Monday, July 28, 2014

How to Ride a Bike in 5 Minutes

CC learned how to ride a bike without training wheels!
I wasn't planning to write this post, but I wasn't quite expecting today's amazing event to happen at all. Basically, CC learned to ride a bike without training wheels in about 5 minutes, and the technique that helped her learn was so simple.

Let's back up a bit. I remember the '80s, when I was little and my dad taught me to ride a two-wheeler after months and months on training wheels. I got up the courage (well, both of us did, actually) to try out the big bike, and my dad pushed the back of my seat as I wobbled down our neighborhood street. This went on for what seemed like forever.

Inevitably, there would be a crash or five. Eventually, though, I learned.

Turns out, we didn't know this amazing trick. (And, truth be told, that's probably why it's taken so long for us to teach CC -- just the dread of it all.)

But last night, CC was playing at our neighbor's, and her friend's mom told me that all kids have to do is get onto a two-wheeler sans training wheels and use their feet to "Scoot, scoot, scoot, glide." Once they do that three or four times, they somehow learn how to balance, and that's when they can start using the pedals.

Honestly, I didn't believe her at first — until I saw CC do it.

She literally tried the technique a few times — with a couple of little crashes — and then she got it. In under 5 minutes at that!

I was amazed, and now I want to run out and buy her a gorgeous two-wheeled bike. I'm not sure if it's just that simple technique or if her time on her Razor scooter helped boost her balance, but it was so cool to see.

And now she feels that mysterious empowerment that comes from mastering the bicycle. What a perfect summer treat!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Meeting Ken Burns at TCA

(l-r) Geoffrey C. Ward, Sarah of MomsLA, Ken Burns, Alexandra of Beverly Hills Mom, and me
PBS revealed to the press some of the amazing programming they have lined up for this year and next at the Television Critics Association Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton this week.

As a PBS Kids VIP blogger, I and several blogger friends were invited to check out the often star-studded presentations (hello, "Downton Abbey!") at the press tour. One of the programs I'm looking forward to (in addition to "Odd Squad" for CC) is the latest Ken Burns documentary "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History," which airs Sept. 14. The 14-hour doc (yes, 14 hours, but not all in one sitting) chronicles the lives of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor.

And as usual for Burns, it looks thorough and amazing. Did you know that Theodore Roosevelt wrote more than 100,000 letters?!

I had the chance to meet Ken Burns, alongside the film's and book's writer Geoffrey C. Ward, at TCA, and got this great pic with other bloggers. They even signed the book!

Stay tuned for more PBS at TCA news!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Finds: Infinity for Girls!

When it comes to buying clothes for children, all moms know that there's always an expiration date -- and it always seems to arrive quicker than you expect. (They grow so fast!)

Enter Infinity for Girls dresses, a collection of gorgeous frocks that grow with your child -- and her sense of fashion.

On the surface, the Infinity dresses look like lovely and stylish additions to your daughter's closet. But they're so much more than that! There are shoulder straps that girls can use or not use (for a strapless look), another pair of ties that can be criss-crossed around her shoulders or just below her neck.

There are even ties to bustle the dress all over, on one side, just in front -- you choose! Hence the name "Infinity."

Your daughter can wear it this summer and many summers to come!

We received a sample of the Pink Ombre Infinity ($90). Here's how CC wore it!

Infinity dress with shoulder straps
My silly girl with straps in front
Strapless with bustling!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

'Planes: Fire and Rescue' Review

"I. Am. Amazed."

Those were the first three words out of CC's mouth after we caught a screening of Walt Disney Studios' "Planes: Fire & Rescue" earlier this week.

Both of us, in fact, were more than pleasantly surprised by the sequel to last year's "Planes" that hits theaters July 18.

Not only did writer Jeffrey M. Howard kick the story up a notch (actually, more than a notch), but the jokes were funnier and the graphics were especially gorgeous -- hats off to whoever decided to set this film in a fictional Yosemite National Park! (Happy 150th anniversary to the northern California park, btw!)

"Planes: Fire & Rescue" once again follows Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) as he's preparing for yet another race, after winning the around-the-world international championship in the 2013 film.

This time, though, things take an unfortunate turn as Dusty realizes he can't actually compete. (Don't want to give anything away, but let's just say that technical difficulties play a big part in his need to slow things down.)

Dusty's sadness leads to recklessness, which ultimately leads to a disastrous fire. In order for him to help repair the damage, he must train with fire and rescue helicopter Blade Ranger (Ed Harris) and his Smokejumpers team up in the fictional version of Yosemite to make things right.

Blade's team includes Lil' Dipper (a hilarious Julie Bowen) and Native American plane Windlifter (Wes Studi).

While Dusty trains, he's able to check out the wonder -- and the perils -- that come with managing forest fires in a huge national park. He must put his ego in check as he learns a new set of skills and works as a rookie with a veteran group of firefighters.

