Friday, August 29, 2008

While we're waiting . . .

to see who McCain's pick is, here is a little fun something for you to enjoy. From David Brooks, via Yuval Levin over in The Corner . If you were to write a generic Democratic convention speech, what would it contain?

We stand at a crossroads at a pivot point, near a fork in the
road on the edge of a precipice in the midst of the most consequential election
since last year’s “American Idol.”
One path before us leads to the past, and
the extinction of the human race. The other path leads to the future, when we
will all be dead. We must choose wisely.
We must close the book on the
bleeding wounds of the old politics of division and sail our ship up a mountain
of hope and plant our flag on the sunrise of a thousand tomorrows with an
American promise that will never die! For this election isn’t about the past or
the present, or even the pluperfect conditional. It’s about the future, and
Barack Obama loves the future because that’s where all his accomplishments

Monday, August 18, 2008

Happy Birthday to The Boy . . .

Time to update the "about us" column. The Boy is now officially five. One whole hand. In 5K. No more "Mothers Morning Out" for him; it's all homeschool now.

Due to the fact that he WAS in MMO for two years (since we moved here) and thus has lots of school friends, The Boy has lots buddies to invite to a party. That, plus the fact that we always invite our homeschool friends (regardless of age) to our parties, plus the fact that the party was at the community Swim Club and included parents and random sibling (would you want the responsibility for 10-15 5-year olds at a pool and lake for yourself? No thank you!!!), meant that we ended up with about 50 people in attendance.

FIFTY PEOPLE!!! I've seen smaller weddings. But really, it was a blast.

The Theme: A Pirate Party (arrrrrrgh!)
The Food: Hot dogs and brats (that's "brahhhhts" as in "bratworsts", not "braaats", as in poorly-behaved invitees to the party) on the grill, carrots, sliced cucumbers, black olives, fresh watermelon, and a salad (for the grown-ups). Homemade chocolate birthday cake (in the shape of a pirate ship bombed by cannon-balls) and ice-cream pops.
The Entertainment: 1) digging on the beach for pirate treasure based on a long-lost, recently discovered Pirates Treasure Map; 2) swimming; 3) eating; 4) running and screaming and terrorizing the innocent other swim club members (oops; that wasn't supposed to be on the agenda and was swiftly ended, to be replaced with . . .) 5) walking the plank.

It was awesome. The kids had fun. The parents had fun. The Boy had fun. I just hope I get to lead the treasure hunt again next year. Although, I think I'm going to pick a smaller treasure chest; this one was a pain in the toochus to bury.

Pictures to follow . . .

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Naming conventions . . .

From the very inception of this blog, I've had relevant and appropriate blognames for my kids. After 18 months or so, they're still basically accurate. However, I've never been able to find the right nickname for my wife. Thus, I've somewhat awkwardly referred to her as "my wife", "my beloved wife", "dw", etc. but none of those really resonated. Note: I've specifically and intentionally avoided referring to her as "the wife" as she HATES that and I really don't find it productive to intentionally hack her off. I do that well enough unintentionally.

Good news, good news, good news!!

I've finally found the perfect name.

Backstory: Our family loves games. Card games, board games, you name it. My wife has a particular love for games of skill (not so much for games of chance). In the past year, we've found a new game that she absolutely loves (and kills at, by the way). For the uninitiated, Blockus is ( is a board game played by up to four people placing variously shaped blocks on a board. You can only place pieces on the board that touch your own color piece at the corner; no side-to-side touching with your own color. Priority 1: get rid of all of your tiles before anyone else does; Priority 2: accomplish priority 1 by blocking your competitors into a small a space as possible on the board. Everyone gets the same number of tiles and the same shapes. Thus, there is no chance at all; only skill.

Thus, introducing the new name for my lovely and talented wife . . . . Blockus.

FYI, not only is this a board game, it can also be played online at the site noted above. Register and play for free. It's awesome. Just be careful; Blockus is out there, and she's ready to take you down.

With her new bloggy-name in mind, I'm tempted to rename the kiddo's as well in a similar vein. Belle could easily become "Rummicube" (she totally rocks at this game). Tink loves a variety of games, but would most likely become "Connect Four". The Boy is the hands down favorite to become "Uno". Nothing makes 8-year old Belle madder faster than playing Uno with her 4-year old brother. Let me know your thoughts. Is it inappropriate to rename your children online?

(Oh, for those of you who are wondering, I have no idea what my "game name" would be. Maybe "Boggle", but I lose that to Blockus as often as I win. I'll keep thinking about that. Maybe "Brickbreaker".)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Project Bookshelf" now complete . . .

My apologies to my multitude of readers (ahem, Arby and, uh, well, nevermind) who have been clamoring for photo's of my latest handiwork. Wait no more, dear readers!

You'll remember from this post that I volunteered to build a new bookshelf for the school room. Nothing too fancy; just something that the kids can use to store their school binders, workbooks and pencil boxes. Plus some display space on top for odds and ends like globes and CD players.

I have to admit I'm extremely pleased with the finished product.

Given the fact that I did the whole thing with no workbench and only a Skillsaw and cordless drill, I'm pleased. My wife was extremely pleased with the finished product, which makes it even better.

I doubt it will remain as neat as it is now, but it's nice to see. The chairs you can see on the right face the school table. No pictures of that right now as it is not suitable for public viewing. However, here's a shot of the reading area at the other end of the room. As you look at the photo above of the bookshelf and windows, the sofa is behind you.

Time to snuggle up and read some books!

Monday, August 11, 2008

In which Belle throws me under the bus . . .

Those of you who buy organic peanut butter ("choosy fathers choose organic") know that it has this nasty habit of separating in the jar. Solids sink to the bottom; oils rise to the top. Refridgeration helps prevent this, but first you have to get it mixed back together when you first open it after purchase.

Today for lunch, I made my specialty (peanut butter and honey sandwiches with a side of carrots and sliced cucumbers). I chose this because that's what we had in the fridge. I'm creative like that.

Anywhere, I had to open a new jar of peanut butter before I started. Trying to mix separated contents together with only 1/8th of an inch of space below the top of the jar is messy at best. In a burst of brilliance, I decided to dump the entire contents into a larger bowl, mix it up thoroughly, and then carefully pour it back into the original jar.

So at dinner tonight, my lovely wife innocently asked "what's up with the gross peanut-buttery bowl sitting in the sink?" (oops) I explained my brilliant process to her with some small amount of success. She still looked a little dubious.

From across the table, Belle piped up "the kids didn't have anything to do with that idea, Mom".

Thanks, kiddo.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Developing . . .

Here at the Mountainside Homeschool Academy, our 2008-2009 academic year starts this coming Monday. The kids are excited (The Boy demanded preliminary coursework on Thursday to get a jump on the competition). The teacher is, well, not quite ready for summer to be over. The assistant principal in charge of discipline is honoring this significant event by leaving town on Wednesday, starting three weeks of ugly travel to Austin, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Chicago. Hopefully my blogging will be more regular from the road than it has been while I've been home the last 3 weeks.

Anywhich, last Thursday my beloved wife and I were surveying the school-room. In a former life it was a screened porch, converted to a sunroom by some former resident. It's a wonderful room with fabulous views through it's many windows. Unfortunately, those many windows leave few walls for things like bookshelves. We were able to squeeze one 30" wide bookcase in just next to the door, but it's completely overwhelmed by text books / math manipulatives / binders / pencil boxes / cups of coins / etc /etc / etc. The teacher can't find a dang-blamed thing.

So, back to Thursday when we were surveying (etc / etc). I suddenly realized that, with the school table turned 90 degrees, there was a vast space (65" wide by 24" high by 12" deep) now available under the one window that doesn't go all the way to the floor that could be filled with a BOOKSHELF!!!!!

(Note: this space has always been there, but with the table in it's original position there was no space for a shelf in that space. Why we didn't turn the table earlier is a mystery, but let's not dwell on the negative, shall we?)

So I innocently mused aloud "that would be a great place for a bookshelf, wouldn't it?" To which my beloved replied back "yes, I've been looking for something that would fit there but haven't found just the right thing." Apparently having left my right-thinking mind elsewhere in the house, I blurted out "I could build one". In fact, I went on to sketch out a design that was EXACTLY what she wanted.

As you can imagine, Friday evening I sallied forth to the nations favorite hardware and lumber (and paint, lighting fixture, carpet, tile, hardwood, faucet, tool, bottled water, plant, seed, pine-straw, and random garden accoutrement emporium), Home Depot to procure all required supplies to build said bookshelf. Afterall, school starts this Monday.

