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Friday, December 24, 2010

High Hopes

When I first bought a computer for our boys, I had high hopes of showing them the great things they could accomplish with what really is an extremely powerful tool. Unfortunately, at first it was just a high-priced video game console to them. It took me a few months, but I finally put together a little workstation for them, with a microphone and a music-keyboard controller for computer music, which I gave to them as an early Christmas present. I honestly didn't expect such excitement in their eyes when they saw it. With the workstation, a decent video camera, a digital camera, and tons of free software off the internet, the boys now have a full-fledged amateur film production workshop.

We had already passed down to them our old digital camera a year or so prior, which Aaron promptly put to use making stop action Lego videos. I showed him the basics, but the thing that surprised me is his creative camera angles, zooms and pans . . . a sort of natural cinematographic flair. We first chose the shorter of his two films to soundtrack (although many, many photos went into even this short one).

Like the theme song? He came up with it himself, chose the "orchestra hit" sound, and even personally recorded the main melody on the workstation. I added some accompaniment for a full arrangement and showed him the ropes on how to sync a soundtrack to a video. We even added some special effects. Most of the dialogue is also his, and we wrote a little script for it. He is blossoming into a little writer, too, with a nearly complete Lego short story called "The Power Miner Peril" currently at 14 pages. Typing skills are improving bit by bit, too, thanks to free online typing lessons for both boys.

Aaron's got another Lego video he made before this, but we have yet to complete the sound-tracking for that...although now we have all the tools needed. Admittedly, Aaron is stealing the spotlight a bit over Sammy at this point, but that's only because he's a few years older. Sammy was watching and got billed as a special assistant. We'll see what comes of it all.

Incidentally Sammy is working with Aaron at this very moment building "a giant base" for all their Lego people with hopes of entering it into Lego's monthly competition. They completed two stages so far, a swimming pool and a helipad with a control tower. Apparently the pool is so popular everyone flies in for a swim. So many in fact that I think they may need an occupancy limit...

I am actually really proud because many of the Legos they are using they bought with money they earned working around the house. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Deep Creek Suprise

Monday, July 5, after finishing hauling all the weeds and rubbish from around the yard, I decide to take the family to a local spot called Deep Creek, in a canyon below the east side of Lake Arrowhead just beyond the community of Cedar Glen. It's late, so we're debating if it's going to be worth it with the sun on its inevitable descent and the wind picking up. But we bite our lips and just go.

After a quick stop to pick up some meal worms for bait, we head down toward the dirt road that leads to our usual Deep Creek haunt (at the rocky section just below the bridge for those who know). The road is rockier and more rutted than last year, but fortunately with Elisa's help I'm able to resist the boys' calls for me to go faster.

We arrive about 4:45 and the place is packed. We're wondering if it's going to be a good scene when suddenly an Hispanic woman approaches us with her forest adventure day pass and gives it to us...a fortuitous sign since we had neglected to get one and would be in danger of getting a $100 ticket. Next, several of the cars leave all at once, considerably thinning the crowd. And we find the wind isn't as strong and the sun is at a perfect temperature. God seems to be smiling on us despite our earlier doubtful bickering. In fact, it would turn out to be our best and most adventurous time there ever.

Almost as soon as we're down there, Aaron spots a little water snake in an isolated pond, but it disappears into some bushes. So the boys head straight for the natural water slide to cool off in style.

A little later back at the pond, they see the snake again, and this time it literally comes up to them and pokes its head out of the water and flicks its tongue at them. So Aaron snatches it up, and both he and Sammy play with it for a while--until it nips at Aaron and he lets it go (all's well).

Next up, Aaron and I decide to fish while Sammy catches a bunch of water beetles from the pond. I catch a little rainbow trout (maybe 8"), and a little bit later Aaron hooks a similar one. Not big, but exciting because we've fished there before with no luck. Another boy gives ours a tadpole in a cup, and in keeping with the adventurous spirit, it manages to disappear before we make it home.

You can see most of what I'm talking about in this short video compilation of the adventure, the soundtrack for which I play a short rendition of "Here Comes the Sun."

A near perfect adventure, replete with tons of critters for the boys, and just on the other side of the lake. What a day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Memory for Father's Day

My dad did this wacky Disney western in 1977 called "Hot Lead and Cold Feet", and he flew me up to Bend, Oregon for the filming of it. Michael Sharrett was also in this movie, and it was at this time Dad and Mike's mom Nancy fell in love, and ultimately joined the family not long afterward.

I fondly remember that experience back when I was 9 years old, and I still have a prop gun that Jim Dale (the lead actor) gave me. Funny story. Jim Dale had previously been shooting scenes as the lighthearted preacher during my time there. But then one day this really bad dude shows up. It was Jim Dale as the outlaw twin brother, but I didn't know it. I was terrified just looking at him, and it didn't help that he was walking around in character with this mean look preparing for his scenes. He could see I was scared so he sat down nearby and decided to have a little fun with me.

"Hey you!" he says with a scowl.

I turn and look behind me, hoping he's talking to someone else, but no one else is there. I point to myself, wide eyed.

"Yeah, you!" he growls. "Come here!"

I walk sheepishly over.

He points to a chair. "Sit down!" He pulls a gun out. "You see this gun?" he says menacingly, pointing the gun at me.

I wish I could go back in time and see the expression on my face!

Next he turns the gun, handle toward me and--totally leaving character--says with this happy-go-lucky tone like he was my best friend for years, "You want it?"

