Monday, February 25, 2013

Daycare Rant

The rules of daycare have long gotten under my skin, and it seems like it's only getting worse.

I recognize that child care is hard. I also understand that its a business. But I think its total crap that they can just decide to not watch my child AND I STILL HAVE TO PAY THEM.

The reason for this rant is because of the snow storm this week here in St. Louis. My daycare decided to close early on Thursday and open late on Friday. Admittedly, the roads were bad Thursday afternoon, but they had been cleared by Friday morning. Regardless, if your entire business model hinges on letting your customers go to work, you had damn well better find a way to let them go to work. And if you aren't gonna let me go to work, even though THAT'S THE ENTIRE PURPOSE FOR OUR BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP, you shouldn't charge me for it. I can't think of another reputable business that can agree to provide you a service, and then decide to only provide 70% of your service in a given week and still charge 100% for it.

This is extra irritating because we just got off of a holiday break where this same daycare decided to give themselves off Christmas Day and New Years Day (which is reasonable) and also give themselves off a half day each for Christmas Eve and New Years Eve  (which is not). They'll also recently decided that they need to take off President's Day, which I also don't have off. A daycare spring break can't be far off.

Daycare providers - you are not schools. You do not get to take snow days, or teacher-in-service days, or any holidays beyond New Years Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. You are economy enablers. You let people go to work. Now would you please just let us work already.

Friday, February 22, 2013

What's In Your Garage?

In the wake of Winter Storm Q, I gazed out the window to see numerous cars up and down our suburban street, all with several inches of ice and snow piled atop their windshields.

My neighbors all have a garage. Like mine, it will fit two, albeit small-to-medium-size, cars. Why then, are the streets littered with compact sedans covered with ice? In short, because these folks have elected to fill their garage space with something other than their car(s).

I counted 9 cars on the street. That's minus the trucks, which don't fit in our tiny garages.

What on earth are you storing in your garage that’s worth more to you than your car? Glad you asked. Here’s what my neighbors value more than their automobiles.

One family has elected to place a couch in their garage. I’m not sure if they’re using it as a bonus room. If so, it would be one cold/hot bonus room. If not, I’d value the couch at around $500. Much less than the late-model Camry that’s sitting under two inches of ice. Oh, they also have an amazing Air Jordan cardboard cutout from the 90s. I can understand why you’d want to protect that sort of memorabilia.

Our next-door neighbor keeps a large assortment of lawn equipment in his garage. It’s a bit ironic as he enjoys watching his grass top ankle-height in the summer before breaking it out. Since he’s not keeping an assortment of antique, restored lawn tractors, I’d value his collection at a maximum of $2,500. Again, much less than the Toyota and Volkswagen sitting in the driveway.

The folks across the street take the cake. They don’t like going outside to empty the trash. So, they store their trash can (alongside a massive supply of Coke) in the garage. Yes, they value their trash over their new Honda Accord. Serenity now!

Here's John's garage. Though he gets a pass because he just moved.
If you’re keeping your car on the street, take a moment and consider that decision. It’s out in the open to the sun, sleet and wind. Kids on bicycles (maybe even kids just off their training wheels) probably pass it daily in the summer. Do you shower it with grass clippings (and potential rocks)? Assuming you have a garage, what are you prioritizing over your car?

I cannot think of anything that, economically, should be stored over a car in a garage. Well, maybe a restored Space Invaders cabinet over a rusty old IROC-Z. And, if you’re hanging onto an old IROC, you don’t rock.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Weekend I Watched 21 Hours of T.V.

I had just about given up on television. Aside from sports, there was nothing worth watching...or so I thought.

A couple weeks ago, AMC ran The Walking Dead marathon. After seeing the first two seasons are on Netflix’ streaming service, I scrambled to DVR as much of the series as possible. I’ve made foolish investments in DVR space before. (I’m looking at you, Terra Nova.) My expectations were a bit low. (Before we go any further, I guarantee there are no spoilers in this blog.)

Here is the principal cast from season one.

I watched the first episode of The Walking Dead on the iPad. Then I watched the second. Pretty soon it was past midnight and I was hooked. Since I’d DVRed season two, I resumed my Walking Dead feeding frenzy on the big screen. My wife walked by and uttered something about it being gross. Yet, three hours later and she’s saying, “Well, Shane does have a point. I mean Rick is being too nice.”

We caught up to the most recent season three episode several days. That’s 28 episodes. If you fast-forward through the commercials, each one is around 45 minutes. Yeah, 21 hours of television. My word! Thankfully we started this binge on a Saturday. And, I thought I was done with T.V.

So, how did this show suck me in when this genre has been done to death? (pun intended) There are gobs of zombie movies. Plus, a number of terrific post-apocalyptic flicks. Video game publishers have been cashing in on the zombie obsession for years. (To prove how crazy we've gone for zombies, watch this commercial. Yeah, that's real ammo for real guns. The bullet tips are green. Wouldn't want to mix them up with your other bullets.) In short, this series is different because it takes you from point A to B and shows you the choices made to get there in agonizing detail. Allow me to explain.

A lot of futuristic tales depict despondent, callous humans obsessed with survival. But they don’t show you who they were, or how they got there. The Walking Dead does this wonderfully. At the beginning, it’s the humans vs. the zombies. Any surviving humans band together. It’s a given. Joining a group of survivors has a pretty easy entrance exam: don't be a zombie. (FYI: props to the writers for never referring to them as zombies.)

Pushing forward, supplies become strained. Getting more becomes a greater risk. I mean, Hornady Zombie Max bullets don't grow on trees. As you can imagine, humans begin to turn on one another. The Walking Dead makes this transition flawlessly. In a series that prides itself on top-notch zombie makeup, the humanity takes center stage.

Don’t get me wrong, the zombies and effects are awesome. There is a lot of violence. Just a heads up if you’re thinking of watching this with your children.

If any of this interests you in the least bit, sit back and enjoy the ride. Like I said, the first two seasons are on Netflix. I’m sure you could also find them in the video store. The show is currently in the second half of the third season. To fully catch up, you’ll probably need to watch the listings closely and DVR the third season to date. Trust me, it’s worth it. The worst part of the experience will be once you’ve fully caught up. Then begins the weekly waiting.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentine's Day Is Thursday

Here at the Suburban Father Alliance, we like to think of ourselves as above-average husbands. We also like to help out our fellow husbands (hence, the title of this blog post makes no attempt at humor).

Most obnoxious graphic we could find.
When you've been married more than a few years, you have to work a little harder at annual events like Valentine’s Day. A box of chocolates might have been satisfactory when you were in high school. But, for the mother of your children? The woman who puts up with your pathetic attempts at humor? The beautiful face who still kisses you each time you return from a business trip? The cute little nose that has endured years of the world’s worst farts night after night?

Kind of puts it in perspective. She definitely deserves a little more than a box of chocolates this Valentine’s Day. So, what to get her? Here at SFA, we’re always going the extra mile for you. So, we asked each of our significant others for their top three picks in three different categories: gift cards, gifts and special occasion/celebrations (i.e. dinners, outings, etc.). Here’s what they said.

Top Three Gift Cards (Josh)

When I asked Tiffany for her top three gift card suggestions, she came right back with, “Well, for how much?” What? 

“Well, if you’re only going to spend $25, then I’d suggest something different than if you’re going to spend $100.”

Sweet Jesus. I’d never considered that. So, here are her top three gift card suggestions for three different amounts. (And, now I’ll look like a real heel if I don’t spend top dollar. D’oh!)

$25: O.K., you’re a cheapskate. Not a big deal, but you will have to put a little more thought into this. My wife recommends finding a place that she likes, but doesn't necessarily treat herself to on a daily basis. For instance, Starbucks, or maybe Kaldi’s Coffee. (John certainly is a fan.) She likes the double mocha latte with a twist of fanciness, but only splurges a couple times a month? Grab a gift card and let her have a week’s worth of treats. St. Louis Bread is another viable option. Though, it doesn’t have to be food related. Tiffany mentions that Sephora, or her favorite line of makeup, would be another good option.

$50: Now we’re talking a good chunk of cash. For $50, Tiffany recommends a gift card to her favorite retailer. FYI: Tiffany’s is Macy’s. But, she says there’s an ace in the hole if you’re not sure. “I’ve never met a woman who didn’t like Target,” she tells me. And, I thought it was just like Wal-Mart.

Also, Amazon has made it so stupid easy to get a gift card. Just buy one online and its immediately available . Click the link below to show the world of gift cards at Amazon.

Shop Amazon - Holiday Gift Cards - Instant Delivery or Free One-Day Shipping

$100: Alright, big spender. Before you whip out that kind of cash, do us fellow husbands a favor and don’t tell us how much you spent. You’ll just make us feel like jerks. My wife recommends spa services if you’re willing to pony up a C note. She says most of the good stuff, like a back massage, starts around $75. Go the extra yard and figure in a tip. Tiffany’s favorite is Aveda. They have a couple locations in the greater St. Louis area (don't confuse the spa locations for the retail shops). 

Top Three Gifts (Jamie)

If you've come up short on a gift card before (and who hasn't tried a coupon for an "hour of Joey love"*) you may have to bite the bullet and thoughtfully shop for the missus this Valentine's Day.

Make: If you -- wisely -- spent all of the time in your relationship up until now making your wife realize you're inept, it's about to pay off. Almost anything you can make a woman will score you some big time points. Timing projects to holidays isn't only smart, but often you can talk your mate into sharing some of the cost associated with it.

This is not to say that you can half-ass it.You don't have to be great at whittling or backsplashes or even keeping a notebook with a little love note every day for a whole damned year (yep, I'm a big wuss) but you do need to earn an E for "Effort" or you may just find yourself with a C for "Couchsleeping".
Also, it's important that if you do something where in you'll have to tip your hand about what you have in mind you'll still have to come up with a little something to surprise her on that day.

Buy: Have we discussed jewelry yet? Let's. It can be pretty tough to go wrong with jewelry, but it can happen. It has to be expensive enough that she wouldn't buy it at Kohl's to go with a single outfit. If you're going to get her diamond stud earrings but she already has diamond stud earrings, you'll have to go noticeably bigger.

There are a few tricks to do it right. Firstly, try to fill out her collection. Every woman needs a lot of jewelry to round out her collection and to arm her for any evening - look through what she's got, and if she doesn't have red earrings, get her some. No green necklace, buy one. Secondly, if you are going to go for something unique, try to go local. They'll like to have the little story about where a certain piece came from when they get complimented on it. Thirdly, jewelry likes friends. If you buy her a nice necklace, get her a matching (albeit possibly less expensive) bracelet.

Finally, I wouldn't recommend nice jewelry more than once a year, and spread it around the gift-giving holidays or else you'll get dinged for not putting enough thought into it.

The Kiss of Death: As someone who is even able to screw up golf, take my word for it - never buy your wife clothes. Even if they are great. Even if you are 100% sure they fit. Even if she has circled them in a catalog. Never do it. Ever.


*Editor's note: Apparently 'Friends' is not adequately archived on YouTube. If you don't already get the reference it looks like you never will.

Top Three Experiences (John)

Dinner can be broken down into a couple different categories. Sure you can always make reservations and take her out to eat, but Valentine's Day (much like New Years) is a feeding ground for restaurants to give you a fixed menu and lock you in. Here's how you can avoid that debacle, cook for your significant other. You may end up spending about the same amount as the restaurant but the Status Points you receive from her and her friends will be worth that of 35 dinner outings.

Road Trip
This year V-Day falls close to a weekend. Surprise her & yourself with a road trip to somewhere you've never been. Look at a map and pick a couple spots within a 4-5 hour drive and go for it. If you have kids that are semi normal in the car and can be babysat with a DVD player, bring them along. Let's be honest, if you are married with kids romance has a new perspective. Long gone are the days of roses (they die). But change a poop filled diaper??? That's some sexy stuff. Anyway, where I was going with that was kids can be a great part of your Valentines day and introducing your family to new stuff can be a great way to celebrate.

I think this is what my wife will be getting this year... A whole lot of nothing. No kids, no place to be, no rushing, none of that. Just some time to not be a mom and some time to reflect on how awesome of a husband I am without the deafening screams that come from fights about who gets to wear the pink sparkly head band. Peace. And. Quiet. 

There you have it, we just gave you about 95 items you can get for your life partner. Now get shopping NOW so you aren't fumbling like a moron on Thursday morning because you don't have a card.