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Saturday, December 29, 2007

 

Sledding

The kids have been looking forward to sledding since the first bit of cold weather back in October. The day after Christmas, we finally had enough snow on the ground to hit the hills...



Thursday, December 27, 2007

 

Enchanted Treasure

One-sentence reviews of movies we saw at the theater this week...

Enchanted: We had huge smiles on our faces from beginning to end.

National Treasure 2: A wonderfully ridiculous story that defies belief, except in the mind of a spellbound 9-year-old history lover.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

 

Thanks For Christmas



It's time to take a break from the computer for a few days. We'll be outside making an army of snowmen, or inside sitting by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book.

Whatever holiday you celebrate this year, have a good one. Thanks for being one of the 220,468 readers who stopped by my blog in 2007.

Here's my annual Christmas music mini-mix, starting with my all-time favorite holiday song:

XTC - "Thanks For Christmas"
Badly Drawn Boy - "Donna and Blitzen"
Rockapella - "Winter Wonderland"
David Mead - "A Gift For You All"
Bruce Broughton - "Miracle on 34th Street"
The Alarm - "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)"


Friday, December 21, 2007

 

Daddy Wants

Christmas is the season of giving and sharing. It's a time of charity, of helping those less fortunate, and of extending a helping hand to our fellow man.

But forget all that.

Christmas is when we get stuff!

I recently asked a few daddy bloggers what they would like to see under the tree with their name on it this year...

Predictably, electronic gadgets top most wish lists. Dads have a hard time living without the latest technological wonders.

Steve/The Hygiene Chronicles, Dennis/Imps Playground, and Eric/Cool Tunes For Kids are all hoping to receive portable GPS units so they'll never again have to suffer the humiliation of asking someone for directions.

Apple products are also popular this year. Toadman/Synaptic Disunion is tired of driving in silence and wants an 8GB iPod Nano to replace his broken car CD player. Darren/Clare's Dad wants the new iPod touch, while Whit/Honea Express desires an iPhone (but he'd be just as happy with a sweater).

Some dads have simple desires.

Tim/LA Daddy wants a new watch to replace the one he lost in a motorcyle accident last year (he's lucky that's all he lost).

Dan/All That Comes With It is hoping for the complete 12-disc set of the Sherlock Holmes TV series starring Jeremy Brett. I need Holmes and Watson to help me solve The Case Of The Half-Eaten Candy Canes.

Jared/Total Depravity wants the new Guitar Hero III game. Would a mirror and a tennis racket be sufficient?

Finally, we have the dads who are more interested in reaching personal and family goals at the holidays and beyond...

Jeff/Jeff's Place wants to get his condo on the market and sold, and then buy a new house at a good interest rate. This is a great time to buy a house, but maybe not so great to be selling.

Tony/Creative Type Dad wants his 2-year-old to be potty-trained. I'm afraid this might be his wish for next Christmas as well. My kids took forever to potty-train.

Jared/Total Depravity, when he's not thinking about that Guitar Hero game, is praying for the discipline and determination to engage his son about his faith on a daily basis.

Jeff/Out With The Kids hopes to be a self-employed stay-at-home-dad by mid-summer. I made this move nine years ago. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

Kevin/Hooray For Saturday is asking for a nice calm year with his kids. That might be the best wish of all, but I think you'd have better luck asking for laundry that folds itself or a Presidential candidate worth voting for.

Me, I just want peace, happiness, laughter, and, oh, maybe a week-long Disney Cruise for four.

Thanks to all the dads who played along. I hope all your wishes come true!


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

 

Busy Bodies

Why is everybody so busy?

It's what I hear the most from friends, family, even strangers.

"We've been so busy lately" has become the standard answer to the question, "How are you?"

The statement is often preceded by a heavy sigh. Nobody seems to like being so busy, but they've apparently given up trying to change the situation.

A friend recently told me that he feels like he's under water, drowning in a sea of job responsibilities. Yet, many of the activities that he's taken on at work are purely extracurricular. As if he needs to be not just busy, but busier.

I don't see the point to living life like that. Are we only on this planet to fill our days with busy work? Or do we think that the busiest person wins some sort of special award at the end of their life?

I've heard people say, "I'm so busy I don't even have time to think."

What kind of message does that send to our children?

We're in danger of raising a generation of kids who won't know how to just sit and ponder the world around them. Maybe they'll be too busy to care.


Monday, December 17, 2007

 

Losers And Winners

Last month my daughter lost a tooth, then lost it again down the drain.

She was sad for awhile, but quickly reminded herself that there were more loose teeth in her future. She said, "Next time I won't go anywhere near the sink."

Last night we let the kids start eating the gingerbread houses they built a few weeks ago. As my daughter was biting into a section of M&M-covered rooftop, her eyes suddenly went very wide and she froze.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

Her eyes began to fill with tears as she softly said, "I swallowed my tooth."

Sure enough, one of her loose incisors was gone. This girl is not having much luck with her teeth!

Speaking of luck, I asked my son to pick two numbers between 1 and 14. He choose 2 and 13. You see, everyone begged so convincingly, I decidedly to randomly select the winners of the Shrek The Third and Home Alone DVDs. Comment #2 was from Piseco, who wanted Home Alone, while Comment #13 was from Jinx, who asked for Shrek The Third. Please email me at blog(AT)pkmeco(DOT)com with your mailing info.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

 

Longer

I was saddened to hear that singer Dan Fogelberg died today.

During the 70's and 80's, I mostly ignored his music because it was too "soft" for my new wave/punk-loving teenage self. Just before my marriage, I discovered Fogelberg's ballad "Longer," and found that I could finally relate to the sappy, heartfelt lyrics. I now consider the song to be one of the all-time classic love songs.

I developed an even stronger bond to "Longer" when my son was born and I would sing the song to him as we rocked. "Longer than there've been fishes in the ocean, higher than any bird ever flew, longer than there've been stars up in the heavens, I've been in love with you."

It was an easy verse to croon to my baby boy and, a few years later, my baby girl. They seemed to like it. And now, we all listen to Fogelberg's greatest hits collection, which I highly recommend. His songs are soft, smooth, slickly produced, and extremely catchy.

Listen: Dan Fogelberg - "Longer"

Dan, thanks for the soundtrack to a few precious memories. RIP.


Friday, December 14, 2007

 

Tree Cat



What is it about cats and Christmas trees?

Within seconds of setting up the tree in our family room, our cat Basil had firmly planted himself underneath it. And there he sits most of the day.

I don't know what he's doing. Waiting for Santa Claus? Maybe he thinks he's in the great outdoors and is just enjoying the fresh air and nature. Apparently he hasn't figured out that our tree is a fake one.

When Basil was a kitten, we would set up a real tree each Christmas and he would chew on the branches. His litterbox was always very interesting that time of year, with bits of green needles and silver tinsel mixed together in his waste.

The kids think he's cute, sitting there under the tree and stubbornly refusing to come out for anything but his own basic needs. I suspect that he believes the tree is a present for him, one big pine-scented cat toy that we've placed in the house solely for his amusement.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

 

Home Alone With Shrek



Come and get it! I have some shiny new DVDs to give away.

I have one each of the recently released Shrek The Third and the classic 1990 Christmas comedy Home Alone.

How do you win them? Just leave a comment. Tell me which one you want (sorry, can't have both), followed by a lot of begging and pleading. I'll pick a winner on Monday.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

 

Stocking Stuffer CDs

Kids CDs make great stocking stuffers... Here are some quick reviews of CDs worthy of gift-giving this holiday:

Recess Monkey - Wonderstuff
The Seattle-based band Recess Monkey has produced an outrageously eclectic concept album that introduces children to a wide range of musical styles while telling a fun story. The double disc song cycle spins a colorful tale about Everett The Wonderbee and his struggle to save his home from a mysterious evil force called The Gray. Kids will laugh and clap at all the silliness, while parents will appreciate the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Motown influences in the songs. More info here.

Buck Howdy with BB - Chickens
Yet another irresistible country-flavored CD for the whole family. Buck Howdy and BB know how to have a good time, and they do it in style with a mix of western swing, big band, pop, and Dixieland jazz. From toe-tapping originals to zany covers of rock classics, like The Coasters' "Yakety Yak," this CD is a fun collection of songs for all ages. More info here.

Maria Sangiolo - Under The Mystic Sea
Maria Sangiolo's third family CD has an aquatic theme, celebrating the ocean and the creatures that call it home. Sangiolo has an immediately charming voice, like a cross between the folk of Judy Collins and the pop of Mandy Moore. Her songs are melodic folk-pop tunes about polar bears, sharks, and penguins. "Giggly Girl" is destined to become a classic. Very appealing for even the youngest kids, but highly listenable for grown-ups too! More info here.

Various Artists - Down At The Sea Hotel
A beautiful collection of lullabies from folk artists Guy Davis, Lucy Kaplansky, The Wailin' Jennys, John Gorka, Lynn Miles, and Eliza Gilkyson. The songs come from a diverse group of songwriters, including Neil Young, Billy Joel, Don Henley, Steve Earle, and Carole King. Whoever picked these tracks knew how to create a gentle, flowing mix of quiet time music. Parents will appreciate the exquisite instrumentation and production. You'll be listening to this one even after the kids are in bed. More info here.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

 

Geography Bee

My son did not want to take part in last week's Geography Bee.

Now he can't wait until next year.

When you're a 4th grader and you beat a 5th grader and a 6th grader to go up against an 8th grader in the finals, well, minds can change in a hurry.

And he almost beat that 8th grade girl, who had prepared for two months.

Ummm, my son prepared for two days. Mostly by reviewing state and national capitals, longitude and latitude, major rivers and mountain ranges, and famous landmarks on each continent.

The moderator told me afterward that she was afraid the girl might cry if my son had won the competition.

Some of the questions the kids had to answer in the finals:

The city of Alice Springs is in the arid middle of what continent?

The Rio Grande begins in the San Juan Mountains of what state?

What is the name of the ocean that is bordered by Africa, Asia, and Australia?

The Tropic of Capricorn passes through which three continents?

Five of the last nine winners of the National Geographic Bee have been home-schooled. Maybe my son will be one of them some day. At the very least, he has gained a huge amount of confidence in himself.

Next year I predict he makes all the 8th graders cry.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

 

Homeschooler Wins Heisman


(AP Photo/Kelly Kline)

Congratulations, Tim Tebow, for winning the Heisman Trophy as the best college football player in 2007.

Tebow was homeschooled by his parents. He was able to play high school football because of a 1996 Florida law that allows homeschoolers to participate in extra-curricular activities at public and private schools.

Every state should have such a law.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

 

Weekend Whatnot



We took an eagle-watching cruise on the lake this morning. This is the time of year when bald eagles return to Coeur d'Alene to feed on spawned kokanee salmon. Can you spot all six eagles in this picture?

My friend Bob is ready to go home with someone. The lucky winner of the screentime controller from Hopscotch Technology is The Father of Five. I hope it helps you manage your family's TV time!

The new Indiana Jones movie comes out next summer, and my son is counting down the months. I'm excited about it too, but I'm actually looking forward a little more to Prince Caspian, especially after seeing the new trailer.

My son has decided to read every book that has won a Newbery Medal since the award was created in 1922. He has 80 to go, having already read Holes (1999), Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (1972), From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1968), A Wrinkle in Time (1963), The Door in the Wall (1950), and Call It Courage (1941).

My daughter is following in her brother's footsteps by reading everything she can get her hands on. Just last week she celebrated her very first late night reading session. The book that she couldn't put down was Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus.

18 days 'til Christmas... Time to put the tree up and stock the fridge with eggnog. This is one of my favorite times of the year. However, there's a strong temptation to spend much of my holiday working on our basement project. I just need to remember to take a break from my break.


Friday, December 07, 2007

 

What, Me Worry?

"As a society, we are making decisions based on our perception of issues, and not based on the science underlying those issues. In 2007, we are preoccupied with West Nile virus, avian flu and mad cow disease. We worry ourselves sick about things that are not going to happen. Meanwhile, obesity is epidemic, smoking of cigarettes causes 400,000 deaths a year, and drinking alcohol causes 85,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, and we allow these."

- Dr. Mickey Gunter, University of Idaho

What do you worry about? Are most of your worries based on perception rather than reality? I've found that since I no longer watch TV news, my list of fears has decreased dramatically. I used to dwell on things that had very little chance of actually happening to me, just because the talking heads on the TV news told me I should be afraid. But then I'd forget about the slippery bathtub in my house or the artery-clogging hamburger I was eating.

Every now and then it's good to remind ourselves of what's real and important in our lives, and what deserves our genuine concern. Shake off the false perceptions and focus on what you can do for your family to make them safer and happier. You might be surprised at how close to worry-free you can become.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

 

The Chore List

This is the time of year I like to reflect, look back at the year, and make lists. Count down with me...

Top Ten Worst Household Chores

10. Dusting. I just can't get excited about dusting. Vacuuming, yes, wiping shelves with a rag, no. Maybe it's because the vacuum is a power tool and we all know that men love to have machines doing their work for them.

9. Clearing clutter. I've learned to dislike this only through daily repetition and the perception that it never gets any better. Will the clutter ever be gone?

8. Folding laundry. I'm good at cleaning the clothes, but my enthusiasm wanes once it's out of the dryer. Again with the machines.

7. Cleaning bathtubs and showers. I love cleaning toilets. It's immediate and satisfying. I figure the tubs and showers get clean whenever someone uses them.

6. Clearing out the refrigerator. Every few weeks, the fridge gets too crowded and I have to sort through the leftovers. There's nothing good about lifting up the corner of a container of three-week old tuna casserole. Or discovering that a bowl of strawberry Jell-O has been knocked over and the contents are now pooled at the bottom of the fridge behind the veggie drawer.

5. Cat barf. I'm truly thankful that our cats seem to have a preference for barfing only in the basement. It still has to be cleaned up, and I hate doing it, but at least it's on bare concrete or old pieces of carpet.

4. Pots and pans. I enjoy clearing the kitchen counter, rinsing off dishes, and loading up the dishwasher each night. But when a big pot or pan requires some heavy duty scrubbing, I tend to avoid it for a few days. "Let it soak" is my mantra.

3. Bleaching underwear. My daughter is stubborn about wiping properly. But she's learning, although very slowly. Until then, all undies have to be piled up in the laundry sink and then bleached before washing.

2. Cat litterbox. The cats have shown up on this list again. Why have them if they're such a chore? Because they're extremely cute and lovable and we forgive them their disgustingness. Our cats are BIG, and they eat A LOT. So, naturally, I never look forward to sifting out their litterbox. Eleven years I've been doing it, and it still makes me gag.

And now, the #1 Worst Household Chore of 2007...

1. Paying bills. Of all the dirty, disgusting, painful chores I have to perform around this house, sitting down to pay the bills is the only one that gives me a headache and nausea, and generally leaves me in a foul mood for several hours. Whether I do it through the computer or the old-fashioned checkbook, paying the bills is, by far, my least favorite household chore.


Monday, December 03, 2007

 

Bad Guy Bob

Bob arrived at our house a few weeks ago.

My kids think he's a bad guy because he's always turning off the computer right in the middle of their games.

But they're quickly learning to work with Bob. To negotiate for more time or to limit themselves to the hour or two that Bob gives them.

Bob is a TV Time Manager. And it's not really a guy. It's this small electronic device that you plug into your TV, computer, or videogame into, and then you can set specific time limits and time blocks for up to six different children.

In our house we don't have a problem with the kids watching too much TV, as they only turn it on by themselves on Saturday and Sunday mornings when they're allowed to watch DVD cartoons for an hour or two. So far they've been good about regulating themselves on that.

What we do have a problem with is computer games. My son, especially, likes to play games at the free online sites, like NeoPets and Yahoo Games. We give him an hour a day, usually just after dinner. But that hour goes quickly, and he's so caught up in the action that he forgets the time.

That's where Bob comes in. For computers, you can plug the monitor's electrical cord into Bob, which has a locked outlet so the kids can't simply plug the cord back into the wall outlet. Then your child types in his own 4-digit pin number, and Bob will turn the monitor on for the amount of time the child is allowed. When the alloted time is just about up, Bob gives a 60-second countdown, so your child knows he'd better finish up the game.

You can also set up time blocks when Bob will refuse to accept a PIN, so your kids can't play games or watch TV during hours of the day when they should be doing other things.

It's all worked wonderfully with our son. He has no reason to complain, because we all agreed on how much time he would have on the computer each night. I don't have to watch the clock, and my son is learning a little something about time management.

Bob has an extremely simple interface. It's easy to use, and easy for the kids to understand. They can see right on the screen how much time they've used. Parents can give more time as a reward, or take away time as a punishment.

BOB GIVEAWAY!!

Bob is made by a Colorado company called Hopscotch Technology. They have graciously offered up a free Bob to one of my readers. If you think Bob would be useful in your home, putting an end to the struggles and frustrations of too much TV or computer time, then leave a comment here. Friday I'll pick a lucky winner at random.

In case you don't win, you can always buy Bob at Amazon. He's well worth it!


Saturday, December 01, 2007

 

It's A Big World



"It's A Big World" by Renee and Jeremy.

Buy their new CD here.