dba:daddy

Continuing Education: The Romantic Nature of Learning

 

"Art is everywhere, except it has to pass through a creative mind."

-Louise Nevelson

 

There is artistry in education. The appreciation of its design depends largely on one’s ability to contemplate the beauty of its magnificent impact with moral imagination.  If you take the time to step back and deconstruct the material world, educational lessons are revealed in its design. This is the cornerstone of Montessori . Facilitating an understanding of the world by developing a core of knowledge based on experiencing its physical properties (AKA: Tactile Learning). The more comprehensive these experiences are... the deeper one's understanding of the world may become.

Lasting impressions of the physical world create reference points for not only our creativity and imagination but for the development of our vocabulary and the most basic means of communication as well.

In the book "Thought In The Act", Erin Manning + Brian Massumi describe life experience as: "...the intangible." I interpret this to mean that one can only imagine the intangible and our imaginations are the creative applications of mental associations we make with our physical understandings of the world. The breadth of one's learning can therefore directly impact the extent to which one experiences life and can imagine. This is the mindset from which we attempt to re-discover and re-define the world with, and for, our daughter.

"I would like to recapture that freshness of vision which is characteristic of extreme youth when all the world is new to it."
-Henri Matisse

My wife and I are driven to give our daughter a life filled with as much joy as possible (without being detrimental) while empowering her to make a positive contribution to the world and leave it in a better condition than the one in which it is presented to her. Whether or not she elects to take on such a noble pursuit will be up to her…but we at least want her to be possessed with the requisite awareness in order to give her a better shot at it if she tries. We believe that the attainment of this awareness is made easier if we adopt a Montessorial approach to our introduction to the world (meaning: deconstructing everything to its most basic physical components, qualities and relationships in order to promote an appreciation of both individual components and their relationships within various contexts as well). Employing this method of modeling (and thus parenting) has been very much like arranging a marriage between Socratic Questioning and the slow motion filming techniques that transform amazing feats of wildlife like the flight mechanics of a bird's wing, into what the BBC calls "...full scale events, and simple action into incredibly detailed video sequences." The results are impossible to imagine let alone perceive with the naked eye. When a sequence filmed at a high frame rate (fps) is played back in normal time (24fps), the action appears to slow down. As camera technology improves, ultra high-speed footage of over 1,000fps produces ever more astonishing images. Hidden secrets are revealed, new science is discovered and tiny subtleties in animal behaviour become perceptible.".

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see."
-Edgar Degas

On Grocery Shopping:
As parents we often worry more about our children's happiness than our own...and some of us can imagine the smallest amount of potential suffering (even boredom) having lasting detrimental effects to their overall emotional well-being. It sounds crazy... and that's mostly because, well...it is.

After being blessed with a seemingly perpetual sidekick, I suddenly began viewing one of my favorite things in the world: grocery shopping, as a boring chore for our little one and more of a "necessary evil" than anything. I went to great lengths in order to minimize our time in any market and thus mitigate, what I had perceived to be, my daughters suffering.

My weekly mission was to make grocery shopping as fast and as painless as possible. To enter and to leave with military precision. I was a Supermarket S.E.A.L.  and the strike zone encompassed every square inch from the parking lot to the pastry case. As such, it required utilizing my strategic operations experience to develop shopping lists that would direct our travel path from paper products and laundry supplies to dairy and frozen foods (which...to me, is still the most efficient travel path through a grocery store.)

Once I considered the fact that my general stress level was likely being transmitted at some level to my daughter, I took a step back and looked at this mundane chore of gathering stuff with my Montessorial monocle. After doing so, I was able to recognize educational opportunities existing everywhere! It didn't take long to start enjoying the lessons that every isle and every purchase offered.  I think I, like so many other people, shop as they drive. One with the cart. Operating it with a sort of tunnel vision. Half-blind to the other people in the store in that- I saw them mostly as slow moving obstacles in my path to hunting, gathering and surgically extracting a list of items amid a course made from thousands of bar coded goods. The fact that there are so many different products & foodstuffs in a myriad of: colors, textures, shapes and sizes alone...combined with the wide range of pricing makes for an exceptional environment full of physical stimulus there for the taking!  Add to this the potential multitude of non-verbal lessons in social psychology once one begins navigating with others as opposed to through them. Explaining that pictures don't necessarily match what's in the box or naming an animal that eats a particular food...even the act of writing then reading a shopping list together and checking off the items holds a wealth of practical modeling applications.

New and exciting games emerge when a scale is viewed as an educational toy instead of a tool for commerce. Guessing how many units or "pounds" of bananas we want and then showing my three year old just how many bananas her guess of 7 pounds actually equates to…and feels in her arms....can be hilarious! And physically comprehending the difference between a 1lb bag of rice in her lap vs. a 10lb pound bag in her lap is just one of the countless physical comparisons that make long lasting impressions while eliciting a heart-warming amount of laughter.

This is enjoyable education. It's fun. it's free. And it forms the basis of enjoying physical connections with the world and learning from them. The food market has now become not only less stressful for me... but actually much more enjoyable than it ever was.  Seeing how much five of something costs compared to how much ten of the same thing costs can be a real lesson in both mathematics as well as economics.

There is no single word, equivalent to literacy or numeracy, that expresses wrighting and wroughting (that is the ability to make – as in wheelwright, shipwright, cartwright). In late 18th and early 19th century the role of schools in preparing children to work in manufacturing industry would have been seen to have had a greater vocational and economic relevance than it would today.

-Brian Stevens: The Three Rs and The Education Journal #307


We never refer to “shopping” as math or economics or physics or psychology... just as we don't refer to other skill sets such as addition or penmanship in the Montessori classroom as such. We focus on the romantic nature of letters and numbers and what they physically mean so that we can draw them, hold them, trace them, count and separate them, etc... This sensual connection between touch and concept is what I view as romantic. Using the traditional names for foundations of basic skill-oriented educational programs may more readily prepare children for the references they will encounter in later years but it takes all the fun out of learning today. It makes these experiences seem more like work and less like play. It takes the romance, the magic and the imagination out of her world.

"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance."
-Aristotle

Viewing the world from a Montessorial perspective is making every place and every thing seem more meaningful than its obvious context. More valuable than the sum of its parts. More...interconnected.
In my earlier post "Circle Back" I discussed the interconnections that exist between the business world and the natural world. These are the kinds of relationships I am now just seeing for the first time and the vision of the world I want to impart to my child. Seeing the inter-connectedness of all things may sound like a spiritual or religious pursuit for us but it is not. For my wife and me... it is much simpler than that. Our hope is that by embracing the romantic nature of learning she will derive immense fulfillment from discovery and understand more about the world and herself than traditional extrinsic "teaching" alone can impart.  

Right now, my wife and I only want to develop a polite and gentle person who is socially adept and enjoys learning. We have no interest in rushing to amass within her any specific quantity or mass of knowledge nor do we want her to achieve any prescribed level of learning above or beyond what she naturally achieves through self-interest and gentle guidance.  This is why we made the choice to send her to a Montessori School and why, every day, we are grateful for discovering Baan Dek Montessori in Sioux Falls. There are so many stresses that we face as adults in life. Right now we want her to be a child and enjoy her childhood. The artisan educators at Baan Dek seem to direct their students with an understanding that there is greater value in mitigating pressure for children than preparing them to handle it...and we like that.

"Play is The Work of The Child" - Maria Montessori

For the last three years, I have walked with our daughter to the top of at least a dozen water slides...and every climb resulted in uncertainty and fear. Although I would consistently assure her that it would be "ok" and "so much fun!" (While pointing out the other children her age and those younger who we're enjoying it) She always decided to walk back down instead...until this past week at a resort in Phoenix Arizona. When she decided she was "going to be brave” and “ought to give it a try." As a result, I witnessed a mirth of her own accord. Unmistakably derived not only from the thrill of the ride, but also from the pride in realizing that her own hunger for joy was the motivation that elicited courage.

Children develop at different rates... but when placed in healthy environments with exposure to diversity of company and a myriad of disciplines, all children eventually reach their intellectual potential with or without our constant intervention.The difference between racing to that potential vs. allowing a child to arrive at it at their own pace and through a romantic discovery is that the later seems to breed a deeper joy and self-confidence through an appreciation of the journey as well as the destination.

Gender Equality: Getting Serious About Propagation of Discrimination

While covering Catherine's bedroom walls with Minnie Mouse & Daisy Duck decals, we came across one sticker in the package that read: "Girls can do anything!" She asked me what it said and after reading it to her, she promptly responded: "well...boys can do anything too... actually, anyone can do anything." and as my heart began to swell with pride and satisfaction, she added: "...as long as their Mommy and Daddy or Teachers aren't watching."