I'm pleased to announce that immense progress was made today (with the significant help of The Boy). While not yet photo-worthy, a bookshelf that is currently identifieable as such by even a novice, is sitting in the garage. It needs to be sanded and painted, and it's missing it's top (due to an unfortunate "measure once right after dinner and cut immediately in the wrong place" incident that is all my fault. However, a quick (1 hour) trip to the HD tomorrow and all will be right with the world.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll note that beloved wife (whom I've finally found a blog-name for and will introduce accordingly soon) pledged to paint the thing if I build it. She has in fact already primed the boards before I made the first cut. This is indeed a joint effort.

With any luck at all, I'll be able to post a photo of the finished product, in place, by Monday evening.

With any luck.

In the meantime, the initial sketch is posted above. Let's see how close I got. The middle shelf is actually portrayed much lower than intended. The final product will have three cubbies (for three kids), each with a lower shelf to hold all classwork binders and a short upper shelf to hold pencil boxes. The very top of the bookcase will run just below the window trim and will hold odd-sized items like a skeleton, a scale for balancing weights, and other random items.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Look at that follow-through . . .

Belle finished her third week of golf camp today. She has absolutely loved playing so much this summer. The camp ends with a 9-hole parent/kid tournament. Since I played with her for the first two tournaments earlier in the summer, she asked if we could get someone else to play with her. She was actually wanting someone better to play with in hopes of winning a trophy, but she is too sweet to actually come out and say that. One of my brothers came up and played with her and, though they didn't win, place or show, they had a blast. I remember how much I liked spending time with my aunts and uncles when I was young; hopefully today will be a long-term memory for her too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Straying once again into the political realm . . .

For those of you who enjoyed McCain's "Celebrity" ad, and for those of you who didn't, here is Ms. Hilton's response. No, really. And the amazing thing is that's it's really clever and very well done. If we could get a real candidate to support her energy policy, we'd have something. No, really!!

Oh, mild language warning. It is Paris Hilton afterall.

Do you think this might disqualify me from ever being on the Homeschool Carnival again?

Paris Hilton for President

A Quote from W. C. Fields

"Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water."

hat tip to Kathy at Check her out; she's a trip.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Ode to Beaker . . .

When one is a tall, skinny red-headed teenager (one sister-in-law once suggested that my "gawky" stage lasted roughly from pre-teen until just before I got married), one's friends might unkindly decide that "Beaker" is a good nick-name. Purely a hypothetical scenario, I assure you. Anywhoo, I saw this on a blog linked from Tim's and laughed out loud. I wish The Muppet Show was still on TV; now that was good, quality family entertainment!

Friday, August 1, 2008

New entries in the blog roll . . .

Please draw your attention to the bloggy recommendations in the right-hand column and note the new additions.

Under "general reading", you'll find:
  • Dirty Harrys Place : a great blog /site dedicated to film-making and the movie business. It has nothing to do with my career or life (other than I like to watch movies), but "Harry" always has something interesting to say and is one of the few movie reviewers with whom I tend to agree. Oh, the fact that he is an out-of-the-closet conservative in Hollywood (I think that makes 5 now) makes him that much more interesting. Note: some of you may know Harry's work from when he blogged at Libertas ; he's set up his own shop now.
  • Metrodad : I learned about Metrodad from Ann Glamore over in My Tiny Kingdom. I love his subtitle - "poppycock from a cocky pop". We have nothing in common other than we're both fathers. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and daughter, works in the fashion industry, and is an extremely funny guy. Oh, he does relish his skills in making sailors blush (language alert), so consider yourself warned.

In the "Homeschool Division", you'll find:

  • June Cleaver after a Six-Pack : How can you not read something with a title like that!? I learned about June from MetroDad, who I got to from the Tiny Kingdom, who I started reading because of Tim. June (aka Cris) is an Irish-Catholic homeschooling mom whose husband is in the Air Force.

You'll note a common theme here - they're all laugh-out-loud funny. Have you noticed that there are a tremendous number of talented writers out there in blogland? What a loss it would be if these folks didn't have an outlet like this. Have fun!

Just doing my part . . .

Some of you may have heard that, according to the Senator from Illinois, all we need to do to solve the fuel crisis in this country is to make sure our tires are fully inflated. Well, I took my car in yesterday and, among other things, had the tires rotated, balanced and had the air-pressure checked. Darned if they weren't low. If you see gas prices dropping in your neighborhood, you can just thank me.