Latest Blog Posts

Are Public Schools the Best Schools?

April 15, 2008 at 8:34pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

My father-in-law has built a successful career as a professor with an expertise in early childhood literacy. He has written and edited books, authored dozens of papers, presented at conferences around the world, and so on. The guy knows his stuff. Although I don’t always agree with his conclusions (or the routes he takes to get there), I can’t deny the guy knows America’s education system—especially early childhood and elementary education—as well as anybody. In many ways he has helped shape it.

The Missus and Robbie flew out to visit her parents this past weekend. Apparently “Grandpa Rick” really bonded well with Robbie. At one point while those two were playing, The Missus asked her father a question. “Do you think public schools do a good job educating kids?”

He stopped to choose his words before answering. “I think a good teacher in a good public school provides as good an education as you can find anywhere,” he began. “However, there are a lot of mediocre teachers, and mediocre schools, and mediocre administrators out there. There are a lot of ways for kids to get less of an education than they need and deserve.”

He then added, “If I were a parent deciding where to send my child to school, and if I had the resources, I would consider home schooling or a private school.”

When The Missus told me this upon her return, I couldn’t help but be surprised. My father-in-law has never been the private school type. He has always struck me as a staunch NEA backer, an ardent proponent of strong public schools. I’ve always thought that in his eyes, home schoolers are just wacky right-wing Christians, and private schoolers are either snooty rich folks or ... well, wacky right-wing Christians. But if I’m not mistaken, he almost suggested we go that route with Robbie.

We don’t exactly have the resources right now to keep Robbie out of public school, but who knows where we will stand in a few years when he is ready for kindergarten. Will we send him four blocks down the street to Zemann? I’m pretty sure we will. But when a pro all but says “You might want to think twice about that”, you can’t help but take some time to do just that.

Tuesday is Trash Day!

April 8, 2008 at 1:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I don’t know how many other Lincoln households get excited about Tuesdays, but we here at the Wilson house sure get bubbly. Today was no different. Why the excitement? Why, Tuesday is trash day, of course!

I know, that doesn’t sound like cause for jubilation, but I assure you it is. For many weeks now Robbie has taken to stationing himself on the back of the couch, watching out the front window for the arrival of the big white Uribe Refuse truck. And when it arrives ... “BIG TRUCK TAKE TRASH!” Robbie gets so animated you’d think Clifford the Big Red Dog had just strolled through the yard.

For the past two weeks, a younger guy has noticed Robbie in the window. He always takes a second to stop and wave, which really gets Robbie going. “BYE!” he’ll holler while waving like mad. As the mornings get warmer, I’m sure Robbie will want to station himself on the front porch to watch the action. That will really be a thrill.

The joy of trash day lasts throughout the week. Over the past week, each night as I said goodnight Robbie reminded me “big truck take trash”. “Today is Thursday,” I would tell him. “Trash day is on Tuesday.” And Robbie would drift off to sleep, no doubt having fantastic dreams a la “Trash of the Titans”.

Yesterday, Robbie and The Missus went to the Y, as is their routine. Inside the childcare area, Robbie’s friend Ty looked glum. “What’s wrong, Ty?” asked The Missus.

“It’s Monday,” he replied. “I wish it was Tuesday, cuz then my dad would be home”.

Robbie’s ears perked up. “TUESDAY?! BIG TRUCK TAKE TRASH!” As you can see, Robbie often speaks in capital letters.

And so, with yet another trash day gone by, we anxiously await the next one. Come back soon, trash men!

Who Wants a Chunk of My Marrow?

March 17, 2008 at 2:04pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

It’s official, I’m now a member of the National Marrow Donor Program. My card arrived on Friday.

Here’s hoping medical science makes my stay on the list very short. Not because I don’t want to donate, but because it would be fantastic if the stuff they need could be grown in a lab.

Speaking in Sentences

March 13, 2008 at 7:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

You know, it’s one thing to have Robbie learning word after word after word. But speaking in sentences? He isn’t that old already, is he? I had heard Robbie utter a few “near sentences” before. Things like “want up” (“pick me up”) and “get off” (“take object A off of object B”). But those weren’t really sentences.

