Did I tell you about the story of the Fox and the grapes? I must have.

But I might not have told you about the deeper meaning behind it. It’s a story about Cognitive Dissonance. Cognitive Dissonance is when you feel a conflict in your life. Something didn’t turn out the way you expected. So, you are forced to change your thinking to match what you observed.

In the case of the Fox and the Grapes, because the Fox couldn’t reach the grapes, he decided he didn’t want them after all.

In the case of parents and their children, parents can be sometimes tempted to think, “That’s alright, it doesn’t matter that I didn’t get the “Grapes”. Because, I have my children. My children are all that matter.” (In this case, the “Grapes” is a parent’s personal success.)

That’s dangerous. Parents must be careful not to fall back onto their children as their reward.

You see this all the time – parents who sacrificed their child’s innocence to make them child prodigies. Don’t envy them. That’s their parents destroying their childhood because they chased personal success through their children.

That’s why you must never say, “My children are my life.” Or, “I don’t care if I succeed, because I have my children and my family.” Do not misunderstand. I’m not saying abandon your family. Family always comes first. I’ve written in a previous letter that being a parent is one of the most meaningful things you can do in life.

What I’m saying is, on one hand, family is the ultimate way you’ll find meaning in a life you fill with substitute rewards. But on the other hand, you have to be careful that children do not become your only reward in your life.

“As long as my children are happy” is a dangerous tightrope tethered in a noose around your children’s necks at the end.

I’ll tell you why.

Whenever I slip into “daddy” mode, I notice that I get a little lazy. I’m easier on myself. I tell myself I can be satisfied just being a father. Like how I’m writing these letters to you two. I stopped writing for anyone else. I just write for you now, because you’re the only people I care about. But that’s cowardly.

It’s tempting to abandon all other goals and live for your children. But that’s putting all your reasons to be happy in one basket. And that’s tying your happiness with your child’s success. You’ve taken pressure off your own life, and placed it on your child to succeed; whatever your definition of success may be.

That is unfair.

Because you’re the adult. You’re the one who can bear the pressure. Your child shouldn’t. Be careful not to make your child’s success your success. I realize this point I’m trying to make here is ludicrous, because it’s impossible for any human to be so perfect. Being a parent is the ultimate lesson that you will always screw up. You come to terms that it’s normal to feel like a failure all the time. The important thing is you just learn to deal with it, rather than expect to get things right.

I screw up all the time.

Like the other night. I lost my temper at bath time. You wanted your toy girl who sits on her boat. I ran down to the living room and searched everywhere. I couldn’t find her. You said you wanted her. I said I couldn’t find her. You cried at the top of your lungs. Bathrooms are echo chambers. It felt like I had four demons sodomizing my ears. I gave up and started screaming too AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
You opened your eyes and said you didn’t want me to cry. So I said then don’t cry. Sometimes I can’t find things, okay? Stop it. Sometimes I can’t find things. We just have to look for it tomorrow.

Mama put her hand on my shoulder and said she’d take over. I went to lie down. After you got into your pajamas, you ran back smiling and looking for me. You laid across my body and put your head on my chest. You said you wanted me to come with you to your room. I did. I laid on the floor while mama coaxed you to bed. You said you wanted me to carry you into bed. Mama said I was too sleepy. But I got up and flew you up high to touch your red car and brown truck mater night light projection on the ceiling… then hovered you into bed. You asked, “Why did you carry me, daddy?” I said because I want you to be happy.

I went downstairs and felt a little sick inside for yelling at you. After an hour of moping, I forced myself to read. I paused when I saw this quote…

“Real difficulties can be overcome; it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.”

Then I forced myself to write to clear my head and here I am.

New routine: a drink before I take you over from mama. I sometimes have another drink after dinner to hold me over the rest of the night. I’m trying to be careful not to become an alcoholic. Don’t all parents drink?

I figured it out. I know why you keep asking why.

It’s because you’re not really asking why about whatever just happened. You use “Why” as a catch-all for “I don’t understand. Explain.” This is frustrating, because we can’t explain unless we know what you’re asking. And that’s why the first step to solving any problem is asking the right question. I explained to mama that you keep asking why if we haven’t answered your question. So we’re switching our strategy. Instead of blurting out the obvious answer, we teach you how to ask the right question instead.

