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Sunday, April 30, 2006

 

Creepy Crawly

Some words of advice.

If you are a frail elderly woman with a smile on your face and you want to stop me in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store to comment, "My but you have such beautiful children," then by all means go ahead and do that. I beam.

But if you are a 30-something creepy-looking unshaven employee at a home improvement store and you want to answer my request for help with a leer at my 4-year-old daughter and a breathless, "Is that your daughter? She's beyoootiful," then by all means keep your mouth shut or next time you'll be receiving a Garden Weasel enema.

Seriously, I was creeped out all weekend. Ugh!


Friday, April 28, 2006

 

Stepford Moms?

I've blogged before about the snobby moms who look down their noses with disdain at stay-at-home dads and involved fathers, as if we are challenging their livelihood.

Well, lately, those stereotypes have been smashed by a series of random meetings with moms at the park, school, and soccer practice. I keep running into these mothers who are friendly, humble, and seemingly genuinely interested in my status as a stay-at-home dad. It's as if the area moms have been replaced with robots! cue the spooky Stepford Wives music

Or maybe it's some kind of TV prank show. Is Ashton Kutcher going to come running out from behind a tree and yell, "You are so punked, Dad!"

Whatever it is, it's refreshing to engage in honest conversations about children. I'm learning a lot, and I think they are too. Our jobs are exactly the same -- we all want to raise our kids the best way possible.

There's a chance this might be some sort of season-changing anomaly. Perhaps the onset of warm weather has clouded these women's minds and soon they will be back on their side of the park whispering and pointing as usual. In the meantime, it's nice to feel like a part of the group. I guess I'll enjoy it while it lasts.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

 

Put Me In Coach



Soccer season is going well for my daughter and me. Coaching is fun, even if it is a lot like herding ferrets.

We've played four games and the kids have been having a good time running up and down the field chasing the ball. Sometimes they forget to run up and down the field and just stop and stare. I don't know what they're looking at... a butterfly, their grandma, a blade of grass.

One boy on the team is only good for about two minutes, then he runs off the field to hide under his mother's chair. This gets interesting when he's the goalie. Another boy only maintains his energy level when he's off the field. Put him in the game and he's tired. Take him out and he's hyper.

My daughter scored her first goal this week. It was a proud moment to watch her stay with the ball and then aim her kick perfectly into the net. She said to me later, "I want to do that again!"

Hopefully all of these 4-year-olds are having fun and will want to "do that again." I had some coaches in my childhood who yelled and screamed and generally soured me on team sports. At this age it's so important to make exercise and teamwork a positive experience so the kids will want to return to it.


 

DARK Song #3



My son picked this week's DARK* Song -- "Reasons" by UB40. Released just a few months ago, it's a refreshing comeback for a band that I had sorta stopped paying attention to after their incredible 1986 album Rat In The Kitchen.

If this one doesn't have you on your feet and singing along, then there's no hope for you. I'm a sucker for this style of reggae/pop. So are my kids, as they both ask me to hit repeat when "Reasons" plays on the iPod.

Listen: UB40 - "Reasons" MP3

Start dancing!

Click here to buy UB40's new CD Who You Fighting For? at Amazon. The whole disc is great for kids!


*Dance Around the Room with your Kids



Wednesday, April 26, 2006

 

Good For You

I typed this list up to put on our fridge, just to remind me what I need to focus on while making up our grocery list. The list was compiled by Dr. Steven Pratt, who wrote a book about so-called "Superfoods." These are the best foods to help you live a long and healthy life. You should be serving most of them to your family each and every day.

  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Beans
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Garlic
  • Honey
  • Kiwis
  • Oats
  • Olive Oil
  • Onions
  • Oranges
  • Pumpkin
  • Salmon
  • Soy
  • Spinach
  • Tea
  • Tomatoes
  • Turkey
  • Walnuts
  • Yogurt
  • Pomegranates

Sorry, Pop Tarts and Pringles didn't make the cut.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

 

Blur Into Spring

Spring is quickly becoming a blur of yard work, soccer, house cleaning, and hours at the park. Not that I'm complaining. It's all good (well, maybe not the yard work). But it's all coming at me so fast and furious. My body and brain are still in winter "hibernation" mode, it's going to take a few more weeks of warmth and sunshine to get myself up to speed with the season.

One thing that helps is to pack up the family and go for a little hike by the lake...









Monday, April 24, 2006

 

Mayhem at the North Pole

The news of a planned murder rampage at a middle school in Alaska made me sit up and notice only because we have friends in the small town of North Pole, near Fairbanks. And they have a son at that middle school. Thankfully, he is fine.

His dad emailed me what he knew about the situation. Parents of pre-teens and teenagers, read this and think about what kinds of games your kids are playing on their computers and PlayStations.

What I do know about the plans was that the six kids who conceived it were heavy video game players, especially Grand Theft Auto and Diablo. The kids played continuously on-line late into the evening and were known to play in class as well using the Sony handheld wireless device. The top law enforcement officer, who I know personally (he goes to our church) told me that some of the details of the plan were identical to a game the kids had been playing and pretty much matched the scoring sheet of the game.

Get this plan: the kids were going to play hooky from school and show up about two hours late. They were going to cut the phone lines, internet lines, and power to the school. They were going to shoot the cops who are stationed at the school as well as attack the NP police station (just a few blocks away) after that they were to break into the school and head to the classrooms of the victims that were to die, then take out the teachers, principal, and other people as necessary.

Then the kids were going to leave the school, hope on their 4-wheelers, rob the nearby bank and then off they ride into the Alaska wilderness. Once in the woods they would have added up their points and see who won, that person would then be in charge of making sure the group survived.

Anyway, they were turned in before they even got the guns together...so all is safe in North Pole.


Friday, April 21, 2006

 

Backyard Blues



Excuse the lack of posts, but I'm too busy destroying my backyard.

Anyone have a landscaping horror story they'd like to share?


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

 

Walking On Eggs



At an Easter egg hunt in Coeur d'Alene's City Park on Sunday, my daughter scored big-time, with about a dozen eggs in her basket. But she scored even bigger when she decided to share three of her eggs with a little girl who was crying after finding just one.

I didn't see any pushing or shoving like I heard about at some other local egg hunts. This one in the park was decidedly low-key. That's the way it should be. When they start giving away iPods and laptops, that's a bit over the top. Candy and pennies are all my kids need to find in a plastic egg.

So now my kids have added another holiday's worth of chocolate and lollipops to their candy bags. There's stuff in there from Halloween still.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

 

DARK Song #2

This week's DARK* Song is from the soundtrack to the early 90's PBS show Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego. There were actually two soundtracks released in connection with that show. Both featuring artists such as Rockapella, Yazbek, They Might Be Giants, and XTC.

Here's a really fun song that I'm sure will have your kids wondering if they can have cake for breakfast.

Listen: Greg Lee - "Cake For Breakfast" MP3

Start dancing!

Click here to buy a used copy of the CD at Amazon.


*Dance Around the Room with your Kids



Monday, April 17, 2006

 

To Serve and Protect

Sometimes comedian Bill Cosby isn't very funny, but we should still stop and listen to him.

He made an appearance in Cincinnati last week and called on parents to protect their children from harmful influences. "You leave a child unprotected when you leave a child to figure out things on his or her own that adults should be deciding for them," Cosby told the crowd.

I agree that we are forcing our kids to grow up too fast by letting them make decisions for themselves before they're ready. And frequently the kids are given that power because the parents are too lazy to continue being parents. Too many moms and dads are giving up on their responsibilities prematurely because they want to get back to their own interests, hobbies, or careers. Young kids are left to make too many of their own choices without enough education and experience. And they mess up, big time.

The bottom line for parental guidance should be eighteen years, not fifteen or twelve. If you can help your children through that first part of life, they'll have what it takes to get through the rest.


Friday, April 14, 2006

 

Big Lake, Little Kayak



My wife and son, exploring Lake Coeur d'Alene last summer.

The Pacific Northwest's record-breaking wet season continues. I'm hearing that Winnie-the-Pooh song in my head constantly now: The rain rain rain came down down down in rushing, rising rivlets

I can feel spring out there somewhere, waiting to break through the gloomy weather.

In the meantime, we're dreaming of warm days on the lake...


Thursday, April 13, 2006

 

Behind The Smile

Last weekend was picture day at the park for all the local soccer teams. The kids and I were walking up from the parking lot to where the photo tents were set up when I saw this young girl walking down the sidewalk toward us. She was by herself, sort of skipping along, and as she approached us she looked up and got the biggest smile on her face -- the kind of smile that you can't help smiling back at and thinking, "There's one happy kid."

And then I thought my heart might just stop. I realized that it was Shasta Groene, the 9-year-old girl who lost her mother and two brothers in an unspeakable act of horror last summer. I literally had to stop for a moment and hug my kids. My son wondered why I was getting teary-eyed, and all I could say was, "I just wanted you to know that I love you."

As I caught my breath, I looked back down the sidewalk and saw Shasta join her father at their car. She was happy to be in the park, happy to be with her dad, happy to be on a soccer team. I really truly hope that she keeps that happiness on the inside as well. Nobody can imagine the pain she's gone through, but if she can smile like she did at me and my family in the park, then maybe she's going to be okay.

There's also a lesson there for all of us... It's the easiest choice in the world to simply decide to be happy. You can come up with all sorts of excuses to be grumpy and cynical, but that state of mind takes way too much time and effort to maintain. Your life is good, admit it. Drop the whining and the complaining and just put a smile on your face. It'll change everything.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

 

Nice Place To Visit?



A sign along the Oregon Trail Park in Boise.

You think it would've been safer to just take my kids to Baghdad?


Monday, April 10, 2006

 

Mommy Wars

It's always interesting, and kind of sad, to see the never-ending catfight between stay-at-home moms and working moms.

However, it does surprise me when yet another seemingly intelligent career woman shows such ignorant disdain toward mothers who choose to raise their children themselves rather than turn the job over to a daycare or nanny. Here in Coeur d'Alene, there is a lawyer named Rami Amaro who is running for District Judge. In a letter to supporters, she firmly placed her foot in her mouth and lost all the stay-at-home mom votes:

In fact, I know many "stay at home" moms who are less focused on their family than I am. Such moms may be at home all day and night - but they do little but watch television. Other "stay at home" moms I know may not work, but they do have other personal interests that take them away from their families just as much as if they worked. Each of these types of "stay at home" moms actually spend less time with their children than I do, and frequently spend NO quality time with their children.


Nice. I can't wait to hear what she says about stay-at-home dads.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

 

D.A.R.K. Song

Inspired by the music blog (sm)all ages, I'm launching a weekly feature called Dance Around the Room with your Kids (isn't that clever?) in which I'll post a fun song for you to, uh, do what I said above... Grab your kids, join hands, knock over some chairs, make your neighbors shake their heads, sing along, dance like mad, make a great memory!

We'll kick it off with a finger-snapping tune from 1983, "Motor Mania" by Roman Holliday. Remember those guys with the sailor hats? They were sort of a three-hit wonder. "Stand By," "Don't Try To Stop It," and "Motor Mania" were all hits for them. Then they faded off into the early 80's sunset with similar bands like JoBoxers and Haircut 100.

Here it is: Roman Holliday - "Motor Mania" MP3

Start dancing!

Click here for a pricey CD import of Roman Holliday's debut album.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

 

Spring Is Here?



Springtime on the Palouse! Click the picture for a bigger image.

We're actually getting warm weather here. I hope it stays. I think the kids are getting depressed by the almost non-stop rain of the past few months.

South of us is the unique Palouse country of North Idaho and Eastern Washington... One of my favorite places! Farmers grow a variety of crops there, but its claim to fame is as the "Pea and Lentil Capital of the World." Remember that next time you're enjoying a bowl of lentil soup with your kids.


Friday, April 07, 2006

 

Liberal Baby Bust

This USA Today article is from three weeks ago, but I'm just now reading it. In it, the writer points out that progressive secularists are having far fewer children than religious conservatives, thus setting up a future where conservative values dominate American Culture.

A local conservative blogger makes the correlation here between this article and the changing landscape of our cities.

Interesting stuff. As someone who is very moderate on most issues, I'm not sure I care one way or the other where our culture is headed. The older I get, the more I ignore it.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

 

Unimpressed

How To Keep The Wife Unimpressed:

Me: "Hey honey, last week one of my photos was Image of the Day over at Blogging Baby!"

She: "How much did they pay you?"

Me: "Umm... Nothing."

She: "Uh-huh."

Me: "Hey honey, look at this! Today another one of my photos is the Featured Image at the New West online magazine!"

She: "And how much does that one pay?"

Me: "Oh. Ummm... Nothing."


 

Alive and Kicking

Today was my debut as Soccer Coach... It went as well as can be expected with a group of 5-year-olds standing on a cold and rainy field.

I must've done something right. They all paid attention. They all did what I told them to do. Only one of them wandered off. And none of them cried. Success!

The first thing I did was let them kick the ball really hard and then chase after it, so by the time they got back they were too tired to be silly. Then we worked on dribbling the ball around in circles. Last, I had them pass the ball back and forth to each other (although I know from watching my son play soccer that kids never pass).

Then I gathered them around to ask, "Should you go into a store and steal a piece of candy?" Their eyes got wide and they shook their heads. Then I asked, "Should you go into your friend's room and steal a toy?" Again, frightened looks and vehement denials. Finally I said, "In the game of soccer, you SHOULD steal... Steal the ball from the other team!" They liked that.

My daughter is very proud of her bright orange team shirt... This follows in the tradition of my son's bright purple and bright red t-shirts from past soccer seasons. Oh well, they make good paint clothes when the season's done.

The goal of this month-long soccer season is FUN, and that's what I'll be making sure these kids get from this experience. A whole lot of fun. And yummy after-game snacks. And a little bit of stealing.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

 

Zoo Boise

More pictures from our trip to Baghdad Boise... These were all taken at the zoo. Click the picture for a larger version







Tuesday, April 04, 2006

 

It's In The Bag, Dad

Did I mention in my previous post about how much I enjoy playing April Fool's jokes?

Twenty-plus years of odd and amazing pranks... I've never fooled anybody. This year I seriously thought it would be more of the same. I mean, who in their right mind would take their 4 and 7-year-old children to Baghdad!?!?

But you were all so kind to not pass judgement on my decision to drag my kids through one of the most dangerous places on the planet right now. I mean, if it had been a real decision, which it would never be, because I can't even imagine anyone traveling with young children to Iraq right now. I'm sure they need crayons and markers as much as anyone, but they can get it from an armed Kevlar-covered soldier, not from a couple of blue-eyed blonde American kids who would make tempting targets for terrorists. I'm kind of surprised that nobody called me out on putting my family in harm's way.

Thanks to everyone who did leave a comment, though. It was nice to hear from people who have never commented before. I hope you're not mad about my little joke. I promise not to make stuff up until, oh, sometime around April 1 of next year.

So where did we really go last week? Well, we actually took a long drive south to visit some friends near Boise, the capital city of Idaho. No, no, I'm not trying to pull another April Fool's joke here. We really did spend part of our spring break in the desert country of Southern Idaho. We lived there for over a dozen years before moving back to the lake country of North Idaho, and it was fun to visit our old stomping grounds, show the kids where we used to live and play, bring up some old memories... All caught on film, of course. So here are some pics from our trip:


Idaho's State Capitol Building


Fish viewing windows at the M-K Nature Center


The cutest animals at the Boise Zoo.
The meerkats are cute too.



Carved from a solid piece of pine in 1869.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

 

Project: Crayons!

We're back from our travels, and only now can I tell you that it wasn't a fishing trip.

My family is very proud to have been selected by Binney & Smith, the makers of Crayola products, to accompany a group of art teachers and parent bloggers to the middle east to distribute ten tons of Crayons, markers, and other art supplies to the children of Iraq.



This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show my children a different culture and to establish in them a spirit of charity toward people who have so much less than we do. It was a thrill to see the looks on the kids' faces as these American children handed out boxes of much-needed tools for creativity.

Now, some might chide me for taking my children into a war zone, but it was anything but dangerous. As you can see in the photos below, we saw a military presence throughout Baghdad, so we always felt safe. At no time did I believe that my children's health and welfare were at risk. Both my son and daughter were fascinated by the new sights and sounds, and they were swarmed by appreciative crowds everywhere we went. If only more people would stop being afraid and get out to help those in need, this world might be a more peaceful place.

I'll write more about our visit to Iraq this week after the jet lag fades. To read more about the distribution project, click here.