Family Bike Ride!

For the first time ever, last weekend, the whole K-J family went for a bike ride. We covered nearly 10 miles! I was impressed with our whole crew.

Amazingly, we fit all five bikes in the van without a bike rack.

  

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More to follow, I hope!

Deep Work… for Parents?

 

A working mom and productivity app publicist Tweeted, “How to do #DeepWork even when you have deep responsibilities (spoiler alert: that means kids) – by @lvanderkam.”

The accompanying image was Vanderkam’s right-on-the-money critique of Cal Newport’s Deep Work, which held up Carl Jung as an example for shutting himself off to do “deep work.” Translation: he neglected his kids?

Newport starts by writing (in a laudatory fashion) about Carl Jung secluding himself in a tower so he could ponder his breakthrough ideas. Newport notes that there were sacrifices involved in his decision. For instance, it “reduced the time he spent on his clinical work.” Not mentioned: when Jung bought this retreat property in 1922, he and his wife had five children. It’s safe to say locking himself off from the world locked himself off from those responsibilities. And while perhaps that was par for the course for a man in 1922 (and maybe especially for Jung, who was allegedly an unfaithful husband), someone had to be around the family.

Newport is a working father, but as journalist Brigid Schulte suggests in Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, working fathers don’t carry the same load at home as working mothers. Maybe Newport has this all worked out with his family and work in a fair and agreeable way. But as I’m reading it, Schulte’s work is making a strong case that the ability to perform deep work is a gendered phenomenon. Culturally (in the U.S., at least) it’s still easier for dads than moms to get away and carve out large blocks of uninterrupted, focused time.

Be that as it may, “deep work” for any engaged parent can be hard to come by. Working from home is a beautiful thing, but how often have I felt tinges of guilt as I told my children I couldn’t play right now because I was working, barely glancing up from the computer to let them know? In that case both the work and (more important) the child receive less than what I would hope to give.

Someone needs to write a Deep Work for Parents book. Who knows? Maybe that will be Newport’s follow-up. And Vanderkam has great ideas here. (Her website is sub-titled, “Writing about Time Management, Life, Careers & Family.”)

How about you, working parents who read this blog? How do you get focused, high-level work done when your “job” isn’t your only job? How do you handle interruptions if you work from home? How do you find energy to cook dinner and do bedtime routines after working all day outside the house?

All ideas welcomed in the comments below.

From the Creator of Captain Underpants: Dog Man

Our children don’t need any encouragement in the area of scatalogical humor, but here we all have been anyway, laughing through the pages of Dav Pilkey’s new Dog Man. (Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame.) That is to say–this book would not be something to read to your four-year-old daughter. Unless, uh, she had two older brothers and was already unfazed by such humor.

Case in point:

 

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Dog Man, as Pilkey tells it, is the creation of George Beard and Harold Hutchins, two comic-writing friends whose teacher, Ms. Construde, clearly does not appreciate their “disruptive activity in my classroom.” All my kids love it, of course.

The premise itself is a little more violent than I would have liked for my (or any) kids: Dog Man is born when the evil cat Petey blows up Officer Knight and his dog Greg:

Doctor: I’m sorry Greg, but your body is dying. and your head is dying too, cop.

Officer: Rats! I sure hate my dying head!

But just when all seemed lost…

Nurse Lady: Hey! Why don’t we sew Greg’s head onto cop’s body?

Doctor: Good idea, nurse lady! You’re a genius!

Here “a brand-new crime-fighting sensation was unleashed.”

Dog Man the character is about what you would expect from somebody who is half man, half dog. He battles Petey, then Robo Chief, and then a giant, walking Philly cheesesteak mascot in chapter 4, “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” This last chapter was probably the funniest and best part of the book. Sample lines:

OH look! Little baby hot dogs are starting a revolution!!!!

We’re not little babies! we’re regular sized!

(Their subsequent claim to be “gangsta” will go over kids’ heads and seems to unfortunately engage in cultural appropriation.)

A fun feature that comes up at several points is the “Flip-O-Rama,” where you can create a little bit of animation by quickly flipping between pages. At this moment I’m looking at the book’s warning: “Remember—Flip it, Don’t Rip it!!!!!!”, which happens to be right next to a newly made rip in our edition. Oh, well.

The section in the back of the book with “How 2 Draw” different characters is icing on the cake.

For how inexpensive the book is, I was pleasantly surprised to see a sewn binding. The colors are vibrant and the lettering is what you would expect from Dav-Pilkey-as-two-kids-writing-a-comic. It inspired my own kids to write their own. (Details forthcoming, or maybe we’ll just try for a book deal.)

If you’re trying to avoid scatological humor, don’t get this book. If you’ve maybe slacked a little with your standards for your kids in that regard, they’ll probably love Dog Man.

You can find the book at Scholastic’s page here. It’s also available at Amazon here. Dav Pilkey’s got his own site, too.

 


 

Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy, given with no expectation as to the content of the review.

Mamoko: A World Where Kids Read to the Grown-Ups

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Some of the best book gifts our oldest child has received have been Maps and Animalium from Big Picture Press, an imprint of Candlewick.

Our kids have also spent many collective minutes and hours poring over two books from The World of Mamoko series: The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000 and The World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons.

The premise of Mamoko is simple: “Use your eyes!” to “follow the adventures” of more than two dozen different characters through seven detailed spreads that span two pages each. The books are hardback, like giant board books, so they’ll last us a long time. The target age range is 5-8 years old, but my four-year-old (who can’t yet read) really enjoys looking at the pictures, too.

Here’s a spread from World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons:

 

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It’s lots of fun. There are short descriptions of each character that help in knowing what to look for. For example, a pink elephant (holding a hammer?) is Othello Smith:

OTHELLO SMITH is feeling bummed out. What is the cause of his distress?

The book is pretty funny. And it’s big enough that, like the Where’s Waldo? books, two people can easily look for characters and their antics at the same time.

But I told Candlewick my kids would help me review these two books, and a promise is a promise, so… here are my nine-year-old’s review notes from The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000:

 

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And here’s his short take on The World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons:

 

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You can find all three Mamoko titles at Candlewick’s page here. They’re also available at Amazon here.

 


 

Thanks to Candlewick Press for the review copies, given with no expectation as to the content of the review.

My Six-Year-Old’s Review of Shark Attack! (Scholastic)

Shark Attack

 

My six-year-old son wanted to start a blog to write book reviews, so I’m turning my blog over to him for today’s post. Below is his review of Shark Attack! (Scholastic, 2013), including a bit of Q and A between me and him. Enjoy.

 


 

I like this book.

Because it tells me about sharks. How long they can open their mouths.

 

What was your favorite part about this book?

When the shark does diving.

What was surprising about the book?

That sharks can hear.

How can they hear?

They sense it. “Sharks hear sounds too low for you to hear.”

Who would like this book?

Me.

 

Shark Attack Review

 

Where to find it: Amazon / Scholastic
Grade Level: 1 through 3
32 Pages, full color images