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The Cricket and the Starfish

The Cricket and the Starfish

The Cricket and the Starfish

When my kids were little, we did all sorts of silly things for fun.  Truth be told, I’m a kid at heart myself, so finding fun ways to see the world and make young children smile has always been very easy for me.

They’re only 11 and 14 now, but they’re also much older than you might expect kids their ages to be.  We’re still a goofy lot…  nonsense always has been and always will be our forte!  We’ve all had some extremely close brushes with adulthood this past year, myself included.  There’ll be none of that in this house!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m an adult exactly as much as I need to be, but not a minute more than I have to be.  My kids have structure and discipline, but structure and discipline are the roof and walls which make up the house;  they aren’t the home.  It’s the hearts and souls inside the house which make up the home.  We have a delicious blend of young hearts and old souls here, and I intend to keep it that way.

The Cricket and the Starfish
The Cricket and the Starfish

A few days ago, I was at a local discount store and I heard the sound of crickets.  At first, I thought it must be a recording because it was so out of place among the other sounds you hear in a discount store.  I followed the sound to find myself in the sporting goods section, looking at huge cups of live crickets.  Bait.  I have neither malice nor love for crickets, but it just seemed so unnatural for them to be trapped in foam cups.

My first thought was that the kids would enjoy a rescue caper!  My second thought was that they might find that silly because of their ages.  My immediate, and most important, third thought?  When did we grow up so much that I would even question such a thing as being too childish?  Young at heart and childish are two very different things.

You only stop being young at heart on the day that you choose to allow the possibility that someone might see you as childish to stop you from acting young at heart.  I am proud to report that that day will never come for me.  Hopefully it will never come for my children either, and if it does one day ‘come for them’, it will have to go through me to get to them.  I am not easily bypassed or pushed aside.

I talked all of this over with the boy, because it’s the type of thing we would have planned together in advance in the younger years so that his little sister could enjoy a fun adventure.  Immediately and overwhelmingly he agreed that this was something we had not done enough of recently, and that we must make it so.  Soon.

On our way home from other ‘keeping your heart young’ endeavors today, we stopped at said discount store to procure said crickets.  200 of them.  200 crickets.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of the fact that I purchased 200 crickets today simply to keep us young.  No matter how old you are, or how long you live, you’ve never before heard anyone else say that and you never will again.  That’s how old souls and young hearts do things in this home!

Little Lady is growing up way too fast, and it was worth the cost of 200,000 crickets to see her face light up with the delight of a child enjoying one of our ridiculous adventures.  The Boy enjoyed it just as much as we all always have, and we all played along with the ‘just act natural and pretend we’re buying crickets for bait’ charade until our casual demeanor become suspicious in and of itself.  The fools at the discount store never suspected a thing!  (Yes, we did consider freeing them within said discount store, and no we did not.  Not this time, anyway.)

Ok we have 200 crickets.  Phase I complete.  What could Phase II possibly be, you ask?  Well, just as we set the sun, we’re also responsible for planting spring crickets.  All of them.  Every one of you will at some point listen to crickets soothing the night outside your home or campsite sometime this summer.  You’re welcome!  Had we not released these 200 crickets into the wild (suburbia) on this day, you might have had to listen to…  nothing.  All summer long.

We let 100 go in the woods across the street from our home, and another 100 in our back yard.  Already this evening I could hear them singing their song of freedom, thanking us for our efforts, and pledging their service until the fall.  My kids are of course old enough now to know that I’m just painting a valiant picture of our evening’s nonsense, but they enjoyed it every bit as much as if they were young enough to believe that we planted crickets that created soothing summer sounds for all of North America.  Honestly?  You can’t prove that we didn’t!  I also have to say that watching 200 crickets scatter into the grass was well worth the $12 we spent on them!

The whole adventure reminded me of the old parable of the boy and the starfish.  The boy is walking along the beach as the tide retreats, throwing starfish back into the ocean before they die.  An old man passes by and tells the young boy that he can’t possibly make a difference because there are thousands of starfish and miles of beach.  The boy tosses another back, smiles, and says, “I made a difference to that one.”

The one cricket in the picture above?  Yeah we made a difference to him.  He went from being canned dinner for a fish to being free to roam for the rest of his days.  Good stuff.  I’m sure I’ll cuss him when he turns up in my basement!  The real difference this act makes?  It keeps hearts young.  It doesn’t matter how many starfish or how many crickets the youth saves.  What matters is that the youth remained young because of the act itself.  The trick is to simply keep doing the things which keep us young at heart, and let karma extend the blessings to whichever crickets and starfish she chooses.

The most beautiful part of all of it is that it all comes down to choice.  It seems that too many people choose to be the crotchety, nay-saying old man on the beach, even if they chose to become him by an accidental lack of diligence.  I choose to remain the boy tossing starfish back into the ocean and freeing crickets, and I write these stories as reminders for myself along the way.

Cheers from The Uncommonly Crickets

Dime Store Bear

Dime Store Bear 13-February-2013

Dime Store Bear
Dime Store Bear

Dime Store Bear  13-February-2013

I suppose I’m showing my age by calling them ‘Dime Stores’, but when I was a kid, that was the place you went to wander around and look at stuff you probably didn’t need.  It probably had other stuff in it too, stuff that grownups needed, but as a kid that stuff was off my radar.  Ben Franklin was the dime store in the small town where I grew up.

Walgreens is my modern day neighborhood dime store.  It’s on our beaten path so anything we need quickly during our chaotic day, we stop in there to pick up.  It’s all decked out for Valentine’s Day right now, as most businesses are.  Being a big kid myself, the kids and I do walk through the toys and make note of this or that cool thing if we have a spare minute.  This bear was deemed ‘cutest’ of all the other stuffed stuffs in the Valentine’s aisle by my little lady.  Note to self…

The Dime Store is a whole different place now that I’m the grownup.  There’s a lot I don’t remember about being a kid my first time around, but one thing I do remember was the awesome feeling I got on that rare occasion when Mom was able to buy me something I had been eyeing for a long time.  My first Stomper (little motorized 4×4 trucks that ran on AA batteries) came from Ben Franklin.  I have no idea how old I was, but I remember how excited I was when I got to take one home.  It was something like $4, a major purchase 30-something years ago.  The excitement then seemed like it was in that I was the king of the world with my fancy new $4 4×4!  In hindsight, I think the real magic was in that it was special.  A treat.  It made my day that day.  It’s a memory, and apparently a permanent and happy one.

I see people celebrating Valentine’s Day in many ways these days.  Some with old loves, some with new.  Some without romantic loves.  (<<<guilty…)  Some with school class parties and treats.  Some with their own young now celebrating romance for the first time in their adolescence!  In recent years, I have celebrated Valentine’s Day very differently than most people, but for the same reason-  love.  I celebrate the two loves of my life, the two most important and rewarding ones-  my kids.  Everyone should celebrate their own celebrations however they see fit.

We have a whole mess of fun stuff planned over the next 48 hours, both my little lady and I and my young man and his Mom.  Part of being a Dad is showing your kids how to treat, and how to be treated by, loved ones.  Yet that’s not at all why I do it.  I do it because it’s fun, and I look forward to it probably even more than they do.  The secret isn’t in the list of fun stuff, though.  It’s in the Dime Store Bear.  I thought he was going to deliver flowers to my little lady, and it turns out he delivered the memory above to me.  Time travel.  A treat inside the heart, if you will.

Dime Store Bear isn’t just a good singer, a witty comedian, a flower delivery bear, and a faithful miniroadtrip companion, he’s also full of public service announcements!  Dime Store Bear reminded me that the celebration has nothing to do with where you go, what you buy, how much time you spend celebrating, or how closely your celebration resembles anyone else’s.  The best celebration is one in which someone(s) who loves you with all their heart takes notice that you took notice of the things that were important to them.  For my little lady, the fun will be in seeing that she realizes I remembered which bear was her favorite.  For my young man, the fun will be in getting him that thing he showed me on the Internet while I was in a rush to finish dinner, and he thought I wasn’t paying attention.  Neither are expensive or lavish gifts.  The celebration for them is in that I remembered, and the celebration for me is in that they will time travel briefly back to that moment when they thought I wasn’t paying attention, then now see that I was.  A treat inside the heart, if you will.

Dime Store Bear wants you to do him a favor sometime over Valentine’s Day.  Please.  He’d like for you to do something for someone who loves you, in a way that lets them know that you know them well.  Get her favorite movie on a used $2 DVD, but get her ‘real favorite’ movie that she doesn’t like to admit is her favorite, not the one she claims is her favorite!  Buy him that candy bar he eyes in the checkout aisle at the grocery store but doesn’t want to admit he is lusting for!  Draw him or her a starving artist’s stick-person-rendition of the day you met…  Just do some little thing, anything, that lets a loved one know that you know the little things inside them that make them happy.  Because, if they know that you know, and you really do know, then well…  you are loved by someone you love.  And everybody wins that.

Treats inside the heart are seeds that grow up in future generations.  Plant as many as you can today.

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Valentines

30 Minutes

Thirty Minutes 30-November-2012

30 Minutes
30 Minutes

Thirty Minutes  30-November-2012

I had to take a few minutes to share a little bit of fortune that dumb luck taught me about recently.

My young man is in his first year of middle school this year, while my little lady finishes up the elementary years.  First year of two schools.  Two carpools.  Two traffic fiascos.  Initially, I was none too thrilled about it.  Doubles the time it takes to drop off and pick up.  Plus, there’s a 30 minute gap between their school start and end times, so there’s really no way to plan it perfectly.  Or so I thought…

30 Minutes
30 Minutes

Since I have only the two young’ns, it turns out that when I’m down one, that also means I have the other solo.  I’ve come to realize that I greatly enjoy that 30 minutes in the morning when I have the little lady to myself, and the 30 minutes in the afternoons when I have my best buddy trapped in the car.  It’s not quite enough time to run home and return on time, so really we’re trapped in the car even if traffic doesn’t necessarily dictate that we remain in it.  One way or another, we have 30 minutes to ourselves.

To sing.  Or tell stories, or jokes.  I hear the gossip, and who did what today or what’s going on in this or that class this afternoon.  Who got a little rowdy at lunch or who got their heart broken.  Sometimes there’s not much to tell, sometimes 30 minutes isn’t enough time to fit it all in.  Sometimes I even get very detailed personal stuffs from one kid or another!  Top secret.

The moral of the story?  If you’re as thick in the skull as I am, maybe there are blessings lying around all over the place that you didn’t notice.  This one in particular could be synthesized if you were a little creative.  Got 3 kids and one needs you to run him or her over yonder?  Take a wrong turn.  Kill 30 minutes extra even if you don’t have it to spare.  I’m finding myself a richer man for this little blip of my day that’s only 30 minutes long, and it’s a timeframe I had initially deemed ‘lost’.

Funny how valuable things can turn up long after you thought you’d lost them…  and how much more valuable they are once lost then found…

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Minutes

The Playground Years

The Playground Years 13-August-2012

The Playground Years
The Playground Years

The Playground Years  13-August-2012

We went to the park yesterday.  We haven’t gone much this summer, since the heat got completely loco.  As recently as this past Christmas Break, we were still hitting the playgrounds regularly.

I was watching my kids play- on possibly the safest playground ever conceived by humanity, and I realized that once again a number of major growth spurts have slipped past me.  I watched the ‘younger parents’ there with toddlers, terrified that a 6” fall onto literally what I can only guess is at least a foot of foam padding underfoot, might be the death of their child!  (I was ‘that’ parent, many years ago, so I think it’s ok to poke fun now?)  Then the ‘new parents’ there with their babies who couldn’t even walk yet, and I had to wonder why I myself was ‘that’ parent too at one time, taking the baby to a park?  Fresh air I think was my excuse?  Seemed really impractical to watch- the stroller with 300 pounds of gear, brought to the park to change diapers in a foreign and exotic location?  I remember it was fun.  I guess it doesn’t matter why.

I watched my kids play like fine young adults-  when I was the parent there with toddlers, I was as worried about the bigger kids knocking mine around as I was about my own kids falling.  And sadly, many bigger kids don’t exercise caution around toddlers.  My kids not only play well around the little ones, they also often invite the little ones to play with them.  They are both great with kids! (Heck, they play well with me, so I guess that’s been good training for them?)  Oopsie, got sidetracked bragging here just a bit.  So much to be proud of.

I thought about the kids I know who have older siblings.  Often I see the middle schoolers accompanying their elementary younger brothers and sisters to the playground, but once they hit that location, the pre-teens mostly sit and watch and talk to their friends.  It’s rare to see an 8th grader on the monkey bars.  Not unheard of, but rare.  You won’t see any high schoolers there.  My Playground Years are numbered.

In the coming 2 weeks, Ezra will begin both middle school and his final year as a pre-teen.  Sophie still has 2 more years of elementary school, although my playground experience has taught me that 4th and 5th grade girls aren’t that keen on the monkey bars either.  More of a gathering place than a place to play.

Suddenly I wish I had blocked all this out, rather than writing a story about it!

But wait!  It’s not all bad-  As I was watching them play and getting all melancholy about all this, I also thought about all the awesome things we’ve done in recent years because they’re older kids now.  You can toss them in the car with messy hair and day-old (2, 3, 4 day old?) clothes and not think about how many diapers or wipes you have in your arsenal.  You can take them on longer roadtrips with fewer headaches.  They can cook for themselves to some extent!  Oooh I bet I could teach them to do laundry!?!  Trips to the beach, or any other destination, require significantly less ‘care’ of them and allow the luxury of significantly more enjoyment of their company.

Puppies at play.  So many things in life mimic puppies at play.  Puppies get all rough-and-tumble because it’s a training ground for the day when (at least in the animal kingdom) they will have to be nimble and able to fight their way through life.  All those wrestling matches with their siblings prepared them for it.  Children at play on the playground are similar in many so ways.  Socially as well as physically.  What I hadn’t ever realized before is that the playground is a training ground for the parents, too.  We just didn’t know it.

Yesterday when we left the playground, after (over)thinking about all of this, I wasn’t sad.  At least, not entirely.  I felt like I’d be ready to leave the playground behind when that day (all too soon) comes.  It was just a training ground for our upcoming conversion of the entire planet into our grown-up playground.  Kind of like graduating from one school to another.  The more things change, the more they stay the same, I suppose.

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Playground

Retirement Home

Transformer Retirement Home 22-June-2012

Retirement Home
Retirement Home

Transformer Retirement Home  20-June-2012

Some time ago, (shame on me, this one got past my journal of kid quotes so I don’t know the date of the first quote!) Ezra was reading some comic books and one of his favorites featured a huge brick home that eventually transformed into a giant fighting robot!  We were at Papa Murphy’s getting a pizza when he turned to the pages that showed this transformation…

Ezra-  “Whoa, check it out, Dad!”

Retirement Home
Retirement Home

Me-  “Wicked cool, Buddy!  I SO need one of those!  How cool would that be, if I could pick you up in carpool at school in that???”

Ezra thought for a moment, then got this somewhat frightened look on his face, and replied in a very somber tone, “I can’t even begin to imagine how tragically that would end.”

Smart kid!  Word to the wise-  if you ever have a giant brick building that transforms into a fighting robot, I’m probably the last person on Earth you should loan it to!

Retirement Home
Retirement Home

You thought this story would end here?  Not a chance!  You know that old saying, “Be nice to your kids, they’ll pick out your retirement home one day.”  Well, the other night our discussion turned to how I would ‘get around’ when I’m old.  I’m assuming I’ll still be driving something ridiculously impractical, but Ezra had a better idea…

Ezra-  “I could build you a retirement home that transforms into a giant fighting robot, so you could be comfortable, but still go anywhere you wanted to.”

Excellent.  I need all of you to be sure your homeowner’s and car insurance is all completely adequate…  401K- who needs it???

Cheers from the ThreeFiveZero Retirement Plan


Sophiesynthesis 21-June-2012


Sophiesynthesis  21-June-2012

I know that, at first glance, this may look like just another cutesie Daddy/Daughter picture. Which it is.  At the same time, it’s also an amazing snapshot of one of nature’s most amazing, ancient, and complex processes.  While the actual chemistry of it is a bit of a mystery, the beauty of it remains simple to the naked eye…

Sophie can convert basic things like hugs, laughter, crayons, nail polish, fancy dresses, singing, dancing, dining, ice skating, etc., into fresh, pure, easily breathable love that can sustain life as barbaric as, well…  me!  And I’m here to tell you, it takes significant magic to breathe a happy glow into a battered old hide like mine!  I have the easy part-  I just provide the soil for Sophie to grow in, and yet I get the lion’s share of the synthesis?  I’ll take it!

Isn’t Mother Nature just one clever chick?  The synthesis of the one thing the human heart needs most works just like the synthesis of the one thing the human body needs most?

Cheers from the ThreeFiveZero Terrarium

Father’s Day Map 17-June-2012

Father's Day Map
Father’s Day Map

This post was originally featured on Triad Moms on Main for Father’s Day!

Father’s Day Map  17-June-2012

Remember maps?  Waaaaaay back in the 1900’s, when you were a kid?  (That’s what my kids say- as if anything before 2000 was prehistoric!)  Oh I loved maps!  I still have a box of them, my ‘favorites’ from places I used to explore.  I used to move around a lot, and part of the fun of a new place was mapping it all out and seeing all the new things.  I know this is going to make some of you cringe, but…  I was ‘that guy’ that would write on the maps, fold them back up wrong, and, gasp, sometimes even fold new creases in them so I could see just the part of the map I was currently exploring!

For the most part, though, I think we all used maps to get from point A to point B.  Nowadays we use the GPS, same deal, different era of technology:  Start Here and End Here and follow the straightest line between those two points.  The GPS even talks to us now, no need to really even look at the map unless you want to.  Point A to point B.  Same deal.

It seems that plotting a course through life is like that for many people.  You start planning somewhere in your youth (point A) and you plan for some type of retirement or other ‘destination’ (point B).  Then you do your best to follow the straightest line between those two points?  And get all upset when things don’t go according to plan?  When our plan was a straight line?  At least, I used to.  I liked a nice tidy plan and a clear course to follow.  Eventually I realized that life is about as likely to go in a straight line as kernels of corn in a popcorn popper are.  It just doesn’t work that way.  At least my life certainly doesn’t!

My straight line from start to finish used to go directly through the center of Fatherhood.  It was like a major city that I was looking forward to driving through, with several entrance ramps and different parts of town to explore. Just like on a map, however, I assumed it would be something I’d pass through, and once the kids left the nest, I’d be off to the next stop on my straight line.  Not that I’d leave Fatherhood behind, but I thought it would be more of a vacation destination I’d return to after the kids were on their own.  As if I’d approach the city limits and see signs like, ‘Exit 2: Diaper Street’ and perhaps as we left the city limits, passing the last sign, ‘Exit 27: College Graduation Avenue’ I’d think to myself, “What a wonderful city, I should go back and visit a couple times a month.  Maybe the kids will come for a week over Christmas…”

Man was I clueless in my youth!  Fatherhood isn’t a destination or a stop along the way…  once I hit the city limits, I realized it was my home.  I’ll still reach other destinations and I’ll go new places and I’ll see and learn new things…  but I’ll always be visiting those places as an adventure outside of my hometown of Fatherhood.  I’ll still reach an end to my journey just like all of us will some day.  I’m happy to report, however, that I won’t be looking back on my days as Dad in my rear view mirror, or in an old photo album…  I’ll be nestled cozily in a humble little home somewhere on Grandpa Drive or if I’m really lucky, Great Great Grandpa Avenue!  I hope they repave Daiper Street by then, as it was a bit bumpy before…  but in any case, this is where I want to live.

My son graduated from 5th grade this year.  Oh he’s a fine young man!  And, while it made me very proud to see him all decked out in his stellar suit, it also made me sad, as if I was ‘losing’ my little boy.  That’s when I started looking at my map-  the straight line between A and B that I was now 5 grades of 12 ‘through’ the course.  Halfway almost!  It’s happening too fast, mayday mayday!!!  Yet I also realized that it’s only lost in the past if you look at it that way.  The city is sprawling out ahead just as fast as the childhood is concrete behind us.  We’ve still got to pave ‘First Car Boulevard’ and ‘My Own Apartment Street’ and countless other parts of town that aren’t even built yet.  Sure they’re not necessarily under my roof, ‘in my nest’, but they’re still part of my town.  This is where I live.  The mile markers don’t disappear behind me, they become part of the town we’re building as a family.

Your map or your GPS or whatever course plotting tools you choose to use only lay in the course that gets you from point A to point B.  The adventures along the way are the landmarks that become your history.  Don’t get too hung up on missing a turn or falling behind schedule.  There’s a reason those things happen.  Sure, we do need to plan ahead.  Just don’t be hesitant to turn left when the GPS says right!  The GPS is just trying to help you reach the destination you told it you wanted to reach.  It doesn’t know anything about the journey.

I’ll let you all in on a little secret that our first family dog, Baxter, taught me not so long ago…  you only live as long as you need to in order to learn what you need to learn in this lifetime.  That’s why dogs have such a short lifespan.  If you map your life out from A to B, and at B you’ve learned all you intended to learn, well…  doesn’t that make your journey ‘over’ at that point?  You get to decide that for yourself and your life and your situation.  We all do.  For my own part, I’m creating my own loopholes…  when I reach Grandfatherhood, I’m going to claim I still need to know what it’s like to be a Great Grandpa.  Then Great Great Grandpa, and so on!  If they catch on to that and eventually try to end my journey, I’ll argue that Fatherhood is a journey that never ends.  Because that’s truly what I believe.

In any case, they won’t need to donate a plaque to me in the city park, or put up a statue of Grandpa Scott in the center of town…  when you build the city, you’re forever part of each and every street in it, and you’re therefore also forever a part of all the hearts and souls that live there.  Parks and statues are destinations.  Fatherhood is a journey.

Cheers from TheThreeFiveZero Map

A Word is worth a Thousand Pictures 15-June-2012

A Word is worth a Thousand Pictures
A Word is worth a Thousand Pictures

A Word is worth a Thousand Pictures  15-June-2012

I take a lot of pictures.  Thousands.  Literally more than 40,000 pictures since 2007.  That’s a lot.  Which makes me, in my book, a guy that takes lots of pictures.  Not to be confused with a photographer!  Point being, now and then, I get a stellar photograph here and there, picked out from the thousands of not that spectacular ones.  The not so spectacular photographs are still pictures of us doing things as a family, and therefore every bit as important as the few highlights where something we were doing was immortalized in an awesome picture.  The awesome ones go on the wall, but all are kept, and all are part of our history.

Words and Pictures
Words and Pictures

I talk to my kids a lot as well.  Lots and lots of conversations.  Thousands?  Maybe.  I don’t keep track of the exact number, and it isn’t something I can search in Windows!  Thank goodness.  Yet it’s a very similar situation…  of those thousands of words and conversations, many of them are just daily banter…  chitchat…  nonsense sometimes!  We don’t address something of major importance every day.  We don’t have a deep conversation every day.  Like those few and far between stellar photographs, now and then we have a stellar conversation, or a discussion of great importance, or just a day filled with badly needed laughter that we’ll remember for just as long as those impressive pictures on the wall.

Words and Pictures
Words and Pictures

Same deal-  Lots of ‘average’ from which ‘spectacular’ things rise up, and/or stand out.  Could we have all the ‘spectacular’ without the base of ‘average’?  Maybe some people can and do, but for us…  this is how it works.

Now and then I hear or read about people who struggle to talk to their kids.  On the flip side, kids often struggle to talk to their parents.  Sometimes it’s because they think they can’t find the right words, or because the ‘talk’ they need to have is of great importance.  I’m sure there are lots and lots of reasons that both parents and children struggle to talk to each other.  Yet it pains me to hear something I heard not too long ago-  “I wanted to talk to you, but I didn’t know how.”  The person who said that needs to meet Sophie!  There’s no wrong way to talk in Sophie’s world.  You just do it.

