lego-beethoven smackdown

Zack made this stop motion lego video for a music appreciation contest. There is a lead singer, a bass player, a lead guitarist, a drummer, a keyboard player, and 4 dancers. As far as concerts go, this is the real deal. Relative to his other homework projects, Zack put massive amounts of time and effort into this thing.
There were 2 entries in the 3rd grade division. Zack’s video, and a nicely done classic tri-fold display about Beethoven, with a picture and a typed up history. Beethoven won. Zack got second, or as he calls it, “last place.”

Now I have no business judging a music appreciation contest, but if I did… (cue the dad bias disclaimer…)
With all due respect to the judges, I say a lego stop motion video wins every time against a tri-fold display. No contest! Music is supposed to be fun. Tri-folds are un-fun. On principle alone, I would vote for the lego video. Even if it completely sucked. Even if it wasn’t my kid. Why? Because the idea is bold, it’s imaginative, it’s made with joy and a playful heart. It wasn’t created for somebody else. It’s a pure expression of a 9 year old’s creativity.
This is the stuff of musical genius. Beethoven didn’t have legos, but he did know this: music shouldn’t be “worked.” It should be played.

Rock on Zacky!


March 9, 2014 · 11:49 am

Be Here Now


Be 8 years old again, just for a minute, and tell me this isn’t paradise.

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A Life Well Lived

johnny brenanTwo years ago today, my good friend Johnny Brenan was killed in an avalanche while doing what he did best: Living.

Thanks buddy, for the simple, joyful, and brilliant inspiration. Miss you!

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Say It With Puppets

I just paid a grand total of $30 for a couple 30 second personalized puppet shows wishing Abby and Zack happy Valentine’s Day.

It’s probably one of the best presents I’ve ever given. I don’t know if that is good or bad. But I’m their dad and they’ve probably come to expect something like this from me.

And besides- Valentine’s Day is usually a bit frustrating for them anyway. In the tradition of Santa and the Easter Bunny, we have the Valentine’s Turtle visit our house every year. But turtles are slow and he always arrives a day late on the 15th. The kids think that sucks. But it’s a pretty good deal for the parents. By the time he gets here, Valentine’s candy is 50% off!


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chirp alert


behold the power!!!

Our smoke detector is an extortionist. If I don’t give it a 9 volt battery every 6 months, it will chirp whenever it freakin’ feels like it. And even if I take out the old battery, It just keeps chirping because it has a mysterious power source from some place else. What the hay??? I’d investigate if it weren’t for the fact that a guy like me has no business tinkering with the house’s electrical system- especially while simultaneously disarming the smoke alarm.  Whoever crafted this system is a safety genius.  A 9 volt battery is the only thing on my mind.

Dilemma: it’s midnight and we have a chirping smoke detector, but we don’t have any spare 9 volt batteries.
Solution: wear headphones
Catch 22: If the chirp is keeping anyone else in the house up, I should offer them headphones. But if they are asleep, then I’m the jerk who woke them up to ask them if that annoying sound was driving them crazy.

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THE SNOWFLAKE DIDN’T OPEN! THE SNOWFLAKE DIDN’T OPEN! I can’t believe the snowflake didn’t open. It didn’t open! It was supposed to but it didn’t. I’m stunned.

Im shocked. I’m speechless. My mind is both blank and abuzz. Four snowflakes turned into Olympic Rings. But one snowflake is still a snowflake!!!


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Tooth Hurty

What time was the kids’ dentist appointment today? 2:30. Yeah! Tooth hurty! How awesome is that?


Dr. Swanson really knows how to motivate kids to brush


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Superbowl Someday


Even shorts grow if you give them 35 years

The last time Seattle won a major sports national title, I was 9 years old. My dad had an apartment in Seattle, down by Greenlake, a tiny one bedroom place. I don’t really remember much of the game,  or any of it, except for the very last second, when Gus Williams bent his knees like a funky ballerina and threw the ball straight up in the air. Woop woop! Gonna take it to the hoop! (That was a sonics commercial back in the day.) Sonics are world champions!

So the game ended, and my dad turned off the tv and put a Doobie Brothers album on the record player while he got his shoes on. Then we walked down to Greenlake. Horns were honking like crazy. People were yelling out their windows. “NBA champs!” “Supersonics!” A guy passed us and told us the Sonics won, just in case we didn’t know what was happening. It was awesome. So cool to see everybody happy like that! To this day, I still love the Doobie Brothers, and it has everything to do with that day.

That was 1979! Who would have guessed that we’d still be waiting for another? Nonetheless, here we are, 35 years later. BUT… this time, I’m the dad, and I have my very own 9 year old boy. Just a coincidence? I hope not! In any case, I’ve got my itunes ready to blast out some vintage 35 year old Doobie Brothers.


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recess revisited

I wrote a couple posts back about the new recess program at our school. That post focused on where I saw the problem. This one is about where I would look for a solution.

Here’s the quick recap and current scoop- There is a new recess program at school, and I don’t like it. I blogged about it, the principal read it, and she invited me down to check out the program for myself.

There is one thing I regret- not going and seeing the program for myself before taking my complaints public. That’s like burping really loud at Applebees or something. Not very mindful, not very gracious. As it was, I misunderstood two of the rules I mentioned in the previous article, for which I’ve since written corrections. I apologize for that.

So we watched recess, the principal and I. Observed recess. Talked about recess. Discussed our philosophies about how to best promote the shared values of our school. We agreed on almost everything. Between the principal, the recess program, and me, we all sought to foster very similar values.

But it’s not the values I struggle with. I struggle with the underlying belief that guides the program’s implementation. They believe that kids need more adult involvement to protect them and help solve their problems. But there is such thing as too much safety.  Our kids don’t need bubble-wrap rules before going outside to play.

Kids are brilliant. They are flexible with their minds, their bodies, and their emotions. They are built to find creative solutions, to work their way out of tight spots, and to be passionate about stuff. That is where the solution lies. Let them solve the problems they create. How do kids learn to be tidy? By cleaning up their messes. How do students learn to solve problems on their playground? By building and maintaining a recess model of their own. (Check out this school’s bold solution to recess issues.)

Kids are highly capable of solving problems. I see this every time I am invited to do a writing workshop, with the end result always being a fun story. What’s the trick? Recognizing that my job is most definitely NOT to provide answers. My job is to ask the right questions. I don’t have to have all the answers. Collectively, they do. So the kids create characters, and problems, and clever solutions that I would be hard pressed to come up with on my own. Sometimes they create story problems that stress me out midway, testing my faith in my system. But they always find a way out. Always. And if kids can figure out how to get a duck out of jail using a raisin and a ladybug, I think they might have a few suggestions for making recess better.

***Update at our kids’ school-

The student who started the petition at our school, and some others who supported her, delivered her packet of signatures and quotes to the principal. The principal invited her in, listened to her concerns, and appointed her as the leader of a task force aimed at creating a better recess. And tomorrow morning, there is a question and answer session for parents who want to learn more about the recess program.

Awesome stuff! We now have 450 creativity machines, energized by this idea of taking part in creating a better recess. We have a supportive principal, committed to fostering the growth of kind, intelligent, and socially engaged students. And in the background, non-intrusively, there are families and friends in the community, cheering for our kids to succeed. Exciting stuff!



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Happy MLK day!

Check out the amazing artwork of Pete Fecteau. This is 4,242 Rubik’s cubes here. It took him 40 hours to complete. He says it like that’s a long time. But that’s over 100 an hour!!!

What a fantastic display of imagination and possibility!

(And a special thanks to Elizabeth Dulemba for sharing this!)


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