Tagged: Enthusiasm

Mrs. Burp

Kids Can

I was walking in the hallway the other day when a kindergarten student ran up to me with pure excitement painted all over her face. She was practically jumping for joy. This was a child who could hardly contain herself. She was enthusiastically looking to get my attention. She had some very important information to share. I could tell.

As soon as I saw her coming my way I was struck with a jolt of excitement. Turns out the stuff transfers. I couldn’t wait to hear what she had to tell me.

Once she was close enough she shouted, “Mrs. Burp!” At least that’s what I heard. Even though my name is Mr. Berg, Mrs. Burp works almost just as well (when it’s coupled with good intentions, that is).

I didn’t suspect that there was a person named Mrs. Burp walking just behind me. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was shouting at me. I smiled. Levity mixed with transferred and still relatively mysterious excitement. Good Stuff. Now I was really keen on discovering what the hullabaloo was all about!

Truth told, I couldn’t say with great clarity that “Mrs. Burp” is actually what she said. Also, if it was, I couldn’t be sure if it’s what she meant to say (sometimes kids words don’t come out exactly as intended).

Here was a kid extremely eager to get my attention. She might have been thinking “Mr. Berg” and as the thought traveled from her brain to her mouth on a thought-train riddled with anticipation it could have simply come out as “Mr. Burp.” Regardless, we can assume that she meant to say “Mr. Berg.” Again…and after all, her energized message was targeted squarely at me. That much was clear.

Actually, so much more was clear, even before the message was delivered. Therein lies the moral of the story (one of them, that is): Sometimes how you say it matters even more than what you say.

Before I knew what was going on I knew that something wonderful had occurred. I knew that this student was going to recount the wonderful thing.   I knew that we were going to share a moment of celebration. I knew that the next part of our interaction was going to strengthen our partnership in teaching & learning.

With the same zeal that accompanied “Mrs. Burp” she shouted, “You have to see my thinking!”

This six-year-old directed my attention to a bulletin board on which she and her classmates had used sticky notes to respond to a third grade team’s collaboration on “leadership” and “growth mindset.” They took it upon themselves (with some guidance from both teachers albeit) to adorn the third graders’ board with their thoughts post-production, thereby extending and sharing in a foundation of collective thinking on the two important subjects.

She didn’t want me to see her “work” or her “project” or her “sticky note,” she wanted me to see her “thinking.” Therein lies the moral of the story (the other one, that is): Kids, even the youngest among them can get really excited about the process even above the outcomes.

I was thrilled that these incredible teachers and students had been so clearly making collaborative growth the focus of their attention that to the point that it had become the bedrock of their learning paradigm. I was proud that the “Mrs. Burp” kid lived it out with me in that moment. She trusted me to enough to share her thinking. I’m excited that she’s learning in an enthusiastic culture of thinking at our school; more good stuff. She was my teacher in that moment.

So, sometimes how you say it matters even more than what you say and kids, even the youngest among them, can get really excited about the process even above the outcomes.

It’s fun as an educator and a parent to think that there might be no end to the learning and the growing we can each experience over the course of a lifetime, and that there might be no limits to the potential within each of us for the same.  Fun and exciting!

Live, love, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best!

How ‘Bout You Be

How Bout

My daughter turned three yesterday; she’s amazing! I know that all three-year-olds are. I know that all children are.

This one’s been on an imagination tear. My boys have imaginations too, active ones, but they don’t do as much pretending as their sister does. At least they don’t initiate it as much.

Among her favorite things to say is, “How ‘bout you be…” followed by the suggestion of a pretend scenario in which we each play out familiar roles. For example, “How ‘bout you be Kristoff and I’ll be Anna,” or “How ‘bout you be Charlie Brown and I’ll be Sally,” or “How ‘bout you be Kion and I’ll be Fuli,” or even, “How ‘bout you be the baby and I’ll be the mommy?” The pretending ensues.

She absolutely loves it. Admittedly, the pretending can occasionally get a bit monotonous. She’ll say something in character, I’ll respond, she’ll repeat or direct me, I’ll be silly, she’ll demand that I get back in character, and so on. This can go on for long periods of time and follow some pretty simple story lines. I guess that’s what you get when you pretend play with a three-year-old.

However, it’s not the play itself that keeps me coming back for more. It’s the creative thinking, the connected imagination, and the pure joy that I see my daughter experiencing, and especially the time we get to spend together.

