Tag Archives: Lexi

Summer Book Club With Lexi

This summer my daughter Lexi and I had a book club. My wife would pick a book for us to read (which avoided fights about what to read), we’d both read it, then go to a coffeeshop to talk about it.

It worked out pretty good, though I’m surprised we only got through four books. That’s probably more my fault, since I was reading so much I’d have to work our book club book into the queue.

Here are the books we read:

  • The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Lexi’s favorite: Wonder

My favorite: Counting by 7s

Lexi wants to keep doing the book club throughout the school year, so it must have been a success.

Black Lives Matter Rally in Minneapolis

Today my family went to the Million Artist Movement rally/protest in downtown Minneapolis. It’s part of #BlackLivesMatter response to the continuing racial injustice in cases like Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and others.

It’s interesting. I’ve never really protested before. I’ve been to a few peace protests, mostly in response to 9/11 and the continuing war in Iraq, but I was more there as a journalist/observer than a participant.

Today I was here first and foremost as a dad. Secondly as a protestor myself.

It’s been kind of a bizarre week talking about these cases with our kids.

How do you explain all of this to your kids?

How do you explain what a “die in” is?

How do you explain to your brown-skinned son that police are killing brown-skinned people?

How do you explain that police are still heroes? That while this injustice happens and it’s bad and we want to stop it, not all police officers are bad?

None of it is easy, I can tell you that.

When we told Milo that Michael Brown and Eric Garner were black, he broke down in tears.

His reaction broke my heart. But it also seems like the only appropriate way to respond.

The civil rights movement may have been 50 years ago and we did elect a black president, but that doesn’t mean injustice is over. It’s still all around us, it’s still causing pain, and it’s our time to stop it.

At the rally they led us in a song. I shot a quick video of part of it:

Oh the day’s gonna come when I won’t march no more
The day’s gonna come when I won’t march no more
But while my sister ain’t equal
And my brother can’t breathe
Hand in hand with my family we will fill these streets.

I can’t help but think of the day that will come when we don’t have to march or cry or fight or despair no more. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. It’s a kingdom hope, but it doesn’t have to be an unattainable hope.

This whole thing is hard and complicated and painful and difficult. If you’re feeling those things, I feel them with you. Please listen.

At the end of the rally they had ribbons and asked us to write something on the ribbons. Here’s what we wrote:

Black Lives Matter A Lot Black Lives Matter!My Boy Shouldn't Cry No More!

Star Wars: Watching the Prequels

In the last two weeks Lexi has watched all three of the Star Wars prequels.

The good news? She didn’t like Episode III (who does?).

The bad news? She liked Jar Jar Binks.

You win, some you lose some. I guess. Lexi became a Star Wars fan last year when she watched the original trilogy with me. It seems the defining question of our generation is in what order will you let your kids watch Star Wars? Though it’s more a question of fandom. I’ve never met a Star Wars fan who wanted their kids to watch the prequels first. My nephew watched the prequels first (and as of last year had no idea who Luke Skywalker was!), but my sister-in-law is no Star Wars fan.

As much as I dislike the prequels, it is fun watching them with my kids. Just entering the Star Wars universe with them is enjoyable, even if I groan every time Jar Jar speaks while both Lexi and Milo bust a gut. For all the failings of the prequels, it’s still Star Wars. The music still crescendos just right even if the kid on screen can’t act (in all fairness, Luke was pretty whiny in Episode IV). While I’m leery of what Disney will do with a new batch of Star Wars, I’m also excited to see more of it in the theater again.

Sidebar: There could be a thousand lessons of what not to do from the prequels, but one thing I realized from this recent watching is I wish the light saber battles would get sane again. In the original trilogy they were pretty basic sword fighting. But with the prequels basic sword fighting was too old school and we had all kinds of ridiculously choreographed fight scenes. It got to the point where you couldn’t even tell what was happening. And it got non-sensical: In one scene in Episode III Count Dooku (I still laugh at that name) is fighting Obi-wan and Anakin with a single light saber. How is it that two light sabers can’t beat one? Never mind the lava-hopping ridiculousness of Obi-wan and Anakin’s showdown that comes down to who has the higher ground. It makes their final showdown in Episode IV look like a geriatric duel. Light saber battles are pretty sweet, but I hope in the new movies we can go back to sane light saber fights and not try to come up with zanier choreography.

Another thing that I love about the originals (and is only now standing out to me in contract to the prequels) is Luke’s insistence that there’s still good in his father. Those lines have become so commonplace that it’s hard to recognize how controversial they are. The scary, evil bad guy who chokes people from across the room, seemingly for fun, somehow has good buried under that creepy mask? Not only does Luke insist on it, he lays his life down to prove it. And he’s right!  A hero who throws down his weapon and refuses to fight? A villain who can be redeemed? I don’t think I’ve ever considered that Star Wars delivers a pacifist message, but there it is.

