Monday, December 22, 2014

My default way to say, "go to the bathroom," is, "go potty." Yes, that includes when I reference myself.

Do you have childish vocabulary that you use on a regular basis now that you've had kids?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Appearance vs Character

Appearance is fantasy of the present; character is everlasting truth.

Chicken stock - can I make it taste, well, more chickeney?

I'm doing a cooking experiment. Well, I suppose it's not exactly an experiment because I'm not using a control group. Unless the trials can be a week or two apart.

I digress!

To get cheap poultry, I have been buying and butchering whole chickens on a regular basis. After taking the chicken apart, I make chicken stock from the leftovers.

My typical recipe and process:

1 whole chicken carcass, including trimmed fat
Kosher salt
8 cups water
1/2-1 onion (smaller onion, use the whole thing. Large onion, as little as half.)
1 celery stalk, with leaves, if possible, rough chop on the bias at a 45 degree angle*
1 carrot, washed, not peeled; same as celery
(1 parsnip) prepared same as carrot
6 peppercorns
*Cutting the vegetables in this manner exposes more of the flavorful inside of the vegetable.

Put bones and fat into large stockpot into 300 degree oven. Roast up to 3 hours.

Remove from oven and put on the stove over medium heat. The bones and skin will be brown and there should be a nice fond developed on the bottom.

When a few drops of water sizzle (not crackle - too hot!) pour in enough water to deglaze: pour in just enough water to cover the bottom with little depth. Scrape bottom of the pot with your wooden spoon until all of the bones and skin have come free and all of the bits have combined with the shallow water. The bottom, including the corners, should look clean and the liquid should be a deep gold.

Add the rest of the water, add the vegetables, bring to simmer and cook down until liquid is reduced in half, stirring and turning the bones over occasionally.

Pour into a non-reactive (ceramic or stainless steel) bowl through a sieve and cool then store. (Winter is great - just put a lid on it and put into the cold for a little while, or overnight.)

So that is how I usually do it. Once in a while, though, I'll accidentally cook it down too much. For instance, tonight I was watching a show and checking out Facebook when I realized that the liquid had been cooking for a while.

Sure enough, it probably had cooked down to two cups. Yikes! All that work for two cups! So, the experiment was born.

When making french onion soup, you caramelize onions, but deglaze them over and over, adding in liquid each time.

Well, what if I keep adding in liquid and cooking it down? Will I get a richer stock?

Answer: I think so, but I didn't do it scientifically.

It came out nice and jellied with terrific flavor. Where I went wrong:
1) I didn't measure the ingredients. Weight of the carcass and vegetables. If I really wanted to get anal, I could measure the fat vs bones. No, not going to do that.
2) I have no idea how long, exactly, that I roasted the bones.
3) I did not time how long I cooked each stage.
4) I did not measure how much liquid remained at each stage
5) I did not taste the stock at each stage to see whether or not the taste was improving.

Overall, I think it was successful. Next time, I'll taste the stock more often and keep track of the cooking time. Give it a try, let me know what happens.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Technology Breeds Independence

Walking, check.
Talking, check.
Playing ball, check.
Getting dressed, check.

Independently turning on the TV, finding the kids channels, and working the video game console?


It's something I've been waiting for for some time, now. You know, the morning after a good date night or guys night out? 7 or 8:00 A.M. comes a little too early. It used to be that I would stumble out of bed, try to not fall down the stairs, put on the TV, get some water and / or VitaminWater Zero, go back to bed. Maybe I would put out some bread and water for the children.

They can not only work the media center, but they can make themselves a basic breakfast! JD can put a waffle or two in the toaster oven without sustaining 2nd degree burns (no cereal for him) and Bunny can pour herself a bowl of cereal. They have figured out how to climb the cabinet hardware to get on the counter to get dishes and glasses. They can get more milk into a glass than they spill.

Bravo! I say.

Tonight, we came home from my Mom's birthday party. Wife was already under the weather before the party, so she was pooped. I was trying to get some rest before my 11:00 P.M. hockey game, so I was happy to lay around for a while.

So, I turned the TV on to Netflix and got a movie going. I knew that it was only 75 minutes long, so I was watching the clock. 

Meanwhile, Wife and I watched the end of the Miss St / Alabama game then turned on Zero Dark Thirty

Sometime after turning on the movie, I heard the kids. They were done with the movie and were playing independently. Great! Their fights were brief and didn't require intervention. Then I heard them playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Wii. Great! Then they turned on Disney Jr and watched Mickey Mouse Club. Great! 

Around 8:15, I went down with the intention of telling them to turn the TV off. Then I realized that it was the middle of the show and they'd been playing nicely and took care of themselves. So I told them that they could finish watching the show. When the show ended, they were to turn the TV off, clean up the DVDs left out, brush their teeth, get into pajamas and come to us for story time. Clockwork! They got it done.

One of the best things about being an at-home parent is that, while I sometimes fondly remember the kids as babies, I have no regrets about the time I'll never get back. I'm now watching them grow into independent, capable people. Yes, they're only 7- and 5-years-old, but their emerging confidence is a pleasure to witness.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wave and Smile

On Tuesdays, I volunteer at the security desk at school. It is during lunch time, so I see kids from every grade come and go.

It is great seeing JD. He smiles and waves. He is proud that I'm there and happy to see me. Not only is he happy to see me, but all of the kids that I know, either because they have been in class with my kids or because I know their parents, wave and smile.

I must be doing something right.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why I Get Involved

This email helped remind me why I get involved with my kids' community:

It was great meeting you briefly last week,and thanks for the update.

I have to tell you that (my daughter) did NOT want to go to soccer last week.  She had never played, and was nervous because she didn't know the rules.  The specific direction you gave her in the few minutes before the game, as well as the on-field instruction put her at ease.  I was strictly baseball/basketball growing up, so I am of no help!

After the game she told me how much she liked your email recognizing her may drive her to be the next Mia Hamm!

At the end of the day we want her to have fun, build confidence and socialize.  Please know how much I appreciate your time and energy to make that happen.

Those are the comments that remind me that I do have a talent. Working with others. Keeping my house clean is not one of them. Creating and maintaining an efficient schedule is not one of them. Listening to others, providing constructive feedback, and providing direction are.

A little background: I am coaching JD's soccer team. While I have never coached soccer and haven't played since I was 7 or 8, working with kids comes naturally to me. I am a decent amateur athlete and enjoy learning the fundamentals of various sports. Having coached youth hockey, I was easily able to come up with a handful of drills that work for both sports, then see what works and doesn't work on a soccer field and adjust. I digress.

What I wanted to get to was how proud I was of JD last game. Four years ago, we tried soccer. Perhaps it was his maturity, perhaps it was emerging symptoms of Autism. Whatever it was, the last time was a disaster. Wife and I didn't know if he would ever be able to participate in team sports. While that wouldn't have been a life tragedy, it would have been another example from the poem, Welcome to Holland, by Perl Kingsley. 

So JD has shown greater capacity to participate in team sports over the last year from observing him on the playground. Participating in gym class and easing into sports with baseball and park district programs have also helped. 

Last Saturday, it all came together. JD was in the play. He was watching the play. He got the ball and was trying to make intelligent passes. He had two shots on goal. It was a successful day.

I give a lot of my time, my family's time, and time with my family to our community, whether it's being President of our school's "Friends of" organization, volunteering at school, or coaching. What is emerging is that it's something that I'm good at. There is value in my presence. I am making a difference in the lives my my family and other families. And that makes me feel great.

Friday, August 22, 2014

You fight, I'll push

The kids and I were at a play date with close family friends. Their daughter is two years younger than Bunny and they play together.

Sometimes they get involved in the boys fighting games. They have two boys, 7 and 5. JD is 7.

Bunny had found a baby and stroller. Their girl wielded a light sabre, chasing the boys. She saw Bunny and became interested. Bunny took the handlebar, turned to her friend and said, " You fight, I'll push." Into battle they strode.

Monday, July 14, 2014

How to cool chicken stock

This is am article about cooling chicken stock after making it from scratch. It can probably be used for quickly cooling soup or a beverage that is chilled after being heated.

I read a tip in Cooks Illustrated that suggested putting a plastic bottle filled with water in the freezer, then using that to quickly cool stock.

I started to think that using a plastic bottle in hot liquid could leech some of the plastic product into the stock. On the other hand, providing an ideal bacteria growing environment is not something I desire, either.

I decided to put ice into a small saucepan. It floats in the broth and will hold the cold longer than the plastic bottle. The pot may also have a larger surface area, making it cool more efficiently, as it displaces more stock than the bottle did.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

How to properly pay a Compliment

The kitchen always smells good because you're always making good stuff, said my 5-year-old daughter.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Developing Minds

Today was report card pickup for both JD and Bunny. Things are great with the kids' academics.

JD has shown improvement in all areas. Not that any particular area needed dramatic improvement, he either maintained Bs or went from C to B. Seeing him be able to keep up with the other kids in class, even excel in some areas, gives us great pride. While it's nice to have natural abilities, having a strong work ethic and posessing the ability to listen to and follow direction is just as important, perhaps more so. How more so? Having strong intellect and low drive doesn't get a person anywhere. Having a strong work ethic will maintain a person throughout their life. Having great intellect and strong work ethic gives a person opens even more doors.

Bunny is an extremely bright four-year-old. She is reading at a very high level. She can read any children's book by herself and can decode most unfamiliar words. She understands number and geometric relationships and has mastered a few single-digit addition problems. I wouldn't go so far as to call her "gifted," but she's academically above all of the kids in her class. She's having some trouble cooperating with other kids and letting them answer questions. We hope that having a full Kindergarten workload where differentiation is a little easier to accomplish will help her. Otherwise, I may have to home school. Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt.

One thing that is fun to see is Bunny loves to read. Loves it. She has burned through our considerable library. We now allow her to read after she goes to bed. She will read for an hour to an hour-and-a-half. While we would like her to get plenty of sleep, we're not going to discourage her passion.

Monday, March 24, 2014


Bunny completed the monkey bars for the first time today!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Whole Fur

Is it just me or is it absolutely hilarious I just saw a woman wearing a mink coat coming out of whole foods?

Monday, February 10, 2014


Played with Bunny for an hour this afternoon after shopping. Math flash cards. Then we made flowers.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Think Before You Publish

I recently published an entry that dealt with the intricacies of marital life. It was very personal. I have removed it from public view. Unfortunately, I did so after publishing it, then sharing it on Facebook.

Not only was it personal, but I wrote about marital challenges. Initially, it seemed like something that was on my mind and something that I wanted to document to have for the future. Also, I thought that many people could relate to the challenges.

Unfortunately, what I did not consider was that I was not just writing about myself but also about my wife. Not only was I putting myself out in public, but my best friend. And, without considering how she would feel about this story being out there.

Doing this blog for seven years, I have walked the line many times between documenting my life and putting sensitive personal issues in the public eye. If I were to analyze the posts, my guess is that many would follow this format:
1. Describe a situation
2. Share my analysis of the situation
3. Consider future remedies or alternatives

The problem is in the #1. Specifically, in describing a situation. Since this is about my life as a homemaker with a wife and children, the situations are about my wife, my children, and me. Me: okay. The others: I don't have their permission. It's not like I'm blogging about sports or other public figures.

I am going to have to think hard about how this will effect my kids, or how they will view it later on. Will JD care that I talked about being austistic? Bunny about her idiosyncrasies? At the moment, they are not aware of the internet and its scope and reach.

Wife is fully aware. And perhaps that's what I have to think about - if she is sometimes frustrated with some of the things that I post (rightfully so) then perhaps Bunny and JD will be, too.

The deeper question:

Why bother posting these thoughts and feelings publicly, rather than keep a private journal?

Perhaps my format for writing should be:
1. Write entry on Google Drive or MS Word
2. Read it and decide if it is for public or private consumption
3. If needed, consult my partner

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Some People Just Don't Like the Indigo Girls

I sing to bunny almost every night at bedtime. Common songs include, Jingle Bells, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and Fools Rush In.

A few nights ago she asked, "Daddy, will you a song you've never sang to me." 

I'm not very good at memorizing lyrics, so I used my phone to look up the lyrics to Closer To Fine. 

/I'm trying to tell you something about my life.../

She interrupted me. "Daddy, I don't like this song. Sing jingle bells."

So, I got pissed. I get mad when I put forth extra effort and the recipient says it isn't good enough. So I told her that I was upset and that I was leaving. We would try again tomorrow.

Should I have just said, "Okay, sweetie," and sang her song?

The damned flip-flopping! 

I want this, no, I want that! 

I can't stand it. It makes me crazy. Sometimes I lose my mind.

This time, I kept my cool and kept my word. No song tonight.

Was I wrong?

Didn't Get It From Me

Bunny likes her room to be clean. It's the oddest thing. She actually takes tine every day to pick up her toys. The shelves where she had stored her things are not particularly tidy, but everything is off of the floor.

And I didn't ask her to do it. Very strange behavior, indeed.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How do we get from one-half to one-and-a-half?

Teaching JD to count by halves made me want to throw a chair through our sliding glass doors. Let me explain.

The assignment: to measure area by square inches.
The format: there were four problems. Each problem had a picture using polygons to depict an area to measure. There were squares which equaled one square inch. There were also half-squares that were either depicted as a triangle or as a rectangle. To get the answer, we counted by halves and wholes.

The problem in our case: JD did not know how to count by halves. He barely understands what a half is. I get it - a piece is a piece. Cutting a pizza or a pie apart just makes smaller whole pieces, from a certain perspective.

I drew a number line to try to help him understand how to see that halves come between the numbers he already counts:

0          1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

We read those. Then, I put halves in between so it looked like this:

0     1/2    1      1 1/2        2       2 1/2       3      3 1/2        4       4 1/2       5      5 1/2        6      6 1/2...

He just didn't get it. The connection wasn't there. I tried so hard and so patiently. On top of trying to teach this, he's looking out the window at the snow falling under the street light in the alley. He's yawning because it's around 7pm and we had been at it for 25 minutes and were on our second problem. (There were four problems to complete.)

"Okay, JD, let's count. Is this a square or a half?"

"Half," he would say.

"That's right!" I replied enthusiastically. Using a pen, I pointed to the next one, a whole square. "How about this one? Is it a half or a whole?"

"One-and-a-half?" he guessed.


Chair through window.

Just kidding.

I don't know if it was more frustrating for him or for me, though.

And the reality is this: that's MY problem, not his. Failing to grasp the concept is not something he is actively seeking. Being autistic, he probably doesn't know why he needs to learn this. More specifically, he is apathetic to the need to learn it.

It is my false expectation that he should be able to pick this up easily. I was able to easily understand math concepts like this at his age. Projecting that ability on to him is terribly unfair. He will likely excel at many things with which I struggle in life. I need to chill out and accept that counting by halves will take a little while longer.

And, if it's so hard for him and so important to me that he learns it, I need to spend more time with him on this subject.

Or do I choose nuanced language?
Or do I work on communicating using Wh- questions?
Or do we read more books?
Or art projects?
Or physical fitness?
Or give the kid a break and let him play with his action figures because he doesn't get home until after 5pm three out of five school days?

Hey, at least teenage years will be easier!

To get the answers faster, I had him count the total number of half-squares, then find how many wholes that equaled on the number line. Then he counted the total number of whole squares. Then we found the sum. It got us through the four problems in 55 minutes. Maybe he'll be able to use that strategy on the test. Sigh.

Pulling Out All the Stops

It's a good one.

And, if this is rock bottom, I'm calling DCFS on myself.

Monday, February 3, 2014

JD is getting so tall that the difference between his jeans and wife's jeans in the laundry is no longer easily distinguishable.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Lunch Salad

About 3 cups chopped romaine
1/4 cup each baby kale & spicy mixed greens, loosely packed
2 Tbls favorite dressing (today, I'm using Farmed Here's sweet basil vinaigrette)
1/4-1/2 avocado, sliced
1/4 cup sliced cucumber
1 Roma tomato, sliced
salt & pepper, to taste

Wash & dry lettuce and greens.
Toss with dressing in large bowl, then transfer to plate or large salad bowl
Top with remaining veggies.
Sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt and cracked pepper on top, if you're into that, or don't.

I considered slicing up a jalapeño. But I didn't. Just because. Now I wish I had.

After writing this as I'm resting, I got up and took a heaping fork-full of hot giardiniera. It's delicious. If you count calories consider how much dressing you are using if you as giardiniera, as it if packed in oil.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cold Day Home is No Vacation Day

My family and I live in Chicago. Today, the high was 3. Degrees Ferenheit. At 2:45 P.M., it is -1. Overnight, it will drop to -11 or so and get back up to a high somewhere around 3.

School was canceled today and will be again tomorrow.

There was a terrific blog article about snow days from an author-Mom - Scarry Mommy.

One of the major differences between her and me is that her kids, from how it sounds, are in school all day. I have one full-day, one half-day. So going from having the kids away all day at scheduled times to having them home when one has her own schedule is intrusive. Whereas I am only expecting time "to myself" for a little less than two hours.

When I heard that school was canceled today, I had two thoughts. First, that school would be canceled on Tuesday, as well, making two "days off." The second thought was that these were not going to be vacation days for the kids. I was going to make a school-like schedule. And stick to it.

Today is Monday. It is now 2:50 P.M. I can say that I was successful. And that my success was due to a couple of factors.

First, I was realistic. Wait, no, first, Bunny was invited over for a play date this morning. Second, I was realistic about how much I would try to accomplish. Third, I was creative.

Bunny's play date left me alone with JD for two hours. Forty of those minutes were spent playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Wii. It was on the schedule. Being a video game player, I can easily rationalize video game play by focusing on its benefits. First, when we play Wii, the rule is that you have to stand up. So, while we weren't moving our feet all that much, we were standing for forty minutes plus time to set-up. Second, the player has to remember which buttons perform which action. It requires recognizing what the abilities of one's own character are. There is some navigation.

After TMNT, we did work sent home by his speech pathologist. One of JD's Autism challenges is auditory processing. So we worked on that for about thirty minutes. Then we worked on a math assignment that was giving JD trouble.

Pick up Bunny, make lunch. (And lunch was good!)

When I was putting the schedules for the kids together, I was thinking about what they could do together. And, being active was an important part of the day I was planning. Obstacle course!

Obstacle courses:
-auditory processing
-physical movement
-can incorporate academic elements

First, make a circle around a laundry hamper, then a two-foot jump over a rolled-up doormat. Next, crawl the long-way under the dining room table, climb stairs. Finally, a math problem.

Math problem? 

I have some addition flash cards that we pretty much never use. I found a use. I put five of them at the landing between the main and second floors (ten stairs) and five on the landing between the main floor and the basement (five stairs.) JD had the long climb, Bunny the shorter. Before each would begin, I would say, "Get the card that adds up to seven. Go!" And if they made a mistake at any point, they had to do that part over again.

After we tackled that, we did another math problem using the stairs. How many stairs from the main floor to the landing? How many more to the second floor / basement? Make an addition problem. (Up = 16, Down = 14. And don't be a smart ass, reader. You know what I mean.) Then I asked, "What is 14 + 16?" They didn't know. So I sent one to the top and one to the bottom and they were to count and then secretly report their answers to me.

So that covered physical fitness and the math section of the day.

The last part was reading and writing time. I read a story. Throughout the story, we discussed the feelings the animals had throughout the story and how we might feel in the same situation. After the book was over, the kids were given paper and markers. They were each to write a book about "what happens next." While neither book was particularly brilliant, they both sat there drawing and adding dialogue for another twenty minutes. Finished at 2:30 P.M., I was going to offer them T.V. time, but before I could, they asked to go play. Why would I interrupt that? They are now playing harmoniously while I get a chance to write.

So, yes, this is a pat on my own back. The day hasn't been without its challenges and arguments. Overall, though, everybody has been happy and active. Hopefully, tomorrow will be as much fun!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Pulling Hair

You know what hurts? When your long underwear / base layer grabs and pulls your leg hair. Ouch!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Happy siblings

Post hair cut picture came out quite nicely!

Monday, January 6, 2014


There are some really smart people out there. I'm thinking about people who improve a product right now.

This was bright on by losing my wedding ring down the bathroom sink drain.

I was terribly worried.

It was just after I got out of the shower. My contacts were out and my glasses were upstairs. Reaching for my watch and ring, I pushed my ring into the sink and was embarrassingly bad in the attempt to snatch it from the sink before it fell down the drain.

Panic set in. I ran up the stairs two at a time. Glasses on. Down the stairs. Grab some towels. Pull everything out from inside the cabinet. Throw the towels down to catch the water. Then I saw that the drain pipe was PVC. I was able to open the three nuts, remove the pipe, and have minimal water come out. All by hand. (Obviously, that would be different if the sink were clogged.)

What a terrific innovation-a catch in the system. While it seems obvious, there was a time when it didn't exist.

So here's to the person who figured out that plumbing innovation. Cheers!