“I just want to READ”

Screen time in our household is quite limited.  For a variety of reasons, we got rid of Netflix, our DVD player, our TV, and one of our smart phones (replaced with an old-school clam style dumb-phone).  We use our computers for work and writing blog posts (Life With The Crew, Hare Brain Investments, etc).

What do we do with all of our non-screen time?  We play outside, we cook, and we read.  On an average winter day, I would guess my daughter spends at least three hours outside, and on an average summer day, I would guess that number creeps towards five hours.

This is not to say that my daughter completely ignores screens.  She exhibits curiosity about the work being completed, but generally she remarks “just computer work” and walks away from the screen asking that we play rather than work.

Instead of watching TV shows or movies (she has seen neither), we read to her.  On an average day, we read to her about two and a half hours – one hour in the morning, one hour at ‘nap’ time and a little more than half an hour at night.  The books run the gamut from the Little House on the Prairie series to children’s readers to her current favorites – “Bilbo” (The Hobbit) or “Frodo and Strider” (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy).

 

There are some dark moments in the books – when Beorn has the goblin head on a pike and warg skin drying in the sun; she knows that passage as: “Beorn had a warg in a cage and a goblin in a trap.”  Rather than “Slicing a head” clean off, the orcs are simply “bonked” on the head with the sword.

We have now completed The Hobbit three times and are working our way through The Lord of the Rings.  I know these books are challenging for her to understand but she gets the large plot pieces.  The nuanced plot pieces and symbolism escape her grasp.

A lot intrigues me about the reading experience with her.  For one, she does not miss a single word.  She may not understand the entire story, but she can probably repeat it verbatim.  I also believe the stories are hard enough for her to understand that she has to use all of her energy to comprehend them.  What intrigues me most is that when I read the story, she settles in to listen.  She does not fidget, pay attention to the dogs, or entertain any other distractions.  She sits next to me and as I read, she gets that thousand yard stare, which I usually associate with extreme tiredness, but for her, I believe it is extreme concentration.  She will sit with that vacant unblinking stare for 45 minutes while we read chapter upon chapter of the books.

Yesterday we read at least two hours of “Frodo and Strider”.  At 9.30pm  was ready for bed and told her that it was time for bed.  She immediately burst into tears sobbing “I just want to READ.  Why won’t you READ to me?!?”

My wife and I chuckled.  There are worse things for a kid to be screaming.

Kafka

I first encountered Franz Kafka the summer before I took AP English in High School.  We were required to read and report on a certain number of books, the number determined by a convoluted point scheme.  As an engineering minded individual I determined the shortest books with the highest point value (ie: least number of pages to satisfy the requirement).  Kafka’s The Metamorphosis made the list.

I’m still unsure how I feel about that story or what the hell it even means.

Over the ensuing 20 years I think about Kafka maybe twice a year.  Really, I’m unsure why anyone would think of Kafka, but on the occasions that I do think about the author I always ponder the meaning of The Metamorphosis.  I am still just as clueless.

Yesterday I was listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast with Ricardo Semler.  I am a fan of Semler and his business philosophy.  If I ever start another business, it will be similar to SEMCO.  In the podcast, Semler describes another Kafka story that he would share with MIT MBA students, Kafka’s Before the Law.

The story is about a man who wants to enter a gate but there is a gate keeper in the way.  The  man waits his whole life and still doesn’t go through.  At the very end of the man’s life, he asks the gate keeper why no one else has even approached the gate.  The gate keeper replies that this gate was just for the man and the gate keeper then shuts the door.  (A translation of the story can be found here…not the best translation but you get the idea).

The meaning I take from Before the Law is that to achieve most of our desires/goals in life we will encounter some type of gate keeper, generally in the form of fear (False Evidence Appearing Real).  To get to what we desire, we have to look fear in the eye and recognize it for the nothingness it really is.

