Dear Js,

I love how comedians tell stories. I love how they can capture an audience and make them laugh. Here’s an example with Louis C.K. telling a story about his boat disaster with his kids — it’s from Jerry Seinfeld’s new series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: Louis C.K. boat story.

It made me remember, “Hey, I have my own stuck-in-mud story too!”

So it inspired me to pick up a new hobby. I’ve decided to practice storytelling. No, I don’t mean officially or going round to libraries to entertain kids. But more like a secret hobby. Specifically, I gave myself a challenge. I decided that no matter where I am in my day or who I’m talking to, even if it’s the most ordinary boring place in the world, I’m going to collect stories like a comedian collects material. Then, I’ll take advantage of any conversation with any poor soul to test and polish my stories.

Like today. I re-told the “almost killed you at the muddy pond” story. It went a lot smoother this time, since I already sorted out most of it when I wrote it to you in my last letter. I even had a recurring theme this time: “He said maybe we should go back, but I said No no no don’t worry son, I’m a grownup.” I experimented with repeating it at multiple points in the story… where each time, things got increasingly worse and you suggested we turn back but I refused to. The punchline for today’s audience was you can find adventure everywhere, even in your backyard. I managed to sneak my story into the conversation because he was talking about how he just came back from a national park in Canada. I said, “Canada??? He said, yea, my son is 14 and we’ve visited everywhere nearby.” I said, “Well, let me tell you about how I almost killed my son during our ‘adventure’ right by our home…”

Man that’s a great story we got as a souvenir, wasn’t it?

I’m saving it in my “best stories” mental drawer, inspired by Louis C.K. I loved how he drew from the endless spring of failures us dads experience as dads, and transformed it into a story. And I loved how that story became material he could use in talk shows, on radio interviews, while chatting with Jerry Seinfeld, in his own TV show, etc.

But I discovered one dangerous side-effect of this storytelling hobby. I’m noticing that because I’m now looking for a story everywhere I go, I find myself “nudging bowling balls into china shops” just to see what story will come out of it. As irresponsible as this may sound, sometimes this can help me relax as a parent. Because instead of saying, “HEY HEY HEY DON’T DO THAT, that’s dangerous!”, now I go, “Ooooo this is GONNA BE GOOD… let me sit back and watch.”

Like this:

Speaking of j, it’s your first day at schoooool! You’re old enough to go to pre-school and we got accepted so there you are. J goes Mon Wed Fri and you go Mon + Wed. We already knew you love it there since mama always has trouble tearing you away at J’s drop off. But we weren’t sure how you would do alone. After all, unlike J, you’ve spent your whole life with mama. J came from the bad place we sent him, so this school was like paradise to him. On the other hand, you have no bad experience to compare with. Your schedule is changing from the best place you know, to a different good place.

1st day madness, from mama: “I’ve been looking into the school districts and it seems that even though the CU schools are good the LG on ones are better and people really go after those. I’ll try to find some time to look at the links once the kids are in school. Trying to convince j to do her hair lol.”

You loved your 1st day. You kicked mama out almost right away.

Mama texted: “Just FYI. I was able to go to the bank, post office, school office to figure out the tuition and now I am sitting in the 2’s observation room spying on j but with my laptop. I could get used to this! I need to go in for story time in 20 minutes but it is nice to be able to hear my own thoughts in the middle of the day! I imagine that if I don’t have any errands to run the day has potential to be productive!”

Meanwhile, you spent almost all day at the play doh table. You discovered you could go outside just as time was up. You asked, “Why is teacher putting things away?” “Because it’s time to go home.” “Oh.” Your classroom has a bunny to. His name is Button. You came home saying, “I’m Button the bunny.”
Mama asked, “j did you see the water table?”
j: “WHAT?! Where is water table?”
Mama: “Outside, next to the sand.”
j: “THERE IS SAND?”
Mama: “Yes”
j: “I will GO CHECK OUTSIDE… ON MONDAY!”

But then Monday came. You missed mama that day. You cried and in the car you said, “Where were you? I missed you. You were not there.”

Then Wednesday. “No luck today. They called me back into the classroom because j wouldn’t stop crying. I think I need to set her schedule like I did it on Monday and do it every day except the weekend. 10pm bedtime for mama it seems.” We think that it could be because you didn’t get to nap before school. So you were hungry and tired and cranky. We’ll try again on Monday.

