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Showing posts from February, 2014

Pop-culturizing our kids: Tales from the school bus and WDW

Today's post topic was really two subjects floating around in my head this morning until I realized they're actually the same theme. Integrating our kids into popular culture. That can be a tough topic for parents as we try to figure out what's right for our children, try to resist the temptation to "keep up," and try to foster independence...while at the same time socializing our kids.

My son has started riding the school bus. A fact which would have been unbelievable at the beginning of the school year. He hated the idea. We didn't really care for the idea. We have a car, a bike trailer, one parent home, so why try to force the bus on him?

He's made amazing progress this school year--gaining friends, improving his communication, trying new things. And it got to the point where I was maybe 1 of 3 parents in the school driveway at pickup time. Peer pressure, a cool machine, his friends, and ease of commute all brought a perfect storm together about a mont…

Legal issues in farming

I know this topic is about as boring as watching paint dry to most of my readers...stay with me though!

Last night I took part in a 2-hour webinar which is part of a longer legal series from Farm Commons. (I don't plan to attend others because, at this point, those are less relevant.) They're a nonprofit doing legal counsel for local, organic, and direct-market farmers. In other sessions, attorney Rachel Armstrong covers issues surrounding on-farm tourism, CSAs (did you know gift certificate and securities laws may apply?), food safety liability, etc.. Last night's talk was mostly around topics of organizing the business such as protecting the name, insurance, financing, farm transfers, etc.. 

I found all her information very helpful and it was 2 hours well-spent...I'll just point out a couple of highlights that may be of interest to a more general audience. 

Assets--
Rachel made a key distinction between assets and stock in an existing operation. It seems highly importan…

Autonomy and dependence

My son's problem is getting going.

In fact, he's sometimes prone to false starts and our recent favorite strategy for fixing some tantrums has been a "do over." Something he understands the concept on but often needs help getting there. He sees that he's gone off down a bad road of behavior and wants to reset, but the trick is him doing the mental yoga necessary to fix his mood and make the proper, new choice. I completely understand that, as an adult I sometimes lack the Buddhist discipline to let bad thoughts simply come and leave without clinging to them.

We finally seem to have found a babysitter. After over 3 years of rarely leaving the kids, we decided it was high time to pick a name off the local parenting e-mail list and get on with it. So she came over on Saturday afternoon to meet the children and do a short interview. Basically, what we told her is that Cole is easy...get him started on the routine and then don't worry. If there's going to be t…

Thoughts on behavior intervention

This morning was an eye-opening 2 hours. I took time out of my Saturday morning to go to a seminar put on by our school district titled, "Common Behavior Strategies for Home, School, and Community." It was given by the district's brand new Behavior Interventionist who has her MSW and works with all the schools in the district alongside the social workers.

I picked up a few good tidbits here and there that I will find useful. But it was useful in far different ways, too. Parents in the room were more than willing to get into the behavior specifics of their particular children. And, sometimes, it's nice to do a check-in and figure out, "hey, I'm doing ok." What I walked away thinking was that we're doing a damn good job with our children. Not to say we're perfect and I won't be changing a few things in my parenting. And not to say that the parents in the room aren't doing a good job with their children.

On the whole, however, I came away n…

The dark history of "I've Been Working On The Railroad"

My kids have one of those children's music CDs that they like to listen to with lots of the classic songs they hear at school and storytime. And, lately, their favorite song has been "I've Been Working On The Railroad."

Which is just this quintessential piece of American folk music, right? You never thought twice about it. It's like "Happy Birthday." You know it, it's cute, harmless for kids....

But something has always bothered me about that song. It's really more like 3 songs, right? There's the railroad beginning, the "Dinah, won't you blow" middle, and it ends with that fee fi, "someone's in the kitchen" part that is completely unique from the other 2 sections. I have enough of a music background that I was sure there was something more there besides just being a song old timers used to sing in train yards.

