Category Archives: Thoughts

Time Out for Time Outs!

 

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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:
1) Blog
2) Read
3) Spend time with family
4) Get Organized
5) Learn…

That’s just the beginning, as I could probably add 10-20 more things to the list right now… Time out… ūüôā

Time Out for Minecraft!

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. ūüôā

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… ūüėČ

Time Out for H20!

What an awesome day it was yesterday!  Thanks to NYC H20, who organized the event, we got the opportunity to go canoeing on the Pepacton Reservoir and learn something about the water that we drink everyday.  Could hardly feel my shoulders afterwards, but it was worth it.

It’s mind-blowing being able to canoe on the very water that comes to our faucets from 100 miles away! ¬†They do add some chlorine, fluoride, orthophosphate, and sodium hydroxide¬†to our water, but it’s UNFILTERED! ¬†Over 90% of our water comes to us in NYC through gravity, as it travels from the watershed in the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River Valley through reservoirs, aqueducts, pipes, and tunnels. ¬†More than 1.1 billion gallons of water to about 9 million people in NYC every day! Pretty incredible, eh? ¬†It was nice to share this learning experience with the family.

from NYC DEP

Another big lesson we learned was from the canoe itself. ¬†Initially, Shien was rowing in the front, and I was rowing and steering in the back. ¬†After lunch, we decided to switch, since I thought I could powerhouse it in the front. ¬†Boy, was I wrong! ¬†Being heavier in the front, I used more energy than ever, and Shien was having difficulty navigating in the back. ¬†We were going nowhere fast. ¬†We decided to make a switch in the water, where I had to lie flat on my back in the canoe, and slide to the back, while Shien climbed over, and Malachy stayed steady in the middle. ¬†Teamwork! ¬†After that, it was so much better! ¬†I learned that just because you are working really really hard, doesn’t mean you’re always doing a good job. ¬†You need to make sure you are navigating properly, or you’ll never reach your destination, wherever that might be. ūüėČ

 

 

Time Out for CEOs (Child Empowerment Organizers) and EPDs (Emergency Play Dates)!

 

CEOs - Take Two
The CEOs at their EPD (Emergency Play Date)…

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… ūüėČ

Time Out For A Voice

MB900442068 (1)Last week, I wrote a¬†guest blog piece,¬†Is The Common Core Sending Children Over an Educational¬†Cliff?, on Lisa Nielsen’s site,¬†The Innovative Educator. ¬†I couldn’t believe that it became the “hottest” post of the week on Lisa’s site, and I was so grateful to her because she’s given people like me a platform to have a voice as an aspiring school leader, as an educator, and/or as a parent. ¬†In the piece, I wrote about my concerns about high-stakes standardized testing hurting our children and their education. ¬†In writing the piece, I also knew there would be people who would agree and people who would disagree with my views. ¬†After all, that’s what happens when you “put yourself out there” and have a real live audience, right?

Checking my e-mail this morning, I learned about a New York Post article¬†that basically attacks and slams Lisa for her views on standardized testing and advocating for parents to opt their children out from these tests (if they choose to). ¬†The URL name of the article is offensive (as it looks like they changed the original title). ¬†Instead of presenting an opposing argument about how these standardized tests might be actually good for our children, the reporters go on to denigrate her position, post her salary, and attempt to shame her for having differing views from her “bosses.” ¬†Yet, they question Lisa’s seriousness.

As the Director of Digital Literacy and Citizenship, Lisa is demonstrating the power of social media and digital literacy and citizenship to educators, parents, and students and educating them about the power of exercising one’s voice. ¬†As we know, it can be empowering, but as we learn from this, there are also those who will attack you when they disagree with you or just try to hurt you, use you, or embarrass you for one’s own gain. ¬†So, when such ugly “articles” are written up, we really have to question the authors’ purpose in writing up the piece, and the message they are trying to convey. ¬†Who is the real “villain” here? ¬†The person passionately fighting for choice and standing up for parents and students when it comes to high stakes testing and questioning what’s best for children or the person (people) resorting to name calling and ranting in order to bait readers? ¬†No high-stakes standardized test is going to teach these real life lessons which our kids so desperately need to learn as participatory citizens.

 

 

Time Out for Giving Thanks!

Thankful.

Grateful.  I feel truly blessed.  Hurricane Sandy seems so long ago, but what an adventure it was for the three of us.  It was like that TV show, The Amazing Race.  With no electricity, water, or heat, we had to make do with what we had for a few days.  Luckily, there was gas, and we had a lighter, so Shien was still able to make delicious food for us by lighting the stove.  Toasted bagels never tasted so good!

Amazingly, we didn’t even miss Halloween, as my dad was able to get the car to us. ¬†It took him about 4+ hours to get to us (usually a 20-minute drive), and we were able to go to Staten Island to do some trick-or-treating, see some of our family, eat a nice meal at my Aunt Amy’s, charge up our devices, and take a nice hot shower! ¬†Things we daily take for granted were much appreciated.

When you’re in this kind of “survival” mode, and all you want to do is take care of your family, it truly puts things into perspective. ¬†On that Friday, I was able to get up and bike to work (even though it was relocated to the Upper West Side), get some yummy packed lunch from Zabar’s, ride back home, and make the drive to Virginia so that we could attend a baptism, where Shien would be a Godmother to one of her dearest of friends’ son. ūüôā There was some worry that we wouldn’t be able to get gas, but two hours into the drive, and we got filled up, and all was good. ¬†The whole weekend was amazing, and the drive back was great, too. ¬†Going to work the next day without a complaint, knowing how fortunate we were. ¬†Giving thanks…

Time Out for Bike Riding…

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! ūüôā ¬†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! ūüôā

Time Out for Flowers!

UPDATE: We have a winner! Congratulations, Wynne! Thanks so much to everyone for entering. Happy Valentine’s to all!

So, 1-800-Flowers.com reached out to me to offer my readers a chance to win a $100 1-800-Flowers gift card! AWESOME! Click here for a fun Valentine’s trailer they sponsored for Hot in Cleveland, starring Betty White.

Over the years, I’ve spent thousands on flowers. Worth it? As Malachy would say, “OF COURSE, DAD!” It’s cool that he’s growing up knowing that romance is alive and well. With Shien’s birthday and Valentine’s within a week’s span, we get to splurge on Mommy with flowers and jewelry! ūüôā

According to a survey conducted by Wakefield Research for 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, they found that 62% of girlfriends and wives reported to be unsatisfied with last year‚Äôs Valentine‚Äôs Day gifts. I love getting my wife technology gifts, but I’ve learned that if I’m going to give some practical tech gifts, I better accompany it with some flowers, jewelry, or something sweet. With electronics, she’ll usually say, I don’t really need that. The one electronic gift that she has enjoyed the most and used the most is her Kindle. I think for many guys (and some girls, too) flowers seem like a waste of money, because they don’t last. But, there’s something about nature’s beauty, and flowers really do brighten up any room and brings some romance, love, or appreciation, back into the relationship. Plus, the University of South Brittany study found that women are 30% more likely to accept an admirer‚Äôs advances when flowers are involved. There’s definitely a Flower Effect to many relationships. ¬†Surprises are good!

Romance is definitely NOT about being practical. ¬†I wrote a little more about it on Prime Parents Club’s site. It’s about appreciating beauty and equating your loved one with that beauty. ¬†Your loved one deserves to be spoiled, right? ūüėČ

HOW TO WIN: First, check out 1-800-Flowers.com’s Facebook page, by clicking here, and check out their new products, along with their Platinum Collection. You could order straight from their Facebook page! ¬†Then come back to this page, and leave a comment about what products you liked, and how you’ll spoil your loved one this Valentine’s! I will select a winner on Sunday, February 12th, at around 12PM EST, using the random number generator (Each commenter is assigned one number). ¬†I will then forward the winner’s information (I’ll e-mail you) to 1-800-Flowers.com, and they will get you your $100 gift card. That’s it. ¬†Cool, eh?

Good luck, everyone!

Time Out for Adulthood!

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…

Time Out for Mom…


Remembering Mom...

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.