A Monday : Martians, hiking, maths.
I. Starring: the second best actor of our time.
We watched The Martian over the weekend; a film I enjoyed a great deal the first time, and a film I enjoyed massively the second time with our children. I read a number of parent comments and reviews on it before watching as a refresher, as I couldn't recall what may or may not be appropriate for an 8- and 11-year old audience. A little language, a necessary Matt Damon bare butt shot, and a gruesome self-suturing triage using a stapler. What's not to love?
Not much. What a beautiful ode to problem-solving, to the primal instinct to survive and the human ingenuity, resilience, and resourcefulness of one man facing insurmountable odds. I love how in spite of all the science and all the focus on one man's survival on Mars, those aspects are juxtaposed with the community and teamwork of multiple countries (two) a world away as they fight to save a single man. Although they're entirely different films, it reminded me of the fabulous sci-fi film Gattaca whose tagline is still burned in: There is no gene for the human spirit. Apropos for The Martian as well.
The children loved it. I read some reviews where some parents talked about some sections being too slow and boring for younger children (under 12). What? Of anything you could say about it...slow and boring would not be anywhere in my description. Engrossing, riveting, spellbinding.
I paused, stopped, rewound multiple times throughout as we discussed, argued, and tried to understand different parts. For example, the point where the mathematician / astrophysicist Rich comes in and presents his trajectory analysis where he guarantees "...the math checks out." We had to watch it twice to understand exactly what "option 2" even was.
Fantastic film to discuss and talk about science, math, and most importantly, how to find creative solutions and "...work the problem." One step at at a time.
Also, I have separately been watching Martian director Ridley Scott's film from last year. Alien: Covenant. A strange feeling, seeing the similarities and differences between two space-set stories and the very different ways the same director depicts differing stories about humanity's insatiable quest for knowledge.
II. The blonde one might be four or five inches taller though.
Johannes was telling us about reading his essay on "My Three Things" aloud in class today.
"I got some comments on it,"
"What kind of comments?"
"And from whom?"
"They said it was good, I think. It was one of my classmates who's a twin, but I can't tell them apart so I'm not sure which one it was."
"Next mission: let's work on learning what makes them unique from each other so we can tell them apart."
"But they look exactly alike."
III. The fall.
I took Ejvindr for a couple hours to a water falls close by. Used to take Johannes there when he was a kid watch salmon spawning and fighting mightily to leap, and fail, leap and fail, leap and fail...
No salmon today. Just pouring rain and a steady stream of commentary from a 22-month old on every leaf, branch, moss, and water droplet.
I love this age. The new words he's fighting to pronounce and use every day. Love so much.
IV. No sleep till Brooklyn, or Battle Ground.
He refused to fall asleep on the car ride back, so I pulled into a parking lot, bundled him into his mom's pashmina, and walked him around a Fred Meyer parking lot singing Old McDonald until he slumbered.
I managed to lie him down on a makeshift coat-bed inside Starbucks at the foot of my chair, where I enjoyed a hot coffee and an hour of work and writing. Not what I had expected. A pleasant surprise.
He awoke with an empty stomach; his stomach is perpetually empty, despite the appearance of having a mid-sized hot air balloon tucked away in his belly. I set up lunch in the cafe and he noisily chomped his way through apple slices, carrots, noodles, and a cup of water.
The elections are tomorrow. They matter. This year in particular. Does this country support a mandate for a nationalistic, fear mongering, race baiting, dog whistling leadership? Or do we elect those in support of democracy, free press, compassion, and those who say what they mean and mean what they say?
One of the most difficult things for Ejvindr to do at this stage in his development is to not flip out when he sees his brother or sister after not seeing them for a while. Like five minutes.
I spent a portion of Math class bouncing back and forth between assembling take-home packets for the kids and between trying to prevent Ejvindr from climbing up into Johannes' chair with him. He didn't want to sit by him in a separate chair. He wanted to sit by him in the same chair.
Johannes was very patient to him, as was the teacher, Mrs. Chu, as he tried several times to ascend the chair and join his rightful place next to one of his mentors, teachers, and spirit guides: his older brother.
And the fact that we are able to be in a classroom where academic learning is important, yet is tolerant and encouraging of a family, including sibling, presence, is incalculably wonderful.
VIII. What do extra-credit parents get?
When I was a kid (I know, terrible way to start a sentence), I don't recall ever getting candy for completing extra credit. I got a few points on top of my score. Not candy.
Not the case anymore. I think candy is the new gold star. Forget the stickers, just hand over a Snickers.
IX. Matrix, Bill and Ted, Wick.
"Any good movies this weekend?"
I asked Julie this morning.
(Julie is the crossing guard and also theater director)
"I knew you were going to ask me that!"
"Let me think about that!"
Seven hours later, she motioned me over as we left after school.
"Have you seen The Lake House?"
"Have you seen it?"
"Go see it! You have to see it!"
"I will see it!"
And I will see it. I am not racing to see it. I am writing right now. But I will see it sometime. Maybe not soon. But I will see it sometime.
I like Keanu Reeves. Maybe I should watch John Wick again.
X. My country, tis.
We discussed voting and our system of government on the way back. Executive, legislative, judicial branches. What the branches of Congress are: Senate and House of Representatives.
Is it going to stick?
We've had the same discussion before. This isn't the first time. They'll forget, and they'll forget again and again. It's not all sticky.
But it's stickier each time. Each time. These discussions, these conversations about things that are complicated and challenging to understand and fully absorb...they're not meant to be fully absorbed right away. Each time we talk about it is a layer in their memory membrane that retains a bit. Not all of it. But a little bit. A little bit more familiar for the next time as a foundation is built.
And I want to help build a foundation. A foundation, not of concrete, but of roots. Roots that take seed deep within them, that power not simply their intellect and not simply their imagination, but their character and their ability to form and keep relationships. Roots are organic. They're strong, they're flexible. They grow, they change and modify and adapt and become what they're meant to be, all the while tangled up and intertwined in the (root) systems of others.
A root-based foundation; that is what we seek to build. At the root of helping plant this idea is the notion that we're helping nourish an organic life form with agency, with compassion, with imagination. We're not feeding a robot or building a sentient artificial intelligence. We are helping people become all they can be. That is the hope, the dream.
To help those around us become all they can be; for that to radiate in ever-increasing circles and spread far.