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Monday, October 31, 2005

 

Happy Halloween!



With visions of candy corn dancing in his head, my son had a hard time getting to sleep tonight. He gets excited about all the big holidays, but Halloween is definitely his favorite (that's him above in 2001). This weekend we decked out the house with cobwebs, spiders, bones, skulls, and a sound-activated dancing ghost. Today we carved pumpkins and decided on costumes. Then, my son and I took off down the road to the historic mining town of Wallace, Idaho, to experience the Doom of Muldoon at the Sierra Silver Mine.



I love haunted houses, but there's nothing quite like a haunted mine. A dark, dank, claustrophobic place, made even creepier by ghostly decor and actors playing the roles of doomed miners. There were a couple of times when I jumped back and hit my head on the low ceiling (thank goodness for the safety helmets). My son loved it, and the sidetrip afterward to the local cemetery.

Monday we'll be at his school to watch the parade of costumes. That's always fun, until you see the same Scream Mask thirty-seven times. After school we'll probably head to the mall to make the rounds of the stores, and then back home to trick-or-treat in the neighborhood. Yes, we let our kids go door-to-door, with us watching them. And there's nothing wrong with parents accompanying their young kids on Halloween night, no matter what some child-less reporter might say.

I hope you all have a safe and spooky Halloween!


Saturday, October 29, 2005

 

Halloween's Not Just For Kids



Halloween is no longer considered a children's holiday, according to many national retailers. Young adults have turned it into a $3.3 billion industry. From the article: Off-the-shelf vinyl masks and tacky little pumpkin lights don't cut it with this crowd. Only Hollywood-style makeup and effects will do.

My wife thinks I spent too much on Halloween decorations this year. I shelled out about $50 for a couple of plastic skulls, a sound-activated ghost, and three giant white cobwebs. Wait until I tell her about the guy who spends $500 each year! Or the Starbucks manager who thinks he's dropped about $10,000 on Halloween supplies over the past few years.

I don't mind my kids getting a thrill out of ghosts and skeletons. It's fun to dress up, get scared, laugh a little bit, and remind ourselves that life shouldn't always be so serious. It's also important to teach our kids about the turning of the seasons, so we always mix in some harvest festivities with the spooky stuff.

Anyone who's not so sure about letting their kids celebrate Halloween, go and read the thoughts that Barbara wrote about this time of the year.


 

Biggie-Sized Whopper

I thought my daughter could tell a tall tale, but this 8-year-old girl in my son's class told him a real whopper of a story today. After school, he was so excited to relay all the gorey details:

"Daddy daddy, you know what? Nadia told me about this time when she was in the store with her parents and her grandma, and a burglar snuck into the store when nobody was looking, and you know what? He pretended to be walking with them and then he pulled out a gun and shot Nadia's grandma right in the heart. And you know what? She died right in the store. And you know what? Nadia's other grandma was in her house watching TV and a burglar snuck in behind her and cut her head off. The police found her standing up in the middle of the room, and you know what? They touched her and her head fell right down to the floor! And there was blood all over the place!"

Silly me, I didn't realize that girls had such wild imaginations. Either that, or poor Nadia had two of the unluckiest grandmothers ever!


Friday, October 28, 2005

 

The Great Pumpkin



It's that time of the year when we suddenly like pumpkins. I rarely even think about them at any other time, but come October our house is full of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, both real and fake. My son's first costume was a pumpkin. That's him up there at age six months. Ever since then, he's loved dressing up, decorating the house with cobwebs and skeletons, and carving jack-o-lanterns. I just discovered this fun web site that lets you practice your carving skills (Thanks Cis). My son's going to love it.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

 

Try Whistling This

I'm a little slow on things, but I finally took note of this "7 Things" list going around the mom and dad blogs. I don't think I'm going to make a list of 7 Celebrity Crushes or 7 Things To Do Before I Die but I am fascinated by the lists people have made for 7 Things I Cannot Do because ever since I was a little kid I've wondered why I was never able to whistle. There are loads of other things I cannot do (too many to mention), but my inability to whistle has always bugged me. Thirty-plus years of practicing has resulted in nothing more than the soft hiss of air through my lips. Must be genetic, because I've never heard my mom or dad whistle, and now my son is having trouble with it.

Listen: Brother Bones - "Sweet Georgia Brown" MP3
Listen: Roger Whittaker - "Irish Whistler" MP3


 

Get Candy! Get Candy!

My son likes to laugh. Sometimes uncontrollably. Back in his toddler years, he'd laugh so wildly that "accidents" were inevitable. Thankfully he's over all that. Still, before I play him this Jerry Seinfeld routine I make sure his bladder is empty, because before it's over he'll be on the floor rolling around in a mad fit of hysterical giggles.

Listening to this has now become a Halloween tradition in our house. It also comes in a book!

Listen: Jerry Seinfeld - "Halloween" MP3


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

 

Good Parenting

Child advocate Bill France writes about good parenting in this article for the Everett (WA) Herald. In it he talks about how good parents are more than just physically present in their children's lives. They interact with their kids, teaching them about social relationships. They also recognize and respond to the feelings of their children. I completely agree with the author when he says that you can't be a good parent if you are socially or emotionally distant from your family. You can't just be there, you have to actually get involved with your kids, get to know them, learn what makes them tick, and show them that you are more than just a grown-up who makes dinner and picks up toys.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

 

Welcome Home Dad



I love this picture of a dad returning from Iraq and thought you all should take a look at it too.

Maj. Ron Wier of Lakewood, Wash., hugs his boys, Travis, 4, Kyle, 12, and Andru, 6, Sunday after a welcome-home ceremony at Fort Lewis, Washington.

Those kids need their dad home for awhile.

Photo by Jim Bryant/Associated Press


Monday, October 24, 2005

 

I Got A Rock



One week until Halloween -- my son's favorite holiday. He doesn't know what he's going to dress up as this year, probably some amalgamation of past costumes. Definitely something scary. He never wants to dress up as something funny or fantastic. It always has to be a ghost, mummy, monster, vampire, or zombie.

Check out this hilarious parody of the Peanuts' Halloween special, by David Van Wert. Do not let your young kids see this.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

 

A Whopper

As we sat down for dinner last night, my wife noticed a chunk of hair missing from our daughter's head. Well, not a chunk, but enough to make it look funny around her ear... Probably about four inches long, two inches wide. We got it out of her that a girl at her pre-school had cut her hair when they were using scissors. I asked, "Where was the teacher?" My daughter replied, "She was outside." Oh great, I thought, the 4-year-olds are using scissors with no adult supervision.

Then, the story changed slightly (First Red Flag)... It turns out that the girl cut my daughter's hair in the gym when they were having a little talk with local firefighters. "Why were you using scissors in the gym?" I wondered. "We weren't, she brought them from her home in her pocket." Well, okay, that doesn't seem so farfetched.

We asked, "What did you do when the girl cut your hair?" She said, "I didn't know she cut my hair until just now." (Second Red Flag)

"So, uh, then how did you know she cut your hair in the gym with scissors she brought from home in her pocket?"

"Because I felt it!"

"Why didn't you tell the teacher?"

"Because I didn't know, and I was scared to tell."

I asked, "What happened to the hair after she cut it? Didn't you see it on the ground?" Her answer was, "I think she put it in her pocket."

At this point my son tugged on my shirt, and whispered, "Daddy, I think she's fibbing, you shouldn't believe her."

That's when I looked her straight in the eye and asked, "Is this the real truth and not a lie? Did it really happen just like that?"

"Yeeeeeesssss!" she answered, very convincingly I might add.