The jokes in the film are clever -- as they retire to a vehicle-centric honky-tonk, one car rolls her eyes after a particularly lame come-on. "Pickup trucks," she sighs, exasperated.

The 3D film was definitely a fun summer movie, and the kiddos should enjoy it. Mine certainly did. Keep in mind that there is some peril, but the action and fun definitely help this sequel take flight.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Mom's Take on 'Boyhood' -- Review

Ellar Coltrane was filmed over 12 years in Richard Linklater's "Boyhood."
As a mother, watching your children grow day in and day out is a strange blessing. What's amazing is being able to note when your child says a new word or develops a new skill. What's bittersweet is watching them pass into a new phase -- as Will is doing now, learning new words and understanding more every day.

Sometimes you just want to stop time, press pause and savor each inarticulate yet joyful moment. (Sometimes, admittedly, you'd like to see bedtime come a little quicker.)

Imagine if all of that were in fast forward.

In Richard Linklater's "Boyhood," a movie that was filmed over 12 years using the same principal actors, including the titular boy himself, Ellar Coltrane, alongside Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Lorelai Linklater, we get to see this child change from little kid to tween to teen in a matter of hours. (The movie is 2 hours, 44 minutes, which in theater time is long, but is a relatively short 12-year span.)

The movie hits L.A. theaters on Friday, July 11, and opens nationwide on July 18.

Coltrane plays Mason, a boy who lives with his single mother (Arquette) and older sister (Lorelai Linklater, Richard's daughter). His estranged father (Hawke) comes back into their lives after being away in Alaska for more than a year, seemingly in search of some maturity. In his life, Mason goes through the ups and downs of childhood -- harsh stepfathers, crushes, moments of wondering who he is and who his parents are -- all while his mom and dad are going through their own endless transitions, too.

Arquette as Mason's mom is a strong force, acting as the constant in her children's life. Although she works hard to improve their lives -- going back to school, for one -- she seems to fall into some of her own regular mistakes. The same goes for Mason's dad, who can't seem to hold down a job.

What was amazing to me -- besides the concept and stellar execution of the filmmaking itself -- was how moved I was by watching this child grow up in front of me. While as a mother, I found myself questioning this mom's choices and sometimes blase reactions to what I would consider serious problems, I was nevertheless moved by simply watching life unfold -- just as I'm watching it unfold in my own family.

At one moment, toward the end of the film, she remarks on a picture her son is packing away and what it means to her -- he has little idea of its impact -- and this triggers a kind of wake-up call to what viewers are seeing for themselves. That time passes, and oh so quickly.

It's funny to watch Linklater, who is famous for his movies that take place over 24 hours ("Before Sunrise," "Before Sunset," "Before Midnight"), do the opposite and stretch time for as long as he possibly can, and in the process do what every parent has to do: let go and allow the boy to become a man.

Special Screening at the Arclight Hollywood
Q&A with Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke
Saturday, July 12 (7:15 p.m., 8:15 p.m. 9:30 p.m.)
Click here for tickets.

Monday, July 7, 2014

CC as George Washington, aka #GirlPower

Miss Independent, aka CC, draws herself as George Washington.
The drawing was perfect for this July 4th weekend. So perfect that I had to capture it for posterity.

While Ian and I were watching the HBO miniseries "John Adams," CC happened to be in the same room, writing thank-you notes. (Her thank-you notes, just so you know, are often very elaborate drawings.)

While Paul Giamatti as John Adams was challenging his fellow pre-Revolutionary Bostonians to uphold the law despite really hating the British (he defends a group of Redcoats, gasp!), CC was asking lots of questions.

Which president was John Adams? Second. When did this take place? 1770. Why are they wearing wigs? Uhhhh, an unfortunate fashion choice.

Anyway, after she had finished drawing, she presented her picture of herself as George Washington, leading the way to a more amazing future. Baby Will was apparently the lookout, and I was hanging out in the back, cheering her on.

She had learned about Washington in school, and I was so proud that she was applying his success to her own life and aspirations. She was going to rewrite history and rock out doing so.

Doesn't matter that he was a man -- or that so many men have figured so prominently in our history. She was going -- is going -- to do it, too.

Because -- why not?


Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July: What To Do Today

Happy 4th of July!

We're taking it easy today -- maybe heading downtown for some cool eats and then hitting Grand Park for its free 4th of July Block Party (from 4 p.m.-9 p.m.), complete with rooftop fireworks.

With two little kids -- especially with one under 2 years old -- I don't know that we'll make it until 9 p.m., but I'd love to check out the live music and other festivities (hello, food vendors and a splash pad for the little ones!) until dinnertime.

Levitt Pavilion

Another awesome free event happening in the L.A. area is live music at the Levitt Pavilion in Pasadena. Not only will Night Train Music Club be performing in the bandshell, there will also be a Kidzone, featuring face painting, coloring stations and balloons. What's also great is that you can see the Rose Bowl fireworks from the Pavilion.

Best of all -- both events are free!

Have fun and stay safe!


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