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Saturday, June 30, 2007


Weekend Whatnot

This is why I live here

My daughter asked for some gum at the store, so I bought her a pack of Bubblicious. Two hours later, she had 8 of the 10 pieces in her mouth, chomping happily away.

My family is attempting to go two whole weeks without eating out or bringing something in. That means no fast food, no Chinese food, no pizza delivery, no trips to the ice cream shop. This is going to be hard.

Is Ratatouille the best Pixar film yet? Many critics think so. My family will be seeing it this weekend.

Mommy Dearest's house is cleaner than yours. Or so she would have us think!

Education, Growth, and Family Time are the three main benefits of travel, according to the Why Homeschool blog. I completely agree, especially about spending time as a family. I can't think of one place in this world that I would like to go without my wife and kids.

I've never seen the Cartoon Network show Class of 3000, but it features some very cool music from Andre 3000 of the group Outkast (and who doesn't like "Hey Ya"?). He plays a music teacher on the show. Sony is providing a free download of one of his new songs as the series kicks off its second season. Get it here.

And the award for Spoiled Brat of the Century goes to:

Friday, June 29, 2007


CD Review: Hullabaloo

My kids don't know country music. I don't really have much of it in my collection to play for them. I've got a few songs by Willie, Johnny, and Waylon. A few more by the Dixie Chicks and Josh Gracin. Other than that, country just isn't my thing.

So it was a surprising change of pace for us all when Steve and Brendan, the talented duo known as Hullabaloo, sent us a copy of their new kids' CD Hey, Everybody! They call their sound "farm-fresh, free-range organic kid-folk" but I'd shorten that to "country" because that's what all those fiddles, banjos, and acoustic guitars sound like to me.

However, the style of music doesn't really matter. It's the positive lyrics and impeccable production that really shine. They've recorded a dozen delightful songs, including eight originals, that are sure to have you and your kids tapping your feet and singing along. These guys sing to the children, telling stories about polite pirates and houses made out of fruit. Words to make them laugh and think.

Maybe I need to re-think my view of country music. I've been avoiding most of it for thirty years. But listening to this new disc, and seeing how much my kids enjoyed it, has changed my mind. Good music is good music.

You can listen to Hullabaloo songs at CD Baby.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Money For Blogging

I've had many people ask me about the advertisements that appear on my blog. All I can say is, I'm really blessed to have stumbled into this situation.

Last fall I was invited to be a part of BlogAds, an invitation-only group that helps facilitate the placement of subject-appropriate ads on blogs.

Why was I invited? Well, they did want more dad bloggers, but it was mostly because my unique pageviews are over 6,000 a week. The advertisers want their product to be seen.

If you've ever glanced at those ads or, better yet, clicked on them, be assured that you're not going to be directed to anything shady or offensive. I won't approve an ad like that.

Also, I'd like you to know that all the money from these ads goes into my kids' college fund. When I first started this blog three years ago, I never could've imagined all of the positive effects it would have on my family. BlogAds is just one of them. And that is another reason to be thankful.


Name Our Gnome

This little guy lives in our backyard. My son picked him out at the store. I asked him to think up a name for the gnome, but he suggested I make a blog contest out of it.

So, name our gnome!

The lucky winner will receive the new Paul McCartney CD, Memory Almost Full.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Homes Sweet Homes

So we had the big birthday party for my son yesterday. George Clooney, Bruce Willis, Mark Wahlberg, Lance Armstrong, Matthew McConaughey, and Jake Gyllenhaal were all in town.

There should be a very long pause between those two sentences. Yes, we had my son's birthday. Yes, those rich and famous celebrities were buzzing around my North Idaho lake town this past week. But none of them showed up at my house to roast marshmallows or jump on the bouncer (Bruce, you could've at least called to say happy birthday!).

The stars were here for various reasons, but most of them were shopping for luxury homes and condos in a new lakefront development. They aren't coming to Idaho to take up permanent residence. At best, these guys will spend a couple of weeks each summer in their new million-dollar mansions.

