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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

 

Goodbye Yellow Greg Page

The mom and dad blogosphere is abuzz today with the news that Greg Page is retiring from The Wiggles due to health problems. You can watch his goodbye message here.

My thoughts on this might be a little different than some others, because in our house The Wiggles are as big as The Beatles. Well, almost.

The first pop/rock my kids ever heard in their young lives came from The Wiggles. And the key here is that they heard it. We didn't actually watch any Wiggles videos until a long time after becoming familiar with their first two or three CDs.

So we've always judged the group on the quality of their songs, which I've always felt are as good as children's pop gets. And in Greg Page they had a lead singer with a warm, comforting voice that didn't strain or falter. The Wiggles will carry on without him, but I'm glad that my kids have outgrown them because it just won't be the same without Greg Page at the helm.

We still listen to their music from time to time, tending to skip over the tunes geared toward the toddler crowd. The Wiggles catalog offers a wide variety of styles and lyrics. They helped me introduce my kids to everything from Jewish folk music to Irish jigs.

I have a feeling that a few parents who say they don't like The Wiggles are basing their feelings on being forced to listen to the same five or six silly songs that the Disney Channel repeats daily. I would suggest that if you dig deeper into their catalog, you could find quite a lot to respect. There are even a few tunes that I could safely include on a mix CD for my grown-up friends.

Here are seven of our favorite Wiggles songs, as selected by my son and daughter. Give them a good listen:

"Walk"
Encouraging kids to not be sedentary. I still hum this tune to myself when I'm out walking.
"The Four Presents"
Love the addictive chorus!
"The Gypsy Rover"
A traditional Irish folk song from the 1950's.
"John Bradlelum"
My son and I actually learned the little dance that goes along with this song. Now he thinks dancing is embarassing... especially when I do it.
"Havenu Shalom Alechem"
The Hebrew Song of Peace. My kids probably wouldn't have heard this if not for The Wiggles.
"Porcupine Pie"
Fun cover of a Neil Diamond song.
"I Love It When It Rains"
Some of their best songs were the quiet ones. Greg has a great voice for lullabyes... Very soothing.

We wish Greg Page all the best as he tends to his health. Thanks for helping my kids discover music. Their lives will be fuller and richer because of it. And good luck to the "new" Wiggles. You can never make enough kids smile.

Click here to buy Wiggles CDs!


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

 

Kids' CD Review & Giveaway!

Most of our favorite kids' musicians have been men... Ralph's World, Eric Herman, Brent Holmes, The Hipwaders and, yes, even The Wiggles.

So it was refreshing (especially for my daughter) to receive a new CD recently from a female artist.

Tracey Eldridge is a popular children's performer in the Washington, DC, area. Her debut CD, Never Mind The Rain, took me completely by surprise. Judging from the back cover and the song titles, I expected very simplistic Sesame Street style songs for babies and toddlers. But what we heard was a collection of highly-polished full band recordings in styles ranging from Dixieland to Rockabilly to Zydeco.

And we're all in love with Tracey's gorgeous voice. She reminds me of two of my favorite singers, k.d. lang and Karen Carpenter. She tells great stories and teaches about music in a fun way.

My kids and I highly recommend Tracey Eldridge! You can buy her CD online at CD Baby. She also has MP3 clips of all her songs on her website.

Here's one of our favorite songs from her disc, a lovely tune that will have your kids swaying to the Hula beat...

Listen: Tracey Eldridge - "Happy Hula Day"

I have a copy of this CD to give away! If you'd like it, leave a comment.


Monday, November 27, 2006

 

Snow Day



I had to drive in a blizzard yesterday, down a windy two-lane highway, my hands tightly gripping the wheel for hours, closely watching every car in the opposite lane.

I love the snow, but I don't much enjoy driving through it.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

 

Priorities

I had to throw in the towel on NaBloPoMo...

Priorities, priorities -- kids, family, holiday, sleep. Other things came up this weekend.

Of course, taking a trip to a place with no Internet access doesn't make it easy to post to your blog each day!

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving break.

