Archive for December, 2009

HumpDay Dec. 30, 2009

December 29, 2009

A few tidbits to get us through the week …

OK folks, the time is upon us. It’s the time of year – the beginning of the year – when we stare straight-faced at our selves and commit to our New Year’s resolutions.

I’m going to go out on a limb here. Probably the most common commitments have to do with exercise, money or smoking. So let’s tackle those this week.

  • 10 Easy Ways to Make Exercise a Habit – The thing I’ve learned of poor health is that it’s 99% a result of poor habits. Bad habits cannot be broken. They can only be replaced with good ones. Habits, good or bad, start as flimsy cobwebs. Over time, they become strong as steel cables – that either support or shackle us. Let’s make sure our habits support our goals.
  • Solutions for Life and Money – Seems everywhere I go lately, I hear Dave Ramsey’s name come up. (Not to be confused with our pal, the screaming chef, Gordon Ramsay.) No, Dave Ramsey has opened new doors in personal finance and debt management. For instance, where nearly all other financial advisors say you should pay down the big debts first, Dave says you should pay the little ones off first. Because they’re immediately achievable goals, once reached, they provide the boost of confidence and positive energy needed to tackle the bigger debts. Although I’m lucky to have never struggled with debt, in today’s economy, Dave’s finance philosophy is a refreshing zig as many others zag with little results.
  • NA – Nicotine Anonymous – Now, smoking is something I have personally struggled with. In fact, although I’ve been smoke-free for five years, I still struggle with it. But – and this is my greatest point – it gets easier with each passing day. For anyone out there who smokes and has tried to quit, I needn’t describe the sensation of your stomach in knots while the earth crumbles away from under your feet … and the fear of a dark and endless misery.  You know the feeling. But I promise you, it only last a few minutes. Wait it out. Hide it out. Ride it out. You’ll see. It goes away. Sure it comes back, but less and less frequently each time until eventually the cravings are gone, replaced only by memories of when you were a smoker, some fond, some not. Sometimes when I’m out on hike, run or swim, I’ll draw in a full and pure breath of air and think, “It’s hard to believe I used to smoke.” But I did.

As for me this year – and I know it’s lame, but it’s something I need to do – I’m resolved to improving my scheduling skills so, in addition to tackling priorities, I can take on more of the things I want to do.

Enjoy the jumps! Come back and see us when you can …

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Simple Idea #121: Paper Creations

December 27, 2009

Art was something I did alot as a child, and something I have encouraged my children to do as well. It’s always exciting to see our oldest son’s imagination at work year after year. The youngest is still scribbling, but he’s on his way.

Something I taught our oldest about a year and a half ago was to take a finished drawing, and cut it out. From the moment he first saw his formerly two-dimentional creations freed from the page, he was hooked.

I tell you, there are few things I enjoy more on a Sunday morning than a hot cup of coffee and some simple, relatively mess-free arts and crafts. And compared to clay, glue, glitter or paint – I consider scotch tape and paper manageable.

It’s great watching our boy’s paper characters evolve. It’s even better to know that such simple projects can be great exercises in thinking ahead and paying attention to detail. As he draws, he’s thinking forward to each little snip required. He used to just cut them out in big chunks, but I’ve worked him to really dig in, flush out all the details and not cut corners – so-to-speak.

He’s really into it now, even naming each creature one as he goes.

After about a hour, we had a nice collection going. The whole idea of course (as anyone with boys will understand) is to eventually pit them together in a major paper battle, which we did.

The Sunday morning line-up today, in no particular order, was:

“Simple but feared … weighing in at a hefty .07 grams … the Electric Python!”

“Squid Man”

“Longer Tongue”

“Double Eye”

Seriously, my five year old named this guy, “Swinger Monster.”

And last but not least, Dad’s very own “Krumlok.”

Yeah, we set the creative bar pretty high ’round here.

I even gave Krumlok a set of interchangeable eyes by making a little sleeve in the back of his head and cutting paper strips with various eyes on them them.

You can also see where I folded some paper to make reinforcement rods, which I taped all along his back side.

He was sure to win. I could feel it.

I always try to take it up a notch each time we do an activity together. I like giving the kids a sense of going that extra step and stretching possibilities. I’m not sure, but I hope it translates for them later in life, as a reminder to go beyond “good enough”.

But “good enough” has its place I suppose.

After all, both of Krumlok’s eyes fell out early in round one.

To my horror and shame, the young but assertive referee was quick to proclaim that Krumlok was now “totally dead.”

It was astonishing: with toy boxes bursting at the seams, and newly unwrapped treasures still under the tree, the boy tended to these paper dolls with unfathomable attention.

