A Few Quiet Moments

A Few Quiet MomentsAlthough it wasn’t by (my) design – I had the house to myself last night.  But it’s a few quiet moments this morning – while the girls are sleeping upstairs that seems more relaxing to me.

Maybe it’s because I’m a little better rested this morning.  Maybe it’s because I’m not in a flurry of text messages with the girls over who is where and when they are coming home….

Or maybe it’s because I tend to be a morning person (now).

There was a time when I was able to sleep well past 10 in the morning.  Now sleeping to 830 is sleeping in for me.  But that time has become some of the most productive of the day for me.

Whether I am out getting the weekly food shopping done, getting to the gym, heading out to the trails for a bike ride or a run – or simply catching up – getting a few quiet moments in the day isn’t so bad.

Despite having those moments last night – there is no way to gauge the productivity as I sat on the couch watching Chopped and hockey.

So, coffee at my side I get some writing done here and on a few work projects (even on a Sunday) and try to figure out how else to make use of a few quiet moments – before getting into the crux of the day.

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Sharing The Trade Secrets

A Helping HandFor 12.0 today is the second of her camp friend’s Bat Mitzvah’s – so we are at the beginning of her run of trips all around the tri-state area to celebrate with her friends.  Add in a few from the temple, and she’ll be busy most weekends through June – not unlike what her sister went through two years ago.  So it was big sister who stepped up and was sharing the trade secrets for makeup and hair.

For me its a lot of arranging car pools and a fair amount of driving.  For 12.0 its a fair amount of dressing, working on hair and nails and make up.  And she has the benefit of a great big sister who helps her out with all of that – and I have to admit I am pretty proud of the young ladies I live with.

From the moment your children are born, people always tell you it goes by quickly, and it truly does.  I can remember the moment I had to confront being a single parent taking my then pre-teen older daughter bra shopping.  It was a decision I made not to shirk the parental responsibility.

The other decision I made a long time ago, was to make sure 14.5 was never cast as a parent for her sister – but could if she wanted the role be a great big sister.

So, when 12.0 needed to get ready for her friend’s Bat Mitzvah, there was her sister helping with the hair and makeup.  Would they both rather have their mother help them with this – I’m sure the answer is yes.  But that’s not the way our family works – so we rely on each other, and there was big sister stepping in, and not just applying make up, but showing 12.0 some tips and tricks.

And I’m more than good with that.  My kids know in our house we can rely on one another when it comes to sharing the trade secrets.

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The Box of Memory Lane

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Memory LaneTucked away in a far back corner of our basement, in an area rarely ventured to are a couple of boxes from when we moved in our house-eight or so years ago, is box filled with pictures.  These are old school pictures mind you, shot on film and developed (in some cases with doubles and in other cases with a disc) and put into picture envelops.  I can remember pulling all the pictures together when I was unpacking here and putting them into that box.

Organizing them in some sort of meaningful way is a task that has never been done.

And so with two goals in mind, out came the box and off went a walk down memory lane.  For 12.5 we needed to start pulling together pictures for her Bat Mitzvah.  For 10.0 she wanted pictures of Risa and me to put into a locket she uncovered while cleaning her room.

So, first the ah-hah moment came when 12.5 help up a photo negative and called it an x-ray.  Like a phone booth, things my children will never know about.

Along with many negatives in the box-where pictures going back 20 or so years.  There was the trip to Mexico, the shots from the schooner in Maine, the moments after 12.5’s birth and even some pictures from our honeymoon in BVI.

As we were going through the pictures, many evoked memories-mostly good, some prompted stories and there were a few questions. There is much talked about but rarely seen picture of 12.5 as a then four-year old in Florida with a butterfly landing on her head while touring a butterfly display.

There are the pictures of 10.0 happy she can stand after pulling herself up.

Then there were moments tucked away-the time we took 12.5 out onto a ball field after a big snow storm.  I had to pull her on her sled while mom and baby sis looked on.  There were pics of mom and kids with grandmas and other relatives and lot of big smiles at birthday parties, thanksgiving dinners and other moments captured-and tucked away.

Generally I can recall the moments.  Usually I can recall the people in the pictures.  It’s not time forgotten, but time not remembered very often.

I suppose in two years or so, we’ll pull out the box again and 10.0 will romp through memory lane as we think about her bat mitzvah.

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Looking For Problems Where They May Not Exist

In my never-ending quest to over-think as much as I can, the puzzle I am working on lately involves 9.5 and one of her best friends.  The friend is the youngest child in a nice family that live here in town.  The girls have been in the same class several times and have gotten very close over the years.

Now the problem.  9.5 goes to her friend’s house often, sometimes many times per week.  The friend almost never leaves the house. The few times she’s been here or at a mutual friend’s house she seems uncomfortable.  When she’s in her house she’s a very personable nine-and-change girl.

So the conundrum.  My younger daughter loves the sleep over, and her friend’s house is a welcome abode to her.  The family is great, very solid people.

But still, I can’t help but think there is something more than a little amiss here.

Here is the problem.  By and large I urge the girls to choose their friends and try to stay out of how they manage their relationships with their friends.  (There are a few who will attest to the poor job I do managing my own relationships).  So, while I want to encourage 9.5 to spend time with her friends, I am growing increasingly uneasy with the amount of time she is spending with this one particular friend.

Now for the over-thinking.  I am looking for the near perfect solution to this-assuming 9.5’s friend is not going to change.  I need 9.5 to want to move her from the almost every weekend group of friends to the I’ll call sometimes group.  But it’s a delicate line, and I am not sure how to walk it.

Anyone have any insights they want to share here? As of now, I don’t have a great plan but would love to figure one out.

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Mirror Mirror

Generally speaking, I am not one of those types that spends a lot of time dwelling on history or fretting over the past.  I’ve tried to maintain an ever-forward attitude.  Learn a lesson if you can, apply it in the future and try to keep up to date or a step ahead.

But coming up on a year since Risa passed I find myself looking back a lot more than usual.  But not in an overtly melancholy way.  Rather I try to look at the ground covered, the start changes that have occurred and even sometimes try to be proud of all that we (my girls and I) have been able to accomplish and even in some way to be thankful to realize that I can actually count on friends and family more than I thought I could.

That’s not to say there have not been trying times.

That’s not to say there have not been, “why me” or “why us” moments.

That’s not to say everything has gone exactly according to plan.

But overall, a year later I would say we’re doing anywhere from OK to well-and that’s not small accomplishment.

From bra shopping, to leg and arm pit shaving, to science projects, to summer camp, to skiing and conversations about boys and Ohio State we’ve managed to put what was really two years of uncertainty behind us-take our memories and move ahead.  And there’s something to be said about that.

It’s not to say there are not huge hurdles ahead.  I can pretty much look at the next 18 months at rattle off events from Risa’s unveiling to 11.0’s Bat Mitzvah, to bra shopping with now 9.0 as events that are coming up that being able to divide and conquer would be easier.  It’s not a new theme thinking about Me, Myself and Us, but even with accepting help from friends and families-how much of any of this am I willing to give up?  And how willing will the girls be to have someone else come in?

As we go through the next set of milestones-taking the lessons learned from the past certainly helps.  But still, I can’t see dwelling on what’s been done-the good the bad and the ugly all get us to tomorrow.

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The Search Generation

The Connected Generation Doesn't Need Today's ToolsOne of the ways I hope to keep myself on the professional cutting edge is to offer a fresh perspective on the way content is consumed.  One of the best ways I know to gather this information is to watch my kids (11. 0 and 8.5) and their friends as they gather around an iPod or computer.

Today though, I had the chance to go into 8.5’s third grade class and talk her peers.  While under the guise of talking to them about journalism and news (which we did a little), I used it as an opportunity to find out how my daughter and her generation seek out and share information.

While it’s not a huge surprise (at least I hope its not), TV, radio, newspapers were not even in the discussion.  I was a little surprised-Facebook and Twitter was not either.  There are a lot of reasons for the latter-responsible parents is my hope, but the reality is 8-10 is well under the age requirements for those sights.

However, based on the discussion-text, text chat, video chat and especially search are far more important anyway.

On the discovery side-when I asked a class of 20 or so third graders how they find things out-and things I defined as news, information, websites, songs, videos, movies and entertainment-search was the number one way to find things.  And when I pressed the kids, they didn’t care what the search engine was (Google was as good as Yahoo was as good as iTunes search).  All they need is a search box and an execution point.

The quick take away on this is to over tag if necessary, but make sure tags capture all the keys to the content and all the imaginable entry points.  While I am among the people who believe SEO, as we know it today is a dying art, the reality is SEO will continue to be a discoverability driver in some form.  (An interesting note, one of the kids wanted to know about a way to search content shared via text chat, hmmmm).

On the consumption side, once again search was a huge driver to finding content.  One of the girls in the class even talked about setting up an RSS homepage-similar to Pageflakes or MyGoogle to capture key elements.  But a huge consumption driver for text and video is images.  It’s a concept I am late to embrace but important.  In the digital clutter, you still need to capture eyeballs.  See any of the e-book stores (Amazon, B&N, iBooks).  Which books are you likely to purchase if you are just scanning a topic?  Eye-catching cover art is the driver.

Finally, when it comes to sharing information text, text chat chat (including video chat) was the focus.  One boy in the class said (and his classmates agreed), “I can send an email, but no one reads email,” from the mouths of 8+s comes great truth.  Email has been a dying medium for more than five years now.

The take away here is to make sure your packaging includes interoperability to share via text-because that is a key driver to reach the generation that is not tethered by Blackberry Enterprise Server, Outlook Exchange or Gmail on the go.

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Managing the Age Gap

In a lot of ways, I am very lucky.  My girls really love each other, and are able to keep themselves busy for a long time playing–generally well.  Even a friend noted this over the weekend.  She took the to lunch while I played golf and the girls are great.

But the other side of that coin that I deal with more than anyone in who watches them for a few hours is managing the age difference…all two years of it.  But there are huge differences between an 8-year-old girl and a 10-year-old girl.  I could have used an instruction manual for this.

10.0 this weekend unveiled her “skinny jeans” look–which to my highly untrained eye looked like her regular jeans look, but sure, skinny jeans I am right there with you.  Then I was harangued for wearing a purple sweater–since purple is not a fall color.  Yet another lesson I missed somewhere along the line.

Then came 8.0 who seems morally opposed to brushing the back of her hair.  I am really not sure why, or how to get her to realize it’s in her best interest to actually brush the back of her hair.  This has become a twice a day struggle–on top of the never-ending supply of dirty socks.

10.0 on the other hand can be up to 20 minutes late because she brushes her hair really well, then balls it up into some kind of a pony tail look.  I think I may need to upgrade the hair stylists.

At some point in the week ahead, we are off to shop for “more fall colors” for 10.0.  8 is looking for Helie lessons.

I can honestly say at no point did my brothers an I debate (or in our case brawl) about fall colors–that instruction manual will really help.

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