Update: mama has to stay until you stop looking for her. Teachers instructed her to look boring. So she sat in the corner today looking and feeling as bored as she could be. Looks like mama’s not going to get a break til Fall, when you get used to being at school without mama.

Father’s day! We went swimming. Both of you had floaties this time.
j: “I’m a newt” But really you were like an otter. You got in and floated on your back like you were in a recliner, toes peeking above the water. Then you’d roll onto your tummy and back onto your back. All while keeping a “I’m a pro at this” face. Nothing bothered you. Not even the other kids making waves or splashing. You smiled the whole time. J, on the other hand, looked like a cat someone threw into the pool with floaties. Mama said you looked like a bird that had fallen into a bird bath. You were squinting frowning and pouting. You were afraid at first, not at all comfortable. Mama managed to convince you to relax and trust your floaties, and then…
J: “Look mama I’m swimming!” You stuck your 4 flippers out and you were so proud of yourself.
After that, I even dropped you into the deepest diving area. I showed that you could grab the side but you pushed away. I said, “Now that you can swim, you can go anywhere you want.” And you were happy to swim everywhere. That is, until the lifeguards kicked us out of the deep section because they were worried that you can’t swim. But we went back to the shallows. Eventually we had to leave because j got cold. After all that swimming, you were both pooped. You feel asleep in car.

Then on the way back mama laughed because she remembered j at class. She said you would go “Ssssssssssss.” That was the only way she got you to spit water. You didn’t know how to spit. And it was when you were in your “I’m a snake sssssssss” phase so when you got water in your mouth that’s what mama said. You cracked your teacher up, cruising around and hissing.

Later that night I got an unexpected email from Abu. She wrote:

Fathers Day is almost done but I need to tell you this :
You care about your family, you are always there for them , you listen to them ,you guide them and you love them . When I watch the videos and see J and j happy playing with you , listening when you are reading stories for them ,when I see J going out with you to explore and to make memories….when j hugs you…I feel happy because they love you and they appreciate what you’re doing.
Please don’t ever change. I don’t know where you learned to be a DAD but I’m sure you’re the best.
Big hugs for you
Abu
Ah , You are a wonderful fiance too
Sorry for my mistakes

Man that almost made crusty ol’ me cry. I replied:

Thank you. That was very nice of you to say that. That made me feel good today. But as much as I would like to take full credit, I cannot. Because I have to admit that there is some “media bias” — what you see is when we are on our best behavior. When things are not too good you don’t see the pictures or videos 🙂

Lately there have been frustrating times because they are growing up. They are growing to become little people with lots of emotions and it’s difficult because they want to be independent, and they do not want to be independent.

We had a good day at the pool today. For the first time, both of them had their floaties.

Before, we only had one so they had to share. This time, everyone could swim together. j was very comfortable because of her swim classes with Mama. She liked to float like a Sea Otter; front to back and back to front. She was smiling even when she was splashed and her face was wet. J was nervous at first, but Mama helped him relax and he was happy to discover that he can float. J swam like a dog with his hands and legs. He said, “Look! I’m SWIMMING!” And then he said, “Look! I can turn!” And so he swam everywhere he wanted to in the pool. I even took him to the deepest part, where it was even too deep for me to touch the floor. He was happy to swim there. But the lifeguard made us come out.

A new cyclist in the family! Mama was proud to report, “Btw, j achievement unlocked, biked all the way to the park and did a full loop of the park without any help! She moved fast too!”




You kids are so f*’in mean sometimes. I get so mad when you hurt each other. We were eating dinner. I heared CRACK. I looked and I saw you J twisting j’s finger backwards. And with that look on your face — frowning, looking through your brow and lips clenched. I was so mad I wanted to slap you off your chair. Instead I yelled at you. I slapped you with my words and pummeled you with my words until you cried off your chair. Mama hugged you. I didn’t stop yelling. Remembering your face when you hurt your sister made me furious. I shouted to get you out of my sight. Mama glared at me and said, “This is not right.” I said I don’t care, you can talk to him in the living room. Get him out or I’m going to get angrier” and I didn’t stop shouting til you were gone. But that made you start crying, j. I picked you up and hugged you. I was still fuming but your crying forced me to calm down. I don’t know why but it makes me sad and angry to see you hurt each other. It’s like a catch-22. I feel like I would kill anyone who hurts my family. But then it’s you who hurt each other… so instead of killing anyone, my anger explodes into shouting.

The racist Mexican priest. As I was walking back from my car to the house, I saw you kids playing in the courtyard with our neighbors. Then I saw two men in black robes approach all of you. I checked my knife with my thumb. I got closer and I knew that stench of Christian piety. I tried to calm myself down. You kids were around, so I promised myself I wouldn’t yell at them. They make me angry. I remembered the last time some church bird dogs paid us a visit. They rang the bell just as I had painfully hushed you to sleep. You cried and I opened the door ready to kill someone but they had just stuffed a flier in the door and ran — but not before ringing the bell.

Anyway, back to the story of the racist Mexican priest(s). I put my bag away and rolled out in my scooter to see what they were up to. Were they real priests? They looked so pretentious and vomituous in their boastful humility. Like look at me I’m wearing all black and I am poor and you should be too because God loves you. They didn’t know how to play with you kids. Instead they wandered around as they were chatting, frowning like a movie priest played by Brad Pitt. They examined the bubble machine thoughtfully like each one of them remembered them of a prayer or Bible verse. They closed their eyes and let each bubble pop on their hand as if they were giving thanks to Jesus for the simple wonders of life.

Fucking bullshit. I was praying to their God that they wouldn’t talk to me about God. I wanted to rip their faith apart and shame them for being pussies shying away from selling God in tough places, or even the run-down apartments down the street, but instead traipsing in the nicer part of town. I wanted to skin them for wasting time on us, instead of helping those who cannot help themselves. The poor, the homeless, the sick, the children with shitty parents.

Thank God they didn’t try talking to me. One of them did talk to mama though. Mama sat down and he sat down next to her and I tried to stay calm. I reminded myself that we’re outside our home, and I can’t kick them out of the outside. After their long chat I asked mama, “So, are we born-again Christians yet?” She said Mr Priest lost her from the beginning.

Why? Because he asked our neighbor uncle A if “all this is his family.” All this as in you (our kids), me (a dad), and mama (a hispanic woman) were his family. And he knew mama was Spanish because he singled her out and spoke to her in Spanish. Mama said these kids are hers. He said what? Yup those 2 kids over there. He had trouble figuring out which 2 kids because he was looking for hispanic-looking kids. Then she pointed to me and he was also surprised. HIM? Your husband? Yup. 3 strikes you’re out. We were talking about this at dinner, and I boomed, “If even a HISPANIC priest mistakes you for a maid… What has the world come to???!!!”

And suddenly j, you replied in your squeaky voice, “I DUNNOOoooooooooooooo…” We laughed. You looked up with your messy face and dirty hands mashing rice. You were confused about why we were laughing.

What I’m working on. I’m wrapping up my Secret Campfire copy. I’ve recycled my old “Inn between worlds” or “Little store that wasn’t there yesterday” theme. See the latest revisions below:

I changed the cover photo to have slightly better "story appeal" (as Ogilvy says every picture should have)

I changed the cover photo to have slightly better “story appeal” (as Ogilvy says every picture should have)

Changed the headline to use the "WANTED:" formula

Changed the headline to use the “WANTED:” formula

Appeal to flattery: single out "misfits", refugees, chosen ones who still believe in magic

Appeal with flattery: single out “misfits”, refugees, chosen ones who still believe in magic

Revised copy to match new theme

Revised copy to match new theme

Changed "strange" to "silly" in headline -- I really want this to be a place where I can escape and not be serious

Changed “strange” to “silly” in headline — I really want this to be a place where I can escape and not be serious

It’s scary to release it into the wild. After patching up the new guest funnel, I opened it to mama. And also an old friend from high school. The first story at Secret Campfire involved a Squirrel and an Acorn. But you know, I was holding on to it for so long that one day when I felt good enough, I said JUST DO IT and I sent out invites. Whenever you’re doubting yourself and you have a rare moment of confidence, you must take advantage of it. Just do it, GET IT OUT, CALL IT DONE. Hurry hurry hurry, before your doubt creeps back.

