Tag: Family

DD-WRT firmware on Netgear WNDR4300 Router – Parenting Tool

To be honest, we haven’t been doing the best this summer with keeping the kids off their electronics.  In fact, we’re doing the worst we’ve ever done.  We’re busy.  The kids are addicted to their electronics and turning them off is a bit like taking the drugs away from an addict – not without a fight.

Not that long ago, I instituted a wifi blackout at 10pm and recently rolled it back to 9:30pm.  This helps keep the kids from trying to sneak their devices into their rooms to communicate with friends or play connected games. It also renders xbox online games mostly useless and stops youtube video watching all together.

Next I added a mid-day wifi blackout from 4-6pm to force the kids to go outside and play while the sun is out.  The first week went over like telling a smoker they can’t smoke on and airplane in 1980.  They played right up to the blackout time and then moped around for the next 2 hours.  After several days of being irritated with their antics, I threatened to extend the blackout if they didn’t start going outside to play.   Now it has been several weeks and they have actually started pulling out board games and making up their own games to play.  So far so good.

The next phase of my plan is to flip the blackouts so that the wifi blackouts are the norm and instead there will be open wifi times.  Once school starts, I plan to setup their wifi access so they can only have access between 6-8:30pm.  That should prevent them from rushing through their homework to get to video games and also kick them off early enough that they can take their ridiculously long showers before bed.

DD-WRT access restrictions on my router seem to be working pretty well.  Every once and a while they flake and I have to jiggle the handle by re-saving the already saved settings.  It is annoying but it isn’t frequent enough to make me want to switch to some other router or firmware.


Fall Down Often – What BMX Taught Me

The movie RAD has been on my mind over the last couple days.  I follow a bunch of BMX riders and fan sites and lately there have been a lot of posts about the director of the movie RAD, Hal Needham, because he just passed away.  It got me thinking about what I got out of BMX in my elementary and middle school years years.

Fall Down Often

In BMX the way to learn a new trick is to fall down a lot.  You basically fall down for hours, days or weeks working on finding the right balance point for the various parts of the flatland trick.  You lean too far this way and fall.  You try less far and fall.  You lean the other way and fall.  You use your legs more and fall.  You make thousands of tiny corrections and fall down hundreds of times but eventually find your balance and begin to master the trick.   In flatland BMX, you rarely say, “No I’m not going to try to learn that trick because I’ll fall down and hurt myself”.  Instead, you resign yourself to the fact that falling down often is the single most important thing you will do in order to learn something new and achieve mastery of a new goal.

Metaphor For Life

Falling down often is a metaphor for life.  Success never comes without risk.  Mastery never comes without previous failures.  Continuous improvements and changes in approach can eventually lead to success.  I have started several businesses and failed at most of them but I continue to try and I continue to fall down and I will continue to succeed because of it.  I hope my kids can learn the same lessons that I learned from BMX in whatever interests they persue.

M’s Glasses Saga

Two years ago, M got glasses (age 9).  He broke them within the year and they were replaced for free because they were under warranty.  He broke them again just after a year (age 10) and they were replaced again by Skyvision.  This time Skyvision told us they would cost $25 but that they were still under warranty.  They charged our insurance for frames and lenses to replace the glasses which was very shady after having told us they were still under warranty.  After many angry calls to Skyvision, they refunded the lenses but left the insurance charge for the frames because they were over a year old and not covered by the replacement warranty as they had claimed.

Unfortunately a month ago, M broke his glasses again (age 11).  This time I decided to vote with my wallet and take my business elsewhere since Skyvision tried to secretly charge our insurance company for glasses while claiming it was a free warranty replacement.

This time we went to Target.  M’s glasses were priced at $266.  Insurance covered certain lens charges but not the frames.  I had forgotten about what was covered and what was not covered so I put the glasses on hold and called the insurance company.  They reminded me that the frames would not be covered this year because they had already covered frames earlier in the year.  I was not happy with the price so I decided to shop around.

Finally we went to Walmart to price out glasses.  Wow, what a huge price difference!  At Walmart, the same types of frames with the sames type of poly-thin lenses cost me $103 before any insurance reimbursement.  After the out of network reimbursement it will cost just $75.  How do places like Skyvision and Target stay in business selling glasses when Walmart can offer them for so much less?  I’m not always a fan of Walmart but in this case it was an easy decision.

Young Author

Last night, my younger son had a party at his school for the young authors program.  This was the fourth year that my son participated in the young authors program.   Each year he has written and illustrated his own book and presented it to the school.  This year they organized the event like a book signing where each author sat at a table and then got to talk to interested parents about their book.  His idea started out as a comic strip but evolved into short story.  His illustrations were fun and fitting.   I was proud of his accomplishment.  Most kids stopped participating after a year or two because they understood that there would be a lot of work involved.  I’m most happy that he was interested in participating and wasn’t scared off by the work involved and that he wasn’t intimidated at all by the writing.

Busy Summer

I haven’t blogged in a while but I was just reflecting on how busy our summer was so I decided to write a quick blog post.  I had a trip to Raleigh, NC for work.  The kids had two different basketball camps, each a week long.  We took half week to go to a local water-park resort as a family trip.  As usual we had a bunch of summer birthdays to celebrate and we had some family come to town to visit.

The weather was hot.  It got hot early and stayed hot all summer long.  Unfortunately that meant that the kids spent most of their free time inside.  I took advantage by giving them summer writing assignments because both of them could use some work on their writing.  They improved a bit and mostly got over the pain of writing which was the biggest gain from my point of view.  Hopefully now when their teachers give them writing assignments they won’t worry about it as much.

School started up last week for the kids and school will start next week for my wife.  Pretty soon I’ll be sitting in my home office in a quiet house all day.

Android phone like an Ipod touch (follow up)

Because of some end of year travel, my side of the family celebrated Christmas early this year.   The android phones as ipod touches that I mentioned in an earlier post have worked out great.

The key app to making this solution work for me is called Smart App Protector Free.  It allows me to give this wifi connected handheld computer to my kids (both under 10) without worrying about what they might google or see on youtube or stumble across on the web.  Smart App Protector lets me leave wifi on so they can have a text chat app with their cousins while blocking their access to youtube or google or the browser.  I also have searching the market locked down because there are plenty of inappropriate apps there too.

Another nice solution I found is that I can leave their phones in airplane mode while turning wifi on (android 2.2) which makes it so the phone isn’t constantly searching for a cell tower to talk to (since the phones aren’t activated).  This saves battery galore.

The kids both have their phones (LG Optimus Vs purchased for ~$50 new on black friday) loaded with game apps.  They have also discovered how fun it is to be able to text their cousins and parents (and soon grandparents maybe).

I just wanted to follow up after my first post to say that the Android as an ipod touch has worked out great so far.  I recommend this for other parents looking for a way to avoid buying a $200 ipod touch.

Effin Park Place

Last week I had some time off for the Thanksgiving holiday.  One day I played a 3 hour game of Monopoly with the kids.  Early in the game, Z landed on Parkplace (owned by M).  Z was low on cash so M gave him a discount.  Instead of ~$200, M only made Z pay ~$100.  M said that he was willing to give Z the discount because Z “is my brother and he entertains me a lot”.  Maybe we’re doing something right as parents since the kids don’t use EVERY opportunity to crush each other.

For Z the game ended as he slid into Park Place (we were playing Monopoly with the speed die which causes you to slide into a property where you will have to pay).  M had 3 houses up on Park Place and the rent was too much for Z.  This was the end of the game for Z.  As we counted out money and mortgaged properties, Z sat back, took a deep breath, shook his head and said “Effin Park Place”.  I tried to reprimand him while laughing out loud.  He’s 8 and he’s already knows the right way to use “effin”.  Well, maybe we aren’t doing that good as parents on the language front.

HPMini 210

Santa brought my wife and I a HPMini 210 netbook computer for Christmas.  My wife wanted a netbook to replace the larger laptop we were using in our living room and so she could take it to school with her to use during her breaks between classes.  I wanted a netbook for the occasional vacation.  Neither of us could come up with enough reason to buy one but luckily Santa brought us one!

So far I’ve been pretty happy with it.  I hacked the 1024×600 display so that it works at 1152×864.  That helped add some screen real estate.   So far my only gripes are that the buttons on the mouse pad are sort of sticky and you can’t touch them while also sliding the mouse with the other hand.  That is annoying.  I haven’t really pushed the battery life or processor so I can’t say much about them.   For web surfing and document writing this ~$300 model works very well.

Snowball Fight!!

Today the kids went out to play in the snow and I joined them a few minutes later for a three-on-one snowball fight.  M and Z were joined by the neighbor girl.  I had to defend myself against all three of them.  The upside for me was that their hands were too small to make quality snow balls.  Still, I’d call it a tie.   I landed more than they did but I had to stop and go in because I got too winded from all the running around.


Z started Karate a couple months ago and M starts this week.  The instructor is pretty strict but they seem to like learning the moves and how to punch and kick.  I’m hoping they keep it up through the winter so they have at least one activity to keep them busy and moving.