Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Need Cheering Up? Remember: Things Fall Apart

Today's excitement is very common among the Kindergarten set, but it's a little weird when you think about it for a while, at least from a grown-up perspective.

Let me back up, though. The Bünj' was eating a sandwich but all of a sudden he started whimpering and sobbing to himself and saying, "ouuuuch." I comforted him, and asked him if he hurt himself, where, etc. He said he bit his teeth down too hard; he must've bit his lip. I tried not to make too much of it and let him get over it. Then the whining ramped up a little more. Something about him biting down too hard again and it not going away. I wasn't getting what he was saying (any more than he knew what the problem was). He kept talking about his teeth, not his tongue or lips. So I asked him what he meant and looked. Was his tooth moving?

"Is your tooth moving?"

"Yeahhh," he whined.

"Do you have a loose tooth?"

The whining stopped on the instant. First was the moment of comprehension, then the wonder spread across his eyes.

I looked closer, "Sure enough, you have a loose baby tooth. I see your new tooth coming in right behind it!"

This observation elicited a huge grin. He started wiggling around excitedly. "So that must've been why my teeth kept hurting when I bit down. I was biting down on my loose tooth!  he said, as if the incident about which he was just sobbing was his most cherished memory.

I've never seen pain turn to cheer so quickly. And all because his body is getting ready to shed a piece of itself.

At my age, if stuff is falling out or off, it's nothing to celebrate. (Well, expect maybe a particularly nasty scab; but that's just really the relief of being slightly less bestial again.) I guess the loose tooth days (heck, even the pimple-popping era) are now the subject of wistful memories.

Anyway, the Bünj' continued his excitement and he thought right away to call the Müms at work to tell her all about it.

Even hours later when his friend called on the phone, the Bünj' immediately told him he had "very exciting news." His friend — 5 year old friend, that is, and a first baby tooth veteran — needed no clues whatsoever.

"Did you lose a tooth?" he asked instantly. They all think alike sometimes (especially these two).

The ensuing brief flurry of conversation was plenty to convince anyone — even those who couldn't appreciate how darn cute it was — that this was truly a landmark event.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


"Ughhh. It's hard to have boxes as feet!" That's what I heard Bünj' say a couple of minutes ago. I turned around, and he was walking with each foot in a cardboard box (about 10" X 10" X 12").

I think he's probably right.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rats: Still Not Popular

I was searching for something else on the Internet and I stumbled on something . . . well, here is the headline: "Rat adoptions static despite Disney movie 'Ratatouille'".

And a quote from the article: "In our seven stores, I doubt if we sell a rat a week," says Burton Patrick, who owns Pet Supplies . . . ." Apparently he "had anticipated "Ratatouille"-related sale increases . . . ."

Rats: still not popular. Go figure.

Mr. Patrick's sales numbers are being topped about twelve-fold by another pet seller quoted in the article. He admitted, however, the reason was probably that his was the only pet store in town that sold live rats for feeding to snakes.

It's a tad ironic that I'm amused by this story, since I actually think most furry creatures are pretty cute, including rats — at least the ones in pet stores. The other day, however, I had a conversation with a friend who painted a pretty clear picture of how and why she found rats so creepy and disgusting. Most people are probably with her. And I'll wager it's going to take more than an animated Disney rat — a feral rat traipsing around a restaurant kitchen, no less — to polish the image of these overgrown rodents known primarily for their infestation and disease-spreading skills. The Bubonic Plague is just one of those skeletons-in-the-closet that will severely challenge even the slickest imagemakers.

So, rats and rat-sellers, go ahead and hope for the best, . . . but I wouldn't put a downpayment on that house on the coast just yet.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Do They Trick-or-Treat in China? OR We're Going to China!

We're going to China!

We now have our travel dates and have even begun a little bit of the packing. We will leave at the end of October and return in mid-Novemeber with Mei Mei!

As we have all along, we plan to go as a whole family — the Bünj' included!

The typical China adoption trip involves:
(1) An optional stop in Beijing to get used to the time change and to learn about China — see the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, etc.
(2) A stay in your child's home province to be united with her or him and do some of the legal paperwork
(3) A stay in Guangzhou to do final paperwork — the adopted child's U.S. Visa & immigration forms — at the U.S. Consulate there.