She’s a little kid. When she says, “How ‘bout you be…” I suspect she’s not actually asking me to pretend to be something I’m not, not beneath the surface that is. My guess is that she’s actually asking, “How ‘bout you be…here for me,” and I’m thrilled to be blessed with the opportunity.

As educators and parents we’ve got to remember that one of the most important gifts we can give the children we serve is the gift of fully engaged interactions. We can’t always be there, but when we can we should be there holistically, valuing their voices, modeling caring and kindness, and appreciating the gift that is our collective learning and growth. There’s nothing more rewarding than being around for the joyful imagination of a child. How ‘bout we all be…?

Live, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best.

First of All (Why Not be Flabbergasted?)

First Of All

Firsts are really important things. They’re indelibly connected to learning and growth in unique ways. Children experience lots of firsts. It’s cool. Is would seem that the younger the child the more firsts he or she is likely to experience. I have four children, my oldest is six and my youngest is one, so I’ve seen this phenomenon in action a great deal over the past several years.

The little guy (my one-year-old who’s actually big) defines “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” (as they all did at his age). To that end he’s an especially enthusiastic audience for this exceedingly silly dad. I hardly need to make a goofy face or dance a bit of a jig to get huge smiles and belly laughs from the jolly fella. Admittedly, he’s not the first to laugh at my dancing prowess (or my lack thereof) and my face is organically goofy, so I have an advantage.

The point is that even silliness is relatively new to him, and in its newness he’s hyper-susceptible to its charms. To him, silliness is remarkable, and when he experiences silliness he thinks, “Wow…this is extraordinary…and so darn funny!” (or some one-year-old version of that thought).

Incidentally there’s nothing quite like hearing a one-year-old laugh his little bottom off (or his big bottom in this case). My wife insists that’s not a good enough reason to have a fifth child, but it sure is wonderful. His brothers and sister get excited about silliness when they’re in the right mood, but increasingly they’re ever-growing other interests distract and carry them to alternate, “Wow…this is amazing!” places. Still plenty of awe and wonder in this world for them, it’s simply shifting as it does for all of us.

But who says that firsts have to ever go away? Truly, there is far to much in this existence to ever experience everything. What if it’s simply a matter of perspective? Wouldn’t it be great if we could continue to experience firsts throughout our lives in the ways we did when we were young?

I once read a philosopher who asked, “If you didn’t know your age, how old would you be?” Good questions. I wouldn’t be one, almost three, or even six (and three quarters) but I certainly wouldn’t be forty-two. Furthermore, and strictly speaking, every moment is a first if you live with a growth mindset in a progress-oriented paradigm.

By nature, we’re learning organisms. It’s our core. What if we let that core surface and lived as if every moment was new…new in that the previous moment injected newness into each next moment in that each next moment is essentially the each previous moment plus the learning and growth experienced in it (each previous moment, that is). What if? What if, indeed?

When I think of my last moment on earth (and I hope it’s a long time from now), I find myself feeling certain that just before I pass into whatever I’ll be passing into, I’ll think (and possibly even say), “oh,” in the realization of something new that will make my next steps alright, and then I’ll drift into it with a one-year-old’s amazement and wonder.

Romantic? Sure. Fantastical? Some might argue. Possible? Why not? In fact, if firsts are so incredible why not intentionally, and even forcibly if necessary, experience each moment as the first that it truly is. Each moment is the first moment of its exact kind. Why not be thrilled at the gift it is? Why not be flabbergasted by its awesomeness? Why not do it and why not model that to the children we serve as parents and educators? There would be a lot of awesomeness and a whole bunch of flabbergastedness going on! Could be fun. Might be cool; possibly even a boon to learning, growth, and a joyful journey for all involved. Who knows, you might even like it. After all…there’s a first for everything.

Live, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best.

Every Challenge is also a Chance

Challenge and Chance

As parents and educators our primary concern is keeping our children safe. Along with safety we spend a lot of time thinking about and planning for our children’s success in life. Sometimes the two of those concepts seem at odds. Actually, if you dig in, I would suggest that you might find they’re not.

This morning my three older children (6,4, & 2) were playing a game that involved pieces just small enough and just large enough to be choking hazards for my youngest child (1). So, while his brothers and sister played this game he was bound to a high chair. He was miserable.

We tried to distract him in every way possible. We made silly faces. We made silly noises. We dances silly dances. We offered him a variety of food. He screamed, he cried, he threw the food. Nothing would satiate this poor child. All he wanted was to play with his siblings.

We were confident in our adult-knowledge that he could not play this game. It involved manipulating the little pieces with a small plastic tweezers. We “knew” that he could not do that. We “knew” that he would try to eat the pieces. We “knew” that he could choke on the pieces. Therefore we were doing everything we could to make it so that he couldn’t and wouldn’t play the game. It turns out what we “knew” wasn’t exactly true.

Sometimes it’s important for parents and educators to think out of the box. Instead of always protecting children from life’s challenges it’s important that we provide children with safe opportunities to be in challenging situations. As parents and educators we should consider looking at all challenges as simultaneously being such opportunities.

In my own life, looking bath on my path, I can clearly see that every single challenge I’ve experiences has also been an opportunity for learning and growth. When I’ve reflected on learning and growth and subsequently shifted my thinking and/or developed new skills sets, that learning and growth, born out of challenges, has enhanced my life. Even challenges that have caused me discomfort, triggered fear, or produced hurt have only made me stronger and pushed me toward becoming the best I can be (still becoming by the way).

I believe that children become better at grappling most effectively when they’re given opportunities to grapple and challenges to grapple with. Every challenge is also a chance.

Shortly after doing everything we could to keep our little guy (who’s actually quite big) from playing the game he was pining over his siblings moved on. He didn’t. Eventually he got to it. But guess what, he didn’t choke. In fact, he didn’t even attempt to eat the pieces. Instead, he carefully used the tweezers to move them from place to place. I was amazed that he had the fine motor skills to get the task done. This kid looked at the game as a challenge and was determined to overcome it.

In hindsight I realized and remembered that kids can do amazing things when they’re given the opportunities and support to do them. I realized and remembered that anything is possible, even when it’s outside of what we adults think we know. I realized and remembered that every challenge is also a chance.

The children we serve, both at home and at school, are at various places along developmental timelines. Like us, they are neither perfect nor stagnant in their imperfection. Like each of us, none of them can or should be defined by any one decision or any one moment in time. Each of us is a work in progress.

With the safety and wellbeing of children in mind we must consider pathways to independence. It’s critical that we keep progress in mind along with the idea that pushing through challenges with mistakes as catalysts to successes is going to best equip them with the tools they need to be happy, independent, and successful throughout their journeys…even thought it ain’t easy. Some would argue that nothing worthwhile ever is.

Live, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best.

Good Luck Poop

Challenge as Opportunity

A bird pooped on my shoulder the other day. We’d just dragged the bikes out for a test run. Both my six-year-old and my four-year-old sons are learning to ride with no training wheels so it’s an exciting time at the Berg house. Come to think of it it’s always an exciting time at the Berg house. No shortage of milestones being reached daily between the four munchkins.

There I was, getting ready to run (an not let go – wink, wink, nod, nod), when I felt it. “Plop.” Of course I reached across my body and dragged my finger through it, because the only thing more disgusting than getting bird poop on your jacket is getting it on your skin. Why do we do things like that? Who knows?

Anyway, in response to the pooping I naturally exclaimed, “A bird just pooped on my shoulder!” The kids were wide-eyed and awestruck. They stood with mouths agape looking up at the trees. They couldn’t believe it. Was it funny? Was it gross? What do we do next? Again, who knows?

My wife simply smiled and said, “Hey…that’s supposed be good luck.” Good luck indeed.

Maybe there’s something to it though. Maybe getting pooped on is lucky. Maybe it all depends on how you look at it and what you do next. Maybe it depends on one’s commitment to a growth mindset.

Getting pooped on isn’t ideal. In fact it’s yucky. It causes you to have to stop what you’re doing. It makes you have to wash your coat and scrub your finger. It’s simply not what you hope for when you step out the door. However, it’s a good reminder that you don’t always get what you hope for when you walk out the door.

Maybe getting pooped on is an opportunity to think of life as a process indelibly connected the ups and downs we each inevitably experience. Maybe it’s an opportunity to practice being comfortable with, and even excited about that. Maybe it’s a chance to practice maintaining a positive mindset even when you do get pooped on. I can’t imagine that anyone’s ever been seriously injured or otherwise negatively impacted by a fly by pooping. Typically you survive it, just like lots of other less than ideal situations.

