Choosing to be miserable

Caution: uNeDiTed

Example 1 -- Food

Scenario 1

“kids, what would you like to eat” Parent
“I want pizza!” Child 1
“I want burgers!” Child 2
“You have to decide for yourselves.” Parent
“It's not fair.” “you got to pick you last time.” “I hate this.” Children
“Forget it! I will pick. we are having Thai food.” Parent
“I don't want Thai” “I hate Thai” “you always have Thai” children
“These kids are so spoiled and don't deserve going out” angry parent

Conclusion: Parents and children are miserable.

Alternate scenario 

“Hey kids gets get dressed, we are taking you out for Thai food”
“Oh cool. thanks” 

Example 2 -- Movies

Scenario 1

“Kids, what movie do you want to watch”
“Frozen!” child 1
“Frozen sucks, I want the Lego Movie!” Child 2
“I hate the lego movie, it's so boring.” Child 1
“It's not fair.” “You got to pick you last time.” “I hate this” “Waaaaaa!” Children
“Forget it! I will pick. We are watching Starwars.” Parent
“No! we always watch star wars!”
“These kids are so spoiled and don't deserve watching  movies” Angry parent

Conclusion: Parents and children are miserable.

Alternate Scenario 

“Hey kids, do you want to watch Starwars with me? I'm making popcorn!”
“Oh cool. thanks” 

Conclusion

When did I surrender decision making to the kids? Am I being intellectually lazy? I’m going to stop giving my kids choices. 

Triple wins. How we create family resolutions.

I am not one of those super organized people. But the one thing I have done religiously since 2008 is plan my year in advance. I get the question all the time about how I manage these crazy races, travel, have a career, and spend time with my kids. This is how I do it. 

Prior to doing this, I would just go with the flow. what ever screamed loudest, I followed. I just went through the motions with regards to work, family, and kids. 

Since I have started planning out my year in advance, I've noticed an interesting side effect, I get a lot done, but i'm not really that busy. 

Caution: this whole process takes a lot of time but it helps not waste a whole year.

1. What did you do the previous year?

I start with a simple brain dump of what I have accomplished the year before. You might be surprised by what you have accomplished or *not* accomplished. What trends do you notice? I usually do this exercise with my wife and kids. We try to find trends or interesting patterns that can shape the coming year. 

For example?

  • Where did we travel
  • What did my kids accomplish
  • How much money did I save/state of my investments
  • Major accomplishments at work/business
  • Books I read, things I've learned

I personally use Google sheets for this. Finally, we finish with the question, "what is this the year of"? When you look back 20 years from now, what will you remember 2017 for? "2017 is the year of having a new baby and moving to a new country" 

2. Ideas for the following year

Do a "brain dump" of things you want to accomplish next year. Just sit down and write anything that comes to mind. Just let the ideas flow. 

I do the same exercise with my wife and kids. My wife usually doesn't want to do this and rolls her eyes, but eventually she will start telling me what she wants the children to achieve and eventually what she wants to achieve. The kids rattle off their own lists too.

I spend a couple of days on these lists, adding, and removing.

Major themes will start to emerge. They will form the major "rocks" for the year. For example

  • Run an 'X' mile ultramarathon
  • Increase the revenue for my company by X%
  • Travel to 'X' new cities
  • Publish my first book
  • Children become proficient mandarin speakers 
  • Children become better swimmers
  • Actively help out a charity

I take the goals and make them scary/exciting. I am not sure why this works for me, but it does. It triggers something within me that makes me more likely to achieve the goal. Sometimes it will take more than a year to accomplish them. E.g.

  • Rather than run 50 miles-> run 100 miles.
  • Rather than learn Hindi-> give an entire lecture in Hindi
  • Rather than my son learn to swim -> do his first triathlon

3. Look for triple "wins" 

My goals used to be all about me. What I have been doing recently is trying to find goals that overlap with my wife and kids. That  increase the chances of my actually achieving the goals and it brings the family together. 

Once my family and I have the lists and they are sufficiently scary and exciting, I start looking for synergies.

For example, the kids need to practice their Arabic next year and she wants to visit her sister in Jordan and I want to do a multi-stage running race. So I started "googling" and found a one week desert Ultra in Jordan in March. A triple win.


We arrive at these but talking, talking and more talking. 

This is the secret sauce of the whole process. If my wife is part of the planning and I take her wants into consideration she will be my support system. This is one of the main reasons my wife supports what I do.

4. Categorize things into months

I start putting things onto the yearly calender like that. I put major events like major holidays, work commitments, travel commitments. I find out what gaps in my calendar I can play with. My wife wants to visit Japan, I want to do an Ironman and my son wants to do his first Iron Kids. So Ironman Japan in August goes up on the calendar.

5. Put "it" up or shut up

Once I'm done with my goals, I put them up on the wall where I can see them everyday. I also have a yearly calendar where I can see the major events I have planned. It's the first thing I see when I turn on my phone. 

