Education system anxiety…

Of all the things that are stressful about parenthood, choosing a school for your kids is up there. The other day we visited a Montessori school down the street from our home and absolutely fell in love with it. Being a kid that grew up in the public school system, I can see the pluses and minuses. Yes, socially there is an advantage to how public schools operate, a large number of kids are grouped into a setting where they are encouraged to make friendships and be exposed to a large variety of people. There’s of course the financial side too. The fact that public schools are covered in your taxes is nice.

Here’s my guff though… Public schools are the first to lose funding. The child to teacher ratio is getting out of hand due to spending cuts. You know, because it makes sense to cut teachers before you cut anything else. What else is underfunded in public schools? Yeah, that’s the arts, obviously something near and dear to me.

I was one of those smart kids that slipped through the cracks. I wasn’t properly challenged until middle school where I was suddenly thrown into the advanced English and math classes. I always felt like the dumbest smart kid since everyone else had been supported and encouraged in these subjects for the years before. I was the outcast of the outcasts. That being said, I also had a huge problem with authority. Yeah had. S what did I do? I stopped caring and coasted by. I managed to do so in a way that i was able to get out of high school a full year early because I didn’t care for the system and I knew how to make it work for me.

I don’t want that to happen to my kids. I Want them to be challenged and encouraged to do their best in school. I don’t want them to be the outcast of the outcasts, not knowing where they belonged. Sure that contributed to my becoming the person I am today, introduced me to the punk scene way back when. Solidified my political all beliefs. BUT, my kids have something I didn’t have that can make up for that… An awesome punk dad. They’ll still be super unique and exposed to so much of that.

The school we visited had everything we were looking for and want for our kids.there is a low student to teacher ratio, it’s a large school (it’s actually housed inside a giant old church and has a very Hogwarts-y feel to it), it’s double Montessori certified, close to home, mixed age groups, individualized learning, and a huge bonus, there’s financial aid for your second year onwards. Oh and it goes all the way through middle school, so they’ll have the continuity that I never had as a kid.

That’s why.

Recommended track list:
Operation Ivy: Gonna Find You
The Sex Pistols: Seventeen
The Minutemen: God Bows to Math

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The Balancing Act

If you have been following along this summer, it’s no surprise that I have been spending a lot of time with my family. It has been nice since during the school year this last year I was so busy and they were commuting so much, that I did not see them nearly enough. The first moth of break was the four of us doing as much as we could afford and visiting with family that we get to see once a year. I’m not exactly sure how we fit that much into one month.

Recently my wife, Katie, started a position at a new job. Since I was not able to find a summer job that made any attempt at supporting a family of four and she was, that put me in a new role. I have become the stay at home dad. Most of the day it’s just me, the kiddos and the dogs. I wold like to beat my cheat and say that it has been easy, but I would be a monumental liar. Well, that sounded a little bit too dramatic, but what I meant to say is that noonday is perfect and that being a stay at home parent takes a lot of hard work and practice.

Kids like to be entertained. I find myself trying to be as creative as I can in finding ways to keep them occupied. Also, having two kids that are very different from each other adds its own set of challenges to this. If one is coloring, obviously the other one wants to as well, BUT if one of them has the color that the other one wants all bets are off. Or if one doesn’t have theatre cue that the other does, that coloring book is going to have one stroke on each page and then they’re done. Then it’s off to trying to manage two tasks when all you want to do is sit down for a minute and drink your cup of coffee.

I’d say that the biggest hurtle that I’m trying to get over with my new duties is trying to figure in time for my own work. I usually end up writing these entries at nite or early morning when the kiddos are sleeping. I’m also struggling to find time to work on arty things. I keep telling myself that I need to sit down and sketch when they’re down at nap time or for the nite, but man I am usually beat by then. It’s hard and I think that I’m getting better at it, but finding that balance is very difficult. Knowing me, I’ll probably figure it the day before classes start up again.

Here’s a couple of things to watch out for in the next few weeks…

The Chicago Comic-Con/ Wizard World Chicago August 9-11th. I’ll be there in artist alley helping my friend Rebecca of Becca’s Bombshells and meeting John Barrowman, aka Captain Jack Harkness. And then there’s the sixth annual Oak Park Micro-Brew Review on August 17th. Have fun and maybe I’ll see you there!

