Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hitting the Road, Again.

After several months without my beloved running routine, I made a first attempt to return today, going out for a modest 3 mile run (well, a trot at best, really).

Knee problems -- which I believe are simply inflammation from overuse -- seem to have finally calmed down.  I've tried to maintain a modest level of cardio fitness by working out on an elliptical trainer, but have failed to keep my weight in line.

So today, I waddled out in the 20 MPH wind, and 90+ degree temperatures, to give it a whirl.  At first I was alarmed by an unfamiliar bounce -- it was all the flab I've added in the past half year having it's elasticity tested. Yuck -- what a crappy way to have to face up to that issue.  Perhaps it will provide the needed motivation to do something about it.

I left my watch at home -- there would be no timing of this event.  Slow and steady was my motto.  I even acknowledged I might need to take some walking breaks.  Yeah, I'm that far out of it.

But all went well.  I managed to complete the three miles without expiring and without walking.  When I got home, I didn't even notice any knee trauma.  But the real story will be written on that tomorrow -- which is when any residual soreness will be most noticeable.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Cost of College

I listened to a presentation yesterday by a Professor of Economics yesterday. In addition to it being interesting (yeah, I know -- economics interesting? Seriously?), the presenter hit on one of my current pet peeves -- the cost of higher education.

So here are the numbers he offered. The professor was going from memory, so he asked not to be "quoted," as he wasn't certain he had the numbers exactly right. I am, however, going to do it anyway.

1983 - present

CPI increase 150%
Medical cost increase 450%
Higher Education cost increase 750%

These numbers sound about right to me -- at least as it applies to tuition at state universities. In 1983, when I was at Purdue, it seems to me that tuition was around $1,000. $7,500 sounds like it's in the ball park for today for a state resident -- perhaps even a bit on the low side.

The economist (and remember, he is a university professor), railed at the inability of schools to manage their own costs. And I have to agree -- what are these schools doing? Are they just charging what the market will bear, and saving the difference in their endowments? Are they too busy building expensive monuments? Do they just let wages and numbers of employees grow without limit? What's the excuse for this wild cost escalation which, on the surface, can't be justified by anything I can think of?

Back in the dark ages when I went to school, most majors "paid off" quickly -- meaning that if you invested the cost of the education, it would pay back in a relatively short time after graduation. The increase in salary you could expect would allow you to pay back any investment, and make a tidy return. At the current University price levels, a prospective student should be seriously questioning whether that math still holds up. I suspect that for many majors, particularly those offered at expensive, private institutions, the answer is -- it doesn't.

Remember, prospective students, you're making a call that will impact you financially for years to come (assuming you will have to take on debt to get the degree), so choose wisely.

Which brings me to my personal pet peeve...Why are students and graduates angry with their lenders for expecting repayment of their loans, instead of angry with their schools for their complete lack of cost control. People should be outraged with the universities, and thankful for the availability of the loans. They should be demanding an explanation from their schools as to why the costs are so out of control.

Instead, they tend to get angry about the last vestige of what was, perhaps, a bad decision -- their student loan. They rail about the monthly cost. They complain about how long it will take to pay down the balance. They demand the government "forgive" their loan -- which is shorthand for saying: "I expect the rest of you taxpayers out there to pay for my education, even though you had nothing to do with deciding which degree I pursued, the school I selected, and the costs I racked up."

Our area of the country needs more trained welders. As a taxpayer, I'm much more interested in funding the training of additional welders (which might actually help the economy), than forgiving the loans of a newly minted lawyer from an expensive private institution. In general, however, I'm against forgiving anything retroactively -- these people signed the loan documents obligating them, and they (presumably) knew what they were doing. We have to take personal responsibility for our actions and stop expecting others to compensate for our mistakes.

So, there -- enough of this rant. I'm sure I've offended someone out there, and ask for my own "forgiveness" in advance. And I acknowledge I could be missing something in all this. I'd be happy for a more enlightened reader to point out the error of my ways in the comments section below. I'm open to being convinced I'm wrong, but it's going to take logic, not an emotional appeal.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mr. Mom -- Day #16

Yesterday was my last day playing the Mr. Mom role -- at least for now. Today I'm sitting at my desk trying to remember exactly what happened during the day.

The morning went off without a hitch, with both twins heading out to the bus on time. I spent much of the morning cleaning and picking up so that the house would be orderly for Paula's return. Thomas watched TV most of the morning, it being a bit chilly out, and Dad and Grandma being occupied. After lunch, he went off to school, and I did my workout. Then I picked up an enthusiastic Thomas and brought him home.

When the twins came home about 45 minutes later, we all watched an episode of Hercules, and then headed to the airport to pick up mommy. They were so enthusiastic about seeing her!

We stopped at Hollywood diner for lunch, and then headed home, all the while hearing bits and pieces about Paula's trip. Mommy was so tired last night that I put the kids to bed again, although I know she really wanted to do it herself.

And the final verdict?

It's tough handling everything by yourself. Both physically tiring, and emotionally draining. But it was also easier than my first go round as Mr. Mom, and also more rewarding. I was more relaxed with the children, and felt like I could take some pleasure from my more intensive time with them, rather than just feeling stressed. And having some support -- either from the older kids, grandma, or friends -- definitely helps a lot.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mr. Mom -- Day #15

Coming down the stretch now, and today was a day of a different sort.

It was a beer day. It was a fishing day. It was a car day. Not as much a "kid day." Thank goodness for Grandma's help.
Of course, if Grandma wasn't here it definitely wouldn't have been a beer-making day. The car, well...

The twins were off this morning without a hitch.

I had decided last night to make beer, so I sanitized all the gear (which is quite a pile for the mash-boil part of the process). Then Kenneth and I drove to Omaha to drop of his car at Jensen Tire. He remarked on Friday that something was "wrong" with is exhaust system. I said: "Fine. Make an appointment, and I'll help you take it in." Today was the day. We dropped the car at 10:00am and headed home.

Then I brewed -- Honey-Orange Ale -- while Grandma entertained Thomas with "Sorry" and "Legos". Once the beer was done, I started to wonder why we hadn't heard from Jensen Tire. We really needed Kennth's car back so Grandma could use Paula's car for a lunch she had planned with one of her friends (Kenneth had been driving Paula's car because his was dumping exhaust into the passenger compartment -- a wise call on his part). Finally, the called and said that he needed a $650 exhaust repair, and that was best case scenario -- if the bolts holding the exhaust pipe to the catalytic converter would come off. Otherwise, we would be adding a converter to the bill as well.

So we sat on pins an needles waiting for the"all clear" call from the auto repair shop, all the while hoping they didn't break a really expensive part in the process of making their expensive repair. As luck would have it, there were no complications, so around 4:30 we all loaded into my car and drove to Omaha to get Kenneth's car, and then to dinner at "the noodle place."

When we got home, the kids went on the trampoline, and I grabbed my fishing pole and went down to the dock. Caught a nice walleye on the first cast! Then the kids came and joined me, and I got four more fish including a walleye that went about 2-3 pounds. Then it was time to come in, as it was getting dark and a bit cold.

We watched Hercules, then it was time to go off to bed. Sarah had to give a "spoiled kid" performance because I (a.) wouldn't let her watch another episode of Hercules, and (b.) wouldn't let her watch an extra half hour of "Shake it Up." Someday, she will realize that pitching a fit makes it less likely for me to let her stay up later, rather than more. Up to now, however, she hasn't been able to figure it out.

Tomorrow is the big homecoming. I have lots of straightening and cleaning to do to make sure everything is ship-shape for mommy's return at dinner time.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mr. Mom -- Day #14

Another good day -- if you discount Sarah's hunger strike at dinner time (more on that later).

Kids were off to school without much stress. I did discover that braiding the main part of the twins hair is a bit of a pain -- it's just so darned thick. After the girls left for school, Thomas bummed around the house most of the morning -- watching TV, playing "Sorry" with grandma, and just generally not doing much.

Lunch was chimichangas and fries, and then Thomas was off to school too. I then picked the twins up at 1:45 and we drove to Fremont for dental appointments. Anna picked up Thomas (glad he didn't have to wait the hour and fifteen minutes in the dentist office by himself). When I came home, Grandma had dinner ready.

For some reason, Sarah decided that the flouride treatment she had at the dentist office (which wasn't to be brushed off until bed time), made her food all taste bad. Candace had no such problem. We ate early, and then I hauled Thomas off to soccer practice. When I left, Sarah was sitting at the table with a full plate of food, balling over how no one cared her food tasted "disgusting." When I returned later, the food was eaten, and Sarah was happily playing downstairs. Sometimes it's just better not to ask.

Thomas was a little under the weather still during his practice. I did witness one face plant (saw him spitting dirt out of his mouth, then needed to rinse his mouthguard), and he took a kick to the thigh. He still played hard, and had a great time. I must note he's much tougher on the soccer pitch, than when tussling with his sisters -- there may be some knowledge embedded in that....

Evening included an episode of Hercules, and then the normal reading routine and sleep. I even was done in time to watch the second half of the baskeball game.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mr. Mom -- Day #13

What a pleasant day. Everyone slept late. The morning was bright and warm.

And when the kiddos did finally come downstairs, they were in good moods. We watched a little TV in the morning, then went outside for a bit. I got my workout in around lunch, and fortunately, while I was downstairs for the first half of the workout, the lunch fairy (also known as Grandma) paid us a visit and fed the kids.

After lunch, the twins played Barbies with Anna, and Thomas and I went fishing for a while (no luck). Then all the kids put on the swim suits and played with the hose most of the afternoon.

During that time, I actually re-entered all the data from my 2010 tax return -- I'd found a deduction I forgot to take, and couldn't start the computer that had the old file. So I had to recreate it. It took quite a bit of time, but there were only a couple of things that initially mystified me. I still haven't tried to do the amended return yet, but at least I don't have to reinvent the wheel now.

We went the easy route for dinner, and made hot dogs and a noodle side dish. Afterward was the harder part of the day -- showers, then hair. Anna helped out again by coming up with a hairstyle. The kids then played companionably in their room until bedtime, and with minor protests, went to sleep.

If every day could be this simple!