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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

 

Halloween Safety

My 5-year-old daughter wants you to know the rules!

She got up early this morning to draft this, her Official Halloween Safety Rules:




Need a translation?

Halloween Safety Rules.
Go potty before you trick or treat.
And never touch a gun even if it looks like a gun that is fake.
And do not be afraid.
And have a fun time.


These are the rules. Have a great day everybody!



Sunday, October 29, 2006

 

Unsolved Mysteries

I'm filing this under Things I Heard My Son Say To His Sister But I Was Too Tired To Go Into The Other Room To See Why He Said It So Now I'll Never Know...

"Hey, you're not real! You're made out of gum!"


Saturday, October 28, 2006

 

CD Review: Kid Pan Alley

Kid Pan Alley is an amazing project started by songwriter Paul Reisler. He holds collaborative songwriting workshops in elementary schools, bringing top artists and writers into classrooms to help the kids create their own songs.

For this CD, children in Nashville worked with such songwriters as Beth Nielsen Chapman and Bill Lloyd, then helped match the tunes with some of the city's best singers, including Suzy Bogguss, Amy Grant, Delbert McClinton, and Kix Brooks. The kids then got to watch and participate in the recording sessions!

So how does it all sound? It flows surprisingly well, a strong collection of country, pop, reggae, rock, and even Dixieland jazz. The lyrics are incredibly sweet and endearing, even more so when you know that the kids were involved in every step of the creative process.

My kids love listening to this disc in the car. It's easy for them to relate to these tunes because they come right from the minds of kids their own age. I highly recommend this disc. It's one of those CDs that we'll be listening to long after we've outgrown other children's music.

Click here to buy Kid Pan Alley at Amazon.

Listen to a track... "Stinky Socks" by Lari White & Kid Pan Alley:




Thursday, October 26, 2006

 

Fall Farm Scenes







Tuesday, October 24, 2006

 

Dinner Bell

Jb3ll3's yummy meatloaf recipe reminded me that The Weird Girl asked for my world-famous hot dogs & pineapple recipe. You know, the one my kids refused to eat.

Here it is... Good luck!

Hawaiian Sweet and Sour Franks

2 (16 oz.) packages hot dogs, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (8 oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained
1/2 cup ketchup or chili sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 green pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons vinegar

Combine all the ingredients in a 3-quart casserole dish that can be used for both cooking and serving. Cover with lid or plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 12 minutes, stirring every 4 minutes.

Serve over a bed of rice.


Sunday, October 22, 2006

 

Everybody Clean Up

My kids have a hard time putting away their toys and cleaning their rooms, but when they heard about a special Clean-Up Day on our favorite hiking trail, they were eager to join in.

So we spent our Saturday morning picking up trash on Tubbs Hill, a beautiful nature area along the lake near downtown Coeur d'Alene. We hike the 3-mile loop trail at least once a month, sometimes carrying a picnic to one of the beaches along the way. It's only fair that we give back to the trail by helping to clean it up a little bit.



There were about a hundred volunteers that morning, ensuring that the hill would be well covered. The kids wanted to look for garbage on our favorite beach, which is just over a mile along the trail, so off we set with garbage bag in hand.



We picked up a few cans and candy wrappers, but mostly what the kids found were cigarette butts. Hundreds of them. No, I do believe they numbered in the thousands. After awhile my son said, "Daddy, there are more butts on this beach than rocks!"



Disgusting, right?. Not hardly. Not after what I found in a rock crevice ten yards up from the water.



It still makes my skin crawl just thinking about spotting it there on this beautiful stretch of beach. Makes me think twice about letting my kids run around in their bare feet. This was a reminder to me that there are people out there who do not have the slightest concern for anyone other than themselves. It pushes my cautiousness to the very brink of paranoia. That, however, is a state of being I cannot allow myself to enter.

I didn't make a big deal of the needle. I picked it up, made sure it was capped, and put it in the bag. My kids were more outraged by all the butts on the beach! They both just kept repeating, "People are so rude, throwing their garbage on the ground!" Judging by the amount of trash collected by all the volunteers that morning, there certainly are a lot of rude people around.



Saturday, October 21, 2006

 

The Kids Are Alright



Last month we had the good fortune to see Eric Herman live in concert at a fall festival in Spokane Valley, Washington. His show was awesome. All the kids loved it, especially my son, who has been listening to two of Eric's CDs almost non-stop for the past two months. We talked with Eric for awhile after the show, about kids and music... Met his wife and two little kids. Great guy, awesome family.

What was not so awesome about the concert was the location of the "children's stage"... The Valleyfest organizers showed how little they cared about kids' activities by, first, not even having a stage for the performers. It was actually just a table with about a dozen folding chairs placed on a soggy lawn. Have you ever tried to sit on a metal folding chair as it sinks into the muddy grass? Eric almost took a tumble when he jumped up onto one of those chairs during his spirited rendition of "Hot Sand."

To add insult to almost-injury, this area was in between two large stages, each one scheduled with some sort of generic countrified bar-rock band at the same time as Eric's show. Fortunately, he brought his own sound system and cranked it up. The last thing that bugged me about the festival situation is that the show wasn't advertised or promoted at all. A very small sign near the kids' stage read "Children's Concert, 11:45".

We didn't let any of that prevent us from enjoying Eric's music, but I couldn't help but think about how children really get the shaft from these community festivals. Organizers should know that families are the ones who love to come out to the park on a beautiful day and enjoy some fun activities and food. Yet who gets the big stage? A middle-aged bunch of blues-rockers playing to an empty grass field.

Oh sure, you see kids' games and inflatable bouncers at these things, but they're usually spread all over the place. Why not put them all in one location? Make it centrally located, safe and comfortable for the children and their tired parents. And then advertise your festival as a "Family Fest" or "Kids' Fest" because, really, isn't that who you want coming out to spend time and money at your event?


Friday, October 20, 2006

 

Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime

We're two months into homeschooling my 8-year-old son. So far, so good.

It still amazes me how amenable he is to the learning process. We have to fight him constantly to make his bed, pick towels up off the bathroom floor, and turn off his light at bedtime. But at 9am every weekday morning he's sitting at the little school desk my wife found at a thrift shop ready and willing to start the day's lessons.

I've had people ask me what kind of curriculum we're following. It's basic third-grade stuff, courtesy of K12 Inc.

My son's favorite subject is history (mine too). We started with the ancient Greeks and Romans, then jumped ahead to the middle ages, covering topics as diverse as Thomas Aquinas, feudalism, and the Black Death. My son is enthralled with the barbarian invasions of Rome... Naturally, since we're Vandal fans.

The past few weeks we've studied the Italian Renaissance, learning about the city-states of Florence, Venice, and Rome, and the artists of that time, such as Michelangelo, Leonard Da Vinci, and Brunelleschi.

The materials that we've been supplied with, both online and off, are excellent. But I still supplement them with books from the library and DVDs from Netflix. In fact, I want to recommend several historical documentaries that are good for kids 8 and older:

Empires - The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization - A little long at two hours, but my son sat through all of this stunning PBS film about ancient Greece and the first stirrings of democracy.

Ancient Mysteries - Miraculous Canals of Venice - Fascinating look at the history of Venice. I was especially intrigued by how they managed to build the foundations of all those buildings in such muddy soil.

Europe To The Max: Hidden Treasures of Greece and Rome - Rudy Maxa, host of the Smart Travels series, shows us around all the historic sites of Rome and Greece.

The K12 art curriculum is tied in with the history, so my son has made an illuminated manuscript, a clay sculpture (inspired by Donatello), a replica of Brunelleschi's Duomo, and a Limbourg calendar, among other things.

Besides art and history, my son loves science. We started off learning about different kinds of weather and climate zones, and are now finishing up a study of the earth's main biomes: tundra, boreal forest, deciduous forest, grasslands, desert, and tropical forest.

I have DVD recommendations for science too:

Antarctica - IMAX - I love IMAX films because they're always visually stunning, and they clock in at around 40 minutes (perfect for kids).

Beavers - This is an amazing film. Who knew that beavers making dams could be so fascinating? We watched this right after a science lesson on freshwater ecosystems.

The Weather - We're big fans of Donal MacIntyre after watching this BBC series about the different extreme climates of our world. There are four 1-hour episodes covering Heat, Cold, Wind, and Water. My son's favorite moment was when MacIntyre had himself stripped nearly bare and placed in a freezer to see what happens to the body in such extreme cold. I highly recommend this DVD to everyone.

The other subjects in my son's schooling include Language Skills, Literature, Spelling, Math, and Music. I'll talk about those another time.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

 

Wet Paint

This is what it looks like around our house when my daughter gets out the paint box.


