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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

 

Baby, It's Cold Outside

I will never complain about North Idaho winters, because I could be living in Fairbanks, Alaska...


Photo taken by Carol Falcetta


Sunday, January 29, 2006

 

All-Day Kindergarten

All-day kindergarten is taking hold in my town, presumably to help kids meet higher educational standards. What it's really all about is a further relinquishing of parental responsibilities to the schools. Parents are just becoming lazier and lazier as they stick their kid into one form of daycare or another starting the very day the child is born. All-day kindergarten, after-school care, school breakfast, riding the bus, summer care... It's not for the benefit of the kids, it's for the benefit of the parents who won't step up and do what they need to do. Increasingly more parents are refusing to make the transition from self-centered individual to selfless guardian. And our society makes it easier for them to do so, saying that things like all-day kindergarten will help improve children's language and number skills through repetition, activity, and individual attention. Those are skills that parents are supposed to be teaching their young ones, but now that the schools have taken away even more of their responsibilities mom and dad can spend more time working out or scrapbooking or whatever the hell else they do instead of raising their own kids.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

 

Splash!

Not only am I thinking of spring, but I've also got my eye on summer. Summer means being in the water -- at the lake, on the beach, in the river, and anywhere else where we can splash and play. Here's a photo I took last year at Boulder Beach Water Park in North Idaho.


Click the picture to see a larger image


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

 

Dinner Bell

I'm a big fan of the family dinner. Everyone sitting around the table together, eating and talking, sharing favorite moments of the day. I love to tell stories to my kids during dinner, usually based on something they've mentioned. Sometimes we'll tell jokes or riddles. Sometimes I'll sing, but then I get kicked under the table from all sides. Rarely do we sit and eat in silence. And never do we eat apart.

But can this last into the teen years? Albuquerque Tribune columnist Steve Brewer doesn't think so. He's even invented a new word to describe the hectic dinner schedule of a family with busy kids.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

 

Kids By The Lake



Remembering a warm spring day from a few years back... We've been in winter mode for about four months now and everyone in my house is looking forward to the renewal of spring. Mostly we just want to get out and about -- hiking, biking, and exploring. I have a long list of spring and summer family activities.

What are you looking forward to once the cold weather leaves us?


Sunday, January 22, 2006

 

Around The Dial

Interesting articles I've read recently:

  • Preschoolers should be drinking milk and water, and nothing else.

  • The tragic story of a child prodigy.

  • Are your digital photos really safe?

  • The latest trend in baby gifts - their own domain name.

  • New germ-killing spray is safe for kids.

  • One family leaves the rage behind.


  • Friday, January 20, 2006

     

    Poetry Time

    My 7-year-old son made a lovely book of poetry for me. Here are a few selections:

    Ocean Blue

    Ocean blue has fish and crabs
    The ocean blue is blue with green seaweed
    The ocean blue is a fun place with sharks.

    The Fish

    The fish, the fish
    The fish is blue
    The fish, the fish
    The fish eats seaweed
    The fish, the fish
    The fish is on my plate.

    Crab My Pet

    Crab my pet is a crab
    Oh no, the baby ate my pet crab!



    Thursday, January 19, 2006

     

    Kids' CD Review

    Ralph's World - Green Gorilla, Monster & Me

    Ralph Covert released his sixth kids' CD last fall, but I only just picked it up. Once again, Ralph hits it out of the park with a wonderful collection of jangly pop tunes about gorillas, bananas, friends, and using your imagination. My 7-year-old son outgrew The Wiggles several years ago, but he still gets excited about Ralph's World. And this new one became an instant hit with him and his sister upon the very first listen.

    Covert has a way of writing songs that don't patronize young ears. His melodies and lyrics are also just sophisticated enough that they maintain their appeal as the children get older. This isn't music for pre-schoolers alone. I defy anyone to listen to this latest disc's "Hideaway" and tell me it would be out of place on a teenager's iPod. It's certainly welcome on mine. This is crisply produced music, in a wide range of styles from R&B to power pop to acoustic folk. You can't go wrong with any of the six Ralph's World CDs. Might as well start with this one and work your way back!

