Dear Js,

It’s not easy being a stay-at-home parent. I feel it the days mama leaves me with you two when she works. But at least I get a break. Mama does it more or less full-time. If you ask me, it’s kinda like swimming in quicksand under a rainbow — it makes you happy but it sucks. You only get to smile about it at night before you sleep. Then sunrise drags into another day of quicksand swimming before you can get any rest, day after day, over and over again.

I think it’s easy to get depressed if you don’t get a break. That’s why I’m glad mama found some work she loves doing. After she discovered it, she realized becoming an engineer was a mistake. She loved science and math as a kid, but the last few years of her career sucked the life out of her. Too cold, too mechanical. Too meaningless. Now she helps moms and babies. And she tears up knowing she made a difference in someone’s life.

And guess what? Mama had two back-to-back paid visits from the same mom last week. Full price, no discounting. Another referral from the pediatrician. The referrals seem to be popping out the pipeline, finally. I’ve been nudging mama to orchestrate referrals, since referrals give strong leverage in her biz. (Imagine the gratitude a mom feels after you’ve solved the most important problem in her life, involving the most important person in her family?) I suggested the rule of thumb that every customer should refer one new customer. But she is still getting over feeling like a pest. I said, “think of how much pain that mom was in before she met you, and how she feels now. Wouldn’t she want to help all her mom friends avoid that pain and be happy too?” She’s working on it.

At least, I’m glad that mama is standing her ground with her fee these days. And she’s getting more okay with charging more than most of her peers. But the money is just icing. The real reward has nothing to do with money. In fact, our brain is worthless at thinking about money. The real reward is the nature of the work you do. Listen to this – I wanted to show you how happy she is after she helps a mom:

Work can buy happiness when the work is meaningful.

I discovered this, and now mama has too. I’ll help her grow for as long as I can. Although this meant that I had to babysit you two most of last weekend, you can see it’s worth it. She always comes back full of energy. And happy. It erases her weariness, and that joy overflows to the two of you.

What about me? Work is picking up and I’m losing steam for my side projects. I subscribe to the philosophy that no more than 50% of your income should come from 1 source/customer. Whether you’re running a business with many customers, or an employee where your company is your only customer, you should never spend 100% of your time on 1 source of income.

I try to save 50% for learning or working on other things. The only way I get away with this was by using as much leverage as I can at my day job. E.g., sweeping stupid work under the rug, and maneuvering to work only on high impact / high visibility / high importance things (that take the least amount of time possible). And wherever I could, I built systems instead of doing one-time work. One of those systems was Achilles. That’s when I got to apply what I learned about building, selling and marketing web apps from my consulting biz.

It let me feed back lessons from my “other biz” back into the “cash cow” biz. I spawned a new group and multiple projects, and infused the company with new tech, new energy and a new source of leverage. Now no one ever has to make uneducated guesses. With Achilles, we have a way to “crunch the numbers” and get answers when we get stuck. Even if we do have to guess, we now have facts to guess from, rather than rambling whiteboard sessions charged by feelings or ego. Every new report I release ignites heated debates. But these are useful debates. Facts force people to come to terms with reality. And when the dust settles, sound ideas rise to aim the ship, build and set sail.

I blasted through my last book, “Act Now”, by the Inventor of the Infomercial, Kevin Harrington. Another great history book. Like “Car Guys vs Bean Counters” before it, they gave me an interesting lesson on how these new industries evolved, and what makes them work today. I’m now reading The Everything Store. Having a tech background, Jeff Bezos’ story is inspiring because he hammers every problem with technology. I liked reading about his garage beginnings and how he got started. One part talked about how the smug book chains like Barnes and Noble once swatted away pesky Amazon and threatened to crush them. They were doing billions in sales while Amazon was only doing a few million with almost no net. They thought they could destroy Amazon by launching their own online store. Bill Gates was surprised his employees wanted to leave his company which dominated PC software, for an online bookstore. The more I read, the more I thought Bezos was crazy. Through grit and exploited opportunities, Amazon is now the #1 online retailer (of everything), with eBay trailing 2nd, I believe.

Although I’m not sure for how long Amazon will last. Sears was dominating before it fell. Barnes and Noble displaced independent bookstores and is now toppled by Amazon. It seems unstable, because its business depends on how well it can continue to provide perceived value and convenience in a distracted marketplace. It doesn’t have an institution or emotional moat like say, Harley Davidson, where price is mostly an afterthought. For example, shoppers have switched to Google without a second thought when it provided an alternative (Google Shopping Express). That’s the tricky thing about building a business on tech alone. People don’t become loyal toward machines.

I think one way Amazon could evolve is to revisit Jeff’s old zStore (now Marketplace) idea. But, instead of just giving merchants a way to sell products on Amazon, they should make it easy for small businesses to grow communities. E.g., help with e-store, newsletters, blogs, email, forums, discussion groups, events, etc. That is, pull every business’ community into Amazon. So, you don’t have just loosey-goosey onesie-twosie buyers, you have clumps of fanatics with their communities living inside Amazon. This makes it much harder for sellers and their fans to move elsewhere, because everything they do happens within the Amazon ecosystem. Sadly, this will never happen, because persuasion, behavioral economics and marketing aren’t Jeff’s domains. And no computer algorithm can produce a solution that inspires the fanaticism of a Harley Davidson or Apple customer.

Anyway, it also made me depressed because it gave me the itch to get up and work. I started working on the Secret Campfire again. A disaster. Got a good sleep, got some clear ideas, so went to work on my to-do list for that project. Before I could get started on Saturday, mama brought Julie down. Then you woke up. Then the dog started whining because she expects to be taken on a walk with us. These things remind me that I have to think real small. Scale back my ambitions to bite-sized chunks that I can knock off in 1 hour tops. Frustrating. It’s like trying to drive with the brakes on. All I get is smoke coming out my ears.

That’s what made me angry today. I was trying to do some work and I lost my temper at Kimi whining to go out, and then peeing in the kitchen. Now we have a broken screen door. I sulked while mama took you out on your bike. When I decided it was time to be an adult, I went out with a bucket of your sand toys. Before I reached the sidewalk, you were already turning back home. A black cat followed you home. We didn’t know whose it was but it was hungry and it wanted to sneak into our house. It kept mewing after we closed the door. I brought Kimi out to chase it away. I guess she can be good for something.

The solution seems to force myself to let go of big plans. And remind myself it’s time for me to be a dad. That’s when I’m calmest. Years sound like a long time, but I tell myself that if I try to rush these years, I’m rushing years that don’t come back. On the other hand, I’m hoping that when both of you get older in a few years, your schedule will be more consistent, you will sleep more, and pockets of time will free up. I just get impatient because that won’t come for years. It’s hard to be patient and do what little I can with what I have. It’s just tough, man.

I’m also trying to check my mail less, and leave my phone behind as much as I can. Being too connected tempts me to do too much. I have to work on being present. And being more patient.

It seems that impatience and “instant gratification” is a recent phenomenon:

Isaac Asimov – “Society is always changing, but the rate of change has been accelerating all through history for a variety of reasons. One, the change is cumulative. The very changes you make now make it easier to make further changes. Until the Industrial Revolution came along, people weren’t aware of change or a future. They assumed the future would be exactly like it had always been, just with different people… It was only with the coming of the Industrial Revolution that the rate of change became fast enough to be visible in a single lifetime. People were suddenly aware that not only were things changing, but that they would continue to change after they died. That was when science fiction came into being as opposed to fantasy and adventure tales. Because people knew that they would die before they could see the changes that would happen in the next century, they thought it would be nice to imagine what they might be.

As time goes on and the rate of change still continues to accelerate, it becomes more and more important to adjust what you do today to the fact of change in the future. It’s ridiculous to make your plans now on the assumption that things will continue as they are now. You have to assume that if something you’re doing is going to reach fruition in ten years, that in those ten years changes will take place, and perhaps what you’re doing will have no meaning then… Science fiction is important because it fights the natural notion that there’s something permanent about things the way they are right now.”