Sure enough, turns out it was first published in 1894 under the title "Levee Song" and recorde…

Bike Fit Clinic

Last night was the kickoff of the newbie program for the Chicago Tri Club. With the melting snow, perhaps there is some hope that tri season is around the corner. And clinic #1 was a meet-n-greet (free pizza and beer) at Get a Grip Cycles on Irving Park. The club actually has an entire--impressive--calendar of newbie activities. Including a training schedule/group leading up to the race that I chose as my first last year. There are open water swim clinics, wetsuit try-ons, intro to bike maintenance/gearing, threshold testing, pool clinics, run form analysis. Basically, the program leaders are trying to emphasize that your membership gets you far more in return than you pay to join. So far, I'd say that is accurate. In my couple of events with the group, I can't believe the amount of discounts, sponsors, and expert advice you have access to. 
This first clinic last night was a very basic explanation of what services the store offers and what a bike fit is. By the way, the staff…

Salty dogs

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hearing my children use their first bad words.

I was sitting in my son's room watching them play on his bed. We recently moved a large, stuffed chair with ottoman out...which required taking the door off the hinges, taking the legs off the chair...and it's opened up the space as a popular spot.

Leda, the youngest who is 2, likes to invade space, cause trouble, and steal toys. Cole, the older who is 3, likes to go on offense as the aggressor in a bid to play defense. It makes for interesting times, lately. So, when Leda began to whine about the situation while Kelly was at a spinning group, I felt little sympathy because she brought her brother's wrath upon herself. I've been trying to convince her that she only invites trouble by enthusiastically playing the part of the annoying baby sister. Leave him alone and he, generally, will leave you alone, etc..

I told her--very matter of fact--that she should quit whining and go play in the liv…

The sheep we love

I'm not sure what our family and friends think when they hear that we want to move to the country and start raising, among other things, a flock of sheep. Aside from thinking that we're crazy, I mean. Before I knew anything about shepherds, pastures, grazing, electric fences, or lambing, I'm not sure what image would have stuck in my mind as generically "sheepish." 
So I thought I'd help out and highlight a few of our favorite breeds. Most of them are English heritage longwool breeds--we like wool, duh--that are dual purpose...meaning they make darn tasty lamb, too. A couple are on the Livestock Conservancy's "Conservation Priority List" so they are critical, threatened, or under watch because of low numbers. In the case of the most endangered, that means under 200 new registrations per year with less than 2,000 globally. For the Watch category, that means less than 10,000 animals around the world. 
Even if you're not into shepherding, hope…

In defense of property rights

This is a post about agricultural easements and mineral rights.

But it very well could be a post about zoning and condo associations. I live in a very urban area so my daily encounters are with those. In my very liberal suburb, we turned down a daycare in a building down the street because of traffic concerns with drop offs. My condo association tells us we can't replace our back door for historic reasons. And we're not allowed to have a dishwasher. I didn't buy the condo though--it came with the Mama--and it's not the type of living I would choose otherwise.

Homeowner associations annoy me, too. Telling people they can't have flags or paint their house a certain color. Not that anybody wants to live next to a lime green and hot pink house. And we all get annoyed with the neighbor who fills their yard with trash and gnomes

There are legitimate needs and reasons to regulate property and behavior while on private property. I'm not so libertarian that I want to sh…

Chained in the basement

My bike, literally, is chained in the basement. Each unit in our building has a storage locker, but items like bicycles and grills sit in a common area. So, after a couple of thefts and doors being propped open once too often, we lock up the bikes in case they decide to wander off. Like an animal waiting to be uncaged, it hasn't seen the sun in months.

Occasionally unlocked for a ride in the trainer, there's the telltale dust of not being used growing on the frame. I know a few hardy souls have been biking in the outdoors--I've seen their messages on the cycle club's forum--but I'm not brave enough for the slick roads on two wheels. I got a great pair of cold-weather gloves for Christmas even. A new long-sleeve bike jersey. Can't wait!

But it's not actually the riding, I miss.

I miss waking up with the sun and clipping into my pedals before the neighborhood is awake. On the mornings I take shorter rides, the only traffic I encounter are the newspaper delive…

Being careful with praise

Lately, I've been thinking very carefully about how I talk to my children. They're in the "look at me" phase where they want my constant attention. They're also getting old enough to be more aware of both positive and negative opinion, sensitive to criticism, and they know their own feelings and the emotions of others. My son and I have had several very heartfelt and genuine conversations about his dislike for raised voices. Almost daily, we have a small chat about the help he still needs with his shirt and his need to remind me to be very careful with his head when dressing. Sometimes he forgets. Sometimes I forget. We help each other to remember.

My daughter, especially, prides herself on being cute and pretty. She's very much the little girl who loves baby animals, pink fairy wings, girly dresses, and hugs and kisses. It's made me very aware of how I praise her and how I communicate with her. I'm trying to be better about my affections being divers…

The solitary triathlon creature

My latest triathlon magazine came in the mail yesterday. I breezed through it in maybe 30 minutes...it was interesting. But then I was done. I've been staying away from the websites, too, just checking in now and then to see if anything worthwhile has been posted. This is a contrast to when I first started thinking about triathlon--or marathons even--and was far more intrigued by the details. What other people did, how other people trained. Everything was so foreign to me...the jargon, the equipment, the mentality of people who bike 100 miles THEN go run 26 miles. So I soaked it up. If you're new to the sport, I recommend you do the same. Triathlon is not a sport one does casually. 
Not that I'm entirely uncaring about other triathletes. I love to talk to them. Most are nice people. Some are a bit high strung, obsessive. Heh. But I like to stay up-to-date on the sport and the state of the art bikes even if I never plan to ride one. It's just that...I've gotten to a…

Boycotting school makeup days

We just got an e-mail from the superintendent of our schools. Because of our snow days and the State of Illinois requiring 176 days of instruction, the last day of school is being moved from June 6 to June 10. You know, heaven forbid it be 175 days of classes. That extra day is really going to fill young minds with knowledge!

Our son would have missed the last day of school anyway. We'll be in Minnesota for a cycling tour over the weekend immediately after. But we're in the awkward position now of trying to decide whether to hurry back from a pre-planned trip to get our son one or two days. Come back Sunday? Come back Monday? Call it a day and say the previous Thursday is his last day even if his friends will be there?

I'm sure we're not the only parents contemplating all this. People make vacation plans months in advance. The calendar doesn't revolve around the district's decisions in January to close up shop...not that I think our recent "snow days"…

Stay At Home Dad haters

Sorry for the double post today. But I'd be a bad member of the Stay At Home Dad community if I didn't comment on the nonsense going on in Chicago this weekend. In case you missed it, the Chicago Tribune ran a feature article on Stay At Home Dads with a photo. Awesome, right? Look how far we've come! Then there was an opposing post on a blog complaining about the media attention SAHDs are getting for simply doing their job. Now that a man does it, it's considered work, essentially. I'll leave the reader to Google both the original and the response.

I was just saying to the researcher who interviewed me a few weeks ago that I consider myself very lucky. As a Stay At Home Dad, I encounter very little in the way of the bias and discrimination that I know other modern dads face. I hear and read the stories of the angry looks all the time, the negative comments, the blogs...it makes it even more important to continue the work we do of putting a positive face on modern f…

My Obamacare Story: Part II

I chuckled to myself this weekend while leaving my meeting with one of the health insurance navigators...you know, those helpful specialists who answer questions and sign people up for Obamacare but have been banned in some of the Republican states? I'd had to browse the library waiting for an opening at the table because the two navigators had a constant stream of people requiring their attention. There were two people already in the chairs when I walked in plus more interrupting me while I was being helped. The poor woman answering my questions was handing out business cards in anticipation of the spillover into her office this week.

My chuckle was because all we've been hearing about is the war over who is signing up for health insurance, what it means, and the debate over whether Obamacare is a success or failure. It seemed silly at the moment to have much to say about it when so many people are still trying to figure the damn thing out. My navigator told me it would proba…