Thursday, January 31, 2013

Taco Sauce Penny Cleaner

Courtesy of Steve Spangler my daughters and I set out to clean a couple of pennies using nothing more than taco sauce!  We did this a month or so ago using a vinegar mixture.  You can read the blog post for the details.  The basic idea here is to take a couple of dirty pennies, dump taco sauce on them, wait a couple of minutes, and then rinse the pennies off.

Dirty Pennies
Taco Sauce Covered Pennies

Clean Pennies

The pictures don't do this experiment justice, but you should be able tell that the pennies are cleaner after having been soaked in taco sauce.  We used Taco Bell mild sauce, but most taco sauces should work.  So what is going on here?  Should we really be eating taco sauce that can clean a penny?  Actually, yes, you can.  The key is the ingredients in taco sauce, particularly vinegar and salt.  A mixture of vinegar and salt will clean pennies, and taco sauce just happens to have both ingredients in it.  The other ingredients such as tomatoes do not factor in to the cleaning process.

Now you have something you can do that will use up those random packets of Taco Bell taco sauce that end up in your fridge!  It's also a great activity for kids.  Both of my daughters loved moving the pennies around in the taco sauce!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Surrounding Your Child with Science

One way to get your child interested in science is to surround them with science.  Don't suffocate them with science, but make sure that they see science often.  One simple way to do this is a breakfast/lunch/dinner place-mat   For each meal in our house plates go on a place-mat   My wife and I get boring adult place-mats while my daughters get fun place-mats with pictures and cool designs on them.  A couple of years ago I bought a planets place-mat at a science teaching conference I attended.

As you can see it shows all 8 official planets (sorry Pluto!) with some basic information on each planet.  Just the other day my 5 year old was looking at the place-mat while waiting for me to finish getting lunch ready.  She says to me "Daddy, I only know two planets, Mars and the Sun."  Okay, so we had a short discussion on how the Sun is not a planet, but a star. :-) Then we went through each of the planets in order from the Sun.  A simple thing like a place-mat got my daughter asking about science!  Surrounding your kids with science will help generate an interest in science, guaranteed!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Newton's First Law - With an Egg

In a previous post on Newton's First Law my kids and I made a penny fall straight down into a pill bottle.  Check out the link for the full details.  In this experiment, we've upped the ante a bit by replacing the penny with an egg.  Now there's more pressure to do it right the first time or be faced with a mess.  We found this experiment on Steve Spangler's website.  The idea is the same as the penny drop.  The egg is initially at rest as you can see from the picture below.

The egg is sitting on an empty roll of toilet paper, which is sitting on a plate, which is sitting on a glass of colored water.  If the plate is yanked hard enough, the egg will remain motionless in the horizontal direction, and drop vertically straight into the water.  Let's find out if we were successful.

As you can see, the experiment worked as advertised!  We did this several times, although when my two year old did it, she didn't pull the plate fast enough and the egg moved just enough to strike the lip of the cup and break.  Oh well, it's the failures in science that help us learn the truth!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Swimming Lessons

Next month my 5 year old daughter will being another round of swimming lessons.  It's been a rough go with her and swimming lessons.  We started her on parent/child lessons right after she turned 3.  She freaked out about getting into the water and for most of the 6 week session she clung to me tighter than velcro.  She's past the stage of parent-child lessons and is getting in the pool by herself.  She's getting better, but is still very tentative at times.  She's been in the same instructional level class for several sessions now.  I'm really hoping she moves to the next level soon.  The kids in her current level are about 2 full years younger than she is.

None of this is really a surprise to me.  She takes after her Daddy in too many ways.  I was very tentative starting out with swimming lessons and it took me quite awhile to pass beyond the first level.  Apparently she's following in my footsteps!  If only I could get her to understand that swimming lessons are for her benefit.  Learning to swim will make the swimming pool much more enjoyable.  

My 2 year old daughter, on the other hand, has no issues with water.  She'll jump right in,  no questions asked!  She's ready to move beyond the parent-child level into the same level as my 5 year old, except that she still has stranger anxiety and isn't quite ready to handle a lesson with the instructor minus Mommy and Daddy.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kids and Working Out

About 20 months (May 2011) ago I made a commitment to better take care of my body by working out on a regular basis.  I'm happy to say that I've kept that commitment and working out is now an important part of my life.  I've mentioned this before in terms of reading books, but as parents, if we want our kids to value the importance of something, your kids need to see you doing that something.  In the book example, if you want your kids to value the importance of reading books, you need to read books with them and your kids need to see you reading books.  Watching you will pass that value along.

The same is true for working out and taking care of your body.  Now, young children really shouldn't be working out, especially with weights, but by watching you work out, your children will begin to understand the importance of working out when they are older.  I'm big into the P90X and Insanity workouts.  Both of my daughters will often come up to me while working out and try to reproduce some of the cardio (non-weight) moves.  It's really quite funny watching them do butt kicks and high knees!

A collection of some of my workout gear.

The other day my 5 year old asked me why I work out.  I had to think about this for a few minutes.  I told her that I work out to make sure I have healthy, strong muscles, and that it helps me feel better.  I did not tell her that part of the reason I work out is that I want to look better.  Don't tell your child that looking better is part of the reason for working out.  That can lead to an obsession over looks and potentially lead to eating disorders.  She asked if she needed to work out too.  I told her no, because she has recess at school which is a form of working out.  Daddy doesn't have recess at work, so he needs to work out at home.  It was an interesting conversation and I was really impressed with her inquisitiveness.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Discovering the Sun

One day each week my daughter's kindergarten class goes to the school library and each student is allowed to check out two books for the week.  The choice of books is completely up to them.  I try not to influence her in anyway when picking out books at the library.  I want the choice to be hers.  So image my excitement when she brought the below book home last week!

A book about the Sun!  What was even better is that she tells me "Daddy, I got this book so that I can learn all about the Sun!"  She made me a proud Daddy that day.  We made sure that it was the first book we read that night before bed!

In case your wondering, yes, the science in this book is correct.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Girl Scout Cookies

The start of the new year is here, meaning that it's Girl Scout cookie selling season!  This is my daughter's first year as a Girl Scout (Brownie to be exact).  In the Fall she sold nuts and chocolates, and now she's selling cookies.  The cookies are the big fundraiser.  I know that in my life I've never been able to say no to a Girl Scout selling cookies.  Those cookies are just so darn good!!!  Good to eat, not good for you though.  :-)


If you are the parent of a young Girl Scout, I highly encourage you to make the effort to take your daughter around the neighborhood to sell cookies.  Too often as parents we take the easy way out and simply take the Girl Scout cookie form to our office and put it by the mailbox to sell.  Not that there's anything wrong with this.  I do this, but it shouldn't be your only method of selling.  Getting your daughter outside selling door to door develops life long skills of interacting with adults.  It's not always easy for a young child to talk to adults, but selling Girl Scout cookies door to door, under your supervision of course, is a great way for her to build this skill and develop a higher level of confidence.

Another thing that stops parents from doing this is the cold weather during the Girl Scout cookie season.  Even stopping at 2 or 3 houses before heading back home will help your daughter build confidence.  So bundle up and tough it out.  For the dads out there, time to man up!  For the moms out there, time to woman up!  It's not about you, it's about your daughter.  Remember that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Newton's First Law

Here's a quick, easy experiment that you can do with your kids that illustrates the concept of Newton's First Law.  Newton's First Law states that "an object in motion (or at rest) remains in motion (or at rest) until a net force acts on it."  In this experiment from Science Bob, we're trying to drop a penny into a small pill bottle, by yanking something out from underneath the penny.  This is very similar to the table cloth yank where you place wine glasses on a table cloth and yank the table cloth out from under the wine glasses without knocking the glasses over.  In this case, however, there is nothing to break, so much safer for kids.

As you can see from the video, we've placed a penny on a loop made out of card stock.  By yanking the loop away very quickly, the penny falls straight down.  Since the penny is at rest, it will stay at rest until a net force acts on it.  Since the card stock is yanked away quickly, there is little to no force acting on the penny, so the penny falls straight down.  Cool!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rules of Running on the Road

Okay, so I'm not a runner, and during the few times I do run, I'm usually running on a treadmill or on an indoor track.  I'm never outside running on the road.  Despite never running on the road, I do have a fairly good idea of the rules that every runner should follow when running on the road.  These are rules that I intend on passing along to my daughters as they get older.  So why am I bringing this up now, before they are old enough to appreciate and understand the rules of running?  Let me explain.

The other day I was taking my younger daughter to daycare.  I had an early lab, so we were on the road around 7:30 AM.  The eastern sky was just starting to brighten, but it was still relatively dark out.  While driving on an undivided four lane road (two lanes each way), I noticed the car in front of me suddenly swerve to the left.  I'm wondering why the heck that car swerved, when in the middle of that thought I had to suddenly swerve to the left as well.  In front of me, moments from being struck by my car, is a lady running on the road.

