Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hide and seek

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. On your mark, here I come!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hole in One

So I'm at harborside international golg course in chicago with JD. We started on the driving range and have moved on to the putting green.

After a few minutes, he came to me and said, "look, Dad, the squares are missing."

What the hell are you talking about, I wondered. Then I realized what he was referencing.

"Buddy, the squares are only in the video game."

When we play Wii golf, there are squares that demonstrate the topography of the putting green to help aim and measure the speed of the putt.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Employees, Get Your Act Together

I am really tired of shitty service. With so many people out of work one would think that employees with jobs would be trying really hard to keep their jobs.
This has not been my experience lately. Two recent experiences demonstrate, but are not the limitation, of my viewpoint.

Last Sunday at the Chili's downtown Chicago, two kids meals, a soup and salad, and a pasta dish took twenty minutes to deliver. The restaurant was at least 50% full but not more than 75%. About fifteen minutes after placing our order, I started looking for our waiter. We hadn't seen him in some time, possibly since placing the order. Finally, I stood up and walked to the kitchen where I spied him carrying a tray holding our meal. The pasta and soup were lukewarm and the kids meals had obviously been sitting under the warmer. Seriously, dummy, just come and tell us that you screwed up and ask if you should bring the kids' meals out, the soup out, or something to keep my kids from acting toward the wrong side of their age behavior spectrum. We did not bother complaining. If you've been to a restaurant with small children, you know what a ticking time bomb each experience can be, just waiting for one to be done and demonstratively ready to leave. If you're wondering where the manager was during all of this, don't worry, so was I. I took the time to fill out the online survey to slam my experience.

Then there's Jewel on Ashland Ave. Many times when I'm checking out, the checkers are talking across the lines to one another. That's terribly unprofessional. One woman, in particular, always stands out. She never appears to be happy and is frequently heard gossiping about life or moaning about work. I don't want to hear it. It's uncomfortable as a customer to listen to all of this. She was checking my order and whining about her crappy life to her co-workers. Seriously, I know you have problems lady, but I don't want to hear about them while you're on the job and I'm making a purchase. After weighing the pros and cons, I called the manager after leaving the store and mentioned this behavior with the caveat that she's probably a good person, but that this was not the first time I'd heard her and, if I'm the manager, I want to hear about it. Call me a tattle tale, that is, unless you're a shareholder.

If I am ever again a manager, one of the first things that I will tell my crew regards professional conduct. First and foremost, when you are at work, you are not you, the individual. You are the company. And unless you are truly a specialist in your field, you are probably replaceable.

That is not to say that these are bad jobs or that the people doing them lack intelligence or creativity. There are many great employees who take their jobs seriously and make the customer's experience positive while taking care of routine upkeep.

The employees who are not doing so should be made to know that they are replaceable, that training a new person is far less expensive than having a cancer on the floor. A neutral customer experience can bring a customer back. A positive one and she'll send another customer. A bad experience will keep that customer, her family, and her friends from coming back.

And yet so many - the vast, yet visible and audible, minority - do not take the customer experience seriously and say things like, "I just work here." They stare at the clock waiting to punch it instead of finding ways to make the company better and be better at their jobs.

The cynic says, That's why these people have these jobs - they are not motivated individuals. I believe people have great capacity if only they give themselves the proper motivation. It's maintaining your job motivation enough?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Midnight Switcheroo

I was going to bed tonight around 130am when I went in the kids' room to check up on them.

Something looked strange. Toodles's blanket was bunched up from the top. I couldn't see her head. Into what kind of contortion has she arranged herself? So I checked under the blanket. Nothing.

Where was she? I looked up, or rather, forward.

There she was, curled up on JD's bed.

I found a suitable blanket and tucked her in. If it wouldn't have been totally disturbing, the camera would have been clicking.

Gosh they're amazing when they're sleeping.

Best Friends

There isn't much better than having your best friends call you up on a lonely Friday night and telling you the're picking up a 12-pack and coming over.

J Chales and J Philip were at the Blackhawks game. I was going to go out tonight, but with Toodles having a cold, I canceled the sitter and took them to the st alphonsus oktoberfest then home to read a story.

There I was, watching The Big C (a terrific show) when J Charles called me and asked what I was doing, then said he and J Philip were going to stop off at his house to pick up his xbox and a 12-pack, then on to my house to hang out.

It's an amazing feeling when you're thought of by people you love, when they are thinking about you and how to include you in their lives. A real confidence and self-esteem booster.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Not a Jedi Yet

JD was just acting out a scene from Return of the Jedi. It's the scene where Luke, Han, and Chewy were being made by Jabba the Hut to walk the plank into the moster in the crater.

JD was on top of the deck storage box with Toodles. He recited Luke's dialogue, "Jabba, this is your last chance. Free us or die."

Good stuff.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Receive, Process, Send Feedback

I have gone through phases of understanding JD's speech challenges.

When he was first diagnosed with a, "Speech Delay," and they said that he was one age group behind, we would do some therapy, he would get caught up, and all would be good.

That was three years ago.

About a year ago, I realized that this was not something like a cold or the flu. It's not something that we can cure or heal. It could be something that is a lifelong challenge or something that he grows to live with, and possibly quite productively.

Once in a while, I will talk to a friend and mention JD's speech delay. The response is usually, "What do you mean? He talks just fine."

Wife and I know from being around him regularly that his speech is not like other kids his age, or at least not like the more articulate kids. This has lead me to redefine his challenge.

Communication. It is not saying the words that is difficult. It is the process of sending and receiving information. If Wife asks him, "What did you do at the park today?" he is challenged to think back to the time we were at the park. He simply cannot think about the park, pick out a few highlights or the funny thing that happened, and relate it to her or anyone else. "What's your favorite food?" "What's your favorite dinosaur?" These are questions that he simply cannot process. If he is asked a yes or no question that is false, like, "Did you play hockey at the park?" he may say, "Yes," when he hadn't.

For me, putting some kind of definition or label helps me because I can put the issue into persepective. It's like using technical or conceptual terms in conversation - it eliminates or reduces subjectivity.

So now, if I tell someone that he has a speech delay and they reply that he sounds fine, I can briefly define it more accurately as difficulty with his overall communication skills.

Having defined it like that has also helped me communicate better with him. Alleviating frustration makes a happy household. So do chocolate chip cookies.

How Do You Spell, "Frustrated"?

Sometimes I wonder if I have the patience for job as a homemaker, if I'm really cut out for it.

I'm trying to teach JD how to write. Last year during preschool, he would write his name every day before class started. I got him to the point where he could do it on his own, then stopped diligently helping him do it correctly. Toodles was with me and was under two years old in a preschool classroom running wild and tearing up the joint for the five minutes I would spend with JD trying to get him to write his name correctly.

Did we ever work on it at home? Maybe once or twice. That's my bad.

So I'm really trying to do it now. For the last week, we have spent some part of almost every day doing some learning. Thursday, we did big and little "A" and "B". Today, I was just going to review "A", "a", "B", "b". "A" was not too difficult. He kept drawing the middle line past the vertical lines, but that will come with time. "a" was much more challenging.

I have shown him at least fifty times, maybe more. Hand-over-hand and doing it myself. Fortunately, I am, to some degree, ambidextrous, so I am able to write legibly with my left hand. (JD is left-handed.) Each time I try to get him to do it himself, he starts from a different place than I've shown him over and over.

For the most part, I have been very patient. After a while, though, I start getting frustrated and it comes out in my voice. "No! Not there! Here," again pointing out the correct place to start "a".

I have a feeling that this has, in some part, to do with his speech and occupational difficulties. Perhaps he is unable to keep the process in his head. I really don't know.

I need to find a place in my life that I can equate this challenge and it has to be a physical activity that gives me trouble. Perhaps it's like in hockey, my constant disability to calmly handle the puck as a defenseman in the offensive zone. I get the puck on the blue line and suddenly I become myopic and anxiety sets in. It is frustrating to my teammates because I have ruined more than one scoring chance by making hasty or errant plays. In my head, I know that I need to catch the puck, look up, find the open lane to the net to shoot or find the open teammate. It only takes a split second.

However, I have not had anyone take the time to practice this with me. I have not had the opportunity to have repetitions to make it automatic. Perhaps even if I did, it would still give me trouble.

Or I can scrap the analogies and attempts to relate and simply try to understand who my son is. He isn't me. He doesn't get it. It's a great challenge to JD to follow these directions. It may take hundreds of repetitions before he begins to get it right. I have to wrap my head around that reality.

If that's the case, then how many repetitions in one sitting is right? Perhaps I simply need to find the happy place between not enough and too much through trial and error. Find the right tone of voice, find the right reward, and all will be good. Maybe it will take a month before he gets "a" down (maybe more.) Perhaps once he gets it, then "b" or "c" will come easier. Perhaps it's getting his mind to understand how to understand and follow the directions more than his motor skills. Maybe once he starts understanding how one or two letters are constructed, he'll be able to understand how to construct others because there are similarities.

What challenges have you faced in teaching your child or children various skills?

Thanks for reading. Writing helps me organize my thoughts and feelings.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Wrinkle turns into a Meltdown

One of Wife's best friends, Rosie visited this evening. After playing with JD and Toodles for a while, they became rowdy and irritable. It was clearly time for bed.

I pulled the plug abruptly and made them say good-night without a warning. There was dissention in the ranks. Trudging on, I grabbed Toodles and put her in bed, then came back for JD and brought him up. We did our in-bed routine ("Twinkle Twinkle," "Jingle Bells," "Goodnight Moon.") Then I said good-night.

Toodles was complaining fiercely from the moment we made a move to go to bed. Then we couldn't find her "Bunny." Then she didn't want a blanket. Then she did. Then she didn't want this pillow, she wanted that one. I helped her while singing the songs and telling the story, then I walked out. As I did, they began calling for "Mommy."

Usually, we all go upstairs together, read a story or two in our bed, then they kiss Mommy good-night, and I do the in-bed lullabies. Going straight to bed from the living room and without Mommy was a big change for them and they were not happy about it. When I came downstairs, Wife asked what the problem was. I dryly replied that there was a wrinkle in their routine. Mommy replied that we should just stick to the routine. I rebutted that we should stray from the routine more often.

When is routine too routine?

The best thing about routine is that there are clear expectations and a lack of the unknown. Routine is comforting. But routine can also fail to allow for improvement, creativity, or finding something new.

In our brief discussion upon returning from putting the kids to bed, I recalled a story from seventh grade. The whole grade went on a two-night sleep away excursion to Wisconsin. One boy became so distraught on the first night that his parents were called and picked him up at midnight or later. While I had no evidence to support, I theorized that he had had few, if any, experiences sleeping away from home and that any time when it came up and he showed anxiety, his parents excused him.

While a routine and a schedule have the similar quality of alleviating the fear of the unknown, they are two very different things. A routine is something that is done on a regular basis in a similar fashion each time. Like showering or putting clothes away. A schedule is a list of events that will take place in a certain order.

Why am I comparing them? Because I believe that many parents use routine as a schedule. Doing the same things in the same way day-in and day-out. Having a schedule, in my mind, allows for creative imbalance.

Routine is comfortable for the parent as well as for the child or children. There is little thought that goes into routine. Once it is established, following it takes little effort. And there is little friction. That is probably the more important reason. Nobody likes screaming children. And they will scream if they don't get what was requested. I try to tell JD that there was a time when he hadn't seen Finding Nemo, and that when I told him I was going to play it on TV the first time, he resisted. Now, it's one of his favorite movies.

Is there any utility from routine? Absolutely. I surmise that a common threat between successful individuals is being anal in their routine. Having a routine takes the thought out of the mundane and allows for creativity and production in the same time space. At home, a morning routine can allow the family to move from pajamas through breakfast and preparation for the day. Have a routine for the way you get in and out of the car or for cleaning up toys.

Routine is a problem when deviating from it causes a disproportionate amount of stress. Having a meltdown because a certain story wasn't read at bedtime or because there wasn't a certain type of cracker for lunch is not healthy. It is mental weakness. And, please, do not give me some line about them being babies. They are little people. How many adults do know who get rattled for proportionate reasons? I'm sure you and I can find things about ourselves in this way. But do you melt down when there is a problem, feigning reason for screaming and tears, or do you get frustrated, then move to reason and solve the problem?

Make alterations to your routines part of your schedule. I believe that, like sleep training, a rough patch will lead to smooth sailing.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Really? A Cape?

Wife bought JD a Thor costume from Costco for around $20. I thought it was a frivolous purchase, but went along with it.

Since then, he has worn it almost every day. He has worn it everywhere - to the grocery store, the park, and out front to play with the neighborhood kids. He loves the thought of being a superhero.

Until recently, I thought that kids dressing up in costume in public on a regular basis was . . . silly. What were their parents thinking? Kids running around with capes on. I mean, come on!

Now that I'm the parent, I realize that they are trying on different selves. They are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be.

To go off on a related tangent, as an adult, I put on costumes more than I realize. Let's say I'm on the golf course. My tee shot has left me 235 yards from the center of the green. Seriously, what are the chances that I can hit the green from there? But still, I pull out my 3-wood and give it a rip. I've just put on my Tiger Woods costume. When I'm playing in a men's league hockey game and try to skate the puck from my defensive to the offensive end, I've just put on my Patrick Kane costume. When I try to pick stocks, I've put on my Warren Buffett costume.

While JD may not be able to harness the powers of Thor, just as I probably sliced the ball into the woods, he can harness some happiness and perhaps the thought that, if he works hard enough and dreams big enough, that he can be a super-something someday.

Toodles will be a Princess someday. Don't get me started.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Many of my favorite moments in the last few months with the kids have been watching or listening to them play together (when they play nicely.)

Today, while I was preparing dinner, they were playing in the living room. The living room is at the front of the house while the kitchen is at the back with a 10 foot hallway separating. Close enough to hear, far enough to be separate.

So I'm doing my thing in the kitchen when I hear JD say, "Toodles, do you have an 'S'?"

"It's right here!" she replied.

"Okay, Toodles, put a red circle on the 'S'."

"Okay, JD," she said. I had to peek in.

They were playing the I Spy version of Bingo together. JD was calling out the letters while helping his sister find her letters. He was very patient and not bossy at all.

While many other moments over the course of the day would tell otherwise, as well as a couple of marks on JD's face, they really love each other and do find ways to show it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Practical Development

I sometimes wonder if I give the right bablance of supervision and freddom to JD & Toodles. JD just came to get me from the kitchen to show me what he and Toodles have been up to.

For the last 20 minutes or so, I have been putting away the groceries that we picked up. Carrots and celery were peeled and washed, respectively, cut into sticks, and put into a container with water and a touch of salt. Contact solution and new toothbrushes into the bathroom. Filled the flour jar. Dumped the bad buttermilk. Stared longingly at the cold beer in the fridge.

When I walked into the livingroom with JD, he said, "Daddy, look!" Toodles was wrapped to invisibilty within a tan fleece blanket. There was a small pile of toys on her.

"Hi Toodles," I said with a bit of apprehension regarding the scene. "Are you ok?"

"Yeah, Daddy, I okay," sounding perfectly content. Back to the kitchen.

A few minutes later, JD appeared. "Daddy, come see."

The couch pillows were on top of the toys.

"Toodles, are you okay?"

"Yes, Daddy."

I told JD that, if she wanted to get up, that he had to help her immediately.

In the end, nothing bad happened. They were happy playing together. I was happy having a long while to get things done.

Sometimes I think that I use too much time to do these things. There certainly is a happy medium between free, self-directed play and structured play. Occasionnaly, I feel guilty that I've given too much time to chores, trying but failing to remember what structured activities we did together.

today, we were out of the house for over three hours, shopping at five different stores: Target, Costco, Aldi, Isaacson & Stein Fish, and Stanley's Produce. Since we've been home, I have spent the bulk of my time putting away groceries and other items, making lunch, and organizing the kitchen. So what could I have possibly taught them?

Over the course of the day, we talked about street smarts like looking out for cars; about keeping our fingers off of items that we aren't buying, about different kinds of produce, meat, fish, and shellfish; and about the things that we saw along the way like railroad tracks ("JD, did you know that Chicago was the railroad capital of the United States?") vehicles, and people.

The fact that we haven't sat at a table and worked on math, language, or science skills still bothers me a bit. One, the day isn't over. And, two, I did not neglect their overall development.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nobody Pushes Toodles

Our babysitter related this story to me when I came home from my daytime errands.

Toodles was on a slide at the local park. While sitting at the top waiting to go down, a little boy, roughly Toodles's age, pushed her so that she slid down before she was ready. Physically, she was fine, but she was crying.

JD saw this and, after the little boy came down the slide, proceeded to discipline the little boy. "Don't push Toodles down the slide!" said JD. "You go sit down. Time out!" he said, pulling the little boy by his sleeve. The little boy, though a bit wide-eyed, sat down.

Then, JD walked over to Toodles and asked, "Toodles, are you ok?"

"Yeah," she respondeed tearfully and sniffling.

JD went back to the little boy and explained to him how he shouldn't push other kids down the slide, that they could get hurt. Back to Toodles.

"Are you still ok?" he asked.

"Yeah," she responded, still sniffling.

Back to the little boy. "Go say sorry to Toodles," JD directed.

"No," said the little boy.

"Yes," said JD, "Go say sorry to Toodles."

"Ok," and reluctantly walked to Toodles and gave her a half-hearted, "Sorry."

My sitter told me that, all this time, she looked for a parent or babysitter to appear to defend/discipline/oversee the situation, but none did. She also said that she was in between intervening and keeping her distance. Because JD was doing such a good job talking to the boy, though sternly, and not hitting, she sat back and let him take care of the situation.

Wife and I have often talked and debated about the best way to teach JD to defend his sister. It's difficult to teach a child of four years not to hit, but suddenly allow him the judgment to hit if it is required to defend his sister. Apparently he picked up the appropriate tactics. JD simultaneously ensured Toodles's well-being while defending her honor and safety while using upper-level intellectual tactics. Rather than throwing himself on the boy and beating the daylights out of him, he used his words to handle an emotionally charged situation. It was the perfect combination of bravery and maturity.

And he knew that nobody pushes Toodles. Nobody.

I am neither pacifist nor war-monger. There is a time for action and a time for diplomacy. I'm proud to say that our son, in this instance, chose the appropriate course of reaction in this situation.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How to Score at the Park

After talking with a friend the other day, I realized that I have to change my position on a post I wrote some time ago, probably close to three years. ( think I wrote about this, but couldn't find anything.)

When I first moved to the Lakeview neighborhood, it felt as if women at the parks would not talk to me. I went to several parks and I felt like an outsider. Even worse, it felt as if women felt defensive when I was near.

That is no longer the case. I probably make a single-serving friend (see Fight Club) every other visit to the park. Maybe two out of every three visits. While I'm not good at translating that into playdates or a real friendship, it's nice to have a friendly conversation with no strings attached.

An interesting aspect of this new found . . . confidence at the park is that I tend to seek the company of women rather than men. When I see men at the park, it never is my initial instinct to consider the possibility that he may be a homemaker.

With respect to preferring the company of women, I can't say what that is, exactly. I do know that I am a man in a woman's world. And it still is. Part of the proof is marketing. Just watch daytime TV. I promise you will never see a clothes washing commercial aimed at male consumers. Even when I was in high school, I made several good girl-friends with whom I would talk for hours on the phone without any romantic connotation. Perhaps I am finally comfortable with my appearance and my life, a change from my teenage and twenties when I felt awkward and battled acne. While there is never (NEVER) any flirtation or romantic intention, I would be dishonest if I didn't admit that being confident with women makes me feel good about myself.

On the flip-side, why is it that I do not seek out guy-time when out with the kids? While few of the men I come across in public are homemakers, we still have plenty in common.

As I'm writing this, I wonder if there is something in me that wants to separate my home life from my social life. I love guy time. Love it. But when I'm having guy time, I like to get rude, crude, and rowdy. My humor is base and, at times, misogynistic. I love a good beer but ten is better and please pass the bourbon. Oh, and the F-word? I use F like Paula Deen uses butter. Golf? Is there any better place to be than your favorite golf course with your buddies? Okay, maybe playing a hockey game (including the locker room before and after the game as well as the beers in the bar after the locker room.)

Perhaps I should make more of an effort with guys at the park. I can only imagine how uncomfortable some may be. Perhaps they feel silly as I once did playing little kid games. Perhaps if a cool guy had made an effort with me when JD was little, I would have had a better initial experience.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

You know you're a homemaker when . . .

You can walk into a bathroom chewing a bite of food, wipe your child's butt then wash your hands, all the while seamlessly looking forward to your next morsel.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Don't Mistake the Bathroom for the Bedroom

Daddy, I have to poop.

The first time, I believed her.

We were laying in her bed, a twin-sized trundle bed extended from her brother's full sized bed which sits under a twin-sized bunk bed.

I purchased the mattress last week and the bedding this weekend. It was all made up, bright colors and familiar stuffed animals. She was armed with her new Cinderella pillow.

Noooo! No nap!


After calming her, we read 4 stories and sang three songs. Daddy, I have to poop.

We went to the bathroom across the hall. She peed. Denied having to poop. Back to bed.

Sang another song, then made a move for the door.

Screaming. I didn't break stride and closed the door behind me. Five minutes later, she opened the door. I met her. Daddy, I have to poop.

This time, I was skeptical. But we're in the middle of potty training and semi-successfully at that. (Much better than with JD.)

A little pee (no poop,) back to bed. A little screaming. Five minutes later, we met again at the second story landing. Daddy, I have to poop.

No, you don't, I replied. Back to bed. More screaming.

Ten minutes later, we meet again. By this time, we have to leave in 45 minutes to go to JD's speech therapy class, so it would cause more harm if she did actually fall asleep, only to be woken up minutes later to be transferred to the car.

I am writing this from my Motorola Droid phone in the parking lot at the produce market, waiting for Toodles to wake up so we can go buy granny smith apples for $0.98/lb. for Wife.

Oh, and it's 95 degrees outside, so I have had the car running with the A/C on for almost an hour. I didn't figure $10 worth of gas into the bed budget. Lesson: always tack on at least 10% to any improvement project.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Boys and girls

Toodles just asked me why she can't go pee on the fence.


Ode to a summer morning

530 screaming. Back to bed, I say.
600 screaming. Pillow over my head.
630 comes and all is calm. Time to start the day.

Time to poop, time to pee. Time to get your clothes on.

Breakfast time. Don't pour cheerios down your throat, please use your spoon.

I'm going to change the laundry, please don't follow. Don't push your sister, I said I would be back soon.

Time for sunscreen. Time to unload the dishwasher. Time to do your ABCs. Time to go to the park. Oh, snacks? Oh, water? Oh, shit, back in the house. Oh, towels? Oh, diapers? Oh, shit, not again.

Splash and play and making new friends. Smiles all around. I guess it was worth it. We'll do it again.

And again

And again

And again

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Quality Time

The ribs were in the oven. The cole slaw was in the fridge soaking in the vinegar and oil solution. The counters were wiped down.

Toodles and Wife were napping. JD was watching How to Train Your Dragon. A slow Saturday afternoon before friends would come over around 4 or 5 to barbeque. I was looking forward to playing 18 holes on, followed by the Sox at the Cubs.

As I opened the black metal picketed child gate to go downstairs, I heard that sweet voice.

"Daddy, do you want to watch Dragon Movie with me? Here," he said, patting the cushion next to him, "sit and watch Dragon Movie with me."

How could I say no?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Parenting - Full Metal Jacket style

"The Marines don't want robots, they want killers." -Matthew Modine as "Joker" in Full Metal Jacket.

That's possibly the most difficult thing to do as a parent.

No, I don't want killers = murderers.

I want fiercely independent, intelligent, emotionally stable, capable of giving and receiving love, free and creatively thinking human beings. Fearless but not senseless.

I want these kids to know that life means taking risks. Taking risks requires evaluation of the emotional as well as the material potential. "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail." - John Wooden

How do I plan to get the kids to that level?

By yelling at them every time they do something wrong until they cry and making them flinch every time I raise my hand.

Just kidding!

That's when I explain, as age appropriately as I can, what they can do next time he or she has the same problem. Spilled milk? To avoid spilling, hold the cup like this. When you spill something, we go over here to the towel drawer, bring one or two to the spill, and wipe it up. Jimmy hit you with a foam sword? Here's how you block the sword. If you don't want to play swords, put your sword down. Never turn your back on someone holding a sword. Peed on the floor? Go get some towels, I'll get the soap. Next time, try not to wait until you're about to pee in your pants.

These are valuable lessons, people.

You fell on your face and scraped your chin on the sidewalk? Up, up, up! Are you ok? Need a kiss? Ok, back to playtime. Run, run, run! No, no treats for every little boo-boo. Excessive bleeding requiring actual first aid can be accompanied by a dum-dum.

You jumped from the second stair? Ok, now jump from the third! Scared? I'll hold your hands this time. Next time, you do it yourself.

I will teach them that failure is when you sulk in defeat rather than learning from mistakes while moving toward the next opportunity. We will go over tests and quizzes. Ball games and Bar Matzohs. We will learn to learn.

Having the patience to have the explanation for the 1,000th time, knowing there will certainly be a 1,001st time is what makes us parents, not killers. Screaming and yelling is what makes us human. Being mentally unstable is what turns parents into killers.

I want no robots. I do not want my kids to succumb to peer pressure. It exists within people more than from without - perception rather than reality. Go with the flow because you like it, not because people you like to hang out with are part of it. One of the most frightening aspects of life is allowing the flow to take you to people and places you may enjoy even more. And that those places can help take you where you want to be. And that there are people and places that may have to be left behind. (Burn no bridges.)

They must understand that robots are good for a purpose. When it's original function is eliminated, solid state robots get thrown to the scrap heap. Others retool for the next type of service. Didn't make the soccer team? Try lacrosse. Try acting. Try chess. Or start training today for tryouts next year. Whining about the coach being unfair and political will help you not.

Lessons taught after failures. Wisdom is using those experiences for future successes. Made an mistake to lose the game. Got a sub-par grade on an exam. Was dumped by a girlfriend. Got in trouble with friends. Made the play that won the game. Got an A. Asked that girl or boy to dance.

Today was a 3rd of July barbecue at my brother's house. At one point, my 6-year-old nephew, JD, my sister, and I were using bean bags to throw at one another. (It started as throwing to one another and escalated. I probably had something to do with that.) I hit my nephew in the stomach. "Ow! That hurt!" he exclaimed, slightly upset that he felt a little pain. If only he'd picked up that bean bag and said with a big grin, "I'm gonna get you, Uncle!"

Yes, buddy, most of the best times in life came with a couple of bruises. They are markers of time and place. They are there to help tell the story. And stories are usually funnier if it's of a time where you fucked up. Hindsight is hilarious.

In the meantime, don't forget to have mindless fun. Like throwing bean bags at each other. Learning to live happy is the best lesson of all. Happiness is running through a muddy field on a hazy day holding a warm M-16 and screaming in amassed rage with your best buddies, practicing for the day you'll face the enemy. If you've ever played rugby, you know what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Prompt Response

Something I've learned (the hard way, as many of my lessons learned,) has been to respond promptly to an inquiry.

Would you like to get together this weekend?

I'm not sure. Let me check my schedule and get back to you.

Acknowledgement. It feels good to be acknowledged. Why is it so important? Because it reduces the feeling of unknown.

Unknown is, in my own estimation, one of the greatest stressors for humans. There is a general fear of the things that we don't know. The fear of the future.

I'm certainly not saying that every person is paralyzed by the fear of the unknown. It causes stress. You call and leave a message regarding school. When will I get a call back? The dentist office calls to ask if you can reschedule. You call back to tell them you're unsure about the timing but will get back to them.


So when someone asks something of you, reply quickly. You don't have to have the answer, but telling the person that their inquiry is being pursued will bring relief to him and make you look like you care.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Free Texting

My buddy @ Couponing For 4 shared this. I only have a 500-msg plan, so this makes a lot of sense. I then realized that, once I know the person's provider, I can save it as a secondary email so I don't have to remember every time. Enjoy your free texting!

Posted: 14 Jun 2011 07:49 PM PDT
Did you know that you can send text messages for free? If you don’t want to spring for the cost of a texting plan, I have your solution!
You can send a text to anyone by email if you know what cellphone provider they use. Here’s how:
AT&T –
Verizon –
T-Mobile –
Sprint PCS –
Virgin Mobile –
US Cellular –
Nextel –
Boost –
Alltel –
I have heard that there are Apps available for free texting, but if you are as clueless about Apps as I am, try texting by email!
Send Free Text Messages By Email is a post from: CouponingFor4

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Brief social commentary

First: men, don't wear white-framed sunglasses. Just don't. They're for women.

Second: don't put a yellow, diamond-shaped 'baby on board' sign in your car. As George Carlin repled, "Who gives a fuck?" Then, he went on with something about expecting others to alter their driving habits because you chose to bring a child into the world.

I agree. If you are worried about other drivers, take a defensive driving course. Buy a car that can withstand impacts. Only go to the grocery store at 3am. But, please, don't expect others to change because you did.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ages & Stages

My buddy who has two boys, 6 & 4, commented that the elder is going through the, "Satanic 6s." Looking forward to that!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Reliving Lost Time

A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to fall asleep. Flipping through the movie channels, I landed on Field of Dreams. I put it on and was just planning on watching for a minute or two before taking off my glasses, when I got caught up in it.

Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) was invited to go into the cornfields with the ballplayers and Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) was mad because he wasn't invited. Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) says, "If you build it, he will come," and looks to the side. There, taking off his catcher's equipment was  Ray Kinsella's father, John, but as a young man. As John walks toward them, Ray asks his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan) what he should say to his father. She replies, "Introduce him to his granddaughter."

That's when I start to choke up, as I'm doing now.

Ray introduces his wife and daughter to the man he hadn't spoken to since well before John's passing. John thanks them for building the field, then walks away.

As John walks away, Ray says, "Dad, would you like to have a catch?" and that's when I lost it, as I'm doing now.

My father died of pancreatic cancer in September 2004. I was married in August 2005. JD was born January 2007; Sydney May 2009.

So I'm watching this movie and I'm crying and it's almost midnight. But there I am, thinking about my Dad. The chance to have one more day with him, to show him my life and introduce him to my children . . . it's too much for me.

I've been thinking about my Dad a lot lately, more than I have in a short period of time since the months after his passing. I wondered why I was having these feelings now.

Right now, I should be cleaning the bathrooms. But I was making my bed and thinking about the trip we're planning for August. My sister-in-law responded that the same time that we're going is good for her and my brother. You see, she will have had her last chemo treatment about ten days prior.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer about two months ago.

As far as having breast cancer, it seems best-case-scenario. Found extremely early; the tiny tumor was close to the exterior; there is no indication of it having spread through her body. In other words, treatable.

She made a comment about getting some sun on her bald head (which it will become during her chemo treatments this summer.) So I started thinking about shaving my head for the summer, a way to be by her side. Then I wondered whether I was doing it for her or if I was doing it for me. Why would I do it for me? Then it hit me.

I'm planning on running the 5k at the Cancer Wellness Center event this Sunday. I'm doing it for my Dad and for Sis-in-law. But I'm also doing it for me.

When my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, I was 26. He died and I was still 26. He was diagnosed in February or March and died in September. I thought he was going to be okay when I first heard the news. He would fight it and we'd all go on. I did no research. All I did was internally criticize how he was handling it. It didn't seem like he was trying to fight. He burdened me by saying that we couldn't tell anyone. I didn't understand until I said all of this to my brother who responded, "I don't know whether to hit you or hug you."

Because what he had found out from his research is that pancreatic cancer is a death sentence. At that time, it was a 5% survival rate, and those who survived were in early stages. Dad was stage 3 when diagnosed. Death sentence.

But that summer I was working and living downtown, working around 50-60 hours per week, working at the business he bought from his father for $1 in 1966, the business I had grown up with and that had paid for my food, clothing, shelter, and education. Going to see him was not part of my routine. I didn't make time for it. It was out of my way. Besides, everything was going to be fine - he would pull through. And now, I can never get that time back.

So now I'm thinking about doing this race and shaving my head. That's when it hits me. Maybe sister-in-law's cancer is my second chance at being there for my family member who has cancer.

Not that she wants the sympathy or the attention - quite the opposite. She doesn't want to be the "cancer patient." How's work? Is better than, "How are you feeling?" Shitty, thanks for asking. I feel like I want to throw up, my hair is going to fall out / falling out and sometimes my insides feel like they're burning. And you? Let's just keep it to the normal stuff.

But it's not my cancer, it's hers. So while shaving my head still may be a good idea and for the right reasons, I should make sure it's . . . not the wrong thing to do. The race is the right thing to do because it's about me. It's me and the road. It's about me putting all of the grief that I have for my father and all of my support for my sister-in-law into every step.

I may cry at the end of Toy Story 3 or when in Old School Frank (Will Ferrell)

I can, and always will, feel his presence surrounding me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Maximizing Benefits

In paying a bunch of bills, I've figured out a way to maximize my savings and returns.

Savings? Returns? This will not apply to all of you.

Wife's company offers a payroll benefit for health expenses wherein we elect to have a certain dollar amount, up to $2500 annually, deducted in equal parts from her paycheck on a PRE-TAX basis. This reduces the amount of income taxes paid.

