March 2007

This is one of those things that is almost totally without interest:  sorting out the family finances.

As a scientist, this is a subject that has never held any interest for me.  But in a practical sense, it is unavoidable.  Mel has long taken care of this chore but has expressed a certain fatigue with it.  Finally, I started doing some reading up on terminology and bought Quicken.  This week, I began in earnest.

Quicken advertises to get you going in minutes but this is a bit of hyperbolic marketing.  Indeed it will install in minutes but to really get yourself organized involves several days.  But I have taken the requisite several days and am well on my way to knowing what I’m worth.  I’m already a bit disappointed in how little I’m worth.  Better go buy that lottery ticket.  As the evil banker said in “It’s a Wonderful Life”:

“You’re worth more dead than alive!”

But it is empowering in a way that I’m unfamiliar with.  I’m hopeful that this will continue and I can stay on top of it.  This all involves numbers and with the tools to visualize those numbers and use my math skillz, perhaps I can make this into something interesting for me.  It isn’t rocket science but it will have to do.


Erin was scheduled to return on late Saturday afternoon so I used the earlier part of the day to get some stuff done.  This is that time of year that is so glorious since it’s getting warmer but the breeze is blowing all the time and all the green stuff is bursting out.  Anyone who has daffodils or tulips is getting an eyeful at this point.

For my part, I had that tree remnant that was left from  my last tree-cutting frenzy.  The tree had sprouted up in the six inches between my fence and the neighbors toolshed and against all odds, had flourished and I had cut it down but had not cut off that part that was behind and below the level of the fence.  So I took down part of my fence so that I could get to the trunk and started cutting with my chainsaw.  After chunking it into about five easy to handle pieces, it was at the ground.  I drilled a number of large deep holes into the stump, filled them with salt, and doused the whole thing in some brush killer that I had left over from the original project.  After that dried I went one step further and used up one of several leftover bags of concrete (left over from Evan’s Eagle project) and covered the stump and surrounding area with a layer of concrete.  I’d like to see that thing sprout up now!  Then I put the fence pickets back into place.  It felt good to finally draw that project to a close.

Since I was outside and sweaty anyway, I decided to clean up the rest of the place.  I put the bag on the lawnmower and began to go over the yard and pick up all the remaining dead leaves and other rubbish that winter leaves behind.  The mower kept trying to fail in one way or another but I managed to keep one step ahead of entropy and get the job done.  At this time of year, the grass I planted is growing at about one half inch per day so in one weeks time, it’s up around 8 inches deep.  Thankfully, it doesn’t grow that fast all year long but it really places a burden on the mower.

I also put a bunch of seasonal stuff up in the attic and then it was time to go pick up Erin.  She was not tired ( probably due to having napped on the bus ride home) and was very chatty as we went to a restaurant to hear all about the trip.  Her iPod had failed again (I get to call and try to return it to the internet vendor that sold it to us I guess) but the nature of the trip was such that she didn’t really care all that much.  Evan was working and so missed all this excitement.  She talked of building walls and room additions for poor people in Kentucky until we thought there couldn’t be much left to say but then she found something more to say.  I’m glad she enjoyed her time there.  Cell phones and iPods were banned during the trip except for the bus rides so that they were forced to interact with each other on a level playing field.

Next year, they are scheduled to go to a Mexican border town.  She wants me to go along.  Perhaps I shall.

Erin is still out of town on a mission trip and yesterday, Evan and his buddies headed to Oklahoma City leaving Mel and I home alone which is a rare event.  I can’t say it’s as much of a treat as it should be since we spend a lot of the time wondering if the kids are doing OK but it’s a treat nevertheless.

Evan informed us that he can get extra credit if he went to the Napoleonic Art exhibit at the art museum in OKC so off they went but I’m thinking it was as much for the road trip aspect as the artistic edification aspect.  We the parents were worried about his driving in downtown traffic, the influence of his friends on his driving and behavior, and all the usual parent things.  He helpfully called Mel several times to check in with the good news that nothing whatsoever had happened to him.  Then last night, they all went to a concert at an unfamiliar venue here in Tulsa and were gone until midnight or so.

We took advantage of this free time to go out with her sister and her husband and enjoy ourselves as adults.  It’s always fun to talk with adults.

I took the day off yesterday to take Evan up to visit the University of Tulsa – a school that he is firmly uninterested in but which is just up the road and deserves a trip since it’s so easy to do.  Surprisingly, there were a number of kids up there for tours that had flown in from out of state.  Flown!

I had never heard of the school until I went to the University of Arkansas and the Razorbacks pounded the TU Hurricane every fall.  Even then I never knew what it was:  was it a private school, was it a community college?  I never knew nor cared.  Now that I live here I know it to be an expensive private school on the small side.  But after visiting there, I find that it has a lot to interest me.  Unfortunately, I’m not the one that needs to be interested; I’m not the one who is off to college soon.  And, as noted earlier, Evan is not interested.  I think he just wants to live further from home than that.  Plus he wants to go to a bigger school for reasons of his own.

We visited a chemistry class and I thought the professor did a good job.  The class was pretty small too which I know from long experience to be a good thing.  But, as I say, he was unimpressed.