I console myself by remembering, “The master has failed more times than the student has ever tried.” And so Secret Campfire becomes a spark that I plan to kindle in the background. I will follow up and add new users slowly. But thankfully it no longer consumes my daily thoughts.

And so I’ve moved on to something else. I’ll tell you more about my next project next time. I have a headache now from straining my eyes. What I’ll tell you is it’s to teach people how to code. But not using stupid/boring tutorials or silly toy problems that are useless for getting a real job or real money. It will be a game in a community of students where you have to code to be a part of the village. The technology you use will be state of the art and everything you do can be put in your resume. And the skills you learn for playing the game can be applied to real problems, and therefore someday be traded for money.

What I’m reading now: Hilton’s autobiography. The saying is, “in a gold rush, the ones who get rich are the ones who sell the tools.” Hilton proved that another way to get rich in any gold rush is to be the innkeeper, because gold-seekers are people and people need a place to go when they’re not panning.

The moral is, if you see fools chasing gold, resist the temptation to join them. Instead, chase what the fools need while they chase their gold. You can almost always count on the desperation of people and their fantasies for a better life with little work. Some form of this appeal has always existed throughout history: “Lazy Man’s Way to Riches,” “4-hour workweek.”

Anyway, it was interesting to see how each brick in the Hilton hotel empire was built from nothing. I enjoyed reading about how he inherited his dad’s “I’ll build a town from a patch of dirt with my bare hands” attitude. His whole life, he was accustomed to wanting something and working for it. It was interesting how there were no barriers in his mind. The steps were as simple as, “I want to be a banker.” And then going to figure out how he could make that happen. In almost every deal in his early days, he didn’t have the money to buy anything. So although he learned how to run a tight business from his dad, I noticed that one of his best talents was being able to raise money by selling dreams to investors. Plus, he had the balls and self-belief that he could make a profit with borrowed money. And he did this enough over the years that I assume after some time it’s second nature: Borrow money, invest money, run business, make profit, repeat. So I have two takeaways so far. 1) I haven’t been aggressive enough to leverage borrowed money. 2) I haven’t developed the mindset to start/buy into businesses as easily as him. But I feel like I should explore the “investor” role more. I’ve invested my time and experience to start a few tiny business so far. They’re profitable but they don’t grow very fast. I feel like maybe what I’m missing is money. What I have now is many ways to start a fire on little to no fuel. I think figuring out how to add money to my investments would be like adding fuel to the fires.

The other thing I’m still processing is Hilton’s piousness. His mom’s answer to every difficulty was “Go pray about it.” He prays very often and every day. He attributes much of his “luck” through prayer. But I don’t see it as luck. I can see how a quiet moment of thought and reflection can help his business, so it made me wonder. What alternative does an atheist have if he doesn’t have prayer? (Or as a business opportunity, what can you sell the growing demographic of atheist entrepreneurs, so they can enjoy the same benefits as prayer?) This is where I think Christianity got it perfect.

First, prayer commits you to a moment of quiet meditation. Then, the following ingredients is what makes it work. 1) You ask for what you want. By doing so, you confront all your biggest problems head on. So the more you pray, the more your conscious/subconcious get to chew on the problem. And the more you go around the world in search of solutions, with the problem in your mind. 2) You “listen” to what God has to say. By doing so, you entertain opportunities that can lead you to solutions. This is why many Christians report that “God has answered their prayers.” It’s probably not so much that God took a break from saving the world to answer a prayer, but more that the person praying was thinking (praying) constantly about his/her problem and entertaining possible solutions (from God) for it. But I think the last component is what makes religious prayer perfect: 3) Humility. Just like how in therapy they say the first step to solving the problem is accepting you have one. The rule of Humility in religion makes prayer effective because it lets people see the problem they have more clearly, and accept their shortcomings. It also makes you honest and realistic about what you want and need. That makes solutions easier to come by.

It’s brilliant how religion got it right, and wrapped it into a nice package called “Prayer.” And that makes me think now that I should have a similar practice even though I’m an atheist. I.e., times of quiet reflection where I focus on what I need help with. With humility, so I clearly see my problems without ego. And an openness to entertain “voices” in my head, no matter how silly, because one could spark an answer. Thanks God.

