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Friday, December 29, 2006

 

Post-Christmas Blahs

I have those post-Christmas blahs. Not blues, because I'm not depressed. I'm just... BLAH.

That's mostly because my daughter's little stomach bug hopped into me yesterday and over the last 36 hours I've been curled up in a ball with achey muscles and slight fever.

On the plus side, I've lost five pounds.

I'm also feeling kinda BLAH because of all the holiday-related clutter. You know, the new toys and games the kids have been playing with the last few days. Not to mention the Christmas decorations that have worn out their welcome.

It's time to de-Christmas this house. I can't wait to get it all back into storage. I love putting it up, but a month later I'm more than ready to take it back down.

The hardest task ahead of us is finding space for all those new toys and games. We'll be sorting through the old things and getting them out the door. It's almost as hard for me as it is for my kids, especially when I think about how much some of those toys cost.

Hopefully I'll shed this BLAH feeling over the weekend, as I get back to full strength and start in on cleaning up the house.

New Year's Day always brings good cheer to me, as I look forward to the exciting possibilities of the year ahead. I hope it brings happiness to you and your family as well. See you then!


Thursday, December 28, 2006

 

Rockin' New Year's Eve



Spokane area families can celebrate New Year's Eve with Eric Herman. He'll be performing four kids' concerts during the First Night Spokane celebration.

Here's his schedule for the 31st:

3:00 and 4:30 pm at the new Spokane Convention Center
7:00 and 8:30 pm at River Park Square Mobius

Also appearing will be kids' poet Kenn Nesbitt


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

 

The Forgotten



I felt sorry for this old dump truck in our backyard. It was a gift from me to my son on his very first Christmas. But he's mostly outgrown it, and now the truck sits forgotten in the snow, waiting for spring and the hope that maybe my daughter will play with it before she also loses interest.

Speaking of my daughter, she had some sort of stomach bug that kept her up all night before Christmas morning. She would fall asleep for thirty minutes, then wake up vomiting what little was left in her tummy. My wife and I didn't sleep much either. In fact, we were all zombies the next morning. Except my son... he got a good six hours and was ready to start opening presents around 7am.

The idea of Christmas roused my daughter and she was a real trooper for the first hour, but then she stretched out on the couch and napped on and off while we continued with opening gifts.

She didn't eat anything until that night when she suddenly announced that her tummy wanted ham, scalloped potatoes, and green beans. Whatever was making her sick, it was gone in 24 hours.

We had a better Day After Christmas, spending today just playing games and putting together some of the things the kids received. We'll probably do the same the rest of the week.

Personally, I got loaded up with TV DVDs... The complete 11-season run of MASH, CSI Season 6, Northern Exposure Seasons 1-5, Andy Griffith Show Seasons 6 & 7, St. Elsewhere Season 1, and The Cosby Show Season 1.

I don't know when I'll watch it all, but it was nice of Santa to finally get me some things I really wanted!


Sunday, December 24, 2006

 

Not A Creature Was Stirring

It's Christmas Eve, and all is not quiet in my house...

About an hour ago my daughter woke up crying, complaining of a stomach ache. I asked her if she felt like throwing up and she said no, so I told her to try to sleep because Santa was on his way.

Twenty minutes later she was vomiting the potato soup, Christmas cookies, and cheese popcorn she'd gobbled up earlier today. It was colorful, to say the least.

All the noise brought my son out of his room. He took one look at the mess and ran off to hide in his closet. "I don't want to get any barf on me," was his explanation.

It's after 11, and both of them are still awake. I still have some gifts to wrap, if I can remember where I hid them. Everyone in this house is going to be very tired tomorrow.

At least we got a snowman built today!



Thursday, December 21, 2006

 

An Irish Christmas

"Nollaig Shona Duit!"

That's "Happy Christmas" in Irish. And straight from Ireland comes a wonderful new Christmas song called "Tinsel and Marzipan" by the power pop band Pugwash.