Hannelie, your CD will be in the mail this week.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

 

Happy Thanksgiving



Wednesday, November 22, 2006

 

Ghosts of Presents Past

Deciding what toys and games to get the kids for Christmas is a real gamble. Whatever we get them, odds are they'll love it for a couple of days and then it will be gathering dust by New Year's.

I can think of only a handful of Christmas presents that saw serious playtime for more than a few months. Those are like the Holy Grail of the toy store. As I look around our toy-cluttered house, it's easy to pick out what has given us a whole lot of bang for the buck.

I pass this knowledge on to you, in case you are trying to figure out what to get your young ones this year... I've put Amazon links on most of these, if you want to read more about them...


Neon See-Me Connecting Tunnel
We've had this thing for six years and not a month has gone by when this isn't dragged out of the closet or basement for some sort of obstacle course or hide 'n' seek game. I love that it helps stir my kids' imagination. They play with it both indoors and out, and it's amazingly still in great shape.


Little Tikes Cooking Fun Kitchen
This one was pricey, but well worth the joy my daughter gets from it. She's had this in her room for two years now and still enjoys "making breakfast" for her mom and dad. The kitchen makes all kinds of sounds, like running water, sizzling bacon, popping popcorn. What's really awesome is when my daughter invites her big brother over to fix a big feast. Again, the imagination really takes off. I love toys like that.


Tub of Legos
This is a no-brainer. Legos are the best toy ever. Even I like playing with them!


Star Wars Light Saber
Forget those fancy electronic talking light sabers. Just get a couple of these basic models, one green and one blue, and watch your kids battle it out.


Cranium Cadoo
My kids' favorite board game! They don't get tired of it because of the wide variety of challenges, including charades, riddles, sculpting, and drawing. The Cranium Company has an awesome track record with its games, and this one never disappoints.


Spy Safe Cracker
This has been my son's favorite personal toy for the past year. It's a safe for locking up valuables, but it's also an extremely entertaining puzzle game with three different challenges: Sonic Match, Codebreaker, and Maze Challenge.

If you have any toys or games that have been a hit with your kids, I'd love to hear about them.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

 

Ohmigod! Dan Zanes!

Here's where I raise the ire of all the mommy bloggers who are in love with the guy, but I just can't help myself...

I don't get Dan Zanes. There I said it. Somebody had to.

I really don't understand what the fuss is all about. My kids and I have listened to three of his CDs, and he just did absolutely nothing for us. Sure, he's pleasant enough. His banjo seems to be in tune, if you can tell if a banjo is in tune. He's obviously quite an accomplished musician and has surrounded himself with talented people to bring his songs to life.

Maybe it's because we like our pop served up with a healthy dose of Beatlesque. Zanes' style of bluesy-folk-rock just doesn't float our boat.

Maybe it's his hair? When I was younger, I certainly admired my fair share of bands with rockstar hair. Brian May of Queen was the ultimate.

Whatever it is, somebody will have to explain the appeal and fan worship of Dan Zanes, because I'm just not getting it.

P.S. Of course, if Dan, I mean Mr. Zanes, wants to send me one of his CDs, my kids and I would be happy to give him another spin.


Monday, November 20, 2006

 

NaBloPoMo

This NaBloPoMo challenge is starting to feel like I'm running a marathon but I only trained for a 10K. I don't know how some of you daily posters do it AND care for your kids AND run a household.

But I'm going to keep plugging away for another ten days, because there are free prizes! I like free stuff!

Speaking of free stuff, it looks like I'm going to have to flip a coin to give away that Elton John CD. What, nobody likes Elton John anymore?


Sunday, November 19, 2006

 

On eBay

It's been eight years since I signed up with eBay and sold my very first item, a plastic Seinfeld cereal bowl that went for $52. It was immediately addictive, not to mention a great way to make some extra money as I embarked on my new career as an unpaid stay-at-home dad.

I wasn't lacking for things to sell, having been a packrat collector for most of my life. By the time my kids were born I was starting to grow tired of moving boxes of souvenirs and knick-knacks from one place to another. All of that stuff suddenly became unimportant. So, I sorted through my collections of Star Wars, Disney, and Beatles memorabilia and had fun watching bidders fight over them on eBay.

