Sunday, December 27, 2009

Charlies game.

We were taking a rather long trip, the almost four year old and I, when out of boredom he came up with this game: "daddy, what is one plus one"
Me: "two"
Him: "daddy, what is x plus x"
Me: "2x"
Him:"daddy, what is zebra plus zebra plus zebra"
Me: "3zebra"
This went on for several minutes, each time using different animals, people, numbers and objects. For every answer I gave him he let out a shriek and a giggle as if it was the silliest thing he had heard of.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wrath of god

Lately I have been experiencing the joy of trying to figure out how to properly raise a 13 year old boy.

Let me rephrase that, trying to take care of my 13 yo, discipline even, in an effective manner. Number one son , Has been no stranger to trouble recently. (nothing really serious) but enough for me to wish I could whisk him off to a Zen monastery for a year or two, so I don't have to be a disciplinarian.

Naturally, my frustration with him (and myself) has led me to reflect on how I was at that age, and I can't remember in great detail. What I do remember is that church was very important to me, especially my position in the Preisthood. (at thirteen I must have been a Deacon?) I was intent on not doing anything to jeopardize my duties (listening to rather aggressive music was my only vice back then) I also, deeply believed that God saw everything so, I was pretty straight.

The way I learned morality and the way I am currently doling it out to my son are both quite different, the differences are enough that I am having difficulty with it. My parents had God to back up their actions, they never abused their position, but I knew that if I did not obey that God would have the last word. In my house the kids get time outs, or stuff taken away but we are the final authority. This becomes an issue when they start to see that even we can't really enforce everything. My son figured that out when he was grounded a couple of weeks ago; yes he could walk away from me and " no I won't chase you down and force you to stay."
His punishment depended on his agreement to see it through, which depends on him caring about how we see him and him admitting that he did something which is unacceptable.

This is where I think religion looks useful. When you go to church as a kid, you get taught not just a set of beliefs and practices but you get a whole community that tries to live those beliefs and practices. Kids are not just getting morality from their parents but from a larger community. My son is not part of a group of people who are trying to clarify some set of rules.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Ooouch Charlie bit me...that really hurts Charlie"

Number two son and I took a bike ride the other day to the Saturday market. As we left the market, after looking at ripe tomatoes, buying a pint of cherries, NTS started screaming. As several people looked on I stopped and rushed to the bike trailer as he yelled ouch ouch.

"Whats wrong" I asked, "are you okay?"

"Ouch ouch, Charlie bit me" he replied, in his best English accent.

I sighed after I got back on my bike and said, rather loudly, " you are fine"

I rode home through town with him still screaming, over and over "Charlie bit me, Charlie bit me, that really hurts Charlie."

And I just ignored him.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I was sitting on the porch swing with the two younger ones enjoying burrito's and the sunny weather when an older couple, wearing their Sunday best approached us. It should have been obvious to me what their intent was as they walked down my driveway with Bibles in hand.

I could have asked them to state their business and go, or "let us enjoy our afternoon snack and respectfully keep your religious views to yourselves." I am a sucker for conversations about religion, especially with people who are not relativists but see god and the Bible as infallible and absolute.

"Do you read the Bible?" I was asked. "Well I have looked at it. I am a Zen Buddhist and the Bible is not a text we use" I replied. This comment was to be a, not so subtle, hint to them that maybe they should not waste their time with me.

To their credit they stayed on message and I forgot mine.

"Are you afraid of the end of the world?"

When I was eight years old I would have answered yes. I also would have answered yes when I was seventeen. Now, this question only perplexed me, how can I answer this? I was dumbstruck. Before I could answer, I was informed that God would protect us and we had nothing to fear, but we had to believe in god in order to escape fear, oh yes and we must read the Bible.

I finally replied that I was not concerned about the worlds end. And that the only things I was concerned about were finishing my burrito and studying for finals. And that fear, other than its practical uses, was not a factor in my "spiritual" (I still don't really know what that word means) life. In other words if I were to embrace Christianity it would not be out of fear of being excluded from heaven or going to hell.

After they left, this idea of fear lingered with me and has left me with questions. I was left wondering if fear does factor into my reasons to continue with Zen.

So, what am I afraid of? Well, looking dumb is way up there, (see this post.) I want to look smart and appear mature. (see this post) I want be the one dispensing answers to all others quandaries regardless of how little I actually know. ( I am positive that this quirk is quite annoying to those closest to me) I am afraid of Karma, I am not sure how I feel about this teaching, I have not fully embraced it nor have I been able to embrace the idea that there is no way of knowing what happens after death. The biggest fear I have though is of going through life without having lived it, I am not sure that even Zen can cure this one but it keeps me practicing.

