All too quick

swingset decaying in a backyard

I dismantled a swingset on Sunday.

Colorado’s intense high-altitude sun and temperature swings had taken their toll on the wood.

Our youngest kid is now 15. Playing on the swingset no longer holds the attraction it used to. So we decided to convert that part of the yard to garden.

It’s sad to contemplate that it seems like just a few years ago when I was mourning the loss of cuteness – when she was about 6 or 7 years old.

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The great thing about being a kid

Skier kid asleep on a staircaseThe great thing about being a kid is that many times you just don’t care what other people think.

We went skiing a few weeks ago, and this kid fell asleep on a very busy staircase in the main ski lodge. He didn’t care about what other people thought. He was so exhausted that he had to collapse right then and there.

I was jealous of his strong filters. What a cool thing to be able to sleep there!

I was not jealous of the kid’s parents. Their filters were a bit underdeveloped. I feared a skier who had one too many beers at the bar would stomp on the kid’s head on their way down the staircase. At least the kid had a helmet on. (But in all fairness to his unseen parents, maybe they were so tired they collapsed on a different staircase.)

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Don’t save it

old mouse padMy in-laws gave Heather this lovely mouse pad, back when our boys were about 2 and 4. The oldest is now in college.

Things fall apart. In this case, the rubber on the back of the pad started to deteriorate. Fine powder began spreading around the home-office… time for the trash bin.

But thanks to the wonders of technology, I can remember that mouse pad for many years to come.

I would urge you to do the same. Take a photo, and then throw the darn thing away.

Click on each word for > more in this series.

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Changing minds

powIt is so hard to change the minds of people.

The massacre in Connecticut brought all who are for or against gun control to the surface. I like the idea of gun control. (Please, bring on any controls!) I have many friends who prefer total freedom when it comes to firearms. I can never convince them to change their minds. They cannot change mine.

This left me in a discouraged frame of mind. I don’t see the reason to post a video on my Facebook page from Bill Moyers that makes a very convincing case (to me) against the availability of automatic weapons to the general public. (I posted the video and later thought, “What’s the point?” I probably turned off several people, if they actually clicked on the link. And it didn’t make any difference to those who agree with me.)

The one area where I can make a difference is to convince young, impressionable minds of the values behind the ways I think. My wife and I have three kids. All of them agree with our views about gun control (and lots of other things).. at least for now.

For my friends who don’t have kids, you can get involved in a mentor program – and make a difference in the minds and hearts of young people who need the influence of a caring adult. You can pour yourself into their lives. Chances are they will listen to you more than your adult friends.

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Time flies

Last Friday evening was a significant occasion for our family. Our oldest son Jay, a senior, was voted “Mr. Eagle” at a big high school event. He beat 11 other contestants. (His class has roughly 500 kids.)

It was thrilling to hear them announce the new Mr. Eagle, in a room of more than 700 screaming kids. Well, a few were adults, though I’m not sure how many of those were screaming. Heather and I screamed along with the rest.

Looking back, I remembered one of the events that shaped who Jay is today. We moved to Kenya, Africa in 2005, for a two year work assignment. Shortly after we arrived, Heather enrolled both Jay and Ben in Ligi Ndogo (“small league”) – a soccer club for boys. They were the only white kids in the whole league. They learned to relate to kids of another culture and to speak a little Swahili. They didn’t want to go every Saturday, but we basically forced them to take part. “Eat your spinach, it’s good for you!”

The Mr. Eagle evening included answering questions that the contestants were not prepared for. Jay’s question: “What one thing would you do differently, if you could live your life over?” He paused and said he wished he had been able to spend more time in Africa.

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The best gift you can give your kid this Christmas

wristwatchTime.

It’s all too easy to go out and buy something for your kid for Christmas. But what he or she really wants is you.

Think of creative ways you can spend time with your kid during the holidays. Here are a few ideas:

  • Take them out for a one-on-one meal.
  • Go sledding. Or if your town is too warm for that, take them to the beach.
  • Go to a free Christmas or Hanukkah concert at a nearby church or synagogue.
  • Catch a movie together.

Enjoy! Both of you.

To practice what I preach, this will be my last blog post until 2012.

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You gotta let them get muddy

muddy sneakersOne thing I’ve learned as I’ve been a parent of three kids is that you must let your kids get muddy.

We were hiking up near an alpine lake, and the water level was way below normal. The water must have drained fast, as the remaining lake bed was one big mud pit.

My kids know me well enough that they asked Heather and me if they could run around out there. I had no problem saying, “Sure!” In fact, I joined them.

I’ve seen a lot of parents doing the “helicopter parenting” thing – swooping in whenever anything goes wrong and rescuing their kids from harm. Sometimes kids have to learn the hard way. Of course there’s a balance in this… you don’t want your 3-year old to learn about hot stove burners the hard way.

In short, relax.

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My style council

Wearing shortsMowing the lawn. Hot. Shorts.

So I wore some old short shorts – attempting to stay cool. My 10-year old daughter pointed out that I was seriously out of style.

It’s nice to have someone watching out for me.

(And by the way, I was wearing shoes when I mowed the lawn – thanks James & Bill, from the comments.)

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Focus on the majors

Two of my kids are wearing braces. They use these little rubber bands. Those bands end up all over the house. The car. The driveway.

It drives me crazy, as I’m related to Monk. So I could whine about that to my sons. Or demand that they pick them up and dispose of them. (I’ve done both.)

Or I could let it drop.

I’ve tried to change their behavior on this. No luck. I realized that I needed to step back and spend my critical energy on things that are far more important. They can only take in so much criticism, so I need to use it wisely.

Even if you’re not a parent, you can apply this to just about any relationship. Go forth and do so.

And you have to really look carefully at the photo to see just how small the rubber band is (5 mm or .2″.)

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