Takkie Kakkie, Kackel Dackel, the pooping dog game!

Photo of the Kackel Dackel game featuring a plastic dachshund, plastic shovels, a leash with a squeeze handle and poop.

Behold Takkie Kakkie, the world renown pooping dog game from Goliath Games! It’s from the Netherlands. You may have seen the viral German commercial (embedded below). In Germany it’s called Kackel Dackel, which translates to Laughing Dachshund. The game is apparently not being sold in US, too high-brow for Americans.

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Advice to a new dad

A pending new dad on social media site Reddit.com (expecting his first child by Christmas) made a general call for any sort of parenting advice.  One user mentioned a parenting book, and so I posted this semi-sort-of-related comment:

This is an aside. You’ll see a lot of toddler activity books that involve making toys with household objects. You’ll fondly remember Calvin & Hobbes playing in a cardboard box. You’ll even let your kid play in a cardboard box for a few days after you buy a major appliance, before recycling the box. But then, every Christmas you’ll buy a crapload of plastic toys and electronic gadgets for your kid that crush his inherent ingenuity and imagination.

Read these three books:

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Happy Thanksgiving

Photo of a plate with food arranged to look like a turkey.

Our breakfast was loosely based on Better Homes & Gardens Silly Snacks, the holiday section titled Gobblers. They proposed a turkey made from two sizes of Ritz crackers, shoestring potatoes, corn nuts, carrot, raisins and pimento.

My wife used waffles, pancakes, walnut, cranberry, apple slices, tangerine slices, cheese stick strips and mini marshmallows. It’s a big deal for the kids because we are not one of those ultra-food-decorating families.

Gifts for diehard Mary Poppins fans

Photo of my 2-year-old son holding an opened black umbrella. A close-up reveals the umbrella handle is a molded green parrot head.

Thank goodness Mary Poppins is now a Broadway musical. It has spawned some (relatively) inexpensive souvenirs.

Behold a parrot-handle child-size umbrella, as modeled by my 2-year-old above. My 6-year-old daughter is receiving it for Christmas. I exploited my son’s speech disability to take the photo with no concern he’ll blab to his sister.

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Let’s play library, in a kit

Photo of a children's librarian play kit.

Little Librarian is a pretend play kit for kids who like libraries. You get 15 book cards and pockets (the old method of noting inside a book the name of the person who has checked it out), 7 file folders, 6 overdue slips, 4 library cards, 4 reading awards, 2 bookmarks and 1 reading journal.

It’s most appropriate, of course, for kids who can write or think they can.

This kit is a great idea… for kids to make on their own. Why? Well, I hope I don’t really have to explain why, because any toy you can help your child make is bound to be more valued.

A more tangible reason is that the overdue slips appear to be paper, not friendly to a dry erase marker. Six overdue slips would last my daughter one afternoon.

The fun in pretend play is the process, not the outcome. My daughter would love to make the overdue slips, not just fill them out, and every one of her patrons is guaranteed to be late returning books.

It’s like playing grocery store. If you’re the cashier, you want to check customers out over and over again in order to play with the cash register and the pretend money.
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Restoring Sanity

Here’s Jon Stewart’s 12-minute concluding speech at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear from Saturday at the National Mall in Washington.

Just prior to the speech, Stephen Colbert presented two video montages of TV news media clips. The point of the rally was to comment on our news media, journalists and journalism organizations (“the country’s 24 hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator”) that have failed in their duty to inform the public, the very organizations that, for the most part, set our national agenda. The image of America shown to us is not reality, and yet that image influences the real world. This is a parenting issue, if you care about the world our kids inherit.

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Kimberly-Clark launches war on children

Image of Scott Naturals toiler paper container advertising tube-free toilet paper rolls.

Kimberly-Clark is crapping on kids. Who?  The maker of Scott toilet paper.

As if toilet paper was a lingering question, something not yet perfect, they’ve gone and killed the toiler paper roll. They’ve decided it’s just not needed. In their pursuit to save money and put less stuff in landfills they figure, who is going to care? Ahh, we’ll just chuck it.

And with this act, they’ve destroyed binoculars, bowling pins, loudspeakers, bracelets, rocket ships, Hot Wheels car parks, dolls, hamster toys, puppets, large drinking straws, fishing line weights, gold prospecting pans, surgical instruments, impromptu skin grafts, fireplace kindling, perpetual motion machines, cold fusion generators and all the other things kids make and use today using toilet paper roll technology.

When my grandchildren look back and wonder where it all went wrong, I want them to find this blog post. This is Grandpa, reaching out from beyond the grave, to say, I told you so.

