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, July 27, 2014

Reward Those Incremental Moments

When it comes to attracting, motivating and engaging employees, there's tons of research that highlights the merits of both monetary incentives and other types of rewards.

Sometimes it's the money honey, and sometimes it's not. That's why I love economics so much, the study of people and the marketplaces they live, sell, buy and thrive in, or don't thrive in.

I've heard more than one story about how to motivate and change behavior in your toddlers and children, how using behavioral economics, incentives and rewards can actually help.

Recently on Freaknomics, there was a report about why we should bribe our kids to change behavior. For example, giving them little inexpensive trophies to reward them for eating more fruits and vegetables.

And it worked. All the educational material in the world shoved down the throats of children and their parents didn't work, but the little trinkets that said "I did this" are what helped do the trick to eat the right treats. (Plus there's a bigger scope here for both kids and adults because we all struggle with making sound short-term decisions that will have a long-term benefit.)

So I said, "Hey Mama, we should attempt to do this with Bea and Bryce, combining positive discipline with incentives to encourage Bea to try different foods and to encourage Bryce to sleep all night in her bed and not wake you/us up."

And she said, "Let's do it."

And so we did. We put together a prize bag full of inexpensive toys and trinkets to have at the ready to reward. At first, it seemed to be a bust, because Bryce kept getting up and Bea, our fruit girl, wouldn't touch anything else.

But then Bryce slept all night in her bed without coming into our room and was rewarded with a prize from the prize bag. Then Bea ate some peas and liked them. Then Bryce stayed in her again and again and again and picked out prizes. And then Bea ate chicken nuggets and liked them (with a little help from sweet and sour sauce) and picked out a prize.

Positive progress is made up of rewarding incremental moments, not monumental change. So keep a prize bag handy for the kids (and adults), because recognition is where it's at.

Oh, and go to pirate birthday parties when you have a chance. Lots of good booty at those.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Vacationland Spirit and Tethered Hearts

We finished loading our car, buckled the girls in, and then the Mama turned the key in the ignition – nothing. She tried again – nothing. The car wouldn’t start. All we heard was the clicking sound of the ignition on every try. The sprinklers around us sprayed water all over the front of our car.

“Shhhh-it,” I said, trailing on the “it” with the girls in the back listening.

“What’s wrong, Mommy?” Bea asked. “Is the car sick?”

“Maybe you forgot the battery?” Bryce said.

“How can the battery be dead?” the Mama asked.

“I don’t know, it shouldn’t be. Time to call for roadside service. Hopefully that’s all it is.”

The Mama tried yet again – nothing. In fact, there seemed to be less power as the dash lights dimmed further.

I got out of the car and made the call.


Seven days earlier…

Summer vacationland lay before us. After a brief stop visiting family in El Dorado Hills, we arrived at Lake Tahoe. Tahoe is derived from the Washo word “da’aw,” which means literally lake.

Hence, this year, I dubbed it Lake Lake.

Our third year into this now annual trek, and this time was one of the funnest times of all. Probably because the girls are yet another year older and this time we had even more family joining our usually spry clan of Nonna and the Mama’s Sister’s family, including Amy’s uncle and his wife, and a surprise visit from my step-sister and her husband.

Don’t look at me that way. More family joining in can be a good thing. Right?


I think so.

Oh, and then there’s the part about recharging mind, body and soul – all the while being “unplugged” nearly 95 percent of the time. From work actually, but not from Daddy’s Social B-hive Club. That umbilical is hardwired right into the Daddy mainframe (with regular maintenance and software updates, of course).

Not that I didn’t need a complete recharge; the world of work has been good to me of late, and me to it. Getting to do what I do well and what gives me the most pleasure is, well, most pleasurable.

But closing my eyes and floating away from the rest of the world (in Lake Lake and the pools where we stayed) truly made all the difference in the rest of the world. That, and spending a helluva lot of quality time with the Mama and the girls (yes, and the rest of the family).

Bea’s self-confidence soared from her time in martial arts this summer, with her feeling more comfortable in the pools and lake than ever. She embraced every waking moment at Lake Lake, from swimming to playing on the beach to going on the Gondola to the top of the mountain to eating ice cream to running to and fro until dusk, just as it should be for a kid on vacation.

Bryce, well, she was as fearless and playful as ever, enjoying all of the above, except for nighttime where things got truly hairy for the Mama and me. A trick fuse indeed. All but one night she woke throughout the night, sometimes crying, and sometimes howling, thrashing, flailing and shooting up to an 9 .1 on the Richter scale, leaving rubble and little sleep for any of us in her wake, especially the Mama. Although not sick, we weren’t exactly sure what was wrong, but we persevered and had a great time despite of her wakefulness.

