Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Very Happy Sight

Well, here I am again.  It’s been quite awhile.  So, if there is anyone in the universe still checking this blog…surprise!

We are still at West Point, but in a new neighborhood.  From the standpoint of kid culture, it may even be better than the last one.  Tough to believe, but there it is.

So, what got me off my proverbial ass and back into writing mode today?   A stunningly happy sight this morning.  At this moment, as I look out my window, I see a swirling snowstorm, to include 40+mph wind gusts, and periods of near-zero visibility.   The temperature is right about 20 degrees F.   It looked the same about two hours ago when, as I was standing in my kitchen, I heard a knock at the front door.  Really?  I opened it to find our intrepid neighbor, Jack, eight years old, wrapped up in snow-gear: “Can Carson come out to play?”  I can’t explain how amazing that was…  Tears nearly came to my eyes.  Needless to say, both Carson and Sydney jumped into their super-snow-gear, and headed out the door.  They announced that they were going to go see who else could play.  About a half hour later, I saw a group of at least 4 boys playing outside, and making a fuss loud enough to hear over the wind (Sydney had gone to a friend’s house).  Carson has since checked in, covered with snow, and reported that they were “going in Greyson’s house.”  Roger that, kiddo, have fun!

Do we live in the coolest neighborhood ever, or what?

Go love your kids!



Is this a dream?

So we’ve arrived at our new place.  In a word – unbelievable.

We’ve had the keys to our new house for less than a week, and I’m already having bad dreams about having to move away from here.  “Here” is a neighborhood aboard West Point, NY. It is a quiet, quarter-mile loop, with a playground in the center.  Just seconds ago, I loaded up one of our neighborhood five-year-olds with a handful of popsicles, so he could deliver them to a group of kids now playing somewhere in the woods, or on the sloping rock formation in our backyard, or in someone else’s yard.  I don’t really  know where they are at this moment, but my two kids (6 and 5) are among them…and they don’t have any grown-ups with them. The popsicles will find their way, I’m sure.  Just as the kids will find their way home.   As I write these words, in fact, the gang just piled through my sliding glass door; six total, all sucking on popsicles.  Ages four-and-a-half to eight; three sets of brothers and sisters.  I haven’t seen any of their parents since yesterday, and don’t plan on seeing them today.  Just the kids.  They are simply Free-ranging, as if we’ve somehow been beamed back to the 70’s.  They’re moving through the neighborhood (and my kitchen) like a pack of happy wolves, and it’s truly inspiring.  In the last 24 hours, I have dispensed grapes, apples, oranges, crackers, juice boxes, yogurt, bananas, mango, granola bars, and some stuff I’m forgetting.  I’ve also applied neosporine and band aids to several kids who are not my own.  No big deals, no freak-shows. It’s simply amazing.    There is another pack of slightly older boys, 10-12 year-olds, who seemingly occupy the top of the neighborhood food chain.  They are the “big kids”, and they are the only ones who can perform backwards flips off the swings, and land on their feet.  I don’t see their parents much either.  My 6-year-old has tried the flip, but he keeps landing on something other than his feet.

My children have never seemed happier than they are right now; I’m not kidding.  In the space of a week, they have been transported from a land of deserted neighborhoods and hit-and-miss play dates, to a land of autonomous adventure, parent-free games, and kids awake after dark chasing fireflies (also with no parents).   I’ll freely admit that I’ve shed a few tears of joy over the entire thing. We have arrived.

Time warp forward an hour – I just wrapped up a hot dog and watermelon buffet for six, and the pack is off again.  🙂  This is just amazing.

So, the implications are HUGE here.  My wife has a one-year contract as a professor at West Point…how can we extend?  How can we stay here?  There must be a way.   Our initial plan was to return to Michigan after a year.  That was before we discovered this.   The thought of returning to empty neighborhoods makes me shudder.  I’ll try to post regularly with updates.

Go love your kids!




Kids in the ‘hood…or probably not

To camp we go; also to dance, to travel teams, to the park, to anywhere but our own neighborhoods, it seems.   I recently rode my bike around our neighborhood on a gorgeous Summer day, and I couldn’t help but conjure up the idea of a ghost town.  No kids, no bikes, no ball-games, no sounds.  Nothing. It literally looked like an abandoned movie set, albeit with gorgeous landscaping.  In my mind, there is something tragically wrong with this picture.  My kids see it too.  Shocker, I know.

As I write this, my family is five days away from a household move to New York.  We already have a house waiting, that we’ve never seen, in a neighborhood we’ve never visited.  Typical military housing scenario, for those who aren’t in the know.  Anyway, I was lying in bed last night, at zero-dark-thirty, trying to imagine that it will be different there; better there.  Perhaps the “security” of a military base will have some sway on the plague of child-safety paranoia that we’re up against.  Maybe a military-patrolled neighborhood will qualify as safe enough to let kids play outside unsupervised.  Then, it struck me; that’s just a small part of the problem.  The real issue is that kids’ lives have been completely uprooted from the  idea of the neighborhood, and transplanted into camps, gyms, parks, and long rides to the “game”, wherever it happens to be.  So, even if we have armed guards at every corner, parents will continue to drive by, give a friendly wave, and proceed to the nearest weekend-killing event to sip coffee on the sidelines, and gossip about which “activities” they’re signing their children up for next year.  Neighborhoods, I fear, may be dead, folks.  I know, this is not surprising to anyone who would be reading this blog, and it has been written a few thousand times already, but it just seemed particularly disturbing at 0330 this morning.

So, how do we fix this?  Wow, tough one.  I do know that it’s certainly not going to fix itself.  Once I am back “among my people” on base (or, on “post” now, since it’s an Army thing), I will take stock of what’s going on there, and see if I can muster some ideas, confidence, and momentum.  As  Stephen Mallory might say,  we’re facing a big, drooling beast here.  (A little Fountainhead for ya… 🙂

Go love your kids!

A few reasons why we’re exceptional

Yes, we’re exceptional

OK, folks, take a look at the above-linked article, and try to imagine just how we could have landed so far off the curves by chance.  My psychologist/researcher/statistician wife would likely have “thrown us out” as an outlier, had this been her research.  This information represents the kind of belief system that I am intent on passing to my kids.  It seems like I have not been alone, at least for the last couple of  hundred years.  Perhaps I am wrong (I don’t think I am), but this entire U.S. phenomenon has seemingly been under attack for quite some time, from the inside as well as the outside.  This is quite distressing.

For my part, I will be passing our “exceptionalism” along the blood line, and happily so.

Go love your kids!

Interesting dilemma today

Greetings, Reader(s)!

Wow, it’s been awhile since I wrote anything substantive.  I suppose I could use the excuse that I recently had surgery, that I’m still recovering, that I’m getting ready for a household move, juggling  some items at home, etc.  However, I will, instead, just take the hit for being inattentive, and not writing as much as I should have.

So, today’s dilemma.  The kids have learned/memorized their first viable paper airplane design, and are (as of yesterday) producing a paper air force of pretty capable gliders.  This morning, Carson came to me and asked if we could customize the planes to represent real air forces from WWII.  Disclaimer:  Yes, for the U.S. it would have actually been the ARMY.   For my army friends…:)   He wanted to have actual insignia from all the prominent belligerents, i.e. he wanted an American plane, British, Canadian, German, Japanese, etc.   So, to be realistic, we accessed photos of genuine aircraft from the conflict to be sure we were doing it right.  That’s when I really took note of the swastikas on the tails of the Me-109s.  Hmmm.

I knew that they would be throwing the planes outside, in plain sight, and possibly with friends.  Do I put the swastikas on there?  Obviously, they were not mandatory, as the large black crosses on the fuselage were sufficient to ID the planes  (to anyone who knew the difference, which is not many people, I’m sure) as Luftwaffe.  However, I started thinking…  Why the hell not?  They are part of the historical reality of the aircraft, are they not?   Plus, Carson had seen them, and knew that they were part of the paint scheme.   Do I exclude them and try to explain why?  Do I make something up?  Do I cave to the “that’s not really a nice symbol, and here’s why” path?  Or, do I start the process of educating him in the ways of historical reality, and continue to teach him not to be afraid or intimidated by things that, a.)  he had nothing to do with, and, b.) couldn’t change if he wanted to.   I chose the latter.