A Thought about Homemade and Used Costumes

Watch Target Corporation crap on its customers in 15 seconds.

[Link via Slate]

Target is mocking awesome homemade costumes. So… maybe I’m not what Target has in mind for its ideal customer.  I’d never pay $30 for a costume. I would spend $30 building a costume to be proud of, and I’ve failed as a parent if my kid reacts like the kid in that horrible commercial.

And, at the age depicted in the commercial, that kid should have been involved in his costume’s creation and he should be beaming with pride.

For toddlers, I’d absolutely buy a ready-to-wear costume from a thrift store. Such stores are absolutely swimming in used costumes right now. Plus, costumes double as dress-up clothes the rest of the year.

This Halloween, my son will be dressing as a chicken or elephant, whichever costume (we obtained from garage sales) that he’s agreeable to at the moment. My daughter vacillates between wanting to be a vampire (we bought fabric to make a cape) and medieval lady-in-waiting (we already have the dress-up clothes).

My wife? She’s always a witch.

…smirk…

The most expensive costume will be mine as I dress as a spiv. Boy, it took a while to track down that word. I’m shooting for the Hollywood stereotype of a wartime trader of questionable goods, selling wristwatches filling my arms and jewelry lining the interior of my coat. (Side note: you wouldn’t believe what people pay for batches of broken watches on eBay. It’s insane. But, a schmaltzy plaid suit coat runs only $6 at a thrift store.)

We only do trick-or-treating in our immediate neighborhood just to those neighbors who will get a kick out of seeing our kids. Our family tradition is to attend a Halloween festival put on by a local church (no proselytizing involved) where the kids walk a path through a field visiting a dozen venues where skits (Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz, fairy tales, etc.) are played out for each group of passing kids.

Family Update

Photo of my son feeding a bit of bagel to his toy dinosaur.

Progress continues with my 2-year-old son’s verbal dyspraxia. It’s a neurologically based speech disorder which, in my son’s case, meant at his second birthday he spoke, very poorly, only 5 words — words like Mama and Papa. He didn’t babble like other babies and toddlers do, no animal sounds, no car sounds when playing with cars. We later learned there were many sounds he was incapable of making.

We had the task of spurring him to make sounds, and later, words. The more effort put into saying a word, the harder it was for him. The goal is to make speech so familiar it’s like a reflex, no thought involved.

He’s been seeing a speech language pathologist twice a week and a special education teacher from our county office of education once a week for play therapy. We backed it up at home with Kaufman flash cards and reciting words found in picture books and naming things found in pictures. Our son grew to enjoy books and is very good about sitting down for a session of saying words. And, of course, he has to ask for everything he wants, by sign language at first, and now by spoken words.

Today, about half his speech is muddled, only understandable to Mom and Dad, and there are some sounds he still cannot make.

However, our speech pathologist believes he’s doing so well he that he won’t qualify for state-sponsored therapy after his third birthday. Yay! But of course, he still has a speech impairment and we have every intention of continuing therapy and working on this so he’s hopefully “normal” by the time he enters kindergarten.

All of this is a long way of saying, yesterday my son strapped himself into a car seat temporarily located in our living room and sat there with a toy dinosaur and a bagel. Then he said, “Dino me feed bagel.”

Photo of my daughter reading the newspaper while eating breakfast.

Meanwhile, my first grader is reading at a fifth grade reading level. Whole book series’ on our Wall of Awesome have been skipped because her reading ability has progressed so fast.

I often read her pertinent articles from the newspaper, but yesterday morning she picked up a weekly paper herself and read about a mountain lion attack. This morning, she picked up a daily newspaper, checked the table of contents, then flipped through to read the weather report. I’ve never shown her how to navigate a newspaper. I swear she’s a robot covertly operating as an advance scout for an invading alien force.

A Beginner’s Guide to Building a School Bookstore

Photo of a classroom wall filled with five picture book displays filled with books and a revolving carousel and wooden shelf filled with books. Book covers dance across the wall as decoration.

Behold my daughter’s school’s free bookstore. Or as I call it, the Classroom of Awesome. It’s like my family’s Wall of Awesome, only awesomer. I built it over the past 10 months. Two-thousand books, a few hundred hours and some wrestling with argumentative bookshelves.

125 Goosebumps. 55 Harry Potters. 30 Clifford the Big Red Dog.

A close-up view of chapter books on a shelf.

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Simple fun: balls, blocks and tubes

Sunday afternoon, I attempted to engage my 2-year-old son in some good ol’ fashioned block building. He was having none of it. Instead, he began placing blocks upright around the room. Hey, okay, whatever floats your boat. You have fun kid. I’m going to check my e-mail.

The next thing I know, he’s trying to kick the blocks down using a Nerf baseball.

Photo of my son kicking a soft baseball toward a row of a dozen or more rectangular wooden blocks that are standing on end. His sister is standing next to him watching.

My six-year-old daughter loved the idea of playing this new game with her brother.

You might call it Foot Bowling. Or maybe Soccer Sticks. We called it Wilson Ball.

My daughter refined the game by placing the blocks in a single row. It was aesthetically pleasing, but made it much harder to hit more than one or two blocks, usually obtained via a ricochet off the back of our couch or bookshelf.
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The Amazon Prime post

It’s being reported everywhere, and as an Amazon Prime customer, I can’t not pass along this information.

Amazon.com is offering parents a free 3-month Amazon Prime subscription under the poorly chosen program name Amazon Mom. This time, the company won’t be inspecting your groin, and so penis wearers qualify too.

I’ve enjoyed Prime for the past few months under a free 12-month subscription because my wife is going back to (online) school to earn a master’s degree. You see, in the grand scheme of things, students are precisely four times more important than parents.

Anyhow, under normal Amazon you can usually score free, slow shipping by buying $25 or more worth of products that Amazon ships from its warehouses. Under Prime, those same qualifying products are supposed to arrive within 2 days, and you can order them individually if you like. When you conduct a product search, click the ‘Amazon Prime eligible’ link in the left column to see only products that have free shipping.

It’s an extremely convenient perk, so long as you’re not sucked in a buying frenzy. Be sure to double-check that Amazon has the best price, or a comparable price once you factor in shipping charges from other companies… because sometimes Amazon’s prizes are steeply inflated.

For example, I’m flirting with buying a dog house for a stray cat in my yard, and Overstock.com sells a certain dog house for $30 less than Amazon, and Overstock offers free (slow) shipping on your first order.

Yeah, your Prime purchases don’t need to be student or parent related. Amazon will ask you some parent-related questions, supposedly optional. Oh, and you’ll qualify for 30% off diapers.

Final verdict: will I pay $79 for an annual Prime subscription when my free gravy train runs out? Probably not. It’s nice, but I can live with the regular $25 threshold for slow free shipping.

Baby’s First Cubicle

Photo of the Young Explorers computer workstation. A child sits on a plastic sit using a keyboard while looking at a flatscreen monitor. The computer is built into a large plastic molded desk with two tall side panels resembling cubicle walls.

It’s the Young Explorer by Little Tikes!

What you get for a mere $2,600 is a large plastic housing for a CPU tower and flat-screen monitor in a kid-friendly desk-like display with huge side panels that resemble cubicle walls. It has a wireless card, decent computer specs, and several educational games.

In the company’s defense, those walls might in fact be awesome semi-surround sound speakers.

Now, surprisingly, my opposition to this toy isn’t based upon the silly notion that parents should teach computer skills to young children. Nor am I bothered by the fantastic expense.

Hey, if you have money to burn, what’s $2,600 among family? In the 1980s, spoiled rich kid Ricky Shroder had that awesome racecar bed on TV’s Silver Spoons. Today, a race car bed would run me $25 at a yard sale, $50 at a thrift store or about $300 new.

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Poverty Tells Many Stories

This short film was directed by Isabel Prahl for a European film school competition. Heads up, it’s captioned.

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Cinderella and Africa

This isn’t an anti-princess rant, honest. Been there, done that, several times.

Today, I heard an interesting perspective from a mother at my daughter’s school. She coordinates a local book drive for the African Library Project. Each year, her girl scouts collect at least 1,000 donated children’s books and raise $500 to ship them. The books eventually find their way to schools in Africa. Titles not appropriate to send remain with local charities.

Most countries in Africa teach English or French, so a language barrier isn’t an issue. Some collected books are weeded out because they are about American holidays. Other books are weeded because they convey things that are completely foreign to them, such as a board book about a fire station. But there are a lot of things the kids do relate to, such as animals, even animals not found in their native countries.

This subject caught my attention because I’m in the process of setting up a children’s used book store (a story for a future date) and routinely weed out books containing merchandised characters and Disney movie books. What Disney movies these days aren’t about girls appreciated for their pretty faces?

The Cinderella story is included in my list of yechhh! books. My family owns the anti-princess books The Paper Bag Princess and Cinder Enda. I’m not a fan of a fairy tale where a woman must be rescued by a man, a man who initially becomes interested in her because of her nice clothes — and likes her at the end of the tale because she’s beautiful.

However, this mom told the story of a girl in Botswana whose favorite book is Cinderella. She could relate to it in a most personal way.

Video embedded after the jump.

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