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Tuesday, June 30, 2009



We're not here right now. We're riding the wild bike trails of North Idaho.

In the meantime, I appreciate the reminder emails you've sent me.

Yes, I know, I said I would post my daughter's Second Grade Super Test. And I promised to show "after" pictures of our new patio. And there's that Summer Beach Bag book giveaway.

I'm sure there are a few other things that have slipped my mind. Let me know if you remember better than I do.

I hope you're packing as much fun into summer as we are. There are only two months until school starts up again, so get busy!

Friday, June 26, 2009


Missing Mommy

Day Three of the single-dad act and all is well. Except tonight, my daughter finally uttered those words I was expecting:

"I miss Mommy."

I've been trying to keep the kids occupied with other thoughts and activities. Games, movies, bike rides, swimming lessons, McDonald's, gardening, and Legos. But none of those can match the power of the Mommy!

Speaking of swimming lessons, my son had a breakthrough this week. He figured out how to dunk his head underwater without flooding his sinuses. He did it by humming, and now he hums a merry little tune while gliding through the water.

It's a small victory, but success in life is made of those.

Speaking of small victories, our two garden boxes are exploding with green beans and cucumbers. And hardly a weed in sight. This is big news for us, as all of our previous gardens were the other way around - exploding with weeds and hardly a vegetable in sight.

In other news, my Summer Beach Bag Book Giveaway will have to wait until next week, as I'm still organizing the winners of the last contest. Hey, the good things in life are worth waiting for, right?

Like waiting for Mommy to come home!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Sadness and Victory

Yes, I know. I'm late picking the five winners of the Father's Day book giveaway.

We had some sad news on Monday. My wife's paternal grandmother passed away after a long illness. What's even sadder for my wife is that this comes just two months after her maternal grandmother died. Feels like too much loss in such a short time.

But that's life. We grieve, and then we need to move on. There are hungry kids to feed, dirty laundry to wash, cluttered counters to clear, and overgrown lawns to mow. And this week I'm doing it all by myself as my wife travels to another state with her family to put their loved one to rest.

A friend asked me if I could get by on my own for 5 or 6 days. Well, I'm not your typical clueless dad who has to Google "how to boil water" or is convinced by the kids that watching The Simpsons is educational. No, I'm already good, or at least competent, at this parenting stuff.

The only thing I'll have trouble with this week is not getting a break. I look forward to those couple of nights a week where I don't have to shuttle kids through the shower, or those rare afternoons when I can leisurely run errands without someone complaining from the backseat, "Can we go home now?"

Anyway, on to the victory part of this post... The five winners of the Father's Day book giveaway.

Thanks to the random number generator, the winners are:

Dennis Winton
Data Monkey

Congrats! I'll be contacting you, or you can email me, to get your mailing address. The books will be shipped from Hachette Book Group USA.

Oh, and if you didn't win, do not fear.

I will begin a SECOND book giveaway on Friday. This time it's a Summer Beach Bag Extravaganza. Stay tuned for details on that one!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Birthday Rules

Father's Day? What Father's Day?

Today was my son's birthday, and we made the entire weekend out to be a celebration of his 11th year of life. So, there was little time for me.

But that's okay. One part of the birthday rules is that BIRTHDAYS RULE!

At least I got to participate in the festivities.

On Saturday we met up with friends for a leisurely bike ride along the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, between Cataldo and Kingston.

We found a perfect picnic spot, where the kids could explore along the shoreline. They found all the cool things: a dead snake, an old tire, a beaver dam, and fresh mountain lion prints.

After several hours on the trail, and keeping an eye out for mountain lions, we headed back home so my son and his friends could swim at the Kroc Center the rest of the afternoon. I sat in the hot tub the entire time - an early Father's Day treat.

Today, though, was given over to a family birthday party, and celebration of dad was merely an afterthought. My son did hand over an extra large piece of chocolate cake, so he must've been thinking of me.

But really, I don't need this day to be reminded how special it is to be a father. There are 364 other days that make me feel that way.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Dad's Perfect Baby

I've had my iPhone for only eight months, but sometimes I have trouble remembering what life was like before I owned one.

It's such an elegant, intuitive device. But what really makes it something special is Apple's App Store, and the wide variety of programs available for downloading.

I learned about a new app last week, one that fits right in with the Father's Day festivities this weekend. It's a fun photo editor called Dad's Perfect Baby.

The app is very simple. It lets you superimpose someone's face onto any number of hilarious comic photos or classy e-cards. The beauty of the app is its ability to cut out the face you want to use from one of your pictures. Even with my fat fingers, I was able to quickly outline a few faces without sacrificing bits of ear or chin. Once a face is saved, you transfer it into any of the more than 20 pre-made cards. From there, you can save and share your images.

I found this app to be extremely well-designed. It not only performs flawlessly, but it just plain looks good. My only quibble is that it feels like it's just a start, that there should be more. But with all good iPhone apps, we hope there will be many updates in the future.

Dad's Perfect Baby is a nice addition to my favorite photo apps, which include Photogene, ColorSplash, Comic Touch, and Shutterfly. If you're going to purchase it, do it now because it's on sale for 99 cents through the Father's Day weekend.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Father's Day Book Giveaway!

For my third big Father's Day giveaway, I'm offering up a huge set of brand new books, courtesy of the Hachette Book Group USA.

This time, they're offering a selection of eight new and best-selling titles, sure to please the reading dads out there:

1. The Nine Lessons By Kevin Milne
2. Do-Over! By Robin Hemley
3. The Man's Book By Thomas Fink
4. BoneMan's Daughters By Ted Dekker
5. An Honorable German By Charles McCain
6. The Richest Man in Town By W. Randall Jones
7. Lincoln on Leadership By Donald Phillips
8. Outliers By Malcolm Gladwell

Now THAT is a variety pack!

Five of my readers will win this book package, and all you have to do to be eligible is leave a comment on this post telling me what you've read lately.

Oh, and you have to live in the USA or Canada (sorry, Dan).

I'll pick the five winners on Monday!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Wordless Wednesday

I always feel bad posting a Wordless Wednesday photo when I have absolutely no intention of leaving it wordless.

I guess that makes it Semi-Wordless Wednesday.

Except for today, when I have even more words than usual because I wanted to announce the winner of the $25 Outback Gift Card. So, this post isn't anywhere close to being wordless.

Anyway, the Outback Gift Card goes to... Jen. Congrats! Hope your husband has a wonderful meal on Father's Day.

I also wanted to explain that the above photo was taken at Farragut State Park, near Bayview, Idaho. About 40 years ago, some Boy Scouts built a monument to the Scout Law in a field in the middle of the park. Today the site is completely surrounded by pine trees, and it's kind of fun to walk down a short dirt trail to find it hidden away from view.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


How To Lose Your Patients

It's been too long since we've been to the dentist.

I know that, and I really did plan to get the kids back in for check-ups this summer.

So I appreciated the phone call from the receptionist at the dentist's office gently reminding me that they hadn't seen us in awhile. They had been checking through their records and wanted to know... Had I forgotten to make appointments, or had we moved on to another dentist?

Quite honestly, I've been avoiding the subject. My last visit was an extremely uncomfortable, and expensive, deep gum cleaning. I wasn't in a hurry to return for more torture. But I didn't want that to affect my kids. They had awesome check-ups, with no cavities and reports of healthy teeth.

So I thanked the receptionist, and promised to call back and make appointments after checking our summer calendar.

30 minutes later, my phone rings again.

This time it's the dental hygienist. The one with the wicked metal scraper that spent so much time digging away at the base of my teeth.

She had just called to give me a stern lecture about the proper maintenance of middle-aged teeth and gums. And by "stern lecture" I mean "talk to me like a stupid little child with a mouthful of cavities."

I don't need that at my age.

I'm quite capable of taking care of myself, thank you very much. I do not need to be harangued about flossing and brushing. Now, if she had scolded me about the health of my kids' teeth, I could understand her anger and condescension. Children's teeth need to have special, and frequent, care from a dentist.

And my children will be getting it.

But from a different dentist.

Sorry, but when I lose my patience, you lose your patients.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Concrete and Contests

Our new patio was poured on Friday, and it turned out nicely. Nothing fancy, just a big 10x40 rectangle with curved corners. We looked into stamping and exposed aggregate, but those options were too expensive.

What we have now is a nice outdoor space to spread out some patio furniture, storage bins, planters, and a BBQ. I've been without a BBQ for six years now, since we couldn't fit our old one into the moving van and decided to leave it for the new homeowners.

Hopefully it won't be long before I'm outside grilling up some burgers and steak. Speaking of which, I have a second big Father's Day giveaway for you! This time, the good folks at Outback Restaurant have given me a $25 gift card to award to one lucky reader. Go to my contest page for all the details.

My previous Father's Day contest, for the $100 gift card from Home Depot, is now over, and the winner is... Daddy Forever. Congrats!

And stay tuned for a third Father's Day giveaway, coming Wednesday.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Family Photos

Here's yet another reason to avoid posting your family photos to a very public Internet site.

A family from Missouri found themselves unwittingly selling wine and cheese as models in a European grocery store's advertising display.

You might think this is an odd, isolated event, but I'll bet it's not. Just remember, every time you post a photo to your blog or web site it becomes available to the entire world to use as they please.

I've had a number of people ask permission to use my pictures on their sites, in class presentations, and even in a local ski area's brochure. I've also found my photos in places I didn't know about.

So, be careful out there. You never know who might be looking, or borrowing, or stealing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Little Boxes

Two garden boxes down, six to go.

Don't forget, I'm giving away a $100 Home Depot gift card to one lucky blog reader. You have until Sunday to enter.

Maybe you can build a few garden boxes if you win.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Father's Day Giveaway

I have a HUGE Father's Day contest for you this year.

But I need your help first. I gave up on the idea of building a backyard deck, and am instead going with a much cheaper concrete patio. It's going to be a 10x40-foot rectangle right along the back of the house. What I need from you are a few creative ideas for dressing this thing up, and making it look less like a huge white boring slab of concrete.

So, leave your ideas here in the comment section, and I'll pick a winner at random next week.

Oh yes, what am I giving away? Click here to find out.

Saturday, June 06, 2009


Take A Hike

"Hey, I can see Grandma's house from here!"

Have you taken a hike lately? That's one of the things about spring and summer that I look forward to the most. Hitting a trail with the kids and seeing what's around the bend or up on top of the mountain.

Here we are taking in the view from a trail on Kamiak Butte, overlooking the Palouse farm country of Idaho and Washington. Far off in the distance is the college town of Moscow, Idaho. And I really do think we can see Grandma's house from there.

Friday, June 05, 2009


Running On A Treadmill

Can I talk about our fabulous new community rec center one more time? From my kids' perspective, the best thing about it is the pool with the slide, lazy river, and play area. They can swim and have fun while I'm working out on the machines or walking the indoor track. I've never stuck with a gym before because, basically, I always have my children with me. And we never had a gym that was kid-friendly. Now I don't have to worry about going without them. They have a safe place to play, and I can focus on getting in shape.

Tonight we decided to try something a little different, so we headed down to the center for their weekly drop-in soccer game. We were hoping to find a few younger kids to play a family-style game, but that was not to be. My son chose to ride the bench the whole night rather than risk life and limb against much older players. My daughter, on the other hand, wasn't intimidated in the least by these intense 20-something athletes running up and down the court at full speed.

At the start, I told her to stay in the corner and only kick the ball if it came toward her. The first time the ball was anywhere near her, it was on the foot of a college player who was putting on a clinic in footwork as he drove toward the goal.

And what did my daughter do? She just went and took it away from him. I don't think he was expecting that. Definitely a confidence booster for her.

For me, a different story. Most of the players on the court were half my age, and all of them were extremely talented at the sport. Even the 7th grade girl who was picked second to last as teams were chosen. I felt bad for that guy who was picked last. Oh wait, that was me. Wow, instant junior high flashback!

Once the game started, I could sense a sort of quiet contempt for the old fat guy bringing down the level of the competition. Athletes of that caliber, especially ones with accents, thrive on being challenged, and dribbling the ball past me was just way too easy for them.

Still, I hung in there. I wanted the experience, but most of all the exercise. Almost three hours of playing defense and not once did I get kicked in the head, gut, or groin. I'm very good at getting out of the way.

Will I play again? Not likely. During the game, I could see through the gym windows into the workout area where all the old fat guys were running on treadmills and riding stationary bikes.

That's probably where I belong, at least until I'm an old thin guy. And then I'm hoping to start an old guy soccer league. Over 40 only, and preferably men and women who have had extensive knee and hip surgeries.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


I Was A Teenage Moose

One of the things I love about living where I do is that my kids are constantly exposed to all types of wildlife.

Like this young moose we spotted just off the highway near DeSmet, Idaho. He didn't seem to mind us gawking and taking photos.

Or maybe he was just gawking back at the stupid human who screeched to a stop in the middle of Highway 95 just because he saw a moose and had to take its picture because he thinks they're the coolest animal ever.

I need a bumper sticker that reads, "I Brake For Moose."

Monday, June 01, 2009


Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?

Another year of homeschooling came to a close on Friday. This year was decidedly different because I had two kids at home, and that took some big adjustments on my part. We fell behind with our curriculum as I climbed a steep learning curve during those first few months. Or would that be teaching curve?

Thankfully, some time around January, I began to find a rhythm to the school day and became quite adept at switching from 5th grade to 2nd grade, or finding a middle ground from which to teach similar subjects to them both.

But because the first part of the year was so, ummm, leisurely, I was scrambling in the latter months to catch up so I wouldn't have to sacrifice part of my kids' carefree summer.

It worked. We made it. My son is moving on to sixth grade, while my daughter is moving on to third grade. Actually, considering their recent State of Idaho Standards Achievement Testing, they should probably both be moving up several grades higher than that. Sorry, public schoolers, my kids blew the curve for you again.

Last year, we celebrated the end of school with a little quiz. I put together an assortment of 100 questions from my son's lessons and created a 4th Grade Super Test.

I wanted to do it again this year, but kind of put it off until the last minute. The last minute being Thursday, around midnight. I knew I couldn't postpone it since Friday was our last day, and my son was looking forward to the challenge. So I harkened back to my college days and pulled an all-nighter.

On a positive note, I saw my first sunrise in ten years! Very cool.

Anyway, my goal was to test his memory. Completely. Which means no multiple choice questions. It's all fill-in-the-blank. No hints. And no review!

Subjects covered are math, science, history, geography, literature, art, social sciences, grammar, and Spanish.

Two sample questions:

What four elements make up most organic compounds?

What do you call a prepositional phrase that modifies a noun or pronoun?

What's that? You say you'd like to take the test yourself? See if you're smarter than a 5th grader?

Here you go:

Idaho Dad's 5th Grade Super Test Printable PDF

It took my son about an hour to complete, and he answered 88 questions correctly.

If you take the test, I'll be interested in how you do. Have fun with it!

Here are the answers (no peeking beforehand):

Idaho Dad's 5th Grade Super Test ANSWERS Printable PDF