Is in the way you look at things

When the Mugar Omni Theatre opened at the Boston Science Museum I was school aged. We had annual treks to the museum to see the large tyrannosaur model, Appolo something capsule, and enormous incubator of super fluffy yellow chicks.

Those field trips went from pretty fun to thrilling when the theatre was built. Leonard Nimoy narrated the opening segment which showed off the armature of the dome that was behind the screen through dramatic backlighting. Then the THX sound system counted out its speakers, and we began a tour of New England, flying slowly over pleasant streams, having a lobster held towards our faces until we giggled and protected our noses from its claws. We zipped so quickly over fast motions traffic on 93 that inevitably one classmate would moan and close his or her eyes, and on one memorable occasion actually lose her lunch. (Dawn, if you are reading this, I have never forgotten you.)

Over all of this Leonard (who grew up three blocks from “here”) intones: “The difference in New Englanders, is in the way we look at things.”

I don’t know about having a “New England” world view…but I do know that our roles can shape our outlook.

When we were planning the construction of our last house Oliver was just 1. We had two large dogs, three cats and I was pregnant. The construction calendar was unclear. Even if it had been clear I would have considered it unclear because my family and I have been renovating and building since the time the Omni Theatre opened.

We decided (right in the real estate bubble) to buy a tidy small, 3 br home in a family neighborhood with a fenced back yard right on the bike path. It was just as comfortable as I imagined it would be. Hazy with a newborn and the commute between temporary home and home in the making, I still remember sledding on the side hill, crunching in lead piles, baking a birthday train cake, harvesting enormous zucchinis, and walking to the neighborhood beach pulling a wagon. My memory has done its job, gilding the time into that young, golden family image. Erasing the vomit, and dog hair, and daily drudgery.

We planned to either rent or sell, and the first family that came to look had two young girls and asked for a three year lease. We were thrilled. In three years we received the checks on the 3rd of the month every month and NEVER heard from them about repairs. Perhaps in retrospect that should have been a signal, but with everything else going on we chalked it up as good luck for us, and a family who had house pride in their rental house.

Three months ago they gave us two weeks notice and moved out.

When I went to walk through the house I was shocked. There were four full dump truck loads of things. Trucks that I had to call and pay for. These loads ranged from moldy rugs, to plastic boxes with dead markers, to spoiled food, to  They had written on the walls in the bedroom. The neighbor reported that they had filled two huge moving trucks. The house is 1100 square feet. The family really could not have been able to move around in there.

In about ten minutes the tag that my brain put on that house went from “setting for happy times” to “sickening burden.”  We tore up the moldy carpet. Installed new and refinished the wood floors to get the cat pee smell out. We put it on the market for 30% less (and significantly less than we paid for it) than anything in the neighborhood and waited for an eager family to take the savings and tag it “home.”


OK. So I met a friend over there last week as part of a rescue mission. He usually builds find homes so he is squeezing in this spit polish as a favor. We selected paint, granite, appliances, changing some trim to make it more substantial, and a bit of exterior power washing. I figured this would be enough.

The first of our team arrived this morning to begin the painting. His job requires the ability to see things how the will look after his work is completed. After over 50 showings with no real interest this painter walked through the door and declared that he wanted the house. It’s in the way he looks at things. The repairs it needs are a burden to me, and an opportunity to him.

Having two people look at the same thing different ways is a basic fact of life.  My boys and I explore this frequently… “What if what I call blue is really what you call green but we have different name for it?” “I love to play defense and Leo loves to play offense but it is really all soccer” “I think watching backyardigans is super fun and you want to poke your eyeballs out.”

We also talk about how we can have two feelings about the same thing. You can feel that your brother is an excellent playmate, and that he would get lost for ever on the Hike for Hunger.  You can be excited to see your friends and school AND nervous about being away from home.  Feeling excited, doesn’t erase feeling nervous.  Feeling appreciative doesn’t erase feeling annoyed. What do we do with these two feelings? How can we choose the way we look at things?

I don’t think we can change our feelings, just how we act on them. Remembering that there are many points of view and then choosing which view point impacts your behavior. You might be SO ANGRY, and still allow your respect for your teacher to dictate how you express yourself. These are advanced skills, and most of us are still working on them. Yesterday the boys were bickering over a lollipop. Sure this lollipop had been sitting on our counter since September 16th without inciting any interest, but Oliver wanted it, so Leo wanted it. Obviously.

Shrieking, pushing, grabbing. All that. Then somehow, and although I was in the room keeping my mouth shut I cannot report how, they decided to set the lollipop on the counter and talk. “How about I take a lick and then you take a lick?” “Ew.” “How about I get this one and you get the next one?” “No way” “How about mama cuts it in half and we each get half?” “OK!” “You know if I cut it in half either only one of you will get the stick or neither of you will get the stick. (why I decided to add that wrinkle I don’t know, but it might have something to do with visions of a melted down kid rolling on the floor screaming that I ruined the lollipop. Perhaps.) “no problem.” “that’s fine.”

I cut it. It didn’t shatter. One side was larger. One side had the stick. “I want the bigger side” Oliver said at the same time that Leo said “I want the stick.”

One of the jars that has been on our families Marble Jar shelf is “cooperation”. It got two new marbles after that.

Maybe when we fill the jar I will take them to the Omni theatre.

Three Main Jar Types

Taken from my new Marble Jar FAQ page!

1. The checklist or routine jar.

This jar gets completed each day. It helps you get to bed, or get out of the house in the morning. The goal is simply the last step of the routine: usually free time, or a backrub at bedtime. The actions are the steps. Bedtime Jar- bath, teeth brushing, pack backpack, clothes in hamper, tidy room. Goal: backrub

2. The Privilege Jar

This unlocks a one time privilege like a later bedtime, adding a dog to the family or getting a wii. Together you decide what actions it will take for everyone to demonstrate that they are ready for this privilege. To adopt a dog you might decide that for 30 days you will get up 20 minutes earlier (time for walk) lay out snacks for one another (to practice feeding dog) water the plants (to practice caring for living things) all without prompting. After 30 days if the marble jar is full your family will be able to celebrate with a new dog. Plus you get to enjoy all of that dog hair.

3. The “best self” jar

I am borrowing this phrase from the same kindergarten classroom that gave me the idea for the marble jar itself. I shy away from the term self improvement, but clearly I believe in it whole-heartedly. In this case you can use the marble jar to help frame the conversation about what it means to be a…good friend, caring brother, scientist, environmentalist, true collaborator. Then you take these big terms and break them into observable steps. Being a collaborator includes 1. asking questions 2. offering suggestions 3. deciding together 4. celebrating each other. 4. solving problems  After you have described those actions you can all hunt for examples within the family. Maybe look for 8 examples of each action. When the jar is full celebrate with a trip to a ropes course.

Live work play repeat. What mixed use should be.

I spent the day yesterday with members of the Architecture Institute of America planning the workshop that they will be giving in our town in the fall. Shelburne is a bucolic village just South of Burlington that hosts miles of Lake Champlain Shoreline, Olmstead designed Shelburne Farms, and other top tourist destinations. We have local shops, hiking trails, a first rate school system, and straight up the middle runs Shelburne Rd.

If you want to buy a car or a bed you have come to the right place. If you want to use your car as a bed (as you wait in traffic) that too might work out for you. If you want experience the lake, river, or large pond within a quarter mile of this corridor keep driving. Or waiting.

Shelburne’s neighbor to the North has done a good job of highlighting the convenience of such a commuting corridor. Bagels and coffee, supermarkets and covered gas stations, oil changes, and ammunition are all within an easy pull off.

Convenience aside the form of the structures in South Burlington are neither inspirational nor aspirational to me. Although the bagels place is local (and probably the guns and ammo shop?) the rest of the strip is known brands.

In my opionion Vermont overall and Shelburne in particular values the individual and the local. Perhaps your opinion differs? We need to debate what our core beliefs are, and figure out  how can we reflect this vision with a road? How do we encourage attractive development? Support businesses that are already on the road? Turn the division in the divided highway into an asset?  Show the way to our truly world class natural resources?

That is what we are going to learn. This AIA sponsored workshop together with a state grant is going to gather as many people as possible who are impacted by Shelburne Rd. Landowners, Shelburnites, commuters, business owners, and customers. First they will ask questions and listen to answers. They will offer visual prompts to help facilitate our ideas. The output of this workshop will be some big thinking and some small action items. Some things for right now, and others for future generations.

The team will include architects, economists, experts on code and transportation. There will be a minimum of 8 experts coming to town. Lets’ use them. Some of the greatest design and civic innovations come from solving problems. I want Shelburne Rd to be held up as a model of how a thru-way can work for commuting and a destination.

What do I want from you?

1. Examples of strips that shed the term strip and are aesthetically pleasing and economically viable.

2. Add your voice to this discussion. From Shelburne or not, an interdisciplinary approach to solving this problem is being offered, and I want to blow everyone away with our participation. Vermont is small. Lets show how small can be great!

The little things

gchat box

If you are like me you communicate with your husband in little snippets through the day on a variety of platforms. Steve and I text, ichat, use facetime, email back and forth, talk on the phone, and most frequently gchat. You know? The little area to the right of your gmail inbox that lets you chat with folks online?

I like gchat best because it has a keyboard (unlike my phone) does not require nice hair (like facetime), and allows me to communicate while still being productive (unlike a phone call where I tend to get busted for trying to juggle things.) Plus I think he looks great in his little little little picture over there.

One of the things that has bothered me about this chat v say…ichat is that our dialogue has run together until today. Look over there ——> see the lines. Those simple lines? They make a good thing better.  Thanks google.

And as a bit of a punchline this blog post can be about why my mac is better than his PC:

The bedtime negotiation…

The boys have been lobbying for a later bedtime…I have noticed that they stay awake in their room for quite a while when we put them to bed at 8:00, and on weekend nights when they stay up late they remain cheerful until the last sweet minute.  Steve and I are loathe to give up that last hour of time together, when we finally talk about something other than wii strategy.

We realized that to make it work we needed to maintain that grown up time. So we told the kids that. “You do seem to have the energy to stay up late…and as long as you still contribute to your family and meet your school responsibilities you should have a chance to demonstrate your new “staying up later skill.” But dada and I need that time. That hour from 8:00-9:00 is an important time for us to connect. So that extra hour needs to be in your room, or in the playroom.” Now lets make our agreement:

So we started with a list from Parenting On Track, and modified it for our own use. The bottom line was that the kids needed to demonstrate that they would have enough energy for their day with 45 fewer minutes of sleep, and before that they needed to show us that they can maintain the other agreements we have going on. So the four of us built Our Yes As Soon As (or YASA) list. Yes you can have a later bedtime as soon as you spend five days:

  • Waking up in the morning on own,  on time, and relatively cheerfully
  • Following through with daily contributions
  • Follow through with other agreements
  • Maintaining respect for yourself and family members
  • Maintaining manners and common courtesies
  • Respecting our “parent only time” at the end of the day

After they more or less made it through the above list we allowed them to stay up until 8:45, and added one key point:

  • Staying awake in school/ during other daily events

How well did this work?

Announcing Marble Jar…and its inspiration

Steve and I took our six week Parenting on Track class two years ago. Yesterday I bumped into one of my classmates, the father of two young girls, and was greeting by the familiar “still on track?” that has emerged as way to reference our shared experience.  Pretty much, I replied with a shrug, knowing that most families would be impressed by my 4 and 5 years olds’ routine of packing their own snacks, not just putting on but keeping track of their outerwear, and regular contributions to our household function. They also save their money to buy their own toys go to sleep without little negotiation. It is what we expect from them.  What I was more excited to share with him was the news that I am working together with Vicki (that lovely lady over there —–>) to develop a new parenting app for the iPhone that incorporates some of the concepts of Parenting on Track.

Check back here for updates on the app (Marble Jar), which will hit the app store by mother’s day. In the meantime start thinking about your parenting aha moments. As hard as they are to re-tell, I would love to hear your stories.


That’s Oliver comforting a formerly screaming Leo back when they both rode in the cart. One from the archives. Never too young to help.

What’s Happening?

Yeah, that’s the Fleming Museum packed with folks. The marble court is usually so austere, so…museum-like. Not last week for our first Pech-kucha night in Burlington.Burlington folk should mark their calendars for 2/10/11 for volume 2, and interested presenters can check out our facebook page.

This morning we gathered representatives from the past nine beneficiaries of The Clothes Exchange. Creating connections is one of my favorite parts of being involved with TCE. I’m encouraging everyone to come forward with their tangible wishlists and resources to find additional ways to support each other beyond the mighty dollar. Kelli Shonter from King Street Center mentioned that in addition to their Red Bus Clifford they have an empty building for most of the school day…gets the mind rolling Kelli!

Have spent quite a bit of time with Kate from The Community Sailing Center in Burlington. I had no idea that they worked with 40+ local organizations. I sort of thought of them as a summer camp. Thanks for setting me straight Kate.

Been working on the re-launch of ticketing. More to come about that soon…

Playing around with three new apps, parenting, football, and crowdsource marketing. Fun, but perhaps distracting.

What have you all been up to?

Why party?

A break from winwin tech stuff to make my mom‘s unpopular argument for political parties.  As American’s fierce independence is our birthright. But for all their unpopularity, political parties play a critical role in our democracy. They organize governments, provide accountability for voters, give the public a narrative understanding of public policy and issues, and draw important lines of ideological contrast. What’s more, they find, recruit, and train candidates — as well as integrate them into a broader organization — and they are one of the few forces in American life with an interest in expanding the electorate and encouraging political participation.

For all the money that we’ve seen in this year’s election cycle, the truth is that we still haven’t felt the full impact of Citizens United. The election years of 2012 and 2014 are likely to see explosions in independent expenditures, and regulation can only go so far in challenging it. Right now, political parties are our best option for challenging corporate power, and progressives should be doing what they can to remove barriers to party integration and give small donors more power to influence parties and candidates. Political parties will always need money, and for the sake of democracy, we should try to make sure that it comes from the right places.


Citizens United gave political parties even more reason to concentrate on interest groups and the rich.
Jamelle Bouie | October 25, 2010