How To Dress A Teen

July 17, 2018

So, we finally got to a point with our teen son where we no longer are getting enough hand-me-downs to clothe him and over the summer he seems to have shot up several inches – though, somehow lost circumference. Which means…clothes shopping.

The Wife and I tried to do some of it last weekend, finding some pants on sale and a Ghibli shirt at Hot Topic, among other things. Which is how we found out that his waist has apparently shrunk by an inch or two, and I’m not sure we’ll be able to find pants that fit.

The Ghibli shirt was Ponyo, with a big bowl of Ramen and “Ponyo Loves Ham!” on it. Ponyo has been the kid’s favorite Ghibli movie since…ever. It’s the only Ghibli movie he quotes from – though, this is pretty much limited to “Ponyo Loves Ham!” – hence why we thought he’d like the shirt.

Nope. He wants the Howl’s Moving Castle shirt instead. WTF. We figure he thinks the Ponyo shirt is too girlish, maybe? Though, I don’t think it’s girlish at all, it’s just a Ponyo tshirt.

So, we have to return 3 pairs of pants and try to find some that are like 28×32, and see if we can exchange that Ponyo shirt for the Howl shirt.  The shirt shouldn’t be a big deal, but that size pants scream full price and damn near impossible to find. I’ve told him to start eating more, but I don’t think he’s going to listen. Or eat enough.

But the eating thing is for another blog post.


I Need a Vacation

July 6, 2018

Last week my family took a vacation with a bunch of other family and holed up in a house in Tennessee for a week. I’m not sure how anyone else felt about it, but very little of these vacations we take actually feel like vacations for me. We pack, which my wife does a lot of, we cram ourselves into the car, we drive for an ungodly amount of time, we run around like crazy for a week or so, and then we head home where we have to unpack everything, fit our lives back together and go on.

The problem is that what I do on vacation is pretty damn similar to what I do at home except without the convenience of my own bed, shower, space beyond a bedroom and a shower.

What has made this week worse is the weather we came back to. Just heat, heat, and more heat. The lows at night never got below 70 – and I might be a bit generous with that. Humidity was high. The house could never cool down, which meant neither could we.

During the vacation the kids were always 5 feet away. Since we’ve been home that’s expanded to 7.5 and that extra two and a half feet has been a godsend. They’re still always right there, though. Always there. It just wears you down, as you try to get something done and someone wants milk, someone else wants a ride to the pool, then your mom calls because some flighty co-worker up and quit without notice and now she might not get her vacation time. And you’re trying to clean the house, to do the dishes, to put together a swing set.

so, I’m waiting for a vacation. Like most parents, probably.  In the meantime, I’ll try to get that swing set done.

They Take Everything

July 3, 2018

At the risk of just sounding like another old person complaining about change and the world leaving them by, I was very angry earlier today when I drove by the empty Toys R Us one town over. As it was going out of business I refused to shop the clearances, knowing how Bain Capital (remember them?) had bought the store and promptly killed it. At the time it just disgusted me in some vague way I couldn’t totally articulate. Now, I think it’s just a raw hate for how those with money and power just gobble up everything and discard it without a thought, as if putting 30,000 people across the country out of work is just one of those things you do any given day.

It’s also stealing something from kids. Toys R Us had some faults, but it was still a fixture of my childhood. Going to Toys R Us was something that would fill me with wonder in a way that going to KMart or Aames or Meijer or any of a dozen other stores simply couldn’t match. Walking into a massive store and being engulfed by towering racks of toys was akin to walking into the Gardens of Babylon. For a child, it was just weirdly beautiful and enthralling.

My oldest got to enjoy Toys R Us in this way. A store dedicated entirely to the one thing he actually enjoyed shopping for as a child. But my youngest will likely never know what this was like, at least not in the same way as she is just too young to likely remember any visit to Toys R Us. Now, she has WalMart. She has Amazon. She has the remaining KMarts, I guess.

Feeling Pretty Rough

June 19, 2018

The weekend was the first real heatwave of the year and it’s damn near killed me. The first couple of days I weathered pretty well, but I was also able to leave the house with The Wife and Kid to get some a/c and what not. Monday I was just trapped in our house. I didn’t want to put the a/c’s in because it was supposed to cool down afterwards, but I should have. Last night I didn’t sleep much at all, my little girl didn’t sleep, and I have felt like hell all day today.

Nausea. Diarrhea. Sweats. A bit dizzy at times. Weak.

It’s been a throw away day as the heat and lack of sleep from the past three days have just piled up and knocked me down.  The Wife and I go back and forth over getting central air, weeks/days like this push it over the edge for me. I just can’t stand the heat.

Die! Coal! Die! (The! Coal! The!)

June 1, 2018

So, apparently The Grand Orange PooBah has decided that we need to prop up coal and nuclear by buying electricity from their plants rather than from whatever plant might offer us the best price. Considering the big reason coal has been hammered in the electricity market is that natural gas came around and was gobs cheaper, something tells me that electricity coming from coal plants is going to be more expensive.

Now, who do you think will bear the burden of these costs for propping up this outdated industry? Just a wild guess, but I’m thinking it’s going to be me. And you. And whoever else gets stuck buying from these coal companies.

While I feel a certain amount of sympathy for the folks who grew up counting on these jobs, and who have seen their towns die as these jobs have left, I can’t afford to prop them up, either. And I’m from Michigan, I still live in the Rust Belt, I’ve seen the shifting winds of the auto industry wipe out all sorts of local economies and entire towns. It sucks in a big way.

But it happens. Instead of propping them up, we should be finding the best way of moving these folks out of there and pushing not necessarily them but their kids and grandkids, all of the folks coming after them, into fields that will take coal’s place in their lives.

What’s really ironic, or just pure bullshit, about this mess is the administrations tossing around that we need to prop up coal for national security. If we’re looking at propping something up or forcing us to support something for national security, then every vehicle on the road should be electric. Nations that are the most hostile to us seem to get quite a bit of cash from oil. Want to make our nation more secure? Make it safer? Put a big fat dent in that funding for these other nations.

But too many old white people make too much money from oil.

Into the Swing of Things

May 31, 2018

This past weekend we started tackling a project that’s been getting kicked around for over a year now since we bought a couple of used slides for forty bucks. We decided to put a playset in the backyard. We got the wood we needed for the basic structure, we have the swings and hardware. We had the slides. We were reasonably ready to go.

Then the weather decided to go nuclear on us and turn the weekend into a 90+ degree march through misery. Everything took longer. Everything was more tiring. We got through what we could, which was getting four corner posts up and frames built around them. But that’s as far as we got on Saturday.

Sunday came around, it was even hotter, and I was pretty burned out from the day before.  None of us wanted to spend a lot of time out in the sun, so we busied ourselves around the house before venturing out for ice cream and to go to Target. We needed to look for shoes anyway, our son had started complaining about his shoes feeling a little tight.

It turned out that his shoes were 2 1/2 sizes too small. Yeah, I guess that would be a little tight.

We struck out at Target, partly because their version of a sale is have that stupid cartwheel thing and we lost our password for that long ago. We then tried Kohl’s, and didn’t have any luck. The Wife lamented KMart closing and I said I thought there was still one a few towns over, 30 minutes more or less. And so I had set the agenda for the following day.

Which was still far too hot. The good news is that KMart came through. They had a bogo sale, we got a bunch of shoes for $60, and saved ourselves some money.  The bad news is that our favorite donut shop was closed for the holiday and by the time we got home it was time for supper, and the Wife and Boy went to the local animal shelter to walk dogs. So, nothing got done again on the playset.

Another problem with the playset popped up. The Wife changed the design slightly halfway through working on it Saturday, and now we’re going to have to get more lumber, screws, etc. I had been trying to bare bones it as much as possible, and now I’m going to have to get a bit more involved with it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, we had been planning to build off it over time and enlarge it a bit, but it does mean more money will be dumped into it now, which…ugh.

So, I now have a half-finished swing set in the backyard, a bit of a sun burn, and I’m already tired of the heat. And July and August are still in the wings, waiting for their time to take the stage.

New Storage

May 14, 2018

I spent the weekend hacking out a small project in the kitchen. We moved the fridge, opening up a little alcove for some work. Considering we’re going to end up tearing it all out at some point in the near future (within 3 years), we didn’t want anything overly permanent there. So, with $40 in materials, I put together a wooden counter top with a plywood shelf beneath it.

It’s something that shouldn’t be a big deal, but it was nice just having a smaller project that could be knocked out with relative ease and be “done” with. This sense of accomplishment with something being essentially finished doesn’t happen a lot for me these days. It seems everything is long term, and I don’t have time to really work on any of it, so it’s this snail pace thing where it feels like nothing is ever finished. It’s miserable. So just having something that I could put together over a day or so is tremendous.

Also, it looks good. I didn’t think I would warm to the idea of wooden countertops but after seeing this (very) rough version, I can see the appeal. It brightens the kitchen, it’s warm. I’m not sure how well it would work as an every day, hard use counter top, though. It’s not a traditional butcher block top with a bunch of pieces set on end and press/glued together. It’s just five 1 inch thick planks laid across a frame (not even actual kitchen cabinets but literally just a frame built into place to take this top). I’m not sure I’d like a traditional butcher block as much, though.

I’m thinking of doing this sort of counter top in the laundry room. It would be affordable, look nice, and help keep a small space bright. The affordable part is probably the best part.

Hacks and Shills

April 18, 2018

Trump is the sixth man that’s held the office of president in my life time. None of the other presidencies seemed to be as full of incompetent, dishonest retches who so blatantly abuse the trappings of their positions while flaunting their inadequacies for their positions so openly.

Trump himself is bad enough. He seems far above his head, more comfortable watching TV and screwing around on his phone before hitting the golf course every weekend than being a functional president. This is bizarrely survivable assuming he puts people into positions of power and influence who are actually good at their jobs and stays out of their way.

Instead, we end up with the likes of Scott Pruitt and Ben Carson, while Trump does everything but stay out of the way of anybody.  If it wasn’t my country, it would be laughable. Instead, I feel like I’m watching my favorite sports team manage itself into the basement and knowing they don’t have people in charge who can rebuild it.

Yet it seems there is a solid 30-40% of people who still back this administration. Who are willing to look at it and defend it on some grounds of…I don’t know. Crap thought like “deep states” and some sort of bizarre media  cabal built to push electric cars and veganism.

And it is somehow partisan to look at this culture developing among the “conservative” wing of this country and not call it out for what it is: just batshit crazy hatred, fear, and ignorance.

I don’t listen to politics podcasts, I try not to visit CNN very often, because it’s just mind numbing and exhausting. I’m waiting for the next election. And the one after that. And the one after that. Hopefully I’ll be helping purge this ridiculousness from our public sphere.

If not, well, the Wife talks about Canada quite a bit. Nova Scotia looks nice. Cold, desolate…but nice.

So, only one kid is dead so far

March 20, 2018

I’ve already seen this narrative being pushed that the good guy with the gun stepped forward and prevented a larger tragedy. This is to take nothing from the officer who stepped up and performed his duty. He should be commended for that.

At the same time, pushing this ridiculous idea that putting armed anybody in schools is the next best step is wholly missing the point that despite the presence of an armed SWAT team member a child still went and grabbed a hand gun, took it to school, shot two people, and was then shot and killed himself (who shot him exactly hasn’t been clearly reported yet – whether it was the officer or if it was self-inflicted). The goal is to make this a non-starter as much as humanly possible. Either foster a society where gunning down a bunch of other kids just isn’t considered as a possible course of action, which would be the ideal, or making it so difficult for kids to get their grubby little hands on a gun that the likelihood of it happening is pushed farther down the likelihood ladder than it is now.

I don’t believe this idea that if anyone wants a gun bad enough they’ll inherently get one. I also don’t believe there is some sort of inherent desire to grab a gun and mow people down encoded in our genetic make-up somewhere. This is a symptom of something wrong in our society.

At some point we need to confront that and actually work on it with the goal of changing it and not just accepting it or ameliorating its repercussions. We have allowed the guns and violence to become a disturbing fetish. Stroke them, oil them, caress their triggers until they bang.  Lauding killing a 17 year old who was trying to kill other teenagers is not a win.

Need to Find a New pre-school

March 9, 2018

My little girl goes to head start. It was a difficult thing for me to be okay with. She’s my little girl, and the idea of dropping her off with strangers for three hours a day while she’s just three years old just didn’t sit well with me. But our neighborhood is a bunch of geriatrics, and we don’t exactly know a lot of people in town, so her being able to go and be around kids was a big deal.

It turned out to be a wonderful place. My daughter loves the teachers, she is enthusiastic about going to “school,” it’s been incredibly rewarding.

Yesterday we found out that they are closing the school after this year and we’ll have to find a new pre-k/head start program for next year. Little girl, of course, has no idea. But it’s really angered and upset me. Partly at the folks who run the school, refusing to find a new place to run their program. They used to share the building with another program, but that other program left to partner with a local hospital. Now the building is up for sale and Head Start is essentially being kicked out.

Mostly, I’m angry at my community. It’s a small community with a lot of folks who seem to be doing pretty well. But they are also older. As our boy has started high school we have seen how the community doesn’t exactly throw money at its schools.  We don’t have bus service for the high schoolers because of the cost. The school invested in chrome books and what not because their long term cost was cheaper than text books and more instruction could be shifted to digital.

Our community is a bunch of cheap old people who don’t want to pay any more in their taxes to support the folks in their community who are actually young and productive enough to keep the town going. I see more evidence of this whenever I go to drop off and pick up our son from the school, where I see a bunch of retirees queuing up in the parking lot. Folks are incredibly reliant on their extended family here to make these policies work. I also see a bunch of kids walking home in the middle of winter, and our home is a good two or three miles, and on a very busy road, from all of the schools. So if you don’t have that extended family, your kids are just sort of screwed unless you can make it work with your own employment.

While it might not be fair  I see Head Start leaving as just another indicator that my community doesn’t give a damn. The wife and I are essentially preparing ourselves to leave, to move…somewhere. She’s pushing for Cornwall (yes, in England). I don’t know what I’m pushing for exactly, just that I worry about my mom.

Regardless, in the end I have to find a new place for my little girl in the fall, and I’m not happy about it. I like the people she’s with now, and changing that…I don’t like it.