Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cooking With a Kid

There is the feeling that when filming starts behavior is exaggerated -- not true in our house. Drama, and plenty of it, is just part of what we are about.
Frustrated by days without milk (I know, I know, we are shameless), the daughter celebrates the arrival of a key ingredient to give instruction about creating her favorite beverage.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Things I Worry About

Series of water skiing pictures celebrating spirit of not being in the rain.
Before a vacation I am nervous -- about packing, transport, weather, currency -- you name it, I'm obsessing over it.

I also worry about how my children behave around others. At a public pool a protracted meltdown forced an intervention by a well-meaning civilian. All was fine, and the woman was essentially acknowledging that the tough spot I was in had been visited by just about all parents, but still it was me and my offspring that were causing the ruckus amid a hundred other parents and kids.

In the following video you can get a sense of my jittery mood. Also, it seems my son has started worrying about vacation as well. In his case, litigation is the main fear.:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pre-war Minsk

The little wisenheimer herself.
My daughter received for Hanukah The Big Book of Jewish Humor. And since then there has been no turning back, either to knock-knock jokes or the shtetl.

Now the jokes are of an earnest, avoid-the-antisemites, oy-vey variety. I feel like I'm living in the borsht belt. Obviously this is one of the ways cultural identity is formed, just need to wait until she works her way to more modern comics.

Here's a taste of the schtick:

Monday, December 17, 2012

What We Are Up To

This is certainly intriguing evidence of some nature.
A valid question of us (actually of anyone, for that matter) is what the hell are we doing?

Indeed, what are we up to? What are we all about? Why is it that we do things differently than others?

Instead of regurgitating my dissertation on Kung Fu Panda and the Jewish/ Sramanic Traditions of Southwest Portland, please reference the following:

Friday, December 14, 2012

Need to Hug the Kids

I heard about the news from my wife. There was a Hanukah celebration in the early afternoon and I needed to go there, celebrate with the children, hug them. They didn't know and I didn't want to stress them as they were preforming.

All I could think about was that in Connecticut parents had rushed to a school to know that their children, the same age as mine, were okay. Most of the parents were relieved, but many were not.

My heart goes out to them.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sometimes Kids Get It Right

This is an accurate representation of me and and my pursuit of windsurfing joy.

As parents we sometimes need to go off and do our thing, be it date night, recreation or a movie not rated for kids (infer what you will with that last remark).

Occasionally I sneak away for a bit of recreation and return refreshed. I like that this tendency was observed and commented on by my daughter with the above birthday present a few years ago.

The gewgaw is a proud memento.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Are Gen X Parents More Whack Than Others?

Artist rendering of Generation X entitlement.

I just read A Teacher’sGuide to Generation X Parents, by Susan Gregory Thomas, an interesting essay which posits that the unique circumstances of Gen Xers necessitate special handling, especially when our children are concerned.

Generation X counts for about 48 million people in the US, covering those of us born between 1965 and 1979, and is sandwiched between the much larger Boomers and Generation Y.

I can concur that I worry our kids won’t achieve as much as other kids whose parents aren’t as emotionally evolved as we are, become frantic about arranging developmentally appropriate playdates (can your child please fill out this aptitude test?), need to hector school staff about the proper curriculum regarding organic beekeeping.

I found myself nodding in agreement with just about everything the essay said. I imagined the author wanted people like me to be self-reflective, but I just felt further entitled to call the kids’ school and complain about enforcing proper etiquette in the pick-up line. 

Perhaps I gave the biggest nod to the quote: “A lot of Gen Xers have this artisanal affectation, which comes from having sought out the margins of mass culture in independent bookstores, record shops, politics.”  Basically this describes all of Portland in a nutshell, so I felt further let off the hook for having to deal with self-improvement. Please disregard my recent post about artisanal salami.

Generally the source of all this neurotic behavior is that we went through the “all-important formative years as one of the least parented, least nurtured generations in US history.” Half of our parents are divorced and as a result we want to give our kids what we lacked. “If you want to know what’s unhealed from your own childhood, have children.”

The essay concludes with some tips how to work with Gen X parents, presumably educators, real estate agents, and vendors of artisanal salami can benefit. The list of essay headings includes:

  • Listen to Us
  • Include Us
  • Put Us to Work
  • Give Us Limits
  • Work with Us

I appreciate Thomas’ close analysis about the peculiarities of my generation, but ultimately her prescriptions just seem like general good advice. I’m reading the book Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success by Madeline Levine, who apparently believes that the excesses of Gen X parents outlined in Thomas’ essay are those behaviors found by any parent who currently has a kid in school.
My own experience supports Levine’s perspective – obnoxious parents beating down educators with PowerPoint presentations is a free-range animal spanning the ages.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Let The Stuffy Old People Be Mocked! Just Dance 4

Evidence of my descent into crusty middle age: I prefer to brew tea in teapots.

So it comes down to this: If my daughter wants me to join her for a few rounds of Just Dance 4 - a recent Hanukah gift - who am I to say no? Why would I deprive anyone the spectacle of seeing me move like a spastic child on ice.

Our game console is an Xbox with Kinect sensor (two video cameras) which read body movements and translate them into game action. The game plays music and the screen shows figure(s) dancing, lyrics, and other information. Players strive to duplicate the moves on screen and when they do so to the satisfaction of the software points are awarded -- so the dancing becomes a point-based competition.

Part of the fun is that at the end of the song a video is created in speeded-up time showing your dancing. While I was dancing I thought to myself, "Hey, I might have a few moves left." The cold evidence of the video belies any such thinking.

The game is fun and new songs can be downloaded. Games designers knew that they needed some dated material to pull in parents like myself. I enjoyed dancing to Rock Lobster and a Blues Brothers song, complete with cartoon Jake and Elwoods of appropriate heights and builds.

This is a fun game that delivers on the promise of Kinect technology, which is that you will be tired and sweaty after a short amount of time. Freebird!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sure-fire Kid Catnip

Who can remember what was wrapped in the stuff?
Nothing says fun holiday time like bubble wrap. Leave it around the house and watch the creative play begin!

The above kids are 10- and 8-year-old budding fashion designers.

Bonus item: How to turn a boring Monday breakfast into a tropical fiesta -- pretend the grapefruit is an exotic cocktail served by a flying monkey (preferably one not emanating from anyone's posterior).
Key ingredient: really excellent grapefruit. (I know, I know -- you're welcome!)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Crazy Good Eats - A New Tradition?

Shameless product placement.
My brother, who has lobbied for a blog nickname or TLA (three letter acronym), has done a wonderful thing. So wonderful, in fact, that I might actually get the research monkeys to work on that TLA.

In the finest of holiday traditions, he has sent me five specialty salamis from Olympic Provisions. One for each of the first five days of Hanukah, ostensibly leaving the remaining three for latkes and sufganiyot.

Already I have been on the phone with the elder statesman, my father, arguing about which salami is most delicious. Somehow Loukanika isn't in the running. I respect his judgement on many things, but in this regard he is wrong, wrong, wrong. Perhaps this is another nascent Hanukah tradition, the vociferous ranking of the pork products.

Of course I think the salami is buttery smooth with intriguing spices, but the kids like it too. I gave them a few pieces for breakfast, a time when they are usually grouchy and picky about food, and the daughter gave a thumbs up. The son was distracted and needed to discard his pants and run out of the room for reasons not completely understood. But I don't think this concerns the Saucisson Sec.

The true test will come when I tell them the white on the outside of the meat is a natural edible mold called Penicillim. If they keep eating despite this then I know we have an undisputed winner.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Thinking Cap

Despite claims of the contrary, "doughnut appreciation" is not a region of the brain.
I love it when parents bring their passion and expertise to bear on the classroom. The fancy chapeau was the result of such a parent. Bravo!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Doughnut Birthday: The Usual Remixed

The maple-bacon bar (yes, that's real bacon) is a favorite so we made sure to have plenty on hand.
This past summer house guests introduced the notion of doughnuts for birthday sweets and since then there has been no turning back.

Interesting in that when the guests bought from Voodoo Doughnuts the above kid went thermonuclear because his favorite shop had been Sesame Doughnuts. After seeing these over-produced wonders he knew where the bacon lay and changed his mind.

As with all good parties there was the hint of scandal. One of the doughnuts was supposed to represent a voodoo doll with a pin (pretzel) stuck into the heart. Unfortunately the pin and heart accurately resembled male genitalia, causing a party goer to remark, "Oh, a boy doughnut!" This doughnut can be seen in the foreground of the above picture.

I figure this is what we pay for when we go to Voodoo Doughnuts -- a terminally hip establishment now going mainstream -- as I understand how difficult it is for a doughnut shop to maintain its place in edgy subculture.

Despite the raised eyebrows, a great night of celebration ensued. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Birthday Dinner Menu

Despite the shirt "Pizza Ninja" our boy choose differently.
The tradition in our house is that the birthday person gets to choose the menu on his/her actual date of birth. Today the 8-year-old guy wants:

  • Hot dogs
  • Good buns (wholewheat buns are unacceptable)
  • Potatoes (sliced russets coated in olive oil and broiled)
  • Green beans (although he doesn't have to eat them -- birthday rights include rejection of vegetables -- they will still be present) 
  • Pickles
  • Salad (birthday boy requested a huge amount of croutons)
  • Pickles
  • Doughnuts (instead of birthday cake -- more variety of flavors)

Monday, December 3, 2012

First World Problems

As much as we hate to admit it, there is a conceptual gap between generations. The younger generation will unfailingly be put upon by the older one, No, I DON'T need to wear a jacket, Dad!

For us in the older generation there is the feeling that all the nifty consumer electronics will obfuscate a basic reality, one that often is just outside our personal bubbles of daily (on-line) experience. I've heard it said that being America is feeling entitled. What will my kids feel entitled about? Most likely that Wifi should be as ubiquitous as air. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I'm happy when I see signs of self-reflection.

My daughter sent me the following video:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Upcoming Vacation Event Comment (Disney)

Forget copyright issues, if LSS doesn't give prior approval I'm stuck. The female above is an undisclosed woman.
I have the good fortune to go on a cruise with members of my immediate family. Yes, it is a Disney cruise, which I realize is cause for some concern.

I have an MBA degree, which my kids understand, for good reason, to mean Master Burrito Assembler. During my studies I took an operations management course in which the instructor felt that Disney was perhaps the company that expressed operational management in the highest and purest form. He believed that the deep thinkers knew what you wanted before you even knew, making a 90-minute wait for Space Mountain seem bearable and pleasant.

I haven't left for vacation, so obviously I can't get too snarky, but I have been interfacing on the Disney MyCruise website, which I rate at B+. If you put in your itinerary number you can reserve dining and activities on the cruise, each option having a link to full information.  Also cool is that if you are making the trip with others you can see if your group has signed up for the activities as well.  Other functionality:

  • Register a credit card and decide who has access;
  • On-line check in (this is significant as passport and flight numbers are required);
  • Indicate interest to have CEO Bob Iger call and complain about former Big Guy Michael Eisner.

The idea is that the cruise people will have full electronic itineraries before we even get there. I want seamless integration. Now that I'm middle-aged and ridiculous I want the magician to get me and my brood checked-in fast and on the Fiesta deck pronto.

My criticism of the site has to do with slow-loading, overly produced, cartoonish pages. I understand this is Disney, but the children usually don't handle the financial details. Also, it wasn't intuitive how to enter the screens where personalization of the cruise is possible. I went in loops more than a few times.

There is the option to pre-pay gratuities 3 days before the ship leaves from dock. Reflexively I'm against this --what if the service sucks? But even if it does, I usually have deep sympathy for service workers and rarely show displeasure through tipping -- so maybe this is a good thing. Do they know what I want before I do?

I know my dreams of travel convergence and frictionless transfers are just that, dreams, but Disney may be the company that makes dreams (of luggage delivered to the correct stateroom) come true.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Raspberry Tickle Bear F-bomb

This is not the said bear but will suffice.

Those creative kids have adopted "Raspberry Tickle Bear"as code for the F-bomb. I realize part of me should be upset that a 10- and 7-year-old are referencing such words -- but I don't have the energy. What kind of parent objects to Raspberry Tickle Bears?

More importantly I am happy that both have learned that to use the F-bomb directly would be bad, very bad. Keep the language clean around parents and teachers and everybody is happy.

If I had been a better student I would now deftly tap into deconstructionist literary theory and show that this is how language ultimately works, once a word or concept has been devalued another immediately takes its place.

I imagine in a future meltdown someone might be told to journey to the realm of the Raspberry Tickle Bear. When that happens I might have to take a poll to figure out whether to laugh or cry.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dream Sandwich

Several minutes later only crumbs.

Recently my daughter had all ingredients to fully express her culinary longing in the form of a sandwich. The above contains:
  • Aged-cheddar bagel (Kenny and Zuke's)
  • Mayonnaise
  • 2 slices of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar cheese
  • Roast turkey
  • Sopressata
  • Romaine lettuce 
I was happy she ate heartily, but more important her ultimate sandwich dream was fulfilled. On to the next challenge!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Novel Anger Management Idea Falls Flat

It sounded like it might work at the time.

This past weekend my daughter was quite upset. She wanted an early reprieve of her consequence of no screen time and I refused to oblige. The result was lots of door slamming, moaning and wailing, and general unpleasantness.

My son had the idea of creative anger management. He used my phone to take my picture, sent it to the printer, then taped it onto the punching bag. He invited his sister to vent her frustrations with kicks and punches on my picture. Oddly enough she did not think it a constructive idea.

My son then took out his future frustrations.
Take that, scoundrel!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Big Wisdom Learned Over the Weekend

Schwarma gets us more excited than the above pictured, but then again we don't often (successfully) defend against aliens from another dimension hell-bent on our ruination.

Here's the big fun -- if you have the DVD of the movie "The Avengers," let it play through the eight minutes of final credits.

In the movie the character Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, invites all of his comrades to try schwarma after he falls hard to earth after heroically diverting a nuclear warhead into the mothership of rapacious aliens.

Everyone is relieved Tony has survived, but the extra scene does not reveal heroes celebrating good triumphing over evil with fine food and drink. They look like they lost a bet and are having to pay. This is a disservice to a delicious dining experience!

The rotating log of schwarma is clearly visible over Thor's left shoulder.

Schwarma should never be a punchline, so please write emails of complaint to the National Schwarma Council.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Indomitable Spirit

Well said!

I’m Unstoppable with Indomitable Spirit 

I’m physically healthy because indomitable spirit. I use it for everything below:

  • Summiting tall mountains;
  • Doing flips, cartwheels, and jump kicks;
  • Pushups, sit-ups, burpies, mountain climbers;
  • Never quitting no matter what (in and out of martial arts);
  • Weightlifting;
  • Punches, kicks, forms, combos.

The above is the essay component of my son's martial arts test. Good stuff.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Editorial Comment From The Daughter

 Heroic pose for heightened dramatic effect -- that's what it's all about.

The new comedic touchstone in our house is Ryan Higa videos. What I love about this guy is that he's hilarious and is making great videos on a shoestring budget. Here's what the daughter has to say:
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Cold War Explained

Contemplating the international ramifications of the Vietnam conflict after eating a bowl of noodles.

For the record, I do not let my son play Call of Duty:Black Ops (first edition), the shooter game set in the early years of the Cold War. He's taken an interest in those years on his own initiative. Here he is explaining himself:

As I was preparing the video he had the following notes:

The note reads: At end of blog post say: my son knows way more history (including those 2 wars)


Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I console myself that I cleaned the sewer grate.

Trapped inside during a storm and school vacation with two neurotic hyper weasels. Not even December and I have cabin fever.

Yesterday saw "Grosology" at OMSI -- a decent distraction. Nothing too crazy here.

Better yet is the BBC series "Chased By Dinosaurs," which posits if a 21st century naturalist could go back in time to seriously observe dinosaurs. Not too scary for the 7-year-old and great effects.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Old Computer Used for Educational Activity

The kid wanted to build something with this -- I should have let him and launched a startup. Instead I told him we were going to drop the neat package off for recycling.

Here's an activity for a rainy day. Take a PC and open it up and teach the kids the following parts:

  • Power supply
  • Graphics card
  • RAM chips
  • Motherboard
  • Hard drive
  • Media drive
  • CPU
Tell them what each part does. If they pass the test allow video games to be played for nine hours.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pajama Day

Big fashion day: The kid changed out of his Clone Wars pajamas and went all out, finding his best sleepwear, Angry Birds in the (clean) laundry basket.
Today is pajama day in the kids' school. This is a really big thing for the second grader.

Such enthusiasm is not an isolated event. When I dropped him off there was an electricity in the air not present yesterday (true, it is Friday) .

Caught up in the festive mood I made the remark to a mom that I, too, would have liked to wear my pajamas.
I don't care if you live in Portland, socks with sandals are a crime against humanity!
Okay, so the joke didn't go over so well. Needless to say I was, and will be, attired as usual.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Mood Depends On My Computer (What kids?)

The jokesters at Linux figured that after 24 hours best use a calendar to measure the download time.
I have often used a Linux box, but those days are gone in large part because said box antiquated itself by not growing a faster processor and more RAM.

I have purchased a new PC and am in a crappy mood because five years of programs and settings haven't lept from one tower to the next. Power, power, power --that's what it's all about.
That and Gang-nam Style! Here's an example of what is cheering me up -- daughter's favorite Psy video still.
Mad raps can occur anywhere! (At least in Korea).
Changes are coming to the quaint hamlet of Portdaddia-Town. Soon I'll be uploading these posts faster by a factor of three.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Daughter's Big New Backpack Actually Fits In Locker

I initially  thought we had jumped the shark.
LSS and the daughter agonized on what the appropriate next backpack would be. Large, it seems, is just not large enough. Massive, or Extended-Long-Weekend, size works fine.

Despite my nay-saying, it fit in the locker.
The locker closed, too!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Working At Home (With Kids)

This artwork was actually created with my son sitting quietly while I sat in front of the computer.
Yesterday I had told my kids, who got the day off from school, that they could play video games as long as they wanted. That took up six hours of their waking time, which still left about nine hours unaccounted for.

When trying to get things done with kids in the house there is always the comedy of reading a line, getting interrupted, reading it again, another interruption, until finally you make a video. That's what happened yesterday.
I got a bit cranky, but generally I'm thrilled to have bizarre little creatures running amok in the house.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Weekend Update

The design parameters were carefully considered
 Had a pleasant weekend of various distractions. Starting off, Saturday morning LSS and myself went to the supermarket for a mock date, leaving the devil spawn plotted on the couch where they remained for the 40 minutes until we returned. Scientific methods would be needed to determine if they had moved at all during this time -- mischief-making would have taken too much energy.

Next we saw a fine animated film, Wreck-it Ralpf
This Disney film delivered some laughs with a pleasing riff on video games old and new. We all agreed it was a fine work, but not worthy of further study.

We saw some art for Día de los Muertos, which is always a colorful and quirky celebration, refreshing after the enforced gloominess of Halloween.    

Not giving in totally to the gray skies we went for a brief nature hike before running to a bakery for sustenance from the (mild) cold.
Indian Creek Trail
A fine weekend! Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Daughter's Self-Reflections

Today was the day I had to review my daughter's folder of homework. One of her assignments was to write random things about herself that reflected her personality. That she did!

Randomesticated Me!

Indecision is what I suffer from.
I say you can make your own sandwich!
I have made sandwiches (unwillingly).
I have touched a bald head.
Never would I want to summit Mt. Everest.
When in my Martial Arts uniform, I feel invincible.
Don't bake me a casserole unless it's a dessert.
I accidentally spilled red Gatorade in my mom's polka dot purse in the middle of Jerusalem.
I have experienced writer's block.
It's hard for me to reflect because I live in the present.
If I try to be at peace, all of the things I need to do are at the top of my mind, and vice versa.
Should I ride in the black car or the red car?
Instead of an imaginary friend, I had an imaginary enemy named Flangus.
According to others, I am very entertaining and can tell quite a joke, for what it's worth.
If you ask, I will answer.
You oppose me?! Tell that to Martial Arts me!
My lifelong goal is to read all the stories in the world.
If I told you everything, you still wouldn't understand.
I will not go down without a fight!
Don't say I'm destined for it; I already have it.