The best news from watching the prequels? Lexi’s favorite episode is the original. All is right with the world.

And a few fun links that always come up when I talk Star Wars:

Embracing Mistakes, Pain & Failure

Lexi BikingNobody likes to make mistakes, feel pain or experience failure. But that’s how we learn, grow and succeed. It’s something we’re losing today.

A 2004 article in Psychology Today explores this phenomena, and if anything it seems more relevant today. The article bemoans the way parents over-protect their children, keeping them from experiencing the mistakes, pain and failure that will teach them important life lessons. Kids are coached through play and never learn how to skin their knee and get back up again. Parents swoop in to resolve every playground conflict and kids never learn to handle their own disputes. Parents fight with teachers, trying to gain every advantage for their child. In the end, kids learn how to work the system instead of how to overcome challenges.

If allowed to, learning how to get along with others would actually make kids smarter: “Social engagement actually improves intellectual skills. It fosters decision-making, memory and thinking, speed of mental processing”

The article points to college as the time when the “emotional training wheels come off,” but now kids totter and crash. Relationship problems used to be the biggest issue for college students, a developmentally appropriate concern. But since 1996, anxiety has overtaken relationship woes. Now 15% of college students nationwide are depressed. Those relationship woes haven’t gone away, but worsened, with stalking on the rise. Anorexia and bulimia now effect 40% of women at some point in their college career. Binge drinking is a steadily growing problem.

Yikes. College students don’t know how to cope. And in some ways colleges have caved. At one point 94% of seniors at Harvard were graduating with honors. It reminds me of one of the conflicts in the Pixar super-hero film The Incredibles: If everyone is special, then no one is special.

It’s not just college students either. Adolescence has extended into the 30s.

“Kids need to feel badly sometimes,” says child psychologist David Elkind. “We learn through experience and we learn through bad experiences. Through failure we learn how to cope.”

Get Up Again
It’s a hard thing. Nobody wants to see their kids hurt.

I think about teaching Lexi how to ride her bike last summer. Failure seemed to shut her down. But more than failure, the fear was the most crippling. Fear of falling down, certainly, but also the fear of failure more than the failure itself. I realized more than anything I had to teach Lexi how to get up and try again. I let her “crash” into the grass at one point, proving that she could dust her self off and try again. She almost didn’t.

I’m hardly an over-protective parent. But even in a simple example like learning how to ride a bike I see these difficulties in coping with mistakes, pain and failure.

Somehow, we need to learn to embrace them. Only then can we rise above them.

Thank You Bruises
As Dallas Clayton says in An Awesome Book of Thanks, “Thank you to… those bumps and bruises that turn ‘couldn’ts’ to ‘coulds.’ Thank you to those for they make us all stronger. They make us all smarter. They make us last longer.”

“If you want to double your success rate you need to triple your failure rate.” That’s the mantra of an off-the-grid, quasi homeless character in Cory Doctorow’s Pirate Cinema who learns to maximize his panhandling to the point that he does it to help the truly homeless and destitute rather than himself.

We can’t be so afraid of failure, because failure is what leads to success. You have to try, try and try again. As much as I hate to admit it, Yoda was wrong.

Finally, writer Neil Gaiman says it like this in his New Year’s wishes from last year:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

Stephanies & First Book Update

Screenshot of donation confirmation page on First Book's site.We launched The Stephanies last month and promised to share half our profits for the month of November with First Book. November is done and gone (and with it all those great Movember mustaches!) so it’s time to tally our sales and make a donation.

We sold a whopping 7 print copies and 8 digital copies, for a grand total of $30.38 in royalties. So we’ll make a donation to First Book for $15.19. Doesn’t sound like much, but it will provide six new books to kids in need. That’s pretty cool. Thanks to everyone who bought a copy!

Those sales can be combined with the 36-some odd sales from our Kickstarter campaign and that’s pretty great for a self-published book written by a 6-year-old. How many books did you sell as a first grader? I’ve got a big ol’ nothing in that count. Creating this book, sharing it with the world and giving back in a tiny little way has been pretty awesome. The numbers don’t sound like much, but we weren’t in it for the numbers.

More than anything I had a blast doing it with Lexi. I now owe Milo a book project of his own. And this is a great test case for how kids can make their own books (not to mention how to use Kickstarter).

While we’re no longer donating our profits (we’ll now siphon the cash straight to Lexi’s college fund), you’re welcome to grab your own copy of The Stephanies. We’ve got the original paperback, a “Color-Your-Own” paperback, and digital versions for the Kindle, iBook & Nook, and the standard PDF version. It’s a great little gift for the kid in your life, no matter how old they are.

