You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out

by Idaho Dad on June 30, 2014

I felt much like Ralphie, the bright-eyed optimist in A Christmas Story, who asked for an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle.

In my case, however, it was a simple proposal that began nearly three years ago when the adults in my son’s Boy Scout troop were discussing high adventure trips for the older boys.

I tossed out the idea of walking the 84-mile Hadrian’s Path in England. I had just made the trip myself the year before, and it was really the only suggestion I could make.

“No, no, you’ll shoot your eye out!” is what I seem to remember hearing in return.

Okay, so it wasn’t that exact quote, but whatever was said was not encouraging. Too big, too far, too expensive, too complicated.

“How about a nice football?”

Other, simpler, ideas were bandied about. A 50-mile hike in the mountains of Montana, a kayaking trip around the San Juan Islands. I thought those all sounded pleasant, but I didn’t know those trips. They were unfamiliar to me. And, besides, once you start thinking about going big on a high adventure, everything else feels like you’ve settled for less.

One father in the Scout troop was encouraging from the start. In the face of all the discouragement that was being sent my way, he kept talking to me about the trip. About Hadrian’s Wall, and England, and the Romans. His excitement revived my excitement.

I finally asked him, “Do you really think we can do this?”

His reply, “Of course! What’s stopping us?”

So, a few months later, we had a meeting to propose the trip. 9 boys and 5 dads signed up that night. After that came two-plus years of fundraising, planning, education, and hiking practice.

The group was whittled down a bit, mostly for personal reasons, to 11 hikers. These boys, ranging in age from 14 to 17, worked their you-know-whats off to raise over $21,000 to fly to England this summer for the adventure of a lifetime.

Two years is a long time for anyone to stay focused on a goal, let alone a bunch of teenagers. In the face of a wide variety of obstacles, the Scouts never gave up on what they wanted.

And not a single one of them shot their eye out!

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The Finnish Line

by Idaho Dad on June 24, 2014

Awhile back, there was a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal about teenagers in Finland, and how they are among the smartest, highest-testing students in the world.

There’s much debate about what, exactly, the Finns are doing right, but I noticed a couple of items in the article that bear highlighting. I think parents everywhere should be thinking about these things.

First, the Finns love reading. I’m frequently stunned when I go into the homes of friends and neighbors and see NO BOOKS around. When my son was born, my wife and I made a conscious decision to surround him with books. Day one, we had a crib, changing table, dresser, and bookshelf filled with all the childhood favorites. Even before he could read the books, he was playing with them. We’d find him sitting on the floor with a pile of Dr. Seuss books, just staring at the colorful drawings. Also, from the very beginning, we read to him every single day. I know that he and his sister are such great readers today because of that early emphasis.

It’s not enough to just have a shelf of children’s books in your house. Your kids need to see you reading too. We’ve always had our books sitting out, a stack of two or three by the bedside, or a large bookcase in the living room stuffed with new and old favorites. Kids model their parents, and if you’re a reader, they will be too.

The second point I made note of in that WSJ article was how the Finns allow their children much more independence than we do. From an early age, Finnish children are given more choices and greater freedom. There seems to be less hovering on the part of the parents, so by the time their kids are teenagers they’ve had a lot of practice making good choices and avoiding bad ones. It’s easier to help kids develop self-reliance throughout their childhood than to try and teach it to them all at once when they’re almost adults.

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The Collector

by Idaho Dad on June 20, 2014

The need to collect things must be in our DNA.

We never taught our kids to gather their favorite toys together in one place, but that’s exactly what they did from the earliest age.

Blocks, balls, figurines. Even as babies, it seemed to be instinctive for them to sort and display their most cherished items.

When my son became aware that what he was doing was called “collecting,” he decided to have the biggest rock collection in the West. Not long after, he was determined to have the coolest Hot Wheels collection.

Finally, he settled on Legos, and stuck with it for years, even to this day. His passion for them grew until it became a bit of an obsession.

I was always happy to help him feed his collection obsessions. Well, maybe not so much with the rocks. But Legos are cool and educational, so he’d get those for birthdays and Christmas.

I never realized how much happier I’d be with his next collection obsession. After taking a Coin Collecting merit badge course for Boy Scouts, he pulled some old coin books off the shelf and pretty much devoured them.

Armed with this new knowledge, he’s been carefully building his personal collection through eBay auctions and visits to local antique shops. He looks for very specific items, like a 73-D Eisenhower dollar or a Wartime composition nickel.

The reason I’m so happy about all of this is because coins rarely lose their value, unlike Legos, books, stuffed animals, and rocks. Books are particularly frustrating because a new one generally loses 90% of its value as soon as you walk out of the store.

