Monthly Archives: February 2010

Clipping my toenails

I was messing around the other night on facebook (definitely an evil place) and I was pretty bored…so I updated my status to “gonna clip my toenails”.  A friend suggested that I blog about it and it occurred to me that I have strong opinions about toes…and feet…and actually, ankles too.  You see, I really, really hate feet.  Baby feet are ok but once a person starts to support their own weight on their feet, all bets are off.  Feet turn instantly gross and get worse as time goes on.

I know some people have a “thing” for feet but I truly don’t understand.  Most people have funky, crooked, hairy toes with nasty toenails and crusty heels and stuff growing between said toes (well, maybe most people don’t have all of those, but any one of them disqualifies feet for me).  I did a (very) little bit of looking for pictures of feet that I could use as examples but could not continue.  Please, I beg you, do not search google images for “feet” or “toes”…honestly, it isn’t really safe to search google images for much of anything, but what I found was particularly disturbing.

Anyhow, since I have to clip my own toenails regularly, I have grown accustomed to my own feet and can go on with my day after a trim (and after a good hand washing).  The kids and wife are on their own though.  I can handle belly button lint and ear wax and those little white crunchy things you sometimes cough up from the back of your throat…but toe jam?  The horror!  No chance!  I figure that there must be some traumatic event in my history that made me like this because my brother shares a similar aversion…

Ok, that’s probably a whole lotta too much information, but in the interest of transparency, I thought you should know.

Anybody else share my madness?

Everyday Math

The kids bring home papers from school and, like most parents, we look over them to make sure they are doing well. Most of the stuff is pretty typical fare, but I can’t get over the math papers that Isaac brings home. You see, he is being taught Everyday Math…it’s a curriculum that is mandated by the state (or maybe county? I think state) and it is crazy. The whole idea is to do math problems that one might encounter in their day to day life.

I am not exactly sure how I feel about it. I know the teachers are mandated to teach math using the curriculum so I do not blame his teachers one bit. I honestly doubt they like teaching it either. Anyhow, let me give you an example:

Directions: Estimate the answer. Write a number model to show how you estimated.

Problem A: A prairie vole (a mouselike rodent) has an average of 9 babies per litter. If it has 17 liters in a season, how many babies are produced.

Isaac’s number model: 10X17 = 170
This answer was marked wrong
The “correct” answer: 10X20 = 200
The real answer: = 9X17 = 153 (Isaac’s answer was closer)

I understand that the idea is to round numbers so you can get an easier problem that is doable in one’s head…but let’s give a little credit here…most 4th graders can handle 10X17!

Problem B:  In the next hour, French people will save 12,000 trees by recycling paper.  About how many trees will they save in two days?

Isaac’s number model: 50X12,000 = 600,000
This answer was marked wrong
The “correct” answer:  50X10,000 = 500,000
The real answer: = 48X12,000 = 576,000 (Isaac’s answer was closer)

There were 5 problems and Isaac “missed” 3 of them.  Now, I love learning to estimate.  It’s super helpful when I am at the grocery store, but this stuff is absolutely ridiculous!

I learned to estimate very well after I learned how to actually get the right answer!  Isaac and most of the other kids do know how to get the right answer, but they are definitely not as fluent with it as they should be.  So, as long as the kids need to estimate their grocery bill, they will be well equipped (although Isaac may be too accurate).  However, if we need to build a bridge or send a woman to Mars, she is out of luck…though I figure we can get her close…

I don’t often rant on here but why on Earth are the powers-that-be messing with math programs that taught engineers and scientists to build great dams, and discover new medicines and send men to the Moon?  Surely the times have changed since then, but those “old” techniques worked.  Update the problems…kids don’t need to know how to calculate how many bales of hay can fit on a hay cart, but they do need to know how to calculate!  I truly don’t blame teachers.  Most of them are disgusted by it as well.

Okay, I am going to stop at that…there are other similar examples of how the new curriculum is making math less useful and more difficult, but I’ll save that for another day…

Poop = Spring

Sunday was absolutely beautiful in WV. The high temperature was in the 50s and the snow started to give way to small signs of spring. Daffodils are breaking  through the ground and my bees were able to get out of the hive to poop. Bees, you see, won’t poop in the hive. They also cannot fly outside in cold temperatures. Bees are cold-blooded so if they break the cluster (bees cluster together very closely in the hive in cold temperatures and rub together using friction to stay warm all winter), they very quickly slow down and die. What’s a bee to do then? Well, they hold it of course…sometimes for months!

See it? Yellow spots...both sides in the snow...relief!
Why am I fascinated with this?

So, it always brightens my day in the early spring when I see yellow…I love the yellow of daffodils, the yellow of forsythia, and the yellow of fresh bee poop!  When temperatures rise such that any of my three yellows are possible, I get out and frolic a bit (not like the rabbits frolic of course).

Fifteen minutes after I washed my car!

I washed Steve Sunday morning and parked it in the driveway so I could watch it shine in the sun.  Much like birds are able to find a clean car, so too can bees.  Of course, remember that there can be as many as a quarter of a million bees in the hives at my house…and all of those bees have had their legs crossed for a long time.  My formerly green car now has a yellow tint…but you know what…I love yellow…it means spring!

