Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mixed messages or mixed perspective?

Seething I would like to think more about is the difference in parenting styles that, like most couples, Wife and I have.

Sometimes I am concerned that the fact that we allow different things and are harsh about different things will confuse the kids and make them unsure about the "rules."

On the other hand, life is mixed messages. Police officers give warnings. Taxes have loopholes and exceptions. Different teachers expect different criteria for an "A" paper. Different managers have varying on the job expectations.

Kids adapt and learn. They know that one parent is more strict about certain things but allows others. They learn the patterns.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Divide and Conquer

JD ordered French toast and shared one of his two pieces with Bunny.

I asked Bunny, "Into how many pieces do you want  it cut?"

"10, please."

"Okay. How many cuts do I need to make?"

"5," came the reply. From JD.

Wife and I looked at each other in shock. "Well done, buddy! That's right!"

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kicked in the sweet spot

I don't like getting kicked in the balls. I mean it. Not one bit.

So you can imagine how displeased I was when Bunny squared me up this afternoon.

Here's the story. Bunny and I were inside a friend's house, dropping off Bunny's playmate when it was time to go.

She had gotten comfortable, as we stayed for about ten minutes before having to leave to get JD from school and immediately get to his OT appointment. I gave her all of the expectations I could: we're staying for five minutes. Two more minutes. Thirty seconds. Time to go! :)


Instead of getting angry, I tried to empathize with her, so I picked her up. She willingly came up on me, but then amped up her frustration and started kicking.


Then I became angry. No, I was fucking pissed. Them she became scared while still being upset about having to leave. So I had to tell her, in no uncertain terms, that it was time to leave.

There is a lot that I let go. No, that's not true. I have high expectations of my children. I do let plenty go, but, when it comes to manners and respecting elders, it is near zero-tolerance. Insubordination is dealt with harshly.

Another position might say, how can you expect your child or children to learn good manners when you are yelling at them?

That is a real dilemma. There are times when I am patient, even in those zero-tolerance situations. But when we are in moments of urgency - on our way to an appointment (we have many) - there may not be time for patience. While I am not punctual to a fault, I do respect others' time. And so I utilize the tricks of the trade to help the kids understand what is expected of them. Schedule, countdown, building in a reasonable amount of time for the unknown.

Then they do things to demonstrate that they don't care, that they are the selfish, egotistical creatures that is age-appropriate behavior (especially in our post-corporal punishment era.)

And it is those moments that I really, truly do not know what to do. I don't like to yell or intimidate. It feels awful.

And there is no resolution to this entry. I don't have any answers. I am doing my best, but is that good enough?

Friday, October 25, 2013


I saw chewed hamburger in the sink when I went to brush my teeth.

My guess is, one had some in his or her mouth when going to the bathroom to wash hands after dinner.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Comfortable Silence

If you ever want to hang out with someone who knows how to be quiet, hang out with JD. He knows how to shut up and hang out.

We're at Wrigley Field right now for Wrigleyville neighbors day. The Cubs host this every fall. To be eligible, you have to live within certain ZIP codes and subscriber to their neighborhood newsletter. I have signed up every year in the lottery and this is our second time being selected.

We have climbed the stairs, walked around the concourse, and played catch. The Cubs also provide free hot dogs, burgers, chips, soda, water and beer. Yes, free beer!

So we're on the right field corner seats, watching people play catch on the field, eating hot dogs, chips and drinks, and not saying anything.

And it's awesome.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Would you rather...

I would rather be a nerd than a social-climbing brown-noser.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Question of Aspiration

Is it better to accomplish less than to which you aspire, or is it better to aspire to accomplish less?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Positive Life Change

Okay, so not that dramatic.

I have nearly permanently changed my phone setting from ringer to vibrate.

Why is this significant?

Because I'm not looking at my phone every time I get email notifications, which is far more often than I get phone calls.

That has resulted in looking at my phone less often. My concentration on the tasks at hand has increased. I am paying more attention to the world around me than on the world I think I'm missing.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Downtown Drunk Update

So two weeks ago, I wrote about having gained a bunch of weight by way of eating and drinking too much. I have been on a path toward self-improvement over that period and wanted to give a status update.

Last weekend, I weighed in at the gym. 204. So, I lost around nine pounds in a week.

This morning - 201.

That's right - in two weeks I lost around 12 pounds. I cannot report any magic or special diet, but can tell you about my regiment.

Early to Bed, Early to Rise
One thing that I wanted to do was curb my late-night snacking. With a bowl of cereal here, some cheese and crackers there, maybe some chips, snacking could easily add up to over 500 calories. All of that was cut out.

The second benefit was that I was getting up early and getting moving. More movement = burning more calories.

Do Away with Drinking
Of course, I chose a weekend to challenge myself. Right in the middle of my two-week detox was Labor Day weekend. The most challenging day was Sunday. Had a party in the late afternoon that featured an open bar and many of my good friends drinking all afternoon. That was followed by my brother and sister-in-law sleeping over. They continued drinking. I abstained. That was hard.

I did cheat by having a couple of glasses of red wine on Rosh Hashana this past Thursday. God didn't seem to punish my lack of commitment to my regiment.

For breakfast, I cut down on the volume of cereal in my bowl and my mid-morning snack. A couple of days, I did an omelet instead of cereal. One day I had a smoothie featuring non-fat strawberry Greek yogurt, a banana, some ice, and some 1% milk. It was pretty good and I am not a fan of yogurt, Greek or otherwise.

Lunches consisted of leftovers.

Dinner was one of the things that I didn't change. Wife and I eat pretty healthy at dinner time every week night. We have a good pool of low-cal recipes that are arranged for the week on Sunday or Monday. All of the recipes are less than 400 calories and some are closer to 200. Add some bread, brown rice, and extra veggies and it's still a healthy number. The leftovers go to lunch and that keeps the calories down then, too.

Finally, I have continued my running regiment in the morning. It's nothing spectacular - I run to preschool drop-off which is 0.70 miles, though I usually extend that to 1.25 - 1.5 miles if we leave early enough. Then it's a 0.5 / 0.6 mile sprint to elementary school for JD. Since I'm not going long distance, I go at a pretty good pace (for me,) usually under 8:30 / mile (and that often includes hitting a red light and some stop sign traffic.) I may have mentioned doing the 50-50-10 that we were supposed to do for sophomore football practice. Well, I have yet to get all 50 sit-ups or push-ups. However, I have done some ab work and push-ups during that time. Winter hockey season started this week and that will add to my workouts. Unfortunately, many calories burned during the game will be offset by beer(s) after the game. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

So, how did I manage to lose 12 pounds in two weeks? The magic of:

DIET AND EXERCISE. It's not complicated, friends. A healthy lifestyle will lead to a healthy body. Understand portion control. Break a sweat. Feel the burn. But nothing loses weight like food portion control. If you can consistently eat between 1500 and 2000 calories per day, you'll likely lose weight or maintain if you're already at a healthy number.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Little Foodie

Bunny is eating poached salmon with dill sauce. If that wasn't impressive enough, she said, "The sauce is so good! It's the most delicious part."

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Night Time Routine Evolution

I think I remember how our night time routine has evolved.

I am trying to remember what we did when we only had JD. I think we would read to him, then put him to bed. Perhaps Wife can comment about that.

Around The Block
When Bunny was born, things changed. She would scream every night until it became routine to go for a nightly walk in my arms around our block. So, from June through October, around 7:30 or 8:00pm, that's what we would do. I would sing to her or tell her about the things around us. We passed the same places most nights and met people who were outside at that time. It was a great and memorable time for me. Bunny would sometimes fall asleep, but often just lay in my arms and look around.

Story Time
We have almost always done story time in our bed. Now that the kids are reading, we have changed from simply reading a story to them. JD and Bunny each read a beginning reader book to us. I am planning on having them read the same story for a few days, or until they sound like they can each read all of the words fluently. Then, we read a chapter from a chapter book. Currently, we are reading, Charlotte's Web. After story time it is time for bed.

"Take that JD! Take that Bunny!"
After story time, JD would say, "Take that JD!" and wait for me to pick him up and throw him into bed. Then Bunny caught on. So I would carry both of them, sometimes one at a time, sometimes together, to their room. That rarely happens anymore, as it became a competition for them and would rile them up just when they had finished winding down.

Finish in Song
For a long time, I would sing, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star," followed by, "Jingle Bells," and would finish with, Goodnight Moon. That sequence lasted for a good year, maybe two. I remember doing that when Bunny was still in her crib and JD was in his bed. They shared a room until two weeks ago.

After a while, I got tired of the routine and changed to, "Fools Rush In," followed by, Goodnight Moon.

It was sometime in the last six months or so that Bunny, during, "Fools Rush In," would reach her hand out to me when I would sing the words, Take my hand, take my whole life, too. It is very sweet.

Sometimes, the kids join me singing.

Now that the kids have their own rooms, I sing, "Fools Rush In," to Bunny and tell JD about the next day. Sometimes JD wants me to cuddle with him for a few minutes. Then, I turn on some music. For a long time, I had an iPod dock and would play Bedtime with the Beatles. The old iPod died recently, so I tuned the radio to the classical station. Until I pony up to buying the kids their own radios, I have the one from their shared room in the hallway so they can both hear.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Compare / Contrast:

When I am doing chores at home - cooking, doing laundry, or finances, Bunny wants to be around me and interfere with what I am doing. JD, on the other hand, will go do his own thing - play with army guys, pirates, or knights.

While JD makes things easier by staying out of my way, I it may be a better experience for a child to be around an adult, learning from that? While she's a gigantic pain in my ass when I'm trying to get things done, she's also interested in what I am doing. She is listening and watching everything I say and do. JD is simply not getting as many hours learning directly from me, even when he was Bunny's age.

On the other hand, we all develop in different ways. One way is to go explore on your own without having anyone to guide you but your imagination. Another way is to seek out a mentor or role model to emulate.

To be the best parent possible, I ought to spend more time getting into JD's adventures while consciously having a role to delegate in the event that Bunny (or JD) wants to help.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Tooth Fairy's new service

I think JD has really come up with something.

While we were cuddling in his bed at bedtime, he said, "Dad, I don't want you to go bald. If you start losing your hair, I will ask the Tooth Fairy to wave her magic wand and put your hair back on."

I know many men who would stuff a fistful of 100s under their pillow.

Displays of affection

JD touches a lot. His hand will be on me on the couch, his foot at the dinner table. It gets very annoying.

On the other hand, he's just showing me (well, us,) that he loves us.

JD is very good at showing how much he loves. He loves hugs. Loves them. And is good at it. He is warm. They are always extended. It is a cure-all.

He loves to cuddle. Tonight, I got him to brush his teeth by promising to cuddle for a little while (oh, darn.) So there we lay, his arm around my neck, my face in his side, his face just a few inches from mine. It was quiet and peaceful.

Why sometimes I leave messes

sometimes I leave messes from the kids toys because I think that they are going to have the same enthusiasm on their next encounter as they had with their last. But so often, the kids step right over those toys from last night, reach into drawers, and get out brand new toys and play almost on top of the old toys, sort of like how archaeologists find new sites.

part of my confusion is from the great sadness that came with parting with these toys at the end of the day for their bedtime routine.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Downtown Drunk

So I really feel like a fat-ass and a lush. Those of you who know me are either wondering, "Is he fishing for compliments?" or, "What survey in Wife's Us Weekly did you fail?"

First, what makes me think that I need to lose anything? My clothes and the scale. For the last few weeks, pants have been feeling a little tight. It reminded me of my friend who said that she and her freshman roommate blamed the laundry facility for shrinking their clothes until she went home for winter break and got a blunt earful from her mother. I couldn't blame the dryer because I hang all of my pants to dry. The evidence was more scientific: the scale at the gym said 213.

213! Holy shit!

Now, I'm 6'5" and that doesn't sound that bad, but that means that I've put on around 10 pounds over the summer. That's not fluctuation - that's fat.

The next evidence: my drinking tolerance.

It has been a fun summer. Lots of parties with lots of friends. One of my traits, however, is that I drink quickly. It doesn't matter if it's water, milk, beer, or bourbon. It all goes down fast. Then, I'm starting at 6 and drinking until midnight or later. Or, starting earlier. Let's take last Saturday, for example.

The Nelson Street Block Party. I am the Mayor of Nelson Street and have been organizing this thing since its inception and this is the third year. It started at 2. Maybe 2:30. That's when we got the keg of 312 that 1514 thought would be a good idea instead of a pony keg. I digress. So we start drinking at 2:30 and I probably had, conservatively, 2 drinks per hour for the first three hours. Then likely slowed to roughly one to one-and-a-half drinks per hour. Until midnight. That means that I can handle drinking 12-15 drinks. That is not necessarily a good thing.

So now we've got two problems. First, is that, calorically, Goose Island's "312" weighs in at 135 calories per 12-ounce beer. Times thirteen drinks, that's getting close to 2000 calories. Add in the junk food at these things (good junk food) and who knows how many calories. The second problem is that this is not the first night I have had such a bender in the last couple of months. That puts me into borderline alcoholic territory and that's not good.

There are a few kinds of alcoholics. I will reference two. There is the alcoholic who needs a couple of shots of Jack Daniel's in the morning to get going and supplements throughout the day. Then there is the binge drinking alcoholic who, when Friday night rolls around, has a hard time putting the glass down or turning drinks down.

The good news is, I don't tend to make a tremendous fool of myself (anymore.) The bad news is, that makes it easier to rationalize. Just having a good time!

So, the near-future plan is to not drink for a couple of weeks. There is no specific time-table, but just enough time to get my caloric intake in check and to get out of the habit of drinking heavily.

On the other side, my eating habits. In general, I am pretty healthy. However, I sometimes eat at night. Those extra 300-600 calories at night add up. Additionally, take note of my portions. Altogether, that should add up to a solid routine.

Finally, more exercise. With school starting today, I will be running a couple of miles per day and walking more. Hockey season starts soon and that can burn 900 calories in a game. Finally, I remember from Sophomore football that the coaches had us do 50-50-10 every day before practice: 50 push-ups, 50 sit-ups, 10 pull-ups. I can't do one pull-up, but I can get 50 push-ups and sit-ups throughout the course of the day and work up to getting them done at one time with rest.

Confronting the problem is the beginning. Stay tuned.

Back to School!

First day of school for Bunny and JD. Got up, got ready, got to school.

Bunny was up early, JD had to be rolled out of bed, literally. I was up at 5:58, just ahead of my alarm. It took me a minute to figure out what time it was. I knew it was after 5 because Wife was not in bed. Listening, it sounded like the exhaust fan in the bathroom was going, meaning it was between 5 and 5:30. After all of this deep thinking, my alarm began to chime.


I realized that the sound was the return vent on the wall above and behind my bed, evacuating as much warm air as possible.

Up! I told myself. Attack the day!

That is my new mantra: Attack the day!

Every unproductive day begins with an unproductive awakening. Lay there, turn on the TV to, "See what's going on in the world." That leads to staring at something interesting but unimportant to my life, and, more to the point, unproductive to my morning.

Up! Get dressed! Oh, my underwear is in the dryer. Just then, I heard something from the next bedroom. Worried that Bunny would fall out of bed (again,) I peeked in. Little eyes peeked back.


The last thing you want when you get up early to get a bunch of stuff done is a child on your hip. Slows you down by 50%. Why? First, Bunny is not as fast as me. She can't climb stairs as fast and then asks for a hand. Second, she wants to talk. Third, she wants breakfast. These are not bad things. Not misbehavior. Just a drag.

So we got laundry going, then lunch, then breakfast.

As I have written, the most important thing to do in the morning is finish the things that have to be done to walk out the door. Everything else comes after. 

By 6:45, I was well on my way and it was time to get JD. He was not up and didn't want to get up. And, I found out by poking at him, that he had an accident. Not a big deal, just another thing to do today; another load of laundry. As he fought the act of getting out of bed (he was finally awake,) I gathered the corners of the sheet and mattress protector and pulled it all out of bed. Thud.

Get up, get dressed. I threw some clothes at him, took his wet clothes, wrapped them in the wet bedding, and headed downstairs.

The rest of the morning was unremarkable. JD actually ate at a good pace (it has taken him 45 minutes to eat two pancakes. Thanks, Autism.) Teeth brushed. Hair brushed. Backpack packed with lunch, water, and afternoon snack. School supplies. Out the door.

Here's the tricky part: Bunny's preschool is technically through JD's elementary school but they don't have enough room. So, for the last three years, it has been at a different, still local, elementary school who did have the space. It had always started after elementary school, making drop-off easier.

This year, elementary drop-off is after preschool, so there is no time to sit with Bunny and help her out. This was especially good today, as I didn't have an anxiety-ridden, crying, clinging three-year-old. Bunny is a big-girl four-year-old. She walked in, took her first-day picture, gave me a hug, and JD and I were off.

I should back up. Bunny's school is about 3/4 of a mile away. We pass JD's school on the way, which is only one block. So, we have to leave at 7:50 to be on time. Today, to be safe, we walked out the door at 7:40am. I am not foolish enough to think that this ideal timing will ever happen again. The kids hopped into the jogging stroller and we arrived at school well ahead of the 8:00am start time.

First day of preschool drop-off is complicated by taking pictures. Other days, it is complicated by the kids signing their names every day. Fortunately, Bunny can write her name just fine, so I will be able to kiss-and-go.

Then, we ran to JD's school. According to RunKeeper, Bunny's school was 0.70 mile from our house. JD's school was 0.60 from Bunny's. Plenty of time for me to get there in the seven minutes. Again, Bunny's started at 8. JD's lines up at 8:13am.

Arrived in time to line him up, go over some expectations of the day, get a few pictures, and watch him walk inside.

Will continue to report on how this develops.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Reminiscent Reminder

Going back through my old blog posts has shown me a few things. First, how bad a writer I can be. Second, how nice it is to see the kids' schedules.

Being in the thick of it for so long, it's easy to forget what JD ate when he was a year old (or two or three.) Reading about how Bunny used to push herself around the floor when she was a baby and then would cruise around on furniture when she as seven or eight months old.

Even more than that, what time they would wake up, what they would eat for breakfast, and all of the routine, dare I say, "The mundane."

I don't know if I ever talked about my walks to and from school with LL or Cricket and how that formed lasting friendships.

Did I ever write about the things that the kids would bring home after school or how they behaved at drop off and pickup?

There is no way to capture everything, but as I look back, I get a reminder of how much things have changed. So often, the days feel so melted into one another, it feels as if there is no transition. In the meantime, major things happen at regular intervals that pushes our evolution. From the end of a day, week or month to school, camp, and interactions with various babysitters and extracurricular activities, there is a great of change in our lives.

Can I capture everything? No.

But maybe if I simply make small comments about life, they will pay big dividends later. For instance, instead of waiting for great inspiration to write an entry, just list some current events. The book we read every night or the night time routine.

Oh, the other thing I meant to mention is how embarrassed I am at how I left reader comments without reply nearly 100% of the time. That is awful. I plan to remedy that in the future. Thank you all who have left feedback. It always makes me smile and grateful that people appreciate my perspective and feel compelled to add to my discussion.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Road Trip 2013

Grand Marais, MI; Baltimore Maryland. All in two weeks.

I have been going to Grand Marais, MI since I was eight months old. In fact, I went there every summer from eight months until I was around 26 and every other year since. When I come around the bend that leads me down the hill that feeds into downtown, something inside me feels like I've come home.

I am taking the kids there for a week. The drive from Chicago is around 430 miles.

When I get back, it will be about 24 hours before I turn around and drive to Baltimore, MD. There, we are staying a couple of days with our friends, the Crickets. Over the weekend, we'll meet up with Wife's family for a cousin's wedding reception.

That drive is a little over 700 miles.

No holding back: I'm getting a little worried about all of that driving. When I planned it, I thought, No big deal! Now that it's upon me, the butterflies are fluttering.

Actually, I'm not entirely sure what I'm worried about. Perhaps it's the unknown. In many ways, it will be great. The kids will get to read and watch DVDs while I am planning on downloading some music and audiobooks. I love NPR and hope to get a few episodes of A Prairie Home Companion, The Moth, and some David Sedaris. Perhaps I will get some Louis C.K. comedy, but only when the kids are sleeping or watching a movie.

That makes me feel better. There is also the fatigue factor. I have driven long distances, but it has been a while. My body is not conditioned for driving as it once was. My driving has been reduced to around 8- or 9,000 miles per year. That's not nothing, but ask a car commuter and he or she will scoff at those numbers. There are at least one or two days per week when the key to the ignition does not get turned. And those are weekdays.

(As I am writing this, I feel myself slouching in my chair and force myself to straighten up, strengthening my core which will serve me well on the road.)

More on my road trips as they get closer. Right now, I have to get ready to go golfing!


Spreadsheets have become my new friend. From organizing themes to help write a book to making lists for my upcoming road trips, they have become a go-to medium.

I used to word process everything. So inefficient!

And, I use Google Drive. That way, I can access any of these lists at any time with my phone. Fun!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Using Search Engine Optimization for PR

I find it very interesting that the last few times I have typed a recipe into Google search, it has returned one of Paula Deen's recipes in the top five results.

Someone is doing a very good job making sure that her name appears often and in a good light.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Spreadsheet Discovery!

I love when I figure out alarmingly simple and intuitive procedures on my technological devices.

Recently, I mentioned that I am working on writing my Downtown Dad book. My cousin had a great idea for a spreadsheet to match blog entries with themes.

My problem began when I began creating columns that ran off the screen, then rows that made it impossible to see the column headings. Drat! There must be a way I can make the column headings remain visible as I scroll down the spreadsheet!

None of the drop-down menus helped me. Curses! I thought and continues my research.

At some point, I had the spreadsheet at the very top. Bordering A1 was a shaded line. Hmmm, I wondered. What is that for? So I moused the arrow over that area when the arrow turned into a hand!

First, I moved the horizontal line down. Then the moment of truth: I used the wheel on the mouse to scroll down the page. The headings remain! I repeat, the headings remain!

Later, I realized that it would be helpful to keep the entry names visible when scrolling horizontally through the columns. Success again!

Two things to consider:
If you think you've had an original thought, you haven't read enough. (Citation needed.)
How that statement applies to this setting: if you want the technology to do something for you, it probably does because people a lot smarter than you developed the stuff.

Second, if you don't try to make things happen, then nothing will happen. Don't be afraid of mistakes. If I had been afraid of making a mistake, I may not have discovered my new friend, the ability to keep various columns and rows visible while scrolling to other parts of the spreadsheet.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


I've started my Downtown Dad book. However, I'm kind of blocked. Here are some reasons I think I'm having a hard time getting going.

First, I'm not sure how the book is going to move. I guess I've decided that it will move thematically, not chronologically. How do I choose the themes? Should I find one of the themes and just start writing about it and let the other themes just come to me?

Actually, that makes a lot of sense. I could start with the basics of being a parent and move from there.

Some of the themes I'm considering include marriage, being a guy in a traditionally female role, keeping the house, friendship dynamics, and child development.

I guess that's a start. Start writing about whatever. Keep separate files for each section, then put it all together later.

That's one of my problems - trying to attack a project all at once instead of a manageable amount at a time. For instance, I have a couple of projects pending: repainting the iron patio furniture and the side iron gates, washing the outside windows, and organizing and building shelving in the garage.

So far, I started the patio furniture. Bought the supplies. Scraped the chairs and table, then wiped them down. Then primed them. Wow, that took a lot longer than I thought! Painting each chair takes a long time! Ugh, the guy at the hardware store was way off how much paint I would need - need two more buckets! Oh, shit, it's going to rain tonight? And tomorrow? Then friends are coming from out-of-town? So now, there are chairs and a table upside-down on the back deck that have been sitting there for a week-and-a-half.

Hindsight tells me that I should have just started with one or two chairs at a time. It is a project that I've never done before, so I didn't really realize what the time frame would be. I suppose the two hours that I set aside for it was not nearly enough. C'est la vie. Actually, such is MY life.

And, going back to my project list, the longer it takes me to finish the patio furniture, the longer it will be until I get to the windows and the garage. Yikes! And it's not like that will be the end.

Back to writing. So I am going to start by opening a new page and just start writing about it. Who cares if it's a piece of shit. It's a start. I can always fix it or start fresh later. Running a marathon begins with the first step.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Blackhawks Stanley Cup Rally, Revenue and Taxes

Today was the rally for the Chicago Blackhawks after winning the Stanley Cup. Thousands of people (estimated more than 100,000) gathered in Millennium Park to celebrate. 

Some of the best parts of the celebration included the thousands of people who took public transportation, bringing much needed revenue to the CTA and Metra (probably an extra million dollars or so in a single day.) On top of that, many people patronized local restaurants and other businesses before and after the celebration. Taxis, retail, etc.

One of the bad aspects was the aftermath. Listening to the post-rally coverage on 670 AM The Score, they mentioned the thousands and thousands of empty water bottles left behind. One can only assume that other garbage was left behind. I should not be so shocked at the disconnect people have between tax money being wasted and their own actions.

Money for the children! For the homeless! For seniors! For roads! For infrastructure! For first responders!

When it comes to pitching in to save money by rolling up our sleeves, we city-folk prefer to keep our hands clean. After all, Duck Dynasty is on TV.

There are scheduled street cleaning days. You know why? First, because people litter. Second, because people in neighborhoods can't seem to take time out to sweep up the front of their house to the middle of the street once a month. Silly, isn't it?

Back to the rally. Thousands of bottles left behind. Let's start with public labor. Then there are the vehicles needed to get people and equipment to and from the park. Then there are the trash bags. Fortunately, once they take the bottles away, it all disappears. Wait, it doesn't? Hopefully, someone is making money recycling the stuff.

I'm happy the Blackhawks won. (Like, crazy happy.) I'm happy that tens of thousands of people came to my beloved city to celebrate with the team. I'm happy they gave the economy a little spike. Just pick up after yourselves, okay?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rockfish & Quinoa Salad

Made a yummy dinner tonight; wanted to share.

Got some rockfish on sale from whole foods, $8.99 per pound. Bought two fillets, one around ten ounces for me, one around six ounces for Wife.

Made quinoa salad.
Changes: did not use Kalamata olives and added Feta on my own (Wife doesn't like olives.)

Rockfish preparation:
I knew that I wanted a white wine butter sauce, so I just sprinkled some salt and pepper on my fillet, then made the following:
For next time, I will use only the juice from 1/2 lemon and add some capers.

For Wife, I made a spicy preparation that had a little less than 1/4t kosher salt, 1/8t fresh ground black pepper, dash each of paprika and ground red pepper. Wife said it was good, though a little on the salty side.
Next time I will use 1/8t of each ingredient, thought that may still be too much. We'll see!

One Foot off the Wagon

Our house failed to sell. I had very high expectations. Inventory in our area was moving very fast. Many houses were on the market for less than a month and getting very close to their asking price. Why not ours?

The biggest reason is the bedroom layout. Overall, our house has four bedrooms and three full bathrooms. However, the second story has two bedrooms - the master and the kids'. There is one full bathroom and it is not particularly big. The third and fourth bedrooms are very small and in the basement. At the price-point of our house, people were looking for three bedrooms and two bathrooms up.

In the meantime, the house has been on the market for around eight weeks and we have had around fifty showings. Yes, 50.

The bulk of those came in the first two weeks; I think we had fifteen or twenty in the first week alone. Someone asked for a showing the first day it was on the market.

Having our house on the market means that it has to be in show condition almost all the time. There were one or two times that I let it go - didn't pick up after the kids, didn't have the laundry in check, didn't have last night's dishes done before going to bed. Then there would be a showing the next day.

When we have a showing and the house is in good order it still can take an hour to ninety minutes to completely clean. Make the beds, dust, clean the mirrors and windows, take out the trash, wipe down the bathrooms, put all of the toiletries away, wipe down the counters, sweep and mop the floors, organize the counter tops, put bills and art projects away, and vacuum. Vacuuming takes a while, too, as we have wall-to-wall carpet everywhere except the kitchen, which means that there is around 2400 sq ft of carpet.

So, if I add in laundry, putting toys away, organizing closets, washing dishes, and other disorganization, that can easily add an hour, making the task over two hours long.

In the last four weeks, I've gotten really good about keeping the house clean and organized. Vacuuming is done almost every day, regardless of a showing. Clothes are always put away. The bed is made. The dishes, pots, pans, cutting boards, and utensils are put away. The toys are stored. Mail is either recycled, paid or filed.

Now that we are in the last week of our house being on the market, (which basically means that it is off the market,) I haven't been quite as diligent. It's the first week of summer vacation for the kids, which sort of means it's the first week of summer for me. Not that I'm getting reckless, by any means, but the kitchen hasn't been cleaned all the way every night; the toys haven't been put away every night; some dirty clothes have been left on the floor in the bedrooms. Odds and ends, but they add up. And, I'm noticing.

Then, this morning, I wondered if my friends are taking bets on how long it will take before our house becomes a train wreck once again. It was never filthy but always disorganized. How long will it take before there are piles of "get to it later" here and there. Coupons, mail, excess scrap paper, magazines, empty boxes, and other good intentions. If I were my friends, I think the over/under would be around two weeks.

That's what I'm giving myself - two weeks to ensure that the cleaning thing - this homemaking thing - stays permanent. That means putting systems and schedules into place. That means continuing to wake up at 6:30am even though the kids don't have camp until 9am. (Camp? They have camp? I'll get to that next time.) A continuous regiment that is less a short-term diet and more of a lifestyle change. I've been doing it this long, why not keep it going?

And, in my soul, I know that screwing around is less fulfilling than doing my job to the best of my ability. Time management, a common theme in my entries, is the key to my success.What do I do when I wake up? Have to make the bed, right away. Immediately. Have to get dressed right away. Have to get the clothes together and to the washer right away. Lunches made. Dishwasher unloaded. Kids up and dressed. Make their breakfast. To camp. Vacuum. Windows. Dinner. Shopping. Right away.

Then I can blog. Then I can read. Then I can hit some golf balls. Then I can meet with a friend for lunch. Then I can landscape. Work out. Whatever.

No matter what, must do work first. Stay on that wagon.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Marketing blunder

I hope you're not offended if I call the person who okayed this sign a fucking moron.

16 Great Reasons to Scream in Frustration

"Stop looking at me!" I yelled. Again.

Bunny has this habit of stopping her task and looking at me. It makes me crazy.

For example, this morning, Bunny was putting her shoes on during crunch time - get out of the house time. She stopped and looked at me. I did not react in a positive manner that would be a building block for future attempts. I yelled at her.

I have explained yelling to the kids in a couple of ways. First, I rarely yell in anger but often in urgency. It is challenging for adults, let alone children, to distinguish between anger and urgency. Generally, an apology or explanation is given once the yelling and task has been completed. It is important to me that they understand my motivation and that they know that we all have moments of weakness but that being open about our moments of fault comes of great strength.  

Second, I have told the kids that I yell because it is an effective motivational tool for them. Being around many children during these last six-plus years, I have seen that some children shut down when they are being yelled at. This is not the case for my kids. And, depending on the specific situation, intimidation tactics may be incorporated with the yelling. Here is a sketch of how our conversation goes after they have completed the task under fire:
Me: Do you know why I yelled at you?
Child: (Crying or sniffling) Because I didn't get ready to go
Me: Did I ask you nicely?
Child: Yes
Me: And did you do it?
Child: No
Me: Did I ask nicely one time or more than one time?
Child: More than one time.
Me: After asking nicely and you don't respond, I have to yell. Then I know for sure that you will do what needs to be done. Do you like when I yell?
Child: No. It makes me sad.
Me: And it makes me sad, too. Would I have to yell if you did it when I asked nicely?
Child: No.
Me: Can you try to be a better listener next time?
Child: Yes.
(Hugs and kisses.)

