Jul 25 2011

Dojo With Mojo – The Day Our Pet Dojo Took A Walk On The Wild Side

Summary: No matter how bizarre and unlikely, you should take your child seriously when they insist the “impossible” is possible.

dojo aquarium fish weather loach

Dojos are very friendly but have very poor eye sight so they use their whiskers to find food.

This story happens during our very recent and very long wet spring.

In you live in the bay area our spring was unusually wet. It seemed to rain at least once per week. Besides annoying it also destroyed about six weeks’ worth of strawberries at my favorite pick your self farm.

One weekend my buddy and his daughter we joining us for a trip over the hill. It was the usual “do something fun for the kids, get something to eat, then run errands at Fry’s and 99 Ranch Market” Saturday routine.

As usual, it was raining hard and my dojos were especially active. What’s a dojo? A dojo, also known as a weather loach, is a very cool eel like fish. They are exceptionally good natured and friendly. They’ll readily eat right out your hand. They also have the unusual ability to breathe air like a land animal. They don’t actually inhale and exhale. They take in breaths and then hold it in their intestines and slowly dissolve the oxygen. They get the name, weather loach, because of their erratic behavior with approaching storms.  It seems they are especially sensitive to barometric pressure. In their native Asia they are used to dealing with their homes drying out and then becoming flooded again. I suspect they evolved this weather sensitivity as biological marker to induce them to get ready for rain and possibly look for a new home.

dojo aquarium fish weather loach

For a supposed bottom feeder, dojos are very active and use the entire tank.

They are always active, and for a supposed bottom feeder, they spend more time at the top than any other fish I’ve owned. They are also expert jumpers. If there is an inch of open space at the top of the aquarium they will find it and eventually get out. Every dojo I’ve owned, since I was twelve years old, has escaped. Most of the time you find them on the floor hours later, dried up and covered in lint. However, just pick them up and throw them back in. They almost always recover and live long healthy lives.

So back to the beginning.

My buddy shows up and of course his daughter runs into our house and the two start playing. Even though we’ve told them we are leaving in two minutes, they still will squeeze in as much play time as possible.

After a few minutes, we break it up and pile into the car. We’re gone for five hours and it rains the whole time.

This where my daughter found our dojo.

We arrive back at our house and the girls jump out and start playing in the water puddles. They’re having a blast when suddenly my buddy’s daughter yells out.

“Look, it’s a salamander!”

She’s points at a puddle right in front of our house. My daughter leans in close.

“That’s not a salamander, that’s a dojo!’

“No it’s salamander!”

“No, it’s a dojo, see the whiskers?”

“That can’t be a dojo.” I say.

“Yes it is. It’s a dojo!”

“That’s impossible.”

“No, I’m telling you it’s a dojo! Come look.”

So I go over to the puddle expecting to see a salamander.

“What the hell is that? Holy shit, that’s a dojo!”

It’s just swimming in the puddle with half its back sticking out. I scoop him up and go up the stairs, into the house an throw him back in the aquarium.

“That is unbelievable. Did you leave the house today?” I ask my partner.

“Nope. Been cleaning the house.”

“That means that this dojo had escaped in the morning, flip flopped through the house to the front door, and in the few minute while we were loading the car, managed to get outside, across the welcome mat, down the stairs and into the street where it found a puddle and decided to stay . Unfucking believable!”

I told you it was a dojo! But you wouldn’t believe me!”

“I’m sorry about that. Next time you insist that something is true, I’ll take you seriously even if it what you’re saying seems impossible.”


dojo aquarium fish weather loach

Still happy and healthy. Dojos are very social and should kept in groups.

File Under: Trusting Your Child When They Insist Something is True Even if it Seems Impossible

Jul 23 2011

Uno for Dose – Playing Cards With My Daughter

So my daughter and I have been playing Uno in the evenings. It’s a fun, easy game to wind down the day with, and with two people it goes rather brisk. Skip cards now skips the next hand directly back to yourself. Reverse does the same thing. To make it less painful we allow you to play a card every hand even if you given a draw four.

So my daughter wants to keep score. She gets a piece of paper and draws a line down the middle. One one side she writes her name and on the other side, mine.

We start playing and she’s on a roll. She wins the first five games easily. However on the sixth game I finally win one.

“Awwww,” says my daughter as she begrudgedly puts a single mark in my column.

“What? Are you serious? You win five in a row and your being fussy because you didn’t win the sixth game also? You know, I don’t think you’ll every be satisfied unless you won every game forever. It’s like you only remember the last game and nothing in the past matters.”

“What does satisfy mean?”

“Really? You don’t know what satisfied means?”


“It means you are happy with how things are going. Now let’s play a few more.”

We go back and forth and I pick up two games in a row. However she’s still kicking my ass with 11 wins to my three.

The card to match is a yellow eight. I have no yellows but I do have a red eight so I play that one.

“A red reverse, a red skip, and a draw four. Uno!  And we’ll make it green”

I draw four cards and it’s a loaded hand.

“A green skip, a blue skip, and a draw four. I know your last card is green so let’s go with blue.”

“That’s payback for giving you a draw four on the last hand,” she says as she draws four.

“Wait, so you know what payback means but not the word satisfied?”


A minute later she lays down a yellow skip, a yellow draw two, and a blue draw two.


“I can tell by your smile your last card is blue. Please give me a draw card four. Nope. Go ahead, finish me off.”

“All done, I win!”

The final tally? Twelve wins for my daughter and three for me.

I’m glad she won the last one otherwise I’d have to listen to her poor sportsmanship whine-fest again as she promptly forgets that in total, she slaughtered me.

File Under: Teaching Children Good Sportsmanship – Playing Card Games with Your Kid

Jul 23 2011

These Boots Were Made For Walking – A Child’s First 97 Steps

Summary: A Toddlers Transcendent Stair Climbing Experience leads to Bedtime Nirvana

My daughter’s always been a powerhouse of gross motor skills. The very first time she picked up a spoon she held it like an adult. Same with a pencil. No gorilla grips for her. So when she started walking I was not that surprised that she did stairs foot over foot – going both up and down. This was unusual as most first walkers do one step up, then they bring the other foot up, then they go to the next step. On the way down most first walkers shuffle on their butt until they get confident they won’t fall to their death. However, my daughter would just blast down foot over foot. Sensing she needed some extended walking time, I took her to Blue Ball park. She’s probably one years old.

childs first 97 steps

Connecting the lower park to the upper part is a set of stairs. After some playtime by the slides we end up at the base. She sees the stair case and just charges them like it’s a carnival ride. I’m serious, she was on a mission.

Foot over foot she goes. The distance is so wide she can barely reach the next step – so I give her my hand for balance. She’s not having it and shakes it off. She insists on using the top railing, which is quite a stretch for her, but she’s made her intentions clear – no assistance,  I’m going solo daddy.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,…she starts knocking them out.

Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty…still going strong.

Fifty, fifty-one, fifty-two, fifty-three…impressive!

Seventy-four, seventy-five…seventy-six….seventy-seven……a bit slower now.

As she gets into the nineties she’s seriously dragging but still determined.

She get’s to step ninety-seven and just stops. She has a glazed look in her eyes and she’s looking a bit wobbly.

“So this is what a toddler looks like when they hit the wall?” I think to myself. It’s something you rarely see.

“More?” I ask.

She shakes her head.

Curious, I count the remaining steps. One hundred and twelve total. Just fifteen steps short.

What a puss.

Just kidding.

I chickened out there. I should had just left it as “what a puss”. Much funnier.

But I suspect if she had any concept of numbers and one-to-one correspondence, she would have knocked out those last three and made it an even hundred.

Anyway, we get home and I tell my partner about our daughter’s amazing feat (feet).

That night she fell asleep early, slept in late, and didn’t get up once. She slept like the proverbial baby even though I’ve never seen anyone’s baby actually sleep like one.

The next morning she hobbles into the kitchen.

“Fuck my legs hurt. That was way to many steps to do for a first try. Next time I better ease into a new training routine that intense.”

Not really, she couldn’t speak yet. But the look in her eyes told me everything.

That’s it for now.

File Under: Baby’s First Steps – Toddlers Gross Motor Skills Development – A Toddler Pushes Her Physical Limits and Goes for the Burn

Jul 17 2011

Tomboys, Gender Training, and The Trouble With Stereotypes

I’m doing some gardening when my daughter walks up.

“Am I a tomboy?”

“Well some may consider you a tomboy because you’re strong and athletic and like things like dinosaurs, skulls, and boys underwear and swim trunks. But I don’t like the term tomboy because it implies that a girl should only behave a certain way – which is ridiculous. Because you ARE a girl, anything you do, and anyway you behave,  is by definition something that a girl would do. So the tomboy part doesn’t make any sense and only serves to limit you as a human being. Why do you ask?”

“My friend says I’m a tomboy, but she said she was one too, and it’s good to be a tomboy.”

“Well that’s true, there’s nothing wrong about being a tomboy, but it would be better to just be the way you are rather than trying to put a label on it. Does that make sense?”



File Under: Limiting Human Potential Through Gender Expectations

Jul 17 2011

Are You Hot Mama? Love and Life According to Foreigner’s Hot Blooded

Summary: Tens seconds of classic rock leads to ten minutes of relationship talk.

I’m on the way to the boardwalk with my daughter and her good friend when I click on the classic rock station to clear my head. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s an old favorite by Foreigner.

But you’ve got to give me a sign
Come on girl, some kind of sign
Tell me, are you hot mama? You sure look that way to me

My daughters friend speaks up.

“What’s a hot mama?”

“It’s not hot mama…it’s hot….mama. When this song came out mama was a popular term to call an attractive girl.  So he’s asking her are you hot mamma?

“Is that like sweaty hot or good looking hot?”

“In this case it’s neither. I this instance the term “hot” means are you ready for some fun. Like hot to trot. So he’s asking her if she’d like to go out tonight and have some fun with him because he finds her attractive.”

“Oh, I thought hot was only used when you see a good looking girl.”

“Usually yes, but in this case, no. Also hot is gender neutral. Boys can be hot too.”

My daughter speaks up.

“Is mom hot?”

“I think so. But hot is also a personal thing. Someone that one person thinks is really good looking may not seem very good looking to another. Personality also plays a big part. Once you get to know someone, their personality will change the way you see them. So someone who is really mean and rude will not look so attractive after a while, while someone that is nice and kind will seem better looking as time goes on.”

“Is mom nice?”

“Yes, mom is very nice. She’s kind and thoughtful. But she’s also very nit-picky and critical. But her heart is pure and her ethics and values are unshakable. So overall I’m very pleased with having your mom as a partner.


File Under: The Multiple Definitions of Hot

Jul 8 2011

Dealing With a Toddler’s Violent Temper Tantrums – How to Handle a Child Who’s Out of Control

Summary – Sometimes it’s not about solving a problem but about rolling with the punches…literally. How I rode out four hard years of tough tantrums from toddler, to preschool, to kindergarten.

So, are we gonna do this or what?

As much of a fan I am of modern parenting techniques and philosophies they also assume a certain basic level of civility and compliance on the part of the child. No one really talks about what happens when your child just walks away from their timeout. Seriously, what would you do if you child simple refused to take a time out. And not only refused to stay in time out but ran away? And then when you went to get them they spat at you. Or how about bit your arm or cold cocked you in the jaw? Or maybe just fought with every fiber in their body and just punched, kicked and squirmed their way out? What then? Take away their treat? Take away their video? Have them talk about their feelings?

Fortunately my daughter was never quite at that level but she did have very physical tantrums for nearly the first five years of her life. These were full on meltdowns with weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. To mix it up she also included a bit of hitting, kicking and trashing of the house. Oh, and they lasted for ten to twenty minutes. May I add that we never once gave in to a tantrum. Never, ever. We were absolutely unwavering on this so it was not about her thinking that a tantrum would result in anything positive. It never worked. Not ever. We simply continued what we were doing and made it clear that when she was done that she could join us. No interaction until the tantrum was done. Did I mention we never gave in to a tantrum?

These tantrums were also completely random. It wasn’t connected to not getting a toy or her favorite treat. After the tantrum, we would reflect and try to find a trigger, but the perceived trigger was not sufficient to cause such extreme behavior. Also, the same trigger never proceeded a tantrum at any other time. In other words, we were trying to find causation in what was actually correlation.

Well, let me make add a caveat to that statement. Most meltdowns happened after a lot of stimulation or during big life transitions. But this information is so vague, and so comically obvious, as to be useless for trouble shooting cause and effect issues.

So with no real way to prevent them, the only thing we could do is ride them out. Fortunately they mostly happened at home.

The infamous rocking chair. Great for nursing and great for launching a kid's head through the window! Yipeee!

One of the first really big ones that made it very clear on how dangerous a violent tantrum could be was when we were coming back home after a day out around town. She was perhaps 18 months old at the time and she just started to fall apart in the car on the way home. I had her in one arm and a bag of groceries in the other.

That was the first mistake.

She was kicking and screaming so bad that I had to put her down quickly so I could keep my balance and get the groceries to the counter. I chose to put her on our swivel rocker that we bought to make nursing easier.

That was the second mistake.

As I put down the groceries, I look back and see that she had stood up. Still weeping and wailing, she threw her weight back as hard as she could. Normally this would just flip a rocker like this and she would land on the floor. However, our rocker sits in front of our living room window. As the rocker went back full force I saw her head smash through the window. It paused for a microsecond, and then as the glass started falling on the driveway, the rocker went back into position and pulled her head safely inside the house. I was stunned and my daughter was obviously cognizant that she had royally fucked up because she suddenly stopped crying. I swept her off the chair and combed through her hair. Not a scratch. We were unbelievable lucky. It also taught me a very important lesson. When she’s out of control I will need to physically control her to keep her, ourselves, and our house safe. So that’s what I did.

When she was just a toddler, although really big and strong for her age, it wasn’t that difficult. Sometimes I’d put her on my lap facing away from me. I’d then bring one leg over to pin down her’s and then cross my arms over her chest and hold the opposite wrists. I would essentially wear her out until I felt the tension leave her body and she stopped screaming. Then I’d release her back into civil society. This worked pretty good until she got taller and stronger and it got too difficult to keep her from head butting my face. After you almost crack a few teeth or nearly bite off your tongue it’s time to try something new.

The second method was basically a father-daughter wrestling match.

One of the most memorable tantrums happened when she was three. My partner was celebrating her birthday with a party at the house. She had decorated the yard and put out plenty of chairs and food. Things we fine for a while until our daughter started acting up. Acting up often involved walking up to my partner and slapping, punching and poking her. Sometimes she’d repeatedly charge my partner with arms raised as if to hit her. Often she was laughing as she did it. My partner would grab her wrist mid-swing, look her straight in the face and in a very serious and stern tone say “stop that, it’s not ok to hit my body, you need to stop now or you need to leave!”

Well, this rarely worked once she crossed that sanity thresh hold. It was like she was possessed. Nothing could penetrate her brain.

Seeing where this was going I took my daughter to her room.

“Once you calm down you can go back outside.”


She charges me and I take her down like a pro wrestler would. I then let her get back up to see if she’s ready to behave like a human being.


She charges again and I take her down. At this point I’ve had enough tantrum experience to know this is going to take a while so I get on my knees and block the door to her room.

“As soon as you stop crying and screaming and fighting you can go back outside.”


I brace myself and take her down a third time – and this time hold her. Now to understand what I mean by take her down, you have to image trying to halt a 35 pound speeding object with flailing appendages. Oh, and this object is also fragile and priceless. Basically irreplaceable. So taking her down is similar to catching a run away shopping cart. You don’t want the groceries to go flying everywhere so you extend your arms and body and then kind of collapse your body to absorb the impact without getting hurt or destroying the groceries.

Now after I take her down and I need to keep control. I form a cage on top of her with my body and just kind wrestle with her. The goal is to wear her out and avoid getting hurt. The hard part is finding the right balance of force. She is kicking, squirming, and flailing with 100% of her strength. I, on the other hand, need to hold back full force so as not to hurt her. It’s quite unfair.

I’m not exaggerating that this tantrum lasted twenty-five minutes. I know it’s finally over when she suddenly stops crying and gets real still.

“So are you ready now?’

“Yeah, I’m ready to go back outside.”

We walk back outside and I see my surf buddy.

“Wow, that was interesting.”

“Yeah, that was a pretty tough one.”

“We could hear her screaming the whole time out here. Pretty intense shit. She’s a trip.”

“Yeah, she’s trippy alright. And you look at her now and she’s completely calm and centered. It’s like it never happened.”

And so that was our tantrum routine until she was five years old, at which point she just stopped. I’m not saying she stopped getting pissy or loopy, but the tantrums just stopped. Go figure.

My mom says I just screamed for the first three months so of my life. I wouldn’t let her hold me and I would kick and scream and squirm to get away if she tried to console me. Apparently I was not the cuddling type. I’m still not. I was pulling myself up and standing by five and half months, walking by nine months and would rock in my bed so vigorously that she took apart my crib and put the mattress on the floor so they wouldn’t have to listen to the squeaking of the springs and the constant banging as I rocked my crib straight into the walls every night to wear myself out enough so I could fall asleep. I would tuck my arms under my pillow and hold it tight. I was  face down in a hunched ball like one of those 1950’s civil service videos about surviving a nuclear blast. Then I’d roll my body forward as far as I could and tuck my chin in as if doing a somersault. Then I’d slam back down on my heels.I’d repeat the process for a half and hour or so. I did it so frequently and vigorously and for so long that I still remember what the walls of my crib looked like, the sound of the rocking, and the way I did.

And then I just kind of settled down and stopped doing that.

However I still have remnants of my whacked out nervous system. I wiggle my legs and fidget all the time. If you’re sitting on the couch with me you’ll need to put up with a vibrating mattress.  If I’m in the car and it’s not moving, you may noticed it’s shaking instead. I wake up bright and early and ready to take on the world. I have two states, wide awake and sound asleep. There is no transition period. And I’m still loud. I don’t yell, I just talk really loud. A coworker once said my timber was in a range that just cuts through everything in the room which just amplifies the problem. At age seventeen I took apart my bed and put the mattress back on the floor and there it stayed till I was twenty-eight and got a place with my partner. So in many respects not a lot has changed.

So I guess on hindsight, my daughters tantrums kind of do make a little bit of sense considering the source. Perhaps that’s also why I could deal with them so well. While I didn’t understand what was going on in her head intellectually  in a way I think I did “understand” what she was going through.

That’s it for now.

File Under – Dealing With Temper Tantrums in Toddlers and Children – Techniques for Kids with Violent Temper Tantrums – How to Help a Toddler Who’s  Having a Temper Tantrum – Controlling Temper Tantrums in Children Ages 2 to 5