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 28, 2016

The Calm Down Power of Dragon School Rules

Then came the part where they set up dragon school. They moved the dining room table chairs in a just-so configuration, placed the stuffed dragons (like Crackle from Sophia the First) and other animals imagined on the chairs (like Stitch from Lilo & Stitch), distributed paper and pens to all the students, and began the lesson.

Math was the subject, with the specific math problem for the class to solve being: 3 X 7 = ?

I thought I'd help teach, so I suggested they add: 7 + 7 + 7 together.

Bryce didn't respond, already being in her imaginary world as the baby dragon learning to fly. "Tell me what to do next," she said. Beatrice on the other hand simply responded, "Daddy, we're going to do it our way."

That's when the solution became evident to Beatrice: 3 X 7 = 99. Written on every dragon student's paper.

Of course, I thought. It's whatever they want it to be when it comes to imaginative and cooperative play. Dragon school rules and all that. Multiplication tables will come soon enough, or whatever these kids learn in school today, Common Core and all.

Different cooperative scenarios manifest themselves over and over again at the B-hive homestead. The Mama usually participates more often with them throughout the week then I do, but I enjoy it when I do. It's fascinating watching them learn how to interact with one another, how to divide up the labor and work together to reach a common goal. Same goes for them in school with the classmates as well as outside activities and organized sports.

But dragons breathe fire and some can be easily angered. That's when things go to hell in a burning hand basket. Both Beatrice and Bryce get along fairly well, but as many siblings know growing up, there can be many a fire fight breaking out scorching the earth around them. Bryce can be ill-tempered at times, more so than Beatrice, but they both escalate beyond the realms of cooperative play, kicking and pummeling each other to the point of -- smack! -- somebody always gets hurt.

This is tough because we have to get them to separate their bodies and check in with one another until they're calmed down. And/or stay away from each other.

At some point this will all to turn into adult cooperative competition in the workplace and nearly every facet of modern day life. The part where they cooperate with each other to reach a higher value creation if compared to the value created without interaction and struggle to achieve competitive advantage.

In this scenario somebody (and/or somebodies collectively) definitely gets hurt, and/or gets left out. Cooperative and competitive play can and do co-exist as our children progress in school and once eventually released into the wilds of the world.

What to do when they/we breath fire at one another? Kidpower, the global nonprofit leader in personal safety and violence prevention education that the Mama works for, has some excellent ideas on how children can stay safe with their bodies (and adults too, kids) when they're angry, called Safety Signals.

The first one of note that really like is Calm Down Power

“Everyone, squeeze the palms of your hands together, like this.” (Put your palms together, not in a praying position but crossways with your fingers on one hand pointing up and on the other pointing sideways – or with your fingers on each hand pointing towards your towards the wrists of the other hand. Then, do and say the following gestures and words and coach your students to do the same.) 

“Now, everyone, straighten your backs, look at me, and take a breath in and slowly let it out again. Everyone say, ‘Calm Down Power.’ Great!”

Great indeed. Too bad we can't apply it to the rest of the adult world's unrest today. Amen for the calm down power of dragon school rules.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Haters of Happy Should Never Be Second Best

“Toco the Toucan, he had a bad day
How the other birds teased him
When he hopped at fly play.”

—Kevin Grossman & Jerry Tanner, You Can Do What A Toucan Can Do Too!

I didn't expect to feel this way. To get emotional reading my own children's book to my daughter's first grade class. I'm a self-proclaimed crier, yes, but it was just supposed to be fun. To participate in the class "mystery reader" program where, leading up to my designated time to read, daily clues were presented to the kids to see if they could figure out who the reader would be.

And this time, it be me. Beatrice had no idea, even after I was the one who brought her to school that morning of my reading. I waited in the school office and then two of her classmates came to get me and escort me back to the classroom.

Beatrice beamed when she saw me. Some of her classmates recognized me since I had coached them in T-ball and soccer, whispering, "I knew it was Beatrice's dad." I sat down in the rocking chair the teacher uses for guests and reading and said good morning.

Over 20 six and seven-year-olds from various backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures gazed back at me with curious smiles. This budding microcosm of the greater world around us, at least of the California Bay Area, filled me with hope that positive living without the haters of happy may just prevail someday.

