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Archive for the tag “parents”

Check out one Philly attraction that lets you see so much more in darkness

Check out one Philly attraction that lets you see so much more in darkness 

40 winks with the sphinx

40 winks with the sphinx

Photo credit: Penn Museum Philly

(Discover a really cool kid and adult activity link below)

Today I am going to take you out there – way out there. How can darkness be a good thing? It is not normally connected with beautiful things and thoughts. Darkness may instill fear of the unknown and all sorts of noises in us. Being home alone in a dark house during a power outage can be indeed quite an experience. How about going through dark alleys in the city? Halloween makes a fortune based on darkness. Yet, darkness is also something that can be very enlightening and beautiful – it invites us to ponder and wonder.

Take for instance the moon. Only when it comes out during darkness can you really see the moon well. It mirrors the sun and only on one side. The other side is almost constantly engulfed in darkness; we at least, only ever see the same side as it never rotates.

A more impressive phenomenon is when you are quietly hanging out sitting on a park bench, or lying on the grass in the pitch black dark you are at a stage of heightened awareness. Did you ever notice hear all the strange noises you hear when you cannot see? Impressive, huh?

Not too long ago I went to the University of Pennsylvania with our kids to participate in a really cool sleep over at their history museum in Philadelphia. The program is called “40 Winks with the Sphinx” (check out program and dates here). You go on an expedition and at times you can go the roof and even take a look into space using a really old telescope. The “expedition” part, among other things, includes one part in which the museums lights are turned off completely in all exhibitions. Voila, you are now part of many exhibitions that have been transferred from many distant places and are rich with historic values.

I cannot rave enough about this experience as you get to see a completely different view of artifacts like only the folks who used to roam around them used to see. They never had 24/7 neon lighting illuminate the exhibits. Guests only have the flashlights they bring along for the stay. It was and is amazing how much depth and details you can see when you do not have the main lights drown all of it out. The visitor gets a completely different view and thus also a different experience altogether. How about walking and sleeping right next to ancient mummies and other artifacts? They have not seen any of their native humans interact there in perhaps centuries.

Sometimes a seemingly bad thing is leading to the path of something so much more beautiful than we expect. How do you experience this? The recipe for this is really easy: Take a mental break and start notice what is happening around you. Take an interest in others, look for opportunities to make them shine, be approachable, be free of fear, cynicism, and judgment. Then you need not be afraid of darkness how and you may finally notice so much more even though it is dark.


Halloween, parents, school, and report cards seen by 6 to 8 graders

Halloween, parents, school, and report cards seen by 6 to 8 graders Ralf a

Once in a while I help out at a local German school. I sub various classes as needed. It is a fabulous way to give back and at the same time it is fascinating to listen to what the younger children have got to say about their school and social life. Recently I subbed for a level in which 6 through 8 graders are learning German. I asked them about a few topics and please find the rather interesting results.

First I asked them about their Halloween experience and what costumes they might have worn. 3 out of 10 did not even go. The others did go and some of them were excited talking about their costumes. 2 however did not have costumes – they went as “themselves”. Fascinating, huh? Why didn’t I go as myself? I should have thought of that.

Then I proceeded asking them about what they get for good grades on their report cards in school (report cards in general). I received a storm of interesting answers. Quite a few said that they get to go to a restaurant and they get rewarded with great food. Only very few get a monetary reward when they get good grades. At least 4 said that they receive nothing: “A’s are expected and I get nothing but a nudge to do better when I a A- or a B”.Hmm. Are we a little tough on them?

Finally, observing their interpersonal behavior and technology use. I was really positively surprised to see that they treated each other with a lot of respect. By a vast majority, the girls were so much more into learning and paying attention. Interesting, huh? I did not realize this would be the case, but I have observed this pattern in other classes. Out of the bunch of 10 children, 4 had their smart phone in class and they were using them as much as they could. I guess they were counting on the fact that I would not notice that. Once I gave them the option of either keeping but not using them, or dropping them off up front until class was over. They chose to not use them for the rest of class. Once we took a small break about half of them looked at and played with stuff on their phones. The others took the time and got really creative drawing on the white boards in the class room. On one hand I was glad that there was not the physical horsing around that used to ensue when I was young. On the other hand, it was a little sad to see that our fascination with technology seems turning the young folks into screen time addicts.

Take away from this was that times are changing as we speak. Parents become more demanding and have the highest expectations. School and the pressure succeeding seems to increase with every year that goes by. More and more technology is invading our lives. Nothing we used to do as kids is being done this way anymore. It was heartbreaking to hear most of the kids speak about their parents as being very demanding and yet not being approachable. They seemed to be missing the personal closeness.

That is where we can make the biggest difference as parents. Making sure that we show that we love them There is no right or wrong.  Perhaps there is just a better and best practice. Technology does not need to be seen as a foe either. What is needed is for parents to actively think about what they want for their kids to experience. If we want for them to do better, we need to do better.


The highs and lows of trying to be a great father

The highs and lows of trying to be a great father IMG_6036

Picture caption: “Where to next, dad?”