Smart pills!

Emily says I am preoccupied with poop and animal anatomy so you can imagine my fascination with this pile of deer poop in my yard.  My Dad used to call those pellets smart pills.  I don’t think they really worked very well, but that’s another story.  Anyhow, Momma deer are now with fawns so my finding smart pills gives me hope that I will get to see newborn fawns again this year.

Oh yeah, check out this bird’s song!  Beautiful…and very springy!  Charleston is starting to break through I hope (though we have snow forecast for the rest of the week…but I choose to ignore that).

By no means do I want my yard overrun with natural fertilizer, but I have to tell you, a little poop means spring and in my book, that’s a great thing!

Maple Syrup…teaching the kids to work

When I was a kid, my parents fully believed in child labor.  My brother and I shoveled snow and cut wood and actually had to clean up after ourselves.  We also carried maple sap through the woods from trees that we tapped to the storage barrel where it was stored until we cooked it into maple syrup.  Every spring we’d haul gallons and gallons of sap on our backs…well, as long as I was bigger, my brother hauled gallons and gallons on his back while I “encouraged” him.  We built a huge fire every weekend and boiled the sap into syrup and generally had great times making the sweet magic from the trees.  Anyhow, with their “advanced” age and lack of kids living in the house, my parents are now, fundamentally opposed to child labor (i.e. they don’t heat with wood).

Not wanting to deprive my kids of the joy that is  child labor making maple syrup, we are tapping our tree this spring.  Yesterday the temperature fit the bill for when to tap (below freezing at night, above during the day) so we did our work.

When I was a kid, we drilled a hole by hand and tapped a piece of pvc pipe into the tree to let the sap flow into our collection buckets.  Our buckets were typically anything we could find that would hold liquid…from milk jugs to pop bottles to commercial sized grease containers.  I found a place to order taps meant for maple sugaring and they work but sort of lack that originality that I remember as a kid.

Anyhow, we tapped our tree with two taps and the sap began to flow like mad.  I only have small containers to capture the sap so I will have to get the kids out twice a day to collect it.  They only have to walk 50 feet to do their chores though.  Maple syrup for them may be waaaay too easy.  Maybe we need to heat with wood…

Coffee will do…I guess

Well, Lent is upon us.  I still have my shirt after yesterday so I figure it will be a pretty easy going Lenten season.  I don’t typically give up stuff for it but my family does.  You may remember last year that Isaac gave up farting on the cat and Abigail gave up wearing Mom’s sparkly eye shadow.  This year Abigail is giving up chocolate…typical girl.  Isaac wanted to give up school but I told him that was not an option.  After much debate, he finally decided to give up graham crackers…way to go trooper!

Anyhow, I have had an ongoing struggle against caffeine which I won’t attempt to beat this spring.  I think a big part of it is a correlated addiction to pop.  So, this year for Lent, I am going to buck my typical lack of Lenten cheer and actually give up pop.  So, without pop, I still need a caffeine delivery system (I’ll work on that addiction another time).  The only other alternative to pop is coffee so I have been practicing drinking coffee and actually pretty well like it now.  It’s strange that I had to convince myself that I like something but I suppose lots of things in life are that way.

So, for special occasions like delays from school, we stop by the local convenience store and grab a couple of cappuccinos (Isaac likes them a lot) so we can be fully caffeinated as we greet the day!  Convenience store cappuccinos aren’t as flashy as “real” cappuccinos but at $1.29, I don’t really care…plus, they are just plain tasty…forget the purism!

At work I don’t (yet) have a cappuccino machine so I stick with the regular style coffee…strong, bitter and black…like my heart.  Most regular men would be satisfied with a regular-sized coffee cup, but, because of my caffeine disability, I prefer to drink from a barrel.  My barrel of coffee drains about half of the pot at a time.  I believe coffee will do…

Not only is WV wild and wonderful, but Isaac and I are as well when we are fully caffeinated!

luv and such

So, I am a pretty practical guy.  It drives my fashion (I always wear sensible shoes), my politics and even my romantical side.  I understand that lots of things go into driving our economy so I am proud to do my part and participate in the Valentine’s day festivities…but my practical side kicks in too.

Emily and I have been buying small things the past month or so and calling them early Valentine’s day presents (there were some great after-Christmas sales, afterall).  Still, being ever-so-slightly brighter than a toaster oven (which I also got in an after-Christmas sale), I knew that I had better have something in hand for the Mrs. come Valentine’s morning.  The boy and I went to the local big-box purveyor of Chinese goods and I quickly spotted my prize.  You see, Emily has been complaining about having only one small non-stick pan in which to cook my eggs and sausage in the morning.

China-Mart had a super deal on 2 Farberware non-stick pans and their bases were even coated in red enamel…and folks think I don’t speak the language of love!  I proudly placed my take on the cashier’s stand and she looked at me funny.  I sort of figured she was a bit jealous of the catch my wife had found, but I usually can’t read women very well.  Anyhow, we headed home and I hid her present so she would be surprised!