Words and Pictures
Words and Pictures

Just say something, anything.  It doesn’t matter what.  The weather.  That toy they’re playing with.  What’s your favorite park?  Mumble.  Anything at all to create a ground floor of words and conversations.  That’s how it works for us, anyway.  Once they’re comfortable talking to you about nothing, it’ll be easier for them to talk to you about things of great importance.  And often that’s how it happens here-  I never see it coming!  We suddenly find ourselves going from idle chitchat to profound topics.  All born of single words that created single conversations that lay the groundwork for matters of great importance.

Don’t worry so much about saying the right thing, or ‘wasting time’ talking about nothing.  It all matters.  Even if you don’t remember all the idle talk that was little more than passing the time, it’s still important discussion in that it builds a comfort level in ‘talking’ itself.

Words and Pictures
Words and Pictures

I know it’s different for everyone…  for Sophie and I, oversharing it the right amount of sharing!  While with Ezra, it’s a very different course of conversation that takes us to discussions of great importance.  Yet I truly believe that it’s all made possible by the seemingly simple foundation of a single word.  The awesome ones go on the walls of our memories, but all are kept, and all are part of our history.

Cheers from The ThreeFiveZero Pictures

Notice 17-May-2012


Notice  17-May-2012

Last night, Ezra came back out to the kitchen after I’d shut off all the lights.  I wandered out with the expectation of growling at him for still being up, but instead I found myself watching quietly from the hallway kitchen entrance.  As he normally does, he had already put out his cereal and cereal bowl for the next morning, but while I watched from behind him, he unpacked his lunch box as well.  That’s new.  There were some ‘salvageable’ crackers that he put out next to the lunch box, and he put the freezer packs, of all places, in the freezer!  I didn’t ask him to do any of that.  That’s all new.  I want to say that he suddenly looked taller, but that’s actually not at all new.  He’s a lot taller.  Every day.  And older.  Every day.  He would have been unpacking his lunch box every night a long time ago if I’d just thought to ask him to do so.  He does lots of other things around the house for me.  The lunch box is just something I never thought to ask his help with.  That’s been my responsibility since he was a Kindergartner!

Sophie has shown lots of interest in cooking with me recently.  Helping me cook, asking me how I cook her favorite things.  I realized the other night while she was helping with dinner that she doesn’t slow me down anymore, in fact she’s a major help…  It won’t be long before I’m in her way!  Her latest ‘favorite sandwich’ is thin sliced turkey on sourdough bread, with a thick slice of mozzarella cheese, light mayonnaise on one side and heavy ranch on the other.  The notable difference between this and other, prior, favorite sandwiches?  This time, she got frustrated with me not quite doing it right and decided to do it herself.  And now she does it herself every time, whenever she wants one, even this morning’s sammich for her school lunch.  All by herself.  No Daddy required.  Similar to last night’s front row seat for Ezra’s growth, I stood there this morning weeping quietly inside with the realization that she’s a lot older than I wanted to admit.  She hasn’t needed me to make her a sammich for a long time, I only recently got out of her way so she could do it herself.

I almost forgot my point, and let this turn into (yet another) ‘boo hoo they’re growing up too fast’ story!  I know I write a lot of those.  And I promise to write a lot more of them in coming years!

My point today, though, is that I noticed all of this.  Sometimes it slips by quietly, and like in the two examples here, it hits me hard because it almost got by me.  But it didn’t, and in general it doesn’t.  I do notice.  I notice when they do new things.  I notice when they pass milestones in maturity.  I notice when they notice that I pass milestones in maturity!  And even though I do pay attention and I do notice their changes, sometimes things still get past me, even if only briefly.  Everybody wins when you notice.  Ezra feels good about himself when I tell him I’m proud of how he does helpful things all on his own.  Sophie feels good about herself when I tell her how helpful she is, and how much I enjoy her help.  I feel good about myself when I’m proud of my kids.  And I noticed something good in a world where we aren’t exactly showered in positive things to take notice of.