In our case, we will do the optional Beijing tour. We believe this will be especially good for getting the Bünj' used to being in China and night being day and day being night. Then we fly to Guangzhou, since Mei Mei lives there. Our flight home leaves from Guangzhou. So we only have the two China destinations.

We booked our flights to China and back. We won't get our in-China itinerary (hotel reservations, flights) for a week or two.

I'm pretty anxious about getting everything ready, making sure we don't forget any of the irreplaceable important documents, keeping our luggage under the weight limit, etc., etc. And of course, I'm nervous but very hopeful about Mei Mei making a good transition in her first days, as well as the coming weeks, months and years.

But, of course, we are so very excited. We can't wait to meet and be united with our sweet, little Mei Mei.

Matched: Mei Mei

By way of continuing the recap of our recent adoption news, here is the announcement letter we sent out in July when we were matched with Mei Mei.

It is with overwhelming joy and gratitude that we announce the referral of our daughter! The picture was taken in December, 2006.

Here's what we know so far:

Her birthday is in April, so she is three years old — just two years younger than the Bünj'. She is living with a foster family in Guangzhou, China, and has lived with them since she was 11 months old. Guangzhou (sometimes called Canton) is in southern China and has a very tropical climate.

She is described as "active," with a ready smile. She is not timid. She likes music. She gets along well with others, but is "sometimes obstinate." (What three year old isn't?) She is "talkative," just like her daddy and big brother-to-be. Her favorite activity is going down slides.

We think she is perfect!

The normal wait to travel is between 3-6 months. The average is 110 days. That means, with any luck, we'd travel in early November and have her home by Thanksgiving. We will not know our exact travel dates until about 1 month before we go.

Given the increasing wait times to adopt from China, we were not expecting to be matched with a child for many more months. However, the Chinese Center for Adoption Affairs periodically sends a list of special needs and waiting ("older") children to our adoption agency. Our agency circulates the list to all of their clients in the country who are adopting from China. We saw her on the most recent list, and we both just fell in love with her. We applied to be matched with her and were thrilled when our family was chosen. Her special need is thalassemia minor or thalassemia trait. Thalassemia is a type of anemia. Our pediatrician has looked at her lab results. Her type of thalassemia is not likely to have any effect on her. However, if she has biological children with a man who has the same trait, her children could be very ill. Therefore, she will need to have genetic counseling before she has children.

We would appreciate your prayers for as smooth a transition as possible for her. We can't imagine telling the Bünj' when we was three, or at any age, that he was going to go live with strangers on the other side of the world who looked different, and spoke differently and ate different foods. We have been taking Mandarin Chinese lessons for a couple of months and our Chinese teacher is also teaching us how to make some southern Chinese food. We hope those things will make her new life with us easier for her.

We want to thank all of you for supporting our decision to adopt. We can't wait to meet Mei Mei and for our family and friends to meet her as well. As we learn more, we will keep you updated.

Waiting, a Change and a Match

I can't go completely in reverse chronological order, or you won't know what's going on.

So to quickly summarize: we were in the "regular" adoption-from-China process. That is, we submitted information on our family along with a request for a child, including the sex (girl) and age range (as young as possible) we hoped for. From that point, we waited for the Chinese government's adoption office (China Center for Adoption Affairs or CCAA) to match us with a child.

Our adoption agency periodically sends out lists of waiting and special needs children. During the time we've been waiting, we have expressed interest of varying degrees in some of these children. A few months ago we were strongly drawn to one of these children, a three year old — Mei Mei. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent.) We requested that she and our family be matched. The agency chose us to be Mei Mei's family!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Filling In Gaps Starts . . . NOW

Ironically, Mrs. OccupationDad encouraged me to start a blog because of blogs she had encountered in the international adoption realm; yet I stopped blogging during some of the biggest moments of our adoption process.

So I had better recap, in reverse chronological order perhaps.


Why haven't I written a blog entry in so very long? Letting everything else (high priority things, low priority stuff, and outright putzing) crowd writing out of my "schedule," I guess.

