Sock It to Him

Sam started learning martial arts about three years ago, when we were living in Lehi. He took to it immediately, and was good about practicing. It helped hi build some confidence and self-discipline, as well as physical abilities. A lot of kids start that kind of thing and don't stick with it, but it's been a big part of his life.

When we moved he started at a new place here in Idaho Falls, with a style similar enough that he was able to pick up where he left off, and he earned his first degree black belt last fall. It was an incredible achievement for him, and the culmination of a lot of seriously hard work.



He's had this mentality of always wanting to be ready to defend himself, and he's even been complaining all winter about his heavy coat and boots limiting his mobility. That being said, he's never shown any aggression or bullying tendencies. I have complete trust in him in his interactions toward others.

Yesterday Katie informed me that he had hit a kid at school. I immediately figured he was defending himself, so I wasn't concerned. When I had a chance to talk to him about it, he told me the story.

There's a kid in his class who has been bothering him for some time, both at recess and in class when they had to sit next to each other. This boy is the kind of kid who will constantly pretend to poke you with scissors, getting as close as possible, while acting like it's all a joke. He was swinging his hands at Sam in karate chop motions yesterday at recess, and there were lots of kids around and Sam didn't feel like he could get away. So he socked the kid as hard as he could, right in the gut, and he dropped like a sack of potatoes. Sam apologized and made sure he was okay, and apparently the kid wasn't even really angry. His teacher heard about it, and she didn't care, knowing how this other kid is (she also adores Sam). I was proud of him for sticking up for himself.

I guess Sam heard indirectly that the kid said he probably wouldn't mess with him anymore. This is what I call the Ender Principle, for anyone who has read Ender's Game. If you have to fight someone, beat them badly enough and quickly enough that one confrontation is all it takes for them to leave you alone (but don't accidentally kill them). Nice job, Samuel.

Seriously Unpopular Opinion Alert

I've become much more keenly aware lately of the differences of opinion I have with other people. With the presidential election in particular, people whose opinions I value and respect have differed from mine, when I feel the reasons for my feelings are so obvious that anyone who thinks otherwise must be ignorant of the Truth. And I recognize that those feelings are wrong.

Of course, things are complicated. Several months ago, after yet another mass shooting, I wrote the following and very nearly posted it on social media. Then, realizing it would not foster open discussion but simply incite rancor, I decided against it. Here it is.


I'd like to share an opinion for once, bearing in mind that it may differ significantly from yours. And that's okay; we can disagree without animosity. Let me first say that I like guns, I enjoy shooting them, and although I don't own any I believe we have a constitutional right to own them.

I would gladly give up that right if there's even a chance that it would save one child's life.


I don't judge anyone who owns guns; every gun owner I know is sensible and responsible. And as I said, I like guns. But I don't know any way to legislate gun ownership for only the mature. I don't demand proof that gun control would reduce gun violence before action. I don't think we should wait to explore every avenue before we try anything. Rather, we should try everything, right now, to prevent these tragedies from happening. Let's stop the bleeding first, and then see what kind of ownership laws make sense as we conduct well-grounded, impartial research.



This has really become part of a larger issue of safety vs freedom. Much has been spoke about the immigration ban coming from the White House, ostensibly a measure to protect us from terrorism. There were several things shared online that highlight the flaws in this approach. First, an article from the New York Times that calls into question the specifics of countries from which immigrants are banned. Then some statistics tweeted from (of all people) Kim Kardashian.



Aside from the fact that the immigrants pose virtually no danger (immigrants from the countries that are on the banned list have been responsible for zero deaths on American soil, whereas countries under no restriction provided convicted terrorists such as those involved in 9-11), there are far more pressing issues of safety.

You guys, the Republicans just passed a measure through the House rolling back a ban on gun purchases by severely mentally ill people. Seriously, I don't even know how to get my point across here. Americans shoot and kill 5,000 of their own countrymen for every American killed by a terrorist. Why can't we use fact-based information for a discussion?

I may post something else about my feelings on Trump in general, but for now this is all I can say without going into some sort of manic state.




Nostalgia and the Double Standard

The other day while driving, rather than use my phone for music I popped the first CD I ever owned into the stereo. August and Everything After, by The Counting Crows. After 20-something years I still enjoyed listening to it. 


At the same time I recognized that the singer's voice can be really whiny, and some of their songs kind of ramble aimlessly, especially on later albums. But I still enjoy them for the most part.

It reminded me of how things we grew up with are given a different standard than things we are introduced to as adults. Many of us have a ridiculous movie we've enjoyed since childhood, but when showing it to a friend or spouse who hadn't seen it before, they think it's terrible. What is it about things we associate with our youth, that they get a pass on quality? 

There are other things too, from Kool-Aid to Kraft macaroni and cheese. I love all of them unashamedly.

Winter Update

Our adventure of Idaho winter continues. There's a solid layer of ice on all the non-main roads that has hardened to the point that no amount of traffic can weather it away. Things are hunkered down waiting another couple months for some semblance of spring.

One of the funniest things is the road leading out of our neighborhood. The layer of ice there is about 4 inches thick, with tire ruts on both sides of the street that actually reach the pavement. So you have traction there but can't help but feel that the car will get high centered on the ice.

The ruts, however, seem to have been formed by some of the many large trucks that abound in this habitat. My little commuter car isn't quite wide enough to comfortably fit on those ruts. As a consequence, I bounce back and forth in a way that reminds me of a car on rails at an amusement park. If you try to turn farther than the rail allows, you bounce back rather abruptly. It somehow makes me think of people crossing the plains in wagons, following the tracks made by those who went before.

