Category Archives: parenting

3 Vignettes: Parenting 4 and 6 Year-Olds

1. When the kids make a declaration of some sort, I find myself using the same stock responses I heard growing up.

The Little Miss will walk over and whine, “Daddy, I’m hungry.”

“Hi, Hungry,” I say, “I’m Daddy. Pleased to meetcha.”

2. The kids have a strong tendency to repeat themselves over and over again when they want sometime. Like if they repeat the word enough times magic happens.

“Mom!” the Little Man says.

No response.

“Mom! Mommy? Mom! MOM! MOM! MOM! Hey MOM!

“I think she’s all the way down stairs on the elliptical, buddy,” I say.

A short times passes.

“Mom! Mommy? Mom! MOM! MOM! MOM! Hey MOM!” Pause. “Mom, are you still all the way downstairs on the elliptical?”

No response. A short time passes.

“Mom! Mommy? Momma! MOMMA!”

Kelly comes walking up the stairs, “What is it buddy?”

“Mom, I’m hungry.”

And from within my office, I hear myself shouting across the house, “Hi Hungry. I’m Daddy, nice to meetcha!”

3. I seem to fail authority checks every now and then.

“Daddy, can I have a snack?” the Little Miss says.

“Didn’t you just have a piece of cheese?” I reply.

“Yes, but I’m still hungry.

In my head, I think, Hi Still Hungry, I’m Daddy. Nice to meetcha. But I don’t say it out loud this time. “But before the cheese, didn’t you have yogurt?”


“One, or two?”


“Maybe you should wait a little while to let the food settle so that you won’t feel hungry.” I have no idea if this suggestion has any basis in science whatsoever, but I also make the suggestion.

“But I want a snack now. I’m still hungry.”

“I think you should wait,” I say.

“I’m going to ask mommy.” Pause. “Mom! Mommy? Mom! MOM! MOM! MOM! Hey MOM!

It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel… Proud

Both the Little Man and the Little Miss have been making a repeated request lately. I’ll be in the home office, writing, or something, and one or both will come by and ask, “Dadda, will you put on the ‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It’ song?”

I don’t remember when I first played R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” for the kids, but they both loved it. Sometimes, I’ll pass through the house and hear one or both singing the song. Yes, they sing all of the lyrics to the song–exactly the same way I do, which means somewhat imperfectly, but with more or less perfect rhythm. When I put the song on for them, they both dance around the room in their unique styles, singing along with the song. Their faces brighten. They love it.

I tried explaining to the Little Man that once, when I saw R.E.M. play at the Greek Theater in L.A., the did a 10 minute version of the song as an encore, and it was fantastic. “Play that one,” the Little Man said. I explained that they did it live in concert, and the only version I have is the one that comes on the Document album.

Watching the kids sing and dance to that song (sometimes I will hear them singing it to themselves) fills me with a fatherly pride. They are enjoying at least some of the music that I have enjoyed. Music, like stories, is a wonderful thing to share with kids, and I’m so glad my kids are enjoying the music that I’ve been sharing with them.

Conversations with the Little Man: The Negotiation

While in the car driving home after picking up the Little Man from school yesterday, the following conversation took place between the Little Man and Kelly:

Little Man: What are we having for dinner?

Kelly: Chicken and broccoli.

LM: No broccoli.

K: You need to eat broccoli if you want to have a treat after.

LM: Okay, but just one broccoli.

K: 3 pieces.

LM: 2 pieces.

K: Four pieces, or no treat.

LM: 2 pieces.

K: 4 pieces.

LM: Four pieces is too much.

K: You need to eat your broccoli if you want to have a treat after.

LM: How about three pieces?

K: Fine, you can eat 3 pieces of broccoli.

At this point there is a brief pause and I can see the Little Man in the rearview mirror furrow his brow.

LM: Hey, wait a minute, that was a bad decision.

And at this point, Kelly and I burst out laughing. The Little Man started laughing, too, despite the “bad decision.” And he ate his broccoli.

The Little Man and the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

I was in the shower when the Little Man let out a shriek that would raise the dead. He had been sitting on our bed, watching Power Rangers Megaforce when a bug that had been crawling along the wall landed on his knee.

