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Showing posts from July, 2014

Rethinking Paul (the Apostle, not the Beatle)

I always kind of thought the Apostle Paul was an *&^$#%^. Falling somewhere on the spectrum between "ruining Christianity" and "totally misunderstanding everything." Those of you who aren't big into Christianity, he's probably the reason why. Then again, those of you who are into Christianity, he may be the reason why. He's the gatekeeper, the filter, for much of what we know as the organized Church and the theology that comes with it. A deeply flawed human being with some weird quirks, axes to grind, and frankly not always the nicest. It was probably far too easy for me to throw him out with the bathwater.

But, just as the movement of Jews following Jesus after his death--and even Jesus himself--needs to be put into a wider context (culturally, historically, etc.), a little perspective on Paul has helped me go a little easier on him in the past few days. After attending the event for my former professor a couple weekends ago, I decided to take anot…

It made sense at the time

For about an hour this morning, my kids and I found a game we could all play together (mostly) in harmony with everyone having fun. I have no idea what the name of it is. It involves a logging truck, a sick baby, a laundry basket, and squeaking llama. Something for everybody, I guess. 
You see, one of my son's birthday gifts on Tuesday was a wooden tractor-trailer that hauls a set of 5 (I counted for inevitable losses) logs strapped down with a buckle. But the game really started when my daughter called me into her room to help assist with her "sick baby." She's obsessed with doctors, illness, the human body...all in a completely healthy way, mind you. She just loves muscles and bones and handing out pretend medicine while telling those who come around to be quiet because her doll is sick. Her doll is always sick. Sometimes her doll recovers. But mostly her doll just gets sick again. 
By this point, the doll is in one of my daughter's t-shirts from the laundry ba…

Babies are overrated

Kids get more fun to parent the older they get. That's something else "they" don't tell you about. But as the father of a 4 year old birthday boy tomorrow, I can tell you that babies are overrated. Babies get all the welcome-to-the-world joy and adoring looks and photos and celebratory gifts. But older children are where you really get a chance to shine--often unappreciated--as a parent.

Any idiot can change a diaper. Make a bottle. What have you. But The Mama and myself frequently agree that, looking back, newborn is most definitely not the place to be. It's actually the worst time as a parent because you feel like you should have this immediate connection to your child when really you're mostly parenting a lump. It poops. It pees. It eats again. You may get a smile once in awhile. It's boring.

Contrast that to the actual relationship--complicated and nuanced as it may be--that you have with a 4 year old. There are distinct wants and preferences and fear…

Run For Walk race report

Woke up at about 4:30am yesterday morning so we could get the kids dressed and in the car. They love being up and going somewhere when it's still dark out so it's guaranteed quiet time for us. They stare out the car windows at the way the world looks different. Traffic was so light at that hour that we beat the "no traffic" Google estimate by a good 15 minutes and pulled into a nearly-empty parking lot in Evanston.

Plenty of free parking space in the lot next to the Northwestern University stadium where the event begins/ends. We were there right at 6am when packet pickup was open and there were no lines. Excellent goodie bag with a purple Big Ten foam finger, NU plastic cup, pen, purple race shirt, and a coupon on your race bib that is exchanged in the arena lobby for a free Northwestern non-conference home football game in Aug or Sept. With the option to purchase $15 extra tickets.

Registration is inside the arena along with restrooms. Maxwell House was setup at a t…

What's killing baseball?

I remember going to old Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati to watch the Reds while growing up. The old "cookie-cutter" parks in Pittsburgh, Philly, St. Louis, Atlanta, etc. were ugly, utilitarian places to watch the game. The food was uniformly hot dogs, brats, beer, nachos. The video boards had the graphics of a bank time and temperature sign. The concourses were sterile. The Astroturf looked ridiculous with the little dirt sandboxes around each base and the circle of dirt at home plate. They'd come around at some point and hand you paper All Star Ballots with the little hanging chads you punched out for the players you wanted. It was a different era.

There's been a lot of speculation about why baseball is dying. Attendance is lower. Ratings are lower. Fewer people watch the World Series even. It's been attributed to everything from other sports in the culture...to problems drawing kids...to difficulties learning a complicated game on a short attention span. The g…

Toy store headache

I'm not anti-princess. I'm not anti-branded merchandise (to the contrary, I think it fuels imaginative play and continues favorite stories in real life). I'm not against gender-based toy aisles necessarily...it actually makes it easier to find some things. (I could do with less obnoxious pink.)

But it does frustrate me spending an hour or two wandering around a toy store trying to find something suitable for a 4 year old boy. "Bingo!" you'd think. Key demographic. Easy as pie! What could be easier than shopping for a little boy?

The Mama totally understood my general bad attitude upon arriving home. She avoids that place at all costs after getting stuck doing birthday shopping last year. But I won't mention the name of the store. It's actually not the store that is the problem, per se.

It's what passes for toys for our kids that is the problem. It's all cheaply made to be breakable and fall apart despite the extravagant price. If it doesn'…

Batman vs ponies

This time next week I'll have a 4 year old. Tempus fugit. A year from now I'll have a kindergartner. 

We went to a lovely Christmas in July party on Sunday afternoon where the kids got to take home a Christmas-wrapped party favor. Boy child got a vinyl Batman doll (holding a sharp, pointy bat boomerang). He lovingly refers to it as Robo. Girl child got a set of pink, blue, and white ponies with purple and pink hair, a comb, and a hair clip. She now falls asleep holding the ponies. Curses.

This morning, Robo (Batman) is in a house made of large interlocking blocks. If you knock on the front door, you'll soon find that Robo lives in said house with his dad...who is actually a bottle of pretend maple syrup who officially belongs to a set of play food. The roof of Robo's house is an old Nancy Drew hardcover. Those of you of a certain age probably remember the yellow covers with the spooky illustration on the front.

And because Robo has a rockin house, the girl child asks m…

Letting kids watch the news

In case you've been living in a hole for a few weeks...there are jumbo passenger jets being shot out of the sky, children being killed on beaches by shelling, kids being sent--alone--by their parents away from conditions so violent and poor that they show up at the US border begging for asylum.

It's pretty bleak out there.

I recently took some heat in a dads group I'm a part of for being in the definite minority in letting kids--especially young kids--view the day's news on tv. Which surprised me. Granted, we're a bit more of a touchy-feely bunch, maybe, than your typical group of men. But I figured if anybody was going to encourage children to know current events it would be the dads. The obvious stereotype of moms is being the overprotective gender. A few members of the dad group, however, made some sweeping, bold statements about the news being unnecessary for children under 12.

I suppose it's a matter of perspective. After a number of comments ranging from …

Peace between the at-home mommies and daddies

There's been a lot of discussion lately among one of the dad groups I'm a part of about how to handle moms. Specifically, how to handle playgroups geared for mothers where dads are either excluded or downright not welcome. The discussion usually leads down all sorts of rabbit holes about stereotypes of men as dangerous, perverts, not caregivers, only interested in sex with the moms, etc.. (That's our favorite to mock among SAHD...that every playground opportunity for our kids to mingle, we're really secretly just hitting on you. But, really, SAHD are sexy so who wouldn't be swayed by our nurturing?)

A few of the chats I've witnessed usually go back and forth between confrontation about mommy sexism and proudly forming our own playgroups that are men-only. A fraternity free from discriminatory mothering, as it were. Honestly, I don't like either answer. I recognize the cultural skepticism coming from mothers. I understand the offense against my fellow dads. …

Strike Out ALS 5k race report

First off, a big thank you to Nicole Kesten ( & @ChiTriBloggers) who runs the triathlete blogger network swim.BLOG.run. She's the one who had a race entry to give away and I appreciate the chance to run.

The Les Turner ALS Foundation was the charity of the evening yesterday. For those of you not familiar with ALS, it's also known as Lou Gehrig's disease...every 90 minutes in the US someone is diagnosed with 35,000 people having the disease at any given time. It's a progressive disease that gradually weakens the body, has no cure, and usually leads to death in 3-5 years.

I chose not to pick up my packet on Sunday and do it at the race venue--which was US Cellular Field. I got off the Red Line a few minutes before the posted 5:30pm registration opening, but the tent was already serving people when I arrived. Clearly labeled signs guided participants to registration or pickup. Race bibs were well-organized in a binder, volunteers had pens and waivers ready …

Celebrating Prof. Ron Miller

I had the honor yesterday of attending a celebration event in memory of Ron Miller held at the center he co-founded: Common Ground. Ron was a dear friend/teacher/boss/mentor to me and I'd been unable to make his funeral or other memorial events since his death. So I was looking forward to the walk into the past.

Ron was many things to many people and I'm in no way special. He touched many lives over the course of his time as a Jesuit, professor at Lake Forest College, lecturer, author. The man was one-of-a-kind and hearing the stories from his friends and colleagues reinforced it. He knew Latin and Greek, (like a good German) loved a story over a good beer or wine, he loved a big meal, to laugh, he could explain obscure philosophers and theologians and talk with Buddhist monks. He was hopeless with a computer. His office was always a mess. But he'd invite you to his house for dinner or convince you to take a class at 8am (his favorite time to teach) and students actually …

Why a 5k scares this marathoner

Believe it or not, I started my running career as a sprinter. I was on a 4x100 meter relay team who was competitive in our high school conference. Distance running was actually a "come try it" request by our track coach where I joined a group of already-formed cross country teammates. I was the odd-man-out though occasionally good enough to run varsity for our large suburban school district. But my 18:00 (and some change) PR was never going to turn any heads. I briefly considered going to a Division III college with a decathlon program, but ended up leaving sports for over a decade instead.

By the time I came back to running it was as a bucket list-er hoping to cross the finish line of a marathon just because it sounded cool. When I first started training in 2009, my goal was not to die and not walk. I had no idea that 5 years later I'd be embracing a lifestyle. My first training runs the first year I'd come home from 3 miles unable to comprehend what 26 must feel li…

Men on Strike review

I'm not sure where to begin on Helen Smith's Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters. When I picked up the book, I wasn't aware of the author's libertarian/conservative lean...though she makes this clear in the introduction. I'm not sure I would have read if I'd known. So I suppose that's not a bad thing. It's hard to cut through the libertarianism to get to the intellectual meat of the argument though, so the book comes across as a very lightweight marketing ploy for her blog and the conservative media she primarily writes for. She also writes much in a disparaging way about feminists. 

So why am I writing about it? Because the book occupies an interesting middle ground. Even if I disagree with it, I think it does add something to the conversation. The problem of an anti-male society is real...our wages are lagging, there are fewer jobs for us, our education is falling behind. etc.. And th…

Wherefore sheep?

We were sitting outside on a beautiful July 4th, grill smoking, the Mama with her spinning wheel, the kids napping, having a grownup conversation with the neighbors in our side yard. He's a lover of a certain coffee shop in Chicago with expensive, quality beans that I enjoy as well. He knows I home roast and always asks informed questions about the process. Watching the Mama spin was the same. He wanted to know how it worked...and, even more, why.

The question caught me off guard a little. We did our best to explain, but I felt like somehow we didn't do it justice. You might as well have asked me why I like blueberries, or punk rock, or running. It's a question that cuts to the core of who you are as a human being and how you're wasting your meager time on this planet...why?

In essence, why waste your time buying fleece and spinning it into yarn and dyeing it and knitting it? Why enjoy that so much that you want to own the actual wool-growing animals that make the whol…

Bonkers for books

Combined post today...I usually try to keep what I'm reading separate from what the kids are loving. Theirs first.

Whoo Goes There? by Jennifer A. Ericson--
A beautifully illustrated, realistic story about an owl searching for dinner. (Don't worry, parents, the food chain has a happy ending here.)

These Bees Count! by Alison Formento--
A little long and complicated for a 2 year old, but my nearly-4 totally gets it. A class field trip to visit a beekeeping farm discusses pollination, the important of bees to food production, how honey is made, and more. This is a real favorite with a moral.

Sail Away by Donald Crews--
We're not the biggest fan of his work, but your kids are. Freight trains, trucks, and school buses are other topics of these simple books. This one is about rowing out to a moored sailboat, using the motor to reach open seas, how sails catch wind, a storm, and finally making it back safe to harbor.



Then mine:

Why Science Does Not Disprove Godby Amir Aczel-- A rebuk…

Liberals off the reservation

I'm in the clear minority among my brothers and sisters on the left. The condemnation and complaint against the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision has been swift and universally negative. But I was struck while reading a Politico story this morning about the "5 takeaways" from the case...if you make it to page 2...about justices Breyer and Kagan going "off the reservation" as liberal members of the Court.

Not a politically correct way of putting it since that phrase has been in the news lately. But point taken.

In yesterday's decision, those two justices went off into the progressive weeds by bringing up the phantom of a pre-RFRA 1961 challenge to Massachusetts requiring businesses to close on Sunday. From a Jewish deli. That Court said that the law didn't target Jewish business and had a non-religious purpose. But an imaginary collective of Jewish/Muslim butchers who chooses to work under the corporate form of business organization shouldn't …