Friday, December 31, 2010


Cash & Daddy's Second Year and a Half

Throw a rock in water and, kurplunk, a beautiful pattern of concentric circles emerge. Unfortunately, those ripples lose energy as they expand, a function of the distance squared, otherwise the pattern would delight forever. A similar algorithm is imbedded in children.

I call it the Law of Willpower Loss (the “LWL”): the farther a child get’s from a parent, the faster energy drains from his willpower. He get’s more and more uncomfortable, first drastically, then hysterically. It’s an invisible energy tether keeping the child close.

That’s the usual deal. Cash, kids like you are the dangerous exception. These children surf what should be a wave of growing fear, gaining speed and confidence inversely proportional to the LWL. A wound-up spring unleashed, I often watch helplessly as the back of your hay-head speeds away killing any illusion of who is really tethered to whom. To you and your brethren, nothing says freedom like -- 


Frustratingly, you show no sign of this pent up energy when securely in my power radius. In fact, quite the opposite -- speed isn’t in your vocabulary. If I give you any instruction whatsoever, without turning you say, “Two minutes”, throwing two lackless two fingers in the air. The Cashese interpretation: I’m not moving.

If you were a superhero, you’d be Captain Independence. You are unencumbered by parental, teacher or peer pressure (that will come), and you are not above flaunting your disregard. Take our tireless work on potty training. You recently whipped out your peeps, smiled at me, then peed on the kitchen floor. Not done, you then dipped your hair in the puddle and said, “Daddy, I’m wet!”

I'd be worried if you didn’t have a razor sharp wit and experimental mind. Nonetheless, some of these experiments leave me wondering.

Perhaps after that video, we should end with a sample of your wit. Vanessa and Tavis visited us this quarter pregnant with their first child. Noticing the little bump in her stomach, you pointed and said, "There's a baby in there!" We had no idea how you figured it out, but I suppose you picked it up just casually listening. Then you lifted you shirt showing your bare, white belly and screamed, "I'm empty!"

You've started your first ever class at River School. You are the Firefly class with two wonderful teachers named Mrs. XXX and Ms. XXX. Not surprisingly, you best friend is a girl. Shocker. Her name is Dagney and you appear to be a couple, Cashanova.




Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fall 2010 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Luke & Cash started River School!
2) We had a snake and beaver hit Halloween! Daddy was Luke Skywalker.
3) Mommy & Daddy went to Rome with the Linehans.

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Suburban War, Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (released 2010)
2) Classic Girl, Janes Addiction, Ritual De Lo Habitual (released 1990)
3) Get it On (Bang a Gong), The Power Station, The Power Station (released 1985)

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Luke & Dad's Fifth Year and a Quarter

When I was growing up in the eighties, the American auto industry was under siege by Japanese manufacturers. The press proclaimed the end of U.S. innovation leadership. Japanese cars were cheaper, better made, and after years of comfortable dominance, the U.S. was caught sitting on its hands.

I've since investigated the source of the innovation culture in Japan. I learned Japan's "technical superiority" had little to do with their success. Instead, the Japanese created a novel approach to manufacturing called Kaizen which means “change for the better."

Instead of treating line workers as brainless robots, the empowered them to innovate the manufacturing process. It made all the difference. Core to Kaizen was problem solving method called "5 Whys." Ask "why" to a problem five successive times and you drill down to the root cause.

Children practice Kaizen too. Some, like you, more rigorously. I call it Kaizenathon or "50 Whys." It's sometimes hard to be patient during these intensive interrogations. A line of questioning can last hours and you have a habit of starting these right before bed! Nonetheless, it is a blessing to witness your mind making connections that make up a web of knowledge.

Sometimes I'm stumped.

Not all knowledge is accessed through bridges. Some ideas are islands unto themselves. Those are particularly hard to explain by fathers.

This fall, we made the tough decision to switch from Aiden Montessori to The River School. The reason was simple: Rachel and I felt a smaller class size would better engage Cashy and you. We didn't want the two of you lost in a sea of twenty children. River is also in the Palisades, within walking distance. We like feeling close to you guys! Nonetheless, its was a painful decision because we liked the Montessori approach and our friends there.