I don’t want to share.” It’s trickier when you don’t even ask. You demand. Your latest thing is you want anything Julie has. The moment we give something to J2, you say, “I want that. I don’t want her to have it. I want it now. I don’t want to share.” And many times, when you don’t get what Julie has, you throw a fit. You hit her with a book a few days ago. These scenarios always feel like diffusing a time bomb. Say the wrong word and it’s over. I managed to diffuse this one though:

It’s now the 2nd week of the 2013 US government shutdown. I hope it continues.

This week in pictures

Bathtime experiments

Scooter steering

Scooter control

Thursday with mama at the Junior discovery museum, "I turn the wheel and the ball goes up"

Thursday with mama at the Junior discovery museum, “I turn the wheel and the ball goes up”

Baking Cookies in the morning

Baking Cookies in the morning

"Mama you are amazing!"

“Mama you are amazing!”

Do you want be to hold your ticket for you? “I have it.”

Do you want be to hold your ticket for you?
“I have it.”

Two hands, two children

Two hands, two children

"I'm going to go get something from your room." Okay, but be quiet. Don't wake Julie up. "I will not wake her up." You tiptoed away. I tried to follow. You stopped me. "I want you to stay here." 5 minutes later, you returned and placed a 3rd thermometer on your dresser.

“I’m going to go get something from your room.” Okay, but be quiet. Don’t wake Julie up. “I will not wake her up.” You tiptoed away. I tried to follow. “I want you to stay here.” 5 minutes later, you returned and placed a 3rd thermometer on your dresser.

Vivid dreams (nightmares?). One day, J, you woke up screaming, “AAAA DADDY DADDY AAA I WANT BAA TAAA I WANT GAAAA TAAAA!” I ran and said you’re okay. I’m here. You want Water? “NAAAAAAAAAAAA BAAA TAAAAAA” Agua? “NOOOOOOOOO… I don’t want to push the button!” Oh. You want Bath Time? “YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA,” you sobbed. I said okay. You stopped crying. And went back to sleep.

Julie’s mohawk. You look like a rooster. Hair filling out all around. I force myself to slow down at night – instead of running off to read or work, I make myself lie next to you for at least 5 minutes. I don’t want to ever catch myself saying “how did she grow this big so fast?” So I hold your hand, give you a kiss, and try to take a mental picture of you. Your toes, your fingers, your nose, your cheeks. I want to remember. Because you do grow too fast. You outgrew your 6 month old sleep sack. You’re wearing 9 month old clothes at 6 months. You turn to look for me when you hear my voice. You flash your sweet smile whenever you see me. My eyes fool me. You never really know how big or small something is. You have to measure it against something. When I placed my hand next to your body, your whole arm fit within my palm.

J2, the other day, you pooped all the way up to your head. I asked mama but she said she didn’t take a picture. Too bad so sad.

I’m usually wake up later, but I went to bed early one day and record rare footage of you two waking up:



"Julie has a little sleep stack too." Because she has a little body. "I have a big sleep stack." Because you have a big body.

“Julie has a little sleep stack too.” Because she has a little body. “I have a big sleep stack.” Because you have a big body.

Breakfast in bed

Breakfast in bed

Joshua excited to be with mama. Julie keeping herself busy:

Saturday afternoon walk - we went all the way to the stadium. Then up the stairs at the train station and down the dirt hill to this fence. I explained what the boys in the green shirts and the pink shirts were doing. You said, "One day I will kick the ball up high in the sky and into the net."

Saturday afternoon walk – we went all the way to the stadium. Then up the stairs at the train station and down the dirt hill to this fence. I explained what the boys in the green shirts and the pink shirts were doing. You said, “One day I will kick the ball up high in the sky and into the net.”

Halloween fun at the Pumpkin Patch.

We went to buy a pumpkin for Halloween. They had bouncy houses there. Here are more examples of my excellent parental supervision. You went down the slide twice, same outcome each time, funny both times:

There were also electric trucks. Because it was late and they were understaffed, the trucks were left unattended. So I put you on and you rode for free for about 30 minutes until they chased us away. (Actual deal was $3 for 3 laps):

As we were leaving, you said, “I like this place SO MUCH. Why do I like this place so much? Why?” In the car, you negotiated with mama, “We can come back after school on Monday.” Mama said it was too late. “You can bring me on Tuesday with Julie.” Mama said it’s too difficult without daddy. “I can play by myself.” But we’re not sure if we’re going to bring you back. We were lucky you got to ride the trucks for free. But now that you experienced that, I don’t know if you could settle for just 3 laps. You’ll bankrupt us if we took you there again.