Once all the flimsy creatures had clashed, (which is far more quiet and gentle then plastic action figures colliding) they laid lifeless on the dining room floor, some mended with clear tape, others in tattered strips.

In the end there would be two victors: one proud boy with an expanding imagination and a glad dad with an easy clean up.

Humpday, Dec. 23, 2009

December 22, 2009
A few tidbits to get us through the week …
  • Kids have such an elegant way of simplifying the world. Here’s the decade in review, according to nine-year-olds.
  • Money-Smart Kids – As we leave behind one of the most, if not THE most economically disastrous year on record, and face a new decade of staggering debt, I think it’s clear we need to teach our kids what schools do not about money. Last I knew, schools barely scratch the surface with a few lessons about balancing a checkbook. I hope it’s changed. Kids are never to young to learn about financial literacy. From the time I can remember, I’d hear my father say, “credit is a tool not a toy.” Great advice, Pop. I have alot of friends that, years later, are learning that the hard way. Let’s teach our kids how to be responsible with money.
  • Whattheyplay.com is the family guide to video games. You know, come to think about it, video games have gotten a bad rap. In moderate doses, video games can actually be healthy for kids. Having grown up in the Atari era, and having witnessed the dawning of the first Nintendo Entertainment System, I can say without doubt that there are few things in a young kids life that can sustain his or her attention, while taking them through multiple levels of problem solving. Like anything else in life – too much is too much. But – now as parents- rather than tolerate video games, maybe it’s time we embrace them again.

Enjoy the jumps! Come back and see us when you can …

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The gift of memories …

December 21, 2009

Today, this hangs above our door. It tells of the beginning ...

... when it was just Kumi and me in our townhouse in Oregon in 2002. There we are kissing in front of our first tree, on our first Christmas.

And then Philo joined us in 2004 ...

... and as he grew, so did our love - for him and for each other.

And soon, we three would be we four - as can be seen in Kumi's tummy in 2007. Hugh would join us just one month later.

Alongside his big brother, he too would grow. And so did our love for each other.

And now, we celebrate not only the joy of the holidays, but the joy in having each other and the warmth of a blessed family ...

… All because two people fell in love — and stayed there.


We wish you love, happiness, warm families and great friends!

~ HAPPY HOLIDAYS ~

Humpday, Dec. 16, 2009

December 16, 2009
A few tidbits to get us through the week …
  • Give a Day, Get a Day – the good folks at Disney are offering a pretty sweet deal in the spirit of giving. Starting January 1, 2010, if you sign up and volunteer a day of service with a participating organization, you’ll get one day admission to a Walt Disney World or Disneyland theme park free.
  • Get A Personal Message from Santa sent to your kids via e-mail. It’s free and customizable, allowing you to specify your child’s name, age, what they asked for and – best of all – you can choose from a drop down menu of things they are trying to be good at, better at, etc. We put “Be nice to your brother.” It was great to see the big man confirm, “I see you’ve been trying really hard to be nice to your brother … But you gotta keep it up! Remember, Santa knows.”
  • Taking Better Photos Pt.2 – We had alot of traffic after we posted our in depth look last week about making better holiday photos. We found the link above at Parents Magazine, which includes some additional tips on taking pictures of children. Also, my good friend, mentor and professional photographer Greg Hren posted a piece on his blog while back, about photographing kids. Definitely worth look.

Enjoy the jumps! Come back and see us when you can …

Facing fear, confronting weakness

December 13, 2009

I remember a few years ago when our oldest son was scared to go to bed because of what was outside his window.

I knew what laid in wait out there, just beyond the window sill, stretching far as the imagination could contrive, was of course the scariest beast of all: the unknown.

I took him, a then reluctant but curious three-year old, to the window to show him. I made a big, slow, suspenseful, and overly sarcastic deal out of it as I pulled the curtain back to reveal … Voila!

(cricket chirp)

Nothing.

He was relieved to confirm the back yard hadn’t been transformed into a ghost and monster free-for-all, but instead it looked normal even in the blue glow of moon light.

Once satisfied and tucked into bed, he listened with great interest to my bit about facing our fears, and how most of the things we’re scared of aren’t real.

We just think they are.

Once we face and expose them, the fear is expelled like air from an untied balloon, I said.

“Sometimes, it even makes the same silly sound,” I added before giving him a final kiss good night on the forehead.

Fear has come up a few times since then, and each time I watch him carefully but confidently advance, rather than recoil, toward things that scare him.

I’ve been thinking about that night alot these past weeks, as I find myself – reluctant but curious – waist deep in a pair of business classes I am taking.

It’s not so much the fear of them, as it the fact that I don’t particularly enjoy most aspects of business. Actually, what I feel is resistance, which I suppose is fear in disguise.

To me, a creatively driven person, the pragmatic study of business is about as dry as a popcorn fart not very exciting. But the older I get, the more I come to appreciate the things that make me want to run the other way. They’ve become my version of the bedroom window, dark with an imagined demon assuredly lingering on the other side. Only by forcing myself to go toward it and pull back the curtain, do I see there is nothing to fear out there.

The things we fear are the things we should face.

And yet, as I’ve learned many times from personal experience, we usually don’t face them squarely. Instead, we often turn toward our strengths and focus our energy on them. Or we reach for our crutches, whatever they may be, and lean on them.

Rather than brave the path that leads to the inner battle ground, we construct elaborate psychological structures that go up and over  – towering and rickety scaffolds of behavior patterns and habits – upon which we do everything in our power to avoid facing those things that scare us. The very things that once overcome, can propel us forward to a higher level of being.

I am lucky to have had a diverse corps of mentors in my life, some of whom have nurtured my innate creative strengths, while others have forced my look inward and face my weaknesses head on and overcome them. It is in the former that I have found great comfort, and in the latter, incredible personal and professional growth. From them I have heard such brave musings as, “Sometimes, you climb the mountain just because it’s there,” or “you have to work hard at the things you’re good at, and twice as hard at the things you’re not.”

It is especially wonderful to see these insights and philosophies take root in my children. My greatest hope is that they will forever strive toward their fullest potential.

Still, I’ll be glad when these classes are over. I’m taking them to help me corral my seemingly endless string of creative ideas.

I just don’t enjoy business. I enjoy working, I could do it 24 hours a day. But not business.

All the more reason to face it.

Both classes end this month. When they do, I’ll have nine business research papers, two midterm projects, and a comprehensive business plan for my family portrait photography under my belt.

And from where I stand now, that all looks mighty nice by the light of the moon.

Humpday, Dec. 9, 2009

December 8, 2009

A few tidbits to get us through the week …


OK dads, it’s holiday shopping season and we’re dangerously close to the waited-to-the-last-minute-and-they-were-out-of-stock zone.

It’s time to get busy, but let’s not lose our cool out there.

Below are some shopping tips, a few ways to keep peace during the season, and a bit about the spirit giving. But first … dad scenes from some of our favorite holiday films …


  • Black Friday Redux Guys, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that for alot of men, any day spent shopping is as chaotic as Black Friday is for the fairer sex. There – I said it. And so, I’m including this Black Friday Shopping Guide as a great resource for the not-mall-savvy gender.
  • Have a peaceful holiday season “In order to have a memorable and positive holiday season, we need to make time to have some peaceful moments.” Wayne Parker, about.com
  • Fathers, Christmas and Children “A father willing to take the time to volunteer, and even more important, willing to get the entire family involved, will be rewarded in the future by a child growing up to treat others well.” Michael Jay King, ezinearticles.com

Enjoy the jumps! Come back and see us when you can …

A few extra steps for better family holiday photos

December 6, 2009

When it comes to making holiday photos, which usually end up printed onto cards and sent to friends and families, most parents nowadays fall into the do-it-yourself group.

When making our photo each year, I’ve learned three easy steps that make the process easier and the pictures better.

I’ve taken many photos of kids, and I know that getting children to cooperate and look at you, as you try to demystify the inner workings of a digital camera, can be torturous.

This is absolutely true when they’re your own kids. Not only do you have to be the photographer, a complicated job in itself, but you also have to be the parent.

But this gives you an advantage because you know your kids really well – and with a little planning, you should able to create a great memorable image. I’ll walk you through the steps of our shot this year.

Step 1: Scout. Select a good location in your house. This is really important and one that many people don’t think about enough. It’s not enough to have them simply “near the tree” or in a “Christmasy spot.” When I’m planning the shot, I start on paper with a sketch of how I want the final photo to look. Too many people don’t do this. They do it the other way, which is to grab the kids, the camera, and just start shooting and see what happens. That rarely works.

Next I look for a few spots in the house that will work for what I envisioned. I do it with my camera in hand a few hours, or even a day, before the shoot. I want to have everything worked out before I start posing the kids. I’m looking through the camera. I’m looking for a good spot. I’m checking the background for unwanted objects.

Today, I found a nice spot in the house, but the sofa was in the way of the background, and the kitchen table was in the way of where I needed to shoot from. So I moved both out of the way so I could frame the shot just so, making the mini studio seen HERE. This is where planning comes in. My wife and I planned the shoot together, and planned for it to happen on this day, so it wasn’t like I just starting rearranging the house out of the blue. You gotta plan.

Step 2: Teamwork. My wife is MUCH better with clothes than me, and this year she picked the holiday pajama concept. She also kept the kids occupied, as I set up the shot. A team effort helps to free you up, to focus on other things. A she was picking out the pajamas, I was thinking about the light and props. I wanted to give it the “Christmas morning” feel, so I wrapped some empty boxes, and used a lighting technique seen HERE, to mimic low-angle early sunlight streaming through a window. This was all done at about 3 p.m., so I had to draw the shades in the house. If I was doing all that, and chasing the kids, and trying to get them into jammies, and keeping them out of stuff all afternoon, I’d have no energy or patience when it came time to make the picture. Maybe your spouse just isn’t in to it. But your sister or friend might be. Ask someone. Teamwork makes it happen.

Step 3. Entertain. Usually, by the time you get the kids ready to shoot, you’ve lost them already. You can avoid that only by following steps 1 and 2, making sure everything is set before you even bring the kids in front of the camera, and having a plan to keep the kids entertained.

We did it with YouTube.

My wife brought up a few snippets of their favorite shows on the laptop, and held it near my head as I shot.

You can also see in the photo at left, right where my white lens cloth is on the floor; that’s where I was sitting while shooting.

These are just little tricks that might or might not work – but what is certain is that to get good pictures, it all comes down to the light you use. Alot of folks get out their camera, and use the flash that’s on it. Don’t do this. It’s terrible light. It’s flat light. It has little color, and it’s just nasty. Avoid using the on-camera flash.

We used professional lighting gear in this shot, but not because we had to. It was more because I like the practice of trying new things with my gear (AKA, toys Santa brought me last year.) But we could have just as easily used available hard light coming in through the window. You can recognize this kind of hard light coming in. It makes patterns on the wall or floor. It’s the kind of light that comes in as shafts, and reveals dust in the air. It’s the kind of light your cat likes to nap in.

If you have this really harsh sunlight streaming in, you can hang a white sheet over the window, and it becomes a giant, wonderful and soft light source. Or even house lamps can be useable, if they have a shade on them. But be really careful with them – they can get pretty hot. But hopefully, with a little practice and a bit of planning, making your family holiday photo this year will be no sweat.

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Humpday, Dec. 2, 2009

December 2, 2009

A few tidbits to get us through the week.

I included the video below because I realized recently as a parent, that I have a certain bias … I have boys.

But wait – read on before jumping to the video.

Although some of our guest writers have girls, most of the content I happen to write On Fatherhood is heavier on the snips and snails and puppy dog tails than on sugar and spice and everything nice. In fact, to further this point, when Goolgleing the afore mentioned poem to get the verbiage right, I typed “cinnamon and spice.”

Anyway, I wanted to include some sources in the jumps this week that addressed young girls’ self esteem. And as the holiday shopping season is in full swing, I hope to offer some perspective – dare I say gift suggestions – on some things that are out there to promote self esteem and self respect in young girls.

Let’s set the tone with this video. You may have seen it. But if not – it’s a must-see for anyone with girls:

  • I think what Dove is doing with their real beauty campaign is great. And they’ve taken it a step further with their Self Esteem Project. Mail in your UPC’s and Dove will donate $1 to inspiring self-esteem programs. Sure, there’s some marketing ploy to it – but still – the message is good and one that, if I had girls, I’d force feed to them from the day they were born: You are who you are – and that’s beautiful. Dove also has a FaceBook fan page for the Self Esteem project where you can upload a video of your daughter telling what she thinks makes her beautiful. It may even be featured on both the Dove Webpage and Facebook page. Holy smokes if I wouldn’t totally do this if I had girls! And although I ‘m sure the boys and I could knock a short video out of the park, I don’t think it would bode well for either one of them down the road. But, truth be told – and I don’t think they’ll hate me for it later, we wash them with Dove soap. Have since they were little. Only now, I’m gonna start saving the UPC’s.
  • Another point that was made recently about young girls’ self images was about dolls, specifically the lack of ethnic diversity portrayed among many dolls of the past, compared to the newly emerging and diverse dolls ranging from Mattel’s new line of African American dolls to the new American Girl Doll, Rebecca Rubin, who is Jewish. But this is only a small piece of the discussion, which can, and I recommend should, be heard in full as the podcast at NPR, where the transcript is also available for those who prefer to read.
  • And speaking of reading, I’m of the school of thought that says no gift list would be complete without gifts of knowledge and literature. And so, here are two plentiful lists of books purely on the topic of children’s self esteem, both from generally well-respected book retailers, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And, if what I learned in Child Psychology is true, that child development is roughly half genetic and half environmental, than that assuredly means we can only expect our kids to feel good about themselves if we feel good about ourselves. So to be fair, I include this list from Borders.

Happy shopping.

Enjoy the jumps! Come back and see us when you can …

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