The Stephanies is Available

The StephaniesAll the wild frenzy of the U.S. presidential election comes down to today. I’ve been blogging about it almost non-stop lately, but today it’s time to shut up and go vote. And then spend the rest of the day in a state of unnerved distraction, trying not to reload your favorite news site every 10 minutes (oh wait, is that just me?).

So today I’m launching an election distraction: The Stephanies is now available. You can go buy the print version, the digital version or the “color-your-own” version where you (or your kid) can be the illustrator.

The Story
The Stephanies is a short, goofy little story about two girls who are both named Stephanie. Sharing a name causes all kinds of problems and the two girls continually square off:

“My name is Stephanie!”

“No, my name is Stephanie!”

“Grr…” both girls grumbled.

It’s great fun. If you’re into children’s books, think more Robert Munsch than Margaret Wise Brown. This is the book my 6-year-old daughter and I wrote together and then published through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Good Cause
Proceeds from the original Kickstarter campaign went to Lexi’s college fund, but for the month of November we’re going to share. Half the profits from The Stephanies will go to First Book, an organization that gives kids in need access to books.

Watch Lexi Read
We also put together a fun video of Lexi reading The Stephanies:

Thanks & Please Review
I’d be remiss if I didn’t send out a big thank you to everyone who backed our Kickstarter campaign and made this project possible. Thank you!

I hope you’ll check out the book, give it a review on Amazon and tell your friends. Thanks!

Last Chance for The Stephanies

Last month I launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish the book Lexi and I wrote this summer called The Stephanies. In less than three days the project was fully funded.

Awesome.

Over the last month the campaign has hummed along, raising more than double the original goal. That’s pretty cool, especially since extra cash goes toward Lexi’s college fund.

But the Kickstarter campaign comes to an end tonight at 9 p.m. Central. Today is your last chance to join our Kickstarter campaign and support The Stephanies.

But wait, if the campaign is already fully funded, why should I join?
Great question. At this point the goal is met and the project is going forward with or without you. We’re at a fun stage in the life of a Kickstarter campaign where there’s no more hoping and dreaming. The project is a reality and joining up now doesn’t carry any risk that the project might fail.

But two reasons why you might still want to join the campaign:

1) Get the Book Cheap
The Kickstarter campaign will be the cheapest way to get a copy of the book. You can get the digital version for just a buck and the print version for $15 (shipping included, plus a personal thank you from Lexi and me). If you want a copy, now’s the best time to get it. The Stephanies will be on Amazon later, but you won’t be able to get it for as cheap.

2) Cool Rewards
We also have some cool rewards available now. Along with the book, you can also get some cookies, Lexi artwork, join Lexi’s book of the month club or some other fun extras. My personal favorite is the book of the month club. It’s a little pricey at $250, but considering that you get a book shipped to you every month for a year, it’s a pretty great. Today’s your last chance for any of these goodies.

You have until 9 p.m. Central tonight. Ready? Go!

Let’s Publish the Stephanies

This summer Lexi and I wrote a children’s book called The Stephanies. Lexi drew the pictures and we want to publish it. We need your help.

The Stephanies is a short, goofy little story about two girls who are both named Stephanie. Sharing a name causes all kinds of problems and the two girls continually square off:

“My name is Stephanie!”

“No, my name is Stephanie!”

“Grr…” both girls grumbled.

It’s great fun. If you’re into children’s books, think more Robert Munsch than Margaret Wise Brown.

Tonight we launched a Kickstarter campaign to make the book a reality.

What’s a Kickstarter?
Good question. Kickstarter is awesome. It’s a site that allows creators to go straight to their fans to raise support for their projects. Creators come up with a fundraising goal and a deadline. If they can raise the money before the deadline, people pay up and the project goes forward. If the goal isn’t met by the deadline, everybody keeps their money and the project doesn’t happen (You may remember that I tried a failed Kickstarter project back in 2010—we didn’t meet the goal, so all those great backers kept their money). Creators also come up with rewards to encourage people to support their project, like a copy of whatever is created, behind-the-scenes access, limited edition items and more.

It’s an exciting development for creators and fans alike. Last year Kickstarter brought one of my favorite bands, Five Iron Frenzy, back from the dead. It allowed indie artist Shaun Groves to fund a new record without a label. It enabled a sequel when a publisher balked. Just last week it funded the new Molly Danger comic book from Jamal Igle. And it’s two-thirds of the way toward funding a new book and album project for Justin McRoberts. And those are just a few of the projects I’ve supported. It’s for plenty of other awesome ideas as well, like smarter consumer electronics (they’ve already raised over half a million dollars!), an ad-free future for the comic Penny Arcade, and even a space elevator.

It’s great fun to become a patron of what you think is cool.

