Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Do you ever wish you could play Rock, Paper, Scissors against a computer that learns how you play? Wish granted!
  2. What if trash was useful? Once upon a time, it was. Imagine building a house out of empty beer bottles.
  3. Awesome flipbooks. That is all.
  4. Here’s a cool old story about a guy who made a deathbed confession about playing a stolen Stradivarius violin for 50 years.
  5. First there was the hoverboard. Now science has done it again! Back the Future fans rejoice. The auto-lacing sneaker is here!



Reading Time at Baker Book House

A week ago, I was asked to step in for the Children’s Reading Time that happens at 10:30 every Thursday morning at Baker Book House. Miss Penelope (everyone’s favorite story-time friend) was out-of-town, so I volunteered. I set reminders for myself so I wouldn’t miss it, but I didn’t even need them because I was too excited to forget. I picked out five books to read, all of them fantastic.

These were the books that I chose:


Circle, Square, Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky


Waiting Is Not Easy! by Mo Willems


Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems


King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson by Kenneth Kraegel

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and How to Be a Baby… by Me, the Big Sister by Sally Lloyd-Jones

If you haven’t read these, you should. They are all genius.

But back to story-time. I walked out with my books and a blanket (to put the train table to sleep so the kids listen to the stories instead of playing with the trains), my chest puffed out with anticipation. And what did I find?

1 kid.

Just one child and mom team showed up to hear me read. We waited for a few minutes, but it was soon clear that no one else was coming. It was the first day of snow and people were scared to leave home.

So I read King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson and Waiting Is Not Easy! Then I asked the boy if he would like me to read another one or if he’d like to play with the train table. You already know which one he chose.

I was sad, but I moved on. I went home and read stories to my kids. We don’t have a train table at home, so they had nothing better to distract them.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Out of curiosity, would any of my readers be interested in something like a story-time live-stream where you could be part of Baker’s story-time while sitting at home with your kids?

10 things to do that aren’t shoveling the driveway.


If you live where it snows, you have my condolences. Pretty much all of the schools in the area were closed yesterday due to the amount of heavy snow that we got. And while I understand the value of going to work and earning a living, when the prerequisite for driving to work is shoveling many inches of snow off your driveway (just so you can avoid getting stuck in the yet-to-be-cleared road), actually showing up to your job seems a bit less important.

So here are some things you can do instead:

  1. Make hot cocoa. The good kind. The kind where you heat milk and real chocolate on the stove. Maybe add some mint and blow your mind with deliciousness. And don’t skimp on marshmallows. Do it right.
  2. Color a picture. Coloring is fun. Sometimes people forget about it, but I’m a huge fan of coloring.
  3. Read all of my blog posts. Every last one of them. Seriously, that would help me out a lot.
  4. Make a movie. With just about every phone and kitchen appliance having some kind of camera now, you might as well shoot a family movie. Who knows, you could upload it to YouTube and make millions of dollars or something.
  5. Write a letter. I’m quite fond of the letter “M”.
  6. Write a team story. This is where you start a story and someone else writes a line and passes it on. I’ve been doing this with my kids lately and they love it.
  7. Reminisce about life before there was a foot of snow (or more) on your driveway. How sweet life used to be.
  8. Clean your bathroom. Seriously. Have you seen the toilet lately? Gross.
  9. Read a book. A nice long one.
  10. Bake something. Apple crisp, cookies, some cinnamon rolls. Not only are these things tasty, but the oven will help heat your house. Nice bonus!
  11. Get your buns in some snow pants and shovel the driveway. What? I only said there were 10 things that weren’t shoveling the driveway. This is the 11th thing.

Sometimes, you can’t avoid responsibility. So maybe you should stop procrastinating and get out there.

And when you are done with yours, please come do mine.

Excellent Customer Service in Auto Repair

When I started up the car after grocery shopping, it was noticeably louder than its usual throaty growl. But when the muffler started dragging along, it sounded like the wrath of God on wheels. There was no ignoring the problem. My wife and I needed to do something about the car.

As it happened, it was due for an oil change anyway, so I made an appointment at the Meineke shop around the corner from my house. I figured that I would get a quote on muffler replacement while I got the oil changed (with coupons, they are one of the cheapest places around for basic oil changes). So I called up and the shop’s owner, Bob, answered and set me up for the next day.

I took my car in just after they opened for business. As I waited for the service to be done, I watched another customer come in. She was an elderly lady with an accent and from my eavesdropping, it wasn’t her first time coming there for car repairs. She told them the problem (brakes, if I remember right) and the owner asked if she’d like a ride back to her house while they fixed it. She said that she would appreciate that, so another employee drove her home.

A few minutes later, Bob came up to talk to me about the muffler quote. It was very reasonable, but I had a question or two.

“The car has served us well and it’s still relatively low on miles for being twenty years old, but my wife and I are thinking about selling it and getting something that handles Michigan winters a bit better,” I said. “What would you suggest?”

“What are you looking at?” he asked me.

“We were thinking about a Mazda CX-5 or a Suburu CrossTrek.”

“Hmm,” he hummed. “You don’t really want my opinion.”

“Well, now I definitely do,” I said.

So we chatted about the pros and cons of new vehicles. He gave me his thoughts about different brands and how expensive they are to maintain. And he shared with me what he thought about fixing and selling the muffler-less car that was on his hoist getting the oil changed.

“If you are going to sell it,” he said, “you may not even need to fix the muffler. There aren’t many cars out there for sale in the price range that your car would go for, and the type of person that would buy it would probably want to save the money and fix it themselves. But if you decided to keep it, give me a call and I’ll fix it for you.”

He reiterated the quoted price and I paid for my oil change.

My wife and I are still gathering info on buying a new car, but it is good to know that I have an honest mechanic in my corner for whatever car we’re driving.

If you live in the West Michigan area and you need some car work done, consider the Meineke in Wyoming, MI (2139 28th Street SW, Wyoming, MI 49519). The owner’s name is Bob and he’ll treat you right.


After the fact edit – My wife and I did decide to get the muffler fixed (or put on, as you can’t fix something that isn’t there anymore). I just left Meineke and I’m impressed all over again with their service and attention. If you ever need car work done and you’re looking for an honest shop with your best interests at heart, call Bob at the Wyoming Meineke. He and his crew are awesome.

I am pretty sure that my girls missed the point of Frozen.

In an ironic fit of Disney-princess-related violence, our youngest daughter suffered some scratches to the face at the hands/fingernails of our eldest daughter. For the most part, our girls (ages 2 and 4) get along pretty well. But when they both want the same Frozen movie storybook, all kindnesses go out the window.

Though we’ve seen the movie a couple of times, and they have listened to the story on CD while looking at the storybook in question, FROZENI think they’ve missed the message about sisterly love healing the world’s ills. I suppose I should be glad that my eldest daughter only has fingernails, not the ability to create snow monsters or icicle javelins.

And though it could have been worse (no one was seriously injured, just a few scratches), having my kids actively fighting each other isn’t cool. But how do you drive home a lesson on how to treat people nicely when one of the parties involved requires punishment?

Do you spank in order to teach them that physical violence is unacceptable? What is a parent to do?

Well, here’s what we ended up doing: My eldest daughter lost all night-time reading privileges until the marks on her sister heal and are no longer visible.

Every night, after they get into pajamas and take care of any bathroom/hygiene needs, our girls get about twenty minutes of reading time. Since neither of them can read yet, it is just a transition time where they sit in their beds and look at the pictures in books before we turn off their bedroom light. But for the duration of the punishment, my eldest has to go straight to bed while her sister sits in Mommy & Daddy’s bed reading.

And believe it or not, the punishment has been somewhat effective!

At least three times over the weekend, we encountered our eldest daughter sitting on her bed by choice. When we asked her why she wasn’t playing with her sister, she told us that she was getting frustrated with how her sister was acting and she didn’t want to hurt her, so she went to her room. I don’t want to say that we’ve fixed the problem or that we won’t have to address kindness issues in the future, but being able to step away from a problem without immediately reacting is definitely a step in the right direction.

How do you punish your kids when they are being unkind to other people? Or if you don’t have kids, how did your parents teach you to be considerate of others?

Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. And you thought the Bible was thick. Artist Ruben Steeman compiles 7 years of drawings into a 2500 page book. Publishers said it couldn’t be done, but Ruben did it anyway.
  2. Now for something indecipherable. The Voynich Manuscript has long been a classic book of gobbledygook as no one knows how to read it. Can you find the method within the madness of these new scans?
  3. As a writer of genre fiction (a term that can be vitriolic in literary circles), this was an interesting read about the genre debate. Maybe you’d like it too.
  4. “The benefits of reading do not stop in childhood, but a love of reading gained in childhood can yield lifelong rewards.” Here’s the full story.
  5. And because not every link today can be reading/book related, Bruce Campbell is reprising his role of Ash from the Evil Dead series.