Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Stop Telling Kids They Are Perfect The Way They Are

Parenting is super tricky.

You do a thing you think is great - look, I've set very strict guidelines that will make my kid a super adult and prepare them for the world - and all you do is instill them with the thought that you never let them have fun and kept them from being able to adjust to the world as it is.

OTOH, you give them no rules and be their friend, and they long for you to have given them direction and guidance and pushed them so that they didn't end up with no skills and a habit of laying around on a couch all day.

It is really the ultimate no win situation in a game that feels incredibly important to win.  As a result, I'm hesitant to give hard and fast advice on how to parent a specific child.

But there is one piece thing I think we parents need to stop doing across the board: stop telling kids they are "perfect the way they are."  

This is also a tricky, mine filled field to traipse through, because honestly, self esteem requires that we like who we are.  I'm not saying otherwise.

But if you are perfect the way you are, there is no reason to change.  The fact is, your kids aren't perfect the way they are.  You aren't perfect the way you are.

You should want to grow and, hypothetically, be someone different 5 years from now.  I'm not saying you need a set out five-year plan to be person B.  But if you are 35 and the same person you were in high school, or college, that isn't a good look.  Heck, if you are 25 and the same person you were in high school or college, shame on you.

And yet you'll see people mindlessly post things on social media like:
"My parents taught me to love who I am, and that is why I'm the same person I was in high school."
As with so many things people say, if you think about for like a second, this doesn't reflect well on the author.  It is meant as a braggadocios "look at me, I'm an original who stays true to themselves" post (with a touch of "unlike you people" as a side dish).

In reality, what it says (to me, at any rate) is "I'm not good at introspection and I don't like to grow."

We should definitely be teaching our kids that they appreciate who they are in the moment.  But MORE IMPORTANTLY, we should be teaching them that they need  recognize where they can grow and work on things.  And not just them.  I tell my kids all the time that they need to work on things - that we ALL have things we need to work on.  I point out to them places where I need to grow and things I need to work on.

Life is about growth and learning.

The important thing for them to know isn't that they are "fine" the way they are; the important thing for them to know is that they can improve from where they are..

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Push Up Up And Away

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I enjoy a good short workout.  I'm all about HIIT workouts.  Get in, get out.  You can follow @triplethedad over there if you want to see my recommendations and what I use.  Or look for the #dadfit tag.

If you followed the former version of this blog, you know I love push ups.  In fact, on at least two or three occasions, I've done the 100 push up challenge.  The idea is that if you follow the six-week program, you'll eventually be able to do 100 push ups (surprise).

Push ups are awesome and underrated both as a workout and as a health measure.  Here are some of things being said about push ups:

  • NY Times: the ultimate barometer of fitness.
  • HuffPost: If I could only do one exercise for the rest of my life, it would be the pushup.
  • LiveStrong: Of all the exercises you can do, though, pushups are one of the most effective. They are accessible, scalable to your fitness level and beneficial.

The people over at Lifehacker.com are doing push ups every day in February.

I've never really been able to get above 45, but I've never failed to drastically improve when using the program.  One of the great things is the program is scaled based on how many you can do at the start, so I don't really blame the program for my failure.  While I'd love to think I could go from doing 20 push ups to 100 in six weeks, the reality is I probably need to do it several times.

And then my wife got me an Amazon Echo for Christmas.  You might wonder how this all ties in.  Well, I'm here to tell you!  I'll be honest, I was hesitant about it first for lots of reasons.  But I've found 100 reasons to love it.  Turns out, the Echo has a 100 push up challenge app.


I started out doing 22 for my initial test last month.  After a couple weeks, my second test turned in 32.  I'm in week 4 Day 2 as I write this, and I performed 130 push ups over 5 sets with a approximately a minute rest between each set.  I had to take some extra rest to get there, sure, but I'm happy with that result.  Heck, the fifth set alone was 35 push ups.  You read that right: after having already done 90 or so push ups in five minutes, I did my previous max in the last set.

[UPDATE]: Since I wrote the above, I had another test day, and I'm happy to say I'm up to 40 consecutive push ups.  Figuring out just what that means as far as how good I am is somewhat hard, but generally, 40 push ups puts a male well above average, and nearing military acceptance levels.  So, yeah me!

Are you going to jump on the Lifehacker daily push up goal, or maybe take on the 100-push up challenge?  How are you getting your exercise this February?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tea Causes Cancer! (Or Not!)

This headline from the *usually* reputable, non-clickbait WebMd had me nearly spitting out my tea:

Hot Tea Linked To Esophageal Cancer Risk

I drink between 1-5 cups of tea a day, have a bit of a fascination with health, love to read news, and have never seen a study or article suggesting tea was anything but beneficial to your health, so of course I was clicking on that link.

Thankfully, the lead gives you the true story right off the bat: 

 Tea lovers who take their daily cup scalding hot are raising their chance of having esophageal cancer if they also drink alcohol every day or if they smoke, say researchers.

Couple things here: the "scalding hot" from the lead and study is not the "hot" the article promises. If you know much about how cancer works, you probably wouldn't be too surprised to find out that repeated scaldings could lead to cancer.  Cell damage causes replication and requires repair, and that process could well go awry - leading to cancer.  

But that is a minor quibble compared to what follows.  So if you scald yourself every day, and irritate that skin further by introducing alcohol or smoke (already a well-known carcinogen), you could raise your risk of cancer.

This also appears a ways down in the article:

The risk for esophageal cancer was doubled in those who drank piping hot tea each day and smoked tobacco, compared with nonsmokers who drank tea only occasionally.

"Piping hot" doesn't seem like the most scientific term.  Regardless, how is tea to blame here?  The risk of cancer doubled between those who didn't use a well-known carcinogen and those who did, and also drank tea.  But, um, the cause here would more likely seem to be the known cancer agent, wouldn't it? 

If you manage to read to the bottom of the page, and click over to page 2, you see this:

Although the study showed no higher odds of esophageal cancer in participants who drank only tea every day -- scalding or not -- the study authors emphasize that "chronic thermal injury to the esophageal mucosa may initiate carcinogenesis," or the change of normal cells to cancer cells.

Hey, look, its exactly what I mentioned in my 5th graph!  

How could this be better?  Well, the headline should probably note that hot tea may further the risk of esophageal cancer posed by alcohol and smoke.  At the very least, the later two should probably be mentioned, since they appear to be the causative agent.  

Something like: Hot Tea May Up Cancer Risk Posed By Alcohol, Smoke

Also, a doubled risk sounds really scary.  But you also have to consider where the risk started.  A doubling from .01 to .02 isn't really that big, even if it is double.  Here, we are talking about 1,731 cases of esophageal cancer in 456,000+ participants.

Color me unconcerned.

*sips hot green tea

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New Year, Old Resolutions

Its January, so it must be time for resolutions.  For years I did this process called "Better Bryan" where I would try to come up with resolutions that bettered myself.  If you want to make the world, a better place, take a look at yourself, then make that change,* after all.

So in 2016 I continued with tradition and I set some goals.  The following January I would set new goals, and in that post go back and look at the goals for the year.  Inevitably I missed on some.  But I have to say, somewhat proudly, that I generally keep my improvements going.  But 2016 was different.

I failed.  Spectacularly.

My goals for 2017 were to post every week.  Failed.

Goal 2 was to grow the blog.  Despite only posting twice in the first three months, my site visit numbers were awesome.  So, thank you Russian crawlers, I guess, for that..  Failed.

The Book Project was #3.  I'm going to give myself a pass here.  After months of putting out feelers and checking the water, this just wasn't something anyone was interested in.  Not entirely my fault.

Goal 4 was to check in on more blogs and say hi.  Yeah, failed.

Goal 5 was to post more pics, which is hard to do when you aren't posting anything.  At all.  Failed.

So, uh, bad news.  What happened?  We lost a beloved dog right before 2017.  I don't have any illusion that the event didn't effect me well into 2017.  We also got a new dog in February.  Bad move on our part.  Puppies are time sucks and I wasn't ready, but whatever.

We also bought a house.  HUGE time suck.

All bad excuses, to the one.

So this year I'm reading David Kadavy's book titled The Heart To Start.  Its sorta self help.  Which is saying something, because I usually find self-help advice to be overly broad, general recommendations needed only by those that aren't very self aware.

OH, YOU MEAN I HAVE TO WRITE SOMETHING TO POST IT?  Shock.  Its also great that many self-help books recommend just upsetting the apple cart that is your life.  That is nice and all at 20, or 25, or if you are homeless at the moment.  But I kinda like my life, just maybe not this one part of it.  So upsetting the 95 percent I like to correct the 5 percent I'm struggling on seems like bad advice.

But yet, here I am, reading something I would never, ever, suggest to anyone else.

*Lyrics by Michael Jackson.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Dark Months

The holidays are over.  It only seems like life is over.

