Driving to the bus stop?

When I walk home from the gym in the morning, if I hit it at just the right time I walk by a school bus stop. I’ve been seeing something at the bus stop that I find curious:

Why are parents driving their kid to the bus stop and dropping them off?

I’ve seen it enough, and by the same cars/parents, that I know this isn’t some one-time fluke such as Junior running late. As someone who went to public school for K-12 and either walked or took the bus, I do know what a pain it can be for parents if Junior misses the bus.

But that’s not what I see.

Are these children living so far away from the bus stop they can’t walk? Perhaps, but most school systems make the bus routes and stops within reasonable walking distance. From the looks of it, I’d say these are junior-high school kids, so they certainly have the physical ability to walk a little ways.

Heck, the other morning as I was walking home, I saw a minivan pull out of a driveway… drive 2 blocks to the bus stop… drop off the child… then the mother drove back home.


Two blocks.

Your child couldn’t walk two blocks?

I’m dying to ask that parent just why they drive their child to the bus stop, especially when this is a vehicle I’ve seen do this on numerous occasions.

Is it a matter of being late to the bus? Well, every parent seems to be arriving well on time and if in fact you do miss the bus it teaches you two things: 1. how to run (faster), 2. how not to be late so you don’t miss the bus again. They can also teach you the value of “hustle”, which seems to have a different meaning to kids these days.

Yeah, I sound like a grumpy old man now… uphill both ways in the snow.

Nevertheless, I find it most curious and perhaps a little bothersome. Maybe it’s because I’m walking home from the gym, which is not just that I’m in a post-exercise frame of mind but because I intentionally chose to walk to/from the gym because I think it’s kinda silly to drive half a mile when the whole purpose is to exercise… it’s like that famous picture of the escalators outside a 24 Hour Fitness. And we go on and on about kids not getting enough exercise, when walking a few blocks every day would certainly do them good.

Could it be they don’t feel the kids are safe? I grant the world may have some ugly people in it, but if you won’t let your child walk 2 blocks away from your own house then perhaps you should reconsider where you live in the first place. Or maybe consider not letting your child out of your sight, ever.

Or maybe this is just that day of helicopter parenting, when parents give all for their children… everything except the ability, confidence, and wherewithal to do things for themselves. Not sure how kids are going to survive because someday they will have to be allowed out from under their parent’s wings.

I’m sure I’m filling in the informational gaps with my own biases. I don’t know why these parents keep driving their kids a few blocks to the bus stop. Still, I find it curious. Maybe one morning I’ll ask.

What to teach the kids?

A friend pointed me to this article by Eugene Wallingford titled “I Just Need A Programmer“.

The Slashdot entry sums it up best:

“As head of the CS Department at the University of Northern Iowa, Eugene Wallingford often receives e-mail and phone calls from eager entrepreneurs with The Next Great Idea. They want to change the world, and they want Prof. Wallingford to help them. They just need a programmer. ‘Many idea people,’ observes Wallingford, ‘tend to think most or all of the value [of a product] inheres to having the idea. Programmers are a commodity, pulled off the shelf to clean up the details. It’s just a small matter of programming, right?’ Wrong. ‘Writing the program is the ingredient the idea people are missing,’ he adds. ‘They are doing the right thing to seek it out. I wonder what it would be like if more people could implement their own ideas.'”

The interesting thing was, before reading this article my friend and I were talking about teaching kids how to program. He’s been studying this nifty 2D graphics library and given how well-written it was, maybe he’d be able to use it to teach his son how to program. Maybe, but the problem I saw there was there was still too much other stuff to deal with, like the language issues, because the first time you try to figure out pointers in C/C++/Objective-C well… it’s mind-bending. 🙂

The thing that hit me was the last sentence of the Slashdot summary:

I wonder what it would be like if more people could implement their own ideas.

And as I was thinking about teaching our kids I realized what we need to give them are the tools that enable them to realize their ideas.

One cool thing about programming computers is computers are such general purpose tools, that with a little work you can get them to do almost anything you want. Such is a great thing about learning to program. But kids tend to not see that, they just see they want to play a game. So if they want to write a game, give them those tools.