Maybe the good luck is in the message of strength through adversity and hope through challenges. The simple fact is that occasionally we get pooped on and that’s ok. As educators and parents we know that the good stuff is in what we do next with out thoughts, emotions, and actions. Getting pooped on is an easy opportunity to practice and model resilience and joy. For that I’m grateful to the bird who recently relieved himself on my shoulder.

May you have many opportunities to push through challenges with learning, growth, and joy in mind, and to that I can only add…good luck!

Live, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best.

Losing Makes You Win Better

Losing to Win

A Story. Three of us were on the couch this afternoon. My 6-year-old and I were watching the Spartan’s take on Penn State. My 4-year-old was playing on my phone. They were both eating some scrambled eggs. I was munching on some left over pizza.

Every few minutes little brother would groan, whine, shutter, pout, and then settle back into the game. It’s a pretty cool game. You’re a square with a face sliding along a friction-less plane. You can jump by tapping the screen. The objective is to avoid obstacles along the plane. The obstacles become increasingly complex as you advance.

Little brother is pretty good, but nobody can keep going indefinitely. At some point you (the square) are bound to hit something. Then its back to the start, or to whatever benchmark you made it past before the tragic but inevitable hit; hence the “groan, whine, shutter, pout, and settle back in” pattern.

Finally I asked, “What’s wrong, Bud?”

He shrieked, “I keep losing!”

Before I had a chance to remove the device from his hands in favor a much-needed break, big brother, without looking away from the game and with a half-mouthful of scrambled eggs nonchalantly commented, “Actually, that’s good.”

He wasn’t teasing. He wasn’t pushing buttons. He wasn’t being silly. He believed what he was saying like he believes that even a tiny taste of asparagus is a bad idea.

Little bother shrieked even louder, “It isn’t good!”

Big brother, as impartially as before, and still without bothering to distract himself from eating or watching basketball, replied, “Actually it is.”

This second effort, relaxed and indifferent as it was, caught little brother’s attention. He looks up at the big guy. “Why?” he asked through a whimpering tear.

This time big brother looked up. He looked him straight in the eye and informed him with every bit of sincerity that, “Losing makes you win better.”

“Oh,” sighed little brother with an emerging sigh of contentment accompanied by an expanding whole-face smile. Then, not only did he joyfully return to his losing streak, but also he pointed out each loss with celebratory exuberance as it came.

A Statement Dissection. The kid didn’t suggest that losing has the potential to provide information about winning or that experiencing setbacks is likely to instill a combination of motivation and extended knowledge, he stated the losing makes you win better.

Losing. Nowhere in his utterance of the word was a negative connotation so much as implied. It was a good thing. It wasn’t bothersome or frustrating, but rather a piece of the “winning” puzzle. “Losing,” as this very young student of life presented it was highlighted as a stop along the journey. Moreover, it was highlighted as a recurrent stop, not to be frowned upon or dreaded, but to be relished and celebrated for it’s tremendous and innate powers. In fact, it “makes you win better.”

Makes You. The suggestion here was not that you could dig into each loss, analyze and reflect on it, and then pull out some prophetic insights that would have you headed toward achievement. No, this thing “makes you win better.” You don’t have a choice. It makes you! Awesome.

Win better. Paging Dr. Dweck. Can you say growth mindset? Maybe it was the beginning of the new Peanuts movie when Linus called out, “Remember Charlie Brown, it’s the courage to continue that counts!” Maybe it’s that kids aren’t jaded or cynical. Maybe this kid simply gets it (he does seem to have his mom’s smarts). Whatever it is, big brother doesn’t think of winning as something you do, he thinks of it as something you keep doing along a spectrum of “better.” Awesome again.      And as if that isn’t enough, he’s teaching it to his little brother, which takes some pressure off of me. More time to eat left over pizza and watch Sparty stomp. Speaking of which, is it a coincidence that our five losses, as horrific and heartbreaking as they each were, seem to have made Sparty win better? Watching those three-pointers sink is quite a thing for died-in-the-wool Spartan.

It works, my friends. Don’t fight it. Savor and celebrate those losses. Rejoice when they’re yours and support the process when they belong to your children, your students, your friends, and your loved ones. Don’t fret. Don’t feel bad. Feel good. Even through the challenges our occasional (or even frequent) losses bring, keep a positive heart with a foundation of learning and growth.

Truly, losing makes you win better. I know because some of the best advice I get comes from the little people I serve, and the moment I heard it I understood that this bit was spot on!