There is a solid three month period where holidays of various degrees are hitting you one-two-three style.  You have Halloween, which takes some of the sting out of the cooling temperatures and the disappearance of summer.  You have Thanksgiving, with rare foods and the promise of Christmas. 

Then you have a month of prepping and joy for Christmas.  You are so busy, you hardly notice how cold it has gotten.  And this year it got pretty darn cold.  And then Christmas itself.  My wife and I take a week off between Christmas and New Years, so we have that. 

Its a period so full of life.  And then the aforementioned NYE - when the cold decided to take it up a notch.

With triplets, its a little like being shot out of a cannon and taking three months to land.

But when you land, you land firmly in what I call the Dark Months.

There are no more holidays.  Yes, I realize MLK and Presidents Day are in January and February, and yes, I know some people get those days off.  But those aren't holidays in the same way the above mentioned ones are.

Further, its cold now.  And dark. While the days are a hair longer than just before Christmas, its still dark by dinner.  And have I mentioned its cold.  Like 19 as a high cold right now.  So, even if you could hypothetically go outside, you don't want to.  Even a trip out on the weekend doesn't seem so nice when it requires risking hypothermia.

So, lets tick off where we are:
1) its dark, like, all the time
2) its cold, and when it isn't, its just really cold
3) there is literally nothing going on

That is a recipe for bleh.  And bleh we have.  For, oh, three months until things start to warm up and you can  come out from under the rock where you have been residing and go outside.

This is all made worse when you have kids. The kids can't go out.  Not for long periods in this cold.  And they pretty much can't go out at all at night, given the, you know, darkness.  So its all inside.  And it shows.

The kids are antsy and constantly in the business of the other ones.  Conflict is increased.  Its a little like a radioactive isotope being kept in a very small box.  The particles being thrown off are going to collide and explode, its just a matter of when.

And as a result, January - March are probably my worst months as a Dad.  I'm locked inside.  I work from home, I'm home most evenings, I'm home most weekends.  It isn't until March when we can get out and play outdoors, stretch our legs a little, and get in a bike ride or walk.

So, as these next few Dark Months pass, keep me and my miserable self in your thoughts until life can return.

Friday, September 1, 2017

I Really Should...

... write an ode to Yunnan jig tea. It's great, honestly.  Smooth and delightful with just the right amount of punchy flavor.  Not coffee, but nicely caffeinated.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, find some loose leaf Yunnan jig and brew away.  May I suggest something from www.adagio.com?

... creatively write more.  I have a few story ideas.  At least 3, including the one I've already written and desperately need to edit and round out.  But its such a ... chore.  I really like reading, and I don't mind writing.  I actually enjoy writing one-off stuff like I do here.  But putting together 75k-100k in a complete order that makes sense and completes a story arc?  Ugh. Its all ... so much.  Blame my years in journalism, where I write tons of one-off stuff where the narrative is kind of half written for

(Speaking of this blog and writing)

... post more here.  As with all things, I guess, time is hard to find, whilst being a poor excuse.

... think before I agree to stuff.  I love Nala, and in the last few months she has become a much better dog.  But boy how my life would be easier without her.  Even though it would be a less full life.  Hey - dogs are like kids that way!!

... figure out what the hell I'm doing with the next 5 years before those years are gone.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Parenting As A Two-Edged Sword

A) The other day I took time out of my schedule to play dolls with my daughter.

B) The other day, I took time away from playing dolls with my daughter to cook dinner.

Which really happened? A, or B?

From a certain perspective, both are true. As Obi wan Kenobi warned:

What I told you was true… from a certain point of view

In the moment, I considered myself a heroic Dad. Here I was, valiantly cooking dinner for the kids and their Mom while also managing to get in some one-on-one time with one of the kids. And playing one of her favorite things, too boot. That is perspective A. 

But it occurred to me that from her perspective (B), what I was saying might not be true. 

Instead of a Dad demonstrating superpowers of multi-tasking, she might simply be seeing me as too busy to really give her my full attention. 

When I look back in 10 years I might well remember the hectic but great times when I played dolls with her while cooking.

And as a teen, she may well look back as at a Dad too consumed with doing other things to give her full attention. 

Does that make me a bad Dad? Is there anything I can do about it? To some extent, sure, I guess there is. I could make more time for her. Maybe plan better.

But to some extent there isn't. Because parenting is a two-edged sword where almost every decision subjects you to an alternative interpretation in which you are the bad guy.