Wednesday, June 15, 2016

9 Summer Vacation Tips from My Daughter's Kindergarten Teacher

Day 1

Thursday was Duchess's last week of Kindergarten. It all went so fast. She has grown and changed so much since Stevie and I first walked her to the door of the school, watched her line up, and march into her new school in an adorable orderly line. I'm sure I was more nervous than she was.

But I shouldn't have been. She had Mrs. Johnson.

Mid-way through the school year I got the opportunity to volunteer in my daughter's class. It was fun to watch my little girl and her friends interact and play, but my favorite part of the experience was getting to see Mrs. Johnson handle a room full of five and six-year-olds.

In my life I have seen people fly planes. I have seen captains steer ships. I have never seen a person direct a symphony of potential chaos and energy in the calm, kind fashion that Mrs. Johnson handled those kids. I like to pat my own back for what a great kid my daughter is, but I realized that day that I had a ringer on my side. Teachers are so amazing.
Anyway... when the end of the year came around I wanted to send her a note of thanks and glean any additional knowledge I could from her. So I sent her the following e-mail.

Hi Mrs. Johnson,
This is John, Duchess's dad. I wanted to send you a quick e-mail thanking you for all of the wonderful experiences Duchess has had in your class this year. It has been a rewarding experience for all of us. She has just blossomed over the past months, and listening to her read to me before bed is consistently the highlight of my day. Thank you so much for all of your hard work. It is obvious how much you care about our daughter, and I hope you know how fond she is of you. We love hearing the stories she brings home.
With the summer coming, I'd love to get the chance to chat with you a little bit about how we can keep up the momentum you've established. Duchess is coming out of your class with a love or numbers, reading, and learning in general. I want to make sure we continue to foster the learning-positive environment in our home that you have set up in your class. I'd be incredibly grateful for any advice, guidance or suggestions you might have. I'd be happy to stop by and chat any day this week if you have time. If not, I understand how busy the end of the year can be. 
Thank you again for a wonderful year, and for playing such a pivotal role in our daughter's education. The other day I asked her if she was excited for summer vacation. She paused for a second, then replied "I'm excited I get to be in first grade, but I am sad that I won't be in Mrs. Johnson's class anymore." 
Stevie and I both feel the same way. 
Thank you. 
Stevie and John

Today I received her reply, and it has so many great suggestions I just had to share it here.

Dear John,
Thank you for your kind words. I loved having your daughter in class this last year. She is a sweetheart!
I have a few ideas for your darling daughter for the summer. Keep her reading and writing! 
  1. Let her get her own Library card and go to the Library often. They have a section of easy readers for children learning to read. You could also read one of your favorite books to her and discuss it to build comprehension skills. She could draw a picture and write a sentence about her favorite part. The Library also has summer programs she can participate in.
  2. Give her many opportunities to learn and experience new things. You could go on small field trips around the valley. Talk about what she sees and learns.
  3. Get her a journal or notebook to draw pictures and write about her experiences. Don’t worry about her spelling everything correctly. Do have her capitalize and punctuate. Help her sound out the words. You could teach her the silent e or -ing rules if she asks for help. This should not be a chore but a fun way to remember the fun she has over the summer.
  4. I sent her Lexia number home the last day of school. She can continue to play reading games on the web site all summer. It will give her challenging learning opportunities at her level.
  5. The district web site has a link for extra learning opportunities. If you click on the parents tab there is an A-Z directory. Click on Homework Helps for some web site ideas.
  6. There is a web site I like called Happy Hooligans that has fun crafts and learning activities.
  7. You might create an account with Teachers Pay Teachers and download learning activities. There are many core aligned sets and many of them are free.
  8. Costco often has workbooks. So does the dollar store.
  9. Teach her some new skills. She can go to Home Depot on Saturday mornings and build things in a program they have for kids. She could help plant a garden and learn about different plants. She could learn how to read a recipe and make cookies. Let her talk about the steps in order for each activity.

Let her help choose the activities and have a fun summer!
Mrs. Johnson
So there you have it! So many good ideas! I am so grateful for all the love and hard work Mr's Johnson gave to our daughter. I know public schools get a bad rap sometimes, but I can't imagine a better Kindergarten experience than the one she gave our family.

This morning, as with most mornings, Duchess came up and crawled into bed with Stevie and I when the sun came up. Half asleep I heard her say "Dad, I don't have Kindergarten today."

"Nope, you're on summer vacation."

"When is summer vacation over? I want to go back to school."

If that's not the best review a kid can give, I don't know what is.

Last Day!
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Monday, June 13, 2016

Me and Stairs and Health and Metamucil

I have partnered with Life of Dad and Meta Wellness for this promotion. The delicious orange flavored fiber supplement was theirs, the opinions and words are mine. Well, except for the words that are my dad's. Those are his. 

Every once in a while, usually after I finish walking up a few flights of stairs, I pause and think “What if my heart literally exploded right now?” Then I step away from the top of the stairs because I don’t want heart attack me to fall down the stairs.

My health ebbs and flows. Sometimes I’m training for marathons, sometimes I am extra super fat with a side of peanut butter. OK, I trained for one marathon… but I’m leaving the s on the first marathon because it looks good there.

My point is that sometimes I think about my health and other times I don’t. And sometimes those times that I don’t think of my health come to a head at the top of three flights of stairs with thoughts of my heart exploding like a loyal horse sprinting across the desert… only I am not in the desert. I am at the top of stairs.

“I need to do something for my health.”

The funny thing and slightly coincidental thing is, I had also recently been challenged by the good people at Meta Wellness and Life of Dad to have a conversation with my Dad about health. I say slightly coincidental, because it really wasn’t that much of a coincidence. I think about being more healthy pretty much every day, so this Meta Campaign sinking up with that was about as lucky as throwing a dart at a barn and hitting it.

Anyway, before I get to the conversation with my dad, I’d like to stop for a second and tell you about our sponsor, Metamucil.

This Metamucil. The one I am holding.
Metamucil is a daily fiber supplement that I was not really looking forward to trying until I did and I realized it is actually quite tasty especially in the orange flavor. It does a couple other cool things besides taste good too.

Mainly it makes your poop softer and easier to come out. The nicer way to say that is it promotes digestive health, but this is a parenting blog and we talk about poop sometimes.

Honestly, being more regular is enough of a bonus for me, but Meta also has other health benefits, including helping maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and lowering cholesterol to promote heart health - which, you know, I need because I don't want my heart to explode... or just stop working. I need my heart.

Did I mention it also tastes good? Anyway, they’ve done science stuff and you can read more about it here . Also, they gave me a coupon to give you so you can try it out, which is here.

SO YEAH! I after the stair scare I decided to call my dad to talk about health. It went like this:

Me: Hey dad!

Dad: Are you ok?

Me: Yeah, why?

Dad: You sound out of breath.

Me: I just walked up three flights of stairs.

Dad: That’s it?

Me: Yeah.

Dad: Jesus. You sound like you’ve been running from zombies or something.

Me: Nope. Just stairs. I called to talk about health with you.

Dad: Sounds like I need to talk about health with you. I could still beat you up the side of a mountain.

Me: You could probably beat me up three flights of stairs.

Dad: That’s true. And you know how I do it?

Dad: Me: How?

Dad: I have a job that keeps me on my feet 8 hours a day and fast metabolism.

Me: Do you use Metamucil?

Dad: The Fiber Stuff?

Me: Yeah.

Dad: Sometimes. Tammy buys it for us.

Me: They sent me some extra for this blog post I am writing. Do you want any?

Dad: Sure. Bring it up next time you guys come.

Me: Sounds good. We didn’t talk about health that much.

Dad: I don’t know what to tell you, buddy. Exercise more. Eat less. Take vitamins. That Metamucil stuff will keep you regular. I hear that's important.

Dad: Me: Thanks Dad.

Dad: Oh, and John?

Me: Yeah?

Dad: Bring whiskey when you come up. They have a really bad selection in the liquor store up here.

Me: Deal. Love you, Dad.

Dad: Love you too bud. Don’t die on the stairs.

Me: I’ll try.

There you go. My health conversation with my dad full of snark and love and even a little whiskey. Hope you enjoyed it! By the way, I worked out for an hour this morning. I plan on doing it again tomorrow. I promise to try my best to keep my heart from exploding and falling embarrassingly down the stairs.

BONUS! I helped make this video. If you watch closely you can see me making chicken. Mmmmmm chicken.

Monday, June 6, 2016

35 Things I Have Learned in 35 Years

I'm old now, but I remember being this young.

Today is my 35th birthday, or... as my dad likes to put it "half-way to 70.” I don’t really feel old, but my head and beard full of gray hair say differently. (Thanks again dad.) 