Well, in the words of veteran Korean war army cook Frank Costanza, "I'm back, baby!"

(Of course, with a hackneyed but bold [literally: note the font] statement like that, I'll have to follow through. Oh crap)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


We want to get a bicycle basket for the Bünj's bike. Somehow, though, in the process of shopping for a basket, the Bünj' scored a horn — the classic sort with the squeezy bulb. (In fairness, he's paying for part of it with some of his "gift money.") Honk, honk, honk, honk, honk honk, starting right in the store … I'm thinkin', how  is this a good idea? Anyway, that day in the store, Mrs. OccupationDad went off with the Bünj' and I shopped in some other departments. No luck with the bike basket. I had no problem finding them  (my wife and the Bünj'), though. In this age of "supercenters" and "Greatlands," maybe the boy is on to something. Each couple could carry a differently pitched horn so in case they separate, they could beep to each other. OK, maybe not.

Anyway, either we put the horn on his bike posthaste, or I'll have to start calling him "Harpo."

Meanwhile, all we have found around here is baskets for girls' bikes. Now we're going to look for a boys' (or unisex) bike basket on-line. Benjamin just suggested that we should first "check".

Wish us luck.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Rubber Tires Can Save Your Life?

It is storm season in the Midwest. So I was wondering, are people really safe from lightning in a car … because of the insulating or grounding effect of the rubber tires? Yes . . . and no, as it turns out — at least according to this "lightning safety quiz" (from the Museum of Science, Boston). (I got most of them right.) It's pretty interesting.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Perhaps being 40 won't be bad at all. A few days ago I opened up a new jar of jam. The lid looked like this:

Is it a sign?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


I turned 40 today. Call me a poor sport, but I specifically hoped for no kind of party this year. Those black "Over the Hill" balloons and "You're really old" jokes thoroughly annoy the crap out of me.

Further — cliché of clichés — I don't want to be reminded that I am both way "older than I feel" and (unfortunately for grown-up's around me, especially Mrs. OccupationDad) way older than I act (i.e., about 12 years old).

Moreover, I ought to have got way more done by the time I'm forty, but I am slow and inefficient.

It's all summarized and symbolized by my anxiety dream the night before last. Many odd things occurred, as happens in dreams. I was on a trip, so was Mrs. OccupationDad, but we were in separate cars. I took a "detour" just for a change of scenery, but forgot to tell her. Then I was all worried I wouldn't catch up with her at the right juncture …blah blah … The road went through a town and then through a courthouse. Then I was on foot going through the courthouse. Then somehow I was in this long public meeting. Soon it was almost over and everyone wanted to get it over with, but then I  had something to say and did. But I was all stressed about getting it said while not pissing everyone off because they wanted to go. And the sidetracks when on and on. Delay, inefficiency, stress.

The kicker was when I was waiting around downtown for … something …I was just relieving "it" wasn't waiting for me, for once. I became contemplative and just began thinking, "I just can't believe I'm forty years old  and I'm just now finally graduating from high school. I've really squandered  my time." (Pathetic existential sigh.)

Yeah, well, that should make me feel good right? It could  be that bad. Or worse.

Well, a new era dawns today. It's the first day of the rest of …yatta, yatta, yatta …

Everything is about to change. S-t-a-r-t-i-n-g . . . . . . . . . . . now !

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Adoption Is Not Just for the Infertile

A recent blog entry at the "On Parenting" blog (The Washington Post)  was about adoption. As another person who commented on the blog noted, the blogger and the commenters seemed unduly focused on adoption as something for infertile couples.

I hope it's not too obvious to say that it is not only infertile couples who adopt. Adoption doesn't have to be a last resort. We are in the midst of an adoption. We chose to adopt because we love children and because there are many children in the world in need of loving homes. We've had no fertility problems. (We, of course, have one biological child, also known as "the Bünj'" and by many other names.)

To be sure, adoption isn't for everyone. There are many factors in deciding whether adoption is appropriate for someone. As we've learned in the educational component of our adoption process, one must be aware that "being adopted" is  a real psychological difference or challenge for a child and a person to cope with as she grows up and throughout her life. Parents must feel they are emotionally equipped to be able to support their child with that issue.