Now, I fully understand that runners have the right to run on the road, but there are certain rules they must follow to avoid being hit and killed by a car.  Here are a few rules that this lady did not follow, resulting in her almost being hit by the car in front of me, almost being hit by me, and probably almost being hit by the cars behind me.  I say almost, because there was no article in the news later that day of a lady being killed while running on the road.  

1.  Every runner, if running in the dark or semi-dark, should wear flashers, reflectors, or something else that gives of light to denote that they are there.  This lady had none of these.

Reflector Stickers

2.  Every runner, if running in the dark or semi-dark, should wear light colored clothing.  Dark colored clothing is more difficult to see.  This lady was wearing all black!  Yes, you read that correctly.  She was wearing all black.

3.  Runners, when running on the road, should always run AGAINST the traffic.  Never run with the traffic.  Running against the traffic allows you to see the cars as they approach.  Therefore you have a better idea if the driver sees you, and you can maneuver out of the way if necessary.  This lady was running WITH the traffic.

4.  If running on the road, runners should run as close as possible to the edge or curb.  This seems as if it should be common sense, but this lady was running 3-4 feet away from the curb.  There was enough room for at least 1, if not 2 or 3 runners to run next to her!

I'm not sure if this lady had a death wish or not, but she was breaking every rule in the book.  I'll teach my daughters the rules of running and why those rules are important.  Those rules aren't there simply to have rules.  Those rules are there to save your life.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Is the Sun a Star?

A question I surprisingly get quite often is whether or not the Sun is a star.  To be blunt, yes, the Sun is a star.  The Sun looks different than the other stars you see in the night sky, but that's only because it is closer. The other stars would look just as bright or brighter than the Sun if they were closer to Earth.

So what is a star?  A star is a giant ball of gas (mostly hydrogen), held together by gravity, that is fusing hydrogen into helium to produce energy.  That energy is what we receive from the Sun that works to warm the surface.  

To conclude, the Sun is a star.  It is much different than Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, which are all planets.  Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are all gas planets that are  composed mostly of hydrogen, but the main difference between them and the Sun is that they are not hot enough to fuse hydrogen into helium.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

Warning:  This post has nothing to do with my kids.  :-)

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions.  I simply do not see the point of them and I think, although I have no evidence to back it up, that New Year's resolutions are more harmful than helpful.  A 2011 survey of 15,000 people found that only 23% of New Year's resolutions are kept.  In other words, 77% of people who make a New Year's resolution fail.  That's a huge failure rate!  This same survey shows that 35% of people have broken their New Year's resolution by the end of January!!!

I'm all for setting goals/resolutions, but setting them at the start of the year simply because it's the start of a new year seems kind of silly.  A goal/resolution can be set at anytime.  In fact, it should be set at the time you are ready to act on that goal.  For example, in May 2011 I decided I needed to make a commitment to working out more.  I was ready at that time to act on that goal.  It's now 18 months later and I've kept that goal by working out 5 to 6 times a week.

My point in all of this is that you should set goals/resolutions when you're ready to act on them.  If that matches up with January 1, then great, more power to you.  But don't make a goal/resolution on January 1 simply because it's the beginning of a new year.  If you're not ready to work toward meeting that goal on January 1, then I guarantee that you will be one of those 35% who break their resolution by the end of January or one of the 77% who break their resolution by the end of the year.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Maybe = No???

Here's a little bit of language science for you.  The definition of the word 'maybe' is as follows:

"a possibility or uncertainty."

This seems pretty straightforward, but the word 'maybe' takes on a completely different meaning when using it on young children.  I can't tell you the number of times my daughters have asked for something and my response is 'maybe'.  MY definition of 'maybe' when given to my kids, is rarely equal to that of the dictionary definition.  Usual when I say 'maybe' to my daughters I'm responding to them to stop them from bugging me about something.  :-)  Thus in this case, 'maybe' usually means:

"My answer is no, but I don't want to tell you no because that will set you off on a big tantrum that will annoy me even more.  Therefore I'm telling you maybe in the hopes that an hour from now you'll have completely forgotten what you asked for"

I know I'm not the only parent out there that does this.  We parents have our own secret language!  Muhahahahahaha!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Learning to Call 9-1-1

Earlier this month my wife had to be out of town for a week, so I was in charge of the kids 100% of the time.  This isn't the first time she's been out of town, but it's the first time in a couple of years.  After taking my wife to the airport I had the thought, "does my 5 year old know what to do if something happens to me".  Granted, the chances of that are low, but one never knows.  So that night we had a discussion about what to do if Daddy wouldn't wake up or if Daddy was lying on the ground and couldn't talk or get up.

