Posts Tagged ‘parents as students’

My Study Partners

December 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Who I’ve been spending all my time with lately:




Another Pathetic Son of a Bitch

December 1, 2010 1 comment

When I decided to return to school and become a stay at home dad, I vowed to not become one of the following:

  • Hipster Dad, who’s goateed face greets each day by donning the uniform of  jeans or cargo shorts, ironic t-shirt,  retro shoes and iPod,  and who then listens to Vampire Weekend and The Hold Steady while running errands, cooking and folding laundry.  Take a look at the picture of me with my kids in Central Park this summer to see how well I’ve avoided that trap.
  • Oprah Dad, who, much like Oprah Mom, rarely misses an episode of Oprah or Dr. Phil.  Or The View.  Or Ellen.  Or Kathie Lee and Hoda.  Or anything else on daytime television.  And who cannot carry on any conversation that isn’t an extension of that day’s programming.
  • Fat Dad, an example of which is doubtless within 50 feet of where you are.
  • Slave Dad, who spends every waking moment in servitude to his family, an endless stream of sports practices, errands, play dates, school projects, volunteer gigs as well as cooking, cleaning, washing, etc.

Central Park Summer 2010

So I’m a partial but not complete failure in this regard, which frankly is progress over the usual assessments directed my way.  To give myself some solace, context and excuse to drink beer during the middle of the day, I set up an interview with another stay at home dad also in my graduate program.

Jim Shoff is a former managing director at a Wall Street investment firm.  He took a buy-out awhile back and now splits his time between caring for his wife and three teenage children and attending communications graduate school at Queens University of Charlotte.  Where he once clipped bond coupons, today he clips actual coupons.  And while he doesn’t have a Wall Street salary anymore, Jim says he now gets paid in other ways that aren’t so immediate: for example, his kids have better lives and have been able to pursue new sports and interests.  We agreed how lucky we are to have this time with our kids.

With that necessary nicety behind us, we were both now free to express what a giant pain in the ass it is to be a stay at home parent.  Perhaps it’s better if not combined with the demands of graduate school–neither of us would know.  Certainly those women in the traditional housewife role had and still have difficult jobs.  Again, we don’t know but we’re also pretty sure those women have not had to endure the disapproving looks of strangers or snide remarks of family or acquaintances who consider our new roles as merely excuses to slack off while our wives support us.

Jim and I, we are heroes, we are victims…we are full of shit.  But then so is anyone else who considers raising their own kids the equivalent of hanging on a cross.  It’s difficult, unappreciated work, full of emotional minefields, long hours and the sort of cleaning tasks that would only be performed by someone who loves unconditionally.  But what else are you going to do?

Jim says he will one day return to work but not in banking.  Fittingly our conversation that day finished up on the topic of laundry–we both prefer top-loading washers.  He has two dryers.  I’m so jealous.

I See a Standing Desk in My Immediate Future

November 9, 2010 Leave a comment

When I left work behind for graduate school and stay-at-home-fatherhood, I also left behind my desk.  No problem, I thought.  I’ll just work at the dining room table, a thought which shows how clueless I was at the time.

Within a few days, the need for a desk became obvious.  In years past, finding a space in our home for an office was not difficult–just pick an empty bedroom or head to the basement.  But early on in this massive life makeover, my wife and I downsized to a much smaller place in order to eliminate our commutes.  Even still, I had the perfect spot: a sort of awkward corner of my bedroom that seemed perfect for an office nook.

But this space truly was awkward as I could find no desk to fit it.  In a fit of inspiration at IKEA, I purchased 8 feet of kitchen counter, then stopped off at Home Depot for some L-brackets and bolts.  Add a chair, a couple of shelves and some wire baskets and my office was complete.  The cost of the desk was less than $100.

My office

But I also like to move around a bit when I work and would love to be able to have a workspace in my kitchen.  The solution is a standing desk, which would provide that mobility without taking up too much space.

Standing desks, or stand up work environments (SUWE) used to be quite common in the days before typewriters, telephones and computers and recently they’ve been making a comeback.  And for good reason.  As our jobs and lifestyles have changed to incorporate more and more time on a computer, most of us have passed that time seated at a desk or with the computer on our lap.  But now many are coming to believe  that all this sitting comes at a cost–increased muscle fatigue, decreased metabolism, perhaps even lower levels of creativity.

My friend Scott acquired this GeekDesk recently.  I love the name GeekDesk and love the motorized height adjustment even more.  Scott says he doesn’t raise the desk every day and that the multitasking environment of the modern office is easier for him to manage when seated.  The desk does get raised when he has to complete an intense task like writing or statistical modeling.  By standing, he’s better able to expend any nervous energy that would otherwise distract him.   Here’s a picture of his desk in its natural habitat:

Scott's desk

But at $800 plus shipping, I’ll let my next employer purchase one for me.  The standing desk in my immediate future is this one.  Built out of baker’s rack parts for less than $20.  Cheap, sturdy, easy to assemble, made for a kitchen location–what’s not to love?  I’ll let you know when I get it set up.

The Talk, Round One

November 4, 2010 4 comments

As I mentioned the other day, my son Sam will soon be entering puberty.  Prior to that, he’ll be discussing it will his 5th grade class.

In an effort to prep him for these events, my wife and I gave Sam this book the other night.  I asked him to take a break from reading his latest Young James Bond and instead take a couple of nights to review “What’s Happening To Me?”  I asked if he had heard that his class would be studying puberty in health class and did he know what that meant.  He said he knew of the upcoming lessons but didn’t really know what puberty was.

Without resorting to a planned speech, I asked him if he could obviously tell the difference between a 10-year-old and an 18-year-old.  He listed several–bigger, facial hair on boys, girls have boobs, etc.  Puberty, I said, is the process by which that happens, how we physically grow up.  Then I mentioned that all animals have the same basic imperatives–feed, fight, flight and reproduce.  Human bodies go through puberty so they will be able to do reproduce.  No freak outs, on either part.

I told him to create a list of questions and we’d review those in a couple of days.  I also mentioned that this was the first of many conversations we would have on this topic, that there were additional books we can and will give him and that he will have a lot of questions to ask us in the coming years.

This evening before dinner we reviewed his questions and I must admit the first round wasn’t too bad.  Why do sebaceous glands produce so much oil?  What does testosterone do?  What is the purpose of circumcision?  The only possibly blush-inducing query: what is a venereal disease?  On this last one, apparently the book mentioned them but did not explain what they were.  Rather than being surprised at the question, I was more surprised that the book still used that term instead of STD.

We’re early in the game but so far, so good.  Total conversation time for both conversations–less than 20 minutes.  Total expenditure at the bookstore–about $20 bucks.  Parents, why is this so hard?

A Scary Gary Halloween

October 31, 2010 Leave a comment

As promised, see below for a picture of the family taken prior to tonight’s trick or treating.  Daughter Kate is a devil, son Sam is The Joker, wife Susan is a convict and I am Chilean Coal Miner #21.

We enjoyed going to house to house with the kids but were surprised again this year at how few kids trick or treat, even in kid-heavy neighborhoods on weekend nights.  I know that many churches and schools have trunk or treat events, where the kids walk through a parking lot from car to car and say hello to people they already know.  Why have we deemed this a good thing?

Halloween used to be a time when kids and adults wandered neighborhoods, met new neighbors and caught up with old ones.  Have we retreated to the “safe” and familiar because of ridiculous and untrue urban legends or because we prefer to associate only with what we know?  Or are we just so damned fat we won’t walk anywhere?


Available for weddings and bar mitzvahs



Better Days

October 31, 2010 1 comment

In years past, the week before an election usually found me sleepless and on edge.  If I wasn’t directly involved in a campaign, I was busy assessing races and making predictions for my employer or a client.  As a result, I haven’t enjoyed many Halloweens in my adult life.

So I was happy to spend the day with my kids putting together the last bits of our Halloween costumes, then home to carve up a few jack o’lanterns.  We finished off with our first family dinner out since July.  In the pre-stay-at-home days, we would go out every weekend for a steak and a bottle or two of wine.  We may not be able to do that anymore but I think we appreciate more the things we do have and the time we have together.  I know I do.

I’ll post more pics tomorrow but here’s the result of this afternoon’s handiwork.  Happy Halloween!

Back from the Mostly Dead

October 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Stepped on an errant sewing needle from my daughter’s sewing kit a week ago, a half-inch of which broke off in my left big toe after snagging on the carpet.  It was exactly as painful as it sounds.  Tried to shrug it off, biology took over and I had surgery a few days ago to remove it.

How do so many artists do great work when they are high on opiods?  A few doses of hydrocodone and I’m as useless as a Lohan, though thankfully without the appetite for more junk.  I stopped chasing the dragon 36 hours ago and just waved goodbye to that dog-headed Egyptian god that been hanging out on the other end of the sofa for the last few days.  So back to work…

While not allowed to type–let’s just say there was a hernia surgery recovery/Amazon one-click debacle–I did have a digital voice recorder handy and am presently sorting the wheat from the chaff of my smack-fueled ideas.  Look for coming posts about:

The Changes We Don’t Expect
Am I Nuts or is My Body Chemistry Truly Different?
Inside Out or Outside In?
Goal Adjustment is not Giving Up

Tomorrow I’m headed for several days in Chicago, where after months of training I was supposed to run this weekend’s Urbanathlon.  My bisected and sewn together toe has nixed that idea but I’m making the trip anyway to support friends and to get the hell out of the house for awhile.  And I’ll be updating about a change-related reason for traveling to the Windy City–a family relocation there is something we’re considering in the next few years.  Why?  Keep checking this space.

And about that toe…