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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

 

Gorilla My Dreams



Hey, it's my first ever Photo Caption Contest!

Here I am with a friend at the Benson Sculpture Park in Loveland, Colorado. I need your funniest, cleverest, or weirdest caption.

I don't know what the winner will get, but I'm sure it will be something good.


Monday, April 28, 2008

 

YeeHaw - A Giveaway!

A good country music song will tell you a great story, entertain you, and maybe even make you think.

But most adult country music songs tackle issues that are a little too much for young minds.

Enter The BummKinn Band. Rather than sing about ex-wives, trailer parks, and bar fights, they sing about things that kids can identify with, like broken toys, dropped ice cream cones, and playground friendships gone sour.

We loved last year's debut CD, and now their new disc, Rockin' The YeeHaw, delivers more classic country sound to the children's music scene. They also mix in a little rockabilly, bluegrass, and Southern rock on this fun 16-song collection.

Lead singer Kimber Breaux has a great big Texas-sized voice that kids and adults alike are going to find irresistible. She and her bandmates, Sam Nickell and Ryan Bueter, serve up a tasty down-home sound, with warm honey-dripped harmonies and perfect hand-clapping rhythms. Songs like "Woke Up On The Wrong Side Of The Bed," "Crab Bit My Toe," and "I Dropped My Ice Cream On The Ground" are memorable favorites in my house.

Listen: "Woke Up On The Wrong Side Of The Bed" (60-sec. clip)

The last track on the CD, "Rhinurtle Elesnail," is a wonderful story song about a strange creature (a combination of a rhinocerous, turtle, elephant, and snail) and its arrival in an old west town.

Rockin' The YeeHaw gets the highest recommendation from my family.

You can buy the CD, and listen to more song clips, at CD Baby.

And, one lucky reader can receive the new CD for free. The BummKinn Band was nice enough to send me an extra copy of Rockin' The YeeHaw to give away, so if you'd like to have it just leave a comment. I'll pick a winner by Friday.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

 

The Warmth of the Sun

Warm sunny days have been few and far between this spring.

Today we're having our third such day, and the feeling is that we have to rush around outside doing cleanup, planting, and other general yard work.

But I never get very far. There's just something about the fresh air and the warmth of the sun that inevitably leads me to our couch swing for a long nap in the middle of the afternoon.

The yard work can wait, I guess.


Friday, April 25, 2008

 

Book of Life

My son has been on a biography spree lately, checking out dozens of them from the library over the past few months. There are valuable lessons to be learned from studying the great men and women of history. You get to read about courage, determination, creativity, leadership, and so many other positive virtues. Plus, nothing livens up history like getting to know the stories of the real people who lived it.

Here are ten biographies that my son would like to recommend to your kids. We found them all in the children's section of our local library.

And you know, you don't have to be a homeschooler to encourage your kids to read books like these.

Charles Lindbergh: A Human Hero
by James Cross Giblin

A comprehensive study of the aviator hero, this book pulls no punches in examining Lindbergh's flawed and sometimes controversial life. It made my son think about how we can put too much faith in our heroes.
More info

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: The New Deal President
by Brenda Haugen

An informative introduction to one of our greatest presidents. It's packed with facts about Roosevelt's life, and how he guided our country through the depression and World War II.
More info

Genius: A Photobiography of Albert Einstein
by Marfe Ferguson Delano

An eye-opening book for all ages that is beautifully put together by National Geographic. It has stunning photos of Einstein from throughout his life, but also serves up explanations of his accomplishments and theories that anyone can understand. Even me.
More info

Dr. Jenner and the Speckled Monster: The Discovery of the Smallpox Vaccine
by Albert Marrin

This book tells two stories. One is the horrible history of the smallpox virus. The second is the biography of Edward Jenner, an 18th-century English surgeon who developed the smallpox vaccine. Amazing history AND science, all in one!
More info

Marie Curie: A Brilliant Life
by Elizabeth MacLeod

The story of the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, Marie Curie was certainly one of the most important women of the 20th century. Another easy-to-understand blend of biography with science, this book helped my son to see how important scientific research is, and how Curie's discoveries are still being used today.
More info

Who Were the Beatles?
by Geoff Edgers

My kids have been listening to the music of The Beatles since the day they were born, so it was only natural that my son would want to learn a little bit about the lives of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. This book tells about their childhoods in Liverpool, how they met and formed the band, and how the four of them changed the world.
More info

Onward: A Photobiography of African-American Polar Explorer Matthew Henson
by Dolores Johnson

Another stunning biography from National Geographic, this one covers the life of African-American explorer Matthew Henson, who was denied the honors and recognition that he deserved in 1909 simply because of the color of his skin. As with the Einstein biography, this book is beautifully published with amazing photos of Henson at the North Pole.
More info

To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers
by Wendie C. Old

Orville and Wilbur Wright overcame many problems in their quest to fly, but they never gave up. They never stopped thinking and creating. That's a lesson I teach my own kids every single day.
More info

The Boy on Fairfield Street
by Kathleen Krull

This book focuses on the childhood of Theodore Geisel, a "doodler and dreamer" who grew up to become Dr. Seuss. It talks about not only his love for animals and his wild imagination, but also about the difficult times he had in his young life and how he overcame them. A great story for any kid who might view the world in a slightly different way.
More info

Gertrude Chandler Warner and the Boxcar Children
by Mary Ellen Ellsworth

The first chapter books my son picked up back in first grade were The Boxcar Children books by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I think he's read at least fifty of them over the years. He was quite pleased to find a biography that revealed how she created and published her famous series. I'm a big fan of anything that reinforces the importance of reading and writing in childhood.
More info

Have fun at the library! And if you know of any good biographies for children, let me know.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

 

Wordless Wednesday



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

 

Lying Liars

Parents are such liars.

We lie to our children...

"When I was your age, I never talked back to my parents!"

We lie to our spouses...

"No dear, I didn't watch the latest episode of Lost. I'll wait until we can watch it together."

We lie to each other...

"We'll have to get the kids together for a play date. I'll call you."

We lie to ourselves...

"Just one more hour of blog reading, and then I'm going to bed."

What lies have you told lately?


Sunday, April 20, 2008

 

Father of the Year

And the Father of the Year Award goes to...



... not this guy, obviously.

This picture is just sad beyond words. Teaching your children to hate is reprehensible. That poor boy has many years of misery ahead of him. Thanks, Dad.

AP Photo by Haraz N. Ghanbari


 

Seepy Sams

Last February I reviewed a CD called Stardust, a soothing collection of lullabies by Cher and Gene Klosner. Now one of their songs has been beautifully animated by Pascal Campion. Here it is, for your sleepy Sunday enjoyment:



Saturday, April 19, 2008

 

Whooping Cough

PKIDS, a national nonprofit whose mission is to educate the public about infectious diseases, is currently trying to raise awareness of the dangers of pertussis, which is more commonly known as "whooping cough."

Classic pertussis usually starts with normal cold symptoms. After about two weeks, however, coughing becomes increasingly severe. This stage can last for weeks or even months. Patients may have 15-24 coughing attacks a day.

Pertussis is on the rise right now, from 1,010 reported cases in 1976 to over 25,000 reported cases in 2004. The number of misdiagnosed and unreported cases may actually be nearly a million. More than half of all whooping cough cases are spread from parents to children when the mom or dad thinks they just have a cold or bronchitis.

One of the best ways to protect babies from pertussis is to make sure that anyone in close contact with them is vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control is recommending that adults and adolescents receive a pertussis booster vaccination to prevent the spread of pertussis among young children before they can be fully vaccinated themselves.

Visit the PKIDS website and educate yourself about pertussis!


Friday, April 18, 2008

 

Who's Going To Outback?



I had big plans. They involved balloons, the backyard, and a lawn dart.

But then it got really cold and I didn't want to go outside, so the plans changed to balloons, the basement, and a regular dart.

But then I got really tired and just wanted to go to bed early.

So, I wimped out and turned to the Custom Random Number Generator at Math Goodies.

And it told me that the lucky Outback Gift Card winner is comment #30.

That's Tonya!

Congratulations, and enjoy your meal at Outback.

Thanks to everyone for entering.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

 

The Statue Made Me Cry



"Daddy, that statue is crying."

My daughter noticed this at Benson Sculpture Park, in Loveland, Colorado, just one of the many stops on our recent road trip.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

 

Flip Wilson

Dan has been counting down his Top Ten TV Shows, which got me to thinking about some of the shows my family used to watch together when I was a kid.

Mostly I remember variety shows. Those must've been big in the seventies. The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour was a big favorite, along with The Mac Davis Show, The Carol Burnett Show, Sonny & Cher, Ken Berry's Wow Show, and The Shields and Yarnell Show.

But I think the one that made me laugh the loudest was The Flip Wilson Show. I have no idea why, but characters like Geraldine and Reverend Leroy were absolutely hilarious to my 6-year-old mind.

Flip Wilson had such an easygoing manner when he just came out to tell jokes or talk with the audience. He was most likely the first black person I watched regularly on TV, at a time when TV was still a mostly segregated medium.

Flip didn't find much success after his variety show was canceled in 1974. Too bad, he was an original. Here's a clip of him from The Tonight Show. Watch for Johnny Carson's reaction at the end.



Sunday, April 13, 2008

 

Outback Giveaway

One of our favorite chain restaurants is Outback Steakhouse. It's their 20th birthday this month, and they've sent me a $25 gift card to give away to one of my readers.

All through April, Outback has special menu items in honor of their birthday. We recently ate there and I tried the Chargrilled Tuscan Rib Eye. Believe me, it's good. Other special items this month include a Sirloin, Shrimp and Scallops Mixed Grill, Fresh Tilapia with Pure Lump Crab Meat, and a Slow-Roasted Sirloin Medley.

I only agreed to promote Outback's birthday because we've always had delicious meals there. The environment is relaxed and casual, the very definition of the Aussie "No Worries" lifestyle. The kids menu is a step above the usual chicken nuggets or macaroni & cheese. My son especially likes the Joey Sirloin, while my daughter always orders the Junior Ribs.

What's weird is that both my kids love Outback's Bloomin' Onion. Normally they hate onions. They pick them out of sandwiches, salads, and casseroles. But place a Bloomin' Onion on the table, and they gobble it up.

If you'd like to win the $25 Outback gift card, just leave a comment and tell me how hungry you are. I'll pick a winner at the end of the week.


Friday, April 11, 2008

 

No Sweat

My son likes sweatpants.

He won't wear anything else.

Loose legs, elastic waist, comfy material. Heck, I don't blame him.

For some reason, it seems to be socially unacceptable to wear comfortable clothes. In a perfect world, we would all wear silk pajamas. And fluffy, over-sized terrycloth robes during the winter months.

I made my son put on jeans for our recent trip to Arches National Park. He wasn't happy about it at first, but he quickly realized that climbing up and sliding down slickrock wouldn't have been nearly as much fun in easily torn sweatpants.

There was a time, not too long ago, when jeans were frowned upon in the workplace. Now, though, you see a much more casual dress code in most organizations.

Maybe my son is at the forefront of a movement to bring our society to a whole new level of fashion comfort. In a decade or two, sweatpants will become the new boardroom chic. The President of the United States will address the nation wearing a hoodie. Bankers will shuffle around their offices in bright blue bunny slippers.

And my son will call me up to say, "I told you so."


Thursday, April 10, 2008

 

Custer's Ghost



On our recent road trip, we made a stop at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana. I've wanted to see the place since I was a kid.

The strangest thing happened just after we arrived at the battlefield. It was a calm, overcast day. A little chilly, but not bad for late March.

As we started walking up the hill to the actual site of Custer's Last Stand, my son asked me why General Custer didn't wait for reinforcements when he heard about the size of the Indian village. I told him, "Because Custer was vain and arrogant."

Suddenly, an icy wind started gusting wildly across the prairie. My hat blew right off my head and flew away down an embankment. I had to chase it for 50 yards. The wind never let up for the rest of our visit.

I swear, it was the ghost of George Armstrong Custer!


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

 

Here Comes Brady Rymer

On our road trip last week we spent about 30 hours in the car. We had books, portable DVD player, the everchanging scenery out the window, and, of course, an iPod loaded with new kids music.

One of the big musical hits of the trip was the new CD from Brady Rymer, called Here Comes Brady Rymer and The Little Band That Could. Rymer has a fresh, feel-good sound that is perfect for drumming along on the steering wheel or the back of the seat. His songs are a joyous mix of pop, country, folk, and straight-ahead rock. If your kids enjoy Ralph's World, they'll love Brady Rymer.

This is another one of those CDs that you could fool your adult friends with by not telling them it's supposed to be for children. The magic of Brady Rymer is that he makes music that appeals to all ages. His songs could rest very comfortably on a playlist with Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, and Jack Johnson.

Catchy choruses abound on tracks like "It Was A Saturday Night," "Your Smile," and our favorite, "Road Trip." Rymer also turns in classy covers of Woody Guthrie's "Bling Blang" and Pete Seeger's "Well May The World Go."

You can listen to all of his songs on his website. You can buy the CD at his site, or through Amazon, cdbaby, or iTunes.


Monday, April 07, 2008

 

Damaged

I was reading an article in Rolling Stone about the tragic story of a US Marine suffering from severe PTSD because of his time in Iraq.

It's a horrible thought that you can multiply his case by thousands when all is said and done with this pointless war.

But what struck me in the article was a tidbit about this particular soldier's childhood years.

"We had porn on all the time when I was a little kid, so it's just like background noise to me. We would sit down to dinner, and my dad got mad if the TV wasn't on Playboy."


There are really parents like this? Sounds like this poor guy was damaged long before he put on a uniform.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

 

Arches









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Saturday, April 05, 2008

 

Exhausted

It's true what they say. I really do need a vacation from my vacation.

I'm exhausted.

We got back home last night and, soon after I unwrapped my fingers from the steering wheel, it suddenly hit me. Total exhaustion.

I then slept for 14 hours, but I'm still tired.

It wasn't really the vacation that wore me out. It was the journey.

2400 miles of driving our nation's highways.

Two-thousand four-hundred. Miles.

It make me tired just typing that.

So, where did we go?

Oh, lots of places. But the highlight of the trip, and the place featured in the post below, was Arches National Park in Utah. To be exact, we are about twenty feet to the left of Sand Dune Arch.

The commenter who guessed the right answer is... Anonymous. Hmmmm. Since it's kind of hard to send a t-shirt to an anonymous commenter, I'll have to go with brettdl, as his guess of a Lake Powell slot canyon was, geographically, the next closest.

Arches is an awesome vacation spot for families, and when I have more energy I'll begin to write about it.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

 

Where Is My Family?



Where did I take my family for Spring Break?

Make your best guess. The winner gets a free XL T-shirt from the place we visited.