Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hoping for Rage Reduction With Punching Bag

No need to say be gentle here -- "ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK!"

The kids won a punching bag yesterday -- a good one made to withstand whatever abuse one can dish out. It made my heart glow watching the kids rage against the bag with good form and power -- a big shoutout to everyone who made this moment happen at the Portland branch of Ernie Reyes West Coast Martial Arts.

Here's the video -- make sure to turn down your speakers!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Kids Reject Protein At Breakfast On Principle

Only one of these items will be eaten at breakfast.

 A few months ago I was cautiously optimistic a food renaissance was overtaking the family. I realize now such optimism was sadly misplaced.

I am lucky to have kids who will eat different kinds of foods, but when it comes to breakfast all bets are off. I garnish most all of my offering with slices of apple, which is the sure-fire item that will be eaten, unless the apples are too tart, mealy, blemished, or objectionable for any imaginary or conceptual reason.

The other standby is the bagel. For years I've toasted two bagels for my two kids, serving one dry and one with a bit of butter. As the kids are now larger and involved with calorie-burning activities I want to load them up with some morning protein. Cheese melted on a bagel is an accepted form of food to them, just not in the AM.

My daughter is starting to like scrambled eggs, but my son will only eat them when forced. My own experience sheds no light on this as I remember myself as a kid who ate a lot of different breakfasts, with many types of eggs, oatmeal, cereal, and dinner leftovers consumed.

I suspect I need to turn my back on this problem and let the subtler forces of nature do their work. Say what you want, bagels are still pretty awesome.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Oregon Fall Weather

These boots were made for splashing!
A pair of colorful boots turns rainy weather into a fiesta of creative play.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Locker Situation

Kittens and a whiteboard !
Today I took the kids to school, giving me a new environment in which to turn my blogger gaze. My fifth-grade daughter has a locker which she gets to decorate as necessary. No surprises here.

Moving on to the second-grade son, he still has a "cubby," so whatever dreams of self-expression he has must wait a while longer.
The while folder is his Pokemon card collection.
The (hackneyed) thought of the day is that so much effort goes into packing and unpacking, especially for the son who can conceive of no half measures in this regard. The backpack must be completely zipped and all items securely inside otherwise egress is impossible.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Music of My Existence

The CD album, once an item of daily use.
This appeared on Facebook a few years ago as a response to the challenge of name your favorite 15 albums. As I like my list I get to post it here -- my blog, my rules.

The List

Such a task! So much music. I have no scientific method. I reject the “Golden Age” formula which usually lists the big impact albums after musical taste was developed and before kids. These are a sampling, from start to the present, of albums that set me off on a number of profound, ridiculous, profane, sublime, and fanciful directions. I do not stand on this record. If I ever undertake this exercise again I reserve the right to list a completely different set of music. Anyway, this exercise is only for fogies, now it’s all about the playlists.

Songs of the American West -- I remember being able operate the record player myself when I was six or seven, this album becoming a favorite. I wasn’t necessarily in a cowboy phase, but the hearty, sing-a-long quality of these songs caught me.“The Ohio Line” can be conjured in an instant should I need an enthusiastic folk song to ease the swinging of a sledge.

Irish Rovers – Tales to Warm Your Mind -- My parents pushed me into the Rovers for reasons long confused. A good-timey, rollicking romp, almost folkloric. Looking back with an adult’s eye, I realize many of the lyrics were promoting anti-social behavior, although with Gaelic wit and fine musicianship.

Shanana -- From the Streets of New York --  I started to clue in to the larger world of rock ‘n’ roll with this. Images of cars, girls, popularity, summer, gold lamé cowboy boots. The music was straightforward, easily understood doo-wop harmonies.

Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead -- At this stage I was big into the usual British rockers. Intrigued at the unique hybrid of genres, I knew the Dead were a hippie rock act, but it certainly didn’t sound  like anything I’d heard before. “Casey Jones” was the Rosetta Stone, indicating exactly what was going on.

Talking Heads – 77 An anthem of adolescence – we are all misunderstood teenagers, whoops, I mean psycho killers, living in an abstract world that ultimately makes no sense. I had an adenoidal quality to my voice then, which perhaps gave me affinity with David Byrne. 

Repo Man Soundtrack – The word “random” was big in my mind at this point. Whatever that word meant to me then, this album was it. Sort of a primer to Punk with bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies, Iggy Pop. Loud, fast, sarcastic, sometimes in Spanish, this was the ne plus ultra of cool for many years.

Butthole Surfers – Double Live. These guys taught me that art does not have to make any sense whatsoever – it doesn’t have to do anything, just exist. Still, the music had a voyeuristic thrill similar to listening to a curbside psychiatric evaluation at 3:00 am in a dangerous neighborhood.

Cramps – Rockin and Reelin in Auckland New Zealand  -- Simple, passionate, deviant. Lux Interior, a man so at ease with his fetishes as to render a leopard-print G-string as mundane as a homburg and banker’s suit. A man who implied the furthest extremes of something with the hillbilly yodel of “chicken pot pie.” 