We had a few days when it got down to -15 or -20 Fahrenheit. Our house had condensation freezing on the inside of the windows. I began to rethink the placement of our bed, right under the window, since it's considerably colder right there. Lessons for next winter, I suppose.

Running outdoors is something of an adventure as well. I didn't get out on those coldest days, but I've been out when it's been a little better, maybe a few degrees below zero. A couple years ago I purchased overshoes that have little steel studs on them for running on ice. I didn't have many chances to use them in Utah, but I use them all the time here. It's been good, but one day when it was below zero and the wind was blowing I realized I need to layer more if I don't want to freeze. My whole body felt numb by the time I got home after ten miles.

Still, we're happy here, and oddly the air still doesn't feel as dry as it did in Utah. Katie gets cracked and bleeding hands in the winter, but it hasn't been as bad. The kids have plenty of snow to play in (or did before it started sublimating and hardening). The cabin fever hasn't been too bad, but maybe a few more weeks of this will change things.

End.

Way to Go, Idaho!

Well, we moved to Idaho Falls about ten months ago. And while people outside the Rocky Mountain states probably see Idaho and Utah as virtually identical (and it's certainly an easier transition than most interstate moves would be), there are some differences. So here, in no particular order, are my impressions of our new state compared to Utah.


  • Most of the time it's 5 to 10 degrees colder here. Which is really nice in the summer. In the winter the roads seem to just be covered with ice perpetually. Any fear I ever had about driving in snow and ice is long gone.
  • Since I've spent most of my life living in Utah, where anything harder than beer is confined to liquor stores, it was just a little odd to see aisles of wine at Walmart. But I got used to it quickly.
  • Service people seem much nicer here. From cashiers at Walmart to servers at restaurants, almost everyone has been friendly. The one exception is our local post office, where the people have kind of had an attitude.
  • A lot of people here just look a little more weathered. I can't think of a better way to describe it. There's just a larger proportion of the population that kind of looks like they've had a hard life.
  • This is one that genuinely frustrates me. So many people just let their dogs run around free without any attempt to keep them in their yard. I have been approached by so many barking, aggressive-looking dogs while out running that I have started planning my routes to avoid as many as possible. I am going to get some dog mace and maybe a self-defense baton.
  • I like the small-town feel. You can get anywhere in town within 20 minutes.
  • There are a few businesses I miss from Utah, but not too many. There's no really good Chinese food around, and the only decent movie theater doesn't do reserved seating. But most stores I like are here.



There's some good and some bad, but overall I am happy we made the decision to move. Homes are so much more affordable here, I like my job, and we have a great ward. I hope this is the last move for a long time.

Training for Parenthood

I've had several friends and family members recently become parents, and it has made me think back to when I became a father 11 years ago. At least, I'm pretty sure that's right; I don't remember so well anymore.

Anyway, there are a lot of things in life that we train for, from job interviews to athletic competitions. But we don't necessarily train for parenthood. Why not? Many parents would say it's the most important part of their lives. I know I didn't really feel prepared. So, in the interest of helping those who are considering parenthood (or have less than nine months to prepare), here is my 4-week program designed to get you into parenting shape.

Week 1

Sunday: Stay up all night.

Monday: Wake up for 30 minutes each time at 2 AM, 4 AM, and 6 AM

Tuesday: Carry a bowling ball in the crook of your arm for 3 hours.

Wednesday: Make 4 different meals for dinner.

Thursday: Clean your toilet with nothing but baby wipes.

Friday: Sleep in a chair all night.

Saturday: Yell for an hour, cry for an hour, then laugh for an hour.


Week 2

Sunday: Wake up at 2:37 and stay up until 10:15.

Monday: Chew your food and spit it out onto your clothing.

Tuesday: Go to the store unwashed and in your pajamas for one item.

Wednesday: Make one of your favorite meals and then throw it away.

Thursday: Don't shower.

Friday: Don't shower.

Saturday: Shower, but with the door open.


Week 3

Sunday: Place a 20-pound weight on the floor. Lift it up 8 times per hour for 16 hours. Bend from the waist.

Monday: Play a 100-decibel siren sound for 10 minutes at a time, 8 times during the day.

Tuesday: Watch an animated film repeatedly for 24 hours straight.

Wednesday: Pick a cherished keepsake and smash it on the floor.

Thursday: Drop a carton of eggs on the floor.

Friday: Be 20 minutes late anywhere you go.

Saturday: Dirty every dish in the house.


Week 4

Sunday: Draw all over your walls with permanent marker.

Monday: Sleep for 2 hours.

Tuesday: Sleep for 4 hours, stay up for 2 hours, then sleep for 15 minutes.

Wednesday: Look up symptoms of illness on the Internet for two hours. Do this at 1 AM.

Thursday: Blow your nose on your shoulder.

Friday: Drop a bowl of spaghetti on the floor.

Saturday: Sleep on the floor.


There you have it! You are all ready for parenthood.


Cyclone

This is Cyclone.


Well, she's Clara. But while we have tried to give our other kids nicknames, this is the first one to really stick. And boy, is it apt.

I'm not sure if we were just lucky with Sam and Allison, but they didn't do a lot of the stereotypical kid things like drawing on themselves, taking off their clothes, and making messes just for fun. But Cyclone does all that, in addition to chasing the cats around and occasionally stepping on her baby brother.

On the flip side, she is exceptionally sweet. She won't stop kissing James, is always excited to greet me when I come home from work, and approaches everything with remarkable enthusiasm. She simultaneously makes me feel older and younger. I can't imagine life without our sweet little terror.