Friday, September 28, 2012

Partisan Politics Invades Our Home

Like a thesis nailed on a church door, our son boldly has left his political statement where it was sure to be noticed (at least by him and his sister).

Joining election fever our seven-year-old left the following political statement on the television remote control (next to the Xbox controller):

Only people who are voting for Obama are allowed to use the TV. All violators shall be executed. (corrections mine)

Generally I try to keep politics off this blog, but as we live in the People's Republic of Portland I doubt that our political leanings surprise anyone. I try to tell my kids to resist seeing on-going argument through the lens of my team versus your team, but this is just impossible, even for me. I'm glad the kid is on our team, although I imagine this has the potential to change.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

10-year-old Lists YouTube Favorites

A well-rounded girl with interests in print and digital media.
Our food and media fast came to an end when the sun went down yesterday. Getting to work, we filled our bellies and minds, not with just mere content, but with delicious things that brought pleasure and delight, laughter and groans.

The main thought was that YouTube is becoming indispensable as the platform that catapults a performer to the realm of super-stardom. Part of this realization came from (finally) becoming clued in to the Korean rapper Psy and his YouTube hit "Gangnam Style." Hundreds of million of hits, countless spinoffs, parodies, all because a cherubic rapper from a tony suburb of Seoul posted a video. I love the idea a song in Korean can become an international hit.

The daughter found a mashup video that takes "Gangnan Style" and brings it to a video poking fun at the "Slender Man" video game. The game posits a creepy tall man with no face pursing game-players. The kid is lobbying for this game for the holidays.
Moving from satire and music to the world of social commentary are a few videos from Ryan Higa (Nigahiga channel on YouTube). Higa, a Japanese-American from Hawaii,  is a young film student who makes his comic videos with minimal technical support and snappy editing. He makes me excited about the possibilities of what a person can accomplish at home with her/his devices. I admit I'm also late to this party as Higa's videos are a big hit and have been viewed in aggregate over a billion times.
I am complicit in our family's unhealthy tittering about flatulence. I know I'll be sorry for my lack of resolve in keeping a stern face, but this is just the way it is.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kids In Bed

A child achieves the elusive dream of being able to be in the parental bed (a mother is underneath this child).
Kids spend plenty of energy trying to finagle, connive, launch themselves into the bed of their parents. Why? I suppose this is where they think the action is. If by "action" they mean sleep, dowdy pajamas and NPR then they would be correct.

But both kids have clock radios in their rooms and the offer is always open for them to consume as much NPR as they would like, so the value of getting into the bed is more abstract. The seven-year-old continues to appeal to the heartstrings of LSS in the small hours, believing the deadpanned word "nightmare" should get him an all-access pass. Thankfully we have moved on even if he has not.

But for those of you who wonder why I am so against these cute-pajama-clad ragamuffins cutting a few Zs with LSS and myself, consder:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Chen's Good Taste Restaurant Video

There are some foods that, no matter how much there is, never generate leftovers.
This weekend I took the kids to perhaps their favorite eatery, Chen's Good Taste Restaurant (fourth and Burnside, next to the homeless camp). We ordered Superbowl A and an extra side order of roasted duck because that is the big ticket item that we crave.

I love Chinese food in general and Chen's in particular. Chen's isn't fancy, in fact it's sort of run down, the wait staff efficient, and the duck is, well, perfect -- crunchy skin, moist and tender meat. I originally thought the kids would be excited about the dumplings, but no go there. How I got so lucky with their enjoying Chen's I'll never know -- a nice bit of kismet.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pizza as Change Agent for Veggies

The above artisanal pizza, created in-house by neurotic Chef Whack, contains kalamata olives, red onion and  kale.
Much the way "Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists" celebrates ham, our household feels the same about   pizza.

Often when the kids are coming home from an activity they will phone and ask what's for dinner, needing the extra time to adjust to the possibility the fare won't be to their liking.  I usually save pizza for Fridays or the weekends to finish the week on a high note.