Zen also has done little to assure me that concrete answers exist for anything.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Zen and the Art of Escape.

When your 13 year old son comes home from school in the middle of the day, you want it to be for a good reason. When he stops you while you are busy trimming a hedge and you are having one of those pleasant mornings with your youngest child, you want whatever caused him to leave school to be merely due to an over reaction. When you respond to him and he falls into your arms and starts to sob, you want to find the person who caused this and demand to know why? why would you cause this harmless child to have to limp home and sob on his fathers shoulder.

You want to defend him, cure him, ease whatever pain it is which has caused him to tremble. You want to find who is responsible and make things right; you want to show him that you have control, like you did when he was a toddler and he skinned his knee. When you find that your son is the cause of his pain you, naturally, want to know who pushed him to do what he did. You want that other child punished, you want the school to do something to keep your kid out of trouble.

You want the other kids parent to call you up and yell at you, while you stay calm...just to show who the better person is. You want to tell him, that "my son was just defending himself" and if his kid had any self-control or respect for others he would not be bleeding. You don't want your son to be the responsible one. (the other parent never calls)

When your child comes home in the middle of the day, interrupts your day, starts sobbing in your arms- you give him a glass of water, you hold him, tell him you love him--you want to be upset---you want it to be simple. When he tells you it was his fault. You want him to see what he did, you want him to apologize, you want him to see how he can change.
, you want things to be normal... you want him to go back to school and have all the other kids like him. You want to blame someone; his mother, his not having many friends during elementary school, his lack of freedom,----you want it to be about him and not you.

You want your day back.

Friday, June 05, 2009


I watched my wife work magic this morning. Seriously, it was magic.

See, our three year old is pretty picky about what he wears, for example, he must wear brown shorts and will only wear certain t-shirts.

This morning, being the morn o' laundry, everything he wanted to wear was dirty. As I pulled shirt after shirt from his drawer only to have him reject them, I came to a point and a shirt which I was ready to force onto him if negotiation did not work. This particular shirt is basically a striped t-shirt, the lines are made up of different bugs. " Look! this shirt has bugs on it! isn't that cool! He was mildly interested. I had his attention but not enough to have him put the shirt on. Then my wife got into the act.

"What kinds of bugs are on your shirt?" she said. He quickly identified a spider. She found a beetle. "hey, if you put this on I will read you the poem about Alexander Beetle."
He was skeptical about the shirt at this point but definitely wanted to hear the poem, so she gave him the first line " I found a little Beetle, so that beetle was his name, And I called him Alexander and he answered just the same." He put the shirt on and in no time she was reading to him from A.A. Milne's book.

Had it been me dealing with him, there would have been a struggle, some tears and eventual acceptance of defeat. Usually that means the kid wears the shirt and me being frustrated that he does not see that a shirt is just a shirt...."so put it on." My wife on the other hand, and this by the way is not the first time I have seen her do this type of engagement, actually made him interested in it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ahh Spring

It is really easy to imagine that being a student with kids and a family ( and all that, that implies) is more difficult than being a student without all those responsibilities. How many traditional students (that is opposed to non-traditional undergraduate---meaning over 25, with kids etc.) have their studying interrupted by a phone call from their middle-school kid's principle. (then put off all the studying because the situation really is more important than passing stats) If the statistics are to be believed, not many.

That is not to suggest that trad's ( I am saying this instead of kids) don't experience stress; some take on more than they can handle some become dis-illusion with school. Some do have to work full-time to get through school.

Not to belabor the point, this is not about their issues, this is about mine.

My first two terms were difficult but the classes were really interesting and I managed to pull through with good grades (ah the grail). I did this, while still taking care of the family (doing the ever present laundry) (I have help...but she does not do laundry)

Winter and Fall were great...then Spring hit.
Here is is one of the distractions traditional students don't have, which I do.

Spring by its very nature is distracting for everyone, especially single twenty year old students who are away from home. I know that if I had been in school when I was twenty if I were in a classroom, with windows, during the spring I am sure I would not have heard any of what anyone was saying; not excluding the instructor.

In some ways I was better off, at 19, than the average trad, college student. I worked the dinner shift in a hotel restaurant, full-time. My day's were filled, as were my weekends (often in the middle of the week) , with what I wanted to do. I read what I wanted to read, I listened to what I wanted to listen to, without having to explain myself. I could spend the day hiking as long as I returned home in time to get ready for work.
I spent many a Spring day hiking around the foothills and canyons around Salt Lake City before going off to work.

Now - with a family, a house and a darling wife who gardens (and is a farmer at heart) Springs distractions have nothing to do with hiking then spending an evening sitting at an outdoor table at a cafe or sitting on the grass reading a book of Gary Snyder poems.

This Spring, this term, my weekends do not include time for home work, as they did in the cold and dark days of Fall and Winter terms. No, my time goes to lending my DW a hand with projects in the Garden: digging holes, weeding and planting.

Here , with the direction I am headed, the temptation is to scapegoat my wife. No, the responsibility lies with me. My mind and heart are outside with her, the seedlings, weeds and the compost which needs turning. (And there have been some illicit bike rides by the creek)

Fall and Winter leave plenty of room for working out the symbolism of novels, wrestling with math problems and getting down to the fundamentals of what I am being taught.

When I regain focus in the fall, and I am working hard on some stats or a case study, maybe I will do it while eating some pickled beets we preserved from our harvest.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Middle-aged? man

I have been dealing with issues of age. Before I started school I thought of myself as being youngish still, of course most of my peers were around my age or older and with some of my friends I was the youngest. (most of the guys in the East bay dads, when I was there, were a good ten years older then me).

I knew when I started that I was older than most of the students but I did not know what it meant and I still carried with me this idea that 38 is not that old. (ha you say tell that to a 20 year old)

One of my class mates commented to me that she knows me as this married guy with kids but found it interesting to imagine me as a 19 year old. I responded with "19...that was not so long ago....omg that was almost 20 years ago!" So, for all you baby boomers who I criticized for still being in the sixties (Yes, I did that when I was 19) I get it now.

My class mate went on. She imagined me, in a way, as most 20 year old college students are, excited about being on their own, learning new things, exploring careers...she even threw in "sort of a hippy."

For me that all happened in reverse order (or is it inverse) Anyway, when I was nineteen I was scared, and depressed about my future and as they say now days "emo." Now, like my younger peers at school, I am wide eyed and hopeful about what my post University future holds. "I was so much older then, I am younger than that now" (thanks mister Dylan)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Tale of Two Subprime Mortgages

At least I think they were sub-prime. This is a story of two mortgages which, with income disclosure neither of them would have been granted. The types of mortgage which have in-part have been at the center of the credit crises that brought down our economy. The same mortgages granted by unscrupulous bankers and the like.

In 2002 my wife and I were living in an apartment in Oakland California, we had a little yard in which we planted some food crops and flowers. Our little yard did not get much sun and shared a fence line on the side with some apartments with a Catholic church. The church did not do much in the way of enforcing the rules about who could and could use their lot; it played host to a few noisy parties. One Sunday, after church let out, one such party was going on; that same Sunday we decided to put an offer on a house we were not really thrilled about.

We had decided to look for a house about a month earlier based on the financial advice of a friend. My wife had inherited a little (when I say a little keep in mind that I mean enough to put a down payment on a house and still have some for stocks but not much. Most of it dwindled during the Bush administration) money. The friend suggested that rather than trying to invest the rest we should invest in a house; turns out that this was the best advice; the money which was put into stocks is now next to nothing.

On that Sunday when we became increasingly disenchanted with our apartment we walked past the house we eventually bought and decided to put an offer on it. The next day our Realtor sent my wife to a lender, after looking over my wife's and my incomes she just laughed at her, despite the fairly substantial down payment. We ended up going to someone else who offered us a loan with this great new feature, the loan with no income disclosure, which worked well for us.
Our down payment was large enough that it made the loan significantly less. The payments were high for us but we figured that we would be able to pay as long as my wife's wages went up.
Things did not turn out that way, but it did not matter.

The value of our home went up as the market soared and we sunk more of my wife's savings into needed improvements of the home. Honestly, our first house is in much better shape than when we bought it, the people who own it now got a much better deal than we did. For those years that we owned it we were living on home equity loans, we were living above what we were actually earning. The situation was scary to me because I knew at some point we would have to sell or I would have to start making as much as my wife was. We had to sell before prices started to go down.

We were lucky. We decided in 2005 that we would sell and move to Oregon. Home prices in the S.F. Bay area, even in our little corner of Oakland, were still unreasonably high. In 2006 when we put the house up for sale it was still a sellers market, there were murmurings about prices going down, but places were still selling even with the high prices. We put our place up in July and it sold in August.

