Happy 2014! So many amazing things happened in 2013, but the one thing I resolve for 2014 is to take more time outs to stop and think and post. Didn’t have the chance to sit down and blog much in 2013. Going back to school gave me an excuse to take off from writing, but I realize that I can always take a time out to write if I need to… and I need to do that more. I am so thankful and grateful for all that I have and know that because of that, I have much more to give back. So thankful for having such a supportive family and network of friends and colleagues. Malachy continues to be a source of inspiration to be the best dad that I can be for him. Not so easy sometimes when the patience is low and lack of sleep is high. So, in 2014, I will need to take more time outs to:
3) Spend time with family
4) Get Organized
That’s just the beginning, as I could probably add 10-20 more things to the list right now… Time out… 🙂
It’s been pretty crazy watching the world of MInecraft taking over so many households, including mine! Kids can spend hours and hours in front of their computers and/or tablets creating virtual worlds that they can take part in with others inside the game. At first, I just couldn’t believe kids could get into a game with such bad graphics. Then, the realization set in that my own son was swept up in it, and there was no turning back. As I watched Malachy play in Creative Mode and how he created different worlds and structures, how he watched YouTube videos to see how others used their inventories to create “new” items, I saw some of the positives in this game. We limited his playtime, but we saw how it took over his drawings, his writing, his conversations, his Lego Building, etc. There was even a New York Times article talking about the obsession and some of the benefits of it. I was living it and witnessing it with my own very eyes. 🙂
Recently, LaunchPadToys came up with an awesome Minecraft contest using their Toontastic App called Toon Academy: Minecraft. It’s like they read his mind when they designed this contest! After telling Malachy about it, I knew he would go for it. He’s already gotten so much support and encouragement from the online community, thanks to social media. Very cool!
His video presentation demonstrated to me all the vocabulary and skills he was picking up through the course of his play. It also made him really think about how to convey his message to others in a way they could better understand why he’s so passionate about Minecraft. It took a few takes, but it was all him, and he put hard work into it. It’s what engaged learning is all about. Impressive. Contest ends on Thursday (October 17th), so we’ll just have to wait and see… 😉
It’s turning out to be one of my favorite days of the year… Father’s Day!
Celebrating Fatherhood! One of the most important titles I will ever bear in my lifetime, the title of Dad. It’s awesome! I am so thankful that I have gotten to spend all the time that I have with Malachy. I know so many fathers don’t have that luxury or haven’t had that opportunity. Even my own dad, growing up, he had to work 12-hour+ days, and we only really got to see him once a week. The one day he would have at home, he usually had to take care of things around the house. I remember my mom constantly asking me to help my dad, but I didn’t really know how. Perhaps, he also didn’t have a whole lot of time to teach me, so I learned by watching him. He taught me a lot, not so much through words but his actions.
With Malachy, I’ve had the benefit of speaking with him, modeling for him, and just being present and being a Dad. It’s been one of the greatest joys I could ever ask for, along with spending time with Shien and with family. I want to show him that he could do whatever he puts his mind to. He’s inspired me to do more than I have thought possible from myself. We are learning together…
A group of six-year-olds taught me the about power of networking this weekend.
After work on Friday, I get a text from my wife asking if I had the phone number of one of the parents in Malachy’s class. I asked her why she needed it and she texted back, “Wondering if they are around tomorrow or Sunday — the kids planned a secret meeting – LOL.” I couldn’t wait for her and Malachy to come back from Karate class to explain what was going on. They got a ride back from one of Malachy’s Karate classmates, who is also in his class at school and part of the secret meeting club. Shien tells me that his classmate’s mom told her during Karate class, that her daughter told her after school that she HAD TO pick up 3 other friends tomorrow and drive them to our place, so they could have their secret meeting. A designated chauffeur! Shien immediately started texting and e-mailing the other parents to see if they knew or heard anything about it. I’ve never heard of these Emergency Play Dates (EPDs) disguised as secret meetings before, and I was intrigued. The kids were so certain that it was going to happen, and now, it looked like it was going to happen!
Of course, when I first asked Malachy, he says, “I can’t tell you what it’s about Dad. It’s a SECRET meeting.” I could tell that the wheels immediately started spinning in his head after he said that out loud to me, because we agreed that there were to be no kept secrets from Mom and Dad… EVER. He paused and said, “You know, Dad. I told you about it before. It’s about the Fighting Club.” Ah yes, the Fighting Club or the Fight Stoppers Club. He and a few other of his classmates were tired of the play fighting and conflicts that occurred during recess. Sometimes, they were the ones being bothered while playing together, so they started helping each other out and would try to help others in need of mediation or consolation, too. Amazing.
