Thursday, June 23, 2011


Dear Spike:

It broke 90 today. Maybe hit 95 in some parts of the city. Whatever, it was hot. And summer only just started.

Seems like just yesterday that everyone was complaining about the cold, wet spring we'd been having. Heck, it practically was yesterday — well, it was last week, in any case.

Last week!

"Oh my heck," they were saying. "I just don't know why summer isn't here yet."

And then, this week: "Oh goodness gravy, it's just so hot!"

Here's the thing about Salt Lake City: We're sitting at about 4,300 feet altitude, so winters are pretty damn cold. We're also sort of in the middle of the desert, so summers are pretty damn hot.

And there's really not that much in between. A bit of a wet fall, a wetter spring — neither lasts too long.

None of it's intolerable. The cold stuff comes along with an awesome snowpack in the Wasatch Mountains — almost 800 inches this year, in the canyons. I went snowboarding on Memorial Day in a foot of powder. The warm stuff opens up those very same canyons for hiking an biking and camping and bird watching. It's all minutes from our front door.

Don't complain. It's silly. It doesn't change anything. And it disrespects the very forces of Mother Nature that hold us here.

It's supposed to drop back into the 80s for the rest of the week. Nice stuff.

Don't get used to it.


Saturday, June 11, 2011


Dear Spike:

Your fourth birthday fell on a Saturday. We celebrated on that day with your grandparents and then, the following Saturday, with your friends. You and the gang painted flower pots, costumed up for an impromptu street parade, and devoured a (pralines-and-cream) ice cream cake. It was a dandy time.

My 33rd birthday came the following Wednesday. It wasn't such a dandy time.

We were planning to go out for a fancy family dinner that night at my favorite restaurant (the delightful and delectable Mazza — which also happen to be your favorite restaurant) but you had a bit of a melt down while trying to decide which bow you would wear in your hair.

And so you went to "time out." And while you were sitting there in the corner, whimpering like a wounded Yorkshire Terrier, your mother and I changed out of our swanky clothes and resigned ourselves to an uneventful, un-birthdarific evening.

I'm not telling you this to make you feel guilty. That's not my style and, besides, my birthday has never been all that important to me.

I tell you this because I want you to understand what happened after we canceled dinner:

You screamed. You flailed. You sobbed. You gasped. You begged. And you cried, off and on, for the rest of the night.

And even though you're a well-behaved kid, (the best kid I know, in fact,) we knew this was going to happen, because there ain't nothing you like more than puttin' on the Ritz.

Truth is, it would have been a lot easier to just let you get over the small hissyfit you were having about that damned bow, then clean you up and march ever-forward to Mazza. That certainly would have been easier for your mother and I, but would have been wrong for you — because it would have deviated from our standard parenting procedure.

That is to say: When you commit the crime, you serve the time — every time.

Every. Damn. Time.

So sure, this was supposed to be a special night — but any other time, your little melt down would have resulted in the cancellation of whatever fun thing we had planned for that day. And while folks can (and probably do) criticize our parenting on a variety of levels, I don't think anyone would ever accuse us of being inconsistent with you when it comes to discipline.

And I really believe that is the reason why nights like the one we experienced on my birthday are so rare with you. You understand our expectations. You understand what happens when those expectations are not met. You make decisions accordingly.

That's not to say that you don't occasionally make the wrong decision (as evidenced by Wednesday night's tantrum, you most certainly do make the wrong decision sometimes.) But you never have to guess — and so you have very little incentive to test our limits.

Someday you'll probably have your own kids. And I'm certainly not the type of guy who will be standing over your shoulder to tell you how to raise'm right. Everybody parents differently, after all, and it's not my place to criticize — so I'll just offer this observation: The most convenient decisions for parents are not often the best decisions for their children.

And come to think of it, that's not just a good rule for parenting. It's a good rule for life: The most convenient decisions are not always the best decisions for anyone.

That doesn't mean you always have to do things the hard way. It just means you should always at least consider the hard way, along with its costs and its benefits.

Earlier this evening, we made another run at going out for a fancy birthday dinner. Afterward, we went next door for some gelato.

And you were an absolute angel.

It was the best birthday present ever.