As part of our discussion I talked to her about calling 9-1-1 and taught her how to use my cell phone.  First she learned how to turn it on and get to the main menu screen.  From there I showed her how to get to the phone and dial.  Then I had her repeat the process a couple of times on her own to prove to me that she knew how to do it.  Then we talked about what to say to the dispatcher.  We discussed that it's important to tell the dispatcher your name and address.  On our fridge we have written our home address and I showed her where to find it and how to say it.

I walked away from this discussion feeling confident that she knows what to do, but periodically we'll review the procedures to make sure she hasn't forgotten.  These are discussion that every parent should have with their child.  Never assume that your child knows what to do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Flu Vaccine Revisited

Several months ago I wrote about getting your flu vaccine.  I'm bringing it up again to stress the importance of getting you and your children their flu vaccine.  As U.S. citizens we worry a lot about things that can potentially kill us.  Think about the increased efforts to protect ourselves from terrorists attacks.  Yet the number of deaths due to terrorists on American soil since 9-11-2001 is exactly ZERO!  That's not to say we shouldn't spend money on defending ourselves from terrorists, but I can use this to put the flu vaccine in perspective.

The flu vaccine is something that most Americans are ho-hum about.  If they have the time, they may go get the flu vaccine, but it's almost as if it's an afterthought.  I'm a perfect example of this.  I didn't get my first flu shot until 6 years ago, a few months before my first daughter was born.  Having kids has really tuned me into taking care of my own health.  

So why are Americans super concerned about terrorists attacks, yet not so concerned about the flu?  To be honest, I don't know.  ZERO deaths on American soil due to terrorists in the last 11+ years.  Yet the flu kills, on average, 30,000+ Americans EACH year!!!  Most of those deaths are among people 65 years or older.  The remainder of deaths are usually among young children and other individuals with weaker immune systems.  However, there are perfectly healthy adults who die from the flu every year.  

The best time to get the flu vaccine is in the Fall (September or October).  The flu season usually doesn't begin until December or January, but it takes a couple of weeks for the flu vaccine to be fully effective.  Plus, getting your flu vaccine early helps you avoid lines and the possibility of flu vaccine shortages.  This flu season  has been particularly strong and people are rushing to get their flu vaccine right now.  As a result there are shortages of the flu vaccine in some places.  

Are you avoiding the flu shot because you have some misconception that's stopping you?  Here's a good article from CNN debunking a few common flu vaccine myths.  

One of the common myths is that the flu vaccine is not always effective.  In sense, that is true.  You can still get the flu despite receiving the flu vaccine.  Having the flue vaccine, however, can help reduce the severity of flu symptoms,  so even if you get the flu, receiving the vaccine beforehand does have a benefit.  The flu vaccine itself, however, does not give you the flu.  This is another common myth.

I encourage you, especially if you have kids or around kids or the elderly, to buck it up, be a man (or woman!), and get the flu vaccine.  No more excuses!!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


If you are a parent of a younger child then you most certainly know what a Squinkie is.  In fact, you probably have a ton of then lying around the house.  Not sure what a Squinkie is?  Check out the following link for a quick catch-up on today's hot toy.

What is a Squinkie?

Here are a couple of picturs of some of the Squinkies that live in my house.

Here are a few things I've learned about Squinkies over the last few months.

1.  Within 1 hour of opening a package of Squinkies, your child(ren) will have lost at least one of them.
2.  Your children will fight over the Squinkies.
3.  You will find Squinkies buried in the couch cushions.
4.  You will find Squinkies in your bed sheets.
5.  You will probably vacuum up a Squinkie by accident and pretend you didn't.  :-)
6.  You will find Squinkies in the weirdest places in your house, including your bathroom.
7.  If you have a younger child (2 - 3 years), it's very likely that at any given moment in time, she will have a Squinkie or two in her fist.
8.  You will find Squinkies in your car.
9.  You will curse over the Squinkies you find everywhere (found one just the other day sitting on top of the toilet tank!).
10.  Despite all of this, you will continue to buy Squinkies, because you find them kind of cool to look at.  :-)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Does the Moon have Gravity?