So, after a few more texts and e-mails, it was all arranged. 1PM Saturday at our playground. They met… and they PLAYED for 3 hours! I stopped by the playground to check up on them, and there they were with all their socks and shoes off, one on each swing. They said they were trying to climb the rainbow sprinkler poles, and it was easier without shoes. It was about an hour into their play, and I asked if they had their meeting yet. Not yet. I asked the other parents about it, and they were telling me how they would always tell them about the seriousness and importance of these meetings after school sometimes (i.e., playing in the playground), and they would talk about needing to meet during the “meeting,” but they never really had “the meeting!” When the parents said it was time to go, they would then say, “But we haven’t had our meeting yet!” GENIUS. Our kids often hear about us adults telling them that we have have to go to meetings. They know we need to talk through things and discuss things. They get it. Our kids sense the importance of them, and the message is very clear from them, too. Kids play is IMPORTANT. Kids need to meet. Kids need to connect. Kids need to network. Kids need time to PLAY, and it’s SO much better without the disruptions. It’s so awesome that they have created this safe place and group for themselves.
When Shien and Malachy came back three hours later, I asked how the meeting went, and he said it was good. I asked him if they came to any big decisions or ideas during their meeting, and he said, “Yes. We decided to create BIG obstacles, so the people trying to bother us won’t be able to get to us.” I wanted to ask how they were planning on doing that, but I guess that’ll take another secret meeting or two in the future. They do all the organizing, and we the adults are there to… 😉
Shien and I are really glad Malachy took up Karate. It teaches respect, self-discipline, and the benefits of practice and hard work. The more experienced ones help out the less experienced one, and everyone is there to help each other to get better. They use a term, “OSU,” as a way of thanking each other and showing each other respect. Malachy has used it at home every now and then with me, and says, “Dad, that means I really respect you.” Very cool stuff.
Enter Malachy’s first tournament. I couldn’t pass up signing up for it. GUARANTEED trophy! A couple of weeks before I found out about this event, Malachy had told me he wanted a real trophy, not just stickers. I told him he’d get his chance… one day. It would be the first one in our family. I NEVER won a trophy. I won a few ribbons in a Field Day once, got many certificates through the years, but NEVER a trophy. My parents never put me into any competitive sports or activities, so the opportunity was never there. I always dreamed of having a trophy in my hands, a REAL trophy.
Of course, I didn’t want Malachy to know there was a guaranteed trophy. I told him he would have to earn it and that he had to do his best. So, even though his Karate teachers (Sesei and Sampei) told him that everyone got a trophy for entering, and he even read it on the registration, I was able to convince him that there was no guarantee, and he bought my argument. At the end of the day today, he was the one who told me, “Dad, it doesn’t even matter if I didn’t get a trophy. I had fun, and I did my best.” That’s my little Ninja with the big heart and the big mind. I’m always trying to teach him stuff, and he winds up teaching me. 🙂
In the first event, Malachy was called first. I knew that meant he probably wouldn’t win. When they gave out the ribbons, almost everyone got one, because there were so many subdivisions in terms of belts, so there were many first and second places in this event. One kid was crying and needed to be comforted, but Malachy was fine. Then, came the next event… Freestyle. I knew Malachy would have energy, but didn’t know what to expect, as this was the first time I’d ever watched this one-on-one “no-contact” tournament. Plus, there were some much bigger kids in terms of size. I reminded myself that he would still get that beautiful trophy, no matter what. Well, before my eyes, he won Round 1, and then he won Round 2, and then came the Final Round! He was up against a Blue Belt, who was much bigger than him. Oh well, at least he was now guaranteed 2nd place! But no… he got first! Amazing! He saved some of his best moves for the last round. Later on, he said these moves were inspired by his fellow competitors. Unbelievable. When we got out of the train station, on the way home, he asked Shien, “Is this a dream, Mommy?” I think I was thinking the same. Proud of our little champ.