That having been said what, good, healthy biological parent whose child happened to have a physical or psychological challenge wouldn't try to move mountains to help and support him and cope with it.

When you adopt, you don't always know what sort of child to expect; you may know little of her family history. But with a biological child you still don't know who he will be until you have him and raise him. You may know a lot or a little about your family and genetic heritage. But as to what combination helps make your daughter or son who s/he is, that's a gamble no matter what — even without the potential of not-genetic problems or tragic life events. Yet every day people choose to take the risk and have children they plan to love and raise no matter what.

I am the first, however, to acknowledge that (as I said) not everyone has the personality to adopt — and moreover to adopt someone of another ethnicity, to adopt an older child, to adopt someone with special needs, etc.

One of the most difficult parts of applying for our adoption was indicating — in the abstract — what sort of child we were requesting. (In our situation, the China Center for Adoption Affairs [or CCAA] will match us with a child, but they will do so based upon our application and request.) It seems like a sin to say we want to adopt but only within these parameters. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake for parents (and adoption agencies) not to be honest enough to recognize that, given their own backgrounds, there are some situations certain people shouldn't volunteer to get into. We had to admit there are certain levels of special needs children that we don't feel strong enough to be able to give the best care. Yet, strangely, if any such child were chosen for us or born to us, we would care for that child the best we possibly could. It is a near paradox, and I find it disturbing. Yet that is how is happens.

When we talked to our social worker, together we kind of explained it this way: When a couple decides to have a biological child, they hope for the healthiest of healthy, strong, smart, emotionally adaptable children. Even if the child born to them is far from that hope, good parents will raise her and love her just the same. But when you are adopting among children already born and known, how can you hope for the "best", but be willing to love the "neediest"? Choice is involved. It seems to me that it takes a uniquely strong and sacrificing person to say, "I want to adopt the child with the greatest needs." Or even (to be hypothetical), "Choose a child for us randomly." And yet anything less than the former option seems callous.

It comes back to what a person feels capable of taking on. Life may present me with any number of risks I don't choose in advance. There are many risks I feel I am wise not to take, if I have the choice. If I become stranded on a high mountain, I guess I'll do my best. Otherwise, though, I'm not going to take up mountain climbing; I don't have the temperament or coordination for it.

That's just with my life. It seems even more unwise to take risks with other people's lives, like adopting "over your head."

Despite the challenges of adoption, I truly believe the world would be a better place if even more parents who felt they were up to those challenges would adopt regardless of their ability to conceive. There are so many children in our country and all over the world who need parents and homes.

Elevator Protocols

In addition to trains, Bünj' really likes elevators. It's a cautious, compulsive interest. When he uses real elevators he's really intense, kind of nervous. He insists on strict adherence to protocol: immediate boarding and offloading, he must push the buttons, etc. He respects the elevator. He senses its power.

Rebecca had a couple of professional conferences last month and Bünj' and I joined her on the trips (as is our custom). Beforehand, Bünj' was really looking forward to the elevators (and the swimming pools) in the hotels, particular the "glass elevator" in one hotel at which we'd stayed previously.

Well, we had nice trips, had many good adventures and enjoyed numerous fruitful, if intense, elevator rides.

Well, now  we have an elevator in our house. (YES, it's imaginary.) Fortunately, it's our sunroom, not some cramped, dark closet.

You see, we live in a hotel. Bünj' is the manager. We all work here.

When we want to go upstairs in our house, unless we have some serious reality-based reason, we can expect to be told we must step into the sunroom— er, uh, elevator … while Bünj' pushes some buttons and closes the door and then let us out.

Moreover, it's the service  elevator. It's the only one we may use. This restriction, we discovered, is quite strictly enforced. Yesterday Mrs. OccupationDad tried to use a different one. Mr. Manager reproached most stridently saying, "You  can't go that way. That's for guests!"  It's obvious he thought she was the most ridiculous employee he'd ever encountered.

As Mrs. OccupationDad said this morning (when Mr. Manager was still asleep), "It really comes to something  when we're regulated to the service elevator in our home."

Monday, May 07, 2007

It's the Blogification of It All

Yesterday we visited a friend that Mrs. OccupationDad met through a blog. In a sense we really met  her yesterday. We've never seen her in person before. (She lives in the Southeast. We [obviously] don't live in the Southeast; although, with the Lake Michigan-cooled weather we've been having lately, it might not be a bad idea. Anyway, the friend was visiting Wisconsin.) So the visit was a sort of consummation of a relationship that was entirely Internet-enabled. Pretty weird.

Of course, it's far from the fast-paced, youth-populated world of chatrooms and "MySpace," etc. The whole friendship developed in cautious-adult time. It gradually grew from blog reading to commenting to personal emailing to a few telephone calls and then finally this visit. All this having developed over the course of . . . I don't know . . . a year and a half, all parties were pretty confident they weren't going to be meeting up with a scam artist, a predator, a psychotic killer or even Dateline NBC.

It was a great visit. And the whole thing is so . . . 21st Century . . .

Thursday, March 15, 2007

New Flavor

I bought the Bünj' a few pieces of taffy when we were in a store yesterday. On the way home he was eating them while I was driving. With each one he was trying to figure out what flavor it was based upon the color.

With one piece he couldn't even guess at first and asked me. I told him I couldn't look and that he should tell me what colors it was or just taste it and see.

"Well," he responded, "I think its toenail polish – vanilla flavor." How could I not think that was hilarious and also be very curious?

At the next stop sign, I turned around to have a look. Sure enough, the taffy had a white swirl in it and the rest was a color I don't think I've ever seen on food. It was, however, a kind of pinkish flesh-tone color, the exact match of which, I have no doubt, is in stock on any department store's nail polish rack — "Blushing Salmon," perhaps.

Fortunately for all, it didn't really turn out to be nail polish flavor. In fact, the Bünj' assured me, it was peppermint/butter flavored.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Uhhh . . . What just happened here?

The following is an actual conversation between Occupation Dad and an Occupation Dad customer his son.

Benjamin: May I have some buttock tea?
Dad: Uhhhhhhhh . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . if you make it, you may.
Benjamin: It has to have buttocks in it.
Dad: Uhhh . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . whose buttocks?
Benjamin: Alien buttocks. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Because they're in outer space. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . And they're even not real, right?
Dad: Uhhh . . . right.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Wish

I've made a habit of quipping that by the the time Benjamin is 10, he'll be so exasperated with the forgetful, feeble minds of his parents that he'll merely be tolerating us (hopefully with a little affection). Perhaps I was being a little optimistic to estimate the onset of this sad state of affairs at age 10.

One day recently (during our regional deep freeze), Benjamin and my wife went out to do some errands. Just before they left, Benjamin had found his little umbrella somewhere and was playing with it. He decided to take it along. He said he was bringing it to protect himself from the wind. My wife told him that was a good idea. She went even further, offering the general compliment, "You come up with a lot  of good ideas!" (When you're conversing all adultlike with a four-year-old, however, you don't always get the return you expect.)

Benjamin accepted the compliment without modesty, "Yeah, I do." He then sighed and said to my wife, "I wish you  did."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Coming in Second" at DadBloggers

If you want to, read about how Benjamin didn't like me until he was 4 years old over at The post is called "Coming in Second."

Friday, January 26, 2007

Détente in the House of Mouse

Check out, a blog by a friend of ours. She has some good, funny pieces on there.

Her latest is about some field mice that taunt her cats. That reminded me of some of our mouse adventures of yore.

Many years ago my wife and I rented a farm house. We're pretty big suckers for animals. (Ya' think? Maybe that has something to do with us having had four cats and a dog for a several years.) Anyway, we took in a couple a few no more than five of the begging farm cats that roamed the area.

Being an old farmhouse, the structure was not as tight as modern houses, and we were lucky it was impervious to possums, forget about mice. The cats, no doubt, kept the house relatively free of rodent scat while the mice kept the cats fit and entertained. When these events took place while we were asleep or gone, no problem.

