813 Gingerbread Lane

The kids and I built our annual gingerbread houses on Sunday, using gingerbread house kits from Wegman’s and candy from the remains of our Halloween horde. You can find the full photo gallery (with annotations) on Flickr. We built two houses, one for my six-year-old daughter StarGirl, and one for my three-year-old son, NeutronLad (with … Read more

The Secret of Game Night for Kids

My six-year-old daughter is a gamer. She’s had a Nintendo DS in her hands since she was three, and she’s been playing the Xbox 360 with me almost as long. She loves video games, and would play them every night (and every day) if she could, but we knew early on we’d need to set limits.

Since Stargirl was about four and a half, we’ve had Game Night twice a week. Game Night is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and lasts for one hour. She can play any game she wants — on the Xbox 360, on the DS, on my Mac, or even a good ol’board game (which she has occasionally chosen) — but she’s only got an hour.

Over the summer, we added a new wrinkle to Game Night: we take away minutes for bad behavior. Whining? Refusing to clean up your room? Yelling at your brother? Not putting your dirty laundry in the hamper? All these will cost her minutes on Game Night. She can earn these minutes back through good behavior.

Game Night’s worked out well. For one thing, it’s established clear limits on her gaming. She gets to play for two hours a week. She might get bonus game time on a Saturday night if the family decides to play the Wii, but that’s it. Game Night’s also gotten rid of the “when can I play my game?” whining that we had when she was four, and Game Night hadn’t been established yet. And it’s also helped with discipline.

How Not to Grow a Beard Month 2008

In addition to being National Novel Writing Month, November is  How Not to Grow a Beard Month, spearheaded by my friends Chris Miller and Kris Johnson (no doubt in a clever attempt to cover up a freak laser cannon malfunction in The Secret Lair. I attempted something last year during my own NaNoWriMo attempt; I … Read more

The Lexicon of NeutronLad

NeutronLad growing up fast, and quickly leaving behind his inventive toddler speech. I decided I better jot down some of his classic terms before we forgot them in the mad rush toward preschool. Fuffy: Sofa Brrff-Brrff: Make a raspberry sound twice in quick succession, and you’ll almost have Neutron’s original name for StarGirl Brrf-ordie: NeutronLad’s new name for StarGirl Tretrow: Grandma … Read more

Geek on the Water

An adult male and a young girl paddle in a canoe on a creek.

StarGirl and I went canoeing on the Bushkill River on Mother’s Day as part of an effort to get StarGirl, NeutronLad and our friends Jess and Dylan’s two-year-old twins used to the idea of being in a boat. We started off putting all four kids in the boat, and then Sue and Jess dragged them up and … Read more

StarGirl at Five

“How many Harry Potter movies are there?” StarGirl asks me from the back seat of the Wrangler as we drive around Easton. The question isn’t surprising; she’s just watched Chronicles of Narnia and has decided she’s ready to watch the first Harry Potter movie. “Well, there are seven books,” I said, “but there are going to … Read more

Impromptu Take Your Daughter to Work Day

My dad was a science teacher, and I spent many a day going to work with him, on Saturdays or summer days, while he set up his classrooms, rebuilt bulletin boards, and generally did teacher stuff. I have pleasant memories of wandering through empty schools, exploring new corridors, and taking the occasional break to draw … Read more

Nuclear Midnight is now 5 p.m.

I’d settled into a good routine. Get off work at 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., go to the gym, and then get home by 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. in time for dinner with the family. Take care of the kids – giving them baths and cleaning up the house – and help herd them into bed … Read more

Operation Zzz

I look like death warmed over. There are deep bags under my eyes, my neck muscles are vise-tight despite a massage on Saturday, and my face has that hang-dog, puffy look that comes from one too many nights spent sleeping far too little. This is actually an improvement. Things were worse in December and January, … Read more

The Day Before the Night Before Christmas

It’s the 23rd of December, which is a date my four-year-old is having a hard time grasping. She’s mentally willing for Christmas to be here tomorrow and the whole “Christmas Eve” thing just isn’t making sense to her. But she can tolerate Christmas Eve … it’s the Day before the Eve that’s really getting to … Read more