It didn't take long for me to start haunting thrift shops and garage sales, always on the look-out for some rare item like a sixties-era Disneyland map that I paid 35-cents for and then sold for $36. Or the used Sherlock Holmes TV soundtrack CD that I found for $2 and let go for an astounding $151. That's my record for profit percentage.

It was fun to take my son around to these places while he was in a stroller. As soon as he learned to walk, though, he wouldn't stay confined and wanted to explore everything with me. That was a problem because I would breeze through garage sales most of the time. I knew exactly what to look for... the things that were hot on eBay at that moment. My son would scream and cry when I did a quick run-through.

By the time my son was two years old I had pretty much stopped going to garage sales and thrift shops because it was too much work and not much fun for anyone at that point. Luckily by this time the word had spread and family and friends were bringing collectibles to me to sell for them. The next few years most of my eBay sales were for them, and I took a small commission.

The past few years have been slow, and I've taken long breaks from eBay. I just started up again when a friend gave me some DVDs to sell. It had been about six months since my last auction and I worried that maybe eBay had changed, that it wasn't going to give me a good price for these items. But they all finished up at or above my expected price.

So it looks like eBay is still as effective as it was eight years ago. People seem to have a constant hunger for stuff, whether it's new or used. I don't have that craving anymore. My kids have shown me what's really important in life. Oh sure, I still collect a few things, but nothing like when I was younger and it seemed like a sort of sickness. I think my son is developing a healthy outlook on collecting... Just the other day he told me that if he ever gets tired of his Star Wars figures he can sell them on eBay and use the money for something else.

Oh, and he loves this song... Even if he doesn't fully understand the cynicism behind the lyrics.

Listen: Chumbawamba - "On eBay"

There's stuff you find along the way,
And stuff you leave behind.
And it all ends up as stuff that you can buy
On eBay


Buy Chumbawamba CDs at Amazon.com


Saturday, November 18, 2006

 

All My Colors



Movie night inspired my daughter to put crayons to paper. Can you guess what DVD we just watched? And which scene was her favorite?

No, you won't win anything for guessing correctly. If you want free stuff, just look at the post below.


Friday, November 17, 2006

 

Take My Stuff

The spirit of Christmas is in the air and I'm in the mood to give stuff away.

If any mom and dad bloggers want Elton John's new CD The Captain & The Kid for free, just leave a comment here and I'll pick someone at random next week.

This is the first of many items I'll be giving away between now and Christmas.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

 

Open Your Eyes

I had an epiphany about my son a few weeks ago. He was being extremely stubborn about something which involved a group activity in the community. The details are not important. But in the moment I became quite frustrated with him and actually said out loud to myself, "Why can't my son be like all the other boys?!"

The answer came to me instantly: "Because he's not like the other boys!" And in that moment I realized how wrong it is to compare my children to others. My son and daughter are totally unique. There's nobody else like them (now I sound like Mr. Rogers). It just took me awhile to understand that their personalities are their own, and sometimes I just have to let them be who they are.

Of course, that doesn't mean they can break rules and be impolite. But I'm talking about the way they play and create and learn and grow. Every kid has their own special way. Sometimes it's up to the parents to open their eyes and see it.

Today I found this beautiful video from Japan that kind of illustrates my point. Click here or click on the picture:



Wednesday, November 15, 2006

 

Happiness Is Warm Feet



That's me and my Australian Uggs up there. I've been slipping my feet into these toasty sheepskin boots for nearly ten years now. I can't imagine anything more comfortable. The best way to describe how they feel is that they snuggle your feet.

Anyway, now that winter's here, I appreciate them anew. We don't keep the heat cranked up and our wood floors get chilly.

Uggs are extremely durable too, so I'll probably get a couple of pairs for the kids. You can find a great selection of Uggs at ToeCovers.com. They have Ugg Classic Short, Ugg Classic Tall, Ugg La Jolla, and Ugg Catalina, in shoes, boots, and clogs. Looks like they have a lot of other brands as well, but I highly recommend the Uggs. That recommendation comes from ten years of warm and fuzzy feet.

Yes, this is a sponsored post... Did I sound like Paul Harvey? I would not have written this if I didn't believe in the product.


 

Commercial Madness

I don't watch much commercial TV... Lost, Amazing Race, Battlestar Galactica, Prison Break, and Survivor. Some sports events too, but that's about it.

I don't really watch the commercials because I record those shows and fast-forward through the ads. So I'd forgotten how annoying some ads can be.

Especially when a beloved song is butchered. During a football game last weekend I saw this travesty from Maxwell House featuring "Our House" by Madness. Only it wasn't the original recording. It sounded more like the Brady Bunch Kids were singing it. It actually made me grimace and suck air in through my teeth, like I'd just been kicked in the gut. No wonder I don't like coffee.

This song is basically my family's theme song. It's the main ringtone on my cell phone. It goes on every iPod mix I make for car trips. My kids sing the words "Our house, in the middle of our street" almost every time we arrive home from several days away.

Here it is... One of the most perfect pop songs of all time...

Madness - "Our House"

Oh, and the video is cool too:



Buy The Ultimate Collection by Madness at Amazon.com... Highly recommended for kids of all ages!


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

 

Poetry Corner

It's time once again for a poem by my 8-year-old son:

The sun falls
Ready for night
And darkness creeps
Over the forest
Sounds come from deep inside
Later on the sun comes up
And you wonder
From last night
Who made those meows.


Monday, November 13, 2006

 

The Perfect Diet

My 5-year-old daughter overheard me say that I needed to lose a few pounds, so she designed the perfect diet for me...



Sunday, November 12, 2006

 

Dish It Out



Dear Santa, you know that 80GB Video iPod I've been pining for?

I think I'd rather have a robot that empties the dishwasher.

Of course, if you can manage both, that would be great... I've been extra good this year.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

 

Is Your House On Fire?

The Clark W. Griswold inside of me died just a little bit this morning when I was getting out the boxes of Christmas lights and decorations.

My wife came up to me and said, "Try to make it a little less tacky this year."

Oh man, so the giant inflatable Santa on a Harley is out?


 

Teacher Teacher

We were at the grocery store yesterday and ran into my son's first grade teacher from a few years ago. He liked her and had an easy transition under her care from a half-day of kindergarten to the more tiring full day of first grade.

She remembered him and stopped to talk with us for a moment. Inevitably, the question of school came up. I'm hesitant to bring up the subject of homeschooling with employees of the public schools. It's been my experience that most teachers and administrators detest homeschooling. I guess they see it as either an insult to their profession or a threat to their livelihood, or both.

So I went ahead and told her that we are homeschooling through the IDVA and that my son loves everything about it, and is thriving, and... Here I waited for the pained look.

But instead, her face brightened, she smiled wide, and said, "Oh! I know all about the IDVA. My daughter works for them. It's an incredible program." Then she turned to my son and told him, "You're very lucky to have your dad as a teacher."

It's nice to hear that kind of thing, especially from somebody who has been teaching as long as she has. I'll take supportive comments from wherever I can get them, but that one was definitely memorable.


 

Money For Blogging?

There's an interesting new trend in the blogosphere -- accepting money for reviewing products and websites. What do you think about this?

Personally, I don't have a problem with it if it's just one small infrequent part of someone's blog. And also if the product or site being reviewed is relevant to the blog's regular focus. I won't begrudge anyone, especially stay-at-home moms and dads, from making a little cash every now and then with their writing.

One new company that is allowing bloggers to make money is ReviewMe. This easy-to-navigate website matches advertisers with blogs based on subject matter and tags. It took me about 30 seconds to sign up and be approved. If I ever receive an offer to review a product or site, it's completely my choice whether to do it or not. And if I do write a review, I'll always let you know that the post is an ad that I'm being paid for. In fact, ReviewMe is going to pay me for this very post you're reading right now.

I maintain this blog for several reasons... First, and foremost, is to connect with other parents out there. The community of mom and dad bloggers continues to amaze me in its scope and diversity. I enjoy being a small part of it. The second reason I keep this blog is as an outlet for my creativity. In other words, it's therapeutic. Reading and writing blog posts is a good way to end the day.

If I can say that a third reason for this blog's existence is to put a few dollars into my kids' college fund, then I'll be very happy to add that to my list.