At The River School, you are in the "Beaver" class and you have three teachers: Mrs. Insley, Ms. Kim, and Ms. Brown. Your best friend is another blonde boy named Charlie Magruder. Apparently you two tear it up.

To give you a sense of the enthusiasm you have for River School, on Halloween you demanded to dress as a beaver (see roundup above). Rachel and I obliged of course and how could we not? More fun pictures for your wedding day!



Thursday, September 30, 2010

Blind Men

Cash & Daddy's Second Year and a Quarter

In an old legend, a group of blind men each grab a different part of an elephant. “It is a pillar!” says one. He touched a leg. Another says, “It’s a plowshare.” He touched a tusk. On down the line, each man reaches a radically different conclusion.

When getting to know someone, I am often one of these blind men. Grasping a personality is often realizing you are only holding one part of the beast. You might meet a co-worker in a new setting, say a social or family environment, and you discover unexplored territory. The experience can be jarring. A passive person turns into a monster on the basketball court -- an aggressiveness you never imagined!

Cashy, many a friend will experience observational whiplash with you. On your behavioral stage, some hardy personalities tangle and elbow their way to the front. How they reside in the same person is a mystery!

Perhaps some introductions are due …

Well, hello Cashonova. Of course you are the first. The shortest distance between any two points is your path to the nearest gorgeous woman. She’ll pick you up faster than a fluffy puppy dog, look into your eyes, and experience untainted innocence smiling upon her. She is loved and so are you. Your head graces the female bosom more often than a pillow. Even worse, you down right expect it. You already have a girlfriend in two-year-old FireFly class: Dafnie. You beat me by fifteen years!

Whoa! Not so pushy Casholeon! You’ve received your due in earlier entries of this blog! Yes, your relentless campaign for territory and toys has left a mark on our household leaving your older brother whimpering. Bored after 5 minutes of the World Cup, you turned the off daddy's TV repeatedly. Once fixed on a prize, your body barrels through mental, physical and even verbal barriers causing my hairline to retreat faster than a French infantry line. And what is the need for inherent physical power when you can harness the power of others! Casholeon is bossy!

Things must be getting overwhelming. Casherubim has beaten a hasty retreat into Mommy’s pouch. Peering from this safe vantage point, your two-year-old remarks gain pomp. “Daddy is a poo.” If daddy or Luke approach, you turn your head away, nestling deeper into moma’s embrace. You are a moma’s boy through and through, and, you’ve learned quite well, untouchable in that state! Rachel is thrilled.

We are charmed to have all these flavors in one child! The icing on the cake, however, is your smarts. Cashy insights strike unexpectedly like lightening on a cloudless day. Last week, Lukey and I were chatting about his newest favorite subject, volcanoes. You were lounging around on the floor playing, ignoring us (as usual). Luke’s overly thorough interrogation led us to a logical impasse. “But WHY do volcanos erupt?” I was doing a terrible job explaining the pressure build up of magma within a volcano. Then, suddenly out of thin air, you say,

“It’s like a bubble popping.”




Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summer 2010 Roundup

Top three household events this birthday quarter:

1) We went to Duck, NC with the Fredericks.
2) We spent a month in Boulder, CO with our friend Melinda.
3) We watched the 4th of July parade in the Palisades!

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Lazy Eye, Silversun Pickups, Carnavas (released 2007)
2) Cosmic Love, Flamingo & the Machine, Lungs (released 2009)
3) Teenage Dream, Kate Perry, Teenage Dream (released 2010)

Saturday, July 31, 2010


Luke & Daddy's Fourth Year

I thought I was prepared. Harvard trained in negotiation and wrangler of concession at work, I brought a hardened game to the elementary work of arguing with a four year old. Hell, when I was in business school, controversy emerged over the training of Harvard students in negotiating tactics. The media reported on overly privileged Harvard vampires being armed to “take advantage of the rest of us!” Yet, the very book that trained us, Getting to Yes, best describes your instinctual ability to crumble my balsa wood defenses.

Our duels always begin with an unacceptable Lukie request. “Can I have a lollypop?” moments before dinner. “Can I drive?” Jeez, how old are you? “Can I have a sip of your coke?” When this happens, I immediately brace myself for the inevitable faceoff, an ordeal that will pound my willpower. Like any good business school student, I have an acronym for your “Getting to Yes” strategy: FRIPing.