I clipped this little poem Hilton mentioned in the book:

The man who wins is an average man,
Not built on any peculiar plan,
Not blessed with any peculiar luck;
Just steady and earnest and full of pluck.

For the man who wins is the man who works,
Who neither labor nor trouble shirks,
Who uses his hands, his head, his eyes;
The man who wins is the man who tries.

Hilton shared this gem in the last pages of Chapter ‘The sky is the limit’: “No hotel, as I had discovered, is ever quite ready to open. Thus it becomes necessary at the psychological moment to force it into business. Sometimes this means novel deviations in the most carefully prepared plans. Even with painstaking preparation neither the human element nor the elements of nature can be brought under full control.”
“Each of our openings has generally had a little unrehearsed excitement and over-all has proven a most satisfactory method of accomplishing the trick of forcing the hotel open plus promoting good will and, most important to the guests, giving everyone a good time.”
If you ever tried to make anything beautiful you might know the weight of perfectionism and the fear of failure. But his point is everyone feels it. You just have to close your eyes and push through it. Or as he says, “Force it into business.”

Update: I just finished the book. It started slow but I enjoyed it in the end. The last chapter titled “There is an art to living” has some good advice. He was surprisingly more wise and insightful in the last chapter than the rest of the book paints him to be. Below are Hilton’s 10 ingredients for a successful life. (Go find my book to read what he says about each of the 10 ingredients.)

  1. Find your own particular talent
  2. Be big: Think big. Dream big. Act big.
  3. Be honest
  4. Live with Enthusiasm
  5. Don’t let your possessions possess you
  6. Don’t worry about your problems
  7. Don’t cling to the past
  8. Look up to people when ou can — down to no one
  9. Assume your full share of responsibility for the world in which you live
  10. Pray consistently and confidently

Interesting developments

j terrible twos screaming hours non stop: “NO! NOOO! NAAAAA NAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!” I needed use ear plugs. You also throw things when you’re angry, usually at your brother. And then he looks like a ticking bomb:
J: “Mom I’m thinking about something I shouldn’t do but I’m trying hard not to do it.”

Mama: “I’m going to take humorous outlook on my fibroids. I made two such awesome kids that they broke my uterus. Can’t make anymore.”
Me: “When they grow old you can tell them they broke the mold when I made you.”
Doctors say it’s the size of a large orange. We’ve been researching options; like this robot procedure, or ultrasound blasting. So far it seems the ones we trust most and who know their stuff are the doctors who are also scientists and researchers. I guess the difference is like talking to a mechanic vs an engineer. A mechanic has just trained to use the tools and perform the procedures.

Fractions. “J was able to solve the following problem today while we were making Gene’s cake:
If we need 1 1/4 cups of sugar and we only have a 1/4 cup measuring cup, how many of those measuring cups do we need to put in so that we have 1 1/4 cups in our bowl?
We broke it down as needing 1 cup and another 1/4 cup. Then he said 1 cup is 4 1/4s and 4 1/4s plus another 1/4s is 5. We need to use the measuring cup 5 times to get 5/4s!
He might not want to add natural numbers very often but he’s ok with rational numbers hehe.
We’ve been working with fractions for a while, like we know how many fractions would make the whole but this is the first time we go beyond that :)”

J, you hide when we yell at you. In a box, in the bathroom, under a piece of paper, behind a pillow. It’s annoying. We tell you, “Hiding doesn’t fix anything.” I want to have you understand one day that if you tell the truth, I will always back you up. Now what I’m trying to teach you is there’s no need to hide. If you do something bad just apologize and fix it and it’s all good.

j I just noticed that you inherited my big thumb, but you have an even bigger big toe. Sorry!

j starting to read. You’re at the stage where you’re memorizing books. That’s what J did just before he started recognizing words.

We got a few family games. Mama introduced you to Go Fish. She said you made some fun deductions: “Mama if you ask me for a number it means you have it too.” Next round: “Mama do you have a twelve?”

Lastly, I’m happy to announce that I’ve rediscovered the joy of cereal as a late night snack.

Curious convos

j: AYNT mama
Me: You say, “I want mama”
j: I want mama. AYNT mama!
At first I thought that you learned the wrong word. But now it looks like could have concluded that “I want” can be contracted to “I’nt” !!!

