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Two Words I Never Thought I’d Say: Slow Down

January 29th, 2013


Play. It keeps us from growing up too fast.
Play. It keeps us from growing up too fast.

Madeline Grace: Daaaad! There’s a dead lizard in the house.

Me: Tell your mother.

Madeline Grace: MOM! There’s a dead lizard in the house.

Mom: Tell your father, ‘That’s a dad’s job.’

Madeline Grace: Dad, Mommy said getting rid of the lizard is a dad’s job.

Me: Ask her, ‘What’s a mom’s job?’

Madeline Grace (before asking Mom what a mom’s job is): Dad - a mom’s job is making sure that Daddies do their job.

Children – they acquire traits, habits, mannerisms, a sense of humor, wisdom - the origin of which is the subject of much parental debate.  Without touching too much on the topic of “I wonder who he/she got that from,” I’m learning a few things.

Children pay attention much more than we (or at least I) give them credit for.  They understand much more, and they hear much more.  The way I act toward family, friends, strangers, my wife, the jokes I tell, the comments I make, the songs I listen to - all are processed by my children with much more clarity than I realized.

I’m learning that I need to take greater ownership of the role that I play in shaping our children’s behavior, their empathy towards others, their integrity, their ability to love and be loved, and so much more.

Upon starting parenthood, my parents told me, just as I’m sure their parents told them, “Children grow up fast.  Before you know it, they’ll be gone so make time to enjoy their childhood and understand the magnitude of the role you play in their lives.”

My parents were right, of course.  Madeline Grace turned nine this month.  Matthew turns eleven in a few weeks.  I can remember their first birthdays like it was yesterday, and now it occurs to me that in just nine more birthdays, our kids will most likely be out of the nest.

I’m all about going fast, but I’m gradually learning that when it comes to life, especially a child’s life, faster is not always better.  I understand the notions of freedom, and “cutting the cord,” but there is no reason to unwittingly play a role in accelerating my children’s childhood.

So I’m watching what I say, what I watch on the tube and on the computer, what I listen to on satellite radio, and I’m starting to take more stock in the notion that children can be shaped and molded.  Unfortunately for me, based on the conversation above, my smart and crafty wife is a few steps ahead of me in this regard.

But this is okay because if I can convince my family that it’s good to grow up a little slower, it’ll give me time to catch up.

Run for fun

November 25th, 2012


Fun times for Madeline Grace and Ellison - the two smiley faces in the background.
Fun times for Madeline Grace and Ellison - the two smiley faces in the background.

Thanksgiving in Tucson means: family, food, fun, and the Thanksgiving Cross-Country Classic.

This year my sister Jennifer’s family was in town for the festivities and arrived late Wednesday night.  Jennifer’s 9-year-old daughter, Ellison, despite her comment, “I don’t run,”  wanted to run with our daughter, Madeline and was much less daunted by the prospect of 1.5 hilly, muddy, miles than her mother.

So run they did.  And as the pictures indicate - a fun time was had by both girls.

Running is the original play, the original fun, and it’s making a comeback.  Don’t let the description “running race” or a relative lack of training discourage you from participating.  As long as it’s relatively short, your kids will be fine.  And it’s hard to find a better catalyst for fun times than a starting line and lots of “friends.” 

So check your local events bulletin board and sign yourself and your kids up. 

Who knows - maybe the experience will lead to a desire to make running a more frequent occurrence - for you and your kids.

Allergen-Free GIrl Scout Cookies? Child Please

January 25th, 2012


I saw this on facebook:

SIGN THIS PETITION: Encourage the Girl Scouts to sell an allergen free Cookie.

This petition was started on May 8, 2011 in honor of Celiac Awareness Month and Food Allergy Awareness Week. For those with a food allergy, many, if not all of the Girl Scout cookies are off limits. Consumers have a choice not to buy the cookies. However, members of the Girl Scouts are encouraged to sell the cookies to learn skills, obtain prizes and be part of an organization. Despite this, the organization isn’t doing enough to support and incorporate its members that have food allergies.

The Girl Scouts license their cookies to two companies: ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers. Both companies have been contacted by myself and others inquiring about them producing an allergen free cookie and I have been advised that there isn’t enough of a market to support such a product. ABC Bakers even states on their website that there isn’t enough of a demand for a cookie that is free from either sugar or gluten. However, what these two bakers and the Girl Scouts have never tried is to market just one cookie that is free from the top eight food allergens.

Read the entire petition here.


First of all, let me state that I am the parent of a child who suffers from a severe tree nut allergy. He’s had a severe allergic reaction simply from being near someone (me, oops) who ate tree nuts. So I am intimately familiar with the issue of children who suffer from food allergies.

