Friday, July 6, 2012

A teaching momemt missed...

There I was at the airport, again.  Sitting in the terminal waiting for my row to be called. all the while watching the long line of business people, couples, parents and their children line up waiting to board. It NEVER ceases to amaze me that in the year 2011 virtually one hundred years after the first passenger airline flight, travelers can't follow simple direction.  "Board when your row is called, have your tickets out of the folder and ready for inspection." How many times have we all heard that?  But WITHOUT fail there are always those getting in line early,cut in line as if we didn't notice them or those that do not have their tickets ready.  Or those that stand right BY the line waiting like somehow that is going to improve their process of boarding with the mass of people still waiting in line or on the Jetway.

Typically I am fortunate that I do not have to witness this demonstration of human "suffering" with the privilege of early boarding on many airlines, but not today.  Today, I sat, waited and observed.

I want to mention one particular observation, because this one incident as a dad trying to be a good global citizen and pass these virtues of community to his children can not be ignored.

While sitting in my well designed pleather seat I observed a family of four preparing to get in line. The two children, a girl of about 13 and her younger brother, lead the way, with mon and dad slowly following behind. Mom with a keen eye ( or least I assume so as I could not see her eyes behind the sunglasses she wore inside the terminal) on how long the line had become stopped in her tracks and stood pondering the situation.  The daughter noticing that her mother had stopped turned and said " Mom, are you coming? The line is over here. Shouldn't we go to the back of the line?"    Wow, I thought. This young girl was setting a great example for her little brother on how to be respectful and a good citizen. She took his hand and began to head to the end of the line.  Until her mother stated, "no just go in here," pointing to the front of the line.  The gitl stopped looked perplexed and ready to tell her mom that they should go to the back, thought better not to argue, put her head down and squeezed in with her brother, mother and father close behind.

I so wanted to jump up from my chait and tell her off. Tell her that her daughter had clearly made the right choice, a choice that she should have supported and reinforced instead you chose to lose that moment to provide a postive lesson. Instead chosing to teach that common courtesy and citizenship are to be cast away when not convienient.  Shame on you.

No matter how big or how small, we demonstrate to our children every moment of every day how to act. Parenting isn't easy, but doing the right thing really is not that hard.

Dad Said it's OK to go to the back of the line

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Traveling Dad's Simple Guide to staying connected with Family

Parts of my job may seem pretty glamorous to some. Over 30 countries, countless dinners, hotels, parties with the rich and sometimes famous.  An experience that few may ever know.  On one hand it IS fantastic that unlike most Americans I can honestly say I have been around the world, in fact I have been around the world several times.

I have a great appreciation for the various cultures and people I have encountered while traveling. I also have an appreciation on how the world views the US, it's government, its leaders and Americans in general. I also see how Americans traveling internationally view other cultures. But all this is for another post.

There is a very real downside to all this travel - being away from friends and family, missing out on base hits, A's on exams, a new tooth, a new friend and all the other little milestones that happen everyday in the lives of those we love.

Over the years I have tried to plan travel in such a way as to not miss those important milestones, of course that has not always gone according to plan. Still, if I can't be there physically, I do try to use planning and technology to manage as best as possible.

Here my top TEN to stay connected while on the road.

The Traveling Dad's Simple Guide to Staying connected w/family:

1. Set a time each day to connect home. You may be in a different time zone and even a different day. It is important to set a plan on when to call or chat so everyone is ready and eager to connect.

2. Use technology  - Webcams are a great way to make everyone feel closer. Nothing makes the road less lonely than the smile of your spouse and kids. Online video and soft-phone products like SKYPE are free to use with any internet connection. 

3. Make time - dont rush the call.  Your kids may have nothing to share or they may have a whole host of great experiences to tell about. Be in the moment, don't be thinking about the meeting you have to rush off for.

4. Have a set of open ended questions ready.  If your kids are young like mine, they really only want to say hello, see your face and hear your voice. And unless something special happened that day they won't have much or know what to say.  Ask specific questions that have them recount what they have done while you have been gone or want to do when you return.  Asking "how was your day?" will only result in "good" as the response.

