Monday, June 30, 2014

Jury Duty

So, life has been busy lately with Ian out of state for Army stuff and lots of house guest activity and kids and work, etc.  Which means now is a perfect time to be called up for jury duty!  Why not?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Marbleous Idea

I read this post recently about using marbles to help kids manage screen time over the summer, and my first thought was that it was pretty much just another reward system like a sticker chart (which has never ever ever worked for us never ever).  But seeing as our summer was off to a rocky start in terms of too much Minecraft and TV and not enough doing basic chores without nagging, I figured it couldn't hurt to try.

Holy moly is the marble thing a good system.

Basically the way it works is one marble is worth 15 minutes of screen time.  When the kids do the chores they are supposed to be doing anyway, they earn marbles to put in their jars.  When they are ready to use screens they set a timer and "pay" for it by taking marbles out of their jars.  It's not so much a reward system, but a way of helping them balance out their time better between what they should be doing and stuff they know they need to monitor better.

I talked to them about it first to see if they were interested.  Quinn (who likes collecting things) and Mona (who already does her chores without being reminded) were excited about the idea.  Aden was wary, but agreed to give it a go.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Harold Lloyd

I mentioned the actor Harold Lloyd in my post about showing my kids what we term "source material" on movie night.  Harold Lloyd is probably my favorite star from the silent movie era, but he's not as well remembered today as Charlie Chaplain or Buster Keaton.  My kids think he looks like a grown up Harry Potter.  Even people who don't know who he is are still likely to have seen the iconic image of him hanging from a clock in Safety Last.

We checked a collection of his movies out of the library recently and re-watched Safety Last and several others.  They are all still so laugh-out-loud funny I really encourage other parents in particular to check them out, because it can be hard to find movies that genuinely appeal to all ages, and these do.  There are clever stunts and crazy chases and my kids were just shrieking with laughter at times, and the adults in the room were entertained right along with them.

But I wanted to write this post because while looking up information for the kids about the making of Safety Last I learned something I haven't been able to get out of my mind all week.  It's something I'm sure I knew once and just forgot, but now that I've learned it again I keep thinking about it.

In 1919, Harold Lloyd was handed a real bomb by a prop man during a photo shoot, and it exploded in his hand tearing off his thumb and forefinger.  But what is truly amazing is that he went on to continue to do movies where he performed most of his own stunts.  And these aren't just little stunts--the man scaled buildings and did incredible tricks that required great strength and perfect timing.

So when he was dangling from window ledges and that clock in Safety Last, he was doing it with only one good hand.  That is unbelievable to me.  The stunts are impressive enough when you think he did them with two.  (The funniest part about the clip in that link is watching him pretend he's not good at climbing buildings.)

In all his films after the accident his right hand was covered in a prosthetic white glove to conceal his injury.  Once you know to look for it, you start to notice that he does all of his intricate gesturing with only his left, and that he never grabs anything with his right using more than his last few fingers.  It's artfully done most of the time, and you would never notice the glove if you didn't know to look for it.

I worry about anything happening to my hands.  I seriously wonder what kind of livelihood I could make for us without them, so I'm sure that's why this story haunts me a bit.  The idea that a movie star could suffer that kind of bodily disaster and go on to keep cranking out films is amazing.  If he'd shied away from cameras after the bomb blew up his hand and declined to do stunt work anymore nobody would have blamed him.  Instead he went on to make his best and most daring work.

So I guess the lesson is don't let anything stop you from doing what you feel you're meant to do.  And don't trust the prop guy.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Double Dad Day

I got to spend Father's Day with both my husband and my dad this year.  I don't know if that's ever happened before.  My dad's been staying with us for the past couple of weeks while my mom has been on a trip.  He worries that he's a burden since he needs help getting around and we have to keep track of his medication, etc., but he's not a burden; he's my dad.

I feel bad that I haven't been able to get him out to a bookstore yet like he wanted, but the only day I had free from work the weather made it too complicated.  (Dealing with a walker and an umbrella while trying to cope with parking on the East Side was more than I felt I could handle.)  Other than that it's been a good visit with lots of Scrabble playing.

The highlight for me was having both Ian and dad at my concert on Sunday.  I play so many concerts I know my dad would enjoy that he can't be here for, and from my end there's nothing like having someone you love in the audience.  This weekend the Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra had a Father's Day concert in a beautiful church up near the university.  The building had real Tiffany stained glass windows and the acoustics were amazing--no need for mics which was great.

The first half of the concert was our artistic director, Rene Izquierdo, on solo guitar, which is always wonderful, and the second half was the orchestra.  We did a nice assortment of tunes, from Classical pieces to Irish songs to Tin Pan Alley standbys....  It wasn't perfect, but parts of it were better than we've ever sounded, and I was so happy my dad could be there.

When I went to meet him at the end of our performance he told me he was so proud, and he got a little weepy, which meant it took a lot to keep myself from getting weepy.  It was about as good a Father's Day moment as one could ask for.

But what I think of as an important Father's Day moment for Ian actually happened a couple of months ago.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Aden's Neighborhood

Aden was recently asked by her art teacher to represent the elementary students at her school in a local art competition.  The neighborhood association wanted to sponsor the first annual art show for kids as part of the Bay View Art Walk.  The Art Walk is a big evening event in June where artists display their work all over town, and the kids' work was shown in the library.

Aden won first prize!

I'm so proud of her.  This was her first time using acrylics on canvas, and she worked on it for weeks.  She planned out her painting in different sketches beforehand, and at first only did actual painting in the evenings when she was feeling inspired.  As the deadline drew nearer, Aden discovered the truth about working in a creative field.  Artists of all kinds, when they are accountable to someone else, don't have the luxury of waiting for the perfect moment to create.  At some point you simply have to buckle down and do the work.

So Aden painted late into each night, and when I could I'd read to her to keep her entertained.  (We've been reading Harry Potter, and while she painted we got through all of book three and most of book four.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I have no idea what to eat.

I know I'm probably not alone in this feeling, but it always looks to me as if people around me have an idea or a plan or some handle on what they're doing where food is concerned, and I am just lost.  My weight is out of control and I need to do something, but I honestly don't know what.

I want to be someone who likes tons of vegetables, is not tempted by sugar, and can eat everything in moderation.  I am not that someone.  I'm frustrated by the fact that in many ways I know what I should do, but that I don't seem capable of actually doing it.  Am I broken?

I suspect that in our modern world many of us are sabotaged by our biology and our instincts in the face of comfortable lifestyle options and easy availability of unhealthy things to eat.  I'd like to think because I'm smart enough to recognize the problems I should be able to muster the will to deal with them, but I feel overwhelmed.  There is too much.  Too much temptation and too much information.

The last time I made the attempt to lose weight with any success I did a kind of modified points counting plan borrowed from Weight Watchers in combination with about 90 minutes a day of exercise.  It worked, but it was like a full-time job.  I don't want to do that again.  I don't want to get to the end of my life and have my weight be my only accomplishment because it took up all my time.  That's ridiculous.  Unless you are a serious cook you should not be obsessed with food.