Recommended track list:
The Scissors: Ice Cream Man
Alkaline Trio: Trouble Breathing
Coheed and Cambria: Away We Go

Babies, Locks, Firemen, and how the System saved my Son

Pretty quickly, things in this family go from hectic, to fun, to nitemarish. This is one of those instances and is pretty much the story of my life…

The nite before last, my wife was attending a birth as a doula. That is after getting off of work at her full time job.. The kids and I spent most of the day driving around doing errands. While she was finishing up at job number one her client went into full labor and we had to drive straight out to Dekalb so she could get there in time. The kids and I dropped her off and then drove all the way back home where we had a sleep over in the living room waiting for the call that the baby was here and we could get Mom. This was the best part of my day.

When we got that call is where it gets a little more crazy. Once we picked her up the next morning we had to book it straight back to her other job. We dropped her off, had lunch at McDonald’s and then, since I was sick of driving, we decided to spend the day at Woodfield Mall. We had a blast browsing at the Disney store and mostly they played on the giant foam Looney Tunes playground. By the way, i have apparently neglected to include Looney Tunes in their learning experience and had to give my daughter a crash course on who’s who. Oops. We rounded out the day by picking up my wife and getting hot dogs at the local hot dog joint down the street from home. It was a pretty great day…

It was, that is, until the kids went to wash up after dinner while Katie and I tried to talk and catch up with each other. My 4yo daughter went to go wash her hands after eating and her almost 2yo brother decided to trot in after her. Pushing happened over who got to use the sink and then we here the door slam shut. And click. Our daughter is standing outside the bathroom, our son inside. He had just locked himself into the bathroom. Shit just got real.

Little side note: We live in a pretty old building and the doors aren’t those (now in my opinion) awesome new doors where you can take a screw driver and unlock it from the outside. No this is a serious deadbolt, only locks from the inside, honest to gods nitemare.

We took turns trying to coax him into unlocking it, which at first he was laughing about. At one point our daughter even shoved us out of he way because, “he only listens to me and does everything I tell him to do”. Not this time. Then after twenty minutes of that not working, panic set in for all parties. He was sobbing because Mom and Dad couldn’t save him. Our daughter was freaking out, and frankly so were we. We tried taking off the door knob to see if we could somehow reach the lock. Nope, now we just had a locked door with no knob. We tried kicking it in like in the movies. Nope. Stupid old solid door… Eventually I threw in the towel and called 911. The dispatcher tried her best to calm me down and told me the fire department was on the way. Fire truck and all.

They got there and tried a few things until they ended up using this ratchet bar thing that stretched the door frame enough to pry the door open. He was finally out. Soaked from head to toe in sweat and tears. The lieutenant fireman told our son that he should come outside where he got to see their truck and was awarded a junior firefighter hat and badge. And that’s the story of my life.

Recommended track list:

Social Distortion: Story of my life
Operation Ivy: Room Without a Window
Minor Threat: Screaming at a Wall
The Replacements: Kick Your Door Down
Stiff Little Fingers: State of Emergency

When an Anniversary date becomes a family nite and why that’s ok.

My wife and I just celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. Well, at least we were creative in how we celebrated it. She just started a new job and we haven’t been able to spend a lot of time together since. Last Thursday we decided to do something crazy. Some fun family activity to make the Summer feel extra summer-y. We went to the drive-in.
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DIY Dinner on the Dole

It’s no secret that we are pretty damned poor. In order to keep fed we are on foods stamps and WIC. That doesn’t mean that we can’t eat things that taste good, though. Last nite the kids and I hoofed it to the grocery store with a strategic shopping list, ie our WIC coupons and came up with a delicious meal.

Ingredients:
WIC items:
Brown rice
1 cup of chopped up Sharp Cheddar
Frozen broccoli
Splash of milk

Food stamp items:
1tbsp butter
1lb chicken breast Tender strips

Cook the rice as directed, steam the broccoli over the cooking rice if you have a steamer pan.
Cook the chicken in a separate pan and cut it down afterwards to retain juiciness.
Once the rice is done add the butter, milk and cheese. Mix till its an awesome cheese sauce.
Add the broccoli and chicken.
Enjoy!

My daughter said it was the best thing I had ever cooked and asked “how did you get this to taste so good?!”

Track listing:
I cooked it all to the music of Stale Chofli, a local Chicago suburbs band i used to know