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Friday, August 31, 2007

 

What The Kids Heard

Here's what the kids heard me say today:

"What do you want from me now?"
"I'll feed you when I have time."
"Nope. No love for you. Sorry."
"If you're going to throw up, try to do it in the basement."
"Speak English!"
"Stop wiping your butt on the carpet."
"Get off the couch and go sit on your pillow."
"Please don't chew on the electrical cord."
"If you bite my nose, you'll be locked in the basement all day."


Do you think my dumb cats listen to me at all?!




Wednesday, August 29, 2007

 

Pool Shark



Trouble, oh we got trouble,
With a capital "T"
That rhymes with "P"
And that stands for pool


My kids learned to play pool yesterday at the Snakepit in Kingston, Idaho. Look at that form! My daughter handles the cue like Minnesota Fats.

We went there for a lunch of buffalo burgers, Idaho nachos, and huckleberry milkshakes. Sorry, no takers on the Rocky Mountain Oysters. My son nearly lost his appetite when I explained what they were.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

 

Evil Elves

My daughter spun a tall tale last week about evil elves who live in her closet. It was yet another excuse to not sleep in her room. I checked her room out thoroughly and declared it to be free of elves, but she was not convinced and spent another night in mommy and daddy's bed.

But what if I was wrong? What if there really are evil elves in there? I'm beginning to think that my daughter is telling the truth!

The other night I was cleaning up her room for the umpteenth time. Toys littered the floor, bed, and shelves. I gathered them all up, put some in boxes and bins, while others made their way to the garbage can. I left the room orderly and clean.

The very next night, there were toys all over the room again! Only these were (cue the spooky music) different toys. Some I've never seen before.

Where did they come from? How did they get thrown all over her room?

It suddenly dawned on me that elves make toys. And elves that are evil would delight in making toys that were broken, or had missing parts... The very toys that seem to populate my daughter's room!

I can just imagine these malevolent munchkins, having been kicked out of the North Pole in disgrace, are now roaming the countryside, living in little girls' closets and causing mayhem with their mad toymaking skills.

There's just no other explanation for it.


Monday, August 27, 2007

 

Mr. Bean's Holiday

If you're not a fan of Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean, I suggest that you stay far away from his new movie "Mr. Bean's Holiday." In it, he's even more childish, annoying, and rude than ever. And my kids were loving every minute of it.

Part of Bean's appeal is that his bad behavior is so awkward and exaggerated in relation to the other characters around him that you can't help but laugh at the embarrassment he causes for himself. He's really just a clown without face make-up.

There's not much plot to this new film. Basically, Mr. Bean wins a holiday to the south of France. Hilarity ensues from the moment he boards the train to Paris. What's surprising is the leisurely pace of many of the scenes. This is not a Michael Bay film, with frenetic action, split-second edits, and dizzying camera angles. This movie takes its time to let Atkinson do his thing, and I appreciate that. As a parent, I also appreciate the G rating that lets me relax and watch my kids giggle over their popcorn.

I can very easily see "Mr. Bean's Holiday" becoming a cult classic on DVD, much like "Office Space" and "Napoleon Dynamite." This will be a fun one to pause, rewind, and jump ahead to favorite scenes.

If you've never experienced Mr. Bean, then you should start with his short TV sketches to see if you've got the stomach for this kind of character. If you like those old shows, then you'll love this new movie.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

 

Weekend Whatnot

As Indiana Jones said, "Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes?" My son wants to get one for a pet. We're actually thinking about it. Corn snakes are supposed to be quite easy to handle.

At a local farm, the kids and I were picking green beans. My daughter kept picking the huge overripe beans, even though I told her we didn't want those. Her justification: "I'm going to decorate my room with these." I may have figured out why her room smells funny.

I bought a new kind of jam at the store. My daughter didn't want me to use it on her toast. I asked, "Why? Don't you like boysenberry?" She said, "Ohhh, I thought it was poison-berry."

Homeschool moms are just as cliquish and exclusive as other moms when you're the only dad at a homeschooler picnic. On a positive note, I think I may have mastered the power of invisibility!

A neighbor actually told me, "In the summer it's too hot, and in the winter it's too cold, so we just stay inside most of the time." He wasn't joking. Maybe he should just find a cave deep underground to raise his family in.

One reviewer described it as "a silly man in a brown suit makes bug-eyed faces." That's all we need to know... My kids love Mr. Bean, and we'll be front and center at his new movie this weekend.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

 

It Was Twenty Years Ago...

Twenty years ago this week I packed up my stuff and moved to Idaho, home of my ancestors, to attend grad school at the University of Idaho. One of the best decisions I ever made. I liked it so much, I never left. I've lived in Moscow, Boise, and Coeur d'Alene. Got married here, had kids here. Certain parts of the state are definite favorites, but I call the whole place my home.

Here's a little video tribute to the Gem State, featuring photos I've taken over the past ten years and a song that is a hundred years old. Enjoy!



 

Cat Years

My 6-year-old daughter just skipped into the room to ask, "How old is Basil?"

Basil is our cat, an extremely loving and personable feline who takes turns sleeping on the kids' beds at night.

I smiled, thinking she wanted to plan a birthday party or something for him, "He's eleven years old now."

She counted from eleven to fifteen on her fingers, then frowned. "Well, I just read in this book that cats only live to be fifteen years old."

Uh-oh.

I quickly told her that if we keep Basil healthy and happy he might live to be twenty or more, "So make sure you give him lots of hugs and kisses every day." She seemed satisfied with that answer and went skipping away.

Come to think of it, lots of daily hugs and kisses are good for daddies too!


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

 

Oh Happy Day!

I don't think I've ever heard a singer quite as happy as Roger Day. That's a good thing when it comes to children's music. You don't really want your kids bopping around the house to Morrissey and Elliott Smith. They can shoegaze during their teen years.

Roger Day's new CD, Dream Big!, is just so darn cheerful that you can't help but smile. Thankfully he's got more than just a sunny disposition going for him... His folksy voice is reminiscent of Ralph Covert (my son even asked if this was a new Ralph's World CD upon first listen) and his backing musicians are first-rate. The legendary Crickets play on "Roly Poly," the Buddy Holly-esque tribute to pillbugs, while percussionist extraordinaire Billy Jonas lends his unique sound to the cute "I Like Yaks."

On a recent car trip, my kids asked for multiple songs to be repeated. Most notably, "Hello Sunshine," "Zachary Hated Bumblebees," and the title track. Asking dad to hit the repeat button is high praise from my children. I join them in giving Dream Big! a huge recommendation. This is one of those kids' CDs that parents will find themselves playing even when the kids aren't around.

Listen: Roger Day - "Hello Sunshine"

Visit Roger's website here for more info and tunes.



Monday, August 20, 2007

 

Huckleberries



Here's my son, picking huckleberries in the wilds of North Idaho.

Just after taking this picture I stepped forward to join him and nearly stepped in the one thing you don't want to see around huckleberry bushes -- fresh bear poop.

That certainly raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I'd pick some berries, look all around, pick some more, then look around again. Finally, I started singing "Eating The Bear" by Joan Armatrading...

"Some days the bear will eat you, some days you eat the bear"

I'm quite sure that my off-key wailing scared away every creature within a mile of our little patch of huckleberries.


Friday, August 17, 2007

 

Road Trip: Rialto Beach



The last part of our recent road trip to Western Washington was a stop at Rialto Beach, one of the most popular destinations on the Olympic Peninsula. It's a classic beach hike, with crashing waves, towering sea stacks, tide pools, and a unique rock tunnel called Hole-in-the-Wall.



There was plenty of driftwood, naturally, but this time my kids were more interested in looking for sea creatures in and around the strange rock formations. If you hike the easy 1.5 miles along the beach to Hole-in-the-Wall, plan for frequent stops as your kids discover starfish, sea urchins, anemones, crabs, and other critters in all the nooks and crannies.





Like I've said before, the Olympic Peninsula is an awesome family destination. There are so many different sights and activities to choose from. Whether you're exploring the varied beaches, walking through the rain forest, or climbing a mountain peak, parents will be thrilled by the scenery, while your kids will delight in exercising their imagination in a safe, simple, and natural setting.

It's better than Disneyland!


Thursday, August 16, 2007

 

Celebrity Skin

I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired of living in a world where people like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Nicole Richie dominate the popular culture.

When my kids ask me why those women are on the covers of all the magazines at the grocery store, I have no answer.

The only words that come to mind are: sad, pathetic, and pointless.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

 

Spit Take



Our latest summer road trip took us to the west coast of Washington. Yes, that's Seattle's famous Pike Place Fish Market in my previous post. I was standing right behind one of the employees as five huge King Salmons were launched at him. I couldn't take the pictures fast enough. Did you know that Pike Place Market celebrates its 100th birthday this Friday?

However, before we wandered through the crowded market with the hordes of tourists, we spent a few peaceful days out on the Olympic Peninsula. First stop was the Dungeness Spit, the longest natural sand spit in the country and home to a wildlife refuge.



Quite honestly, I wasn't expecting much. A lot of sand, to be sure. But the simplicity of the place is what charmed us. The Spit is five miles of sand, driftwood, and ocean. And it was absolutely mesmerizing.



I've never seen my kids happier than when they gazed out over all that driftwood and began mentally designing tri-level forts and castles. The sand and the ocean were a blur to them. All they cared about was building stuff.

I walked exactly half a mile down the Spit before giving up any thoughts of traveling the entire length to see the lighthouse at the far end. Maybe we'll do that long hike some other time.

And there will be another time. My whole family is falling in love with the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. Olympic National Park is one of the most diverse, and least crowded, recreation areas I've ever visited. The roads are good, the distances not too far, and the scenery is some of the most spectacular in the country.



Most of all, the Peninsula reminds me that the simple things are sometimes the best. Children certainly don't need a lot of bells and whistles to have fun on vacation. A simple walk on the beach can spur imagination and creativity like nothing else. That's what will keep us returning to places like Dungeness Spit and Rialto Beach (the second stop on our road trip - you know I've got more photos).


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

 

Road Trip Mystery

Since I'm still in a semi-wordless photo mode, I'll let you tell me where we went on our recent road trip:



Sunday, August 12, 2007

 

Zen Rocks



Stacking rocks is actually quite relaxing.

Oh yeah, we took another road trip last week. More about that later...


Friday, August 10, 2007

 

Lost

My son has been lost for a week now.

Last Friday he started reading the first Harry Potter book. Sunday he began the second volume. Tuesday he started reading the second one again!

Yesterday he opened up the third book and finished it this afternoon.

He's lost in some fantasy world that I'm clueless about, because I'm only on page 26 of the first book after a week.

I wish I could just sit and read all day.


 

Row Your Boat


Lonely rowboats on Lake Coeur d'Alene

I'm having a semi-wordless week here on the blog as I get some end of summer projects done around the house. Summer is over in three weeks? Say it ain't so!


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

 

Rockin' USA


A completely accurate map of the United States, created with small beach pebbles by an autistic teenager at Camp Sweyolakan, Lake Coeur d'Alene


Sunday, August 05, 2007

 

Hot Buns

Since we started homeschooling, we've become The Field Trip Family. We'll go anywhere... Tree nursery, fire station, newspaper, zoo. It's important to get out of the classroom to teach the kids that the world is a very busy place filled with all sorts of people doing all sorts of amazing things.



Just because it's summer doesn't mean we stop learning. Last week we drove into Spokane for a rare open house at Franz Bakery. I felt like I was in one of those Mr. Rogers films, except without Mr. McFeely's narration. The bakery was running at full-speed, making bread loaves (7,000 an hour) and hot dog buns (40,000 an hour). Wow, people eat a lot of bread!



We were given little paper hats to wear while we walked around the plant. Above our heads were cooling conveyors, on which the loaves and buns traveled for an hour before being sliced and wrapped.



We even got to meet creepy bread slice guy before being served a very nice free hot dog lunch (fresh buns, yum!). Then the bakery loaded us down with free bread, donuts, t-shirts, and more goofy paper hats.

An enjoyable morning. My kids, who eat lots of bread (whole grain only), were fascinated by the entire process. They also totally debunked two old cliches:

Man can live by bread alone, if he had to.

And, there is such a thing as a free lunch.

See? Field trips are educational in more ways than one.


Friday, August 03, 2007

 

Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah



Now I don't want this should scare ya,
But my bunk mate has malaria.
You remember Jeffrey Hardy?
They're about to organize a searching party.

You know the classic Allan Sherman song about kids having a miserable time at summer camp. Well, last weekend we sent our own children off to camp. They didn't write us anguished letters, though, because they had a great time. So did we... We were right there with them.

Yes, it was Family Camp! More specifically, it was the You and Me, Kid weekend at Camp Sweyolakan. This 85-year-old camp sits on the shore of Idaho's beautiful Lake Coeur d'Alene, where lakefront property is quickly being gobbled up by developers for million-dollar vacation homes.

It wasn't very long ago that a middle class family could actually have some hope of buying a little cabin on the lake if they worked hard and saved their money. Now, however, the land has been priced far out of reach of the local working class and the lake is ringed by mega-mansions that sit empty for all but a few weeks of the year.

And that makes Camp Sweyolakan a very special place. The camp has 5,000 feet of shoreline, two sandy beaches, and 300 acres of forested hillsides criss-crossed with trails. And for $150, the four of us spent three fun-filled days swimming, hiking, boating, shooting archery, and eating way too much good food.

If you ever have a chance to go to camp with your kids, I highly recommend it. Get there before the greedy developers do.

Here are a few of the great memories we made last weekend:


Our little cabin in the woods, complete with cots, mattresses, and... that's it. We brought our own sleeping bags and lanterns. Bathrooms were about 50 feet away.


My daughter had some trouble sleeping. Maybe it was a bad idea to tell her the story of Jason Vorhees?


The view from our cabin. My daughter filled her backpack with toys and stuffed animals. You know, basic camping essentials.


My son demonstrates one of the laws of cartoon physics. Actually, he used the diving board so many times (over 50) in a row, the nearby lifeguard dubbed him "The Jumping Machine."


My wife and daughter kayaking on the lake. Not long after they returned to shore, my daughter stepped on a yellowjacket. Suddenly Jason Vorhees was the least of her worries.


S'mores around the campfire every night. What's better than that?


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

 

Stolen Moments

For a very long time I've been teaching my daughter about honesty. "Never tell lies," is my mantra. "You'll be punished more for the lie than for whatever it is you're lying about."

My son figured it out years ago. He's a very truthful boy, and he understands about how fibs can make a bad situation even worse. He now sits back and watches his sister spin her own little tangled webs when she doesn't want to admit to wrongdoing.

Most of the problem lately has involved her going into her brother's room and taking things. Candy and money are what she's after. She's rather relentless when it comes to the sugary sweets. Her brother has yet to find a hiding place that she can't uncover.

However, just last week, after an incident involving a new pack of Big Red chewing gum, my daughter is finally starting to see the light. She's realizing that maybe honesty is the best policy.

When confronted with the pack of gum found in her room, she smiled and said proudly, "But Daddy, I like stealing things!"

Now we have a whole new dilemma!