Daughter is very artsy, so we ensure she has a constant supply of art and craft materials. For example, yesterday morning, inspired by the movie “Tangled”, she took some paper plates and painted some really neat stuff on them. We have to keep brushes, paint, pencils, paper, and all sorts of art supplies around at all times for the kids. I’ve even bought software for them to help them be creative. In fact, I think our Christmas card this year is going to be one designed and assembled on the computer by Daughter.

Or if the idea your child has is to create music, ensure they have instruments or other tools to create their music… even software like GarageBand.

The point is, in whatever realm the kids are having their ideas, don’t let them just dream about their ideas coming true; give them the means to make their dreams come true. And that includes a lot of encouragement and support.

No Screaming Children

A restaurant in North Carolina puts up a sign saying “Screaming children will not be tolerated”.

Naturally, some people have a problem with this.

“I’ve never seen a restaurant say, don’t bring your screaming kids in here,” said Ashley Heflin, who is a mom of two. “You can’t help it if your kids scream.”

Yes you can.

I’ve got 3 children. Now I grant, the younger the children are, the less control there is. A 6 month old baby will start crying and telling them to stop isn’t going to work. But a 6 month old child typically cries because they are hungry or tired or are in pain… things you can remedy, but still yes, a 6 month old screaming is a bit more understandable. Nevertheless, just letting the kid cry and scream doesn’t do anyone any good, most of all the child. Take the kiddo outside and remedy it.

But as the children get older? Oh you certainly can help it if your children scream.


By not tolerating such behavior out of your own children.

If Junior screams in the restaurant, it needs to be met with a swift reprimand. If you’re going to give the child a warning or threat, you best follow through with it immediately because the kid will scream again (they will test you, and you must pass the test). This is not a time to beg or plead with the child nor continue making empty threats, not a time to keep talking to them about it and discussing how they feel or to let them have the freedom to choose. They’re too young to understand social constraints; you’re the parent, you’re supposed to teach them. It’s time to “man up” and be the parent that you’re supposed to be, the one in control, the one in charge. The rules are set, they are iron-clad, and if you violate them you will meet with punishment. Punishment could be a spanking, being grounded for a length of time, deprivation of privileges. Or it could be that instead of “do bad, get punished” you take a “do good, get reward” approach. Just be careful there, because behavior that is expected shouldn’t only happen because a treat will come of it.

Sure, the kid has to learn. So that will probably mean some embarrassing and awkward experiences for you. But hey, that’s just part of parenting, get used it to and get over it. Be a parent. Be tough. Be the one in control. If kiddo keeps it up, then you leave. Yes it sucks for you, no it’s not what you want right now, but what do you want? dinner now? or a well-behaved child that grows up into a well-behaved adult? Leave, and make sure Junior knows that this is unacceptable and the behavior will not be tolerated.

It really boils down to a few things: 1. be the parent (be the one in control), 2. don’t tolerate bullshit, especially out of your own children.

And then, just then, we might raise well-behaved children, and restaurants won’t have to put such signs in their windows.

12 Steps to Raise a Juvenile Delinquent

Not too long ago, Jay G was lamenting the state of parenting. Chris Byrne was then motivated to write about 5 rules for good behavior.

In that vein, yesterday I read a friend’s Facebook status that linked to this, 12 steps to raise a juvenile delinquent. It’s all in the same vein, just a different approach in the writing. Reprinting:

  1. Begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants. In this way he will grow up to believe the world owes him a living.
  2. When he picks up bad words, laugh at him. This will make him think he’s cute.
  3. Never give him any spiritual training. Wait until he is twenty-one and then let “him decide for himself”.
  4. Avoid the use of “wrong”. He may develop a guilt complex. This will condition him to believe later, when he is arrested, that society is against him and he is being persecuted.
  5. Pick up everything he leaves lying around. Do everything for him so that he will be experienced in throwing all responsibility on others.
  6. Take his part against neighbors, teachers, and policemen. They are all prejudiced against your child.
  7. Quarrel frequently in the presence of your children. In this way they won’t be so shocked when the home is broken up later.
  8. Give the child all the spending money he wants. Never let him earn his own.
  9. Satisfy his every craving for food, drink, and comfort. See that his every sensual desire is gratified.
  10. Let him read any printed material, and listen to any music he can get his hands on. Be careful that the silverware and drinking glasses are sterilized, but let his mind feast on garbage.
  11. When he gets into real trouble, apologize to yourself by saying, “I could never do anything with him.”
  12. Prepare for a life of grief. You will likely have it.

