Monthly Archives: September 2011

how much for that?

i was recently talking with a family member who is in the process of selling their home. like many people selling their homes right now, they are having a tough go at it. one thing that stood out from the conversation is that she is confused by the fact that they had more interest in their home (judged by showings and traffic at open houses) when the price was higher, and now that they lowered the cost, they have seen considerably less activity. my initial thought was that it all had to do with the way we perceive products. now, i am sorry if i lumped ‘you’ into the ‘we’, but people seem to naturally aim for the top of their price point, or think a product is ‘better’ if it costs more, and we generally exceed our initial budget when we make major purchases. well, we used to. how many times have you heard “we went over budget”, usually followed with a smile and nod to signify an understanding that that’s what was expected, or perhaps only one member of the couple is carrying on this way, and the other is looking down with a ‘i’ll kill you if you do this again’ look. wait, maybe that’s just on the house design shows i watch. um, i mean that r. tells me about…word for word. yah, she likes to try and memorize the television shows she watches and then recites them back to me. i agree it’s a little weird, but i humor her.

so, obviously i thought about this concept a few times today, and then came across this article written by derek thompson for the Atlantic (i have no idea who derek thompson is either, but know that he deserves the credit) the title of the article is “what you don’t get about college admissions”. the following section of the article was addressing whether colleges with higher costs associated with them are viewed by the public as better colleges.

“There is a prestige element. People make the false assumption that cost equals quality. Colleges are raising tuition because market research said they should. George Washington University in D.C. is a great example. They raised tuition because research showed that they had a lower tuition than American University, so students considered them worse. Now they have one of the highest tuitions in the country, and their applications are way up.”

the product remained the same, the cost went up, and people believe it to be better than before. i truly love this way of thinking. i love it for two reasons; it makes me laugh and I am tricked by it. i would be a total liar, which i’m not, or am i? or am i not a total truther (quick which president did you just think of?) if i didn’t admit to buying into this view of consuming. have you ever seen something in a store or online that you weren’t shopping for, it looks like a good product, has a insanely low price tag, and you pass it by because it couldn’t be of value – for that value? or, i guess, because you didn’t need it.

the flip side of this is that i love thrift stores and flea markets. i enjoy, as stated in previous blog posts, looking for that ‘jewel in the ruble’. this seems to make sense with my all or nothing, but getting better at middling, mentality. if i am getting a new garden hose – make it the best, or most expensive. if I am looking for a tissue box holder – make it the least expensive and weirdest.

i’m not sure what i’m trying to say. i am sure this is all basic economics. we all know that the price of something is only what people are willing to pay, and the value that you put on that ‘thing’ dictates whether you will spend more or less for a product.

here is a list of products that I think are worth paying more for – please feel free to add yours – glue sticks, staplers, underwear, food (seriously all food), I used to think sprinklers, but the four dollar one we got early in the summer is doing great, paper towel, cheap toilet paper has never bothered me, crayons, night stands, spatulas, and deodorant.


the lighter side

when i am down, feeling sorry for myself or just having a normal case of the blues, there are four people that can bring me back to earth.

today is not one of those days, but two of the four ‘pick me uppers’ or better put ‘smack me outta the funker’s’ are in the picture below.

after playing for a good half hour by themselves, which was awesome in itself, they came out of h.’s bedroom with diapers on their heads. how could i say no when they asked if they could wear them while we ran our errands today? there were more smiles than stares, with one woman asking, after much thought, “i have to ask. what’s with the diapers?” i simply said “they wanted to wear them.” and smiled. she shook her head and smiled too.

life can be serious. sometimes it needs to be, but really, we are all s$&” for brains needing to wear a diaper on our head in public every now and again. flip it around today, smile, and remember it’s just a diaper on her head.


parenthesis parade

“i love a parade.” can you say that without singing it? thanks lawrence welk. every time I’m either at, or watching a parade on tv (which is weird and I couldn’t tell you the last time I did it), i sing that little tune to myself. something more like “I looooove a pa-rade”. i typically do it in my head, unless i’m alone. the only true way to sing it is really loud.

well, it was homecoming weekend at the local high school and our friends (or are they still neighbors? when do you cross over from neighbors to friend-land? this is a tough one. I think a neighbor is more of a casual-conversation-ask-to-borrow-ladder-pour-water-on-when-burning-kind of thing. let’s say we are in the mini-van and pulling out of the driveway onto friendship road.) invited us to watch the parade with them. perfect. because, i “loooooove a parade” (it’s hard not to do, even when writing, i hope you’re singing it all day. wait for a quiet moment in the office, go to the copy machine, and let er’ rip “i looooove a parade”. sorry it’s getting fun to write now.) the girls were excited to see their friends (see, kids are allowed to know one another for 5 minutes and be friends, they can even hug and hold hands without anyone thinking it’s weird. i guess they don’t have the hang-ups we do, yet. maybe i should try that with our new “friends” – on our way to the park, just casually go for a hand grasp. what could you say? it would break the ice faster than the first time you are asked to help them move. speaking of helping people move. i had a “friend” who i had only known, at that point, for three weeks. he was moving and i asked if he wanted help. i will never forget how he said “um, yah, we aren’t really those types of friends yet.”) and for the candy that would be thrown their way as the floats and cars made their way past our piece of grass (i forgot the folding chairs). they weren’t looking forward to the floats, bands, or other odd people who walk in parades (you know, every parade i have been to seems to have that one participant that just doesn’t make sense. like someone went to sign up for the 4th of july parade and the following took place “yah um… i’d like a spot in the 4th of july parade.” “oh, and what do you represent?” “i’m running for office.” “oh, what office? perhaps we could get you around some of your friends and you could work together handing out fliers and such.” “ah i’m a democartian” “a what?” “you know a democartian.” the person working the parade doesn’t really want to go any further into it, takes his $50 bucks and hands him the parade route and guidelines. she puts him in between a democratic mayor and judge (cause judges should totally have political ties). parade day comes. and there is the “democartian” walking with a sign reading “if it wasn’t for the sock puppets and meatball monsters we might all be safe.”. he has a stack of pamphlets – not one of which is the same as the other. thankfully he isn’t handing out candy.)

naturally the kids were excited for the candy, why wouldn’t they be, but what we (the adults) were not ready for was “the candy”. now perhaps i have always been at the end of the parade route so this type of activity is normal for the start of the parade, but it was the most ridiculous candy assault i have ever witnessed, and unfortunately it took away from the parade. you couldn’t watch the parade. you had to: duck, make sure the kids didn’t get run over by cars, make sure the kids were indeed picking up candy, duck, and it actually became a chore to pick up candy. h. learned fast. she had her three suckers and came to the sideline, but the other two girls and their moms were busy. work, busy. we couldn’t just leave all that candy in the street. we had a duty to pick it up.

now, i can get over all of that (the upside being we don’t have to buy halloween candy) and we had fun. i can even get over seeing hundreds of “air heads” splattered in the streets as we made our way home (now, if it were “spree” we may have a different story), but what i thought about, and can’t get over, is the amount of candy that was deemed necessary for a homecoming parade. the reality (regardless of how we got here, how we are getting out, how much is fear, how much is real and the other baggage that comes along with it) is that we are not doing the best as a nation economically. of course 200 less bags of candy at a parade will not buy the 300 computers that the school needs, nor do i want to do away with candy at parades, but we are not learning the lessons that i would hope we would have given the very real set of circumstances that our nation finds itself in, nor are we acting like there is a very real problem. this is an opportunity to pare down our “necessities” to realize what is necessary. this would have been a perfect time to say “in lieu of the 5,000 bags of candy, that we typically throw out to parade watchers, we are going to give that money to our after school program.” not only would we be diverting funds into a more well suited place, but there would be some other darn fine (by darn fine i mean awesome) unintended consequences, like – we could actually see the faces on the float, recognize our neighbors daughter who is in the homecoming court, wave at our principals, and otherwise have the parade be an event that everyone is apart of and adds to.

we have created so much “stuff” around our traditions and celebrations. that “stuff” has become a barrier. that barrier is growing and continues to separate us from one another – as people out to see a parade together, neighbors celebrating a house-warming, and humans celebrating and living this life. why are we comfortable with the smoke screen? why is it easier to throw gifts at people and “stuff our faces” at community events than talk and observe? why is it easier to consume than just “be”. i hope that, as we are forced to have less at our parties, parades, and in our lives, that we can grow closer to one another, and as i have written a million times, fear one another less. obviously people are doing with less and sacrificing their wants to get by, but as a society we have not decided to shut down any of those outward signs of a wealthy nation, at least when it comes to parades.

tragedy can reshape our ideals in positive ways, unless we would rather stay in the haze with our tongues pressed against our canker sores.

you know those buying and throwing the candy want us distracted.

the start of the school year has brought a range of emotions. kind of.

well, the new car smell is out. we’ve had our first visits with family, the guys at kroger know who i am, and the girls understand that “just a few errands” means a morning getting in and out of the car, suckers at the bank and the possibility of a surprise gift – today was a hello kittie pin for h. and a “free hugs” pin for a.. we are settled, or as settled as we get.

the start of the school year has brought a range of emotions. kind of.

animals instinctively know when to migrate, we know when to excuse ourselves from the table, and people with reconstructive knee surgery know when it is going to rain. our bodies talk to us. i love people who have had a surgery that gives them the “power” to play weather-person. the sky is grey, the temperature has dropped 10 degrees, wind has picked up and thunder is heard in the background. yet, inevitably someone will come up to you and say “man, my knee is really hurting. is it going to rain? i’m pretty sure it’s going to rain soon. my knee knows these things.” really? thanks. my body was no different on september 1st, the first day of school. i felt something, it was more of a questioning coming from my body than a feeling. my muscles, bones and organs seemed to ask “where is the stress? the movement? the planning? the smell of school?” while my body was having these reactions, my mind had a separate set of thoughts, namely, “why am i so at ease? why am i not longing for the start to a time of year that i pride myself on, that i went through years of schooling for, that is an intimate relationship with the public, and dare i say, especially these days, extremely important?”.

questioning myself is exacerbated by the ways others question me. i hear the “you really enjoy this?” behind the “how are yous?” the “man, how’d you pull this off?” behind, well, the, “man, how’d you pull this off?”. a tip on the last one: find a man/woman who is driven, intelligent and amazing, treat one another as equals in your relationship, support the dreams and desires that you both have, realize that you will screw up, don’t let that stop you from trying, and it is really about taking care of yourself and sacrificing for the family – you may even get the sunday ticket out of the deal. not that easy, but a big part is trying to do what is best for the ones you live with and love, and believe me, it’s not pulling anything off, it’s just how things happen – it makes sense. i have a stock answer when people ask “how do you like it?”, referring to staying at home with the kids, i say “i feel fortunate to be able to be at home with the girls. some days are tough, but it’s really great.” i’m not sure what else to say. maybe there is nothing else to say. i am fortunate, it is a lot of work (and you can’t get in your car and go home.), the day is all day, and there is only so much whining one person can take, but how could i complain?

i don’t know how i am supposed to feel staying at home all day with our kids, but i don’t think i have any different feelings than i would if we were both working outside of the house and the kids were in daycare. the big picture is different, we are able to have a greater role in the early years of our children’s lives, we can speed up the process of warping their minds with our beliefs, and they will listen to david bowie, nirvana, and bob dylan more than rafi, laurie berkner, and the wiggles, but day-to-day emotionally i am as i was. some days are awesome and my patience is high (totally related) and other days are tough. now, what i mind trip on, and feel like a 8-year-old staring in the mirror trying to cry so i can convince my mom how hard my brother really hit me, is that being a teacher is a part of my identity. it is a part of “who i am”, away from “who i am” to those that know and love me intimately. ( i think that is the second time i used the word intimately. weird. light candles for the rest of your reading of this blog). i look in the mirror and tell myself these things, i try to feel like i am missing something or that i should feel unfulfilled being a man and being at home (i am going to leave the last sentence because it is who i am, but man or woman, the transition from working a career outside the home to staying at home with kids is the same.) but i end up laughing and moving on. perhaps it is because i know that i will work again, hopefully – i don’t take that for granted, but more importantly it is because i know it is fleeting. our daughters will not always want to hug, kiss, show us their drawings, talk to us, wrestle, and think that we are the greatest things in the world. we are able to be a part of a time in their lives that they actually want us to be a part of.

i felt the need to say something about my transition (i only wish the girls could write a blog relating their feelings about the transition). it is something that i need to be, and am, mindful of, and i do miss: the kids, our staff, the fast paced environment, problem solving, and the smell of the hallways on the first day of school (because after the first day it is all downhill). i do, but i am at ease because i am still a teacher. the benefits? i never had a student stand behind my driver’s seat after we parked, say my name (dad), and give me a kiss out-of-the-blue. for many reasons i am glad that i am experiencing that now.

this song, “killing an arab” by the cure, is not about what it’s title suggests. it relates to a scene in albert camus’s “the stranger”. if you have not read “the stranger”, please do. it is my favorite book. i will blog about my love of it soon. i chose this song today because i had the main character of “the stranger” in my mind, a few times, while writing this piece.


“don’t compare yourself to her. you, are you.”

a. held up a ruler and asked “daddy, how much do you weigh” i replied “well, a. that is a ruler to measure how tall or long things are, we use a scale to determine someone’s weight” yes, i said ‘to determine someone’s weight’. a. likes to try to determine, or compare and measure, a lot of things these days. “daddy who’s the smelliest in the house?” “daddy are you better at running than him?” or “daddy why does he have a smaller nose than you.” i would be remiss if i didn’t share that h. has gotten in on this as well. she likes to hold her hands up, the way a fisher person would to show the size of their catch, to convey the “big deuce” in her diaper. now, if her “deuce”, or “rooster in the oven” as we like to call them, were really that big, i think i’d be out another $20 co-pay. don’t ask where ‘rooster in the oven’ came from, just one of those things that pops out. what are your favorite euphemisms for a poop in the diaper? we’ve digressed. that would just be me, i guess, since there is no one else in the room. except louie, and you know he is good for a few thoughts on potty.

a. is four. in our town kids start kindergarten when they are five, full days. for four-year olds, our school district uses a national program called ‘hippy’ that is designed to ready three, four, and five-year olds for kindergarten, help students who may have special needs, and otherwise introduce parents and students to the school process – teaching parents to be the students primary educators. it is not mandatory and it is a needs based program, they hope to be able to expand it to all four-year olds whose parents would like to be involved, but of course, that takes money – a whole different discussion. the program offers on-site tutoring/teaching, and for the students who may not need that much involvement, curriculum that parents can use at home with their children. a cool idea.

part of establishing your child’s needs from the program is a test. dun. dun. dun. yes, a test. this is my first official moment of ‘being on the other side’. in the event that you have not read any of my other posts or bio, i was a teacher for 9 years. i am certain that i was more apprehensive than a. this morning. in fact, she enjoyed every minute of it. i wasn’t nervous about the results. no, i was nervous that she was being tested, and that there would be results, that this was her first test in ‘the school system’, and that this test would go into “her file” (i would caps lock the heck out of that if it didn’t bug me so much – so let me say it again “her file”. did you feel how hard i pounded the keys?). obviously this test would not guide the rest of her learning in our fine educational institutions, but it is the first measure of how she tests, of her capabilities, and more importantly, how educators, counselors, and the like will view her in the future. you may think this is far-fetched for a test given to four-year olds, but there are many people in education, right or wrong, and usually out of necessity, that get to know your child through a file, and screening starts early. of course teachers who work with students consistently, step away from that file and get to know the person, but generally, if a need comes up, it is that file that they start with. i am not saying that there is anything wrong with this, in fact, it is impossible to avoid. if everyone involved with our kids could meet them one-on-one and get to know “just how special” (splattered with sarcasm) our angels are, then we would be hiring the entire city to teach our kids. hey wait, oh never mind. i wish africa, and not hillary, came to mind when i wrote that, oh well. a. came out of the test happy as could be and was greeted with a grab and almost trip down the stairs courtesy of her sister, talk about coming back to earth.

measurements and comparisons are necessary. they are necessary to build a house, describe an event, and find out how well we are doing on a given task. i remember hearing the quote i used at the start of this post many times as a kid. well, kind of, it was usually he and not she. i understand the idea behind the statement, but don’t know if i agree, and now am second guessing what i am about to say for i know what pigeon’s hole it may put me in, but i think we need to measure against other people and we need to push people to be better than others. why are we shy of this competition? why am i shy to admit that i like this competition? i say, “compare yourself to her” what does she do differently? how did she get to be better at dribbling the ball? why does she get away with saying the ‘f’ word and you don’t? why do they get 5 second time-outs from their parents and you get 10 minutes? why are you, how are you, and does it matter to you that you are different? examine, compare and contrast. how else do we know what we need if we don’t know what we are? it seems to come down to the notion that we don’t want people to feel bad about themselves, and i don’t either. i am the last person who would want to hurt someone, but hurting someone and being truthful with them so they may grow are different things. there are many observations that people made about me that i wish they would have shared sooner. perhaps if we didn’t shy away from inadequacies, differences and other items that make us who we are, we would be more tolerant of others, instead of fearing the fact that we are different from them or live angry that we are not them. perhaps we would trust one another more, trust that we weren’t pointing something out because we were jealous or angry, building resentment, but because we want everyone to excel and be better. i hate fear. i hate that we fear one another’s opinions, but understand why we do. we have been taught to think that everyone is out to get us. ahh. that’s it. we are afraid that someone will take our spot. there are just not enough chairs for us all to sit down. if i’m honest with them, and they grow better as a result, i may lose my chair.

i’ll build a new one. don’t tell me i look good standing.

we came home, ate lunch and are in the midst of quiet time. we found out our a/c is leaking freon and our stove had a gas leak. ouch. both getting taken care of.

*already processing what i wrote above.

perhaps we don’t want to discourage people by telling them what they are doing wrong. it is important to focus on the positive. in order to improve a person, mainly ourselves, it is important to focus on what we are doing right and what we need to do, not what we are doing wrong. i could yell ‘no’ at h. all day for screaming, and the behavior will continue, but if i show her what to do differently, she will learn what i think is ‘acceptable’.

another thought came to mind. we have to judge ourselves off of a system that is already created. we are measured by an already established set of rules, that we may not agree with or that weren’t designed for us. could this be another reason to reject the notion of constant measurements?

we write together. help the story grow.

good day to you all. here is the premise of friday’s posts. this is a writing exercise that i used to do with my students. i am going to start a story. i would then request that you add to the story. one word, one sentence, a paragraph or six. the next person will then add the next part, and the story will grow. you may contribute more than once, but please wait for two people to go before you go again.(think I was a teacher?)

here we go.

he grew up alone in the green spaces between two major midwestern towns. I mean, he had people around him, mostly good people, and a lot of them, but he never knew his place, he didn’t feel like they cared much. maybe it was him. there were cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors and teachers, they were there out of obligation. he once heard his aunts boyfriend in the other room declare ‘it’s easier to deal with a nine year old kid than the law’ their chuckles – blended with the crack of aluminum cans, disposable lighter flicks, and the sniffing of whatever it was they sniffed.

yah, he had a lot of excuses, or could we call them reasons, but as he made his way to the court house today, there wasn’t a person in this world that would take responsibility for what he was going to do. no one but him.

“yah, well then can you send the cab over here? i. what? i just said 314. yes cobbway. how long. you gotta be kidding me? you know what? forget it.” he started out the door…

come back tomorrow. it will be cool. i promise.

well, it’s thursday. typically a spot reserved for a reflective/introspective piece. i’m too introspective to share today, and there is a little teeny tiny football game on tonight. if you recall i am working on designating a theme for each day of the week. this way you, the reader, will know what to expect and i can stay organized as our travel schedule increases and the girls activities become more frequent. i have a new concept for friday’s posts that i will start tomorrow. so, come back then, please. it will be cool and interactive. yes, interactive. look forward to seeing you. now, back to shaving a ‘g’ in my chest, painting my face, and munching the finest wisconsin cheddar.

go pack

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