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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

 

Ring Out The Old



We're ending the year with more snow records being broken. This December saw 85 inches fall, the most in a one-month period. But what is more amazing to me is the new one-year record. 209 inches from January 1, 2008 through today. That absolutely shatters the previous mark of 139 inches in 1922.

209 inches, or 5,308 mm for my overseas friends, puts us near the top of snowiest places in the continental U.S. At least we're not living in Valdez, Alaska, which averages 326 inches a year!

It's extremely unusual for my area to have this kind of heavy snowfall. At least, I hope it is. A local weatherman recently wrote that this region is moving into a "mini ice age." Between that and "global warming," I'm confused. Oh well, all I can do is keep shoveling what they're giving me.

I'll be ringing out 2008 today with the sound of metal on concrete as I continue to move snow from driveway to yard. It's getting a little old, but at least it counts as a daily exercise now.

Happy New Year to you and yours! I wish you all the best in the coming year.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

 

The "S" Word



It just keeps snowing and snowing.

We're breaking records right and left around here. Most snowfall in a day. Most snowblowers sold. Most backs thrown out by people who can't afford snowblowers.

80 inches of snow have fallen on my town over the past month, with another 10 inches predicted for this week. And then we'll be starting off the new year with another 8 to 14 inches next weekend. No wonder people are starting to treat the word "snow" as some kind of unmentionable profanity.

I've shoveled our driveway over a dozen times now. There's no place left to put the snow. I'm scooping and lifting it literally over my head, which takes a huge toll on back and shoulder muscles.

I'm worrying over the three feet of snow on my roof and wondering if the experts are right that these new houses can take the weight. There must be 5,000 pounds of the white stuff up there. Every creak and groan in the night makes me wonder if the roof is about to collapse upon us. It doesn't help when the local paper publishes headlines screaming, "Buildings could collapse under next round of storms!"

It's been a real adventure trying to drive out of our neighborhood, as we seem to be last on the city's list of streets to plow. Basically, we leave our driveway going about 40mph and hope for a clear shot to the main road about a quarter-mile away. You don't stop or slow down, for fear of getting stuck in a drift.

You know it's a bad winter when you hear neighbors say, "We're thinking of moving back to California." It could never be that bad for me. The snow may be an inconvenience and, sometimes, a danger, but I'd still rather raise my family in this part of the country, with its four unique seasons.

Besides, the kids think the snow is awesome. They have none of the worries about it that I do. To them, it's all fun and games. At least until the roof falls down on our heads.


Skiing on the beach


Friday, December 26, 2008

 

Seeing Stars



My son finds a sea star at Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington.

We had one of our best family vacations ever at the Olympic beaches, and I wrote about it over at the Uptake vacations blog.

I hope you all had a great Christmas! I'm spending most of my free time shoveling snow and playing with the kids on the new Wii that Santa brought.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

 

Warming Up



Monday, December 22, 2008

 

Candy Mountain



Here's a picture from the creative mind of my son. I love it when I find little surprises like this on our camera.

I'm going to be in photo-mode this whole week, as I step away from reading and writing blogs for awhile. I need the extra hours each night just to watch Christmas movies with the kids!

Merry Christmas, and Happy Hanukkah, to all my readers. Enjoy this time with your families. It goes fast, and you'll never get it back, so savor it while you can.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

 

Scenes From A Blizzard

It was the biggest snowstorm to hit my town since 1895.

37 inches of snow fell to the ground over a 52 hour period, a new record.

When it was over, we emerged from the house with shovels in hand, not quite sure of where to begin. Just clearing the driveway took about four hours, and even then we couldn't go anywhere on the unplowed roads.

So we played in it a bit, and gawked at the thick white blanket that had so suddenly fallen down upon us. And, of course, I took lots of pictures...

















Thursday, December 18, 2008

 

Gingerbread Riches



My wife and kids spent three days designing and building this elaborate 2-story gingerbread house. My job was to make frequent trips to the store for requested supplies (they were kind of making it up as they went along).

It wasn't until the house was done that I realized how spectacular it was... spectacularly expensive, that is. There's about $50 worth of candy on that thing!