Many, many times, the gate keeper makes it difficult to approach the gate, but always, once I’m on the other side of the gate and looking back, it’s not nearly as scary as I imagined.

 

  

Pay’tention

[Note: I started this post a while back, but never posted it.  Not sure why.  Here it is:]

As I sit here and write at my kitchen table, I’m cold.  Even though it’s early June and two weeks past the frost free date, the weather is still cool.  I’ve got two long sleeve shirts on but still feel on the verge of shivering.  Most people would simply click the thermostat up a few degrees and wait for the fossil fuels to be converted from chemical energy to thermal energy.  Convenience.

I feel fortunate to heat with wood.  Not only would I have to lug a load of wood inside, but I would also have to start the fire.  After the fire has been started I then have to wait some time for the wood stove to warm up, popping and pinging as the metal expands.  After the wood stove is warm, the wood stove room warms up; then the next room and, by degrees, the house warms.  It is far easier to make a pot of expresso, throw on another shirt and wait for the day to warm up.

I am fortunate to have such a connection to the planet and my place within it.  By not walking to a wall, pushing a button and waiting, I am forced to pay attention to the weather and enjoy the pleasures of a warm morning or hot cup of espresso.  As I’ve gotten older, I tend to believe that I do a good job paying attention.  However, as a father, I’ve learned that I apply a filter to the world.

Much research has been conducted on this subject.  As we evolved, our brains were able to detect patterns which alerted us to either a saber-tooth cat in the brush or simply a gentle breeze moving the leaves.  We were then able to quickly determine if we need to run or enjoy a cool breeze on a hot summer day.

While this massive filter is a great survival mechanism, I would have missed seeing the pileated woodpecker flying between trees; missed hearing the spring peepers; missed the beautiful sunrise.  I would have missed all this while trying to determine if my fight-or-flight mechanism needs to kick in.

One of the beautiful things about having a kid is being able to watch them learn and develop.  Mine is now closer to three years old than two years old.  She is not as steady on her feet as I am but that doesn’t stop her from enjoying her time in the woods.  On one of our trips to the woods, my wife pointed out that my daughter talks to herself when she is walking over rocky/rooty ground.  She says “Pay’tention, careful”.  I run in the woods.  I try to run as quickly as possible over the roots and rocks.  My daughter looks at each one, determining the best way to step on or around so she doesn’t trip.

What has she seen that I have missed?

A quick hello.

Me
Me

Thanks for stopping by my blog.  I’ll be fleshing out the blog over the next few days, but wanted to say a quick ‘hi’ and give you a little background on this blog and what I plan to share here.

First, I conceived of this blog after reading this article about how many dads do NOT read to their kids.  A little more research seems to back up the original author’s research.  After reading this article, I thought back to my days as a hammer-swinging contractor and realized that most of the other guys with me didn’t read to their kids.

I was really lucky to have a dad who read to me.

I read to my daughter almost every night.  A few books every day.  I’m not a spectacular reader, but my daughter doesn’t care, she just enjoys the stories.  At this point she has a huge library and has most of her books memorized.  She loves the ‘scritch-scratching’ of the Tailipo (she even sees them in the woods on occasion); she knows that dad can be a grumbly bear in the morning without his coffee; her imaginary friends originate from the stories we read to her but now have lives of their own outside the books.

I want to share the fun I have reading through this blog and YouTube.  I’ll share the books we enjoy reading.  In addition, I’ll share some of the books I enjoy reading so you have a better sense of who I am.  I want to show other dads (and moms) how much fun reading can be and to share the books that we enjoy.  Lastly, as we do something that I think is fun, I’ll also post that to this blog (ginger beer anyone?).

I would like to provide a space for other dads to show their reading skills and favorite books.  If you email me, I’ll provide details for how to get your favorite books posted here.

Take the iPad away from your kid and read!

I do use affiliate links on the blog, so if you want to use them and purchase a book, your purchase will help support this blog.