However, when they caught mice in our midst, this was another story. Yes, I know about the balance of nature, the circle of life, and several other ecological clichés. I know the predator-prey thing is going on all around us every hour of every day.

I'm just too damn Disneyfied to watch the little mice's hearts beat in terror as our friends scoop them up in their fangs. Moreover, I have some little hang-ups about watching anything being disemboweled in our kitchen, mouse entrails on our living room carpet, etc. The dead pigeon that one cat brought home was quite enough, thank you. Ten years later it's still hard to forget Nighthawk straining her neck to carry its heavy, plump, juicy body across the barnyard, her plopping it down on the breezeway floor. I remember its wings splayed out like perfect charcoal-grey fallen-angel wings, the dripping stigmata on its breast. Yeechhh.

So at least once, when the cats were having their fun catching-and-releasing one particular victim before making the kill, I couldn't stop myself from intervening. I neither cared for the notion of the mouse (cuteness aside) relieving itself in our cupboards, nor in the cat's finding the critter later and leaving its gushy remains on the bedroom threshold for our bare feet to discover in the morning.

When one of the cats, between teasing releases, had the horrified thing in its teeth, I grabbed the cat ran to the door, threw it open and started yelling, "Let it go! Let it go! Let it go!" Finally, I put my finger in the cat's mouth, and against the force of all nature, pried his mouth open until finally the mouse leapt farther than I've ever seen something so small jump and rocketed off into the shrubs.

Crazy? Maybe. But our "marriage" to these half-tame, half-tiger lap-warmers is an open relationship. They pretend to be civilized and eat by-product-crunchy-O's. We pretend to respect all their hunting, scratching, licking, hairball-horking instincts. But really, we fawn over Mickey Mouse and Stuart Little, and they kill stuff. As long as each of us keeps our "improprieties" to ourselves, no one gets hurt … that we know of …

Friday, January 19, 2007

Backlash to Come (No pun intended)

I read that a California legislator wants pass a law to ban spanking of children who are 3 years old or younger. (See "Spank A Kid, Go to Jail"
or No-spanking law ….)

Personally, I do not approve of spanking. I think the more you escalate punishment with your child, the more you have to escalate. My wife and I rarely raise our voices with our son, never mind spanking. We don't need to raise our voices or spank, if we so much as use an urgent tone with him, he is practically in tears. It's not out of fear of something severe. We just rarely have  to use that tone; he's not used to it, so calmer warnings have an effect. If he doesn't respond to verbal warnings, a "time-out" is more than enough convincing. Why? Firstly, I believe our son is well-attached to us and wants to please us as much as we want to make him happy. Secondly, when we give positive or negative consequences, we follow through and are consistent, and I believe he has internalized this.

Those things having been said, a law against spanking is probably a bad idea. Granted, spanking a baby or very young toddler goes beyond bad parenting. I believe such treatment, at the very least, adversely affects the child psychologically and hurts the parent-child relationship. The problem is that there is a large population of people in our country who feel that as a part of their freedom as parents they have a right to spank, and this right is well entrenched in their social philosophy. With the linking of the news of the anti-spanking proposal on the "Drudge Report," this segment of the population has already tagged the idea as a ridiculous product of the lunatic fringe. This bill is likely to create nothing but backlash.

Moreover, the law seems marginally enforceable. Public social service agencies and law enforcement have a difficult enough time catching and sorting out cases of much more severe abuse. Nevertheless, hoping human service agencies find those individual cases where spanking crosses the line seems the best we can do at this time.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

O'Reilly Kidnaps Common Decency

We'll return to the weight story soon, believe me.  First, however, I have to pile on Bill O'Reilly, because he deserves it.

There's this sensational story in the news about finding Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby who had both been abducted some sick predator. Apparently the former boy, who was held for four years, had some "freedom" to go outside, use the computer and telephone, etc. Some are wondering why he didn't just contact the authorities or his parents.

Oprah Winfrey interviewed the parents of both boys and Shawn Hornbeck today. Off camera, Oprah claimed, Shawn Hornbeck said he didn’t contact his parents, "because he was terrified."

Bill O'Reilly, a couple of days ago, not only wondered why Shawn Hornbeck didn't walk away or contact someone, he speculated that the boy may have liked some elements of living with his kidnapper, because he didn't have to go to school, could play all day, etc.

Others have been outraged and even another Fox news host, Greta Van Susteren, challenged his comments.

He implies that by pointing out that this child did not try to escape and should have, he can make parents aware of the danger of abduction and scare them into teaching their children survival skills.

Survival skills? Like when someone kidnaps you and "terrorize[s] [you] with a handgun", do what he says so he doesn't kill you or someone else. When you're 11 YEARS OLD,  this may be the only survival skill you can come up, even if  you were lucky enough to be prepared by Bill O'Reilly — an honor trauma that Shawn Hornbeck didn't have the good fortune to receive.

Read here where O'Reilly does not apologize: Anger Over the Kidnapping of Two Missouri Boys. That's what he headlined the "memo." It ought to be called "Anger over the kidnapping of common decency." Among other things he says:
After teaching teenagers in high school, it is hard for me to believe that a normal kid would stay in a horrible environment when escape was easy, especially if the child had confidence in his parents. No question this monster Devlin made threats and intimidated Shawn. But teenagers have brains and Shawn had the freedom to get away if he wanted to.

It boggles my mind that Mr. O'Reilly expects an 11-year-old being threatened by a large man with a gun to behave no differently than his students. Given his comments, perhaps he forced kids to take his class at gunpoint.

Given Mr. O'Reilly's harshly-worded opinions (over the years) about those who victimize, blaming the victim is particularly unbecoming.

I'm at a loss for words for Mr. O'Reilly. His comments go beyond ignorance and insensitivity. They are repugnant in the extreme. I question the man's humanity.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The End of an Era

For my whole life, basically, I've been able to eat and eat and eat with impunity. But that's all come to an end.

Youth and Teaching: Great Weight Control Plans
I was skinny as a kid and as a young adult. About four years ago I became a more moderate weight. I chalked this up to the change in lifestyle. As a teacher, I was quite stressed (… but, yeah, it was all good stress [eustress] … yeah, sure it was …). I hypothesized that this almost constant stress kept my metabolism high and/or that the nervous activity from the prompted burned a lot of calories. Unscientific codswallop? Probably. But that's my "theory".

Being a Househusband: NOT a Great Weight Control Plan
Moreover, the eating opportunities of a househusband versus a teacher are vastly different. As a teacher, breakfast was a quick affair. There were never second helpings at lunchtime as I wolfed it down at my desk while marking papers or planning lessons. I was lucky if I finished my food. Sure there were frequently snacks in the teacher's lounge … they say. But who has time to go to the lounge?

As an at-home parent, I spend half the day in the kitchen it seems. Sometimes it's easier to eat than not to eat, like when Benjamin (a very slow well-paced eater) has been eating for 45 minutes and leaves a little of everything on his plate.

The Gluttony Glory Years
Throughout both of these periods, I ate lot. Mind you, I'm not talking competition grade eating, but people did not hold back with the hollow leg or tapeworm bromides. At meals, family and close friends would without question pass unfinished food to me and (assuming it passed germophobe standards) it was not wasted. I was beloved by many a German grandmother.

The End is Near
About two years ago I noted that the stay-at-home dad "freshman 15" was not leveling off. It then came to my attention that I was no longer in the middle of my "healthy weight" range, but near the top.

In Benjamin's baby and toddler years, true, I wasn't keeping off pounds by being frazzled over getting my grades done nor by hiking between copy machine and classroom. I was nevertheless carrying a kid around a lot, first in that $#@% unwieldy carseat/carrier, then in a sling, and finally just on my hip. Ultimately he became fully mobile, and the living was easyToo  easy.

It's all over now. I was at the CDC website looking something up and ended up at their Body Mass Index Calculator. I am officially 2 pounds overweight. Overweight?!!!? 

OccupationDad is many things; many unpleasant things even. But he is not overweight. Something had to be done. It has begun and it is not pretty.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What's a Benjer?

Speaking of nicknames, how did my son become Benjer? Is it just a cute diminutive of Benjamin? Not exactly.

Contrary to popular myth, it is not the case that I accidentally transposed the names of Spencer, our late dog (God rest his soul) and that of my son, outright calling my son "Benjer" by mistake. We're getting closer, though.

In fact, I blurted out the amalgam "Spenciman" at the dog one day, and instantly thought to myself, "Spenciman, . . . that's funny. I guess if he's 'Spenciman', then 'Benjamin' must be 'Benjer'. Heyyyy, I like that! "Benjer". (Yes, it's true; this is what my mind spends its time and resources doing.)

So, at some appropriate silly moment thereafter I called him "Benjer." The boy and the wife . . . they both liked it and it caught on, as did its variant "the Benjer."

So, yes, I gave my son part of the dog's name on purpose.  And, no, you can't call him that …unless we say so.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


I started out as "Dada" ('a' as in last), my wife as "Mama." These monikers have remained consistent until Benjamin's fourth year — with the exception of The Wiggles phase, for which time he referred to us as "Greg" and "Anthony" respectively.

Some time last year he would substitute "my Mom" and "my Dad" when talking to other people. A few months ago Benjamin began occasionally calling us by our first names. It's not really a "Hey, Homer" syndrome1, since he does this only for utilitarian reasons, like when talking to other people (in place of "my mom" or "my dad") or when trying to get my attention down the aisle in a store, when I won't answer to "Dada!!!"

Benjamin loves to "play" with language. For example, he invented the "huggle" — part hug, part snuggle — and identified the "hisby lion" (I still have no idea what this is). Our names were inevitable targets.

So about a month ago we became "Momsy" and "Dadsy." Not too long ago "Momsy" was shortened to "Müms", where 'ü'=oo like in book. I became … I don't even know how to write this … it's in between "Düds" and "Dids."

Often he appends his own diminutive suffix to these, yielding "Mümsit" and "Düidsit" or "Mümsis" and "Düidsis." And it hasn't stopped there. Recently our cats Tigger and Ginger have become "little Tiggsit" and "little Gingit."

He uses these new names everywhere. The result is that that when other people hear him calling out "Düidsit", I'm pretty sure they think he's either speech-delayed or Swedish. The upside is that Benjamin has no problem getting our attention in public: I'm confident we're the only "Mümsit" and "Düidsit" in the store.

1As in:
Homer [Simpson]: After all, you wouldn't be here today if I hadn't become the responsible head of a household.
Bart [Simpson]: Hey, Homer, can we have a can of frosting for lunch?
Homer: Okay.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

In Which I Use the Phrase "Daily Constitutional" Thrice, and Enjoy It Thoroughly

After my daily constitutional [noun] this morning, I sat down at the computer to work on the weblog . . . (I made some joke about a daily constitutional to my mother-in-law [age not-disclosed … but she was born in the 1930's] the other day. She knew exactly what I meant.)

Anyway, today was my second day of daily exercise in a row.  Call it a tacit New Year's resolution, or just having a little time now that the holidays are over. I think calling it a "daily constitutional" will somehow motivate me. Of course, I think a lot of things.

I got up at 6:30am and took a walk. It was very nice. I underestimated, however, both our unusually mild winter and the capacity for brisk walking to heat up my body. 38oF may be warm for  dawn in January, but it's not warm.  I also followed the inspired plan of walking a scenic stretch along the lake where there are far fewer annoying trees and houses blocking the wind. Note to self: when walking outside in winter, wear a winter coat.


My wife apparently had some sort of intestinal virus last week. Our memories of the horrible stomach virus of ought-5, which laid waste to the whole family, were still so vivid that we lived in fear for days: segregating all eating utensils and cups, washing our hands every two minutes … my wife even quarantined herself for a while.

While her illness was not enjoyable, it didn't turn out to be the scourge we'd experienced before. And fortunately neither Benjamin nor I caught it!

So when I quasi-randomly link-skipped over to this post (an imagined letter from a detergent manufacturer). I became empathetic and grateful … but mostly amused; it's pretty damn funny.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Chasing Trains

I wrote a thing about one of the pastimes Benjamin and I acquired this past year. It's titled "Chasing Trains." It's at DadBloggers.