19 September 2014

Teach kids time management by writing on the clock

I'm on a deep dive in the Parent Hacks archives. It's sort of like a treasure hunt; I'm looking for gems tucked among nine years' worth of posts so I can polish them for the forthcoming Parent Hacks book.

Many of the best hacks are hard to find because they're hidden in the comments which the blog's less-than-stellar Search function doesn't reliably access. This hack is one example. -- Asha


Time-management
It took one of my kids a loooooong time to "get" how the passage of time impacted this child's before-school routine.

There are the sorts of conversations we'd have every morning:

"If you take longer to eat, you'll have less time to brush your teeth."

"If you pack your backpack the night before, you can add those minutes to your breakfast-eating time the next morning."

"If you get up 15 minutes late, you have to shave 15 minutes off your morning routine so you'll still be on time to school."

There were a lot of tardies back then.

I came up with a hack to help my kids better understand time management; I stuck Post-It notes directly onto our mantle clock so they could "see" the morning routine progress. I found that using an analog clock (with the moving hands) visually represented the passage of time in a way a digital clock, timer or series of alarms couldn't.

That's a long backstory to set up Golden's hack, which is similar to mine but a little more elegant:

We have a cheap analog wall clock with a glass face, like one you'd hang on your kitchen wall. I use wipe-off markers to write the different tasks directly on the clock. Works great and you can add or remove tasks as they change.

Writing directly on the clock! Think how cool it would look with those oversized glass clocks (I think I've seen them at IKEA).

Another option: this adorable chalkboard wall clock. At the moment it's about $15 at Amazon which seems like a pretty good deal.

I'm happy to report that tardies are a thing of the past, and morning routines go smoothly. (I should hope so -- my kids have just started middle- and high school!)

How do you teach your kids to manage their time?

18 September 2014

Why "art career" isn't a contradiction in terms: my behind the scenes look at "The Boxtrolls"

Portland isn’t known for its show-biz glamour. We’ve got Portlandia and Grimm, but there’s not much celebrity glitz here in the Land of Clogs.

So you might be surprised to know that just outside of town, housed in a generic set of suburban office buildings, is LAIKA Studios -- premier creator of feature-length stop-motion animation films. Movies you’ve seen such as Coraline and ParaNorman came out of LAIKA, and a new feature is set to release on 9/26/14: The Boxtrolls.

Last Spring I was invited to LAIKA for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how The Boxtrolls was made. “Behind-the-scenes” anything is fascinating. But I was especially excited to learn about (and share with you) an example of a vital workplace filled with artists and technicians. Especially because my daughter is a budding artist herself.

LAIKA's particular brand of stop-motion is physical. In other words, the animators manipulate physical puppets which they snapshot then animate by stringing the snapshots together.

This isn't claymation or CGI, it's a painstakingly slow process of nudging eyebrows, fingers, and head angles of little figurines, and then taking pictures. An animator typically takes a week to complete 3.7 seconds worth of footage, which is just under 90 individual frames.

This is mind-blowing.

Adjusting props on the set of The Boxtrolls

photo credit: LAIKA Studios

I'm getting ahead of myself, because the puppets and props themselves -- the stuff getting animated -- is all made by hand. More than 20,000 props were handmade for the movie including 55 different sculpts just of cheese.

The sets were a remarkable study in detail...it was like standing in front miniature worlds. And the movie's main characters, a boy, a girl, and the Boxtrolls themselves...they took on personalities simply because an animator knew just the right angle and tempo to cock their heads.

Adjusting props on the set of The Boxtrolls

photo credit: LAIKA Studios

I was able to meet the animators, talk to the directors, and even meet LAIKA founder Travis Knight. I didn't say much because I was dumbfounded by the sheer inventiveness of everything I was seeing. I found myself wondering how I could arrange an internship for my daughter in about, oh, seven years.

Perhaps the most inspiring thing about the visit was that I was watching extremely skilled, creative people engaged in intense, paying work. I imagined their parents a few years earlier worrying about their kids' plans for a "career in art." Several of the blindingly talented people I met talked about how they only hit their strides after the tight structures of school were behind them, and they could think, learn and work in ways that were right for them.

Music to the ears of a parent of unconventional kids.

So mark your calendars and take the family to see The Boxtrolls next weekend. The kids will laugh and cheer along with the movie, and you'll marvel at the workmanship and skill it took to create it.

My visit to LAIKA Studios was arranged as part of a local press event. I was not paid to attend, nor was I paid or obligated to write this wrapup.

15 September 2014

Apply nonstick cooking spray in front of the open dishwasher

Right now I'm on a deep dive in the Parent Hacks archives. It's sort of like a treasure hunt; I'm looking for gems tucked among nine years' worth of posts so I can polish them for the forthcoming Parent Hacks book.

Many of the best hacks are hard to find because they're hidden in the comments which this site's less-than-stellar Search function doesn't reliably access. This hack is one example. -- Asha

At Amazon: Misto Brushed Aluminum Olive Oil Sprayer (affiliate link)

From Elisabeth in the comments of this kid's cooking hack (edited for brevity): 

Do you use nonstick cooking spray or spray oil to coat muffin tins, dough rising bowls, and baking pan? Hold the pan in front of the open dishwasher while spraying. You won't get the oil mist all over the kitchen and it will be washed away the next time you run the dishwasher.

Why didn't I think of this? FOREHEAD SMACK OF BRILLIANCE.

11 September 2014

Organizing tweaks now that "back to school" has become "in school"

I associate my kids' first week back at school with a return to routine and a predictable span of hours to work and think. Much as I'm sad to see summer fade, I think: it's easier during the school year. But it isn't. At least not right away.

Read more

02 September 2014

Turn baby food jars into LEGO storage

Victoria of ObSEUSSed noticed that baby food jars resemble LEGO minifig heads, so she decided to do something about it.

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28 August 2014

Last chance to unlock vaccine donations: #Blogust ends August 31

Please take a minute to help Shot@Life unlock the last 10,000 vaccine donations on the way to the campaign goal of 60K.

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20 August 2014

19 August 2014

Book review: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things is an incredible read for parents, but not because it’s about parenthood.

Read more

15 August 2014

Free screening passes: Island of Lemurs: Madagascar [Portland]

I've got a download code for free advance screening tickets for ISLAND OF LEMURS: MADAGASCAR, playing 8/16/14 in IMAX 3D, at 11am at Regal Bridgeport Village!

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14 August 2014

Teaching our kids the difference between video game combat and real war

On the ONE Campaign blog, I share my thoughts on a father's choice to teach his sons about videogame violence by taking them to Israel and Syria. While I respect his choice, it wouldn't be mine.

Read more

ALL hacks in September 2014 →

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