That's what you do when you're rich. You collect houses. I imagine some of these stars have so many homes around the world that they have to consult with their business managers before they travel: "Hey Sid, I'm flying up to Idaho next week. I forget, do I have a house there?"

My son's trying to wrap his mind around the concept of one person owning dozens of houses, while others work hard to simply maintain one. I've told him that money changes the rules for people. The rich live in another world altogether, one that us regular folks can't really understand from the outside looking in.

The best way I can explain it to him is that when you become filthy rich, with untold millions, the idea of buying a house becomes no more important or problematic than when we are picking out cereal at the grocery store.

I wish I lived in a world where teachers and nurses could buy summer retreats on the lake, but we don't. Rather than rail against a society that showers money upon actors and athletes, I simply accept that's the way things are. I teach my kids to be thankful for what they have rather than lust after someone else's belongings or lifestyle.

Bruce, Lance, Mark, et al... Enjoy your new homes here in North Idaho. It's a magical place. I get to live here year-round, and for that I am very thankful. Hey guys, next year come by for a piece of birthday cake!

Monday, June 25, 2007



You may have heard about the grueling competition my town hosted today. That's right, it's the IronBoy race. And my son won top honors!

200 yards of funyaking...

20 trips down the water slide...

17 minutes of jumping like crazy on a trampoline...

1 hour of archery, or until all your arrows are lost in the bushes...

And finally, an endless afternoon of intense sandcastle contemplation...

It's official. Summer has finally begun.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Backyard Badminton

The kids have discovered badminton. We bought an inexpensive set to see how they'd like it, and both of them have gone nuts over the game. You just never know what your kids are going to take an interest in, so you have to keep introducing new things to see what lights a spark.

But I really just posted this picture to show off that cool North Idaho sunset.

Friday, June 22, 2007


Weekend Whatnot

We took the kids to see the new Nancy Drew movie this afternoon. It was my son's request, since today is his ninth birthday. Both kids give it a thumbs-up. They enjoyed the mystery, the pre-teen humor, and the extremely charming Emma Roberts in the title role. I found it to be pleasantly reminiscent of the live-action Disney films of the sixties.

Did I mention that my son turned nine today? All he wanted for his birthday was pizza, a movie, a few Hot Wheels, and an 80GB video iPod. Wait, that last one was mine. We're having his big party this weekend. Bouncer and BBQ in the backyard.

I don't mind if my kids snack between meals, as long as the snacks are healthy. With this Visual Guide To 15 Healthy Snacks, it makes it easier for us all to think about what we should be keeping in our refrigerator.

In the mood for a depressing, but fascinating, documentary? Try Born Into Brothels, a film about the children of prostitutes in India. It won the Best Documentary award at the 2005 Academy Awards.

I bought a monkey. Yes, an original Adam Koford postcard painting, created from my suggestion. And here it is, The Family Monkey. Even monkey daddies love their families:

Get your own monkey here.

There was something else I was going to write, but the monkey is watching me and making me nervous, and now I've forgotten everything.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Otter Loves Homeschoolers

It's absolutely energizing to hear that the most powerful leader in my state not only supports, but also encourages, homeschooling.

Idaho's governor, Butch Otter, loves home-based education, as evidenced by this article about a recent speech he made to a group of kids at a homeschool graduation ceremony.

One quote from his remarks: "There can be no firmer foundation for your future than the education you have received at home."

That's what I've always told people. We're building a foundation for my son's future, something that he himself can build upon. We're teaching him independent-thinking and a love for learning.

Governor Otter may appreciate and understand the job homeschoolers are doing, but others still stubbornly argue. In that same article, Sherri Wood, the head of the state's largest teachers' union, trots out the same old tired point about... Can you guess? Yes, socialization. Ugh.

Wood says, "They're pretty isolated. They don't have any of those socialization skills. Employers want students who aren't just skilled in academics. They want them to get along well with other people."

So, the mission of the public schools is to teach kids to get along with each other? Well, I've seen how that's working out.

I've been around a lot of homeschoolers over the past year, during field trips, picnics, parties, and classes. One thing you will not find among them is a bully. They are the most polite, respectful young kids you could ever hope to find.

And isolated? What did I just write up there? About field trips, picnics, parties, and classes? Give me a break. This is why I just laugh when someone brings up the "socialization" argument. There is no faster way to reveal your ignorance of the subject.

With our governor's resounding endorsement of homeschooling, doors will continue to open wider for students like my son. The last few negative stereotypes are slowly fading. I'm very happy about that. Heck, I might even vote for Otter next election.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Mean Girls

Why are kids so mean sometimes?

We were at the park today. I watched, from about 50 feet away, as a group of 9-year-old girls surrounded my 5-year-old daughter by the tire swing and started talking to her.

I moved closer. The girls looked up and saw me coming, then quickly walked toward the basketball courts. I then saw that my daughter was crying.

I took her hand and asked what happened. She said, "They called me an ugly toad and a jerk-face."

Immediately I started walking with her toward the group of girls, wanting them to apologize to her. But they started running.

That's when Super Brother took action! My son, who was riding his bike around the park, had seen all of this take place. When the girls ran off, he zoomed across the basketball court and chased them down the sidewalk.

He reported back to me that they had disappeared into a house, but, "I yelled at them to stay away from my sister!"

So why are kids so mean? And why do girls seem to have an extra-special brand of abuse that they reserve just for each other?

I'm reminded of a scene from Seinfeld, where Jerry and George are discussing wedgies they received in school. Elaine chimes in that girls don't do things like that. Instead, "We just tease someone until they develop an eating disorder."

My kids know there are mean people in the world. We do our best to avoid them. I just never expected I'd have to teach my 5-year-old how to deal with the mean girls at the park. I thought that wouldn't be an issue until much later.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Life Is Good In The Greenhouse

There are things to learn right outside your front door, but sometimes we're too busy to even notice.

I drive by a US Forest Service Nursery every day. Thanks to a local homeschooling group that we've joined up with, we were finally able to slow down, drive through the gates, and get a tour of the place.

So what exactly goes on in there? Trees... Lots and lots of trees. 25 million to be exact. I had to stop the tour guide and ask him to repeat that. 25 million trees can be grown at this 222-acre facility that is literally a couple of blocks from my house. Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees!

The nursery is completely self-supporting, selling seedlings to state parks, transportation projects, national forests, and other government agencies throughout the west. A few things my kids and I learned on our tour: the nursery extracts seeds from cones by shaking them. The seeds are then cleaned, dried, and x-rayed, before being refrigerated. The nursery has a 10-year supply of seeds for the types of trees they grow, which include white pine, larch, spruce, lodgepole pine, hemlock, and cedar.

The point of my post is not really to write about the nursery tour, but to make people think about how many educational opportunities there are right in your own neighborhood or town. There are probably dozens of places that you drive by each day that could teach your kids something new about the world.

I'm glad we got to see this nursery while we had the chance. The Forest Service is under pressure to sell the land. Apparently it's become too valuable for trees, and developers think it would be better off blanketed with homes instead.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Just Another Day

I don't get too excited about Father's Day. I mean, I'm with my kids every single day.

They do so much for me all the other days of the year. I have piles of beautiful drawings and crafts. I get hugs morning, noon, and night. We play and learn and love each other all the time. Father's Day is just another day with more of the same.

So while some dads were enjoying a few rare moments of quality time with their kids, I was taking a refreshing day off from being a father. I spent most of the day napping, watching The Office and The Dead Zone on DVD, listening to the new Paul McCartney CD, and catching up on my blog reading.

Father's Day turned into Mother's Day as the kids spent the day romping around the house with their mom. They must've had a lot of fun, judging from the mess I get to clean up tomorrow!

I hope you had a good Father's Day too, however you chose to spend it.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


A SAHD Story

When I started reading W. Dale Cramer's new stay-at-home dad novel, Summer of Light, I was hoping it wouldn't be some wacky retread of the Mr. Mom story. It starts off that way, with the main character, a steelworker named Mick Brannigan, losing his job and reluctantly taking over all the duties of a full-time parent.

Very quickly, however, this story becomes one of discovery as Mick finds balance between his roles as a husband, father, and friend. The most believable aspect of his character is that at no time does he become Super Dad, able to organize three kids in a single bound and clean the house faster than a speeding bullet! Mick certainly becomes more sure of himself as a stay-at-home dad, but he never quite loses all of his doubts and insecurities.

This novel reads like a slice of life. There's plenty of hilarity, with more than a few laugh-out-loud moments, but Cramer never insults his readers with phony slapstick. When you read this, you'll find yourself repeatedly nodding your head as you relate to Mick Brannigan and his family. I could especially identify with Mick's budding hobby of photography.

If you're looking for a fun, light story about family and parenting, then I highly recommend Summer of Light. If you're a stay-at-home dad, then it's a must-read.

In honor of Father's Day, I'd like to pass along my copy to a fellow daddy blogger. Doesn't matter if you're a SAHD or a Working Dad, let me know if you'd like to read it and I'll be in touch to get your address.

You can also buy the book at Amazon.

Friday, June 15, 2007


The Middle Man

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a stay-at-home dad has been playing the middle man to my kids' school friends.

My kids don't pick up the phone and make their own playdates. They certainly don't drive themselves across town to the park or someone else's house.

I get to play the middle man, and the people I deal with have always been moms. And therein lies the frustration. Going all the way back to kindergarten, my son has consistently made friends with boys whose mothers have generally turned their noses up at the idea of a stay-at-home dad.

They never just come out and say it. Instead, they go through the motion of exchanging numbers and promises of playdates. But then it never quite all works out and I have to explain to my son that he won't be seeing his friends outside of school or through the summer.

Friends can be a great joy in one's life. They can also be a source of deep disappointment. Right now my son doesn't understand the dynamics of the "middle man" and is only learning that his friends keep letting him down.

I have yet to say to him, "Johnny can't come over to play because his mommy doesn't like your daddy." One of these years, he won't have to rely on me to make the plans and set the schedule. But that's a long time from now. Until then, I'll keep playing that middle man role and hoping for success.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Fly Away Home

We love the ladybugs. They're all over our trees and flowers right now, and I take that as a sign of a healthy yard. This little guy sat still long enough for a picture. If only I could get my kids to do that.

Most of my landscaping projects are almost complete. I'll be ready for the "big reveal" by next week, if anyone's interested. After the yard is done, I'll be turning my attention to building a 30'x10' deck.

I'm a little nervous about the deck, which will be the largest carpentry project I've ever attempted. But I was nervous about initially taking a backhoe to my yard last year and that seems to have turned out just fine. The ladybugs seem to like it well enough.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Life Lessons With YouTube

I teach my kids to finish what they start, do their best, never give up, stay focused, and don't be cocky. Along comes a YouTube video to perfectly illustrate my lesson.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Fish Out Of Water

I got sidetracked by the gun show and forgot to mention how my kids did in the fishing derby on Saturday.

Last year my son caught nothing but weeds. This year he did better, landing three fish - a perch and two smallmouth bass. Not bad considering his dad knows nothing about the sport. I think I've been fishing three times in my entire life.

He actually caught four fish, but he gave a perch to his little sister, who wasn't having much luck with her Scooby Doo fishing pole. That little perch was enough to snag her a trophy and a bag of goodies.

The most impressive thing my daughter did that day was learn to bait a hook.

There's no way around it. Wrapping those worms in and around the hook is disgusting. But it didn't bother her much. She ended up helping her brother bait his hooks because he couldn't stomach the job. That's why he gave her one of his fish. It was a team effort.

All the fish went back into the lake. We weren't there to catch dinner, just to have a fun and relaxing day together. I think that's what fishing's really all about.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Guns N' Fishes

We hung out with the Doty Boys today.

Well, actually, my wife and I took the kids to a fishing derby at Fernan Lake and ended up sharing dock space with a local homeschooling family that has been in the news recently.

The Doty Boys have started carrying guns with them everywhere they go. Not because they're violent or fearful, but to prove a point about the Second Amendment, I suppose. Zach, 18, carries a loaded handgun, while his brother Stephen, 15, carries a .22-caliber rifle slung over his back. That's Stephen and a younger brother in the picture above. See the blue chair behind them? That's mine.

Were we nervous to have a pimply-faced teenager carrying a loaded weapon ten feet away from us? Not really. I was more scared of his sister, who kept trying to clumsily cast a fishing pole right next to me. I kept waiting for a hook to slash through my jugular.

Actually, all of the Doty children were extremely well-behaved and polite. The older kids helped the younger ones with poles and hooks, teaching them as they went, while the mother supervised attentively. It was a pleasant family outing.

So why does the Doty family bother me?

Because they perpetuate the myth of homeschoolers as out-of-step with society.

The story of the gun-toting Idaho boys made nationwide press last week, including Fox News, which made sure to begin their article with the phrase "Two home-schooled teenagers."

As if being home-schooled had anything to do with their decision to buck society's norms. I can't help but think that there are many people in the media who have such a strong bias against home-schooling that they actively play up the stereotype of home-schooled kids as oddballs and outcasts.

You can walk into any public high school and find punks, goths, geeks, nerds, and every other silly description of teens who like to live outside of accepted social behaviors. When those kids make the news, for whatever reason, they are not automatically labeled as "public-schooled."

So, because of the media bias, it bothers me when a family comes along and pushes its kids to be so incredibly nonconforming that it reinforces the unfounded notion that all home-schoolers are anti-social, weird, or worse.

Put down the guns, Doty Boys. Be kids. Be a part of society. Show the world that you love to play, learn, explore, and work hard. Carrying those guns around didn't help you catch any fish. And it certainly won't help your fellow homeschoolers catch a break.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


This Perfect World

A friend who reads my blog recently told me, "You have this perfect little family and perfect little life."

Sure, based on my blog posts, one could think that. I tend not to whine and complain too much, preferring instead to focus on the positive aspects of family and kids. But I don't want to come off sounding like a Christmas newsletter... "Little Johnny is the best speller in his class, and little Jane took first place at cheerleader camp, and the cat learned how to pee in the toilet..."

In real life, I try to "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative" (as the song goes) as much as possible, although I'm not as consistent as I'd like to be. We live in a cynical, pessimistic world, and it's far too easy to fall into that mindset when everyone around you is playing that game.

However, I make a point each and every day to count my blessings. I constantly remind my kids to appreciate the good things in life. When you do that on a regular basis then it's much easier to deal with adversity and bad luck.

I don't ignore the negatives, I simply don't want to dwell upon them to a point where they define my life. So when I sit down to think up a blog post, I draw inspiration from the wonderful blessings that I've been counting that day.

If readers think I have a "perfect little family and perfect little life" based on what I write here, then I must be doing a good job of passing along the love and good fortune that I find all around me. It really is everywhere... you just have to start looking.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


Weekend Whatnot

A homeschooler won the National Spelling Bee today.

Both of my kids learned to play chess this week, with a cheap, easily broken glass chess set which I'm now looking to replace with something more substantial. Oh, how they'd love a Star Wars chess set! Or a giant set to play in the yard.

Get rid of clutter with these top five strategies from Steve at Inside Fatherhood.

My landscaping shifted into slow-motion the last couple of days as temperatures have soared into the 90's. Seems like we went from winter to summer with no time for our bodies to acclimate. Even the cat refused to go outside today and promptly shed about five pounds of fur.

You are richer than you think, so says the Global Rich List.

Top ten lists are fun... Stefan Shepherd compiles The Top Ten Kids CDs To Take To A Desert Island.

Have you ever forgotten your wedding anniversary?! I haven't either. Today is our 17th, and since the theme for that one is furniture, my wife received a lovely tall dresser for the bedroom. We'll celebrate with dinner at whatever restaurant the kids pick. Happy Anniversary Shmoopy!

Friday, June 01, 2007


Backyard Math

I took this photo a few weeks ago, when my wife was helping my son review for his semester assessment in math (which he aced with a 94%).

This picture speaks volumes about the freedom of homeschooling. Bare feet, fresh air, sunny day... Who wouldn't thrive in that kind of learning environment?

On the other hand, it could all be terribly distracting. Luckily, my son did not lose focus. Too often.