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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

 

Bad Dream Baby

Every single night, without fail, for as long as I can remember, my 5-year-old daughter wakes up, shuffles down the hall, climbs into our bed, and mumbles, "I had a bad dream."

It's a family joke now. But it's continuing to interfere with my sleep. We've tried everything except putting a lock on her door, which I'm not going to do. So we wait for her to outgrow these "bad dreams."

I don't believe for a minute that she's actually having a bad dream. She just got it into her head that this excuse would result in automatic entry into mommy and daddy's bed. It's like the boy who cried wolf. My daughter is the girl who cried nightmare.

If I'm still awake, I escort her back to her room. But she always makes her way back. We've talked with her endlessly about being a big girl and staying in her own bed, but nothing yet has put a stop to her nightly travels.

Anyone else have the "bad dream" experience with their kids?


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

 

Running Up That Hill



My daughter went sledding on the big hills for the first time last week. She learned one important thing... What goes down, must come up!

She said, "I had fun, but my legs are so tired." I think she wanted me to carry her each time.


Monday, January 29, 2007

 

Mystery Solved!

There's been a mystery in my house for the past month.

My son has been using a strange exclamation.

"Yeesh!"

Not exactly your typical 8-year-old utterance. I couldn't figure out where he heard it. He didn't know either. Nobody around here says "Yeesh!"

But then, yesterday, the mystery was solved. We popped in a Looney Tunes DVD, one that the kids had been watching during Christmas break.

And there was Bugs Bunny, saying "Yeesh!" over and over. Kids can learn a lot from a cartoon character.

At least we didn't have to hear my son walking around the house saying "What's up, Doc?"


Friday, January 26, 2007

 

CD Review - John Hadfield

How important is music in your child's life? For us, it's a vital part of each day. We're always listening to something... In the car, during breakfast, after dinner. I make sure my kids are exposed to almost all kinds of artists and styles (no death metal just yet).

When they were babies I played Mozart, Chopin, Sesame Street, and lullaby versions of Beatles songs. When they were toddlers we danced around the house to The Wiggles. My 8-year-old son has outgrown most of that music, while my daughter tends to follow his lead. They've become interested in grown-up groups like The Beatles, UB40, and Split Enz. But I don't want them to grow up too fast. Which is why I appreciate the recent explosion of children's musicians who write their songs for an older elementary school crowd.

And we just found one of them - an incredibly funny and talented singer named John Hadfield. He's easy to describe. I call him a "Weird Al For Kids" because he has that same goofy and unexpected sense of humor in his lyrics.

Hadfield's most recent CD came out last year. Robot Monkey Head is a collection of zany songs about school, beans, duct tape and a mouse-wacking bunny. Yeah, that's what I thought too... "Who writes a song about duct tape?" He pulls it all off brilliantly, switching from new wave to bluegrass to jazz in a mix that flows easily from one song to the next. The clever lyrics are perfect for road trip sing-alongs.

Listen: "Rhyming Song"

Hadfield is a multi-talented guy. He's an award-winning clown, juggler, science teacher, black belt, singer, and actor. In other words, he lives to entertain. And that's exactly what he does with his music.

My kids and I highly recommend both of his CDs. The first one, Monkeys In The House, won three Children's Music Web Awards in 2002, as well as high praise from best-selling humorist David Sedaris. Click on either of the CD titles to buy them through Hadfield's website.

You have to love a guy who not only makes you laugh, but can teach your kids about the history of safety glass!

Listen: "Safety Glass"


Thursday, January 25, 2007

 

Piled Higher and Deeper



Last weekend we had about 8 inches of snow. Heavy flakes, the kind that stick together really well. Normally, shoveling all of that off the driveway is a good 30-minute workout, but when the kids jump up and down and say, "Oh please Daddy, can you pile it up in one place so we can make a snow cave?" then you know it's going to be a back-breaker.

I carried every shovelful of snow to one spot, dumped it, and packed it down. I cleared our driveway and sidewalks, then went over to my neighbor's driveway for more (he probably thinks I'm insane). But the kids got their mountain of snow, and they dug a cave. More of a tunnel, really.

Snow... It's almost as good as Legos!


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

 

What Is It?



My son made this today. Not during art, but during a science lesson.

Anyone want to venture a guess as to what it is??


