3 Year Olds: What’s a Dad to Do?

it is 1:30 in the afternoon.  I just got a call from my wife.  We are about 8 weeks from our second child being born.  She is pregnant and tired; I am at work.  My daughter is flipping out in the background because she wants to go play with her friends.  My wife has been put on bed rest for today per doctor’s orders.  I’m stuck at work and at the mercy of the train schedule so even if I wanted to leave now I still wouldn’t get home until 5pm (earliest train I can catch right now would be the 4:15)

What’s a Dad to do?

Putting on the Uber-geek hat, I am going to walk over to the library and check out some books on raising 3 year olds.  I need an instruction manual – something I can hopefully read on the train and apply tonight.

I need the magic wand of Fatherhood.  Becoming a dad was easy (let’s face it, biology is on our side guys), it’s being a good dad, husband, employee, friend, and the 43 million other things we do every day that all need to be done well that gets to be tough.

— Later in the day —

So I’ve checked out 3 books from the library, we’ll see how it goes.  The books I checked out are:

Raising Your Spirited Child Rev Ed: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic
by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

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Toddlers & Preschoolers (The Parent & Child Series)
by Lawrence Kutner

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Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter When She’s Growing Up So Fast
by Joe Kelly

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Hopefully they have some good pieces of advice, I’ll post book reviews and what did and didn’t work for me as I finish each book.

Solar Power Projects for the Evil Genius

Ok, this isn’t a book review per say, as I have not yet read this book, but as a father geek, with a geek in training, how cool is this?


Solar Energy Projects for the Evil Genius
by Gavin D J Harper

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The book, filled with projects on how to harness the sun for your own personal gain immediately drew my attention as some cool projects I can do with my daughter.  Since my wife and I were recently talking about the pros and cons of converting to solar and getting a bit more “off the grid”, I thought this would be a fun book to check out from the local library as well.

I really think the Evil Genius series has a lot to offer some of us geeks and geeks-in-training and I’m looking forward to reading this book.  Here is a sneak peak at the table of contents:

Chapter 1. Why solar?
Chapter 2. The Solar Resource
Chapter 3. Positioning Your Solar Devices
Chapter 4. Solar Heating
Chapter 5. Solar Cooling
Chapter 6. Solar Cooking
Chapter 7. Solar Stills
Chapter 8. Solar Collectors
Chapter 9. Solar Pumping
Chapter 10. Solar Photovoltaics
Chapter 11. Photochemical Solar Cells
Chapter 12. Solar Engines
Chapter 13. Solar Electrical Projects
Chapter 14. Tracking the Sun
Chapter 15. Solar Transport
Chapter 16. Solar Robotics?
Chapter 17. Solar Hydrogen Partnership
Chapter 18: Photosynthesis–Fuel from the Sun
Appendix A: Solar Projects on the Web
Appendix B: Supplier’s Index

What is Regenerative Agriculture?

So organic farming is more than just agriculture‚Äďand it’s good to remind ourselves of this from time to time. We’re helping to create a healthier, better future for everyone. It’s Regenerative Agriculture. Regenerative Agriculture has become a whole science over the last 20 years, involving more than just farming and selling products. As we regenerate local woodlands and streams, as we help regenerate our local communities, many benefits come to us, monetary and otherwise. That gives most organic farmers a satisfaction beyond mere profits.


Now I’ve been asked by my friends from time to time about why my family chooses to utilize organic methods and buy organic products.  And I think the above quote does a good job of explaining it.  It’s the healthier lifestyle and the ability to contribute to the regeneration and sustainability of earth.  Granted, it’s a very small contribution, but as they say “Think globally, act locally.”

Planning the Fall Garden: What’s Growing On…

It’s time to start planning the fall garden. This year I’m planning on having my daughter help plan the garden from start to finish and have her plant her own little garden as well to take care of.

September is the best time to start planting in Southern California. The weather is cooling off, not too hot and not too cool. The first steps to having a vegetable garden is of course, planning!

Picking a site

First and foremost, you need to have some space to plant. It doesn’t need to be a large space, but there are three things you’ll need to keep in mind as you decide where to plant.

  1. Sunshine. If your plants can’t get sunlight, they can’t photosynthesis and this means they’ll starve. You want to choose a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day.
  2. Water. Plants are thirsty. They need water, especially in southern California. Make sure the area you pick out is convenient to a watering source or that you can install an irrigation system relatively easily. Having to lug water to the garden every day soon becomes a chore, so make it easy on yourself.
  3. Soil. I’m lucky in that my soil is pretty good where I live, a little on the sandy side but I have a twin-barrel composter that turns my kitchen scraps into great nutrients to feel my soil.

What to grow?

When I first started out, I wanted to grow a little bit of everything. This ended up being a bit overwhelming and I ended up with only a few plants of each, they didn’t really grow well, and I ended up letting a lot of the veggies die on the vine because I only had one or two at a time and not enough to really make an effort of turning them into a good dinner.

A better approach is to consider what you most like to eat, and then narrow it down to only maybe 4 or 5 veggies that have a lot of versatility and are prolific in their production. I’ve found that tomatoes work really well because they are easy, prolific, and can be eaten right from the vine as my daughter often goes out into the garden for a mid-afternoon snack. Lettuce, carrots and snap peas also work really well because they take minimal preparation time. I would stay away from things like corn, eggplant, pumpkin, asparagus, or other veggies that take up a lot of room and need preparation before they can be eaten.

Once you’ve gotten the type of veggie, it’s time to break out the catalog and pick 2 or 3 varieties that will grow well in your area. It is important to have several varieties as insurance just in case one species doesn’t grow well in your area. With a little trial and error, you’ll be able to find the exact type that grows best in your area with your style of gardening. Also, some varieties are smaller than others and are described as disease resistant.

Garden Layout

There are two styles that I’ve found work the best:

  1. Rows. Gives you lots of room to walk between the rows and easy access to the crops. This is good for large gardens but uses a lot of land for not a lot of yield.
  2. Intensive. Planting in squares or large bands. This means less pathways and a little more reaching to get the produce, but a good use of space. don’t make the bands so large that you have trouble reaching into the middle.

Between the two, I am going with the intensive method, and will be using a book called Square Foot Gardening that does a good job of laying out that all is involved with this method.

All New Square Foot Gardening
by Mel BartholomewRead more about this title…


Seeds or Seedlings

Between the two, I much prefer buying seedlings that someone else has already gone to the trouble of starting. There are several reasons for this:

  1. I am impatient. I want to see my plants growing!
  2. I know exactly what I’ll have. With seeds, not all germinate and you need to thin out the ones that aren’t doing well.
  3. Starting seeds takes time and attention. They take extra time, and as the lazy gardener, I want to keep my garden on automatic as much as possible so I have more time to play with my daughter.
  4. Seedlings are durable. Since I’ll be with my daughter, it’s much harder to crush a 5 inch plant to death than a 1/2 inch sprout.
  5. And because of #4, my daughter can participate at the very “start” of the gardening and see her plants in the garden from the beginning.

Caring for the garden

I love doing this with my daughter. It can be fast, easy and fun. It is also a great little ritual to get into when I get home from work to spend a few minutes in the garden where I can visit and connect with my daughter as the stress of the day melts away. There are a few things you need to do.

  1. Water. If you have raised beds, you’ll want to water every other day, otherwise twice a week should be fine.
  2. Weed. just peruse the garden as you look for produce to harvest and pick the occasional weed.
  3. Fertilize. I use composted kitchen scraps, but others may want to use packaged commercial fertilizer. Be sure to follow the directions on the box or you may end up damaging your crops with too much of a good thing.
  4. Check for diseases and pests. Make sure you don’t have fungal growth, aphids, whitefly, or other insects. If you do, nip it in the bud before it becomes a problem. I use insecticide soap as a safe deterrent.


This is the best part and the reason we’ve gone through all this work! I’ve spent many evenings with my daughter in our small garden “discovering” ripe red tomatoes and eating them right from the vine. I would encourage everyone who has a garden to plan a garden dinner every once in a while where you go out with your son or daughter and pick the produce and together create a dish for dinner. This is fun, adds to the excitement of gardening for your little one, and is rewarding in that you know you are eating the food that you nurtured.


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Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)
by J. K. Rowling

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Ok, let me start off by saying that yes, I am a PotterHead.

I thought this book was a great ending to a series that I have come to enjoy.  Even though it is often listed as a ‘Young Adult’ book, it does have some deeper stories and cross-links to previous books that not all readers may pick up during their first read.

I especially enjoyed the way that Rowling has gone back and explained a few stories that were left rather open ended in previous books.  Also, after hearing a rumor about the movie ‘Order of the Phoenix’, where she insisted that Kreacher not be cut out of the movie, I had an Ah-Ha moment about half way through the book.

I have to admit, that I didn’t really like the storyline in regards to Dumbledore, because he’d been put in the classic archtype role of mentor and then there are parts of the story that tear down that illusion and reveal him to be human, but it was done in a rather clumsy way that left you feeling a bit unfulfilled.

Some of the other characters remained stiff throughout the book, and I really think that one of the stronger points of these stories is the underlying world-building that she does.  Some of the deaths seemed rote – in that I found myself not really caring about the character when they died.  There have been other books where I was in tears reading about a particular character’s death (Flint from the Dragonlance series comes to mind).  I didn’t feel that emotional attachment with the characters that died in this capstone to the series.

In the end, this was an enjoyable series and one that I will share with my daughter when she is older.  I think it brings up some great discussion points and would make a good read for one of her home-schooling modules in a couple of years.