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Friday, October 30, 2009

 

Zombies In The Mist

The zombies were out and about at Silverwood Theme Park. Or, Scarywood, as they've been calling it this month.






Zombies gotta eat!


There were evil scarecrows as well.


The only escape was on the Midfright Express!

You all have a safe and happy Halloween. Remember that kids are smarter than you think, so be very careful when raiding their candy bags later that night.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

 

Boarded Up

My 8-year-old daughter announced that she wants a skateboard for Christmas.

My response: "Absolutely not, never in a million years, just get over it."

She already has a bike, a scooter, and a pair of roller skates.

Enough is enough.

Am I wrong?


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

 

The Singing Lizard

A singing lizard?

Yeah, I thought the same thing. This is going to be like the singing chipmunks, or that dancing hamster.

But the lizard in question turns out to be Liz DeRoche, a talented singer/songwriter who has released her first children's CD, titled Alphabeat.

Her debut is aimed right at preschool to early elementary kids, so it's full of simple, easy-to-understand lyrics set to fun and bouncy music.

That could describe any number of cloyingly cute kids artists, but not The Singing Lizard. The difference with her sound is that it's a grown-up piano-based pop that would not be out of place on the radio next to such singers as Leslie Feist and Regina Spektor.

Liz gets that you don't have to sing down to kids. She takes classic songs like "Row Row Row Your Boat," "Itsy Bitsy Spider," and "Old MacDonald" and makes them contemporary and fresh.

Along with plenty of original songs, Alphabeat makes for an incredibly fun listen for kids and parents alike. It definitely receives my highest recommendation, along with that of my 8-year-old daughter who thought she was too old for songs about the alphabet and numbers, but changed her mind after hearing The Singing Lizard sing about them.

I'm also happy to be able to offer a free giveaway of this album, only this time it's in a digital form for easy downloading to your computer or mp3 player. All you need to do is leave a comment on this post, telling me your favorite kids song.

I'll pick a winner at the end of the week, who will then need to send me their email address for a special download link from The Singing Lizard herself.

In the meantime, visit her site to listen to tracks from Alphabeat.


Monday, October 26, 2009

 

Watching The Wheels



We spent most of Saturday at Silverwood, taking one last spin on the roller coasters and ferris wheels before they close for the winter.

After seven years of holding season passes, we're taking the next year off.

It's partly an economic decision. Things are tight all over, and this is one expense we can easily control.

As I was watching the giant ferris wheel, its colorful neon lights spinning dizzily in the night, I was struck by the thought that I've been "watching the wheels go 'round and 'round," as John Lennon sang, for quite some time.

Not a complaint, just an observation.

And a reminder that sometimes it's a good thing to start those wheels spinning in a different direction.

Making changes in your life as a reaction to economic worries can be a good thing. It can force you to try new, cheaper alternatives to things you've become accustomed to over the years.

Maybe they won't be as colorful and breathtaking, but we're all looking forward to discovering a few new "wheels" to watch in the coming year. I think they'll take us in some exciting directions.

Are you making any changes in your family's life because of the economy?


Thursday, October 22, 2009

 

Standards

Sometimes I feel like I have ridiculously high standards for my kids.

Well, actually, I only feel that way after talking to other parents, where the popular sentiment seems to be a hands-off, que sera sera approach.

And I can understand why they feel that way. For the most part, their kids are out of their control. They've been put into the hands of the public school system, where standards for learning and behavior are decidedly on the low side.

High standards would ultimately hurt someone's feelings, you know. And that just isn't very nice.

Because my kids are homeschooled, I can get away with telling them to always do their best. In everything they do.

My kids can never get away with not putting in their best effort, because I know them so well. That's what comes with investing so much of my time in them. Over the years, I've learned exactly what talents they have, and what they are capable of doing.

So, when they're being lazy, or holding back, I say something.

Because the worst thing I could let them do is grow accustomed to doing a half-assed job on school work, chores, sports, or hobbies. If they get away with that enough times, then that is where they will set the bar for themselves.

And I absolutely know that once the bar is set low, it'll be a long and painful undertaking to move it higher.

So, yes, I have high standards for my kids. Because they need to have high standards for themselves.

That's not ridiculous, is it?


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

 

And The Winner Is...

Last week I announced a contest to give away all five CDs from kids' singer Eric Herman.

18 of you left a comment to win the discs. I wish I could send free CDs to all of you, but that might be asking a bit too much of Eric, who generously donated these five to be given away to one of my readers.

Eric's an awesome musician, and has been a good friend to my family over the years. I highly recommend that you seek out his CDs at Amazon, iTunes, or through his own website.

Anyway, a quick visit to the Random Number Generator revealed the winner as...

(drumroll, please)

The one person I thought wouldn't win, because he never wins anything on my blog.

Dan, you actually won!

Thanks to everyone who entered. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting quite a few children's CD reviews, along with a number of accompanying giveaways.

So, stay tuned for more tunes!


Friday, October 16, 2009

 

Talking To Myself

I know my son isn't deaf. He hears very well, in fact.

But there are certain things I say to him, on an almost daily basis, that he seems to be unable to hear and process. It's like I'm just talking to myself.

However, I continue to say these things, repeating them like a hypnotic mantra, and hoping that, one day, maybe, the words will get through to his brain.

Here are five of them:

1. "Don't eat like a dog."

No matter what type of food is on his plate, he inevitably ends up scraping most of it off the edge and into his mouth, with his chin planted firmly on the table. He's not fond of dogs, so I think maybe that example will dissuade him from such bad manners. He says it's easier to eat this way, and it gets him to dessert so much faster.

2. "Hang up your t-shirts."

I fold them, stack them, and leave them on his bed. And they always end up in a pile on his closet floor. They only get picked up to be worn, then tossed back into the hamper at the end of the day. And the cycle continues.

3. "Stop hitting your sister."

This is the one that perplexes me the most. If I asked my son to give his sister a hug, he would make a face, pretend to gag, then say, "Yuck, I don't want to touch her!" And yet, there seems to be no better fun than for the two of them to poke, slap, tickle, and hit each other.

4. "Turn off the light and go to sleep."

My son has no problem getting into his bed, but he will read all night if I don't remind him to stop. I don't mind this one so much, because it's good that he loves to read. I just don't like to hear all the yawning the next day. I do enough of that myself.

5. "Come here."

Such simple words. You wouldn't think anyone would have trouble understanding them. So, why do I have to repeat them five times when I need my son to come to where I am? After the fifth repetition, when my voice has gone up in volume considerably, he will then break his trance to ask, "What do you want?" When he finally does hear me, he still doesn't understand. So I have to rephrase the statement with specific directions and definitions. "I, your dad, need you, the person I'm speaking to, to get up off the couch, walk into the kitchen, stand in the general vicinity of my location, and receive special instructions concerning a chore or activity." By that time I'm usually too tired to remember why I wanted him to come there in the first place.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

 

Wordless Wednesday



A whimsical little fish makes a break for it, outside the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, in Spokane, Washington.


Monday, October 12, 2009

 

The Eric Herman Giveaway

No, I'm not giving away the singer.

But I do have all five of Eric Herman's wonderful kids' CDs to send to one lucky reader.

Eric has had an amazing run of albums, from his first disc back in 2003, The Kid In The Mirror, that struck gold with the now classic "The Elephant Song," all the way to this year's What A Ride.

Four of his five CDs feature kid-pleasing pop with a humorous bent, while the other is a mellow mix of lullabies and soft sounds.

In this giveaway, you'll receive the following CDs:

The Kid In The Mirror
Monkey Business
Snow Day
Snail's Pace
What A Ride

So, if you've got kids who love music, or need to learn to love music, just leave a comment telling me how much you want to win these Eric Herman CDs. I'll pick a winner at the end of the week. And, yes, this contest is open to all countries.



Friday, October 09, 2009

 

The King of Blogs

I had a chance to finally meet a fellow dad blogger last month.

And when I decide to do something like that, I go all out.

Whit Honea is the hardest working blogger in the business, a veritable King of Blogs. His parenting blog, The Honea Express, has long been an inspiration to me, as well as an incredible resource for insights into this strange and wonderful thing called fatherhood.

But that's just one of many sites where you can find Whit's dazzling prose. He's one of those rare bloggers who has discovered how to make a living at this. You can find him here, and here, and here for example.

While I'm lamenting the fact that I haven't written anything remotely interesting for weeks, Whit's knocking out a dozen or more blog posts a day. He's like Superman, able to leap over writer's block in a single bound.

So you can imagine how disappointing it was for me to meet him and his family for dinner at a seafood place in Seattle.

Because it turns out that Whit is just a normal guy.

When he walked into the restaurant, the only entourage I could spot was his wife and kids.

He signed no autographs and flashed no bling.

And throughout our meal, not once did he text, email, or make mental notes. For two hours he was not a writing machine.

He just sat and talked dad talk with me.

So, my disappointment was relief. My first meeting with a fellow dad blogger was a pleasant success, an affirmation that the circle of men who write about being fathers is hands-down the most valuable resource I have for being good at my job.

Whit, thanks for the evening of grown-up talk. Oh, and thanks for not tugging on my beard.


The King and I


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

 

Growing Up Too Fast

"Experts said that by age six, girls needed branded clothes, at seven they wanted styled hair, by eight they were beginning diets, at nine they were styling their hair and by early teens were engaging in sex or sending sexually explicit text messages."

So says a news article by Gemma Jones and Clementine Cuneo that appeared in The Daily Telegraph, out of Sydney, Australia.

Either this is just an Australian phenomenon or my family is severely isolated, because I'm not seeing this in my 8-year-old daughter or her friends.

To my eyes, they seem like normal little girls. No make-up, fashion talk, fancy hair, or cell phones.

You might now be shaking your head and saying, "Poor naive homeschooling dad, he doesn't know what it's like out there."

Because my kids are homeschooled, and I'm out of touch with what goes on in the public schools these past few years.

And we don't have cable or satellite channels beaming TV commercials into our subconscious.

Yes, it's true, there are certain negative influences missing from our lives.

But I'd like to think that it's not just my kids who are growing up at their own natural and age-appropriate pace.

I'd like to think that other little girls my daughter's age are still coloring pictures of butterflies, cuddling on the couch with their pet cat, reading stories of pioneer girls, and running through the park just to feel the wind in their hair.

Please tell me that article is just some weird social anomaly unique to the other side of the world, and that I don't have to worry about my kids growing up too fast.

If you want to tell me otherwise, maybe it's best that I just don't know.


Friday, October 02, 2009

 

A Diagnosis For Her Little Girl

A guest post, of sorts, from Kevin at Always Home and Uncool. I've been reading his blog for quite awhile, and wanted to repost this important message from him to raise awareness about juvenile myositis, a rare autoimmune disease that his daughter was diagnosed with on this day seven years ago. The day also happens to be his wife’s birthday.

Please take a few minutes to read Kevin's words:


Our pediatrician admitted it early on.

The rash on our 2-year-old daughter’s cheeks, joints and legs was something he’d never seen before.

The next doctor wouldn’t admit to not knowing.

He rattled off the names of several skins conditions — none of them seemingly worth his time or bedside manner — then quickly prescribed antibiotics and showed us the door.

The third doctor admitted she didn’t know much.

The biopsy of the chunk of skin she had removed from our daughter’s knee showed signs of an “allergic reaction” even though we had ruled out every allergy source — obvious and otherwise — that we could.

The fourth doctor had barely closed the door behind her when, looking at the limp blonde cherub in my lap, she admitted she had seen this before. At least one too many times before.

She brought in a gaggle of med students. She pointed out each of the physical symptoms in our daughter:

The rash across her face and temples resembling the silhouette of a butterfly.

The purple-brown spots and smears, called heliotrope, on her eyelids.

The reddish alligator-like skin, known as Gottron papules, covering the knuckles of her hands.

The onset of crippling muscle weakness in her legs and upper body.

She then had an assistant bring in a handful of pages photocopied from an old medical textbook. She handed them to my wife, whose birthday it happened to be that day.

This was her gift — a diagnosis for her little girl.

That was seven years ago — Oct. 2, 2002 — the day our daughter was found to have juvenile dermatomyositis, one of a family of rare autoimmune diseases that can have debilitating and even fatal consequences when not treated quickly and effectively.

Our daughter’s first year with the disease consisted of surgical procedures, intravenous infusions, staph infections, pulmonary treatments and worry. Her muscles were too weak for her to walk or swallow solid food for several months. When not in the hospital, she sat on our living room couch, propped up by pillows so she wouldn’t tip over, as medicine or nourishment dripped from a bag into her body.

Our daughter, Thing 1, Megan, now age 9, remembers little of that today when she dances or sings or plays soccer. All that remain with her are scars, six to be exact, and the array of pills she takes twice a day to help keep the disease at bay.

What would have happened if it took us more than two months and four doctors before we lucked into someone who could piece all the symptoms together? I don’t know.

I do know that the fourth doctor, the one who brought in others to see our daughter’s condition so they could easily recognize it if they ever had the misfortune to be presented with it again, was a step toward making sure other parents also never have to find out.

That, too, is my purpose today.

It is also my birthday gift to my wife, My Love, Rhonda, for all you have done these past seven years to make others aware of juvenile myositis diseases and help find a cure for them once and for all.

To read more about children and families affected by juvenile myositis diseases, visit Cure JM Foundation at www.curejm.org.

To make a tax-deductible donation toward JM research, go to www.firstgiving.com/rhondaandkevinmckeever or www.curejm.com/team/donations.htm.