Dead Kennedys -- Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. Ramones for adults, or at least left-leaning college students. Sleek hardcore punk with semi-coherent rages against mainstream culture and politics. Nobody does rage like Jello Biafra.

Pixies – Doolittle Abstract to the point of surreal, hard guitars, screechy vocals. This music frees my mind to see failure as triumph, dystopia as paradise. I drew from it the notion that we’re all sent to man some outpost in life, even if we’ve lost contact with home base.

Tom Jones --  Reload  My wife gave me this album as a birthday present before we were married. Each song is a happy memory.

Fat Boy Slim – Halfway between the Gutter and the Stars. Such a fine dance between order and disorder, repetition and ornamentation. So often this album was the motivational soundtrack for a journey or a big night out.

Miles Davis -- Sketches of Spain When wanting to bring a feeling of concentration or thoughtful reflection, this album created such in a matter of moments. Much was dreamed, planned, written due to Davis’s minimalist probing with the trumpet.

Matisyahu -- Live at Stubbs A rap-reggae fusion delivered by a pot-smoking Lubavitcher – hard to go wrong with that combo. The album became morning coffee on weekends in a way I hadn’t expected. The first album in years I actually wanted turned up to audible levels. Underscores the notion that everything stays the same, everything is different.

Dandy Warhols -- Odditorium or Warlords of Mars A quirky pop album that confirms my enjoyment of art rock – snarky, cool, these guys fill the room with subversion and fuzzy guitar chop. Music that makes going to the grocery store poignant with the possibility of transcending quotidian reality into exceptional experience.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why Do We Have This?

Memories of a happy childhood?
My loyal reader has pointed out that a favorite ploy of mine is to walk around the house -- often in my purple velour smoking jacket with fez positioned at rakish angle -- and find items disorganized or unused and then base my blog post on such.  Guilty as charged!

Following in the demented and journalistic traditions of Andy Rooney and George Carlin, the former the great wonderer of "why," the later the great labeler of crap, I found the above-pictured toy telephone from LSS's early childhood of the late `60s or early `70s.

This is a toy for toddlers, and as our children have grown beyond the stage it's clear that value now is purely sentimental. I don't think our children ever played with it as they had no idea what it might be -- they have never seen a rotary-dial telephone.

I remember this toy from my childhood as well, but more importantly I remember from "Toy Story 3" that the phone, despite it's happy demeanor, had the voice of a hardened con. Of note:

The corporate marketing mavens at Disney Pixar/ Fisher Price were not born yesterday, more like tomorrow. For the classic toy is now sold with a sound chip so a child can replay dramatic moments from the film:

I still don't know why we are saving the phone, but now I worry that a young child will come upon it and be furious that it's so completely outdated.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How To Handle Massive Sugar Tsunami of Halloween

Perhaps I can persuade the kids to trade their candy for some delicious fruit? Part of aging has to do with losing one's perspective of self and humor.
We live in an excellent neighborhood for Halloween: several neighbors really go all-out with decorations, plenty of houses give full-size candy bars to trick-or-treaters, and there is no compelling reason to cross on foot any interstate highways.

So the kids will run from house to house, the adorable little ragamuffins dressed like a soldier-ninja-agent and a female Thor, each aggregating close to 25 pounds of candy.

When the kids were really little the haul wasn't so massive. We then could have a single piece of candy be dessert, after the appropriate dinner items were consumed, and the stash would be gone in a few months. Now if this system were deployed the child would have candy every night for time immemorial, unless of course the neighbors thought it odd that 35-year-old single adults continued trick-or-treating.

Last year, frustrated by our massive candy pile, I gave it away to a landscaper toiling in bad weather. Although LSS has strong opinions about food, she has stronger opinions about certain "inalienable" rights of childhood. I realize this year any relinquishing of candy will have to be carefully negotiated.

So what are my tactics? I have two starting points. 1) After some initial gorging, point out that there are those completely without any candy whatsoever and a donation to the food bank would be in order; 2) Surely there must be something you might desire in place of candy? Chinese food? A foam bat to strike your sibling? Pokemon cards?

Many celebrate the free handouts of Halloween, but as the above illustrates, everything has its price.

Monday, October 22, 2012

View of Yourself Through Your Kid's Eyes

In real life I'm not so thin.
My son made this card for me back in April. We had some old photographs and he made a collage. He saw a picture of a day-glo skeleton surfing and figured he had found his inspiration. Works for me!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Halloween Is a Good Investment

War axe, trident, corseque, fauchard, gisarme or whatever the kid needed at the moment.
Parents should not shy away from buying Halloween gear. For if done right, the costume and accessories will provide weeks, if not months, of creative play. The above inexpensive weapons have become favorites, providing years of play for my son.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fall Backpack Bonanza

Lots of dots!
This season the daughter has taken some revolutionary steps in backpack management. Namely to put some of the equipment, like lunch box and water bottle, on the outside.

The son has rejected this concept perhaps due to the size and shape of his satchel (no rollers or internal frame). Note:
A safe feeling of unity comes from having all the gear neatly tucked away, or so the theory goes.

 Often his extra clothing is inside but will be rendered unreachable due to the effort involved in freeing it from the tight packing. He may be ready for anything, but when anything arrives he'd rather wait it out than unpack the bag prematurely.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New Room Signage

The doorbell has been a favorite toy (for the kid) since preschool.
Perhaps as a reaction to various demands and intrusions, the daughter has posted the following sign:

If you care anything about my mental health you will KNOCK FIRST!
Thank you for respecting my mental needs

 I doubt the sign has deterred much foot traffic, but I can appreciate the effort to create privacy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Drawer of Crap Explained -- Sort Of

There was an impulse to organize, but then a wave of pride at our high level of entropy set in.
  1. Five discrete rolls of cellophane tape -- a favorite item of self-expression with the kids;
  2. Toy surfboard;
  3. Empty pill container (?!!);
  4. Ear thermometer: These should be handed out as basic parenting gear whenever the National Committee on Parenting Gear gets its act together;
  5. Extra set of ear buds: Several meltdowns have been diffused with these bad boys;
  6. Bubbles: Somehow a vial has found its way into every drawer in the house;
  7. 2700 Post-it notes: I really hate running out  of these so I bought a bunch; I like the idea of a legacy for my grandchildren.

Monday, October 15, 2012

How Much Kid Art Is Too Much?

Can this ever  be taken off the wall?
Like other married couples, LSS and myself have different views about a few things. One of the issues that highlights the differences in our sensibilities is what to with kid-generated art (KGA). 

In an (exaggerated) nutshell, she would save everything and I would throw all of it away. LSS has a box in garage which has her KGA. She doesn't want to look at it and only does so when we move houses, which last occurred about 10 years ago. To throw the stuff away, in her opinion, would be to irrevocably lose a vital connection to her past self.

I have don't have any of my own KGA, but my parents do (a selection, mind you, not all of it). More to the point, there are several places in the house where I have taken a stab at adult-generated art (AGA), which is what can happen if art becomes a process rather than a conclusion. I have tried to remove some of my AGA and replace it, but LSS and the gang say they have become used to it.

I wish every month we cold wipe the refrigerator's exterior clean and then put the most recent KGA, photos, and stickers on it. I doubt it would be bare more than a few days. Much good KGA goes on Facebook or this blog. Personally, blank surfaces tend to stir my mind for artistic expression.

I hope to set a good example for the kids, that everything a person creates, uses, reads, need not be saved (or if it does, save it in the Cloud and avoid clutter i.e. blog). Currently the most difficult and combative issue I have with my daughter concerns cleaning her room. Any attempt at organizing, in all but the most superficial way, is exasperating.

I realize as children mature they will instinctively know that everything they make doesn't need to be saved. I just feel they will be happier, more energized about future creations, if they have fewer piles of clutter in their environments.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Kid Designs Wrist Weapon/Computer

  1. Computer Screen with Skype, text, and anything else. Also security camera;
  2. Double laser gun;
  3. Tracker: Example: If there are 2 slopes that means 2 good guys are coming;
  4. keyboard and also the code to the watch;
  5. Codebreaker: Can break any code in the world if shined on code;
  6. Swipe up to open door, swipe down to close, swipe fast to open fast, swipe slow to open slow.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Desk of a 10-year-old Girl

This is actually when the desk is spankin' clean.
Rooms keep evolving as long as there are people living in them. The argument could be made that my living spaces are devolving  as I am always looking to discard something. As I get older I am confused by telephones, the machine that blinks when you turn it on (the computer, my wife tells me), and mechanical pencils.

I yearn to return to the simple life of the Motorola Razor and indentured servitude.

As a handy filler for days like this when I got nothing, I post pictures of the kids' rooms. There is an innocence to the objects my daughter puts on her desk. I love the idea that she wants to curate a ribbon I won in 1986. Hooray for kids!  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Images My Son Likes

The seven-year-old created the above images on his iPod Touch with a Futurerama app. I like his conception of us. If I did this we would be slumbering mutant crustaceans complaining that the remote control was out of reach. 
 My son gave me a peek at the images on his iPod, revealing interests in space and war (!), among others. Some pictures of Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay didn't make it into the montage due to me being incompetent with the photo editing thingie.
As a non-registered armchair psychologist I find the above perfectly normal, especially considering the child's parents are totally ridiculous.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What Martial Arts Means to the Daughter

Take a big pile of bodaciousness and then add twenty gallons of awesome sauce and you end up with a crew like this. 
My kids study martial arts. When they test they often have to write about their experiences and why they find their studies valuable. Below is my daughter's essay:

What Martial Arts Has Taught Me
Martial Arts has taught me to be a better person mentally. I have had a more positive attitude I always try to think what a Black Belt would do in my situation, I now try to be easy going and do what’s best for my team.

Martial Arts has taught me to be a better person physically. Since my time as a White Belt I have found that the physical activity that I do has become infinitely easier and every time I catch myself in the mirror I think whoa that six pack is definitely on its way! Martial arts has taught me to have better character. Whenever I’m doing a push-up I try my best and a little more to keep my body straight and get to the floor and up without stopping (working on that). Martial Arts has taught me that its not all about tying the Black Belt around your waist, it’s about becoming someone worthy of the title inside and out.