J: “I’m just kiddin!”
Me: “kiddin?”
J: “Yes, that’s what kids do!”

At bathtime…
J: “Mama look at this.”
Mama: “Why is your penis in a cup?”
J: “Because j asked me to.”

j at school during storytime (three little bears)
Teacher: “… and the chair broke.”
j: “OH NO! Maybe we can fix ittt? Maybe weeth tape…?”
Everyone thought it was funny.

j: “Mama I like to sleep on you. You’re so soft. Mama you’re so soft. Bed so scratchy you so soft.”

Mama to me: “j just told me… ‘Mama I was playing with the slingshot with Daddy. He put a rock on it and I pulled it back and it shot out!’ I thought the slingshot was for J only… 😉 This Daddy!”

Email: “Message from J”
J: dog
J: i love daddy so much cat
Me: I love J so much Kiss Kiss Hug Hug. See you soon!
J: tyk you

Email: “Message from j”
j: , ;,..llllll ,,,,,,.,,aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasZaaaaaaasaaacjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjhjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj
Me: I love you too j. smooch smooch smoooooooooch

Interesting things, fun facts.
Ronda Rousey – the most dominant female athlete today. GoPro on Hammerhead shark. Gay Marriage became legal across America on June 26 2015. How to blow bubble rings underwater. Another one.
Baboons are domesticating dogs (just like how wolves and humans did way back when). At one point, Ford cars dropped to $290, about the same price as a washing machine. This chilling Star Spangled Banner tradition – sung in a hotel every year by acapella convention members. McBike – McDonalds new to-go boxes for customers on bikes. Rudyard Kipling’s poem If. What is Drama? “Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.”

This week in pictures

You were running back and forth with your dog Hydrant, thinking it was funny. Sofia eyed you the whole time.

You ran back and forth across the glass with your dog Hydrant, thinking it was funny. Sofia eyed you the whole time.

Mama and j in the swan

Mama and J in the swan

Byebye! We were slower because you were steering

Byebye! We were slower because you were steering

We were in the duck

We were in the duck

Are we lost?

Are we lost?

This is nice

This is nice

My cute driver

My cute driver

After a fun day. Dozed off with hand still in goldfish. You woke up the first time I tried to pull the bag away.

After a fun day. Dozed off with hand still in goldfish. You woke up the first time I tried to pull the bag away.

"Daddy trace my hand. Other one."

“Daddy trace my hand. Other one.”

"Trace my feet"

“Trace my feet”

j's first 4th of July Fireworks at the park by the house. j: "I am a little scared and a little excited."

j’s first 4th of July Fireworks at the park by the house. j: “I am a little scared and a little excited.”

We got home way past bedtime after the fireworks

We got home way past bedtime after the fireworks

First day at school

First day at school

Welcome to summer class

Welcome to summer class

Water table all day

Water table all day

"I squeeze"

“I squeeze”

Every once in a long while, I wake up before everyone else

Every once in a long while, I wake up before everyone else

You walk yourself to our room now, like J

You walk yourself to our room now, like J

Mama spying on 1st day

Mama spying on 1st day

Big bubbles in courtyard

Big bubbles in courtyard

We've converted half our garage into a temporary play area

We’ve converted half our garage into a temporary play area

Painting

Painting

Goldfish ride

Goldfish ride

Brosis driving

Brosis driving

Class photo you got before summer break

Class photo you got before summer break

Two pearls in oyster

Two pearls in oyster

We visited the aquarium one day before a long weekend

We visited the aquarium one day before a long weekend

This is how you monkeys eat when we take you out

This is how you monkeys eat when we take you out

Wave incoming

Wave incoming

SPLASH!

SPLASH!

Puddle stomping after school. Rare rainfall during the drought

Puddle stomping after school. Rare rainfall during the drought

Bar monkey

Bar monkey

Back at the creek at the park, while mama hosted her bf group

Back at the creek at the park, while mama hosted her bf group

You're making us read more to you, the same books over and over

You’re making us read more to you, the same books over and over

One day you said, "I made you a present." I hung your bird in my office and you were happy to see it there. It makes me happy too

One day you said, “I made you a present.” I hung your bird in my office and you were happy to see it there. It makes me happy too

Bike adventure (this is the same path that leads to where we got stuck in the mud)

Evenings in the courtyard

Cephalopod selfie

Date with mama

Finger familiy

Spins

You dreamt of your first monster and this is what it looked like. You stopped outside of the bathroom and said, "I'm too tired to throw the floss away."