Live, listen, learn, lead…and always bring your best!

That’s Not Rain, It’s Rice.

Kids as Innovators

I was driving home from a great science museum with two of my four children this afternoon. We were in exploration mode. We saw dinosaur bones, we touched what Mastodon fur “probably felt like,” we watched live bats turn from tiny squirrel-looking things into enormous flying beasts with a simple spreading of their awesome wings, and we even spent some time with Big Bird and Elmo exploring the stars in a cozy little planetarium.

As I drove it began to rain. It was a freezing rain. I called my mother-in-law who was at home with the other two kids to let her know about the road conditions so that she could decide if she was going to make the trek back to her house or stick around at ours for bit. Evidently my six-year-old heard me talking about the rain because after I hung up the phone he commented, “That’s not rain dad.”

I asked, “Oh, what is it?” I got excited about the potential for a states-of-matter conversation with the little wise guy.

Instead, without a smirk or any other indication of sarcasm he confidently replied, “It’s rice.”

Was it the exploration mode? Was it the imagination? Was it the world-view of a six-year-old? Was it rice? Who knows?

What I do know is that each adult I know seems to have a bit of the kid who would suggest rice over frozen rain still kicking inside of him or her. It’s out inner-innovators. How in touch we are with that bit differs, but I don’t think it can ever completely go away.

What’s more, I would argue that that bit is mostly responsible to the “ovation” part of innovation. The part where we get super excited about an out-of-the-box idea; the part where a wave of chills runs up our spines at the thought of one of our crazy thoughts coming to life. Pablo Picasso said something about all children being artists and about the trick not being becoming one as an adult but remaining one. Could innovation, exploration, and the thrill of discovery work the same way? Aren’t all kids up for an adventure of the mind? Shouldn’t all adults be?

School communities are filled with outlandish ideas that are actually awesome. All organizations are. Effective organizational leadership encourages people to latch on the “what if’s.” It’s not always easy because it usually involves taking risks, and it more that occasionally involves moments that in which people hear cries like, “failure!”

In order to genuinely promote and nurture positive progress in teaching and learning school leadership must find ways to help those we serve get excited about hearing the “failure” cry. We must support our incredible colleagues, our enthusiastic parent partners, and our brilliant students as they learn to find comfort in the word “failure,” realizing that it means they’ve tried, understanding that it means they’ve stretched, valuing that it means they’ve believed in and trusted their inner-innovators.

We must be the nurturers of outrageous ideas because we know that they’re the ones with the greatest growth potential. We know that the only failures worth scoffing at are the failures to try and to press on through life’s challenges.

My son is kid. As a kid, he felt comfortable speaking his mind. Without hesitation he was ok with starting from rice. Eventually, on his own, he released the “r” part and told me that he could see that they were little ice balls melting on the windshield. By the time we got home he had come to the conclusion that the streets were slippery and that this was like snow but a bit different.

It’s usually not the initial light bulb that gets made; it’s some incarnation of the crazy idea. It’s a different form of the thought that pops into our heads when we’re inspired. The “can do,” aspect has to be there though. The “ovation” is critical. The part where everyone feels comfortable cheering about possibilities, even and especially the outlandish ones?

What if we stopped assigning homework? What if we only graded tasks that were meant to verify a student’s understanding of a thing and not those meant not to develop that understanding? What if we searched for ways to let kids play all day long while they learn? What if we found ways to let kids play all day long so they learn?

I don’t have the answers, but I do feel strongly that anyone seeking to enhance teaching and learning should be comfortable exploring any pathways that come to mind. Of course we should explore in safe ways. We can’t simply shift our practices on whims. However, if we view ourselves and those we serve as innovators, if we collectively appreciate the failed attempts that initiate and promote achievement, and if we lead in ways that support the child-like exploration of thoughts and ideas, then we just might be on course for some amazing discoveries that could otherwise be put down simultaneously with the loss of our inner-innovators.

As I sit and type this post it’s ricing cats and dogs outside. Makes me want to create and umbrella from egg roll wrappers. Maybe I will.

Live. Learn. Lead.

Dream Big. Work Hard. Press On.

I S.E.E. Gratitude

I SEE Gratitude

We’ve been going steady with holiday festivities for a few months now. It seems a good time to reflect on gratitude.

What am I thankful for? There’s quite a lot. When I reflect on gratitude I come to the conclusion that I could never make an exhaustive list. There’s the big stuff like family and friends, the stuff that makes me who I am and continues pushing me along a pathway of learning and growth.