The other morning The Missus went into his room to wake him up. Apparently he had already been awake. When I walked in, The Missus was lifting Robbie from his bed.

“Well aren’t you wide-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning!”, I said.

“Bushy-tailed?” The Missus exclaimed in an questioning tone. She asked Robbie, “Do you have a tail?”

Robbie pursed his lips. “No”, he replied. Then, after thinking for a moment, he added, “Daisy had a tail”.

And there it was. Robbie’s first obvious, unmistakable, real-live sentence. It was a surreal moment as I was struck by the realization that Robbie is on the verge of not just speaking words but manipulating language. In retrospect, he has been manipulating language for many weeks, but in more subtle ways. For example, he has been forming more compound words all on his own, such as “big truck trash” (garbage truck).

I suppose it’s largely a first-time parent thing, but these little “lightbulb moments” of Robbie’s are really a hoot to watch. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

A Rare Taste of Spam

March 11, 2008 at 1:10am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Tonight when I fired up my laptop a very unusual message awaited me in my e-mail inbox. The subject: VAlxiUM. I was in shock. I didn’t realize until that moment that it had been months since any spam had made its way all the way to my inbox. You read that right. I just checked; I hadn’t had a true spam message in my inbox in all of 2008. Nothing makes you realize how good anti-spam measures have become like the arrival of a rare piece of spam.

Random fact: Spam (the tasty [?!] kind) is made just up the road from us in Fremont.

Sick Kids are No Fun

March 7, 2008 at 2:18pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Boy, Robbie sure had a rough day yesterday. After a promising start, he spent most of the day as a ragdoll on the couch. He didn’t even have the energy to sit up by himself. The worst came around dinner time when his fever peaked at 104.5. Fortunately, it dropped after that, and by 10:30 it was down to 99.5. This morning Robbie seems to be fever-free. He still doesn’t have the energy to walk very far (or even the ability to stand still without wobbling), and he’s only about 50% of his normal self. But he’s doing better.

Now the countdown is on for either The Missus or me to end up just as sick. The Missus already has a cold, so I think I’ll be the lucky recipient of the full shebang. If you enjoy your health, you may want to stay away from me for a few days.

You Know There’s a Bug Going Around When…

March 6, 2008 at 2:31pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

...the entire family is still in bed at 7:30 a.m. I ended up getting up and not feeling half bad. The Missus just has a bad cold. Robbie—who spent almost all of yesterday afternoon and evening in a semi-conscious daze—finally woke up relatively chipper, though his fever is still around 101.

The Wilsons have had a pretty healthy winter, so we can’t really complain. I just hope we’re all in tip-top shape for this weekend’s good weather.

The Latest Lincoln Soccer News

March 3, 2008 at 3:13pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

A couple quick soccer-related notes:

First, tonight is a mandatory soccer rules meeting for anybody who wants to officiate varsity high school soccer matches this spring. The meeting is at 7:00pm at East High School. We are always looking for new referees, so if you’ve ever thought about reffing soccer, now’s a good time to get started. If you can’t attend tonight’s meeting, there’s another one tomorrow night at Omaha Westside. If you want to ref at the sub-varsity level, the meeting is not required but I recommend it anyway. As always, if you’re interested in reffing soccer at any level in Lincoln, drop me a note and I’ll help you get started.

Second, all you adult soccer players out there will want to know that a new adult league is on its way to Lincoln. The details aren’t yet set in stone, but the Midwest Amateur Soccer League (MASL) could be up and running as soon as April 1. The first season may have as many as 32 teams, and should feature Division 1 and Division 2 competition. (Lincoln hasn’t had a D1 league in many years.) Where is Lincoln going to get that many teams and that level of competition? League organizers have cast a wide net, and they’ve made some pretty interesting catches. If you’re a soccer player, keep a lookout for more information.

Sunday Conversations with Robbie

March 3, 2008 at 3:48am By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I haven’t posted a video of Robbie lately, so here’s an “interview” with Robbie from earlier today:

The interview covers a wide range of topics, including animals, Robbie’s favorite people, and words you really shouldn’t say in a video that grandmas and grandpas will be watching.