Just like a kid on Christmas morning, I woke early and fetched my gift and woke Emily and presented her with her apron and the new red pans.  At that point, things get a little fuzzy.  I guess she must have slipped getting out of bed, or maybe she had a nerve twitch, but somehow, the pan handle must have fallen into her hand and as she swung her arm to catch her balance, the pans whacked me in the head.  I don’t remember much else except waking up in a hospital bed with IVs stuck in my arms.

So, while my Valentine’s day was somewhat unusual, I am sure Emily liked her new pans and I saved us some cold hard cash by pocketing the pudding cups and packs of crackers that came with my hospital meals…all in all, I’d say it was a pretty good Valentine’s day!

Proud of the fight

Isaac is taking tae kwon do lessons and is doing really well. We take him 3 nights per week and he has made a bunch of great progress. We had mainly hoped that the exercise and discipline would be a big benefit for him. I had a lot of mixed feelings in his taking lessons though. I am certainly not a pacificist, but encouraging your kid to fight seems like a whole different level of crazy. I know tae kwon do and most martial arts are intended to be used for defense, but I have to tell you, if you have ever seen tae kwon do practitioners in action, you’ll quickly see that it is not a passive defensive art. If you tangle with someone who is well versed in tae kwon do, and if you don’t know when to stop, you may not wake up from a fight.

Ok, that sounds dramatic but its methods are comprised of violent and aggressive actions that could easily be misused. Tae kwon do uses a tremendous amount of kicking and specialized punches meant to deliver ultimate force so misuse could easily result in serious injury. So, a big part of class is discipline and respect and knowing when to use the art. Another part of class, however, is practical. Each night, the students spar. The older people (i.e. not 6 year olds) and the black belts really go at it and hit hard. Isaac is not a black belt or an older kid but he is getting bigger and his age is starting to “play” hard. Imagine my nerves when Isaac volunteered to fight last night.

I was a bundle of nerves hoping he didn’t get hurt and that he didn’t hurt someone else. Isaac and the other student walked to the ring, bowed all around and took their fighting stances. The instructor called, “fight” and the boy went to town. He fought and fought well. He is nimble and fast and was -now get this – a lot of fun to watch in a fight. Isn’t it weird how I went from fear to pride instantly? Anyhow, he delivered a bunch of punches and kicks and took a lot too.

The best part of the fight was that we made eye contact as he walked out of the ring after the fight. We both smiled and nodded our heads in understanding. He’ll be just fine.

Gather round the old “fire”

I have gone on and on about our old house.  There are a hundred (or more) things wrong with this place and we are working, slowly but surely, through most of th big ticket items.  The house has a great fireplace with a huge chimney that is, unfortunately, not in great shape.  I don’t think it is going to fall down anytime super soon, but we’ve been told by chimney-folk that burning a fire would hasten its failure, what with the expansion and shrinkage and all from the temperature changes.

Speaking of shrinkage, I can’t say the word without thinking of this:

Anyhow, until we get around to fixing the chimney, we won’t be burning any fires. But gee whiz, on days such as these, sitting around a warm fire surely sounds nice. Our house is a little short on insulation so heat is pretty precious around here. In lieu, of a real fire though, we have devised a new scheme to allow us to enjoy our own little “fire”.

When we get a hunger for hotdogs, we fire up the portable utility heater.  It is mostly safe and makes for a mean wienie roast.  Marshmallows work pretty well too though they smell worse when they fall onto the heating coils.  The best part about it is that there is no smoke to contend with as we gather round…

When Emily feels like a cup of hot cocoa, we don’t have to fool with heating a pot on top of the wood stove.  Oh no, we simply break out the hair dryer and let it blow!  She can have lukewarm cocoa in a mere 18 minutes!

Lovin’ the hog

I love Groundhog Day. It’s the most important of all the holidays for me. Family times and grand meals are nice and all, but I really just love that noble hog of the Earth, Punxsutawney Phil. I grew up in Yankee-land and was used to snow (take note…I was used to it). It seems like we had snow from Halloween until Memorial day. When I was a kid, I sort of liked it…I guess. We played outside in the snow until we couldn’t feel our fingers and toes…and for some reason, we called that fun.

Now that I am an adult, I have a little sense…not too much, but a little. Sensible people know that snow is not a good thing. Polar bears have awesome fur coats for living in snow. I, on the other hand, have a naked head…definitely not built for snow.

Every year I sort of dread the coming of winter. In fact, like the snow schedule of my childhood, I start to dread winter for most of the month of October until…Groundhog Day. I sort of like Phil, partly because I am a former Pennsylvanian, and a dadgum Yankee (reformed), but I especially like Phil and Groundhog Day because I feel like the “ugh” of winter has a chance of lifting. You see, I fully believe that the proceedings in Punxsutawney are binding and true. Phil’s prediction is real and accurate and I get hopeful that he may, in fact, lift the gloom of winter…so Phil, from Southern WVA, we’re counting on you!

Update: Phil…why do you hate me so?