Snow. Meh.

Sharing a few photos from a January drive up Mt Hood in recognition of the “blizzard” I drove through on the way to work this morning. OK, not quite a blizzard. It was more like someone was playing a sick joke on all the schoolkids who have been waiting months for a snow day.

Me: “Hey guys, it’s snowing!”
Thomas: (Grunts) “I already know…”
Samuel: (Runs to the window) “Where?” (Sees snow) “Oh…”

My kids have become incredibly blase about the whole thing.

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Today’s Photo of Action Figures Saying “Please”

We skipped swimming lessons on Saturday morning so Thomas could recover from a cold. Instead, we stayed inside all day while the rain bucketed down outside between short bursts of sunshine. Good thing the boys decided to play well together which likely saved my sanity.

At one point, Samuel asked me to help him build a “house”. He put down the floor and I helped a little with the walls before Thomas jumped in with ideas for a roof and other architectural details. (Wooden blocks = best TOY ever)

Then I noticed that they started lining up their assorted action figures.

(Side note on action figures. It seems we started with one or two and now have an army of Wookies, Jedis, Stormtroopers, Ninjas, a full set of Wiggles and, of course, a wide variety of Superheroes. I’m not sure how they multiplied so quickly.)

Of course, I was curious. Was this a line for weapons? Wise words from Yoda? Some secret Star Wars/Superhero clubhouse?

No, this was a line for the Popcorn stand. Fantastic!

And as each action figure asked for, and received, their popcorn (using “please”), they would be moved out of the way and the other figures would move forward one space in the line.

It was a tedious process but no one left empty handed. I had no idea popcorn was so popular with the small and plastic.

Monday’s Photo – Demonstrating How Capes SHOULD be Worn

A little bleary eyed this morning after staying up to watch the Oscars last night. It broadcasts pretty early here on the West Coast but, due to some live video pausing so I could eat dinner and deal with bedtime, I was up a little later than expected.

Note to self: Next time don’t browse Facebook and Twitter while you’re watching a delayed show. It gives away the ending (duh!).

I felt a little more prepared for the Oscars than expected this year thanks to a last-minute double feature viewing of The Help and Moneyball on Saturday night. Sure, Kei and I were useless with the kids in the morning, but at least we managed to sneak in a couple of best picture nominees before the big night. Still haven’t seen the winner but I’m adding it to my Netflix queue.

I actually thoroughly enjoyed this year’s academy awards and even watched some of it with Thomas and Samuel who were equally impressed.

Highlights:

  • The fact that Billy Crystal laughs at his own jokes and doesn’t try to be too hip/clever.
  • His opening video and song – funny and clever. I’m sure Thomas had no idea what most of the references were but he was rolling on the floor with laughter anyway.
  • Cirque Du Soleil – a highlight for the boys.
  • That Bret (“Brit”) McKenzie won for the Muppet song. Bonus points for a Miss Piggy and Kermit appearance (kids liked that too)
  • Octavia Spencer’s win. Love her.
  • Will Farrell and Zac Galafanakis – Hilarious.
  • The Bridesmaids cast presenting three awards, particularly the Martin Scorsese drinking game.

Lowlights

Of course I don’t have any photos of the actual Oscars, so you’ll have to make do with a couple of a much more fashionable ways to wear a cape. In my opinion, they should be reserved for magicians and superheroes.

 

 

Five Things Friday: More Children’s Books Worth Reading More than Once

A couple of months ago, Samuel decided that, each night, he would like to read a few books to himself before going to sleep. Of course Kei and I read to the kids every night before bed, but this is just one of many ways in which Samuel is trying to assert his three year old independence.

It began with reading in the dark until we told him it wasn’t good for his eyes. So Samuel moved to the other side of the room to read by the glow of his night light. After a while we caught on to this little trick and decided that we really should provide him with a safe way to read that won’t contribute to the genetic disposition he already has for bad eyesight (our kids don’t have the best odds for 20/20 vision).

Finally, we bought him his own reading lamp and, let’s just say, it’s opened up a whole new world – one that has been ending at 9 or 10pm on some painfully long drawn out nights. He’s been cranky and unbearably difficult to get out of bed in the morning, but at least he’s picking up some essential (pre)pre-k reading skills in the meantime.

Not that I can complain too much. I have vivid childhood memories of being told time and time again to turn off my light and go to sleep. Samuel and I are alike in many ways.

But I digress. The primary goal of this post is share five of our favorite children’s books. The ones that are inspiring and entertaining a three year old and a six year old – not to mention their parents.

1. Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

I’ve mentioned this one before but it’s worth repeating. Stuck is an incredibly imaginative book that made Thomas laugh out loud the first time we read it together – and also the second time and the 20th time. I adore Oliver Jeffers and the book’s tag line ” a story about trying to solve a problem by throwing things at it”.

One catch with this book is that it doesn’t seem to be widely available for purchase here in the US. Even Amazon ships from the UK.

2. Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy

Finally, a book about Superheroes who are not affiliated with DC or Marvel. As much as I admire my boys’ dedication to Superman and his friends, I truly appreciate a book that encourages them to use their imagination and transform themselves into superheroes using what’s around them.

3. The Three Questions by Jon J Muth

Based on a story by Leo Tolsty with a very “zen” approach to problem solving. The most interesting thing about this book is how each of the boys can translate it based on their individual levels of maturity.

4. Art and Max by David Wiesner


This book relies mainly on the illustrations to tell the story – and what wonderful illustrations they are. Such a wonderfully creative story for all children, regardless of age.

5. Predator Showdown by Scholastic

It does pain me a little to put this book on the list because I wasn’t exactly thrilled when Kei bought it at the school book fair. But I have to admit that it is interesting and fun to read with Thomas given his current obsession with animals. On each two page spread they pit one predator against another, comparing things like speed, brains and strength and declaring a winner. It’s written in such a way that it has to be read by putting on the voice of a dramatic television announcer “THIS WEEK ON PREDATOR SHOWDOWN.. SHOWDOWN…showdown…” Of course I recommend it particularly for six year old boys.

So there you have it, book recommendations courtesy of the Ishida boys and their parents, guaranteed to keep everyone entertained – provided you have good lighting.

Weekend Adventures and Random Photos

I’m not sure how we managed to have such an insanely busy weekend. It seems that our kids have an incredibly active social life. Here’s a quick rundown and, because I barely picked up my camera at all over the weekend, I’ll intersperse the text with a few completely random photos just because they make me smile.

Friday

  • Kei went out for a drink with a friend.
  • I put the kids to bed and stayed up a lot later than I should have after getting sucked into watching a 20/20 special about Whitney Houston.

Saturday

  • Swimming lesson for Thomas and family swim for the rest of us in the morning.
  • After lunch saw a quick nap for Samuel before Kei took the boys to the Ice Hockey. While they were there, one of the boys dropped his $4 snow cone. While Kei tried to rescue it he managed to knock over his $9 beer. Tragedy all round.
  • I stayed home and tried to clean up part of the house, managing to lose Thomas’ Lego Blue Ninja in the process. We heard about it for the rest of the weekend (it’s still missing).
  • Immediately after the boys returned from the Hockey, we packed them into the car again so they could hang out at Samuel’s school for a few hours for “Parents’ Night Out.”
  • Kei and I had dinner at Simpatica. Very tasty, although not as good as other times we’ve been there. I’m sure my experience was a little dampened by the 70 year old guy sitting next to us who said he was scared by the set menu and then who refused to eat “the green stuff” (Kale). I’m sure there’s a Portlandia episode in there somewhere.
  • Picked up the kids at around 10:30. Samuel was so tired that he practically begged to go to bed.

Sunday

  • Kids and I got out of bed at 6:30am (why won’t they sleep in?).
  • Kei took them bowling with some neighborhood friends for a couple of hours while I did exciting things like Laundry! and Grocery Shopping!
  • Boys came home for lunch and then Thomas played video games while Samuel took a nap.
  • Kei took Thomas to a play date and hit some golf balls while waiting to pick him up.
  • Samuel woke up and seemed a little under the weather so we sat on the couch and watch Babe together – LOVE that movie, although it did require a lot of explanation for a three year old.
  •  Home, dinner, folding laundry late into the night.

Monday (Presidents’ Day)

  • Thomas’s school was closed and Samuel woke up asking for a sick bucket (which he used), so I had both kids at home. Thankfully Kei was able to take a sick day to look after Samuel so I was able to get some work done.
  • Spent the day inside to recover from the weekend while it poured rain outside. Kids played with Lego and superheroes and watched Babe again.
  • Samuel took a too-long nap which kept him up until 10pm.
  • I went to the gym for a class, where I may have come close to passing out a couple of times.
  • Let my heavy eyelids close just after Samuel went to bed at 10pm.

Summary: Busy (long) weekend. Actually grateful to be back at work today. Bring it!

Five Things Friday: Romantic Movies that Go Beyond All That Gross Kissy Stuff*

*Gross kissy stuff according to a three year old. Not the opinion of the author.

There was a time, long ago, when I went to the movie theater on a regular basis. I would easily lose myself for a couple of hours in a romantic comedy or the latest thriller or even a classic movie – due in large part to a wonderful 12 month period when I lived within steps of the famous Astor theater in St. Kilda.

There was also a time, long ago, when I could proudly declare that I had seen most, if not all, of the Best Picture nominees before the Oscar telecast and share my informed opinion on who should win.

Of course those days are over thanks to something call “parenthood” – and the increase in the number of best picture nominees didn’t help my cause.

So, as I share my favorite romantic movies, you’ll notice that most of the films on the list are more than a few years old. Part of this is because I have to be particularly choosy about how I spend my movie-viewing time, but I also believe that it is because it is incredibly difficult to make a  great romantic comedy – one that doesn’t resort to cliches or painful sentimentality to tell a story.

Without further ado, my choices for the top five romantic movies that stimulate the mind as well as the heart strings.

1. When Harry Met Sally

Hand’s down my all time favorite romantic movie. I think I’ve seen it more than 30 times and owned it on VHS in Australia before I upgraded to a DVD copy when we moved to the US (Blue ray may be next). It’s a funny, romantic story about friends who finally find love right in from of them. I love the “documentary” interviews that are sprinkled throughout the film and, of course, the quotable dialogue that ends with one of the most romantic declarations of love ever found in a movie.

“I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. “

This film caused me to fall in love with Billy Chrystal for a couple of hours – now that’s genius.

2. Like Water for Chocolate

Back when I used to see a lot of movies, I also used to see a lot of foreign movies. I know, it was a crazy, frivolous use of time and I LOVED it. One of my favorites was “Like Water for Chocolate”, a story about forbidden love and the heroine channels her pain and  passion through the food she cooks. Funny, romantic and, above all, delicious.

“The trouble with crying over an onion is that once the chopping gets you started and the tears begin to well up, the next thing you know you just can’t stop!”

3. The Princess Bride

This movie has revenge, kidnapping, swordplay, giants, poison and Rodents of Unusual Size (ROUS’s) but above all, it’s about “TWUE WUV”. I vividly remember going to see the Princess Bride as a child with my Mum, my brothers and one of my Mum’s friends with her kids in tow. It made such an impression that I simply cannot wait until my kids are old enough to enjoy this film. Of course, given they’ve declared the movie “UP” to be too scary thanks to the appearance of a bad guy, I may have to wait a little while. I don’t think they’re quite ready for Prince Humperdink and his Pit of Despair.

“I was eleven years old. And when I was strong enough, I dedicated my life to the study of fencing. So the next time we meet, I will not fail. I will go up to the six-fingered man and say, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.””

4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

A story about breakup and the lengths two people would take to erase memories that are almost too painful to bear. Is erasing the bad worth the loss of the good memories as well? This movie is a bit of a mind bender, but that’s what makes it such a unique and wonderful love story. Kate Winslet is fabulous and even Jim Carrey plays it wonderfully straight. Unforgettable, for sure.

“Look man, I’m telling you right off the bat I’m high maintenance. So I’m not gonna tip-toe around your marriage or whatever it is ya got goin’ on there. If you wanna be with me, you’re with me.”

5. Annie Hall

OK, I admit that Woody Allen is not everyone’s cup of tea, but who can deny the brilliance of the dialogue in this movie. It’s just an everyday story of two people who meet, fall in love and then find themselves hating each other. But what makes this movie rise above the ordinary is the list of fantastic one-liners and Diane Keaton at her most fabulous.

“A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark. “

Special Mentions

  • An Affair to Remember – I had to include at least one classic. Cary Grant. Enough said.
  • Crazy Stupid Love – funny, unexpected AND released within the last 12 months. 
  • While you were sleeping – A gentle, only slightly predictable, love story. It won’t make you think very hard, but it will definitely make you smile. 
  • Edward Scissorhands – this film is visually amazing and, of course, I’m a sucker for Johnny Depp, even at his most freaky-looking.
  • Up – what’s not to love about a cartoon that can tell an entire story of a couple’s relationship from beginning to end in a 3 minute montage?

Did I miss one or two (or 20)? Share your own favorites in the comments.

Finding the Words

My blog has been a little light on words lately. Not that I don’t have a lot to say (I ALWAYS have a lot to say), I’m just finding it difficult to put all of my thoughts into one coherent  sentence (or 10). So, to help remedy, I present you with an unashamedly random list of the things that come to mind on the drive to work, in the shower, in my dreams…

  • I’m back on the exercise bandwagon. I’ve been going to the gym 2-3 times a week and am trying to be more active in my day to day life. It’s taken a couple of months but I have finally started feeling it paying off this week. Not that my clothes are any looser, just that I feel more energized.
  • Question posed to Thomas last night: If you could be any food, what would you be? Answer: “The hottest pepper in the world because then no one would want to eat me.” He’s a smart kid.

  • I’ve starting posting more photos to instagram in an effort to capture the everyday. And then I got all crazy and set up a new Tumblr account to act as my instagram photo gallery. I know…nuts!

  • I’ve also been trying to pick up my big camera more often so I can develop as a photographer (pun intended). The dark winter days have made finding inspiration difficult but I am determined to try and take at least one photo a day. I mean, it would be a shame to miss capturing a moment like this.

 

    • We recently upgraded our cable so I have started watching The Daily Show again. Hands down, one of the best “news” shows on TV. The only problem is that it makes me angry about the number of misinformed, stubborn and crazy people in this country I have chosen to call home. Good thing it makes me laugh at the same time. Best quote from the show that summed up my feelings this week: “You’ve confused a war on religion with not always getting everything you want”.
    • I’ve been looking at flights to Australia for a trip we have planned in a couple of months. It’s nice to have a holiday to look forward to, even if it’s still a few months out.
    • I secretly hate myself for liking this Taylor Swift song (I’m not a big fan). I feel better that it’s on the Hunger Games soundtrack (cannot wait for the movie!).
    • Really enjoying my job right now. I think it’s a combination of finding a little more balance between work, family and me (exercise) and the fact that I find myself laughing at least once a day. Oh, and I’m nearly done with a major project that has consumed me since the beginning of the year . Yeah, that may have something to do with it.
    • I’ve been cooking more and Thomas declared dinner the another night to be one of the best ever (it was gourmet meal of chicken stir fry) and said that I am an awesome cook. Now that’s the sort of positive reinforcement I could get used to.

Finally, if you made it to the end, congratulations! As thanks, please enjoy this little piece of daily life that was spotted on the wall at daycare. You’re welcome.