piano keysCade and Ella had their first piano recital this weekend. They’ve been playing for about 9 months now – you can read my first blog post on the subject here. On one hand, it was two hours spent listening to (mostly) other parents’ kids struggling through basic songs on various instruments… not tops in entertainment value. But on the other hand, it was supporting my own kids as well as all the others from Sierra Madre Music (which is a great program with really great teachers) in their artistic endeavors. And that was pretty awesome.

You could see the butterflies in every single child before they started and while they performed, though only one refused to go on when his name was called – and joy of joys, it wasn’t one of mine! Yet to a child, from the flash of a smile to the puffed-out chest bows some of them took, you could feel their sense of relief and newfound pride once they were finished. That was really cool.

Cade and Ella each approached their respective performances just as I would have expected based on their personalities. Ella went first and was very “in the zone”. She has been working hard on playing without looking at her hands and that’s just what she did, staring stony-faced, straight ahead, as if in a trance, only becoming aware of everyone else and breaking into a grin at the very end. Cade went next and was a bit fidgety as the nerves coursed through his body. I was nervous for him, too. He was very aware of everyone else in the room from beginning to end but he made it through and I couldn’t have been prouder of either of them.

My kids got to experience music from a different vantage rather than just lessons or practice. They got to feel that pre-performance anxiety, overcome their fear and rise to the challenge in spite of it, and know the thrill of bravery and definitive accomplishment when it was all over but the ovation. As a parent, watching that sequence unfold within each of them and seeing their ultimate success was what it was all about for me. So now I’m (mostly) looking forward to their next recital.

Marc Garlett 91024

graduate estate planning 91024It’s been almost a month now since my son, Cade, was diagnosed as 2E (twice exceptional – see my last personal blog post here). In his particular case he has an auditory processing disability. He doesn’t have a hearing problem; his hearing is fine. But somewhere between the soundwaves entering his ears, and his brain processing that input, things get a little garbled. Now that we understand his issue it is easy to understand why he has been struggling to read and write so much over the last 3 years.

He was also diagnosed as being gifted in visual processing. His mind can take visual input and process it with a speed and accuracy bordering on unbelievable. This doesn’t surprise me as he has always amazed me with his natural aptitude for science/math/engineering types of things. Knowing this has also helped me understand just how frustrating his reading problems have really been for him. With such a high level of ability in visual processing, why he can’t make easy sense of the letters and words he sees written on a page must be very confusing for him, indeed. But of course if his brain is muddled about the sounds particular combinations of letters make, he has trouble turning those letters into words, and his reading and writing difficulties make perfect sense within that context.

I am so fortunate to have a friend, Michelle Becker, who happens to be a special education lawyer at Michelle Becker Law. She is an outstanding resource and has really helped Yan and me understand Cade’s Evaluation data and what it all means. She was also instrumental in helping us prepare for Cade’s IEP which was held last week at PUSD’s Field Elementary where he attends second grade. Andre van Rooyen, the pediatric neuropsychologist who performed Cade’s evaluation, attended the IEP meeting with us and helped keep everyone focused on what the data was telling us about Cade. The IEP team consisted of Cade’s principle, Ana Maria Apodaca, his English teacher, Natalie Palma, and the school psychologist and special education teacher, Giuliana Klijian and Carol Williams, respectively. All were incredibly helpful, professional, and concerned about Cade’s success, both scholastically and otherwise.

It’s been a whirlwind process: reading books and articles, talking to experts, preparing for and attending the IEP, gaining an understanding of Cade’s issues and options, dealing with Ella’s feelings that we’re giving all our attention to Cade lately, and juggling all the other everyday life activities which keep us plenty busy on their own. We have discovered just how ignorant we really are about education – in all its facets – and how our children can get the most from it. We have also learned just how fortunate we are. We have amazing, supportive, knowledgeable people surrounding us. We have children whose incredible gifts will provide them with remarkable opportunities during their lives (and whose challenges will provide even more opportunities).

There is much work to be done. And as we begin that work I am confident we can, and will, gather the tools necessary to achieve every parent’s dream-supporting our children toward leading happy, healthy, productive lives.
Marc Garlett 91024

_D0P7570 [F] smIf you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know my son Cade has struggled at times, and triumphed at others, with school. His academic challenges have mainly been in reading and writing. Yan and I finally made the decision to pay for an educational assessment when it became clear that even with outside tutoring and extra work at home, he is continuing to fall further and further behind in those areas.

We lined Cade up with a local expert, put him through several days of testing, and just received the results last week. We are still trying to digest exactly what it all means for Cade, but the short of it is that Cade is considered twice exceptional. I had never heard that term before. Even my parents, life-long educators, didn’t know what that meant. Basically Cade is on both ends of the spectrum. He is both gifted and has a learning disability. If the spectrum is a bell curve, most kids are in the middle, some are on the outlying ends as either gifted or learning disabled, but only a small percentage test out as both.

It’s obvious that learning disabled kids face challenges in school. It may not be as obvious that gifted kids also face their own set of challenges (it’s probably very obvious, however, if you are the parent of a gifted child). But the kids with both sets of challenges have, what seems at first blush at least, an overwhelming, insurmountable hill to climb. Their unique challenges, wrapped in contradictions and enigmas, are confusing, frustrating, and exhausting – both for the children as well as their parents.

In our beginning research we see so much of Cade in what we’re reading about twice exceptional kids. Many of his struggles, behaviors, and traits are becoming much clearer. We’ve had several “aha!” moments in fact. But of course there are even more questions now, too. I want Cade to celebrate and cultivate his extraordinary abilities. And I don’t want him to feel ashamed or embarrassed about his learning disabilities. I want him to embrace the whole of himself, to understand his own intellect and emotions, to believe in himself, and to overcome his unique challenges in life – as we all must.

My boy is exceptional. I have known that all along. But now understanding more of what makes him so, and gaining a clearer picture of how it influences his interactions with – and interpretations of – his world, I can breathe a bit of a sigh of relief and focus on helping him get equipped to meet and master the life he has in front of him. I’ll keep you posted.

Kilauea eruption 2-3-2016We returned home yesterday from a 10-day family trip to the big island of Hawaii. We spent the first part of the vacation on the leeward side of the island (the Kona area). You can read about some of our Kona adventures here. The second part of our trip was spent on the windward side of the island (the Hilo area). What a contrast!

First of all, travelling along the Saddle Road which traverses the island revealed multiple diverse micro-climates, topographies, and lava formations. The drive alone was something else. We stopped at the Kaumana caves, a non-commercialized but absolutely amazing lava tube we had all to ourselves. We spelunked about a half mile into the tube before I made the command decision to turn around, much to the chagrin of Cade and Ella. It was awesome and just a little creepy to be that deep into the tube and all on our own. It’s something I think we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives.

We stopped at the farmer’s market in Hilo where Yan introduced Cade and Ella to authentic Hawaiian Spam musubi. They couldn’t eat enough of it! I opted for “real” Hawaiian barbecue and fresh made macaroons. Then it was up to Volcanoes National Park to visit Kilauea – not just the most active volcano in Hawaii, but the most active in the world. We were mesmerized and stayed at the rim until after nightfall experiencing the presence of Pele and feeling awe at her power much like I imagine the ancient Hawaiians did. We spent the night in the park and the next day exploring the steam vents, visitor center, and old rim road (which is now partially swallowed by the crater).

Kulaniapia FallsThe final leg of our trip was spent at The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls, a bed and breakfast smack dab in the middle of quintessential paradise. Here we picked, cracked and ate countless raw macadamia nuts, hiked and explored the surrounding rain forest, and kayaked and swam in what has to be one of most beautiful waterfall pools anywhere in the world. It was relaxing and rejuvenating. The “Aloha spirit” filled us. We tuned into our mana. And we returned home better for our experiences over the last ten days.

Mahalo, again Hawaii.

Happy lunar new year everyone!
Marc Garlett 91024


My family and I are spending this week on Hawaii’s big island. Every year about this time Yan attends the Omni annual meeting – Omni is a national purchasing and marketing network of independent plumbing wholesalers. For those of you who don’t know, Yan’s family is in the plumbing business. Part of her “job” is to attend the Omni annual meeting each year and I always go along for the swanky resorts, the over-the-top food, and the exotic locales. This year, since it was in Hawaii, we decided to bring the kids and make an extended family vacation out of it.

This is my first trip to the big island and it really is incredible. In fact, I’ve already had one of the best days of my life here. Saturday we chartered a boat. But not just any boat. We chartered a US Navy Special Warfare craft – the same boat used by Navy Seals – from Wild Hawaii Ocean Adventures. Their boat is one of only three in the world sold by the navy as military surplus and the only one available for civilian use. Just spending the day on the water aboard that amazing vessel was worth the charter fee alone. But there were so many bonuses packed in I still can’t stop smiling.

