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: