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Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Bedtime Story

After putting the kids to bed and cleaning up the kitchen, I heard voices coming from my daughter's room. I caught her reading to her babies. Garfield was helping with the big words.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Boys Don't Cry

If there's anything that upsets me, it's having people say I'm sensitive. - Deputy Barney Fife

I wasn't going to say anything to my son about Don Knotts passing away. He's 7-years-old. What's the point?

My son already knows about death. In fact, he's been rather non-chalant about it in the past. When he was five, we were at his great-grandma's house and he pointed at a picture of my grandfather. He asked, "Who is that?" My grandma told him it was her husband, his great-grandfather. He then asked, "Where is he?" She chose her words very carefully, saying, "Well, a long time ago he became very sick and God took him away, and now he's in heaven." My son looked up at her and said, very matter-of-fact, "Oh, he's dead."

There have been other instances where he's talked about cemeteries, mummies, gravestones, skeletons, and ghosts. He knows all about his Uncle, who died when I was ten. We even visited my brother's grave a few years ago and my son was extremely inquisitive, but not upset.

But, still, I don't like to dwell on the subject of death with him for fear that his young mind will begin to obsess on it. So, when I heard the news about Don Knotts, I immediately decided I wouldn't say anything about it to him.

On Saturday evening we sat down to watch a little bit of the Olympic bobsledding before dinner. After the kids arranged pillows and got comfy on the couch, I turned on the TV to see the sportcaster finish up a thought and then pass the coverage over to NBC News. The first thing out of the anchor's mouth was "Comedian Don Knotts died yesterday in Los Angeles" and then they put up a full-screen graphic with his picture and dates of birth and death.

You can imagine the look of stunned horror on my son's face. I started to tell him that Knotts had been very sick and he had lived a very long life, but his face was already buried in a pillow.

He cried for about fifteen minutes. And he wouldn't talk, just kept his face in the pillow and made sniffly noises. As with most kids, though, he recovered to eat dinner, later asking to watch an episode of The New Scooby Doo Movies. "The one with Don Knotts in it?" I asked. No... he wanted the one where The Harlem Globetrotters visit Haunted Island.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


The Incredible Mr. Knotts

What's the matter, haven't you ever seen a man take off a dress before? - Deputy Barney Fife

An incredibly unique and talented icon of pop culture has passed away. Don Knotts died Friday night in Los Angeles of lung cancer.

I've seen a lot of Knotts lately, as my son has been enamored of him for the past year. If you asked who his favorite comedian was, he'd say, "Don Knotts."

In addition to the timeless role of Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show, we've also watched him play lovable goofballs in such films as The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, The Reluctant Astronaut, The Private Eyes, The Apple Dumpling Gang, and even an episode of The New Scooby Doo Movies.

Almost everything he appeared in is kid-safe. There is a simple charm to his portrayals of nerds and outsiders that will appeal to all ages. You just can't help but love his characters. Don Knotts was truly one of a kind and will be missed.

In 1961, Knotts recorded a comedy album, An Evening With Me, which you can download here.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Curiously Sleepy

I took my 4-year-old daughter to see "Curious George" last weekend. It was very cute, and she loved it, but I must confess to feeling a bit sleepy and I'm not sure if maybe my eyes didn't close for a moment or two. I just hope I didn't snore.

Speaking of sleep, I don't get enough of it. I probably average six hours a night, which allows me to function just fine although I do have my daily "zombie" moments. Over the years my brain has actually adjusted to that amount of sleep and if I try to go to bed earlier I either toss and turn or wake up early. My wife says I'm doing damage to my mental health by not getting eight or more hours each night, but I think I'm okay.

Of course, the other night I did have a very strange dream in which I was eating a giant marshmallow. I woke up the next morning to find my pillow gone. HA HA HA HA HA... my son loves that joke.

How much sleep are you getting each night?

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Pretty Kitty

Extreme Makeover: Cat Edition

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Vending Machines

The national debate over vending machines in public schools has reached Idaho.

A recently introduced bill would limit beverage sales at middle and high schools to milk, 100% juice and water, while completely removing vending machines from elementary schools.

At my son's elementary school there are no machines, so the problem has already been addressed at some schools.