Aspirational I know. Always the hopeful hoper I am. But at some point, if not already, these kids will tease and be teased because of misunderstood yet reconcilable differences. That unconditional rite of passage that so many of us experience. And not only teased, since there will be those who bully and get bullied, especially in world that gleans joy from online anonymity and trashing others. Haters gonna hate and all that crap.

One of my favorite podcasts is called Reply All from Gimlet Media, and last year they did a couple of episodes about Yik Yak, the application that allows users to communicate anonymously with anyone within a 10-mile radius. The episodes revealed how Yik Yak was/is being used to target students at universities with some pretty horrific racism. Haters gonna hate and all that death threat crap.

The Internet tagline Yik Yak uses is "Yik Yak makes the world feel small again by giving you a feed of all the casual, relatable, heartfelt and silly things people are saying around you." Contradictory to how many wield their anonymous trashing power, but these kinds of applications and platforms, including the big Facebook, will tell you their just the vessel and delivery mechanism. They say they encourage positive communication and that they will shut down inappropriate and dangerous posts and discussion threads.

It doesn't always happen unless there's a lot of public and media attention around horrific bullying that occurs online (and off), and sadly it sometimes takes the victim's demise to course correct. But in all fairness to social media platforms, of which I'm a really big consumer, they can be used to share and spread positive messages by people who do reveal themselves and don't hide in the cowardly shadows.

One of my Facebook friends posted recently (and sarcastically):

I have started and stopped, written and erased, about 10 posts this morning. All of them brilliant. Take my word for it.

But I'm just not willing and able to put up with the inevitable backlash, trolling and counter-arguments.

The Facebook won.

Right on, Brother. And we're all supposed to be the personally responsible adults who don't troll and hate. Right?

Thankfully Kidpower, the global nonprofit leader in personal safety and violence prevention education that the Mama works for, offers eight important skills on how to face bullying with confidence.

Skill #2, which is all about "leaving in a powerful, positive way," recommends that the best self-defense tactic is called "target denial." In other words, "don’t be there." Or as I like to call it -- change the channel, kids. Turn the channel and don't give "them" any more power than they already have. I do it all the time, especially online. This doesn't mean I wouldn't face an oppressor and stand up for myself, and there are many options and flavors of defensive responses including physical self-defense if ever needed.

Of course I didn't think about all these things while reading my book to Bea's class, but the emotion welled up when I read the line:

Although I can’t fly like all of the rest
I believe in myself
I’m not second best.

I really believed that when I wrote it, which was a couple of years before we had the girls. I believed it growing up, through all the family dysfunction and violence, and I still believe it today. As I read the story aloud, holding the book up with my left hand so the kids could see the pages, my peripheral vision embraced the new hope in front of me that someday would know the difference between hate and empathy and positive dissension, and could help to counter incivility, bullying and violence.

Good God, I'm surprised I don't have more haters of happy with the positive approach to life I not only write about, but try to live as well, as much as I can. I know how to change their channel, or to confront when need be. The incremental mindfulness and meditation I've been investing in is certainly paying off. Amen to that. Plus, the Mama channeling Kidpower continues to remind me that, no matter how horrible they can be, even the haters of happy should never be second best.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Little Tooth Fairy Lidocaine Love

“Can't you see
It all makes perfect sense
Expressed in dollars and cents
Pounds shillings and pence
Can't you see
It all makes perfect sense…”

—Roger Waters, Perfect Sense II

It had been hanging there for weeks. It wiggled, it jiggled, it bent, but it wouldn't budge. Only a few millimeters of gum tissue held it in place. We coaxed her every night to pull it out, but she wasn't biting. Even Bryce kept urging her big sister to pull it out so she could share the Tooth Fairy booty.

This last week it was in, Beatrice allowed the Mama to try and extract it with floss, and while it moved and bled, the front tooth did not come out. And then the morning I was away on a work trip, the tooth did come out while Bea drank her milk. She beamed proudly with her toothless smile during our FaceTime call together.

The next morning after I had come home, the girls were buzzing over the previous night's Fairy visit.

"Beatrice, where's your tooth?" I asked.

