Saturday, February 28, 2009

Now I understand!

Needless to say I was a little shocked when I saw Wifey drinking from a baby bottle the other day. Now, I totally get it. Not sure what it means for our future but I'm sure there's a program out there somewhere... twelve, thirteen steps... whatever it takes.

Oh, yeah... I'm going to get it... :)

Little moments #3

I got to take a nap today. That's it. It might not seem all that special unless you've experienced the joy that a household like mine brings. And by joy I mean nonstop nuttiness. So, when the babies went down for their naps, and JAM was having some Wii time and Wifey was, well, not sure what Wifey was doing, I went upstairs and took a nice long nap. It was wondrous!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My (not so) little boy

Two things on my mind tonight, both having to do with my big guy, who is just getting bigger and bigger. As a result, the topics we're dealing with are also getting bigger and bigger. First, the bad news... just because I want to get it out of the way. My poor skinny little eight-year-old got punched for the first time today. We don't have the whole story yet, just the JAM version (which we learned very quickly to not use as the definitive truth - he's as bad a story teller as his poor 'ol Dad), so we're waiting to hear back from his school tomorrow. The new Vice Principal is on the case, and she is just the best thing ever, so I know we'll get the whole story from her.

But, from what we can gather from JAM, it was a pretty out of the blue thing. The bus pulled up to JAM's stop and he stood up and tried to get out of the seat. He was sitting against the window in a seat with two other kids as his bus is always packed to the gills and they sit three to a seat. When he got up to try to leave the kid next to him turned around and nailed him in the right cheek. That's the story we got. No premeditation, no pushing or shoving, no nasty words, just a shot straight to the face. I'm sure you can see why I'm waiting to hear if there is more to the story. Who knows, it may just have been a really bad day for this sixth grader (yes, a sixth grader punched my third grader in the face!!!!), they might have had words getting on the bus, JAM might have shoved him accidentally while trying to grab his backpack, but there is no call for something like that. It took some calm breathing on my part when I got the call from Wifey while I was still at work. Father's first reaction is to protect you know?

I'll update tomorrow hopefully. I just wish other parents were spending as much time trying to raise good kids as we are. And no, I don't feel bad about saying that at all, I live in this community, I see the garbage around me every day. We try to help JAM understand what it means to make good choices every single moment of the day, even when adults aren't around. I want to raise my kid to be a good person. Trying to do that in an area surrounded by questionable family values is just so tough.

Now, on to the good stuff (but unfortunately, even the good stuff comes with a lot of hurt for Mom and Dad).

We got a very interesting piece of mail the other day. It seems JAM's teacher, who until this point has not given us any indication that she cares at all for our child, nominated him to attend something called the National Young Scholars Program. I'm still trying to find out what this thing is (first reaction was thinking this was something like those Who's Who deals where anyone can send in $25 to get their name in a book), but from what I've read of the materials they sent to us I'm impressed. The program is a week-long academic camp focusing on leadership with the student choosing from one of three other "Discovery Strands." There are three locations to choose from, none of them easily gotten to for us - northern VA, Chevy Chase and Towson with the Chevy Chase camp being a residential camp. It sounds just amazing with so much opportunity and potential for growth. JAM needs to be constantly challenged or I fear he'll end up like me... bored with school, and in looking for something to do, he'll end up constantly getting in trouble.

The upside has been established right? It sounds great, the extended summer learning opportunity, the time away from home surrounded by really bright kids, the fact that he'll know he was nominated by a teacher who hasn't, until now, shown any interest or acknowledgement of his abilities...

The downside?

$1,990 for the six-day program.

There is no way we could pay a third of that. I don't know what else to say except it really sucks to not be able to provide everything your family needs. I'm so proud of JAM and at the same time it really, really hurts.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Wait'll they get a load of me!

Fundraiser night at the local Chevys, complete with dozens of hyper elementary aged kids and younger siblings and what has to be the best face painter of all time. Although Wifey had to stay home with the two younger ones who've been pushing 101 - 103 temps for a few days, JAM and I had a blast. Tonight was the first time he's ever wanted to have his face painted. Ever. It was just one of those weird things about him and his "specialness"... there was something about it, something that just didn't sit right in his head, and it had to be on his terms when he was finally ready to be comfortable with it. Some of those things are getting easier and easier, especially when friends are involved. Positive peer pressure never hurt.