 

Last of the Sweets



This busy bee was getting the last little bit of nectar from our flowers before cold and rainy weather descended upon us.

Which reminds me, I need to hold my annual fall celebration for getting through another summer unstung! It's been 32 years since one of those winged devils got me.


Monday, October 16, 2006

 

Ingenuity

My son and I watched this awesome example of one man's ingenuity and invention... If only I'd seen this before I moved 10,000 pounds of rocks into my backyard by hand!



 

Lockdown

That cartoon I posted a couple days ago? Not so funny anymore. My daughter came home from kindergarten with this note:

Dear Parents:

The school went into lockdown today at approximately 9:00am as two of our students reported to Mrs. Chadwick a credible safety concern. I immediately called for a building lockdown and the resource officer was called. A lockdown means that we keep all the children indoors and lock all our exterior doors and close windows and blinds. This is a safety procedure we do whenever there is an unsafe situation in the area. It could be weather related, a chemical hazard, or in this case a police matter.

The police interviewed the students reporting the concern and conducted a search of the grounds and the woods. Both areas were clear of any problems and the police reported that the school could resume its normal school schedule.

As an extra precautionary note students were not allowed outside the building without adult supervision and recesses were handled indoors.

The staff and students handled the situation very well. We practice safety drills regularly so that we are prepared. The students were reassured throughout the morning that they were safe.


What the letter did not say is that my daughter spent 30 minutes hiding under her desk today. I'm not criticizing the school. They did the best they could. I'm perturbed at a society that has people in it who would think of harming children. This coming on a day when the monster Joseph Duncan pleaded guilty here in North Idaho today.


 

Double Vision

I have a lot to write, but no time to write it... So here's a picture of my son playing frisbee with his evil twin:



I was teaching him about Photoshopping images. This was his idea.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

 

Just Another Day In The Public Schools





Reprinted with the artist's permission


Thursday, October 12, 2006

 

History Uncensored

History has always been my favorite subject, so it's been exciting to watch my son become enthralled with past civilizations, events, and people as we work through the history unit of our homeschool curriculum. We began with the ancient Greeks and Romans, then jumped ahead to the late middle ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. The past few weeks we've been focusing on some of the great artists, thinkers, and poets of that time, such as Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Petrarch, and Brunelleschi. Today we learned about the man who defined the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo Da Vinci.

We read about his sketchbooks and how he was constantly drawing and describing the world around him. We looked at the inventions that he thought up, but never built, such as a helicopter and a tank. And, of course, we marveled at his two most famous paintings, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.

I had planned ahead for this day and rented a DVD called Leonardo Da Vinci: Renaissance Master from the A&E Biography series. When we finished the lesson in our book, I immediately popped the 50-minute disc into the player and we sat back to learn more about Da Vinci.

Well, we certainly learned more about him. In fact, a little more than I bargained for. This documentary probably should've been titled: Da Vinci: Uncensored. We heard, in great detail, about Leonardo's propensity for young boys, his distaste for the "reproductive act," and his trial in Florence for sodomy.

I guess I'm going to have to start previewing these films before I show them to my kids, because I'm not ready to have certain discussions with my 8-year-old son. Or should I say he's not ready for conversations about pedophilia and sexual behaviors. My son will eventually hear about those things, but not now... he's just too young to properly comprehend those subjects.

What I don't get is that this was a relatively short documentary which glossed over several important aspects of Da Vinci's work in order to dwell on the more salacious details of his life. Those details told me nothing about the artist and his techniques or the influence that he had on the world today.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

 

Who Do I Look Like?

I just tried this face recognition demo at the MyHeritage website. You upload a photo of yourself and the software scans it and then tells you which famous people you look like.

Apparently the four people I most resemble are:



Yeah, that's Meryl Streep, Hugo Chavez, Veronica Varekova, and Bill Gates. I'm a rich and beautiful madman who can mimic any accent on the planet. Yup, that's me alright.

I'm adding this site to my list of Stupid Ways To Waste Time.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

 

Joe Vandal


Photo by Larry Johnson, VandalVenue.com

I've written before about my love for my alma mater, the University of Idaho. Although I'm not a big football fan, I do appreciate the fact that the sport is the main way for alumni to stay connected. I love nothing better than to take the kids down for a few home games where we can walk around campus, soak up the college atmosphere, and feel young again (well, that last one is for me).

Football is the front porch for most colleges. Over the years I've learned to enjoy the sport because it keeps me in touch with what's going on at an institution I care about. It's never been about the winning or losing, although the winning sure is fun.

