Friday, May 31, 2013

The Beaver

Despite rumors to the contrary, The Beaver was a force for good (The Shark can be seen in the background).

Growing up I had a strong aversion to the mainstream, whatever my fevered brain conceived the mainstream was at any given time. 

I could cite a myriad of reasons why I considered myself excluded from some happy center of everything, but this blog is not about giving psychoanalysts smug satisfaction as their research papers on bizarre psychology prove true.

More to the point, I now do my best to regard myself squarely as an average family man, doing stuff with the kids and avoiding mishap and conflict whenever possible.

When we were camping over Memorial Day weekend the rangers and volunteers put on a parade, inviting all parents and kids to decorate their bikes and participate. One of the rangers was dressed as a giant beaver, another as a shark. 

My kids were skeptical of participating, as both feared the event was for really little kids. This concern was underscored by The Beaver handing out stickers to really little kids. 

I tried cajoling them to be in the parade, my daughter taking me up on the offer to show off her ankle skip ability, my son wanting no part of it.

Why did I push for inclusion in an event that for most of my life would make my skin crawl? I suspect for the reason that there’s a teenager in me laughing his ass off at the establishment’s weirdness with The Beaver and The Shark; or because decorating a bike with crepe paper streamers is always a good idea; or maybe the perversity of being in a parade for average wholesome families, knowing in my heart of hearts I am an imposter.  

I really don’t have enough knowledge of self to account for why I do half the things I do. But still, somehow, I had a pretty good time.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mental Hygiene Tip From The Ruminator

At least they're not playing video games -- even if only for a few hours.
My brain tends to ruminate. Once it falls into a rut it can't be shut off. Sometimes I truly suffer for this, like when the song "Sometimes When We Touch" by Dan Hill implanted itself from brief exposure to a grocery store soundtrack.

There are advantages to being wired this way. I still have the ability to concentrate on projects of considerable length.

The best way to shut off the endless tapeloop in my head is to spend time outside. It's not that important what I do, something about being out in the open eventually breaks through my junked up software to restore a sense of calm.

I want to pass on this wisdom to my kids, for I can see that one of them has already shown similar tendencies. But as was the case with me when I was younger, outside was a place to rage and run amok, not the sanctuary for the senses I now embrace.

I must accept that as a parent not every lesson will be received, or if it does I may have to wait 40-plus years. In the meantime, the little creeps still have to go outside every now and then just because the Dad says they have to.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Education Can Work

Treasures from a recent field trip.
My son recently took a field trip with his class to the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals in Hillsboro. He came home excited about the natural world, eager to share his new-found knowledge.

He wanted to identify for the readers some of items he brought home:
1) Obsidian arrowhead -- the "gold" of prehistoric times
2) Unknown
3) Unknown
4) Obsidian
5) Agate
6) Lapis lazuli

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pursuit Of A Worthy Ideal - Camping Without Crisis

Many vacations go awry for no good reason, this one went right for many good reasons.

Our family had a great time camping with a bunch of other families mainly from our kids' school. What made it so perfect was that each kid had several friends, a lot of open range upon which to roam, and an incredible amount of sugar to fuel all sorts of mayhem.

We camped at Cove Palisades State Park near Madras, Oregon. Despite some chilly weather and rain, the kids were sad when the party ended.

The best events are those that put people together with lots of time to socialize in an unstructured manner. Both kids were independent in that they wanted to hang with their group and not be shackled by dull and slow-witted parents.

The parents were thrilled to be able to carry on all sort of adult conversations without interruption, even doing some of the talking sitting down (!).

Very few meltdowns to report. Some conflict erupted over the ice cream truck, which made rounds through the campsite twice a day.

We will not hesitate to involve all the usual suspects for our next outing.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Undisclosed Grandpa Sighting Remains Unverified

I suppose we could have asked the man, but it seemed too risky at the time.
A man who resembled Undisclosed Grandpa (UDG) was seen ordering a sandwich at a Portland eatery, local sources reported recently.