There’s the little stuff like harvest moons and fresh snowfalls, the stuff that amazes and inspires me without me expecting or always even realizing it.

There’s great food, there’s music, there’s moment of celebration and causes for those moments, there’s sledding, there’s pizza, there’s the humorous and poignant stuff that kids say and do, there’s jokes that only a few people find funny but cause uproarious laughter, there’s uproarious laughter, there’s swimming, there’s trips to the city, there’s trips to the country, there’s playgrounds, there’s basketball courts, there’s farms, there’s cider mills, there’s apple pie, there’s cinnamon ice cream, and there’s the magical combination of hot apple pie with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. When I reflect on the things I’m thankful for I’m led down limitless roads.

Then there’s the gratitude that comes my way. I’m repeatedly being thanked for all kinds of things. Some of the gratitude I receive comes connected to service. I might have held a door or poured a glass of orange juice. Some of it comes connected to attention or responsiveness. I might have listened or expressed value for something someone said or did.

The other type of gratitude I experience regularly comes in the form of general and arguably underrepresented daily situations and occurrences. This type presents in the form of expressions like, “Thank goodness,” or, “It’s a good thing!” It’s the type of gratitude that’s expressed but not directed. It’s typically expressed in general, loosely targeted ways, and then left to float away chased by a couple of consensus identifying but tenuous head nods.

Person one says, “It’s a good things this sidewalk has been salted.”

Person two nods her head in mild agreement.

Person one and person two continue walking safely along a salted sidewalk (thankfully).

All gratitude is good gratitude. When I reflect on any of it I wonder about ways that I can do a better job of highlighting the importance of gratitude in my daily life. Because I’m an educator this wondering has led me to form an acronym: S.E.E.

I can use it, I can share it with you and my colleagues, and I can share it with my kids at home and at school. If you’d like, you can use and share it too.

The “S” is for “spot.” The first thing that needs to happen if we’re going to take gratitude to the next level is to spot it. We can spot it in ourselves and in others. Things to be grateful for are all over the place all the time. When I’m looking, they literally pop out. Spotting gratitude is an especially good practice when I’m not feeling grateful. It helps redirect me in moments of frustration. It reminds of how holistically fortunate I am. I suspect it could work in a similar way for others as well.

The first “E” is for “explore.” As you know, to explore is to dig a bit deeper. Any amount of thinking around gratitude can be good. Just a spark of a grateful thought has the power to inspire good feelings and positive progress in us and in others. When you spot something to be grateful for, dig in and roll around, you might just enjoy yourself. Take some time to draw it out. Tell someone about it, trace it back to its origin, write a poem, sing a song, and/or meditate on it for a while. Explore the gratitude that you intentionally spot in any way that works for you.

The other “E” is for “extend.” Do something about it. Thank someone, pay it forward, share it in some way, shape, or form. Take as much of the gratitude that you’re able to spot and explore to the next level by embedding it in your life through extension.

The “S.E.E. Gratitude” model not only offers a very user-friendly method for everyone, young and old, to connect with the immeasurable joys of life through a frame of appreciation, and it requires just enough time and thought to serve as a distraction from grasping for the negative through challenge and frustration. When you spend your time S.E.E.ing gratitude you lift yourself up, and as a result you carry an uplifted spirit along whatever paths you tread.

Thank you for reading. I know that you have a rich, full, and busy life. I hope that the time you spend with the pages of this blog is meaningful for you. I’m grateful for any moments you take to consider the thoughts, ideas, and wonderings I put forward, you are a valued contributor to my positive progress, and as always, your input is very much welcome and appreciated.

Live. Learn. Lead.

Dream Big. Work Hard. Press On.

The Immeasurable Joys of Conscious Weight Gain Leadership

Slide2

 

We went to my mother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. Technically speaking it’s my father-in-law’s house too, but he doesn’t cook like she does. In fact, I don’t know that he cooks at all. When my mother-in-law is at our house babysitting for more than a few hours at a time I suspect that ‘Papa’ has to skip meals.

I feel for the guy, but with the four little ones at home we do need help. He’s lost a lot of weight since we began having kids but he seems to be surviving. He’s very resilient. Anyway, as I was saying, we went to my mother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.

I took a bit of nap before dinner because I knew that I’d need the energy for digestion later on. I could have waited to take the nap until after the meal but I nap on the floor, and given the “Tigger”- like nature of my children I’m never too far from a surprise pounce on the belly while floor-napping. Last night I was confident that my belly would be full in a not-for-pouncing sort of way. I was well thought out and prepared. I was driven and dedicated to getting the job done.

Any dinner at my mother-in-law’s house is not for the faint of heart, and this was Thanksgiving dinner. We’re talking about a woman who grew up in the kitchen with a mother who loved to cook. She watched and learned. She loved it. She still loves it.

Her food is no joke. I’m a grown man of forty-one years and this food often has me crying tears of joy in anticipation. I ‘ve been known to weep with eagerness days before I know she’s cooking. It’s the type of food that makes inevitable weight gain worthwhile. I go in knowing that the scale will tip. It’s a sacrifice I’m always willing to make.

Adding to the forthcoming lapse of dietary judgment I was planning to commit, I snuck a few chocolate truffles before dinner…maybe three or four (or so). They were siting on the counter calling my name (repeatedly). I was warming up. I thought I was alone but I wasn’t. My mother-in-law caught me red-handed. I didn’t know what to say so I just blurted out, “Not so good for my waistline but these truffles are great!”

With every bit of calm and encouragement, and as she continued stirring, pouring, and managing her orchestra of culinary wizardry, she assuredly replied, “We don’t worry about our waistlines while eating chocolate.”

Wow. Good point, and therein sets the leadership message: trust yourself, decide purposefully, and feel good about the path you tread.

For example, there are plenty of times during any given day when I feel way too busy to spend quality time with the incredible people I serve. Times when I feel stuck behind my desk responding to e-mails, writing reports, or organizing files.

However, there are times when I cast those things aside for the former. Times when I decide to go into a kindergarten classroom for some counting with beans or sharing of creatively written stories. Times when I decide to engage in the process of science exploration with a group of enthusiastic fifth graders. Times when a Teacher or a parent sits down in my office and we simply catch up on life for fifteen or twenty minutes.

These times are great. These times are important. The key is that the joyfulness remains intact. The key is that I’m not fidgeting with sweaty palms, anxious to get back to my e-mails, reports, and files. The key is that I engage in real-time, genuine conversations and learning collaborations without guilt or heightened stress.

What if you felt miserable every time you ate a piece of delicious chocolate? What if throwing caution to the wind with a rich and hearty meal every once in a while was a dismal experience? I say with balance and intentionality you can keep on course and also indulge every now and again. In fact, I say it’s important.

Conscious weight gain leadership is when you deliberately switch out a moment of one thing that seems imminent and critical for a moment of another and is actually more important. Parents might try this too.

I would suggest that you only do so with the confidence that the switched-out thing will eventually get done, and in a meaningful way. I would also suggest that you highlight the joyfulness of whatever it is you’ve switched out for. Don’t spend time on regret. It’s not helpful for anyone involved.

Be thoughtful, error on the side of joy, get done what you need to get done so that you can be intentional about switching stuff out every now and again, put people first.

Above all else, never eat a piece of chocolate or a rich and hearty meal with your waistline in mind…it’s simply not as good.

Live. Learn. Lead.

Dream Big. Work Hard. Use Courage.

My Kids Are Total Pushovers

It started with the snow. I was facetiming my family from work yesterday morning. I’m blessed with a great wall of floor-to-ceiling windows in my office and a great four-season climate in my state. November 21st is a bit late for the initial snowfall but that’s when it came nonetheless.

My wife and the four little ones were bumming around in our bedroom. I reversed the camera direction on my iPad and showed them that the snow was in fact coming down. It was a beautiful fluffy drop, settling in a picturesque fashion on blades of grass, shrubberies, and the leafless branches of our autumn trees.

The kids who can run did. They ran for the windows closest to them. When they saw the white puff painting our lawn, our driveway, the street, and the line of rooftops down the road they began shrieking with joy. In that moment it was decided that I would be home just after lunch so that we could suit up and head out for our local sledding hill. An exciting first outing of the year!

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Upon arrival it took some time to safely empty our selves and our equipment out of the mini-van. The kids were stuffed somewhere deep inside of their gear. You know the look. Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man. Arms out, leg’s slightly spread, penguin-walk, nothing but noses showing, heads tilted back for enhanced lines of sight from under hoods, scarfs, and hats. The traditional little kid sledding uniforms were in full effect, and there we stood facing the beast. Task #1 was getting to the top.

The youngest child I brought with me yesterday afternoon was two and a half years old (in fact, she still is). My only daughter. My sweet little bean. If you know a two and a half year old girl who has three brothers you won’t be surprised to learn that this miniature person is incredibly formidable. She’s the supreme ruler of her world and the ruthless conqueror of everyone else’s.

I love this pocket-sized person more than I can possibly articulate but I must admit that she’s the loudest of the loud ones. She’s the wildest of the wild ones. She’s the silliest of the silly ones. She’s the most energized individual I know or have ever met. She makes gelatin seem still. She puts the “grrr” in “girl.”

She’s fearless and foreboding. She’s tiny in stature and colossal in oomph. She has power, and I believed it was power enough to climb the beast of a sledding hill we faced in that moment. So, in response to her demand, “Daddy…carry me,” I looked up and then back, and with the courage of lion tamer I suggested, “You can do it, Bean.”

I held my breath. She didn’t buy it at first. “Carry me!” she insisted. Admittedly, I was becoming frightened. I could only imagine the consequences of pushing it too far. This one is a powder keg waiting to go off.

Just then I remembered my ace in the hole…the “you’re too little” card. I pulled it. Boom! Before I even had time to back away she went off like a nor’easter. “I’m not little!” She insisted, “I’m a big girl!”

She drew a one neon pink shag mitten across her tiny face to address the clear line streaming from her right nostril to her lip, she gave me a terrifying look of indignation, and up she went. Pushover though she was, she went crawling, clawing, tumbling, slipping, sliding, rolling, and willing herself to the top, and with all of that, she made it…which was just the beginning.

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Over the course of the next three or so hours I had those three of my kids convinced that they were super heroes. They’re new favorite show is about a band of friends who use their pajamas to transform into “Catboy,” “Gekko,” and “Owlettte.” These three might as well have been written into the show.

They flew down the hill over and over again, and then used super speed, super strength, and owl wings to drag their sleds back up.

When the sledding ran its course I suckered them into trusting that the wooded area next to the hill was in fact a magic forest. So gullible! We all transformed into paleontologist-explorers.

We tiptoed and maneuvered careful as to avoid becoming ensnared by a Tyrannosaurus Rex or scooped up by a Pterodactyl.

We fashioned dinosaur eggs out of snow and shouted, “Look, I found one!” My six year old even fooled his little siblings into imagining that his was hatching (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). Their eyes filled with wonder. Those guys will believe anything!

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When we came to a clearing and found a playground on the other side of the woods we were all struck with awe. We’d never come this way before.

If you don’t know, a new and secret playground is totally cool, especially after a walk through a freshly snowed-on wood and with our heads and hearts steeped in pretend-play. It was practically magic.

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This park had a pirate ship play structure. I turned to my oldest and asked, “What now Captain?” He thought for minute before assigning complementary roles to each of us. His brother was first mate, his sister was second mate, and for some reason I was fourth mate (I take what I can get).

Again, totally hoodwinked into believing that we were a band of pirates (good, not bad ones) on an enchanted and mysterious adventure. Pushovers indeed!

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Eventually we made it back to the Berg-mobile. The ride home was a tired one. I called my wife to make sure that there were plenty of towels at the door and lots of blankets on the couch. It was going to be an evening of drowsy snuggling, warm baths, and early bedtimes.

As we crossed the threshold of the house little miss looked up at her mom and cried out, “Mommy, I have a stomach ache,” followed immediately by, “…and I need hot chocolate!” As fate would have it they all had stomach aches at this point, clearly requiring three mugs of hot chocolate (the only reliable snow day stomach ache remedy), and as it turns out their mom is a pushover too (the apple and the tree again).

The rub is, my kids soar easily into their imaginations. I would suggest that most kids do. I would argue that when kids trust that the adults in their lives genuinely care about them they’re willing to walk pathways of limitless possibilities.

When we support, encourage, and enthusiastically engage in the unfolding of potential with kids we incur the joy of watching it play out as feats of their incredible creativity, collaboration, and achievement.

If kids are indeed pushovers, if we can truly get them to believe almost anything as their parents and teachers, the question becomes: what would we have them believe?

I would suggest that we should be choosing wisely and that we should be working with the foundation of learning, growth, and the potential of charmed and brilliant journeys for each and every one of them in mind.

Sound good? Good.

Live. Learn. Lead.

Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.