No matter.  I’ve pretty much pushed him in a certain direction (major in one of the sciences, plan on pursuing some  medical profession for job security) and I don’t want to also decree where he goes to pursue that.  He could very well get to school and totally change his direction once he knows what he’s interested in and that’s OK too.  But I have to pay for a lot of it and TU, although really expensive, is known to come up with some impressive financial aid to its students.

Why does it all have to be so complicated?

It was a nice day off though.  Plus they fed us lunch.

Well, it’s finally done.  Evan passed his board of review Thursday night which is the last thing; he is now an Eagle Scout.

This last phase has certainly taken a long time but now it’s done.

His appointment was for 8:15 on Thursday night (right in the middle of Erin’s party) so I took him up there leaving Mel to the houseful of squeeling 14 year olds.  I think I got the best end of that deal.  Evan was a little on edge but we had gone over all the potential questions and rehearsed answers many times so he was a ready as he could have been.  For my part, I was at least as nervous – possibly  more.  I have been in situations like this many times; the most extreme (and similar) was when I was defending my dissertation and so I knew exactly what he was going through.  I sat there in the waiting area exactly like I did when Melissa was in surgery and feeling much the same way.

They took him in there and it seemed like they were in there forever.  It was in fact about an hour.  The place was full when we got there since there were other Eagle boards and also a few boys in there getting approval for their projects but as time went on, they all went home until it was just me.  Evan’s first scoutmaster (who is now the Eagle adviser)  showed up for moral support which I appreciated.

Finally, he came out.  The board talked about him in private for a few minutes and then invited us all back in to hear the verdict:  PASS!  They told me that he did well; particularly in that he interacted with the adults very well.  Apparently he spoke clearly, threw in a bit of humor when appropriate, explained things well and gave mature answers.  In short, everything a parent might have hoped for.  And yet, I was a bit surprised.  One never knows how one’s parenting has taken root until it comes to a test like this.  I was very happy with it all and Mel was too after we got home.

All he asked was that we stop at Sonic and get a shake.  And he played his screamo-metal music at high volume to celebrate.

Now we just have to wait for the certificate to come in as well as have a ceremony – a court of honor as it is called.  But that’s just a formality; it’s over now.

So, the hectic week began it’s final hurrah with Erin’s birthday party.  Due to the looming church mission trip and Evan’s OU visit, it had to fall on Thursday – right on top of Evan’s Eagle board of review.  C’est lavie I guess.  But it was quite a party.

She had just received  an iPod for her birthday and I guess she was wanting some iTunes gift cards so she invited about 20 kids.  I’m assuming she was hoping for cash but I could be wrong.  In any event, everybody came and it was a blast – for the attendees that is.  As parents, it was just tiring.  My job was to grill the burgers.  I hate it that you can never tell how much propane is left in the gas grill.  That’s really a huge oversight in the gas grill industry.  Yes, it ran out during the cooking but I got lucky – the second batch has just finished up.  All I had to worry about was the nice fresh grease that had gunked up the whole interior that wasn’t going to get burned off but I don’t worry much about such things.

She had a good time as did everyone else.  I set up a webcam on the top of the bookshelf and let it run in time-lapse mode; taking one photo every five seconds.  In the end, it produced a movie of about three minutes showing the wide view of the parties various activities.  The webcam was discovered at one point since there are several frames with faces right up in the camera showing crossed eyes and wagging tongues.

She didn’t actually rake in any iTunes gift cards which is ironic.  There were several gift cards – just from other places.  She did receive a good bit of cash however so she’s set as far as iTunes is concerned.

A good time was had by all.

The time has come:  pick a university for Evan to attend.  To this end, I took the day off Friday and we all drove to Norman, OK to visit the campus of the University of Oklahoma.  It’s been in and out of my consciousness for many years since my brother was dean of the law school for a time, the Razorbacks beat them in the Orange Bowl back the the Lou Holtz years, and other things.  I never dreamed that I might have son who would go there but in retrospect it isn’t so unexpected.

I don’t know if it was the weather or some other intangible thing but he came away very impressed with the campus.  I hadn’t been there in so long that I couldn’t remember anything at all about it and so was impressed by the castle-like architecture of many of the buildings.  Perhaps he was impressed by the announcement that the entire campus was covered in WiFi internet.  Who knows?

After having spent so many years in school myself one might expect me to have a strong opinion about which campus one should attend but the opposite is true; I believe that it doesn’t really matter what university one attends.  Pick the cheapest or the one that is easiest for you to get to.  So OU is fine with me.  Certainly it is cheaper than many.  More expensive than some too; the local Tulsa Community College has just announced free tuition for any high school student with sufficient grade point for the first two years of education.  Now that’s a deal that anyone should take note of.

We toured for several hours as part of an organized tour put on by the visitors center and led (apparently) by work-study students.  Then we drove up to Bricktown and wandered around a bit and had dinner.  We also rode the water taxis for the first time.  The last time I was there, the canals were a mere ditch and an eyesore to be ashamed of.  Now the place is hopping with restaurants, shops, and a minor league ballpark.  Not to mention the huge convention center (which is mostly a concert venue).

We left Erin home for this one since she had a birthday party to get to in the afternoon and we didn’t want to have to hurry ourselves.  This is  yet another reason that having teenagers is handy; they can care for themselves for short periods of time.

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