In other news, I've tallied the votes in the Christmas LOLcats competition between the kids and me.

Picture #1, "Claus, Meet Claws," is the big winner, with 12 votes to #2's 8 votes.

Not exactly a landslide, but it looks like I owe a couple of kids a trip to McDonald's.

I'll get 'em next time!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

 

A Family Carols Through It






Or, right-click here to download for later playback.


Welcome to the Christmas Edition of A Family Sings Through It. This time it's a full hour of my family's holiday favorites, with a decidedly mellow pop flavor.

You'll hear songs from Rockapella, Pugwash, Burl Ives, The Lonely Hearts Band, Jason Mraz, and many more. Let me know if you're curious about any of the artists. If you like what you hear, go to Amazon or iTunes and pick up some new Christmas music!

Happy listening!

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

 

Christmas LOLcats

My kids have struck again, with another photo of their favorite kitty.

This time we have competing LOLcat captions. One is mine, the other is my kids', but I won't tell you which is which.

Vote for your favorite in the comments. We have lunch at McDonald's riding on the outcome!

#1



#2



Thursday, December 11, 2008

 

Christmas Music In The Air

We don't break out the Christmas music until about two weeks before the big day. And then we listen to it pretty much non-stop until the 26th.

Each year I try to add a couple of good holiday CDs to our collection. This year's big winners skirt the edges of traditional Christmas music. Both of them are highly recommended...

Ranlom's Going On Holiday is an upbeat mix of pop originals and classics, including one of the better arrangements of "Little Drummer Boy" I've ever heard. Ranlom is a group of talented musicians led by singer Matthew Molnar, and the playing and production on this Christmas CD is sparkling. There's a bit of Ben Folds mixed with Harry Connick, Jr., in these seven songs, and that is a very welcome sound after the 19th heavenly choir singing "Silent Night" pops up on the iPod. You can order the disc through CD Baby, or download it instantly at Amazon. Listen to samples at both sites.

The GrooveBarbers' Glory is an a cappella spectacular from some of the best vocalists in the genre, including three former members of Rockapella. One of them, Sean Altman, has one of those voices that I could listen to sing the phone book. On Glory, Sean and the other Barbers cover all the holiday favorites, from "Let It Snow" to "Jingle Bells," with quirky arrangements and impeccable harmonies. This may be the most consistently pleasing Christmas CD in our entire collection. Download Glory at Amazon for just $6.99, where you can also hear samples.

Here's The GrooveBarbers backing up opera singer Inna Dukach in a funny rendition of Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro:

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

 

Weird Things

Back in December of 2005, I posted a list of Five Weird Things that my kids did.

Here it is again:

1. My daughter makes nests. She piles things up in the corner of her room, or the middle of the hallway, or behind the couch. Sometimes it will be a free-standing jumble of dolls, other times she'll stash food away under her bed. I'm constantly finding strange little collections of things around the house.

2. My son will only wear socks with the Nike swoosh on them.

3. My daughter likes to watch TV upside down.

4. My son frequently laughs like this: "Yuck yuck yuck!" He must've learned that from some cartoon character. I hope he outgrows it. We are not a hillbilly family, contrary to popular belief.

5. Every now and then, my daughter will decide she is a Cat For The Day and wants to eat out of bowls on the floor, clean herself by licking her hands, and rub against our legs until we scratch behind her ears. Thank goodness she doesn't want to use the litterbox!

Three years later, my daughter still likes to make nests, while my son still prefers Nike socks over any other brand. The other three things are long gone, to be replaced by all new "weird things" which I no longer worry about (much) because I know the kids will outgrow most of them in a few years time.

What weird things do your kids do?


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

 

Winter at the Waterpark



There's no better way to beat the winter blues than with a trip to an indoor waterpark.

When we walked into the Silver Rapids Waterpark, in Kellogg, Idaho, my daughter turned to me and said, "This is a dream come true!"

Read more about the place here.


Sunday, December 07, 2008

 

LOLcat Gets A Clue

Ever since my kids discovered the funny LOLcat website I Can Has Cheezburger, they ask to look at it every day. It's a great incentive for finishing school lessons a little early.

For the past few weeks, they've been following our cats around with a camera, trying to catch them in some pose that could be turned into a LOLcat.

Here's their first success:



Friday, December 05, 2008

 

Arches National Park



This is the time of year when you have to start making travel plans for spring and summer, especially if you're heading to a National Park. Hotel and campground reservations go fast at most of them.

Last spring we spent a few days at Utah's Arches National Park. It's a spectacular place, and ideal for younger kids. I highly recommend traveling there in the spring to avoid the desert heat of summer.

If you want to read more of what I have to say about Arches, it's my latest post at the Uptake travel blog.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

 

Top Ten Benefits Of Homeschooling

We started homeschooling back in 2006, but it never really felt like we had made a complete transition to a new way of thinking because my daughter was still in public school these past couple of years.

But this fall we made the leap with both kids at home. We've been at it long enough now to develop some new habits and traditions, to know what works and what doesn't, and to make a break from the old ways.

What better way to explain our new life as dedicated homeschoolers than with a Top Ten List!

The Top Ten Benefits Of Homeschooling

1. Our cat never gets lonely waiting for the kids to come home from school. He just curls up right at their feet, and in their lap, and on their desk.

2. The librarian is starting to recognize us from our frequent trips to get more books. Last week she looked the other way on an overdue book.

3. Little stockinged feet walking around the house all day means I don't have to worry about polishing the wood floor.

4. There is no better place to read The History of Colonial America than curled up on the couch in front of a roaring fire.

5. We don't need permission slips to take field trips. We just go.

6. No bullies, no PTO moms, no drop-off lane, no fashion police, no dumbing down, no fundraising, no harried teachers, no busy work. Nothing but learning.

7. The manager of our favorite deli recognizes us from our frequent lunches out and upgrades our meals with big drinks and free cookies.

8. The quality of handwriting always improves when the incentive is a half-hour morning break to watch an episode of Get Smart.

9. When the kids are asked what they did in school that day, they actually give a clear and detailed answer instead of the standard, "Oh, nothing."

10. School becomes exciting. Knowledge becomes a treasure. Learning becomes a way of life.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

 

Imagination Lives Here



If you have a young daughter, chances are she's going to ask for a dollhouse at some point. There are dozens and dozens to choose from, in all different shapes, sizes, and materials. Here's one of them I can recommend.

The good folks at Learning Curve recently sent one of their dollhouses for my daughter to review. It's the Mrs. Goodbee Talking Dollhouse, part of Learning Curve's new Caring Corners line of toys that encourages kids to care about others.

And my daughter's evaluation? She's in love with it. She thinks it's the best dollhouse ever.

From my perspective, the house is pretty cool. When it's opened up, it has 12 different rooms to decorate and play with. Folded up, it stores easily on the shelf and contains all the little bits and pieces into one place.

The house actually talks, with over 400 different helpful hints, playful prompts, and silly songs, all designed around sharing and caring. Oh, and using your imagination.

I love watching my kids play with the house and the figures that were included. They added their own furniture from other play sets (Littlest Pet Shop accessories fit perfectly) and I could hear their imagination take off.

Oh, wait, did I say "kids"? Shhh... Don't tell anyone, but even my son has been having a great time with the Mrs. Goodbee Dollhouse. He had Boba Fett renting a room in the attic, and Scooby Doo fixing tacos in the kitchen.

As if just playing with this talking dollhouse wasn't enough to teach my daughter some excellent lessons about positive behavior, the people at Learning Curve were kind enough to send along a second dollhouse, so that she could donate this wonderful toy to a local charity or needy family. She'll be doing that next week. What a great way to kick off the Christmas giving season!

We've looked at five or six of the more popular dollhouses on toy store shelves, and I think the Mrs. Goodbee Dollhouse stacks up with the best of them. I really like the fact that it folds up, is made of durable plastic, and has a friendly, positive message to deliver. My daughter just likes that it's "Fun!"

You can find Caring Corners products at just about any toy store or large retailer.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

 

Police On My Block



This is close to the top of the list of things you do not want to see in front of your neighbor's house during the holidays.

I'd go ask, but maybe we're better off not knowing.