I laughed at a quote in the article from a high school principal: "You restrict the machines, kids will still go to the 7-Eleven to get what they want. Then, 7-Eleven rather than the schools will benefit." Typical bureaucrat, always thinking of his budget first.

The bottom line in this debate, however, is that parents aren't teaching their children about nutrition. In our house, my kids enjoy the occasional root beer, graham cracker, or Tootsie Pop. But we call them treats, not breakfast or lunch. My kids know all about empty calories and sugar highs, and they know that the best snacks are things like carrots, apples, nuts, water and milk.

This is really basic stuff, and it baffles me that all children aren't learning this in their homes.



Doing the Y-M-C-A dance at the Spokane Arena

I took my son to see the Harlem Globetrotters last night. Even though he has been feeling a little under the weather the past couple of days, he perked right up during the game and spent much of it laughing hysterically (especially when the referee got soaked with water). If laughter is the best medicine then I think my son will be immune from all sniffles, colds, flus, and sore throats for the next six months.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Kid-Friendly MP3

Check out this new MP3 blog, (Sm)all Ages, which emphasizes kid-friendly songs that don't necessarily fall under the category of Children's Music.

So far, he's recommending tunes by The Beach Boys, The Kinks, Beck, The Specials, Bjork, and even The White Stripes. I'll definitely be paying attention to this new blog.

Lately my son has been asking to hear more grown-up music, like The Beatles. He even asked me to burn him a CD of Fab Four songs that he can listen to when he goes to bed. I'm working on that right now. It'll include quiet and mid-tempo tracks like:

Yellow Submarine
All You Need Is Love
Good Day Sunshine
Hello, Goodbye
Nowhere Man
In My Life
All Together Now
Fixing A Hole
I'll Follow The Sun
This Boy
Octopus's Garden
Martha My Dear
Here, There and Everywhere
When I'm Sixty-Four
Penny Lane
Fool On The Hill
Your Mother Should Know
Good Night

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Walk Out To Winter

It may have been 20 degrees on Saturday, but it was a beautiful sunny day so we just had to get out of the house. I packed up the kids and we headed for our favorite hiking spot on Lake Coeur d'Alene.

About a mile in, we stopped at the beach and played on the rocks, where we found these amazing icicles that had formed on the driftwood and boulders strewn on the shore.

Click on any of the photos below to see a larger size

After awhile we hardly even noticed how cold it was. The combination of bright winter sun, brisk fresh air, and physical activity kept us warm and chased off the cabin fever that had set in during recent weeks.

Friday, February 17, 2006


Here Comes The Ocean

I was browsing through our 6,000 digital photos and found this great memory from 2001. My son's first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. I must've thought I could hold back a wave or something, but as I recall he did get a faceful of salt water at one point.

At least once a week, usually late at night, I will sit down at the computer and fire up Picasa, then just scroll through our photos. It becomes a zen thing as I spin the little wheel on the mouse and let the pictures flood my brain in a river of memories. Nothing else helps keep those magic moments fresh in my mind. These years with the kids go by fast. Looking at old photos reminds me not to take any of it for granted.

Enjoy the three-day weekend... Make some memories with your kids!

Thursday, February 16, 2006


The Player, Part II

Several great comments about running in the post below... My son did try cross-country a year ago. All of the local elementary schools have this program in the fall. My son had a funny running style, almost a hop-skip-run kind of form. Even the PE teacher told us it was rather odd and we should get him checked out for hip problems. But in the past year he's outgrown it and actually runs quite fast now, stretching his legs out in a full stride. He just doesn't like to go long distances, so maybe he'll be a short track star.

Here's a picture of him at the all-district meet at the end of the season. We were absolutely ecstatic that he passed that kid in front of him to finish second to last. Sorry kid, but my son finished last at every other race he ran, and we wanted him to finally beat somebody!

I'll never forget the sixth-grade girl who was helping to coach my son's first-grade team... She ran the whole race beside him, shouting encouragement and pushing him on to the finish line when his side and muscles were aching. I made a point to find her mother and tell her what a wonderful deed her daughter did for my son.

He didn't want to do cross-country this past fall, and that was fine. His big accomplishment last September was learning to ride his bike. One day he was crying "I'll never learn to do this, it's impossible!" and the very next day something clicked and he did it. I'll never forget the smile on his face when he realized that it was possible. I took a picture of him that day and it's hanging on the wall. Great moment.


The Player

My son has little natural athletic ability. Watching him play basketball in a 2nd grade league is slightly painful. And it brings back memories of my own youthful ineptness. I couldn't dribble, throw, hit, run, or do much of anything else as a kid, making me the last one picked for every team with good reason at recess and gym class. I want something different for my son, for him to be as confident in his physical abilities as he is in his reading and math skills.

But try as we might, he's still having a hard time with coordination of arms and legs. After two seasons of soccer, one of gymnastics, and one of basketball, I'm still waiting for him to show some signs of comfort in his athleticism. I told him that it's important to have the basic skills: throwing, catching, aiming, bouncing, running, jumping. Once you get those down everything else should develop more easily.

He's starting to recognize that there are some things the other kids do better. His first response is to want to quit, but I tell him that's not an option. I won't give up on him and I won't let him give up on himself. It's actually one of the hardest things I have to do as a dad, to be positive and supportive in the face of a real uphill climb.

I was a late bloomer... I learned most of my athletic skills as a grown-up. My son obviously inherited something from me that he now has to overcome. I'm not going to let him bloom as late as I did.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006



He's at it again... The boy cannot be stopped!

"Call Mr. Plow,
That's my name,
That name again
Is Mr. Plow."

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Just Another Day

Another Valentine's Day has come and gone, and soon the store shelves will be stocked with Easter junk. Why is every holiday being saturated with giant inflatable yard decorations? Our neighbor replaced his blow-up Santa with a blow-up Valentine heart, soon to be replaced with a blow-up Easter Bunny. Ugh.

We made a big deal of the day with our kids, helping them to make cards for friends and family, reading and eating candy hearts, and watching the Charlie Brown Valentine's special. It's fun for us all.

But for the wife and I, this was just another day. No special trinkets or boxes of candy. No extraordinary words of affection or romantic gestures. We do so much of that during the other 364 days of the year that it seems unnecessary to make a special observation of our love on February 14th.

We also never fail to say "I love you" to our children, each and every day, in the morning and in the evening. Words are one thing, but actions speak louder. Kids have an uncanny way of knowing the difference between what you say and what you do, so we make sure that we prove our love to them through support, discipline, attention, education, and security. We don't need a special day to remind us of the importance of that.

Of course, my son would say, "Yeah yeah, okay daddy, just give up the candy!"

Monday, February 13, 2006


Curious George

I've been a fan of Roger Ebert ever since I was a 12-year-old kid falling in love with the film world through repeated viewings of Star Wars. Ebert's movie reviews have always made sense to me. Most of them anyway. And his TV show co-hosts (the late Gene Siskel and now Richard Roeper) have always left me scratching my head with their elitist view of the film-going experience. I could always count on siding with Ebert if he and his co-host had a difference of opinion.

Yesterday I was watching Ebert and Roeper review the new children's film Curious George and witnessed this exchange:

Ebert: "Curious George is not a family film. It's a children's film. It tells its story in beautiful visuals of innocence and simplicity, and it's deliberately aimed at younger viewers."

Roeper: "I agree with everything you're saying and that's why I'm giving it a thumbs down. It is a children's movie and, as such, it's sweet and innocent, with nice little songs by Jack Johnson, the voice-over acting is fine, and the artwork is faithful to the original. If you want to see a sweet movie, go. But to tell people my age, or someone twenty-five, that they should spend nine or ten bucks to see this movie, I can't do that."

My first thought was, "What adult is going to mistake Curious George for a grown-up movie? A confused Republican perhaps?" My wife was a little more harsh, shouting at the TV, "That guy's an idiot!"

Ebert probably thought so too, but then he mulled it over before writing up his review of the movie for the newspaper. He agrees that Roeper was right, that critics have a responsibility to recommend films based on personal enjoyment rather than that of some hypothetical audience. But he also points out that even a grown man can review a kids' film because he himself was once a kid and remembers what was good or bad entertainment at that age.

He ends his review with the most important part: Is this movie for the whole family to attend? No, it is a movie for small children and their parents or adult guardians, who will take them because they love them very much.

Good enough for me and my kids!

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Forever Young

The AARP is now apparently employing mind readers on it's membership committee, because somehow they were able to sense how I feel. Today in the mail I received a personalized plea to join the group and "get the most out of life over 50." Please, give me another decade before you tell me that I'm an old fart.

In the meantime, to help keep wrinkles and senility at bay, here's some advice to live by:

Satchel Paige’s Rules for Staying Young

1. Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.
2. If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3. Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4. Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society - the social ramble ain’t restful.
5. Avoid running at all times.
6. And don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.

Friday, February 10, 2006


I Remember The Sun

The sun is shining, the temperatures are warming up, and we're staking out our summer spot on the lake.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


In Your Face

My son started playing basketball this week through a parks and rec program. So far, after three practices, he's loving it. His coaches are very knowledgeable about the sport and extremely patient while teaching ten antsy second graders. The coaches are also pierced. A lot. All over the place.

I don't get body piercings. Okay, I can see the appeal of dangling shiny objects from your ears... But nose and eyebrow rings confound me, while tongue studs and lip rings just downright scare me. I don't even want to know about piercings further south.

My son asked me why someone would want to poke holes in their face and I didn't have an answer for him except "It's just something some people like to do when they're older." That didn't satisfy him because it isn't really an answer. To be honest, I have no idea why a person would want to walk around with a steel spike in their tongue.

I won't allow my children to pierce anything on their body until they're 18 years old. By then I hope they're smart enough to either not do it or to at least give me a good answer as to why.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Oops She Did It Again

Britney Spears proves the old adage "you have to earn a license to drive a car, but any idiot can make a baby."

Monday, February 06, 2006


Sign Language

I arrived at my son's school today about fifteen minutes early to pick him up, so my daughter and I sat in the car and listened to a Wiggles CD. One of her favorite tracks, Where Is Thumbkin?, started playing and I turned in my seat to do the hand gestures with her.

The song starts out with:

Where is thumbkin?
Where is thumbkin?
Here I am.
Here I am.
How are you today, friend?
Very well, I thank you.
Run away.
Run away.

I played along with the song, sticking my thumb up in the air and waving it about like a finger puppet, bowing, and then making it run away behind the head rest. My daughter loved it and started imitating me.

The next part of the song introduces "Pointer".... Where is Pointer? Where is Pointer? Here I am... etc.

We happily waved our pointer fingers all around in front of us, then made them run away.

You get where this story is going?

Next up is "Tall One"...

So here we are waving our middle fingers around, only mine is hidden between the two front seats while my daughter's is right next to the window. I looked over at the car next to us and noticed a woman frowning disapprovingly.

I can just imagine what she said to her husband that night: "The world is going to hell. Today I was flipped off by a 4-year-old!"

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Pretend Spring

Pretending it's already spring in downtown Coeur d'Alene.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Coughs and Tantrums

Both kids have been sick the past ten days. Nothing too bad, just runny noses and coughs. My son happily missed one day of school, his first absence since kindergarten. During the day they sound fine and they don't miss a beat with play activity. But when nighttime rolls around and the kids are climbing into bed, the coughing begins. It lasts for hours. I'm sitting here listening to my son hack up something as his brain tries mightily to win the battle for much-needed sleep.

So then the problem becomes lack of sleep for both kids, because they're coming up a couple of hours short and that makes a big difference in their behavior. Today, before dinner, my son wanted to play Monopoly, so I agreed to a quick game - about an hour. We had a great time, he bought properties like a madman, mortgaging some to buy others, and then cackling with glee when I landed on his built-out lots. But when it came time to stop play and we counted up the cash and properties, I ended up exactly $110 ahead. Which led to a sore-loser tantrum by my son.

Usually he's a good sport about games. When he was a toddler I would make sure that he won some and lost some, just so he knew that the point of the game wasn't always about winning but in having some fun with friends and family. But this time he threw one of those slow-burn silent tantrums where he hides under the table and glares out at everyone, occasionally wiping a tear from his eye. Eventually he spoke, informing me that I was a terrible daddy for beating him and why don't I just throw that game in the garbage.

Lack of sleep = tantrums... Even when they're almost eight years old! Amazing what missing a few hours of sleep each night can do to a child. After my son had a warm shower and read a book he was ready to look me in the eye and act like nothing happened. He was so tired he didn't even remember being mad.

In the five minutes it took me to type all this, the coughing stopped. Looks like both kids are going to catch up on their sleep tonight.