Upgrading Dad’s Hard-Drive

In today’s world, I can’t help but think of computers when I consider the differences between the male and female brains. One of the criticisms of men in family relationships is that "things aren’t what they were" and that’s largely because the hard drive atop a woman’s shoulders is crunching data and work functions almost continuously to the exclusion of the game processes.  But even if men are standing up and doing more, there’s an additional difference and that becomes glaringly obvious at Christmas – we’re running completely completely different operating systems at different speeds.  Women are at the higher speeds on a Windows 7 while we’re hammering along with XE on a three year old laptop.

I fully believe that men can do as well at raising kids as women, maternal intuition notwithstanding.  But I do believe that women are simply better able to multitask than men and especially in the case of details.   In this household, things move along well until late October and then we shift into the seasonal holiday mode in which my wife’s ability to remember the smallest details simply puts me to shame.  Youngest is old enough to get a real tie and if we get this, he can wear it with the following outfits…Eldest has a sweater that would go great with this necklace…Let’s face it, I’m the one managing the clothing and laundry and I haven’t the foggiest notion of what they’ve got in terms of colors and style.  In case you wonder if I’m just style-impaired, consider the following.

Remember when we got my father that sweater four years ago?  Nope.

Would best friend be able to use this purse?  Haven’t a clue.

Do you know if Middle needs new dark socks since his feet have grown?  Nuh – uh.

The modern Christmas season has become a complex dance with intricate moves along a multi-dimensional dance floor.  This is partially due to the influence of the consumer model in which we equate a quality Christmas with the number of gifts given and partially because of the way that the families are now geographically dispersed throughout the country.  There’s simply more to do and cover for people to have what is considered a good season.  The other influence is probably due to the simple difference between men and women; I believe that women are hard-wired to be more empathethic and concerned with the feelings of others than men, so they place a greater emphasis on these details than their mates.

But the reality is that if you hooked up a wife and mother’s brain to a computer diagnostic, you’d probably find more processes running than that of their mate.  I suspect that if the men made more of an effort to upgrade their processes, they’d probably find that their mate would correspondingly let the processes slow down.  There’s still be a qualitative difference however, and I don’t think that that leap is going to be easily made.


Ghosts of Christmas Present

“You have never seen the like of me before!” exclaimed the Spirit.

“Never,” Scrooge made answer to it.

“Have never walked forth with the younger members of my family; meaning (for I am very young) my elder brothers born in these later years?” pursued the Phantom.

“I don’t think I have,” said Scrooge. “I am afraid I have not. Have you had many brothers, Spirit?”

“More than eighteen hundred,” said the Ghost.

      – Scrooge’s Encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Present, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

None of us have walked with all of the previous ghosts, now numbering more than 2000.  When you’re enmeshed in the fabric of life with children, it sometimes seems as though it will always remain the same – Santa Claus pictures, toys and after-bedtimes evenings spent wrapping and hiding.  But step back and observe and you find that while the ghosts are very similar, they are subtly different over time until you realize that the being is entirely different; simpler, quieter and more genteel.  This is the progression of Christmases as the kids age and move further into the outside world. 

As the kids age, they take the commercial idea of a gift-wrapped, shiny Christmas and unknowingly burnish it to a marvelous core that really doesn’t require all of the accompanying bells and whistles.  It’s a core composed of the elements of family and friends and if you believe, faith.  Listen to the kids’ memories and you find that it usually isn’t the toy that’s remembered from any particular year so much as what happens with the toy afterwards, all of the memories that come from playing with it and frequently, with you.  Take a moment to consider each ghost and examine it for what it is, then burn it into your memory alongside each of its siblings.  It will make you appreciate what you have all of the more.

May you – and your family – have a wonderful Christmas season.


Keep Talking, Somebody’s Listening

Most parents can identify the moment when the kids tune out since the eyes glaze over and with a few, the mouth actually drops open.  When younger siblings are present however, I continue what I’m saying since I want them to hear what’s being said.  In a sense, I’m playing to an audience and there are instances in which it’s apparent that they’re taking the commentary to heart. 

