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Showing posts from January, 2015

Event report: Husky Heroes

One of the reasons we renew our membership at the Morton Arboretum every year is that, in terms of value for us, it lets us "do more" for the same price despite somewhere like the Brookfield Zoo actually being closer to our house. If it's not biking together as a family, it's the Children's Garden. And if it's not the Children's Garden, it's a class. Plus there are special events...honeybee weekend, chocolate weekend, art exhibits, the Enchanted Railroad. It never gets old. 
Last weekend it was Husky Heroes. 
When we left the house, the sun was shining and only a lighter coat was needed. But when the clouds came, we were a bit unprepared for the chill. Even so, we managed a 3 hour stay. It was also good to visit with a family we were in Early Childhood preschool with last school year. My son is now in a different program so he doesn't see her as much. And we like the parents. So it's win-win. 
Instead of a snowy course, unfortunately, the dog…

Bonkers for books

Once again, my roundup of good books we're reading from the library so you can check them out for your family, too...

--Truck Stop by Anne Rockwell and illustrated by Melissa Iwai. This is, by far, my favorite of the pile. The kids love it. I love reading it. And it's filled with all sorts of "hidden" messages about helping others, the value of hard work, plus the usual parade of vehicles. It's the story of a boy whose family runs a truck stop and the cast of characters who enter. They use the service garage, they order their favorite breakfasts, and when one regular customer doesn't show up the community pulls together to find the broken pickup.

--Cookiebot! A Harry and Horsie Adventure by Katie Van Camp and Lincoln Agnew. A small child and his stuffed animal. The longing for a cookie placed out of reach by mom. An out of control robot stopped only by two best friends. And very cool, stylized pictures that are a cross between pop art and comic books. Another …

The internet changes things...

I have a new pet peeve. But it's new so I'm not sure I'd even call it a "pet peeve" yet. It's just something I've noticed that makes me scratch my head and wonder what to say.

Humble brag alert...I was recently interviewed by a writer from Time magazine (as part of a possible upcoming cover story) about being (roughly) a Millennial, a parent, a Stay At Home Dad, a technology fan, etc. and I noticed in my chat with her that a theme kept coming up. Mainly, that my life--the world today, really--is only possible because of the internet. Am I isolated as a dad? Do I lack good advice or information as a parent? Not really. Because there's a huge community of random people you'd never have been able to connect with in the old days...only now they're at my fingertips. Would I be miserable 20 years ago? Yes. Absolutely. Am I probably the only person in my neighborhood who roasts his own coffee? Maybe. Thanks to the internet I can log on and find a tho…

2 steps forward, 1 step back

Sorry for the visit into "that" parenting territory...this is one of "those" posts. You've been warned--potty training ahead.

One of my kids has made huge leaps this school year to the point where I'm ready to call my oldest "done." Yes, there are still very infrequent accidents but they are by far the exception and not the rule. If he does have an accident, it's always being wet and never the more unpleasant kind. He can--with some help--use the restroom in public places. Sometimes the facilities aren't made for preschool size so I need to lift him up if there is no stool. Or get the soap for him. Sometimes pants are hard to adjust at the end. But he knows when he has to go and goes on his own without even asking if we're at home. He wears underwear without problems to the point where we've stopped buying training pants. He's done with all that.

My youngest is another story. She briefly showed some interest in trying to transi…

What the heck is a checkoff?

And now, that agriculture post I was working on the other day before the Chipotle pork shortage.

But first, a housekeeping note...I'm considering moving my "ag geek" posts to a completely different space. It seems more logical to chronicle our farm search, sheep topics, and eventual daily operation in one place. Then again, 2 blogs is more work for both me and the reader to find. I'm conflicted. Nobody has exactly complained. But it's clear from my pageviews that some topics interest you more than others. My blog so I can do what I want with it...I've just been thinking. What do I want our eventual farm website to look like? Considering that transparency will be high on the list of marketing techniques used to set us apart, perhaps I need to consider it a bit more. Perhaps there I'd rather focus on "our process" more than covering hot topics in the business? Just thinking aloud.

Today's topic is checkoffs. No, not the Russian from Star Trek.…

Event report: American Airlines mock flight for families w/autism

I can't speak for all 25 families who were at O'Hare International Airport with us on Saturday afternoon, but from our perspective it was an extremely positive day for our kids. It was a very positive day for American Airlines, too, and I'd like to sincerely thank them for the event. It was offered free of charge and the attention to detail for what is not yet an official "public" program was amazing.

If you're new to my blog, check out my post from January 9th leading up to Saturday's airport experience. It offers other details I won't cover here.

When we arrived at ORD, our first task was to find the correct parking...we were told Lot C. That was confusing, but eventually we found it. It was conveniently located next to an underground tunnel which connected to the terminal and the kids were already in high spirits from an escalator ride. So that tells you how the mood for the day went.

Our instructions had directed us to a specific check-in window a…

Chipotle's pork shortage

I had intended to write an agriculture-related post today about a completely different topic, but current events happen. Chipotle restaurants decided to stop serving pork that didn't meet their high standards for animal welfare and now we've been thrust into a national debate about, of all things, pig housing. Which, as an "ag nerd," I find both strange and awesome.

Probably the best thing about the Chipotle news yesterday was the positive reaction it received from consumers. Most of the media and public seems to think the move to reject substandard pork reflects highly on the company. They make fresh, delicious, ethical food and it makes people flock to their locations. But if you dig around awhile there is--and has been--a dark undercurrent of farmers who are not fans. They were already boycotting the chain, generally, after the campaign against conventional/factory farming. They dislike the growing movement to transform the food system. They dislike what they see …

When should kids be in school?

The school schedule. That's the next frontier in debates about the American educational system. I'll save my opinion for the end, but it's been a rough weather week in the US so this debate topic has been front and center. Despite wind chill warnings which were at -30F with frostbite in under 15 minutes. There was a strong contingent of parents complaining about the days off--frozen bus engines which could leave elementary-age children stranded on street corners be damned.

Our own school district explained their policy of -25 wind chill in an e-mail that also included the news that we'd be making up our 2 missed days with an extension of the school year in June. This causes grumblings as well due to the various holidays and institute days which could be used. After missing 2 days of school last week, the kids have a long 4 day weekend coming up. It does make it difficult to get in any sort of rhythm. A shortened spring break was also considered by the district...someth…

American Airlines "Air Aware" program

A week from tomorrow we'll be taking part in a brand new program put on by American Airlines at O'Hare International Airport aimed at helping families with autism try out the experience of flying. In our case, obviously, it's our son's sensory sensitivities which have prevented us from flying, but the idea is the same.

There is a huge problem the airlines are just figuring out...mainly, that families with small children are avoiding air travel because of the risk involved with expensive tickets and unpredictable behavior/reaction from the children. No parent wants to spend $1000 or more to fly their family on vacation, the holidays at grandma's, etc. only to face the nightmare of an airport freakout. That leads to very anxious kids, fellow passengers, and flight crew. Worst case, it may mean a last minute cancellation and no trip. So airlines around the country--at parent request--are beginning to let families test the waters in realistic sessions.

We managed to re…

Je ne suis pas Charlie

I haven't said much so far about the attack in Paris yesterday. Call me a contrarian, but while the rest of the West is rallying behind "free expression," I'm much more uneasy about the whole thing. Here's why...I detest anti-religious bigots just as much as people who kill in the name of religion.

Yes, we should be rallying around France today. And, absolutely, the cartoons had a right to exist. And, no, terrorists shouldn't burst into the offices of non-violent journalists and shoot. But this is not about free speech per se.

I'm aware of the long history of political and religious satire in France. Voltaire himself--I'm a huge fan--was both a harsh critic of the Church and proponent of free thought. But he also said about forgiving others with tolerance: "Qu’est-ce que la tolérance? C’est l’apanage de l’humanité. Nous sommes tous pétris de faiblesses et d’erreurs; pardonnons-nous réciproquement nos sottises, c’est la première loi de la nature.&…

Farmland searching is like dating...

I've only recently begun to post our own ads for farmland. Until now, it's been easier to browse the classifieds and reply to select land owners who look promising. It's partly from needing to figure out exactly what we're looking for and partly from being more in "research" mode to see who is out there. It's a pretty wide mix.

If you want to pursue a traditional buyer-seller relationship, there are plenty of real estate brokers offering that. And, with the growth of massive rural real estate databases, it's easy to browse across state lines and even specify acreage, amenities, and price. Even some of the land-link style classifieds have this type of seller...usually someone with an ill, older owner or someone trying to quickly leave the business for personal or family reasons. They want to cash out. But this method is short on negotiation options and pretty low on details if you're interested in knowing the environmental or agricultural history o…

The new racism

We're having a national conversation about race right now and that's a good thing. And I haven't done any unfriending on social media, but I have done a lot of cringing. Especially the fair amount of "let's talk about the black community" full of unwed mothers, poverty, unemployment, poor parenting, and handouts.

This is the new racism.

I don't think many of my white friends intend to actually be racist. They don't see themselves as such. (Or they've gotten very good at hiding it behind secondary criticisms that mask their true feelings.) It's not the overt, intentionally-biased kind of old school race talk you'd expect from, say, that crazy guy with the Confederate flag on his pickup truck. (Though that still exists.) The reason our current conversation about race has gotten so complicated is that many Americans simply wish race would go away now. To them, skin color should no longer matter and we can now talk about character. The discuss…