Friday, November 10, 2006

 

One Of Those Mornings

I woke up this morning with a dull headache, the lingering aftereffects of a trip to the dentist yesterday. It got worse as the kids dragged their feet getting dressed and ready for school. They were overly excited by our first snowfall of the year, and my son was out the door with snow shovel in hand before I could remind him that he had only ten minutes until school began.

I let him scrape the slush off the driveway and we started lessons a bit late. No big deal, flexibility is one of the hallmarks of homeschooling. I just don't want to make a habit of starting at different times each day.

We studied some new spelling words, combined subjects and verbs, and worked on division facts. Then it was time for him to practice his writing. Today he was supposed to write a "friendly letter" in the proper format. I knew this would take him at least ten minutes, so I figured I'd just sit down on the couch and try to shake off the last little bit of sleep fog. The Ibuprofen hadn't kicked in yet and my jaw still ached.

Two hours later I heard this: "Daddy, wake up, it's time for lunch."

I'm proud of my son. Not only did he write a very nice letter, with appropriate headings, greetings, and indentations, but he then sat quietly while I snored, reading his books and drawing elaborate winter landscapes. On top of that, he woke me up just in time to go pick up his sister from kindergarten.

Actually, I think that last part was a coincidence. He was really just hungry.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

 

I Scream

This is hilarious... I can totally identify with the dad in this video:



 

A Soldiers' Angels

Jason, over at Superhero Historians recently told me about this awesome project to purchase voice-activated laptops for wounded soldiers. It's called Project Valour IT.

The bloggers involved in this charity are having a friendly competition to see which service branch can meet its goals the fastest. Jason's on the Navy team, so if you want to donate a little something to this cause, click on over there and Go Navy! It doesn't matter which branch you donate to, as all monies go toward getting the laptops to the wounded servicemembers.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

 

Did I Just Say That?

Every parent has had that moment when, just after saying something to your kids, you stop and ask yourself, "Did I just say that?"

I had one of those this evening.

I heard myself say, in a completely earnest and straightforward manner, "As a general rule, do not stick your nose in other people's bottoms."

You'd think our children would be genetically coded with this type of wisdom. After all, we're not dogs.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

 

Sleepless In Idaho

I've written several times about how smooth the transition to homeschooling has been for my son. He took to it so easily, I was kind of surprised at first. The only negative aspect to him being at home has recently revealed itself with the onset of cold winter weather.

All of a sudden we're not outside that much anymore. During the fall, my son had regular breaks in the backyard and at the park. We rode bikes, threw a Frisbee around, hiked near the lake. But for the past several weeks it's been cold and rainy. So we're stuck inside with more sedentary activities.

But that's not the bad part, because my son is an expert at entertaining himself. Last week he pulled out the box of Legos and has been having a grand time building miniature versions of Athens and Rome. He also loves to read and draw. No, keeping busy during the winter months is not difficult for him.

The problem comes at bedtime, which is 8pm on schoolnights in our house. He's still wide awake, ready to play and have fun. We let him read or listen to quiet music. Anything to calm his brain and body. By 9pm I'm insisting on lights and CD players off. But he'd lay there for hours, thinking instead of dreaming.

A few days ago we bought a sound machine to help him get to sleep. It has one good sound on it - falling rain. So far I think this is working. He's been out by 9:30 the past few nights. But that still doesn't solve the problem of remaining physically active through the winter. He's in a weekly PE class at the local gym, but that's about it. Any suggestions?


 

Zoom Zoom

When a 14-year-old boy asks for the keys to your new sports car, just say no. (Contains a couple of mild swear words, in case the kiddies are watching)



Monday, November 06, 2006

 

Hiawatha Trail



Is it too soon to reminisce about the long ago summer of 2006? That's what we do all winter... Think about the many adventures we had during the warm months, while planning new ones for next year.

We ended our summer with what is quite possibly the best bike trail in the country, The Hiawatha Trail.

This 17-mile route follows the old Milwaukee Railroad line through the Bitterroot Mountains of Idaho, winding through eleven tunnels and across nine high trestles.

The best part, for a family, is that the entire trip is on a gentle downhill dirt track. At the end is a shuttle bus waiting to take you back to the top. No huffing and puffing (or whining) for anybody.