If there is anything I have learned from getting older it's that at any individual point in the last 35 years I've known far less than I thought I did. Case in point: I once said that Oasis would be bigger than The Beatles. I know. The disappointment you are currently feeling towards me does not outweigh the shame I feel. 

What's worse is that even though I feel like I have a somewhat good handle on things now, in another decade or two I will probably look back at 35-year-old me and think “Wow, I really didn’t know anything about anything back then. I can’t believe I thought it was a good idea to write a list of things I thought I knew. Stupid 35-year-old John. You really shouldn’t have written that list.”

Oh well. Sorry future me. Here are 35 things I am pretty I am fairly sure about as I turn 35. I'm probably wrong about at least a few of them. Feel free to tell me which ones!
  1. Cynicism and sarcasm make for good jokes, but kindness and sincerity make for better friends.

  2. Don’t be the person that tells other people why they shouldn’t like what they like. Nobody likes that person.

  3. You’ll learn far more from considering the possibility that you might be wrong than you ever will from insisting you were right.

  4. The majority of internet fights are dumb and unproductive – even if you are right.

  5. Artisan ketchup is always horrible. Always.

  6. Never delete a picture of you and your kids because you don’t like the way you look in it. In a few years you will like the way you look in it. I promise.

  7. Going to bed angry is fine once in a while.

  8. Politics don’t matter nearly as much as you think they do, and they are never worth losing friends over.

  9. My career has never suffered from being very clear that my family is my top priority, but it has suffered from pretending they weren’t.

  10. The secret to happiness in life is clean socks.

  11. No matter what size you are, buy clothes that fit you - not clothes you wish fit you. If you are comfortable in your clothes you look happier and happy people are more attractive.

  12. If someone has hurt you, find a way to forgive them. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.

  13. Sometimes my kids know more than me, if only because they see the world from the ground up.

  14. If Doritos sold their various flavors in bottles as seasoning I would probably be dead by now.

  15. There’s no statute of limitation on apologies, but if you are expecting forgiveness you are apologizing for the wrong reason.

  16. Some foods make you happy while you are eating them. Some foods makes you happy when you’re done. The best foods do both.

  17. Sometimes you should ignore your own advice and eat an entire pizza.

  18. No matter how right you think you are right now, fifteen years from now you will be surprised by how wrong you were. You should probably avoid writing advice lists.

  19. Facetime isn’t just an app on your iPhone. Go visit people. There is power in presence. Every conversation I have had while looking at a campfire or a horizon has been infinitely better than ones I’ve typed into a comment box.

  20. The facts are friendly. If a situation seems insurmountable, write down the facts. Everything is more manageable on paper. (Or Excel)

  21. If the question is “Should I put this on the Internet” the answer should almost always be “No.”

  22. Not caring if you are cool is exponentially better than actually being cool. One, you worry less, and two, you get to carry your own personal bottle of hot sauce around in a fanny pack!

  23. Being pale and covered with sunscreen is better than getting cancer.

  24. You can learn how to do 95% of basic home repairs on YouTube.

  25. Everyone feels like they faked their way into a new job. Do your best, ask questions, and just keep trying. For the most part, doing anything for 8 hours a day, five days a week, will make you good at it.

  26. Whenever possible, shut up and listen. Listen more than you talk. The smartest people I know also tend to be the quietest - and when they do talk, everyone listens.

  27. There are few better gifts than music and gratitude.

  28. Buying expensive whisky is not a good strategy for getting yourself to drink less whisky.

  29. Marshmallow Mateys are much better than Lucky Charms.

  30. Don’t flip people off while driving. Instead, use the “condescending thumbs up.” Nothing tells someone they messed up better than a passive-aggressive thumbs up.

  31. Never…ever… make life decisions within 5 minutes of stubbing your pinky toe on a door frame. In fact, don’t even talk to anyone. Just roll around on the floor and cry.

  32. If you see someone rolling around on the floor and crying while holding their pinky toe, “Are you ok?” is not the right thing to say. Nothing is the right thing to say. Just walk away and leave them to their world of pain. That is their life now.

  33. If you go into every day seeking out reasons to be mad, you will find them.

  34. Never be afraid to sing out loud, unless your windows are down.

  35. At the end of the day, you are the love you put into the world.
This picture.

One last note on perspective. I remember thinking when this picture was taken that I was the coolest kid in the world. For years after I hid the picture away, embarrassed not only by my ridiculous mullet and suit coat, but also in the confidence I had placed in my coolness. It is only now, 30+ years later that I am able to realize how cool I actually was. I may be old and fat and bearded and gray haired now, but I will always have a ridiculous mullet of happiness in my soul. And that makes me happy no matter what age I am. 