Lo and effing behold, about three hours ago, the kids were flying their air force out in the front yard, and one of our wonderful, dear-friend neighbors happened to drop by after a run.  He is truly a great guy.  Before I even knew that anyone had arrived (I was inside doing dishes or something), Sydney came in and said, “(neighbor) is out in the driveway!”  By the time I walked out there, he had received a complete briefing from Carson on the airplanes,  that represented about 10 countries at that point.  I have no doubt that neighbor saw the swastikas.  Oh well, that’s the price of doing business.  I suppose I could have said, in the interest of social niceties alone, “so, what do you think of the swastikas?”, but I chose to simply go with the flow and saying nothing.  The right decision, I’m convinced.

Of course, this little item represents a much larger issue in American culture and, specifically, the question of how parents will choose to address tough and controversial issues with their kids.  I choose, and will continue to choose, the path that includes full, complete, apolitical explanations of what happened, and what people thought about it, in the genuine context of history.   Of course, there remains that little nagging thought that, at some point, about some ‘thing’, I will be labeled the “the parent who thought it was OK for his kids to draw swastikas on their paper airplanes”….or the equivalent, about whatever inappropriate thing it turns out to be.

I guess I’ll take that chance.  Plus, how many grown-ups can actually tell me where the cannons were placed on the Me-109?  My six-year-old son Carson can.  He also knows what an aileron roll is.  🙂


This came across my screen

Free Range article

This is a relatively short and sweet entry, designed only to link you to the above article…and the incredibly insightful comments that someone wrote at the bottom! 🙂

At least people are writing about Free Range stuff.  As P. T. Barnum said,  “the only bad publicity is an obituary.”   Keep writing, folks, keep writing!

Go love your kids!


What do I tell the kids?

So, how does one begin to tackle the political and cultural implications of the recent announcement that Harriet Tubman may, at some point, appear on the $20 bill?   Unfortunately, it seems that this particular issue has departed (if it ever resided in) the land of reason, and has landed, with great fanfare, behind the walls of an ever-growing fortress of political correctness and sanctioned victim-hood.  Sorry, folks, someone has to say it, and it’s not going to be the media, or public schools.  This is going to have to come from parents, and nowhere else.  I, if you haven’t noticed, am one of those parents.  🙂

As I continue to read through the avalanche of responses in the mainstream media, I am deeply disappointed that nobody (whom I have found, anyway) seems to be talking about this issue as something to be discussed or evaluated any further.  It is simply nothing less than a universal victory for mankind, and a righteous blow to a false narrative of American greatness. There are lots of references to slavery, slave-owning, reparations, persecution of American Indians  (I reference the official name of our national museum, by the way) and “enhanced” stories about Tubman’s exploits, which were already gallant and righteous, by the way, without any embellishment. The NYT actually had to correct its original claim, that she personally guided “thousands” of fleeing slaves to freedom, to “hundreds”,  which is still untrue.  The real, non-legend figure is closer to 60-70.  Still damn impressive.

From everything else I’ve read about her, I would certainly want her in a fight, as would many of my warrior brethren, I suspect.  However, I  noticed a near complete dearth of mention, in the “news”, that she traveled armed.  Apparently, there are many images of her carrying  weapons, and several folks have already floated the idea that she should appear on the bill with a weapon.  What a great idea!  Think it will happen?  No chance in hell, of course.  You’re talking about a bureaucracy that would just assume air-brush FDR’s cigarettes out of photographic history.   Read a bit about the weapon angle at the below link.

