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Friday, January 30, 2009


The Worst Food

One unexpected result of homeschooling is that we go out for lunch more than we used to, usually twice a week, just to get a break from the house. The kids ask for McDonald's or Schlotzsky's Deli most of the time.

Neither restaurant offers the healthiest menus around, but at least they beat the likes of KFC, Wendy's, Quizno's, and Starbucks, all of which ended up on DailySpark's list of the 11 Worst Foods of 2008.

They recommend that you stay far, far away from the following items:

Wendy's Gourmet Mushroom Swiss Burger
Burger King Mushroom Swiss Steakhouse Burger
Romano's Macaroni Grill Seared Sea Scallops Salad
IHOP Butterscotch Rocks Pancakes
KFC Original Recipe Fully Loaded Box Meal
Taco Bell Fully Loaded Nachos
Quizno's Prime Rib Cheesesteak
Olive Garden Chicken & Shrimp Carbonara
Chili's Texas Cheese Fries with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing
Starbucks Signature Hot Chocolates
Jack in the Box Egg Nog Shake

If you want to read the gory details, read the original article.

Be careful, the article might make you sick to your stomach.

Or, it'll make you hungry for lunch!

Monday, January 26, 2009


Building A Wise Man

Today's guest post is another piece by Dr. Rajiv Vaidyanathan, Professor of Marketing at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and Executive Director of the Association For Consumer Research. His previous guest posts can be found here and here.

Building A Wise Man
by Dr. Rajiv Vaidyanathan

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts."
-- Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

I frequently find myself admonishing my son for being so sure of himself. Myself, I am constantly reminded how much there is to learn and how little I know. I love to read in a huge variety of areas. I devour information on physics, cosmology, history, language, psychology, religion, politics, sociology, philosophy, music and more. As a result, I feel I have a shallow, superficial level of knowledge in a wide variety of areas. I love to argue about things and see what counterarguments others can offer, just to help me refine my own views.

My 14-year-old son will share some piece of knowledge and gloat when he finds out that I didn’t have that piece of information. Or, he sometimes will tell me about an interaction with a friend where he was oh-so surprised that his friend "didn’t even know that..." For some reason this irritates me a great deal and I remind him not to be so judgmental. "I can bet there are a bunch of things your friend knows that he can tell you that would make you sound clueless," I tell him.

I also recall the numerous times that I have told him something to the effect, "Don’t be so sure you’re right and you know all these things. There are a ton of things you don’t know, just as there are millions of things I don’t know. Nothing wrong with not knowing everything (few people do), but I can’t stand people who don’t know something, but don’t know they don’t know it. Ignorance of ignorance is a lot worse than knowledge of ignorance. I respect people who know they don’t know much more than people who don’t know they don’t know."

Yes, I’m saying the same thing over and over again, but I get so irritated when he comes across as cocksure of himself that I try to hammer home the point that he ought to have a lot more humility about the scope of his knowledge.

I have begun wondering whether I’m doing the right thing by him. Increasingly, I find that true leaders tend to be very sure of themselves. In fact, when I think back to people who I considered exemplary leaders, they were not the people who expressed doubts about what they knew in the larger scheme of things. The people I wanted to follow were inspirational mainly because they were able to articulate a very clear vision of the future and convince me that they were sure that this was the correct view of the future.

I wonder, do you need to be sure about uncertain outcomes in order to be a good leader? Am I actually hindering the development of my son’s leadership abilities by constantly reminding him of all the things that he doesn’t know?

Here I go again – I’m just not sure that I’m doing the right thing by trying to convince my son that he knows very little and that he will always know very little no matter how much he learns. My intentions are honorable. My noble goal in telling him this is to turn him into someone who is always questioning and always learning. One of my favorite quotes when I was a young kid was frequently repeated by my great-grandfather:

He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool - shun him.
He who knows not, and knows that he knows not, is a child - teach him.
He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep - wake him.
He who knows, and knows that he knows, is a wise man - follow him.

I remember growing up and coming to truly believe this quote (that has variously been attributed to Confucius or an Arabic, Persian, or Sanskrit proverb). The problem is that the more I learn, the more I become convinced I can never reach the last stage of becoming a “wise man.” That’s not a problem, in itself. But I’m wondering whether anyone can ever take that coveted spot.

I guess I am now struggling to reconcile this quote with the Bertrand Russell quote that started this post. I believe both. But what’s a father to do when trying to do the right thing with his kids? Is the wise man one who knows he knows or one who is full of doubts?

Friday, January 23, 2009


Smile For The Camera

I must take too many pictures of my kids, because they're starting to make it difficult for me to get a good shot.

In particular, my daughter is a champion at making ugly, grimacing faces just when I point the camera in her direction.

I mean, can your kids do better than this?!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Busy Bees

My son has no rhythm.

That's the word he missed in last week's spelling bee. It was his fifth word, and probably the hardest one given to his age group.

Even at my age, I pause for a second when spelling "rhythm" to remind myself where those H's go.

Oh well. He did his best, and that's all I ask of my kids.

My daughter tackled her first bee and correctly spelled three words before missing her fourth. I don't even remember what it was, as I was so nervous for her.

I noticed my son scribbling in the little Spellers Notebook that was passed out to the audience. I figured he was testing himself by writing down all the words in the competition.

Turns out he was "inventing a new language, because the one we've got makes no sense."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Inauguration Day

We're doing our school lessons with the TV on today.

A Presidential Inauguration is a special event, but this one is a little different. I want my kids to see and remember this truly historic day.

There's something in the air. Call it hope, call it optimism, call it whatever you want, but I have this good feeling that my children will not have to suffer through the same cynicism and mistrust for politicians that I have developed over a lifetime of Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush (both of them).

Maybe, for the first time in a very long time, this country has a leader who won't lie, cheat, or kill people.

Or maybe he's just the same as the old boss. Who knows? For today, though, the future looks a little brighter.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


When I Grow Up

Back in my teen years, during junior high and high school, one of my main interests was photography. I had a photo class every single semester for four years.

Lately I've been going through the hundreds of negatives from those days that have been unseen and untouched for thirty years. Funny how I can take more digital photos in one week now than I did in an entire year back then.

We had to be careful which pictures we actually printed in the darkroom at school. Photo paper was expensive, so I had to be selective. As a result, many of the images I made were entirely forgotten.

Flash forward thirty years and I can now scan these fading negatives quickly and cheaply into my computer. And the pictures I'm seeing are either a delightful surprise or a cringe-worthy reminder of how young I was.

Here's an interesting image of me as a 14-year-old. I believe the class assignment was to envision ourselves as adults in the future. Dig those 70's sideburns! Trouble is, I'm not exactly sure what I thought I was going to be when I grew up. I can only imagine...

Friday, January 16, 2009


Weekend Whatnot

According to my daughter, you can never have too many Webkinz. Although, I think she's getting close.

While the Midwest suffers through a deep freeze, we're sitting here in the Northwest watching our record snowfall slowly melt away. I kind of miss it already. No, not really. But it is nice to be driving on asphalt again.

My friend Ann sums up 2008 with a stunning collection of her best photographs from the past year. Check it out here.

Brown rice has always been a staple of our nightly meals, but lately we've been substituting quinoa in its place. We first heard about it during a history lesson on the ancient Incas. Quinoa is an edible seed that originated in South America. It's much higher in protein, fiber, and amino acids than rice, and has a unique "nutty" taste that is a nice alternative to the same old thing.

Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy is the latest book to keep my son awake at night. And not just awake, but laughing hysterically while the rest of us are trying to sleep. I haven't read it in 25 years, so I don't remember what's so funny. The movie version from a few years ago certainly wasn't.

Does a GPS locator watch take the place of good parenting? Or can it give you peace of mind to know exactly where your child is at all times? Me, I'd rather rely on my own eyes and ears, and trust my kids to know their boundaries. Strapping that watch on their arm would seem too much like putting an ankle bracelet on a parolee.

Enjoy your weekend. I'll leave you with the latest video from children's musician Eric Herman, "The Sun and The Moon."

Thursday, January 15, 2009


How Do You Sleep?

Ever since they were toddlers, I have never known my kids to be tired.

No nodding heads, no droopy eyelids, no incessant yawning.

If we're out on a hike, or at the park, they'll complain of sore muscles and the need to rest, but that doesn't mean they want to go home and take a nap.

Getting my kids to sleep at night means not just putting them into bed, because they would read until dawn if I let them. It also means forcing them to put down the book, turn out the light, and then lay there in the dark until some mysterious force within their brain instantly flips a switch to off.

I've never seen either of my kids drift off to dreamland. I don't know if this is normal or not. I've seen funny videos of children falling asleep in their plate of peas at the dinner table, but I'm sure that isn't normal either.

How do your kids sleep at night? Do they drift away into gentle slumber, or do they simply shut down like a piece of machinery?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Crabby Day

My son spotted this poor little crab at the Ruby Beach tidepools, in Olympic National Park, Washington, last summer.

Tragically, the crab thought the old saying was, "Keep your friends close, and your anemones closer."


I guess somebody's just having a crabby day.


Seriously, though, with shellfish friends like these, who needs anemones?


Today's post was brought to you by the National Association for the Preservation of Terrible Puns.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Bad Dads

It's been awhile since I saw a bad dad in public.

I mean, it's hard to tell just by looking at them. You have to wait until they actually start parenting to see their lack of skills, and there are way too many dads who don't even bother.

So, I was in an outdoors store, browsing through the fleece vests (to replace the one that melted on me in the bonfire), when I saw this dad come into the store with his two boys, who looked to be around 4 and 6.

The dad started looking at snowshoes, or kayaks, or something. The two boys apparently got restless and wandered about 30 feet away to look at some funny t-shirts. Out of dad's eyesight, but not out of earshot.

After a few minutes, he finally noticed they weren't standing next to him. He said, "Boys, where are you?"

They answered immediately, with a quiet, "Here."

The dad walked over to the rack of funny t-shirts, looked down at the boys, put his hands on his hips, and said, very loudly, "You know you're not supposed to just wander off, right?"

Here comes the bad dad part.

Then he said, again very loudly, "Okay, square up so I can kick you in the nuts for being idiots."

And then he actually pretended to kick them both in the crotch.

On the list of Bad Dad offenses, this one's certainly not horrible. But still, I'm reasonably sure that a threat to "kick you in the nuts" is not the best way to teach a lesson to young children.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Do The Freddie

I've finally found an exercise video that fits my needs.

You see, I needed a short, low-impact, cardiovascular workout that I could sing along to.

And, most importantly, I needed something that would send the kids screaming from the room in horrified embarrassment so that I could at least get my workout done in peace and quiet.

C'mon everybody, do The Freddie!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Message in the Sand

During our summer trip to the beaches of Olympic National Park, we were strolling along a section of Ruby Beach when my daughter yelled at me to stop and take a picture of the last little remnants of sea foam from a wave that had just washed over her feet.

She said, "It's a message in the sand!"

I didn't see it until we got home and our pictures were uploaded to the computer.

My daughter has good eyes. Yes, indeed, the ocean was trying to tell us something that day. Something that we need a little more of in this world.

Can you see the message?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


No More Snow

"Did you not see the sign? The one that reads 'NO MORE SNOW'? We already have enough to get us through the rest of winter. Now go away before I shovel you into the street."

Monday, January 05, 2009


Back To School

My daughter plays on Kalaloch Beach, Washington

We're supposed to be starting back to school in about seven hours. Surprisingly, the kids did not moan and groan when I reminded them at bedtime that their vacation was over.

I suspect they are ready to do more than laze around the house reading, building puzzles, watching movies, and playing Wii. Apparently, all that fun and relaxation gets old after awhile. Someday I'd like to find that out for myself.

My break was taken up with one home project after another, leaving me slightly exhausted but happy to get stuff done. It's hard to believe, but not every hour of my day was taken up with shoveling snow.

So, later today we begin the second half of our homeschool year. It's been busy, and it's been tiring. But watching both kids learn and grow together has been incredibly rewarding.

It's going to be good to be back to school.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


The Year In Movies

With the end of 2008, I spent a few moments reflecting back on the last twelve months. It was a good year, filled with positive accomplishments for everyone in the family.

It was the year we fully committed to homeschooling by bringing our daughter home for second grade.

It was the year I finally finished that basement project, giving us a 400 sq. ft. classroom/guest room/play room.

It was the year we visited gorgeous Arches National Park and hiked up to Delicate Arch.

There were so many other wonderful personal and family experiences, and yet I can't help thinking that one thing will forever stand out in my memory about 2008.

It was the year I started falling asleep during movies.

Either I'm just overly tired all the time, or Hollywood is making some seriously boring movies. Maybe it's a combination of both.

Friday, January 02, 2009


You Gotta Be Kidding!

For Christmas, the kids received this fun new board game called You Gotta Be Kidding. It's a game that asks you to choose between wacky scenarios, such as, "Would you rather leave a trail of slime everywhere you go, or a cloud of smoke?" Or, "Would you rather eat a cup of sand, or a sandwich made with hair?"

It's the kind of game that gets kids thinking and talking. Oh, and laughing too. There's been plenty of laughter the 5 or 6 times we've played it.

It's a fun family game, suitable for all ages, and the best part is that it takes a relatively short amount of time to play. You'll be done in under 30 minutes, almost guaranteeing that nobody in the family will grow weary of the game. It's a great alternative to those marathon sessions of Risk and Monopoly.

There's one part of You Gotta Be Kidding that involves a challenge to the player to find a specific item in the house within 30 seconds, like "something small and furry" or "something round and blue."

My daughter received a challenge to find "something wrinkly." Not even hesitating, she marched right over to me, grabbed my face, and said, "How about this?"