Monday, September 30, 2013

More Favorite Stories

I shared in the summer about some books on CD that we discovered that helped long drives go well, and I said I'd share some others we find in the future. So here I am again.

I discovered a book called Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce. If you saw the movie Millions, he's the guy who wrote it (well, first he wrote the book, then the movie came along). On a whim, I checked the CDs out from the library. We loved it. We ended up checking out all the books on CD by Frank Cottrell Boyce that our library system carried: Cosmic and The Unforgettable Coat. While not necessarily for younger listeners, we enjoyed them--probably because each was read by a voice actor with a superb British accent.

The boys have also been enjoying The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley. Again, not necessarily for younger listeners, it involves two orphaned girls who have been through several bad foster situations only to find themselves placed with a grandmother whom their father said was dead. She claims they are descendents of the Brothers Grimm and that their family has been recording and protecting fairy-tale history for years. The stories involve your classic fairy tale characters who are now living in a secluded village in New York state where the Grimm family has vowed to maintain order and protect the outside world from magic and mischief.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Easing Back into Routines

We're using this week before school starts to get prepared. Not that we haven't in some sense all summer. The boys have been practicing their math skills as well as writing and reading.

But in the summer, the bedtime schedule goes out the window. 10pm is probably the typical bedtime most of the summer. Sometimes later.

But that doesn't fly during the school year. We aim for around 8:30. Maybe a little later for our oldest--a 4th grader now.

So tonight we're kicking of the earlier bedtime. The youngest has been in bed for an hour. Still awake.

This is to be expected.

The kicker comes tomorrow when we wake them up early. And keep doing that all week. No more sleeping in (which they can't since both my wife and myself are working this week--the boys have to be up to leave with one of us).

I expect there'll be some battles. But I'm hoping it'll pay off once school starts in a week.

Here's hoping at least.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Birthday Sleepover

Our oldest son turns 9 tomorrow. In the past we've let them invite one friend for each year of age. Last year he invited 8 friends over. This year, since he's getting bigger, we gave the option of having a sleepover. We mutually decided that two friends was a good start for the first non-family sleepover.

We did it simple and low-key, but I think everyone had fun (except for the friend who was homesick and went home before anyone was asleep, but he knew coming into the party that he would have a hard time staying away from home--and he had fun except for bed-time).

Personally, I think a lot of birthday parties have gotten out of control. It's great to celebrate and have fun, but we're not going to spend a few hundred dollars on a party. And we find that we don't need to in order for the boys to feel celebrated on their birthdays. They mainly want to hang out with friends anyway (okay, maybe open some presents, too).

So we did a grilled supper outside. The birthday "cake" was a frozen fruit bar.

It has become a tradition, I guess, that we make an obstacle course in the yard. Since this one is a summer birthday, we incorporate the swimming pool and water guns. By the end, it's just a water fight with very wet kids.

After drying off, they gave their gifts, played a few games on the Wii together, and then watched the old Disney Swiss Family Robinson movie while munching on popcorn.

They were pretty tired after that, so the got a fair amount of sleep. We told them the rule of the house was not to wake anyone else up--if you're the first one up and don't want to try and get back to sleep, you're welcome to go downstairs and have a bite to eat (fruit and cereal was on the table) and play. Once everyone was up, we did the real breakfast.

It also turned out that it was the Kid's Workshop day at Home Depot, so we headed there and did their building project.

Simple. Fun. Enjoyable. And the 9-year old had a good time.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Making the Drive Go Well

When we go on long road trips, we try to line up a few books on CD for the boys to listen to as we drive. They usually have a backpack full of books to read, notebooks to draw in, and things to play with. But we don't do video games (except for an occasional game on the iphone) or movies (except for really long cross-country trips).

Of course it's important to find stories that all of us can enjoy. What the 9-year old likes, the 6-year old doesn't necessarily. And not all children's stories are appealing to the parents.

The classics are generally good ones--especially if read by a good voice actor. Last year we heard Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (one was on our way to visit the Tom Sawyer Cave in Hannibal, Missouri.

Last year we also listened to Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean. We enjoyed the follow-up story to the original. I've also heard that Dave Barry's stories of Never Neverland are also good.

We recently listened to The Amazing, Astonishing, Incredible and True Adventures of Me!: Charlie Small in Gorilla City. It was a fun, imaginative adventure as read from a 9-year old's journal.

We also just finished Room One: A Mystery or Two by Andrew Clements. We were all pulled into the story of a boy in a small town in Nebraska who stumbles across a mystery. The story is about the importance of keeping promises, being kind to strangers, and being person of character. But it's all tied up in a great story that kept us wanting to drive some more so we could hear the next part.

Those are our current recommendations. We'll keep you posted on what we listen to next.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Summer Parenting Struggles

Here's a link to an article I wrote on my other blog about summer parenting and the struggles sometimes.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Solution to a Bed-time Battle (for now at least)

Some nights our kids can dawdle on forever in getting ready for bed. Which would frustrate us to no end when it would take 20 or 30 minutes to brush teeth, get out clothes for the next day, and get pajamas on--stopping to play with Legos or do a dance only added to it. We knew they could easily do 3-5 minutes.

They always wanted time reading before lights out (gone are most days when they request us to read to them), but sometimes that time was getting way past what we liked.

So my wife came up with this strategy that seems to be working a little better: before they get ready for bed, we say they're allowed to read until a certain time (say 8:20). If they get ready quickly, then they have a lot of time to read. Of course there will be those nights where they just want to dawdle and don't care about ready, but it seems to be working fairly well.

Good job, dear.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Five Days of Freebies from just launched a contest today called Five Days of Freebies. Each day this week, they’ll be giving away bottles, a nursing pillow, glider, diaper bag, stroller and crib set to one lucky winner.  Visit their site to sign up for the contest. Plus, if you comment on this Five Days of Freebies post in addition to entering through their site, you’ll receive an extra entry.
Here are the giveaways this week:
3/25 – Dr. Brown, gift set of bottles and nursing pillow (value, around $100) 
3/26 – Monte, Luca Glider (value, $995).
3/27 – Diaper Dude, Olive Convertible bag (value, $110)
3/28 – Bumbleride, 2013 Indie stroller ($529.99)
3/29 – Halo Innovations, Sleep Sack (value, $80 – 115)

Those are some big prizes, so be sure to comment on this post and visit's  Five Days of Freebies.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Kids Workshops at Home Depot

The first Saturday of the month Home Depot hosts their Kids Workshop. There are always several people there, but I'm always surprised at how many people aren't there. Our Home Depot is about 4 miles away. It's next to one of the closest Target stores. And it's still close to the inner-city. But the parents with children seem nearly suburban. Aside from a few Hispanic families and and occasional Hispanic family, almost everyone is European. I don't see African-American families there. Maybe other stores are different. I encourage more families--especially from my neighborhood--to take advantage of this opportunity.

Children receive an apron which they can wear and bring back each time (especially important with projects that require painting). They also get a little pin to put on their apron to show which projects they've completed (my boys have a jumble of nearly a dozen). They also get a certificate of completion at the end.

But the best part is letting them get to build things. When we started going, the boys usually needed us to help--especially hammering the nails into the wood. And almost always there is hammering to do (as well as securing it in place with wood glue first). Often painting. Sometimes stickers. They've made napkin holders, bird feeders, planters, picture frames, and today's project: race cars.  And it's free.

Today the boys hardly required any help from me (they each had one nail hole where the nail kept slipping sideways)--they pretty much did it all on their own. It's time together and I get to teach them how to use tools with projects they're interested in helping in.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Book

One of the things I did while being a stay-at-home parent was a bit of writing. It's one of those things I enjoy. After several years of working to put something together, I am now a published author.

Please check out my book at Amazon or through my publisher.

Thank you!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Adjusting to Activeness

We joined the YMCA last week. We've been meaning to do something like this for a few years--at least in the winter months--but weren't sure if anything was affordable. But I need to get some exercise in the winter and my main forms are through bicycling and swimming. Both of which aren't very convenient in Minnesota in the winter.

So after school most days I take the kids and we go to the Y for 30 minutes or an hour. We usually just swim. I haven't been able to do laps much, but I take the boys to the deep end and I end up treading water for at least 20 minutes, which is still really good exercise. Occasionally they go to the kids' drop off area and I can ride a stationary bike for 20 minutes or swim a few laps alone.

The hard part is finding the balance in life. We still desire to eat supper together as a family, so that ends up being a little later than usual since we're getting home later, which also means that the kids end up going to bed shortly thereafter and we have less time for getting chores done or having time together at home (and with their mom who doesn't get to go to the Y with us during the week).

It's good for us (me) to be getting more active. Especially in these winter months when seasonal affect disorder can raise its ugly head. It just means some adjustment for us.