Wednesday, December 30, 2009

HSAs and Gay Marriage/wolf in lamb's clothing Revisited

So BioMom's firm is making a few changes about their health care and giving its workers some choices. We were considering an HSA which would allow us to put pre-tax money that we don't use in any given year toward a health savings account that we can use when we get old.

We knew that that plan had some discriminatory effects against GLBT couples (despite the fact that it allows glbt workers to put their domestic partners on the plan) such as, for example, allowing the savings part of the HSA to go only to the employed worker, not the unmarried partner.

One catch of the plan is that it had a $4000 deductible.

We had decided to go with the HSA this year until today when BioMom found out that any health expense of mine does NOT go toward the $4000 deductible. So, for example, were I to get into a car accident on January 2nd and we had not reached the $4000, we would essentially go bankrupt paying my health expenses out-of pocket.

This stuff infuriates me.

Now back to the gal (friend?) of mine who was against gay marriage.

And, frankly all of you out there who are against gay marriage.

I remain open to the fact that you and I may have different religious beliefs and I will give you the freedom to believe that marriage between two men or two women is against your beliefs (although I hate the argument that then that implies people will marry their pets, etc.).

But I can't stand the fact that you want to limit my rights as a hard-working, tax-paying, child-rearing citizen.

Now for the punchline: that "friend" of mine admitted to me a few weeks ago that she has had no less than two affairs.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Birthday Sledding on the Dangerous Big Hill

Cousin's girl turned six the other day and we decided to go sledding on the Big Hill in celebration.

Little did we expect that the rainy-sleet the night before would leave the hill a dangerous icy bumpy mess. That combined with many sledding compatriots adds up to a bunch of rockets on the same trajectory (the bottom).

Cousin got pounded in the back on her first ride down, leaving her in the ER waiting room the next day for hours.

(She's okay, just suffering a deep bruise).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pre-Storm Outdoor Fun

We are expecting the storm of the century up here this weekend! Wishing you all a great holiday filled with warmth, family, fun, and light.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Check out Cousin's kids and Big on the first day of winter vacation and a second video here.

Here is a THIRD video with even MORE kids including a special appearance by Nine and her friend, Sidekick (Okay, I'm just going nuts now...).

The Dog Who Was a Cat Inside

This past Saturday we went to one of the monthly programs of children's cinema at the big library downtown called "Childish Films".

Big and I had been before, but Cousin reminded me about how great these get-together's are. You head to the big downtown library. There's a craft or some other entertainment there prior to the films (this time it was decorating really yummy cookies). Whole Foods provides the snack (although, in true Minneapolis fashion, I literally heard a parent tell their child that that was, really, "just advertising") and then you get to see three or four really awesome films (let's just say they are not produced by Disney and/or have not yet been viewed on Nickelodeon Jr.).

The Dog Who Was a Cat Inside is coming up this spring. Check out this incredible film and let me know what you think.

I'll hold my comments until after yours so as not to spoil your fun.

What a Difference a Year (and $5) Makes!

We went to Holidazzle last night.

We felt some trepidation after last year's fiasco but he is a year older and, well, we caved.

This year, we decided, in times of recession and economic glut, to give in to consumerism. To help the economy grow. To not take this moment to teach a lesson.

We let them have a little lighted glowey-goodness.

You'll see in these pictures evidence of their contentment. He actually SAT (I didn't have to chase him and worry that he'd be run over by a float), he didn't attempt to steal one of the lights from another kid, and they seemed to actually enjoy themselves (other than the time that the blackened, sooty slush splashed up into their faces).

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Last Final, Lots of Papers, Long Break

So I am giving my last final as I write this. We are about 1/5 hours into it and only the hard-core students are left.

All four of them.

I've been in denial about grading for a few days now, putting off the grading I could be doing by rationalizing it in a few ways:

1. I don't have ALL of my finals completed yet. It would be unfair to grade students in that way.

2. I don't have any kids to care for so why not go cross-country skiing instead of grading because I can't really do that when I'm with them (the kids).

The problem with #1 is that I had some pre-final papers etc. to grade that would be nice to have done BEFORE the pile of finals sits on top of them, firm deadline pending.

The problem with #2 is that I can't GRADE with kids around either. And after I get home tonight it is non-stop kidville up until said grading deadline has long passed.

It always gets done but I've somehow forgotten the pain of the end-of-semester grading.

Why didn't I give more multiple choice questions???

Thursday, December 17, 2009

This Can't Be Good...

In response to an email that I sent Big's preschool teacher (who, by the way, remains the single most impressive educator that I have ever met in my life) asking if it mattered much if he skipped school next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, she responded with the following (unedited) email after saying that those are "quiet days":

"I do think he needs some down time. Don't get me wrong-he's learning self control-he just has had a few lapses this week (!)-he's also blending phonic words (yea!). I think [Big]'s name has come up the most in the conferences - no worries, all good. He's a big little guy in our little school!"

Experiment with

Okay, so, if you have a little time and you are perusing this blog, hit "next blog" at the top of the page.

Hit it again and again.

In my, albeit limited, attempts at this, I keep getting uber religious cites.

Are the blogger people assholes? Are they picking up on the word "homo" and instead of choosing "like" topics, they are choosing their opinion of "morally superior" topics?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sun Dogs

So, nearly ten years later living here in the Northland, I am still astounded by it.

This morning it was negative six degrees as I was driving down to my job and I witnessed the sunrise.

You might be thinking to yourself in response to that "Wow! She must have gotten up early!"

But here's the thing. The sun rose this morning at SEVEN freaking FOURTY-FIVE!

And it is planning on going down at freaking FOUR THIRTY!?!

For those of you who are math-impaired, that adds up to just over eight hours of daylight.


Anyway, on my way to school, I saw a rainbow.

Seriously. A rainbow.

So, I called Cousin, who has the largest breadth of knowledge of anyone I know and she replied immediately that I had seen a Sun Dog.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Birthday Bash

So I decided that I had no idea what to do with four or five little boys running around our house for a birthday party.

For Nine's fourth birthday (this was pre-blog, so I have no reference here for you), we had a bunch of girls come over dressed as princesses and they had a tea party. It was crazy but manageable.

Plus, he's only been at school for a few months so we don't really know anyone very well.

So we decided to have a little party at a local bowling alley (which, btw, was in the film Beautiful Girls) with some of our closest friends which, coincidentally, happen to be his closest friends too.

Also, with my friend E in mind--she once told me this was her favorite--I made a checkerboard cake! Of course, I am not a professional baker, and did not expect that a) the different mixes would not exactly MIX once I took out the staging device and b) I did not cut the layers to make them stack perfectly. The end-result looked a little like the sad little stump at the end of The Giving Tree once the boy had cut him down. Let's just say that the person that got that piece got more than they bargained for: a spear-like device attempting to hold it all together and A LOT of glue (i.e. frosting).

Check out these pictures of the festivities!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Caster Semenya

I might be completely behind the times, but a New Yorker from a couple of weeks ago was the first to inform me of Caster Semenya.

She won the gold medal in the 800 meters at the 2009 World Championships in Athletics with a time of 1:55.45 in the final, again the fastest time of the year.* Following her victory, questions were raised about her gender.

The New Yorker article, "Either/Or" about her and her case is great. The author, Ariel Levy is sympathetic to her case, calling her "breathtakingly butch."

But the article is also about South Africa and the importance of sports to the country.

And it is also about sex, gender, and a history of the way that athletic association including the International Olympic Committee have (unsuccessfully) defined (and verified) the sex of competitive athletes.

"Unfortunately for I.A.A.F. (the International Association of Athletics Federations) officials, they are faced with a question that no one has ever been able to answer: what is the ultimate difference between a man and a woman? “This is not a solvable problem,' Alice Dreger said. 'People always press me: 'Isn't there one marker we can use?' No. We couldn't then and we can't now, and science is making it more difficult and not less, because it ends up showing us how much blending there is and how many nuances, and it becomes impossible to point to one thing, or even a set of things, and say that’s what it means to be male."

*I have a soft spot in my heart for this race and the 4x800 meter relay. In high school I was lucky enough to be the slowest leg on the relay stacked with some pretty fast girls for a Class B (second largest class of schools in the state). We took state in the race twice, once beating even all of the class A teams. My leg was a whopping 27 seconds slower than Semenya's.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Ice Rink: Nearly Ready for Action

Nothing like a few negative nights to boost the freezing process... But guess what I forgot? You have to freakin' SHOVEL it!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Happy Birthday Big!

I won't see you today because I am snowed in at work. They have basically closed the state of Wisconsin, so I, sadly, can't get home.

But I am fondly remembering four years ago this day.

This is the first year you are in school and we were notified that you could bring a little treat or something if you wanted. So, I asked you what you would like to bring to school for your birthday.

You got very excited and started to describe something. Something "round" with "spicy stuff" on top.

Nine immediately interpreted: cinnamon rolls.

"Do they have frosting on top?"


"Is it sweet?"


And on went our interrogation.

BioMom brought up a picture of cinnamon rolls on her computer, to which you announced that that was not, in fact, what you were talking about.

The next day, BioMom got out of you that what you were describing had purple and green on it as well.


Then she got you to say that the item was round -- "like a ball."

Ahhhhh! Donut holes!! What kind of parents are we that our four year old son has no language for a "donut hole"!?!

The purple and green must have been for a birthday on or around the Packer/Vikings game.

So off you went today, donut holes in hand.

Happy Birthday!!!

Here are a few pictures from over the years as you have changed and grown.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

3 and 0.999726027

Big turns four years old tomorrow.


It is trite to say that our kids are opposites.

I've heard people with seven kids say that all seven are as different from each other as different can be.

But it is so true. And we love each of them so much for their own uniqueness.

He is the rule-breaker, she the law-abidin' citizen. He is the silly to her serious. He is the do-first-ask-later, she is the ask-first, probably-don't-do. He is the physical to her cerebral. He is the gas to her solid. He is the kinetic to her potential. He is the Malcom X to her Dalai Lama. He is the practical to her idealism. His memory is the elephant to her Dory (in the movie Nemo). He is the exhibitionist to her privacy. He is the Felix to her Oscar.

We won't have to worry about her taking drugs in high school, but he'll be the one wondering what his brain would feel like as an egg in a frying pan.

He will be at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying engineering in 14 years, visiting her at the Iowa Writer's Workshop while on spring break.

And I can tell you that his differences are reverberating throughout our household.

You will be aghast to note how Christmas mornings have gone for us, for the past (literally) nine years.

Maybe you'll think we are evil parents for what I am about to say, but I hope you'll understand and forgive us, and even experience a tinge of empathy. Perhaps you would do the same given the circumstances.


Nine is like BioMom in her law-abiding tendencies. Theirs are not the personalities of bending rules. Once we were at a pool with very exciting looking slides for which one's height had to reach a particular line on the wall in order to qualify to ride. Nine (at that time Five) missed the mark by fractions of an inch. I told her that I would vouch for her and that, in her parent's opinions, she could feel free to go.

Rather than break the official rule, even with her parent's permission, she looked longingly at the slides the rest of the day.

So, ever since I can remember, on Christmas Nine has come into our room, possibly forgetting the fact that the tree downstairs has been, most likely, accosted with present and stockings stuffed with chocolates and other assorted goodies, but willing to, none-the-less, given our urging to wait a bit before rushing downstairs to open presents while we sleep in.

Seriously. She has waited patiently by our bed, often engrossed in this book or that, until we groggily wake, perhaps even brew a cup of joe, before heading to open her presents. . . Often after 9 a.m.!?!

We got a taste of Christmas future, however, on St. Nick's day the other day.

The kids had left their shoes out on the hearth* (I've always wanted to use that word in real life!!!) before going to bed on December 5th.

The next morning at what seemed like five a.m., I awoke to what sounded like a wrecking ball in Big's room and then a herd of buffalo running down the stairs, and then ripping of paper, and then a loud announcement for all to hear about what he found.

He seriously didn't even wait for us! He just headed down and opened the stash he found in his shoes (a Playmobile figurine was left in each of our shoes. BioMom's sister donated her old Playmobile airport and plane but with no little figurines so St. Nick thought he'd rectify the situation. Big noted that the ones that Nine and BioMom got were "girls" whereas the ones for he and I were "boys", which, indeed they were. I couldn't pass up on the cook Viking dude that was available.).

So that's our boy!

*Saint Nicholas had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus,

Saturday, December 05, 2009

How To Make The Winter Bearable, Part 2

We've been experiencing a few days and nights less than 32 degrees so.... HERE WE GO!!!

The Flood: Part I.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Cousin's Great Idea

So ever since Big was born (nearly FOUR years ago!?!), Nine has been jealous.

Her perceptions consistently view him as having advantages that she doesn't have, even when the evidence points otherwise.

She always says that she wishes she weren't the oldest kid in our family, even after BioMom and I point out the pains of being the youngest (of four in both of our cases) and the advantages of not only being older but also of being the oldest.

She'll admit it. She's not ashamed of her feelings. You know how kids are so amazing that way -- taking things as they come, without judgment.

Sometimes her reactions seem almost violent. Within the first week of him being home she lashed out at me, saying that I did nothing for the family -- "Mom gave birth and I'm the big sister!!"

And my reactions to her feelings have also not always been, well, relationship-enhancing.

I find jealousy to be an ugly human reaction and have only recently have I really delved into my "inner child" so to speak and figured this out and have (finally) found some empathy for it and, consequently, for her.

So, I was talking with Cousin the other day about it something entirely different when I started to make some connections and Cousin offered her ingenious solution.

I was talking about how Nine has so much trouble just picking up after herself, and that sort of thing.

I know that all kids aren't naturally great at it, but as Big is getting older, and, seemingly, more fastidious, her left-behind messes are becoming more apparent to those of us (me) who end up following behind her and picking them up (or nagging incessantly).

Then it dawned on me: maybe she is doing that subconsciously to force us to continue to "care" for her. A way of passively remaining the youngest, by requiring that sort of attention perhaps?

Then Cousin said: Why don't you let her have a day where she gets to be treated like the youngest one?

This was seriously brilliant.

I proposed it to Nine and BioMom and now we've experienced a couple weeks of it. On Saturday, usually, Nine declares it her day. On that day I pick up after her without complaint, and do lots of things for her that I would normally kvetch about and do with great disdain and resentment (Yes... A parent who feels resentful!! You see it here, dear reader!).

On every other day, she is expected to do that stuff for herself.

This is the brilliance of the plan -- she gets to FEEL special, like she has a day off etc. but our actions don't really change much at all. The cost to me on that day is the same as it was on every other day prior to the regime change! But now, NOW, on every OTHER day, I at least have a CHANCE that she'll focus and change her behavior a bit.

Sheer, loving, behavior-enhancing brilliance.