Remember the presentation I mentioned last week? It went great, thanks. If you could understand now, I would talk your ear off about what’s going in my head. But you’re just two years old now, so I’ll write it in case you want to read it when you’re older. Here are my slides. I’ll break my strategy down.

(Business-to-business guide) How to introduce new technology for mass adoption in a corporate environment and create a new group with you in charge

  1. Give it a name with a story. I called it Achilles. A name is important for mass adoption because it must be easy for people to talk about it. A story is important so it’s a neat mental package.
  2. Tagline: “How to find hidden gold in your logfiles”. Built-in proof element — you already have log files and you already have data. You are just missing out because you don’t have this technology to find the hidden gold. Second tagline: “Automated design analysis”. Everyone was talking about “design analysis,” so I piggybacked their pain & language and made it simpler… “automatic”.
  3. Story: Legend of Achilles vs the Legend of Vivado. Achilles heel = weakness. But where there is weakness, there is opportunity.
  4. Analogy: Mining – old mines aren’t abandoned – when new tech is discovered, old mines are revisited. Old tech left resources unreachable, resources not tapped efficiently.
  5. General strategy – “the people who get rich in any gold rush are the people selling tools”. So whenever you can, sell tools. I don’t want to sell results, I want to sell tools. Best outcome: build tools that deliver results. But by hedging your bet with building tools, even if results are lackluster, the tools are assets. So you win no matter what. Even if no results, your tools are valuable for other projects.
  6. Step 0 – prototype with powerful demonstration. Solve real problems, show instant improvement. Prove that it cannot be solved any other way. (Refer to Otis elevator safety demonstration.)
  7. Step 1 – tease the person at the top. Met with director before starting: “You have automated pass/fail testing and memory runtime tracking, but you don’t have automated quality/performance tracking. This is how you automate quality/performance tracking.” Got green light to prove it on a real project (Retiming).
  8. Step 2 – armed with blessing from higher authority to work on project “on the side,” tease direct manager. Reaction: “This is powerful – I want you to show everyone in my group how to use this.”
  9. Step 3 – infect peers in immediate group. Forge an “us vs them” mentality. Group presentation – quickstart tutorial. “Telemarketing” follow up to give each person VIP treatment so there is no excuse to not use. Make people commit themselves verbally (“I’ll try it tonight”, “will you be here Friday?”) Multiple sequential follow-up.
  10. Triggers: Pride – this is the state of the art of the outside world – upgrade your skills. Loss aversion – those who missed this presentation will be like caveman without fire. Greed – hidden gold right under your nose – you need this tech to see it and claim your glory. Group effect – we’re all in this together, our group will be the most sophisticated in the company. Reward substitution – satisfaction of learning, improving, building something and quickly seeing concrete product.
  11. Step 4 – Peer pressure. Celebrate each member’s success. Called them “Certified Achilles Experts.” They are listed on the quickstart page for the whole company to see.
  12. Step 5 – build hype and mystique with other groups. Encourage core group to discover problems/bugs, bring up with other groups. But when they ask “How did you find this?”, say “secret technology” or “magic technology”. Get everyone talking about “how are these guys doing all this? What are they using?” “I want it too”
    Direct manager wanted to share tech with others early on. But delay as much as possible, to reinforce an “us vs them” tribe. Build mystery, desire and envy from outsiders. Present to larger audience only when your guerilla army is churning out results that cannot be ignored, and people begging us to reveal our secret.

  13. Step 6 – incremental roll-out to larger audience. Create demand for infrastructure and support.
  14. Step 7 – build a new team. Everyone has instructions to do it yourself. But we also offer “Done for you” packages. Department-wide rollout + support. Upgrade infrastructure to scale up to demand.

I’m at step 4 now. I’ll keep two you updated as the adventure unfolds.

On to drop-off stories:

Fri – He likes Jump Bunch

As we were leaving, I said hurry let’s go to Jump Bunch.

He said I don’t want to. I asked why. He said I don’t like Jump Bunch (pout). I asked why. He said, “Because I like to stay at home.”

I managed to coax him out with the garbage truck, saying I have to go, animal cracker, etc.

But in the car, he repeated, “I like to stay at home. I don’t want to go to school.”

I said but daddy has to go to work, mommy has to go to work, you have to go to school and Julie has to go to school.