Below is a video of the band, with special guests Neil Hannon and Dave Gregory, performing their new Christmas classic on some Irish TV talk show.

You can buy "Tinsel and Marzipan" here. All proceeds from the single go to the Irish Epilepsy Foundation. A great song for a great cause!



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

 

Against The Wind

Last week we had ferocious wind storms throughout the Pacific Northwest. In some places, people are still without power. We were lucky in my little neighborhood. Minor damage here and there. A few inflatable Santas blown into the next county, but nothing too serious.

Well, except for half the roof peeling off a nearby church!





I was up half the night thinking this is what was happening to our roof, but apparently our construction was better than their construction. God's gonna get that roofing crew!


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

 

Early Break

Christmas break came early to our house. We were supposed to have one more full day of homeschool, but things started out poorly this morning. It was clear that my son was having trouble focusing on anything other than Christmas fun. We tried to get through literature, and then spelling. I didn't even attempt a math lesson.

Eventually I saw that it was pointless and declared that Christmas break was starting a day early for him. And me too, I guess. My son will now have two weeks of playtime and lazy days...

While I have two weeks to catch up on all the housework that has been piling up.

When do the stay-at-home dads get a vacation?


Monday, December 18, 2006

 

Christmas Gift-By

Last week the grandparents cruised by the house for a "gift-by" -- that's where they drop off a ton of Christmas presents for the kids and then speed away before we know what hit us.

My son was giddy with joy and couldn't wait until his sister got home from kindergarten.

No sooner had she said hi to him than he grabbed her hand, led her into the living room, and pointed out the piles of presents under the tree.

"Look! Grandma and Grandpa are spoiling us! Aren't you happy?"


Saturday, December 16, 2006

 

Juice It

Absolutely nothing educational or profound about this series of videos from Nike... Sometimes it's just fun to watch stuff explode!



Try the Jello mold and the gumball machine too!


Friday, December 15, 2006

 

A Struggling Stay-at-Home Dad

I'm not feeling too much sympathy for this stay-at-home dad and his family who are having trouble making ends meet on his wife's $150,000 yearly pay.

Nobody in Nebraska should be struggling on that kind of salary! Heck, cut it in half and you should still be doing very well for yourself. It's not that difficult to keep your expenses below your earnings.

First thing you do, stop watching so much commercial TV. All of a sudden those feelings of discontentment toward the things in your life will mostly disappear. Your house, car, clothes, TV, and furniture won't seem so out-of-date anymore, and you can save a ton of money by just enjoying what you have instead of wanting everything to be new and shiny.

Second, simplify. You don't need ten hobbies. Your family doesn't need to go on a big long trip every year when there's so much to do right in your own town or state. And you don't need a whole bunch of toys, like jet skis, that need maintenance, storage, and insurance (rent things like that, it's cheaper).

Last, if you are making $150,000, I don't care where you live, don't complain about it! There are a lot of people who would gladly trade places with you.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

 

What's It All About?

I asked my son today what Christmas was about, and he didn't even hesitate to say, "It's about giving."

He has these moments when I'm unbelievably proud of him, and I beam like a supernova.

And then he ruins it two hours later by making a sour face at me when I give him half a brownie instead of a whole one.

He's eight. I'll give him some leeway on these mood swings.

But I'm glad he knows that giving is what's important. His life is already so blessed. There are so many things that he doesn't have to worry about, and he's beginning to understand that there are kids in the world who have little or nothing in the way of comfort, security, and health.

Thinking about all of this reminded me of the post by Clare's Dad asking me to promote my favorite charity. This one's really easy. I like the no-nonsense groups that truly make a difference in people's lives.

There are two that we like to support with donations:

The Salvation Army... This group sometimes gets taken for granted. We think of them as "those bell ringers" but they do so much for such a wide range of people in need. They provide food, shelter, clothing, and counseling to the poor and homeless, senior citizens, and at at-risk youth. They also have the largest resident drug rehabilitation program in the country.

