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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The quality of mercy is not strain'd

The other day we went to viola/violin lessons.  Since Luke was out of school he got to come with us.  Eleanor and Amanda each have a 45 minute lesson, I have a half-hour lesson, so that means Luke gets to wait for 2 hours while his sisters have lessons.  Ah, the joy of being the 3rd child.

In addition, after the first lesson of each month, we get a "treat" at the local coffee shop.  They sell bubble teas, as well as lots of other bakery treats.  Luke had had a treat after his piano lesson the week before, so just the girls needed a treat that week.

As you might guess, Luke asked for a treat while his sisters were getting a treat.  I pointed out that he had already had a treat and that it wouldn't be fair for him to have another, but I didn't say it was out of the question.  In my mind, I was thinking that he had behaved very nicely during the lesson and he was pretty hungry since it was close to lunch.  I was almost ready to say that he could have something small when he started bugging me incessantly about how he needed a treat.

It was an interesting situation: I had been ready to be merciful and give him a reward---but as soon as it became about him asking me over and over and over (after repeated requests for him to just stop talking about it) I really couldn't give him anything. At first I thought that maybe it was about me needing to feel merciful, but I think that what is going on is that when he keeps insisting that he is right and that he have his way, we cannot give in even if we had originally wanted to.  It's hard for him to let something go, but it's a lesson he needs to learn.  Probably it's my fault for giving in to him too much as a younger child...

I told him all this so that hopefully he learns not to bug  people.  Maybe we will both learn something.