Let me backtrack just a bit. We’re staying at the Waikoloa Beach Resort, a property as beautiful as it is immense. It has its own natural lagoon, in part of which they keep dolphins and offer “dolphin encounter” swimming for a price. We knew that was available and had talked with the kids about the possibilities of swimming with dolphins before the trip. Then when we visited the dolphin area on Friday, Cade voiced what it seems we were all thinking. He said, “that’s not very much room for them to swim around in… it seems kind of mean to keep them here.” Indeed, there wasn’t much room for them at all and we decided not to support that endeavor.

Back to Saturday on the boat: we were hoping to spot some whales. We were only out of the marina about 10 minutes when we spotted a pod of dolphins. Our driver turned the boat on a dime (have I mentioned how amazing this boat was?) and put us directly in the dolphins’ path. We quickly donned our snorkel gear and over the side we went. In short order we were surrounded by dolphins. There were hundreds of them, around us and below us. It was a bit surreal and just a bit unnerving. But the bottom line is that it was remarkable. Here we were snorkeling with hundreds of wild dolphins in their natural habitat. Wow.

Once the pod had moved on we scrambled back aboard and resumed our search for whales. It wasn’t long before we spotted our first humpback. Then another, then another. Soon they were almost every direction we looked. We saw dozens of them. Some as close as 50 or 60 feet. Amazing creatures to experience up close. And oh my gosh, they are enormous! Eventually we wound up at Kealakekua Bay marine preserve where we snorkeled on the most amazing reef I’ve ever experienced. Yan dived the Great Barrier Reef in Australia before we met and she said Kealakekua Bay was in the same class. Another wow.

On the way back to the marina we took a side trip into (yes into!) some lava caves, got a taste of just how maneuverable the boat really was (Yan and I were a little worried Cade and Ella would lose their grip and go overboard the g-forces were so strong from the slaloms, 360s, and 40 to 0 stops in the blink of an eye), and paused to drift along in the middle of a school of hammerhead sharks (it was amazing and slightly uncomfortable watching their dorsal fins circle the boat and see their shapes in the water, complete with their distinctive cephalofoil heads, just a few feet away – man those are some big fish!). Wow, wow, and wow!

So yes, it was an incredibly cool day. But the best part, hands down, was experiencing it with the three people I love most in the world. Mahalo, Hawaii!
Marc Garlett 91024

Pinewood Derby TrophyMy kids are both amazing artists, each in their own right. Truth be told, I think all kids are. When I produced and directed an improvisational theater company in Kansas City, one of my favorite things was giving improv classes to kids. They just get it. I didn’t have to convince them to suspend their disbelief. I didn’t have to teach them the art – yes, it is an art – of acceptance on stage. It was never necessary to direct them into a sense of play. They were naturals. All of them, even the shy ones.

So I delight in watching my own kids develop their unique artistic natures. Ella’s is more “traditional”. She dances and sings, paints and draws. And she has a flair for all of these things which makes it easy to see the artist in her. What blows me away is that as a 6-year old, she varies her style of painting, from realism to abstract, depending on her mood – even if she doesn’t understand the nuances of it all yet. Yan and I were looking through several of the pictures she’d just brought home from her after school program when we found a particularly abstract, colorful, painting. Yan said to her, “that looks like a Picasso.” “No,” Ella replied, “it’s a giraffe.”

Cade on the other hand, exhibits his artistic side as a designer, engineer, master builder. The intricate lego structures he builds are absolutely amazing. I’ve gotten him some complicated “assembly required” toys that he blazes through putting together just using the pictures on the instruction sheet. And last weekend we finished his pinewood derby car. The big joke on at the event was about parents making the cars instead of the kids. But this was Cade’s project. We studied a little about aerodynamics and gravity together and then he went to work designing, building and painting his car. I vetoed his use of the power tools but other than that, he was in charge and I was a simple laborer just chipping in at his direction.

Last year, for his first pinewood derby, I took the lead. In fact, I pretty much did everything. We didn’t win in the racing category, but we did win the trophy for most original design. He was disappointed because he knew it wasn’t because of him. That made me disappointed too and I vowed that win or lose, this year the car would be as much his as possible (minus the power tools, of course). And guess what? His car won second place in the wolf division! I loved seeing the pride swell up in him because he knew the car was his own creation, not mine. A valuable lesson for me; a great sense of accomplishment for Cade.

I love art because it’s all about putting yourself out there, creating, expressing, accomplishing. And I love watching my kids each finding their own inner – and outer – artists.

Marc Garlett 91024

Me and my boyCade absolutely HATES to lose. Okay, in all fairness, so do Ella, Yan, and I. So I guess it’s more accurate to simply say Cade CAN’T lose. I mean it really ruins his day. I love that he’s so competitive. In fact, I would worry if losing was no big deal to him. But I also worry that he has such trouble managing defeat. Life, after all, shows no mercy when beating us up and knocking us down.

Our family likes to play games together. They always start off so fun. But as soon as Cade suffers a setback be it losing a turn, having to go back a space, or even not getting the highest die roll, things deteriorate rapidly. I often find myself saying to him, “Games are supposed to be fun; if games just make you angry than we probably shouldn’t play.” That seems to help because he really does want to play.

Fast forward to Saturday as I was watching my beloved Chiefs (I was a Chiefs season ticket holder my 10 years in Kansas City and there is no team in the sporting world I’m more passionate about) play the Patriots in the playoffs. The Patriots are not only good at playing football, they are also good at cheating at football – or maybe not, since they’ve been caught cheating so many times. But either way, I knew the Chiefs were going to have a tough challenge in front of them.

And they did. The Chiefs were trailing late in the game and with time slipping away, so were my dreams of the Royals and Chiefs being back to back world champions. I became emotional. I yelled. I even swore. I was fixated on the television, absorbed in my own little world of pain. Then Cade’s voice broke through, “Daddy, football is supposed to be fun; if it just makes you angry you probably shouldn’t watch it.”

He didn’t say it with the sarcasm an adult might have laid in while pointing out my hypocrisy. No. He said it matter-of-factly and with genuine concern. The simple truth he recycled back to me pulled me right out of my funk. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself (and see clearly – for like the millionth time – that I am so often responsible for the behaviors I see in him) and hug him. I thanked him for his advice as I realized he really does listen to me. He internalizes what I say and can even apply it right back to me when appropriate to do so.

The Chiefs went on to lose the game but in the great scheme of things it did not matter. My son helped me get over it immediately and gain valuable perspective. I’m just not sure which one of us teaches the other more.

Marc Garlett 91024


Marc and his daughter Ella (3-years old)I love this time of year. True, I still haven’t come down from my Thanksgiving tryptophan high. And yes, I love watching the claymation Christmas specials on TV as much if not more than my kids. And of course, Christmas itself is extra wonderful when you experience it through your children. But what really puts it over the top for me is my daughter’s spirit and energy this time of year.

You see, Ella Luree’s birthday is December 20th. She was our little Christmas miracle – literally – 6 years ago. It’s funny because one of things we were worried about back then was that she would feel gypped with her birthday and Christmas so close to each other. But my little girl has a zest for life and an innate ability to look on the bright side of things (a trait she gets directly and in full force from her mother). She doesn’t feel gypped at all. In fact, she turns the whole month of December into a full fledged festival with herself at center stage. Even Santa, as far as she’s concerned, is only on the playbill in a supporting role.

I delight in her enthusiasm and excitement, even when it tires me out! For example, just the other night she was bouncing off the walls as we were trying to get her and Cade to wind down and go to bed. Exasperated, I raised my voice, “Ella, PLEASE calm down and get your pajamas on.” She stopped, looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said sweetly, “I’m sorry Daddy, I know I’m acting crazy but I just can’t help it because I’m so excited about my birthday!” My heart melted, my exasperation vanished, and I laughed out loud as I picked her up and hugged and kissed her. Of course to that she shouted, “kisses are gross!” and wriggled away from me.

Truth be told, I adore her. She and I share the closest senses of humor in the family. When one of us is playing around, or being sarcastic, or just acting silly, the other catches on and joins right in without missing a beat. And speaking of beats, Ella marches to her own drummer. Always has and I’m sure, always will. She knows what she wants and doesn’t let anything stand in her way. I really respect her for that but I can see a certain amount of pain ahead, too. At least for me. I want to protect and guide her. Yet I know she’s her own person and what’s more, SHE knows she’s her own person. If her ideas and mine don’t line up, she’s perfectly confident dismissing me and going off on her own… and she’s only 5! What’s it going to be like when she’s 15!?

So I love December. An already pretty cool month got even better when it gave me my daughter. And now I get to experience it through the eyes of a joyful little girl who loves life, loves her birthday, and squeezes absolutely everything out of December each and every year.

Marc Garlett 91024

Winners don't quit 91024I grew up in Wichita, Kansas. I played little league baseball there (with my dad as my team’s coach). And I spent many a summer day out at the municipal ballpark watching the Wichita Aeros, a triple-A farm club for the Cubs and Expos. So baseball was a part of my life – a big part, in fact – from early on.

The Kansas City Royals were the closest major league team to Wichita and we would take a family trip up to Kauffman Stadium (called Royals Stadium back in those days) once a year to watch the Royals play. I also remember my father buying me a clock radio and letting me fall asleep to the radio at night – as long as I was listening to a Royals game. I’m not kidding.

I moved to Kansas City, Missouri in my early twenties. During the ten years I lived there I was at the stadium for the Royals’ home opener exactly ten times. I never missed it. I was also at the park for a handful of other games each and every season. In short, I’ve been a Royals fan my whole life.

As you might imagine, I am ecstatic about them winning the World Series over the weekend. But most of all, I am impressed and inspired by just how resilient the Royals were this series, this post-season, and this year in general. After losing a heartbreaker in game seven of the World Series last season, the Royals came back to win it all this year. After being down late, in seemingly countless games this post season, they hung in there, never gave up, and found a way to come back and win most of them.

So, yes. I’m thrilled they won. But what makes me really proud as a Royals fan, and what I hope my kids remember about the 2015 Royals, is that they – as much as any team ever has – embodied the spirit of “never quit.” They could have hung their heads low and felt sorry for themselves after game seven last year. They could have played the blame game and been the victim at many points during this season. They could have packed it in and waited for next time during several of the playoff games they were just a few outs away from losing.

But they never did quit. Not for a moment; not a single member of that team. And they ended up coming back and winning most of the games they were on the verge of losing. And because of that resilience and determination, they are now world champions. I hope my children get that as the real take away message from this World Series and apply that lesson to their lives. Because that IS life. That’s what it’s really all about: not quitting, no matter what – in sports, in business, in marriage, in parenting, in everything. In life, winning is really just about not quitting.

Go Royals!
Marc Garlett 91024

_D0P7570 [F] smNo, that’s not a typo. My son, Cade, is really shining this year. After a tough, tough first grade year he seems to really be coming into his own. There are still challenges and issues, of course, but I couldn’t be more pleased with where he’s at and the progress he’s made.

Cade is now used to his glasses and his self image no longer seems to be tied to them. His reading has improved by leaps and bounds over last year and it’s not (as much of) a struggle to get him to read every night. His confidence is growing and so are his skills, not to mention the ember of enjoyment I see beginning to smoke when he feels successful with his reading.

Cade’s writing is also, well, fun to be a part of. His homework includes writing a short paragraph every night in response to a question posed to him such as, “If I were a cartoon character I would be…” I love watching his imagination sink its teeth into each question every night and he seems to really enjoy the creative aspect of his homework, too.

We are still playing catch up – he’s not where he should be yet – but we have a lot of momentum built up and our strides are strong and even. And as much as I’ve learned about him through this process (he is brave to have tackled something he initially felt hopeless about; he is determined to conquer it even if that determination is held in place by Yan and me; he is sensitive and imaginative and insightful and loving, and those traits manifest themselves in small new ways almost every week) I’ve learned even more about myself, and about being a father.

We’ve gotten in the habit of sitting down together every night, as soon as we get home, to do homework. And the most important habit – as well as the hardest to form – was my own. Cade follows my lead and all too often that leadership was about finding an excuse not to sit with Cade as he did his assignments. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like sitting with him while he tackled his homework. It was painful (sometimes excruciatingly so), boring, and more often than not left both of us frazzled and frustrated.

But that was really all about me, not Cade. Once I got it through my thick skull that the tone was set solely by me, it was I who needed to form the habit, and ultimately I alone determined whether the homework sessions were productive or not, it became much easier to sit there by his side for every minute of every session. And now I actually even kind of enjoy it. Not that it always goes off without a hitch. It doesn’t. But it’s another precious opportunity for us to spend time together and bond (I know that at some point in my life I’m going to look back and wish I’d had more of those), I get to be a hands-on part of his growing skill set and self-confidence, and most importantly, he really just needs his father to be there -right there, the whole time – offering help, support, and encouragement.

Being a father to a son is a special responsibility and relationship. It is so humbling to learn, over and over again, just how much he looks up to me as his role model. And it really is an honor to fill that role for this incredible little boy I admire and adore so much.
Marc Garlett 91024