home & stuff

Fido Fear Factor

by on Sep.10, 2012, under family, home & stuff

I am not a dog person.  I’ve never been one and I don’t know that I’ll ever truly change in that respect.  I have always been very independent in nature and as such I don’t jive well with dependencies.  I don’t consider my wife an exception as she is a very independent spirit as well, so we mesh well.  I’ve made the exception with my kids (because ya do) but only so far as I’ll allow them to be dependent – I provide for them as a father does, but I expect them to become well-rounded and independent souls as well (in time).

But I’m not a dog person – I’m more of a cat person.  Cats tend to be more of a roommate than a dependent companion – they expect to be fed and occasionally pet if you have the time, but otherwise they can manage themselves.

By this point, you are probably wondering where this is all going.  Here it is – in spite of my nature, I’m considering getting a dog.  And I’m considering this for none of the reasons that one in my position would do so.  My dad was never really a dog person either, but he let us have dogs as kids because we asked for them.  My kids are not asking for a dog.  I’m not even entirely sure my kids (or my house for that matter) is ready for one.  My wife had dogs as a kid as well, but she isn’t really much of a dog person either.  So it isn’t her that is the motivating factor either – if anything she will see this and try to talk me out of it.

Here is the reason – my nearly 6-year-old son is terrified of dogs.  No, this is by no means an attempt to terrorize my child, but rather a potential means to abate these fears.  Not long ago, my son was a nearly fearless toddler.  And somehow he has transformed into this very fearful kindergartner – he is afraid of dogs, storms, the dark, water deeper than his waist without an immediate exit strategy, movie theaters, and anything that makes scary or foreboding noises, music or sound effects.  Most of these are avoidable elements (to a degree), but the dog fear has been recently having palpable impact on things such as play dates, visits to extended family, and even activities such as walking to school or playing at a park.

Is getting a dog simply to help my son overcome his fear of dogs perhaps overzealous?  I’ll admit the possibility.  I’ll even admit that I’m reluctant to enact it, that my wife will likely disagree with it, and that to do so would guarantee that I would be put in charge of its care (thus accepting yet another dependency).  But part of me feels that it may be a sacrifice worth making for the improvement of my son’s own independence and well-being in the long run.

So while I’m not a dog person, I may soon force myself to be one…at least for the greater good.

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Shake What Mattel Gave Ya

by on Nov.10, 2011, under family, home & stuff, parenthood

Naked BarbiesAs a parent, I’ve come to appreciate the various common experiences and rites of passage of childhood from a different perspective – one that often makes me yearn to remember what it must have been like to be so blissfully ignorant of so much.  Some of these, though, are a bit odder than others.  One in particular that I was recently reminded of is related to Barbie Dolls.

I’m sure I’m not the first to come to this revelation, but I find a certain level of irony in the fact that the very point of variability between the variety of such dolls one could add to one’s collection often ends up the first element sacrificed – their clothes.  My daughter has only about 4 or 5 Barbies (she was never hugely into dolls), and to my knowledge only one complete outfit still retrievable and intact – which, due to the tedium of application often is discarded anyway during play.  While I know that naked Barbie play is a fairly common trend – I had playmates in grade school who had collections of them, I know my wife and her sisters commonly played with them as such in their youth; the only example I know of to the contrary would be my own sisters (they were surprisingly prudish about such matters at the time – I was often sent from the room when outfit changes were in order) – what I find fascinating about this trend is the creative rationalizations built around it.

For instance, just a few days ago I come home to my kids playing with the collection of unclad dolls (the one dress only inches away completely ignored).  When I ask what they are doing, the explanation is that they are shopping at a special grocery store where moms are allowed to shop naked.  In conversations on such topics with my wife, their apparent go-to rationale was that all of the dolls clothes were somehow stolen and there seemed to be a lack-luster effort put into locating or retrieving said items.  My grade-school playmate seemed to have an array of dolls with painted-on underwear (which in most cases she seemed to scrape off).