Small lies are effective tactics for a four year old. Then again sometimes not. “Daddy, I finished by broccoli. Can I have a cookie?” when sitting in front of a full portion of broccoli.

Your mind numbing repetition of the “ask” is torture. Being stuck in the car listening to “Can we go to Palisades Pizza? Can we go to Palisades Pizza? Can we go to Palisades Pizza?” makes me want to cry right now.

Information Asymmetry
A twist on the tried and true “ask the other parent” strategy, you actually falsify approvals and present them to an unsuspecting adult. This Machiavellian approach frequently lands me in trouble!

A cousin of repetition, you adhere to Churchill’s adage: “Never, never, never, never give up.” You chip away concrete by staying on message and upping the emotional ante. Raising volume and intensity bends your opponent to snap.

Effective is the word I would use describe your FRIP strategy. Nonetheless, I have developed countermeasures. I call my approach FABY and I would put it up against any child rearing book out there.

Running away from the problem is a highly underrated tactic. A couple earplugs, a closed door and a pillow and I can zone out any tantrum.

Ask Mom
Also called punting. I like this approach if I am on a separate floor from Rachel otherwise I wind up retreating to a more extreme version of Flight ... out of the house.

Frequently this involves trading one evil for another. Often times I try to downgrade the evil or at least put it on a time frame when I'm not around.

With you, intimidation is a weak bluff as you tend to call this behavior with louder, more extreme screaming. Nonetheless, its a good way to attract attention and get your mom to take over.

As you can imagine, we have very rich interactions these days. Yet, your classic lines are solo and come out of the blue. When Mom and you were in a landing airplane this quarter, you screamed, "We're going to crash!" at the top of your lungs. The possibility of a crash is exciting and fun to an immortal four year old; the rest of the plane was less pleased.

Happy Birthday Luke! We celebrated your birthday in Boulder, CO this year with several members of Rachel's family. I bought you a Lightening McQueen pinata that proved nearly impossible to bust open!



Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Cash & Dad's Second Year

A Wellerism is a directive masquerading as an honest question. The question is both smoke, in that it is a query in the first place, and mirror, reflecting a mask of self-denial about the real intent. Inevitably, the underlying meaning is revealed because we overuse our Wellerisms. A well worn path is never well hidden.

Rachel suffers gravely from a Wellerism I am fond of: “Is everything ok?” Beneath this cloak of caring lurks an accusation: you are doing something wrong. In truth, the statement is a symptom of the opposite: I am doing something wrong.

Now Cash, true to your heritage, you have developed a simple but more potent Wellerism:

“Help me?”

Looking up with eyes seeping innocence, you plead, arms outstretched, "Help me?" to be picked up. Seems natural enough. Except, you no more want my help than Napoleon wants “help” from his prized horse Marengo in Louis David’s painting Napoleon Crossing the Alps.

Once ensconced in my arms, you whip out a Napoleonesc finger in the direction of some campaign. I am being commanded. I gallop around the house engaging in all matter of Cashy directives and if I dare deviate, you rein me in with an electrifying screech. I’m your bridled horse ... or how about stallion ;)

I guess it shouldn't be surprising that you share other interests with Napoleon. The emperor once said, "Nothing is more destructive than the charge of artillery on a crowd." You've applied this affinity to me. 

Changing your diapers, I am occasionally met with giggling and a purposeful look in your eye. Spreading your legs, I am struck by a cannon shot of spraying poop. It took several incidents before it sunk in that this was serial, premeditated cannoning. The wild, hysterical, Cashy laughter should have tipped me off.

Very funny.

Today, diaper changes are world record sprints in changing, dodging to avail you no target. To add insult to injury, when you've eaten spicy food, you often ask for a kiss. You want kisses where it hurts. Yes, you are actually asking me to kiss your ...

Happy Birthday Cashy! Your second birthday arrived in spectacular celebration at Palissades Park near our house. Rachel did a great job getting lots of friends to come despite the overbearing Washington summer heat. Too bad you had no idea what was going on.