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

 

My Brain Is Full

I haven't written about homeschooling for awhile. So here goes... We're just beyond the halfway point in most of our subjects. My son is cruising through spelling, literature, language skills, and history. We slow down a little bit with math and science. We're playing catch up with music and art.

Actually, we're mostly skipping over the music curriculum. At the start of the year, we learned about things like instruments, rhythm and pitch, but then the lessons focused on singing. My son does not want to learn to sing. He'll sing in the shower, or when he's playing, but he doesn't want to sit there and formally vocalize to me. So we started skipping over lessons. I figure if he wants to take vocal lessons some day, that will be his choice. This summer he'll be introduced to informal piano lessons. That might be more fun for him.

I've said it before, but one of my favorite things about homeschooling is flexibility. I am always aware of how my son is learning so that I can change the lesson plan to match his needs. Sometimes I have to be like a quarterback who calls a new play at the line of scrimmage.

Yesterday morning, the first thing we started on was a simple math review of the 9 times table. My son put his head on the desk and said, "My brain is full." I asked, "How can it be full when we haven't learned anything yet?" He replied, "I don't know. It just is."

So I told him that if he couldn't focus then he should go up to his room and take a nap. And he did just that. At 9:00 in the morning. He actually crawled into bed and slept until 11.

He can't do that every day, but this one time the flexibility of the homeschooling situation allowed for a better learning environment later on that day. He was refreshed enough to do lessons until 6 o'clock last night!

Today everything was back to normal. School starts at 9am, break around 10:30, lunch at 11:45, school again from 1 until around 3.

Regular schedules are good, but a regular schedule with flexibility is even better!


Monday, January 22, 2007

 

World At Your Feet

She folds laundry faster than I do!

This is a good reminder that we should appreciate everything we have, and quit complaining about what we don't have.



Click on the image, or visit the YouTube link.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

 

The Race Is On



The big Pinewood Derby race was last night!

It was almost a disaster of Titanic proportions!

But first, my son worked on his car for about a month. He sketched out a design, made all the cuts, did all the sanding and painting, and picked out stickers and add-ons to finish up the car.

Here it is, in all it's swashbuckling glory...

The Black Pearl!



We arrived at the derby, checked the car in, chowed down on pizza, and then waited for the races to begin.

The worst thing that can happen at an event such as this is having your car fall apart right before the race. Good thing that didn't happen to my son. No, he had the second worst thing happen... His car didn't finish the course. Three times, it failed to reach the finish line. The only one out of 40 cars!

Total disaster! Major catastrophe! An epic failure on a public stage!

My son just stood there impassively. I fully expected this to be the end of Cub Scouts for him. I leaned down to his ear and told him that it was my fault. I should've checked the weight of the car more carefully. It was an ounce lighter than the others, and in the Pinewood Derby weight is the most important factor.

I looked around at the other kids, wondering if any of them would add to my son's humiliation by making fun of his car. But they didn't. And I wasn't sure why.

We found out ten minutes later...

Before the race, the audience was given a chance to fill out a short ballot with four categories on it: Most Patriotic, Best Paint Job, Best Cub Scout Theme, and Most Unique.

So after the races were all run, they announced the winners of the voting. And, lo and behold, my son won Most Unique.

Disaster averted! Catastrophe prevented! Failure kiboshed!

It was as if the heavens opened up and a choir of angels sang my son's name. His face lit up, he beamed, and he didn't stop talking about his new medal for hours. I've never seen him more proud. And he has a right to be, because his car design was his own and he did most of the work himself.

He now has no memory of his car's actual race performance. All he knows is that the kids thought his car was the coolest.

I made a car too. Nobody thought it was cool. Weird, maybe.

I call it The Martian Marshmallow Mobile...



Thursday, January 18, 2007

 

Bullying For Dollars

I haven't paid much attention to American Idol since its second season (we got rid of the cable just after that), but I wanted to see it last night for the auditions held in Seattle (one of my favorite cities).

I tuned in to see a show that seems to be more about bullying and humiliating people than it is about looking for talented singers. I'm not talking about the obviously horrible singers who are only looking for a little TV infamy, ala William Hung. That's not what appalled me last night...

It was the demeaning comments from judge Simon Cowell about the physical appearance of several performers. In particular, he said to one young man, "You look like one of those creatures that live in the jungle with those massive eyes. What are they called? Bush baby."