You dreamt of your first monster and this is what it looked like. You stopped outside of the bathroom and said, “I’m too tired to throw the floss away.”


I said, “You’re already standing, it’s right there. Just two steps.”
“But I’m too tired.”
“Well you still have to brush your teeth.”
“But I’m too tired to throw this away.”
“You just take two steps, then open your hands and gravity will pull it into the trash can.”
“But I’m scared there could be a monster.”
“What does the monster look like?”
“I don’t know. Scary and spooky.”
“What does it have that’s scary?”
“Horns?”
“Like a Triceratops?”
“No, scarier.”
“What else?”
“Spikes on his back.”
“Like a hedgehog?”
“No, bigger and scarier.”
“OK, I’ll turn on the light and get some paper. I’ll come back and we’ll draw it so I know what it looks like and what you’re thinking.”
Later…
“It has horns and 3 eyes and horns and spikes and claws…”
“OK, hold on you’re going to fast, one thing at a time. What does its head look like? Like a dinosaur? Long like Kimi?”
“Uh… round.”
“Like your rubber duckie?”
“Uh… YEAH!”
And so like a police sketch artist, I drew your monster from your descriptions: 3 horns under the neck, 3 eyes — not in a straight line but one on top in the middle and two at the bottom, a squiggly mouth (you drew that yourself to show me), full of teeth like a T-Rex, spikes all over the back, long legs like Kimi, claws like Kimi, but 5 toes not 4, spikes on the back of each leg down to the knees, and a long tail with a triangle at the end. Oh and a skinny body, but not that skinny — it had another line under, like that.
“Does it have a long neck or a short neck?”
“A long neck, like a Sauropod.”
“Uh… okay I already drew his head and his body here, so he’ll have a short neck.”
“OK.”
“Well, it looks to me like it has eagle claws, Kimi legs, velociraptor feathers, stego tail, hedgehog back, spider eyes, t-rex mouth and triceratops horns.”
You looked at me and laughed, “It looks like a mix up of all the animals!”
“Yup, it looks like in your dreams, you mixed up all the animals you knew and made a new one. What’s its name?”
“Uh… I just call it monster. I want to show mama!”
Mama: “Haha I think it’s cute.”
“I wish we could see a real one!”

The following night, you were visited by another spookster. I asked if it was Spiky. You said it wasn’t. This time it was a wolf. We ended up making friends with it and even became wolves ourselves. Then another night, when I asked why you didn’t want to go to the bathroom, it was a dragon. I said you know, my Chinese name means dragon. So if you see a dragon in there, it might be my friend. You have a Chinese name, j has a Chinese name, and mine is Dragon. “How about mama?” Mama is not Chinese. You said you want a dragon friend too and skipped to the bathroom.

You know, I love you guys. But it’s challenging because you want us all the time.

Love,

Dad

P.S. j, today you turned 2 years and a few months. J was around this age when you were born. Crazy, huh? Hard to imagine how our family once was — one day we had one kid, then we go to the hospital and return with another. And life changed forever for all of us, all over again.

P.P.S. I figured out the worst thing about our latest inventions: they let us be elsewhere while we are in the middle of something. It didn’t used to be this bad. Even when we first had TV or radio or books or Rock music, we had to be present somewhere and it was our primary activity. But now you can whip out a device that lets you zip all over the world while you’re in the middle of doing anything, even while watching your kids or having dinner with a friend. I’ve boiled it down to a simple rule. There’s good technoology and bad technology. Good technology facilitates a primary activity. Bad technology makes it easy to escape reality. And whenever you give people the chance to escape anywhere — away from reality, they will be tempted to go anywhere but here. So take inventory of all the devices in your life and ask, “Is this a Be Present device, or an Escape device?”

P.P.P.S. We’re going house hunting. I’ve sold almost all my stocks and liquified whatever I made sense into cash for a downpayment. We’re meeting the agent tomorrow to get pre-approved and start shopping! Oh and Abu’s coming to visit.