Monday, May 31, 2010

Spring Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) The Fredericks gave you guys a mini roller coaster for the backyard.
2) We visited Granpda and Grandma in Grand Junction.
3) Daddy went to Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the Middle East.

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Policeman's Xmas Party, Five for Fighting, Two Lights (released 2006)
2) 1901, Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus (released 2009)
3) Pets, Porno for Pyros, Porno for Pyros (released 1993)

Friday, April 30, 2010


Luke & Dad's Third Year and Three Quarters

Luke, you like a schedule and so do I. Arriving home at 7 pm, I am frequently met by a sonic boom of grunts and groans. Who knew that pooping signatures could rival the efficacy of voice and facial recognition? Like a caricature artist capturing essence in a pen stroke, a touch of these sounds and smells and I know it’s you! Unfortunately, this form of identification works in my NEA office restroom too.

I suppose I’m overly focused on your excremental behavior. Hell, it’s hard to ignore. Yesterday, you exited our bathroom with a strip of toilet paper streaming out the back of your jeans. You looked me in the eye and said matter of factly, “tyrannosaurus tail,” turned and marched on.

During Snowmageddon in February, you stole outside, jumped from our deck into three feet of snow, dug out your “peeps” from layers of clothing and peed patterns on the snow. Addressing my questioning look, you said, “I'm changing the color of the snow!”

Fortunately, our interest in the banal hasn't stunted an exploration of the abstract. Watching Pixar's The Incredibles, you asked why Mr. Incredible's RV rolled after a high speed turn. "Daddy, why is it crashing instead of turning?" Your vehicle fetish has a shockingly positive derivative: you've turned you into a little Newton discovering the first laws of motion!

I explained that if an object has movement in a direction, it doesn't want to give up. The more massive it is, the more stubborn it gets. We now have a little mantra, "Mass and Fast is Momentum!" You completely understand the concept. If a car has trouble stopping, you say, "it has momentum." Why does a truck have more trouble stopping? "It's bigger!" Does a stopped car have momentum? "No." Now we are working on the distinction between velocity and acceleration. From there we can attack force!

You may be more Einstein than Newton. Poking at a puzzle of different shapes, you paused and said, "Are the circles getting smaller because I am getting bigger?" Ahhh, the concept of relative measurement ... a couple more steps and you'll have the theory of relativity nailed!

The cherry blossoms are blooming here in DC yet I'm still reading The Night Before Christmas. Your true hero is no scientist but a right jolly old elf reinforcing that the path to your heart is littered with presents. Leave it to me to contort your affections into the monstrous "Santa Claus Effect." I reign in wayward behavior by announcing "Santa is watching you!" You have no fear of Mommy, Cashy or me but Santa ... he is control of the loot.



Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Cash and Dad's First Year and Three Quarters

Tight knit groups develop a culture and language all their own. Gaining admission can be awkward at best, dangerous at worst, and might involve streaking across a quad or running in combat boots across a beach. Of course, once you are in the club, its entertaining watching others struggle to join! This is true of my high school cliques, my venture capital partnership, and, yes, our ragged little family.

You can tell a lot about a person by his or her composure during the courting (or pledging) period. In your case, you have not waited for an invitation. The price of admission was birth, but your impact is that of a mob GodFather. Imagine a stocky two footer with a protruding belly entering a room with boastful gesticulations and attaboy chatter. From thirty feet, you are right in with the gang!

The thing is, you are pointing at god knows what, taking gibberish. When Rachel, Luke and I laugh, you laugh, though you don't understand a word! You are all clothes, no emperor!

Then comes the mistake. The mistake arrives in many forms, but often it is a reasonable action, with the wrong object -- trying to write with grandpa's red licorice. Or it could be a reasonable object, but the wrong action -- offering a glass of juice for Churchill to drink. You are downright hilarious!

One of my friends, Jimmy Treybig, founder of Tandem Computing, once said that an organization should allow its culture to influence and be influenced by new people. You have brought a fearlessness to our family that I am proud of. You also tie us together. You won't let anyone leave your sight without insisting on a farewell high five, or "Five!" Interestingly, you require symmetry in this: you have to "five" both hands in sequence!

Cash, you have been dealt a gem trait in life: charm. It will forever lower the barrier into many a hardened troupe.

Now that you've woven yourself into the family unit, we can't seem to keep you around. Given any opening, you make a mad dash for freedom. This week, Rachel took you and Luke to a bathroom within a Starbucks off Wisconsin Avenue. While Rachel was engaged keeping Luke's butt on the potty, you shot out the bathroom door, past an astonished coffee que, out the Starbucks entrance, and down the sidewalk towards your favorite toy store. Rachel and Luke (with his pants around his ankles) made a motley crew trying to chase you down. Once again, no fear!

In one small victory this quarter, we have managed to graduate from purely "Nos" to our first "Yes!" on January 30th, 2010. You agreed to a lollipop.



Sunday, February 28, 2010

Winter 2010 Roundup

Top three household events this quarter:

1) Snowpocalypse 2010 snowed us in! 32 inches! Then another foot two days later!
2) The dynamic duo sledded for the first time!
3) Daddy turned 40. Ugh.

Three Songs I’ve been listening to:

1) Jump, Van Halen, 1984 (released 1984)
2) Jamming, Exodus, Bob Marley (released 1977)
3) Wynona's Big Brown Beaver, Primus, Tales from the Punch Bowl (released 1995)

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Luke and Dad's Third Year and a Half

At exactly 9:15 am December 9th, 2009, I was quietly ushered into Mr. Antonucci's classroom at Aiden. The school occasionally invites a parent to observe the Montessori method in a classroom setting. Mrs. Antonucci put me in a far corner chair like a jealous scientist protecting her fragile experiment. She reminded me that observation is just that, not participation.

At first you did not see me. You sat with your back to me scribbling and chattering with your friend, Peter Kumar. When you noticed me, I got a wide smile, and a proud introduction, “This is MY daddy!” Working quickly to mend her punctured bubble, Mrs. Antonnuci pressed you towards a puzzle of cylinders. In classic Luke style, you stubbornly resisted, but your campaign wilted in the face Mrs. Antonnuci’s thick fortifications.

Children roamed around, played at tables, or worked on floor mats scattered all over the room. The kids were spread in both age and the sophistication of their schemes, and they worked individually and in groups. I suppose I expected an orderly circle of children being taught about a frog or something. The classroom scene resembled a chaotic market bazaar. I felt a sinking feeling that, perhaps, I had gotten you into a Montessori mess!

Then I noticed something remarkable. Upon completion of a cylinder puzzle, you returned the contraption back to its proper storage place. What the hell! That never happened at home ... ever. Then you started a new venture, picking another puzzle. You grabbed a mat and laid it out methodically on the floor establishing a working area creating an educational microcosm, a protected area of concentration. You sat and worked through your project.

Mrs. Antonucci was the conductor, orchestrating the pace of the projects, allowing each child’s innate interest and creativity set course but, when necessary, sprinkling that path with more challenging and expansive activities. She and her staff also policed and preserved childrens' working areas. The older children were expected to help.

So, my first impression was right, the class was more like a free market bazaar than the centralized, communal teaching approach I had been programmed to picture. What I saw in its place resonated strongly with me.

The most successful people I know (mostly entrepreneurs) learned far more in life by fiercely following their own interests. A path hewn by one’s own ideas derives knowledge because it is a necessity, a set of tools, to get where one wants to go. Coupled with quality guidance and a willingness to accept it, you have a winner. Einstein was not a great mathematician, but became adept with help from his peers. Math was just a means to express his own concepts to the world.

Proof in point, you’ve resisted learning letters through flash cards or other blunt instruments. However, you love books and, as a result, became interested in the strange symbols Rachel and I clearly used to decode the storyline. Today, January 31st, 2009, you spelled out your first word “KETTLE” out of the book XXXXXXX. Sure, you can’t read, but you are clearing a path because you want to decode the books.

By the way, you show glimpses of high emotional intelligence too. A couple weeks ago the two of us were sitting together, you playing with Playdough, and I writing a to-do list in my little black book. You looked me square in the eye, put your hands on both my cheeks, and asked, “What do you think when you are alone?” I was dumbfounded.

Luke, I think about you, Cash and Rachel.