Thursday, January 31, 2013

Your Biggest Fan

The 8-year-old takes up pen for the purpose of fan mail. We'll send this off soon and eagerly await an answer.

Dear Jeff, I have read every diary (journal) of a wimpy kid Book 6000 times. I have a suggestion Where manny brakes Rodricks drums then rodrick punched Manny. And at The Valintines dance Fregly kisses greg.

Your biggest fan

P.S. Please Write back.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Neck Pillow Becomes Key Piece of Equipment

Favorite place to be is in the couch corner under the blanket with his neck pillow nicknamed Juicebox. 
As a parent we never know what will hit big. The year of 2013 looks to be the year of the neck pillow.

I bought everyone his/her own pillow for a red-eye flight. Since then their utility has only grown, as well as becoming quite fashionable in some parts of the house.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Permanent Mess Area Undergoes Change

Traditionally PMA remained on the ground floor. The fact that the PMA has shifted and is creeping up the stairs has worried one longtime observer.
Academics and serious amateurs can reference the old PMA and compare it to the new one above. Experts are not sure what this trend signifies, but concern is certainly warranted.

Part of the concern entails early morning stair descent, with worries about safety as well as organizational protocol.

Possible solutions include staging different colloquium and seminars in an effort to raise awareness.

Actually, it doesn't bother me that much, so I think I'll just ignore it for the time being. You know us bloggers are such a fickle bunch. Waddever.

Monday, January 28, 2013

We Are Not Horse People

These horses, and subsequent lifestyle, do not belong to us. Photo courtesy of Matt Schloss
We are not horse people, not even a little bit. I don't think those animals would tolerate our snarky sense of humor, our unusual food habits, or our flatulence.

The kids love horses at all costs, but although I can delight them with djembe beatnik improv, I disappoint in my ability to bring them them the skewbald jumping pony.

It all evens out. I invest my time and (cosmic) energy into my kids, which is the real gift. Plus, all I have to do to get them to stop whining about horses is to explain that riding usually doesn't include a WiFi connection. Booyah!

P.S. I have worn a jeans jacket at times to good effect.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Doughnut Day For Punches and Kicks

Rewards of Martial Arts: The Test Day (Sesame) Doughnut
Today is test day in martial arts where a kid displays what he has learned and moves to a higher belt or class. An inviolable and sacred tradition (except for the last time when I forced the daughter to have apple pie instead) is the in-gathering and consumption of the doughnuts -- a tradition probably dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911) or similar kung fu-y time.

Much in the way that the recent Israeli elections signaled to pundits a return to normalcy, so too does today's doughnut purchase mark a return to reason and sobriety: no more over-produced VooDoo frosting bombs, but rather the Sesame taste treat with ample, but not excessive, frosting options.

This morning the son and I reached accord on the number of doughnuts to be purchased, six. The first three are officially mandated by the household (Boston Cream, Apple Fritter, Jelly), while the son, as he was testing, would select another two (perhaps a bear claw?) and the daughter one.

LSS is going out tonight so we will have a 2:1 doughnut-to-person ratio.Other mandated actions include cutting each doughnut into four pieces. The kid testing then gets to choose the first piece as the platter gets passed around the table, each person taking one piece until he/she has six pieces on their plates.

Only after consumption of the initial round of doughnuts can negotiations begin on the remaining pieces.

To deviate from this form would be to invite a dangerous random element into an otherwise placid household that has not witnessed a meltdown for several hours.

Gan bei!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Family History: The Meltdown Vest

Always slow down and watch out when you see such a garment worn with the above expressions.
When my son was about four years old he asked me about a reflective vest I wore for cycling. "It's a meltdown vest," I told him. "I put it on when I'm having a meltdown to warn others to be careful."

I suppose I am guilty of instilling in my kids an irrational avoidance of all road maintenance workers, for my son did later comment that a flagger on a street repair project was having a bad day ("Look, Dad, he's wearing a meltdown vest!").

At times when my kids were having meltdowns I suggested the vest should be worn, but I'm sure any parent out there can guess how well that was received.

For the purposes of illustration we made a video to show how the vest might be used. It's not my favorite video as the contents are just a little too real.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Can Two Kids Ever Be In the Same Mood?