While I know that Barbie has been used as a focal point as a gateway to the unrealistic female body-images that our daughters (and sons) are exposed to, it is hard to see that affect in the eyes of these children at play that are so innocent as to not fully understand body modesty (a point also clear in the joy they get from stolen moments of naked time after baths or in the mornings).  Don’t get me wrong – I do take the body-image issue seriously.  While we encourage our kids to play and be active, it is never backed by negative messaging (e.g., you need to lose that baby fat).  Hopefully my kids will only retain the positive aspects of these experiences – imaginative, cooperative, and care-free play.

By the way, the picture in this post was found via a Google Image search that was innocent enough in nature (naked barbie doll – with safe search on), and I come to find that someone actually made a calendar full of such images made to look like a pin-up calendar … which is just a bit creepy (also, this pic was the ‘tame’ one from the spread).  I believe that I had read somewhere that Mattel may actually be suing over this, so if the image suddenly stops working there may be a valid reason.

Anyway, if you’ve got any childhood memories of quirky justifications for clothing-optional Barbie play, feel free to share.  Or if you were more like my sisters and kept your dolls chaste, I’d like to hear your stories as well. And in either case, if you feel that your dolls’ proportions influenced your own body-image feel free to discuss.  Thanks for reading!

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Happy Holidays!

by on Dec.27, 2010, under family, health, home & stuff, money, technology

Clearly I need to improve upon my time management – the fact that I’m writing a Christmas-related post 2 days after the holiday notwithstanding, it has been over 6 weeks since my last post.  I know this without checking because my last post was about my kidney stone removal and I had my 6-week follow-up appointment last week.  I’m fully aware of the negative impact this inconsistency may have on what little audience this site has, and I’ll have to live with it.  This blog is more of a personal journal or online diary than any pertinent subject-matter forum.  And I’m happy with it being so, readers or not.  But for those readers still interested, here is how my holiday season has been panning out.

To be honest, the sprint to Christmas has been mostly a blur with a few incidents of note spattered among a long grind of work and preparations (with any gaps remaining filled with sigh-filled collapsing on the couch/bed/floor).  Since I mentioned my kidney stone, I guess I should touch on it.  After readjusting to not having any foreign objects within or protruding from my body, things have been pretty smooth.  I haven’t had pain in my back since the week after all was removed.  I did my follow-up tests of getting another x-ray and collecting my pee in a jug for a day, and the result seems to be that while there is no longer a big bad stag-horn lurking in my gut, there are numerous tiny candidates waiting in the wings if I don’t make some adjustments.  Luckily for me those adjustments are small and non-dietary in nature – I just need to drink more fluids and take a few supplements (my citrate and magnesium levels are apparently low).  So I have another 6 weeks to follow those instructions before redoing the pee test, getting another x-ray, and taking another hour-long drive to see where things stand (if this becomes an on-going thing, I may need to move).  Unfortunately even these small accommodations have proven to be difficult as my pharmacy has been unable to fill one of my prescriptions for over a week.  Supposedly they should be able to work things out today with my doctor – we’ll see.

Speaking of health matters, my wife has since been on her own medical roller coaster – specifically of the dental variety.  After having numerous visits with a dentist who arguably seemed to be doing a variety of unnecessary procedures in her mouth, she ended up needing extensive work done in her mouth – specifically a few root canals, some new crowns, and at least one possible extraction.  And it seems that despite going back to this guy 4 or 5 times in 2 weeks due to increasing amounts of pain, he seemed to miss the fact that she had multiple abscesses around some of the teeth he had been treating (diagnosed by an endodontist not 2 hours after leaving his office with a diagnosis of ‘I don’t see anything that would be causing such pain’).  After a couple weeks of antibiotics, more methodical work on her problem teeth by the endodontist and a more trustworthy dentist, she is gradually getting to a better state (no thanks to our crappy dental coverage – any work from here to May will be out-of-pocket).

As for the holidays, we seem to have been spoiled both by ourselves and others.  For one, my mother has been especially generous this year (I’m guessing only having one house to pay for has left my parents in a more financially solvent position) – she bought us an early Christmas present (and by early I mean when she visited in October) of a 88-key, fully-weighted electronic keyboard.  With that I expected little else from my parents, but then when my mom came to visit again this month, not only did she have a suitcase full of gifts for all, but on an outing intended for me to finish our shopping agenda she buys us an area rug for our living room.  All I can say is thank you and hope that at some point we’ll have the opportunity to return the favor somehow.