Back to The Stephanies
So yeah, we’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to get The Stephanies published. We’re trying to raise a modest $300 by Oct. 3 to help defray the time and effort of publishing the book. We’re going to do three versions—digital, “color your own,” and full-color paperback. Back the project at any amount and you get a copy of the book ($1 for digital, $10 for “color your own,” and $15 for paperback, shipping included). Pony up $25 and you get all three versions, plus Lexi will create some custom artwork for you. We’ve got some higher end rewards for the big spenders, including a cookie package, Lexi’s book of the month club and your very own custom book written by Lexi and I.

Lexi helped me every step of the way on this project, including coming up with the rewards. She didn’t think anyone would pay a lot of money for this project, so we tried to keep all the reward prices as low as possible. By backing the project you’re getting the family discount. This isn’t about making money, it’s about sharing our story.

The Stephanies has been a fun summer project for Lexi and I. We’d love to turn it into a real book and share it with the world. We hope you’ll help.

The First Day of First Grade

Lexi's First Day of First GradeSo yesterday was the big first day of school. If summer wasn’t already done and gone, now it’s officially over. Gone are the lazy days of summer and now we’re back to a routine. Hopefully. It’s kind of odd. By 7:15 a.m. both Lexi and Abby are gone, we’ve already had breakfast and Milo and are looking at each other asking, “Now what?”

Yesterday Milo literally asked when we could have lunch. At 7:30 in the morning.

Milo starts “three school” next week, two days a week for two and a half hours, our attempt to give him something fun to do now that his playmate is in school all day. And to save my sanity. So far both of our mornings have involved me trying to be productive while Milo lies around. Today we went to the library, which would be a great routine for me. Though when I asked Milo if he wanted to look for books? “Nah.” He was too busy making friends and playing games with the magnetic triangle and circle. Which I guess is good.

It’s kind of hard getting into a new routine. I guess I haven’t thought about it much before, but I’m pretty big on routine. I do certain things in a certain order, whether it’s letting the dogs out or getting breakfast. I like my routine. If I don’t follow my routine or have a good one, things tend to skipped, like brushing your teeth. And that’s not cool. So far I’m floundering, desperately trying to find a routine. Yesterday I let the dogs out at 6:15 only to put them back in their crates when we walked to the bus stop. Today I left them in their crates until we got back from the bus stop. I guess all you can do is try and see what works.

Oddly enough, the routine seemed much more self-evident when there were two kids running amok. Now that there’s only one, it seems too open-ended. I guess I should be enjoying it. I’m just trying to find the rhythm, like a drummer that’s not quite on beat. It feels off.

 

Teaching Lexi to Ride a Bike

One of my projects this summer has been to teach Lexi how to ride a bike. We’re almost there.

Yesterday she went down the alley for stretches all by herself:

Today she went down the entire alley all by herself (with me running alongside in the excessive heat warning). She still needs some help starting and lots of practice, but we’re almost there. I’m still waiting for the first big fall and bigger tears.

Teaching a child how to ride a bike is full of lessons for a parent:

  • I think one of them is start early. I see kids half Lexi’s age riding bikes without training wheels all the time and I realize we’ve put this off.
  • I also think it’s about taking baby steps. Riding a bike involves a lot of skills at once, from pedaling to balancing. Anything you can do to learn one of those skills at a time instead of both at once is huge step up. That’s why we got Milo a kick bike. That’s why I took the training wheels and the pedals off Lexi’s bike at the same time so she could work on balance.
  • We also tried one of these co-pilot bike trailer things, in part to teach her balance but also to get her used to the idea. It’s also been a good way to teach her safe bike habits while I’m still in control (biking in the city is a bit different than the suburbs I biked in growing up).
  • But in the end it really comes down to practice. Running up and down the alley with Lexi for several days in a row is what finally got us the break through. It’s kind of the secret to most of life—you keep on trying until you get it. I hope Lexi’s starting to understand that (though yeah, she’s 6, it’ll be a while before that sinks in).
  • And if what Lexi really needs is practice, what I really need is patience. Loads and loads of patience. Oh my goodness did I need patience. Lexi’s not a super athletic kid (what can I say, she’s a Hendricks) and she also gets freaked out trying new things. She had a lot to overcome here and that required a wealth of patience on my part. Me getting mad or short with her would just shut her down. Having the patience to wait her out, to keep trying, to notice tiny improvements and praise the heck out of ’em. I don’t remember my dad teaching me how to ride a bike (oddly I remember when we took my brother out to learn how to ride a bike, but I don’t remember learning myself), but I imagine he needed the same boatload of patience I needed. I’m probably more like my dad, and Lexi is more like me, than I ever would guess.

We’re almost there. I think bike riding is one of those awesome things that can give a kid an incredible amount of freedom. There’s nothing like a summer of bike riding, of stretching your limits, of putting fun and adventure within reach, of simply feeling the wind in your hair. I’m almost as excited as Lexi is.