“Real” is frustrating and slow. But so so much better.

Our “catch.”

Summer is rapidly approaching. I am thinking about what is possible to achieve or what I would like to achieve before it comes and goes. Over the past summer I had a simple goal: I wanted the girls and I to catch some fish*. Berries is all we got. Luckily no one got hooked in the eye. I learned something about prioritizing. Keeping the hooks out of eyes quickly became the priority followed by keeping children out of the pond.  Another big priority was preventing myself from having a temper tantrum about the tangled lines, inability to follow my (overly complicated) instructions, and other impediments to catching a fish that are inherent to attempting to fish with a 2 and a 4 year old.  After a few trips of going to ponds ostensibly to fish only to turn it into a walk around looking for raspberries we dispensed with the fishing all together and went on a purposeful berry walk.

The one on the right was the keeper, we let the one on the left go.

Monkey 1 angling for berries.

Then Nisha baked whatever fruits of our labors actually made it home into a great cake like thing.

Probably much better eating than a muddy water sunfish anyway.

Hooray. So some take aways to influence this summer’s goals:

 

  1. Pick something realistic!
  2. Have a (preferably tasty) back up plan.
  3. Don’t burn the bridge to your back up plan while Driving to Bologna.

 

*We also needed to conduct way too many real estate transactions and move all of our worldly possessions about half a dozen times while not losing all of our sanity. Oh, and then have another child. But catching a fish was a big goal.

Stay at home dad alternative facts: “Doll”

Poor Monkey 2 doesn’t actually have any proper dolls. But…she loves that drill. And so do I. It’s funny how not having to lug and plug an extension cord makes work so much more appealing. It makes me think of all the little impediments that get in the way of incremental progress. Hmm. Ought to do something about those. So far Making a List Of Impediments hasn’t helped.

 

 What you  may not see is that Monkey 1 rests the battery pack on her knee when she uses the drill so that she can steady it. I didn’t teach her that. Kids will find a way to overcome their little impediments. Inspirational.

 

This post brought to you by wonderful neighbors. Both the drill and the fantastic skirt Monkey 1 is wearing originated with friends and neighbors who knew we would put things to use. That has contributed to a virtuous cycle of trying to be as helpful in the neighborhood as possible.  Also it is quite the morale booster to reflect on all of the great things I have received from others (life itself for instance).

Speaking of being thankful for simple things:

Stay at home dad alternative facts: “Scooter”

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Poor Monkey 2 wanted to ride it all the way to the park but she didn’t get past the driveway. She calls it the red scooter.  It is actually called a creeper.*  The creeper isn’t really very effective as transportation.  It is very effective at helping me creep around under automobiles, though and for that I am very thankful.  Funny, it is also an effective indicator of my increasing age/sense. Fifteen years ago Past Me I would have ridiculed future me for wanting wheels and a pad(!) to lay on underneath a car.  Gravel in the back was a point of pride. Past me, you were mistaken**. With a creeper I can even work on a wet cold driveway or even in a light rain.  Brilliant. Added bonus: I can imagine using this as a furniture dolly someday in a pinch. Past me never thought about furniture dollies. Or any dollies, for that matter.

 

*The creeper is probably one of the best worst names for a tool. My favorite worst named tool is actually called a reamer. It sounds awful. It’s what is used to clean out a hole in a tire so you can plug it. BTW, I keep a compressor and a plug kit in the trunk of my car because in many cases I would be able to fix the flat without swapping out the real tire for the donut. I’d rather get back on the road with a real tire. Below is the compressor I’ve had for five years, it is really great. Also, a tire plug kit. I keep the tire plug kit in the compressor bag along with a headlamp and pair of diagonal cutters. Wow. Quite the tangent.

 

** Hey Past Me, you should have bought a minivan instead of that Brand New Truck back in 2002. You never listened to anyone, ever, did you?

Life on a Roller Coaster and a Tulip Poplar Update

We all take it for granted that kids, little kids especially, are very emotional. This is an easy situation to under appreciate, for instance, in the car when Monkeys 1 & 2 have decided that however long this ride has been is JUST TOO LONG and there is no way anyone is going to make it to the destination with any semblance of happiness. The overwhelmingly positive side of this “emotionalism” (thank you, Avett Brothers) is that you know these (crazy) people you’re dealing with are sincere. As we grow up as individuals and as a society it seems sincerity has become so un-cool that encountering it in the wild is so rare that it sometimes causes confusion.  Embracing sincerity knocks the built up irony off your emotional edge and brings it back to being razor sharp. Sharp enough to be useful but also sharp enough to cut you again. (Although to muddy this mixed up metaphor even more I’d like to point out that dull kitchen knives are usually more dangerous than sharp ones, likewise for chisels, planes, and saws.)

An odd example: There I am reading a book to my girls, Peace Is An Offering by Annette LeBox. Its my first time seeing this book as it was one that Monkey 2 grabbed off the library shelf for no other reason than that she could reach it.  It’s quite a nice little poem about reaching out to people to make the world a better place and the pictures are nice so we’re all happy. Then I turn another page and get hit in the face with a shovel.  I’m looking at a beautiful illustration of a mother and her two kids looking at the Manhattan skyline from what appears to be Brooklyn. They’re sitting underneath a cherry tree with pink petals, some of which are drifting around them*. The text talks about finding peace even in the wake of tragedy and after the loss of friends. Having never encountered a 9/11 reference in a children’s book before I was stunned. I was also stunned by the enormity of trying to explain why I was stunned, why I was instantly so sad.  How do we explain to the innocent that there is real malice in the world? How do we explain to the very young that their entire world has been shaped by 9/11 and its after effects? I turned the page and rejoiced to see kids skipping around a Maypole.  We’ll have to grapple with the darkness of the outside world later, I guess.

Just about doubled in size so far.

Just about doubled in size so far.

 

In purely optimistic news, our Tulip Poplar seedlings are doing great.  We haven’t had to water them at all given our Deluge for what seems like all of recent history.  We have needed to weed them even though they are in little pots. I’m always impressed with the tenacity of plant life, even if it makes our forest restoration that much more difficult. It’s good to have a worthy opponent.

 

This is how Monkey 2 helps. Take that, Science!

This is how Monkey 2 helps. Take that, Science!

Wonder at Renwick Gallery

Last month or so  (or was it the other day),  the family and I stumbled into the Renwick Gallery near the White House.  Art museums are amazing places but not always the best fit for a two year old with a mile wide rebel streak. So I was a bit nervous. I had little to fear. If you get the chance, check out the Wonder exhibit.

 

MPN - 1

 

First of all, some of the exhibits you can touch, thus eliminating the problems inherent with bringing little kids to the art museum.

 

 

MPN - 2

 

Where else can you climb into a giant scale bird nest?

 

 

 

MPN - 3

 

I have the good fortune of having seen many of the best paintings and statues in the world in museums, churches, etc all over the planet. The single coolest artwork I have ever seen was the room decorated entirely in real insects.  The Dia de Muertos theme is just icing on the bug cake.

 

MPN - 4

 

Try to find some Wonder in your neighborhood today!

Growing (Stuff) and Learning

Sewing Seeds March 2016 - 2

Three kids, one slightly older, planting peas

We’ve been really fortunate to start planting stuff for the last few weeks. The girls and their buddies really enjoy seeing stuff grow. We had an incredible conversation the other day about how inside each seed is a tiny plant, and in that tiny plant is the ability to make more seeds and on and on. (I’m not quite ready to scale that conversation up to human reproduction…)

Sewing Seeds March 2016 - 10

Show me the B!

Our neighbors have graciously offered one of their raised garden beds as the kid’s garden. The Ringleader is really great about offering any adult with a kid who passes by the opportunity to plant a seed.

There are so many cool “extensions” and learning opportunities that come from working in the garden. The “low hanging fruit” (Ah, puns! I’m getting old.) is of course just vocabulary building and fundamental literacy stuff.  The higher order stuff is the idea that all projects take time, continual effort, and require learning other things to complete.

Sewing Seeds March 2016 - 17

Of course, Spring around here means lovely little tree flowers. Don’t let them fool you, though. Those delicate beauties will knock your nose and eyes out of order for a week!

Two books that we love this time of year and on the topic of growing things:

What are you growing and learning this time of year?

(Avian) Community Building

We call it a condo.

We call it a condo.

Over the weekend some neighbors and I got together at The Ringleader’s house and built some birdhouses! We were also celebrating a birthday, but power tools did get a fair share of the attention.  It was great for a million reasons. I got to meet lots of folks I didn’t already know.  I got to think and rethink about how to build the birdhouses while including 4 year old assistants in the mix. I learned about patience. I was in the Patience Zone that day thanks to an early morning visit from my Dad and thinking about how important it is for kids to have their first exposure to tools and building be Very Positive.

Monkey 1 graciously decided not to smash my fingers.

Monkey 1 graciously decided not to smash my fingers.

The building went slower than we thought it would, but it turned out much better than anyone was expecting. Best of all, no one was injured!

Looks like a party to me.

Looks like a party to me.

 

Check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website all about birdhouses for plans and other cool information.

March 15th Vegetables!

Why should the kids be the only ones who get to paint?

Why should the kids be the only ones who get to paint?

Hi friends!

Got the delivery from Lancaster Farm Fresh this morning and we’ve got some exciting additions to the usual suspects for this week. Zucchini! What a pleasant surprise to see you so early!

Hey, is that a zucchini? And green peppers?

Hey, is that a zucchini? And green peppers?

Also, one of the benefits of having a house full of preschoolers every Tuesday morning is that there are no obstacles to whipping out an incredibly complicated watercolor homage to beets and carrots at the drop of a hat. I may be no Winslow Homer but I bet I’ve got access to better veggies.

Go forth and Get Strong with kale and chard!

 

It's the structure of Chard that makes you STRONG!

It’s the structure of Chard that makes you STRONG!