Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Aesop's Fables

I've been reading Aesop's Fables to the boys lately. Elliot spots the lazy and greedy characters in The Dog and the Shadow, The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg and The Grasshopper and the Ants from a mile away. "He should have been happy with what he had," Elliot sighs and shakes his head after the completion of a fable. The dog and the man wanted more, grabbed for it and lost everything. The grasshopper smugly thought he wouldn't have to prepare for winter as the ants were doing. He gets it. You don't get something for nothing, and when you do, just be thankful. (that sounds a bit harsh though - just be grateful you're not living on the street, kid).

Now if we could get him to apply that knowledge to his own life. Just because Asher slept in our bed last night, it doesn't mean we love him more. Yes, it appears that Asher received a millimeter more of juice in his cup, but you'll live, right? To Elliot, the grass is nearly always greener in Asher's realm -- which segues into "I never get what I want" lament. I can't get no satisfaction. It will dawn on him someday that he doesn't need more, or something better. Right?

Facts about Aesop from Wikipedia:
The place of Aesop's birth was and still is disputed: Thrace, Phrygia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Samos, Athens, Sardis and Amorium all claimed the honour. According to the sparse information gathered about him from references to him in several Greek works (he was mentioned by Aristophanes, Plato, Xenophon and Aristotle), Aesop was a slave for someone called Xanthus (Ιάδμων), who resided on the island of Samos. Aesop must have been freed, for he conducted the public defence of a certain Samian demagogue (Aristotle, Rhetoric, ii. 20). He subsequently lived at the court of Croesus, where he met Solon, and dined in the company of the Seven Sages of Greece with Periander at Corinth.

According to the historian Herodotus, Aesop met with a violent death at the hands of the inhabitants of Delphi, though the cause was not stated. Various suggestions were made by later writers, such as his insulting sarcasms, the embezzlement of money entrusted to him by Croesus for distribution at Delphi, and his alleged sacrilege of a silver cup. A pestilence that ensued was blamed on his execution, and the Delphians declared their willingness to make compensation, which, in default of a nearer connection, was claimed by Iadmon, grandson of Aesop's former master.

Popular stories surrounding Aesop were assembled in a vita prefixed to a collection of fables under his name, compiled by Maximus Planudes, a fourteenth-century monk. He was by tradition extremely ugly and deformed, which is the sole basis for making a grotesque marble figure in the Villa Albani, Rome, a "portrait of Aesop". This biography had actually existed a century before Planudes. It appeared in a thirteenth century manuscript found in Florence. However, according to another Greek historian Plutarch's account of the symposium of the Seven Sages, at which Aesop was a guest, there were many jests on his former servile status, but nothing derogatory was said about his personal appearance. Aesop's deformity was further disputed by the Athenians, who erected in his honour a noble statue by the sculptor Lysippus.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Olympic Sculpture Park

Last weekend the Seattle Art Museum opened the Olympic Sculpture Park on the waterfront downtown. The kids and I went to the extremely packed grand opening - a shindig sponsored by Target - and raced around the park. At the entrance, the kids were enthralled by a team of men taking chain saws to ice and sculpting a huge orca-fantasm-in-the-arctic-waves creation. We enjoyed the free hot cocoa dispensed by Target employees who wore the canisters on their backs. And the endless Target swag - stuffed animals, bags, umbrellas....

The red Alexander Calder "Eagle" sculpture is the most striking piece in the park. Kids were dancing around it, shrieking and patting it. A great way for them to experience art. However, they had a docent standing there saying "please don't touch" the sculpture. I don't see how this can hold up. It's absurd, it's a steel outdoor sculpture, little hands would ocassionally drift across it or pat it, but they couldn't hurt it. If a kid was banging a toy or something on it, that makes sense, but I don't see how they can expect people not to touch it.

Anyway, the waterfront park area is beautiful, a huge grassy area and beach look like great summer picnic spots. I got really stressed out by the massive swarm of boys crawling over the huge jagged rocks and splintery beachwood hills on the beach. I tried to hold Asher back, but he was determined to join in the boy fest and I had to chapperone. The boys loved it, especially the trains that run right beside the park every 1/2 hour. Another good place for a boy adventure.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Afghan Mobile Mini Circus for Children School

This morning on NPR I heard this story about a children's circus school in Afghanistan where the kids learn how to do standard circus stuff like juggling and acrobatics, but also skills such as computer science, embroidery, radio production, and how to recognize and avoid land mines. I love the future forward, optimistic focus on education and children. We'll have to go see them in 2008. Here is a link to their site: Afghan Mini Mobile Circus for Children

From the NPR story

Founder David Mason says when they take their show on the road, it's to educate as much as to entertain. They teach life-saving subjects, like how to recognize and avoid land mines, or the importance of washing hands.

He took his life savings and went to Pakistan in early 2002. But no aid agency would sponsor him. He says they wanted to build clinics and schools. The idea of a circus just didn't fly.

The 14 Afghan teachers and performers who work for the circus are paid a modest $200 per month. About half of them travel across Afghanistan to perform in provincial schools. Mason says it's too dangerous to let the students travel.

But the children do perform overseas. Fariya's brother recently returned from Japan. Their sister, Parisa, went to Germany and Denmark. A trip to California is planned in 2008.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Q & A with Elliot

Q: If you could be any age, how old would you be?
A: I would be 13 years old.

Q: How would your life be different if you were 13?
A: I would buy stuff you don't want me to buy, like the skeleton in the cage. I'd buy 95 bayonettes. [This is in reference to some toys he wanted before Halloweeen. His memory is both a cause for alarm and pride. I hope his comment isn't prescient.]

Q: What kind of clothes would you wear?
A: I'd wear sports clothes, athletic pants. I like sports.

Q: What sports would you play?
A: I'd play football.

Q: That's it? No swimming? No baseball? No soccer?
A: Just football. I like to tackle people.

Q: What music would you listen to?
A: Pirate's music. Captain Jack Sparrow.

Q: Would you play any instruments?
A: I'd play jazz. I'd be in a jazz band and play two instruments, the saxophone and the trumpet. I'd play When the Saints Come Marching In on the trumpet.

Q: What would you do to make the world a better place?
A: I would save the panda bears and give them more bamboo to eat. I wouldn't let anybody cut down the best trees in the world. I want everybody to have a very nice home.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Family Size + Lifestyle

Cookie Magazine is running a short web poll on family size and lifestyle for a future article. I'm guessing that more kids = more coffee = more alcohol = less sex? I would also gather that the younger the kiddos, the more the above is true. Just a hunch.

How does the size of your family affect your lifestyle?

How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?

How many times a week do you have sex?

Which statement best characterizes your relationship with alcohol?

Take the poll here:

Snowing in Seattle

Another snow day! No school, no work. Fun, fun, fun. We woke up to 2 inches of snow and it continued throughout the morning. Elliot and I walked up to Zoka to get a pastry and coffee then spent an hour sledding down the hill on 58th street.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Winter Story by Elliot Bremson

Snow, snow falling down, a girl catches a snowflake with her open mouth. The old man almost hits a little dog with his shovel.

A girl toppled a boy and smashed snow in his face. The strongest kid is named Nicky. He has red hair.

The winter birds ate the seeds Nicky gave to them. Flying in the air for three stories for you and me. The snow is beautiful. I like this snowflake over here, it looks like glass. Rain turns into snow. Nicky gave the birds lots of food, some were black dotted and yellow on top.

Nicky took time off with his own toys, the snow came. He was scared when his father tried to open the door, the door was frozen. Nobody could help them. Even though the snow goes away, he played in the snow in winter.

Fun fun for you and me. We go where we want to go. Snow snow, this is the best time of year. Snow snow let it fall. Even though I don't declare I'm at my winter fair. This is fun oh lots of things, we get to go ice skating on the winter swimming pool. I get to see water in the ice. This is a poem from 1985.

Parenting Resolutions

From Go to Your Room!: Consequences That Teach by Shari Steelsmith.

  • Respond to your children more calmly. I make the point in my book, Go to Your Room!: Consequences That Teach, that your discipline has a much higher chance of succeeding if you do it without yelling, exasperated lecturing, or crying. Becoming emotional only tells your child that you’ve lost control—and given it to him or her. If you can discipline calmly, even dispassionately, you will dramatically increase your odds of success. Make use of deep breathing, time-outs (for yourself), and other relaxation techniques to help you keep a rein on your emotions. Planning ahead for what guidance technique you will use when the misbehavior appears again is also very useful for maintaining calm.

  • Limit your child’s exposure to “screens.” This is a constant battle at my house— making sure the “screen time” doesn’t creep up past the day’s limit. Studies tell us that the less time a child spends watching TV, playing on the computer or X-box, or otherwise entertaining himself with screens, the better his achievement in school and his cooperation at home. When kids don’t use screens, they do things like read, play outside, ride bikes and participate in other wholesome activities.

  • Have regular family dinners. I know, you’re thinking, “Duh.” But with all the extra-curricular activities in which we allow our children to participate, family dinnertime is often a casualty. It’s easy to let this get out of hand. Remember, families who have dinner together regularly have a much higher percentage of healthy, well-adjusted children. Kids need predictable time to talk with their parents about their day, the opportunity to help with family chores (preparing food and doing dishes), and the opportunity to eat homemade food. Dashing through a fast-food drive-through and eating chicken nuggets on the way to practice is no substitute for a real family dinner.

  • Read a new parenting book. Okay, this is a little bit of a commercial here, but be aware that there are constantly new, good parenting titles available on the market. If your bookshelf just has an old copy of Dr. Spock and a pregnancy manual collecting dust, then it’s definitely time to update your collection. Personally, I have three new books on my desk that I’m anxious to start—one on talking with your children about sex, one on challenging behaviors, and one on parenting proactively. There is a wealth of information available on this very website in the form of articles—all for free. So read something new and put a little wind in your sails.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Reflections on Chrismukkah

Does Hanukkah get the short end of the winter holiday stick? Of course, how can it compete with the Christmas machine? Elliot said to me, "Mom, since I'm both Christian and Jewish, can we have some decorations at our house? Maybe we can put candy canes in our back yard." Ha! I love it.

He's right, we're out of the mainstream. He wants the big splash of giant evergreen trees and candy colored holiday lights. We don't celebrate Christmas at our house. We have no tree, no lights etc. We have a red winterberry wreath, but apparently that doesn't count. Not celebrating Christmas (at this point in their lives) is really the biggest Jewish identity builder our kids can have. I don't identify with Christianity and never have, so Christmas in my family is really just a winter family gathering. Hanukkah is our winter family gathering. I don't feel the need to have a tree or decorate. I'm sure Elliot will get it someday.

I love Jewish culture, I signed up to keep it alive and pass on that Jewish history / tradition / identity to our children as much we can in our crazy mixed up world. Since I was raised without any religious affiliation and neither were my parents or grandparents (philosophically/spiritually, certain aspects of paganism, renewal judaism, buddhism and unitarianism appeal to me) I like the feeling of having an actual religious cultural calendar (although we don't belong to a temple currently and I'll never be Jewish). We observe passover, the high holidays and hanukkah. The boys do occasional shabbat dinners with their grandparents.

Bessie asked me how do you get your Jewish husband to participate in Hanukkah? Having Grandma and Grandpa near helps. But we we read Hanukkah bedtime stories. We have a Hanukkah party every year and we light the menorah nightly (or we try to, it doesn't always work out). After several years of giving small presents for 8 days and dealing with Elliot crying every night because he wanted more, we decided to do the one big night of presents route (much more successful). I would like us to do one night of volunteering next year as well.

We do the Christmas thing with my family every other year and that's enough. I wonder if Elliot will miss it next year. I feel like I buy just as many presents either way, but it feels just a bit more sane. I have to be careful about how I pitch our LA Christmas, I caught myself saying, "Wait until we get to LA you'll get a lot of presents there." If we really want them to have a Jewish identity we'll have to join a temple.

Chrismukkah according to Wikipedia, has many meanings: the commercialization of Hanukkah, the hybrid holiday of Christmas and Hanukkah in interfaith heritage households, Christmas as celebrated by a Jewish household, and an ironic alternative winter holiday such as Festivus.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Ice Skating on New Year's Eve

Goodbye 2006. We spent the last day of the year ice skating at an outdoor rink with the boys and had a blast. Elliot was a natural. He wants to take ice skating lessons now. Who knew he had such great balance and strength?

Asher was frustrated by his inability to race around as usual, but he enjoyed being pulled around the rink by mom and dad. My arms feel like they're going to fall off now.