Credit says: “Taken from a pamphlet entitled Twelve Rules for Raising Delinquent Children distributed by the Houston Police Department.”

Remember: you are (supposed to be) the parent; act like it.

There is no begging, no pleading, no bargaining with your kids. Limits are essential. Saying “no” is good for them.

Range Day with Dad

My father and his wife is visiting us for a few days. It’s always good to see him.

Growing up I didn’t do much with guns. Dad was a Captain, Second Infantry, US Army. Mom however didn’t like guns. So while I always remember this .22 rifle being in the storage room, it was never used; in fact, I just learned today that Dad had removed the bolt and hid it long long ago, thus it was never functional. So while growing up I was never anti-gun, I was just never really exposed to it. I do remember one family vacation that Dad took me skeet shooting. Shot a 20 gauge, had a great time. My first real exposure to guns. Certainly had some pellet guns and such over time growing up, but really nothing much.

So that made today kinda special, especially since today ended up being Son teaching Father. 🙂

Dad does shoot, but mostly shotguns for skeet and trap. I believe he gets out on occasion as well to go duck and pheasant hunting (lives in Nebraska, after all). But the last time Dad touched an M-14 was back in the Army, Expert qualification I believe with the M-14, M1 Carbine, .45 handgun, and so on. But certainly, Dad’s technique reflected old school technique. I showed him some modern technique. 🙂  Plus some guns he’d never shot before.

Started out with my Smith & Wesson 442. I just got it back from the gunsmith (I’ll write about that later) so I had to try it out. Buddy foo.c gave me a bunch of various .38 loads that he had lying around I think from his father-in-law, so just an assortment of stuff. They all ran just fine, probably went through almost 100 rounds: me shooting 5, my Dad shooting 5, and trading off like that. Gun felt good, but I know I need more practice (now that I have it back, I can do that.. pulled to the right a lot, that long trigger). Dad was slapping the trigger a lot, lots of anticipation. But heck, for a first time with a snub he did just fine.

Moved on to the Browning Buck Mark. Of course, that gun is a lot of fun. Dad was certainly excelling with this, tearing one ragged hole in the center of his target. I think without question that was his favorite gun to shoot, because well.. that gun is just tons of fun to shoot.

Then we moved on to my Springfield XD-9. Dad fired one shot. “Wow…”. Heh heh. 🙂  He finished one magazine and said that was enough for him. Heh heh.

After that we opted to put the handguns away and move over to the 100 yard rifle range. I had brought along my Springfield M1A Scout Squad. Dad seemed to enjoy that too. One thing about his shooting is while he may have been off a slight bit in terms of “hitting the bullseye” he was very consistent. I think with the M1A it was probably some measure of the fact the gun was set up and sighted for me, not him. But he shot well.

While at the rifle range, met another gentleman shooting there. The M1A always seems to attract folks and strike up conversations. The gentleman actually did a lot of custom work on M1A’s. He let me try out the trigger on one he had just finished customizing. As well, he let me fire 5 of his handloads out of my M1A and man they were accurate. He even shared the load recipe with me (must remember, using Federal brass to put half a grain more powder in, and using other factory brass like Winchester, etc. to put a full grain more… that I think he was using Black Hills match cases). Anyway…. very nice guy and I’m sure I’ll be in touch with him in the future.

Just being able to spend the one-on-one time with my Dad was precious to me. For that, I am thankful.

Tourist in my own town

My Dad and his wife are in town visiting for a few days.

Dad is always on the go. For someone his age he’s so go-go-go that he tires out me, Wife, and Kiddos. 🙂  But it’s good to see him and it also forces us, every time he comes to visit, to think of new things to go see and do. Thus we finally get to do some of those things that you never do unless someone visits.

For instance, lived in this town how many years? And it wasn’t until some months ago at my buddy W’s wedding rehearsal dinner at Shoreline Grill that I got to see the famous Congress Street Bridge bats. My kids have never seen the bats, tho they do get to see some bats here and there because a few must live in our neighborhood as we see some bats flying at evening twilight from time to time. So one plan we made was to go see the bats.