Two children, who vaguely resemble UDG's grandkids, reported that they had an excellent time hanging out with someone of UDG's approximate height and weight.

We will continue to investigate the veracity of such sightings and report our findings in this space.

Enjoy the holiday!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What The Hell Is That?

I told the kids I see these things "all the time" then realized I meant 20 years ago in a state 1,000 miles away.
For things like ploughshares and rotary dial telephones I understand there may be some frisson of excitement to see a rare and ancient artifact.

But man I feel old when this does the trick.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Winners And Losers And Great Big Piles Of Gear

I feel like a winner because I escaped without any new "bargains."
When I was younger I was a surfer and when not in the water enjoyed the simple pleasure of looking endlessly at the pleasing curves of surfboards.

Now I windsurf occasionally and have a similar -- although not quite as acute -- enjoyment of checking out various gear. Windsurfing boards are usually thicker, have foot straps, and lack the eloquent minimalism of surfboards.

Sunday the mega-tsunami of window shopping occurred at a swap meet in Hood River, where piles of windsurfing boards, kite boards, kayaks, bikes, skis, and every shade of accessory were all out for sale, barter, or just plain free under sunny skies.

Before going I steeled myself against the temptation to accumulate stuff. Usually the winners at a swap meet are those who find a great piece of gear at a giveaway price. I suppose this is the goal of the swap -- to actually make the exchange. But for once I felt lucky to have arrived and departed without any additions to the gear pile in the garage.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hoodies Hold Popularity In Our Home

Bashful child or future internet entrepreneur?
My kids love hooded sweatshirts, or hoodies (whoo-deeez).

As I am middle-aged and mired in outdated notions of fashion and utilitarianism, it has taken me a long time to embrace this trend, if it indeed ever went out of style.

The kids like the hood and use it from time to time to either keep their heads warm or as a comic devise to show displeasure. I bought a hoodie to give it a shot, but feel like Robelard, the demented monk, when the hood is on my (un-tonsured) head.

For what it's worth, my main objection is if I jump on the bike to run an errand the hood often blocks my over-the-shoulder peek at traffic. Essentially the hood is a piece of frippery, unlike my Nehru jacket, which I depend on to consistently deliver pseudo (pa swee do) intellectual cred. 

The warmer weather is when my inattention to fashion perhaps is most evident. At least I'm in good company -- Portland is a rumpled town.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Thing With Cups

This really doesn't have anything to do with the subject but I like the photo (first pair of high heels, sort of)
As I have proved again and again on this blog, kids do stuff. Some of this stuff I know about (bikes!) and others I do not. I did not know about the Thing With Cups until recently.

Unfortunately the embed video feature of blogger has been down for several days and I'm too lazy to research the hack. So if you want to be enlightened follow this link.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Daughter Shares Her Minecraft Vision

My own vision would have a larger garage for bikes.
As always one of my kids was playing Minecraft. This linked video allows the kid to explain the vision she is pursuing.

The son is building a massive slaughterhouse for pigs and sheep in a rural landscape on Minecraft. I suppose I might wish for a more aesthetic vision, but am happy for the creativity.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Time-consuming Project For Parents That May Be Worth It

Kids love pictures of themselves, as most people do.
I'm a scrapbooker. There, I said it.

I take photos of my kids and random crap and paste it into books. I'll even use a scissors and cut stuff up. In the past I drew and wrote with a pen.

Why? One of the maternity nurses said it was a good thing to do. And like the over-earnest new parent I once was, I blindly follow advice as long as it is given by a credentialed professional no matter how stupid.

Although the kids don't actively appreciate the books, I catch them from time to time paging through them with a remote look. Each child has his/her own book(s).

The nurse explained when the children go away to college the books should accompany them as a reminder of ...(forgot, damn!). The kids most likely will leave the albums on the ground in the front entryway on their departure for higher education as a defiant statement that they will remain true to their beliefs.

Anyway, after a decade I continue to maintain the albums out of stubbornness, that and the hope that if the albums ever were transported to Europe, perhaps France, I would be hailed as some kind of genius. C'est la vie!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What The Kids Are Into - Minecraft

So far the kids have focused on mega castles and flying pillow fortresses, but the above illustration shows that the game is able to be used for a variety of aesthetics.

When the kids have a moment to spare they are running to a screen to play Minecraft, a video game that allows players to build different constructions out of textured cubes in a 3-D world. The game, as my kids like to play it,  is similar to having an infinite number of Lego-like cubes in a variety of textures to build whatever they want in a virtual world. 

What I like about the game is that the player can chose to explore, gather resources, build things, and, of course, engage in combat.

The kids pooled their money to buy the PC edition, and also pre-ordered a separate edition for Xbox, so taken are they with the Minecraft universe.

I know I complain here about the kids spending too much time behind screens, but the creative potential of this game makes me think Rome hasn’t been napalmed just yet.

From Wikipedia: Gameplay in its commercial release has two principal modes: survival, which requires players to acquire resources and maintain their health and hunger; and creative, where players have an unlimited supply of resources, the ability to fly, and no health or hunger. A third gameplay mode named hardcore is the same as survival, differing only in difficulty; it is set to hardest setting and respawning is disabled, forcing players to delete their worlds upon death.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bikes Are Fun, And Other Wisdom

Mosier Tunnels State Park is the perfect place for a bike ride, even if I have to forcibly compel compliance.
One of the things I worry about is that my kids won't have good biking skills. I suppose this falls under the heading of "Stuff I Don't Really Need To Worry About." Still, I have a basic level of concern.

Part of this stems from my kids not being me. When I was between 8 and 12 I would come home from school and screw around with my bike for hours on end. Wheelies, power skids, all-terrain riding -- these were all part of the repertoire.

As it stands now, biking is something the kids do with Dad on weekends when he arranges to go to a special place for biking. Even then one kid may decide to opt out.

I try to set a good example by biking on errands around Portland, or getting some exercise on roads close to home, but I'm starting to realize that despite shared DNA the nippers just don't have the two-wheel psychosis.

All for the best, I suppose, the more the kids stay inside the less I worry about alien abduction.

Yesterday's misplaced video

Monday, May 13, 2013

We Are Normal

We went to a Dairy Queen this weekend, a fairly normal thing to do.
I posted a picture Friday of myself with some motley crew and the (imaginary) phone hasn't stopped ringing. "Normal people don't act that way!" the voices have been telling me.

And if they do, they certainly don't blog about it.

Ultimately I am a self-satisfied, middle-aged family man, with the wife and kids, and bloated self-esteem. I have to try really, really hard to appear not normal. For those times that readers think that I am somehow outside the mean, consider where I live -- that usually sets the point closer to the regression coefficient line on the graph.

Although I pretended to be cool, I paid the guys in beards and costumes to pose for the picture -- they were raising money for charity. I got a nifty post and they got 20 bucks that could actually make it to a 501(c)3.

Although Portland has its bearded men in tutus, the majority of people are normal like me. We support the outliers if just to reinforce our own normalcy. Had I asked, some of the beards were probably normal as well. I even made a video of my normal kids.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Kids Like Sushi, Finally

The tatami room at a local eatery is visited by new fans of the Japanese cuisine.
A long time in coming, but given the choice of not being included in a fancy restaurant dinner and eating sushi, the later has easily won out.

Perhaps the raw fish pieces were not the ones the kids fought over, but having the kids demand to be included for a night out for sushi was a watershed moment. They ate much more than the assuredly popular shumai and gyoza and loved sitting in a tatami room.

The cuisines of Asia are well-appreciated in our home. I raise my glass in celebration Kampai! 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ski Tip Or Surfboard?

Like many a weekend warrior, the discussion of gear is necessary, timely, and fun.

Having outdoor recreational pursuits is of tantamount importance, for my life would be diminished without such. I've heard freestyle sports such as skiing or surfing described as a form of ecstatic dance. Works for me.

I will continue to bring up my kids in the belief that outdoor recreation, even a walk in the park, is more than the mere pleasant passing of time, something akin to brushing the teeth of one's mind, a basic health requirement.

When I have a moment for myself I will steal away for a taste of the outside -- the car stereo plays songs infrequently heard, my thoughts drift far and wide, I return refreshed.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Secret Plan For Doing Good -- Covert Muffins!

Plans for a R.A.K. (Random Acts of Kindness)
The above secret document outlines plans to launch a blueberry muffin offensive, with map, ingredient list, and muffin pan layout.

This was part of a school assignment called Random Acts of Kindness. My daughter has made muffins for the family in the past and as the weather warms I'm always looking forward to muffins with fresh blueberries.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Petting Zoo Brings Acute Moral Dilemma

This moron takes delight in subverting a petting zoo.
Sunday I took my 8-year-old and his friend to the Portland Zoo. The sun shone and it was a good time, made better by curious dwarf mongoose enjoying their habitat.

The kids wanted to pet the goats in the petting area. While they were doing so I noticed a goat riveted to a portion of fence. A man was surreptitiously throwing popcorn into the enclosure, making a goat strain hard to get more. Obviously there were signs posted not to feed the animals.

My first impulse was to say, "What the hell, dude? Don't feed the animals!"

But the impulse was held in check as the kids could still pet the goat even if it was straining at the fence. Also I didn't really understand what level of transgression tossing a few popcorn kernels into the goat pen amounted to. I try not to be a sanctimonious enforcer of rules solely because they exist.

I snapped a picture figuring correctly I would return here for full analysis, and then told the "Zoo Teen," a skinny girl about 15 tending the exhibit, that there was a guy feeding the goats. "I know," she said, letting out a small sign.

I wanted her to at least indicate if the guy should be confronted or if she was saving her authority for a transgression of a more substantial nature.

Parts of life are forever in the ether, unknowable and lost in interpretation. This was one of them. The kids quickly wanted to see other animals and we moved on under the perfect sunshine.

But today when I think about it the thought remains, It's a petting zoo for small kids. What kind of jerk wants to mess with that?  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Editorial Comments Continue To Appear In Shopping List

I am curious what an 8-year-old wants with thyme.
My 8-year-old son enjoys adding items to the shopping list. He also shrewdly understands that this is an important document that receives my close scrutiny -- so why not lobby for some home-baked dessert?

There is the observation that his handwriting legibility has surpassed my own, but we've already covered that territory.

His tactic is effective and I sense chocolate chip cookies or a strawberry rhubarb pie on the horizon.

What the hell, it's Friday!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Who Are Your Kids?

Tschäggättä, costumed figure, during Carnival in Lötschental/Switzerland. Courtesy New York Times
A large challenge facing me as a parent is to determine how hard to push certain issues. Lately I have been realizing that I have a mental picture of who my children are and the thought remains that this picture does not reflect reality.

Will my kids wear ripped jean jackets and have piercings? Play lacrosse or chess? Go to a liberal arts college or cooking school?

I tell myself all these options are okay if they are chosen for the right reasons -- genuine interest on the part of the kid, rather than rebellion from ridiculous overbearing helicopter parents.

I want my kids to be happy. But a true happiness that comes from full engagement in life -- work, social life, recreation.

 There is no correct answer to these questions. I hope that by keeping myself aware of this issue I can allow more possibilities to enter my mind. Cooking school could mean a well-prepared meal.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Unusual Behavior - Or Is It?

This is my touchstone illustration for unusual behavior. The Portland teppanyaki scene still awaits thorough investigation on my part.
As a parent we must always expect the unexpected. Lucky for me I have devices to document those moments.