“Dad you are mean and you just don’t understand me. I really do not ever want to talk to you again and I want to move as far away as possible from you”, or something to this effect one of my kids bombarded me with a while back. Gah! Oh no, that was not at all how I pictured to be perceived as a dad. How in the world did I get here? In the end it is not as bad as you may think right now, but please take a walk down memory lane with me first and perhaps you can understand why such conflicts really hit me hard.

Turn back the time and let’s look at my childhood a little. My dad was an alcoholic and not at all a great guy to hang out with much less to be related to. His psycho terror and antics were legendary on the job and in the village. Eventually, I had to help mom and sis kicking him out and thus far I have not seen or spoken with him in well over 25 years. I swore to myself way back then that I would not be like him and that I would make sure my children – if I would ever have any – would love me. I aspired to become the most loved dad ever.

Turn back the time a little more to when my dad was barely 5 years old. It’s toward the end of WWII and his dad had been home from the front perhaps once or twice. The next time his dad Georg was supposed to come home was because he had gotten a case of “snow blindness” at the Russian front. That was not to happen evidently. Instead, he was sent to the front line in Austria as part of a last-minute make-shift heavy Flak unit that was supposed to hold back the Russian advances. From what Red Cross MIA report later found granddad never made it and he most likely fell in the last two to three weeks of the war in that region. A young dad who would never see his two kids and wife again.

Grandma and my dad and his slightly older brother had to flee from the Russians who were fast approaching Upper Silesia where they lived. That area eventually became Polish territory and today there is very little that reminds of Germans living there once. Fearing reprisals of the Russians the little family, or better what was left of it, fled westward with little more than what they could carry on their backs. Eventually, they were assigned a little apartment to live in once they made it to Western Germany close to where dad and mom eventually met and married. Dad never knew his dad and growing up without one turned out to be quite painful for him.

No way that I will be the third generation of a father being missing in action. That is exactly why I swore to be a better dad, one that sticks around through thick and thin, one that the kids could be proud of, one who would take pride in taking an active role in the lives of the kids, one who could be counted on being there for them in whatever crisis they may get into.

Well, let’s take a look forward into the present time again. What really happens nowadays with both of my children is not at all so dramatic. While it hurts me in my heart and soul when they rebel against their mom and dad, one key thing is different than with my dad and his: We will work these things out. The day after the rant described above started out with the mood getting better and we could speak about it in a constructive manner.

The drama that ensues from time to time is just a function of being teenagers. Middle and high schoolers go through some harrowing times. Hormones are setting in and the scary time of having let go of mom and dad finding themselves is incredibly scary.

The lesson I have learned my friends is this: Just because they rebel against you does not mean that they do not love you. Hanging in there is just another episode of being a great parent. Patience is a virtue that parenthood will teach you. In fact, make sure you try not judging them at all during this time of turmoil and trying empathy, compassion, and most of all large portions of love when dealing with them. It is not at all the time to pound them into the ground and “let them have it”. If you show them that you do not care or openly tell them that you don’t, then be advised that you may end up spending your old days alone without them. What will you choose to do?

Meanwhile, I just love watching my kids grow up and being in awe of their journeys thus far. They are slowly turning them into their journeys, which will mean another phase for me. Letting them go on their own will prove to be the most challenging test for me, and I am looking forward to that.

Happy Father’s Day! Here is a fabulous video for the occasion (click here for watching the video).


Jaw dropping facts about local drugs

Jaw dropping facts about local drugs cup

I always thought that marijuana and crack were the issue in our region. It turned out that this is totally incorrect. What our local police officer shared with us during a Boy Scout Troop event was nothing short of astounding.

So take a wild guess what the top number one drug is that we parents need to be acutely aware of? Prescription drugs that are located at home in your medicine cabinet or in your bathroom. Kids get into them and are enticed to sell them at school etc. or they simple experiment around with them. Take any unused drugs to your local police. They typically have either drop boxes or they have at least two public collection events per year. Make good use of it; I know that we will do this right away.

Just two weeks ago a 7 year old child brought heroin baggies to school. He had picked this stuff up at his grandma’s home while playing (click here on the story). While prescription drugs are a huge problem, heroin has come back as a cheap drug of choice. The officer shared with us that as little as $5 (!) for a few baggies are being sold on the street. Apparently this drug has come back in epic proportions.

The reason why it has come back is due to its low cost. The other fact is that it does not help that a few of our surrounding areas are not doing very well income wise. People do not have the money for high cost prescription drugs and thus are turning to low cost ones.

Another jaw dropping fact is that the area in Chester County with an outright epidemic going on with this stuff is not at all what I would have expected: Honeybrook. This is rural “country” type living. How is it possible that drugs can be this omnipresent there and distributed from there? Here is where our Commonwealth type state governance system may contribute to this phenomenon. There are areas that are patrolled only by State Police and no local police stations are around.

It’s just another episode of “what has the world come to?”. Important thing is to be aware, speaking to our kids and to just keep our prescription drugs out of our homes. Be safe friends!


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