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For sale: water-tank castle


If you're in New Zealand and want to have the coolest playhouse/LARP-prop south of the equator, this Trademe ad is offering a concrete water-tank converted to a castle for a surprisingly reasonable $500 (you have to pay to move it, though).

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Lawyers helped daughter with tooth-fairy affidavit for lost tooth


The wonderful affidavit above was created by comedian Emily McWinter's parents when she was a little girl; she'd lost a tooth and didn't want to miss out on the tooth fairy's cash prize. McWinter's parents -- lawyers -- drafted and notarized the affidavit to ensure that the tooth fairy would know that the lost tooth was bona fide.

The daughter of two lawyers lost a tooth. She couldn't find it, so they made her sign an affidavit for the Tooth Fairy. (via Neatorama)

The Borribles are back!


I've been posting here about The Borribles for more than a decade (proof!). Michael de Larrabeiti's young adult fantasy trilogy from the 1980s remains among my most favourite examples of both YA literature and literature about London. The books detail the lives of the Borribles, a race of elfin, pointy-eared changelings, whose number swells every time a naughty child simply walks away from home and begins a new life as an immortal, pointy-eared trickster. The Borribles live by a strict code: they never work, only thieve; they do not handle or covet money; they squat in derelict buildings, and they must earn their names by completing a daring adventure, such as taking up arms against the hateful Rumbles, a race of covetous, materialistic overgrown rodents who inhabit an underground world called Rumbledom.

Today, Tor UK is relaunching The Borribles for a new generation as three ebooks with lots of extra art and other supplementary material. They're also still publishing the UK omnibus edition a (the great Tor Teen US paperbacks are sadly out of print, though easy enough to get used). Only the ebook comes with China Mieville's wonderful introduction.

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Colored ice-balls


Kristin and her kid decorated their frozen walkway with these colored ice-balls, made by filling balloons with water and food-coloring and then letting them freeze outside (it took about 10 hours).

She notes, "They're really pretty close up with cracks and fissures and brighten the front walk. I was using it as a way to introduce formulas and recipes to the kid. She was playing with food coloring in a mixing cup and I was counting drops for her. When she found a color she liked, we put that many drops in a balloon and filled it with water."

Great Firewall of Cameron: the worst of all worlds for British parents

In my latest Guardian column, I explain how UK prime minister David Cameron's plan to opt the entire nation into a programme of Internet censorship is the worst of all worlds for kids and their parents. Cameron's version of the Iranian "Halal Internet" can't possibly filter out all the bad stuff, nor can it avoid falsely catching good stuff we want our kids to see (already the filters are blocking websites about sexual health and dealing with "porn addiction"). That means that our kids will still end up seeing stuff they shouldn't, but that we parents won't be prepared for it, thanks to the false sense of security we get from the filters.

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As kids' accidental ODs rise, FDA still won't mandate flow restrictors in medicine bottles


In America, more under-6 kids go to the emergency room from accidental overdose than from car-accidents -- they get hold of medicine and drink the whole bottle. Since 2007, epidemiologist Dr Daniel Budnitz has campaigned for the use of flow-restrictors in children's medicine bottles, which dramatically reduce the likelihood of an OD; manufacturers started adding restrictors to acetaminophen in 2011, but stopped there.

Flow restrictors have not been added to bottles of antihistamines, ibuprofen, and cough and cold preparations -- even where they contain the same concentration of acetaminophen as plain acetaminophen tinctures. These other medicines account for about half of all overdoses by small children.

In a long, investigative piece, Pro Publica and Consumer Reports exhaustively document the effectiveness of restrictors, the intransigence of bottom-line-focused pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the real risks of children's medicine overdoses.

An FDA mandate would solve the problem of liquid overdose at the stroke of a pen, but the FDA refuses, preferring a voluntary approach that is demonstrably not working -- and putting kids at risk. The incidence of overdose in small children is not only widespread -- it's rising. Flow-restrictors are cheap, effective low-hanging fruit. Restrictors were invented to improve dosing and reduce spills in adult medicine, and are thus of benefit to everyone, not just parents.

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Twins born a year apart on New Years eve

I was a midnight birth, born somewhere between 7/16/71 and 7/17/71 (the doctor let my mom choose my birthday). For New Years babies born around midnight, the choice is more momentous -- a whole year's difference! But what about New Years twin births? A woman in DC delivered her twins in two different years, three minutes apart. Cory 16

Genderswitched Bilbo makes The Hobbit a better read

Michelle Nijhuis's five year old daughter insisted that Bilbo Baggins was a girl. After arguing about it for a while, Michelle decided to read her The Hobbit, switching Bilbo's gender-pronoun throughout. And it worked brilliantly. Bilbo is a great heroine: "tough, resourceful, humble, funny, and uses her wits to make off with a spectacular piece of jewelry. Perhaps most importantly, she never makes an issue of her gender -- and neither does anyone else."

Pat Murphy wrote a novel based on this premise: There and Back Again, which is a retelling of The Hobbit as a science fiction story in which all the characters are female (in contrast to Tolkien, whose world is all but empty of women of any sort). It is, sadly, long out of print, but available used and well worth your attention.

In the meantime, this kind of on-the-fly changes to stories are part of what make reading aloud to your kid so much fun. Poesy often requests (demands) editorial changes to the books I read her, some of which have been surprisingly effective at improving the text.

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Christmastime daddy-daughter podcast with Poesy

Every year, there's a day or two between the date that my daughter's school shuts and the day that my wife's office shuts for Christmas holidays. Those are the official seasonal mid-week daddy-daughter days, and for the past two years, my daughter and I have gone to my office to record a podcast. Last year's was great (MP3), but I think we hit a new high this year (MP3).

(Photo: Jonathan Worth)

Cardboard Box Office: recreating movie scenes with a baby and scrap cardboard


When Lilly and Leon discovered themselves with a house-full of cardboard boxes (they'd just moved) and a new baby, they did what any parent would do: used the materials to recreate iconic scenes from their favorite movies, only the sets are made of cardboard and feature an adorably posed and costumed baby. Because parenting!

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Mother of three boys' funny review for Kleenex mulitpacks

A very funny Amazon review for multipacks of Kleenex is allegedly "A mother's struggle," describing the travails of living with three teenage boys who've discovered the miracle of self-pleasuring ("If I don't supply absorbent paper products, I'm going to find my dish towels hidden in the basement, stiff as aluminum. The other day, I almost cut my hand on a sock"). However, the "mother" who wrote the review is called "James Otis Thatch," so, possibly, too good to be true. But funny!

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Display case with false bookcase doors


Dan Tappo's seven-year-old son has a "mini-museum" of curios he's collected ("rocks, fossils, marbles, old film canisters"). For Christmas, Dan's built him a secret display cabinet hidden behind a false-front bookcase. He built a set of cheap Ikea shelves, fit hinged doors to it, and then surfaced them with sliced-off book-spines from old discards. Great maker parenting, Dan!

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Kids' Batman raincoat, with cape


The $30 kids' superhero raincoats come in Batman and Spider-Man -- but the Batman is the clear winner, with its own cape. Bonus: the logos glow in the dark.

Kids' Superhero Raincoats

Name-your-price bundle of kid-friendly RPGs

Bundle of Holding -- a name-your-price download service -- is currently promoting a collection of family-friendly RPGs, including several games that are suitable for age 5 and up. Ten percent of the purchase price goes to two worthy kids' charities (Save the Children and St Jude's Children's Hospital), and you can choose how much you pay (the recommended payment is $17). If you give more than $14.14, you get six bonus games, as well. Click through below for a list of the games in the bundle:

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Potty with built-in tablet holder is "worst toy of 2013"

Reasons My Son Is Crying declared the CTA Digital 2-in-1 iPotty with Activity Seat for iPad to be the worst toy of 2013. Mark called it last February, proving that he is, always, ahead of the curve on toilet-related mobile device technology!

Under normal circumstances, I'd object to this claim -- after all, I haven't had opportunity to review all the toys introduced in 2013. But in this case, it's hard to believe that there could really be anything worse. But if the introduction of this abomination was necessary to cause the fabulous reviews on Amazon to spring forth, it was all worth it.