Education Activity: Croquet Party


This post is in partnership with to help combat the “summer slide” many kids experience between grades. Here is one activity you can do at home that is fun as well as providing an educational opportunity. You can find many more activities at

Croquet is a great game for improving hand-eye coordination. You can make your own inexpensive set at home using old boxes. While making his own croquet set, your kid will exercise his math and fine motor skills. Once he’s done, your little one will have a blast hitting a sponge ball into the tunnels.

What You Need:

  • Construction Paper
  • Glue stick
  • 10 medium size boxes
  • Scissors
  • Wrapping paper roll (or three paper towel rolls)
  • Toilet paper roll
  • Tape
  • Sponge ball

What You Do:

  1. Trace a tunnel shape on the long side of a box. Make sure the sponge ball fits! Then, carefully cut out with scissors.
  2. Explain to your child that now you’ll need to figure out how many circles he’ll need.
  3. Show him how to use addition to figure out how many circles to cut out from the construction paper. Since there are ten boxes, you will need to add all of the numbers 1-10 together to determine how many circles to make.
  4. Tell him that some circles can be larger and that these larger circles will go on the boxes that represent the smaller numbers (1-5) while other circles will need to be smaller so that they will all be able to fit on the boxes that represent the larger numbers (6-10).
  5. Glue one circle above the arch of the first box, two circles above the arch of the second box, and so on until you’ve assigned circles to all of the boxes.
  6. To make the mallet, have your child attach the toilet paper roll to the wrapping paper roll using tape. Make sure that the toilet paper roll is perpendicular (or forms an upside down ‘”T”) to the bottom of the wrapping paper roll. If you’re using paper towel rolls instead, tape them together so that they form one long roll.
  7. Put the boxes on the floor, in any arrangement your child wishes.
  8. Now it’s time to play! Encourage your child to use the mallet to hit the sponge ball through the boxes, beginning with the box with one circle and continuing to the other boxes in order.

Now have a croquet party! Buy some extra balls and ask parents to have their child bring some left over cardboard rolls. Children can decorate their croquet mallets with markers and stickers and take them home as party favors.

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Family Forest Fest Expands

The Family Forest Festival is coming and this year it is expanding to three locations.

What is the Family Forest Festival?

That was the question I had when I first heard about it. Apparently it started last year in Oregon as a way for families to get together outside. This year it is being held August 18-20 on Whidbey Island in Washington, September 8-10 in Alsea, Oregon (a bit south of Portland) and September 22-24 close to Dayton, Ohio.

Families can camp in a secure setting with their kids and not worry about much because everybody else there is camping with their families. But that’s only the beginning. There will be a stage with kid friendly performances, hikes, classes and more. Attendees will find field games and activity booths among the offerings to keep people occupied during the day.

Early bird tickets are sold out, but there are still regular price tickets available. Adults are $145, kids ages 7-17 are $10 and under 7 are free. The service fee changes depending on which state/festival you are going to attend (taxes, laws and regulations, etc.).

There is a lot of information available at the website as well as on their facebook page.


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Music Monday: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Box

As a present to myself I cashed in some of my Best Buy certificates and picked up the 5th anniversary edition of The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Sure, I have the album on vinyl, and on CD in both the stereo and mono box sets, so I really didn’t need to pick this ub, but then again, Yes, I did.

Alright, so the remastering itself is not what got me to spend the money. And it was not a small amount. Having the albums remastered (again) in both stereo and mono may be great for some but I can live with the mixes in the 2009 box sets. Then again, let’s see what I say about that after I listen to the (slightly) older versions and these newer ones in a comparative setting.

What piqued my interest was the three discs of extra material. Alright, so it’s actually 4, but I’m not including the DVD because the Blu-ray includes the same material. This six disc release of the album includes a new stereo mix on one  disc, a new mono mix on another (with a few bonus tracks), two discs of outtakes, and then a video disc that is duplicated on DVD and Blu-ray.

Some of the material on the two discs of bonus material has been made available on the 1996 compilation Anthology 2, but now there’s a much more complete and almost comprehensive set of sonic vignettes that help the listener find out how the album came together.

On the DVD or Blu-ray disc we get a 5.1 surround sound mix of the album (which seems superfluous to me) and the promotional videos for “A Day In The Life”, “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” plus the 1992 documentary Making Sgt. Pepper (which, if I remember correctly was made for BBC television and runs just under an hour).

I have not listened to any of the discs, but I am eager to do so. Actually, and I know this is not going to be optimal conditions, but, I am going to listen to the box set on my way to vacation. We are driving to the Oregon coast and have a lengthy drive which is perfect for such an endeavor.

Since I am not listening to the album yet and can not give an opinion on its contents, I did however record my initial impressions upon opening the box set.

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Working Out With The Alarm

This is sort of a follow-up to my post a month ago about my attending City Cycle Seattle for spin classes. And not. In a way. It is also about smoke alarms.

Let me explain. Sort of.

Well, I have been going regularly to the 5:30 am classes and it is a challenge. Sure, getting up in the morning is tough, but that’s not really my personal barrier to overcome.

What I am finding by going regularly to spin class is that when I have to think about the rhythm, I can not keep it. I’m sure some of my former band-mates would say it was always a challenge for me, but that’s for a different time. Another issue I face is that I have never been particularly fast or strong. This means my legs just won’t go at the speed or power everybody else is – well, I’m assuming because I have my eyes closed most of the time what with it being so early in the morning.

So there I am, most mornings at 5:30, barely awake, and as out of shape as I am in, struggling to keep up with … well, just struggling.

Today? Oh, man, today was difficult, and for a different reason.

When we remodeled our house (a lengthy series of posts I neglected to do) one of the things done was to connect the smoke detectors to the house’s electrical wiring. This means if one of the smoke detectors is triggered, all of them would be. This is a great feature in a multi-story house like ours. If a fire breaks out in a room upstairs it could be a while before the downstairs smoke detector goes off waking whoever is sleeping in the downstairs bedrooms.

Yeah, it’s great, until one of them gets a low battery at 2:30 in the morning.

So all the smoke alarms start going off at a ridiculous time, startling if not outright scaring everybody. I immediately determine it is a low battery issue and start (figuratively) ripping the alarms off the ceiling. That means going into each bedroom upstairs where Tevye and Grace are sleeping. If they somehow managed to sleep through that first barrage of beeps they were fully awake when I burst in to take down the smoke alarm.

Finding each of the eight different connected smoke alarms was more of a challenge than you might think, and not because of the hour and elevated sense of panic. And of course getting them down was difficult because of the adrenaline running through me, as well as not having the luxury of finding, then taking the step ladder around to each smoke alarm. I had to be acting fast to find and disconnect them from the ceiling so I wound up having to stand on my toes to do so.

Even more bothersome was how after being disconnected from the house wiring and having the battery taken out one or two of them would STILL chirp.

I don’t know what time it was when I finally got back in bed. Laura dealt with Tevye and Xavier while I got Grace back to sleep. Getting back to bed of course did not mean getting back to sleep right away.

Fast forward not too much later. There I am in spin class and before I even get on the bike my calves are sore and I’m tired – more so than usual.

There I am, tired and sore, already unable to keep the rhythm and coordination of the class, but I don’t stop. Today was tough, I’m not going to lie. I didn’t sweat nearly as much as I usually do, mostly because my body just wouldn’t move. It was frustrating.

Back at it tomorrow.

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Music Monday: Poptone

I have touched on the music of Bauhaus and Love And Rockets before, but one band that also shares band members with the other two I have not yet talked about – Tones On Tail. Guitarist Daniel Ash and drummer Kevin Haskins went from Bauhaus to Tones On Tail with another bass player, then reformed with Bauhaus bassist David J. to form Love And Rockets. I became acquainted with Love And Rockets first in 1987. From there I became acquainted in almost equal measure from friends who were “in the know” at the time to both Bauhaus and Tones On Tail. Bauhaus got the lion’s share of attention, but I was always drawn to Tones On Tail more as I found it more interesting, musically.

Tones On Tail was a short-lived band, and I never thought I would get to hear any of those songs live. Now Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins have gotten together again to bring their old music back to life. Recruiting Kevin’s daughter on bass (not merely a nepotistic move, she has had her own music career already) gave the two license to visit any track from their past to perform live rather than resurrect one band exclusively. And Poptone was formed.

As soon as I heard Poptone was coming to Seattle I jumped at the chance to get a ticket. I never thought I would hear Tones On Tail songs performed, so this was a show I was looking forward to.

I arrived at the venue just as the opening band started. POW! sounds like they could have opened up for DEVO back in 1981, so naturally I liked them. They don’t seem to have an official website but do have a Facebook page. It is kind of hard to tell in the picture, but the drummer is wearing a dog collar. Definitely an early new wave/punk aesthetic going on. The music is very quirky, heavy on the electronics despite the electric guitar. This is a band I want to check out some more.

Poptone came out and did not disappoint. Leaning heavily on Tones On Tail material, there was a good sampling of a few lesser played Love And Rockets numbers as well. Those expecting a set heavy on Bauhaus were disappointed, but I certainly was not. There were a few Love And Rockets numbers performed I did not hear when I saw the band in 1989, which was a nice treat, but it was the Tones On Tail tunes that were the main draw – at least for me.

Songs originally by Tones On Tail such as “Ok, This Is The Pops” and “Happiness” were all well recieved, and while I expected more Love And Rockets numbers, I was happy they kept the selection short (though they did play one of my favorites – “No Big Deal”).

Daniel Ash has aged well, but I must say Kevin Haskins looks like a leading man. He has aged really well and my pictures just don’t do him justice. I could easily see him as the star of some film. Not really sure shy I’m bringing this us. I do have to say I have a greater appreciation for Kevin’s role in things. When I saw Bauhaus and Love And Rockets I wasn’t in a position to see much of what he was doing behind the drum kit. This time, however, I was able to watch him as he handled not only the drums but a number of samples and extraneous bits of electronic sound as well. he had the energy of a drummer a third his age.

I left the venue satisfied that I got what I paid for and expected. The Tones On Tail numbers sounded great, some of the Love And Rockets tunes were pleasantly unexpected, and the whole set was light on Bauhaus (only one if I remember correctly).

I don’t know if Poptone will record an album or do much of anything beyond its current plans for touring. Whatever the future holds for them I will be keeping myself appraised.

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Latest Fair Musical Announcements

I know I’m running late with these last two announcements, but as I have mentioned before, I have been a bit busy.

First, a free (with gate admission) show is taking place on September 4 that celebrates the music of the region with Heart by Heart, The Spazmatics and Randy Hansen. Locals know Randy Hansen as the premier Jimi Hendrix  tribute act (and officially sanctioned by the Hendrix estate). The Spazmatics celebrate the 80s with a set of new wave music. Heart by Heart features original band members Steve Fossen on bass and Michael Derosier on drums.

Then on September 11 Melissa Etheridge takes the stage. The Grammy winner is touring behind her 2016 album Memphis Rock & Soul.

As always you can head over to for all the latest information and tickets.


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My Problem With The 2017 Mariners Kids Club

I have been a vocal proponent of the Mariners Kid’s Club for years. It has been a good deal and while almost every MLB team has some form of Kids Club the Mariners have had one of the best. Last year the addition of the a free version it felt unnecessary, but I understand the use of it and the paid version was still a great deal.

This year is very different. There is still the free version which gets kids a drawstring backpack a wiffle ball (which I could do without), which is nice, but it is the paid version which we have gotten in years prior which has proven to be well worth the purchase.

If you have been reading my blog over the last few years you know that I take my kids to the Mariners games by myself. This is an important fact to note because it is going to come up. The kids love going to the Mariners games. A day at the ballpark usually means getting to hang out, have fun, watch baseball, eat some fun foods, and generally spend some real good quality time together.

One of the big features of the paid version of the Mariners Kids Club is the ticket voucher. In years past I would take the vouchers to the box office pay for my ticket and use the vouchers to get the kids their tickets. This year it was different. I having trouble finding the games to attend that would fit into our busy schedule – what with most of the weekend games taken out of consideration by the Mariners.

Xavier’s Little League had a deal to get a group rate for a game so we went and had a great time. Xavier spent the whole game a couple of rows above us sitting next to his friends and team mates. He had the best time of us all. Ciaran, Dela and I also had a great time, it was a roller coaster of a game, and I wish August had been able to make it (we had a ticket for him but he was at a friend’s birthday party).

While I was at the game I took the opportunity to go to the box office to purchase the tickets for the rest of the season. I had the Kids Club vouchers, a list of dates, and was told I would not be able to purchase the tickets.


I would be required to purchase a full-priced ticket for each voucher ticket.

Wait a minute. This has never come up before. Every year I have purchase my ticket at full price then used each of the kids’ vouchers to get their discounted ticketed, and have never had to purchase one full price ticket per Kids Club voucher ticket. Over the last few years I have gone to the Safeco Field box office and the Team Store in Lynnwood to purchase my tickets and have never had a problem.

Not this year.

I was told I would need to purchase a full price ticket for each Kids Club voucher ticket.

This was the first time this has happened and I was puzzled. So I did what I never thought I would do – I went to complain.

I went to the front desk of operations at Safeco Field to make my complaint in person. Somebody came down, wrote my concerns, and was really nice about the whole thing. One of the concerns I raised was the understanding that there might be a shift in policy to require a full-price ticket purchase for each Kids Club voucher ticket, but what happens when a couple has three children?

The issues I raised regarding the Kids Club were not just for me but for all families. If there was confusion on our part, a family that has participated in the Kids Club program for a few years, then I’m sure there are others out there who are also concerned and affected.

While the person who took my complaint wasn’t the one who was actually responsible for handling the issue she promised somebody would contact me soon this matter. A couple of days later I got the following email:

Excuse me?

What about answers to the questions I raised?

As it stands I am out the money for the Kids Club memberships that are nice, what with the winter cap and Moose bobblehead, but the main reason for spending the money is the ticket voucher which is the only way we manage to attend as many games as we do.

I wrote a few years ago “It’s easy to root for the Mariners when they are doing well, and a lot of fans turn their back and say nothing when the team does poorly. At least we never turn our back on the Mariners.”

It seems now that the Mariners aren’t doing so poorly they are making it more difficult to be a fan by turning their backs on families.

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The 2017 Cheerios Challenge Is Underway

Last year, sort of out of the blue, the Cheerios Challenge was born. For those not aware it was simply stacking individual Cheerios on a sleeping baby and taking a picture of the result, seeing who could get the highest or most outrageous stack.

This year things are different. The Cheerios Challenge is now an official event with prizes to be won. By taking pictures of your own stack and sharing on social media with the hashtags #CheeriosChallenge and #StackingSweepstakes you could win a Father’s Day trip to the Mall of America.

Official rules can be found here:

Cheerios Challenge #StackingSweepstakes Official Rules

This picture is just me practicing my stacking “skills” before moving on to some bigger and potentially messier situations. Share yours on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.


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Metal Machine Music (Lou Reed – Artist Of The Year Part 7)

This is a gloriously difficult album to listen to.

And part of what I like about it is that it is intentionally designed to be difficult.

I can’t even post one of the tracks here as an example of what this album sounds like because each of the four tracks are 15 minutes in length.

Lou Reed was mad in the first part of 1975. His previous album, Sally Can’t Dance, was a hit but he was unhappy with how it sounded. How much control did he have over the production may be up for debate, but ultimately his role in the production of that album was, either through his own design or dictated by outside forces, lessened to a greater degree than on previous albums. It was not the success of the album that upset Lou Reed, it was the actual album itself.

Since Sally Can’t Dance was a hit, his record label pressured Lou Reed to quickly make a follow-up for release.

Ask and ye shall receive.

The record label was unhappy with what Lou Reed submitted, but the contract was such they had to release whatever album was submitted, even it if would be a double album of noise and feedback.

Lou Reed took a much more active role in the production of each subsequent album throughout the rest of his career. Some he would produce himself, other he would co-produce. But that’s not the story here.

Metal Machine Music is many things. To critics it was a message that he wasn’t going to be forced into any particular category. To his record label it was a signal that he would do things his own way. To fans it was a warning to expect the unexpected.

Original copies of the album are difficult to find as it was pulled shortly after it was released. His record label was so mad it dropped Lou Reed after the contract was  fulfilled as the next album was released.

Do I like Metal Machine Music? Is it enjoyable to listen to? Is it a good album?

Is Metal Machine Music merely a novelty?

I have no answers to any of those questions. I will say this – I have played the album a few times recently as background “music” for when I am doing something which requires more of my attention than song lyrics.

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Phamily Foto Phriday 5-26-17 (Catching Up Edition Part 1)

I mentioned there haven’t been any posts because I’ve been busy, right? Let’s take a look at what has been going on.

We start off with a couple shots of what my day typically consist of – such as Tevye doing some “work” in the mornings.

Later he takes an order of what people want for dinner.

August let him get into his clothes (the jacket is part of his 9th Doctor outfit).

While getting ready for bath time I walked into our bedroom to see Xavier attempting to entertain grace by rhythmically slapping his belly.

August participated in a robotics afterschool program which culminated in a sort of exposition of several school showing off their projects.

Oh that horse in front of Fred Meyer is fun.

Not just by the youngest.

No, really, it’s fun.

T-ball is almost over, but here is Xavier at bat in one of the final games.

Tevye has been trying to help wash his little sister lately.

And he loves going through the car wash.

Ciaran went through his belt test and has advanced to yellow belt. And yes, that’s a sai.

Here is August at the state capitol on the 7th grade trip.

I went up to get Tevye up from nap a couple of days ago and found him like this.

Finally, while walking around and doing some errands I ran into Xavier playing kickball during recess. The kid has a leg on him.

I have plenty of other posts I need to get up, such as the various activities of Cub/Boy Scouts, birthdays, the Mariners and that 7th grade Washington state trip.


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