As I make the pizza myself I can include any topping I choose. I typically make two pizzas, one pepperoni for the kids and LSS, and one with vegetables for myself.

Part of the excellence of pizza is that for the true believers (all of us) the leftovers can be eaten cold or heated and for any meal or snack, including breakfast.

Obviously the pepperoni pizza is the first to be eaten. Although it has taken a year, my son will now eat the vegetable pizza should no other option be available. The power of pizza as an agent of change!

I will keep readers posted to when my daughter finally succumbs and accepts the universal truth: pizza without one's favorite topping is still better than no pizza at all. In the past she has carefully picked the veggies off the pizza, but I predict in the next 15 years the war against vegetables should end.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Plastic Laundry Tub Continues To Serve Its Purpose

Stealth and concealment are the properties of one seven-year-old would-be galactic space ninja. 
A very early memory involves my parents taking me to a nearby park during the Minnesota winter where a section had been flooded to form a small skating rink. Placing me on top of an overturned laundry tub similar to the one above they gave me the ride of my (four-year?) life.

I'm always happy to see creative play, but having an overturned laundry tub creeping around the house was a special treat.

The re-purposing of everyday objects, for play or utility, always fills me with a sense of satisfaction. Part of this feeling has to do with the never-ending fight against being swallowed up by clutter. If we can more efficiently use what we have there won't be piles of crap everywhere, or so my theory goes.

I hope to pass this sentiment on to the kids without being too overbearing, but, hey, we live in Portland so such comes with the territory. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pokemon Fever Outbreak

Like any serious collection, the cards must be stored and curated in an appropriate manner.
We first had an outbreak of Pokemon Fever when my daughter was around five-years-old (she's currently 10). We bought her some related toys and books, let her watch the shows, and sat through a few of her "lectures" on the ways of the Pokemon.

This interest faded after a few months, but recently has ignited.

This time around both my son (7) and my daughter are getting a bit crazed about the trading cards. Apparently the school they attend has an active trading environment.

My daughter is a bit more reserved this time around about the excellence of the Pokemon, saying she likes the cards solely for their depiction of cute little creatures. Out of the mouths of babes.

In a stark reversal of roles, the kids gather knowledge and cards, conducting themselves with seriousness and resolve, while their immature parents laugh at Pokemon Turtwig, mispronouncing the name and pretending such would be vile to step in, all the while sniggering like third-graders. We are undone! (again)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Three Videos My Daughter Reccommends

A thermal image of the family courtesy of OMSI.
Despite advice to the contrary, my daughter can surf YouTube. Why do I permit her to visit a site that has the potential to expose her to inappropriate material? Mainly because the site also exposes her (and consequently myself) to really funny videos. Here are three she recently sent me:

I believe the fart joke is the kicker here, rather than consideration of "Tier 15." As long as everybody is wrapped in tin foil I'm okay with it.

The How It Should Have Ended series is usually terrific, but unless you have seen the movie the jokes won't be funny.
This is bizarre and highly excellent!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gilded Age Controversy Finally Put To Rest

A fine read for those who enjoy the spicy side of history.

For a while our family has been exclaiming, "Dude, that is so 1890's!" Often this is apropos of nothing, but usually it has to do with either lumberjacks or sailors. The inspiration for this expression comes from this.

Local author Finn J.D. John has written a terrific accounting of all the late 19th-century mayhem going on in Portland -- making the current-day shenanigans look like yesterday's hummus-- in his "Wicked Portland: The Wild and Lusty Underworld of a Frontier Seaport Town."

Dirty politicos, gambling, girls, and plenty of liquor, and, perhaps most notorious, the shanghai, as in the verb.  I particularly like the notion that the corrupt politicians were men of honor. Not to the oath of office or public service, but sanctimoniously honoring all the dirty deals they were involved in. 

Setting the record straight, John makes a rock-solid case that lumberjacking was the better job than manning a deep-water, square-rigged sailing vessel. Consider:

Lumberjacks were given good grub and plenty of it; they could walk off the job with their wages if the boss became abusive; they got Sundays off.

According to John, despite the danger of immensely large falling trees, Sailors' lives were even more at risk; the food was awful and meager; living conditions cramped; and there was no escape from abusive bosses save jumping ship and forfeiting all money owed.

This last part seems irrelevant as John points out all the complex infrastructure designed to insure that no sailor ever got paid what he was rightfully owed. Despite all the romanticism of the sailing vessel, sailors were considered subhuman scum. It wasn't until the age of the steamer that conditions improved to the point that one might actually choose to be a sailor. 

I will think of this book when people get misty-eyed about "the good ole days."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Names of Stuffed Animals

1) Super Penguin
2) Booey
3) Sargent Schwarma
4) Black Feathers
5) Benjamin 
6) Sockko
7) Blue Feathers
8) Cottontail
9) Yellow Feathers
10) Commander Cuddleypants
(Sleepy Bear is not pictured) 

The above are my son's A-list animals. He has others but they didn't make the cut and reside in other parts of the room.

My son is seven-years-old and has diverse interests such as martial arts and science fiction -- alert viewers will notice the Star Wars bed sheets. Still his animals are extremely important to him and they accompany him on long car rides, sleepovers, camping and the like.

At times his attachments have caused our household inconvenience as a meltdown regarding a MIA is both vocal and enduring. Still when I wake him up in the morning he usually has one clutched tight in his embrace. When he outgrows his animals the day will be bittersweet.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Nutty Parenting Behavior

I feel uneasy if we don't have plastic containers up the wazoo.
Years ago, before I had kids, I read a mocking report of the suburbs. The author was particularly amused by suburbanites bringing food over to a new neighbor, then stopping by a few days later to ask for the plastic containers back. I laughed at the well-to-do getting silently peeved if their inexpensive plastic tubs and lids were not available.

Be careful of what you laugh at for eventually such will be you. It's now me, and I freely admit it.

The cause of my nuttiness in this regard is mainly due to having children. Food is prepared and a parent never knows if this is one of the many meals where a child takes a single bite and declares hunger vanquished. Break out the plastic, again and again.

The creative cook opens up all the containers and somehow keeps recycling the food into ever stranger combinations, or at least transferring it to new containers, giving the illusion of new cooking.

A good feeling is having the refrigerator empty of plastic containers and the cupboard full -- a state of total preparedness for possible food delivery, eggplant, bento, or whatever.

I've fought this madness for years, but the only hope of escape is to keep moving forward, being proud of what I've become. And if you don't return my plastic, watch out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Interview With an Entrepreneur

Caught during a rare lull in activity, both economic and otherwise.

In my quest to be the best Portdaddia I can be, I am constantly asking people to take their best shot at capsulizing parenting philosophies. I enjoy hearing opinions different than my own, as it makes me reflective as to why I ever came up with them in the first place. (I recently adjusted my opinion that Orange Fanta makes a great emergency shampoo --Hey, it smells good!)

Here is the latest installment of our "Interview With..." series, a feature that aims to explore stuff, sort of.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Interview With a Media Consultant

This has nothing to do with today's post except that, yes, even utility poles are, in fact, "media."
I recently had lunch with a media consultant. We talked about hockey, central Washington, viral videos, and, of course, hummus. He is not a parent, but owing to his former status as a child has relevant advice to impart.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Express Yourself!

This assignment was for the first day of school
My daughter has a vivid sense of style. So it was natural when given the assignment to write about her philosophy ( loosely based on NPR's "I Believe" series), she would feel strongly about self-expression. Here's what she wrote:
Express Yourself
I believe in expressing myself. If there is no question you should still answer. I think that every person has the right to stand on top of a tall building and shout: Hey world! I was here! (not literally). Do not let society and others around you mold you into what they want you to be. Only you know who you are. I started taking martial arts lessons a year and a half ago. Now, I am a little more than halfway towards my goal: Black Belt. Becoming a Black Belt is a mental, spiritual, and physical journey where I have felt like giving up. But I have kept going because it’s who I am.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Polka-Bats and Octopus Slacks: 14 Stories By Calef Brown

Great poetry and art -- I realized how much I missed this book today.

My daughter needed a poem for school so she brought the above book into my office for photocopying. I was brought back to when she was four and didn't really read. Family members read this book to her countless times.

The best art transports the reader/viewer to another place and time. The best children's art does that and gives a sly wink to the parents without darkening the lens. Without further adieu I give you "Kansas City Octopus":
Kansas City Octopus
is wearing fancy slacks.
just got 'em,
fifty bucks including tax.
Red corduroy,
and boy-o-boy
they fit like apple pie.
Multi-pocket snazzy trousers
custom made for octopi.
Fantastic plastic stretch elastic
keeps 'em nice and tight.
Kansas City Octopus
is looking good tonight!
The aforementioned octopus.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Report on First Day of School

New school year, old problem.
Unfortunately I was not able to debrief the kids on their experience at school until the morning of the second day of school.

For the seven-year-old, the intense martial arts workout yesterday after school was first on his mind, more or less obliterating whatever drama happened previously that day. The daughter was more forthcoming about the day, the highlights of which are here:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Day of School

Sartorial note: the most ridiculous thing he's heard of is wearing long sleeves with short pants.

Big day for new fashion direction.
Last night the daughter came into our darkened room to report that she was too excited to sleep. The new outfit had been laid out on the floor, the supplies organized, but sleep was elusive. "Don't worry about sleeping or not sleeping, just rest. In your room. Yes, now," I said.

I keep thinking I'm letting my kids down. There should be some elaborate protocol when "not able to sleep" is declared. Perhaps they're hoping I'll say, "Why don't you turn on the TV and watch all the movies you want until drowsiness overtakes you. Then I'll gently carry you to bed." Not likely.

A better parent would fix a mug of warm milk (for the child) while chanting koans modified to reflect a variety of whimsical subjects (iPhones!).

A musical parent would break out the harpsichord and sing a lullaby Garcia himself would be proud of.

Portdaddia isn't a sit-on-his-hands sort of guy. In the clear light of day he makes a blog post, feeling that smug self-reflection gets him off the hook. Also, our harpsichord was revoked on grounds of moral turpitude.

Enjoy the following video of the first morning of the school year. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Outside Extravaganza Media Fest

North side of Mt. St. Helens more than 32 years after the Big Events.
School starts tomorrow, thank God. My office door has been flung open 12 times in the last two hours. Reasons for the interruptions include sharing teacher announcements, requests for office supplies, news of the ridiculous, and kids wanting hugs -- they do this knowing I can't possibly complain, and they're right. 

No joke, it just flew open again by a daughter wanting me to read her essay about self expression (some days I must sacrifice productivity for the greater good). More on this later.

All to say we were the true blue this weekend, sleeping in tents, hiking, and generally running amok in the Outdoors.
Experts can verify that this photo was not faked (too much).
Also, adding to the waft of morning napalm was the 45 minute meltdown from the seven-year-old bewailing the fact that his best friend isn't in his class.
The motley crew (not Mötley Crüe).
 I took one of the kids rock climbing as some friends discovered that they had all the gear and were highly experienced. How they just "discovered" this has to do with giving birth and raising a child which apparently blocked out much of the pre-kid era.
Kid going for it at Horse Thief Butte near The Dalles, WA.
This guy wasn't part of our group, but he looked more competent than any of us so I'm posting it.
 We finished strong and hiked Tamanawas Falls in the Mt. Hood National Forrest yesterday. The falls, and some of the other locales, are captured in a concise video commemorating Portdaddia's 2012 Labor Day: