Monday, October 31, 2016

Parenthood: Week 176 – Thank You Mr. Kirk

One of the reasons that racism is annoying is because it reminds people of their own race. You might think, “well, if you have pride in your own racial identity, why would that be a bad thing?” Let me explain. Being reminded of good and bad things related to parts of your identity that you cannot control choose feels awkward at best and offensive at its worst. “Doesn’t that woman’s accomplishments make you feel proud to be woman?” These comments don’t usually have their desired effects and the reality is that the vast majority of the time that people make comments that remind you of you gender, sexual orientation, and race, is that it’s not in a positive context.

So when Mark Kirk made this dig, “I forgot that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” at Tammy Duckworth during an Illinois Senate Debate, he offended me deeply, not because he reminded me of something about myself, but something about my son Ollie.

Tammy Duckworth is mixed race like my son. She is half-Thai and half-Caucasian. My son is half-Taiwanese and half-Caucasian. I don’t think about this fact very often, and lately, I’ve been avoiding thinking about this part of his identity.

I’m not ashamed of the fact that Ollie is mixed-race, I’ve just been worried lately. There are many experiences that I will be able to help him with because I’ve been through them too, like learning how to play piano, and going away to college. But I’ll never know what it’s means to be mixed race. It worries me, that my son will have struggles that I cannot completely understand related to his racial identity.

What Mark Kirk said, is exactly what I fear my son will have to deal with: people who will “round” Ollie's racial identity to being Taiwanese. When Kirk made that statement, he was saying, that it didn’t matter that Duckworth’s father was Caucasian. He saw her as a minority. Kirk made false assumptions related to her race and used these assumptions to make an insult based on his ignorance.

When you “round” a person to the minority that you see, that you assume takes over their racial identity, you are telling that person that part of their parentage is not significant, not relevant and simply does not exist. When someone "rounds" my son to Asian, they are be expressing to my son that my wife, his mother is not part of Ollie’s identity. Calling Ollie Asian is telling him that the part of him that comes from his great-grandfather who fought in WWII, who’s family died in Auschwitz aren’t there in his eyes and in his soul.

Kirk apologized with this tweet: "Sincere apologies to an American hero, Tammy Duckworth, and gratitude for her family's service." This apology is devoid of any meaningful acknowledgment of the hurt and offense that his words caused. Kirk’s words echoed the disgusting and shameful “one-drop rule” in American history (e.g. the Floridian act in 1865 that stated "every person who shall have one-eighth or more of negro blood shall be deemed and held to be a person of color.”) Kirk’s words were one more verse in the “you are not American, because you do not look white, and it doesn’t matter how much of your ancestry is white, because you look different.” Kirk’s words reek of not only of racism, eugenics and white privilege. His tweeted apology only confirmed his ignorance, stupidity, insensitivity and lack of understanding of the over 9 million mixed race Americans.

Don’t make assumptions about peoples' race. If you’re not sure, it's best not to ask until you become friends with them. If you have to know for some odd and crazy reason (I can’t think of one instance where this knowledge is essential) ask them, “how do you racially identify?” And then take their word for it and move on. You do not deserve to know this knowledge and if you are bothered because your brain feels better putting people in racial boxes, than deal with it. Be uncomfortable not knowing.  This is only a small taste of the discomfort, we feel every day when people make insensitive racial assumptions to our face.

I am proud of Ollie’s heritage. He has ancestors from Taiwan, Poland and many other countries. People in his family have fought for freedom across the world from each other in WWII. However, I’m still working through this “mixed-race” label. It doesn’t seem accurate. All it does is say that he is a combination of two different categories on a form. It doesn’t capture any of depth of his racial identity.

Thanks Mark Kirk for the reminding about the racism and ignorance that my son will face. I hate that people like you not only make these disgusting comments but also don’t have the character and wherewithal to make things right after saying something so stupid. Don’t worry though, I’ll be around to help my son understand what these comments mean and how they are expressions of fear and racism that cannot touch the pride that I will help my son build within his heart.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Year 7: Week 10 – Hoedown

I spent a good chunk of my 3rd grade classes this week, galloping around the stage pretending to chase cows.

Welcome to music education.

My school periodically has sharing assemblies. These are opportunities for people to share with the school what they are learning about in class. The nice thing about these presentations is that they do not need to be big polished productions. Previous sharing assemblies have featured 1st graders demonstrating how they practice their handwriting. This is a good opportunity for sharing musical things that don’t fit into our regularly scheduled performance.

This year, I’m really committed to doing more movement in my music classes. Movement activities and dancing is one of the most important ways for students to understand musical concepts and interact with music. Most of all, learning about music through movement is a lot of fun. The more I teach, the more I realize that problems that I hear in songs can be best addressed through movement activities. For example, my 5th graders are learning a song in ¾. They aren’t feeling the beat and they song keeps slowing down whenever they sing it. Simply having them clap a three-beat pattern while they sing has given the song a sense of pulse and immediately fixed the problem of the piece slowing down.

While I'm doing all of these movement activities and I keep thinking back to this dance that I learned six years ago during a music education workshop. One of the teachers was really into movement activities and folk dances. She taught us a dance that went along with “Hoedown” from the Copland ballet Rodeo (most people know it as the Beef commercial song). I could only piece together parts of this dance so I went through my old class notes, found her email and asked her for some help. She responded within a day and sent me the choreography she had created.

The majority of the music education community is like this. They help when they can without asking for monetary compensation. It’s been six years since I work with this teacher and I had not kept in touch, but she was more than happy to help me out. I try to do the same for others as I freely share ideas and arrangements that I create with other teachers.

I made some changes to the choreography and we got to learn the dance to this song. Yes, 3rd grade is kind of borderline for galloping around the stage and pretending to lasso and chase cattle. However since my kids had gotten so into doing movement activities earlier in the year and got to know how fun it could be, the vast majority of the kids went for it. It helped that without any shame or hesitation, I did the steps along with them.

This week we did it on stage with each class separately and next week I get to practice it with the whole grade followed by a performance the next day. Yes, sixty 3rd graders galloping around a stage. I never thought I would be doing something like this as a music educator, but I’m making it happen. Even if the performance doesn't happen, I’d still feel satisfied with the work we done and the fun we had in the process.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Parenthood: Week 175 – Do you love me when I’m mad?

Ollie didn’t run up to me.

Usually when I look into his classroom during pick-up, and make eye contact with him, he gives me a big smile and runs over to me, sometimes forgetting to carry his lunch box in his excitement. As soon as he gets out of the classroom door, he gives me a hug, sheds his backpack and lunch box, expecting me to carry them for me. Then he grabs my pointer finger, holds it in this hand and leads me out of the school.

Today was different. Ollie saw me in the doorway, and he smiled but that look receded quickly as he walked over to me. He didn’t take off his backpack or drop his lunch box. He only grabbed my finger when I offered it.

I asked Ollie how his day was and he didn’t respond. This isn’t unusual for Ollie. He’s never been one to recollect his day to me, but this silence felt different. As we walked through the playground, Ollie asked me a question.

“Daddy, do you love me when I’m mad?”
“Yes, I love you when you are mad.”
“Do you love me when I’m sick?”
“Yes, I love you when you are sick.”
“Do you love me when I’m sad.”
“Yes, of course, I love you when you are sad.”

I stopped walking and knelt down in front of Ollie. “Ollie, I love you when you are mad, when you are sick, when you are sad and when you are happy. I love you when you yell at me. I love you when you are sleeping and when you are being silly. There’s nothing you can do that will every change that” I reassured him.

I picked Ollie up and gave him a hug and I felt his small fingers reach around the back of my neck and his head relax into the nape of my neck. “I love you daddy,” Ollie whispered in my ear. “So, you want some bread? I got some pretzel bread from the grocery store,” I asked. Ollie enthusiastically answered, “Yes!” He jumped out of my arms and gave me a huge smile that was so big that it made his nose wrinkle.

I tell Ollie that I love him and that I’m proud of him multiple times a day. Part of me is a little sad that Ollie questioned my love, however a bigger part of me is proud that he was thinking about what love meant and felt comfortable expressing his thoughts and concerns.

The most important thing we learn how to do in this world is to be loved and to love others. In order to do this we must first learn to love ourselves. This self-love comes from every hug and “I love you,” we hear from our parents.

So go give your kid a hug and and say "I love you."  You may regret not saying these words enough, but you will never regret saying these words too much.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Year 7: Week 9 - Let’s Here It For The Admin!

It was five minutes before the concert started and I noticed that there were a bunch of empty violin cases in the corner of the stage. It wasn’t a big deal, but when parents are taking pictures of their kids on stage, it’s nice for the stage to be neat.

As I started moving cases, I heard my principal ask me, “Can I give you a hand?” Before I could respond, he had an armful of cases and was carrying them backstage.


Every morning, no matter what the temperature, she was outside welcoming students and parents to the school. With a handshake and a smile, she looked people in their eyes, and greeted people by name. She explained to the faculty that this is what we do in our school. We demonstrate love and respect by showing that we know the people in our school and that they are always worth our time.


No, we didn’t need doughnuts that morning and frankly, I wasn’t in the mood for carbs covered in sugar, but it was more about the gesture. The whole music department had been working for months on this festival and it was finally here. Seeing the box of doughnuts with that supportive note put a smile on my face, which got me ready for the insanity of the day.


At first I thought it was strange how often the administrators thanked the faculty. We got a big thank you at the opening year. Almost every time the faculty collected, even in smaller groups, the different members of the admin team expressed gratitude for our work.

Why do I need to be thanked for doing work that I’m being paid to do?

Then I had one of those days. The last thing I wanted to do was go to a meeting after school. I found a seat in the back of the auditorium, frustrated and tired from the day. As I slumped down in the seat, the principal started thanking us for our work. In that moment, I sat up and let the words effect me. He wasn’t thanking me for himself; he was expressing the thanks and the gratitude from our students’ families.

Yes, teachers do get paid, but the extra time we give and the effort we put into our jobs cannot be monetized. It is this dedication that needs to be recognized, it needs to be nurtured. Administrators most important job is to do this, to make sure that the extra hours are noticed and that the teachers’ are supported.  Great administrators get their hands dirty, say yes more than no and never forget to say thank you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016

Parenthood: Week 174 - What does Buffy say?

This week Ollie became aware that we speak for Buffy. Many dog owners speak for their dogs, giving them opinions and voice. We started doing this as a cute playful thing when Buffy was a puppy. While at first it was silly, now we do it as a way to empathize with Buffy and consider her thoughts and feelings.

Ollie started to ask us what Buffy is saying as he became aware that we sometimes speak for her. He knows that Buffy doesn’t talk besides her whines and her barks and simply accepts that we interpret her thoughts for her.

Walking around the living room this morning, he asked me every couple minutes what Buffy was saying. First I explained that she said, “I’m hungry, where’s my breakfast?” and later “I don’t want to play, I’m eating.” Ollie wants to be able to understand and communicate better with Buffy and he uses us as translators in an effort to make a deeper connection to Buffy.

A couple nights ago, Ollie asked for Buffy to come into his bed for the first time. It was story time and Ollie asked me what kind of books Buffy liked to read. Answering for Buffy I replied, “I like books with doggies in them.” Ollie then jumped out of bed and came back a couple with “Dragons Loves Tacos,” Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri and “Doggies” by Sandra Boynton.

Ollie usually is a pretty, “start from the beginning of the book,” kind of reader, but this time  he flipped through the pages of “Dragon Loves Tacos,” and each time he found a page with the dog in it, he pushed the book over to Buffy, “here’s the doggy!” “Doggies” is a counting book with different dogs and a variety of barks and growls. Ollie took turns counting and making the doggy sounds, and he made sure to point out to Buffy the one dog that looked like her in the book.

Buffy jumped off the bed as Ollie got under his covers and he protested that he wanted Buffy to stay. I explained that she wanted to go on the floor and we needed to give her space. He eventually calmed down after I brought Buffy back up to the bed so he could give her a hug and kiss goodnight.

Buffy and Ollie's relationship continues to evolve and it's wonderful to see them interact and spend time with each other.  Buffy is not the type of dog who jumps up and licks Ollie every time he comes home.  However when Ollie is with grandma and we’re home with Buffy, she is often unsettled and whines worried about Ollie.  This is a reminder that as much as Buffy is Ollie's puppy, Ollie is Buffy's special little guy.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Year 7: Week 8 - The Question

“Why did so many people write down that it was a woman singing in that video?  On the videos when men were singing, people didn't write down that men were performing.”

One of the projects I do in the beginning of the year is an observation exercise.  I have my 5th graders watch four different covers of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and make objective observations about the different versions. This connects with the theme of observation that is discussed in their homeroom and in science class.

5th graders (and many adults) jump immediately to opinions when listening to a piece of music.  After deciding whether a person likes a piece of music, people often become closed off to details. To address this and help our 5th graders think deeper about music and the world around them, we teach about objective observations.

After studying John Fogerty’s original Creedence Clearwater Revival version of “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and working as a class to make lists of objective observations, I set them off with iPads to watch four other versions of this song and list the most meaningful objective observations of these covers:

Juan Gabriel

The Drivers

Joan Jett

The Barton Hill Choir

I collected all of my students’ observations when they were done and made a word map using I typed in all of my students observations for each song into this website (I modified some observations that were similar). The words that are bigger appear more times in the list of word that I inputted, which represent the most frequent observations students wrote down. Fewer students wrote down the smaller words.

Here’s the Wordle word maps for each song:

Juan Gabriel:

The Drivers

Joan Jett

Barton Hills Choir

I pointed out some of things that I saw, highlighted some of the smaller words and answered some clarification questions. Then that 5th grader raised his hand and asked that question. At first I was surprised. Even I saw how large the word “woman” was on the Joan Jett version, I didn’t think a second thought about it. To give myself a minute to think, I asked him to ask his question again, explaining that it was an important question that deserved more thought.

Looking around the room, I noticed a mixture of shock, confusion, and worry in my students' faces. My instincts when things don’t feel right in the room are to make my students feel better but this was an instant that I think the students’ discomfort was okay. Now was not a time for false platitudes.

I asked the class why they thought that they had written down “woman” so often and except for one small instances had not written “men” as an observation. Students talked about pointing out what was not the norm, how the original was sung by a guy, then one students said, “ well, because most people who are singers are guys.”

The students looked at me in silence. It was like they were hoping that I could somehow comfort them saying that the student was wrong and that woman were not underrepresented.

In response, I asked them to help me make a list of their favorite musicians.  After vigorously writing for a minute, I had about twenty names of bands and artists written on the board. I circled four names: Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Rhianna, and Adele. I explained, “These four are women, the rest of the names that you stated were men. That’s four out of twenty, that’s less than a quarter. Woman make up more than half of the world population, and the majority, by a couple students in this class are girls, but you only named four woman musicians.”

I continued, “I’m not mad at you. I’m not disappointed. Your observations and your list of musicians is a reflection of our culture. And yes, this is disappointing and this makes me sad and I see that this bothers you. We need to do something about this. This is why, I have you listen to artist like Brandi Carlile and why the last two concerts I went to featured female artists, the Dixie Chicks and Adele. I can’t explain to you right now, why our culture and why your experiences have led us to this place where woman are so underrepresented in music. It’s very complex.  But more important than knowing why, is the fact that you are asking questions.  If this makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s okay, because when this feeling leads to questions, it leads to change.

This was a difficult moment.  It would have been easier to sidestep the question, but the student took a chance and asked a great question, so he deserved me taking a chance as a teacher.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Monday, October 10, 2016

Parenthood: Week 173 - Dear Son, Why I'm Voting For Hillary, Election 2016

Dear Ollie,

The world is opening up to you every single day and you are doing a great job exploring the world, asking great questions, and we are so proud of you. There are things that I show you that you are not aware of like that beautiful dew-covered spider-web in our back yard or how to make French toast to broaden your understanding of the world, but there are some things that will have to wait.

The things that I keep from you, I hold back because your brain and your heart aren’t quite developed enough. We gave you time to learn how to walk before introducing your tricycle, and we will give you time to deepen your understanding of the human condition before talking with you about more mature subjects. We do this because as parents, it’s our job to protect you. Know that any feeling that you have that I am overprotective of you that may cause you frustration is a sign of love.

The other reason that I don’t talk to you about certain things is because I’m not ready.  For example, you’ve asked me about your skin color and talked to us about how you have different colored hair than me and your mom, but I’m not ready to tell you how these differences will make your life more joyous and more difficult.

I don’t feel ready to talk to you about this election, but I feel that it is important that I try, not for you as a 3 year-old but for some moment later in the future when you ask me how I felt during the election of 2016.

We live in a pluralistic society. This means that people can express different views and opinions. This freedom, which enriches our lives, also creates tension. Many of us are ok with people being different, while others, unsure of the decisions they make look for strength by trying to convince others that they are wrong. There is no strength to be found by telling others that they are wrong, strength comes from acknowledging our doubts, and being open to what is different.

It is very hard to know how to be accepting of America’s pluralism while also fighting for justice and freedom. Throughout American history, people in our country have exploited those who appear to be weaker. Groups of people have fought against the freedom of others to maintain comfort in traditions that oppress. Insecurity, greed, and fear continue to motivate many people to believe that they have more to lose than gain by expanding freedom and opportunity to all people.

These forces, these groups of people will always be present in American and will always be wrong. Plantation owners didn’t look at the pain of their slaves and decide to free them. Factory owners didn’t decide to value the lives of children and not allow them to work in dangerous working conditions. Industry didn’t look at the pollution in waterways and regulate their output of waste. And heterosexual Caucasian people, on their own, did not look at the love between people who didn’t have the same skin color and people of the same gender and fight to ensure that they had the legal rights to marry.

All of these freedoms that we have gained did not come from those who would exploit and those who would discriminate. The story of America is the story of individuals and small groups of people who fought and died against forces driven by the darkness in their hearts. The story of America is not done because right now in the election of 2016, these forces are still at play and individuals are fighting for freedom.

More than anything else, my votes this election are about who is truly fighting for freedom and who is trying to maintain the status quo, which needs to continue to improve.

The Republican Party is filled with compassionate, patriotic, empathetic and hard-working Americans. However, a vocal group of people (who I believe is the minority of the party), whose desire to go back to a time when minorities had less rights. Bill O’Reilly, an entertainer, which many people view as a journalist recently featured a grossly racist segment about Asian Americans. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory continues to fight a law that discriminates against people who are transgender.  And the Republican Presidential Candidate, Donald Trump, throughout his adult life and all through the election says sexist and misogynist comments about woman, objectifying them and trivializing the feelings and struggles of women in America.

I want to believe that the vast majority of Republicans do not agree with the racism, trans-phobia and sexism that these three men express through their words and their actions. The reason I “want to believe” but cannot state that I know for a fact that the vast majority of Republicans believe in the rights and freedoms for all Americans is because these three men, O’Reilly, McCrory and Trump have been raised into positions of power by other Republicans and have not been rejected by their party as a whole for the hateful, racist and hurtful comments.

The Democrat Party is also filled with compassionate, patriotic, empathetic and hard-working Americans. Democrats like many Republicans want freedom and equality for all. They have proved this through actions like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the first bill that President Obama signed which helped ensure equal pay for woman in the workplace. The Affordable Care Act, which brought health insurance to millions of Americans, was the work of Democrats.  And this year, in response to gun violence Rep. John Lewis led sit-in on the house floor to bring attention issue of gun control.

There are flaws in the Democratic Party. While social programs, which are an expression of our humanity and empathy, are important, they need to be improved and spending associated with these programs needs to be carefully examined. The Affordable Care Act was a great first step, but the health system in our country continues to be convoluted. While the Democrats have made statements about issues related to racism and gun violence, they have been ineffective in creating policies that have significantly improved these problem. These flaws show places from improvement, which lie in effectiveness of actions, not in the hearts and intentions of Democrats.

Hillary Clinton, like President Obama represents a movement towards a more inclusive country that values its diversity.  She has a depth of experience professionally and personally that provides her with a unique perspective that we have never had before in the White House.  Clinton has continued to work to improve the lives of others, keeping in perspective her privilege while fighting for the rights of others.

This is why I’m a Democrat. I will not vote 100% for Democrats on my ballot but the majority of the people I vote for will be members of the Democratic Party.  And I will continue to proudly identify as one.

Ollie, this land was not made for you and me, but individuals have shaped this country against great resistance into a place where the majority of Americans embrace me as the son of an immigrant and you as a mixed-race child. We must keep moving in that direction because without actively fighting for diversity and inclusiveness in the American experience, we could lose the freedoms that led to your very existence.

I love you more than I can express. I didn’t think that I could ever feel more love than I felt when I first held you, but I do, because every single day you have been in my life, my love for you has grown. When I think about politics and who I vote for, I think about you and what my choices mean for your life.  Hillary Clinton's vision of America is a world not ruled by fear, but motivated by hope and this is a world I work every day to build for you.

As I'll always be with you, for this election, I’m with her.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Year 7: Week 7 - Coming Back To Me

When I first meet most of my students, they are in third grade. While some of them have older siblings that often give me a vague idea of what they might be like (which is often not true), these kids are coming to me new. I really cherish this time in third grade getting to know these students for the first time because for the rest of the time when I teach them, this is not the case.

These kids come back to me in fifth grade. By this time, there’s usually three or four new students, but the rest are the same kids that I got to know in third grade. There are more new students that I meet in sixth grade and a few in eight. However the vast majority of kids that I teach in eighth grade, I first met five years earlier in third grade.

Over the five years, it’s really amazing to watch these kids grow up. Even the years when I don’t teach these kids in fourth and seventh grade, I see them around and I keep tabs on them. The students that inspire me in third grade, I look forward to teaching again, and the students who don’t . . . well, that’s the main thing I’m thinking about when I write this post.

Some students understand that I know them for multiple years and see a connection because of that time spent together. However most of the students when they walk in the door in fifth, sixth and eighth grade, work with me as if I was a teacher they have never met before. I’m okay with this. By the time eighth grade roles around, I have a better memory of our time together in third grade than they do. To them I’m a teacher, not a three-dimensional human being. I’m okay with that. A degree of distance between a teacher and a student is necessary.

As they come into my class, I try to conscientious to not carry baggage from years past into the door and allow all of my students to get a fresh start. But I got to be honest; it can be really tough sometimes.

A couple days ago, a student started joking around with another student in the middle of class and as I stood near him and tried to give him a subtle look to grab his attention all I could think was, “Are you kidding me? This is the exactly the same issue I dealt with last year.” I wanted to redirect him as an extension of consequences from the previous year, but I held back. It’s a new year and me reacting based more on previous year’s issues wouldn’t make sense to other students.

The thing is that almost all of my students mature, and grow as positive human beings. The ones that don’t appear to on the outside, I end up getting to know better and through this, I come to appreciate them as people even if we don’t click as a teacher and a student.

There is a similar amount of caution, I have to have with students who I previously had really positive experiences with.  Making positive assumptions, may lead me to overlook issues that need to be addressed.

It's a tricky thing teaching these kids over a period of years, but it's a lot of fun.  Even though there is tension that comes from previous years, more than anything else there's a feeling of coming home again, when I see their faces.  While it may be a new school year, it feels more like a new verse to the same song.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016

Parenthood: Week 172 - The Subtle Growth Of Toddlers

When Ollie was a baby, there were clear signs that he was growing up. His fist started to relax, he learned to role over and eventually he began to talk. Babyhood is full of these milestones that provide clear signs of physical and mental development.

Looking back at pictures of Ollie a year ago, the growth is not as clear as when you compare pictures from his first to second year of life and even his second to his third year of life. It’s not that there isn’t tremendous growth happening, it’s just that the signs of this growth are much more subtle.

A couple days ago, I told Ollie to read a couple books by himself and he picked out three books and sat and “read” through them for almost ten minutes. No, he can’t read yet, but he does have the maturity and patience to sit down and look through a book and get stimulation from this activity. This wasn’t happening a year ago. Ollie now wears his backpack to and from school, which he never did a year ago, and he is far more coordinated which I can see in the way he cracks open eggs and stirs.  His basketball game hasn't improved much, but he's learned how to swing a lightsaber.

Ollie has always been an inquisitive child, but he now articulates this through questions. “Are we there yet?” and “What is that?” has become common in his conversations and no, I actually do not find these questions annoying. Okay, I’m lying, I do find them annoying sometimes, but I refuse to let Ollie see this in my response. I value his questions and each one is  a challenge as I try to explain the world around him in a way that he can understand.

It has been interesting lately to see how much Ollie picks up of the world around him. The other day, I was playing an old episode of This American Life and in the beginning of the episode a mother reads a couple lines of a storybook to her son. Not realizing that Ollie was even listening, he asked for us to go back to that part, because he wanted to hear about the owl the mother was reading about. Ollie didn’t fully understand the context of what he heard, but he was able to pick something out that made sense to him and he wanted to examine it closer.

While Ollie still wants to be held, his endurance when walking has improved and the trepidation on playground equipment I noticed most of the time when we were at the park a year ago has diminished.  Ollie can run pretty fast when he wants to, and he can also make himself a lot harder to hold when he really doesn’t want to go somewhere. Even though I don’t notice him getting taller, this growth has become clear as we transitioned out of shorts and found out that many of his pants are too short.

Probably the growth I’m most proud of is Ollie’s emotional development. Yes, Ollie still has tantrums and meltdowns, but the truly catastrophic ones are less often. His is able to calm himself down faster, and he more actively advocates for what his emotional needs (e.g. more hugs, wanting to be left alone). When reading a book a couple days ago, Ollie told me that a character looked sad. And today, Ollie was talking to Diana about the different facial expressions associated with emotions, and I felt so proud of his interest and exploration of the nature of human feelings.

My little guy is growing up. While there aren’t any huge milestones like learning to walk coming up anytime soon, these small moments of growth feel just as meaningful.

The most important journeys in life aren't taken by walking but by exploring human heart.