And Amy and I? Well, besides a little Daddy Goat Gruff, we truly enjoyed our family vacation having taco nights and barbecues and walks and hikes and sunning and swimming and parasailing –

Yep, parasailing over 350 feet above Lake Lake. While amazing overall, the point where the boat turned and we got caught in the headwind, swirling us a little in a way we really didn’t want to be swirled, filled us with vertigo, motion sickness, and the incessant pull of mother earth.

Exhilarating, though. Right frickin’ on all the way.

Then there was the hike to Eagle Falls and Eagle Lake with Amy’s uncle and his wife. I was worried about even being able to hike since I had hurt my knee three weeks earlier running like I’m 28 (which I’m not), but fortunately it’s been on the mend and the walking and hiking in and around Lake Lake were part of my physical therapy (plus the fact that the Mama is my PT, so there’s that).

We hadn’t done that hike together since 2005, and it was just as breathtaking as it was then. Amy didn’t remember the “kiss” picture from the way back hike, but we took another and then I spliced them together for good love measure.

A friend of mine on Facebook posted, “So much has changed in your lives over the past 9 years!”

True indeed – 9 years of almost 17 total. From no kids to two kids to losing both my parents to surviving economic ebbs and flows...

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the deep love I have for my best friend, partner, mother, lover and wife. The Mama keeps rocking and I’m right there keeping the backbeat.

Paradiddle, paradiddle – damn girl...


Less than an hour later the nice man from the towing service gave us a jumpstart and then we were on our way home.

Sure I had fleeting fatalistic visions of the car being towed for extensive mechanical work, leaving us stranded at Lake Lake, but they were unfounded, thankfully (although maybe not such a bad thing).

Nope, a dead battery will never dampen our vacationland spirit, or the family love that tethers our light hearts together, floating away from the rest of the world…

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Trick Fuse of Firecracker Bryce

I watched as she scraped the fork back and forth along the side of the bookshelf. Then she poked it a couple of times.

"Amy, please don't let her do that," I pleaded with the Mama.

The Mama didn't respond.

"Bryce, stop it," I growled.

"Bryce, what's your idea?" the Mama asked.

There it was -- the positive discipline response. But Bryce kept on scraping.

"Amy, please don't ask how she's feeling right now. Stop her from gouging the shelf. Thank you."

"Sweetie, she's not gouging the shelf. C'mon."

Amy sighed. "Bryce, Daddy doesn't want you doing that. Please don't scratch the shelf."

As soon as the Mama took Bryce's fork away, Bryce cried out in protest and shook her head. That's when I saw the fuse: a small, white, frayed cord that protruded from the lower back of her sweet little toddler head. I imagined that it originated deep in her reptilian brain's core, completely detached from her developing frontal lobes.

And sometimes the fuse smelled of gasoline.

All it took then was a single spark to ignite it. 

Sizzle. Hiss. Boom.

More like -- Ka-Boom.

Such is the life with firecracker Bryce, and the closer she gets to turning four years old, the shorter the fuse seems to get. She's been exploding, hitting, yelling and crying at a exponential rate -- the classic temper tantrum. Sometimes the tantrums take what feels like an inordinate amount of time to extinguish, the fuse lighting over and over again like a trick candle.

It's especially difficult when we're in public, like just yesterday at the old fashioned 4th of July at Wilder Ranch State Park when Bryce fights, screams and thrashes while the rest of the world watches her cruel parents drag her away after calming her fails.

According to the Positive Discipline folks, it's not easy for most of us (children and adults included) to verbalize our feelings when they are upset, and there are those of us who can't verbalize their feelings at all at any time. Children (and unfortunately still too many adults) haven't learned how to articulate what they need and want. Scheduling time to have family meetings, talking through the problems, teaching the child to brainstorm for solutions -- all these things are supposed to help snuff out the fuse and calm the child. Temper tantrums often occur when children feel controlled.

I know that positive discipline doesn't mean being so completely permissive that there is no discipline at all, but it does mean we need to "both kind and firm in our actions. Kindness shows respect for the child. Firmness shows respect for the needs of the situation and for parents. Spanking and punitive time out are not kind."

Except when the child is gouging my bookshelf or smacking me across the face.

Sigh. Okay, even then, and even if it takes forever for the fuse to go out.

When experiencing hot things, my grandfather used to say, "Hot as a firecracker on the fourth of July!"

With Bryce, it's more like, "Hot as a Molotov cocktail on the eve of end times!"

She's our fearless little headstrong force to be reckoned with. Look out world. This kid means business.

Happy Independence Day indeed.