30 Day Housecleaning Challenge Accepted

Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in Household | 1 comment

30 Day Housecleaning Challenge Accepted

So my work hours are in flux right now – the primary client I’ve been working with doesn’t need our services anymore – which means tightening our belts a little bit and some extra time on my hands.  In addition to keeping Z up on his school work and studying for the National Spelling Bee, I’ve decided to use this time to get caught up on the housework that’s been piling up. To that end, I accepted the 30 Day Housecleaning Challenge over at Money Saving Mom (yeah, her list has 31 days on it and April has 30, but I figure I’ll just double up one day). Screen-Shot-2013-02-27-at-10.09.12-PM Today was cleaning the kitchen and living room.  I probably should have taken a before picture of the kitchen, but truthfully I would have been embarrassed.  It was pretty bad, after a busy baking weekend and then the holiday (which was at my brother’s house so I didn’t have to clean for it.) :)  But I cleaned it all up – made a little easier by leftover spaghetti and meatballs for supper (some of the cooking I did on Saturday). april2013 012The living room wasn’t too bad – just clutter and most of that was Z’s stuff.  He has a habit of getting stuff out and then leaving it piled on the arms of the furniture.  I’d fuss at him, but he comes by it naturally since I’m as guilty of it as he is.  Carol vacuumed in between getting home from work and leaving to take Z to rehearsal for “Fiddler on the Roof” (She helped me with the challenge and didn’t even realize it). april2013 010So that was day one out of the way for this challenge.  I’m also doing an ab challenge so hopefully by the end of this month, I’ll have a clean house and be ripped (or at least have a clean house).

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Hard Work Pays Off – A Lesson Learned

Posted by on Mar 9, 2013 in family | 3 comments

Hard Work Pays Off – A Lesson Learned

For anyone who follows me on Facebook, this isn’t anything new, but I’m going to take a bragging moment and let the world know that Z made it to the State Spelling Bee (for the third year) and this year he won.

I know I’m his dad, but it was a pretty magical moment.


Zander competing in his first local spelling been in January 2010

Z first went to the State Spelling Bee in 2nd grade.  That year it was sponsored by the Sylvan Learning Center.  It was his first year doing a spelling bee, and no one was more surprised than we were when he was able to go and compete against some much older students.  Out of over 100 kids, Z went down with several other kids in a round that left only twelve standing.

Zander competing at the State Spelling bee in 2010 (Jim Lee/Sioux City Journal)

Zander competing at the State Spelling bee in 2010
(Jim Lee/Sioux City Journal)

His next year, there was no sponsor for the Scripp’s Bee, so he was not able to compete.

Last year, the Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State University stepped up to sponsor the bee.  Z returned to the State Spelling Bee.  It was small this year, and it came down to two boys – one of them was Z.  After going several rounds, Z was eliminated.

When it came time to study for the Bee this year, Z didn’t seem to have the same enthusiasm as he had in past years.  I don’t know if it was getting so close and not winning, but he was far from motivated to start.  After winning the local bee , he seemed to be more interested in studying and worked hard (if at times reluctantly) in the days leading up to the State Spelling Bee.

Once again, the Bee was sponsored by the Greenlee School of Journalism.  This year, it once again came down to two kids sparring to get the winning word – Z and an older girl.  After several rounds, Z was given the word maestro.  He spelled it correctly.  His competitor missed her word.  Z had one more word to spell to win the Bee.  When he was given his word (cilantro), the smile immediately lit up on his face as he knew he could spell it.

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Zander spelling the winning word at the 2013 Iowa State Spelling Bee

He didn’t get near as excited as the “euonym” girl at the National Bee in 1997, but that’s not his style.

Z spelled it correctly and was announced the winner.  He received a MASSIVE Miriam-Webster Dictionary, a year’s subscription to an online encyclopedia, and of course the big prize – a trip to Washington D.C. to compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  (Thank you to the ISU Greenlee School of Journalism for stepping up to sponsor the Bee and providing the trip to D.C.!)

smithsonianHe is SO excited to go – not just to have the  chance to compete at the next level, but to also get to spend time in our Nation’s capital - specifically the Smithsonian which has long been the Holy Land for my science loving son.

His mom and I are thrilled too, of course.  But for us it’s more about having a lesson we’ve preached to all of our kids so marvelously reinforced.

If you work hard and don’t give up, it will pay off.

Z has spent countless hours in studying and preparing for spelling bees over the last four years, and it was so heartwarming to see the look on his face when it was announced he’d won.  It was great to get to see him see first hand that effort and diligence does not go unrewarded.

After a few days off for ITBS tests, we’re back to studying (we use the time driving to and from Z’s activities to great efficiency) – although the books of words are a little thicker now – the word list is basically the dictionary.


Z's spelling list for D.C. - (courtesy of Greenlee School of Journalism)

Z’s spelling list for D.C. – (courtesy of Greenlee School of Journalism)

The Scripps National Spelling Bee is May 26th – June 1st, with preliminary rounds airing on ESPN3.com on Wednesday, May 29th, semifinals airing on ESPN2 on Thursday (May 3oth) afternoon, and the finals on ESPN that evening.

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Snow Day

Posted by on Feb 23, 2013 in family | 0 comments

Snow Day

Anyone who knows me know that I am not an outside person by nature.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the great outdoors, I can sit and look out the window at it for hours.

I’m also a BIG fan of Newton’s first law of physics that states a body at rest will stay that way (and I do love to rest) until an outside force acts upon you.  Plant me in my chair with the remote and a stack of DVDs, and you will believe time has stood still.

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It looks like he’s coming down the hill towards me, but he’s actually at the bottom of the hill after he spun around backwards.

But back to that outside force – maybe that should be a persuasive force forcing me to go outside.  As in a child.  Particularly a child who wants to play in the snow.So that’s what we did today.  Z had gotten a sled for Christmas and had decided it was time to break it in on the small hill in our back yard.  This, of course, lead to snowball fights and building a snowman.

Living in Iowa, there are generally only two small windows when I can honestly say I enjoy being outside.  That’s the brief window in the Spring between ball-freezing coldness and swamp-ass hotness.  Same thing in the Fall, just reverse it.

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Captain America fending off snowballs!

But it was a lot of fun today.  Sledding  with no injuries.  Z learned that his saucer sled also makes a great snowball shield, and that snowmen are vegetarians.

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Vegetarian? Yes, Cherry Tomatoes for eyes and mouth, a carrot nose and celery arms.

No worries, just playing.  I tend to get caught up in the world of homeschooling, working, meal planning, blogging, and general day-to-day stress, and it’s easy for me to forget to stop and just enjoy my family.

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The finished product

So while I’m never going to be accused of being an outdoorsman (or even outdoors tolerant), today was a good reminder about why it’s important to play with my son…both for his sake and my own.

Here are a few more photos from our afternoon.

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Beginning to work on the snowman


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Getting bigger


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Time to put it together


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Head’s up


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When he picked up this stick, I asked if it was going to be an arm. He said, “No, it’s my shaper” and began to mold the head into his desired shape. Ever the artist!


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It’s a giant!


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Or not!


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It was a fun afternoon!

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What Kind of Parent Are You?

Posted by on Feb 23, 2013 in Parenting, Uncategorized | 0 comments

What Kind of Parent Are You?

I stumbled upon this video clip this morning (and I mean that literally, I was using StumbleUpon), and while it’s sweet and very funny, it also got me thinking about parenting styles and which is better.

Watch the clip:

Would you consider yourself to be a dog parent or a cat parent?  While I’m sure we all would like to say we’re “dogs”, I’m not sure there isn’t some value to being a “cat”.

I remember when Z was smaller and trying to get him to jump into the pool.  He wasn’t having it.  I showed him; he worked with a life guard in private swimming lessons.  It wasn’t happening.  He loved to go to the pool, and he loved to play in the water; but he was not going to jump in.  The summer passed without him jumping in.  The next summer rolled around and it began much like the previous.  He still loved the water, but he wasn’t jumping in.  One day, I just decided today was the day.  I didn’t push him in, like the cat in the video, but I did stand in the water and told him he had to do it.

With a lot of trepidation, he crept to the side.  With a lot of hesitation, he jumped into my arms.  Then he did it again…and again…and again… I got out of the pool to take a break, and he kept doing it.  He didn’t need me to stand there and catch him anymore.  A few days later, a lifeguard asked him if he wanted to go off the diving board; she would wait in the water and help him swim to the side.  He was willing to do it as long as he could have a life preserver (in his words, he trusted the life preserver, but not the “human element”).

jumpinginI guess the point of all this is that there is a middle ground between being a dog parent and a cat parent and maybe that is the best place to be.

The world can be a big scary place, and while it would be nice to think we can be there to teach our child how to handle every situation, that is just not reality.  What we can do is offer them love and a safe place  to experiment and grow.  We can teach them everything we hope they need to know (and hope our paltry wisdom is enough); but at some point, we have to let go.  We have to trust they will remember, and we have to hope the world will be kind.

Some kids are ready and will leap blindly into their future.  But sometimes, when they’re standing on the verge and are afraid to go beyond their comfort zone,  we have to give them that push that forces them to take that next step.

Maybe we’re not cats or dogs.  Maybe birds have it right.  Love them, nurture them, and then set them free…even if it takes a kick in the rump to make it happen.