While the object of any personal collection is usually to satisfy some inner need to gather your interests around you in a tangible form, it’s also good to know that if your interests change you can sell your stuff for a nice chunk of change.

You don’t see people dumping their coin collections off at Goodwill next to the boxes of Beanie Babies.

So, I couldn’t be happier that my son is delving deeply into this new hobby. He’s having fun, while also learning things about history, economics, and geography.

Best of all, if he ever gets tired of it, maybe it’ll pay for college.

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Eric Herman is Still a Party Animal

by Idaho Dad on June 9, 2014

My kids love music, but their tastes have developed quite differently into their teen years.

My 15-year-old son enjoys The Beatles, XTC, Crowded House, and a range of movie soundtrack composers, from Danny Elfman to Ennio Morricone.

Meanwhile, my 12-year-old daughter likes just about every type of music, but is currently dredging up the 70s, with Kansas, Queen, REO Speedwagon, Blue Oyster Cult, and Styx. Unless it’s the dulcet tones of Freddie Mercury blasting out of her room, I just grin and bear it.

When the kids were young, their playlists were simple.

Ralph’s World, The Wiggles, David Tobocman, and, our favorite, Eric Herman.

I don’t know if Eric’s our favorite because he’s awesome, or because he’s the only professional musician to watch a Super Bowl in our house.

Probably both.

Anyway, my kids have obviously moved on from the children’s music, and I’ve lost track of the bands and singers that once lived in permanent rotation in our CD players.

Except for Eric Herman. I still keep in touch (thanks, Facebook), and was quite pleased when his brand new collection of songs, Party Animal, showed up in our mailbox recently.

It’s not so easy now for me to review music aimed at the elementary and pre-school set, but one thing I do know, Eric Herman can still write an incredibly catchy pop song.

Party Animal is packed with them.

From the funky “Up All Night” to the Beatlesque “The Best Parts,” this is a CD that will teach your kids to love all styles of music.

Eric also retains his classic sense of humor throughout. Plus, he has some very cool guest stars, like Chris Ballew, from The Presidents of the United States of America.

Listening to this disc brought back some good memories of when my kids were first developing their taste in music. They were open to all kinds of sounds, and that’s one of Eric Herman’s key philosophies. He mixes it up because your kids don’t know how to label stuff in one style or another. To them, if it sounds good it is good. To a kid, who cares about genres and labels when you’re trying to dance like you’ve got ants in your pants?

And these new songs from Eric Herman definitely sound good. His attention to production is always top notch. I can’t wait to hear them in a few weeks when he visits Spokane with his full band, The Thunder Puppies, on June 20th. Local folks, take note! This show at CenterPlace in Spokane Valley, is FREE.

So, you want to hear these new songs yourself?

Well, I have a copy of Party Animal to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment on this post and I’ll pick a winner next week.

In the meantime, check out Eric’s brand new video, “November First.” Caution, it’s incredibly cute and catchy. Give your kids lots of room to jump around and have fun.

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Mr. Blue, You Did It Right

May 23, 2014

The view from my chair at Scout Camp last weekend. We wait patiently through the long winter for scenes like this, then spend six months soaking it all up until the cold and gray return. It’s a good lesson for kids. Appreciate what you have while it’s there. Soon enough, it will be gone.

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Ten Years Later

May 22, 2014

I missed my anniversary! But I’m not in trouble with the wife, because I never forget THAT anniversary. No, this blog celebrated its 10-year anniversary two days ago, and I left the thing sitting alone in a restaurant with a red rose and an empty chair. Sorry about that, A Family Runs Through It. I’ve [...]

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Summer Awesomeness

May 12, 2014

Summer is almost here! It’s getting tougher for my kids to focus on Algebra tests and history essays when they can sense the freedom of summer lurking just around the corner. I think most kids feel that way. They look forward to three months of turning their brains off and avoiding anything that even remotely [...]

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5 Reasons You Haven’t Been Posting to Your Dad (or Mom) Blog

April 10, 2014

1. Your kids are teenagers. Those cute little things they used to say and do as toddlers were easy to write about, but now that they’ve entered the teen years you are suddenly faced with more complex issues that aren’t so pithily expressed in a humorous anecdote. That, and the fact that your kids have [...]

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It’s All Good

March 17, 2014

How was I supposed to know that a simple remark to my kids would trigger a slow descent into madness? It all began during my daughter’s grammar lessons. I was teaching her the difference between the words well and good. This is easy to explain to anyone. Good is an adjective. Well is an adverb. [...]

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Men With Hats

March 4, 2014

So, my daughter has taken up knitting. And I was the recipient of her second creation (the first was for herself). Soon, a scarf, then a sweater, maybe some socks. I’ll never have to go clothes shopping again.

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