    Listen:
    "Hideaway" MP3
    "Me & My Invisible Friend" MP3

    Buy Ralph's World CDs here!


    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

     

    Cold Case

    Quite a few mom and dad bloggers have been talking about colds and flus, so I did a little late night reading on the subject.

    Here are a few uncommon facts about the common cold, from Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University...


    • Being cold, or chilled, does not increase your chances of catching a cold virus.
    • Cold viruses can survive for hours on a surface. You're more likely to catch cold by touching a doorknob than by being sneezed on.
    • You're more contagious before symptoms begin.
    • Hot black or green tea is one of the best things you can drink to soothe your cold symptoms. Chicken soup has minimal effects other than keeping you hydrated.
    • Vitamin C has no effect on cold symptoms.
    • The best way to prevent a cold is hand-washing.

    For more questions and answers about the common cold, go here.

    And here's something kind of fun: 12 Health Mysteries Explained


    Monday, January 16, 2006

     

    Snow Shoveling Redux

    After nearly a month of rain, we finally saw more snow on the ground yesterday. And my son was at it again. As God is my witness, these were his exact words: "Daddy, you just relax. I'm going to shovel the driveway."



    Yes, he got a nice little payment for this. And we're now entering negotiations for an official weekly chore allowance.


    Sunday, January 15, 2006

     

    Cheating Our Kids

    Did you watch the ABC-TV 20/20 special Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids last Friday night? John Stossel's report on the failure of the public education system in the U.S. was a real eye-opener for me. I knew things were bad, but I wasn't fully aware of how miserable our school system is when compared to those of other developed countries.

    A couple of things in the show really struck me. One was the teacher's unions' complete rejection of competition in the form of vouchers, which would allow education money to follow a student to the school of their choice. There is no logical reason to be against vouchers except that it frightens the teachers and administrators because they might actually be held accountable for their work performance. Basically, in this country you can be a terrible teacher and keep your job. A bad accountant? Fired. A bad mechanic? Fired. But a teacher is only fired if they break a law... Maybe. Depends on which law they break, I guess.

    I'm almost completely convinced that home-schooling is the best thing we can do for our children. My son is bored at school, even with several advanced classes. He is ignored by the teacher because she's busy with the troublemakers and those kids who are falling behind. I don't see the value in him sitting in a classroom reading to himself, or filling out a workbook page, when he could be doing so much more at home.

    In the 20/20 program, John Stossel interviewed the first lady of South Carolina, Jenny Sanford, who said something that impressed me: "I get one shot at it. If I don't pay very close attention to how my boys are educated, then I've lost an opportunity to make them the best they can be in this world." Guess where her boys are educated? Private school.

    You can watch clips from the 20/20 show here.


     

    Football Diet



    I don't watch a lot of pro football. In fact, I think I only saw one game all this past regular season. When the NFL playoffs begin, though, I'll tune in and pay attention. And apparently this year the "regional favorite" Seattle Seahawks are pretty good. Today they won their first playoff game since 1984. So I'll jump on the Seahawks bandwagon, I guess.

    However, if they're facing the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl, I'll have to jump back off that bandwagon because I've had a policy for the past ten years or so to root for the team with the University of Idaho alumnus. That's my alma mater, and this year former Vandal Jake Scott is part of the offensive line that makes Peyton Manning look so good.

    So I've been watching the playoffs this weekend and last. Like I said, that's about it. I haven't spent my weekends this past fall staring at the TV. But to my daughter, watching any amount of football is just too much. She was frustrated with me this afternoon when I sat down to watch the Seahawks beat up on the Redskins.

    She marched into the family room and stood, hands on hips, between me and the TV and announced, "Daddy! You need to go on a football diet!"

    UPDATE: Colts lost today, so I'm back on the Seahawks bandwagon. I predict a Seattle vs. Pittsburgh Super Bowl. Go Seahawks!


    Saturday, January 14, 2006

     

    Thanks For Not Wanting My Money

    I need a new desk set for my home office, so I shopped around at the three big chain stores (Office Max, Staples, and Office Depot) for something that would fit just right. I found a great L-shaped desk, hutch, and table at Office Max last week but waited until today to go buy it. So I'm in there, ready to drop $800 into their cash register, and nobody wanted to help me. Usually I can't shake those guys off when I just want to browse. Now when I actually need some help they're all on break. So I finally attracted one guy's attention, but he greeted my order request with a blank stare and a mumbled, "That's not my department." I went to the register and the lady said, "I've never ordered furniture before." Up came the manager who studied the order form like it was the first time he'd ever laid eyes on it. He scratched his head, looked around the store like the Furniture Fairy was going to descend from the ceiling to help him, then finally said to me, "If you come back on Monday maybe we can call the company to see if they have any of these in stock."

    I glanced around to see if a robbery was in progress and these were the bad guys posing as employees. Nope, they were just your basic "I'm not making any extra effort here" minimum wage employees. I thanked them for not wanting my $800 and went down the street to Office Depot to re-check their desk selection. To my surprise, they had the same exact desk set and I just missed seeing it last week. At this store the employees were all over me. After one of them ran off to get a manager to help with the order, two others came up to ask if I was being helped. Things were starting off very well. As we're filling out the order form, I noticed the price tags are much lower than over at Office Max. Then, when we entered the order numbers into the computer, the prices come up even lower because they're on sale.

    I ended up spending $450 on the same exact desk, hutch, and table that would've cost me $800 at Office Max. And I received excellent customer service from the Office Depot employees. Good prices, helpful staff... I believe that's how you earn loyal customers.


    Friday, January 13, 2006

     

    Delurking Week

    I'm always late to the party. Actually, I never get invited, but that's not my point. I've just learned that this week was supposed to be some sort of National Delurking Week when blog readers come out of the shadows and leave comments on the blogs they read.

    Close to 200 people come by this blog every day, so that's a lot of you who don't comment. Here's your chance. Depending on how you view the calendar, the week either ends today or sometime this weekend. Plenty of time to leave a comment right here. Do it anonymously if you'd like! Let me know you're out there.


     

    Popularity Contest

    It's not a popularity contest.

    No, I'm not talking about those blog awards... I'm talking about parenting.

    This is good advice to remember the next time your children say something like "You're not being fair!" or "Why won't you let me do what I want?"

    Show me a mom or dad who thinks they can set their parenting skills on cruise control, and I'll show you somebody who's heading for a big blow-up during the teen years.


    Thursday, January 12, 2006

     

    Attack of the Cheap Chinese Toys



    That's just one Happy Meal too many...


    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

     

    Home Alone

    You've probably heard about the two California brothers who were left home alone while their father and stepmother partied in Las Vegas. I can't even imagine leaving a 10-year-old boy in charge of his 5-year-old autistic brother.

    The father is now saying that he "screwed up." Ya think? This guy makes Homer Simpson look like Father of the Year.

    So, at what age is it okay to leave kids alone in the house overnight? Most experts say age 14 or 15. But the only expert I'm going to listen to is me. And I just can't foresee a situation where my wife and I will be needing to leave our kids home alone, even when they're responsible teenagers. Where are we going to go and not take the kids with us?


    Monday, January 09, 2006

     

    Couch Potatoes

    Just before dinnertime tonight, the kids and I were sprawled on the couch watching the "Mr. McBeeVee" episode of The Andy Griffith Show when my wife walked in, looked us over, and said, "What a bunch of couch potatoes!"

    My hungry daughter stirred, sat up, looked at me and her brother, then frowned and said, "Who's eating couch potatoes?!"


    Friday, January 06, 2006

     

    I Have A Gun

    A second grader at a nearby school was suspended indefinitely for saying that he had a gun. As the father of a second grader, I'm keenly aware of the type of fantasy play that boys this age like to engage in. My son spends most of his recess playing some sort of "war" game, usually a Star Wars scenario. He and his friends battle each other as dark lords, separatists, clone troopers, and jedi knights. It's just play. And the duties on the playground understand this.

    So it makes me wonder what it was about a 7 or 8-year-old boy saying "I have a gun" that would cause school officials to suspend him for a couple of days. My own son is so rarely dead serious that I have trouble believing that this boy in question would make such statements that would have teachers and students shaking in their shoes. And suspension? For a second grader? Seems a bit of an overkill.

    I've spent time in my son's class, and there's not one kid out of 24 that looks or sounds like a threat. They're all still at that goofy-silly stage where they just want to play and have fun and be kids. I don't doubt that some of them have parents who don't care enough to teach them what words are inappropriate for the playground... I'm telling my kids all the time "There's a time for silly and a time for serious." Plus, I've explained to my son that teachers and principals don't know him like I do, so he can't run around talking about guns, blasters, bombs, and missiles. In this day and age, it only takes one nervous adult to view an imaginative child as some kind of tiny terrorist.


    Thursday, January 05, 2006

     

    Year In Review

    I've been taking something of a break from blogging for the past two weeks. Part of it was the holidays, of course, but another reason for the break was that I was just kind of tired of thinking about blogs. It was good to re-charge the batteries and spend my evenings not staring at the computer. But I return to blogging because: I learn a lot from the other dad bloggers (and moms too!) and my mind craves the creative outlet.

    I sat down tonight to review the past year, but soon discovered that I'd forgotten most of it! Well, not really. I remember all those hundreds of perfect moments when my children did or said something to confirm my belief that being a dad is the best job in the world. I've blogged about many of those moments. My favorite is this one. That's the one I think about as I'm picking up dirty clothes, vacuuming cracker crumbs out of the couch, washing crayon drawings off the walls, and dragging myself out of bed at 3am because my son wants to open Christmas presents.

    So, my year in review will be brief:

    Favorite Dad Blog of the Year
    Dad Talk

    Favorite Mom Blog of the Year
    Milkweed Hill

    Funniest Dad Blog Line of the Year
    "Lady, I'm over 200 lbs... You're over 200 years old... What the hell do you think would happen?"
    - Darth Daddy

    Most Cringingly Memorable Dad Blog Post
    Sit Back, Relax And Let Me Tell You A Little Story, by Jeff at No Ma'am, This IS My Job.

    Family Film of the Year
    The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

    Song of the Year
    XTC - "Say It"

    My Daughter's Toy of the Year
    Lite-Brite Cube

    My Son's Toy of the Year
    Star Wars figures, any Star Wars figure, the more the better.

    Grown-Up Toy of the Year
    Apple 60GB Video iPod

    Second Best Job of the Year
    Being the San Diego Reader's Blogger of the Month in September.

    Free Family Software of the Year
    Picasa Photo Organizer

    Funniest Comment From One of My Kids
    Watching a show about dinosaurs, my son learned that there were carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores. He turned to me and said, "I'm a candyvore!"

    Favorite Event That I Don't Want To Repeat
    Moving... It's nice to be a homeowner again, but we've moved twice in the past three years and I'm ready to settle in for a good long time.

    Favorite Photos of the Year
    Most of them are over at Flickr... Photography is my other hobby. I'm still not comfortable with posting current photos of my kids on a public web site, but this one is from ten months ago and features me pushing my daughter on the swing. It's my favorite personal photo from the past year. Kind of funny, I take thousands of photos to get one good shot... My wife picks up the camera one time and gets a perfect picture!



    Have a memorable 2006!


    Tuesday, January 03, 2006

     

    Resolved

    I'm not much for New Year's resolutions because if you're going to change something within yourself you should do it when the time is right, not just because it happens to be the start of a new year.

    However, I do like to take a moment each January to take stock of myself and my loved ones. Kind of like taking inventory at Sears (my wife and I did that one night after we were first married... earned $40, I think). People need to make changes in their lives, but not dramatic ones that automatically doom you to failure before you even get started. Rather, you should try to make strategic adjustments to what is working but can work better. Let the big changes come slowly.

    I've also found that the changes that stick are the tangible ones. Like re-arranging your furniture. Or throwing out any article of clothing over five years old. Or deleting someone's number from your cell phone. Those are the kind of resolutions I try to make, because they're easy to do and they are usually a means to enacting further changes in the way you think, react, and feel. So if there's something about you that you want to change, start with your surroundings and see what happens next.