5. Make even more time for your spouse and listen, listen, listen.  Address all things big and small. Even those items that can't be handled while you are traveling at least make and agree to a plan.  Your traveling does not and should not be allowed to put our family life on hold. Your time on the road means the spouse is now doing double duty, not to mention they have lost their partner in parenting and that sounding board.

6.  Email, text, Tweet, send phone photos about your day. -  As my boys get older and they adopt today's technologies I have begun to send them texts and emails. Soon it will be our own family tweets. that way they we can all keep up with each other throughout your time away, while maybe not being able to directly connect.

7. Send them a postcard.  You are probably visiting places they have never been or may never get a chance to visit. A post card is a fun and memorable way for them to see the sites and know that you were thinking of them.

8. Bring home unique items.  NO not gifts. but something small and unique to where you have been. I don't recommend this for every trip, but certainly for those times when you see something that you know they would love and is very unique to the locale.

9. Bring home a story.  Each trip find something about the destination that makes it special and different from home. Let the family learn from your experiences.

10.  Come home ready to be part of the family.  Even after a long flight or extended trip it is very important to get back to being a Dad and husband.  Try and plan in advance what you will do when you get home. And most of all make every moment count!

 Dad Said it's OK to travel on business


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Theme park vacations

Search for disney world guideWe're just back from a great family vacation.  We spent a week-plus at Disney World. It's not a trip we can take often at the price of park entrance, but I must admit it was a pretty fun time.

Besides the 90+ temp and 90+ humidity Florida is a nice place to visit. I am sure for those that happen to live there you can get used to that sort of heat but for us it was a bit overwhelming. The good news is that there are enough indoor shows at all of the Disney parks that allow you a cooling off period before having to stand out in the heat.

We happened to go on an off week, so the crowds were actually pretty light, no lines longer than 15 minutes. Any that were, we solved the issue by getting Fast Passes-Yes they really do work.

Disney park visits are by no means cheap. Our family of five spent nearly $2,000 for our week of passes alone. This did include park hopping, water parks and Disney Quest entry.  My wife did a great job of planning and researching the parks - the Unofficial Guide to Disneyworld had some great tips and even provided access to a great iPhone app with updated wait times, combined we navigated all the parks like pros!

The water parks were a huge hit with our kids, we spent a full day at each of the two water parks. Both parks are visually very Disney and are worth seeing just to take in the sights. Blizzard beach was the favorite amongst all of us, primarily for their slides. Typhoon Lagoon was fun too but the wave pool is the big attraction there. Unfortunately the waves never really form a crest so don't think of it as an actual wave pool more like a place to get splashed.  Also the pool bottom is very rough and our six year old got a nasty scratch on his back from the current, ending his day in the water.

The other non-theme park draw for our kids was Disney Quest, 5 stories of video game heaven. Maybe better stated as an interactive experience with many virtual full scale games for the whole family. One amazing ride was a roller coaster simulator where you actually create your own ride and then you and your partner climb into a pod which follows your course of spins, loops, dives and climbs. My thrill seeking wife and oldest son really got a kick out of that one.  Besides that and a few other full scale games it is a unlimited play arcade.  Fun for a while for the adults then the rest of the time is spent keeping tabs on the kids - bring a book if you are not into video game. On the nights we ended our park adventures before midnight this was the place of choice to visit.

At the parks we tried to see it all, and then go back for those rides and shows that we most enjoyed. To do this we really had to manage the fast passes and show times. You can try and just "wing it" but you won't get your full value of the day. The crowds, show times and fast pass management is so key to being able to experience each park if you don't have a plan, you will need several days to really experience and enjoy all of what each park has to offer. And if you don't have a plan you will spend half of each day waiting in lines, something I just can't manage with my ADD.

We did have to bribe and coax each of the boys to go beyond their comfort zones on a few rides, in all but two cases they had a blast - space mountain was probably the only ride that left a few of them in tears.

