blog[at] pkmeco[dot]com

Add to Google

Almightydad Top Dad Blog | Badge1 120x85

Friday, August 29, 2008

 

Weekend Whatnot


Father and son enjoy a Kalaloch Beach sunset.

An episode of The Munsters was in the player last night, but I accidentally hit the "antenna" button on the remote and up popped Barack Obama's acceptance speech. It was compelling enough that we watched the whole thing. Not once during the 45 minutes did either one of my kids ask me to turn the channel! At the end, my son said, "Daddy, you should vote for Obama." I would explain to him that in Idaho a vote for a Democratic Presidential candidate is an exercise in futility, but he's too young to be jaded, so I'll vote for Obama and hope for the best from the other 49 states.

Sarah Palin is John McCain's choice for Vice President. This is what I hate about the game of politics. Rather than pick the most deserving or best qualified candidate, he picks one that fits a desired demographic and looks good on TV. I was initially excited to hear that Palin would be McCain's running mate, only because she's a University of Idaho grad, like me. And, we were there at the same time. A friend of mine tells me he has silly photos of Palin from his college days, but since he works for the State of Alaska, and is concerned for his job, those pictures won't see the light of day for a very long time.

Our second day of homeschooling was much better than the first. My daughter just had a case of the grumps, but by the next day was a happy little student. Her favorite subjects are math, science, and art. Coincidentally, my least favorite to teach!

There's a new stay-at-home dad in town. Well, not my town. But he's over at the Out With The Kids blog. Wish Jeff good luck as he leaves his job and begins a new adventure caring for his children full-time.

Speaking of stay-at-home dads, I've never actually met another one in real life. I keep hearing about these mythical creatures here and there. They seem to write blogs and books. But are they real? Or are they just figments of my imagination? I've talked with men who used to be stay-at-home dads, and I've met a few who claimed to be work-at-home dads, but it's not quite the concrete proof I require to believe I'm not the only one in the world.

Summer suddenly ended like someone flipped a switch. We went from warm and toasty to chilly and breezy. I was looking forward to one last swim in the lake. Maybe we'll still do that, and bring hot cocoa to warm up afterwards. In North Idaho, you have to enjoy summer while it lasts. I can already feel the snow on its way.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

 

Three's A Crowd

Well, that was so not fun.

Today was my first day of homeschooling BOTH of my kids.

Neither of them was enthusiastic about school starting again. They've enjoyed a carefree summer with nothing on the schedule beyond playtime and daydreaming. Just like most kids, they wanted an endless summer.

But my son was a real trooper, diving right into lessons in history, literature, vocabulary, and math.

I set him up so he could guide himself through a good portion of the work, while I began his sister on her homeschooling journey.

She was eager to start, but quickly switched into brat-mode during math.

I asked her, "Did you act like this with your first grade teacher last year?"

She replied, "No, because she would do terrible things to me if I did."

"Like what?"

"She would take away recess!"

I figured I could use this threat and said, "Well, if you don't do this work, then you can't have recess here either."

"I don't care."

"Why not?"

"I don't know."

And it went on from there.

In other words, this is going to take some getting used to. For both her and me.

I'm accustomed to focusing solely on my son, but now I have to balance between a 5th grader and a 2nd grader who are at completely different levels of motivation.

The system my son and I developed over the past two years has be completely revised, which is something I failed to consider over the summer.

I give myself three weeks before turning the job over to the cat. At least my daughter will listen to him.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

 

The Candyland Classroom

Today's guest post is from Katrina, at Notes On A Napkin. Katrina is one of my favorite mommy bloggers. She writes about all the usual parent topics, but always with a fresh perspective. I can easily imagine some day lining up at Borders to have her autograph a copy of Notes On A Napkin - The Book. Katrina has just started a new job as a kindergarten teacher, which should come naturally for her, as she's been teaching her own two kids for years. And that is the subject of her guest post...


The Candyland Classroom
by Katrina, Notes On A Napkin

Katie was clearly agitated as she rattled the dice around in her hand, preparing to roll them again onto the Monopoly board. Paul had already been knocked out of play, the hapless victim of a harshly worded Community Chest card. Katie, Caleb, and I were left jockeying for position on a board covered with fully developed real estate, where fortunes could be won and lost in a single flick of the wrist. Katie’s competitive streak was showing as she waited to see how the dice would land. A three, a five, or a six would spell certain doom for her Rockefeller dreams, casting her onto one of my hotel-endowed orange properties, where the $1000 rent would wipe out all that was left of her meager assets.

The tension was as thick as peanut butter.

Finally, she rolled. A six. And just like that, she was out of the game.

I steeled myself for the freshet of tears and frustration that I knew would come. Instead, only a tiny "Aww, man!" escaped her lips as she gathered up what was left of her brightly colored currency to hand it over to me. Then she turned to her brother and said brightly, “Well, it’s your turn, Caleb. Hey, if you get a four, you can buy the last railroad!”

I know my jaw dropped. Where was the howl of disappointment, the theatrical glare of misplaced anger? Where was the drama? Paul and I glanced at each other, bemused but cautiously optimistic at Katie’s quick recovery. Could it be that all of our efforts to teach good sportsmanship were paying off at last?

We’ve been playing board games with our kids since they were old enough to identify the colors on the Candyland cards. That’s hundreds of hours of spinning spinners, rolling dice, and popping the little popper thingy on the Trouble board; thousands of ladders and thousands of chutes; Memory match after Memory match in countless weekday morning competitions. What started out as a way to entertain an easily distracted three year old soon became an important family bonding time and an apt training ground for many of life’s most important lessons:

Be honest.
Be fair.
Pay attention.
Think ahead.
Choose wisely.
Decisions have consequences.
Bad things happen, and we can’t always control that.
Good things happen, and we can’t control that, either.
Be a good loser.
Be a good winner.
Have fun.
People before things.
Teamwork.
If you fail, try again.
Never give up.
It’s not over until it’s over.
Always finish the game.

Sure, one rainy afternoon of playing Monopoly may not turn our kids into solid citizens, but spending time with them, allowing them to see these lessons at work not just across the dining room table but on the playing field, in the workplace, and in every facet of our lives as we willingly share our days with them, will go a long way toward instilling the values we hold dear in the people we hold dearer.

Playing board games is just one way to do that. And once the Chutes and Ladders days are behind you, it’s a pretty painless way, too.


Be sure to visit Notes On A Napkin for more mommy insight!


Monday, August 25, 2008

 

Random Olympic Thoughts

My kids and I watched every prime-time NBC airing of the Olympics. We've seen more commercials over the past two weeks than in all of the past two years!

Speaking of which, during an ad for John McCain, my son said, "He looks like a crazy old man."

We would all chuckle when the announcers would say, "Here we are at Women's Gymnastics," and then they'd show the teeny-tiny Chinese girls, some of whom didn't even have all their permanent teeth.

I want to remodel my house to look like the Beijing "Water Cube." Can you imagine that at Christmas?

You'd think that a country with a population of 1.3 billion could find a few people to fill seats in their Olympic venues. I haven't seen that many empty seats since Michael Richards played The Apollo.

At first, Usain Bolt was annoying. After three gold medals, he's just amazing.

Michael Phelps... There are no adjectives in existence that describe him. My kids will always remember his eight gold medal swims, but I will always remember my son excitedly leaping off the couch when Phelps out-touched Milorad Cavic by a hundredth of a second in the 100m butterfly.

Diving really is as boring as I remember it from the last Olympics.

Synchronized diving is doubly boring.

It's funny how the USA, a nation that prides itself on individualism, dominated team sports in these Olympics. Gold medals went to women's basketball, soccer, and beach volleyball, and men's basketball, volleyball, and beach volleyball. Silver medals went to women's water polo, volleyball, and softball, and men's water polo. The men's baseball team picked up a bronze medal.

NBC's aerial views of the beautiful and majestic Chinese scenery sure gave me a hankering for some orange chicken down at Panda Express.

We always cheered loudest for the old folks -- Dara Torres (41), Lisa Leslie (36), Kristin Armstrong (35), Jason Lezak (32), Todd Rogers (34), Lloy Ball (36), and Oksana Chusovitina (33).

Kinesio tape... What a scam. Sure looks good on Kerri Walsh, though.

Two elderly Chinese women were sentenced to a year's "re-education through labour" after asking for permission to protest during the Games. They'll probably be working right beside Zhou Luxin, the Chinese diver who botched his final dive in the 10m Individual Platform.

Jackie Chan can sing?


Saturday, August 23, 2008

 

Stay At Home Dads ROCK!

"That's right, I take care of my children..."



Friday, August 22, 2008

 

Another Reason Why I Write

Today's guest post is from Darren, at Clare's Dad. Darren is a lawyer who gave up his practice to work in theater production and management. But that's not what he writes about. As you can tell from the title of his blog, he is father to Clare, and he writes for her, letting us share in the stories and thoughts he wants to pass on to her. He's been one of my favorite dad bloggers for three years now. In fact, today is his third anniversary! And that is the subject of his guest post...


Another Reason Why I Write
by Darren, Clare's Dad

Today is my anniversary. So I came over here to A Family Runs Through It to spend the day with someone special. No, it's not my wedding anniversary—I wouldn't be here with Phil if it were that anniversary. It's my blogiversary actually. My third blogiversary.

On August 22, 2005, I started blogging. It's kind of funny to look back now and read that I thought I came "late to daddy blogging" because there were "dozens of great blogs by dads out there...of course there are hundreds of blogs by moms." Three years later I don't feel like I started so late. Today, there are hundreds of blogs by dads and thousands by moms. Given that increase, I almost feel like a pioneer.

Another pioneer is Phil who started this blog over a year before mine. Talk about old! The blog that is, not Phil.

When Phil asked if I'd write a guest post for him this summer, I asked for August 22. I wanted to spend my blog's third anniversary here. You see, Phil commented on my very first post three years ago. I guess he was part of my welcoming committee to the blogosphere. To return the favor, I like to come over once in a while and visit. The truth is that I'd be over here whether he commented on that first post or not—because I consider him not only a blogmigo, but one of the better dad bloggers out there.

In my second post on Clare’s Dad, I explained "why I write." It's a post that I've linked to directly in my sidebar, and it's gotten a new comment as recently as last month. In part, that post answered, obviously, why I write. I still look back at it occasionally. It reminds me that the first purpose of my blog is as a journal for my daughter. (The mention in that post of the journal that my own mother had written for me also got me a little sentimental earlier this year when she passed away.)

Three years later, my blog has evolved. For a while, there were no posts for months at a time. A little short of two years ago, I revived it and began "meeting" many more of my regular readers. The blog's focus is still on Clare and "what she’s done, what I’ve done, what we’ll do together." For this to be a true journal of Clare's childhood—one that I hope she'll save and read occasionally—I figure that she should know a little about her Mom and me too and "the world we're growing up in."

There are far better dad bloggers than me. There are dad bloggers who have more readers and work hard to bring traffic to their blogs. There are dad bloggers who are funnier, deeper, and more entertaining. I'm not always funny. I'm not always deep. I'm not always entertaining. But, I hope, sometimes I'm a little of all of these things. I seem to be entertaining enough for a few of you to stick around and continue to read my posts. Some of you just starting, some of you for a few weeks or months, some for three years.

You probably don't know this, but you—all of you dad and mom bloggers especially—are now another reason why I write. Three years ago, I started blogging for Clare and me. I didn't think of it as joining a community or finding friends, but that's what I've done. You entertain me and you keep me coming back. You let me know that there are other parents out there dealing with the same world we are. Today, I'm doing more than marking three years of blogging. I'm celebrating three years of hanging out with you. Thanks for being at your blogs, and thanks for coming by mine.


Be sure to visit Clare's Dad for more pioneering dad blogging! And don't forget to wish him a Happy Third Blogiversary!


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

 

Where Do We Go From Here?

Trey Morgan and his wife recently celebrated their 20th anniversary.

His post got me to thinking about our 20th coming up in two years.

Specifically, I've been pondering some kind of celebratory anniversary trip. I mean, that's a special event. How many marriages make it to twenty years these days? My wife and I deserve to sit on a beach or by a pool for making it this far together!

I have two years to save my spare change in the plastic five-gallon animal cracker jar underneath my desk.

But, where do we go?

Hawaii? Bora Bora? Caribbean cruise? I have a few ideas, but nothing unique and exciting.

I need your help. Where should we go for our 20th anniversary in 2010?

Just remember, it has to be under $5,000, and it has to be child-friendly. Yes, we're taking the kids.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

 

To Homeschool Or Not To Homeschool

Today's guest post is from Whit Honea, at The Honea Express. Whit is a work-at-home father of two who writes for a great many blogs and websites, including FameCrawler, Styledash, and DadCentric, just to name a few. He's the busiest blogger I know, but he always makes time for his kids. His oldest just started kindergarten, and that is the subject of his guest post...


The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Schoolyard
by Whit Honea, at The Honea Express

I've been giving a lot of thought to the idea of home schooling. It's actually something that my wife and I have considered for some time. We never reached a decision, hence our oldest boy stepping foot into his first day of kindergarten. Public school is the default setting.

He's been attending classes for two full days now. He seems to be enjoying it. He's an incredibly bright boy, and his time home with me (I'm a Work-At-Home-Dad) was pushing his boredom and lack of constant stimulation into realms of mischief and cartoon sponges. Something had to be done before it was too late.

Perhaps our biggest concern for him, and the main reason for enrolling him into the local school, is his lack of friends. It's baffling really. He's a very sweet kid, considerate to a fault and plays well with others- he just doesn't want to.

He has one good friend that also started kindergarten and we were unable to get them in the same class. They do see each other at recess, but he says that she wants to play with the other girls now. Fair enough. He, however, does not care to play with the other boys. He swears that they aren't mean to him, although when pressed he admits that he never gets a turn, but that's probably due more to his lack of assertiveness than any playground plot.

He would rather be by himself. He's big on imagination and I can't help but think that he'd rather create friends than deal with the consequences of reality. That's not a bad thing.

It just makes him something of a contradiction. He's not a loner. He's quite social and talkative. I don't know what to make of it, other than to not make an issue out of it after only two days, especially if he doesn't seem concerned. Maybe he just likes the quiet time away from his little brother. I wouldn't blame him.

The reason we've been thinking about home schooling is more reactionary than nurturing. I'm not happy with his school thus far.

Yes, I'm more than aware that only two days have passed and that I need to give it more time. I plan to, but if I can't voice my concern on Phil's blog then where can I?

The school has a "closed campus" which from a safety standpoint sounds great. The thing is, it doesn't give a sense of safety, not even a false one. It gives a sense of shady.

Which is ironic because there isn't any shade. We live in the desert outside of Los Angeles. It's the middle of August and the temperature still hits close to 100 degrees daily. There is no shade on the playground other than a little grove of trees in a far corner.

At the end of the day the children are marched out onto the uncovered concrete and forced to stand in shadeless lines until a school employee verifies that the child sees their parent and they are then released to the gate, which is something of a makeshift Checkpoint Charlie. This takes about 15 minutes. In the sun. In 100 degree weather.

They say that it won't be so bad as the school year progresses. I can't help but think any relief will be a result of fall temperatures, not the smoothing of the process.

But I digress, the feeling of shadiness, which is perhaps too strong a word (but hey, look at the great tangent it gave us), comes from the fact that a "closed campus" is apparently code for "no contact with your child's teacher."

I worked in public schools for 7 years. I ran a youth program at the YMCA on elementary campuses for 8 years. I'm not naive or ignorant about the running of a school, if anything I'm sympathetic to it.

It's just that I've never seen a situation where parents were treated like the enemy - even when they were. We have been given stacks of forms and rules which contain paragraph after paragraph of patronizing instructions and thinly-veiled threats. For example, should your child miss 3 days (not consecutive- total) without a doctors note you (the parent) will be turned into the county truancy department. That's 3 days all school year! A note from a parent is considered unexcused.

It's the second day of school, teachers are busy. That doesn't excuse the fact that we're parents of kindergarten kids. We've just handed our babies over to complete strangers and it breaks our heart. Would it be so difficult to at least meet the teacher and have a minute or two of dialogue with the person we're trusting to the care and molding of our children? As it is the only opportunity to do so will be the parent-teacher conferences held in October. The end of October.

I left my job at the YMCA due to a move and my coming to terms with the harsh reality of the pay scale that tends to accompany such important positions.

I left my job with the school district because of politics and now I'm afraid that I've put my kid in the care of a communist regime. I hope he makes friends soon so we can check that off the list and go back home.

In the meantime I'll TiVo SpongeBob.


Be sure to visit The Honea Express for more of Whit's parenting insight.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

 

Cool Places



It's going to be 104 degrees today.

So I'll just keep posting pictures of us cooling off in the water until the heat wave breaks.

Here's my daughter playing in Lake Coeur d'Alene, off Corbin Point on Tubbs Hill.

Why buy expensive water toys when the kids are perfectly content rolling around on a log they find on the beach?


Saturday, August 16, 2008

 

Staying Cool



We got out of the backyard today.

Swimming in the lake is my favorite way of staying cool. I submerge my overheated head into the cool water and just stay there.

An added bonus is that I can't hear the kids bickering!

I can hold my breath for, like, three hours.


Friday, August 15, 2008

 

Cooling Off


Small daughter makes big splash.

We're heading into a weekend of near 100-degree temperatures.

Most days, we cool off in our gorgeous mountain lake just down the road. But when we need to stick close to home, there's no better way to beat the heat than playing on the backyard water slide.

How do you cool off?


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

 

Own Up And Be A Dad

Today's guest post is from Toadman, at Synaptic Disunion. Toadman is one of the more thoughtful fathers I know, and he describes his website not as a blog, but as a journal, where he's continually searching for answers to life's, and parenting's, great mysteries. He is that rare working father who puts his kids and family above all else. And that is the subject of his guest post...


Own Up And Be A Dad
by Toadman, at Synaptic Disunion

I could have been anything, really. I could have been a rock star, I’ve got the voice of an angel, you know. I could have, by now, been an Anthropology professor at a major University, being published, and going into the field and getting research grants…all of that. But I’m not. I chose something more challenging than any of those. I chose something that doesn’t garner me accolades from crowds of adoring fans, or even awards from fellow intellectuals. In fact, what I chose is something that I always tell people is the hardest, most difficult thing, I’ve ever done. I always tell people, don’t do this, unless you really think it over, a lot. What did I choose? I’m a dad.

By “dad”, I don’t mean “father.” Any man can father a child…that’s the easy part. Being a dad, being present and accounted for, being fully engaged as a dad, is what I mean here. I’m by no means perfect, good grief no. I fly off the handle, I sometimes think “if it wasn’t for all these kids in the house!!!” I have my moments of regret too. I really did have rock-n-roll chops back in the day…voice and keyboard…but I’m rusty now…and it’s all because of these darn kids. But you see, I made a conscious choice. I’m living with that choice. I don’t resent or regret that choice. I’m a dad. Above and beyond what I do for a living, I’m a dad.

My own dad gave his sons and sons-in-law some written advice on the event of my parents 50th wedding anniversary. Well, there was a lot of advice, actually…but the one that stuck with me is this: “When you leave work, go home. Just home. Nowhere else.” That’s all he had to say. What he meant was, don’t swing by the bar, don’t hang out with your buddies. Go home, that’s where you’re needed.

My dad came from a time when men and women had rigidly defined roles. He came from a time when men were more distant from their children than the mothers in their lives. A time when men were discouraged from showing any softness of emotion toward their children. A time when men DID swing by the bar before heading home. A time when men all thought dealing with children was exclusively women’s work. We’re fooling ourselves if we think that this kind of thinking is gone from society. Not long ago, someone asked me if I had to “babysit” my kids often. I replied “no, I don’t ‘babysit’ my own children…they’re MY children. I raise them, I’m their dad.”

If you’re a father, own up and be a dad. Don’t worry what your so-called manly man friends say about you helping with the kids, it’s more manly to help with the kids, than it is to go hang around on the golf course anyway.


Be sure to visit Synaptic Disunion for more contemplative writings about life, the universe, and being a dad!


Photo by Toadman


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

 

Angry Zeus



The ancient Greeks believed that lightning was the result of Zeus, king of the Gods, throwing a hissy-fit.

During colonial times in America, if a house was hit by lightning and caught on fire, people would just let it burn, thinking that God was simply delivering some well-deserved retribution on the homeowner.

Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod, thus showing that either God was easily fooled or lightning was really just an atmospheric discharge of electricity.

No divine vengeance.

No ill-tempered Greek myths.

Just an incredible natural phenomenon.

Still, that doesn't mean I have to like it. When a thunderstorm hits I'm only a couple of close strikes away from hiding under the bed.

We had a good one the other night. Despite the wicked flashes bursting through the clouds, I stood at the window with my kids and repeatedly hit the camera button, hoping to get that one good shot.

300 clicks later, I managed to get a few, including the one above.


Monday, August 11, 2008

 

Guest Post: The Cappuccino Strip

Today's guest post is from Java, at The Cappuccino Strip. Java is the pseudonym of a South African mom who emigrated with her two kids to Australia. She writes about parenting teens and toddlers, being a working mom, staying fit, and exploring her new country. Her hopeful spirit is much appreciated around my house.


Sophie's Story
by Java, The Cappuccino Strip

I've been blogging for the best part of over two years now and for most of this time I've known Phil and his blog. I was very humbled to have been invited to be guest blogger on his blog, which by the way I think is just awesome. The way Phil reasons things through, explains and promotes good stuff makes his blog one of my most favorites.

But what to write about? Phil said any thing I want to or promote myself and my blog, well I won’t go that far, my blog after all is just a medium through which I love, rant, explore, advertise or tell.

I thought it through and finally decided to write a post here that I was going to post on mine anyway. Your comments will be appreciated as always to debate this matter.

So I’m reading a book lately about the journey of a little girl here in Australia, Sophie Delezio, a Sydney toddler who has survived not one but two horrific accidents. The book was written to recognize the unsung heroes behind the scenes of every accident; police, firemen, ambulance officers, doctors, nurses and all the other support teams such as psychologists, physiotherapists, chaplains, therapists, nutritionists, just to name but a few; the book is a compilation of each person’s "story" of what they did, felt or experienced and how their lives were changed forever since then.

I’m not far into the book as yet but the part that stood out to me so far was the chapter written by the Chaplain of the West Mead Children’s hospital in Sydney. Mostly because, like Sophie’s parents, we once went through a time where we wondered if our baby would survive or not.

When things like that happen to your child you can’t stop and wonder, "Why us? What's God’s lesson or plan with this experience? Did I do something wrong to deserve this, is it a punishment, why my child?" and so the questions and doubt would go on. And admit it, most humans will think of that first: What is the lesson in this for me?

And it was then that this chapter jumped out at me, Chaplain Jan Donohoo explained her answer: "I don’t think He’s a user. I don’t think He’d cause the accident (birth defect or illness) to teach us humans things – that would be using people in the most despicable way, God don’t do that. I think there has been mercy shown in the midst of a terrible situation."

And when a miraculous recovery occurs: "I don’t call it a miracle... I think God gives people skill and perseverance and intelligence and dedication and ability and all those things. I think its God being merciful to a family, giving them what they wanted, with all the consequences. I think it's a miracle when any one turns to God and calls out to Him."

I know not many of you might connect with that paragraph or say "I can see where you are coming from," you might even disagree, but to myself after going through such an experience where I wondered, I feel that I finally have some sort of an answer.

Sophie's parents have started the Day of Difference foundation after their daughter's accidents to raise funds for specialised medical treatment and research, rehabilitation, family support and community education. Please visit their website.

Be sure to visit The Cappuccino Strip for thoughtful discussion about motherhood and more!


Friday, August 08, 2008

 

Weekend Whatnot


Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park

The last couple of weeks have been hectic, and the rest of the month will be more of the same. But we took time out for our last road trip of the year, a long-planned four-day vacation to the beaches of the Olympic National Park. I needed to soak my feet in the Pacific Ocean, at the same time recharging my batteries as we get ready for a new year of homeschooling.

I'm home not even a day and it's back to the salt mines, er, I mean the basement to finish up that project which I began last November. Framing, drywall, taping, mudding, texturing, and painting. It will all be done by the end of the month. If I'd been charging myself an hourly wage, the entire project would cost me about $1.2 million.

Shaving razors are always improving. The folks at Schick sent me their new Quattro Titanium Trimmer, the first and only razor that shaves, edges, and trims all in one. It's an impressive piece of technology, with a 4-blade razor on one end and a battery-operated trimmer on the other. Check it out here. Or get it at your local drugstore for about $12.

My son is ready for school to begin again, I can tell. He's become a bit aimless in recent weeks. The trip to the coast perked him up for a few days, but I can see that he's interested in returning to the daily routine of learning and working. We haven't done much of that this summer. I purposely let the kids have a carefree break from all things school.

My daughter is obsessed with Webkinz. She received 11 Webkinz animals for her birthday, and still she wanted to take some of her birthday money to the store to buy one more, for an even dozen. She even brought them all on our trip and surrounded herself with them each night in her bed. I can't ridicule these stuffed toys as a Beanie Baby-type fad because I see the joy they bring to my daughter. Even my son joined in the fun with a gecko that he named Gorsepaw. He still wants a real gecko, but I like the stuffed one better.

I took 943 photos on our beach trip. It's just one more project for my list, having to go through and delete the duplicates, fuzzies, closed eyes, and just plain boring shots. You can bet the good ones will end up posted here.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

 

Guest Post: L.A. Daddy

Today's guest post is from Tim, at L.A. Daddy, one of my favorite dad bloggers. He's been busy lately with a big cross-country move, but he took the time to send me this humorous observation.


I Might Be Too Strong
by Tim, at L.A. Daddy

I'm not allowed to open products in my house. It's one of many things I'm not allowed to do, but this one is most embarrassing. In most houses, the father is the one who opens up the packages that arrive. He opens the cereal boxes at breakfast time. He operates the can opener. He's the one who twists off that stubbornly jammed jar lid.

No me.

Is it because I'm too weak? Not masculine enough? No, not really...

In fact, the opposite might be true. I might be too strong. Too "manly." Why? Because men don't read directions. We can't stand instructions. We laugh at printed manuals and detailed explanations.

It never fails that at least two or... seven times a week, L.A. Mommy will bring a product we've bought from the grocery store to my attention. You know those bags of lettuce that have the little zip-lock zippy thing on the side to seal it up after you've opened it? Yeah, well, the top to ours has been completely ripped off. By, um... me.

You know the bag of apples that has the twisty clip at the opening to hold the plastic netting closed? Um, yeah, I've ripped a hole in the side of the bag. And the last time I was allowed to open the plastic bag inside the cereal box? I pulled it so hard that I shredded the entire plastic bag and sent Sugary Fruity Puffs flying all over the kitchen.

L.A. Toddler thought it was very funny. My wife? Not so much.

So, like a little kid, I've been punished. I'm not allowed to open anything. Anymore. Until I learned my lesson. That scissors are my friend when it comes to cereal bags. That I should read the "how to open" directions on the sides of food bags. That I should take the time to look for, and find, the re-sealable entrance to all types of containers.

Oh, I still have to open the lids on fingernail polish bottles.

I am a man after all...


Be sure to visit L.A. Daddy for more parenting humor and wisdom!


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

 

Treasure Giveaway


My son loves the history-adventure storytelling of the National Treasure movies. To him, the character of Benjamin Gates is second only to Indiana Jones in film. He understands that the movies are pure fiction, but the twists and thrills of the plots still elicit a bit of wide-eyed wonder. Even in me!

I have shiny new DVD copies of both National Treasure and National Treasure 2 to give away this week.

All you have to do is leave a comment and tell me what fun things you're going to do with your family over the last few weeks of summer. Yikes, did I say "last few weeks of summer"? Yup, there are only three weeks left before the new school year starts.

I'll pick a winner on Monday.

UPDATE: The winner is... James Austin! Thanks for your comments. Enjoy the rest of summer!


Monday, August 04, 2008

 

Set Sail

"Imagination will take you everywhere."
- Albert Einstein


The view from atop my kids' playhouse.


Friday, August 01, 2008

 

Guest Post: Pixel Remix

Today's guest post is by Ann Torrence, from Pixel Remix: the Ann-alog. Ann is a Salt Lake City-based writer and photographer specializing in the people and landscapes of the intermountain west. Check out this gorgeous photo she took in Grand Tetons National Park. If you have even the slightest interest in taking better pictures, check out her blog for inspiration!

Parks Along The Highway
by Ann Torrence

Summer vacation season is in full swing, and even with gas prices at record levels, both Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks experienced record visitation in June. This is good news for me, because I'm writing and photographing a book on the greatest highway in America, U.S. 89, which links those parks and five others, and travels through some of the most spectacular scenery in the west. 15 million visitors will hit the parks along my highway this year, and hopefully they will stop at some of the other cool places along the way.

As I've driven the entire Highway 89 from Canada to Mexico, I've met a lot of families visiting the national parks. All too often I see bored kids, trying to look interested as they stop at yet one more overlook. I guess parents forget what it was like to be a kid: we didn't care about looking at the view. All kids really want to do is throw rocks over the edge, but that's not allowed.

Grumpy, carsick kids are not having the family vacation their parents dreamed for them, and it could be so much better. There are some great ways to get your kids engaged in the parks for a much more memorable experience.

Every park has a Junior Ranger Program, where each kid gets an activity booklet at the Visitor's Center, spends the day completing it, then meets with a real ranger to discuss what he or she has learned. There's a fine looking junior ranger patch awarded at the end of the day. I met one family whose sons had collected 20 patches from different parks and were having a blast working on #21.

Non-profit associations support the parks by offering educational activities, fundraising and research outside the park budgets. Many of these groups offer family-friendly classes and activities, usually by reservation and with a fee, for which you get a very knowledgeable guided experience. The Yellowstone Institute and the Grand Canyon Field Institute are two examples.

Activities in the Highway 89 National Parks
  • Saguaro National Park is off-cycle with the summer vacation season, but it would be fun for a winter break. The rangers offer some cool-looking twilight guided hikes about twice a month in the winter season.

  • The Grand Canyon is the most-visited and the hardest park for kid-scale enjoyment. Face it: looking over the edge will be fun for about 2 minutes. String together a couple of 20-45 minute rimside walks, led by uniformed heroes, real Rangers.

  • Because of the altitude and dry desert air, the rim of Bryce Canyon is one of the best places in the southwest for astronomy, and the park service offers some unique activities that are kid friendly. Check the schedule before you pick the dates for your visit, because they don't offer programs every night.

  • Now that the shuttle system (mandatory in high season) has minimized the cars on the main canyon road, bringing bikes to Zion is a great way to see the park at kid pace. If the main canyon is too hot or crowded, hit the east side of the park, where you can scamper off trail on the red rock formations. There are numerous pull-outs east of the second tunnel, but no bathrooms or water. It's important to learn to recognize cryptobiotic soil before going off-trail, so stop in at the visitor's center first.

  • Grand Teton is actually easier on families than Yellowstone, because there are shorter hikes and less driving between the major sites. This is the one park where I'd splurge on my nieces and nephew and take them rafting, either an early-morning wildlife watching trip, or for older kids a whitewater adventure outside the park in the Snake River Canyon. We have fantastic memories of taking my Mom on a wildlife trip one early morning, where we saw bald eagles, bison and elk swimming the Snake River.

  • Most of the rivers in Yellowstone are too strong and cold for swimming, but downstream from Old Faithful at Firehole Canyon Drive (scroll down), families have a great time burning off excess energy in the warm water.

  • If I had an animal-crazy kid, I'd head to Glacier, roust them out of bed and get up to Logan Pass before anyone else (the parking lot is empty a half hour after sunrise). The mountain goats and bighorns are regulars, along with waddling fat marmots, and I've even seen wolverines running down the trail. Bring a picnic breakfast, look for animals and head out as the first shuttle buses start rolling in.


I hope these ideas will send parents to the Internet to find out what's going on in their national parks. I'm biased toward the seven parks along US89, but every unit in the NPS offers family-friendly activities that can elevate your child's vacation experience.

I will be in and around the parks again this summer, making more pictures and collecting stories for my book. One of my favorite things about the project is getting to meet people as they enjoy their national treasures, so please say hello or send me an email.

You can follow my adventures on my blog, or add your name to the list to receive an announcement when my book comes out. I am convinced this highway is the best road trip in America, and I am very much looking forward to telling the stories of US Highway 89.