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Two of our children play violin. "Pulling teeth" doesn't do justice to what it's like trying to get them to practice. How about flossing and then removing all the teeth from a great white shark, during a monsoon, in the dark? The Toyota Motor Corp. has engineered a robot that plays violin. A story in today's Buffalo News says the robot plays a pretty solid rend…

What's my parental take on the NHL's Winter Classic? It gave my kids another reason to argue. Our older daughter lives and dies with the Sabres, so our younger daughter decided to cheer when the Penguins scored their first-period goal in Tuesday's Ice Bowl. We were listening to the game on the radio while taking a family drive to Canada. "Why can't I like Pittsburgh?…

Today I did a purge and went through the basement and other rooms of the house and got rid of stuff. We live in a small house, and with new stuff coming through the doors at Christmas, if we don’t get rid of old stuff, there’s no place for the new stuff. I am a believer in living in a small space, even if saying this in our land of bigger is better makes me Un-American. …

Our children are all of an age now when they put quote marks around "Santa Claus." But the Clausmeister still works his magic, nonetheless. He was good to us this year. The Connors are taking off for Boxing Day, however. So let's turn things over to the blog of author Tim Ferriss, who has a great post about the importance of making a big trip -- even taking a lo…

One of my favorite holiday traditions is to track Santa online on the NORAD Web site. Check it out today for some cute games.* Each year we watch Santa throughout the day on Christmas Eve as he travels the world, zig zagging times zones and flying over the Taj Mahal, the Sydney Opera House, Russia, Europe, etc. The bad news for us is that everyone is still up in our house…

Health and Fitness

This is a week for family conversations that many families weren't planning to have, at least not now. The topic of conversation is the pregnancy of 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears, the star of Nickelodeon's "Zoey 101." My personal take is: I don't need this.    However.    I will discuss it with our two daughters and our son. We don't have …

If you spend much time online hunting for holiday gifts you may find yourself reading the recommendations at Amazon.com, or searching through Consumer Reports or other consumer rating sites. But this is 2007, time for some aggregating and crowd-sourcing of opinions about certain products.Summize is a new site that aggregates reviews and ratings from dozens of Web sites, t…

Chicago communications blogger David Murray has an interesting take on why so many of us start to feel blue during the winter holidays. Murray notes that we should use this time of year to reflect on our past successes, and the exciting prospects that the new year may hold. But instead: "What the holidays are is a big referrendum on the failures of the last year, an…

Andrew Galarneau's article in today's Buffalo News examines the decisions that Western New York parents are making about what toys to buy in light of concerns over lead content in some toys that are made in China. There are a few online resources that parents might want to check out. HealthyToys.org, operated by the Ecology Center, provides information on traces of toxi…

Doris Lessing, the novelist and winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Literature, used her acceptance speech last week to draw a contrast between children in impoverished African countries who hunger for books to read and those in wealthy countries who spend many empty hours on the Internet rather than in the company of books and great authors. Said Lessing:We are in a fra…

Health and Fitness

Here's a shout out to the Washington Post's On Parenting blog, where parents have been discussing what to do about holiday gift overload. I know, that sounds like a spoiled Yuppie affliction, but what parents don't sometimes wish there were a way to politely ask family members or friends, "Please, please don't send any more toys or trinkets into our house." On…

Just saw a headline: Love of Broccoli begins in womb. Once again, mothers are called to task. If your kid doesn’t like vegetables, it’s because you didn’t eat enough asparagus while they were in utero and while you breastfed. Now I can add to my list of sins – vege-guilt! Except …. I am a vegetarian, consumed plenty of broccoli and other vegetables (OK, not Brussels spro…

I am part of the problem. I have not been to a production at Studio Arena in a few years, though every year when I look at their brochure I think “Gee, that looks interesting -– I’d like to see that.” But then I don’t go. So now Studio Arena is on the brink, and the main reason is that people don’t show up, and I’m one of the no-shows. "We have all of this wonderful…

Health and Fitness

I've concluded that most fathers are evaluated on two things: their ability to provide for their families (earn money), and their handiness around the house (save money with do-it-yourself work). Those are qualities that don't always show up in the marriage vows, Father's Day cards or box scores, but in the real world they matter a lot. I'm not a great bread winner, …

Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama has some strong women in his corner. In addition to the backing of Oprah Winfrey, Obama has help from his vibrant and charismatic wife, Michelle Obama, on the campaign trail. A Washington Post profile of Michelle Obama describes the juggling act she performs, running their Illinois household and staying on top of the schoolw…