Like noticing the beauty of a single rain drop during a thunderstorm maybe?  In the end, all those drops of rain are indistinguishable from the flood that quickly passes.  Just like all these single evenings will be swept together one day in an entire lifetime that passes in the blink of an eye.  Time may stand still for no one, but everyone can enjoy it as it passes.  Just don’t let it go by unnoticed.

Cheers from the ThreeFiveZero Notice

Words 01-May-2012

2012-May-01 Words
2012-May-01 Words

Words  01-May-2012

Words are kind of like rope.  Completely useless alone, yet powerful tools.  I love words.  But I love tools too.  So maybe that’s just how I see things?

Here’s how it works…  Words just point your brain from one thing to another.  Like hopping from one stone to the next when you’re trying to cross the creek.  The stones show your brain which direction to leap to get to the other side, all the while the world goes on around your head, and the creek passes by under your feet.  It’s a path that ties where you’ve been to where you’re going.  See?  You just envisioned yourself (probably in your youth) hopping from one stone to the next across a creek, hoping not to fall in, even if you never actually did that as a kid.  Your brain tied together other images and experiences to paint that picture for you.  Like rope.  The critical part is this:  If your brain doesn’t know what a stone or a creek is, my words failed you.  It was only tying together things you already knew.

I’ve never been sailing but I have a vivid picture in my head of what it’s like.  I’ve never been in space but I can imagine it.  No matter what thing or situation you’re trying to imagine or learn about, the words are the rope that ties together the pictures you see while you read the words that explain them.  Sometimes the words are spoken.  The actors in the movie, or the narrator of the film…  all tying together the things that will best paint the picture inside your mind.  But the words are the tools, and the things you already know are the resources.

When you tell someone you love them, you’re pointing their heart and mind to things inside them that make them know they’re loved.  Memories and feelings.  When you try to explain what shade of blue something was, their mind goes to visions of things they’ve seen in the past that sound like similar colors.  In any case, your words are just tying together existing resources to paint a picture of something new.  A new thing, a new place, a new experience.  Even an old sentence is new each time you use it.  “I packed you the same lunch again today, Buddy.”  Isn’t a new experience or vision, but it’s tying together the same old same old with the new part of the sentence:  That it’s happening again today.

Ok buckle up because here’s where it gets bumpy, and I know some people may read me the riot act in disagreement, but this is why I believe that the old saying “Do as I say, not as I do” is not only ineffective, but counterproductive.  Wait wait wait don’t light the torch or pick up the pitchfork just yet!

When you say this to a child, it leaves a paradox inside their head.  Their brain tries to tie together previous experiences, images, and feelings to guide them to…  not do the thing you do?  The words are useless without resources to tie together to paint the image you’re trying to paint.  If you say, “I did that and it was really really bad, like the time you burned yourself on that pot, it felt like that, so I don’t want you to do it either,” then the image and experience is painted in the child’s head in a way that they understand why you don’t want them to get burned.  But if you’re holding a boiling pot and you say, “Don’t hold a boiling pot because it will burn you,” that doesn’t compute.  Your words don’t match anything that the brain can tie together to make sense of it.  They’re going to grab a boiling pot at some point in an effort to understand, to create an experience they can use to make sense of it.  You’re practically ensuring they will do the thing you don’t want them to.  Or at least, that’s how it works with my kids.  And maybe it just works that way for them because they have my brain and heart, so we all think alike, and it may not apply to anyone but us.  I really don’t know.

I look for it in adult relationships as well.  It’s difficult to trust a person whose words don’t match their actions, even if it’s in regard to something minor.  And on the flip side, I take great comfort in talking to people whose actions do match their words.  And in any case, I know that when I show my kids what I’m trying to tell them, it sinks in twice as deep and twice as fast.  The words are the rope and the actions become the stones beneath their feet that give them the footing they need to understand.  Then once they’ve crossed enough swirling creeks with your guidance, it becomes that much easier for them to do it themselves.  You won’t be here forever.

Cheers from the ThreeFiveZero Words