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“The Job”

Posted by on Feb 18, 2013 in family, Work | 2 comments

“The Job”

For the first time that I can remember, I found myself seriously questioning  the things that influence my career (if you can call it that).  I have never stayed at the same for more than five years.  Moves and children have played a factor, but I also get easily bored and burned out.

jobsI’m in transition right now.  I just left one job I was unhappy with and have been picking up part-time hours at a couple of former jobs to keep income flowing while I find “the job”.

With the exception of a few years as a librarian and a couple as an office manager at the dance studio where my kids danced, I’ve almost always worked in health care.  I’ve worked primarily overnights as this has allowed me to stay home with my children during the day.

As Z, our last child, went from baby to toddler to preschooler, we made the decision to homeschool him.  It’s been a decision I have never questioned or regretted.

jobdescriptionProblem?  ”The job” landed in my lap, and I’m having to turn it down.  It was the holy grail of health care jobs – Monday-Friday and the very rare Saturday.  Anyone who works in health care knows that a job that doesn’t require weekends is rare.  I would have been acting as a liaison between doctors and clients and overseeing med passes – so no more eight hours on my feet or breaking my back.

Ah the dream of having a “normal life” – sleeping next to my wife every night, not having to constantly say no to friends who want to do something in the evenings because I have to work or sleep, getting to do a play again…

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  With the wife firmly ensconced in a day position and me not willing give up homeschooling Z (and him having no desire to go to public school), the decision was pretty much already made before I even had the chance to seriously consider it.

I am pursuing another position within the company, so maybe down the road, “the job” will present itself again at a time when I can seriously consider it.  For now, I just need to remember I have the greatest and most important job their is – raising and educating Z.

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To My Valentine

Posted by on Feb 14, 2013 in Uncategorized, Valentine's Day | 0 comments

To My Valentine


For my favorite valentine!valentine

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What has happened to sportsmanship?

Posted by on Feb 13, 2013 in Parenting | 12 comments

What has happened to sportsmanship?

So wrestling seemed to be all the sports talk shows had to talk about today – both the national story about the Olympic IOC committee planning to do away with wrestling as an Olympic sport in 2013 and a local story regarding the West Marshall high school wrestling team.

wrestlingIt seems some member of the team decided to have a little fun and took a picture of themselves with each member participating having “F@&K The Dons” (meaning rival team Don Bosco) spelled out one letter at a time on their arms.  Then they posted it on Facebook.  (And these guys are all academically eligible to take part, right?)

My first instinct was stupid prank – some stupid jocks doing something stupid.  Why is this news?  Let the coaches and parents handle it.

The reason this is news today is that the school board got involved and handed down their ruling.  Each boy has to do 40 hours of community service and together they have to write a letter of apology.

If I hadn’t heard the crap I heard today on the radio, I might have almost agreed with the decision.  But earlier today, I got to listen to some of the stuff being said at the school board meeting, and I was pretty appalled.  What I heard was school board members and parents (especially parents!) blaming the coaching staff for not having a good enough handle on the kids and the media for blowing the whole thing out of proportion.

Here’s a quote from one of the parents: “Our boys, some in their underwear, have made newspapers across the nation. They’ve paid the price greater than anything you people can deliver them.”

Yeah, they’ve been punished enough. (that’s sarcasm)

Not once did I hear any of the parents blame the students involved.  The potential (and much-talked about punishment) was a suspension from their next meet – a big deal since it would have kept them from competing in the State Wrestling Tournament (tantamount to Mecca here in Iowa).

The council vote was broken down 6-1 with only Board member Wayne Larsen believing the kids should not be allowed to compete.  Kudos to him for standing strong.

As any parent will tell you, never make a threat you don’t intend to keep.  We once pulled a daughter from a dance recital.  She was a biter, and she’d been warned if she didn’t stop this would be the consequence.  She did it again, and we followed through.  To top it off, she had to sit through the recital and watch her sister dance.  But you know what?  She never bit anyone again, and she learned a lesson.

sportsmanship01My fear is that because not allowing these kids to compete was talked about so much prior to the meeting, they’re going to feel like they got away with something.  Bad sportsmanship is rampant in our country – at every level of competition.  To me, a message needed to be sent to these kids, and I don’t think it was.

Bad sportsmanship has no place in athletics, and what you put out on the Internet has consequences.

sportsmanshipPersonally, if it’s me as the parent of one of these kids, I do what the school was too chickenshit to do.  I don’t let him (or her) wrestle.  Yeah, he may hate me for awhile, but as my kids have been told many times.  I wasn’t put on this earth to be your friend; I was put here to be your parent and to help you become the best person you can be.

These wrestlers got off easy.  Personally, I think the parents need some community service, too.


So, am I being a hard ass or do you think they shouldn’t have been allowed to wrestle?

Here’s a link to an article about the controversy, and here’s one about the resolution.

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