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Kevin Henkes Story Telling and Book Signing

Olivia and Hailey go to first book signing. http://www.kevinhenkes.com/

The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen – Book Review

Our founding fathers would have made great bloggers. Intelligent and outspoken they had strong opinions with many issues to discuss. Ok, kind of a bad comparison, the founding fathers were so much more than self proclaimed writers.

The 5000 Year Leap covers the basics of our constitution, the aim of our founding fathers in regards to focusing on a center balanced government and retrospectively outlines a couple dozen principles of freedom in their actions and writings.

The book reads easy for a historical reference and is chocked full of great quotes. Middle to high school aged kids would have no trouble reading this book. Skousen intertwines his views with selective writings and particular historical facts to support his opinions. Agreeable in some spots and arguable in others, this book is a conversation starter.

Notable chapters in this book concerning principles of freedom: ‘Protecting the Role of the Family’ an obvious choice for a dedicated family man and ‘Avoiding the Burden of Debt’ financial freedom sounds darn good. I recommend this book to anyone who wishes not to be entertained, instead for someone that may be motivated into thought.

The 5000 Year Leap
A Miracle That Changed the World
Principles of Freedom 101

By W. Cleon Skousen
Copyright 1981, 1991, 2006
Published by the National Center for Constitutional Studies

Jump Start Your Child’s Interest In Books With The Tag Reading System From LeapFrog – Product Review

Pink Tag Reader

Pink Tag Reader

The LeapFrog Tag Reader was waiting at our front door upon our arrival from preschool last Thursday. Priority shipped directly from the good people at LeapFrog Enterprises as part of a giveaway promotion and literacy program, the Tag Reader and two extra books became an instant favorite, can’t live without, necessity for my preschoolers. 

An agonizing (for the kiddos yet hells kitchen type stress for me) six minutes past as I unboxed the Tag Reader and followed the simple two-step setup. Olivia and Hailey both could barely wait that long for me to scrounge up two AAA batteries and install the Tag Reader software to their desktop computer. The Tag Reader’s packaging was clear in direction and thankfully the software loaded up quickly. Within a few minutes I had the two extra books’ (A Scooby Doo and Green eggs and Ham) audio files downloaded to the Tag Reader and just in the nick of time, before the kiddo’s anticipation deteriorated and excessive nagging mayhem ensued.

Scooby Doo Shiny Spooky Knights

Scooby Doo Shiny Spooky Knights

As I fumbled through the instruction booklet for several minutes trying to figure out how the smart toy worked with the books, Olivia intuitively had the Tag Reader completely mastered. I didn’t need to explain anything to her and before I knew it she was teaching Hailey how to operate it. I put the instruction booklet back in the box, sat back and enjoyed the (rare) cooperative moment.

Hailey, four years old, was not a book person before last week. In the past, during the nightly routine of story time with Kim, she would flit around, her attention elsewhere. The Tag Reader has turned that around. Within a week she has become engaged in books and not just the Tag Reader books but all their books which combined, out numbers the amount of toilet paper squares within our household.

Olivia is a book connoisseur, a journal writer, a story teller and scribbler of sorts. She must have at least five books on her nightstand before the final tuck-in and sometimes she falls asleep with a book covering her face shielding her from reality or maybe she’s just hiding her eyes from the strong light emanating from Hailey’s bedside lamp. She does enjoy the story telling aspect of the Tag Reader especially the recognizable characters, for instance the voices from Scooby Doo. She also enjoys the thought provoking mini games and likes hearing the Tag Reader tell her that she has received a new award for an accomplished challenge.

Surprisingly, the Tag reader was not tossed into one of many bottomless toy chests where most their stuff ends up, but instead, has been trophied by Hailey and proudly resides on her nightstand where it is readily accessible. It didn’t take long for Olivia and Hailey to convince me to buy them two new Tag Activity Storybooks, “Olivia” the pig and Disney’s Ariel “Adventures Under the Sea.”

I thought it would be a fun activity to “play” journalist with the kiddos and set up an exclusive interview with each of them. This is what transpired:
FOTB: When is your favorite time of day to do the Tag?
Olivia: When Hailey doesn’t want to play with me, I play it.
Hailey: Friday

FOTB: Where do you use the Tag Reader?
Olivia: By the computer.
Hailey: The Living room

FOTB: Who do you like to play the Tag Reader with?
Olivia: Daddy
Hailey: Daddy
FOTB: [Hold on, head is swelling].

FOTB: How does the Tag work?
Olivia: Press the Tag on the book and enjoy the story or play the games.
Hailey: By pressing the buttons [icon buttons].

FOTB: What is your favorite aspect, err, thing about the Tag?
Olivia: The games.
Hailey: Playing Ariel.

FOTB: [Here comes the hard nosed journalist]. What don’t you like about the Tag?
Olivia: I don’t like the present [icons] that reads just one page.
FOTB: [Here comes follow up]. So you would rather hear the whole story all the way through?
Olivia: Yes.
Hailey: Playing the diamonds.
FOTB: What are the diamonds?
Hailey: I’ll show you [points to diamonds in the Ariel book].
FOTB: What do the diamonds do?
Hailey: You have to catch all the diamonds.

My assessment of the Tag Reading System; one small limitation (sorry ‘bout this LeapFrog folks but I have to be honest here), I found with the Tag Reading System is the lack of memory. Only fifteen or sixteen megabytes of storage and each audio file consumes about three megs, meaning that the Tag can only hold five books. However anything that helps kids get into reading and literacy is a great thing and has my seal of approval especially since books have to compete with computers, video games, DVDs and so many other high tech toys.

Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama – A Book Review

Dreams From My Father Book CoverBarack wasn’t placed in a church’s revolving baby bin but he was basically abandoned by his parents. Around kindergarten age, after several years of becoming accustomed to life in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather, building relationships with neighborhood friends and growing fond of his family, he was dumped by his mother to be raised by his grandparents. Only knowing his father through fabricated stories and one single two week visit when he was ten years old, Barack was essentially on his own at an early age. Is anyone teary eyed yet? Well you won’t need a box of tissues for this read. Devoid of any real emotion, Barack explains his story matter of factly in linear fashion from his earliest memories up until a trip to Africa (right before Harvard) to visit family and reconcile a graveside peace with his father.

I sort of, but not really, feel sorry for young Barack, abandonment, culturally uncertain adolescence, and if not for his grandparents, alone. But the guy is intelligent, athletic, ambitious, and handsome. When forsaken with irresponsibly neglectful parents he combated the unfortunate circumstance and came out a winner. So, instead of feeling sorry for him, I admire his tenacious character.

I respect his devotion to the impoverished during the years spent walking the trenches of Chicago’s most dilapidated neighborhoods as a community organizer. He did help people. He did make peoples’ lives better. He knocked on many doors. Through action he did get things done. This was actually the most uplifting and inspiring portion of the book.

The third and last section of the book involved a dreadfully boring (to read about) journey to Africa where he bounced from family member to family member, piecing together the puzzle of his deceased father. The book ends with Barack at his father’s simple grave sobbing. Sounds sad, but written unemotionally, which only served to dehumanize himself.

I picked up this book hoping to gain insight, maybe find out what’s been added to the cool aid and figure out why he is so captivating to so many. What I found out might be alarming to some people because his life experience and questioning spirit is a bit ethnically charged and in some instances hinted at racism during his undergraduate college years.

This book is written well and in small doses interesting however leaves me feeling no different about Barack Obama than I had before picking it up which is closely aligned to my persona of neutrality and skepticism.


Dreams From My Father – A Story of Race and Inheritance
By Barack Obama
Copyright 1995
First Edition
Published by Times Books a division of Random House
ISBN 0-8129-2343-X

Too Much Of A Good Thing – Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age – A Book Review

This book centers around and draws examples from a research study called “Parenting Practices at the Millennium” (PPM). Over 1000 parents and around 650 teenagers were at the core of the study. The book is broken down into four main sections. The first part of the book is an examination of parenting in a gilded age. The middle part of the book analyzes the many pitfalls of indulgent children from self-centered narcissism to self-control issues. The third section of the book is an outline for parental strategies to combat the problems our children face in our permissive society. The last part of the book is a technical reference and endnotes of the PPM study.

Giving too much and expecting too little in return, growing up in the new gilded age and supplying our children with the life skills they’ll need as adults is the context of part one. The author, a PhD of psychology at Harvard, sited a few situations with his patients and related them to the PPM study.

The seven deadly sins of pride, wrath, envy, sloth, gluttony, lust and greed are all spun into the second part of the book. The author reviews several case studies from his professional experience as a psychologist in relation to the PPM study and is combined with religious undertones.

Journey back into childhood and find your inner parent to figure out why you parent your child/children in the particular manner that you do. The third part of the book helps parents to look inside themselves to identify parenting traits also supplies a miniscule amount of practical parenting advice on general topics such as setting limits, giving more attention and being consistent.

The technical appendix and PPM study results are interesting and enlightening. Dozens of variables ranging from average household incomes to effects of family dinner time are examined in relationship to the author’s theories and broken down into easy to understand percentages.

I checked out this book from my local library after seeing an article in Parents magazine that made a reference to it. I would love to give the issue and article however someone, ok my wife, recycled the mag before I could make a note of that. The book contains plenty of staggeringly scary statistics and the inner parent examination is an interesting idea, so I do recommend the book however don’t waste your money on it, go borrow it from the library and skip to the last few chapters. While this book is a yawner there are some nuggets of truth and insightfulness that can help build parental confidence and ability.

Too Much Of A Good Thing
Raising Children of Character in an Indulgent Age
Dan Kindlon, Ph.D.
Published by Talk Miramax Books
Copyright 2001

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