This is what entertains America? Junior-high school level insults about someone's facial features? I wonder how many parents turned to their kids after that and told them, "That was uncalled for. It's never okay to make fun of the way a person was born."

Cowell then continued his immature display with a comment to the next performer about his weight, a condition that looked to me like it was medical or genetic.

Wouldn't it be nice if we lived in a society where bullies like Cowell didn't get rewarded with million-dollar contracts? I teach my kids that good manners and respect for others will get them far. It's hard sometimes to prove it to them.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

 

Choices and Lies

I just told a fib to my son.

He's been working on his pinewood derby car for about a month. The "big race" is this Friday, and it's going to be a fun time with pizza and pop, prizes for things like best design, and a whole lot of good-natured jumping and screaming.

He hasn't been overly thrilled with Cub Scouts, but has slowly been warming up to it, and this event is something he's actually looking forward to.

Last week I received an email from the mother of a boy my son knew in first grade. They were best buddies all that year, but at the end of it we moved to our new house, which meant a new school for my son.

For one reason or another, this other kid's mother just didn't want to get our sons together to play. They were always too busy. Eventually I told my son that at his age friendships are at the mercy of the parents. If this boy's mother couldn't get her act together, there's nothing I could do about it.

So, almost two years after the friendship faded, I get this email inviting my son to a birthday party. This Friday night. I ran to break the happy news to him that he would have the chance to see his old first grade friend again. We immediately started talking about what kind of gifts he might like and what activities they might have at the party.

Later that night, in the perfect quiet after the children have finally fallen asleep, it dawned on me... Friday... Friday night... birthday party... pinewood derby. Oh shhhhhhhoot.

I knew right then that I couldn't let my son decide which event to go to. He would choose the birthday party over the scout event. But I knew from experience that the party would end up as a disappointment for him. He'd be one of a large group, with no chance for one-on-one time with his old friend, and it would bring up all the old questions about why his mother won't plan a play date.

On the other hand, the pinewood derby is with a group of kids that he's already involved with on a regular basis. He's forming new friendships with them that I expect to last awhile. Watching him design and build this little wooden car has been refreshing. I know he's going to have an awesome time at this race.

So here's where I fibbed... I told my son that the birthday party had to be canceled because of a family illness. His response was to shrug and say, "Oh well, I haven't seen him in such a long time." I think he was covering his disappointment, but ultimately he'll have a better experience at the pinewood derby.

I know this is just a preview of things to come. As my kids get older we'll face many more choices, both trivial and difficult, that we'll work through together. But for now, there are some decisions they just don't need to make for themselves.


Sunday, January 14, 2007

 

Moving Day

My daughter's room was a disaster area, and I wasn't quite sure where to start. Her walk-in closet was exploding with books, Barbies, stuffed animals, and Little Pet Shop figures. Oh yeah, and a few clothes too.

The floor of her room was covered with coloring books, princess dress-up gowns, plastic kitchen toys, and more stuffed animals.

Her bookshelf was dangerously packed to a point where stuff would fall off if you just looked at it.

I knew something had to be done about her room, but it was hard to find a place to begin the process of sorting and organizing. I stood in there one day and said, "I wish we could just start over and do this right."

Ding! That's when I got the idea to move. Just pack up and move. Not the whole house... only my daughter's room.

So I bought six large moving boxes and announced to her that it was moving day. At first she was quite alarmed, but then I explained that we were going to move everything out of her room, organize it in the basement, then move it back into her room in a better way.

She immediately understood and got quite excited about the process, helping to pack up all her toys and games. We organized things as they went into the boxes. Stuffed animals in one, books in another, etc., so a lot of the work was done up front.

Once the room was clear except for furniture, we were able to move her bed and bookshelves around to give her a little more floor space. Bringing everything back in was easy. We delegated a certain space for items like dolls, and when that space was full we stopped. Whatever dolls were left in the boxes will be stored or given away. Then we did the same with the books and the toys, until everything had a place.

It was much easier than trying to sort through my daughter's stuff while it was all still jumbled in place. And it was therapeutic to clear her room out completely. It gave me a feeling of instant accomplishment.

I'll probably do this for every room of the house. Moving is fun!


Friday, January 12, 2007

 

Hide and Shriek

My kids invented a new game tonight, where they each hide somewhere and then start shrieking at the top of their lungs. After a few minutes of ear-piercing sounds, they run around the house, find a new hiding place, and start the noise festival again.

