Monday, December 29, 2008

Action Figure House

In guiding the family to purchase presents for JD that we have a “need” for, I wrote a fake letter to Santa detailing roughly ten items that would be good to purchase. One of those requests was for a unisex-oriented doll house.

If you've ever shopped for a doll house, you know that most of them are designed for girls. They are frilly with pink trim. There are some out there that are not as feminine, the nice all-wood ones. Ideally, I would have loved a large wooden house for him, but those are very expensive. My Mother-in-law gave him as gender-neutral a house as exists, the Fisher-Price Little People Busy Day Home.

When I told my friend TJ about the request, he questioned (99% in jest) whether a doll house would be the most suitable toy for a boy. I explained to him the developmental benefits of imaginary play. He accepted that with a tablespoon of salt. After all, he would never have such a toy for his two boys.

The next day, TJ called me up to tell me he'd had a revelation. “It's not a doll house, it's an action figure house!”

I like that. I can't help it; I'm still a guy. The idea of JD playing with some little people and make-believe house is one thing. There is no way on this Earth that he'll start playing Barbie. Maybe – a big maybe – if he becomes friends with a girl and on playdates at her house he plays with her Barbies because she's making him or that's all there is to do there. Sort of like toddler flirting. But he will never own a Barbie or anything like that.

Extrapolating on that idea, when JD wants more dolls to put into the house, we'll go about it differently. Of course, there are the little people who are part of this line of toy. But don't be surprised to see a Lance Briggs or Jonathan Toews doll in there. Maybe some little green army men. You know, JD and his buddies can raid the house like Navy SEALS on Al-Qaeda terrorists, that kind of thing. X-Men, Justice League. . . you get the idea.

Unrelated to this story, his hockey development continues to grow. His mother-in-law also got him a pair of “inline” skates (Fisher-Price My First Skates). As soon as he saw them, he had to put them on. He would wear them all day and all night if I allowed him. He is already able to stand up on them on carpet and pass a puck. Good times.

When I figure out how to deal with videos, I'll add one or two of him playing. Yeah, and he'll be 2 January 12.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Fashion Sense

City life brings out impractical behaviors in people. Today, I'm talking about women's winter fashion. Boots that have no traction and / or are not water resistant. Tights. Are you kidding?

Let me start with Ugg boots. I'm sure they are as warm as warm gets. But really, you're spending about $120 for boots that stay warm until they step in water. You know, snow, slush, that kind of thing.

Then there are the high-fashion boots. These are the thigh-high boots with a heel, sometimes a serious heel. Put on some tights and a leather or fur full-length coat on and you're looking hot. Seriously, it does look awesome. But it also looks stupid unless you're going to an evening affair. In the loop in a Tuesday is probably not the time you need to look like a rock star or a model. Especially when you're on your ass after stepping on a patch of ice. You'll get several strong hands offering to help you up, but that won't make the bruise on your hip heal any faster.

I've been walking around for the last few days and, let me tell you, there is plenty of snow and ice available. Not just little patches, but deep patches in inconvenient places like parking lots, street corners, and some neglected sidewalks. And with our type of weather that gets cold, then warm, then cold, repeat, while snowing on-and-off and salt going down regularly, there is plenty of slush everywhere.

So ladies, when you're looking for winter fashions, and you need to look good everyday, look to outdoor specialists. I saw a very handsome long coat by the North Face. There are certainly plenty of options at places like Erehwon. Ugg even offers intelligent choices like the Langley ($299 at Nordstrom). If that's a touch much for your budget, Target has boots from $25. Yes, much of the cold-weather options are earthy, but you won't end up with cold wet feet and are far less likely to end up on your ass. And, seriously, who's looking at your foot fashion in the middle of a blizzard?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Skills to Pay the Bills

I was just thinking about what a homemaker's skill set is. What is it that makes that position a skilled occupation?

Homemaking is not rocket science. Neither laundry nor cleaning are college-degree material. So why am I so tired at the end of the day?

There are two parts to the art of homemaking. First, the homemaker must have outstanding organizational skills. Second, the homemaker must learn to proficiency many skills that he or she may or may not have possessed before becoming the homemaker.

Again, doing laundry isn't hard. Keeping up with the laundry so that nobody runs out of underwear is challenging. Making sure that no dry-clean-only garments end up in the washing machine is challenging. Making sure that no garments are shrunk in the dryer is challenging.

Cooking is not easy. Making pasta with canned tomato sauce is easy. Planning for a week's worth of meals, shopping for the necessary items, and keeping up with changing palates is challenging. Making sure that the family is getting proper nutrition is challenging. Add to the skill set cooking food from scratch and making sure the produce is always fresh; now you're getting into homemaking professionalism.

Cleaning is easy. Running a vacuum cleaner, washing dishes, wiping down counter tops, and washing windows are easy tasks. Finding time to clean when you're not cooking or doing laundry is challenging. Oh, or chasing a child.

That's right, there's that monkey wrench. A person who has to be taught everything from holding a glass to cleaning up after himself is part of the daily routine. Try making chicken parmigiana with a one-year-old who wants attention. Not easy.

Staying spontaneously romantic. Properly grooming. Buying birthday and anniversary cards. Sending out thank-you notes.

These are my challenges. Laundry day isn't Monday or Wednesday or any other day. You never know when Mommy's going to need those brown pants for work. JD might decide to pee on his two bath towels two days in a row. Are we having company for dinner? Do I need to buy a gift for someone? Reservations? Add the new releases to my Netflix queue? We're having the family over for brunch and they are soooo excited to eat my french toast on challah with bacon and scrambled eggs?

All of the items I've mentioned are skills that require their own education and honing. There is an art to cleaning a bathroom just as there is an art to getting bread dough to rise.

And that is what makes homemaking an occupation.

My wife, the attorney, has her own skill set. Analytic reading, keyboarding, teaching, and scheduling are all skills she uses on a regular day. She reads faster than anyone I know with great comprehension. She is a go-to person for subordinates to ask for advice on cases. She is a stickler for details and deadlines.

Those are skills that I, too, use on a daily basis.

So while I'm not working for a living, I am working for our living.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What a year

Another year gone by. Yep, it's my birthday. Well, what's left of it. It's 10:45pm on December 3rd, 2008.

31 years old.

It's been an amazing year for me. The last few months have put an exclamation point on it.

JD, my son, turned 1 in January. My wife and I decided to attempt to conceive in July and were successful in August in our first few tries. (We officially found out we were pregnant with our second child September 24th, though we were pretty sure around Labor Day.) My men's league hockey team won the league championship in late August. Then my brother proposed to his amazing girlfriend in early October. On October 16th, my wife was voted into partnership at her law firm. Finally, we found out that we will have a girl in May.

I would say that's a top-notch year.

I find it amazing how, at least for me, we've had such good news among the terrible state of the economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down around 4500 points for the year, or about 35%. People are losing their money, their jobs, and their homes. Meanwhile, I'm basking in a cluster of happiness.

Conversely, in my worst year, 2005, my father was diagnosed with cancer in March or April and died in September. That was in the middle of the economic climb on the way to the 14,000 range from which we've slumped. The Dow closed around 10,500 during that September, up from the depths it reached in 2002 when it sunk below 8,000 for the first time since the tech bubble burst at the end of the 20th century. The economy was thriving and my father was dying.

And now the world is in turmoil and my life is about as steady as it gets. We're not without our own economic issues; we're certainly not swimming in money (don't let the label "partner" mislead you.) But we've got steady employment, we've got our health, and the future has many bright spots.

I really couldn't ask to be in a better situation than I'm in right now.