OWS/Tea Party:  Two Sides, Same Coin

Think of the faces of OWS and the Tea Party and you have two seemingly very different groups.  OWS is young, and if you read the more recent media accounts, slovenly and prone to the goofy, odd behavior exemplified by the younger generation.  On the other hand, those who identified themselves as Tea Partiers are typically middle-aged or older and notable for their self-control and law-abiding approach.  I suspect that if you were to randomly pluck two hundred individuals from each group and ask them to gather in an open area, the OWS group’s outline would resemble a pulsing amoeba while the Tea Partiers would assume a shape with defined corners.  As different as they are however, these two groups are akin to a coin.  Each side of the coin has a different image and label.  But each is minted from the same material so that beneath the disparate images facing in seemingly opposite directions, the core substance is the same.  In this matter, the substance is composed of disagreement with, and opposition to, a power structure that is now functionally fascist.

Fascist is a term that’s been bandied around for decades as protestors proclaim one person or another as a fascist, akin to a jackbooted thug who’s happier with a trudgeon than a pen.  But fascism is actually a political structure in which the interests of big business – controlled by a small group of individuals – are allied closely with big government, also controlled by a small coterie of people.  Each element provides the other with the wherewithal to prosper and that prosperity generally comes at the expense of the large majority of the society.  Any democratic nation is predicated upon the notion that the various elements are able to compromise in such a fashion that the setting exists for the majority to prosper.  In the fascist state however, the two minorities are so self-absorbed that they wish only to further themselves and the remainder be damned; in the extreme cases, if it takes a jackbooted thug to cow and subdue the remainder for the benefit of the minority, so be it. 

America’s present power structure is ostensibly democratic, but the interconnectedness of the corporations and government as shown by their actions is functionally fascist.  At the end of his second term, then-President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the potential dangers of what is referred to as the "military/industrial complex".  His concern was predicated on the idea that the rewards of power and money would corrupt the political system to the benefit of these two groups alone.  We’ve outsourced much of our manufacturing, but the industrial faction has since been joined by the financiers, who’ve demonstrated their willingness to spend huge amounts lobbying to curry the favor and votes needed to build their parasitic fiefdoms.  The end result is that corporations, benefitting only a few shareholders and senior executives, retain outsized profits while the control of our currency has been effectively turned over to a private entity that enables and defends the foolish, short-term actions of its banking wards.

Here’s where the two nascent political groups are both alike and differ.  Each opposes a separate head of this two-headed creature, Orthrus, which exists in a body that cannot prosper and function outside of its present form.  Think of the prototypical Tea-Partier and what comes to mind is a middle-aged middle class causcasian, who is aghast at the out-of-control spending of an intrusive government that exists simply to grow.  If the average American reaches some form of political consciousness during their late teens and early twenties, then these folks awoke to Ronald Reagan, who famously stated that government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem.  Reagan’s ability to effectively communicate and encapsulate ideas laid the cornerstone of today’s Tea Party and fostered their antipathy to Orthrus’ governmental head.  OWS is comprised of the Tea-Party’s children, who awakened to find that their hopes for a decent, prosperous future had been outsourced by Orthrus’ corporate head.  They’d bought into the premise that there were jobs available to help pay off the permanent debt that they accepted for the ticket that gave entrance to the middle-class life.  Frankly, if I’d hocked my next decade of earnings for a World Series ticket and found myself watching sandlot ball, I’d be upset, too.  But don’t be fooled by the photos of the group members; in the instances in which I’ve gone past the OWS encampment in my local city, the graybeards (and graybeardlesses as well) have been present.

Each of these groups has arisen – regardless of who’s purportedly funding it – because the citizenry is looking around and finding that Orthrus’ foes are either broken or co-opted.  The unions that arose to challenge the industrial order in the early 20th century are broken, a shadow of their former selves.  Even the public unions are on the retreat as the populace wonders why they should continue to receive top-tier benefits while they, the taxpayers, take it in the teeth.  Likewise, the media that portrays the OWS members as unkempt, lazy kids is principally controlled by a handful of major corporations who are part of the group being protested by OWS.  Consider the verbiage coming from FoxNews, controlled by one Rupert Murdoch, whose minions were turned out in England when it was found that they were actually hacking the phones of public figures.  Even if this – hopefully – isn’t occurring here, do you believe that similar beyond-the-reach attitudes aren’t occurring here just because we’re across the pond?  So why are they separated, despite their similarities?  They’re separated because the image is manipulated into the classic left/right standoff, when the reality is that it really is an upper/lower conflict in the offing.  When you hear the commentary about the youngsters, ask yourself who’s talking and more importantly, who’s paying the speaker’s salary?