I think they misunderstood when my wife told them, "You need to help Daddy get his voice back."


Thursday, January 11, 2007

 

The Truth About Dan Zanes

A few months ago I wrote a post about Dan Zanes, the hugely popular children's music singer, explaining that I did not understand the adoration of him by countless mom and dad bloggers. My kids and I had listened to a few of his songs, but nothing captured our ears to such a point that we would want to run out and buy one of his CDs or attend one of his concerts.

I really didn't know very much about the guy, and I wanted someone to help me understand what he's all about, and why he's one of the top kids' musicians in the country.

Well, I am now prepared to share with you the truth about Dan Zanes!

Like it or not, Dan just happens to be one of the most generous and passionate musicians you could ever imagine.

You see, somehow or other he came upon my little blog post from two months ago and immediately sent off an email, asking if he could share his music with my family in the hopes that we would re-evaluate our first impressions of him.

Sure, I said, expecting a sampler CD of some kind. But instead, look what showed up in our mailbox:



Every CD he's made in the past seven years! That's seven discs. I had no idea he'd even released that many. It's going to take awhile for us to absorb all of this new music. But I'm looking forward to it.

We've already started listening, beginning with his first CD, Rocket Ship Beach. Our second impressions are highly favorable, but obviously we're all in a very good mood about his music right now. My son can't believe that a famous musician would worry about what a little family in Idaho thinks.

I'm going to let these tunes, all 126 of them, sink in with the kids and myself over the next few months. We'll be listening in the car, around the house, at bedtime. And then I'll tell you a little more of what I think about Dan Zanes.

But for now, I can safely say that you will not find a musician who cares more about his music and his fans than he does.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

 

Get Sick Soon

The cold still lingers, mostly in my lungs now as I hack and cough the crud up.

It's a chilling reminder to me of the horrific case of pneumonia I suffered through five years ago. Back then, I was literally coughing several times a minute, all day long, even in my sleep, for almost half a year.

My daughter was six months old when it started, and I was finally healthy before her first birthday. I was afraid that her first words would be "Haaaaccggggkkk!"

Since then I've tried to take good care of myself because I never ever want to be susceptible to pneumonia again.

This cold virus is a little wake up call to me that maybe I was slacking, especially in the sleep department. Gonna definitely be changing my bedtime.

Another thing I've learned the past few days is that my kids absolutely don't care if I'm sick. It means nothing to them. "You're sick? Oh. Well, can we have peanut butter and jelly for lunch?"

I know they care about me. They just don't want to take care of me.

This is my last post about being sick. Because tonight I plan to slay this virus in my dreams. And I have a bunch of awesome kids' music CDs to review.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

 

Lost Weekend

I went to bed Thursday night and woke up Sunday evening. I have no idea what happened to the past three days.

It's not often that I get so sick that days become a blur, so this is a strange feeling for me. Luckily this nasty cold virus struck when my wife had some time off.

She covered for me on Friday with teaching. When it comes to homeschooling, you can't just call for a substitute when you need a sick day. Hopefully I'll be back on track tomorrow. My son isn't at the point where he'll guide himself through the curriculum.

I just can't be sick. There are too many things that need to be done. My family is counting on me, and when I'm not there it's kind of a lost weekend for them too.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

 

Year In Review

Looking back through my archives for 2006, I realized, "Hey, I'm finally keeping a diary!" Because that's what it is at times. I thought my kids might appreciate this in the future, but I'm the one who's going to have the most fun reading old posts and reliving fun memories.

Here's my Year In Review, with the highlights from each month:

January: My son discovered a love for shoveling snow. My jaw still drops at the thought.

February: My daughter flipped off a PTA mom at her brother's school. Also, Don Knotts' death hit my son hard.

March: I first became serious about homeschooling after witnessing the chaos of a substitute teacher. And, we went snow tubing for the first time.

April: I packed up the kids and took them to Iraq. And then I did something even scarier... I coached my daughter's soccer team!

May: My son found us out.

June: I began moving the first of what would eventually be about 10,000 pounds of granite into my backyard. By myself. With a furniture cart. Meanwhile, my son learned to fish.

July: This was a slow month. I was attacked by wolves, roasted in the heat, and stranded on a ferris wheel.

