one, and yet we grew up and lived our lives, went to college and came together one day on the beach in 1997. Now we're called "coastal elites" because we live on the coast and celebrate an inclusive liberal-to-middle-of-the-road progressive perspective.

That doesn't matter though, because today the stakes are higher than they've ever been for us in our lifetimes. Because now we have young children in a country and world resurgent with misogyny, racism, bullying, xenophobia, intolerance -- and just blatant anger and hate -- from the top down to the cracks in between. 

We will not stand by and let our girls grow up in this kind of world, restricting the rights of the many for the oppressive rights of the few.

So we're all in.

That's not to take away those women, people of color and the LGBT population around the world who have suffered and sacrificed themselves for generations, fighting for their rights and the safety and security of their families (and the rest of us). We have never been beaten in a peaceful march or protest because of our gender or color or sexual preference, or because our land was taken away, or because some or all our rights were taken away -- or hosed down, or sexually assaulted, or arrested and locked up, or had our houses set fire, or strung up in a tree and hanged.

No, not to take away from any of what's come before us and those who have given their lives to making a difference, but to finally rise up ourselves and lend our voices to help ensure social justice, positive change. Just everyday like you and you and you, people doing everyday incremental things to affect and maintain a better world for our children and generations to come.

That's why my wife got involved. That's why we marched. All of us. Including our girls. Initially there were only supposed to be 1,000 to 2,000 people coming to march peacefully from city hall to the Louden Nelson Community Center. There ended up being anywhere between 10,000-15,000 people in all (probably closer to the 15K).

I've never experienced anything like this before. Not even growing up with a loving extended family who, with its own share of daily dysfunction, was still loving and supportive of itself, God and country.

No, this was something so much more. All kinds of people from a myriad of backgrounds swallowed us up once we met up with the Mama near the center of the march. This was a community, like the many others around the world and the main one in Washington D.C., that had come together in support of democracy and something bigger than our sometimes divisive perspectives. Of reminding ourselves that we're the power, the 99%, the difference between a police state and a populace governed by itself.

And so we marched, spirits high, and we sang, laughed and cried. Thousands of us in varied ethnicities, husbands and wives, domestic partners, mothers and fathers and grandparents, many of us with our children and babies, marching slowly and safely through the streets where we live in order to keep them this way.

Yes, there is still a disparate divide. Yes, some of us will always feel like we're going in the wrong direction regardless of who's in power. Yes, there are still too many social and economic problems we must continuously work on. Yes, the world can be a dangerous place, godless and dark and brutal.

But yesterday I witnessed no carnage, no global apocalyptic omens portending the end of us all. Only inspired millions worldwide adding to the momentum of a positive movement, the transcendent beauty of inclusive community. One where we keep ourselves and our leaders accountable, that we must sustain and build on together, or as much together as we can muster.

Now that the initial march is over, for those interested, check out the new Women's March campaign: 10 Actions for the first 100 Days

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Reading Time Well Spent

Here we were again with the constipated fear. It was reading time for both girls, but Beatrice pushed back. Way back.

"I don't want to read right now," Beatrice said, face contorted.

"All right then, let's flip a coin and see who reads first," I said.

"I want heads!" shouted Bryce.

"No, I want heads!" said Bea.

"Bryce called it first, Bea. You get tails."

"Okay. Whoever wins gets to chose."

I flipped. It was heads. Bryce said Bea goes first. Bea said no way.

And so it went. Round and round until Beatrice was near tears from a paralyzing panic attack implosion, and finally Bryce conceded and said she'd read first. Now, Bryce has only just begun learning to read, so we're helping her with the words, but Beatrice is solid reader now. The problem has been that she gets intimidated at the sound of her own voice saying the words out loud and when others are listening. This most likely goes back to her auditory processing disorder (ADP) issues she had early on (which Bryce never had).

At three years old, we discovered she had trouble processing the information she heard in the same way as other kids because her ears and brain didn't play nice together. That in turn affected the way her brain recognized and interpreted sounds and how she reacted to various stimuli -- too much stimuli always overwhelms.

That in turn created anxiety for her, anxiety she had no way to process or express, so it was internalized instead. When pressed, she shuts down and says she doesn't want to do something, and then doesn't do it (just like her dear old daddy unfortunately).

However, she's come a long way from five years ago, that's for sure, but the reading was something we had to tackle head on. We always knew that, even when she's improves year after year, there would potentially be residual effects of ADP long term. School would get progressively harder for her, and she'd have to work harder at building those confidence callouses we all need when it came to reading, writing and communicating, and the speech and occupational therapists have concurred.

Both girls love storytelling and we read together every day. Beatrice actually creates stories all the time, writing them out and illustrating them as well. The Mama and I grew up avid readers, and Bryce now has the fever, so we want to ensure Beatrice perseveres. Plus, she takes the girls every week to our public library to check out a bagful of books, and they also pick out books from their school library. We don't always read verbatim each and every book, but most of them are eaten up like the sweetest of eye candy.

So reading is one of those things we instill in the girls that "isn't a choice" and we've had to press on with her to ensure daily reading. For this I thank the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife), because without her daily persistence in keeping Beatrice completing all her homework, especially the reading, we'd have a much steeper mountain to climb in the years to come. And what's matters the most when it comes to both our girls is their becoming of something better, smarter, stronger and resilient for whatever life throws their way -- and throw things it will, lots of things (damn all those things).

Of course I help, but the Mama is the innovative leader here. She's recently developed a motivating incentive plan for Beatrice when it comes to reading: every minute she reads -- and that means reading anything (books, signs, pamphlets, etc.) -- she gets a star on a reading chart she created.

I don't know what a star's market value is at your house, but at ours, for every 100 stars earned, she gets to pick out a new book. Not a toy or a treat -- a book. And she just earned her first 100 stars this last week! We then went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and she picked out an ocean animals book. Right now we're playing a game where we break into teams, and one team picks an animal from the book, and the other team has to guess what it is from clues. Once guessed, Beatrice reads aloud the description of the animal -- 10 more stars please!

So far, it's definitely reading time well spent.