Monday, April 22, 2013

Meeting Leo Howard from Kickin' It

Ballerina beaming while posing with Kickin' It star Leo Howard at Zoo Miami's Radio Disney Event
The Disney TV show Kickin' It is a hit at our house. Husband discovered it one fateful Saturday morning on Netflix while clicking through to find something new the whole family would enjoy. We have seen all episodes on Netflix at least twice. The kids love watching episodes over and over. For a good long while, Builder's favorite expression was, "Holy Christmas nuts!"

The star of Kickin' It, Leo Howard, plays Jack, a skilled young martial artist who joins sensei Rudy's Bobby Wasabi Martial Arts Academy. He was trained by his grandfather, who also happened to train the original Bobby Wasabi many years before. He quickly makes some friends - Milton, loyal and school-smart, Jerry, somewhat dim-witted and fun-loving, and Eddie, kind and eager. He also meets Kim, another black belt from a rival dragon academy who in the close of the two-part first episode joins Rudy, Jack and friends as part of the Wasabi Warriors. Although reluctant to join the Wasabi Warriors, as Rudy's students call themselves, Jack becomes its symbol and defender.

The show is pure fun - Jason Earles is a hoot as Rudy, and although all the kids do a great job, Jack and his martial arts skills do steal the show. We also appreciate the fact that the show portrays good values such as perseverance, hard work, honesty, loyalty, and friendship.

Leo Howard played the young Conan in the latest Conan the Barbarian movie, and his experience in both martial arts and acting show. 

We had the pleasure to meet him today at the Party for the Planet celebration at Zoo Miami. But i'm getting ahead of myself. Here's a little background info.

Husband and I didn't tell the kids thinking that if there was a cancellation it wouldn't be so bad. Ballerina especially is taken with "Jack", as she refers to him, and we didn't want to disappoint her needlessly. Plus we knew that she would not have gotten a good night's sleep prior to the big day.

We drove to the zoo (an hour and a half away) early and partook in games and trivia questions by Radio Disney. The kids were skeptical they were really going to see Leo Howard (previous scarring having occurred when the cartoon heroes Diego and Phineas turned out to be tall people with giant cloth heads). 

When he made his appearance, cool as a slice of watermelon while we were dripping sweat, the kids kept saying that he looked just like him and he talked just like him. It is him, I reassured them happily. I don't foresee any cartoon character visits in the future. 

Leo Howard is nice. He has the kind of calm, mature demeanor that future mothers-in-law love. He answered questions thoughtfully and intelligently, and Builder was lucky enough to be picked to join him in a martial arts belts matching game! Husband, who was watching Explorer as Ballerina, Builder, and I experienced the Leo Howard meet and greet, was also thrilled to see our son interacting fearlessly with a famous guy on TV. Builder, eager to show off his knowledge of taekwondo, arranged the belts in the right order confidently, making this mother proud. Builder is a green-black belt.

It was a blast seeing Builder so grown-up looking at nine, talking to Leo and Leo putting a hand on his shoulder. When we stood in line for autographs, we played "three animals starting with a letter" game to pass the time. Ballerina was thrilled to finally meet Leo face to face. She was smiling from ear to ear when he said her name and dedicated the picture to her. 

A half hour later when the meet and greet was over and we saw Leo was still hanging out, and Builder went up to him and showed him one of his combination kicks. Leo rattled off the names of his kicks and told him to keep up the good work. It was a high point for Builder. 

I met Leo's dad, and we had a short but pleasant conversation about the need to keep an eye on a child who's famous, no matter what his age. I respect anyone who has a commitment to good parenting and keeps a watchful eye over his fifteen-year-old son.

We were all happy to meet Leo Howard, a cool teen with a great future ahead of him. If there are any other events in our area, we will be back. Both kids were musing, "He looks just like Jack in Kickin' It." Builder thought he wore a wig for a show, because his hair looks so good. Now he knows his hair really does look that nice. Leo Howard is the genuine article, folks.