Visualization is the second secret ingredient. 

6. Get started

I will make things real by booking races or holidays. I start right away. I don't wait or put it off.


Race resources that I use

  • Marathons around the world: http://www.marathonguide.com/
  • Ultramarathons around the world: http://www.ultramarathonrunning.com/
  • Triathlons around the world: http://trimapper.com/
  • Ironman.com, Challenge.com, Rev3tri.com

(Guest Blog) 10 Grammar Rules Every Worldschooled Kid Should Know

Written by Chistina El-Ahmar

  1. Beginning and Ending Punctuation
  2. Paragraphing
  3. The Parts of Speech
  4. The Sentence and the Fragment
  5. Subject, Verb, and Object Forms
  6. Verb Tense
  7. Punctuating Dialogue
  8. Rules and Uses for Commas
  9. The Apostrophe & The Dash
  10. The Semicolon and the Colon

Suggested Reading and Resources:

  • Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynn Truss
  • The Power of Grammar by Mary Ehrenworth
  • The Elements of Style by E.B White and William Shrunk
  • Sentence Composing for Middle School by Don Killgallon
  • Discovering Voice by Nancy Dean

When it comes to writing kids need to care about what they are saying. They need to feel a sense of purpose that sharing their stories matters. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone’s voice is important. The sooner they understand this, the sooner they will take pride in becoming writers. Grammar should be taught not as a list of rules, but as a means to make writing meaningful and powerful. Therefore, Grammar should be taught to children through Story-telling and Narrative. Explain to kids the “Why” of Grammar and then demonstrate its power in writing through examples.

Ex. Why is Harry Potter a World Favorite? How does the author use her writing? Explore the structure of writing in favorite novels.

Southbank, London

Southbank, London

 


The Face of Rejection (updated)

Most adults, including myself, have the same fears: fear of public speaking, fear of rejection, fear of failure, etc.

I'm not sure how and why it happens. Recently, I've noticed that my son is beginning to lose some of his fearlessness. The ability to go up to anyone and ask anything without fear of rejection.

Not sure if this is some biological instinct that gets triggered at the age of 10. Maybe it's an instinct to be careful of adults because 10,000 years ago another male adult would have taken your bison meat and stolen your wife. Again, I'm not sure.

But, what I am sure, is that I don't want my kids growing up fearing rejection and failure.

So I devised a little experiment to teach my son about rejection. Something I'm too scared to do myself. Obviously, because I don't want someone to take my bison meat and steal my wife.

I took my son for a walk around the cafes in Fulham and told him to go up to random people that he found interesting and ask them to take their portraits. His initial reaction was, "No way!" I asked, "What's the worst that could happen?" He replied, "They can say no." We discussed this possibility and agreed that that wasn't a big deal.

We agreed to a script: Hello sir/madam! Do you mind if I take your portrait for a project I'm doing?

 

At least they were alive and in person. Next, I told him that he needs to take pictures of people he doesn't know and he must get up close and personal. I showed him how by taking his portrait.

He went around and asked eight people to take their portraits. Four happily agreed and four said no. When he came back, I asked him how it felt to be rejected. He said, "It was no big deal." 

We went out a couple of days later to take some more pictures. We repeated the same experiment. The only thing we added was they needed to ask the person they were photographing for their name and a piece of advice.

Alan . "Never speak ill of anyone" Played in the FA cup 3rd Division 

Alan. "Never speak ill of anyone" Played in the FA cup 3rd Division 

Didn't speak English.

Didn't speak English.

Robert . Refugee in world war two. Described the war as terrible. "take every opportunity that you get" & "Get a good education"

Robert. Refugee in world war two. Described the war as terrible. "take every opportunity that you get" & "Get a good education"

After Yusuf didn't want to take any more pictures,  Sulafa was taking some random pictures of flowers and a father and daughter asked her to take their portrait. We rushed to the local print store and printed them a copy of the photograph. 

street photraphy w kids 034.JPG

 

Homeschooled Children Smell Like Salami

I have seen it over and over again. Some well intentioned person asks my children which school they go to. They respond, "We are homeschooled." To this, the person looks at them like they were raised in a leper colony and says "Oh! that's interesting." Interesting is another way of saying, "Why are you ruining these poor children?"

The term "homeschooling" is a loaded term. It's usually synonymous with weird or socially awkward. It's for kids who don't wear matching socks and smell like salami.

So I tried an experiment, I told my kids next time they are asked which school they attend, they are to answer, "We are Worldschooled."

That evoked a very different "Oh!" A much more positive "Oh!" Usually followed by, "So where have you visited in the world?" This does two things: It makes the kids really proud and it forces the questioning parents to think, "Crap! I need to take my kids on some trips."

I propose we dump the term "Homeschooling" for the much more accurate and infinitely cooler, "Worldschooled."

How to Have Zero-Family-Guilt Long Runs (v.01)

 have been trying to incorporate my children (10 & 6) into my training for this year's Ultraman.