But can we please look at the big picture here? Do we really need to petition the Girl Scouts and the makers of Girl Scout Cookies to include an allergen-free cookie?  Or a gluten-free cookie so that gluten-sensitive or gluten-intolerant children who sell, or want to eat, Girl Scout Cookies do not feel left out?

How about petitioning the Girl Scouts to offer healthier choices alongside their brutally tasty and addicting cookies – like fruit or vegetables, for example? Are there not better ways to raise money than to peddle cookies laced with gluten, and some other some crack-like ingredient that causes unsuspecting cookie lovers to drool three months in advance of Girl Scout Cookie season?

Let me answer my own questions, if I may – No, and No. The first chipper little Girl Scout that shows up on my doorstep and tries to sell me an apple or a bag of kale will be promptly shoed next door. I want my Tagalongs, dammit – and I’m willing to pay three times the price of the poser, imitation Girl Scout cookies my local grocery store sells.

The Girl Scouts claim that they are the premier leadership organization for girls, that their $700 million Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl-led business in American, and that the girls learn five important life skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. According to Wikipedia, the local Girl Scout troops selling cookies receive 10-15% of the retail price, the local Girl Scout council about 50%, and the cookie manufacturer gets the rest. Since 2007, it’s estimated that 200 million boxes of Girl Scout Cookies are sold per year. In 2008, a 15 year old girl from Dearborn, Michigan sold 17,328 boxes of cookies. That’s a lot of Thin Mints.

Based on this information, I’m willing to submit that the Girl Scouts made the right choice when they decided that selling cookies was a good way to fund programs for the kids while teaching the five life skills that they feel are important and essential.

I’m all for promoting a healthy lifestyle for our children, but I also love cookies. So instead of trying to convince the Girl Scouts to sell allergen/gluten-free cookies so none of its members feel left out, can we focus on teaching our children that 1-2 cookies is a serving – not an entire sleeve. And can we be thankful that there is much more awareness these days for children and adults who suffer from food allergies, and that there are more and more products being produced and marketed with food allergy sufferers in mind, than there were in the not so distant past?  Maybe we can also try to figure out what the heck has happened to wheat, over the years, to cause so many people to have issues.

Here’s the deal: A cookie, by definition, is a small, flat, baked treat, usually containing fat, flout, eggs, and sugar.  No one is going to buy a sugar and gluten free Girl Scout Cookie, because, among other reasons - it wouldn’t even be a cookie. So to any and all Girl Scouts and parents of Girl Scouts: Please don’t try to sell me allergen-free cookies.  I like them just the way they are - allergens, gluten and all.

Madeline and Matthew Talk Running

January 23rd, 2012

Here’s an interesting Q&A about running and racing with Matthew (age 9) and Madeline (just turned 8).  We chatted the day after they participated in the Tucson Sun Run 5K.*
Kids love to run – even if they hate running.
I encourage all parents to run and/or walk with your children.  Encourage them to bring their friends.  You’ll be amazed at the things you learn about your children, their friends . . .  and yourself.  It’s so easy.  No equipment necessary.  And for the love of some higher power – please don’t listen to your IPOD while you’re exercising with your kids.  (I would think this goes without saying, but since I recently witnessed it, I figured a gentle reminder wouldn’t hurt.)

While there are no guarantees – hopefully through the process, you’ll instill a love of exercise in your children that will last a lifetime.  And maybe along the way, you’ll rekindle your own love/hate relationship with running.

*Madeline Grace finished the Sun Run 5km in 30:33.3 (9:50/mile), and Matthew James finished in 21:34.7 (6:57/mile).

The Long Run

October 7th, 2011


This photo by Craig Bellmann
This photo by Craig Bellmann

I woke up in Kona today to pictures of our kids running in their first cross country meet of the season.

I flipped through frame after frame and studied – not with the eyes of a coach, but with the eyes of a parent and with the eyes of an athlete.

I noticed the expression on their faces – driven, determined, relaxed, pained.  I looked at their eyes – focused, happy.

They love to run and race – win or lose.  They push themselves to the limit and then sit in the shade and laugh, eat, talk with their friends.
They don’t talk about the race.  It’s over.  But they talk because of the race.

A wise man once told me not to be afraid to lose.  When you’re not afraid to lose, you’re a winner – even if you aren’t the first person across the finish line.

Those pictures – they remind me that the path my life has taken has been a rewarding journey, and finds me anxious and excited to continue to turn the pages.  The rewards I’ve had in life were born of sport – and the rewards need not be measured materially. 

In a material world – it’s often hard to spot the rewards in our lives.

I’ve won a few races in my life – but I’ve lost many more.  I look at the faces of the children in the pictures – my children and the others – and I see a lot of winners. 

That’s a very cool thing.

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