So, take a look at my little evil genius! Doesn't he look (except for the out of proportion adult front teeth) awesome?

What made it ever more amusing was the fact Wifey and I had watched the Heath Ledger Joker performance last night. So when JAM walked in to our living room after getting home and Wifey looked up it was so funny to see her face. A little freaked is putting it nicely. :)

We've got one handsome and funny kid there, that JAM. He did great tonight, especially seeing as how we didn't even go out until after 6:30. Normally, the later we get the less control he can muster up but tonight was just perfect.

Another example of enjoying those little moments...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What does it mean for me and mine?

Warning--- this is what I call a bummer post. Not fun, not light-hearted, just me getting crap out of my head in a way that helps me think. But, this place is mine right? Feel free to jump here if you need a giggle. Sorry...

I've been trying to figure out what Obama's stimulus package might mean for my family, specifically our housing situation. We were only able to buy this place when JAM was old enough to go to Wifey's school and we no longer had the $700 in child care costs to shell out each month. We weren't rich, ever, but we were able to afford the house. A few years later we thought it would be a nice idea to expand a bit and along came Red. Wifey kept working, part time, and the house was still doable and we were even able to go out to eat once in a while. Then, Pudge reared his cute-as-hell head and things have gotten very different.

With Wifey home keeping my babies safe and caring for them like no other sane person could stand to do (you'd get it if you spent some time in our home on any given day, trust me), the house has now overpowered us. The mortgage is getting paid, as is all the other "have-to" bills, but the credit card is suffering. We used to be good. We didn't go crazy on anything really. No vacations, no expensive toys/TV/computer/car/etc., no real happy spending except the occasional eating out.

Then came the layoff. That was not a good time. It was short, but it wasn't good. Then the price of food went through the roof. Then gas followed. Our barely hanging on selves weren't really hanging on anymore. We've gotten things largely under control (lifestyle, even one as simple as ours, is hard to change) but I hate to admit that we are still living in the red. Classic case of too much going out and not enough coming in. We aren't going to lose the house, the car is paid off (was paid off early thanks to a generous gift!), we can still afford to buy groceries, but the foreseeable future looks bleak.

So, that explains my mindset as I began hearing about Obama's plans to assist homeowners. At first, I'm pretty sure I heard "new home buyers" - which we weren't. We're regular 'ol people who could use help but aren't among the poor folks who've already lost so much. But if I'm hearing things right, it seems that the stimulus might be showing some promise for helping even folks like us out.

I've included two resources that are leaving me feeling more optimistic. I hope I don't ever have to ask for help. But it is nice to know that help might be out there if necessary.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Remember when they told you to...

...not trust everything you read? Well, here's reason #312 to listen to that advice.

(Don't worry, the irony of me writing down the words telling you not to trust everything you read is not lost on me.)

I had the pleasure of being in the audience for a keynote address by David Pogue at the ASTD conference I went to about two weeks ago. David is a dynamic speaker and I'd recommend taking some time to hear him if you ever get the chance. This is one session you don't want to skip in favor of the buffet line. (Don't worry, we all know that we all do it.) After the conference I made it a point to add David's blog to my reader. I'm glad I did. One of the things he brought up in his keynote was the double edged sword that Web 2.0 can be. Although we all love the fact that any of us can become creators of web content now (um, I am writing on my blog at the moment aren't I?) we should all become far more cognizant of the same fact - ANYONE can create web content!!!!

Have you ever gone shopping online and found that new gadget you thought was cool but wanted to see what other folks thought about it first? You inevitably scroll down the page and begin to read the customer reviews that most shopping sites have now but some sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble have had for a long time. Have you ever wondered how there might be such divergent views on the same product? Some guy from Sheboygan claims the gadget is the best thing since bread (forget about the sliced part) but some soccer mom in Cleveland wrote about the thing blowing up in her kitchen. Then, there are the comments that sound too much like an advertisement of some kind. Have you ever seen those? I wish I had time or a production staff to go find some examples, but I'm lazy and tired. Sorry.