While she is visiting, we get side-swiped by a visit by a long-time family friend (hence the last-minute shopping trip previously noted) who also seems to have found his pockets deep and his funds semi-combustible.  While I know we got him and his sister and niece some decent gifts that they will enjoy, I know that dollar for dollar we ended up and the favorable end of things.  But it isn’t really a contest, and if it were I’d settle for losing because I’ve got bigger bills to pay – literally.

Speaking of which, we somewhat spoiled the kids this year (though surprisingly frugally).  Each of them got 6 big presents and stockings stuffed to the brim – all toys and games that were hot on their wishlists – and all for easily less than $100 a piece.  My wife and I had considerably less spoils under the tree (by design), each with only 2 gifts and modestly filled stockings.  And while the $700 new laptop she got trumps the $50 worth of stuff I ended up with, I ended up with just what I wanted and cannot complain in the least.  Besides, I also now get the gift of not hearing any more complaining about computer problems (at least for a while) – and that is a gift that keeps on giving.

My only complaint that I can offer regarding this holiday season (which I feel is a legitimate complaint, albeit to whom I cannot say) is spending most of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day bowing to the porcelain gods.  I don’t know if it was something I ate or a bug that had been going around, but for about 24 hours – with exception to about an hour where I was able to keep it together enough to watch the kids open gifts – I was in no position to be jolly.  After making it through the kids unwrapping things (which was I believe all complete before 9AM), I spent most of the rest of the day in bed occasionally interrupted by kids fighting over their new toys and games.

But now the holiday is behind us, our living room has mostly recovered from the carnage, and our children are gradually coming down from their candy cane-induced sugar high to resume semi-normal behavior (though now it seems being pent up due to snow is re-contributing to their vigor – luckily they have plenty to entertain them).  And tomorrow I’ll return to the slightly less sophomoric environment of the office and back into the swing of all the things that keep me from finding the time to do things like write on my blog.  I’ve considered using my commuting time to dictate posts, but I fear they would end up even more tangential than usual and much more heavily riddled with expletives.

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Ebony, Ivory, and Other Hard Woods

by on Sep.22, 2010, under family, home & stuff

This weekend had been significantly more eventful than most recently.  Among these events were a couple of parties, a couple of changes to the household, a couple hours of work that I could have done without, and a couple more projects on my to do list.  Most of these (except the work-related part) can be traced back to my mother coming to visit, and all seem to be related to wood in some way.

My parents as well as my wife and I were invited to a surprise 25th-anniversary party on Saturday for my uncle (the party being the surprise part – I’m pretty sure they were aware of the marital milestone).  My mom, being the opportunist that she is, planned to come up on Thursday so that she could get in some visitation with the kids.  As usual, this visit seemed to dovetail into tackling projects that we had otherwise left in a primordial phase (for some reason my wife thought she could stave this off by tackling all open painting projects earlier in the week – so silly).  The first to bubble up was tearing up the carpeting in the living room – something my wife had been wrestling with for weeks (weighing her hatred for the state of the carpet with her fear of the state of the floor beneath it).  Naturally we dove into it and less than an hour later our living room floor was bare.  As it turns out, it is going to need some work – I now have the pending projects of sistering the joists, tacking the floorboard more firmly to the new joists, patching, sanding,  polishing and finishing the floor, and then debating with my wife over whether we should top it with a new floating floor.  But at least I don’t have to hear any more about the carpet.

The next conversation thread that came up on Thursday night after we were settled on our newly repositioned couch was Christmas – specifically gift ideas.  My mom had the idea that she wanted to get each family a very high-end electronic piano (apparently as part of this plan she had already bought one that my sister declined – my mom conveniently claimed that one as her own with, I’m sure, no regrets).  In our case she decided to have the conversation before dropping the chunk of change.  And apparently our consent to the idea cascaded to a shopping trip on Friday so that by the time I got home on Friday evening my kids were already accustomed to fighting over who gets to play next (my wife is slightly more patient, though this gift will likely parallel that of Rock Band last year in that most nights as I’m saying goodnight to the kids she will already be engrossed in playing – at least with this she can wear headphones and not pique the kids’ curiosity to any noise sources).  I have to say that it is an awesome keyboard – it is a full set of 88 keys, full-sized and fully weighted.  If has plenty of options including a built in metronome and a variety of very realistic instrument voices.

As a welcome distraction from our creaky floor and the kids slowly learning not to abuse their new toy, we headed to the surprise party Saturday afternoon.  There my wife, mother and I enjoyed a reconnecting with a number of relatives we don’t get to see often as well as others we didn’t even know we had (some of them classifiable by the third part of this post’s title).  My cousin did a splendid job not only preparing for and conducting such a party, but managing to keep knowledge of it from its victims right to the moment they walked in the door (right down to making sure no suspicious cars would be parked near the house).  It was great to have that time with them.  My aunts even made time to join us for breakfast the next morning before getting back on the road for their long journey to upstate New York.

As this post has grown longer than intended, I will close with on final story that may seem like a non-sequitur, but isn’t quite.  This morning our routine was convoluted more so than usual by the fact that my wife’s car needed to be dropped off for service due to a scraping noise coming from the front, driver’s-side corner.  If I had had the time, I may have looked into it myself to some extent, but I got home late from work the night before and didn’t have any time in the morning to do more than drive it around the block before committing to the tasks before us.  My wife, as is characteristic, worried her way through a variety of ridiculously expensive possibilities such as  a broken brake shoe, blown shocks or struts, or even a cracked axle.  As it turned out, the true culprit was a piece of wood – a tree branch wedged in the suspension.  Supposedly in the process of correcting this issue, the shop noted wear in the sway bar and still managed to score around $300 from us.  But all said it seems wood is the theme ingredient of my week.

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The Great Wall of China

by on Aug.02, 2010, under home & stuff

A dishware replicate of this landmark had been forming in my kitchen.  For the past several weeks, my dishwasher has been little more than a glorified drying rack (and questionably effective at that).  Seemingly at random, this appliance had ceased to turn on at all.  And despite my best investigative efforts, I could not bear out any electrically rooted cause.  I recommended calling a repairman to look at it, but my wife would more readily spend the money on a replacement than a repair (it was a pretty cheap dishwasher – it came with the house).  And as it turned out, a decent replacement became available to me through a work colleague/friend at the best possible price (thanks again SK!).

So this weekend I went and picked up the replacement unit and spent much of Sunday attempting to swap out the old one.  There were various struggles and pitfalls along the way.  I shocked myself at least 2 times (thinking I had they right breaker off) before I just turned off the main breaker.  I went through 2 changes of clothes that got soaked by a combination of sweat, old dishwater, and a small amount of cleaning materials.  And once I managed to free the old dishwasher after a lot of disconnecting, cutting, and banging on things, I had to do some thorough cleaning as well as a certain degree of spackling (it seems the underside of our dishwasher had served at one time as a mouse hotel – hopefully my putty-work will fetter return visits).  I then had to make a run to Lowe’s to pick up some adapters and extenders to the hosed in order to connect the new unit.  Eventually I managed to get all of the connections hooked up, the dishwasher positioned and fastened in place, the power turned back on and …


After checking out the breaker box twice, it turned out that one of my breakers was half-tripped.  Not trusting the breaker to handle a job so vital as running half of my kitchen, I did some wire swapping with another similarly rated breaker (the questionable one is now sequestered to the less critical task of powering the smoke-detector array – at least with those I’ll know if the breaker went).  I got everything reassembled, went back upstairs and …

Nothing.  Again.

Luckily I noticed that the coffee maker also kicked out and saw that the outlet it was plugged into had its own breaker that was triggered (why such things would be connected in series I have no idea).  I pressed the reset button and EUREKA!  I have a working dishwasher again!

While it would be easy to chalk up the failure of the old unit to the circuit breaker, but I am not convinced that it was tripped the whole time (after all, I did get shocked by it twice).  So the old unit is still destined for the curb and the new unit is earning its keep as we whittle down the great wall of dishes.

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