“But I want to stay at home.”

I said I want to stay at home too. But do you remember Patrick the garbage truck driver? He wants to stay at home too. “Why does he want to stay at home?” Because he has his daughter Olivia, and Olivia’s mommy. But he cannot stay at home on Friday, because he has to help all the people empty their garbage cans. If Patrick doesn’t go to work on Friday, no one will drive the garbage can and all the garbage cans will be full.

Then I went on…

If the train driver doesn’t go to work on Friday, no one will drive the train. If the firefighter doesn’t go to work, there will be no one to drive the fire truck and help people. If mama doesn’t go to work, there will be no one to help the mamas make leche. (I thought about me but got stumped as to how to explain how I “help” people. So I skipped me.) And if Kimi didn’t go to work, nobody will take care of the house. And when mommy and daddy go to work, you have to go to school.

“Why does Kimi work at home on Monday, Wednesday and Friday?” Because it’s her job. On Mon, Wed, Fri, it’s Kimi’s job to take care of the house because nobody will be at home.

“But I want to stay at home.”

I said, I know you do. I want to stay at home too. But can we stay at home…?

He shouted, “NOOO!”

And the boy was happehy.

At school, I gave him a bagel and he sat down. Just as he took his first bite, the Jump Bunch crew came in. “JUMP BUNCH TIME!” They called Joshua. He said, “But I’m still eating.” Ms Marissa offered to save it so he could go for Jump Bunch. He hopped and skipped and jumped to stand in line. When I tried to hug him he jumped up and down in my arms so I couldn’t kiss him or he would have knocked my teeth out.

So, when he said he didn’t like Jump Bunch earlier, he didn’t mean that he didn’t like Jump Bunch. He is excited to go to Jump Bunch. He just likes being home with you more.

Success is simple. It’s every morning after a successful drop off after you wake up saying you don’t like school, your friends or teachers; and you want to stay at home. I explained that we all go to work to make the world go round. We all help someone. Garbage truck driver drives the garbage truck. Train driver drives the train. Mama helps other mamas and babies. If we didn’t go to work, no one would do any of those things.

Once at school, you stopped me to look at the fish. I asked if the fish were playing. You said the fish were going to Fishy School.

Anyway, since you’re only at school part time now, we have a new segment:

Mommy Madness

This lunch/nap time is making me want to just open the door and leave. omg both kids just wailing….. I might need to break that whiskey bottle open tonight…. *deep breaths* I got them both down eventually but talk about a perfect storm….

Julie refused to eat or sleep while we were out and was screaming like never before when we got home, wouldn’t nurse or sleep either. Joshua didn’t want to eat or sleep, wanted to read a million books while Julie is inconsolable. Finally I leave Julia alone for 2 mins to put Joshua in bed and she calms enough to nurse when we walk about into our room. She nurses, Joshua breaks a page on a Thomas book by accident, starts crying, Julia starts crying and stops nursing, my head in thumping…. I talk to Joshua, promise to fix it, calm him down, Julia falls asleep. Joshua says he now wants lunch, I give him noodles and grapes, wants to read 5 books again, poops, cries when I take him to change him. Goes into berserk mode when I try to put him to bed. Won’t listen to reason, finally leave him alone and close the door. He starts calming down, I come back, we talk, read Clifford and he falls asleep…. Man oh man…. This is not easy stuff, I think I have permanent hearing loss :). Still love being a mom though, just need a stiff drink tonight :D.

A few days ago, I received this worried text message from mama: “Julia is moving daddy… she’s scooting backwards… I feared this day! lol.”

That’s why mama laughed when you said on the way to the Pumpkin Patch, “Mama, I worry about you sometimes. I love you so I worry about you.”

But you said something even more unexpected the day before. Mama had to ask her friends for help, “Can someone answer a Joshua question for me. He wants to know why some dinosaur names end with -saurus and some don’t. The questions I get at 8am!” Mama told Abu and she was speechless. She said many 4-5 year olds still can’t make that observation.



P.S. The lady who owns Tiny Tots diaper service (where she has been holding her free support groups) offered Mama office space to do her paid consultations. So now that’s two places she could work to help other moms and babies! How cool.

P.P.S. – Mama and I were discussing if we should drive through In-n-out to grab some junk. Overhearing, you said, “I want to go eat at the place that lets you go in and out.”

P.P.P.S – “Because time goes by and my head is hard”: