Sunday, November 15, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Chart: School Weeks

Since my kids are off school for Veteran's Day, I'm taking this as an opportunity to pause and tally up the number of full five-day weeks of school they've had.  As the chart above depicts, fewer than half of the eleven weeks of school so far have featured five full days of school.

In addition to thanking our veterans today, I'll thank Labor Day, Rosh Hoshanah, Yom Kippur, parent teacher conferences and election day.  I mean, who really wants a solid routine in life anyway?

Spoiler alert: me.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

New Research on Chores

An Internet news item can be both satirical and true at the same time:

Friday, October 9, 2015

What He Said: Anne-Marie Slaughter's Husband on Having it All

Anne-Marie Slaughter's Atlantic cover essay Why Women Still Can't Have it All is one of the most-discussed things ever written in that magazine's long history.  Her husband, Andrew Moravcsik, wrote in the current Atlantic about the same issues from the husband's side.  The Slaughter-Moravcsiks are a serious power couple who play in rarer waters than we do.  Still, I found myself mm-hmming over and over again.  He says things I've thought about saying here, but he says them better.  Click on the image to read his take.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pirates Predictions: Season Wrap-up

Well, a great regular season ended too abruptly in the wild card game.  We're all sad that the Pirates won't go further this off-season.  Charlie looked spot-on at mid-season and claims his third crown out of five in our annual family predictions.  His optimism looked possibly fatal when the Pirates started slowly, but they really powered from mid-May to the end of the year to exceed all of our expectations.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Six Reasons for my Self-imposed Football Exile

Last year around this time, I was somewhat surprised to find myself morally uncomfortable getting ready to watch the NFL.  Ray Rice's domestic violence and the NFL's handling of the situation, which dominated so much off-season coverage, made me really uncomfortable.  So, I decided to essentially not watch the NFL.  I watched a few games for social reasons, including the Super Bowl, which is probably hypocritical, but I am an American, after all.

I'm taking this year off as well and - unless something radical changes - it will be my second of forty-some years away from football.  And yes, I'm extending my self-imposed exile this year to football at all levels.

Here's why:

1.  Domestic violence/sexual assault/rape culture - Respectable sources have
documented that the rate of domestic violence among NFL players is actually lower than the national average among men of the same age.  Still, it feels like there's as much police-blotter coverage of football players as there is game coverage, and too much of the crime hurts women.  [Edit:  Thank to a friend, I now know that the author of the above-linked article actually posted a follow-up saying that he was distressed by the response to that article.  He wrote a follow-up saying that the NFL does have a domestic violence problem.  It's not just my perception.]  Amy Schumer nailed this topic, surprisingly enough in a humorous fashion.  But watch all the way to the end to see the underlying connection. 

2.  Concussions - Will Smith's Christmas present to the culture is a movie that will raise everyone's concussion awareness.  The high-profile suicides of Junior Seau and others have made it feel just plain wrong to watch today's players endure the same kinds of risks. From what I have heard about Chris Nowinski's research, concussion risk is as high or higher in practice than in games.  That makes the thought of children and young people playing football that much less palatable.

3.  Instant Replay - OK, they aren't all moral reasons.  Football offers incredibly fast changes of momentum and fortune, like when what appears to be a sure touchdown for team A becomes a turnover converted into a touchdown for team B.  As such, replay ruins the visceral experience of watching football more than it ruins that experience in other sports.  For the gain of officials calling plays more accurately more often, we have lost the sheer joy and surprise of watching sports.  The NFL has tainted and ruined its own entertainment value by forcing players and fans to look around and wait to know whether they can celebrate any touchdown and most every exciting play.  No thanks.

4.  Roger Goodell - This guy has less integrity than a credit card thief.  He dispenses justice so arbitrarily and unilaterally, it's head-spinning.  Of course, he's just a symbol for how rules always seem to get bent for football players.

5.  The NCAA - After taking last year's NFL season off, I have to expand my football ban to college and high school because of issues 1 and 2.  Taylor Branch's exhaustive Atlantic cover story on the NCAA explained how its history of policies and decision-making make Roger Goodell look like Cory Booker.  Should this article and the Ed O'Bannon case make me give up college basketball, too?  Possibly, but a) it's a long winter, people, b) basketball has fewer of these problems than football and c) give it time.  For now, though, college football's exploitation vibe trumps basketballs for me personally.  Without seeking it out, I've happened upon the NFL combine on television.  In this event, draft-eligible college players (er, excuse me, student athletes) wear identical numbered spandex suits and run through the same drills in a regimented, measured fashion for NFL scouts to observe.  There is also a weigh-in, pictured at right.  Fans, front-office execs
NFL Combine Weigh-in
and team owners soak up the results of these weigh-ins.  Actually, it goes beyond height and weight to other, more specific body measurements

Now, I've never seen a slave auction, but having studied the cultural history of slavery, nothing in our current culture comes closer to an auction than the combine.  "Owners" putting men the rights to whom they can acquire through their paces at a big public event?  I'm not the first to say this either.  Anyway, the college system exploits thousands of young men who sign on for the chance at the ultimate mutual exploitation opportunity: an NFL career.

6.  Steve Almond's Against Football -  Steve Almond wrote a "reluctant manifesto" against a sport on which he too grew up--and he does way better than I do here.  In his short book, he outlines his own process that brought him to the point where he had to swear off the game.  Even if you plan to go on with your Red Zone channel and fantasy league, read Almond's book and at least see what the most articulate of us wackos has to say about not watching football anymore.

Those are my reasons.

The smaller-time the football I'm giving up, the more I'll miss it.  Following my alma mater's fortunes in the Ivy League is as futile as it is highly entertaining.  The university I work for plays in a conference you've never heard of against schools you've never considered; I've listened to their games on the radio and read the tiny writeups they merit in the local paper.  I live in a top-5 high school football region in the country.  I've taken my boys to high school games picked at random from the listings in the newspaper; they have immediately become loyal fans of the home team.  I've consumed every single media production that has ever resulted from Buzz Bissinger's masterpiece Friday Night Lights (including, of course, the masterpiece).  Football's pageantry and entertainment value at all levels make this decision difficult.  

The excesses Bissinger exposed 25 years ago planted the first seed of finding football a little too squicky to stay married to.  Actually, maybe some of the assholes on my own high schools' teams did that.  For as likable as many of the characters in the FNL TV series turned out to be, the original book pointed out the gonzo disproportion of resources devoted to football in schools.  It also highlighted how the free pass given to players in their glory days can come back to bite those very players in the butt when their football lives come to an end.

If you see me watching a football game or somehow weighing in, you can call me a hypocrite.  I'll have some excuse like my kids, neighbors or alumni association making me swallow my moral opprobrium for familial or social reasons.  I don't actually know what I plan to say to my kids about all of this.  They still get a lot of joy out of football; I'm not sure what right I believe I have to impose more than a decade of my creeping discomfort on their young hearts and minds.

Already, I have a lot more time on my hands.  Football games are long, and I read a surprisingly small number of the pages in the sports section.  That creates a certain pressure to do something valuable with the extra time.  My March Madness bracket better perform very well next spring. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Friday, August 7, 2015

Dad's Summer Reading Program: Satisfying Book Recommendations

Having started Dad's Summer Reading Program two years ago, I can now qualify it as a moderate success.  The original objective of getting our younger son to read more might have happened anyway, but it seemed to kick start him that year, and he's been a pretty solid pleasure reader since then.

This year, the boys raced out to their first incentive milestone and then flagged a bit.  Family vacation and two weeks at camp cut reading time, although our older son reprised his adorable vacation habit of reading Dave Barry books aloud with his cousin who's about a year older.

Although the quantity of reading has not been fabulous, I was very satisfied when two books that I picked up at the library unbidden for our rising eighth grader resonated nicely.  Competent Mother and I both really enjoyed Lois Lowry's A Summer To Die.  Actually, that's the book that turned me into a reader-for-pleasure.  CM also loved Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time.  Although the boy raved about neither book, he finished both of them before we knew it and said - with a thirteen-year-old's* nonchalance, "Oh yeah.  I liked them."  Super pleased that the (recent) classics still appeal, despite all of the new options.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Particle Roundup July 2015

One in an occasional series, a roundup of parenting articles (particles) that have caught my attention or been virtually shoved in front of my wandering eyeballs.

The Letter your Teenager Can't Write You
Weeks away from having a teenager, I was interested in this one.  It makes a strong argument for hanging in there when it feels like there's no point. 

I raised an addict - what could I have done differently?
Knowing some addicts of different ages, I have often wondered about whether a moment occurred that - if handled differently - could have changed a path.  This essay implores parents to be knowledgeable about the availability of drugs because even raising a kid well to the point that he or she looks happy and ready for life does not ensure against that child finding a source at just the wrong moment and throwing a ton away.

Screen Addiction is Taking a Toll on Children
In other bleak addiction news, screen addiction in China and elsewhere. Pretty happy my kids are at a no-electronic-devices old-school summer camp for two weeks.  Maybe there's one of those for me?

What if Everything You Knew about Disciplining Kids was Wrong?
Stats on suspension can be disturbing, especially among really small kids.  As a kid who got high marks in everything but penmanship and conduct and who knew his way around the elementary school principal's office because of the latter, this was an interesting read.

The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogota
Not strictly about parenting, but the latest, most fascinating contribution to the nature vs. nurture question.  Two sets of identical twins in a Bogota hospital get crossed up.  Each family ends up with a non-biological son who happens also to have a twin out there.  All four twins meet in adulthood. 

For what it's worth, I read all of these articles using Pocket on my phone, here and there when I could.  Actually, for the letter from your teenager, I listened to it via Pocket's text-to-speech monotone robot.  That was an interesting medium for the raw emotion of that essay.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Poem: Mining in Tandem

I didn't write this poem in response to Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner's marriage and divorcePunditry about their divorce, which is either (charitably) hair-splitting or (more viscerally) asinine, did inspire me to post it now, though.

Mining in Tandem
an original poem by Jeff Forster

In the wedding cards of
family and friends,
we write,
"Welcome to the institution." Ha!
"Marriage is fun."
We don't write,
"Work like hell."
But we probably should.

It's hard to picture one of those
not-believably-rustic Pottery Barn plaques
with the slogan printed in
some harmless font:
"Fall in love.  Stick together.
Work like hell."

There's a lot to overcome
deep down in any one of us.
When we put two down deeps
together, why wouldn't we
guess that it would be a ton of work?

It's like mining in tandem.
Holding onto one another while chipping
away at all that lies down deep.

Holding the line.  Shining a light on
each other.
Working.  Like hell.

The reward for all this work is not
some pile of gold or jewels
or even coal.
The reward is discovering
that it is possible
to bring each other out of the dark.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Pirates Predictions: Midseason Update

As with my beginning-of-season post, I'm posting this one game late.  The Pirates won the 82nd game of their season tonight.  But I did the math after 81 games to project the Pirates win totals against our predictions.  Charlie, who has won the contest two of the four years we've done it, is on track again.  If the Pirates extended a 47-34 over 162 games, they'll win 94 this year.  And probably still finish in second place in the NL Central to the Cardinals.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday Haiku: First World Problems

Beach house. Open floor
plan. Thin walls.  Hollow core doors.
Good luck sleeping in.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

On Hanging Up Cleats

My 12-year-old's cleats are still in the entryway.  They've been there since last Tuesday
evening, when his little league team lost in the championship game of his in-house league's "World Series."  Since he doesn't play on the travel tournament team in the summer, his season is over.  We usually insist on the kids putting away shoes that they're not going to wear again soon; the entryway is too small for extra shoes.  I haven't told him to put his cleats away yet, though, because it feels really different to tell him that when it's almost certainly the last time.

We started pitching to him in our tiny backyard when he was two years old.  It started with a plastic bat and a big supermarket ball with Winnie the Pooh on it.  Because his mother and I both love baseball, there was no question that we'd try to share that love with him.  He loved hitting that ball in the yard, and he got better and better at it.  We went through a sequence of bats and smaller and smaller balls until he was drilling pint sized wiffle ball home runs over the hedge into the neighbors' equally tiny back yard.
Outside an Erie Seawolves (AA) game, age 3

After one season of tee ball (which felt like a regression after batting live pitches all that time), he joined our neighborhood youth league, progressing through three levels with rules that more and more match real baseball.  He's had better and worse seasons, finally settling in as a reliable fielder, mostly because he's always been a smart player who knew what to do based on the game situation.  He loves playing catcher, and that's an important position because kid pitches aren't super accurate, and baserunners can steal at his current level.  At the plate, he developed a fear of the ball around when he started facing kid pitchers, and it's dogged him.  One season, he accommodated it by dancing in the batter's box, his skinny butt bouncing around above springy knees.  This year, despite the fact that he was one of the oldest members of his team, he reverted to not swinging when he should and even diving out of the box.  All of this is to say that as much as he loves and knows baseball, he ended up being in the middle of the pack on his team in terms of overall contribution.

So he's decided that, unless something big changes, this is his last year playing baseball.  He'll return to his school volleyball team in the fall, and he's thinking about ultimate frisbee in high school.  He shoots a lot of hoops at recess.  But he's officially given up one career path - professional baseball player.

So his cleats are still in the entryway.  When I counted up the years, I realized he's played eight spring seasons, plus almost as many fall "developmental league" seasons.  He's only 12!  Collectively, our family has spent a significant amount of the last eight Aprils, Mays and Junes on the sidelines of his games.  When those cleats go away, it will feel like a chapter is closing.  And it will be.

Before the World Series, his team had to advance out of a best-of-three semifinal series.  They won the first game handily.  The second game was much tighter, and it got to be tied in extra innings (the seventh, since standard games are six innings).  Charlie's team - the home team - got two on with one out in the bottom of the seventh when Charlie came up to bat.  His confidence issues at the plate loomed.  The last thing I wanted to see was him looking at a called strike three with runners on first and second in that situation.  After a few pitches, he made contact and grounded a ball toward the second baseman.  It probably should have been an out, but he didn't field it cleanly, and it rolled under his glove.  The runner on second was fast, and he took off.  When the third base coach saw the ball behind the second-baseman, he sent the runner, and he scored.  Charlie had hit the walk-off series-clinching RBI single to send his team to the World Series.  There are no pictures or video of the event.  When they won, I saw Charlie run back from first base to get jumped on by his teammates, and I happened to be nearby down the third base line when he emerged from that celebration.  I don't need video; I will never forget the look of relief and satisfaction and excitement on his face.  Big-eyed, sweaty and thrilled.  He has always approached baseball from a team-first perspective - the loudest rooter-on of his teammates, playing wherever coaches told him to play, learning from his elders and encouraging younger players.  When the chips were down, he came through for his team, and they won, and helping the team meant the world to him.

A few days later, walking home after the World Series loss, Charlie laid his head on my shoulder and cried.  I asked him if he was sad because they lost or sad because baseball season was over.  He couldn't really answer.  I told him that losing is sad, and ending is sad.  Later on, he said wistfully "I didn't want another stinking runner-up trophy." (His team lost in game three of last year's World Series, too.)  

It's not just this season that's ending.  Maybe Charlie knew that and just couldn't articulate it.  We can't fight it.  Childhood must end.  Adolescence - with its leaps and storms - must commence.  Successful parenting prepares for departure.  But for now, as if a brake against the inevitable, his cleats are still in the entryway.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Haiku: Comb Sherpa

The comb in my back
pocket isn't for me.  I
have two sons with hair.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Photo That Makes me Feel Sheepish Before my College Reunion

My twenty-year college reunion is this coming Memorial Day weekend.  Our family is going.  When I posted this exuberant photo from our senior dinner to our class's Facebook group, I captioned it "The Fellas". A member of this august group (not pictured, unfortunately) named us that sometime sophomore year, and it stuck.  But the more detailed caption I considered made me feel sheepish about what I've accomplished since college.  Here's that caption:

Back Row L to R: doctor (orthopedics), doctor (sleep specialist), doctor (radiologist), applied mathematician, lawyer (partner at a big city firm)
Front Row L to R: doctor (radiologist), doctor (med school professor), nonprofit consultant and at-home parent (yours truly), big church senior pastor, doctor (ophthalmologist/eye surgeon)

Various clusters of the guys in this picture roomed together, hung out together, played intramurals together, played fantasy basketball together.  They were a huge part of my college social universe.  The rundown of their career stations makes me feel like I have responsibilities no one understands in a field with few monetary and status rewards.  And that's in my paid work!  I spend an equal amount of my "work week" pursuing responsibilities few understand with zero monetary and extremely vague status rewards.  It's hard to write up really elegantly-timed execution of laundry for the class notes.  When I picture myself under the tent in the courtyards that meant so much to me twenty years ago, I don't know exactly how to talk about what I've done with the fine, fine education I got there.

A fellow alum who attended her 20th reunion last spring told me on the little league sidelines that she said to her kids, "You guys have to look awesome because you're what I have to show for myself."  I know how she feels.  Six and a half years ago, probably at the moment that my career could have arced upward in authority and recognition, I took one foot out of that stream to become our household's primary parent and chief operating officer.  It looks weird on a resume, and I think it will sound weird holding a cocktail in the tent.  Far easier to name a specialty, a hospital, a publication or a big court win.  I'm going to have to think of a way to quickly demonstrate how well-adjusted my kids are.

The One Thing I Might Say Now

At this juncture, this post could go off into the direction that despite all their career accomplishments, The Fellas' personal lives are a mess, and I can take some perverse satisfaction in the fact that mine is not.  It would be petty of me to say that, and it's simply not true.  These men are the fathers of 20 children.  Nine are married (which leaves one single doctor, ladies).  Two of them are married to high school sweethearts that they dated long distance while we were in school together.  They're good parents.  I know because on the rare occasions that we get together, their kids are a pleasure for both me and my kids to be around.  The Fellas in midlife are abundantly successful both personally and professionally.

How I Choose to Feel About All This

I'm currently reading the December 2014 issue of The Atlantic.  Working part-time also means commuting part-time, and having 40% less time on the bus makes me fall woefully behind in my magazine reading.  Anyway, the cover story discusses research about the real roots of midlife crisis.  Jonathan Rauch explains the u-shaped curve that researchers have found in satisfaction with life in populations all over the world.  Happiness bottoms out somewhere around 46 and then rebounds, leaving people happier in their 50s.  The 40s in general form the nadir of personal satisfaction and happiness.  The research shows that feeling competitive about achievements and accomplishments really contributes to that unhappiness.  In the 40s, we start to feel like time may actually run out on us, but we all have friends that have accomplished things that make us feel like we're spinning our wheels. The Fellas have accomplished a lot, but we have more accomplished classmates - statewide elected officials, published authors, a major league baseball general manager.

Instead of looking at the accomplishments of The Fellas or of those classmates who have been asked to serve on panels at the reunion, I'm just going to reflect on my own choices.  When my wife and I both worked full time and it was obvious that our kids needed more from us, I had the privilege of career flexibility and could go part-time.  As I've gotten better at running our household, I've come to enjoy it more.  I get to experience a lot of the pedestrian moments of my boys' lives, immediately before and after school, and we all get to enjoy more special occasions as a family because I've already done the legwork of errands and calendar management and paying bills.  We love our house and our neighborhood.  I get the variety of doing unique and fulfilling paid work and serving my family in a way that I also enjoy. 

The Proclaimers song Let's Get Married features this lyric:

"When we're old, if they ask me
How do you define success? I'll say
You meet a woman and you fall in love
And you ask her and she says yes."

To that I'll add:

Make some babies and raise 'em up
And launch them happy and capable
And find a split between work and life
That works for you and those you love.

Man, those Proclaimers are better with the lyrics.

The jury is still out, of course, on that launch part, but so far, so good.  The split we have works for everyone now but may not always.  We'll deal with that if and when.  It's no small accomplishment to head off for this reunion able to say to myself and others that I have followed my calling to the work I do at the office and around the house.  It suits me, and I often enjoy it.  What higher achievement is there?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Free Range Parenting in my 'Hood

A fellow parent at the elementary school our kids go to/have gone to is quoted extensively in the article below, which continues the ongoing discussion of free range kids and free range parenting.  I believe in free range parenting, but I have a different name for it: parenting.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chart: 2015 Pirates Win Predictions

Although this post is going up after the Pirates first game (a loss), we did make our predictions before the first pitch of opening day.  In a split decision, the kids think the Pirates will improve this year, while the parents fear a regression.
 I have never won this competition.
In any event, we're all gung ho know.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Product Review: Pro Gold Breakaway Rim Basketball Hoop

Our boys love our finished basement.  They've gotten through five winters here playing a lot of "Nerf" basketball.  Although they'd had an over-the-door Nerf hoop at our smaller house, there was not a great place to use it.  The basement here is pretty perfect, although the ceiling is low and Charlie can dunk while flat-footed.

Due to the ease of dunking, we had a succession of Nerf hoops of the typical sort - a cardboard backboard with a plastic rim.  These tended to fail at the same weak points - a) the cardboard slot into which the hoop inserts, b) the thinner cardboard slit where the over-the-door hook inserts and more rarely c) plastic hoop itself.  Not a single hoop of this variety survived its time in the basement without serious plastic packing tape repairs or reinforcements. None of them lasted more than four or five months, either.

A few Christmases ago, Santa stepped up his game and brought the boys a POOF brand Pro Gold over-the-door hoop with a shatterproof plastic backboard and a metal breakaway
rim.  Unlike Nerf hoops, it comes with an inflatable ball about the same size.  Our boys use that ball interchangeably with various Nerf balls.  

The hoop has survived near daily winter use.  The rim tilts down now, as almost all toy hoops seem too before too long.  But the metal rim is much more solid than the plastic ones, which enables one to occasionally make non-swish free throws and jump shots.  The backboard has taken incredible abuse (the closet door will never really be the same again) and stood up to it.  Pricewise, it's about twice as much as a cardboard and plastic hoop but has lasted at least four times as long already without a single repair.  Plus, it looks cooler.

As always with CompetentParent product reviews, I have received no compensation from the POOF-Slinky corporation.  I'm just telling you what I like.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

HHHHHH: A Measure of Improvement

This post might be better labeled "confession" than "hint."  Longtime readers will know that I am that rare person who uses his bread machine regularly, currently a Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme.  I still use a recipe from one of my Breadman machines, modfied only with a substitution of 3/4 cup of white whole wheat flour (WWW) for an equal amount of white flour.  No one in our family really likes traditional whole wheat flour, but this small substitution adds a little nutrition and actually lends some nice structure to the basic sandwich bread we use all the time.

I've used the same recipe for years and worked out the ratio of using 3/4 cup WWW in a total amount of 3 cups of flour as the maximum amount of WWW without making the yeast fight to rise the loaf reliably.  For years, when getting out my ingredients and measuring devices, I would get out a one cup measure, a 1/4 cup measure and a 3/4 cup measure.  Now that 3/4 cup measure came from a set we got at the King Arthur Flour store on a pilgrimage to Norwich, VT, a sacred place for bakers.  In addition to the traditional 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 and 1 cup measures, our set includes a 2/3 cup and this 3/4 cup.  One doesn't know one needs those (or a 3/4 teaspoon) measure until one owns them.  Even owning this set for years, I left an opportunity for efficiency on the table (er...counter).  See, I would measure 2 cups of white with my 1 cup measure, then 1/4 cup of white, then 3/4 cup of WWW with that measure.  Any mathematicians shaking their heads yet?  

In the last few months, I figured out that I was replacing one part out of four with WWW.  That means I could do all my flour measuring with one measure - the 3/4.  Now, I fill that one three times with white flour and once with WWW.  There are multiple benefits:
  • It's faster to use one measure than three for the actual measuring step.
  • It keeps my counter cleaner to not put down two used measures (the other option of plunking them in the sink one by one always made me impatient).
  • I wash one cup measure instead of three.
 The strongest hint in this post is to acquire more finely-graded cup measures like this awesome-if-not-cheap set.  The other one we love is a 1/8 cup measure from another set.  While one doesn't see 1/8 cup in recipes much, one sees 2 tablespoons often, and 2 T = 1/8 C.  Boom!  Then, once you've acquired them, pay more attention than I did and find ways to cut down on the number of measures you have to use.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sexiest Young Man Alive?

If the science is true (and I have no reason to doubt it) that women find men who are interested in babies sexy, then our Charlie (12) should do pretty well with the ladies...eventually, after acne.  This year, he has added helping out in the toddler room to his church activities.  One Sunday a month, he reads over a prepared lesson and teaches the kids in the toddler Sunday School class.  He loves it and is so excited to be old enough to take on this duty.  A chidren's ministry employee told me recently that when it's Charlie's week, the paid caregivers in that room know they have easy duty because he will keep the kids' attention the entire time.  He devotes his whole self to it.

As evidence, I submit this image of his Google calendar (Yes.  He has a Google calendar.  What do you think he is?  A farmer?)  The left-hand appointment was created first and shows that it's his week to work in the toddler room.  He created the right-hand appointment later, presumably when he saw the original appointment.  It's just his private celebration of getting to spend time with the little tykes.  It's so sweet and captures his lack of self-consciousness, even in the crucible of the middle school years.

Charlie (4) holds Teddy in the first
month of brotherhood
We knew early on that Charlie loved babies.  He doted on his baby doll (Baby Russell) and was extremely affectionate and solicitous when a real baby joined him at home.  Little-boy affection for his younger brother didn't necessarily predict the current state, of course.  We feel lucky to parent this pre-teen who just loves babies and toddlers in a wholesome and caring way.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mashup: Parent Comment Rage and Beautiful Winter Images

I take guilty pleasure in reading the comments on my school district's Facebook announcements of delays and closures.  We've now had several of both this winter.  Parents go absolutely nuts, complaining about the administration.  One really fun facet: the comments cut both ways, of course.  If the district delays or cancels school, that's inconvenient and sends a bad message.  If the district holds a full day or only delays without cancelling, that gets its own round of second-guessing.

To share the joy, I've copied selected comments verbatim from these Facebook announcements and surprinted them on beautiful winter scenes.  Enjoy!

On the day of a delay

This from a snowy Saturday when the high school basketball championship games were not cancelled.  Linda Lane is the superintendent.  Bus drivers love to comment; not sure if they're parents of children in the district or not.

On a very cold morning when we'd had delays but as of then no school closures at all this year

On the day of a cancellation for cold (but not snow or ice)

When after-school activities were cancelled because the weather went south during the school day

Flickr Photo credits
1  blmiers2 - winter bird in the snow
2  Denis Colette - Route de l'Arc-en-ciel...!!!
3  SBA73 -  neu i vent a la mola
4  Let ideas compete - hot air in cold air
5  blmeiers2 - Frosty Footpath - Winter Snow

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Your Attention, Please

It's kind of a long story, but Charlie reads the announcements over the PA at his middle school.  When I took him in late this morning, the school secretary said "I was just about to look for you.  This is your job; I don't want to do it."  She had a pile of announcements in her hand.  We've heard about Charlie doing this task but had, of course, never witnessed it.  I whipped out my phone to capture the moment.  Caution: the video is a little loud.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Particle Roundup February 2015

Call it the Jeffington Post.  It's your occasional parenting article (particle) roundup.  I see particles linked all the time on social media, and I read some of the ones that I see.  Here are some recent ones with my quick take on them.

What Ruth Bader Ginsburg Taught me About Being a Stay-at-home Dad.
While there's nothing actually ground-breaking here, it's well-written and an interesting slice of the at-home dad world.  The best nugget from the justice: "You can’t have it all all at once."

The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports
This really targets parents who have bought into the hyper-competitive part of the youth sports spectrum.  It asks for changes from coaches and parents.  Unfortunately, it also lays out why change will be difficult to effect.  "The path is a race to nowhere, and it does not produce better athletes. It produces bitter athletes who get hurt, burnout, and quit sports altogether."

We're Ruining Our Kids with Minecraft; The Case for Unstructured Play
When I read this, I felt very validated about some of the choices we've made as parents: 
"If we want our kids to relearn how to play, we have to begin by exposing them to boredom.We send our kids to camp in the summer, but we also structure their summer specifically to create boredom in hopes that they will overcome it of their own initiative.  Articles like this are fueled by scary statistics; this one features a finding that kids 8 to 18 spend 6.5 hours on screens per day.  That sounds outrageously high to me across the board.  I have no doubt that it's true of some kids, but where are they finding that kind of time?

This is more of a marriage essay (messay?) than a particle, but I saw someone link to it on Facebook.  The title "I Wasn't Treating My Husband Fairly, and it Wasn't Fair" should alert you to the kind of rocket surgeon we're reading here.  It's pretty annoying in the middle, so either read the whole thing or don't read it at all.  She finally gets around to a point that doesn't make me really resent her or her husband.