So, Malachy’s second tooth came out today. It was super loose, and after school, on the way to piano, he was able to extract his own tooth. The first tooth required some help from Mom, along with some tooth floss and some cheerleading from Dad. For his first tooth, he received five Washingtons and a geode. The geode was a last minute addition, and when he woke up that morning after, he was quite excited about the note, the cash, and the geode. After hammering the geode, we were left with mostly crushed rock and dust. It was a dud, and it left me and Malachy a bit unsatisfied. (Hence, the note he wrote to the Tooth Fairy today.) A couple of days later, I had a special Ninjago delivery via the Tooth Ninja, but he didn’t buy it. He knew it was from me. But, as you can see from the note to the Tooth Fairy, he still believes! 🙂
So, Mommy wanted to buy time to get a gift from the Tooth Fairy, so she told Malachy we would clean the tooth out tomorrow and leave it for the Tooth Fairy tomorrow night. We explained to him that the Tooth Fairy didn’t want a bloody tooth. After all, he had cleaned his first one for her. He went to bed and was fine with waiting one more night…
Right before we went to bed, I asked Shien where Tooth #2 was. She said she thought Malachy left it with me, and I told her that he did show me the tooth but he had left it with her when she was cooking in the kitchen. From the kitchen, I could hear the rustling noise of a plastic bag every now and then. I asked Shien what was going on. She tells me, “I think I might have thrown it away.” I’m like, “WHAT?”
Turns out Shien had given Malachy a tissue for the tooth when she was cooking, so he could clean it out with her later on. So, he left the tooth in the tissue on the kitchen counter. Lo and behold, when Shien was cleaning the kitchen after dinner, she threw the tissue with the tooth into the plastic trash bag! Thus, the rustling plastic bag.
When I went to the kitchen looked in the plastic bag, it looked GROSS! Shien had poured out a 14 oz. jar of old hot chocolate powder mix into the trash bag (she once saw worms in another can of old powder mix), and since it got wet, the trash inside was covered and doused with wet and dry powder mix all over. I got a flashlight and tried to sift through it by squeezing the bag and trying to feel for the tiny tooth, but no luck. I even tried using another plastic bag as a glove to squeeze through some of the trash, but it just felt sandy and muddy from all the powder mix.
Shien suggested that we re-use Tooth #1 and just tell Malachy that she cleaned it out for him. After all, he cashed in Tooth #1, so he probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. That made me feel uncomfortable. It felt wrong. It wasn’t honest. I know. I know. The Tooth Fairy isn’t real, so why not just let him cash in Tooth #1 again, right? I couldn’t go to sleep knowing that Tooth #2 was in the trash, and that we were going to give him Tooth #1 again for the Tooth Fairy! 🙁
So, I went back to the kitchen. I got another plastic bag out. I got a latex glove out. The plan was to transfer the trash from the yucky bag to another empty plastic bag. The question was what to do with all the dry hot chocolate powder in the trash, which made it impossible to look through the trash? I must say the one good thing about the hot chocolate powder mix was that it took away any garbage smell! 🙂 I figured the only way to get rid of the mix in the trash was to dissolve it in water!
Next, I cleared the sink, made sure the sink strainer was in place, and proceeded to fill the plastic bag which was filled with trash and powder with water, in the sink. Stuff started floating up in the plastic bag, and now, it looked like I had a huge bag of hot chocolate drink with floating trash instead of marshmallows! I slowly transferred the floating debris into another plastic bag, and proceeded with emptying all the trash out of the plastic bag. I found a few pieces of minced garlic that looked like Tooth #2, but I couldn’t find it. All the dried powder was soon dissolved, but there was also coffe grinds in the trash, too. That doesn’t all quite dissolve like the hot chocolate powder mix. Ai ya! Chicken bones, wet paper towels, tissues, rice, broccoli, oh my! When the bag was almost emptied, I decided to just pour the rest out in the sink and soak it all out. YUCK! The latex glove got wet inside, so I decided to take it off. Besides, wearing the glove made it harder to feel for the tooth. So, there I was with my bare hands feeling through the garbage in the sink and scraps in the sink strainer, feeling for the tooth. After a while, VOILA! I found it! It was mixed in with some of the trash and coffee grinds. I made sure it wasn’t just another piece of chopped garlic. It was indeed Tooth #2! I cleared out the rest of the trash from the sink, and now I had a cleaner bag of trash, without all the hot chocolate powder mix! Move over Toothy Fairy. Tooth Daddy has come to the rescue! Oh, what a night! 🙂
It’s one of those vivid ingrained memories in my head… learning how to ride the bicycle. I remember it being a big deal the day the training wheels finally came off! I don’t know how accurate my memory is, but I remember I was five and my cousin, Karmin (thanks, Karmin!) held on to my bicycle as he helped to teach me how to ride. First, he held on to the handlebar on the side, as I went up and down the block in front of our apartment building in Brooklyn. Eventually, he started holding on to the back seat of my bicycle, where he was out of my peripheral view. I remember that really well, because at one point I thought he was holding on to my bicycle, and when I looked back, he was halfway up the block! I was so shocked that I did it on my own that I went crashing onto the ground. The thrill, and then the agony…
I learned to look forward and to trust myself. I learned that fear and dwelling on the past (looking back) prevented me from enjoying the ride and looking forward. I learned that life is sometimes about learning how to fall. I remember using this story of learning how to ride the bicycle in my college essay to Columbia almost 25 years ago!
35 years after learning how to ride the bicycle, here I am trying to teach Malachy how to ride! Amazing! Wondering how (or if) he’ll remember these days. I know my back will never forget these past 3 days! 🙂 It’s such a rush for him, though. I thought by day 3, he wouldn’t want to go back outside and try again (at least not 3 days in a row), and I know I wouldn’t have minded if he had said, “Nah, I’m not in the mood, today. Let’s take a break, Dad.” But instead he said, “Dad, I really like it! I want to try to ride by myself again!” Love his attitude!
So, there we were again today. Me yelling at him and telling him to focus and to concentrate, to balance, to stop leaning and turning and singing and cracking up. I know we both cracked up when he was able to ride for a few split seconds on his own. The thrill of getting it. It really IS cool. You don’t remember when you learn how to walk, but you can remember learning how to ride a bicycle. It’s a bit different nowadays. I didn’t have a helmet. And I remember falling over a lot harder and getting scraped and bruised. I get so tempted to just let Malachy go, but I don’t want him to fall down so hard that he’ll get too scared to try again. So, I hold on…
Eventually, I know he’ll get it, and I’ll feel proud that he learned and happy in being there with him! 🙂
After my first classes yesterday, I was inspired to do another Malachy interview. In my Adult Development class, we had some great discussions, and one of the questions that was posed was what we thought it was like being an adult, when we were growing up. I immediately started wondering what Malachy thought of adulthood and how he viewed childhood versus adulthood. The great thing about asking him questions is never knowing what he’ll come up with. I think I could have kept going (but we were already at 9 minutes!), as he started introducing topics like marriage and money, but we can save that for another day…
Sunday was the anniversary of my mom’s passing 14 years ago. We weren’t able to go up to the cemetery, so I decided we would go out on Saturday to buy some incense and a small container to hold them in. I remember paying respects to my grandfather when I was a kid, and I thought it would be nice for Malachy to remember and pay respects to my mother. I never met my grandpa and Malachy never met my mom. Sometimes, I feel my mom is teaching me through Malachy. I appreciated her growing up, but even more so now than ever. She really showed me what it means to live for others, and it’s what I hope Malachy learns from me. Not through words, but through my actions. Rest in Peace, Mom. We all miss you so much.
Back in 2009, I was looking online for a nice backpack for Shien, because her friend told us how important it was to have good back support when you’re carrying a heavy bag. A Google search helped me to find the best price for the North Face bag at O2 Gear Shop. I have been getting regular e-mails from them ever since buying the bag, and I recently “Liked” them on Facebook.
Yesterday, when I was checking Facebook, I saw that O2 had a contest to see who could think of the most creative way to represent “O2” using only hands and bodies, and post a picture on their wall. Winner would get a pair of their Marmot Glade gloves! They extended the deadline, so I was in luck!
I LOVE contests, because there’s always a chance to win, and you have to be “in it to win it,” right? Malachy has been my lucky charm, and it’s always been fun to have him participate with me in contests. Our biggest one so far was the Post-It contest that we entered before he was 2, where we were finalists, and we won a laptop!
By dinnertime, I was inspired to work up a design with Malachy. I knew the “2” would be the hardest part, and I wanted Malachy to be the “2” so I could make the “O.” With Shien’s and her dad’s help, we took a couple of pictures and posted one. I told Malachy it didn’t matter if we won, because it was cool to just do a project together. We high-fived. Teamwork!
This morning, I got the awesome news that we were chosen! When I got home, I showed Malachy the Facebook page that announced the winner. I had him read it aloud, and he was so excited when he got to the part that said we had won. It was so cool because he didn’t ask what we won; he was just excited that we were chosen. Thanks to O2 Gear Shop for the inspirational win!
because Dads need to take time out to STOP and THINK…