In my ongoing series of articles about great podcasts, I’d like to take a moment and write about Ungeniused. This twice-monthly podcast is pretty short in length, about 12-15 minutes per episode and is all about the weirdest articles found on Wikipedia. It is hosted by Stephen Hackett and Myke Hurley, the co-founders of Relay FM, which is one of my favorite podcast networks with numerous great shows.
Ungeniused is a great show for those that like odd and strange bits of information and the hosts work wonderfully together. They are clearly good friends off-air and this shows through in their easy banter. Each episode focuses on one article that they choose beforehand and then they simply talk about the things that they find interesting about it. It is very easy to listen to, is quite family friendly in my experience and I think kids 10 and up would find it quite engaging. It would be a great fit for driving in the car or even to break up a homeschooling day with the kids.
One of my favorite episodes that they’ve done is Episode #30 Bat-Bombs, Pigeon-Guided Missiles & More. This episode was about various military projects during World War 2 and how they turned out. It was quite interesting but also very strange that these projects almost took flight (pun intended). I heartily recommend the show and feel it would add something new and delightful to your day.
Haka Hadoween everybody! When one of the kids was little, they couldn’t say “Happy Halloween” correctly and it came out “Haka Hadoween.” From then on, we say it at least a hundred times every October and it brings us joy every time.
We survived it. I say “survived,” not as a play on Halloween themes, but because a couple of the kids were struggling with colds leading up to the day which is never fun. Additionally, Boy Wonder had major ostomy bag issues during the two nights before October 31st, resulting in sheets needing to be washed, bags needing to be changed and sleep being lost. In spite of all this and the normal stressors of homeschooling life, Halloween went off great.
The three younger ones all had homemade costumes completed in time, by mom and they looked amazing. They each had a clear idea of what they wanted to be and it was neat to hear their choices. Boy Wonder wanted to be Green Arrow, likely because he had this cool bow and arrow set that lit up with green LED lights and it looked great walking around the neighborhood in the dark. G-man wanted to be a pumpkin for some reason and if you look at him, he really is built to be a pumpkin. Lil Bit wanted to be a bat. Not the superhero, Batgirl, but the flying rodent. Also not sure the reasoning behind it, we were just glad she didn’t want to do a princess again. Peanut went her own way and bought a raccoon onesie from the store and wore that while trick-or-treating with friends.
This was the first year that she went with friends instead of staying with the family. I guess she has finally reached that age where that is going to be the norm. It made us a little sad but we remember being her age and how fun that was so we let it happen. The rest of us stopped by a trunk-or-treat that was down the street but after standing in line for five minutes, we bailed and hit the streets instead.
That was probably the last time we will even consider a trunk-or-treat as they are just lame. I mean, I don’t want the kids doing the whole cattle line, shuffling forward a few feet at a time, in this quest for precious candy. By the end of the night, they had done much better by knocking on doors and they got the wonderful experiences and memories that come with that. Plus, I know all the people behind those doors that answered the ringing doorbell were overjoyed that kids were keeping the tradition alive. We saw more kids and families walking the neighborhood this year than we have seen in years and that was awesome. So until next year, Haka Hadoween!
Earlier today, I was struck by this Tom Waits quote that I stumbled across.
[su_quote]We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. We are monkeys with money and guns.[/su_quote]
Tom Waits is an acclaimed musician, songwriter, and actor and this quote offers an interesting insight into life in our modern age. When I read it, I think about what our responsibilities are as parents. It is part of our job as parents to teach our kids the value of knowledge, of sifting through the avalanche of information that the internet gives them access to. in order to find what matters. We need to teach them the critical thinking skills to help them to not be so easily swayed by “news” and social media.
By doing this, our children will be much more valuable to society for they will stand out among their peers. They will see the truth for what it is. They will see the value in experiences and relationships over material possessions. They won’t just be monkeys with money and guns.
This is a series of pictures that were taken by mom of Peanut doing what she loves. Art has come naturally to her as neither of us as her parentals have this talent. But, along with the gift has come the desire to work at it. She is ALWAYS drawing, painting, creating. We often have to tell her to stop just so she can get some other school work in. Will this lead to a future career one day? I don’t know and I don’t think it really matters. What matters is that she is working hard at developing her skills and that can apply to any future career. In the meantime, we are just going to appreciate the gift that she is to us.
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Our son Micah, also known as Boy Wonder, was born with a condition called Hirschsprung’s Disease. This a birth defect that affects one in five thousand births. The Cliff Notes explanation of his version of the disease is that more than half of his large intestine did not have the nerve cells that move stool along and out of the body. He had to have this portion of his colon removed and the remaining bit reattached in a surgery called a pull through. He had this surgery at 3 days old.
From this point to now, the disease has been there, altering the course of his life and ours. He has struggled with many side effects, including bleeding rashes, lack of control over his bowels, major diet restrictions and dehydration among others. Through it all, he has fought with a cheerful determination and faith. However, we have always desired better for him and so, after many tests and scans and consultations, as a family we decided to essentially wipe the slate clean and start over. About a month ago, Micah had a complete revision of his pull through. The doctor cleaned out a lot of scar tissue during a seven and a half hour surgery and decided to go with a colostomy to allow his colon to fully heal.
This was not what any of us hoped for but we are adjusting to a new normal, for now. The ostomy is only temporary, and he is healing nicely. There have been some advantages for him along with the challenges. He can pretty much eat what he wants, including fruits that have been heavily restricted before and even sweets and candy, in moderation. He is no longer chained to the bathroom and has more freedom as a result.
Looking forward, we do not know what things will be like. The plan is to reverse the colostomy once he has healed sufficiently and then see if he has the control we hope for. What we do know is that this has given him the best opportunity for that and everything else is in God’s hands. In the days leading up to his surgery, we asked Micah if he was nervous and his response was typical for him. He said “No, I’m not worried. God’s got me.” And so, this is how we face the future. God has us.
YouTube. What a blessing and what a curse it is, all at the same time. It gets used a lot around here and by a lot, I mean, way too much. When used appropriately, it can be a valuable tool in our education toolkit. Unfortunately, it is the non-educational usage that has been causing problems in our house. Whether it is video game gameplay videos with coarse language, comedy videos with crude jokes, top ten lists with “sexy” content or who knows what else, it is definitely a brave new world out there for us parents. Additionally, we have found YouTube to be one of the toughest sites/apps to manage with parental controls. So, be aware and use with care.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about YouTube Red. This is a relatively new offering from YouTube that offers ad-free video watching along with a growing library of original content that you cannot access via the normal, free YouTube. Pricing is set at $9.99 per month for an individual account and $14.99 a month for a family account with up to 5 users. As a side benefit, you also get access to the Google Play Music service included in that price which could be a huge benefit, depending on the user. For us, this may replace Spotify if we are pleased with it overall, saving us that subscription fee.
We have been seeing ads for this service pretty regularly, but have resisted the service, until now. Until the end of October, Google is offering YouTube Red free for three months and you can cancel it at any time. This was just too good to pass up so we signed up and have really been enjoying what the service offers. First of all, no ads on any videos. That’s just great because who really enjoys sitting through those pesky pre-roll videos. Secondly, there are a number of shows on Red that have caught our attention. For example, we were able to use Mind Field by Vsauce as part of school today with our 13-year-old and she was chattering about all she had learned for hours afterward. Finally, the added benefit of the Play music service is a great way to sweeten the pot. The ability to stream or download millions of songs and curated playlists makes it a worthy successor to other music services, and it’s included for free with YouTube Red.
Is it worth it? The short answer is yes, especially with the free 3-month trial that they are running right now.
Earlier today, our now seven-year-old son slipped away from his chores for a moment to his room. He then reappears with his “Death Trooper” (Star Wars) mask on and his little four year old sister looks at him and asks “Are you Darth Vader?”
G-man: “No I’m not.”
Willow: “Oh, then you are Jim Vader?”
W: “Death Chooper?”
Well, this went on for awhile and the take away for me was, who the heck is Jim Vader? Is that Darth’s kinder, gentler brother?
Let’s jump in the DeLorean and go back in time. Back to the days of those great old-timey radio shows like the Shadow, Suspense and Superman. I can imagine my parents and grandparents huddling around the family radio, enjoying the weekly broadcasts. These shows used voice actors, great sound effects and music to create movies for the ears. They were immensely popular and were a great, creative way that the technology of the time was used to entertain audiences around the country.
When television began to replace radio as the preferred way of getting entertainment in the home, these radio shows and dramas went the way of the dodo. Now, I am happy to report, audio dramas are making a huge comeback in the form of podcasts and full cast audiobook recordings. I have introduced my kids to some of the more “family-friendly” offerings and they are hooked. One such show is the one I am going to talk about today. It is a podcast called The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel and all of us, from mom and dad to the four year old, love it.
There are currently two full seasons of shows, each consisting of about ten main episodes and some additional extra episodes that help flesh out the story. Title character Mars Patel and a group of friends are middle-school aged kids working to solve a mystery. I won’t say more than that because I don’t want to spoil anything. The story is a bit science fiction and a bit suspense thriller and it all comes together in a crazy, haywire mashup that causes begging for more after each episode. Along with a full cast of voice actors, the show features amazing sound effects and music that hit all the right notes for the listener.
One of the coolest things about the show is that all the characters that are kids are cast by voice actors that are also kids. This adds authenticity to the show and made it all that more appealing. One other thing that I heard just this past week is that the show has been optioned for a TV show so we may get to see these characters that came to life in our ears, on a TV one day soon. That has to be an unusual occurrence in the world of podcast entertainment. We cannot wait for Season 3 to come along but the good thing is, I have found other great audio dramas to listen to while we wait. Give it a listen as you can find it on iTunes or on your podcast listening app of choice.
Names. You know, those words that others use to refer to us. We all have at least the one that our parents gave us and as we go through life, we gain others. Nicknames, pet names, and sometimes even just initials or sounds do the job. I’ve been called many things in my life. My parents named me Aaron and when I was in trouble, it was Aaron WILLIAM! By the time I made it to school, I was given other names such as AC, Cravester and Ace because kids are kids and they can’t leave a perfectly good name alone. Many others have come and gone over the years and I’ve responded to them all. They were my names, after all.
Which brings us to today and the names that I am called now. Although for some reason, it sounds odd to hear it out loud. I think maybe it is because I am called a few other names far more often these days. Dad is one of them. I love that name. I also am quite particular to Daddy and much less so, Father. My very favorite version of this name, however, is Dada. Particularly when my daughters say it. If they only knew how that particular version of my name tugged at my heart, they would use it to manipulate me. So, keep it to yourself so I have a chance to resist their charms.
Which brings us to my last name that I hear on a regular basis. This one is absolutely my favorite and the one that I am most proud of. Babe. Babe is the name that SHE calls me. She uses it so often that even our children use it to get my attention and it always, always, brings a smile to my face. The reason it makes me smile is that it is the name my wife chose for me and those names are the most special ones. The names that reflect the love of those who created them.
Roman Mars is the host and creator of one of my favorite podcasts, 99% Invisible. This podcast is all about seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary things around us. He did a TED Talk that I just came across back in 2015 and it is fantastic. It is all about city flags. Yes, city flags. I didn’t even know cities had their own flags but apparently, many do. Mr. Mars emphasizes design in most of of what he covers and that passion for design and gift for humor come out in this very entertaining talk, entitled “Why City Flags May be the Worst-Designed Thing You’ve Never Noticed.”
Perhaps my home city should watch and make some “adjustments” to it’s city flag. I am guessing that we never see around town because, really, it is pretty embarrassing.