Although this started my Sunday morning with a good laugh, I found myself contemplating a friend's recent facebook post: 

"I, for one, think that girls are strong enough to handle the word "bossy." And I don't think they need to be treated with extra-gentle kid gloves. It backfires. Makes me think of what Sarah Silverman said:

Stop telling girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. I think it’s a mistake. Not because they can’t but because it would have never occurred to them they couldn’t. You’re planting that seed in their heads. It’s like saying, “Hey when you get in the shower I’m not going to read your diary.”

The whole "addressing the problem" instead of behaving in a way to prove it doesn't exist reminds me of the line in "Dirty Dancing" when Edward says "I never treated you like a prostitute." and Vivian replies (under her breath): "You just did."

Our sincerest intention is for Catherine to view all people as Human and give as much weight to their gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation, religion, creed and race as she does to the color of their hair. Lamenting, defending or proclaiming pride in differences only seems to propagate the human divide.

My wife and I view Catherine as a generational clean slate with regards to human equality. The challenge has been and continues to be the adoption of behavior and offering of  lessons that don't overcompensate for the biases we encounter and dream to circumvent.     

Response Time: Another Quick Re-Heat Meal

Hot Dog, Asparagus & Mozzarella Filled Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. Ready in like... 10mins. I freeze these and then re-heat them in the toaster oven (or microwave) for a fast meal when time gets away from me...as it occasionally does.

The Right Tools for The Right Job: Chopsticks for Kids

Catherine had been asking for her own chopsticks ever since she first saw Mommy and Daddy using them...but her lack of dexterity never seemed to deter her from trying, so hard, to eat with them.

With the use of a rubber band, any take-away sticks can easily be transformed into "training sticks".

The tremendous sense of pride and enjoyment that results from "Doing it!!!" is well worth the additional two minutes of our time.

Impact Fees: The Hidden Costs of Two Income Families

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When both Mom and Dad are both working full-time, it doesn’t leave much time to take care of the basics. Grocery shopping and filling the car up with gas can often prove a challenging fit into one’s schedule… let alone the little things like: laundry, house cleaning, lawn & garden care, dog walking and feeding, picking up the kids because you can’t leave work at 3:00 in the afternoon…little things like that.

The amount of time it takes to run a household adds up fast…especially when you consider the fact that unless you have another family member living with you (like a mother or mother-in-law) you need to pay someone to help with the day-to-day chores and errands.

The bottom line? If you’re thinking about going back to work once the kid(s) are in school full-time, you should consider the direct impact by weighing the tangible expenses of doing so…or rather ensure that your return to the work force will yield an income that outweighs the cost savings of staying home (calculated below).

House Cleaner: $7,200+/yr.

Babysitter / Nanny: $12,000 - $35,000+/yr.

Dog Walker: $7,800/yr.

Summer Camp / Swim or Country Club:  $2,000 - $10,000+/yr.

Landscaping: $1,500 - $4,000+/yr.

Dry-cleaning: $1,000 - $2,000+/yr.

___________________________________________

$31,500 - $66,000+/yr.

In short, unless you’re re-entry into the job market guarantees a salary of at least $50,000+/yr.… it’s likely you won’t break-even (on paper).

But what should also be taken into consideration, if you are one of the very fortunate (and very few) Americans who are in the position to even view a 2nd income as an option, is the fact that people who do what they love are happier people. And happy people not only make better friends and better lovers but better parents too. So, if your family can sustain itself on one (or one and a half salaries) ask yourself what you love more…the fulfillment of keeping a home or the fulfillment of your former line of work.  

Focus: Learning to Tune Out The Noise

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99% of the time I'm totally in love with the privilege and awe of just watching my daughter grow up....then there's the other 1% of the time I feel as though I'm a half-step away from being that strangely numbed Lieutenant who is walking through a battlefield of scorched earth with men screaming, machine guns firing, grenades being launched and mortars exploding all around him... while he has a relaxed conversation, with someone completely distracted by all the chaos, about what they might have for lunch later in the day.  