So let's go back to the thing where Bunny looks at me. I know - well, I think - that she is looking for my approval. I suppose it would take less energy and keep a more positive environment if I have her positive feedback. Something like, "That's right, now push your heel down into the shoe."

On the other hand, she has successfully put her shoes on several hundred times. What is it that she is seeking? Also, she has a bad habit of looking away from her manual task while she is doing it, then starts grunting, then whining, then screaming when it becomes challenging or doesn't go her way. I remind her that actually watching what she is doing will lead to a greater statistical success rate. Her success rate continues to be average, at best. 

The screaming and whining is not an occasional occurrence, unless three to ten times per day is occasional. I only wish I was exaggerating.

Her are examples of times that she screams in frustration:
Getting her pajamas off over her head
Getting her dress to slide over her head because she has failed to unbutton or unzip it
Putting socks on
Putting laceless running shoes on
Keeping food on a fork or spoon
Getting an action figure to remain standing
Getting a stuffed animal to remain seated upright at a tea party
Getting JD to do what she wants him to do the moment she has decided
Getting the ankle strap of her sandals around her heel and through the eye to fasten the Velcro
Opening drawers heavy from being stuffed full of princess dresses, shoes, and accessories
Closing a drawer that is so full of dresses that it won't close all the way because dresses are sticking out
Opening tight marker caps
Closing tight marker caps
Getting a tiara to sit properly on her head
Getting said tiara untagled from her hair
Getting her seat belt on

That's all I can think of right now.

First of all, it is genetic. That's all I will say about that.

Second, I am a pretty mild-mannered dude. Unfortunately, I sometimes bottle my rising tension. Externally, I will be calm, while internally, I am on the brink of breaking. That leads me to go from a nice, "Okay, Bunny, now put the strap around your ankle then through the eye," to, "STOP LOOKING AT ME AND GET YOUR SHOES ON! IF YOU CAN'T GET THEM ON, THEN THEY'RE GOING IN THE GARBAGE!"

The best way I have found to overcome these events is planning to leave for my destination far earlier than necessary. Tardiness begets urgency and urgency results in screaming. I would say I am about 25% successful in getting the kids going at a time when there is little urgency. If that destination is dinner time and the kids need to clean up, I know I have to give them fifteen minutes to clean up and check on them every five minutes to remind them to continue cleaning. This happens once or twice a week. During a good week.

But we try, don't we?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Freezing Your Money

One way that I've been able to save a few dollars here and there is by freezing my own fruits and vegetables. It's easy if you have the equipment.

What you will need:
-the ability to spot a superior price on freezable produce
-rimmed baking sheet
-freezer that will fit said rimmed baking sheet
-freezer bags (or containers if you really want to get crazy)

I just bought blueberries at Stanley's, my produce market at North & Elston Aves. They were $0.49 per pint. That's pretty darn cheap. So I bought a case - twelve pints.

First, I wash two pints at a time, then spread them out in a single layer on to the baking sheet. Next, put the baking sheet into the freezer for about an hour. Empty the blueberries into a freezer bag or freezer container. Store. Repeat as needed.

Note: after washing the blueberries, they are wet. I know, you are shocked. This means that some of the blueberries will be "stuck" to the sheet after freezing. They come off pretty easily.

That is the key to freezing produce so that it doesn't freeze into a big ball - freezing it flat. Essentially, you are freezing each piece individually. Once each piece is frozen, the water from one won't stick to another.

I have successfully frozen bell peppers and onions, which I use a lot in my cooking. Occasionally, Stanley's will have, say, a case of bell peppers for about $2.50. I take them home, halve some and slice some, then freeze and bag. If you really want to be efficient, make veggie mixes to save time later. For instance, I mixed onions and peppers in a bag for omelettes.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Morning Rush

I kept the kids at a family-friend party until 9:45 last night. Shockingly, we all got up late this morning. Fortunately, I have developed a can't-fail method to get everybody ready and out the door on time.

Get out-the-door-ready first.

What does that mean?

Get dressed - check.

Lunch(es) made - check.

Backpack packed - check.

After those things are done, my hierarchy goes:
brush hair
brush teeth

The first things to get done are those that you can't leave without. Lunch and homework. That will screw up the kids' day a lot worse than being a little hungry. And, you'd better have some kind of granola bar, cookie, chips, (who cares?) in your cabinet for these OH, SHIT! moments. They can eat them on the way.

Potty in last? That's right - there are bathrooms at school.

And, please, tell me you haven't left the house without brushing your teeth once or twice, especially when you were a kid. One good way to combat that is giving the kids a piece of fruit for breakfast. It won't remove plaque, but it will get their breath going in the right (or less offensive) direction.

Brushing hair reduces the family's chances of being judged on lack of appearance.

Oh, and the other thing that gets this going: screaming. Wow, is that effective! JD is eating his whole wheat toast with neufchatel slowly? Scream! Bunny is taking her sweet time brushing her tiny white teeth and getting her little white sandals with the sparkly flowers on? Scream!

They will still love you. If the children of crackheads and abusive alcoholics still love their parents, yours will still love you after a good round of aggressive motivation.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Stop the Cookie

I just had to yell at the kids to stop singing the song, "who took the cookie from the cookie jar?" They could not agree on how to get the next person who stole the cookie from the cookie jar.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Sometimes I don't know if I want to laugh at Bunny or kill her.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What's New with DD

Yikes! No posts since May 17th.

House on the market. Yes, Downtown Dad's house is on the market. If we get a contract in time to close and buy a house and close on that before the new school year. That's like, 3 or 4 weeks. The good news, we've had at least 30 showings in 4 weeks. The bad? No offers. Price dropped slightly, so we'll see what happens.

If we do sell, we'll move to the suburbs. Not sure how that will affect my name. Can I still call myself, "Downtown Dad," if I'm not downtown? What a hypocrite.

If we don't sell, we'll do some remodeling for next time around.

Having the house on the market is one of the reasons I haven't been posting. It turns out that having a lot of showings is a lot of work. Keeping the house in show-condition is challenging, but worth it. Again, my challenge is time-management. Thirty to forty-five minutes in the morning. Regular picking up throughout the day. Fifteen to twenty minutes after dinner.

The NHL Stanley Cup playoffs being on and, specifically, the Blackhawks being in the Western Conference Finals certainly challenges my ability to stay on top of my domestic responsibilities. I mean, it's 3 hours that I'm virtually glued to the TV. And, I have to DVR so I can start watching after the kids go to bed so I don't get those built-in 15 minute gaps between periods to get some stuff done.

Excuses, excuses.

The house being on the market and the planning and stress that surrounds that circumstance has been weighing heavily. How much money could we end up with at the end of the sale? What will that buy in the next town? Where in that town do we want to be? Close to "downtown" or close to school? Unfortunately, in the suburbs, it's not both.

Where I live, there is a Jewel-Osco, post office, Walgreen's, and Whole Foods within three blocks. And at least 20 bars and restaurants. Oh, and the kids' school is within that radius.

Suburbia. Suburbia looks overweight. That's what I see, at least, when we go up there. And it's not that I care what people look like. Overweight is not a character assessment. But it is a lifestyle assessment. It is driving the car to get everywhere. People buy these houses with land, but how often do they get out there? Forget about public playgrounds - they should stop wasting money because nobody uses them.

Jeez, Downtown Dad, if you're so cynical about the suburbs, why the F are you moving there?

Because the transition from grade school to high school in CPS is not a smooth one. The chance of JD, specifically, going to high school with any of his city classmates is unlikely. He'll have enough social challenges, even as high-functioning on the Spectrum as he is.

And I don't hate the place. It's where I grew up. It's quiet. There are no gangs and very little crime, otherwise. The educational opportunities are outstanding.

Life could be a lot worse. We stand to make a small profit on our house, where many people have lost their asses. Wife may need to commute for a while, but the train ride is 45 minutes or less and her office is a block from Union Station. Two of my siblings and their families live there; my other sibling lives about thirty minutes and my Mom fifteen. Wife's parents would be closer, one sibling closer, one sibling further.

First things first. Sell the house. The whirlwind will take care of the rest.

One thing I know is that life moves forward, regardless of the path.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Plotting Against Picky Eating

I found this article in Parents Magazine online very helpful:

3 Myths About Picky Eating

Bunny eats a fairly wide variety of foods. She'll eat any kind of meat, fish, or poultry. Deli, encased, patty, roasted, grilled, poached, whatever. She eats a modest variety of fruits and vegetables.

 JD, on the other hand, is far pickier. So far this school year, he has taken a peanut butter (or almond butter) and jelly sandwich to school. It is accompanied by an apple, grapes, or banana. His lone vegetable is the carrot. He will eat processed meat but anything that isn't a hot dog, bologna, or salami must be breaded.

In general, he's not doing too bad. I know many families facing much more finicky eaters.

One thing that I believe contributes to the problem is modern food availability and distribution. How is that a problem?

Let's talk about the "olden days." You ate what you grew, preserved, or killed. Or you traded or bartered. The foods available were seasonal and local.

There was no pantry, no boxes of cookies or crackers, no frozen pizza on which people could fall back. A person could not eat strawberries, apples, carrots, or any other particular food all year round. Bread was baked. Crackers? Chips? Chocolate? Luxury items, if available at all. Dessert was a piece of fruit.

I am not going to try to tell you that everything about today is bad nor go over the benefits. You know what they are.

However, for any person living in a rural situation, what's on the table is the food to eat. No matter what it was. Eat or go hungry. (And, no Food Network or The Joy of Cooking to get recipes!) Perhaps that is part of the problem.

The article suggests that giving the child an eat-or-go-hungry ultimatum can lead to other problems. I get that. Sure, they may eventually eat. Is it a long-term solution?

Some of my favorite parts include giving the child or children a spoonful of each part of the adult meal on their plate. The child does not have to eat it and the parent should keep a neutral attitude, rather than saying how much the child will like the new food.

For my own self, the hard part is the suggestion that this food may have to be thrown out. I abhor waste. On the flip side, many gallons of unconsumed or befouled milk have gone down the drain. Many pounds of raw meat have been left too long and gone bad. Moldy bread and cheese. Stale chips and crackers. So a tablespoon of food here and there would not be the end of the world.

The next part is making a plan. Wife and I typically plan all of our dinners on Sunday night or Monday morning. Helps a lot with the week's shopping and general planning. What I have failed to do is plan the children's meals simultaneously. And, in general, I cook fairly complex things that kids are not expected to eat, though occasionally Bunny will try some. However, if I plan right and can make the kids something similar so that the incorporation of a couple of spoonfuls of invasive foods would not be so traumatic.

Will let you know how it goes!

Thursday, May 9, 2013


In general, I do not cave when it comes to the kids. They do not get whatever they want. At all.

Give me your best tantrum.

Screaming definitely will not get anything except a requisite apology.

Threatening me will get me to laugh.

The realization that osteoporosis or general bone weakness has made me cave.

Chocolate milk, it is.

Yes, my friends, I have finally surrendered to my just-turned-four-year-old. She was not drinking white milk. Maybe eight to ten ounces per day. Not enough.

So, I've gone chocolate. (You know what they say . . .)

Don't get me wrong, I love chocolate milk. LOVE IT. On the other hand, I don't want sugar to be the only way I get my children to eat food. (Or excessive fat and salt.)

Wife suggested that I simply add a smaller amount than the serving size. Will see how that works out.

Friday, May 3, 2013

De-Clutter Ramification

JD: Daddy, why is the house empty?

Me: It's just clean.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Pound foolish

Yet another example of being cheap being more expensive in the end.


Bunny is screaming at JD that he has to be quiet; she has work to do and needs quiet time.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sharp Wit

This exchange is courtesy of my friend Michelle who lives in upstate New York.

"Samuel, please don't drink the milk from your cereal bowl."
"Why not?"
"I don't really like it, it doesn't sound very nice. Please use your best manners"
"Well, I'm part Japanese and they drink from their bowls all of the time"
"I know that, but we are not in Japan"
"We are not in England either".

Good game son, well played.


There are several things I love about playing the game, "Sorry!" with my 3- and 6-year-old.

First, that they are capable of playing. They can count, they can take turns.

Second, that they can win without anyone giving them strategic advice.

Third, that whenever Bunny gets a Sorry! card, after bumping the opposing piece she says, "Go back to your home, you silly stink!"

The only strategy that I consistently remind them is to get their pawns out of Home Base whenever they get a 1 or 2. Else, I only explain the cards that have options and let them choose their course of action. There have been several instances where I would have given them advice that would have led to failure. Let make their move, then tell them the alternative. Like most other times in life, learning from failure can lead to greater success than previously imagined.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mystery Puddle & Potty Tricks

In the last few weeks, I have spotted small puddles on the left side of the main toilet in our house.

Finally, two and two were put together. First, I thought there may be something wrong with the toilet. I suppose the fact that there isn't something wrong with the toilet is, in fact, a good thing. The alternative, however . . .

Yes, JD's aim is a little off. Let's put it this way: if he were a strategic bomber, he would be killing thousands of innocent civilians.

Confronting him about it, he readily admitted his error. I simply told him to use a towel to clean it up and tell me about it so I can clean it. No big deal.

Next day? Puddle. Not only that, but from a certain angle, I could see the abuse put upon the wall next to the toilet. Like a car having dried after being out in a rain storm.

This with our house going on the market soon.

I have heard about Cheerios and other target ideas. Frankly, I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm wondering if he doesn't know how to deal with morning wood.

Yeah, I said it. Let's just call a spade a spade and move on.

Anyway, ladies, it turns out that it's a gigantic pain to pee with a hard-on. I have learned suck up my pride and sit down, way far back on the toilet so that my butt is hitting the tank, then push down so that the pain-to-aim ratio is low.

JD is not ready for these tricks.

Frankly, as much as I'd like to do something about it, there is so much more teaching that I have to make time for him that missing the toilet a few times a week is not high up on the chart.

Yes, cleaning up pee is less important that reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Child Labor Redirection

I think I've mentioned that we're having some trouble with "private parts."

So, I was doing administrative work in the office in my basement while the kids played in the living / play area of the basement. Suddenly I heard, "JD, put your butt away," from Bunny.

I sneaked into the room and saw JD pulling his pants up. Then he saw me. Then a guilty look came over his face.

"JD, what happened?" I asked in a calm voice.

Meekly, he said, "I showed Bunny my butt."

"Come with me," I said. "Shed that stack of paper."

There was a large pile of papers with social security numbers, old insurance cards, credit cards, and driver's licenses.

That is one of my new strategies. Especially for JD, when he's too wound up or starts misbehaving, I have found that he responds well to redirection to some work. Cleaning up his toys or another physical task seems to take his mind off of whatever had his engine revved up.

Additionally, I get some much needed, remedial tasks taken care of.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Another Peeve

Grocery checkers and baggers gossiping. Can't stand it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


For my own self, I am trying to wrap my head around the fact that pet peeves are B.S. They are selfish, self-absorbed pieces of wisdom. We think we do all of these things better than other people. No, even better: we think we have a better world view with respect to this particular manner. Futhermore, we fail to see that we ourselves have habits that are peeves of others, yet we will not change them.

for example, I have many driving pet peeves. I get really upset with people fail to use their turn signal, park equally inside parking space lines, and using the left highway lane, the passing lane, for cruising, rather than passing.

What are things that I do that are the peeves of others? I have no idea. Would I change if someone told me that I had a behavior that needed to be changed? Restated, that question reads, would I be willing to put in the conscious effort required to change a routine habit?

One problem that my peeves cause me is that it becomes a distraction - an obsession. When a person in the Costco parking lot puts their cart on a curb instead of walking it to the cart corral or to the lobby, I get angry and think about what a jerk this person is, how lazy and selfish. I have even said things to people for it. What does any of this negativity do for anyone? One thing it won't do - get people to change their habits. When I bring a cart from the parking lot inside to do my shopping, maybe someone sees me do that, says, "Geez, that makes sense," and makes it part of their routine in the future. Or, when I see someone finish putting items into their car, say, "I can take that back for you." Perhaps that will help that person see things my way.

Or I can write a blog about all the stupid shit I think and throw it out to people, thinking they'll appreciate my nonsensical stream of consciousness. :)


I promise you, LGBT people cannot screw up their children any more than the rest of us.

Get on board, because, "Never Again," applies to all types of anti-hate.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Bunny's revelation of the day:

Daddy, the letter "P" is the letter "P."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pubic and Private

I have a very dirty sense of humor. I am not above poop and fart jokes or playing on ethnic, social, sexual, and gender stereotypes. Busting balls is a personal favorite. And I laugh loudest when someone gets me good.

So it is no surprise that my kids have developed a sense of humor about poop and fart jokes as well as private parts.

Potty humor was both my and Wife's fault. We would giggle and call out when someone farted. Make a big stink about a big stinky diaper. "What, are you putting out a fire?" when JD would pee for a long time.

Private part humor is age appropriate. They joke about each other's body parts and simply say, "Penis," or, "Vagina," just to get a laugh. Wife and I have never fed into this.

Quite the contrary, actually, we have always tried to mention private parts in the same breath as all body parts and have always used their real names, rather than creating baby-talk names. We respect the body and all of its parts.

JD, though, at some point started to realize that there was something different about these parts and would point them out in a joking manner. Bunny, being a quick study, picked up on the humor and ran with it.

Now, it is out of control. They constantly joke about poop, pee, farts, penises and vaginas.

JD's Autism shows up in that, once he thinks he said something funny, it is nearly impossible to reduce the impulse to say the funny thing again. If it was funny once, surely it will be funny the second, third, and one-hundred-seventy-ninth time.

One of the things that Bunny does that infuriates me is picking up on and displaying a behavior that I had, quite literally, just finished admonishing to JD. Let's say he giggled out, "What's pee-pee?" I will ask him, "Is it okay to use potty words?" "No." In the same rhythm, Bunny will say, "What's pee-pee?" giggling all the way. That is when I see red and have to consciously use all of my energy and parenting tools to remain calm or remove myself from the room. Or I will fail to put up the proper road blocks and yell at her.

JD occasionally displays this behavior, but Bunny, being three-years-old, has a knack for it.

The misuse of private parts and potty words has been going on for a month more more with little success in stopping it. The only thing I have failed to do is establish a star chart. And I know it would help. A lot. Instead of acting on that, I am writing about failing to take that action. I digress. I have talked to them endlessly about this.

Oh, I forgot to mention the couple of times Bunny has exposed herself to other kids. Once via Facetime to a five-year-old friend who moved to Baltimore. Another time to two sons of good friends of ours who are five- and four-years-old. On those occasions she did not get patient Daddy.

Behaviors like this are ones that Wife and I feared being on the receiving end. Instead, it is our family who is causing the problem. Fortunately, it does not appear that they are bringing these behaviors to school. On the flip side, I fear the consequences.

To the star chart. Deciding how to positively reward and, even more challenging, a negative consequence has proven challenging. I don't like the idea of giving the child a toy as a reward. Good behavior is something that doesn't produce material benefits. Perhaps something more like a bowling or movie outing. And for the negative consequence? No treats for a week? Taking away TV is really hard because they only get TV on the weekends and it would be really hard to allow one to get TV and not the other. Perhaps, the child who doesn't get TV has to spend that time in their room. Not sure if that would create sibling-to-sibling problems.

Any ideas about any of this?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Algebra for Kids

Bunny has one of those preschool skills workbooks here at home. (Great gift, Auntie Susie!)

One of the activities is a picture hunt. It asks to count the number of various items, like trees, apples, and bees.

For the bees, there were two groups of bees. Two bees were in some flowers. Eight bees were swarming next to a hive. She counted them individually to come up with the answer, ten.

Then I asked, “How many bees are in the flowers?”
“Two,” replied Bunny.
“How many bees total?”
She said, “Ten.”
“So how many bees are by the hive?” I asked.
She didn’t know.
So I wrote down and explained the following formula:
B + 2 = 10, and B is for the bees that are by the hive.

Then I explained that to find out the number of bees by the hive, we would take the total number of bees and subtract the bees in the flowers, or:

10 - 2 = B

Then I put up my ten fingers and asked her to count down with me, taking away a finger each time. Nine, eight.
“How many fingers did I put down?” I asked.
She said, “Two.”
“So ten minus two equals?”

“So B equals?”
And I asked her to write B = 8
She was pretty excited about coming to the answer.

Similarly, we did an exercise with JD yesterday that was similar. Every day, they get four Girl Scout cookies after school. We often do math with them by subtracting the number of cookies they’ve eaten from the total number of cookies to come to the number of cookies they have left.

Yesterday, however, I changed that a little bit. JD had eaten two cookies. I asked him to say it in a number sentence:
“Four minus two equals two.”
Then I asked him, “How many cookies did you just have?”
“How many cookies did you eat just now?”
“So say that in a number sentence.”
“Three minus one equals two.”

We have a white board on the wall next to the kitchen table. I wrote the number sentences and had the kids recite them as I did so:
4 - 2 = 2
3 - 1 = 2

Then I said, “So if four minus two equals two and three minus one equals two, then . . .” and I wrote:
4 - 2 = 3 - 1

Good times.

Backward Time Efficiency

I have learned that working backwards makes me more efficient.

When I plan (and I don't do so as often as I should,) the essential things must come first.

For example, in the morning, the first thing the kids have to do is get dressed. Get up, get dressed, brush teeth. Then comes breakfast, then brushing hair, then, if there's time, a little play.

For my own daily tasks, the first thing that I should always do I think about dinner. That is the meal that requires the most time and the most ingredients. Tonight is pasta with tomato sauce, steamed vegetables, and bread. The sauce takes about 80 minutes to make, including prep. So, right when I got home from drop-off, I started the sauce. Now, at 10:15 A.M., I am stirring every 5 minutes as the sauce simmers.

If I started the sauce in the afternoon, it would take away time from the kids (though sometimes they do help me cook.) Now, I have the most time consuming aspect of my day completed. After writing, I will drop in a load of laundry and continue my mission to reduce the clutter in my house.

One of the advantages to having the sauce done is that it's something that hangs over my head. Taking care of clutter is something that can be started an stopped at any time. Laundry is set-it-and-forget-it (though it has to be turned over in a timely fashion.) Paying bills can be done on the fly or a little bit at a time.

Now I can work with Bunny on school skills. When JD comes home from school, we can play with his hockey guys.

Finally, I wonder if the structure of cooking helps get me into a mode of following structure. If I started with reducing clutter, that is starting with a task that does not have a lot of definition. It is challenging to gauge the amount of time being spent. Cooking is perfect for that - it helps establish a mental clock. It helps mentally establish steps, and requires deliberate movement.

Friday, February 22, 2013

What We Talk About When We Talk About our Drug History

What I posted to Facebook regarding the article:

Only having a 6- and a 3-year-old, I'm no expert on what to say to teens.

Talking about the negative aspects of drug abuse - harm to body, loss of money, legal ramifications - is imperative. The inevitable question, "Did you use?" Will come. I may say this: Why do you want to know? If I say yes, then you may think that I turned out okay and so would you. If I say no, then I have no experience and can't relate.

So I would talk about the experiences of those around me. Billy and Pauly (brothers who were friends of mine who were in their early 20s) dying at the same time in a car wreck. Friends never having money. Dealing drugs. Arrests. Promising futures turning into needles in the arm. Life allows for moderation, but chemical dependency can be a bigger influence than some people's willpower. That I don't know one person whose life improved due to their drug / alcohol use but countless stories of how lives were worsened or ruined.

My $0.02.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bunny Out of the Box

Bunny came to the kitchen where I was doing some work and said, "Daddy, come see what I made! I made a picture of you with the letters."

Using the tiles from a junior-level game of Scrabble I picked up from Salvation Army, she made a picture.

I love it and I think it's brilliant.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Love Google

Technology is a time suck when used without a plan and a tremendous tool for productivity with a little planning.

Facebook = time suck. It's awesome to see what's going on with others and to post questions like, "Anyone know a good restaurant in Anytown, USA?" Then you start scrolling and commenting and going through pictures to see how hot or not your former classmates are and suddenly you've lost 45 minutes that you didn't need to lose.

You Tube. Search the keyword, "Fail." See you in a few hours. And music videos? AMAZING for how-to videos. I learned how to debone poultry and how to do some basic sewing stitches.

Most importantly is my love affair with the world of Google. From Gmail to Maps, I thought they were doing a great job. Then came Google Docs which has morphed into Google Drive. The ability to recover and share any document I have produced anytime, anywhere, is an incredible tool. I can take the folders saved on my computer and, with a couple of clicks, save them to my Drive.

Let's start with my 2013 Wish List. These are things like painting and landscaping the house. I can add to it anytime something occurs to me. Then, later, I can access my household budget / cash flow and see when and how we can afford these things (or, more likely, put them off until we win the lottery.) Just before I started writing this entry, I scanned the sketch done by Kemora Landscaping's Marisa (she was awesome), saved it to my hard drive. Then went to Drive, clicked Upload, then a folder, found my home improvement folder, and brought it over to drive. 30 seconds. Then I dragged-and-dropped the notes from debriefing myself after my meeting with Marisa into that folder so that it's next to the sketch so I can access them at the same time. Now I have it "forever," can access it anywhere in the world, and can share it with anyone, anytime.

Here's to the good that technology has done for us.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, King

Daddy, we celebrated King Martin Jr's birthday at school
- Bunny

Thursday, January 31, 2013

5 o'cocktail

On one hand, it makes me sad that I occasionally use alcohol to help me cope with my late afternoon / early evening "I've had it" feelings.

On the other hand, who the fuck cares? I feel fantastic!

And it doesn't help me "escape." I am well aware that my "problems" are small and are with me the whole time as opposed to the concept that they will be there when I come down.

In some ways, I think, in a small dose, not a case of beer or a bottle of wine, but a single serving, can bring serotonin back from depressed levels. Terrific rationalization. See "The Big Chill" about rationalizations. The question is, how will my chemical balance be once the euphoria wears off?

At least the Arizona Wildcats are playing tonight! They'd better win!

Shocking Play Date Revelation

Bunny had a friend of school over for a play date today. After lunch, the girls decided to play dress-up. They pulled some dresses from Bunny's treasure chest.

First, Bunny came to me because she was having trouble getting the Disney dress over the dress she was already wearing. I showed her how to tuck the tutu-style skirt into the dress, then pull the play dress up and on.

Then, Friend came to me with a similar problem. She asked to take her dress off before putting on the play dress. I suggested that she tuck hers in to the play dress the same way I had shown Bunny.


Full-out meltdown, followed by her stomping out of the room, laying down, and doing a yell-cry to ensure that all of Chicagoland could hear her plight. I said from the kitchen where she had approached me, "When you're ready to talk, stop crying and come see me."

In a few minutes, she did return. I thought of a moment, then explained that the play dress was not intended to be put on without any clothes underneath and suggested that she see Bunny to borrow a shirt that she could wear under the dress. So she went and returned with shirt in hand. Then I unbuttoned her dress and asked her to take it off. It became so challenging for her that she started yelling and crying and went to the floor, writhing in agony. I asked if that was the customary way she removed her dresses. She looked like a magician trying to escape from a straight jacket and, to my surprise, was ultimately successful. The borrowed shirt and, in turn, play dress went on far less dramatically.

In the next twenty minutes, she melted down a couple more times because Bunny referred to herself and her friend as, "Goo goo ga ga-s." This was a most displeasing insult, just short of insulting the dress she wore to school. Things settled down and they played nicely for another ten minutes when there was something else to fight about. This continued for the next two hours, the duration of the play date.

Bunny, as you know if you read regularly, is no angel. Hanging out with another child who falls apart regularly makes me feel a little more normal.

Bunny melts down so much that I can't keep writing about it for fear of finding when I look back on my entries that my entire parenthood was consumed with dealing with an irrational whiner. If I mix in the good things, I can write history any way I see fit.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Simon Says, the Potty Version

JD was on the toilet. Suddenly, I heard from the bathroom, "Simon says, 'Make a big stink!'" Then, laughter.

I asked, "JD, did you say, 'Simon says make a big stink?'"

He could barely say yes, he was laughing so hard. I had a good laugh, too.

Happy omelette

My food network hero is Tyler Florence. I love Bobby Flay and Alton Brown, but Tyler is the one who made me want to cook from scratch. He is my favorite chef to watch cook by himself.

A few weeks ago, I caught his show in which he made an omelet. Here are some of the keys to making an omelet successfully without using a non-stick pan.

First is choice of pan. If you're only doing one to two eggs, use a small pan. Three or more, increase size appropriately. If your pan is too big, the omelet stands little chance of holding together upon the transfer. Too small and you'll end up burning the bottom of the eggs or they'll simply take forever to cook. (You can use this method and finish them in an oven, but that's a lot of steps for a quick breakfast.)

A lot of oil is unnecessary. Put in a heavy teaspoon and get it warm, then wipe it all over the pan with a smooth kithing towel or wadded up paper towel. Heat over medium-high until a pinch of water flicked in has a heavy sizzle but does not crackle. If you want oil or butter flavor, a little after the first step will go a long way.

After cracking your eggs into your bowl, add a pinch of salt. Remember, salting before cooking will result in less salt use and it will allow the salt to do its job: salt is used to bring out the flavors of the food, not to make food taste salty.

When the pan is heated to the right temperature, add the eggs and, after about ten seconds, use a silicone spatula to move them around a bit, not quite scrambling them. If you oiled correctly, you'll notice that the eggs pull away from the stainless pan just like they would in a non-stick pan. This will even out the cooking just like stirring a sauce and help keep the eggs from browning (too much. Getting them perfectly golden takes some practice.) Then, use the flat side of the spatula to even out the top of the eggs with a stroke similar to icing a cake. Then, remove from heat. After a few minutes, the eggs will cook through using its own steam.

I have not mastered the art of adding other ingredients so that they are not only folded inside the omelet, but also mingled with the eggs. Regardless, use another pan to heat additional ingredients. My guess is that, after cooking the additional ingredients, start the eggs and then, after adding the eggs to the pan, add the ingredients and fold them in while moving the eggs around. Will let you know how that goes next time.

This morning, I was hungry and wanted an omelet. Looking in the fridge, I found some Rotel that was begging to be consumed. I drained it and put it in a pan preheated over medium with a splash of olive oil (about 1 tsp.)

In the meantime, the larger pan for the eggs was preheating. After starting the omelet using the procedure mentioned above, I put a slice of provolone cheese on one side of the omelet, the side that would first slide on to my plate. I continued to allow the eggs to set and the tomatoes to simmer. Finally, when I felt that most of the excess moisture had been cooked out of the Rotel, I put it on top of the provolone in the omelet. A couple of turns of the pepper mill and it was ready for transfer.

Sliding the spatula under the eggs helped release the omelet and readied it for transfer. With one hand holding the pan and the spatula in the other, I turned the pan 45 degrees and used the spatula to slowly slide the eggs on to the plate. When the omelet was more than 50% off of the pan, I pushed the pan while sliding the omelet to fold it over the top. Grab a fork and eat!