"I left it for the tooth fairy."

"What did you get?"

"I got a bag with two gold coins."

"Where are they?"

"One's in my bed and one's in Bryce's bed."

"Yes Daddy -- I got one, too!" exclaimed Bryce.

"Of course. Bryce, you'll loose some teeth soon enough, you know."

Bryce thought about that for a moment, then added, "Well, when I loose my teeth, I'm going to wait until I have three so I can get a big bag of gold coins."

Of course. When you run the numbers, even at one dollar per tooth, that's twenty dollars after all the baby teeth fall from grace, which isn't too shabby for a seven-year-old. We can make that go a long way at CVS.

However, I'm not even sure why we continue to perpetuate the Tooth Fairy mythos, giving money to children for losing body parts. There is pain and fear experienced and associated with losing one's baby teeth, so I get that maybe there's comfort in believing in a sweet fairy who visits in the middle of the night and gives money for the lost tooth is a reward for surviving that pain and fear. Especially if the tooth is in good shape without cavities or decay.

But still. It's a little bit of a disturbing rite of "economic value" passage, isn't it?

I'm not suggesting that we don't do it; the Mama and I received that sweet milk enamel money as well growing up and couldn't wait to put those teeth under our pillows. Although the exchange rate at that time 25 cents per tooth, not a dollar. That's a 300-percent increase in exchange rate (at least the one we honor). Not a bad return over time. And we certainly didn't get a bonus dollar for being a sibling either. Bryce certainly knows how to work the system. And we let her, of course. She just may have a bright Wall Street future.

Either way, from Wall Street to Main Street, we can all get kicked in the adulthood teeth enough worrying about how we're going to stretch a dollar into two, so no harm no foul with a little Tooth Fairy Lidocaine Love.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Because The Truth Is Really Out There

“And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

— Revelation 20:10

You'd think it was end of days. The charismatic false prophets and presidential candidates, the unpredictable global terrorism, the rapturous disappearance of hope and goodness from mainstream everything, the reality TV shows, the endless selfishness and selfies, the anonymous toxicity of social media and the rush to judgment, and Fox News.

Okay, okay, maybe that last one isn't quite fair. Too much of mainstream media today doesn't do well in the fact-check department anyway. Today the level of bullshit disguised as free speech and universal truths is astounding. It's like we have to play Mulder and Scully, to debunk UFO conspiracies and monster sightings while watching the news, or reading the newspaper or magazines. Except for my NPR. Don't be knocking my NPR. Or my Economist.

We're having to debunk misinformation all the time otherwise. We're tormented day and night forever and ever. The truth just isn't out there anymore. We're the ones thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur to suffer fools and demons.

"I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters.

Jesus H. Christ. I still don't know what to do with that one. In full disclosure, the Mama and I really loved his reality show Celebrity Apprentice. Not ashamed of that at all. Train wreck for a cause and all that.

But I digress. Ah, to again be the childlike discovery of things anew and to entrust the scientific method of investigating phenomena, learning new things, or unlearning previously learned things.

And not going to the mat solely because admitting your wrong is not an alternative. Instead, complete fabrication to spur reactive action is the path tread more often.

Blech. These are things we're teaching our girls to avoid. That they should embrace the scientific method and come to their own positions based on queries and objective facts and the filtering out of the bullshit. Not to outright doubt faith and believe in beliefs (that don't hurt others or yourself), but it's no accident X-Files' Dana Scully is a female (and am so glad the show is back).

Beatrice and one of her 1st grade classmates entered their school's science fair this year. They wanted to determine if different fruits floated or sank in water and why.

They discovered that size and weight were not the only factor in whether the different fruits floated or sank. They learned that there was another piece to this experiment – density – the amount of space the materials of an object take up in it’s own form. The mango was denser than the orange and apple, for example, so it sank.

Both girls love to "do science" now and we hope the years of living science will never stop for them, that their objectivity, sense of mindful fairness and imaginative wonder will never cease.

Because the truth is really out there, sinking like fresh mangoes to the ocean floor, while the rest of the rotting hot-air filled fruit creates marine trash vortices that swirl endlessly within us all.

Let's clean it up and bring it up, kids. We're not ready for the world to end.