An interesting article I dug up in the Harvard Business Review blog on: Awareness, Focus & Judgement....applicable in any walk of life:

http://blogs.hbr.org/hmu/2009/01/pay-attention-an-interview-wit.html

Alternative Asset: Montessori - Our Smartest Investment

The public schools in Sioux Falls are as good as (or better) than the public schools in the affluent western suburbs of Philadelphia (US News and world reports ranks the local high-schools in Lincoln County as #1 in the state and #600 out of the 24,000+ reviewed in the entire nation). We found a Montessori School for Catherine (Baan Dek) that exceeded the expectations previously set by an exhausting three months of research and meetings with educators at almost a dozen schools back east. The facility, staff and culture at Baan Dek Montessori continues to be a source of pride and gratitude for our entire family.

The following is a letter my wife and I sent to Bobby & June George (owners of the Baan Dek Montessori):

We enrolled our 3yr old daughter in the part-time program at Baan Dek Montessori two months ago because everyone we met there seemed to exude a conscious compassion and genuine passion for education.

The more we witness the Montessori method of teaching in action, the more we realize how misguided we were in thinking that Montessori was simply a school for the over-privileged children of liberal parents who see structure as stifling.    

Over the last two months, through your workshop initiatives like “Preparation for Numeracy”, my wife and I have come to a deeper understanding of (and appreciation for) the Montessori method. We now recognize Montessori as a bridge between conceptual learning and physical comprehension...a maternal imperative, if within means, since our educational aspirations for Catherine go beyond the development of her scholastic competence. We have a sincere desire for her to comprehend the world in which we live... and be empowered to enrich it.

We now know that Baan Dek is actually an advantage, as opposed to an amenity, that we are grateful to afford our daughter and thank you for making possible.

Sincerely,

JJS

Future Value: Real Expectations for New Dads

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My Letter to a few Magazine Editors:

After letting our nanny go, I took on the seemingly easily managed task of staying home with our 2 yr old daughter. She wasn’t sufficiently potty trained  to attend a local Montessori yet... so the plan was to save money while contributing more significantly to the development of our daughter Catherine. Everything I read portrayed today's stay-at-home dads as an in vogue and growing sub-culture of creative elites and the affluent who placed family above leisure. After watching my umteenth diaper commercial featuring only dad's, I figured that I would be in good company…that there would be dad groups to join… and bonding over play dates....but what I found was quite the opposite.  You see, I don't live in Tribecca or L.A....so I was the only at-home dad in my neighborhood. And in suburban Philadelphia, most working dads are about as accepting of stay-at-home dad's as they are of drag queens.

Upon embarking on what has become a life-altering sabbatical transitioning from working dad to at-home dad, I decided to keep a journal as a form of therapy… since there was no-one with whom to commiserate. I now post those journal entries on my blog: www.dbadaddy.com

As I share the experience of taking on this, at times, overwhelming role I also share the resulting new perspectives on fatherhood. Most mainstream media continues to print articles that discuss the increasing popularity of women being the breadwinners and  fathers taking over the domestic responsibilities… but no-one seems to be addressing the incredible hurtle men face of overcoming the generations-long conditioning of gender identity. Not to say that successful professional women have it any easier...they are still very much a minority, but they do seem to share more company.

Please consider exposing the social and psychological  challenges men with successful professional wives face, when they make the decision to “stay home” with their children who aren't yet spending 5 or 6 hours a day at school.

I believe if more men knew more what to expect, they would be better prepared caregivers and not waste as much of what precious little time there is trying to figure it out. If there’s one thing I have learned…it’s the importance of understanding early-on that attempting to balance work and the full-time care of a two year old ensures that both will suffer. The benefit of staving off professional atrophy comes at the cost of a child and father both being robbed of as much joy and growth as this advantage can afford. "Leaning In" to both Mom and  Dad's career requires outsourcing... not commitment and balance.  

Growth Market: The Midwest is The Future

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When Catherine was just over a year old, she turned a Dr. Seus book over and placed the frame of a United States foam puzzle over it and exclaimed: "Look Daddy! I made a city!"

I'm not saying that the evolution of America's middle-market is going to be that fast or that simple but the growth in South Dakota- and the Midwest in general, has been both exponential and inevitable.

When you have both coasts of the country growing on top of themselves, it’s only a matter of time before generations that are increasingly more mobile (as they were four and five generations ago in the old country) affect the fluid dynamics of economic overflow into the middle of the country. After all, you can't have sprawl into the ocean.

Another driving force behind this growth is what I like to call “The Delaware Factor” -which is the creation of a tax friendly environment for corporations and dynastic trusts. Corporations and families being able to thrive in soil like this results in more Fortune 500 companies relocating their corporate headquarters… which serves as a catalyst to attract other businesses... that holistically contribute: more jobs, more rooftops, more retail and finally more advanced medical and educational development (Take note Obama).

In the last three years, the population of Sioux Falls alone has gone from 75,000 people to almost 180,000. From 2010 to 2011, the departures and arrivals from the airport (which you pull into like a lifestyle center) doubled which prompted the construction of two additional terminals and an initiative to establish Sioux Falls as an international hub.  In the first quarter of 2012, the number of flights has already doubled the total amount of flights in 2011.

Two major hotel flags have recently been planted in the area in addition to to the already significant number of beds. One by Hilton and the other by Hamilton Suites. The construction of the Midwest’s largest sports and entertainment arena, scheduled to be completed in 2013, will bring with it zoning for an entirely new "Entertainment District" and one of the country's largest state-of-the-art Convention Center. The fact that the mayor’s office recently announced that they would be submitting an RFP for another large hotel across from the new Convention Center (contiguous to a championship golf course) has a lot of developers, as far as New York, peeking over their Chemex to get a better look at what’s going on here. But after speaking with quite a few of the old guard in this small city, one is left with the feeling that an RFP is more of an exercise in protocol than of a genuine offering. The deals seem to be locked up before they’re even made public and with a surge of Ag[riculture] money in the market from farmers who profited greatly over the last few years with the corn belts spreading. Farmers and local developers are buying up land and investing in commercial development almost as fast as those profiting from the oil boom in North Dakota. According to Gov. Ed Schafer and Paul Hegg of Hegg Companies, development of the Bakken oil patch is a 25 year play, and it’s not too late for businesses to participate in the economic boom here. This is looking more and more like a better short-term opportunity for developers and operators from the coasts than for the newly relocating fund managers, institutional investors or capital intermediaries. But there does seem to be a long-term play here. I left the East Coast with the luxury of never needing to waiver from my sense of integrity and commitment to fair-play. Those principles may not have brought me as much action as I would have liked, but definitely enabled me to grow with like-minded colleagues, learn from benevolent leaders, and forge a few lasting friendships built on trust and respect. Perhaps not the most popular of business practices employed by ambitious young professionals in America’s biggest cities… but certainly seems to be the way of life in a city of less than 200,000.

Sioux Falls feels like an instant culture-fit for my family and me.  If, over time, I’m fortunate enough to earn the trust and respect of my new neighbors, I am confident that the numerous opportunities here will bear fruit.

The mayor’s just announced that a total of $200MM has been spent in the last year on new road construction and repairs of existing roads. Although I am still trying to adapt to things such as driving 35mph on long stretches of road with four to five lanes that could benefit from a few extra signalized intersections; there is a tremendous amount of investment in infrastructure to support and sustain development of the 43rd fastest growing state in the country.

Is Sioux Falls the best kept secret in America? I'll have to pay close attention to my 3yr old daughter's musings and get back to you.

 

 

Entry Point: Starting School on a Part-Time Basis

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When faced with the dilemma of sending Catherine to school on a Full-Time basis (which would include recess, lunch and naps) versus a Part-Time basis (going home at 11:30am), we asked if the tuition could be pro-rated to reflect a gradual increase of time spent there each day.

We thought a gradual introduction to school beginning with a Part-Time schedule would be best and that she would eventually communicate her willingness and/or desire to spend more time at school as she develops relationships and a respective comfort level.  They agreed so long as her pick-up times were during windows that would not be disruptive to the other childrens’ routines. 

With the exception of a few days at her grandparent’s and a few nights in hotels, Catherine hadn’t once taken a nap outside of our home. Although we realized that it would happen…we certainly didn’t want to be married to a date by which it would happen.  Even the thought that she would be lying down for a nap in a strange place was so incredible to imagine that it made me laugh nervously at the teacher's mere mention of it.

So we’re opted to gradually bring her into the waters of Montessori like a bagged goldfish into a new tank . Not that we thought the sudden climate change might have killed her…kids seem pretty pliable and resilient. This gradual introduction served more as psychological transition time for us than for her.

 

A few days later we brought a blanket and Pillow to school with us. The goal was for her to see more of her things there and simply get comfortable with the idea that she could take a nap there if she was so inclined. When I arrived to pick her up at 1:30 yesterday, her teacher Mrs.Berry rushed to greet me with a finger held against her lips. She whispered: “Catherine came in from recess and was so excited to take a nap in her spot that she was actually the first one to lay down!” I asked if I could take a peek through the double-sided mirror and she quietly walked me over. There I could see the my little girl's golden locks peeking out from under a blanket covering her little body with her legs tucked-up under her. Catherine was twirling her hair with one hand while the other was softly tucked for suckling in her mouth. Mrs. Will (her other teacher) was  gently, rythmically, rubbing her back. Suddenly I felt like “this was it”. Like it was all about to come to an end…. I was immediately struck with the heaviness that accompanies a sad farewell in my heart. I suddenly realized that I was going to find her doing more and more without me. Growing up and being magical with other people and I wouldn’t be there to see it...to even hear what she was saying. I fought back a tear…partly of joy and partly of sadness. I drove back home and imagined the joy of relishing something ordinary and mundane with her in the future... like a game of basketball in the driveway after not seeing her for so long. Like Steve Martin in Parenthood only backwards….instead of my eyes welling up from recalling images of her childhood, I was lost, only for a moment, in realizing that her "growing-up" meant relying less on me.

Cold Calling: Learning To Ski at 3

My bucket list includes enjoying quite a few activities with my daughter like: surfing, skiing and sailing...so when she turned three, my wife and I shared the excitement of anticipating Catherine's first gondola ride and first ski lesson.   

The first day we enjoyed the amenities of the hotel and "Apres Ski" as opposed to actual skiing.

We wanted to ease Catherine into skiing by first introducing her to the mountain.  Catherine took a gondola ride to survey some runs from above and, just as we had hoped, began to sense the fun and excitement everywhere around us.  She loved the ride and without her gear felt no pressure to jump right in. 

On Day 2, Catherine protested that she did not want to go to Ski School because : "...I already know how to ski!" The idea of leaving her alone with an unfamiliar group of people to learn something completely new was difficult to digest...and knowing that it might afford me some time to enjoy some of the back bowls after a fresh snowfall felt like an abandonment of my daughter for my own selfish desires. After a few folks "talked us down" we agreed that most of the apprehension was on our end as parents and any fear or discomfort our daughter was expressing was likely a result of what she was picking-up from us.....so we signed her up and our palms immediately began to sweat.

She started out bold and confident...almost cocky. She loved her pink goggles, purple ski pants and even the little spider and pastel colored accents on her white ski sweater....but then learning to ski suddenly involved leaving mom and dad behind... and so my performance as a laissez-faire father began. I walked with her to the chalet and after slowly kissing me goodbye she returned my "thumbs-up" but not my forced smile. Her nervousness was palpable as she willingly... and quietly walked away and joined the instructors who welcomed her into the room.

After what seemed like an hour, my wife and I watched as she finally emerged from the classroom and headed to the instruction area with two other children who seemed to move with a comfort that comes from having done this before. We watched her every move....but took evasive maneuvers like... turning, ducking and spinning so that she wouldn't see us there and desperately call for rescue. Throughout our exercise of stealth (which probably more resembled hippos hiding behind palm trees than anything  "Cloak & Dagger") several other parents approached and asked: "How old is your little one?". They told us tales of when their children, now in their twenties, first started skiing and how the "instructors here are some of the best in the world". All, I'm sure, to put us more at ease...and they did.

After snapping 79 photos or so, I kissed my wife goodbye and took off for a few runs before Ski School let out. I figured everything was going to be fine as Catherine seemed to be adjusting well and was receiving a lot of one-on-one attention. After ten or fifteen minutes however, mommy texted me: "Call when you can. We're done but have fun and take your time". I soon learned that all was apparently going quite well up until CR broke into tears after peeing in her snow pants... during the last 10 minutes of her class. My heart sank at hearing the news. We both knew that it was because, although she went potty before getting dressed, it was cold and she wasn't comfortable enough to speak up to her new "teachers" whom were probably accustomed to kids saying they "have to go" all the time...but were likely able to "hold it". My wife took Catherine to the room to change and then back to the base for some hot cocoa while waiting for Daddy.

The next day mommy and daddy both took on the role of "instructor" themselves (after having carefully observed the techniques employed by the professionals)....with one small difference in the routine. We strategically situated ourselves beside a mountain-top restaurant (complete with restrooms of course) and limited the duration of our sessions. Catherine made it down 20 or 30 feet without falling about a half a dozen times or so...and never had an accident in her bib. I believe she was equally proud of both.  

Overall, Catherine had a lot of fun in a beautiful new setting and left with a newfound appreciation of Apres Ski as a reward that's far more enjoyable after a tough day on the mountain.

Drinking The Kool-Aid: Why Is Everybody So Nice? Seriously.

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We love Sioux Falls! Just when we thought people here in South Dakota were about to “let down their guard” and had fully expected a leveling off of "genuine Sioux Falls hospitality"; I walked into Cleaver’s Gourmet Market to look around and take stock of the place. The store manager (Penny) not only treated me like a long lost friend but also took my order for coffee like an attendant at the Ritz Paris.

“…Regular or decaf? Light roast or dark roast? Flavored or unflavored? Cream? Sugar or Sweetener? What kind of sweetener? ….”

and they don’t even sell coffee. They just offer it to everyone who walks through their door.

Everyone here is so patient and moves at a noticeably slower pace it almost throws you off balance. I don't know why everyone is so nice... It’s almost too good to be true…and now we fear, in the back of our minds, that although South Dakotans may seem to epitomize warm hospitality...perhaps it's because they aim to eat us.

Can’t help but to occasionally think about the conclusion of The Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man"...   "IT’S A COOKBOOK!   IT’S A COOKBOOK!!!” 

Assumptions: Women Have it Tougher Than I Thought

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A nice reminder that although it's not all bubble baths and bon-bons for stay-at-home moms (or dads), that assumption is often made.

The following is an excerpt from an article I read on Forbes.com: 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2012/04/15/a-working-mom-defends-the-lululemon-stay-at-home-mother/ 

“The stay-at-home moms, or the “Lululemon Moms” as the working moms in my community often call them, seem just a bit calmer. Of course, not all of them wear Lululemon workout gear–in fact a lot of them might not even be able to afford $95 or so for yoga pants. Still, the reference to the “Lululemon mom” has become short-hand for what many working moms incorrectly assume to be a certain kind of person.

In reality, I don’t know anything about their lives except that they get to wear comfortable clothing when I am dressed for the office. ”

Although this (and most) parenting articles assume the primary care giver of a child is the mother (as was the focus during the recent Yahoo work-from-home ban). I have however, been finding it easier to insert myself (or rather my gender) into the text.

Although I believe in the fundamental principles of Carl Jung’s identified archetypes of anima and animus, I don’t think it’s all genetic and I debated this point with my mother who counseled me on the magnitude of the undertaking any stay-home dad accepts. I believe a significant portion of our gender identity is largely a result of socialization and suppression. In light of my recent catharsis, I have come to realize that the one benefiting most from my struggles and sacrifices is not my daughter as I had initially presumed… but in fact, it has been me.

This gender-role reversal has allowed me to experience a tremendous amount of growth as a person and adopt a fresh perspective on personal dynamics in general and a newfound appreciation for modern women. I always found it interesting and disappointing that in most professional situations…even even after introducing the woman in the room as the lead, client or principle....most people will still direct their eye contact and conversation at me.  I understand the hard-wired tendency to predominately regard the physically larger (and often louder) presence in the room but it surprises me, that in 2013, women have a great deal more conscious and unconscious gender discrimination to overcome on the professional and domestic fronts than I ever imagined.    

Non-Disclosure: Learning When to Keep My Mouth Shut

Made my wife cry.jpg

I made my wife cry last night.

I told her something I should’ve kept to myself. Which is one of the re-curing mistakes I make but when you marry your best friend and lover…you sometimes forget she’s not that much like you.

Before I dropped Catherine off at school today, she sweetly asked me if I would buy her some new mittens. I replied: “Of course sweetheart! What color would you like?” “Purple” she replied. I suggested that we could go to a store filled with hats, coats and gloves to see if we could find a pair of purple mittens. She whispered “Thank you Daddy” into my ear and then kissed me on the nose.

When I picked her up seven hours later, it finally occurred to me that she was asking me for new mittens because I had been sending her to school (and a 1hr outdoor recess) for the last three days without any gloves or mittens in 30 degree weather. My heart was split open with guilt, sadness and sorrow.

Gotta work on that jalopy of a filter I have...