We went over it one more time, and she swore up and down that it all really happened just like she said, so we made plans to go to school a little early this morning to talk it over with the teacher. I'm not going to have some little brat cutting all the hair off my daughter's head, especially when we just paid $14 for a haircut the day before!!

So, this morning we are running around getting stuff together when my wife picks up a little shoe box that is under a pillow on the couch. Inside, she finds two nickels, a Princess Barbie comb, a green crayon, and... you guessed it, a big ol' chunk of shiny blonde hair.

Confronted with the smoking gun, my daughter caved immediately and confessed to cutting her own hair, all the while wearing a blanket on her head because she was too embarrassed to face us.

Meanwhile, my son, who knows a thing or two about tall tales, was in the background doing his "I Told You So" dance.

Now my daughter is without the following for three days: TV, dessert, and candy. I did not cancel storytime, because I'm using that opportunity to read stories about telling the truth. It's one of the most important things I can teach my kids.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

 

Calling All Kids

Disney, Sprint, and Mattel want your kids to join the cell phone generation. I'm sorry, but my children do not need a cell phone. Maybe when they're sixteen, but certainly not at six! I have little trouble staying in touch with them since they're usually within shouting distance (although they're really good at ignoring my call even when we're in the same room).


 

By The Lion's Mane!



I totally blew my son's mind tonight. We've been reading The Chronicles of Narnia books and thoroughly enjoyed each story. Until the last one, in which Aslan wipes out Narnia and brings all the good creatures to "the real Narnia" (aka heaven). The last few pages of the book are mostly description, as C.S. Lewis paints a picture of an afterlife where everything is as perfect as you can imagine. My son was bitterly disappointed that Narnia was destroyed, and he didn't quite understand why the characters were running through the new land. I could see the wheels churning away in his mind as he tried to figure it out. When I finished reading it, he looked confused and said "What happened?" His brain hadn't caught up yet. So, I re-read the last two pages to him. He got it... The kids died in a train accident... Uh-oh... Here comes the scrunched up face, then the clenched muscles, and finally the tears. Just a few, because then he got really mad. His eyes narrowed, and he made two fists. I thought he was going to hit the wall, but instead he stuck his thumbs out and then down, and said, "Thumbs down to that!"

We talked about the fact that it was just a story, and that Peter, Lucy, Edmund, and the others weren't real people, and that it was just one man's imagination about what heaven would be like. But he wasn't having any of that. He was so furious with the author for killing those kids in that train. After a bit more discussion he had mostly calmed down, so I said goodnight and started out of the room. He stopped me, "Daddy, you take all those books out of here and throw them in the garbage!" As I picked up the box set, he then said, "Or you can sell them on eBay."


Monday, October 17, 2005

 

Picking Apples

I have nothing to blog about, so here's a photo... My son picking apples last week. Red Delicious, which are crisp and tasty right off the tree but mushy and bland in the store. When I was a kid I'd eat nothing but Granny Smiths, then I enjoyed Fujis for awhile, but now Gala is my brand.



Saturday, October 15, 2005

 

We'll Make Great Pets

Some folks think there's not much difference between raising dogs and raising children.

I don't know... My kids just laugh at me when I wave a rolled up newspaper at them. And they get kind of annoyed when I try to attach a leash to their collars.

Most of the time my children act like cats -- they don't come when they're called, they like to go outside and then come inside and then go back outside, they're finicky with their food, and they like to chase butterflies.


Friday, October 14, 2005

 

What We're Watching

We don't have cable, and since our move we don't even have an antenna hooked up to the TV (it's around here somewhere, but I'm in no hurry to find it). But that doesn't stop us from watching a lot of great shows on TV. Since joining Netflix, I've found some outstanding programs, like Popular Mechanics For Kids, which covers a wide range of topics in a quick and humorous format. My son is crazy about these shows. Our favorite was when Elisha went down into the sewer and followed a flushed ping-pong ball from toilet to water treatment center.

Another great series of DVDs that we all loved is David Attenborough's The Blue Planet. I wouldn't be surprised if my son grows up to be a marine biologist ("The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.")... The first episode of this amazing series had a sad, but stunning, scene where a baby humpback whale gets attacked and partially eaten by a group of orcas. My daughter got scared and ran into the other room, but my son yelled after her, "Hey, killer whales gotta eat!!" His favorite episode of all is about the deepest depths of the ocean, and he constantly asks me when we can go down into the Mariana Trench. Maybe when we're on that Disney Cruise, son, we can take the optional excursion to the bottom of the 7-mile abyss.

We've also rented some classic 70's Disney films, like No Deposit, No Return and The Apple Dumpling Gang (my son is a big Don Knotts fan), as well as PBS programs like Sagwa and Arthur.

Mom and Dad recently finished watching the entire first season of Lost and are now completely hooked by that show. After the last episode, I told my wife, "You realize we have to wait about ten months to find out what happens?" That's when the second season would be released on DVD. She was heartbroken. But, the very next day, Apple announced that it is now selling TV shows through the iTunes Music Store. Including current episodes of Lost, a mere day after they first air on ABC. I've already downloaded the first four, at $1.99 a pop. Not a bad price for a weekly fix. I haven't told the wife yet... I'll save them for the next time I forget to clean the kitchen and need to distract her.


 

Farmed Out



Another day, another field trip to the farm. This time we were picking corn, peppers, gourds, and pumpkins. And again, another group of well-behaved kids, this time a class of pre-schoolers.

Added bonus: I got to chauffeur the teacher, who kept calling my daughter by the wrong name... Oh man, you should've seen the look on my daughter's face. Who knew that a four-year-old could shoot daggers out her eyes? Teacher, it's been six weeks, you only have twelve kids in the class. Get the names down!

I'm just about farmed and hayrided out for the season, but I do get to go out there one more time because both kids want to get BIG pumpkins. I could get them at the grocery store for 19 cents a pound, but that's not as much fun as mucking through the mud and pawing through the rotten pumpkins to find a good one.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

 

Send Out The Clowns

Did you see this article last week about clowns easing the fears of children who are waiting for an operation? The presence of a clown lessened pre-surgery anxiety, which reduced later complications.

This wouldn't work on my son. One sure-fire way to convince him that he's on his way to a very bad place would be to put him in a room with a clown. I can't figure out why he hates clowns, he just always has. He's also not terribly fond of costumed characters, like at Disneyland. He wouldn't go anywhere near Winnie the Pooh or Mickey Mouse. At Silverwood, our local amusement park, they have Garfield and Odie as mascots, and my son will actually make me turn around and go the other way when he sees those characters coming down the sidewalk.

I did manage to convince him to take a picture of me with them. It's not that he's scared of clowns and character costumes, it's just that he doesn't like them. Really really doesn't like them. His sister is a different story. She loves those big fluffy costumes, especially characters she knows. We had to drag her away from Eeyore and Tigger.




 

Clueless

Darth Daddy posted a funny comment about playgroups:

Men seek playgroups for their kids to be able to have someone to play with. Women seek out playgroups to have someone for THEM to talk to.

This made me laugh because I see these moms all the time, so wrapped up in their conversations with other moms that they have no idea what their kids are doing. The most outrageous example I've seen was at a Burger King play area. Two boys, probably around age 8, tore through the roof netting inside the play structure and climbed up into an area that was off-limits and kind of dangerous. An employee spotted them and ordered them down, saying, "This is the second time you've been told not to go up there, so you are not allowed in the play area anymore."

So these boys get their shoes and go into the main eating area, because that's where their moms are sitting well removed from having to listen to kids at play. These women are actively engaged in conversation, totally focused on each other and little else. When the boys arrive at the table, the moms won't even let them talk and immediately shoo them back into the play area. These two boys were so confused. They just stood by the door for a few minutes before going back to their moms, or rather near their moms. It was another few minutes before they were noticed and were finally able to explain why they couldn't be in the play area.

You know what happened next... The righteous indignation of a clueless mom! I just wanted to laugh as one of the moms marched around trying to find out who dared to discipline her little precious.

Of course I know that not all playgroup moms are like that, but it only takes one rotten apple to spoil the whole bunch (sorry, got apples on the brain... see below).


 

How Do You Like Them Apples?



Spent the day chaperoning my son's second grade class on a field trip to an apple orchard. I don't know if it was the teacher's iron hand or the children actually being well-raised and respectful, but these twenty-four kids were little trouble. They stayed in line, did what they were told, didn't yell and scream, listened attentively to the farmer, and generally were very pleasant. There is hope for the future!

The best part of the trip was passing around the big jug of hard cider.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

 

I Do Like A Bit Of Gorgonzola!



We haven't found that Scooby Doo DVD yet... It'll turn up in some odd box or another. But today we all went to see the new Wallace and Gromit movie, and loved it. There were a couple of scary parts, like when the monster rabbit makes its first appearance I noticed both my kids covering their eyes. Overall, though, it's an almost perfect family film. Good for both kids and adults, filled with hilarious visuals and puns. We're big fans of the three original shorts, and Wallace and Gromit did not have any trouble holding their own for a feature-length film.

What really amazes me is the time and effort that it takes for Nick Park and his crew to create this stop-motion extravaganza. Really stunning stuff, and well worth the high price of admission (and who can say no to movie popcorn?).


 

Kids and Technology

Great article in the Wall Street Journal about how technology helps kids disconnect from their parents. If your child has a TV, computer, iPod, cellphone and stereo in their room, then it's no wonder they aren't talking to you.

I still find it hard to believe that nearly half of all 4-6 year-olds have a TV in their room. That's just so sad. The only media my kids are allowed in their rooms are books and music. The computer and TV are in a central area in the family room. We share those things, watching movies and TV shows together, and figuring out all the clues on the I Spy software. Sometime soon I'll be hooking their computer up to the Internet and installing a kid-friendly filter. But most of all, I will simply stay informed and involved as they get older and become more independent. I can't imagine a time when I don't know what they're interested in, or what kind of music they listen to.

Speaking of music, I was sitting in my car at a red light and glanced at the car next to me. There was a mom with her teenager, who had headphones on, and I just thought, "How come they're not listening to music together?" Heck, when my son develops his own musical tastes, I'll be happy to blast it from the car speakers. Unless it's death metal, or Dave Matthews Band.



 

Losing My Cool

It's easy to come across as a Perfect Dad on a blog. I am my own editor. I can only talk about the good stuff if I want to.

Sometimes (like every single day) I make mistakes. This evening, for instance, my son wanted to watch a particular episode of What's New, Scooby Doo? but we couldn't find the DVD. It's in a box that we haven't opened yet, and who knows where that box might be. Anyway, I looked and looked, and finally told my son that it just couldn't be found right now. By this time, my wife and daughter had picked out a DVD of The Muppet Show and were starting it. My son looked at the TV and burst into wailing tears. I lost my cool and said, "You're seven years old and you're crying like a baby over a dumb TV show."

Then I said something really stupid, "Try coming home one day to find your father left you like mine did and then you'll have something to cry about."

I really regret saying both things. I do believe my son is too old to be crying uncontrollably about a lost DVD, but I'm sure there was a better way for me to handle it. Any suggestions would be appreciated.


Friday, October 07, 2005

 

Watch Dogs

I forgot to post this story from last week, about a local school starting up a chapter of Watch DOGS (Dads Of Great Students), a national volunteer program that aims to get more positive male role models into public schools.

My son's elementary school doesn't have this program, probably because its regular parent organization is unusually strong. Lots of moms and dads volunteering their time. Too many, in fact. One day, when I picked up my son, he showed me a notice about an upcoming field trip. At the bottom of the page, in small print, it read There is only room on the bus for three parent volunteers per classroom. So, I did a 180 and jogged back into the school and down the hallway to catch the teacher before she left. I signed my name, paid the cash, and made sure I was one of the three (thus making a whole bunch of moms really mad, I'm sure).

As we walked to the car, my son said, "I'm glad you get to volunteer, because I really like you being at my school." That's the only approval I need, right there.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

 

The In Crowd



My kids have been back in school for a month now, and all the parents who drop off and pick up are getting used to each other as we linger outside our kids' classrooms. Which means that the moms are all friendly chatty with each other and I'm... well, I get the "Shhh, it's that dad. Don't look at him" routine.

No big deal. I don't care. I just think it's funny. Sure, it would be nice to have a little acceptance by the group.

But wait...

Moving into our own home last month, I've had to make frequent (almost daily) trips to Home Depot and Lowe's for various widgets and doo-dads. These stores are like a second home to me lately. Anyway, I've noticed that everytime I'm in there it's kind of like a little club... For men like me who are scratching our heads and trying to figure out the difference between a drywall anchor and a hollow wall anchor, or dreaming of a complete closet make-over so we can actually find a clean shirt in the morning. We nod at each other in the paint aisle and grunt approvingly while studying the crown moulding.

You can tell that half the guys in the store at any given time have no idea what they're looking for, and we're not supposed to ask the employees, so we wander the aisles until we finally figure it out. We also return items a lot, because it's the wrong size or shape. The lady at the customer service desk knows who we are, and encourages us with supportive comments like, "You'll get it right this time, yes you will!"

Hey, we might be kind of clueless now, but at least we'll learn. Those moms at the school probably never will.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

 

Freak Out

An area school has banned informal dances because of sexually explicit dancing.

I find this difficult to comment on since I don't have teenagers now and I never attended any dances when I was in school, but hasn't this kind of "dirty dancing" been going on forever?

Just another reason why school dances are a complete waste of time and resources.


 

Cussing Lite

So maybe I shouldn't be upset with Dr. Laura for teaching my daughter a new word. Apparently it's inevitable that my kids will be using swear words as a part of their regular vocabulary. Or maybe not. I certainly won't be encouraging it. My kids don't hear me swear beyond "Darn!" and "Heck!" Yes, I really am that bland. Mind you, I don't plug my ears at the movies or when listening to music, and my favorite comedian is George Carlin, but for some reason I just can't bring myself to incorporate certain words (most notably the ones that start with F and Sh) into my everyday speech and writing.

Gosh, golly, gee whiz, I hope I didn't offend anyone with this post!

George Wendt - "Use Your Words" MP3

George Carlin - "Kids Are Too Small" MP3 NSFW
George Carlin - "Words We Leave Behind" MP3 NSFW


Monday, October 03, 2005

 

Around The Blogs

A few things I've noticed recently on other mom and dad blogs:

Amy at That's Life. Life Goes On talks about how important it is for parents to teach their kids common sense, honesty, and responsibility as a foundation for success in life.

Russ at The Daily Yak received a sermon instead of a speeding ticket.

Eric at More Diapers writes about the horror of house-hunting in the Boston area.

Homer Jay at Eccentric Father wishes his son a heartfelt happy birthday.

Darren at Clare's Dad ponders blog anonymity.

Matthew at Child's Play x2 gives me a good idea of what to tell my mom next time she asks, "What do you want for Christmas?"

And, finally, the Chocolate Makes It Better blog is wondering what it takes to be a good father and whether daddy bloggers are better dads than non-bloggers.


 

The Name Game

Answer: "Oh no you didn't!"
Question: What did I say out loud when I read about Nicolas Cage's new baby?

Good luck with the therapy, little Kal-El. Thankfully, most parents give their kids reasonably sane names. In fact, the old traditional names are still among the most popular, according to this article.