Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bugs - caterpillar

We purchased a bushel of corn from a shack near a farm. As advertised, the organically-grown pesticide-free corn really had bugs in them. One of these bugs was a really plump green caterpillar, and we decided to save it.

It was a great opportunity for the boys to learn about these critters, and Wikipedia is an excellent place to start. We learned that caterpillars have about 4,000 muscles (humans have 629) with 248 muscles in the head segment alone!

We prepared a jar with some extra food, including corn silk and husks. Now, we're watching and waiting...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Handy and Hands On

My boys have used an old toy train table to stage countless battles between their toys. Unfortunately, the table is made out of really cheap particle board, so it has broken several times. 

The first breakage simply required larger wood screws. The second breakage required a combination of larger wood screws and hot glue. After the third breakage, I was planning to toss it since the work required to fix it was going to take a bit of effort. But, when the boys pleaded with me to fix it, I decided to turn this into a dadly project. 

First, I explained why the table was not such a great design, and how we were going to improve it. (Tip: be prepared to answer why people would make such bad products.)

Next, we made a list of what we need to do and materials we needed to buy at the hardware store. I made the boys help with the list, but the little ones will probably have difficult time getting thing in order. For complicated projects, you might want to put the tasks that need to be done on flash cards so that you can switch the order. My boys used rulers to measure the length of screws necessary to fix the table correctly, and I was able to introduce a memorable maxim, "Measure twice, cut once."

At the hardware store, I made a point to show the different types of screws (machine screws, wood screws, sheet metal screws, flathead screws, countersunk screws, hex cap screws, allen head screws, etc.) and explain the different applications they were used. It's very convenient that you can easily point to real examples at the hardware store. I also tried to explain how the screws are categorized. (Tip: don't ask them to count the number of threads on a 8-32 x 1" screw… )

When we returned, I let them use my power drill WITH very close supervision, AND I made sure that they used safety goggles.  They LOVED this part. I was very clear that they were not allowed to use any power tools without my close supervision. 

The rest of the fix was quite simple, they had to use the screwdriver and wrench to tighten the new and improved fasteners. 

The cleanup was also a very important part of finishing a project, and they fully participated. They are enjoying the train table once again, and they have been telling each other how great it was to be able to fix it. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Think Out Loud

I've been absolutely swamped over the past couple of weeks with moving the family to a new house and with a sudden influx of work. I did spend time with the boys, but I haven't been able to blog about it until now. 

As I was working on stuff around the old/new house fixing things, I started talking out loud my thoughts whenever the boys came by checking out the stuff I was doing. I also got them involved in a few interesting little projects like building a new 3x3 shelf unit out of old wire mesh squares and tie wraps. 

The "thinking out loud" felt like a great dadly technique, even if the kids didn't necessarily appreciate it as much. Also, it was NOT as easy as I thought it should be. However, after a couple of weekends worth of trying, it got easier. 

Some honey-do projects are quite simple: "If I put the unused closet door behind the shelf in the garage, it will take up the least amount of space. And, the shelf will protect to door from getting damaged." 

Other projects are more complicated: "The lock that just broke is an older design that is no longer made, but the design matches all of the other hardware on the door. I might be able to buy a new lock made by the same manufacturer and take the inside parts to fix the broken one… (later) The inside parts of the new lock are completely different. See, the screw holes are different size and in different locations… I could probably drill and tap (make screws), but the linkages are also different. It is probably better to temporarily use the new hardware as-is and contact the manufacturer to see if I can buy just the broken parts." 

Kids showed varying degrees of interest in my thinking out loud about working on real problems. But, when I started thinking out loud while playing strategy board games, they found this really interesting. 

"If I move the knight over here, the white bishop will probably attack my rook that the knight no longer protects. Then, the queen can move to this other spot that the white bishop no longer protects for the checkmate." 

The cool thing is that by the end of each game, I could notice an improvement in their level of skill. Maybe thinking can be contagious! 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Light Saber - with Pool Noodle Blades

We have 6 mass manufactured lightsabers that extend, retract, light up, and buzz. But, these all suck when it comes to having an epic battle... because they hurt, especially the little one. My boys are 5 & 8 yrs. old. The kids really want the satisfaction of swinging their lightsabers hard and hitting their targets with a solid thud. I really want the boys to not get hurt or even cry from perceived pain. 