The above photo illustrates the theory that for every (positive) action there is a (negative) reaction.
I am of the mind that when everybody is in a good mood that the family should celebrate -- for it seems that having a moment when everybody feels pretty good is rare. I suppose I exaggerate, but it often feels that way.

Something in kid psychology makes the good mood of one the fuel for negativity for the other.

Also, when both kids are super excited and running around shrieking with unbridled joy, my head hurts ( I, too, figure into this equation).

Life is good so I don't want to complain too much, but the seesaw of up and down inversely correlated moods is a challenge.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Are Kids Good For?

Perhaps the trend emerged as a backlash for those chronically lactose intolerant.

One great advantage to having children is that our relegation to the Old, Useless, And In The Way Club gets delayed a bit as we often have a conduit into "what the kids are into."

I suppose this is only true while the kids are still young and naive enough to let us know what they're into.

This past weekend my daughter clued me into the new trend of "Milking," dumping milk on oneself while filming it. She is merely a cognoscenti, rather than a participant. Planking is passe, hail the new.

Go figure:

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Room Arrangement Launched

Former bed canopy will be employed as a "privacy curtain" for reading on a purple beanbag in the new configuration.
My daughter returned from a sustainability retreat and immediately set to work on a new room arrangement for herself. LSS might have spurred this on by saying feng shui was bad with the bed in the corner.

Unlike the past, the kid now says she wants to have a cozy environment in which to relax. I'm guardedly optimistic that this signals a progression in her thinking about her room and its maintenance. We will see.

I'm hoping at the very least when she is compelled to clean her room that she will do it with the minimum gnashing of teeth and rending of garments (already discarded on the floor). Hope springs eternal.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Does Lower Volume Equal Boredom?

Like a Kung-fu movie, sibling conflict can erupt at any place and time for any reason -- although perceived slights and revenge play a predominant role.
This week our eldest child was on a field trip with her 5th grade class to explore issues of sustainability. She bounded off full of confidence and excitement, leaving LSS, me and the 8-year-old to our own devices.

With 25% of the household gone, conflict still dropped a full 81%, as measured by the Portdaddia Index of Screaming Whack Kids.

At dinners the 8-year-old was free to share his thoughts of the world without a sister butting in. Other areas of less conflict included computer use, television show selection and bathroom use. Despite these freedoms, generally the kid missed his sister.

As for me, the quiet in the house felt like an eerie harbinger of being too old to go earnestly and fully beaded to the drum circle.

I don't need to be overly maudlin as tonight everything gets back to normal. I expect sibling conflict to erupt 24.2 minutes after everyone has come home. This is one of those things where the prudent thing to say is be careful what you wish for. Embrace the chaos of parenting!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cold Day Demands Action

A random woman walks past the photographer.
Kids? Who me.

More importantly what am I doing to keep myself mentally awake and morally straight. Today it was a walk around the neighborhood and a steaming bowl of happy Phở noodles.

All is good in the hood.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How Can I Get To Carnegie Deli?

Bicycle is always a good option in these climes.

Today I went into Local Choice Produce Market and bought some food. I joked with the cashier that I made sure to bring my own bag to escape being ridiculed. I said this in reference to the following bit from Portlandia.

The cashier had obviously not seen the above clip and merely reassured me customers were usually not ridiculed by the staff.

I remember an old Spy Magazine gag where a reporter walked around New York City asking, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" fishing for the punchline "practice, practice practice!" Ultimately the reporter was flummoxed by good natured and helpful people providing directions.

Sometimes a wiseacre is needed to spice things up. Perhaps we can start a new Tuesday tradition called "Less-Earnest Tuesday" where we all make an effort not to be be so gosh-darned literal.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Enter the (Hillsboro) Dragon

The disciples and masters gathered for an ultimate martial arts showdown.
Our first martial arts tournament was a great success. I had some emotional turmoil, but now I'm okay, thank you very much.

In real life my kids were nervous they would perform poorly and others would laugh at them. This is our universal default setting as human beings. I was so happy they conquered their fears and both did great. The instructor Zach Dunn at Ernie Reyes West Coast World Martial Arts did a super job of getting them prepared for the events.

For the record nobody received mocking laughter. Support was handed out liberally and spectators enjoyed exciting displays of martial arts.

The tournament was particularly instructive as my kids aren't in any other competitive program. I'm not of the mind that competition is necessary for its own sake, but it's good to show that mindful training can have a focus and a goal.

Here's a video of some of the action:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Wizards of Oz

Careful preparation before the big moment.

School play today -- so that means video! Enjoy our feature presentation:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gai Kukken Afen Yam

Perhaps those wishing to defecate would find this ocean acceptable?
Stands to reason that we, as parents, aren't doing our jobs unless we can make our children laugh, or at least smile (smiles of embarrassment and discomfiture count, as well as condescension and pity).

More to the point, who among us can resist the fart or poop joke? Guilty, guilty, guilty.

How to tell someone to go to hell in a classy way was a subject of conversation that arose the other night. A favorite Yiddish curse, "Gai kukken afen yam" literarlly means "go crap in the sea." The classy part comes in when you start this bit in the following way:

We live in Oregon, a marvelous state with beautiful coastlines; May I suggest a trip to the sea (pantomime driving). Upon reaching Astoria take in the salubrious sea air (dramatic intake of breath); Once there stroll out onto the pier (strolling); Upon the end drop your pants and enjoy! (you get the idea).

Key concepts: self-deprecating is different than self-defecating

There may be those who will contest the classiness of this method, for them I have nothing but sympathy, for how terrible it would be to go through life with a shriveled and flaccid diminished sense of humor.

If a teacher calls and complains I'm sunk. Here's betting on the kids' good judgement.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

This Is How I Do It

Insightful vision is a hallmark of blogging.
When I was in Miami I was petrified to wear a hoodie. Who wants to get shot? Not me. I wore linen suits and black T-shirts circa Don Johnson of the 1980s. For the record, I also did not arrest anyone for narcotics.

Now back in Portland I can be as hooded as I want to be. Maybe Mt. Hood can be the hood for the entire city.

The kids have so many hooded garments I might have reason to worry about unchecked environmental activism. Mainly when the kids are inclined to be involved they usually Occupy stuff, like the couch or the parental bed, which, under controlled circumstances, is not the end of the world.

In any case, I'm ready for the next WTO meeting.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Undisclosed Grandpa Provides Advice

Protecting the innocent is job one here. After that, video games.
A visiting grandparent recently had a nice time with his grandchildren. For reasons of national security we can only refer to this person as Undisclosed Grandpa, or UDG.

Lego building, paper airplane deployment, general deportment for boys and girls, were all topics covered during his visit.

A nice time was had for all. The kid pictured above in particular wishes his Lego buddy was still around.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Dangerous Media Influence

Pants are considered required for most family activities despite rumors (about Portland) to the contrary.
Today was the first day of school after a long break. Things went generally fine, but there was a hitch owing to having recently viewed the movie Parental Guidance.

In the film a kid flaunted conventional wisdom about the wearing of trousers.

This morning another kid seized upon the same idea.

Happy to report no dress code violations once the guy was dropped off at school.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Old Martial Arts Tradition Gives Way To Reality

Test day at Ernie Reyes West Coast Martial Arts Portland.
One of the most basic, and beloved, tenets of martial arts, in our household, holds that after a successful advancement to a higher belt everybody must celebrate with doughnuts.

Like many who survived a protracted bout of overeating during the holidays, I was concerned about having to innundate the household with sugary fat so quickly after declaring a return to "the simple life." By that I mean generally keeping to a paleo-lacto-ovo-vego-Lego diet, complete with legumes, breads, and just about anything else we deem appropriate at the moment. But the essential point was that we wanted to eat less caloric desserts.

Making our return to healthfulness more tricky, relatives from out of town were visiting and we needed to apply some henna tattoos to our forearms and show we knew how to eat.

But here is my secret sauce about parenting, when you can't do the absolutely right thing (in this case subsist on clear mountain water), just do the basically okay thing -- bake an apple pie. Sure it has some sugar and butter, but it is loads better than the alternative.

Most importantly the most radical wings of my constituency accepted this without fuss. Whew!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Son Takes His Turn

Typing wasn't his forte so he went old school.
Food, fun, and bacon
Greetings, he's big, he's Bad he's my dad.
That's write new blogger in town. The son of Portdaddia himself!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Daughter’s Turn

The ruler of the cruise ship community coming to express his tyranny through coffee.

The eleven year old takes over Portdaddia

Salutations minions. It is I the malicious offspring of Portdaddia himself. As you have heard from the dictator, (my father) our family has been on a Disney Cruise Line through the Caribbean. What can I say it was a Disney cruise. 

There were crew members in costumes trying to hug you and kidnap you, there were singing characters that looked like they wanted to jump overboard, and there were origami towels shaped like different creatures. The finalists were an aardvark and a monkey clipped to a hanger. There was a giant pool shaped like mickey mouse (as expected) there was a slow waterslide above it. There were three pools on the ship. The second pool was called Goofy’s Pool. This pool had a wave simulation feature. The water in both pools was scummy and after the first thirty seconds I became disgusted and hopped out of the pool.

But scummy pools aside, let’s talk about one major factor: the food. To make a long story short, too good, too much, and bad bacon. All in all, it was a very fun trip. I conversed with endangered green sea turtles upon snorkeling, looked jealously upon adults drinking “pain killers” (rum punch), I renamed myself  McStuffed-with-sugar-until- spontaneously-combusted.

Signing off to fill my young and impressionable head with the horrors of humanity,

The Overlord Of The Universe ;)

Every night we enjoyed towel origami in our stateroom.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Defeated (Happily) By the Mouse

Part of my internal resistance to the structure of a cruise had to do with participating in activities en masse: I prefer to think of myself as special, as in having weird tastes in art and music; Whatever; I bore myself sometimes.

I just returned from a Disney cruise and I am still detoxing. I imagine people who attend Burning Man feel the same way. Not sure which experience is more surreal. At least on the Disney cruise everyone on deck was wearing pants (there was no poop deck, those of you snickering in the back).

The food was good, plenty of activities for the kids, sunshine, pool, luxury, everything as promised. Perhaps the biggest thrill, apart from being able to turn my kids loose without concern, was experiencing what the best corporate minds could cook up for me and the family. 

From bag handling to how to wrangle the extra tray for the kid at the buffet, the staff had it dialed in. The younger kid had a sensor strapped to his wrist, the older one carried a Wave phone, a cordless phone for communication on the ship. This is what I wanted, someone else to know what I needed before I could articulate the thought. 

Perhaps the best example of how Disney kills with kindness and excellent service occurs in the restaurants. Each group had a table that is served by the same team of server, assistant server, and head server. When we switched restaurants the team came with us. We became great friends of the server and assistant server, both young men from Turkey and Indonesia respectively. Sedat, from Turkey, was a criminally cheerful wiseacre who never appeared to be having a bad day; Sudi, from Indonesia, elevated attentive beverage service to an exquisite art, apologizing every time he needed our attention. He did his best to learn our drink preference from meal to meal.

The shows were spectacular productions, reminding us that Disney is primarily an entertainment company. Shows with A-level singers and dancers with stage production out of this world occurred nightly. The content was, as one might expect, from Disney movies, but even I, a crusty middle-aged guy, was worn down by the sheer exuberance of it all. (Note: the giant head of Bob Iger did appear in a show to offer support to the emcee.) You don’t put yourself in such an environment to be cynical, so submit to the Mouse. 

Perhaps a stronger man could have maintained composure. Under cross examination I confessed to happily being a napkin head.
Yes, submit I did! Our special character breakfast had our servers tying napkins around our heads so we, too, might resemble Disney characters. 

Perhaps the single best luxury was when I realized that whatever problem occurred, a staff member would help me in a courteous and professional manner. Even in the tedious Guest Services line, where staff most likely answered the same questions ad infinitum, there was cheer and competence. 

Whatever problems I had with the experience have to do with my own inner demons – Disney defeated any desire to eat moderately or exercise, things I usually do okay with. But then what’s the point of a luxury cruise if you spend all your time running laps and eating salad?  

Grandma had exposure to the grandchildren; we ate well and enjoyed ourselves; an excellent time was had by all, even if it was trademarked and copyrighted. Ideology out the window. I’m back in Portland now ready to ride my bike in the cold and wet, while ruminating on the usual. No, I won’t sing Hakuna Matata in the shower, but I do feel that the cruise was a unique experience made better by Disney’s deep understanding of these issues.