One reason I wanted to post about this was to get more information about the bats out there. A big reason why I hadn’t taken the kids to see the bats was because I couldn’t figure out some of the logistical details like: when do they come out? (about sunset) where can you watch them? (anywhere around the bridge but…) where can you park? (parking lot of the Austin-American Statesman, which then has a little hill at the south-east corner of the bridge where you can sit and watch them, all for free). Just little logistical details like that. I’d search around and not be able to find anything like this. Oh sure I’d find lots that talked about the bats, just not covering logistical details. The best thing I finally discovered was the “bat hotline” at 512-416-5700 x3636. It’s a recording that tells what’s going on with the bats, some information about them, and about what time the bats are flying.

While we were not in peak season (it’s usually during warmer months that there is peak flight), certainly 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats still need to eat! We had lunch at Freebirds World Burrito, played 36 holes of golf at Peter Pan Mini-Golf (I finished both courses, each scoring 50, with a couple holes-in-one, and coming in 1st place; my Dad came in 2nd place; Daughter did pretty well too), then it was about 5:00 PM and with sun setting within the hour we opted to head over to the Austin-American Statesman’s building off the south-east corner of the Congress Ave (now Ann Richards) Bridge. Parking was no problem. A little walk down the hike-and-bike trail and we found the little grassy hill right by the bridge. Lots of other people were there, all waiting for the bats. You could hear them all “chirping” under the bridge. It was pretty cool. I kept remarking how I just spent 3 days waiting on animals to appear, I was getting kinda tired of that. 😉  Eventually a few bats started to appear, zipping right overhead. Then, the stream started. From where we were we could just see an endless stream of bats coming out from under the bridge. I do mean endless. It was wild to watch.

One tip I gave my kids was there were 2 ways you could watch. One, just hold your eyes still, and you’ll watch all the bats zooming by in a blur. Two, move your eyes with the bats and while you may only “see them” for a second or two, the complementary motion of bat and eyeball in the same direction will make the bat look “slower” and thus you’ll get a clearer picture of the bat and not just a blur going by. When I told this to the Kids they all appreciated it, especially Youngest because now he felt like he could really see the bats better. Tip for you parents.

After a while well… that was enough. We headed back to the car and over to Threadgill’s World Headquarters for some dinner.

Good times.

Father Son Time

Work ran late tonight. Consequently I wasn’t going to make my martial arts class in time. *sigh*

So let’s make the best of it. I headed to the garage to fiddle with the reloading gear. 🙂  Since it’s a single-stage press I’m going to set it up for one task, then do as much of that task as possible. In this case, put a 9mm resizing die on there and go through ALL of my 9mm brass and deprime and resize it.

As I got rolling, Wife and Kids came home. Oldest saw what I was doing and came over.

“Can I try?”


Gave him the basic instructions to move the handle through its full range of motion. Don’t rush it. Got to point out a few things, teach him a few things. Even encountered a Berdan primed case and got to show him the difference.

Oldest just sat at the press, putting in an old case, cranking the handle, taking out the reshaped and deprimed case, lather, rinse, repeat. He just kept doing it with no signs of stopping. Seemed happy doing it too. So I set about better organizing everything on the bench, sorting some things out, cleaning some things up.

Oldest just kept working the press.

We talked. Cracked jokes.

I took over for a bit. I stopped for some reason then Oldest snaked his way in and started working the press again. Go figure.

I eventually cut back in. Gave him my tub of non-usable brass and told him to get a pair of pliers out and crush them to ensure they don’t get used. He had fun with that. Told him to get the big pliers out for increased leverage and he really had fun with that. 🙂 I worked the press, watching him squish brass with glee and listened to him explain to me the differences between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class levers. I know what they are, but it doesn’t matter as I’m not listening to him to learn about levers… I’m just listening to him because he’s my Son and has something to say.

And so there we were in the garage. Father and Son. Talking, joking, working, playing… and sometimes just sitting in silence.

Oldest asked me if I was having fun reshaping the brass. I said that I was neutral about it. It’s repetitive, technically it’s boring. But I know it’s going to be good work and serve a useful end, so I’m good with it all. But that really, what I was enjoying more than anything was just spending time with him.

He seemed to like that.

I think I liked it more. 🙂


Good parenting advice… from Gene Simmons

I know. You’d want to think that Gene Simmons wouldn’t know a thing about parenting. He does.

Never negotiate with kids. They don’t have life experience, and they don’t have repercussions for bad decisions, they still get fed and housed. And most importantly: I’m bigger! Don’t hit, but don’t pander or give power to kids. They have to know where the power lies. Otherwise, why would they respect it?

Whenever I see poorly behaved children, I look at the parents to see why. Without exception the parents negotiate with the kids, beg and plead with the kids… the parents give the kids the power. If the kid makes a bad decision, there are no serious negative consequences for it. Folks, you reap what you sow. Gene nails it.

If Sophie [Gene’s 17-year-old daughter] came home high or drunk, she’d find her Beverly Hills butt in the middle of the Arizona desert in a work camp. I’m deadly serious. The only jobs kids have are to do well in school, to be charming and polite, and be thankful. That’s it. I’ll house you, protect you, I’ll even give my life for you, and in return, you will behave.


It’s always possible the way Sophie and Nick (Gene’s 20-year-old son) behave on the family’s TV show is not how they really are, but I doubt it because that’d be one hell of a charade. Same goes for Ozzy’s kids, Jack and Kelly, on their show. Compare and contrast their behaviors. Sophie and Nick seem to have their heads screwed on pretty well, despite their family situation. So again, see how the kids behave and look at the parents. I think Gene knows what he’s talking about.

Love him or hate him, he’s always interesting. Give the whole article a read. A lot of good stuff in there.

Movie Review – Where The Wild Things Are

The book Where The Wild Things Are is a favorite in our house. It’s been on our bookshelf for years, and of course with the movie now out the book found new life again. All 10 sentences of it, all beautiful artwork of it.

Daughter wanted to go see the movie, so we piled the family and some of Daughter’s friends into the car and went to go see it. Besides, time at The Alamo Drafthouse is always good. 🙂

Going in to the movie, we didn’t know what to expect. In discussing the movie with other parents, some expressed concern if the movie would be appropriate and/or too scary for the kids. My basic take was that of author Maurice Sendak:

Reporter: “What do you say to parents who think the Wild Things film may be too scary?”

Sendak: “I would tell them to go to hell. That’s a question I will not tolerate.”

Reporter: “Because kids can handle it?”

Sendak: “If they can’t handle it, go home. Or wet your pants. Do whatever you like. But it’s not a question that can be answered.”


Sendak: “I think you’re right. This concentration on kids being scared, as though we as adults can’t be scared. Of course we’re scared. I’m scared of watching a TV show about vampires. I can’t fall asleep. It never stops. We’re grown-ups; we know better, but we’re afraid.”

Reporter: “Why is that important in art?”

Sendak: “Because it’s truth. You don’t want to do something that’s all terrifying. I saw the most horrendous movies that were unfit for child’s eyes. So what? I managed to survive.”

Granted, Sendak sounds rather gruff and irritated at the whole notion, and I’m not feeling that way about it. But I do agree with the basic sentiment. OOOO… the movie might be scary, we can’t let the kids see that! Must shelter our kids from all things negative! Well, if that’s the way you feel about it, don’t go see the movie. If you want to see the movie, then be prepared for whatever the artistic vision of the director and crew happens to be.

The book is not a “shiny happy people holding hands, living happily ever after” sort of story. Consider that Max starts out creating mischief — he is misbehaving and his mother gets angry with him and sends him to bed without supper. The first thing that happens in the book is the kid gets punished for bad behavior. It rolls from there. What is it doing? It’s exploring a child’s technique for coping with anger. And it so happens to have some chaos, some scary monsters, and even that those scary monsters do scary things. Sure the illustrations in the book may not look like something out of Fangoria magazine, but if you do look at their subtle expression and behavior and couple that with the text, especially when Max leaves the island, those monsters are doing some scary ugly things.

I won’t take my kids to see some truly scary slasher film. They’re certainly not ready for that level of suspense/horror type of movie (and given those aren’t my personal cup of tea either, I doubt we’ll be going any time soon anyway). But if there’s a little suspense, a little bit of “negative emotion” to have to experience, why is that so bad? That’s life. Better my children experience and learn about them in an environment where they can learn and be shaped and directed in a good way by their parents (you know, post movie viewing discussion), than for them to always be so sheltered and never really learn and thus become crippled and unable to really cope with the realities of life, warts and all that it brings.

That all said… how was the movie?

I enjoyed it. So did Wife and Children and Friends of Children.

I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to spoil it, because the movie and the book are not the same. The screenplay is certainly based upon the book and follows it as best as it can. But hey, you’ve got a lot of time to fill from such a small and sparse book, so understandably a lot of artistic license had to be taken. That said, they did keep to the spirit of the storyline, just fleshed it out heavily. I think it was well done. Much of what was done prior to Max going to the island did a great job of setting the stage, down to small little details. The camera work was well done too (you’ll see what I mean); it delivers perspective.

Was it scary? I don’t think so. Yes, there were tense moments. There’s coping with anger, grief, loss, loneliness, sadness. There is a lot of lashing out… rage… just letting one’s emotions out, even if they aren’t politically correct “everyone’s a winner” sort of things. Will this hurt kids? I don’t think so. Granted, some very small children might be freaked out by the monsters. If you wonder if this might be the case, let your child watch the previews online or TV commercials… if the monsters freak the kids out there, don’t bother seeing it. But really, I also think very small children shouldn’t bother seeing the movie. I felt the intent of the movie was deeper than a 4 year old could understand. It’s not some Disney movie where there’s singing and dancing and even an infant can smile and giggle all the bright colors, action, and general superficial happiness. But slightly older kids (even upper-single-digit-ages) should be able to handle it alright. However your kids take it, I do think it’s good to discuss the movie afterwards. What they saw, their take on what the movie was about and the things that went on in the movie. Give your kids a healthy perspective on what they experienced.

Spike Jonze has come a long way as a director. I remember his first music videos and they were always cool. He did a great job here. I liked that the monsters were real (apparently made in Jim Henson’s Creature Shop), and the only CGI was to help with their mouths and facial expressions. It really helped the warmness of the movie because Max and the monsters could touch each other and directly interact.

All in all, I enjoyed it. It explores darker emotions, but they are emotions that we all have. Better to acknowledge them and learn how to deal with them, than to ignore and avoid them.

Working homeschooled kids

Oldest expressed interest in getting a job.

Hallelujah! 🙂

Since he is a minor, all sorts of child labor laws come into play. I found this summary of Texas and Federal law at the Texas Workforce Commission’s website.

Here’s one part that I’m not sure about:

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) a child 14 or 15 years of age may not work during school hours…

We homeschool. In Texas, the legal status of homeschool is a private school. So, what does “school hours” mean? My guess is the normal hours of operation for the public school system in the district in which we reside (I sent an email to HSLDA). But why must it be this way? One of the benefits of homeschooling is flexible scheduling. It allows us to better organize our family life. It can give an employer a work resource at a time when they might need the help (e.g. lunch rush), instead of only getting a glut of teenager help from 3-7 PM every day. Furthermore, that glut limits the number of teenage employees that can be had as there’s only so much work and wages to go around at that time of day.

I understand the intent of child labor laws, including the history of how they came about. The intentions are good. It is evident the laws are constructed around traditional notions of institutionalized schooling. Given the dramatic rise of homeschooling in the past some years, it makes sense to revise and modernize our laws to improve how homeschooling is legally regarded (e.g. HoNDA).

Updated: Well, maybe this will work out, at least here in Texas.

HSLDA sent me a summary of Texas child labor laws.

Q: Can a child work during public school hours?

A: Texas has no prohibition against a child working during public school hours.

I requested clarification regarding how Federal law would work in here. Since the Federal law does not specify what “during school hours” means, Texas law trumps in this case.

So it seems if Oldest was to be hired, he could work the lunch rush. So long as of course things didn’t conflict with his schooling, which we wouldn’t allow anyway.

Nevertheless, I could see employers not wanting to hire in such a situation. First, they may be unaware of the laws. In that case, best I can say is for Oldest to walk into the job application process prepared with paperwork showing the laws and legal take on things, because I’m sure an employer would contact the TWC but they may also be unaware. Second, an employer may just want to avoid the potential appearance of the situation. To see a child working mid-day will be strange to a lot of people, which could prompt phone calls to CPS or TWC, and an employer may just not want to deal with the hassle…. or it could count against Oldest in some way.

We’ll see how it all plays out.