All of this was just a reason to post a picture of our mascot's new costume, which was unveiled last weekend. My son and daughter think Joe Vandal is the coolest thing around. Maybe I'll dress up as him for Halloween.

Do your kids have a favorite sports mascot?


Sunday, October 08, 2006

 

Fired Up

One great thing about homeschooling is that we get to go on frequent field trips. Last week we headed off to a local fire station for a tour with some other IDVA kids.

It was fun for my son to see the inner workings of the station and how the firefighters live. He was surprised that they work 24 hour shifts and have beds to sleep in and a kitchen to cook in.



At one point a firefighter demonstrated to the kids how they quickly put on their fire suit, oxygen tank, helmet, and other apparatus. Then, telling them how safe he was inside all that gear, he invited the kids to pound on him. One boy took that as a challenge and really started thumping away.



What impressed me most about the firefighters is the fact that they must maintain a state of readiness at all times. Not only do they have to keep themselves fit and alert, but there are literally thousands of pieces of equipment that require constant upkeep.

These guys never know when a big call is going to come in and they'll be asked to perform under the worst of circumstances. It's one of the toughest jobs in the world. I think my son learned enough to understand that these men and women deserve our respect. Especially when they've got little fists pummeling them!


Thursday, October 05, 2006

 

Unhappy Meal

Both of my kids went to bed without their dinner tonight.

Not as a punishment. It was their choice.

Apparently, I served such a horrible gag-inducing meal that they preferred to go to bed hungry.

What did I put on the table? Four-Bean Salad, Tortellini & Broccoli Salad, Pea Soup (with carrots from our garden), and Sliced Hot Dogs in a Ketchup/Pineapple Sauce.

They wouldn't touch any of it.

I told them that I wasn't going to make a separate meal just for them, that we all eat what's put on the table. Or they can simply go to bed without eating. And that's what they happily decided to do. It's the first time they've both willingly not eaten dinner.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

 

As The Blog Turns

I haven't done this for awhile. Since it's only 12:22am, I have a few minutes...

Recent Blog Posts That Caught My Eye:

John, over at PhotoDoto, reviews a new online photo backup service that looks like just what us nervous photographers need to have a little peace of mind about our digital pictures.

Clare's Dad has joined the ranks of Stay-At-Home Dads. Welcome to the club!

Steve, at Adamant Sun, lists some of his favorite fun snacks to make for kids.

Now I know what to do with all those pennies I've been hanging on to all these years.

Mike, the AtHomeDaddy, shows us why highway workers and alcohol don't mix.

Jeff, at Out With The Kids, continues a stunning travelogue of his family vacation to France.

I've had trips to the store that felt like this.

MetroDad points us toward some great new daddy blogs.

Eric, over at Cool Tunes For Kids, tells us why The Wiggles are cool. And I agree!

And finally, some cool dude wrote an awesome post about the legendary British band XTC over at the (sm)all ages music blog.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

 

Signs of Fall



It's not just the leaves that fall from the trees this time of year... An autumn scene from a North Idaho farm.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

 

Why We Homeschool

We are entering our seventh week of homeschooling our 8-year-old son. As I've mentioned before, it's all going very well. Better than expected, in fact.

Through IDVA outings and activities, we've met many other homeschooling families and have heard just about every reason as to why people choose this option for their kids. Most of them are homeschooling for religious reasons. Others live in remote areas. Some had bad experiences with the public schools.

Our reason for homeschooling falls into none of those categories. Our religious beliefs didn't enter into the decision. We don't live on some isolated mountain top. And, in the three years our son was in the local public schools, we never had a single bad experience.

Quite simply, it came down to a realization that the education my son was receiving in the traditional classroom was merely good, bordering on average. Three years of watching him, being involved, and volunteering in the schools opened my eyes to the fact that our schools can only do so much. Some kids thrive in that system. Other kids get lost. Most kids do well but never excel.

My son always did well in school, but there were too many days when he was bored or ignored. Too much time wasted and opportunities squandered. Over the past year we explored the various forms of homeschooling and it didn't take long for us to decide that this was the way for us to go.

We're lucky enough to be in a situation, with one at-home parent, that makes it easy to homeschool. If we couldn't do it I wouldn't feel too bad about leaving my son in the traditional public school setting. With limited resources and crowded classrooms, they do a good job educating children. But I can do better than just "good" for my kids.

And that is why we homeschool.