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Monday, February 26, 2007


Stick It In Your Ear

Early this evening I was planning out our dinner, thinking about what to read to the kids before bedtime, and looking forward to getting some work done on the closet shelves. It promised to be a satisfying and productive night.

Then my daughter marched into the kitchen and announced, "I have a popcorn seed is in my ear."

I smiled, thinking it was a joke, "How did popcorn get in your ear?"

She replied, "When I lay down on the couch, it just jumped in! Now it kinda hurts a teensy tiny bit."

Suddenly I remembered the time, about a year ago, when she shoved a plastic bead up her nose and we had to go to an immediate care clinic to have it removed.

I grabbed a flashlight and peeked in her ear.... Sure enough, there was a shiny little popcorn kernel.

So, our evening was spent sitting in the emergency room. Not very productive. Not much fun either.

Oh, but the night did hold some surprises. When the doctor finally pulled the kernel out of her ear, he looked back in and said, "Wait a minute, there's another one." Then he pulled out a hard piece of wax that looked a lot like a popcorn seed. But he wasn't done yet. He announced, "I see something else." And out came a small piece of pink foam that might have come from a birthday party my daughter attended over a week ago.

Poor girl... Everything's just jumping into her ear lately. She'll be on antibiotics for awhile, just in case. And I might make her wear earmuffs until she figures out not to stuff things into her ear!

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Out Of The Closet

I didn't get too far on my closet project. The top shelves are up, and I started on the vertical supports, but then it all came to a sudden halt.

You see, my hard work inspired my wife to tackle a few projects of her own. Three, to be exact. All at the same time. First, she decided to install handles on all of our kitchen cabinets and drawers. Then, she figured she'd paint the kitchen walls while she was making everything else look nice. And, finally, she bought this grouping of picture frames and candle shelves to hang on the family room wall.

All of which means that after she was done I had to stop what I was doing and come fix everything. The handles she bought included screws that were too short. Plus, she drilled the holes off center. Over on the family room wall, the picture frames and shelves were noticeably crooked.

And the new paint in the kitchen? Absolutely beautiful. She did a great job of taping and painting. The problem came after she stood back to look at it, then declared that she hated the dark green color and wants something lighter. So I'm off to the store for primer to paint over it.

Honey, why don't you just bring home the paycheck and leave the house to me.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


History Comes Alive - Win a DVD!

I'm always on the lookout for interesting documentaries to use in homeschooling my son. It's hard to find films that can be both educational and fun. But I hit the mother lode when I discovered the first season of Digging For The Truth on DVD. Not being a cable subscriber, I'd never heard of this History Channel series before taking a chance on it through Netflix.

You will not find a more thrilling visual feast of history and archaeology in these 13 episodes. Host Josh Bernstein (who the ladies tell me is kinda hot) travels all over the world to places most people will never have the chance to explore, where he gets his hands dirty by crawling through ancient sewers and rappelling into forbidden tombs.

This is not a dry "talking head" presentation of history. Rather, Bernstein and his crew let the camera do the talking, showing us the wonders of the world in widescreen high-definition splendor. Each hour-long episode focuses on one historical mystery, such as the mythic El Dorado, the Ark of the Covenant, and the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde. If you have even the slightest interest in archaeology, you'll love this show. In fact your whole family will. It even held the attention of my 5-year-old daughter on most of the episodes.

If you would like to win a copy of the first season DVD set of Digging For The Truth, leave a comment here (with some way of reaching you, such as through your blog). I'll pick a winner next week.

You can also buy it at Amazon.

The show's second season will be released on DVD next week. Pre-order it here. And if that's not enough, the third season recently started airing on The History Channel. I cannot recommend this show enough. It really makes history come alive, something that can help kids become lifelong students of the subject.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


It's Different For Girls

When my son was in first grade, there was a mom in the class who was one of those moms. PTA President, uber-volunteer, head of every committee, cupcake baker extraordinaire... I started calling her "Super Mom" (not to her face, mind you), and then noticed that there was another mom who was always by her side, tagging along and helping out. Of course, she had to be "Super Mom's Sidekick"... And that's what I called them for a year, never even bothering to learn their names. They were just "Super Mom" and "Super Mom's Sidekick."

These two women had perfect kids, perfect husbands, shiny SUVs, and hair that always looked like they just came out of the beauty parlor. I don't know how they did it. Must be some kind of mommy voodoo.

Anyway, the spell was broken last month when I ran into "Super Mom" at the store and she recognized me. I asked how her perfect kids were, and it turns out they're not so perfect. One of her kids is flunking out, another is depressed. She doesn't volunteer much anymore. I guess things were not what they seemed.

But it was meeting up with "Super Mom's Sidekick" the other day that really made me rethink my judgements. Her son was enrolling in the same homeschool gym class as my son. Huh? Homeschooling for the perfect public school kids? I had to find out what the deal was, so I introduced myself.

I was shocked to learn that her three boys had never been in public school. She had been homeschooling them all since kindergarten. But why was she running around the school as "Super Mom's Sidekick"?? She explained that her daughter has always been in public school, and is now in 6th grade where she's very happy.

I must've had a confused look on my face. She left me with this cryptic comment before gathering her boys and packing them into her shiny SUV: "It's different for girls."

I'm still confused.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Things That Mystify Me

Listen: Elvis Costello - "Really Mystified"

Blue Sloth asked his fellow bloggers to write about things that mystify us. There are so many, where to begin?

Litterbugs... What could possibly cause someone to roll down their window and throw garbage onto the side of the road. I've been driving for 27 years, and never once have I felt it necessary to dispose of my trash in this way. How hard is it to take your bottles and burger wrappers home?

Computers... I know how to use them, and I kinda know how they work. But I'll never understand the odd little bugs that crop up from time to time. For example, I run Firefox on two different computers. Same exact settings, but one computer refuses to save form information on one website, while the other computer has no problem.

Cats... I've been owned by cats most of my life, but I'll never understand them. The latest mystery with our two 10-year-old cats involves their bedtime. Since they were kittens, we've always put them in their own room at night because they have a bad habit of walking around the house howling at the top of their lungs. In our new house the cats have the entire basement to themselves at night. They like being down there, but they both have this strange habit of wanting to be put to bed. They come to me each night, crying, then running to the basement. If I don't follow, they come back and cry some more until I get up, walk downstairs, say goodnight, and close the door. Then they're happy.

Alcohol... I could never get past the absolutely horrid taste of it. Is the buzz really worth punishing your taste buds?

Keanu Reeves... How does someone with no natural acting ability have such a long and successful career? My wife and I recently watched him in The Lake House and even when Reeves was just walking around he looked like he was overacting.

Low-rider pants... I still see these guys whose pants are down below their butts, with their underwear thankfully covering things up. How can this be comfortable? What's holding those pants up? Who said this even looks good? And don't get me started on the "untied shoes" look.

Parents who leave their children... Mid-life crisis, affair, new job, mental illness... I've heard all the excuses. None of them are a good reason for walking out on your kids.

My kids' mood swings... One of the greatest mysteries of my life right now. One minute they adore me, the next minute they hate me, the next minute they're completely indifferent. Sometimes it makes me dizzy just trying to keep up.

Other Mystified Bloggers:

Jen Mathis
Alley Katt
Ziji Wangmo
Hooray For Saturday
Groanin' Jock
Blue Witch
ally bean
Rayne of Terror

Monday, February 19, 2007


At The End Of The Day

I love being a stay-at-home dad, but there are a couple of things I envy about working dads...

Most obviously, working dads are lucky to have the adult interaction every day, even if it is work-related conversation. Sometimes I just end up talking to myself so I can stay in practice.

The thing I most envy, however, is your "end of the day quality time".... Not to say that I don't have quality time with my kids. I do... Tons of it. But it sometimes tends to get lost in the chaos of a long day.

Working dads get to have a concentrated quality time in the evening. For you, the joy of seeing your children gives you a huge boost to overcome work-related exhaustion. You get that second wind, happy to be away from the workplace and back with your family. And you give your focus to your kids for a few hours, not minding that they are dragging out the bedtime rituals just so they can spend a little more time with you.

It's a little different for a stay-at-home dad. I don't get a second wind. And as bedtime rolls around I've had my kids pretty much in my face for twelve solid hours. It's even more extreme because I homeschool my son. So, by 8 o'clock my attititude is sort of "I've had enough" while the working dad's is "I can't get enough."

I have to practice a lot of patience with my young son and daughter at bedtime. They don't understand that I'm tired of wiping noses and reading stories. They don't spend the whole day focused on me, so they don't really need a break from daddy. Even though it's bedtime, their little brains are still thinking up curious questions to ask me, like "What's the wildest country on Earth?"

When they finally fall asleep it almost feels like I've been given a special little gift each night of my very own free time, to do whatever I want. That feeling lasts about a second as I remember all the daily chores that still need to be done.

Soon I'm falling asleep and looking forward to the morning when I'm fresh and ready to be with my kids all day again. It never gets old... At least not until the end of the day.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Piling On

Not many posts from me this past week. It was a hectic combination of school, chores, emergencies, and home projects. Seems like I get one thing done and there's three more waiting for my attention.

Most of my day is taken up with my son's homeschooling, which leaves little time for the daily tasks of laundry, dishes, meal-planning, decluttering the house, kid's activities, and the like.

So I don't know what possesses me to start piling on myself. It's something I've always done. Stressed out with three projects? Start a fourth! I did that this week when something took ahold of me and led me into our master bedroom closet... An hour later, all the clothes were in boxes and the wire shelves were down. I decided to build a closet organizer. From scratch.

There's a big stack of poplar in the garage and I have three days to turn it into shelving before my wife starts piling it on my head.

If you don't hear from me by Monday, it was nice knowing you.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Tea For Two

My daughter held a tea party.

Girls and cats only...

It was a smashing success!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Change In The Weather

My kids are like the North Idaho weather... If you don't like how they're acting now, just wait awhile, they'll probably change. And that has certainly been true with how they treat each other.

This evening I heard this coming from the family room:

Daughter: "I hate you."
Son: "Oh yeah, well I don't like you very much."
Daughter: "I'm not going to play with you."
Son: "Good, because I don't want to play with you either."

One hour later, they were curled up on the couch together watching a Brady Bunch episode, my daughter resting her head on her brother's shoulder.

And then, at bedtime, they went upstairs to brush teeth and conspire to clean their sink area.

Daughter: "Daddy will be so proud of us, maybe we'll get extra allowance!"
Son: "Shhh, don't let him hear. It will be a surprise."

I like them when they're like this, and I always let them know it with some sort of reward or treat. When they battle each other, then the punishment comes, usually in the form of The Lecture. They hate that. It's their most feared punishment.

It seems to be working. Lately we've been seeing more love and cooperation between them, with only occasional outbursts of bickering and fighting. Hopefully these "changes in the weather" continue to slow and diminish until there's nothing left but a sibling support system that lasts a lifetime.

Friday, February 09, 2007


Fun and Learning

All good things must come to an end. And so it goes for Robot Week...

My son's first glimpse of robotics came with his first viewing of Star Wars. Just like his daddy thirty years ago, he was instantly enthralled with the bickering duo of C-3PO and R2-D2.

For years he wanted to have a real R2-D2 to clean up his room and bring him snacks. I told him about the Roomba vacuum robot, but his response was, "Vacuuming? That's no fun."

What's cool about the Star Wars droids is that they can inspire kids to learn about subjects like engineering, computer science, and astronomy. Homeschooling is teaching me that sometimes you need to have a little fun with certain subjects in order to grab a child's attention.

Sesame Street has always understood the connection between fun and learning. Here's a clip from nearly thirty years ago. Our favorite movie robots have somehow ended up in Big Bird's neighborhood!

Thursday, February 08, 2007


Don't Embarrass Me

It doesn't take much for my son to say "Don't embarrass me, daddy!" when we're out in public. If I softly hum a tune at the grocery store, he'll pull on my shirt and plead for me to stop. God forbid I should sing, or even talk loudly, or draw any kind of attention to myself while he is within ten feet of me.

He's very self-conscious about people looking at him. And if he thinks I'm the cause of it, then he gets quite irate.

I don't do these things to embarrass my son. Sometimes I just have a little tune in my head which pops out while I'm studying soup labels. Or I feel like skipping from the milk case to the cat food aisle. Or I like to drum out a beat on the 2x4s at Home Depot.

But my son thinks it's all a conspiracy to make him die of shame. Maybe I should just tell him he's right, that parents are constantly thinking up new ways to cause their kids to cringe.

I'm tempted to take lessons from the guy in this video. The one wearing the orange shirt. Then I could really put on a show for my son, performing the Robot Dance for him and all his buddies at the next Cub Scout meeting!

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Robots Rock!

Robot Week continues...

My son became interested in robots when he decided to do a science fair project on how robots move over different terrain. He's been working on that for a few months.

While he's studying robots, we listen to... Robot music, of course!

The Hipwaders - "Silly Robot Dance"

They Might Be Giants - "Robot Parade"

The Futureheads - "Robot"

The Flaming Lips - "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots"

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Monday, February 05, 2007


Furniture and Robots

We went out searching for furniture today... A bed for my daughter, and a new dining room table. Not much luck in our town. Very poor selection, or maybe we're just picky. Guess we'll just have to plan a trip into the big bad city and the 7-floor furniture store that we've had good luck at before.

In the meantime, Robot Week continues...

They can be cute, or they can be scary. Either way, I wouldn't let my guard down with either of them!



Sunday, February 04, 2007


Robots Attack!

My son has been obsessed with robots for about a year, so I've been saving all sorts of robot-related links, pictures, and videos for him. And now I'm going to share a few of them with you.

That's right, for the next seven days it's Robot Week.

I'll start it off with my son's favorite Super Bowl ad from earlier today.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Strange Changes

I've made some changes to the blog... First, I moved all of my blog rolls to their own pages. It's getting more difficult to keep up with all the parenting blogs that are coming and going.

Second, I installed Google Reader's post-sharing feature. It's over there on the right, down below the AllPosters ad. I labeled it as "Phil's Friends"... Basically, whenever I see an interesting post among the 140 or so blogs I subscribe to through Google Reader, I can "share" that post and it will appear in the box to the right. A very cool new feature from Google!

I've also been fiddling with my FTP features. If the blog is all messed up, someone will let me know... right?

In parenting news, we're going furniture shopping this weekend to buy my daughter a bed. She's been on a twin mattress on top a simple metal frame, but we talked with her about getting some kind of girly four-poster type of bed that she could be proud of and feel good about sleeping in all night.

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