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Monday, May 31, 2004


Touched by An Angel in Idaho

Spokane newspaper columnist D.F. Oliveria writes in his weekly column:

Dunno what you think about guardian angels and miracles. But Shawn and Stacey Vogel made a good case for both last Monday on PAX-TV. I was channel surfing when I heard the Vogels' hometown mentioned: "Rathdrum, Idaho."

Interested, I learned of their young son Joey's miraculous survival from a 25-foot fall onto concrete. The Vogels re-created the scene for “It's A Miracle” and narrator Roma "Touched by an Angel" Downey. Seems Joey fell through an upstairs window while playing with brother, Tommy. The parents rushed the semiconscious child to Kootenai Medical Center, expecting the worst, only to have the ER doc pronounce the child fit.

Then came the shocker. Joey told his parents his grandfather had caught him and said, "You're welcome." That's Grandpa Tommy, as in Shawn's father who'd died years before Joey was born. (Cue old “Twilight Zone” theme)

Bottom line? Whoever made the catch earns a gold glove – and his wings.

Sunday, May 30, 2004


My Daddy's in Iraq

For some, the challenge of family life is made even more difficult when the father is in harm's way.


The Butchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens, in Victoria, B.C., celebrates it's 100th anniversary this summer.

The 55-acre gardens offer spectacular views, meandering paths, and expansive lawns.

Saturday, May 29, 2004


Eagle Canyon Opens at Oregon Zoo

Portland's Oregon Zoo has just opened their newest permanent exhibit, Eagle Canyon. The 20,800-square-foot, $2.4 million exhibit is the world's first zoo exhibit featuring free-flying bald eagles, living with salmon, trout and sturgeon. Visitors walk behind a waterfall to see salmon and observe bald eagles in an open environment with no nets or barriers between viewers and the big birds.

Friday, May 28, 2004


Summer Driving Trips

Despite gas prices above $2 per gallon, the American Automobile Association expects a record number of travelers on the road.

Westerners top the list. According to AAA's national surveys, about 7.4 million of us will take a driving vacation over the Memorial Day weekend. The average family of four – two adults and two kids – will spend about $125 a night on lodging and $110 a day on meals during a vacation. Fuel costs remain a relatively small part of overall vacation budgets.

Driving to Seattle from Spokane, a 279-mile trip, in a 2004 Honda Accord requires 9.3 gallons of fuel, and costs approximately $21, according to AAA's fuel cost calculator. Spokane was recently added to the list of cities included in the calculator, which estimates fuel cost by distance, vehicle, year and model.

The calculator is available here.

Thursday, May 27, 2004


Northwest's Largest Theme Park

The Northwest's largest theme park is Silverwood in North Idaho.

It's been open the past few weekends, but opens daily for the summer starting May 31st. The Victorian-themed park has something for all ages. There are a couple of massive wooden roller coasters for the big kids and adults, as well as a log ride and a drenching "rafting the rapids" ride. But for the little ones, there is plenty to do. There are a dozen or so carnival-style rides, like the ferris wheel, airplanes, bumper boats, even a mini-roller coaster (see photo above). Not to mention a classic carousel. My favorite ride is the steam train which circles the entire park, venturing into the woods during a 20-minute trip. Guess I'm getting old.

Silverwood also has a water park, called Boulder Beach, which is only a year old. There's no separate admission. You get both parks for the price of one. Boulder Beach opens for the summer on June 12th.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004


Kid-Food Makers Go Leaner

Some of the biggest U.S. food and restaurant companies are changing the way they make kids' favorite foods as they face increased scrutiny in light of a nationwide childhood obesity epidemic.


Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame

The world’s first museum devoted to the genre of science fiction is set to open June 18th in Seattle.

Monday, May 24, 2004


New Seattle Library Opens

Did you know that Seattle residents check out more books per capita than people in any other US city?

Check out Seattle's new 11-story library, designed by Rem Koolhaas, the renowned Dutch architect.


Montana Boy Cranks Out Neighborhood Newspaper

Cute story from Missoula, Montana.

Extra, extra! Miller Creek kid cranks out neighborhood newspaper
By Vince Devlin, the Missoulian

"Squirrel Attack" screamed one headline.

"New Driveways" said another.

And with that, the Miller Creek Journal was born back in November of 2002.

Since then, the newspaper has grown in ways that other publishers wouldn't dare dream. Its circulation area now rivals the New York Times' (from Alaska to New Zealand), and its circulation has multiplied 26 times in its 18-month history.

Meet the editor, publisher, reporter, sports writer, typesetter, circulation manager, delivery boy, chief ad salesman - and, as luck would have it, the chief advertiser - at the MCJ:

It's Nels E. Tate.

He's 10 years old.

"One morning I was doing my project, studying parts of the newspaper," says Tate, who is home-schooled. "My mom decided to make me do one article, but I looked ahead and saw you were supposed to make a whole newspaper."

Janice Tate didn't intend for her then-9-year-old son to take the project that far, but next thing she knew, he'd hand-written a two-page newspaper he called the Miller Creek Journal.

"He beat me to the instructions," Janice says. "What a good reminder not to limit him."

The first edition featured hard news ("Three new driveways came in, in one day. All driveways were made by JTL group inc.") and a headline worthy of the National Enquirer ("Squirrel Attack" reported that "Squirrels have been spotted in the trees recently. Many different sizes of them in many different places over the neighborhood.").

Page 2 contained a weather report and the sports section, about badminton rules.

The pastor at the Tate's church, Jeff Valentine, was the first to ask if he could subscribe to the Miller Creek Journal.

"He asked me how much," Nels says, "so I said $6 a year, and he said, 'Here you go.' "

Neighbors, friends and relatives joined in, and MCJ has come out once a month since, growing from two hand-written pages to six.

Circulation has climbed to an all-time high of 26 with the addition of a Ronan subscriber this week. And what do readers get for their $6?

Interviews with long-time Miller Creek residents such as Craighead, Bill Harlan and Dean Hoffman.

Up-to-the-minute weather forecasts (Nels used to copy the information out of the Missoulian, but now contacts the National Weather Service himself shortly before his deadline).

Comics (his pal, Chief Charlo student Lincoln Palmer, is the cartoonist).

Sports (often an update of Nels' soccer and baseball activities, although in the November, 2003 issue, he interviewed University of Montana quarterback Craig Ochs).

Nature news (the second issue of MCJ reported that many birds fly south, but few elk have gone that direction).

Letters to the editor (after the family ran into Gov. Judy Martz at a Missoula restaurant and Nels' little brother, Jeremy, asked her a question, Martz wrote a letter to the editor that included these sentences: "Please tell your brother that even though I am a great supporter of President Bush, I am not married to him. My husband's name is Harry").

And classified ads, where Nels himself is the advertiser peddling everything from polished rocks, pine cones, picture framing, a bicycle (he lists the price as $30, then notes he will go as low as $25), and homemade applesauce ("must sell!").

Nels' father, Ross, has a copying machine in their upper Miller Creek home, so the boy didn't have to invest in a "press."

But he buys the paper to print the Miller Creek Journal, purchases the stamps and envelopes to mail it to his out-of-town subscribers, and he pays his friend who draws the cartoons.

And the young writer can already turn a phrase. In a sports article on the swimming lessons he was taking, Nels wrote, "Instead of dreading water I am treading water."

"It's turning into a big business," Janice says of the one-article assignment that turned into a newspaper. "It's helped him learn the responsibility of a job. And what I like is the creativity involved in doing it."

Nels isn't sure if he wants to go into journalism some day - "It's an idea," he allows - but he does plan to keep on publishing, possibly through his high school years.

That's good news for a skyrocketing subscriber base that has come to count on the Miller Creek Journal for news readers can't find anywhere else.

Sunday, May 23, 2004


An Ogre For The Ages

Why doesn't Hollywood make more family films?

Shrek 2, one of the best reviewed films in a long time, is doing huge box office business. So why won't the studios make more of these types of movies? You know, the kind you can take the whole family to -- Grandma, Mom and Dad, the kids -- and everyone has a good time.

Four of the top ten grossing movies of 2003 can be considered "family films" (Finding Nemo, Pirates of the Caribbean, Elf, and Cheaper By The Dozen). That's four out of about ten family-friendly movies that were released last year. All but two of those movies landed on the top 50 list of box office money makers.

Let's hope that the studios get the message with the success of Shrek 2 and last year's Finding Nemo... More family films!

Friday, May 21, 2004


The TV Dilemma

Interesting article from The Oregonian newspaper:

One Portland family realizes the downside to watching the tube and manages it accordingly
by Linda Baker, The Oregonian

When it comes to television and their kids, Hilary and David Nally aren't purists. Ten-year-old Brenna and 7-year-old Kieran watch several hours of TV a week, including a Friday night video and occasional after-school viewing of Liberty's Kids on Oregon Public Broadcasting. When the children were younger, Hilary says, "I'll admit, we used to watch a full hour of Sesame Street."

But if TV has never been a prohibition in the Nally household, neither has it been an integral part of the Portland family's life. The Nallys don't have cable, and their television is 20 years old, a present from Hilary's parents after she graduated from college. "We were in agreement that less is better," says Hilary Nally, referring to the couple's attitude toward television viewing.

"When the kids do watch TV, they are glazed over; you can tell there's no thought process," she says. "I can't imagine energetic little bodies not being energetic little bodies."

A growing body of research links television to rising obesity and rates of attention-deficit disorders among children. National TV Turnoff Week, which starts Monday, is designed to call attention to these issues.

The key to preventing TV-related health and social problems, says Kaiser pediatrician Dr. Phil Wu, is awareness. "I say, whatever you do with TV, be thoughtful and think about what the possible consequences may be."

Wu cites studies showing a lower metabolism when a person is watching television than when he or she is sitting doing nothing at all. There are other tie-ins between television and obesity, Wu says. Every hour that kids watch television is another hour they could be physically active. Kids also tend to snack more when they are watching television, an activity junk food commercials encourage.

The Nallys, who participated in National TV Turnoff Week last year, said several factors make it easy for them to keep television under the family radar. First, Brenna and Kieran have a close relationship; instead of complaining about being bored, the siblings like to play ongoing imaginary games together, often up to hours at a time. Second, neither Hilary nor David watches much television, enabling the couple to model a TV-free lifestyle.

"Kids are drawn into it because of their parents," David Nally says. "It's kind of hard to say, 'We're watching TV, but you do something creative.' "

The couple also have made a point of not having the television in the living room. "Sometimes out of sight means out of mind," Hilary Nally says.

The Nallys find other benefits to keeping the television off, says David, a teacher at Hosford Middle School. Brenna and Kieran don't want to buy things they would otherwise see in commercials, he says. "And the content now is so undesirable now for young kids."

So far, Brenna seems to have taken her parents' low-key approach to heart. "A little bit of TV is OK," she says. "A lot's not."


Lions, Tigers and Bears! Oh My!

If you are ever in the Spokane area, check out the unique Cat Tales Zoological Park near Mead, Washington.

Cat Tales is mainly a refuge for big cats of all kinds. It's also a Zookeeper Training Center. Students from throughout the United States and Canada receive hands on experience from the professional team of instructors at Cat Tales, and it is the only zoological training center of its kind in North America.

On our visit, we saw lions, tigers, white tigers, jaguars, cougars, leopards, bobcats, and a couple of grizzly bear cubs. Oh, and a LIGER (half lion, half tiger)!

The kids were thrilled to see so many big cats in one place. They also enjoyed the rabbits, goats and chickens in the petting zoo because they were just dying to TOUCH something. It's a fun couple of hours!

Thursday, May 20, 2004


Fast-Food Outlets Rationing Paper Napkins

Fierce competition for fast-food dollars has some restaurants taking an extraordinary measure to cut the bottom line — napkin rationing.

Paper napkins are being hidden behind counters, wrapped individually with plastic silverware and stuffed in dispensers that give customers one at a time.

"You should be able to grab as many as you want," said Tim Machak, a father with a sticky situation — 4 young children, 4 ice cream cones and 2 napkins.

Machak said he was insulted that he had to ask employees behind the counter at McDonalds for more napkins.

Rising food and paper prices have caused restaurateurs to look for ways to cut costs.

Georgia Pacific, Kimberly-Clark and SCA Tissue have all come up with a new dispenser. Georgia Pacific's EZ-Nap dispenser is expected to reduce napkin use by about 30 percent, said Jerry Hawkins, senior director of marketing.

I don't care how few napkins pop out of the new dispensers... I still need a minimum of ten napkins just to 1) Clean the table before we sit down, 2) Clean my kids' faces and hands while they eat, and 3) Wipe up the table as we are leaving.


Top Ten Family Films of 2003

From Michael Parker's blog... I'd agree with most of these.

1. Finding Nemo
2. Whale Rider
3. Holes
4. Pirates of the Caribbean
5. Elf
6. Peter Pan
8. School of Rock
9. X-Men 2
10. Big Brother

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


Family Rafting Vacations

Here's an excellent article on family rafting vacations in the Northwest.

It tells you just about everything you need to know to plan a rafting trip with your family.


Old Faithful Inn Celebrates 100th Anniversary

The Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary this summer.

It's an amazing place to visit. We've stayed there twice. Yellowstone has dozens of guided family activities, from cook-outs to horseback excursions to hayrides. The best thing to do in Yellowstone, though, is to simply hit the trails. We did this with a double stroller and found most of the geyser area boardwalks to be plenty wide.

The Old Faithful Inn has a very good casual restaurant (you must get reservations earlier in the day) and enough lounge chairs for everyone to sit and admire the interior architecture. Oh, and the rooms do not have televisions! So the family can concentrate on the park and each other.


NASCAR in the Northwest

The Seattle Times reports that NASCAR is looking at the Pacific Northwest. Washington State legislators are speaking with the International Speedway Corporation about building an 80,000-seat track, most likely between Portland and Seattle.

I'm not a big fan of the sport, but I know many who are. They make it a family event. Fun for kids of all ages. The recent Daytona 500 was the 8th most-watched sport on Seattle TV this past year.


What's in a Name?

The title of this new blog is a play on the wonderful book by Norman MacLean, A River Runs Through It, a story of fathers and sons and brothers set in rural Montana.

If you don't have the time to read the book, you can check out the movie version. It was directed by Robert Redford and stars Brad Pitt. Good film for the family, but not for kids much younger than 8 or 9.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


What's this all about?

This is a blog about family life and, in particular, family life in the great Pacific Northwest of the United States. I plan to discuss and highlight family issues, family activities, and family travel. Although there will be a general "American" tone to what I publish, I will seek out specifics about the Northwest USA -- which I define as Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska.

Speaking of definitions, my primary definition of "family" is a mom and a dad and a kid or two (or more). My own situation is just that -- mom, dad, two small children. I'm the dad. Whatever your "family," I hope you find something here to make you think, smile, laugh or go "hmmmm...."

My hope is to post here several times a week. We'll see how that goes.