Saturday, June 25, 2011

Behavior Modification :: Kindergarten Lessons

This is a cocky-little-dude.
You would be astonished at the volume of noise emitted by this tiny body! It is incongruous. (I bet the neighbors picture a fifteen pound, three foot tall rooster with a mic and a podium. Sorry neighbors.)

This is a kindergarten graduate, posing at the end of a very long, full, happy, face-painted, last day of school.

This is a behavior chart... a motivational device that tracks good and bad behavior, and is meant to inspire the participants to be polite, quiet, cooperative, adorable, precious... well, mostly polite and quite.

Maria's name is on the clip, and for the entire school year her name always stayed in either blue or green, which means that she was always polite and quiet in school. She never dropped down to yellow, and would have fainted, cried, fainted again, and gone straight to therapy if she were clipped in the red. (Personally, I found this system somewhat fascist oppressive, because it compelled her to be as silent as possible, all day. By the time I picked her up from school she was like an unexploded-verbal-bomb! I am not sold on the idea of rewarding silence.)

However I feel about the chart, it became an obsession for Maria, and on her last day of school she came home and made a chart for home use, with a certain cocky-little-dude in mind. Her chart is similar, but not the same as the one at school. Depending on how Zoltar is behaving, the clip with his name, moves up and down (mostly down) the chart. The idea being that the shame and degradation of being noted for poor behavior will motivate him to improve himself, to rise above his inclinations and be a very good, very kind, very quiet rooster.


Yes, at the top we have the highest level of acceptable and inspired behavior. This is like the Gold Medal of good behavior, the Pulitzer of quiet, the Noble for polite and courteous, the Big Smile of Well Done!

Zoltar has yet to achieve this level of honor and esteem, but you better believe he wants it. He wants it bad.


Here we have good behavior. It inspires a contented response, less actual smile, but still pleased with the level of goodness from the participant.

And here is where we find Zoltar, today.


This is where it gets hilarious. Nothing like the actual chart in her classroom, thank goodness.

Uh-oh. Now you've done it. We are not happy. Somewhere along the way, you have blown it. It's not quite hopeless, yet, but clearly the participant is failing to keep it together.

Oh dear.
Come on!!

Desperate, crushed. Clearly a disappointing and unacceptable, a shocking event, or breach of protocol has transpired. And I love the expression... you can hear the indignation, the expectation that things could be, should be, better!

Zoltar's clip has been here, often.

Oh gosh! How do you recover from this?!
The once happy face, has lost all hope, is overcome with the gravity of the situation. Clearly someone is out of control... but by this point it is hard to tell who needs the time out, the student or the teacher.

This is why we have summer, people! So we can take time to diffuse, to breath deeply and come back ready to move our names up the chart! And maybe throughout our day we deserve time to be ourselves, get loud, shake things up, speak out ... not rude, just free to cut loose a bit, without shame.

There. That's better.

But this cocky-little-dude can't seem to rise above Come on!!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment}~A Soule Mama ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

We Have A Winner!

This is Haley, the dog. In Maria's arms.

We were in Pasadena to celebrate Julie's birthday, to visit family, to relax in the beautiful garden. It was such a classic, lovely Pasadena kind of day. A bit misty in the morning, but by afternoon we were strolling under a blue sky. In the company of cousins, my aunt and uncle, my grandmother, with my husband and children... we could have been anywhere, but I have a sentimental place in my heart for Los Angeles, for the old neighborhoods where wisteria and grapevines hold the earth, and scent the air, where trees shade streets and frame the San Gabriel Mountains.

For me there is something quintessentially* Summer about Whittier, Alhambra, Pasadena, Olvera Street, Union Station... the heat, the hope of swimming, the laughter of cousins, the long days, and cooler nights. Los Angeles is big, and sprawling, loud and overwhelming, but if you can pull over into a neighborhood, focus on a street, a house, a museum, a fragrance... it becomes intimate, sincere, even endearing. At least, that's how it is for me.

Oh. Where was I?
Sentimental journey.

So. Haley. She's a character. Apparently she will chew anything to death. Anything. We were warned to guard our crayons, shoes, glasses, food... anything! Depending on who you ask, she is either a good dog, or a pest. At least while we were there, she was a good dog.

William played with Haley, holding her favorite toy in the air. She loves to growl at it, and tug it, and William learned that she jumps for it. He got her to jump really high too... until he wanted me to see. Just as I clicked my camera on, and prepared to witness Haley's trick, she walked away. Game over.

Maria decided she could reenact the game, for William's sake, for the sake of getting a picture of what it looked like when Haley jumped in the air for the squeaky toy! And maybe she should be training for the Olympics, or volleyball, and we certainly have considered entering her as a super-speedy mini-bot. But she is being Haley-the-dog's stand in. A good one too.

We loved reading your comments, the fun ideas you suggested. There was one that was particularly appealing, because recently we enjoyed reading about a photographer in Japan who is specializing in levitation! Without thinking about it, I managed to capture a bit of that floating effect that Natsumi Hayashi captures with her camera. Please do take a look at her fun and imaginative images.

Nikkipolani, you are our winner! William does have an interest in magic and illusion, and he has just the skills and influence it takes to make his sister levitate! A Barnes and Noble gift certificate is on its way to your home.

**WOW: word of the week**
Quintessential: the most typical example, the essence of a thing. I love this word.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Caption Contest :: Winner Will Be Announced Tonight!*

I know the story behind this moment, but I wonder what you think could be happening. William and Maria are up to something. In a sentence or two, or with a clever caption, tell us the story. All of us here at the Bird House will read the submissions and choose our favorite (not necessarily the most accurate.) Should there be a prize? Oh, yeah. Definitely a prize to the winner.

*We got some good captions, funny people!
If you have something to say about this interesting moment, if you want a chance to win a cool prize, then share your comment before 6 pm PST, or is PSI? No, PSI is not it... are we saving daylight time, or wasting time? Share your comment before we set down to dinner in California.

Time's up! We have a winner!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Piñata :: Taking It Down*

*Another in a series of "informative" How To posts

Recently, Alex turned seventeen. His actual birthday came at a busy time, and so he decided to delay his gratification, and celebrate a week later. As soon as Maria found out that Alex was having a party, she got busy... she bought a piñata, hid it (miraculous discipline for a six year old!), then filled it with trinkets and chocolates (without withholding a single piece for herself. Miraculous discipline for a six year old!)

Alex invited some friends over... friends he hoped would appreciate a causal evening of playing with dangerous things, like knives and swords, eating a delicious and moist cake, and watching The Doctor. The piñata turned out to be an unexpected bonus surprise from a sister who loves a bit of danger and fun too.

Yes, that's Alex, the man in black. All black. This was one of those wonderful birthdays when dreams come true... like getting his first Morphsuit. To quote Alex: "Everything is better in a Morphsuit.

Except for the dapper blue and yellow tie Annie knit for him, Alex spent the evening blissfully invisible. Bow ties are cool. Name that Doctor.

I digress.

After looking over pictures of the evening, it occurred to me I had all of the makings for a nifty tutorial. A step by step lesson in how to destroy a piñata. While broomsticks and baseball bats may be sufficient, it is possible to approach the task with profoundly greater, and more amusing, destructive force(s).

Maria was happy, even insistent, on donning the traditional bandana eye covering. I gave her a six and a half spin, then Michal spun her, then Suki spun her... that may have been a bit much. Feel free to skip the triple spin. Gabe and I sang

Dale, dale, dale,
no pierdas el tino;
Porque si lo pierdes
pierdes el camino.

Ya le diste una,
ya le diste dos;
Ya le diste tres,
y tu tiempo se acabó

Roughly translated we are singing: Hit it, hit it, hit it... don't skip a beat, or you'll lose your way. You hit it once, twice, three times, and your turn is over!

You can see Michal, Gabe, Suki, even Homer, standing clear, because Maria really did ¡dale!

Invisible, armed with the beautiful walking stick he received from William, Alex approaches the piñata. The advantage is Alex's: he can see the piñata, but the piñata cannot see him. It is a cunning strategy, yet the piñata endures.

So. If your piñata survives the bat, and the cane, then bring out the bow and arrows. With a few tips from Eli and Max, Gabe prepares to take aim.

Caution: It is important to remember when pointy projectiles are being used everyone must stand behind the archers. Chickens, cats, Homer, Maria, everyone was kept well and clear of flying arrows.

The flash of the camera is giving this some light, but shooting arrows at a swinging piñata, at night?... not easy. Max hit his target, and it was likely a fatal blow, but it wasn't enough to bring the piñata down.

Archery may not be a good way to bring down a piñata, but it's fun just the same. I think we need to re-visit this activity later this summer. Note to self: Order more straw bales.

So, naturally we brought out the T-shirt cannon. Ours is really only a small prototype, and in all honesty we did not load it with T-shirts. Eli is loading a pine cone, with dishrags for wadding.

Caution: It is important to remember when cannon prototpyes are being used everyone must stand behind the canon. Chickens, cats, Homer, Maria, everyone was kept well and clear of flying arrows pine cones.

This is likely the most fun, and least effective, attack made on the still swinging piñata. Everyone gave it a try, and even direct hits did little to release the goodies contained in the festive paper beast. (No actual beasts were harmed in this event, although we did consider the possibility of letting Zoltar take a ride.)

If you do not happen to have a T-shirt cannon prototype available, I suppose you could try a slingshot made of surgical tubing, or even a good softball pitch, using either pine cones or softballs. Just be sure everyone is behind the pitcher!

In the end, fatigued and craving chocolate, we reverted to tradition. Eli was blindfolded, spun repeatedly, then let loose armed with a wooden stick.


Eli brought the piñata down.

Unfortunately, down is not necessarily the same thing as burst open! And if after hitting, shooting, canonning, arrowing, kicking, stomping, shaking, and clawing at the piñata, it refuses to surrender the candy... then grab a saw, or other cutting device and rip it open!

And thus, we conclude our "informative" how to take down and burst open a piñata. It has been a pleasure to share this knowledge.