So, here is my solution: The Lightsaber with a Pool Noodle Blade! 

This activity might not be safe for everyone, so use your own judgment and use at your own risk. If you're not sure, DON'T DO IT. 

This project will take about 30 minutes and $5 per set of 2 lightsabers. We spent hours afterwards battling! 

     Pool noodle from Walmart: ~$2
     1/2" PVC pipes (3 ft. long): ~$3
     misc. tapes
     Measuring tape
     Serrated bread knife
* Each Jedi has different color lightsaber.  
* Ask your boys which Star Wars Jedi he wants to be. 
* Let them tell you about their favorite Jedi. 
* If you don't know how to cut the PVC pipes, ask the nice guys at Home Depot or Lowe's to cut them for you. 

Step 1: (boys do this part.)
Measure the length of pool noodles. 
Divide the length number by 2. 
Mark the length. 
Cut the noodles in half with serrated bread knife
* Remind the boys why math is important.  

Step 2: (boys do this part)
Use the file to round off the edges of the PVC Pipes. 
This is necessary to get the pipes to slide it without cutting the hole in the pool noodle. 

Step 3a: (boys do this part)
Wet the hole of the noodle with water. 
Wet the PVC pipe. 

Step 3b: (dads do this part)
Push the PVC pipe through the noodle. 
Make sure that PVC pipe stops at about 3 inches before the top end. (This will make sure that the kids will only get hit with the foam, not with the PVC, when thrusting.)

Step 4: (dads do this part)
Cover the handle of the Lightsaber with duct tape. 

Step 5: 
(boys do this part)
Make your Lightsaber unique with different type of tape. We used black electrical tape, silver tape, sports wrap, and more duct tape. 

Now you're ready battle! 

Suggested Safety Rules:
1. NO attacks to the head or neck. 
2. NO throwing Lightsaber. 
(getting hit with the handle could hurt)
3. Everybody stops when somebody yells "STOP". 

Monday, May 30, 2011

How to deal with Teasing & Overreacting

This Memorial Day weekend ended up being more about being husbandly than dadly… getting a replacement minivan for my wife and looking at options for moving our home.

So, the boys had much more time to free play without dadly activities than prior weekends. Sure enough, the little one would come running to me crying because his brother hit him. This happened couple of times per day. I personally think it's totally within the norm for a couple of boys, but in the spirit of mastering the dadly arts, I spent some time thinking about this.

Every case of hitting followed this sequence:
   (2) ANGER
   (3) Loss of SELF CONTROL
   (4) SMACK
This morning when it happened (almost on cue), I gave the older boy a timeout and followed up with a discussion on my observation of the sequence of events. I asked, "Why did you hit your little brother?" "Why did you lose self control?" and "Why did you get angry?"

I told him that people "teasing" and "overreacting" are realities of life that cannot be avoided. I reminded him of another lesson: "life is not fair" reality that he has to accept. We both agreed that the key to a better situation is to not get angry as a response to "unfair" realities he has to accept.

I replayed the latest event with other options he could have followed when dealing with people who are teasing or overreacting:
  1. Tease back. Now, this could be fun if everybody has a good attitude (I still remember some fun teasing sessions from 20+ years ago in college), but this also has undesirable consequences if the other person gets angry or overreacts. Probably not worth the risk, but I do think that being able to stand your ground is a necessary skill (perhaps future dadly blog entry…). 
  2. Don't react. If teaser gets no reaction, the person might get bored and go away, but the teaser might also get more aggressive. This will be too difficult for him. At lease he realizes this about himself at age 8. 
  3. Communicate. Let the teaser know that what they are doing is not fun for you, not necessary, and will lead to bad consequences. Let them know it's not worth it. Seems like a good solution!
  4. Get away. If the communication doesn't work, it's better to get away from the teaser before getting angry and losing control.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monopoly Fun Math

My boys and I played Monopoly, The Star Wars Clone Wars Edition, for a couple of hours this weekend. I remember really enjoying the original Monopoly game as a kid, but my parents never played this with me. In fact, I don't think I've ever played this with an adult WHEN I was a child…

I really liked playing this game with my kids because I think Monopoly really helps kids with Math and Reading. I got a good feeling that my boys really know how to count and add. I think games like this one makes math and reading fun.

First, the math:
(1) I made my younger son (5 yrs. old) add the 2 numbers from the dice rolls; it's too easy for my older boy (8 yrs. old). Even by the end of the game, the little one was starting to recognize the common rolls of the numbers so that he didn't have to count with this fingers to sum the 2 numbers. When he got a number wrong, I would make him say it correctly 5 times: "Five plus seven is twelve. Five plus seven is twelve. Five plus seven is twelve. Five plus seven is twelve. Five plus seven is twelve."
(2) I made my older son take care of adding and subtracting currency when making rent payments with each other. "So, I owe you $28 for rent on your property. If I give you $50, how much money do you give back?" I would help the little one, but he was starting to figure these out himself.

Second, the reading:
It's not as much, but my 8 yr. old is reading the Jedi & Sith (Chance & Community Chest in original Monopoly) cards. Also, when something is not clear, I make him search and read from the rule book. I think it's also valuable to read the names of the properties with them.

We didn't play the game with the cities/settlements (Houses & Hotels in original Monopoly), but I think by the end of the summer, my older boy will be able to do the multiplication involved with the next level of Monopoly game play. When they see the real (or game) world value to math and reading, I think they get a bit more motivated to do homework to learn this well.

Here are a couple of suggestions based on my experience:
(1) As the adult, I had to keep the game fun and calm it down at times when the kids were getting too competitive.
(2) For my kids (5 & 8 yrs. old), 4 sessions of about 30 minutes of play time per session and more than 1 hour in between sessions worked beautifully. Playing for too long starts to bore little kids.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"Good Attitude, Good Day."

Few years ago, when I was so caught up in work that I didn't spend much time with my older son, he was acting up at school and just seemed to have a bad attitude. Without realizing that my absence was a big part of the problem, I taught him a phrase that really seemed to help, "Good attitude, good day."

I thought this little phase was what prevented a downward spiral, but in retrospect, I think the attention I spared to teach him this lesson mattered just as much... at that time. Every morning for a few weeks we said together, "Good attitude, good day."

He still remembers this phrase and the key points I made:
1. "Life isn't fair, but you can enjoy it anyway."
2. "You can't control a lot of things, but the one thing you have complete control over is your attitude."
3. "Good attitude, good day. Bad attitude, bad day."

I smiled when I heard this today: (M is 5 yrs. old; A just turned 8)
M: "That's just not fair!"
A: "Remember daddy said life isn't fair, but you can enjoy it anyway."
M: "But, I'm not enjoying this!"
A: "That's because you have a bad attitude. Good attitude, good day."
M: "I'm not having a good day, right now."
A: "You can control your attitude, M. You can just make it good and have a good day."
At this point M was really annoyed because A was actually teasing his little brother... Still, it was a cool dadly moment!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Rock skipping

An empty park with no ducks in range and a bunch of small rocks... perfect day to practice rock skipping! 

Here is a set of instructions from on rock skipping: 
1. Select a rock that's round, flat and smooth. 
2. Stand at the edge of a large, placid body of water.
3. Hold the rock horizontally - flat side down - with your index finger curling around one edge.
4. Aim the rock. Envision a convex arc a few inches above the water.
5. Throw the rock low and parallel to the water's surface. Throw sidearm so that your hand travels past your waist and the rock travels horizontally across the water. 
6. Release the rock with a snap of the wrist to give it a horizontal spin. Your elbow will be next to your hip as the rock leaves your hand.
7. Count the number of times the rock skips. 

  • Also, an interesting nerdly ninja info: 
    You can skip rocks on sand, but on sand, the stone will bounce twice between skips. On water, it only bounces once between skips. Why? 
    A high school student, Kirston Koths, came up with a solution in 1967: "It turns out that when a spinning stone comes into contact with a surface, the trailing edge usually strikes first. If the surface is hard, like packed sand, the stone tilts forward, the leading edge strikes again, and the stone takes off on the next skip.
    When a revolving stone hits a fluid surface, it behaves quite differently. When its trailing edge strikes, the stone doesn't tip forward. Instead, it tilts backward, causing a small wave to build up underneath it. After planing on this wave for a short distance, the stone then takes off again without the short hop that it takes on a dry surface."
  • Make Pizza! (simple method)

    Sure it's a bit messy, but making pizza is a lot of fun. I know some people are purists and would want to make the pizza dough from scratch. My little boys just do not have the attention span necessary for the long method, so we bought all the ingredients: pre-made pizza dough in a bag, tomato sauce, cheese, and meat toppings from Trader Joe's for about the cost of a large pizza from Papa John ($20). This project will take about 1 hour. Attention span requirement is only about 25 minutes.

    The instructions are very simple:
    (1) Remove pizza dough from bag, wait 20 minutes.
    (2) Make sure the boys wash their hands.
    (3) Have about 1/2 cup of flour and spread them all over the pan, dough, and kids' hands.
            - Make sure the dough, pan, and hands maintain the barrier of flour.
    (4) Start preheating the oven at 450 degrees F.
    (5) Let the kids have fun kneading the dough and spreading it on the pan.
            - Try not to help too much.
            - Keep a small amount of dough for "hole" repairs.
    (6) Spread tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings of their choice.
    (7) Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes.

    The pizzas turned out great!

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    Know the shows your kids watch

    My boy was having some problems with a bully in his school. He was very upset about something the bully did to him earlier today, and he really wanted to get him back tomorrow.

    The Sunday school lesson on the Golden Rule was probably not going to work, but when his little brother skipped around us with his toy Star Wars ship, a small light bulb turned on. I asked him if wanted to be like Anakin and turn into Darth Vader. He said, "No way." And, I was able to explain how Anakin wanted revenge on the Tusken Raiders... and gave into the dark side and turned into a really evil character. He said he'd rather be like Luke and Obi-Wan who did not give into hate. He got it!

    I added that sometimes bad guys are misunderstood and turn into good guys and even friends. Here I was able to use Ben10, a boy cartoon about battling space aliens. There was a delinquent character named Kevin who started out as a nemesis to the main character, Ben. Later on the series, Ben was able to relate to Kevin who turned out to be rough but a good person at heart. Kevin turns into one of the good guys. Again, my boy totally got this concept. Without the cartoons, I think it would have been much more difficult to explain these things.

    I've never seen an entire episode of Ben10, but I talk to the boys about it. They love telling me the stories and the characters. Sometimes it is much easier to use analogies from the TV shows to explain otherwise very difficult concepts. I think the key is tuning into what your kids are watching.

    Wisdom from the Dadly Ninja's Hero

    From my hero, a master of the dadly arts: 
    a few truths I have discovered over the years…

    1)      When they are young, their favorite thing in the world is to be with you….even if you are doing something relatively mundane.  Relish that.  You’re going to miss it when it goes away.
    2)      Every kid is different.  They each show their love in a different way, they have different passions and different things that cause them difficulty.  In many ways, you have to be a custom parent.
    3)      Try to have a family dinner every night.  It’s amazing how much it means to them (and to you).
    4)      Invest in their interests.  Dress dolls with your daughters, play video games with them, learn how to work their transformer toys. 
    5)      Find something that you are passionate about that they love too.  For me, this is camping.
    6)      Make sure they are accountable for their actions. 
    7)      I was spanked as a child, and I don’t have a problem with it, but I realized that if I was consistent with my rewards and punishments, I don’t ever have to spank my kids.  Which is good, because it’s kind of ironic to tell them, “Hey!  Don’t hit each other.”  And then you hit them for it as punishment (even if it’s on the butt).
    8)      Learn what they are learning.  It’s amazing how much I forgot about grade school, or cub scouts, etc.  I feel like I am getting a second education.  Plus, it’s a great thing to share with them.
    9)      Dance with your kids.  They love it, it’s great exercise, and then in Jr. High or High School when they go to their first dance, they aren’t going to wonder what to do.
    10)   Have pillow fights.
    11)   Take them to museums.  If they start thinking it’s boring, ask them to pretend that they won a prize, and the museum told them they could take one item home and keep it…ask them to choose what that would be.
    12)   When you fight with your spouse (c’mon, we all do sometimes), don’t hide it from the kids.  But, do it respectfully…no name calling, no “below the belt” shots.  Model for them how to properly resolve a conflict, compromise, etc..
    13)   Admit when you are wrong.  Especially to your kids. 
    14)   Teach sportsmanship – Insist that being a gracious winner and a gracious loser are both important. 
    15)   Read to your kids.  It’s a lot easier than chasing them around the house, and plus, you can cuddle with them at the same time.
    16)   Show them that you can laugh at yourself.
    17)   Get them hooked on your favorite music and favorite sports teams.  Don’t miss the window…brainwash them now!

    Saturday, April 30, 2011

    Wii teamwork training

    My boys love playing the Super Mario Brothers on the Nintendo Wii. However, they are usually screaming at each other within 15 minutes:
    "WAIT FOR ME!"
    "HURRY UP!"

    So, I started playing the game with them... as the Blue Toad. At first, I started leading them with strategy:
    "We need a penguin suit and a couple of propellers on this level."
    "One of the propellers has to stay back incase the first one gets lost..."
    "Luigi with the fire suit has to protect Mario with the penguin suit until Mario reaches the water."

    It was really fun to teach them what I know about defensive & offensive strategies in completing various levels, even the concept of sacrificing a character to achieve a goal. When I ask them, "Isn't it much easier to complete a level when you work as a team?" They answer, "YES!" The little one even added that some levels are impossible to do by yourself.

    After a while, I noticed that they were taking turns leading the team through the other levels and working together. "You're better with the propeller, so you take it."

    Old cameras at LEGOLAND

    We did something different at our most recent LEGOLAND trip:
    I gave my sons old digital cameras to take as many photos as
    they wanted.  Each boy took about 100 photos. 
    I was impressed with a large number of photos that the boys took.
    We went through the photos and discussed what was good,
    and what could be better for next time.  We liked the color on this one,
    but the frame could have moved a bit to the left. 
    Great perspective on this photo. 

    Nice ninja photo! 

    Cat's in the Cradle by Harry Chapin

    I found a good interpretation of the lyrics, but it was submitted anonymously, so sorry I can't properly give due credit: 

    "The son doesn't only represent the child. He also represents the family as a whole. The father is too busy with work and doesn't have the time to spend with his family. As the lyrics say "the cats in the cradle" - the family is at home - "and the silver spoon" which is a symbol of wealth the father has to earn. The "little boy blue" is the child that is sad because his father is away, while the father is represented by "the man on the moon" - the one far away who is unreachable, idealized by the child who sees the father as his male role model. So this is the metaphorical way of describing the pairs of opposition the song is talking about. The family which is in contrast to work and the sad and left-alone boy in contrast to his never-having-time-for-him father and role model." 


    dadly on Urban Dictionary

    in a satisfying and proud macho father like way.

    "deadly" in an acceptable, father like way.

    filled with father-like wisdom.

    effective and skillful.
    I felt especially dadly guiding the kids through the mountaineering route.

    That was a dadly way to handle the nasty ref.
    by dadlyman

    Enter the Dadly Ninja

    I am a father of 2 boys, and I am a ninja. This blog is about my dadly adventures. 

    I have considerable talents and skills. I bachelored and mastered ninjutsu at prestigious institutes. And, after working at a number of government and private organizations, I founded my own clan.

    I was working over 167 hours per week battling other evil ninja clans. After a few years of unceasing struggle, my wife opened my eyes to the reality of cats in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man on the moon…

    So, I made a vow that I will be a better father, and I have decided to keep myself accountable by sharing some of my adventures as a ninja dad. I hope some of my activities will help you become a dadly master, and you will share your dadly techniques with me.