This is the place in my story where I come to our second sub-prime mortgage. I don't quite remember what was going on at the time with the mortgage lenders; nothing significant enough to abate the practice of income non-disclosure.

The day we made an offer on our second house our first had not sold; also, we had been in Eugene, renting, for about a month and my wife had not found a job yet. I was not stressed, we had enough money so, that we could rent and being a fairly experienced teacher she would get a job. She would be working by the fall, our house in Oakland would be sold, we could spend a year in Eugene getting to know the place and buy something by the next summer. Even better, by then maybe we would be escaping getting another risky loan; I did not take into account my wife's dream house.

Yes, it is true we found her dream house. (my dream house is actually a VW camper bus; not really enough room for kids.) And we found it before our house sold and before she started her job. The no-income disclosure loan fairly common by this time and our house would be sold by the time we signed the papers. I was still fairly stressed about our situation, mainly that our payments would go up in a couple of years and we would not be able to make them.

We eventually did get into a more secure home loan, one which I hope we will payoff in 30 years.
Our house is worth it and, granted like a lot of people, we are scraping by. It helps that we have the room for a garden which feeds us for most of the year.

I wrote this as a response to all the press about this type of mortgage and the people who have been buying and selling them. Not everyone who offered them were unscrupulous. Not everyone who bought them were trying to hide something.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Over the past six years of being a stay-at-home parent I have heard and read many different views on the stay-at-home dad trend. It's a fad, men don't belong in the home, you should be at work once someone even said to me " personally I don't have anything against stay-at-home dads, but I can't imagine a woman marrying someone who wanted to be a stay-at-home parent. (nothing against stay at home dads...oh yes and I am sexist) I asked him how he imagined I became a father in the first place....he did not have an answer for me. Of course there is also the awkward silence from other parents (yes, I do have a chip on my shoulder about that.) when you are the only guy in the playground or class in the middle of the day.

Really, comments about what I, as man, should be doing besides taking care of my kids full time, are few and far between; they don't affect me much either. Such comments expose the commenter as being insecure about their place and an adherence to societal rules regardless of the circumstances of the person who is the recipient of the comment.

When I decided to take the the raising of youngun's I was not concerned about who would normally be staying home with the kids, I was not worried about fitting into playgroups, or being the odd man out at the park or story time.
No, it really had nothing to do with being on the edge, changing norms or being rebellious. It was a very pragmatic decision. I merely was responding to what was in front of me.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What if

When I started this blog, I had a vision of it as being the dad version of DOOCE. Well, it is not for many reasons. I could list them all, but that would be so tedious.

As an online journal of my kids growing up, it turns out that I don't write about my kids that much either. They are growing.....they are cute....they are!

Lately, my time online has been taken up by less creative pursuits aka Facebook. I can let everyone I know, know what I am doing with pictures and one line; It lacks something, something I can't quite articulate. Tonight, while avoiding my homework, I happened to read an interview with Pagan Kennedy circa 2001 on Wired I realized what bothers me about Facebook and my own blog; it maybe the entire internet, (I am not sure that I want to cast that wide a net.) They(facebook,my blog, the internet) just seem to lack a certain organic spontenaity. I remember Zines, I even remember Pagan Kennedy's zine from some sort of anthology; what struck me back then was the intense, homemade creativity Zines, especially the one someone hands you after walking out of Kinko's filled with mad scribbled poetry and characatures of Ronald Reagan.

Maybe, I will get around to writing a zine myself in the vein of Pagan's Head; it will be about an almost middle aged psychology undergrad. I will go stand next to the Frogman in front of the Duckstore on 13th and hand it out to all the 20 somethings.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy Birthday Number Three

It was the third child's third birthday yesterday. It is amazing to me how much a kid changes in three years. Not only does he walk but is able to communicate with surprising sophistication. ( I WAAAANNT THAT the green one not the blue one)

Anyway, He started going to pre-school, which he will continue doing when Winter quarter starts tomorrow, and enjoyed it for the most part. We both hated drop off time and though he clearly was quite happy being there, was equally happy when I picked him up. Now, he will be in an older class with a more formal educational program. ( I don't know more reading? what the heck do they do in preschool?) I do know that he does not get to wear diapers anymore.

One thing that is obvious to me about him is that as he gets older he will need to be involved in more constructive physical activities like gymnastics or something that involves body slamming; like a mosh pit at a Ministry concert. (are they still around?)

In reality, we probably will enroll him in tap classes. ( knowing tap could help him with getting girls and come in handy in a mosh pit)

Happy Birthday!