August: At the beginning of the month, we took an awesome 5-day family trip to Mt. St. Helens and Kalaloch Beach. New country for all of us. I hope to get us back to Kalaloch real soon. At the end of the month we made a monumental change in our lives... We started homeschooling.

September: My daughter started kindergarten. No homeschooling for her. Yet.

October: I explained why we homeschool. But it was my "Unhappy Meal" post that made my comments explode.

November: I finally changed my template. Then I had a wonderful epiphany about my son.

December: My son's first semester of homeschooling concluded as a great success, and socialization was never a concern.

2006 was an interesting year. I'd forgotten quite a bit of it. The years go by so quickly, it will be nice to have this record of our family.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

 

Ring In The New

I don't make resolutions anymore. Making grandiose promises of change to myself has never worked out. I've learned to make adjustments in life gradually as the need arises.

However, I will sit down at the beginning of a new year and reflect back over the past twelve months. See if I missed anything along the way. I like to ponder the good things in my family's life and make mental notes to have more of that sort of thing in the new year. And, of course, think of ways to avoid the mistakes that were made.

As I ponder and reflect about 2006, there's one thing that jumps out at me that I need to deal with. Actually, it jumped out at me from my email in-box, which has a backlog of old mail messages that I never seem to find the time to deal with.

The emails all concern extracurricular blog and web projects which I have been asked, or invited, or even volunteered, to help out with. I rarely said no to any of them, but made promises to get around to it when I could. And now I'm realizing that my eyes were bigger than my stomach, so to speak.

I feel conflicted about some of these groups, as I really wanted to be involved. Especially sites like Dad Daily and INWBA. I like what these sites are all about, and I know I have something to offer to them.

But something unexpected happened. I started homeschooling my son in September. What took me somewhat by surprise was the amount of time and attention this would take, not just during the day but also well into the evening. I was quickly forced to figure out my priorities.

I have a scarce few hours late in the evening, at the end of a long day when my mind is tired and I do not always have the energy to focus on much besides quickly reading parenting blogs and then tapping out a post for my own blog and hoping that it makes some kind of sense.

It took me about six months to finally accept the fact that I'm not going to be able to realistically participate in all the things I want to do. So, to conclude a process of elimination that I began last September, I'm burying my blog-optimism and deleting all of those old emails. And I'm deleting a good number of links to sites that require more activity that I have time for.

I'm saving one, though... I love Flickr, and keeping up with my contacts' photos makes me a better photographer. For that site, I'll try to practice a little self-restraint and not spend hours and hours browsing through beautiful photos.

One thing that doesn't need to change is my blog-reading. I've been using Google Reader for about six months and have become quite adept at speed-reading through 100 posts in about ten minutes. From my fellow mom and dad bloggers to the North Idaho crew, there are so many great writers out there. I learn a lot from all of you. And I laugh a lot too.

If there were as many hours in the day as I had interests in my head, my day would easily be 1000 hours long. But it's not, so I'm making hard decisions on where and how to cut back on my free-time activities.

Now I need to spend the rest of the evening making preparations for tomorrow's return to homeschooling. Shaking off the holiday break is going to be tough.


Monday, January 01, 2007

 

Ring Out The Old



We rang out the old year in a good way. I dragged myself out of my deathbed to drive the family into the "big city" of Spokane for their New Year's Eve celebration. This year they had a Kids Night Out, with activities all in one place.

First event was an Eric Herman concert. He's always so engaging, even when he has to compete with ballet dancers and karate kids on other stages. He even got my son to stand up and dance (for about 30 seconds, which is some kind of record). It was incredibly cute to see Eric's two little daughters dancing around to his music.

We stayed through two of his sets. In between was an unexpected surprise. Kids' poet Kenn Nesbitt read some of his hilarious poetry, and I could see all sorts of lights going on in my son's brain. He already loves to write poetry, but I think that seeing someone perform the words was a real eye-opener. Nesbitt doesn't just read... he does voices and gestures and stomps around the stage. I'll definitely be buying a few of his books.

After the concerts, we hit the craft tables. Wow, it was like craft heaven for my daughter. She made a necklace, brooch, drum, crown, flashlight, flower lei, and various critters and baubles.

Later we ventured down the street to a Mexican restaurant for some New Year's indigestion. By then it was 9 o'clock and time to head home. The kids were exhausted, and so was I.

Not terribly exciting, but it was a family New Year's Eve celebration... As it should be. I'm looking forward to more family adventures in 2007.