Although I don't hear it often, there is a misconception dealing with gravity on the Moon.  Everyone knows that gravity causes objects to fall to Earth's surface.  For example, if I let go of a pen it falls to the floor because there is a force of gravity pulling it to Earth's surface.  Technically the pen is also pulling on the Earth and the two actually move toward each other, but let's not complicate things.

So why does Earth have gravity?  Anything with mass produces a gravitational field and attracts objects to it.  You have mass and therefore you have your own gravity, but it is extremely tiny compared to Earth's gravity so you never have to worry about it.  Moving on to the Moon, it has mass, but it is about 1.2% that of Earth's mass.  As a result, the Moon has gravity, but it is much smaller than that of Earth's.  The acceleration of gravity on the Moon is about 16.5% that of Earth's.  That's why, when you watch old videos of the late 1960s and early 1970s manned lunar landings, the astronauts seem to bounce.  They are "bouncing" because gravity is much lower for them.  To conclude, yes, there is gravity on the Moon.

There's another misconception that there is no gravity in space.  There is in fact, gravity in space, but that will be left for another post.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hot Beads

For Christmas my two daughters received a big tub of hot beads.  Hot beads are little beads that you organize on a design board to make some sort of design.  Then you take an iron and melt the beads together to make a coaster or something like it.  See below for our initial hot bead creations.

My 5 year old simply loves to work with her hot beads.  She'll sit there for hours putting together different designs.  The first day she wanted to break out the hot beads, my wife wasn't home, so I had to use the iron. I know how to use an iron, but I wasn't really sure the best setting for the hot beads or how long one should iron the hot beads.  Overall I did okay and they turned out fine, although I had to re-iron one later.

The next day while I was at work my wife ironed a new set of hot bead designs my daughter created.  When I came home, my 5 year old tells me "Daddy, Mommy does a much better job ironing hot beads then you do!".  Touche little one, touche!  LOL!  I guess I have a bit of studying up to do on hot beads.

My 2 year old likes hot beads too, but she's more interested in taking the finished hot bead designs and ripping them up into little pieces.  As you can imagine, this does not sit well with my 5 year old!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Blog Statistics (7 month checkup)

I'm a numbers guy and I love statistics.  This blog is around 7 months old, so I thought this would be a good time to check its stats.  The first full month of this blog was June 2012 and in that month there were 423 page views.  Below is the list of page views by month and the % increase/decrease in page views compared to the previous month.

June 2012 - 423 page views
July 2012 - 404 page views - -4.5%
August 2012 - 565 page views - +40%
September 2012 - 843 page views - +49%
October 2012 - 1,343 page views - +59%
November 2012 - 1,522 page views - +13%
December 2012 - 2,288 page views - +50%

Aside from the small decrease in views between June and July 2012, this blog has seen an increase in page views every month, and in some months, a significant increase.  January is far from over, but this blog is currently on pace for 4,543 page views, a 99% increase over December.  Now I'm not sure January page views will keep up this pace, but the month is off to a very good start.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What is Snow?

Now that winter is fully upon us and snow is covering ground across portions of the United States, it's time to answer the question, what is snow?  This is also a question that many parents are likely to get from their kids this winter.  Therefore, it's important to know the correct answer.  So, what is snow?

Snow is not simply frozen rain.  Frozen rain is ice, so snow is a bit different.  Similar to rain, snow starts as water vapor in our atmosphere.  If it is cold enough, the water vapor can turn into an ice crystal.  A combination of ice crystals gives you a snowflake.

You've probably also heard that no two snowflakes are alike.  For the most part this is correct.  The chances of observing two snowflakes exactly alike are so rare that there are more snowflake possibilities than the number of snowflakes that have fallen across the globe over the history of all mankind.  It's not impossible to find two snowflakes exactly alike, but it is extremely unlikely.  So unlikely that no one has ever found 2 exactly alike.  

Here's a great site that explains snowflake probability.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Best Solution is Often the Simplest Solution

All true scientists, regardless of science field, follow the scientific method when doing research and arriving at a conclusion.  The steps are as follows:

  • Ask a Question
  • Do Background Research
  • Construct a Hypothesis
  • Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
  • Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
  • Communicate Your Results

The exact wording will vary depending on which website is describing the scientific method.  The above steps I copied from the Science Buddies website.  The last step of communicating your results will also often state that the "best solution is usually simplest solution".  This isn't always true, but it's a good rule of thumb to follow.

The point of this blog post is that I failed to take the best=simplest statement into consideration the other night.  After returning from Christmas break travel I had to unpack the car.  With a 2 and 5 year old, the back seat gets pretty messy.  During the trip, the batteries to my 5 year old's V-tech computer went dead.  While driving, my 2 year old took out the batteries and 'lost' them in the car.  After unpacking the car, I still couldn't find the 4 missing AA batteries.  These were rechargeable batteries, so finding them was important.  I decided they must have fallen underneath the seat and/or car seats.  I proceeded to take out the car seats, but still no batteries.  I took out the cushions and still no batteries.  I looked in the pockets behind the front seats, but still no batteries.  Where the heck could the batteries have gone?  Finally, while getting out of the car, a thought popped into my head.  "I bet that little stinker put all 4 of those batteries in the small bucket/pocket in the car door."  I turned around, and sure enough, there they were.  I took all that time taking out the car seats and cushions, and all along, they were sitting in the door.

Although I'm a science person and should have known better, I failed to first consider the simplest possible solution, and thus wasted a lot of time.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

High Heels

This year for Christmas, both of my daughters received a pair of play high heels to go along with the play dresses they already have at home.  I very quickly realized that I need to teach them a bit of physics concerning high heels.

You see, when someone steps on your foot with the heel of a high heel, it's more painful then someone stepping on your foot with a flat shoe.  How do I know this?  One of them stepped on my foot last night and it hurt!  But physics also explains this.  

Pressure is equal to force divided by area.  The greater the pressure acting on your foot, the greater the pain is likely to be.  The amount of force applied to the foot is the same regardless of which shoe is stepping on you.  The gravitational force acting on your body doesn't change, unless you add or lose mass.  What changes is the area over which that force is applied.  

If you divide the same force by a smaller area, the pressure goes up.  For a high heel, only a small area is actually touching the ground, or in last night's case, my foot.  That force, spread over a much smaller area, increased the pressure on my foot, causing me to yelp out in pain!  So for parents with young daughters out there wearing high heels for the first time, spread this knowledge, for it may one day save the foot of a loved one!!!  :-)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Texting and Driving

As parents, we are all aware that drinking and driving is something that you just don't do.  And as parents we want to make it very clear to our kids that drinking and driving is dangerous and leads to the deaths of many innocent people.  In fact, according to the CDC, 10,228 people (in the United States) were killed in 2010 in alcohol related accidents.  Our country and individual states have laws making it illegal to drink and drive.

Unfortunately these laws do not apply to texting (or any smartphone use) and driving.  Sure, some states have enacted texting laws to limit the use of smartphone use among drivers, but these laws are limited to specific states, and are often limited in scope.  Why this is, I have no clue.  More and more studies, including this one, show that texting and driving leads to more accidents than drinking and driving.  11 teenagers die EVERY day while texting and driving.  

If our legislatures (and by all means write/call them on this issue) aren't going to do anything, then we as parents must be the one to stop our children from texting and driving.  Taking away their phones is not the answer.  Kids must be educated on the reasons as to why one shouldn't text and drive.  Think about this for a moment.  What is your view on drinking and driving?  Do you find it atrocious that people drink and then get behind the wheel, knowing that their judgment is impaired?  Do you feel the same way about texting and driving?  If not, you should.  Your judgement is not impaired in the same way as it is when drinking, but when texting, you're not even looking at the road!  At least drunk drivers are looking at the road while driving!

So how do you teach your kids to not text and drive?  It's relatively simple.  Point out to your kids, especially when they are young, when you see someone texting and driving, or even talking on the phone for that matter.  Explain to them why this is wrong.  Then follow it up by your actions.  Don't text and drive yourself.  Don't talk on the phone.  You can't tell your kids not to do something and then do that very something your self.  That's a worthless exercise in parenting.  If you do it, I guarantee your kids will do it.  So if you don't want them to text and drive, then don't text and drive!  If you don't want them to talk on the phone while driving, then don't talk on the phone while driving!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Christmas Science and the Moon

If you look closely at your child's Christmas gifts, you're sure to find a lot of science.  One of the gifts my 5 year old received was a set of slides for her View Master picture wheel thingy.