Thanks for reading! Want to give me a birthday present? I would be honored if you would like or share this post. And if you are so inclined, please come visit me on Facebook. We have a lot of fun on the Ask Your Dad Facebook Page

Friday, June 3, 2016

On Hikes and in the Park - We Tested the NETGEAR Rugged WiFi

I have partnered with Life of Dad  and NETGEAR and WiFi Family for this promotion!

Recently I teamed with Life of Dad and WiFi Family to try out their new WiFi hotspot, the AT&T Unite Explore by NETGEAR. It’s a rugged little box that functions as a wireless modem for up to 15 devices. We’re not quite to the 15 devices threshold in our family, but when it comes to the kids watching Netflix, Stevie working on her blog, and my occasional need to work remotely, it has been pretty great to have this little box around. Here’s a couple ways it came in handy over the weekend.

The Hike

On Saturday morning we decided to go hiking. I tossed the hot spot in one of the smaller pockets in my million pocket backpack and headed up the canyon. I also took a picture of it in the car… because why not.

The hike was a lot of fun. Duchess is really into identifying nature, and I am really into making up the names of things I don’t recognize in nature. So it works out well. Sure, her first nature biology class is going to be a little embarrassing, but until then that tree will forever be a “Magic Norwegian Elm.”

Midway through our hike, Duchess wanted to show one of the plants she found to her Grandma. Her grandma is in Oregon, but she wanted to call her on “The Facetime” to show her. Huzzah! A chance to use the hotspot!

I reached into the bag to get the WiFi box and through some sort of fumbled million pocket search managed to dump it onto the ground and halfway down a dirty embankment.

“Dad! Your black box thing!”

I went, grabbed it, dusted it off, and went back to show it to her.

“It’s not a black box thing. It is a water resistant, rugged mobile hotspot that allows you to connect up to 15 devices at a time and has up to 22 hours of battery life on a single charge.”

“Oh, cool!”

“By the way, did you know it has up to 22 hours of battery life in a single charge?”

“That is amazing!”

OK. All of that except the dialogue happened.

I dropped it. It was fine. She video chatted her Grandma to tell her about the Magic Norwegian Elm tree we saw. The hike was great. The kids got to convene with nature. On the way home we let them have the iPads. I have to admin, after the joy I experienced answering a million questions about nature, it was nice to experience a quiet connected ride home!

The Park

On Monday we got the chance to try it out again. It went almost exactly like this:

“Hey John, I was thinking about taking the kids to the park. Do you want to go?”

I did want to go. I wanted to not be in my office on my computer any more, but I had work to do. I know. I know. I shouldn’t be working on the weekends, and honestly, it is very rare. But I had work to finish before my meeting this morning.

“Sorry honey. I want to go, but I have work to finish up.” I replied.

“But John, we have the AT&T Unite Explore Mobile Hotspot! Remember?” Stevie said, pulling out the tiny box with its rubber case and durable screen.

“Oh, yea. I’d forgotten that we had it and were trying it out all weekend. Is that it there?” I said.

“Yep! This is the one! It has parental controls, a battery boost for your cell phone, and a nifty touch screen that let’s you monitor data usage, battery life and network connections. You could bring your laptop to the park! You don’t have to stay in the office!”

“That is a great idea!”



OK, not all of that happened either. I did have some work to finish though, and I was excited to give the hotspot a try at the park. Stevie played with the kids, and I played with an Excel Doc. When I was done we all played together, and since I was still connected to the Wifi I was able to stream a video of my kid almost falling off this evil spinny seat thing!


Bottom Line

All tongue-in-cheek sponsored content joking aside, if you’re looking for dependable WiFi for multiple devices, the AT&T Unite Explore by NETGEAR works great. You could fill a minivan with iPad watching kids and every one of them could be watching a different episode of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic… hopefully with headphones.

The things I liked about it was how simple it was to set up and connect to, how easy it was to change the password, and the timer function which allowed me to set it for 30 minutes and then shrug my shoulders and blame the hotspot when screen time was over.

Join me, a bunch of other dads and the Life of Dad Crew on June 7 for a fun twitter party! Info below!