Best I could come up with is this one. Is it real? How can we tell?

I wanted to point to two recent posts by Mr. Pogue that deal with this issue - the same one he brought up in his address. It is very vindicating that I haven't been going crazy these last few years as I've been reading those comments with a healthy dose of suspicion .

The moral of the story is - beware what you read. Just 'cause it's printed don't mean it's worthy of your trust.


Finally, an errand I wouldn't mind going on.

Wifey: "Honey, would you mind going to the storage place and picking up x,y,or z?"

Me: "silence..." You see, I'm already out the door.

Thanks to Wifey for showing me this and Fail Blog for having way too much time on their hands.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Making a "little" purchase

Not sure if you've kept up on our computer issues over on Wifey's blog but I'll cut to the chase and say that our 'ol Gateway desktop has gone kaput. Well, we thought it had, and we had mentally discarded it for quite a while. Then, one night, Wifey finally got tired of me putting off calling Gateway one last time to find out if they would cover replacing the motherboard (again! This little POC computer had been built using a way-too-small box and the poor fan just couldn't keep up with the heat so the motherboard burnt out a few years back. They covered the replacement but that didn't change the fact that the design was horrible) when she called me out and said something like "if it was the computer you depended on you'd have called by now." Yeah, not my best moment. Anyhow, I got right up and, just for kicks, turned the thing on so I could tell "Jenny from Bombay" just what kind of screen of death we saw when it started up. Guess what??? Thing turned on and has been chugging along just fine ever since.

*Fingers crossed*

As great as this is, we know we're operating on borrowed time. Kind of like the transmission in our van, but that is another story. And the heat pump. And the washer and dryer... excuse me, I have to go cry a little bit now...

Alright, that's good. As I was saying, the Gateway is on borrowed time, in only a matter of days/weeks it will be fried once again, and we're really tired of not having something reliable to work with. Wifey is writing up a storm, and getting noticed for it, and she needs something she can count on. JAM is getting older and, especially with a wannabe geek for a father, should be learning some cooler things on there. We just need something small, but reliable.

Enter this call for assistance. As I was shopping at Costco tonight I saw the HP Mini 1033CL. (or here specifically, or here for the product line) This little thing was cool as hell. Tiny little computer, real lightweight, not tricked out but we don't need it to be. And, at $449 it just on the edge of do-able, but only with our yearly Costco credit card rebate check we just got. The small rebate for all those diapers and 8 gallons of milk each week and thousands of dollars in gas might just pay off.

So I need help. I've read the reviews, and it seems good enough. What I was hoping to do was to kick the WinXP it comes with to the curb and install ubuntu so the 60Gb hard drive might actually hold more than the 3 pics it could hold with the bloated windows OS still installed. What do you think?

Anyone? Anyone at all?

I need to make friends with some more geeks.

Those little moments #2

I gotta say, for a woman who is home all day with two "high-energy" kids under three, Wifey is 'da bomb. Not only does this amazing woman almost always still have the same number of kids in our house as when I left (just kidding DCFS) and usually a hot meal of some kind on the table (she is so self deprecating when it comes to this but really - I do like fish sticks and spaghetti!!!) but tonight.... she made me cookies.

No, again I don't do her justice... she made me chocolate chip cookies!

And still... not enough...



These cookies are the best. First, my favorite is choco-chip, no question. Then, she adds the heart-shaped flair. Then, to top it all off, she baked them in the cookie cutter so they are all fat and chewy and aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrggggghhghghhhhhhhhhh....

Sorry, I just slobbered a little bit.

She rocks.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Those little moments

Sitting at work today, up to my eyeballs in mundane grunt work (must be the reason why it hasn't gotten done by someone else before I picked it up to do it) when the phone rings. I see the number is from home so I'm figuring Wifey is calling to add one more thing to the Costco list (my regular weekly post-work run) but when I say hello I'm surprised to hear JAM's voice on the other end. I could hear in his voice he was excited and smiling so I asked him what was up. He called to tell me he had gotten his report card today and he had gotten all A's! No wonder he was smiling. This poor kid works so hard but his dang teacher kept forgetting his 504 and nailing him on study skills and garbage like that. Dude had pulled all A's already in all the "important stuff" - you know, all those things that he's getting tested on like every other week? - so we weren't worried in the least about his academics but his poor heart broke every time he didn't get that final one or two A's. It was especially hard when he made it to the honor roll assembly and his idiot Principal told all the 'all-A' kids to stand up and then chastised the rest of the kids up there for not being like the others. "You can do it" type garbage that took what should have been a wonderful time and killed it for JAM, and I'm sure all the others too. I wasn't able to be there but Wifey said she saw JAM's face just drop when Principal NoTact dropped that bomb.

I'm not thinking about the very real possibility that JAM's walking-dead teacher only gave him an A in everything to get us to shut up about making sure she was doing her job and providing JAM with the required accommodations. We know she isn't, and she knows we know, but she thinks we're going to stop pestering her if she just gives him high marks. Think again lady -we know your game! She must have forgotten that I got real good playing that game too when I spent those years in the high school. hmmmppphhhh.... We'll meet again soon. :)

But, I digress from my point - as usual. I'm so happy for JAM, and I can tell he feels really good about himself right now too. That is a rare enough occurrence that should be rewarded, I'll have to think of something. It is definitely little moments like that phone call that can just make or break your day. Thank God it was a good call - he deserves it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I'm going to make it a habit!

Wifey showed me a blog she follows (thanks Jessica!) where the author has been on the Kiva bandwagon for a lot longer than I have. She posted about this very cool tool she uses to track her donations. The point, if I'm not mistaken, is to try and cover the World with donations. I like it. Although my tiny little one donation really doesn't seem to be all that impressive I'm hoping to make this a habit and this tool might help me do it.

Country donated to: Mali

donated to 1 country (0.44%)
Create your own visited map of The World or try another Douwe Osinga project

Friday, February 6, 2009

Trying to understand

Yup, there is no denying it. I dropped out of business school because of two things... econ and accounting. The numbers game just isn't my thing. We all have our thing. Some people put ball in hoop real good. Some fly planes, some find their calling in teaching and learning. For me it was just not in the cards that I'd ever really get complex economics. That is why I'm having such difficulty in understanding something right now. Here's three plans. I've made them as close to simplistic, but representative, as I possibly could...

You are an out of work construction foreman whose wife works for MegaCorp.

Plan A - The government will lower everyone's taxes which will result in a net gain of $3,000 for everyone but spread out into the typical 26 regular paychecks. (deliberately not discussing tax brackets here, just go with me)

Plan B - The government will send everyone a check for $3,000.

Plan C - The government will rebuild six bridges in your local area. The company you've been laid off from has been chosen as one of the companies to complete this work and you can expect the project to take 18-24 months. You company is one of 5 chosen to do this work and employees 600 people - from office staff to truck drivers to engineers. Those people all live in the local community and utilize local businesses and resources in their every day lives.
How did I do? Are these representative of the current plans being bandied about by our elected leaders? Which seems like a better idea, one in which more people will be put back to work, stop being a drain on the local support infrastructure, and return working communities to a positive frame of mind?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

If someone else says it best....

..then by all means steal it!

My buddy Orange wrote a post that really resonated with me and I wanted to share it with whomever might stop by these parts. As I wrote in my comment to him, it's freaky how much we apparently have in common. It seems that I've taken my family issues to a higher level than he has but I guess that just shows what a horrible person I am. Or, it just shows that I got tired of disappointment and he's got more compassion than I have.

Either way, it still hurts every day.

***Update - in an email conversation with said friend, he said to me: "I wouldn't wish estrangement on anybody. ... I am really sorry that it had to come to that with you."

This got me thinking more about these last few months and what my trouble with part of my family really means to me.

My response to him:
"Yeah, it does suck thinking that I'm at fault in all of this but when I really think about it I just don't see this as one person holding all the cards. It has gotten to a point of me being told to grow up and get over "it", them defining it as being everything that I've been holding onto inside of me for two decades. But the funny thing is that I didn't start all of this off as being angry about all of that. I had totally gotten used to the past and become very good at repressing anything negative that was thrown my way. The genesis of the current anger was the way I perceived my kids were being treated, or actually, the way they weren't being treated. I was tired of my kids not having the family that they deserved. We grew up not having grandparents. We grew up having aunts and uncles in name only. I made a promise to myself not to let that continue with my family. Although I never imagined that promise would turn out like this, I'm keeping that promise to myself, and to my kids. I don't want them to grow up with family they know is there but just out of sight - wondering what's wrong with them, why they aren't included in things. These are wonderful kids, deserving of the most love and respect anyone can give them and when I see that not happening my daddy-hackles get raised.

So, when you tell your mother that you are deeply hurting about something, and she tells you that your feelings don't really matter and that you should just grow up and move on, it really doesn't leave you with a happy familial feeling you know? I could have gone on pretending, like she did and my brother still does (complain to me for years about being treated a certain way and then poof! - all of a sudden that's gone when I finally raise a stink about it), but that just ain't my style. My family's way was to get angry about something, talk behind people's backs, and then pretend nothing was wrong because it was easier that way. No one wanted to call anyone else out on anything and everyone was convinced theirs was the only opinion that was really right. So, when I broke that mold the rest of them circled the wagons, called me the pariah, and made themselves all feel better at my expense. Well, at least I know that my opinions, feelings and welfare aren't really all that important to them. And knowing that now is better than pretending for another 20 years while my kids are subjected to second-class treatment."

Yeah, and you thought your family had problems huh? I think about this every single day. When I wake up, when I'm eating dinner, when my kids do something amazing that I'd like to share, when I'm driving, when I'm sitting in meetings, when Wifey and I really wish we had someone to call on to help us lighten the load for a night, when I think how wonderful it would be to share x,y or z with my brother, etc., etc. This won't ever go away, but it does feel better knowing that I don't have to pretend that these people love me for who I am and my family for who they are. Pretenders don't belong around here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Our first donation to Kiva

Wifey and I had heard about Kiva, a micro-lending service, a while back but for a variety of reasons hadn't done anything about it. I must admit, I have been stuck in the mindset that while our finances move in a negative direction we were in no shape to be helping anyone else out. That is an easy rationalization to make to oneself, and I don't think many people would argue too much with it. However, making a difference doesn't have to break the bank, even if that bank is (not so) slowly deflating.

My good friend Geoff really hit me hard today, right in the gut. And not even once. Twice he made this old stone heart soften today. First, and this doesn't have anything to do with the micro-lending part of my post, he sent me a link to a video created by friends/colleagues of his relating the urgent need for global change when it comes to water policy. Everyone needs to check this out...
(below is the video posted to YouTube. I'd really encourage you to go to their site by clicking on this link)

So, as if Geoff's scare-the-crap-out-of-all-of-us video didn't do enough to get me thinking globally, his post on the latest developments at the Berga school definitely did. Although I asked him about the ability for folks like us to assist in the collection of medical supplies for the village's health extension workers, my thoughts turned to Kiva and the likelihood that a site such as that might be able to help those wonderful women doing so much with practically nothing. That, of course, made me interested in finally getting off my virtual duff and check out Kiva's site. Gotta say it was one of the best things I've done lately.

Seriously! Everyone can help! It's silly not to! What really got me going was the fact they use PayPal to handle their donations. I logged into my PayPal account and found out that I had $11 in there from who-knows-when. It was like finding a $10 bill in your pant's pocket after they go through the wash. All I had to do was sign up for a Kiva account, pick my intended beneficiary, and donate through PayPal. I credited that $11 from my account, added a bit as a donation to Kiva to help them cover their costs, and now 4 lovely young women from Mali will benefit from our $25. I know, it isn't much, but the point is to get everyone to help just a little. We'll eventually get the money back and then it can be passed on to the next folks who we find on Kiva's site.

This is a no-brainer of the highest order.

So, do me a favor... go check out my newest African friends and see if you can help them out. It will help them out and make you feel fantastic. Nice way to feel right before going to bed.

***Update*** Apparently my new African BFF's have reached their fundraising goal!!! Not sure if any of you out there donated to their cause (I wouldn't mind if you left a comment of two letting me know) but as you can see this little Kiva announcement widget has moved on to other worthy candidates. Pretty cool little program - when one person or group reaches their goal the widget automatically moves on to another candidate. So, whomever the widget shows, please consider donating, it really is painless.