Sunday, August 6, 2017

Note to self

I asked Amanda if she wanted to bring her violin on this year's vacation to see grandparents.  It can be fun to make music with cousins and it is good to keep up on practicing while traveling so you don't lose your progress. It also gives structure to the days which can sometimes be long and boring.

However, Amanda said that she had written a note to herself telling her not to bring her violin along.  I understand that, I make imaginary notes to myself all the time.  But then she got out her notebook and showed me a page on which she had written, "Note to future Amanda: Do not bring your violin on a vacation."  Not an imaginary note---there it was, in black and white.  So we didn't bring the violin this time.  I think future Amanda appreciated the foresight.

Poor Luke plays piano.  On the one hand, he absolutely cannot bring his instrument along with.  On the other hand, many places have pianos and then he can practice.  We are still working out when we make him practice and when we don't.  On the one hand, after Music Camp he complained that there had not been a piano to practice on.  When we went to VA for family vacation he enjoyed improvising and playing for family, but we didn't have music and he had lost some of his skills so that he stayed on his pieces for a few more weeks.  And this week he has a piano and music (thanks to his aunt and his grandmother) but he doesn't want to at least learn the music so he can move ahead at the next lesson. So we will see if the minimal sessions we do at least keep him from losing his skills.

(Luke complains that he is actually in the right and I am wrong, and I am making it sound biased in favor of my opinion.  I invite him to start his own blog and tell his own story about how mean and awful his mother is.  I will certainly read it.)

Monday, July 24, 2017

The delights and perils of the digital age

One of the great things about this age is that I can show all the movies and TV shows I loved as a child to my kids.  The peril is that sometimes they really do not hold up.

I watched MacGyver with the kids.  They really enjoy his can-do attitude he has and the way he turns chewing gum wrappers into explosives (whether or not the things he builds would be possible in real life).  They see why Dad has MacGyver as his nickname.  On the other hand, women really have one purpose in this series: to be rescued by McGyver.  Even the extremely smart scientists are there to be rescued.  I had found myself skeptical about whether women really had bad parts in TV shows from my past: I was wrong.  It is that bad.  Maybe in the later episodes their roles improve, but I doubt it.  It really makes me appreciate modern writing: it's so much more exciting when everyone gets to help.

We watched The Goonies.  I remembered it as being a fun adventure movie.  It was a bit like that, but the humor was very crude (the bit at the beginning with the statue of Michelangelo's David was funny, but I won't describe it for a family blog).  The kids were really mean to each other---I hope that my kids never behave like that.  I think the kids may not forgive me soon for making them watch the Goonies.

We watched Back to the Future.  On the one hand, the story was just as good as it was lo those many years ago.  On the other hand, the language was terrible!  What were my parents thinking to let me watch that?!?

We also watched War Games, and we found ourselves having to explain the entire history of the Cold War.  I'm not sure the kids believed me about how bad it was---I'm not sure I'm even remembering correctly, and I was there for some of it...  (Not to mention having to explain things like jogging being newly popula, pay phones, and modems.)

Finally, we watched Tron.  Despite the fact that the computers in the story are nothing like computers today, I think the setting (computer programs fighting within the computer for freedom against a Master Control Program) caught their imagination.  There were only two kisses---at one point one of them asked about Yuri, "Is that the love interest?"  The story holds up even now.  Even the cheesy computer graphics are cool.  I am curious to know if the reboot is as good.

For the most part, the books and movies that held my imagination as a kid still inspire me today.  I'm glad I can share them with my kids. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Why I like hanging around with Eleanor #2947

The other day we were looking at the school dress code.  After noticing how silly it was, she noted, "Well, it doesn't seem to forbid Starfleet uniforms."

Indeed.  (Well, it might forbid some of the ones from The Original Series...)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

My Superpower

Today Amanda was reading at the restaurant where we ate lunch.  I told her it was time to go and she looked around for a bookmark.  She picked up the ketchup packet and placed it delicately between the pages of her book...

Immediately I was besieged by visions of books with ketchup stains all over the pages, goopy ketchup all over Amanda's face and hands, napkins failing to contain all the mess... "No no no no no!" I said, and then (and only then) Amanda saw what the problem was. 

I always feel like Cassandra standing at the gates of Troy before the Trojan War, foretelling doom and gloom.  I am constantly warning children that if they don't eat they will be hungry during errands, if they don't drink they will get migraines, if they don't put away their shoes they will not be able to find them later, if they carry that down the stairs that way they will fall, and so on.  

It is interesting, because biologically speaking their fore brains are not as well developed as they will be in 15-20 years.   Compared with them I really do have a superpower. Some things I have experienced, for example, I know not to put the cookie cooling racks over the stove burners (too many crumbs, too hard to clean up).  Some things, like the ketchup, I can only imagine (although I seem to remember that Henry Reed used an earthworm as a bookmark one time).  But I really do have the power to see detailed visions of the disasters following from the actions of my children.  Now, if only they were more useful.

Monday, July 17, 2017


I have been cleaning up my house in preparation for Christmas.  Don't laugh: it really needs some work, I go pretty slow, and I'm not opposed to cleaning something again if necessary.  For example, the pantry and fridge already need a bit of work even though I cleaned them in January.

I cleaned out my dresser in May and found lots and lots of coins.  I gave them to Amanda and Luke to sort through while I decided what to do with them.  They separated out all the quarters, foreign coins, and really cool coins from the ordinary pennies, nickels and dimes.  But what to do with the rest?

My sister suggested Coinstar, which they have at our local grocery store.  It used to be that Coinstar would take out 7 cents for every dollar you put in, which I have a problem with.  It's not a logical problem: I'd probably be paying them 21 cents to take my coins out of my house and give me something valuable, which is actually a pretty good deal.  On the other hand, I hate paying 7% of my hard earned money...

However, since I didn't want to wrap the coins and I didn't want to take them to the bank, I had resigned myself to Coinstar.  I was just about to take the kids there when they came back with all the money they had sorted.  "And tomorrow we are going to sort the rest of the money and make a graph!"

On the one hand, I am responsible for keeping the house tidy and using money efficiently.  On the other hand, I am responsible for encouraging the kids to learn things and amuse themselves productively (read: not like I did when I was about their age).  So, even though I feel like it will probably be a mess, will probably not work well or get finished, will probably not yield any useful information, will probably not get us any more money, tomorrow we will be sorting coins and making a graph. And maybe I will be surprised!

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Amanda and Luke just got back from a church camp.  I asked them when "lights out" was.

Luke said that official lights out was at 9 but they stayed up later because their counselor read them stories.  "What kind of stories?"  "Dinosaur stories."  Um, ok?  "They were good dinosaur stories."

"See," said Amanda, "that's the difference between the boys cabins and the girls cabins.  We read devotions."

Luke replied, "Oh, ours were devotions too!"

My mind cannot grasp the idea of devotional dinosaur stories for 10 year old boys, and probably that's ok.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Child labor

One of the parts of our summer plan is that each child does 30-40 minutes worth of a chore every day.  When you have 12+ hours of freedom every day, spending less than an hour on a task is not too daunting.  Also, I'm required to work with them so they see me doing work too and it's less lonely.

The great thing is all the tasks that get done.  With 3 people working, Luke's room got cleaned pretty quickly.  We sorted through the old toys and found some for a (theoretical) garage sale. We moved a lot of mulch. Luke invented a long stick to help him dust the baseboards and behind the couches (dusting is much more fun when you are inventing too!).  I'm a bit worried actually that we will run out of things to do...  I'm sure I can ask friends and relatives for ideas.

One of my favorite "chores" was the trash bag I asked Amanda to make for the car.  She used a gallon ziploc for the liner, and strong magnet for the strap so that we can take it out and put it back in.  We also are using grocery bags so that we can just take them out and throw them away when we are done.  Right now we are hanging it near the passenger side of the front seat, but it could also be hung off the back of one of the front seats. And (best of all) it gets the job done.

She's taking orders =).  Just let me know.