Thursday, July 31, 2008

Unbelievably Bad Real Estate Photos

This Canadian real estate agent has created an hilarious "virtual tour" of bad real estate photos.  The cheesy music is a nice touch.  If you've ever browsed homes on the internet, you'll get a kick out of this.

Falcon 1

Speaking of private space exploration, a friend of mine worked on a satellite that is going up on a SpaceX rocket on Saturday, barring the usual possible delays.  I don't know anything about SpaceX except what I see on their web site, but it looks like they are one of the companies doing what NASA used to do: developing and launching new rockets and spacecraft. 

You can watch a Webcast of the launch at  Right now the launch is scheduled for Saturday, August 2, between 4-8pm Pacific Time.

I couldn't resist watching a previous launch.  At about 4:20 into this video, you begin to see a sliver of black space beyond the earth that otherwise fills the screen.  It made me realize how much I love Samantha's current favorite word: "up."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Birthday Alert!

I just made up Samantha's wish list for her second birthday, which is coming up on September 2.  First of all, did you know that now offers a universal wish list button which allows you to add products from outside vendors to your Amazon wish list?  So cool!  Do I dare to actually get rid of all my other lists?  Give me a few months to get used to the idea...

I spent a lot of time making up Sam's list.  I went to The Michael Olaf Montessori Company's web site and flicked through the entire "The Joyful Child" pdf, hunting for products.  Then I searched for the things that appealed to me on Amazon.  I was almost always able to find something comparable there for a lower price, and I was careful about quality and details.  (If Michael Olaf had an actual on-line store instead of making you get a catalog and call or mail in the order, I would have just added their products to my universal wish list.)  Of course, I added some things that have nothing to do with Montessori but I know Sam will like.  She tried a Sit-and-Spin at a friend's house and loved it, so that's a must, and this pedal-less bike looks so cool I couldn't resist.

Here's a link to her list, where you can see the Montessori-inspired toys I picked, and maybe even help support this blog by buying Sam a gift.  (Be sure to sort the list by priority.)

 My Wish List

And So It Begins...

All three of us are sitting at the dinner table.
Samantha, pointing to me:  "Juice."
Me: "No juice. Milk or water."
Sam, pointing to me:  "Juice."
Me:  "No."
Sam, pointing at me: "Juice."
Me: "You can have milk or water. Which would you like?"
A pause while Sam thinks about it and looks around.
Samantha, pointing to her dad: "Juice."

Friday, July 25, 2008


Burt Rutan is my greatest living hero.  He is best known as the head of Scaled Composites, the company that built Space Ship One and won the Ansari X Prize for private space flight in 2004.  That accomplishment alone earns Rutan my deepest respect.  Rutan is more than a designer and a businessman, though.  He is a visionary.  He believes passionately in the value of space exploration and sees it as the natural and necessary next step for mankind.  Rutan seems to be moved by a vision of man at his best: learning, exploring, and creating great things.  As far as I'm concerned, Rutan is that kind of man. 

In this 2006 talk, Rutan talks about how truly valuable space exploration will only happen through the efforts of entrepreneurs in the private sector (the coming "capitalist space race"), and how this exploration is necessary as an inspiration for our children.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


Samantha taught me a new game today.  We were "swimming" in our hot tub, which we keep at about 90 degrees and just use as a mini pool for the tot.  Sam noticed some little things floating around in the water, which happened to be remnants of bird seed from our nearby feeder.  The pieces were tiny - just the discarded shells of sunflower seeds and such.  Since Sam really wanted to examine them, she tried to pick one up and you know what happened: it zipped away on the current of water she created when she moved her hand toward it.  We've all encountered this challenge: the bit of cork in the glass of wine, the shell of the egg you didn't break just quite right, etc.  You need patience and concentration to get those things out of liquid with your fingers.  Well Samantha showed more patience and concentration than I thought she was capable of.  She moved her hand very slowly and used her fingers very precisely, and once she got one piece, she was able to do it again more easily.  She never figured out the trick of using another surface to limit the area the piece could escape to, but she was doing something right and she really enjoyed the whole process.

We'll be playing this game with cups and bowls of water and other tiny floating things in the future.  Come to think of it, bits of cork and egg shell are good things to try.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I Love Old People!

I was talking to this older lady today at physical therapy.  I mentioned that I had moved 8 times in the past 10 years.  She asked me if my father was in the military. 

I'm 38 years old but she thought I might have been moving around with my daddy.  Just as I can't tell if a kid is 14 or 22, she probably just saw me and thought, "oh, a young one."  It kind of puts the whole age thing in perspective.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Little Thing

The pride I felt watching my daughter get her first professional hair cut without any fuss at all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


She speaks!  At long last, Samantha is beginning to talk.  She's been using sign language since she was 10 months old, and she's said a few words here and there, but about a week ago she began adding a few new words every day, and is using them consistently.  I'm keeping a list.  I find it interesting to observe the order in which she develops the new words.  I think there are two categories: things of great value to her, and thing that are easy to say.  Here are all of her words so far:

  • Jinx (our cat, and her real first word at 10 months...started as Ji-Ji, but has developed into Jiiiiiiiink lately)

  • Mama (and sometimes ma-mo, but never mommy...sigh)

  • Dada/Daddy

  • Doggie (this was the word that kicked off her real talking...the day she figured out how to say it, she probably said it a hundred times)

  • Up

  • No

  • Cheese

  • Bubble

  • Bagel

  • Yes

  • Shadow (more like, da-dow, but she knows what a shadow is and tries to say it)

  • Banana

  • Hi

  • Yellow (but nobody but her parents would ever know what she was saying...ehh-ow?)

  • Keys

  • Jeez (I had no idea I used that word so often - how embarrassing!)

  • Green beans (gee-bee)

  • Boo-Boo (as in ouch)

  • Hot

  • Bye Bye

 Sorry to bore you, but this is BIG!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Time Sickness

I haven't been doing very well appreciating the little things lately.  Moving really sent me into a tailspin.  You see, I have time sickness. 

Barbara Sher, in, "I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What It Was," calls time sickness, "a form of hysteria that makes you believe you must fill every waking hour going after what you want, that everything must be done at once because time is about to end.  You have no sense of the future, the leisurely course that time actually takes in most of our lives." 

The concept of time sickness gave me so much insight into this problem I've had for as long as I can remember.  It helped me to figure out that I want to be a writer (since I could let go of the idea that I had to be perfect immediately) and it was part of the inspiration for the theme of this blog.  I knew something about this problem of mine before, but it makes all the difference in the world to have a clear definition and the memorable term, "time sickness" to hold as shorthand in my head.  Every time I start getting the feeling, "I shouldn't be wasting time doing this because I have 15 other, more important things on my to-do list for the day," I try to ask myself if that is really true or if it is just my time sickness.  It's ALWAYS my time sickness.  The feeling is strongest when I'm doing things like brushing my teeth, eating, taking a shower, or talking on the phone with a friend.  For some reason, I consider those things "expendable," and I think I should be doing things like paying the bills, planning activities to do with Sam, or cleaning the house.  But when I'm paying the bills, planning activities to do with Sam, or cleaning the house, I think, "I really shouldn't be doing this; I should be submitting article ideas to magazines or taking a nap."  There is no time when I am satisfied that I am doing what I should be doing.  There is no time when I allow myself to fully live in the moment without a nagging sense of guilt that there are things still undone.  I am always in a rush and I'm always exhausted from the marathon that I run every single day.  Time sickness.

So I've been working on it and I've been improving.  But our recent move threw me for a loop.  My to-do list grew to a length that overwhelmed my ability to be self-aware.  We only plan to live in this rental house for a year while we explore the DC suburbs for a place we want to buy, so I had it in my head that I couldn't start living until I got the house unpacked and organized.  I would not allow myself to focus on anything else because I felt if I didn't rush through it I'd be unpacking the whole time we were here and I'd be in a permanent state of "moving" for the next year and a half.  While it is true that moving sucks, my time sickness compels me to make it much worse than it actually is.  In reality, if I just went on with life, unpacking a little bit each day and not worrying about how long it would take, I wouldn't mind the unpacking so much at all, and it probably would get done just as quickly.

I'm just getting over this relapse now.  I got my hair cut last week, something I would not have allowed myself to "waste" time on a few weeks ago.  I'm starting to spend more time just being with Sam, not doing anything in particular, but just watching her or tickling her or waiting to see what she wants to do next.  I'm working on it.  And even though I'm not perfect, I'm once again starting to enjoy the process of working on it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Here is the first recipe worthy of my blog.  It's not healthy and it's not even really that tasty or exciting.  It's just super easy and it's the ultimate comfort food for breakfast.  I created it after going to a trendy Chicago restaurant that served only mashed potatoes, but they were mashed potatoes with everything imaginable mixed in to them.  I'm sure you could add all sorts of interesting things to this dish, but I like the simplicity of it, and it's a hit with Adam and Sam.


4 servings instant mashed potatoes
Butter or cooking spray
6 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste 

Prepare mashed potatoes according to package directions.  Coat a large pan with butter or spray and cook the scrambled eggs as you normally would, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Just before the eggs are done, add the mashed potatoes and stir to combine.  Serve hot.

A Little Thing

The way Sam eats bologna by poking a finger-hole in it and bringing the whole piece to her mouth with just the one finger.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Mutual Respect

I mentioned the idea of respecting your child in an earlier post.  A lot of books talk about granting your child respect, but there is none better than Liberated Parents, Liberated Children, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.  Well, maybe there is one better:  How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, by the same authors.  The first is written as a series of vignettes which exemplify good parenting principles, and the second is more like a workbook for applying those principles.


I've read quite a few parenting books but these two had the greatest impact on me.  Following the teachings of Dr. Haim Ginott, Faber and Mazlish develop six principles:


1.  Children need to have their feelings accepted and respected. 

This is the core idea of the book.  It was a tough one for me because I had it in my head that children are naturally whiny, manipulative, and are easily spoiled.  I didn't think about how frustrating it must be to have needs and desires but no way to fulfill them without help that you don't know how to ask for.  I also didn't consider that there is a difference between a person's feelings and his actions.  You can accept and respect each and every feeling a child has without granting license to act improperly on those feelings. 


2.  Children don't need to be given orders.

Children are not naturally uncooperative little heathens.  They like to help out and be a part of family life.  What they don't like is to be treated like slaves.  "Do this, do that," doesn't seem to get parents anywhere.  Faber and Mazlish suggest engaging a child's cooperation by pointing out facts, not suggesting action.  For example, instead of saying, "Put your shoes away," the parent could say, "I see shoes in the middle of the living room."  Kids are not your natural enemy, trying to literally trip you up.  They're just young, and don't always remember what needs to be done.  Show them some respect and remind them by pointing out the problem.  There are times that this might not work, but starting out as a dictator will never work.


3.  Consequences, not punishment.

This is a hard lesson to implement, but I'm impressed with the creative ways Faber and Mazlish have found to help children learn cause and effect.  One thing I would never have considered is to express your anger to your child as a consequence.  For example, after your child forgets to feed the dog for the umpteenth time, you can say, "I'm furious that you left Fido to go hungry again this morning."  I thought this type of statement would just teach the child to focus on other people's emotions - like a guilt trip - but if you are honestly angry, your anger is a consequence the child needs to suffer.   I would only use this method sparingly.  (Hopefully, you don't get furious until you've tried other methods!)  The authors provide many other clever ways of imposing consequences without using arbitrary punishments.


4.  Encourage autonomy.

This is an idea I already agreed with, but the specific techniques in the books were very helpful.  For example, avoid asking too many questions - it can come off as pestering or intrusive.  Also, don't rush to answer every question - give the child time to try to find the answer on his own.  This is going to be a challenge for me as Sam gets older.  I want so much to teach her, to tell her everything I know.  I'm really going to have to work on stepping back a bit.


5.  Use descriptive praise, not evaluations.

This idea caused another sea-change in my parenting.  In trying to encourage Samantha's accomplishments, I'd clap and say, "good job" so much that it started sounding hollow to me, even though I meant it every time.  How much more meaningful it is to tell her something like, "I see the shoes in a row and all the toys on the shelf - now that's what I call cleaning up!"  It shows her that I notice her specific accomplishment and it allows her to evaluate herself.  What a wonderful way to encourage independence!


6.  Don't label your child.

If you pigeonhole your child as "slow," "hyper," "brilliant," or any other judgment, and then turn off your mind to new evidence, your evaluations will always be off the mark, and may even cause the child to play into that role.  Faber and Mazlish encourage parents to help the child see all sides of himself.  This is yet another form of respect - an awareness that the child is still in the process of forming his character and should be given every opportunity to grow.


All of this adds up to a new way of looking at the parent's role.  We are not here to drum moral lessons into the child with lecture and the expectation of obedience.  However, this does not mean that kids need to be left completely alone to figure things out on their own, or that we must put up with intolerable behavior so as not to stifle their creativity.  First and foremost, we should see our children as human beings and treat them with the respect that we grant to all other individuals.  In kind, we should expect our children to respect us and the other good people in our lives.  Although they are people, we recognize that children are not fully formed yet, and need guidance.  Providing that guidance within the framework of respect will teach the child more than any lecture on morality ever will.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Sam Update - Twenty Two Months Old

Now that I'm blogging the Sam Update instead of e-mailing it to all three million contacts in my gmail account, I feel entitled to start publishing it monthly again.

Sam turned 22 months old yesterday.  She can brush her own teeth, feed herself with adult-sized spoons and forks, and use a cell phone.  Her teeth are sometimes dirty, her clothes are always stained, and my old cell phone is now a ring-tone-playing musical instrument, but hey, it's progress.

A highlight of this past month was that Samantha got to meet both of her great-grandmothers.  In fact, she met them on the same day.  We drove up to Philadelphia where we spent a few hours with Adam's Grammy, and then we traveled just an hour or so north where we celebrated my Grandmere's 95th birthday.  Sam quickly discovered Uncle Frank and Aunt Connie's piano, and Frank dubbed her the mad genius.

At day care they've been putting Sam's hair into ponytails, which turns me into jello every time I see it.

Day care isn't going so well, though.  With all of the chaos in Sam's life, she needs a lot of comfort and security.  She needs mommy.  She's never been so clingy and needy, and it's very hard to deal with.  Dropping her off at day care requires me to fake a cheerful and casual demeanor while she screams "maMA, maMA, maMA!" and reaches up to me with both hands and the saddest face you ever saw.  I kiss her and tell her I'll pick her up later.  I try to leave the room with confidence after they pry her off of me, but by the time I get down the hall I'm close to tears.  She seems to have a good time, though, and always says she wants to go back.  It's just the mommy-leaving part that bothers her.  It's been three weeks now and she shows no sign of getting over it.  I'm not sure if I should be worried, so of course, I'm worried.  I'm so stressed out that in the past week there have been three nights where I got less than five hours sleep.  Ah, parenthood...will the sleeplessness ever end?

The nice part about the neediness is that she is finally big enough to wrap both her arms and legs around my torso and lock on with a deathgrip.  It's the best feeling in the world, as long as I don't have to let her go.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Fine Print


This blog contains excessive amounts of positive parenting stories.  Non-parents may experience sudden urges to procreate and should be advised that THIS IS NOT REALITY.    Please read with caution.  You are advised to consult with your partner before making any life-altering decisions.