Tubman – Gun toting Republican

In the “news”, I also noted references to the opinions of pivotal figures in U.S. history such as Ellen Degeneres and Katie Couric.  I did not, however, see a single iota of significant information about Jackson, his accomplishments, his presidency, his life, or any opposing/diverse opinions about his move to the other side of the bill or, for that matter, why he landed on the bill in the first place. Certainly nobody mentioned that he ranked #66 in Time Magazine’s 2013 report “The 100 Most Significant Figures in History.”  Right in front of Constantine the Great, and two above Socrates.  Saint Peter beat him out by one, at #65.  Meanwhile, every single person who now appears on U.S. paper currency also made the list.  Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson were in the top ten (5, 6, 10). Grant, Franklin, and Hamilton were 28, 35, and 45 respectively.   Who topped the list?  Jesus, Napoleon, Muhammad, Shakespeare. Keep in mind, this is the history of the WORLD.   Harriet didn’t quite break the top 100.  If you see any coverage about this, please send me the link.

Check out the list here

According to U.S. media, Jackson is simply a guy who owned slaves, and killed a bunch of Indians. That’s all we need to know.  He was a bad man (and, ultimately, the easiest target for activists to kick off paper money).   Supporters seem to see this as a strike at the heart of the hateful, racist history of the U.S. that has been, for all-too-long, advanced by those wrong-headed, straight, white, male neanderthals who still have the gall to think that a bunch of “dead white guys” could, perhaps, have had a lot to do with creating the most prosperous, courageous, liberty-loving nation in the history of the human race.  Of course, that’s preposterous!

Then again, if anyone thinks that this has anything remotely to do with a serious measure of U.S. history, he is sorely mistaken. If there were an exact opposite of that ideal, it would look a lot like what’s going on right now. Any person or organization who raises his head in this particular battle-space will, no doubt, quickly draw withering fire from race, gender, and culture warriors who have already calibrated their sites.  That’s exactly what all those small-minded, hateful, sexist, racists deserve, right?   Also, the fact that the announcement was made during the run-up to a presidential election is not lost on astute observers.  The pressure, of course, has now been placed squarely on any future (read that Republican) “elected officials” who may want to tamper with the big plan (the $5 and $10, and all to follow).  The Secretary of the Treasury has already opined that, “I don’t think somebody’s going to probably want to do that — to take the image of Harriet Tubman off of our money? To take the image of the suffragists off?”  Well, none of it is actually ON any money yet, and it’s a long way from being there.  Let’s see how long it takes (maybe it’s already happened) for someone to ask Ted Cruz to “commit to not changing the currency plan.”  You mean the plan that doesn’t really exist yet, from an office that he doesn’t even hold?   See how this works?  If ever there were a good example of where Buckley may have chosen to stand athwart history, this may be a good spot.  Among many, of course.

So, what will I be telling my kids about all this?  Am I against putting a woman on U.S. paper currency?  Nope.  Do I think that Harriet Tubman was a great and courageous woman?  Yup.  Do I think that she deserves to be on U.S. currency?  Nope.  Well, at least not in front of about 10 others I can list off the top of my head.  Do I think that Andrew Jackson should still be respected as a significant figure in U.S. and world history?  Yup.  Do I think that slavery is an unforgivable sin that deserves to permeate the rest of American history? Nope.

I will also be telling them that this is a bad process, hijacked by people who have no interest beyond the arena of identity politics and racial/gender/minority “justice”, whatever that means.  Their vision expands only as far as their anger at the U.S. can allow them to see, to include all of their perceived injustices at her hands, and very little, if any, of her greatness.  It’s a shame that they have to be so angry, while living in a nation-state that may very well represent, in and of itself, the very apex of human achievement in all of history.  The fact that we exist as we do, as a society, is nothing short of miraculous, and they simply don’t want to hear it, never mind shut up and live it.

I will also teach them that, as educated, critical-thinking Americans, they should never feel like they cannot ask reasonable questions, or engage in genuine fact-driven dialog with (allegedly) level-headed people, about controversial things, without fear of retribution simply for making the attempt.  If they are afraid to speak, then they should know that something is very wrong.  When it comes to societal affairs, if you find yourself afraid to speak, then you absolutely need to be speaking (in other words, they are going to be the most politically incorrect kids in town).  Thank goodness we home school. The public schools, I am certain, simply will not even attempt to teach children to value (or practice…or maybe even recognize) the great traditions of academic and intellectual debate that should always accompany “big ideas” like the ones proposed above.  Never mind teaching the greatness of America.  Never mind the tenets of physical and moral courage (like Tubman had!). Never mind self-reliance, independence, and mental toughness. Never mind speaking an unpopular truth to those who would not hear it. They’re going to have to get all of that at home, and through their extended families, and that’s just fine with me.  Bring it!

Go love your kids!





Who would say such a thing?

“We cannot control every situation that a child may experience. Here it remains true that “time is greater than space”. In other words, it is more important to start processes than to dominate spaces. If parents are obsessed with always knowing where their children are and controlling all their movements, they will seek only to dominate space. But this is no way to educate, strengthen and prepare their children to face challenges. What is most important is the ability lovingly to help them grow in freedom, maturity, overall discipline and real autonomy. Only in this way will children come to possess the wherewithal needed to fend for themselves and to act intelligently and prudently whenever they meet with difficulties. The real question, then, is not where our children are physically, or whom they are with at any given time, but rather where they are existentially, where they stand in terms of their convictions, goals, desires and dreams. The questions I would put to parents are these: “Do we seek to understand ‘where’ our children really are in their journey? Where is their soul, do we really know? And above all, do we want to know?”

OK, I’ll admit that it’s quite convenient when someone else does your writing for you.  The above statement is pulled directly from the Pope’s recently released Apostolic Exhortation, “On Love in the Family.”   (April 8)   The passage appears on page 198-9.  The emphasis is mine.

Read it all here…it’s long

I’m guessing this means we can now officially count Pope Francis among those in the Free Range community. Welcome aboard, Your Holiness!  🙂

Busy bodies strike again

Woman Cited for making kids walk to school

The above-linked story tells of yet another busy body who picked up the phone and caused mayhem, where there should not have been any.  As I write this, I have a call in to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, requesting a phone interview with Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Ladd, the officer featured in the story.  Let’s see if he answers up.  In the meantime, let me pen a few thoughts here that I will try to bring up with Ladd.  First item, who was the reporting source, and what did they report?  Was this a 911 call?   Was this treated as an emergency?  Second item,  was it illegal for the kids to be walking where they were walking?  If not, then what was the basis for the subsequent traffic stop of the mom, and the finding that, “Mrs. Palmer was in no position to reach her children safely in the event of an emergency.”  Yeah, so what?  Is there a law that requires a parent to be in such a position at all times?  Third item, if the kids were, in fact, walking legally, and no parent had been there at all, would legal action have been initiated in some way against the children themselves?   What if they just reported that they were walking to school?  Would all of this have simply gone away?  In essence, did the mom’s presence, in and of itself, provide law enforcement the opportunity to intervene when there was no justifiable reason to do so?   With nothing else to go on, I’m guessing yes.  You’re here for us to cite; we may as well cite you.   Now, here comes dad, starring in the next chapter of a story that never should have started in the first place. Funny how dominoes fall like that.  It’s bad enough what did happen, but now let’s imagine that, God forbid, the officer thought that the dad was going for something other than a knife, and emptied a clip into him.  Oops.  All this, for what again?