Nightmares. Is there really a thing called “Night Terrors?” I remember your brother having it. He’d wake up screaming, but his eyes were closed, and it was clear he was still in dreamworld. We weren’t sure if we should force him back to real world, or let dreamworld run its course. That happened to you tonight. You screamed and mama did everything she knew to help. But you wouldn’t stop. She tried holding, rocking, nursing, singing. Eventually you calmed down and kept sleeping. It always hurts mama when she can’t do anything to help.

New developments. Julie – you’re starting to stand free. You’ve taken a “all-in” steps, where you crash into our arms. You now say “Daddy. Come. Come.” and raise your hands for me to pick you up. Come also means go. I guess we always say “Come” when we pick you up. You have a gap in your front teeth from lip tie. We think it’ll close up when your other teeth appear. You’re up to 6 now. Your brother’s mouth, on the other hand, is full of teeth. He will probably need braces.

J – you got a haircut, finally. It makes you look big. We were letting it grow out but it was getting too crazy. You had a growth spurt. We thought something was up when your big toe ripped a hole in your onesie PJs. You’re now 36.5 inches.

Funny talk. “I like meat except bacon.” I said, you probably mean “Of all meats, I like bacon the best.” “Yea.”

This week in pictures…



Two friends

You two chatted about trains, then he shared one with you and you chased each other. I laughed about it with his dad, then we lost you. “Where are they?” We found you at the other end of the park, half a mile away. I asked the dad, have you lost your son before? “No, this was the first time.” Ha… ha… me too… phew…

The night before, you pushed J’s scooter in the living room. The next day, as soon as your brother was done, you crawled to it and hopped on. If I took you off, you shoved me away and climbed back. So I thought, okay, let’s try cruising. You must have seen your brother and decided you wanted to try. Look how you try to kick your leg like him.

Soon it got cold so you had to go home. You cried when mama picked you up.

Soon it got cold so you had to go home. You cried when mama picked you up.

Ball stairs game

"I'm opening the curtain so it's warm"

“I’m opening the curtain so it’s warm”


Just waking up - you plopped so J laughed and plopped too. He had his dino so he brought you the frog.

Just waking up – you plopped so J laughed and plopped too. He had his dino so he brought you the frog.

Complicated bridge building

What’s going on here? How to make hiccups:

"I have the tallest 'laTTer' in the world"

“I have the tallest ‘latter’ in the world.” You pronounce some double Ds like double Ts and vice versa.

Goodnight Moon kitten

“She throws it down and I pick it up”


"We're at the library"

“We’re at the library”

Before I end this letter. I’d like to encourage you to write regularly. But I’ll let someone else do the persuading:

Interviewer: When I learn something new – and it happens every day – I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest. I’m afraid that by the time I begin to feel really at home, it’ll all be over.

Isaac Asimov: I used to worry about that. I said, “I’m gradually managing to cram more and more things into my mind. I’ve got this beautiful mind, and it’s going to die, and it’ll all be gone.” And then I thought, “No, not in my case. Every idea I’ve ever had I’ve written down, and it’s all there on paper. I won’t be gone. It’ll be there.

(Asimov wrote 400+ science/sci-fi books)



"Arroz, habichuelas, maíz, pescado con ajo y gengibre y plátanos maduros. ¡yum!" After your brother saw you eat your fish, he ate all the fish in his plate. Maybe it was also because we told him earlier that if he wasn't going to eat his food, we were going to give it to you.

“Arroz, habichuelas, maíz, pescado con ajo y gengibre y plátanos maduros. ¡yum!” After your brother saw you eat your fish, he ate all the fish in his plate. Maybe it was also because we told him earlier that if he wasn’t going to eat his food, we were going to give it to you.

P.S. – Lunar eclipse tonight. It’s strange. Looks like the lights were turned off and it’s now a beefball floating in the sky. Look out your window.