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Showing posts from December, 2014

Christmas toy review: Rokenbok Monorail Mania

When my kids discovered the ubiquitous Surprise Egg videos on YouTube, I thought they were just weird. I indulged them down to our recent hunt for the genuine article. (That's a blog for another time.) But then I learned that, apparently, every other family is sitting around watching these egg-opening videos on the internet.

The Rokenbok Toy Company occupies a similar place.

It's nothing I'd ever heard of before watching YouTube. The company has been around for awhile, but it's nothing we would have bought prior to the internet. We stumbled across the impressively-made videos--of both product and scripted narratives--via a random click one day. My son was hooked. For those of you who can't be bothered to follow links, it's a pricey, elaborate system of blocks, remote controlled vehicles, machines, and essentially a whole world of engineering toys.

So Christmas morning, thanks to Grandma, my son got to open what he'd been gunning for since the…

Dads Night Out review: TopGolf

Last night a few of us got together at TopGolf in Wood Dale for a Dads Night's my thoughts--

It's been a decade since I last hit a golf ball and last night reminded me how frustrating a game it is. You never know whether your shot is going to go exactly where you intended or somewhere ridiculous. Call it a personality trait...I love about running or biking that you get out of it exactly what you put into it. Run 20 miles, be able to run 20 miles better next time.

That said, this is pretty much a driving range on steroids.

The basics go like buy a card with money loaded onto it. It's $7 per game plus $5 for the card. So under $20 per person got us 2 hours of play. They have clubs to borrow while you're there, too. Or you can bring your own.

Your first visit should be to the centrally located ball machine to grab a basket, insert your card, choose how many games you'll be playing, then wait while the machine matches the technology inside the bal…

Happy holidays!

The last week of school is upon us. Tonight my Jewish friends will celebrate the first night of Hanukkah. We have tons of last minute wrapping, baking, and shopping to do still. Monday my mom arrives from Ohio for Christmas. Bringing with her the Rokenbok monorail set my son has been dying to have. I'm sure that will require plenty of assembly Christmas morning...not to mention that we're getting him his first Lego set.

2015 will be a new and interesting year for sure. My daughter is getting dance lessons (with costume and recital) for Christmas--along with art classes. She'll begin preschool--probably in the same program my son is in. While my son will head to Kindergarten in the fall. (3rd school in 3 years.) Where did the time go?

2014, first, deserves some attention. It was a year of tough bike the rain around Lake Pepin. In the boiling heat struggling to keep up with the tri club. It was a year of firsts...first swim in Lake Michigan. Starting my tenure as …

The 1st rule about toilet training...

...Is don't talk about toilet training?

It's a little funny that I write a blog about raising a 3 and 4 year old yet have never really blogged about potty training. We've tried the candy thing, the sticker thing, the toy thing. We have friends who have kids who have been potty trained forever now. Yet it seems like most of the kids in my son's class are still struggling with it.

So last night I attended an hour parent workshop with an expert to see if I could get any helpful hints.

You know, the kind of community center in-a-church-basement place. The child development professional was a sweet older lady who has helped toilet train everybody from autistic and special needs children to her own grandchildren. It turned out to be just me and the mom of a 2 year old there. So the conversation was pretty personalized. But I left feeling a lot better. And you know why?

Only 22% of children are toilet trained by 2.5 years old. And still only 88% of children are toilet trained…


If you want to see hope for the future in action, here it son is running around the living room this morning saying, "I'm riding in Orion!"

That's NASA's new deep space exploration craft that will eventually (maybe) help land humans on Mars. And if you're worried about my daughter, don't. She is more interested in having a cartoon dog teach her math at the moment. She doesn't share my son's love for space adventure and only reluctantly offers a "me too" when we ask if she wants to go. 
Mostly, our morning has consisted of tuning into the NASA website, YouTube, and Twitter to get regular updates about the 4 hour journey from launch to recovery. (We tried to watch yesterday but the launch was scrubbed due to a malfunction.) And, thanks to the magic of the internet, we also have access to video footage of them building the Delta IV heavy rocket over the last few months at Kennedy Space Center. When NASA was slow to upload video of t…

Fields of Blood review

The Guardian starts off their review of Karen Armstrong's latest this way: 
Pity the poor reviewer tasked to do justice to Karen Armstrong’s latest mighty offering. Armstrong is one of our most erudite expositors of religion.... I first came to read her in college doing my minor in religion. Her Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths was the cornerstone of our Religions of the Middle East course and it's a rather in-depth look at the history of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity there. And Armstrong's The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam currently sits on my bookshelf in the living room. She is exhaustive. Other works cover Asian faiths. Muhammad, women in Christianity. etc..

In her newest book, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, she tackles about 10,000 years of history to counter the common misconception in contemporary culture that religion is somehow to blame...for everything. Not just violence but humanity's problems i…

What a great Christian charity looks like...

At first I wasn't going to blog about my charity experience last night. Then I realized that I could turn it into something even MORE positive for others. For me, it wasn't about joining my fellow dads per se. It was just a personal interest in giving back. #GivingTuesday was really an excuse. The other dads picked the charity and the time/day, so it was a convenient opportunity.

But maybe by sharing a report/review, a few readers out there may feel motivated to jump in, too. I know quite a few people who hesitate to donate or volunteer because 1) they aren't sure what they're getting themselves into and 2) they are skeptical about charity orgs and non-profits being what they say they are. 
Especially at the holidays (but why not the rest of the year?), everybody is looking to give to a charity so this time of year is a good one to remind people to research and be careful. Make sure non-profits are doing the smart, efficient, altruistic work you want them to be doing. …