The highlight of the ride comes at both the beginning and the end -- The 1.8-mile Taft Tunnel. You ride through it twice because the shuttle bus can't go through it, and the parking lot is on the other side. The tunnel is very dark, very wet, and totally disorienting because it curves slightly and you can't see the exit. We had good flashlights, but next time we'll have better ones.





While we were in there, one young man rode into the side of the tunnel and flipped his bike, cutting himself up quite badly. In the photo above, he's the guy without a shirt. Everybody stopped to give him band-aids.



My daughter had the easiest ride of all in this ride-behind bike. I was a little wary of pedaling 17 miles with an extra 50 pounds behind me, but the trail was so easy that it didn't make much difference.

The trip took us about four hours, and that was with frequent stops for resting, gawking at the view, lunch, and bathroom breaks. It was better than I had hoped for, and it's now my favorite thing to do in North Idaho. If you're ever in this area during the spring or summer, I highly recommend this trail. You don't have to be an avid biker to have a great time. My family will be riding the Hiawatha at least three or four times next summer.

Here are more photos to show you why...











Remember to always wear your bike helmet!


Sunday, November 05, 2006

 

Do As I Say

Here are a few things my 8-year-old son was told today:

"Go back to the bathroom and wash your hands!"

"Put away your toys!"

"You need to eat your salad because it's good for you."

"You should put on a jacket so you don't catch cold."

And who was nagging him all day?

His 5-year-old sister. She's going to be a great mother.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

 

New Look

Just spent an hour tweaking this new template... Let me know if I messed it up. I'll probably fiddle with the title picture over the weekend.

SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE: New title picture... How's it look? That's probably all the tweaking I'm going to do. The kids just watched two hours of Bugs Bunny cartoons and now they're ready get out and about.


Friday, November 03, 2006

 

Lost My Appetite



"Daddy, I don't want the kids meal here. Maybe you can fix that hot dogs and pineapple recipe instead."


Thursday, November 02, 2006

 

Who Needs Balls?

I've been trying to play catch with my son for about six years now, but it's always been difficult for him. He flinches and closes his eyes no matter how softly I toss the ball to him. I don't know where he came up with the idea that I was going to rifle the ball at his head, but somewhere in the back of his mind I guess he thinks I'm going to hurt him.

We've tried tennis balls, whiffle balls, nerf balls, footballs, even bean bags. He's good at throwing them, but it's the catching skills that continue to elude him.

A few months ago we had a breakthrough. At the fair we picked up one of those cheap frisbees with some candidate's name on it. The next day I was showing my kids how to throw the thing when, lo and behold, my son revealed his hidden talent. The boy can catch a frisbee!

Something about the shape, or the gentle way that it floats through the air to him, I don't know what exactly, but whatever it is he took to it immediately. He no longer backs away or seems afraid as we play catch with this flying disc. Plus, he's developing the hand-eye coordination that is needed for other kinds of activities.

Best of all, frisbees are fun! I'd forgotten how easy they are to toss around. When I was about the age my son is now, my brother used to play frisbee with me... It was one of the very few games we could play together, as he was six years older than me and thought I was a bothersome brat (I probably was).

We've gone through three of those cheap giveaway frisbees and now I'm looking to spend some money on a good one. If you have a recommendation, let me know!


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

 

Tricks or Treats



My son has worn the same costume for the last three years. I guess when you find something that works, you run with it. I might hide the costume next year to force him to put as much thought into what he wears as he does into thinking up creepy decorations for the house. We went all out this year... "All out" meaning we had an extra $50 to spend on decorations.

I built a shelter out of PVC pipe and set it up over our front walk, then stretched that nasty cobweb material over the top of it. We peppered it with about 40 plastic spiders, then hung liberal amounts of black crepe paper streamers down the sides to create a "spooky tunnel" leading up to the front door. Skeletons, rats, skulls, and tombstones rounded things out.



I planted myself near the door, sitting still and making kids wonder if I was a dummy (this has also been debated by my in-laws). Then I'd leap up and frighten them all away before they could get their hands on my candy.

Today I'm just so happy to box up all the creepy decorations. I can only take so much ghoulishness this time of year, what with election day coming up soon.