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Monday, November 30, 2009

 

Clone Wars Giveaway



In my younger days, I would've been all over this.

Star Wars was my main obsession during several years of my childhood and there wasn't much about that film that got past me.

Life was simple back then. I had the time to be a super fan.

Things change, and I now have roughly 985 things to think about each day, none of which have anything to do with that galaxy far, far away.

Still, I have tried to keep up with the various incarnations of Star Wars that have popped up over the years. That's why it surprised me when a representative from LucasFilm contacted me about a review copy of a DVD called Clone Commandos.

"The who-what?" was my first thought.

It turns out there's an animated TV series called The Clone Wars on the Cartoon Network, and it just started its second season. I had no idea. That's what happens when you don't have cable.

The Clone Commandos DVD consists of four episodes from the first season of The Clone Wars. A nice little sampler for people like me who had never seen the show before.

Did I mention my son loves Star Wars as much as I did 30 years ago?

We sat down to watch this DVD and had no trouble agreeing that the show is quite amazing. Everything about it is first-rate, from the imaginative 3D animation to the compelling storylines and characters.

The story takes place after the events of the movie Attack of the Clones, when Jedi Knights and clone troopers battle against the evil separatist armies. The Star Wars galaxy is a big one, and this show takes advantage of it, moving the action to strange new planets and introducing some fun new characters.

This cartoon series has the same feel of endless possibilities as I remember the very first movie had for me back in 1977.

My poor son was disappointed that we could only watch four episodes. Now you know what he's getting for Christmas. Yes, the first season DVD set of The Clone Wars was released on November 3rd. We highly recommend it for kids (and adults) over the age of 6 or 7.

I have an extra copy of the Clone Commandos DVD to give away to one of my readers. It's a great introduction to the series, but it can also stand alone as a 90-minute bit of Star Wars fun.

To win the DVD, leave a comment about your favorite scene from any of the six Star Wars movies. I'll pick a winner this weekend.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

 

The Feast



At Disneyland's Carnation Cafe, on Main Street, my kids love to order the Peanut Butter Painter's Palette. They get to build their own sandwich from marshmallows, raisins, bananas, grape jelly, and peanut butter.

I really should do more of this kind of thing at home, letting the kids choose from a bunch of healthy ingredients to create their own unique lunch or dinner entrees.

But that always leads to a monumental mess, so I resist.

Today, Thanksgiving, I may have to resort to peanut butter sandwiches if the turkey doesn't turn out. I'm cooking one for the first time.

It will either be turkey or PB&J.

Or food poisoning!

I hope your holiday turned out well.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

 

The Best Kids and Family CDs of 2009

The Fids and Kamily Music Awards have been announced! That's the yearly poll that compiles a list of the year's best CDs for kids and families. I was happy to be one of the 23 judges for a third straight year.

They Might Be Giants tops the judges' list once again with their fourth children's CD, Here Comes Science. It's hard to compete with TMBG and their appealing brand of quirky, catchy songs. But 2009 was a very good year for kids music, and the Fids and Kamily Awards list is a great place to start in your quest to find cool tunes for your young ones.

Another awesome place to find CDs for your family is The Pokey Pup, a fun online store that specializes in CDs, DVDs, books, and more. They've got free shipping for the next few weeks, so check them out.

While I'm mentioning great deals, here's one from kids singer Eric Herman, who is always a big favorite with my family. From now until Sunday all of his CDs are 50% off. Check out Eric's Cool Tunes store to get this great deal.

Finally, here is my own list of favorite CDs from the past year.

Idaho Dad's Best Kids CDs of 2009:

1. Eric Herman - What A Ride (my review)
2. Gustafer Yellowgold - Mellow Fever (my review)
3. Recess Monkey - Field Trip
4. They Might Be Giants - Here Comes Science
5. The Sippy Cups - The Time Machine (my review)
6. Mr. Leebot - Robot Dance (my review)
7. Milkshake - Great Day
8. The Baby Grands - The Baby Grands
9. The Singing Lizard - Alphabeat (my review)
10. Los Lobos - Los Lobos Goes Disney


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

 

Disney Idol



One of the days we were in Disneyland, the usually tranquil Main Street was clogged with equipment and sets for filming of ABC's Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade, with Ryan Seacrest hosting the festivities.

It annoyed me for several reasons. Mostly, though, it was November 9th! I can take a few lights and garlands on the buildings, but a full-blown Christmas parade starring Santa Claus himself? No thanks. That's just way too early.

So we didn't join the perky people on the other side of the street who, in between Seacrest's segments, were repeatedly barked at by producers to, "Put your cameras down!"

Some of those people stood on the sidewalk for hours, waiting for their 15 seconds of fame as Ryan strolled by. Can you imagine going to Disneyland as a kid only to spend your morning smiling and clapping on cue when some fat guy in a Metallica t-shirt points his camera at you?

One thing I don't understand is how a guy who makes upwards of $12 million a year can't get a decent tan for himself. Is that a TV makeup thing, or is he just going for The Simpsons look?

Watch for the TV special on Christmas Day. It features Stevie Wonder and Demi Lovato. One for the old folks and one for the young, I guess. You won't see me in any of the background shots, as we were far too busy riding rides and having fun.

The Winners

Last week I had a giveaway for David Baldacci's new novel, True Blue. The winners of that contest are Erin and Mark. Yes, it turns out I have two of these books to give out. Thanks to everyone who entered.

Speaking of contests, I'll be hosting a few more next week, so stay tuned.


Monday, November 23, 2009

 

A Man's Castle

Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland is probably the most photographed castle in the world.

I certainly took my fair share of pictures of it on our trip.

We were lucky to be there for the changing of the season when the castle is decked out in the ultimate in Christmas decorations.

Oh, what I could do to my own house if I had the budget of the Disney Imagineers!







Friday, November 20, 2009

 

The Disneyland Flu



I'm still processing our recent trip to Disneyland and Southern California, both mentally and photographically.

Thank goodness for those photos, because a big chunk of our vacation feels like a hazy memory right now.

I blame the media.

I had planned this trip a year ago, and saved up for it even longer, but in the months and weeks leading up to our departure it started to feel like there was a conspiracy to stress me out with scary news stories about swine flu.

It sounded almost inevitable that our trip would be ruined somehow, either on the plane surrounded by coughing passengers, or in the park where every surface we touched might contain the next deadly strain of H1N1.

The people I talked to never said, "Have a good time!" Instead, it was, "Be careful! Wear a mask and gloves on the plane, guzzle vitamins, carry hand sanitizer in your pockets. There's an EPIDEMIC, you know!"

So, rather than relax and enjoy the family having fun in Disneyland, I spent most of our first few days there with one recurring thought playing loudly in my head, "Don't get sick, don't get sick, don't ANYBODY GET SICK!"

And it wasn't necessarily because I'm afraid of the flu. No, my main concern was all those non-refundable tickets I had purchased ahead of time. Tickets for Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, San Diego Zoo, and Universal Studios. Not to mention Alaska Airlines.

But you know what? As with most good vacations, my mind began to clear after about three days. It was on our fourth day, at Universal Studios, that I stopped gritting my teeth and actually thought, "Hey, we're having fun."

I hope to share some of the experiences we had on what has now been deemed The Really Big Family Trip To Southern California. Hey, with well over a thousand photos, you didn't think I'd post a few here?

For now, I just want to give some advice to parents planning their next big family vacation.

Learn to stop worrying. Everything will be fine. You are all going to have fun.

That needs to be your mantra if you want to enjoy your time with the family.

I'll get it right on the next trip.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

 

Are You Smarter Than A 2nd Grader?

Six months later, I'm finally posting that test I made last May to wrap up my daughter's homeschooling year.

It's an assortment of 50 questions from most of the topics she studied.

Sample questions:

What is the past tense of the verb "are"?

Who was the first King of the Franks?


As I recall, my daughter missed 4 questions.

See if you're smarter than a second grader:

Idaho Dad's 2nd Grade Super Test Printable PDF

And here are the answers:

Idaho Dad's 2nd Grade Super Test ANSWERS Printable PDF

Also, don't forget to check out my previous Super Tests:

Are You Smarter Than A 4th Grader?

Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?


Sunday, November 15, 2009

 

True Blue Giveaway

I must confess that I had never read any David Baldacci before his publisher sent me a copy of his new novel, True Blue.

Oh, his name was familiar. Baldacci is a best-selling writer of mostly political and legal thrillers. I'd seen the Clint Eastwood movie, Absolute Power, based on Baldacci's first novel.

Whenever I start a new novel, it's almost always slow going at first as I become familiar with the characters and setting. Not so with True Blue. It hooked me right from the beginning with a blindside murder that had me quickly turning pages.

The twists and turns in this story come fast and furious, with some that border on unbelievability. But what would a good thriller be without a few head scratching scenes?

Basically, the story is about an ex-cop who tries to regain a spot on the police force by solving a murder, only to get caught up in a complex political conspiracy. To say more would lead to spoilers.

I don't know what Baldacci's other books are like, but in this one he seems to be writing specifically for busy people. His chapters are incredibly short, most topping out at just three or four pages.

These quick bursts of action are perfect for multi-tasking stay-at-home moms and dads who need a little break from reality throughout the day. I could read a chapter here and there, in between household chores or while waiting for a homeschool lesson to be completed.

True Blue is a fun, exciting read, and it impressed me enough to hunt for the rest of his books.

Hachette Books sent me an extra copy to give away to one of my readers, so if you live in the US and would like to receive David Baldacci's new hardcover novel, True Blue, simply leave a comment on this post, with a way to reach you. I'll pick a winner next weekend.


Friday, November 13, 2009

 

Vacation and Voting

This past week we've been on a little family vacation to sunny Southern California.

We went to Disneyland, California Adventure, Knott's Berry Farm, Universal Studios, and the San Diego Zoo.

Okay, so maybe that's not a "little" vacation.

Certainly not with 1,458 photos to sort through. I guess I'm going to be busy cropping and editing for awhile.

While we were gone, somebody nominated my blog for a 2009 Homeschool Blog Award, as "Best Homeschool Dad."

If you'd like to vote for me, just click on over to the Best Homeschool Dad Blog page and select A Family Runs Through It.

Thanks!

In the meantime, I'm heading back to Picasa to continue sorting through our vacation memories.

Like this one, when the rhino tried to eat my wife's hand:



Monday, November 09, 2009

 

Circle Time

Another post I found in my archives. From four years ago:

My 4-year-old daughter was running around and around the kitchen island while I was cooking dinner tonight. After the tenth circle, I reached out and grabbed her, lifted her high and asked, "What in the world are you doing?!"

She replied in an exasperated tone: "I'm exercising... Put me down, you're making me fat!"


Friday, November 06, 2009

 

Where's The Fire?



I still enjoy seeing the little Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars spread all over the house.

It means they're being played with and loved.

And my kids' imaginations are being stoked by a little piece of plastic and metal, like this yellow firetruck I found on the living room window sill.

It does a father's heart good to see evidence of the magical wonderment of childhood play.

Of course, I take it all back when I step on one in the middle of the night on my way to the bathroom.

Then I curse the devilish things to hell where they belong.


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

 

Life-Changing Music



Another fun post from the archives. Back in 2005, in response to a challenge by Shotgun Daddy, I made a list of my ten "life-changing" albums:

1. The Banana Splits
The first album that I can remember owning. I still have it somewhere. There was nothing better than sitting my 5-year-old self down in front of the TV on Saturday morning and watching hour upon hour of mindless entertainment. Fleegle, Drooper, Bingo and Snorky were my favorites. The music was pure bubblegum pop.

2. An Evening With John Denver
This was the only cassette tape my mom seemed to own, and we listened to it endlessly in her car. The song "Grandma's Feather Bed" scared me a little bit because I had no idea why all those people were sleeping in the same bed.

3. The Beatles 1967-1970
This is where my life got good, musically speaking. I found this on the shelf of my brother's room after my mom took me to see the stage show Beatlemania. This is probably the most important album in my life simply because it opened up a whole new world of music to me. Everything started with The Beatles.

4. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Soundtrack
The very first album that I purchased with my own money. I was quite proud of myself, but it didn't take long for me to realize how lame these cover versions were. Except for Steve Martin's take on "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and Earth Wind & Fire's "Got To Get You Into My Life" the songs on here are forgettable. But I'll always remember it as the beginning of a very expensive music habit.

5. The Knack - Get The Knack
"My Sharona" was my first experience with a monster radio hit that everyone got excited about. I heard it at summer camp and knew instantly what it meant for a song to have a killer hook.

6. Elvis Costello - Imperial Bedroom
This album got me out of my Beatles rut. And it was the soundtrack to the beginning of real life (those years after high school).

7. R.E.M. - Murmur
This one got me through college and the suicide of a friend. R.E.M. taught me that music can reflect emotions.

8. The Proclaimers - "Sunshine On Leith"
The soundtrack to courting my wife. "When I come home, oh I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who comes back home to you. And if I grow old, well I know I'm gonna be, I'm gonna be the man who's growing old with you."

9. Crowded House - "Woodface"
This one represents the first part of our marriage, the eight years we had before the kids came along. And it was just so great to have Tim and Neil Finn back together again. "Weather With You" is my idea of the perfect pop song.

10. XTC - "Apple Venus"
XTC took seven years to release a new album, and when they finally got back into the studio they created a thing of beauty. My wife and I also waited a long time to create something wonderful. I remember holding my baby son in my arms while listening to the first notes of River of Orchids (which my son now calls "the drip-drop song"). A perfect moment, a perfect album. The soundtrack to the rest of my life.

Let me know if any of these albums hold special memories for you. It would be nice to see other mom and dad bloggers reminisce about the music in their lives.



Monday, November 02, 2009

 

Origins of Homeschooling

Browsing back through my blog archives, I found a post from 2005 that reminded me why we started thinking about homeschooling in the first place.

It was a conversation I had with my son, who was in the second grade at the time:

Me: "Did you go to the library today?"
Him: "Yes, I found a Bailey School Kids book!"
Me: "Cool. You can read it tonight."
Him: "No, I already read it."
Me: "What? When?"
Him: "Today, during my free time."
Me: "Exactly how much free time do you have that you could read an 80-page chapter book in one afternoon?"
Him: "Lots."
Me: "And what is the teacher doing during all this free time?"
Him: "Making sure we're quiet."
Me: "Uh-huh, are you sure she's not doing her nails or taking a nap or something?"
Him: "No, she helps the kids who need help, and the rest of us have free time."