The company who administers this program allows us to either 1) pay for the service using their credit card or 2) get reimbursed for payments we make.

I am a Costco American Express holder which gives me 1-3% cash back on all purchases. So, I pay with my AMEX, then submit the payment for reimbursement. The money is deposited directly into our checking account, so I get it before I have to pay the bill, plus reap the rewards at the end of the year.

So not only do we get the pre-tax savings, we also get money on the back end. It takes some organization, but pays off.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Working Girl

Toodles was playing with her little play laptop. You know the type - has a bunch of pictures and shapes for the toddler to press, making the laptop talk and sing.

So she's playing and I said, "Time to get dressed."
Her reply: "Daddy, I'm working."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Snip Snip part 2

Dr Gonzales announced that he was finished and congratulated me on a courageous effort. Then he left me.

Take your time, he said. The nurse came in. Take your time, she said. Do you want me to get your wife? Yes, please.

Turnabout. Now she was the one helping me get my pants on, helping me walk down the hall. I made it about ten feet down the hall when I began to feel light-headed. There was an open exam room and I "quickly" made my way to the table where I laid down.

"Take as much time as you need," said the nurse. About ten minutes later, we were back on our way. Slowly.

Remember, I'm 6'5" and fairly athletic, so walking slowly is not part of my nature. But it was on this cool, gray, windy Thursday.

Slowly down the hall. Slowly out of the elevator. Slowly down the hall. Slowly into the car. Slowly into the house. Slowly up the stairs. Slowly into bed.

Vicodin was my friend.

Did I mention the athletic supporter? No, not a member of a university booster club. In my pre-op instructions, they had me bring a jock strap. After my surgery, they packed my penis and scrotum with gauze, gave me special underwear (boy shorts) and then Wife helped me with the jock.

This became terribly uncomfortable over the next two days. Two days before I could take it all off. That's when I was allowed to shower. The water would help detach the bown, blood-stained gauze from my private area.

Aren't you glad I'm sharing all of this?

Now it's Tuesday and in the sixth day of my recovery. Wife was terrific over the weekend, taking care of Toodles, JD and me. We have arranged for a sitter Monday through Thursday to come from 6am - 11am when she is relieved by my mother.

I'm sitting in bed, my laptop between my legs, playing and watching premium cable. (Just finished the Showtime series, Shameless.) It was great for a couple of days, but it is starting to get boring. My time is supplemented with checking news, finaancials, playing sudoku, and texting everyone I know.

More to look forward to? The Chicago Blackhawks are back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs! They start Wednesday night 9pm Central time.

Any TV suggestions? Yeah, I should read and write. For some reason, this is not a terribly inspirational time for me. I really do just want to sit and mope. Forgive me.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Snip Snip

Just in case there's any confusion, yes, that is a reference to a vasectomy.

The severing and sealing of the vas deferens, the tubes that carry sperm from the testes to join semen in the urethra. The intent - to infect an egg within a woman's uterus.

Let's start with, "Why?"

Certainly, that's what my scrotum was asking during the procedure. "We were all doing just fine! Why are you punishing us?" Yes, I wondered that myself as the needle carrying the local anesthetic was being inserted.

Well, for starters, we don't want more kids. When Wife and I talked about having kids, she wanted one while I wanted three. We decided to start with one and go from there.

As many of you know, pregnancy can be difficult. Some women enjoy the experience. While there were certainly some sweet, tender moments during her pregnancy with JD, it was not something Wife wanted to repeat. The heartburn, the lactose intolerance, the difficulty sleeping, carrying around the weight, losing the ability to drink red wine, and the internal kicks to her ribs all contributed to her feeling rather put-off by the idea of another pregnancy.

After convincing her that growing up without a sibling would be unfair, we decided to conceive again. Different pregnancy, different problems.

So we had our two kids. Our wonderful kids whom we adore and love with every ounce of our beings.

Wife had JD at 34, Toodles at 37. How old does a person want to be when their kids are growing up? To each their own, but we had our two and that's great.

Condoms are getting old. For Wife, hormonal contraception is not an option. And we are very fertile together. Both kids were conceived within a few tries. For us, one mistake could easily lead to another pregnancy. (I would never use the phrase, "Unwanted," because, if something happens in the future, I would never want that child to feel as if they were a burden rather than a blessing.)

Oh, and potty training. It sucks. Changing diapers is fine for the first 18 months. Then it starts to become a burden. I actually can tolerate the smell. It's the fighting. Having to pin Toodles legs back over her head because otherwise she'll kick or or her poop or get it all over the place sucks. She's crying, I'm angry. There's nothing good about that situation.

Sleep deprivation. While we have two outstanding sleepers, There is still those first 8-12 weeks where 5 hours of sleep feels like a full night. No thanks.

So back to the procedure (and I'll keep it brief.) There was some pain, but it wasn't torture. I wouldn't say that it was easy, because it wasn't. Dr. Chris Gonzalez of Northwestern Memorial Hospital was awesome. We had a bit of a chat and he was great about talking me through the whole thing.

We even had a bit of a chuckle. Talking about being an at-home Dad, I said that there are many days that I wish I had an office to go to. He agreed, saying that after many weekends, he's glad to get back to work. I replied, "Yeah, can't wait to sink your hands into some testicles."

Not sure how that comes across on a blog, but it was funny at the time :)

After the surgery is really when the story starts. I'll put that in the next entry.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hug it Out

Toodled and JD were playing in the livingroom while I cleaned the kitchen and did some dinner prep.

Toodles began yelling, "Ow! Ow!"

I walked to the hallway that connects the kitchen to the living room. Toodles was charging toward me, still yelling, "Ow! It hurts! My arm!"

Squatting to see the problem, she pointed to the back of her hand. Then she said, "I want hug."

We hugged for a moment, then she let go and ran down the hallway to resume playing with JD.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Teaching Opportunity

I have been asking JD, my 4-year-old son, to clean up his plate and glass after his meals.

Today, I has using the potty when I heard a crash. There was no doubt that JD had dropped his plate. He was distressed.

I assured him that it was not a problem. After cleaning up the mess, I got another plate. After placing it on the table, I demonstrated how to use two hands and to bring it to a large, open area of the counter near the sink. Then I asked him to do it and gave him a high-5 and a hug.

Listening to Hawk Harrelson announce White Sox games, I have learned a few of his wise sayings. Two apply here. First, experience is something you got when you didn't want to get it. Second, the worst thing you can do after a failure is to dwell on the failure rather than learn the lesson so as to be successful the next opportunity.

Funny things

JD and I were watching Fresh Beat Band when one of the characters, Twist, went into space. I asked JD what he was doing. JD replied, "He's in space. He's looking for E.T."

How cute is that?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Just a minute, please!

With a gifted speaker comes some difficulty. Toodles, now 22 months, regularly uses 4 and 5 word sentences. The downside is that, when she asks for something, she doesn't understand concepts such as time or sanitation.

She may come to me while I'm handling raw chicken and ask for milk. Just a minute, please, I say to her. I want milk, Daddy. Just a minute, please. She begins to get frustrated and is soon crying and yelling at me.

This would be tolerable if it only happened, say, once a day. But it happens at least four or five times. Every day. At the dinner table. In the car. On a walk. At the playground. She wants something that isn't immediately available. And she gets pissed.

I have been trying to be patient, but I occasionally lose my mind and control and yell back. Of course, that only makes everyone upset. As with most undesirable behaviors, it is more a matter of time than teaching.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Funny thing she said . . .

Toodles and I sat down for a tea party. After dumping out the tea set, she began 'pouring' the tea. Then she picked up one of the plastic pieces of cake. I asked for a bite, so she held it to my mouth. Then I smiled and said how yummy it was. She looked at me, smiled, and said, "I made it for you, Daddy."

Melts my heart.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Goals for the week ending 3/25

1) clean up & plan dinner (including prep that can be done ahead of time) @ night after kids are in bed
2) plan academic / play activities for Toodles while JD is @ preschool
3) same for JD after school when Toodles is napping
4) decide between donating toys &  clothes or have a garage sale
5) contact landscaper & painter to plan spring improvements
6) win hockey semifinal
7) blog at least every other day

Thank goodness for the Android blog app!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


She's a horrible little girl. She's wonderfully smart. She's got big blue eyes and fine, golden hair. She screams. When I call for her to come to me, she stares at me like I'm a moron. When I ask her to stand, she sits down.

She's 22 months old.

She's my Toodles.

Yes, willful and wonderful. Bright and stubborn. Humorous and serious. Bipolar?

I guess the question is, should I battle her to ensure that she is the disciplined child that I seek to raise, or do I conserve my energy and give in to her little protests and demands. She dumps her plate to the floor every day. She knocks her milk or water to the floor every day. Getting dressed is a nightmare. Changing diapers is war. Getting out of the house requires an extra three to five minutes depending on how many times she runs away or decides to take a dump after I've put on her shoes and jacket and go to working on my own or JD's. In her car seat she bucks and straightens.

When is she easy? She is easy when it's 1-on-1 time and we're playing. Oh, at a park? A pleasure. Reading? Awesome. Puzzles, play-do, you name it.

But seriously, do I give in or do I stick to my guns? I get so fired up because I can be nice or I can yell and she doesn't care. My patience is wearing thin . . .

Monday, March 7, 2011

Self-Cleaning Service

I had an epiphany. Why pay people to clean my house?

We started with our cleaning service when we were both working, before we had kids. At that time, it was nice to have somebody else take care of the dusting, clean out the fridge, and of course, the bathrooms.

Then we moved into a house. More dusting, one more bathroom. So on and so forth.

I am spoiled enough to get a sitter during the day for 4 hours every 2 weeks. That costs $10/hr. I figured that, as unattractive as cleaning the house sounds, I could do it as well as the service in about the same amount of time, maybe a bit more. With a sitter every week we would still save $80 per month. Win, win!

The service did a good job of cleaning. I mean, they're a cleaning service. It's not rocket science. Inevitably, though, I would spend a good twenty to thirty minutes fixing things they misplaced, like pots and pans, toys, or pictures on shelves.

So I did it - cancelled the service and set out to do it myself. What happened the first time I had a sitter and was all set to go to town on the house? My sis-in-law got sick, so I spent 90 minutes shopping for and dropping off sick supplies. You know what happened - the house did not get cleaned. I got a couple of bathrooms done, but nothing what I'd envisioned.

Then I realized that I didn't necessarily have to clean the whole house in one shot. I created a schedule where Monday I did the basement, Wednesday the second floor, and Fridays the main floor, including the kitchen. I did that for a week, but the amount of time was uneven. Doing the main floor included the kitchen, the most time consuming place in the house. So then I decided that I would do the bathrooms one day, the vacuuming one day and the kitchen one day. That has worked out the best.

The pluses: unexpectedly, the house is staying cleaner on a regular basis. Perhaps it is the knowledge of what it takes to get it done, but I think it's the knowledge that nobody else is coming to do it. Also, I am throwing more things away, reducing clutter.

The minuses: I have to clean my house. It sucks. I've never been a neat and consistently organized person. My said that I used to leave a trail of toys all over the house, never cleaning up as I went. Doing this has challenged my ability to change who I am as a person. I have to schedule the time and make it happen.

And that's where I am right now. I'm learning to be something different. It has brought added stress and an added sense of accomplishment. It's probably good for the kids, too. Heaven knows they'll be taking on these chores as soon as possible! That's a few years down the road, when I've got the system perfected.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Consequences of the Gifted

Since I write so infrequently, you may not know that JD was long ago diagnosed with a speech delay. He continues to struggle with certain speech elements.

Toodles, however, is the opposite. At this point, she is clearly verbally gifted. At 22 months, she not only has a fully functioning vocabulary (I couldn't possibly count the number of words she uses) and uses her words in complete sentences. It is a pleasure hearing her sing various lullabies, play with dolls and action figures, talk with JD, and respond to questions. She knows all 26 letters of the alphabet, recognizes numbers 0 - 9, and can count to 22. I have begun to teach her to read, though that hasn't materialized, but I would not be surprised if she is reading by 3 years old.

And it's nothing that I push on her. She asks to do puzzles and points out letters. The most I do is raise the bar, speak Spanish, count higher, spell out words and try to write letters. She is enthusiastic about learning.

There's always a "but" though, isn't there?

While speech delayed, JD's gross motor skills are at the top of the charts. He was able to throw a ball on target at six months old. When he was 18 months, he picked up a hockey stick and by two-and-a-half, could place his shots. At four years, he can wind up and throw a pitch for a strike and hit a pitched baseball.

All of that power invited consequence. Playing with kids his age was impossible. While other kids would pick up a ball and run with it, fearful that they would not get the ball back, JD understood the reciprocal concept of a game of catch. He threw the ball so much harder than kids his age, they would get hurt; he was too small to catch balls thrown with the same power. We put him into soccer and floor hockey with older kids, which exposed his social weaknesses. So while I love to play sports with my son, we are confined to that capacity for the next 6 months to a year, when, at 5, either other kids will have caught up or JD will be able to compete with kids slightly older. (He is 90% for height, 75% for weight.)

Toodles's vocabulary comes with a lack of maturity. I was handling raw chicken and she asked for a cup of milk. I told her, "Just a minute, please." That wasn't good enough, though. While she understood what I was saying, she had no concept of time, so again she asked. Again I answered. Again she asked, but with greater urgency. As this call-and-response continued, our collective patience ran thin and I found myself, on this less-than-my-best day, yelling at a 22-month-old girl with big blue eyes and curly blond hair.

Today, on our 40-minute-drive from the burbs to the city, Toodles didn't want to sit in the car. How do you explain to a 22-month-old that we have to go home; to get home we have to ride in a car; riding in the car means being buckled into a car seat? After 30 minutes, she fell asleep. Until then, there was screaming, whining, and pleading to get out of the car. To our credit, neither Wife nor I yelled back. We ignored her least rational communications and gently tried to overcome her intelligible objections.

While we don't expect our children to be perfect at any point in our lives, we do hold false hope. I say false hope because, as we have experienced with JD, with every problem overcome, another is around the corner. To the optimist point-of-view, with every milestone passed, another achievement is around the corner. Those are the ones that keep parents happy.

Those first steps, first words, first game of catch, first day of school, first competitive sporting event, first performance and all of the other goals we look forward to are out there. With all of the opportunity children (and adults) are afforded, come consequences. It is the ineffective parent who can only see the troubles ahead, the problems to come, the difficulties to overcome.

I actually look forward to helping my kids through heartbreak as much as to sharing their successes. Why is that? Because it's easy to help them with the things that don't require motivation, that come with smiles. It doesn't take much effort to feed them cookies, but a lot to get them to eat vegetables. It's easy to play catch or sing ABCs, but it's hard to be patient, to urge them to improve in areas that don't come naturally. In my limited experience, though, the successes borne from those drills bring the greatest pride.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

To Those Who Put Themselves in Harm's Way

 I don't think there is a better music video depicting the harsh reality of war.

Neither warmonger nor pacifist nor isolationist nor imperialist, I believe there is a time for war. Violence should never be an emotional reaction, but out of necessity. War is to defend an invasion and to help a friend. While the words "defend" and "friend" carry subjective definitions in this case, I hope we can all agree that we hope that an alternative is always first sought.

We must always remember the price that is paid by the individuals that serve as the families that support those individuals and the communities that support those families.

Tim McGraw, "If You're Reading This" youtube video.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Single Tasking?

Have you found yourself looking for ways to multi-task, even when the situation calls for focus on a single item?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Providing for Our Kids is Costly

I was listening to WGN 720 AM yesterday and they were discussing a recent criminal case wherein a woman was arrested for sending her two kids to a school in the district in which her father lives, but she and her children do not. While I have not fully read the charges, I gathered from the report, discussion, and callers that Kelly Williams-Bolar was not arrested out of the blue, but after repeatedly lying about her residency and even having her father file false documents with the courts.

People want to be able to send their kids to the best schools, or the schools of their choice. We all understand that. Unfortunately, the world, whether you live in a capitalist, democratic, autocratic, socialist, or other social order, does not have equality in education. It is not possible. There are going to be geographic locations that attract better teachers and better students.

I went to Deerfield high school in Deerfield, IL. We had three things going for us. First, the money to pay for the best teachers. Second, parent involvement. Third, kids who came from homes who expected their kids to go to college, meaning expecting them to do their schoolwork, show up to school, etc. (Not that the kids were angels, by any means.) What parent wouldn't want their child in that environment?

For sure, there are plenty of grandparents living in district.That does not mean that their grandchildren should be allowed access to the schools. Why stop there? What about aunts and uncles? Cousins? Second cousins twice removed?

Okay, so I'm getting silly. But there has to be a line that cannot be crossed and that line is defined by the parents living within the district. If people want their kids to go to the school of their choice, they can apply and pay as if they were in private school.

If you want your kids in better schools, then MOVE THERE. Or pay non-resident tuition. Period. If you can't afford it, then take extra time yourself to give them extra lessons. Public libraries have plenty of resources. There are a number of free online educational tools.

Could she afford to live in the district? Probably. In the type of accommodation that she would like? Maybe not. But life is full of opportunity and opportunity cost. Want your kids to go to Deerfield schools but your family makes $50,000? Or less? You'll probably have to rent a tiny apartment. Guess what? People do it. But what are they willing to sacrifice to get more out of life?

Teaching children to take illegal shortcuts will only create adults with a lack of ethical character. For sure, that was not what Kelly Williams-Bolar was trying to accomplish. But when her kids are faced with a major dilemma, will they make the ethical decision?

Perhaps we often forget what our family went through to allow us to live where we do - in the United States. My Grandfather came from Eastern Europe around 1910 in the hull of a steam ship, slept in haylofts, and hauled coal and ice while going to night school. All so that his kids could get a proper education in a safer place. And my parents for sacrificing all of their time and savings to buy a house they could barely afford so that we could go to the very best schools. Black? Asian? European? Protestant? Catholic? Jewish? Muslim? It doesn't matter. That's how we all came to be here - because it sucked back there. Those people had dreams of a better life. Well here it is. Do something with it.

Quit making excuses for people who aren't willing to do what it takes to make their dreams come true. I have greater goals than I have focus. But I don't whine about what I don't have, what I haven't accomplished. I don't have those things because I haven't made the sacrifices necessary to bring them to life.

There are people out there who believe that the people making the most money have been handed something for free. I beg to differ. While there are a handful of trust-fund babies out there, by and large the most that higher income earners have been handed was opportunity. Instead of doing drugs and screwing around during high school and college, they were doing their homework, getting As and Bs, then going to graduate law or medical school, racking up tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in educational debt. It is up to most people in this world to make the most of their situation. Instead, many wish their situation was something else instead of maximizing the resources within reach.

I'm not trying to point a finger or blame anyone. I'm trying to encourage individual responsibility. Take responsibility for what you have and where you want to be. There are no golden tickets. The lottery is not going to be the answer. Making unethical decisions to provide for children will bear lessons in illicit behavior. Stress education. Stress ethics. Expect effort. Expect excellence. Don't settle.

A friend of mine once defined luck as the time when preparation meets opportunity. That's the best thing you can do for your children: prepare them to take advantage of the opportunities that await them.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Vote, Please!

Please vote for Grand Marais, MI. If you can do so everyday, it would be a huge huge favor to my friends (many of whom I consider family) and to me. Their project not only supports the livelihood of this small, Upper Peninsula town, but also supports safety for boaters (both individuals and commercial liners) as a safe port from the well-known treacherous storms of Lake Superior. Thanks again.

Try It

Toodles was sitting in the middle of the carpeted basement floor with a few little animal action figures arranged in front of her. She was holding a miniature soda bottle from a kitchen play set. Holding the mouth of the bottle to each animal's lips she said, "Try it."

Earlier this morning, I made and served pancakes to the kids. Toodles noticed that I was dipping mine in syrup, so she pointed and said, "Sauce." I put a dot of syrup on her tray and said, "Dip your pancake in the syrup." She declined. So I took the pancake in her hand, dipped it in the syrup and, against her will - trying to twist and turn away from me, touched the syrup to her lips. She licked a couple of times, opened her eyes, smiled, and went to town on pancakes and syrup, her new-found joy.