Dadography | The art and technique of being a dad

As experienced in the suburbs of Seattle

You Have Yellow Teeth (and other things your kids will tell you)

Posted by Suburban Dad on July 21, 2009

Yellow TeethOne of the things that I enjoy about kids is that they have not yet developed their filters. You know, the kind of filters that keep us from telling someone the truth for fear of how it might be received or make the other person feel about themself. However, as much as I enjoy this characteristic, it can also be very humbling when you are on the receiving end of a statement like, “you have yellow teeth”. This is one that my six year old son shared with me the other day. Of course, my first reaction is to feel defensive and explain to him how I used to smoke while I was in college and how all of the coffee that I drink on a daily basis probably doesn’t help either. Instead, I smiled in the mirror and have to agree with them. I don’t know if they are yellow but they certainly aren’t white. As a matter of fact, I have often made fun of them myself. Especially when I see how they turn out in photographs. I’ve been known to say things like, “they look like they’re from an exhumed corpse” or “it looks like my mouth is full of candy corn”. You know, things like that.

The other day during a snuggling session, he asked me, “why do you have so many hairs inside your nose and I don’t have any”. These are automatic conversation starters and provide the context to describe how each of us is unique. Can you imagine though if these questions were asked of you by another adult or a complete stranger? You would probably feel offended, defensive and somewhat humiliated. However, when it’s your own child that asks this type of question, there is something endearing about it because you realize that despite these astute observations and comments, they still consider you their hero and they love you no matter what.

So, do you feel comfortable enough to share some of the things that your child has commented on regarding your apprearance or physical make up?

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Ooma Hub – How to Save Money on Your Monthly Budget

Posted by Suburban Dad on July 21, 2009

Ooma Hub Although I don’t consider myself cheap, I’m certainly aware of our monthly expenses and how our paycheck is being spent each month. We are a family of five on a single income and if we do not carefully budget our expenses and manage our spending, our bank account can get in a precarious position relatively quickly. Usually, on a quarterly basis, I’ll evaluate our monthly spending and try to identify areas where we can cut back on our expenses.

One area that has received some of my attention lately was our phone bill. I am fortunate that my cell phone expenses are covered by my work. My wife is currently locked in to a contract with AT&T and has the high monthly bill that is required of all iPhone enthusiasts. At one point we considered relying solely on our mobile phones and getting rid of our land line at home however, our cell coverage is spotty at best in our neighborhood so we’ve maintained a land line at home as well.

Back in 2006, we become Vonage customers and have been very happy with their VOIP service. At only $24.99 per month, it was less expensive than the traditional carriers and was certianly cheaper than the solution provided by our cable and broadband provider even if we did bundle it with our other products. Well, we recenly cancelled our Vonage service and have installed an Ooma Hub. You know the old saying that sometimes you have to spend money to save money? Well that is the approach that I have taken by adopting Ooma in place of Vonage for our Internet based phone service. For an upfront investment for the hardware (Ooma Hub), combined with your existing high-speed internet connection and home phones, you receive free calling within the U.S. as well as the other features I was accustomed to using with my Vonage service. Things like voicemail (including notifications sent via email and/or SMS messaging), caller ID, call forwarding, etc. Now here’s the beauty of it all; after you purchase the hardware, there are no monthly fees. That’s right. No more monthly phone bills. This means that for most people, the upfront cost of the device pays for itself in six to nine months. And after that, you are saving the equivalent of your monthly phone bill each month. Next year, we stand to save about $360 in phone expenses.

Although you can get the Ooma Hub directly from the vendor, I purchased mine from Amazon for a significant savings. It arrived in two days and I had it set up and working within about five minutes. It was really that easy. For an additional fee of $39.99, you can have your existing number ported over. It’s still too early to offer an unqualified recommendation but so far so good. After using it for a few months, I will offer a more comprehensive review. For now, I’m looking forward to not getting a phone bill next month. Now I need to figure out where to either spend or invest that extra $30 per month that will soon be available to us.

Are there any cost-saving measures or decisions that you have made lately that has had an impact on your family budget? Please share.

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How to Claim Your Blog for Technorati

Posted by Suburban Dad on July 16, 2009

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How to limit screen time during the summer – A parenting tip

Posted by Suburban Dad on July 16, 2009

screen time for kidsLimiting my children’s screen time (TV, computer, video games, etc.) is a year round goal for me. However, during the summer time when the kids are out of school and have more free time on their hands, it becomes especially challenging.  So, rather than get in to daily debates and verbal wrestling matches with a six year old, five year old and three year old, I had to find a creative and effective way to set daily expectations about how much screen time is allowed.

Now, some of you may not allow any screen time. In a way I envy you. There is a part of me that wishes I had the determination to enforce that in my home. My ideal scenario is no TV with the exception of a weekly family movie night. However, my chances of pulling that off are relatively slim. You see, now that they have had a taste of the nougaty goodness that is children’s television, it will be hard to wean them. Do you realize how many times during the course of a day my son will share some cool little tidbit and when I ask him how he knows it his reply is invariably, “I saw it on Arthur“.

So, what I’ve come up with is a way to not only limit the amount of time they spend in front of the screen but also a way to teach them to manage their budget of available screen time on a daily basis. At the beginning of each day, I hand out their screen time tickets. Since I’m not that creative, I didn’t make my own but instead purchased a couple different colored roll tickets. I assigned a value of 30-minutes of screen time to each ticket. It is then their job to decide how they would like to use their tickets. I find that this makes them very selective regarding their screen time consumption. It’s also a very tangible and practical way for young children that are still learning the concept of time to understand that unless you have a ticket to turn in, you don’t get to watch TV, play on the computer, or use the Wii.

As an added incentive to limit their screen time, I’ve also established a system that allows them to turn in their un-used screen time tickets and once they reach a certain amount, they get to take a trip to the bookstore and turn in their tickets for a new book that they get to pick out. This incentive has been a big hit and actually leads to a further reduction in screen time because rather than turning in tickets to watch TV in the evening, they would rather have me read their books to them. A win-win.

Of course, the other component to limiting screen time is making sure that the kids have enough summer time activities planned and even more importantly, plenty of opportunities for free play time. I’ll talk more about that in a future post.

So, anyone else out there have any other strategies or suggestions for limiting the amount of screen time your kids consume?

Posted in Children's Television, Parenting Tips | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

To Blog or Not to Blog – That is the Question

Posted by Suburban Dad on July 15, 2009

At least, it’s the question that I posed to myself while I was going through the WordPress sign up process. Why should I start a blog? What do I have to say? Do I even have time to maintain a blog? To be honest, I don’t have a good answer for any of those questions. So, I choose to respond with a question of my own (well, I guess technically, all the preceeding questions have been my own but since you are not really here, I’ll continue to play along) – why not start a blog? Since I couldn’t come up with a good answer to that question either, I decided to take the plunge.

Let me make this clear right from the start. As I initiate this blog, I don’t expect anyone else (with the exception of my wife) to ever see this blog. However, I intend to write as if it actually does have an external audience. I figure if I do it that way, it will help keep me honest and motivated to maintain the site.

What can you expect from my drivel? Mostly just my observations of the minutia of my day to day life here in the suburbs of Seattle as I try to figure out this whole husband, father, son, brother, employee, friend, neighbor, church member thing. I anticipate that the majority of the material will come from my kids. That is what has really encouraged me to start this blog. I realized that my children have offered me far too many precious moments and quotes throughout their short years that I have failed to capture in a journal of any sort and I would at some point like to reflect back on them for old times sake. Although I’ve never considered myself the blackmailing sort, you never know. Some of the things they do and say could come in handy at a later date.

So, buckle up my friends. This will either prove to be a spirited and faithful effort by yours truly to document one man’s attempt to lay hold of an abundant life in the midst of the master planned suburban community in which I live with my wife and three kids, or it will be a tremendous failure and waste of time for us all. Care to take the leap and see how this all ends? If so, check back later. And, if for some reason you are reading this and you’re not my wife, leave a comment to let me know so that I will actually start editing my writing for grammer and punctuation. Until next time.

Posted in Blogging, Living in the suburbs | Leave a Comment »