While we’re functionally fascist, this isn’t the first time in our history that we’ve been in this situation and I’m not certain that the jackboots will march down Main Street and Constitution Avenue.  But the recent passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, which throws open the prospect of the open-ended confinement of American citizens, does show that Orthrus is aware of its enemies and is willing to act to defend itself accordingly.  In that case, we’ll all be better off if we’re not isolated in our own small encampments wishing the plague upon one another.





“Do I Hafta?”  Taking Kids Along

One of the common questions for parents with kids is do I hafta?, particularly regarding going along to another sibling’s event or activity.  The answer is a no-brainer when the child is too young to be home alone but when they can be left alone for a short period, or longer, but then it does take greater thought.  When can, and should, kids be allowed to stay home alone instead of tagging along for the sibling’s activity?

Most kids are egocentric and this ramps up to a roaring crescendo in their early to mid teens.  If their sibling has something going on, the chronic refrain is the plaintive do I hafta?  It can be irritating since the question is repetitive and when there are more than one child involved, the decision may lead to discord as the budding jailhouse lawyers pick the answer apart.  She didn’t have to go, why do I?  But he got to stay home and I have to go?  Where’s the justice?  (Seriously, one of my kids lofted that comment and I simply laughed aloud in the child’s face).  What are some considerations on whether the child stays or goes?

  • How long can the child reasonably be home alone?  Kids don’t mature at the same rate and some elementary schoolers could be home while you run older sibling to a practice. 
  • Is there the possibility of intervening stops?  With cellphones, the prospect of plan changes rises as you’re called with a request to stop somewhere and pick something up.  How far out of the way does that take you and can the child manage that (with a phone call letting him know)?  There have been instances when I’ve refused the request because it didn’t seem right to leave the child home any longer than was already the case.
  • Is the sibling’s activity a practice or an actual event, such as a game or a concert?  If there’s only a practice, then the questions are whether you need to stay for the practice and it’s duration.  If it’s just a drop-off, then perhaps the other can stay home but if it’s far enough away that it’s better to just stay, then toting the sibling makes more sense.  Our school district is geographically large and rec league soccer practices could be far enough away that it was impractical and expensive to come home and on those instances, I made it a point of bringing the others along and they could bring their books or games.  If it’s an actual game or concert, then only a sibling’s competing activity or schoolwork could keep the child home and in those instances of schoolwork, it’s been understood that we’ll check homework or quiz.
  • Do you actually trust the kid to be home, either alone or with siblings?  If you don’t, then you can anticipate considerable blowback but the risk of something bad occurring outweighs that.  Some years ago, an acquaintance related that she went to the grocery store, figuring that she’d be gone only for an hour and that her ‘tweener son could be alone with her teen daughter and friend.  She returned home to find the boy handcuffed to a chair with his hair full of bows.  He’d cuffed himself to the chair, not knowing that there was no key, and sister and friend decided to take the opportunity to do his hair for him.  As she stated at the time, so I won’t be leaving him home alone with her for awhile.
  • This leads to the next question,are any of their peers going to be there?  Stupidity is contagious and the ability of ‘tweeners and teens to assess risk ranks up there with the ability of Lindsay Lohan to make a community service date.  It’s a very short list of kids with which I’m comfortable being at the house unmonitored.

So what do I say when the kids, of whatever age, find that they’re coming along to sibling’s game?  The language that we’ve used is that this is simply something that family does for one another, a visual way to show that we support each other in our chosen activities.  While I can say that other parents say the same, it’s nice to find out that the kids talk with one another and find that the other parents really are saying the same thing as Middle noted during a chat with an acquaintance at school.  Yeah, my folks say that I’ve got to go my brother’s ballgame because that’s what a family does for one another.  A tack that I’ve taken with the older kids is this:  While a good part of your life was spent without Youngest in the picture, you’ve always been a part of his life and he’s never known life without you.  You’ll be going off to college – or wherever – and you simply won’t be around to see all of the cool things that he’s probably going to do as he grows, and while he’s always been there for you, you won’t be there for him.  This is a comment that I’ve only had to make once or twice and with each of the older kids and each time, it was met with a quiet look as each assessed its validity and acknowledged its truth.  It might not work with all kids, but I was gratified that neither Eldest nor Middle scoffed and derided it.

Like other parts of parenting, it can be frustrating to listen to the backtalk and griping.  But this is how the kids are learning that a family is more than just an accumulation of biologically related bodies within a household.


Explaining Real World Consequences

Teens might be great with electronics and technology and their superiority gives them bragging rights over many parents; unfortunately, they then think that this transfers over to their understanding of what goes on in the real world.  Part of my job is to explain the real world to them, a world that is more complex and less forgiving than they’ll understand for years to come.  Such is the case of explaining the consequences of stupid and/or illegal actions.

One of the kids shared that some friends were caught shoplifting $2 rubber wristbands from a mall retailer that caters to teens.  As explained to me, the manager caught them trying to exit the store with the trinkets and took them back to the office, where they subsequently were interviewed by both mall security and the local police.  Parents were subsequently contacted and the kids were released to their custody.  The subsequent conversation ran along the lines of…

But it’s not a problem.  The cops said that it happens all of the time and nothing’s going to hit their record if they don’t do it again. 

So you’re telling me that the police just released them with no actions taken by the store? 

My kid responded, well, they do have to pay a fine but nothing’s going on their record, so it’s really okay.

Kid, I retorted, if there’s a fine to be paid, then there’s a paper trail and believe me, something is going to hit their juvenile record. 

No, really, Dad – he interjected – there’s no record. 

It was at this point that my kid got a real-world lesson.  Lemme tell you, there’s a juvenile record and there’s an adult record.  Your buddies have three years to not do something like this again in order for it to avoid their adult record.  If they screw up again, then they start off their adult life with a criminal record.  Period.  What does this mean?  When these kids go out to apply for summer jobs and are asked on the application if there’s any criminal history, they’re screwed.  Forget about lying on the application because more and more employers are doing background checks and who wants a thief working for them?

My child pursed his lips and said nothing for a few seconds as he digested this.

So what did their parents say?  I asked.

My kid shook his head.  One guy’s parents were super-pissed and he’s not only grounded, but he’s lost all electronics and his guitar.  Same with the other guy, but his folks didn’t yell.  They just shook their heads and asked what he’d been thinking since he had at least $20 in his wallet.  Not much of a problem.

No, I said, it’s a problem because he’s truly disappointed his parents.  Their kid doesn’t even have the excuse of saying that he didn’t have any cash. 

Kids and teens will screw up and sometimes in a way reminiscent of a 20 car NASCAR wreck.  They don’t have the experience and understanding to place events in a proper context and it’s our job to teach them what the consequences of their actions will be.  If we don’t do so, either because we’re busy or it’s unpleasant – whatever the reason – then they’ll fall back to the default position of getting their information from their peers and in this case, the peers who actually screwed up.  The same kids who will minimize out of embarrassment, a desire to look cool or sheer incomprehension of what’s actually happened.

The kids will make all manner of comments that can lead to conversations and some can be postponed to a more opportune moment.  This conversation however, was one that had to happen at that moment for fear that not making the point could lead to the conclusion that even Dad didn’t consider it a big deal.  Oh yeah, it’s a big deal.


Kids, Christmas and the Recession

On a short trip out of state today, I stopped at a sandwich joint for a quick lunch and as I waited, two of the counter waitresses talked about their Christmas shopping plans.  One listened as her coworker spoke of continuing to search for great deals so that her kids could have a good Christmas day.  The listener then complained that she now felt guilty for cutting back on Christmas presents.  On the cusp of a syndicated story about kids’ letters to Santa during recession and how they’re feeling the pinch, it begs the question of how to handle Santa and the kids when the money is truly tight.  Do you further impoverish yourself to keep appearances for the kids?

On the appearance hand, many parents want their children to believe in Santa for as long as possible.  There’s a bittersweet wistfulness in the soul when the kids are old enough to leave Santa and what he represents; there’s still years of their presence – but an innocence is gone.  For the parents who are caught in a financial bind, Santa also represents a reprieve from the daily tension that the kids certainly notice when Mom and/or Dad are confronted with financial hardship.  What do I pay now?  Can I get an extension on this?  Children are sensitive to their parents and can easily discern when something’s not right and the thought is that, at least on Christmas Day, things are as they’re presented in the media and popular culture.

But appearance can and does give way to hard reality.  This particular story line has run before with similar stories in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and this reappearance is sympomatic of the ongoing implosion of the American Middle Class.  Kids are acutely aware that things are bad and are going to the one source that can work some kind of magic for their families, Santa Claus.  The key point however, is that in the midst of the correspondence, they aren’t asking for themselves but instead for either what benefits the family or their parents, so that some sense of stability can be gained.  This, I think, is the key to the entire situation.  Parents have grown in an era of materialism and are almost programmed to think of the season in terms of things and wrapped presents; but these kids are now in the fourth year of a Great Retrenchment and those in the bind are writing off the materialism for something more fundamental, and that’s a sense of stability and control.  Santa, forget the RC car and just help Dad find a job.  Then we can get back to what we had before.  What the kids are truly looking for is a sense of family, belonging and stability and that doesn’t come from a specified number of wrapped gifts but instead from the time and efforts that we fathers and parents put into them. 

There’s no clear answer to this question and some will disagree with me profoundly.  But in the final balance, what’s the point of pushing Santa for the kids if the ensuing angst over how to cover the rent ruins the holiday season?  The kids would much rather know that the parents are doing everything that they can to keep things together and if they can contribute, then that’s one way that they’re probably willing to do so.  Our job as parents is to maintain as even a keel as possible and that’s truly what the kids want, is to know that things are covered as much as possible.

If you’re uncertain, then talk to the Santas when you see them in the store.

Kids and Pets:  What to Consider

The lives of families are usually intertwined with animals.  It might be because the young couple got an animal after settling down or simply because the kids want one.  With the PracticalDad household now the residence of yet another cat and a purchased-but-not-yet-brought-home snake, the questions remain, what are the issues regarding pets and when is it too much?

What to consider with kids and pets

The first and simplest question is, can your family actually handle having a pet?  All parents talk with the kids, once they’re a little older, about their need to take some responsibility in caring for the animals.  Preschoolers can certainly be taught to parcel out the dog and cat food, or sprinkle a little bit into the fishtank, but the reality is that actually remembering to do it is going to probably devolve upon the parent.  The corollary to this is that if the kids are already involved in some other activity and the animal needs to be fed, then consider how you’ll react when you’re reminder is met with either inaction – requiring another, more pointed reminder – or the roll of the eyes.  If your schedule is full enough that a small activity such as even feeding, let alone walking and fecal duties, creates a mood-altering imposition, then reconsider it again.

Will the pet continue to stay small and cute, or is it going to grow into some else entirely?  Kittens and puppies are cute enough for many that it makes up for the actual work that’s involved with very young animals.  But these grow up to be adult animals with their own personalities and quirks and the ongoing care will no longer be outweighed by the cuteness factor.

Does the animal even make sense?  About a year ago, Eldest showed up at the backdoor with a friend that she wanted me to meet – that’s a danger signal by itself – and the box that the friend had brought along.  After the introduction, during which my eyes periodically wandered to the magic wonder box, she divulged that the inhabitant was a duckling for whom her friend was trying to find a home.  Why?  Because her friend had thought that a duck would be a wonderful addition to the family and her own father had laid it at her doorstep.  Not only are we not taking in a damned duckling, but you’re going to find it a decent home.  We were probably the fourth stop on the duckling’s home adoption tour and when the girls couldn’t even identify what it would do in the coming wintertime – I think that it’ll head south… – her mother and I agreed to foster the duckling until we found a decent farm on which it could live.  Dogs and cats make sense, even hamsters and snakes, but to consider taking in a duck solely because we have a small fishpond is lunacy.

What’s the cost of the animal?  Well cared for animals typically have their own particular foods and diets and that’s a cost.  Cats additionally require litter and when you factor in the vet bills, having pets can be expensive.  Wander through the local humane league and you’ll probably find any number of sad animals who’ve been given up their owners because they couldn’t handle the cost.

When is it too much?

Apart from clear factors such as cost and sheer generated workload, this is a highly subjective question.  In our household, the kids who want to bring in additional pets had better be able to answer certain questions and get their information straight for the verbal quiz.  While Eldest campaigned for years for a reptile or snake, she could never quite get the information straight and her answers led to other questions.  So this thing doesn’t eat mice, but just crickets?  Do they have to be alive or dead crickets and must I concerned about crickets escaping into the house?  What about the noise that these crickets are going to make through the night?  Youngest however, was watching this and through the years, prepared himself so that when we talked about it, he was clear on what was involved in caring for a reptile or snake.  For his part, he’s willing to feed it a mouse each week and is very clear that the day that I have to stun a live mouse and feed the snake is probably the snake’s last day in this household.

The upshot is that he purchased a snake with his own money this weekend and we covered the habitat for his Christmas.  When we assembled the various parts of the habitat last night, he didn’t grumble when I made him read the instructions aloud to me and he even commented that this item or that was something he didn’t realize.

The other aspect to whether it’s too much is the question of time.  Eldest still campaigns for yet another pet in her room but we’ve told her no since with less than a year until college, she wouldn’t be around to care for whatever it was she wanted and the uncertainty as to college dorm regulations made it impracticable.  It’s one thing to take in a family pet with run of the household, but another entirely to take in a creature which has appeal to only one person, who’s only there for a certain time longer.

So as it stands now, we’re up to one dog, four cats and in the next day, a corn snake.  That’s enough for me.



December PracticalDad Price Index:  Prices Up Again

December’s marketbasket was priced and the data from the three unrelated stores shows that prices are up again after a three month respite, to an index level of 106.49, or about 6.5% from the original prices in November 2010.  This is a rise of almost one full percentage point and is the highest monthly increase since July’s jump of 1.14%.  This increase is on the back of four items – store brand frosted flake cereal (5.1%), peanut butter (4.7%), Gorton’s Fish Sticks (9.7%) and potatoes (18%).  The peanut butter increase is purely a function of supply as the crop suffered and the fish price is on the back of a 28% rise at one particular store, so it’s uncertain if this is a precursor to the other stores raising prices or simply a "one-off" abnormality.  The other item of note is that once again, the number of items with a price increase (15) is higher than those with price decreases (7), a reversal of the November situation in which prices actually dropped.


PracticalDad Price Index – Cumulative Results
Month $ Average Index 3 M Mov Avg
Nov 2010 178.39 100.00  
Dec 2010 180.30 101.07  
Jan 2011 179.51 100.63


Feb 2011 179.50 100.63 100.78
Mar 2011 180.51 101.08 100.78
Apr 2011 181.91 101.97 101.56
May 2011 182.10 102.08 101.71
Jun 2011 184.07 103.18 102.99
Jul 2011 184.82 103.71 102.99
Aug 2011 187.05 104.85 103.91
Sep 2011 188.57 105.71 104.76
Oct 2011 188.34 105.58 105.38
Nov 2011 188.31 105.56 105.61
Dec 2011 189.97 106.49 105.88




















PracticalDad Price Index – December 2011

Item Size Category 10/11 11/11 12/11
hot dog rolls (ct) 8 bread 1.20 1.20 1.20
loaf, wht bread, store brand (oz) 20 bread 1.26 1.26 1.26
spaghetti, store brand (oz) 16  bread  1.24  1.25  1.25 
child cereal, sugar flakes, store brand (oz)  17  cereal  2.90  2.97  3.12 
cereal, rice chex, store brand (oz)  12.8  cereal  2.74  2.82  2.84 
oatmeal, one minute, store brand (oz)  42 nbsp; cereal  3.29  3.36  3.36 
milk, 2% (gallon)  dairy  4.06  3.81  3.80 
butter, unsalted, store brand (lb)  dairy  3.49  3.49  3.49 
vanilla ice cream, store brand (qt)  dairy  2.01  2.01  2.01 
grated parmesan cheese, store brand (oz)  dairy  3.08  3.08  3.08 
American cheese, deli (lb)  dairy  5.59  5.52  5.59 
peanut butter, store brand (oz)  28  grocery  3.16  3.59  3.76 
grape jelly, store brand (oz)  32  grocery  2.01  2.01  2.01 
kidney beans, dark, store brand (oz)  15.5  grocery  .95  .95  .95 
can green peas, store brand (oz)  15  grocery  .99  .99  .96 
can diced tomatoes, store brand (oz)  14.5  grocery  1.06  1.06  1.06 
can cut green beans, store brand (oz)  14.5  grocery  .99  .99  .99 
can corn, store brand (oz)  15.25  grocery  .99  1.02  .99 
spaghetti sauce, store brand (oz)  26.5  grocery  1.21  1.21 1.21 
cola, store brand (L)  grocery  .96  .94  .94 
caffeinated coffee, store brand (oz)  13  grocery  4.36  4.39  4.41 
diapers, store brand (ct)  100  hlth/bty  17.7  17.7  17.70 
formula, Enfamil Premium (oz)  23.4  hlth/bty  23.59  23.59  23.84 
child ibuprofen, store brand, OS (oz)  hlth/bty  4.96  4.86  4.89 
adult ibuprofen, store brand, caplet (ct) 100  hlth/bty  7.41  8.12  8.31 
shampoo, Suave (oz)  22.5  hlth/bty  2.09  1.96  1.86 
pads, long/medium, Poise (ct) 42 hlth/bty 16.09 16.42 15.82 
bath soap, Dial (ct)  hlth/bty  6.14  6.18  6.17 
aluminum foil, store brand (sq ft)  75  hshld  3.03  3.09  3.09 
kitchen trash bags, handletop, store brand (ct)  26  hshld  4.31  4.31  4.31 
paper towels, 2 ply, store brand (ct)  hshld  7.26  7.26  7.26 
hot dogs, meat franks, store brand (oz)  16  meat  2.69  2.69  2.69 
ground beef, 80% lean (lb)  meat  3.52  3.46  3.52 
eggs, large (doz)  meat  1.98  1.91  1.91 
lunchmeat, deli ham (lb)  meat  4.06  4.03  4.03 
chicken, roaster (lb)  meat  1.56  1.56  1.59 
fish sticks, Gortons (ct)  44  meat  7.79  7.51  8.24 
tuna, chunk light, water packed, store brand (oz)  meat  .81  .81  .84 
bananas (lb)  produce  .59  .59  .59 
apples, Red Delicious, bag (lb)  produce  4.09  3.76  3.76 
carrots, bag (lb)  produce  2.36  2.36  2.36 
OJ, non-concentrate, store brand (oz)  64  produce  2.79  2.79  2.79 
potatoes, Russet (lb)  produce  4.32  3.66  4.32 
sugar, store brand (lb)  staple  3.26  3.27  3.33 
flour, store brand (lb)  staple  2.29  2.26  2.30 
canola oil, store brand (oz)  48  staple  4.39  4.39  4.39 
rice, white, long-grain, store brand (lb)  staple  1.73  1.85  1.81 
                             Total     188.34  188.31  189.97 


Teachable Moments:  Torture, Politics and Honking

There are any number of teachable moments for kids, instances in which you can seize the opportunity to explain what’s seen as well as what’s happening in the world.  Such was the case this weekend as I drove Youngest to the library in a nearby city and passed the small local Occupy encampment, which presented a spectrum of topics to consider.  This was especially the case as I honked at a middle-aged man holding a sign which read Honk if you remember when torture wasn’t an American value!

Dad, why were you beeping the horn?  I responded as to why I honked the horn and what the sign said, which led to a conversation about torture.  To his credit, Youngest – at age nine – knew precisely what waterboarding was and we chatted about both why it was used and why people were opposed to it, now including me. 

Is that the only torture that we use?  My answer was that while it was the only torture technique that our country utilized (so far as I know), we did ship prisoners off to other nations who were open to other, more imaginative methods.  Well, what’s the difference then?  By this point, we’d pulled into the library parking lot and I could only tell him that so far as I could see, he was right in that there was no difference.  I didn’t mention that those who assigned a difference were only raising a facade – frankly because then I’d have to explain the meaning of the term facade.  The exchange, from honking to parking, took about five minutes and that was a decent timeframe for his age level.

Bill Cosby once performed a hilarious routine about kids and questions, entitled Why is there air?  The Cosby response was a simple four words:  to blow up basketballs.  The gist is that kids are curious and want to know what’s going on around them and it’s one of my primary responsibilities to explain the world to them.  But the younger ones neither want nor need lengthy lectures or conversations.  They simply need a few minutes at most to give the basic reasons.  In Cosby’s monologue, the child was probably a preschooler and not into upper elementary school, but the point is the same.  Keep it simple and neat, and then break it off lest the kid go into his yada yada yada mode.

Daily life is rife with teachable moments, some sweet and others not so – like waterboarding and torture.  Regardless, keep your ear tuned for the question and be ready to engage whenever it arises.