Little man, meet Halyomorpha halys; brown marmorated stink bug, meet the Little Man.

After he calmed down (his jets had launched him well beyond the orbit of the moon), he asked what it was. “A stink bug,” I told him. You’d think a five year old would instantly fall in love with anything that had the word “stink” in it. Perhaps I should have called it a fart bug.

It was really a minor thing, except the Little Man now worried that Mr. Halys might somehow find his way into his room, and worse yet, into his bed. Kelly tried to assuage this by giving the bug an exciting ride down the toilet. This seemed fine for a little while. Then, after the Little Man used the facilities, he said, “Daddy, we have to make sure to close all of the toilets in the house to make sure that the bug doesn’t come up.” We made sure all of the toilet lids were closed. Stephen King, eat your heart out.

Once in bed, the worry crept in that this bug would somehow come back, and bring its legions with it.

“I’ve got it covered,” I told the Little Man, “Zekie (our cat) will patrol up here tonight.”

“What will he do?”

“Well, if he see the bug, he’ll eat it.”

He’ll eat it?” the Little Man said, shocked.

“What’s your favorite food in the whole world?” I asked him.

“Candy.” Of course.

“Well, for cats, stink bugs are like candy.”

“Not uh,” he said.

“What happens when you eat too much candy?” I asked.

“You get a tummy ache.”

“And don’t we come home sometimes to find that Zekie has been sick on the floor?”


“Well, what you do think made him sick?”

That seemed to make him feel better. I tucked him in, gave him kiss, turned off the light. His brow furrowed, “But Daddy, how will Zekie see the bug in the dark?”

Stop obsessing over the bug, I wanted to say, you’ll give yourself nightmares for no reason. “Well, Zeke is cat, and cats are nocturnal. Do you know what nocturnal means?”

He nodded, “It means that they don’t sleep at night, and can see in the dark.”

“There you go.”

He considered this logic for a long time, and then seemed satisfied. “Okay, Daddy,” he said, “just make sure you bring Zeke upstairs right now, okay?”

“Okay,” I said.

The Little Man slept soundly through the night.

His father, on the other hand, had dreams of stink bugs swarming his bed, crawling all over him, and getting in between the keys of his keyboard, making it particularly difficult to write.

“What Other Rides Can We Go On, Daddy?”

There are certain moments from childhood that I look back on fondly, and somewhat wistfully. Rarely have I experienced the feeling from those moments as I felt them as a child. There are some things that seem lost in time in that way. But last night, something I thought was lost in time was found again.

I lived in L.A. growing up. Going to Disneyland wasn’t a frequent thing, but we probably went once a year or so, probably a little more as we grew older. One thing that stands out in my mind was one of the first times we went to Disneyland after moving out to L.A. Somehow, my brother and I had acquired a wall map of Disneyland. We would pour over that map, admittedly, me more than my brother. And then, at night, after we went to bed, we would plan out our visit in our imaginations, talking back and forth about which rides we wanted to ride, and in what order we should ride them. In hindsight, those late night conversations with my brother were often more fun than the actual trip to the park.

Last night, the Little Miss wasn’t tired when it was time for her to go to bed. So she came into our bed. The lights went out to 9 pm, and Kelly was asleep almost at once, but the Little Miss still had energy. So we started talking in whispers. She asked me how long before we went to Disney World.

“Three and a half weeks,” I whispered.

I then started reminding her of the some of the rides that they had. She’d been there once before, when she was about 17 months old. I told her about the carrossel and she got very excited.

“What other rides can we go on Daddy?” she asked.

I told her about Dumbo, and then Tea Cups, and Peter Pan’s Flight, and the Arial ride, and It’s a Small World After All. This went on for more than 40 minutes, back and forth, back and forth, all in hushed whispers. She seemed delighted by it all. And as she finally grew sleepy, and only muttered, “What other rides can we go on, Daddy?” as her eyelids flickered, I realized that I had just had as much fun with my daughter as I had with my brother when we much younger.

I slept pretty good last night.

Happy Birthday, Little Miss

Three years ago today, the Little Miss was born. This is the first birthday that she has been fully aware of, and consequently, very excited about. In the ordinary course of the morning, getting ready for school, I’ll ask her what she wants for breakfast, and she’ll tell me yogurt and Cheerios. This morning when I asked, she said, “Nuffin” (Nothing).

I went downstairs to put stuff in the car (there’s cupcakes and goodie bags for her class, after all), and when I came in, she was coming down the stairs. “Are we leaving yet?” she asked. Clearly, she was excited to get started.

Three years goes by in the blink of an eye, and it is easy to lose the little moments in the over all wave of passing time. But, as I’ve done for both kids, I jot down milestones in Evernote, as they happen. I was reviewing the milestones for the Little Miss this morning, and here are a few of them from the last 3 years.

5/13/2012, Crawling

My note reads: [The Little Miss] crawled forward about 2 paces this evening on the carpet in the office.

She was about 9 months old at this time.

5/21/2012, Standing

Not one for being satisfied with simple, crawling, a week later, I noted (with a photograph) that she was pulling herself up into a standing position.

5/27/2012, Mama

The Little Miss said, “Mama” deliberately for the first time.

6/5/2012, Big brother

The Little Miss said her brother’s name, deliberately, twice in the same evening.

8/13/2012, Steps

Just shy of a year old, the Little Miss is taking 5-6 steps at a time before plopping back down to the floor.

9/29/2012, Sleep

The Little Miss is sleeping through the night in her crib. Both of her parents are greatly relieved, and are also (finally) sleeping through the night.

2/25/2013, ABCs, and potty

The Little Miss sings (adorably) the ABC song, as well as “Bah Bah Black Sheep.” She’s 18 months old. She also used the potty for the first time on this day.

7/8/2013, Preschool

The Little Miss had her first day at preschool today.

10/25/2013, Bunk Beds

Never one for wanting to sleep in her own room, the Little Miss and Little Man spent their first night in their new (at the time) bunk beds, and loved it. They’ve been sleeping there ever since.

12/8/2013, Frozen

The Little Miss went to see her first movie in the theater, Frozen. She hasn’t stopped singing since.

2/1/2014, Skating

The Little Miss (and Little Man) went ice skating for the first time today.

The Little Miss will have yet another milestone in the next 2 weeks, when she moves into the “senior” classroom at her school. In the meantime, it was wonderful to see her so happy and excited about her birthday this morning. She will be celebrating with her classmates today, her family this evening, and her friends (at her party) this weekend.

Happy birthday, Little Miss!

The Wiggly Tooth

The Little Man had some exciting news for us this morning when we woke up. He came into our room, unusually bright-eyed, and said, “You know what? I have  a wiggly tooth!”

So he does. And that marks a new milestone: the Little Man’s first loose tooth. It’s his lower left-center tooth, what a dentist would call, I think, 24d, or a central incisor. I have some vague memories of my first loose tooth, at roughly the same age as the Little Man, and I seem to recall being slightly terrified of the whole matter. Not the Little Man. He was eagerly enthusiastic, and it was catching. The Little Miss started checking her own teeth, on the off chance that she, too, might have a wiggly tooth.

In my Going Paperless posts, I’ve written about how one of the ways I use Evernote is to keep track of our kids’ milestones. I sometimes get questions about what those milestones might be, or what they look like in Evernote. Well, this is a good example of one of them, and here is what it looks like in Evernote (filed in my Timeline notebook and tagged with the Little Man’s name, and “milestone”):

Little Man Loose Tooth

Advice to My Kids as They Begin Their Education

Next month, the Little Man will start Kindergarten. He has been in pre-school since he was 15 months old, spending his days from 7 am – 4 pm at the school (as does the Little Miss) and so he is used to the long days, but this will be at a new school, and it will be the real beginnings of his education. This got me thinking about my own schooling, which in turn got me thinking about what advice I’d offer to my kids as they started out with their own education. It didn’t take me long to come up with 4 things to pass along:

1. It is okay to make mistakes, get things wrong, and occasionally fail at something, so long as you try to learn from those mistakes.

The Little Man in particular gets frustrated when he makes a mistake, or when he doesn’t win at a game. I’m not sure where this comes from because I’m of the opinion that mistakes are how we learn. Natural geniuses aside, learning is rarely easy. I can remember how halting I read when I first learned to read. I had to sound out every word, mangling half of them. It seemed to take forever to get through one page. But one day, I no longer noticed the words. Instead, I noticed the story that they told. It took practice (a lot of practice!) but I got there.

Even failing at some things shouldn’t get you down. We can’t be expert at everything. In college, I took a macro economics class. I attended every lecture. I did all of the assigned reading and homework. I ended up with D in the class. To this day, macro economics stumps me. In many respects, the earlier you learn your trouble-spot, the better you are.

The most important thing is to try to learn from the mistakes you make, in school work, and socially as well.

2. Write in your books!

I wish I had done this more. Write in your books! When you are reading, write your thoughts in the margins as you go. Include your opinions (“This passage is wonderful!”, “Was Doyle on crack when he wrote this?”). This will say you work when it comes time to talk about what you’ve read. But by writing in your books, you also make the book uniquely your own.

Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Winston Churchill are just three people who wrote in the margins of the books that they read. You will be in very good company.

3. It is okay to have an opinion about things; it is okay not to like something you have read for school.

Through about 7th grade, I went through school thinking that every book I was assigned to read had to be good, because otherwise, why would it be assigned. (The notion of learning what not to do by reading a bad book was foreign to me.) Sometime in 8th grade, however, we had to read Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. I read it, and loathed it. Looking back on it, I just think I’m not a fan of the loquacious Victorian style. What bothers me most, in retrospect, was that I was afraid to express my opinion of the book in class out of fear that I’d get in trouble for not liking the book.

At some point (probably in 10th or 11th grade) I did express my opinions about books in class. What I found was that my teachers seemed to like this. Looking back on it, I think it is because it was clear that I read the book and formed an opinion about it.

There will be things that you read that you won’t like. Read them anyway, learn what you can from them, but don’t hesitate to express your opinion about them. It is part of the joy of reading.

4. It is okay to go beyond what you are learning, if you find it interesting.

If you find yourself interested in something you learned in class, or read about for class, by all means, pursue it. Don’t feel like you have to be hemmed in by what you are given in class. If you read about Soviet-era Russia in a social studies book, and want to learn more, go to the library and check out a history book. If your science book spends a few paragraphs on black holes and you want more, go to the library (or online) and learn more.

It is okay to go beyond what you are learning in class if you find it interesting. You can also use what you learn later, and if you are entertained while learning, that is all the better.

The main problem with advice like this is that it usually has be learned from experience. That may be so, but this is the advice I would pass along to the Little Man and the Little Miss as they begin their journey through school.

Blood-Sucking Ticks and Clocks

We seem to have a tradition for the Fourth of July that goes beyond spending the holiday in the small town of Castine, Maine. Last year (2013), the Little Man, slipped coming out of the bathroom, and cracked his head on the floor. He didn’t require any stitches, but there was a good deal of blood and crying. Fortunately, my cousin is a doctor and he took a look at the wound and said it would be okay. This year, I jokingly told him I’d make sure the Little Man avoids any slips or spills. And to his credit, the Little Man did not fall on the Fourth of July.

But after the morning parade, I got a text from Kelly. I’d walked back to the house with the Little Miss, while Kelly took the Little Man on a firetruck ride. She texted with the gleeful news that the Little Man had managed to acquire a passenger: a small tick, which found a comfortable spot on his head. Not wanting to freak out the Little Man, Kelly said nothing to him, but when they returned to the house, my cousin, the good doctor, took a look, and, as Dr. Seuss once said, with great skillful skill, and with great speedy speed, successfully removed the tiny hitchhiker.

Jump-cut ahead to a few days ago. The Little Man was taking inventory  of his many wounds, tiny scratches that he has on his legs, for instance, the kind of scratches and scrapes that all five year old boys and girls collect. He called the more prominent of these scrapes “blood holes” which sounds gruesome until you actually see what he is talking about–and then it takes all of your will not to smile or laugh. He was explaining why he needed one snack or another.

“It will make new blood,” he said, “to replace the blood that came out from the blood holes.” We’re talking volumes of blood measured in microliters, picoliters, even.

“You really didn’t lose that much blood, buddy,” I said. “Those are very small scrapes.”

“But Daddy,” said he, “I also had the clock.”

I stared at him, utterly baffled. “The clock?”

“Yeah, the clock. Remember, in Maine. It got on my head and drank my blood.”

I stared at him some more, thinking I’d stepped into some alternate reality populated by blood sucking clocks, à la Salvador Dali. I had no idea what he was talking about. I just stared, mouth agape.

“Remember, Daddy? At the parade?”

And then it dawned on me and I couldn’t help myself. I burst into laughter. “A tick!” I said. You mean a tick?”


This, of course, was yet another insight into the mind of a five year old. After the tick was removed, we showed it to him and told him what it was. A tick. Five year olds know nothing of ticks, except that they are half the sound made by–you guessed it–a clock. In this case, a blood-sucking clock.

I have a feeling I am finally beginning to understand from where Dr. Seuss derived much of his inspiration.

An Excerpt From “Conversations at Our Dinner Table,” Ep. 1

Toward the end of our pasta dinner this evening, the Little Man looked at the kitchen table before and pointed to something.

“What’s this, Daddy?” he said.

I looked at it. “Looks like a stain in the wood.”

“No, because feel it.”

I felt it. “Maybe it’s a stain from food. Probably maple syrup from one of your waffles, don’t you think?”

“No!” the Little Man said, “It can’t be from one of my waffles, Daddy. I never eat my waffles at the kitchen table.”

I thought about how he sat in the rocker in our bedroom in the mornings, eating waffles while he watched Disney Junior and could offer no response because his statement was unanswerable. He was absolutely right.

The Little Man Turns Five

The Little Man went to bed excited last night, because today is his birthday and he couldn’t wait to be five years old. And so he is. It’s pretty crazy how quickly the time goes by. When he went to bed last night, I was thinking about the evening, five years earlier, when Kelly and I tried to get a good night’s sleep, knowing it would be our last for a long time. (The Little Man was delivered via a planned C-section, so we knew he was coming and there was no dramatic rush to the hospital the following morning.) Looking back on that morning, everything seemed calm.

Five years later, the Little Man is a week away from graduating from the Montessori school he’s been attending for the last 4 years.  In late August, he will start Kindergarten. He has seen (and loved) all of the Star Wars movies. Indiana Jones, too. He has more Legos than I ever had, and he builds cool things. He is creative and is constantly drawing pictures for me, Kelly, and the Little Miss. He’s curious. He’s funny. And he has a good heart.

Another strange part of seeing the Little Man turn five is that turning five is the first birthday for which I have fairly clear memories. Certainly, I can remember going to Kindergarten, and so the Little Man is entering an age which I remember myself.

The Little Man had a birthday party on Sunday to which all of his friends came. He is bringing cupcakes to school today to share with his classmates. And this evening, a few friends are coming over to celebrate with pizza. He is overflowing with excitement, and that is just delightful to see.

Happy birthday, Little Man!

Building a Block Airport with the Little Man

I did something amazing last night. Together with the Little Man, I built a block airport. When I was the Little Man’s age, I loved playing with blocks. And since many who read this may be digital natives, unfamiliar with the term “blocks” in this context, I’m not referring to ASCII drawings or anything that involves a computer, or even electricity for that matter. I’m talking about plain ol’ wooden blocks.

Some of my clearest memories of playing when was four or five years old concern these wooden blocks. I’d make roads with them, after being in the car with my parents. If we visited a restaurant, I’d come home and build a restaurant with them. The long cylindrical blocks would be ketchup bottles. Three square blocks stacked one atop the other would be a hamburger.

A while back, Kelly picked up a tub of used wooden blocks for the Little Man, and last night, he and I build a block airport. As a former pilot, I modeled the airport runway layout on one of my favorite airports to fly into, Santa Barbara airport.

Aerial view of our airport
Aerial view of our airport
Another aerial view, with the control tower
Another aerial view, with the control tower
The Little Man makes an adjustment
The Little Man makes an adjustment
A cropduster lands on runway 09L
A cropduster lands on runway 09L
A twin-engine lines up on runway 02
A twin-engine lines up on runway 02

I had a blast building the block airport with the Little Man. I think he might have had some fun, too. It was one of those strange, harmonic episodes where I could see myself at his age, doing exactly what he was doing with me.