Now, let’s talk about the parents a bit.  OK, so maybe they’re not the Cleavers, but that should not matter in this case.  I’m imagining that the busy-body, nosy-neighbor population wants to make the argument that “This all probably worked out for the best.  We can tell that they were rotten parents, and had been in trouble with the law before.  Maybe the kids will be better off for it.”  That’s dangerous talk, if you respect the rule of law that is.  And, in this case, it would seem that the police are not on solid legal ground.  In an otherwise danger-free situation, “something could have happened” is not sufficient cause to mentally insert danger where there is none, and then take action based on it.  I’m sorry, but “something could have happened” is the root of this entire child-safety social contagion in the first place.  We cannot justify and/or sanctify applying this ridiculous standard to innocuous situations such as this, even if we suspect that the parental “skills” in the game are perhaps sub-par.  Maybe there is even a “local angle” on this story, and on the parents.  It’s likely that there is.  However, we’re talking about the rights of all parents here, and the perceived quality of care-giving should not matter in those cases where the real, evident, demonstrable danger to the children is nearly zero.  Are there shitty parents out there?  Sure are.  Maybe these guys are examples.  But as long as the police continue to prosecute parents based on moral righteousness (these parents suck!), not to mention imaginary danger, the rights of all parents are threatened.  The fact that the police could get away with doing what they did here should disturb all clear-thinking parents.

Let’s see if I can gain further insight by talking it out with the police who were there.  I’ll keep you posted.

A camera! Quick, call the police!

scared kid

Kids freak over apparent photographer

Evidently, someone simply taking photographs is enough to launch the local police into DEFCON 2.  I guess if I really wanted to send a town into a tizzy, I just have to aim a camera in the direction of a couple of kids.  Thank goodness these kids had been properly indoctrinated into the freak-out-first protocol, and were able to do their part to spin up the fear and paranoia.  If they hadn’t, this dangerous photographic predator may have gotten away with this heinous crime.   Instead, the town is on high alert.  Phew!

My fingers just hovered over the keyboard for a full minute or so, because I was having a tough time coming up with a way to describe just how ridiculous this is.  So, let’s just say that the police, having been alerted of this photo-taking monster, then see someone roughly fitting the description shoot a photograph from his car. Do you think, for a second, that they would do any thinking, engage in any analysis, or ask themselves any important questions before pulling that car over?  Not likely.  What if the camera was aimed at a kid-free stretch of the woods?  Doesn’t matter. Under freak-out-first procedures, they pull that car over.  You know what’s going through their heads?  I’ll tell you: we have a potential pedophile dead to rights…red handed…we got him!  It won’t matter if the camera is aimed at that impressive old oak tree, or the park, or the anything.   So, with their adrenaline pumping, they make the stop.

This situation is not good.  First of all, the person in the car has (as far as we know) done nothing wrong, and broken no laws.  Even if he WAS photographing kids (perfectly legal!).  Second of all, the mind-set of the officers has already advanced beyond the “normal traffic stop.”  Now, add the complicating factor that the person in the car is well aware of his constitutional rights, and has no trouble exercising them.  “Can you look at my camera?  No, officer, you may not.”   Hah! He must be guilty…the pedophile scumbag.   This is a challenging spot for all parties, and is ripe for potentially dangerous escalation.  The officer is convinced he’s cornered a pedophile, and now he’s refusing to cooperate.  In layman’s terms, “refusal to cooperate” means that “he refuses to voluntarily suspend his constitutional rights, even after he’s asked to do so.”  Does anyone in the world think that this informed (and likely utterly innocent) citizen is going to drive away from this stop without any trouble?  No way.   There’s only one way that’s going to happen:  “cooperate”, turn over his camera, allow the police to search his car and property, answer all their questions, apologize profusely, and just go along with whatever the police want him to do.   All of this over, what?   We’ve seen this scenario before.

The big problem I have, and everyone should have, with this scenario is the fact that people quickly lose sight (if they ever had it) of the actual facts in evidence, and go straight for the sensational pedophile angle.  This is being drilled into an increasingly terrified kid population without space for any mature, measured, reasoned analysis whatsoever.  The “better safe than sorry” crowd has hijacked the collective psyche of American parents (and kids!) to the point of trading almost all common sense for a monolithic, unassailable fear of the worst.  Could the guy in this car have actually been a pedophile?  Sure.  Likely?  Not by a long shot.  It is far more likely that the kid who made the report will be killed in a car accident while his mom drives him to home to keep him “safe.”

In a dark corner of my psyche, I harbor some level of fear that a police-citizen encounter, hypothetically described above, will, at some point, actually end in a violent, and perhaps deadly encounter. Call me paranoid…whatever.