I think he had to force it into my hand I was still so scared! I think after that he smiled profusely and spoke apologetically to me, but I was still afraid of him whenever I saw him. I honestly didn't realize until I saw the movie that it was the same guy who played the gentle preacher!

I've held onto that prop gun all these years and now keep it on a shelf in my studio with some other western memorabilia I inherited after my dad's passing. My kids love the fact that I have something from the movie they watch of their beloved Grandpa Warren.

Here's Dad with a few of the other characters, including Karen Valentine.

My dad's character, Boss Snead, is in many scenes, but my favorite scene is when the preacher brother, having been tricked into drunkenness, attempts to cross a tightrope in a madcap race against his outlaw twin, and my dad is there with an axe ready to do him in. Most of my dad's lines were ad lib, and the director liked them enough to keep them in. Mike Sharrett is also later in the scene, the little boy with Karen Valentine and the little blond girl. And you can see all three characters Jim Dale played, the preacher and the outlaw twins I already mentioned and their father (the old man who throws the rock at the end).

If you'd like to buy the movie, it's available on DVD probably from Amazon. Younger kids will particularly appreciate it. God bless all you dad's out there.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Birthday Twins' Special Connection

Today, this snowy May 23, 2010, would have been my dad's 80th birthday. It is Sammy's 7th birthday. For whatever reason, God chose this day to be my dad and Sammy's birthday. Here you see them, sucking thumbs together when Sammy was maybe 8 months old.

Over the years, I have observed more connections between them than just the birthday one. Like my dad, Sammy is very animated and has a natural flair for the theatrical, currently evidenced in his surprising ability to do foreign accents replete with uncanny improvised dialog. He also shares the knack for developing humorous phrases (see for many of my dad's witticisms). One that comes to mind is how Sammy suddenly started ending sentences calling people "Chickie," with a sort of W.C. Fields delivery. Which reminds me of how he calls Dickens "Charles Chickens" (you have to hear his rhythm on that to fully appreciate it).

Some other memorable Sammy-isms include...

"Busted barnacles!"
"Burning fireplaces!"
"I'm am a [fill in the blank] professional!"
"Stuck like a rock and glue!"
"As cold as a gopher in an ice cube!"
...and the perennial favorite...
"Some day I want to roast a coyote!", which he said out of the blue one day in the car.

With these and others he often affects a comedic tone (whether or not anyone is listening), something like a cross between a vaudeville entertainer and Curly from the Three Stooges (Aaron says Sammy's the funniest kid he knows). Like his grandpa, Sammy's just naturally entertaining and always seems to be working on his routine.

It gets deeper. They had a special connection I just didn't realize till more recent years. It seems Sammy often had "Grampy Warry" on his mind. For instance, if you'd ask him to pray, he'd always immediately pray for his grandpa, even if it was off the prayer topic. When my dad passed away, our little whistler stopped whistling for several days, saying he just didn't feel like it anymore. But it didn't take long for him to get to the point where he was whistling happily again (this very moment even) and just thanking God in prayer for Grandpy Warren, which is probably his most common prayer now.

Makes you think, huh?

Sammy really loved his grandpa. I wonder if their special connection will blossom further into eternity? I look forward to seeing whatever other similarities God has put in the Birthday Twins. Stay posted...


P.S. Yesterday we spent Sammy's pre-birthday at Disneyland. Although Sammy vomited out the day's junk on the way out of the park, he still smiled just before he fell asleep at home. Not quite as momentous as last May 23rd, my dad's last birthday on this side, which both he and Sammy celebrated together (along with my mom whose is May 18th) at a party poolside at Dad's condo in South Pasadena. It's great to get the family together like we did that day, complete with some guitar and singing and the camaraderie of friends and family. If any of you who were there that day are reading this...I'm open for more poolside antics.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sammy learns bathroom safety...the hard way

Any of you out there have the sliding shower doors? You know, the ones that have wheels the roll inside a groove along the top? They are accidents waiting to happen. I'll tell you why we are switching to the shower rod and curtain style (and recommend you do the same).

I thought I had at least eliminated the possibility of the thing totally falling apart by adding sheet metal screws to keep the track from coming off the top.

Yeah, the wheels would come out of the track all the time, particularly with smaller kids applying upward pressure reaching up for the handle to slide the door. The wheels might come out, but at least the doors were going to stay in the track (or so I thought).

I could kick myself for not warning my kids to "never force the shower doors open" or something of that sort. Well, that's what Sammy did, and the door totally came out of both the upper and lower tracks...and the sharp metal corner directly onto his big toe! Totally opened it up, requiring five stitches at the E.R.

Here's Sammy's take on the experience, which he recorded in his homeschool journal, which he titled "Almost Dead Toe, or The Night Toe Got Smashed, or Toe Got Hurt."

"My toe got smasht by the shower. I had to go to the e.r. and my toe got sticheted."

That's the doctor on the left of the drawing, giving Sammy three shots of Novocaine, which is apparently making Sammy red with pain and making tears actually shoot out from his eyes. On the right are Mommy and Aaron crying with sympathy (I was out with my phone off at a Bible study while this was all happening). The doctors were amazed at how close the boys are, with Aaron showing so much sympathy and support.

Moral of the story? Get the old school curtain-and-rod shower system. Hopefully Sammy won't have any lasting issues with that toe....

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter - from the Easter Bunny

My dad--er--the Easter Bunny left this message on my machine last Easter (2009), wishing my boys a happy Easter. I recorded it an just put it on the family website at . Copy and past that link if necessary. Hope you enjoy it! We miss you, Easter Bunny...

Have a happy Easter. Christ is risen...risen indeed!