She has a ton of different picture reels for her View Master that are mainly Disney based, but this is her first science based picture wheel.  As you can see, it is series of pictures based on the first manned lunar landing.  Very cool!  It's not hard to find excited, science related gifts for your child.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Gingerbread House FAIL!

One of the annual traditions between my daughters and their 2 cousins is that of building a gingerbread house.  It's always a great time to see the 4 of them (ages ranging from 2 to 6) sitting at the table working together to build and decorate a gingerbread house.  Unfortunately things did not go so well this year.  Whoever the architect was in this group did not do their job!  The gingerbread house collapsed!

I know in the past the kids usually don't wait for the "glue" to dry on the walls before decorating the outside and it's never been a problem.  This year however, the walls started to slip right away once decorations were added.  If I had to guess, we had a different brand of gingerbread house and the frosting or "glue" was a bit more viscous than in the past, or in more common terms, less thick.  As a result, the walls slid apart before the "glue" dried.  Oh well, you win some you lose some.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Potty Training Part III

Here's part III in an ongoing series of potty training our 2 year old.  You can read the first two parts here and  here.  Over Christmas break this year we visited family across a couple of states and as a result, did quite a bit of driving.  With driving comes several rest stops.  On the way back home we stopped at a gas station to fill up and take a potty break.  While I was waiting for my wife and daughters to finish up in the bathroom I was checking out the news on my phone.  All of a sudden my 2 year old comes running around the corner yelling "I did it!  I went potty!"  This was loud enough for anyone in the gas station to clearly hear.  She was super excited because she went potty on the potty.  Our older daughter was always excited too when she went potty on the potty as she was training.  A parent can't help but smile when their child gets excited about going potty!

Along with this, my 2 year old daughter received an RV toy for her doll house for Christmas.  One of the "features" of this RV is that it comes with a potty.

She also received a "grandpa" doll to go along with the "mommy", "daddy", "sister", "brother", and "grandma" dolls she already owns.  The "grandpa" doll apparently has a few intestinal issues because he's spent a considerable amount of time on the potty, with the 2 year old shouting "grandpa is going potty" or "grandpa is going poopy"!

Whatever it takes to potty train her works for me!  If that's a grandpa doll sitting on an RV potty, then so be it!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Legos - Science Lab

For Christmas this year my 5 year old received a small Lego set.  There were several different Lego sets at the store, but my wife and I picked out the one with a science lab.  There are so many "girl" toys that center around "girls" getting their hair done or doing their makeup or doing something other that what is considered a male dominant activity.  Thus it was great to see a girl Lego in a science lab to reinforce to girls that yes, science isn't just for boys.

The best part about this gift is that it's the first one my daughter opened!  I went over to see if she needed any help with the Lego instructions but she told me that she had it covered.  I was a very proud Daddy that night.  Watching her read and successfully complete the Science Lab Lego instructions was a joy to my eyes!

There are a lot of toys out there that are marketed toward just boys or just girls.  It's important to realize, however, that kids aren't born with these defined gender roles.  Parents teach their kids gender roles.  So if you don't want your daughters to shy away from science, then don't pass along the "lie" that science is for boys only.  It really is as easy as that.  Encourage your daughters to take part in science and they will grow to love and appreciate it.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Birds and the Bees....and the Hippos and the Rhinos

Back in April 2012, a couple of months before I started this blog, my family and I went to the zoo.  You hear all the time about zoo animals getting frisky with each other and kids watching.  Who knows how many kids learn about the birds and the bees for the first time at the zoo?  Or how many parents have to explain the birds and the bees for the first time as a result of visiting the zoo!

On this particular trip to the zoo, our oldest daughter, who was 5 at the time, noticed a lot of people huddled in the gazebo of the rhino exhibit.  We headed over, and sure enough, two rhinos were doing "it".  One expects to see monkeys or other small animals getting frisky, but big animals like rhinos?  The funniest part, aside from the rhinos, was all the parents laughing and then posing their kids to take pictures of them with the rhinos in the background!  LOL!  A great Christmas card photo!  Speaking of photos, here are the photos I took of the rhinos.  These are not pictures I found on the web.  These are pictures I took with my own camera.

Yep, learning the birds and the bees from rhinos!  So why am I posting this now if the event took place back in April.  Well, just other day our 5 year old comes to us and says "Mommy, Daddy, remember that time when the one hippo was climbing on the other hippos back?"  My response:  "Honey, those weren't hippos.  Hippos like to soak in water.  There was no water there.  Those were rhinos."  LOL!