Thursday, November 27, 2008

National Day of Listening

NPR's National Day of Listening is November 28, 2008. I asked Elliot to write down three questions he'd like to ask his family.

Elliot's Questions for his mom

1. How do you find dollar coins?
I have collection of silver dollars that I received as gifts from my grandma over the years. Silver dollars are special so most people keep them and don't spend them. But you can get the coins from a bank.

2. How do you keep stuff so long?
Why? or How? You can't save everything. I moved a lot as a young adult, but saved a few boxes of things from my childhood - my coin and postcard collections, my Japanese curio collection, handkerchief collection that includes many of my great grandmother's handkerchiefs. I saved them because they're special to me, they represent memories of people I loved.

3. I don't know if you know anything about your Dad in the war, what do you know?
I know that he was wounded in the war and he was lucky to have survived. He was an officer in the Army and led a platoon of soldiers. One day he stepped on a landmine and it exploded and hurt him badly. He recovered in Hawaii and lived with the pieces of metal called shrapnel in his body for the rest of his life. He didn't talk about the war a lot, but I know he was proud of serving in the Army and it made a major impact on his life. You can ask Grandma Judy if you want to know more.

Elliot's Questions for Grandpa Victor

1. What did your mom and dad look like? What were they like?
My father was short with a light complexion. He lost his hair young. My mom was very pretty. She had dark hair. She was very smart, she read a lot and was fun to talk to. My mother and I would talk for hours. She liked to play tricks on people and had a good sense of humor. When she was growing up the librarian told her she had read every book in the whole library.

2. What was your favorite day in your life?
My favorite day was the day Elliot was born. Also the day your dad Danny read to me for the first time.

3. Do you remember the first time you lost your tooth?
I don't remember losing it but I remember putting my tooth under my pillow and waking up the next morning and finding a quarter in its place.

Elliot's Questions for Grandma Judy

1. What is your earliest memory?
One thing I remember is waiting in the car with my dad to visit my mom who had just had Uncle Leonard in the hospital. I remember looking at the crib where my brother usually slept and another baby was in the crib. It was my neighbor's baby.

2. What is your favorite memory of me?
I was very excited when I held you when you were born. You were so healthy and darling. You were a very clever little baby. You liked music a lot. We would sing to you and you would stop crying because you liked music so much.

3. How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who loves her family, was kind to her friends. Someone who loves beautiful clouds and trees and nature. Someone who loves laughing. Someone who really loves her daughter and son and grandchildren.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Little House on the Prairie Dinner

For the past few months Elliot and I have been reading the Little House series of books. I watched the TV show as a kid, but somehow missed the books. Lucky for me, Elliot really loves the stories. We both fell for Laura's crisp and direct descriptions of prairie life, her curious nature and honest voice come through loud and clear. The Ingalls's adventures with outdoor dining, random fires, locusts, screaming prairie grasses, ruthless blizzards and endless snows, encounters with friendly and unfriendly native Americans appeal to his seven year old's notion of excitement. Life can rough, disappointing and unpredictable, but if you keep your wits, persistence and hard work will pull you through.

We just finished On the Banks of Plum Creek and celebrated with a Little House Candlelight Dinner. The menu designed by Elliot included pan fried steak, corn bread, corn, milk, and carrots. I bought my first steak ever. The boys were not terribly impressed with steak and the corn bread wasn't ready until dinner was long over, but the corn was a hit.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Obama Cake + Barackoli

I was on the edge of my seat until the last minute, but Obama pulled it off. We won! Elliot masterminded our Obama victory party featuring a red, white and blue Obama cake and "browned barackoli." We invited our neighbors and Grandma and Grandpa to celebrate with us Wednesday night. Dinner was excellent, especially the broccoli. Yes We Did!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Halloween 2008

Asher wore his fantastic Fire Dragon costume that Grandma Judy made. He wore it four times before Halloween, so it saw a lot of use. Elliot wore his wizard costume twice and then decided on Halloween to be a Demon Ghoul. Good times. Take a look at the Obama mobile.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Jaguars

Congratulations on finishing great fall season Jaguars!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What Sound Does a Zebra Make?

I've compiled a few questions the kids have asked me about recently that I've been promising to research for them.

Asher: "What sound does a zebra make?" I guessed that it might sound like horse's neigh, while Asher suggested that it made no sound at all. Answer: A cross between a donkey's bray and a small dog's bark.

Elliot: "How old is the world's oldest living person?" Answer: According to wikipedia, the oldest person is 115 year old Edna Parker of the United States. There is a Japanese man who is 120, but his age is not confirmed. The previous oldest living person record holder was Jeanne Calment, who died at age 122 and 164 days.

Elliot: "What makes storm clouds dark and white clouds white?" I looked up the answer on wikipedia, but the answer was a little too scientific for me. Here are the answers compiled from a few sources:

White clouds are white because: Clouds are illuminated by light from the sun, and light from the sun is seen as white by our eyes, a mix of all the colors of the rainbow - which produces white. Clouds are made up of many small water drops and ice crystals. Light reflects and scatters so many ways from and in a cloud that when illuminated directly it ends up looking bright white.

Dark clouds are dark because: Clouds can also look dark or gray due to perception by our eyes. A light gray cloud on a bright white background will look much darker than the same cloud on a dark or black background, in which case it might look white and bright. A cloud can also look dark or gray because it is partially transparent and the blue sky behind it can be seen through the cloud.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What Do You Wish You'd Learned as a Kid?

As a parent, I want to give my kids rich, diverse life experiences. I want them to be passionate and find things they love. I saw this post, what do you wish you'd learned as a kid? and most of the responses were skill based: cooking, sewing, woodworking, fluency in another language, gardening, how to play an instrument, how to fix a bike, how to save money...

I had opportunities to learn most of the above skills, of course I can't say that I mastered any of them.

Here is my list of skills that I wish I'd learned/had been taught as a kid:

- how to practice active listening
- how to practice critical thinking
- how to turn moods around by changing my thought patterns
- how to practice good time management
- how to not be intimidated by anyone
- how to listen to my body and make healthy diet/exercise choices
- how to live with long term perspective

Monday, October 13, 2008

Kids for Obama at Green Lake

We took the boys to a Kids for Obama one mile walk this Sunday. The Bubble Man and Fire Eaters performed a rewarding finale for the kids. Asher quietly walked the whole way. Elliot ran off joyously with dozens of his school friends. The parents got to feel good about introducing our kids to aspects of democracy: yeah free speech!, yeah people power! I found myself in this video below:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Vote for Survival

I love Nikki McClure's paper cut art, Buy Olympia is giving away free McClure Vote posters. Check it out.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Good Sportsmanship

Elliot needed a few reminders at his soccer game on Saturday about the rules of good sportsmanship. Thought these were great pointers for cultivating a good attitude overall and playing sports with dignity and grace.

Sportsmanship is defined as:

  • playing fair
  • following the rules of the game
  • respecting the judgment of referees and officials
  • treating opponents with respect
Tips for practicing sportsmanship:
  • Learn as much as you can about your sport. Play by its rules. Show up for practice, work hard, and realize that on a team, everyone deserves a chance to play.
  • Talk politely and act courteously toward everyone before, during, and after games and events. That includes your teammates, your opponents, your coaches and their coaches, the officials presiding over the game, and even spectators (who can sometimes be loud about their opinions).
  • Stay cool. Even if others are losing their tempers, it doesn't mean you have to. Remind yourself that no matter how hard you've practiced and played, it is, after all, just a game.
  • Avoid settling disputes with violence. If you're in a difficult situation or someone's threatening you, seek help immediately from your coach or from an official. Remember, too, that if you respond with violence you could get penalized, which could hurt your chances of winning.
  • Cheer your teammates on with positive statements — and avoid trash-talking the other team.
  • Acknowledge and applaud good plays, even when someone on the other team makes them.
  • When officials make a call, accept it gracefully even if it goes against you. Remember that referees may not be right every time — but they're people who are doing their best, just as you are.
  • Whether you win or lose, congratulate your opponents on a game well played.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Sarah Silverman and the Great Schlep

Vote for Obama gonna visit Grandmama...You'd think someone named Manischewitz Gooberman might understand.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Birch Bay Vacation

I asked Elliot if he'd rather go on a trip to Washington D.C. to see the White House or the southwest to see the Grand Canyon and the Anasazi ruins, he said he'd rather go to a small town. Some place like Birch Bay, where you can play games with your family and go to water park and hang out at the beach....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

H.A. Rey

From the Writers' Almanac with Garrison Keillor, September 16, 2008.

It's the birthday of the childrens' author and illustrator H.A. Rey born Hans Augusto Reyersbach in Hamburg, Germany, in 1898. When Hans was a boy in Hamburg, he lived near a zoo, and he loved visiting the animals there he would imitate their noises and paint them. And in Hamburg he met a young girl named Margret Elisabeth Waldstein, but then she left to go study art. Hans served in the army, he went to school for a while, and he supported himself by designing posters for the circus. But the economy in Germany was bad, so he went to Rio de Janeiro to help his brother-in-law sell bathtubs. Hans changed his name from Reyersbach to Rey because it was hard for Brazilians to pronounce. In Brazil, he met up with Margret, who was all grown up, and they fell in love and got married.

Hans and Margret Rey returned to Europe in 1935, but they were Jewish and they couldn't go back to Nazi Germany, so they settled in Paris. Hans drew some cartoons of a giraffe for a newspaper, and a French publisher liked them and he asked Hans to do some more work like that. So the Reys started writing a book called Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys (1942), one of its characters was a monkey named Curious George, and the Reys thought he was the best character and that he should have a book of his own.

They were happy to be living in Paris, happy to be working on more children's books and translations of nursery rhymes, but in June of 1940, they discovered that Hitler was about to take control of Paris and that they were in huge danger. As fast as he could, Hans constructed two bicycles from spare parts he found, and on the morning of June 14, the Reys biked out of the city with some food, warm coats, and five manuscripts. One of those manuscripts was Curious George. The Nazis took control of Paris that afternoon, but the Reys were safely out of the city. They biked for four days until they reached the Spanish border, and then they sold their bikes for enough money to buy train tickets to Lisbon.

Over the next few months, they made it from Lisbon to Brazil, and then eventually to New York City. Curious George was published in 1941, and the Reys wrote and illustrated six more stories about him stories like Curious George Rides a Bike (1952) and Curious George Goes to the Hospital (1966).

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Memory of David Foster Wallace

Excerpts from his commencement speech to Kenyon's graduating class of 2005...

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"

Here's another didactic little story. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: "Look, it's not like I don't have actual reasons for not believing in God. It's not like I haven't ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn't see a thing, and it was fifty below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out 'Oh, God, if there is a God, I'm lost in this blizzard, and I'm gonna die if you don't help me.'" And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. "Well then you must believe now," he says, "After all, here you are, alive." The atheist just rolls his eyes. "No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp."

It's easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people's two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy's interpretation is true and the other guy's is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person's most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there's the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They're probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists' problem is exactly the same as the story's unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn't even know he's locked up.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don't worry that I'm getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being "well-adjusted", which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education -- least in my own case -- is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.

As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible -- sounds like "displayal"]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

"This is water."

"This is water."

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The Lemonhead

Elliot and I sat down to write a story, but soon enough he informed me, "Mom, we're not writing a whole story right now, we're writing a summary of the story for the back of the book."

Once there was a boy named Leonard who really liked lemonade. He made a club for all the kids who liked lemonade. The all liked it so much that they got sucked into a world of lemonade. They made a new friend whose head was shaped like a lemon. His name was Lemonhead. But the world of lemons is about to collapse. Everyone in the real world stopped drinking lemonade. It's up to the lemon club to save the world of lemons.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Ballard Sunday Market Photos

Boys wearing Chicago Cubs jersey shirts eating turkey dogs. Elliot snapped the other pics below. The raspberries are delicious!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Low Tide at Carkeek Park

Low tide meant that we got to sneak a peek at the exotic creatures usually under a blanket of sea. Some of my favorites: Sea Lettuce, Sugar Kelp, Turkish Towel, Aggregating Anemone, Moonglow Anemone, Sunflower Star, Gunnels, Purple Sea Star, Sea Lemon, Limpets, Frilled Dog Whelk, Periwinkles, and Moonsnail. Also, I finally saw a Geoduck - Gooeyduck.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ultimate Family DVD List

Andrew O'Hehir, the self-proclaimed "pretentious art-film snob" critic for Salon, asked his readers for family film suggestions that were off the beaten path, and likely to be enjoyed by both kids and parents. It's a great list, I plucked a dozen of the suggestions off and added them to our Netflix queue. Many films aren't appropriate for the under 8 set...Awesome Kids' Video Project

Top Four Family Films

1) The Iron Giant
We own this movie, Elliot loves it.

2) My Neighbor Totoro
Another great movie we own, both kids are big fans.

3) The Princess Bride
This is now in our queue.

4) Time Bandits
For older kids - 9+.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Family Dinner Magic: Yet More Reasons to Eat Together

Ok, now I'm convinced. No more kid only meals while I wash dishes and Dan cooks our dinner while talking on the phone. We're all eating together. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

From the Slate article, The Mac and Cheese Effect: Why the family dinner is good for parents. The family dinner is ambrosia and nectar and manna, too, researchers have long told us. It helps prevent teenagers from abusing drugs and alcohol or smoking, and it protects them from stress, asthma, and eating disorders. It boosts kids' reading scores and grades. By the time all the virtues of dinner togetherness have been extolled, you can only feel that if you love your kids, you have to get home in time to sauté the stir fry. You might even cut back to working part time to force-feed them falafel, as law professor Cameron Stracher relates in a book he published last year.

Happily, according to a new study, family dinner appears to be good for parents, too. The research by lead author Jenet Jacob of Brigham Young University found that among 1,580 parents who worked at IBM, those who said their jobs interfered less with being home for dinner tended to feel greater personal success, and success in relationships with their spouses and their children. The working parents—both mothers and fathers—had all of these buoyant feelings if they made it home for dinner more regularly, even if they still worked long hours. They also felt more kindly toward their workplace. Parents who missed dinner at home because of work, on the other hand, felt gloomy about their professional futures. "It is noteworthy that although longer work hours predicted significantly greater perception of success in work life, work interference with dinnertime predicted lower perception of success in work life," Jacob and her co-author write.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summertime Photos 2008

Here are some recent picture of our family for some people to view. They are, by and large, pictures of a trip to Discovery Park. Elliot got stung by a bee 15 feet from the completion of our sojourn. A couple of pictures are from a toy sale that Elliot instigated at 6:30 on a Wednesday.