For Grandma Z

When I was little, not much beat going to my Grandma Z’s house and seeing the Cuckoo clock go off every hour. I have been thinking about getting one for my kids for awhile and after a long Friday – I went out and bought an authentic Cuckoo clock made in the Black Forest of Germany. All three kids run to it on the hour to hear/see everything.

On the hour – the Cuckoo bird comes out, the man chops wood, then the people at the top dance around and the water wheel turns. All in all – it is really cool and one of the first things I have ever bought that I thought will make it down multiple generations (hopefully). On top of the enjoyment I get watching the kids get excited – I am also reminded of the same excitement I experienced when I was little.

We Are…A Family

My kids with Joe.

Some people do not understand it, others think I/we are crazy, but losing Joe was hard. He was more than a coach, a public figure, and an educator…he was part of the family.

After watching the Joe Paterno memorial yesterday one thing was made very clear – we the Penn State community are one big family. Sure – we have our problems, but what family – especially such a large family – does not? Seeing everyone together, supporting one and other, and sharing memories about Joe was pretty amazing and finally made me feel a bit more at peace.

A big thanks to the Big Ten Network for airing it!

Does One Person Define an Institution?

Does one person define an institution? You might say yes if thinking about someone like Steve Jobs or Joe Paterno and their legacy. You also might say no if thinking about someone like Jerry Sandusky. For the past few days I cannot help but to feel a bit sad for both the victims in the Jerry Sandusky case (whomever they may be) as well as sad for Penn State as a whole. While Penn State is getting a lot of bad media coverage it frustrates me that the media coverage is all because one person. I just hope the media and everyone else in the world realize that Penn State is more than Jerry Sandusky.

So do I think one person defines an institution? If you were to ask me a month ago I would have said yes – thinking specifically of Joe Paterno and Steve Jobs. After Steve Jobs died and all of this came out about PSU – I have changed my mind. One person can make an impact, but it is the community at whole which defines an institution.

The Delicate Balance of Parenting

I love my kids more than I ever thought possible. Once and awhile everything fits together nicely and you feel like you everything is in balance. Most days however there is a constant multi-dimensional game of tug of war going on with both parents over how to do x, y, and z with the kids.

For an example – let’s talk about a problem for most parents…listening. If the child is not listening, what do you do? Do you talk to them about the importance of listening, ask them to politely listen, give them multiple chances to listen (repeating their name over and over until they listen), give them positive reinforcement? Or do you raise your voice and/or give them a consequence if they do not listen?

While one parent generally believe in one way to accomplish getting the child to listen – they are usually not on the same page as the other parent. Not only do you have a strike a balance of consequences (bad/good) you also have to strike a balance between you and the other parent (assuming there is another parent). This is not only very delicate but also very exhausting. Finding this balance seems to be something that goes on just about everyday in my household – especially with three kids under the age of five and two adults who are both stubborn and non-pushovers.

We struggle to find a good balance on how to deal with certain situations (like listening) but at the end of the day – we try and find a common voice so we do not confuse the kids. I might not necessarily agree with the options put forth or the method of trying to correct the child’s behavior but I can always live with that. It is also understood if those options or methods do not work – we can try it another way at a later date. Overall – it is important to show the child you are in control and agree with the other parent at least on some level.

Real life example: this past weekend my oldest son was not behaving as we expected. We had been trying to give him positive feedback, had a sticker chart for him, and had clearly defined good behaviors which would result in a reward once the sticker chart was full. No voice raising, time outs, etc. Everything appeared to be going well until Saturday when Evan mis-behaved at soccer. I ended up taking a harder approach to curbing bad behavior by raising my voice (not in public), not giving him multiple chances, etc. While we – the parents – were not in total agreement on this, both of us realized the positive feedback was not the end all approach and was clearly not working and it was time to shift gears. We – as the parents – discussed ways of handling this and at the end of the weekend – although I was being more vocal and less patience of Evan – he stuck to me like glue and wanted to be with me, play with me, and wanted my input on more than usual. This was not expected and I think we feared it would be the opposite but it goes to show you kids respond differently to different parenting styles. Finding that balance is key.

What Do You Want in Life?

Over the past year I have spent a lot of time thinking about what life really means for me personally. Now that I have three kids – I have a lot more on the line…not only for them, but also for me.

I realized I needed to get a real perspective on life. I saw myself and people around me too focused for their/my own good on things that 1 year, 5 years in the future will not matter. Why waste so much energy?

I finally realized that life is a lot bigger than my house, my suburb, my country, and even my planet/galaxy. There is a lot we can do to make changes, and even more to stay the same. I spent a great deal of 2010 educating myself on a number of topics and made myself aware of a lot that I never thought about (from food to complicated physics). I bought myself a telescope so after a long day working and getting the family organized I could step back and put things all in perspective. I became calmer.

Time is not to be wasted. I also realized time is the most important thing in my life. I realized that every minute with a loved one or doing something I loved was extremely precious and I should not take that for granted. I also realized that I could do something about making sure the time I spent was worthwhile. If something was off or not worth my time – it is time to move on. I waste less time.

All in all – my thirties (I am 34) have been amazing. I always thought growing up ended around when people turned 18, but I have to say, at 34, I think the growing I have done in the last year or two has been the greatest. Getting perspective takes time and I have a lot to learn, but by learning perspective – your understanding of everything changes – and it is quite exciting.

Traveling with Children

We just returned to Chicagoland from a trip to see my parents/grandparents. While I was not really excited to travel with all three kids – I knew my family would appreciate it. Since we were traveling with all three kids (4 years, 7 month twins) I figured it would be a nightmare. To my surprise – we had a pretty good experience by doing the following:

  1. First thing first: make sure you tell yourself that regardless of whatever comments/facial expressions you get – that they do not mean a thing. People are idiots and very selfish – and they tend not to care about anyone else but themselves – especially when traveling without kids.
  2. Make sure to pack at least one change of clothing for all travelers. We went through 3 out of 5 changes of clothing over our trip due to spit up/accidents/etc
  3. Don’t rush. Rushing only causes more stress for you and regardless of what you do and how fast you do it – people will not see a family as moving fast.
  4. Bring plenty of food. When all else fails, a bottle, a snack, or something tasty might help with the boredom, crankiness of both adults and kids.
  5. Bring plenty of water. Kids and adults can act/think/react better if they are well hydrated. I would just make sure the non-diaper children have a controlled amount so there are not multiple on-plan bathroom trips.
  6. Bring plenty of candy. When all else fails – a lollipop or some lifesavers go a long way to help make kids happy (and also helps with the ear pressure changes).
  7. Bring the entertainment. Our four year old spent almost the entire flight playing on the iPad/watching movies on the iPad. This kept his mind off the fact he had to sit quietly for almost three hours.
  8. Dial back the “no”. On our first flights with Evan, I constantly said “no”/ “don’t” to everything. Don’t touch this, don’t kick that, don’t look there, don’t talk to that person. It was over the top stressful to all. This time around – Cora decided she wanted to play with the onboard WiFi information handout and while I generally would have been saying “don’t touch that” – I let her and it entertained her for over 30 minutes. As long as the kids are not bothering others on purpose – let them do what they need to to get by.
  9. Travel in the AM. We have traveled on the first flight out and on the last flight in. Earlier travel seems to work best and allows the kids to adjust easier for the activities once we land.
  10. Give yourself a day. Give yourself (and your kids) a day to relax before rushing into some planned events. Traveling is stressful and we all need some downtime. Likewise – make sure you have some time the day after travel to just relax and unwind.

Nothing is more important than the first item. For all you non-family travelers, remember as bad or as horrible as a flight you had because of someone’s kid screaming – the parent and the child feel 1000 times worse. Suck it up and invest in some good earphones for the next flight…and consider this: who is a bigger baby: A baby crying because they are stuck in a small space, not sure of what is going on, with ear pressure problems or a big baby who did not get x hours of their day as quiet as they wanted and then complains about it and says nasty things to the parent – who in most cases – would have prevented the screaming/crying if they could.

Our Broken Political System: Fixed Jappler Style

Tomorrow is mid-term elections and over the last few weeks I have grown more and more disgusted with the campaign tactics and politicians in generally. Not only do we have to put up with horrible attack ads, we have to also put up with “well they are not going to do anything with issue y in an election year”. Sometimes government just does not seem to work – even with the best intentions.

There are multiple issues with our current state of government and I would like to go over two issues I think some major overhauling.

Campaigning is particularly frustrating to me. There are plenty of people out there that I would love to represent the people in the state/federal government but cannot either afford it or do not want to drag their family through the media. The people remaining (who can afford it and do not care about the media)…are these the people that really have our best interests at heart? And what do they do with all that money? This election it seems like almost everyone had a few horrible attack ads – even using children to belittle current issues including health care. Not only are the candidates themselves attacking one and other – there are special interest groups doing more of this as well. (Look at the paid for by…). This is just outrageous. The fact that there have been so many horrible ads coupled with the amount of money spent on all of this makes me sick.

What we need is a more open and available way for people to get known and to run with a more positive path. I realize there are caps to campaigning – but that is not enough. I think if you want to run for office – a simple collection of x number of names and a general fee ($5,000 – $10,000) should get you a spot. The entrance fee would pay for the centralization of all campaigning activities as well as make sure that the candidate was serious. There would be a central office that would control six months of actual “campaigning”. No money can be spent on negative commercials or negative advertisements. The central office would set up open debates (if there were a number of people running – a bracket (Final Four style) would be created). These debates would run on TV/radio at both set times and then available online. Furtxhermore, a web site would be created that listed everyone’s bio, past votes, and some testimonials. No one would be able to “campaign” for more than six months – as it is a waste of everyone’s time and money. The candidates would also fill out a contract of sorts that clearly lists their realistic goals of what they would complete while in office.

I am sick people running that promise “x,y,z” and do nothing. This is nothing more than jr high politics as the kids promise to bring junk food, give days off, etc when running for class president. You want someone to do something? Mandate everyone creates a contract with their campaign promises. (see above)

For each promise they keep, they get paid. Think good salesmen that actually not just talk about the sales they can get – but actually get sales. Do we really need more people with all kinds of promises who either do not follow through or turn around and do the opposite? We constituents deserve more. We help elect these people on certain beliefs and grounds. In return – I do not think it is too much to ask that they actually follow through. Perhaps this is the way to also make a dent in standing up to special interests as well as make the elected officials work more before elections instead of less.

Questions/Comments? Am I on to something or just crazy?

PS – do not forget to vote tomorrow!

Meeting People

On the same note as my post las week “Time to Reconnect and Disconnect – I decided to take some time this past weekend to go golfing as well as to go to my first ever book signing: Alison Arngrim (actress who played Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie) (one of my all time favorite shows).

It was great to get out and enjoy the nice fall weather while golfing on my favorite course: Foxford Hills. While only my second time out all year (pathetic) – I did pretty well and came home excited to go out again this week. I need to work on my putting but everything else felt pretty good.

During show commercials – I often pick up the iPad and see what actors have done/are doing and decided to take a look at the Little House on the Prairie cast. I noticed the actress who played Nellie Oleson (someone that is in the thick of things in all my favorite episodes) was in town doing a book signing for her new book. I decided I had to go meet her in person and so on Saturday – I drove down to the bookstore where she was at and listened to her talk, had her sign my book, and told her how much of a pleasure it was to meet her.

Listening her tell stories and just seeing her in person was a real treat. I look forward to going to more book signings in the future. It was great to be able to ask questions and make a real connection face to face with someone you thought you “knew” all those years. Of course playing golf was also a blast and I am looking forward to a lot of fall golf in the next few months.