After the event, Ballerina asked me, "Can we go see him at his home, Mama? I would love to play a game with him too. Can we invite him to my birthday party?" I tried to explain to her that Leo lives at the other side of the country, in the same state as her aunt, and that it was unlikely he was going to be in the area so soon. Her sixth birthday is July 31. She doesn't even like boys. No boy has ever gotten her attention. But she likes Leo Howard. Perhaps we could write to him. I will have to find out his e-mail address or fan snail mail address.

When Builder was talking to Husband, he said that after meeting Leo he felt inspired to keep doing his best in taekwondo and in life in general. He has never said this about anyone before. Isn't this what all role models hope from their fans?

Builder with Leo Howard
On stage for a game
Being protective of his sister before Leo arrived

Leo signing his name on a picture for Ballerina

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Praying for Boston, praying for Martin's family

Martin Richard was eight years old. Like any kid, he was excited to get his ice cream at a sporting event. In this case, it was the famed Boston Marathon, which his dad has run before. This time his dad was not running because of injury. On Monday, April 15, Martin still had his ice cream in hand when the first explosion hit. His family was leading everyone away from the building when the second explosion hit and killed him.

I am deeply saddened by the events that took place at this year's Boston Marathon, but I couldn't help focusing on this little boy. Builder is only a year older. His sister, who's critically injured along with their mother, is six, only a year older than my Ballerina. Going to a sporting event as a family is something we do, something we have done, something that we will continue to do - although it will never be the same. 

I pray for the Richard family, for the continued recovery of Martin's mother and sister, for Mr. Richard, for the older brother who watched his younger brother get killed. For grandparents, aunts, uncles, classmates, teachers. I pray that whomever orchestrated this cruelty not only gets justice, but feels remorse and understands, truly understands, the suffering.

Martin Richard was always outside playing some kind of sports, whether it be basketball, hockey, or soccer. He loved to ride his bike and climb trees in his backyard. Builder does too. My mother used to say, when one is a mother, one has all the children of the world. I think now know what she means. 

Monday, April 08, 2013

Easter Egg Coloring and Backyard Egg Hunt 2013

This year I tried something new. My mom sent me an e-mail on how to color eggs using natural dyes from food, and I accepted the challenge. It wasn't difficult to find the ingredients at the grocery store, more akin to a treasure hunt. What dyes well? An accumulation of several websites, my list went as follows:

  • red cabbage
  • blueberries
  • turmeric
  • instant coffee granules
  • paprika
  • spinach
  • and of course, two dozen natural white eggs from cage-free hens
The eggs I get usually are brown, thus it was important to remember to get white eggs for this process. There are two ways to dye eggs naturally. You could either boil the eggs with the food that you use to dye (i.e. plunk a raw egg in a pan with turmeric), or boil the food separately, conserve the liquid, and dip the eggs into the dyed mixture, with a splash of white vinegar. We opted to do the latter, because the kids wanted to be involved in the process. This way, I reasoned, they wouldn't miss dyeing the old way with artificial food dyes.

As much I tried to find a tiny head of red cabbage, I could find only a small one, which yielded a huge amount of leaves and thus the largest amount of dyed purple liquid. Initially excited about the quick way the color in the pan changed, I was disappointed to see the color did not apply to the egg. The egg was a soft, pale purple, but only if you compared it to a white egg. Here are the eggs taking their bath in the cooled dye mixtures, from back left to front - turmeric, paprika, blueberries (front and left), spinach (center), and the deep purple liquids in the cups in the back and all the way front and right are red cabbage. Ballerina oohed and aahed over the pretty purple color.

Here are all the eggs dyed and drying in the egg case:

As you can see, the colors are very subtle and not nearly as bright as the store-bought dyes. The house was fragrant, however. Builder was not happy with the smell of turmeric, even though yellow is his favorite color.

The fun began the day after, when we hid all the eggs in the backyard. We had a total of 17. Ballerina begged us to let her eat one the day before. Hardboiled egg is a healthy snack, so why not? Husband hid some eggs in plain sight for Explorer to find, trickier spots for Ballerina to find, and the hardest ones to find were reserved for Builder. Here's an Explorer egg:

Builder victorious in his find:

 Where could it be?

Putting the eggs back into the carton (after all, we're going to eat them):

Explorer is proud to do it all by herself.

Found one! Ballerina loved the egg hunt.

At nine, Builder enjoyed it as much as he did when he was Ballerina's age.

I found one, Daddy!

Putting back into the egg carton again.

Explorer so happy to be hunting.

I love her shirt - very Easter with the chicks and flowers.

I did it! Ballerina smiling.

Gosh I love the looks on their faces.

Hiding in plain sight.

Hiding eggs all over again. Ballerina helping Explorer.

This is my egg.

Tricky place, but I found it!

I see an egg. Can you see it?

Victory at last!

We all had so much fun. The kids had been sick, and thus we couldn't take them to the public egg hunts. However, this ended up being as enjoyable as any public egg hunt. The kids loved the idea of doing it again, and that the eggs were the same ones we had colored the day before. Next year I will buy an eco-friendly egg coloring kit, though. While interesting, the dyeing took way too much time that could have been spent with my family instead. The dud? Spinach. Maybe I boiled it for too long, but the eggs were not even remotely green. Ballerina asked, "Can we have the brightly colored eggs with the metal thingies to dip next year?" Sometimes I think she can read my mind. If anyone knows of a quality eco-friendly egg coloring kit, please share in the comments below!

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Dreams and Other Follies

Asheville, North Carolina is a land of misty mountains, America's largest castle, and enchanted forests where one can hike, bike, and enjoy beautiful waterfalls. Or so I hear. I've been dreaming of visiting Asheville for about 4 years now. Every year saying, "Next year." "Maybe in a few years." As my oldest says, "Mama is a good waiter." When it comes to something I want, I can wait for a dangerously long time. So long that, like the old man in the movie Up, it may be too late.

It was never a good time. The finances were not in the best shape (when are they in the best shape?), we needed to visit family elsewhere, and so many tiny reasons that add up to significance. Finally the reasons dissolved in a nice puddle of commitment. The truth is my family couldn't stand it anymore. 

Every few days it would come again, the facts about Asheville I had read about. "Did you know that Asheville has been chosen as "best city to live" by Sperling?" This was 2007. In 2012, I was going on about how Curate was the new "it" restaurant in the middle of downtown. Like a rock worn smooth from the trickle of a stream, my husband, who's of the taciturn variety, offered, "Why don't we invite your mom to go with us to Asheville?" Silence. Did he really mean this? I searched his face, and after more than a decade of marriage, I knew he was not goofing around.

We have invited her to come with us during her milestone birthday and she's excited about going. I'm not entirely sure we are going with her, though. It is April and she has not bought a ticket yet. The reasons are many, mostly health reasons. I certainly hope for her that we can go in the Spring. If not, we will be going in the fall.

After going through some minor embarrassment that this whole trip is for me (what, not for the kids? Not only for my mom?), I finally came to the conclusion that this was a concrete example of Mama and Daddy having their own passions and interests. Sure, Daddy paints and reads and Mama cooks and bakes and reads and takes pictures for enjoyment, but this? This was big. It came down to this:

What good example am I showing the kids just deferring my dreams indefinitely?

Asheville is calling me, and I answered the call. The nudge to go hasn't left me. I just tried to brush it aside, sweeping it under responsibilities and wakeful nights. It's my dear husband that gets all the credit. He even gave me a beautiful silver pendant in the shape of a hot air balloon to remind me to never to let go of my dreams. I won't, love. Thanks to you, I won't.