One thing I have been doing for the long runs is taking my six year old daughter along. So far we have managed to do this for up to two hour runs. This is how we pull it off. This works so well, that I needed to share it.

What you will need:

  • Scooter
  • A parent that doesn't mind getting "looks" from people
  • Something to tie to the scooter to pull. I have used a neck scarf and now use a body elastic weight band.
  • A child that would rather be outside than in.
  • Helmet for the child!
  • Running book bag
  • Chocolate cake 

Instructions:

  1. Plan out a run route that has long sections of pavement without the need to cross the street. The Thames path is perfect in London and running along the Hudson is perfect for NYC.
  2. Plan the run so that you can finish near a cafe so you can have some cake and hot chocolate.
  3. Bring a snack, water, and clothing options. During this past long run, we learned that it's not wise to run through a puddle :)
  4. I tie the body elastic band to the scooter and basically run. I have about 5 feet between us. 
  5. Communicate when you are stopping, turning left, or right.
  6. Expect a couple of spills, but that is normal.
  7. Don't use any headphones, the point is to be together and talk. It's also not safe.

The Positives

  • You can do your long runs without feeling guilty.
  • You get to have memorable moments with your kids while training.
  • It makes the long runs much more enjoyable.
  • Adds resistance. 

The Negatives

  • There is a lot of start and stop until you get your stride.
  • You will probably need to stop more frequently for potty breaks and snacks.
  • Sometimes they just want to go home.


20 travel tips for people w/kids

Portebello Market, London

Portebello Market, London

Disclaimer: These tips are based on my own travel experiences. I'm sure not all will apply.

  1. Find a trip that ticks all the boxes. for us, its a trip that involves a race I can do, an interesting city my wife can see.
  2. Its not about the kids, its about the family
  3. Don't buy the kids happiness...give them experiences they will never forget
    • give them a small amount of money and make them bargain for something they want with you hidden around the corner
    • give them the camera and let them take the pictures
    • let them pay for things and count the change
  4. Travel really lite, the less the better. Don't plan for every eventuality plan for the bare minimal.
  5. Tripadvisor/Yelp the place before you do anything
  6. Book an apartment and not a hotel. This way you can make breakfast at the apartment, make sandwiches for dinner and eat out if you want. Airbnb/booking.com is good for that.
  7. Its all about the mindset. Travel is supposed to be hard, the kids are supposed to be tired and you will get into an argument with your spouse at some point. Its all part of travel. If you are not tested in someway, how will you learn anything about yourself. If you dont believe me, ask Ibn Batuta.
  8. Resist the temptation of sending every moment to social media. this means that in order to enjoy the place you are in you need others to see it. 
  9. Travel is about learning something new, talk to locals, have dinner with them. This is the best part of travel. I have learned that talking to locals is far more important that taking a picture in front of land marks.
  10. Say no to a $8k Disney trip. Save money where you can and travel more.
  11. You dont need exotic locations to travel, you can drive 2 hours away and spend the night in a cheap hotel and the kids will never forget it.
  12. Ice cream and sweets are the last resort not the first resort.
  13. Try not to be an ifamily while travelling. Notice the "i" in iPhone, iPad, iMac, etc
  14. The kids will learn character from the parents during travel, they will see how they react to adversity. If you are throwing around "WTF's & Holy #$%^'s" every 20 minutes, they will learn that.
  15. You can travel with young children. You dont need to get it out of your system before you have kids. We have traveled with a 2 week old. They don't know if they are at home or in Thailand as long as their moo cow near by.
  16. Dont buy everyone you know gifts. It wastes valuable time and energy. But if you see that perfect thing in that quaint little store that someone will just love, then you can buy that. Once you get your mom a gift, you will have to get her mom a gift, then there is your aunt, then your other aunt, and what about their kids etc. Resist the urge to splurge on gifts. Buy a piece of art instead. 
  17. Husbands who bring the blackberry with them have made a choice and its the wrong choice.
  18. Learn as much as you can about the place before you go
  19. Travel is about teaching yourself and kids character
  20. Hang-up a map in your living room/family room with pins placed on where you have been. 

6 Things a Husband of a Homeschooler Should Never Do

  1. DON'T add to her stress 
    DO figure out ways to relieve her stress
  2. DON'T Compare your children with other children
    DO compare your child to their own abilities 
  3. DONT Ask her why the house is not clean or why the food is not cooked.
    DO cook/clean yourself or hire somebody to do those things
  4. DON'T sit in front of a screen when you come home because you've had a stressful day at work...You have no idea what stress is
    DO take over from her and let her have some decompression time
  5. DON'T ever question money she has spent for homeschooling stuff
    DO spend less money on your next toy instead
  6. DON'T be a wall flower when it comes to your kids' education
    DO figure out what part of their education you will own

Disclaimer: I know these DONT's well because I've done/do every single one.