An Adoption Mess

February 11, 2008 at 7:31pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

Here’s a nasty little adoption-related scenario playing out in Nebraska:

An adoption agency [Nebraska Children’s Home] and birth mother want to take back a 3-month-old baby boy from a couple who wanted to give him a home, after learning that the adoptive mother was pregnant.

The 22-year-old biological mother says in court documents that she wanted the parents who adopted her son to not have their own biological children. She wanted them to either raise her son alone or adopt more kids if they wanted to expand their family.

But Jason and Angela Vesely say they didn’t purposely hide Angela’s pregnancy when they applied to adopt a child. They say they were never asked if she was pregnant by the private agency and didn’t know it had rules against applying mothers being pregnant.

Yikes, talk about a situation with no winners. It isn’t unusual for Nebraska Children’s Home to have a policy regarding an adoptive mother’s pregnancy status or the adoptive family’s number and age of current children. That’s all par for the course. What would be unusual is if NCH didn’t make its policies crystal clear.

There was no mistaking our agency’s policy: if The Missus were to get pregnant before the placement, we would be dropped from the waiting list. It’s not intended to be a punitive policy, nor is it to prevent families with biological children from adopting. It’s simply about ensuring that a newly adopted child receives the attention he deserves; it’s very difficult to give that attention if two new children are battling for the parents’ focus.

Unfortunately, the LJS article creates more questions than it answers. Was it an open adoption? (The fact that the mother’s name appears in the article leads me to believe that it was.) Has the adoption been finalized? (If so, that was very speedy.) I could go on and on.

Child custody cases are rarely pretty, but they are often fascinating. I, for one, hope to keep an eye on this case because the end decision could potentially have interesting implications for all adoptive parents. Any case that is perceived to hurt adoptive parents has a chilling effect on adoptions. The biggest losers are usually domestic and open adoptions, two areas that most adoption proponents are trying to strengthen.

Yakkity Yak

February 8, 2008 at 2:45pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I don’t think I’m ready for Robbie to speak.

In some ways it’s great. I ask, “Robbie, what would you like for lunch?” And he responds, “Pea buh” (peanut butter). How handy is that?

But in other ways, it’s not such a good thing. I can’t even think words like “damn” or “stupid”, much less the fouler nouns, adjectives, and verbs, without Robbie picking up on them. Sure, it’s hilarious for a few moments to see your son walking around the house saying “damn damn damn damn”. But then you realize you’re leaving for your parents’ house in five minutes…

It really is amazing how quickly his vocabulary is expanding. For a long time his only recognizable words were “uh oh” and “Daisy”, not to mention the dreaded “No”. Now he uses new words every day. Like “skiving” (Thanksgiving), which he uses to refer to a certain photograph on the wall. And today for the first time he referred to the hand mixer as “beats”. Every time my mom watches him for us, she asks, “When did Robbie learn [some new word]?”, and more often than not, we didn’t even know he knew that word. It’s incredible.

It’s also amusing to watch Robbie begin to test his boundaries. He might try to put his feet on the table while he’s eating, for example. We’ll say, “No no, Robbie. No feet on the table”. So then he tests us. He’ll hover his foot over the table, or he’ll graaaadually lower the foot off the table until he gets the sense that he’s in the safe zone. The little turkey loves to find the boundary between allowed and forbidden.

Robbie is beginning to sing as well. So far “EIEIO” (Old MacDonald), “round round bus” (The Wheels on the Bus) and “ba ba BEANS” (Beans! by The String Beans) are his favorites. I especially love it when he tries to sing the Beans song. Unfortunately, it has not spurred an interest in eating beans.

Physically, Robbie has been near the head of the class. He keeps up with older kids at the playground, at the YMCA, and elsewhere, and they seem to really enjoy playing with him. As a result, it’s easy to compare Robert to older (2 and 3 year-old) kids. It’s difficult to believe how much Robbie is going to change in the next few months. We’re going down to Albuquerque in May for my sister-in-law’s un-wedding (long story). Robbie will have just turned two. Even though it’s only 3 months away, I can tell by watching other kids that Robbie will be much different by then. Grandma and grandpa will be shocked.

Worth Every Penny

January 25, 2008 at 3:05pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I’m getting a jump start on my taxes this year, since The Wilsons had a few odd changes in 2007 that will make our tax calculations trickier than usual. One of those changes: we finalized our adoption of Robbie. Fortunately, the feds offer some nice tax breaks to folks who adopt, and we’re more than happy to take advantage of those. In fact, my early calculations show that we’ll get a very nice return this year—big enough to pay off almost all of our last two remaining debts (other than the house). If the Senate comes through, we’ll wipe out our small debts completely. That’s not what the feds wish we would spend the money on, but hey, I’ll sleep much better with those debts off my shoulders than I will with a new 40” television in the living room.

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Adventures in Customer Service

January 24, 2008 at 2:51pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I’ve written in the past about some poor customer service experiences. Here is a recent good experience.

For various reasons, The Missus and I are re-evaluating our insurance coverage. One thing we swapped was our car insurance. Formerly we were with Geico. We didn’t have any problems with Geico, but we found a better (read: cheaper) deal elsewhere. When The Missus called, the telephone rep was courteous and she came across as genuinely disappointed to have us leave. But here’s the kicker—she didn’t grovel or mope or kick into high-pressure gotta-get-them-back mode. She said, basically, “we’re very sorry to see you leave, and we wish you the best with your new company”. A couple days later we received a letter confirming the cancellation of our service. The letter, too, was written in a “sorry to see you go, we wish you the best” sort of tone.

I really appreciate that Geico didn’t launch an all-out assault to try to beg us back, and they didn’t try to make us feel like we had made a poor decision. Quite the opposite: they made us feel like we had made a good decision. Now, that might seem backwards to you, but I think it’s great. Rather than leaving Geico with feelings of doubt, uncertainty, confusion, and even anger, I’m leaving ... pleased. That’s exactly what they want. Because when it comes time to review my insurance options in the future, one of my first thoughts will be “Those Geico folks sure were nice…”.

Have you had a good customer service experience lately?

What is Fit?

January 22, 2008 at 3:31pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

The Missus and I are going through some insurance stuff right now. According to the insurance company’s charts, I am the perfect man. I know, most of you are saying, “But we already knew that, Mr. Wilson!”. Well, now there’s even more proof.

Actually, my supposed perfection is just based on my height and weight, combined with my medical history over the past five years. Based on that, I probably do seem pretty healthy. (Had they gone back much farther than five years they might have come to a different conclusion.) But wait, what’s this? The feds say I’m overweight! How can my insurance company call me “super-preferred” if, according to the feds, I’m unhealthy?

The BMI is crap, that’s how.

I trust my insurance company’s assessment of my health infinitely more than I trust the government’s take on it. After all, my insurance company’s existence is on the line. The feds? No matter how wrong they are or what harm they cause, they’ll still be around. In fact, the more wrong they are, the more easily they can claim they need a bigger budget so they can get things right “next time”. Bah.

Problem is, now I feel like I’m under all sorts of pressure. What if I gain 10 pounds? What if I lose 10 pounds? What if I stub my toe? Oh, the stress! Well, no, not really. Actually, I feel quite unstressed. Finding out the insurance company likes me was a nice confidence booster. I know that my body fat percentage is a little high. Before, I just worried about it. Now, I’m actively trying to convert that fat into lean muscle. I have begun a strength-training regimen. I even ran a six-minute mile on Sunday. I haven’t done that in years.

Now that I have to take care of all of my insurance on my own, this is becoming obvious to me: American obesity is, in part, driven by employer health plans. Since the costs of health care are “hidden” to most consumers, the financial incentives to stay healthy are all but lost. Many companies are catching on to that and are starting to change, but the damage has been done. If Americans had to pay more out-of-pocket for their chubbiness, there would be far fewer chubby Americans. Financial incentives wouldn’t make everybody cut back on the donuts, and that’s fine. But millions would step up their weight-loss (or anti-weight-gain) efforts, and the effect on health care costs for everyone would be dramatic.

Robbie Blogging

January 14, 2008 at 2:30pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in 625 Elm Street

I haven’t posted any photos of Robbie lately. Here are a few from the past several weeks.

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