Make-A-Wish... Their mission is simple. Grant wishes to children with life-threatening diseases. We all have dreams, and nothing is sweeter than helping a child fulfill theirs.

You can donate to both of these charities in your local area, or through their websites.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

 

Homeschool Doldrums

We're entering the pre-Christmas doldrums, that time when a student's mind starts to wander to thoughts of presents and sledding and, most of all, a couple of weeks off from school.

It's no different in homeschooling than it is in public school. We have a week to go until the holiday break, but my son is slowing down just as he did last year and the year before. The decorations and the tree are some of the many distractions that are making it hard for him to focus on school subjects.

It's the change in our daily routine that is the wrench in the works. Sticking to a routine is key to homeschooling, and we've been off our regular schedule since the first of the month.

But the great thing about our situation is the flexibility. It's a simple matter of making the school day shorter, concentrating on core subjects like math and literature in the morning, then doing a fun activity or experiment in the afternoon.

I have some cool documentaries coming tomorrow, including "Modern Marvels: Sugar" and the PBS series "Rough Science"... Good stuff for these lazy days.

After the Christmas break we'll all be eager to get back on that schedule and feel like we're focused on our goals again.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

 

Shape Up

Kids need regular exercise, but so do dads...



Monday, December 11, 2006

 

No Son of Mine

It was quite evident to me last night that aliens had abducted my son and replaced him with an exact copy, but one that obviously does not share my DNA, when he stated the following:

"Daddy, I don't think ice cream is a very good dessert in the winter time. Can I have a cookie instead?"


 

Bindi Irwin On Tour

I think it's great that 8-year-old Bindi Irwin is continuing her father's legacy with a TV show of her own, called Bindi The Jungle Girl. What better way to introduce kids to animals and the environment than through someone their own age.

She'll also be heading to the US in January to make several concert appearance with The Wiggles. It sounds like this is what Bindi loves to do. Her mother is limiting her to just a few events over a short period of time. I have no doubt that Bindi inherited her father's energy and spirit, and she should do very well for herself following in his footsteps.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

 

Fly Like An Eagle

Last Friday we went on an eagle watching cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene with my son's homeschool group.

From mid-November to mid-January, upwards of 150 bald eagles settle into our area to feed on the lake's spawned kokanee salmon. During our hour on the water, we counted at least 40 bald eagles along the water's edge.

What an awesome sight these birds are... Makes me wish I had a better camera than my simple point-and-shoot. Still, I managed to get a couple of good shots.

My son loved this excursion. Sure beats sitting in a classroom!







Wednesday, December 06, 2006

 

Love/Hate Christmas


L.A. Daddy wrote a great post about what he loves and hates about the holiday season. Here's my contribution to the discussion:

I love setting up the Christmas tree, lights, and assorted decorations.
I hate taking them down just because they never seem to fit back in the boxes I took them out of!

I love looking out at the snow.
I hate driving in the snow.

I love giving fun toys and games to my kids.
I hate that nobody ever gives ME fun toys and games anymore.

I love listening to Christmas music.
I hate listening to Christmas music, 'round about midnight of December 25th.

I love the looks on my kids' faces when they open their presents.
I hate having to figure out where to put all this new stuff they're getting.

I love the cookies and treats.
I hate that my clothes won’t fit right for weeks after.

I love watching A Christmas Story, Home Alone, and Polar Express with my kids. And, after they go to bed, watching Christmas Vacation with my wife.
I hate that there are so many horrible Christmas movies out there, like Deck The Halls and Jingle All The Way.

I love egg nog ice cream.
I hate peppermint ice cream.

I love forgetting about the world's troubles for just a few days.
I hate that the troubles seem to always return in a worse way.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

 

Social Studies

We're four months into homeschooling, and all is well.

When we first decided to look into homeschooling, almost a year ago now, we heard quite a few cynical and hateful predictions from friends and family.

That was quite disappointing to say the least. I took the lack of support and filed it away into a very special place in my memory.

The comments we heard most often involved the "socialization" of my son. As if the only reason we should keep him in the public schools was so that he could par-tay with his homies.

Which is odd, because apparently most people don't know what goes on in the public schools. I was there, volunteering, from kindergarten to second grade. The kids are segregated by grade level. At lunch they march into the cafeteria and sit only with their own class. At recess, most kids play with friends they already know. There isn't much time or opportunity for this "socializing" that I hear so much about. Even in the classroom, kids sit quietly at their desks. They are not encouraged to play 20 questions with their neighbor to become better acquainted. Throw in the fact that my son's old elementary school is 99% Middle Class/Caucasian, and I'm left completely unimpressed with the socialization argument against homeschooling.

Something else that people don't know much about, and that's my son. He never did care much about making friends at school. He always spent his playtime playing around the groups of kids, not with them. He would get lost in his imagination while others were following the strict rules of tetherball or basketball.

My son is certainly not a loner. He loves to battle light sabers with friends. He's a wiz at board games. Soccer is his favorite sport. Once he warms up to you, he's just about the best buddy you could ask for, full of energy and creativity.

Some people might have this image of the homeschooler as a sickly little boy holding a violin while staring longingly out the window at kids playing in the park. But for my son, it's just the opposite. He's out and about and all over town almost daily. Activity is the key word. We don't just sit and read books all day.

Through the IDVA, he's been on five different field trips this fall. Two more are coming up before the Christmas break. He also has a weekly PE class at the local gym where he plays games with kids ranging from age 7 to 10. A few months ago he joined Cub Scouts. In October we even went to camp for a day where he learned things like archery and turkey calling.

Add in various community activities that we've done as a family and I daresay he's had more "socialization" in the past four months than he had in the past three years of public school. I can't even keep track of all the different kinds of people he's been experiencing lately.

And isn't that exactly what the naysayers told me that school prepares kids for? Dealing with different kinds of people later in life? Funny, I never saw much of that at the public school.

But I'm seeing it now.


Monday, December 04, 2006

 

Holiday Wallpaper

It's that time of year when I sort through my computer files to find holiday wallpaper for our desktop. Of course I never find the right ones and I'm always tired of the pictures from last year.

American Greetings has some of the best free desktop wallpaper around. And you don't have to worry about them having viruses or spyware. These pictures are just pictures. They have thousands of images in almost every category imaginable.

Of course, I'm partial to Christmas and winter. The whole family appreciates the calendar images, like this one:



Anyway, check them out... It's a really easy-to-navigate site. They also have cool animated screensavers!


Sunday, December 03, 2006

 

No More Pain

The other day I spent most of the morning sorting through mail and paperwork, getting bills paid and all those other bothersome things adults need to take care of. At lunch I told my daughter that I was all done paying bills.

She said, "Good. No more pain!"

She's already wise beyond her years.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

 

0 to 60 in 3 Seconds

You should've seen me rocket out of my office chair this evening. Wow, I move fast for an old guy.

The kids were downstairs playing Legos when I heard my 5-year-old daughter say to my 8-year-old son, "If you died, I wouldn't care. In fact, I would have a big smile on my face!"

My son replied, "Oh yeah, well maybe you'll die first and then I won't have an annoying sister anymore."

Then something else happened... it's all kind of a blur, really.

But I think the lesson my kids learned tonight is that the quickest way to send daddy into a barely-controlled rage is to talk about how great it would be if your sibling died. 32 years later, my brother's death is still a tough memory for me to cope with.

At bedtime I had a good talk with my son about not letting minor annoyances cloud your judgement to a point where you say things you might later regret. I'm not sure at what age kids start appreciating their families. I hope it's not when it's too late.


Friday, December 01, 2006

 

Bubble Bubble



My son may be eight years old, but he still knows how to have fun in a bubble bath!