We really had no down time, no time at the hotel or just hanging out. probably a two week trip would have allowed for more relaxation. Something to consider in the future.

Post the trip each of us rated the parks and rides differently. Some liked the thrill rides, others liked the waterslides, and of course our Video game lover would have been happy going to Disney Quest for the entire trip.

As for overall vacation value the boys rated Disney World above our Ski vacations which they rate above our tropical trips to the islands.  I assume this is because this was our first time to Disney in 3 years. I am hoping we can wait another 3 before going back.  Not that I didn't enjoy spending the time, just not very relaxing as a parent.

Next trip will probably be something tropical... Mom and Dad need to relax, sorry kids.

Dad said it's OK to go to Disney

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Little cheats by you make our kids big cheats in life

From an early age children learn by mimicking those around them. Essentially this is how we are all taught throughout our lives.  The challenge for me and probably for most of us is that we don't always model the best of examples.

I recently pulled into my boy's school for an event. The parking lot like most days was full so we slowly drove around hoping for a spot.

The oldest son noticed many cars parking along the red painted curb.  He asked " why are those people parking there?"  I wanted to respond... "because those people do not think the rules apply to them"  Instead i said "sometimes people follow the example of others, so when one person makes a poor decision to park where they should not, others unfortunately follow that example and make the same mistake." I then continued, " should we park there too?"  Thankfully all three shouted, "NO!"

We drove to park on the street where we observed more poor decisions, but eventually found a spot and had a nice walk to the event.  Along the way the conversation went something like this...

"Dad, look that car parked in front of the fire hydrant, and that one is parked in a no parking zone." This went on for the duration of our walk, and almost turned into a sort of game.

At this school event we mingled with other parents and students.  We chatted about the parking situation, the overcrowding in the classrooms, the 2-3 hours of nightly homework, all the items that I am sure are discussed at every school event across the country.

One particular conversation amongst a small group of parents was quite interesting and very telling.  Apparently one mother was quite upset that her young son had been caught cheating on a test.  She was beside herself on how he would think such an act was acceptable. She claimed to have raised her children to be better than that. 

As the event ended and we all walked to our cars, we saw the same mother and her son getting into their car.  Yes it was one of those cars parked in the red zone.  Perhaps her desire and intentions were to raise her son to be honest, but her action, no matter how small, have provided examples to the contrary.

So next time we decide to cut in line, park in the wrong area, speed or whatever we all take as minor offense, remember who is watching.

Dad said it's OK to set a good example

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Get a Kinect and Get off the Couch

This past holiday season our household, like 2.5 million other households, added the Microsoft Xbox Kinect. It was really the first attempt by the team at Microsoft Xbox to target the casual user, kids and parents.

The concept if you are not familiar is not new. Way back when PC's ruled the games market Microsoft introduced controllers that were controlled by the physical movement of the controller, though they were not popular due in part to the lack of supporting games.  Several years later along comes Nintendo and the Wii. This took wireless controllers and physical movement to a new level. This level of interaction raised the bar in video game immersion and made video gaming a family affair. This past year Sony entered the mix with their Move product... sorry Sony, I am not impressed. It is a poor imitation of the Nintendo Wii so why bother. 

The Kinect takes the idea of game immersion to the next level with full body interaction. The current games have some fun camera features to play back all those funny faces and body contortions that go along with the game play.  For now the breadth of games are rather limiting, - think mini games of various sports, dance and exercise. But they are actually fun to play, though graphically light. My kids can spend hours jumping, swinging, kicking and laughing all while trying to catch their collective breath.

The devise actually does quite a remarkable job of tracking the user’s movement and even has cool user recognition features to indentify you.

It’s not for the hardcore gamer just yet. But, it is however a vision into the future. Graphics will improve. Game developers will use the ability to insert the gamer into the game in real time, in real game like situations. When 3D takes hold in homes, so will video game developers and platforms. The doors are now open to create new gaming worlds for kids of all ages to concur.

But that is the future... for now it's a great and easy way to say OK to video games and still keep the kids off the couch.

Dad said it's ok to play

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Halo Reach is it safe for my Kids?

When Xbox first launched back in 2001 there was really only one reason to buy it, Halo.

Yes, Xbox had great graphics, a hard drive to save game levels, the promise of internet multi player gaming, ports for four controllers but what it really had over any Playstation, Nintendo or Sega (they were still around back then)  was Halo and the Master-chief.  The futuristic battle saga was really so far ahead of anything out in the market at the time, with superior graphics, game play and story line it was the "killer app" that drove initial sales and made Halo the corner stone of the Xbox platform. Every platform launch has had and needed that one game to differentiate its self from all others. For Xbox it was a remains today to be Halo.

Fast forward to present day and Halo has had it's list of sequels Halo 2 also for the original Xbox, Halo 3 for Xbox360 which really never took advantage of the power of the Xbox360 but does a great job of taking advantage of all the features of the platform. Halo 3 has had its own set of releases as well. An attempt to keep the franchise going in between the very long development cycle... which brings us to Halo Reach.

Well the wait is finally over on Sept 14th what is sure to be touted as the largest first day sales of any movie, album or video game (due mainly to the industry practice of pre-sales) in history.

Halo Reach is by far the most ambitious game in the franchise and will no doubt re-invigerate the platform for the holiday season.  Game play and graphics will set the bar for all other games to follow. As an avid gamer, I am excited.  As a dad of small children, not so much.

As I have stated before, I just can't see any positive value in allowing my 5 or 7 year old to frag aliens, or get killed in battle, especially with the near photo realism of Halo Reach.  Great for age appropriate teens and adults but not for the young ones. In fact I will guarantee nightmares for any child that even watches the game on screen. Would you let your child watch an R rated battle or gun scene in a Movie? Then why let them play or watch Halo Reach?

I am on the fence with my 11 year old. Maybe we'll let him play the occasional multi- player session against his friends but I am even concerned with the impact these graphics will have on him if played in solo mode. Maybe over time - we will have to see.

And for multi-player mode we always restrict play to friends only - the language on those headsets is much too adult for most ears! Yes they can play without the headsets and it's still a lot of fun but sound is a big part of the game, the score, the sound effects, all fantastic, all part of the experience.

Let me reiterate - Halo Reach will be jaw dropping visually, Heart pumping yell at the screen fun - but it will also be so realistic visually that it will for sure be an "after the kids are asleep" game in our house.

Dad said it's OK - to play when you're older

Friday, September 3, 2010

Which baseball bat is best?

It's funny how much kids are like adults when it comes to their sports equipment. In the same way adults have to have the latest and greatest golf club to get those extra few yards, and or straighten out that slice, kids too focus a lot on their equipment to improve their game.

I have no doubt that there is a difference amongst bats. I also have no doubt that bat speed and swing mechanics play a bigger role in the hitting of the ball than the composition of the bat.

All too often I see kids with bats much too long and much too heavy for their size and weight. Easton does a solid job with their recommendations for bat length and weight based upon the size of the player. check out their site for the fit chart. Additionally I have found a simple way to confirm bat size - have the player hold the bat our straight to the side or in front for a count of 10. If they can do this with no strain  then chances are you have a proper fit.  Once you leave the store you may have just bought the wrong bat without this handy test.

The real value in a good bat is the ability to drive bat speed, so if the bat is too heavy or too long  bat speed will suffer. Slow bat speed equals poor hitting.

There is certainly something to be said for composite bats and the extra distance they can provide when bat speed is optimal. Note that these bats need several hundred hits for the sweet-spot to be  developed so it is a really good idea if you are going to invest the big dollars in a composite bat to also invest the time to break it in... not to mention invest the time in developing optimal swing mechanics.

A few lessons from a qualified batting coach is by far the best investment you can make in your son or daughter's time at the plate. Nothing is more exciting then seeing them take command at the plate and driving the long ball.

Dad said it's OK to hit - a baseball