Monday 31 July 2006

Misery: Day Two

The shooting gallery

Uncle Craig and his crew arrived mid morning. We then headed out to cruise the local conurbation for fun (three minivans full of fun hungry children — I hope we didn’t frighten the locals). We originally thought we would try mini-golf or go-karts, but it was over 100° with a cloudless sky so when we saw Miner Mike’s Family Fun Center and realized it was air-conditioned, we updated our plans and decided to try it.

It ended up being a good choice. It had a lot of the standard ticket oriented games (athough the cow milking one was a bit unusual), plus a small ferris wheel, train ride and bumper cars. Alice just clung to Mom, but Charles thought the train was very fun. Corwin burned through tokens on the games, but he did have one memorable video game. It was an underwater adventure involving shooting various evil sea creatures. Some other random child jumped in when Corwin started because it had two player cooperative play and he had been waiting for a partner. The two of them played for what seemed a very long time. I was impressed.

The crowning glory of the place was the Miner’s Maze, a super playland structure. It was expensive to get in and the kids could only be in once, so we were somewhat hesitant because of a fear of the kids getting bored after 5 minutes. We took the plunge and the kids had to be dragged out two hours later. Their favorite part was an open area with air powered foam ball shooters on each side to shoot at each other. Much time was spent there, with parents drafted at times to feed ammo to the gunners.

The entire experience took the rest of the afternoon so we could head back to the house for supper, having acquired a sufficent quantity of fun for the day (to keep on the fun accumulation schedule).

The only real downside was poor Charles, He went to cash in his tickets and he saw a train related buidling set (for 10,000 tickets or so) and became so fixated on that that he was unwilling to choose anything. Poor LeAnn had to pick for him, but he didn’t want any of her choices because they weren’t the building set. He was the only child who didn’t spend the maximum time in the maze, opting out after only 15 minutes or so. This would the first of a series of bitter disappointments for Charles on the vacation.

After dinner we took some time to go swimming in the lake. Mom had purchased some fishing poles and Charles wanted to try them out. He spent some time casting and I thought he was OK, but I then spotted him sobbing on the dock. I tried to cheer him up but he was sad because the fish weren’t biting for him. Beyond the fact that I didn’t see much prospect of good fishing close to shore, 10 feet from where a gang of children and adults were splashing in the water, there was also the problem that Charles being so young we had deliberately not put a hook on his line. I went with some comforting instead of explanation and vague promises of better fishing later in the week.

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Backseat driver

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Sunday 30 July 2006

Misery: Day One

The view from the back

We made it to the vacation house. It’s quite a nice house, with its own dock on the lake and plenty of room inside. It has a master bedroom suite with a jacuuzi which Mom and I took over (although whether we will have time to use the jacuzzi is highly dubious). It has three other bathrooms, which makes a big difference when you have three families in the house. There is an upstairs screened in deck with a gas powered grill plus a lower porch with steps down to the dock and the lake. There is also a lower deck, close to the water, with chairs and a table for lake side evenings. The house has a big drive way (big enough for three minivans without using the garage) with two points of access to the road which also helps a lot when you have three minivans. The two downsides are that there is really no flat area nearby (so the kids can’t play outside except for swimming) and no internet connectivity. Still, it seems a good choice.

The house has a TV upstairs and downstairs, both with DVD players. The upstairs TV is a huge 50” (or bigger) version. This is, of course, an object of veneration for all of the children. Everything here else is stuff they do while the parents have turned off the TV. I think the kids are enjoying the vacation despite the limited time on the TV.

Our traveling wasn’t too bad, leaving at 8:30 AM and arriving by 3 PM. Alice was saying “I want to go home” about 10 minutes out from the house, but Mom managed to put her off until we got to the vacation house. The van wasn’t completely packed, either, there is actually a bit of room in the back and in front of Charles so we can buy lots of junk souveniours.

It turns out that LeAnn and Scott got off to a better start than us and arrived before we did, so they had to pop off and go shopping (which was a major hardship on their girls).

In the afternoon, we hit the dock for some swimming. There’s a tiny beach which was good enough for the little ones even though it’s large gravel instead of sand. The older ones all went off the end of the dock, where the water is at least 12 feet deep. Corwin tried to do some fishing later on but managed to lose his line, hook, and lure in about 5 minutes of casting. It seems that the side supports and roof of the dock clashed with his style.

We had a nice supper, played some cards, watched some TV, and enjoyed some glowsticks before resting up for the first full day of vacation.

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Summer friendship

Corwin enjoys a relaxing moment with a friend he met at the fair
Sadly, they would be parted the next day when his friend was Poly-merized

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Saturday 29 July 2006

Road trip!

We’re heading out for a week in Missouri, so today will be filled with frantic packing and preparation. Our connectivity may be limited so updates may be irregular. Beyond that, Mom may actually make me interact with other people instead of the Internet! She has very strange ideas about vacation.

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Things you shouldn't show your children

I ran in to this on the internet and thought I’d show it to Alice who likes dressing her baby doll. Unfortunatey, Alice really liked it. She asks for it specifically, sometimes instead of “pictures of Alice” (which are another favorite request of hers). A few evenings ago I showed it to Mom but Alice saw it and wanted to see it again and again and again… At first she just sat on my lap and next to me to watch it, but after a few repititions she decided she needed to dance along with it. I noticed that she was trying to emulate some of the moves of the people in the video, although it wasn’t very obvious.

Alice also broke down in to a screaming fit at one point because I clicked the “wrong” button to make it play (the fact that it was playing was irrelevant). Just in case you ever show this to Alice, click the big play button in the middle, not the play button in the lower left.

It is actually some very cool magic so you might want to watch yourself. Once.

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Friday 28 July 2006

Boy Two: The Return

Charles is back from Grandma’s. Mom says that when she picked him up, Charles didn’t talk, just squirmed, snuggled and hugged. However, once he got back home he deluged Erica with a discussion of the multiduinous features of his new toy firetruck (generously provided by Grandma). Luckily, it was almost four when Charles got back so Erica was able to escape before her sanity was worn away.

Ailce was happy to see Charles back. It was almost half an hour before they made each other lay on the floor and cry.

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In Concert

Apparently Mom isn’t going to write about Corwin’s concert at the end of his music camp, so you’re stuck with reading my account.

The concert was last Saturday morning for roughly an hour. Corwin seemed to be playing along with the band, although he had some difficulty because he working harder on hiding from my camera than on playing (I don’t think the staff bass player he was hiding behind appreciated Corwin’s efforts in this regard).

Overall the band sounded good. Corwin missed out on having a solo because you had to sing a couple of lines to one song as part of the solo and Corwin wouldn’t do that. I think Corwin enjoyed the experience, although he was glum and uncommunicative afterwards.

Ali and Kirsten where in the band as well, both playing cello. I ended up taking pictures of them because their mom was there and asked about pictures and I couldn’t get at Corwin because his hiding was reasonably effective.

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Alice and friend

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Thursday 27 July 2006

A bitter defense

Brave Corwin and his mighty sworddefend the innocent trashcan
from the rampaging Alice-saurus and her inflatable sidekick Big Dora

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Looking forward

Alice’s daycare had a party this morning, to celebrate the approaching end of year. With Charles gone to Grandma’s, I thought we’d try sending Alice in for the day, to test the waters and let Corwin have some fun by having friends over.

As it turned out, Alice spent almost the entire time at the party clinging to me (although she was willing to give Miss Laura, her primary caretaker, a hug). At the end of that, the class went to another play room and I thought Alice woud be OK, because I said goodbye and Alice just waved and said “bye!” back. But about half an hour later, I got a phone call to come and pick up Alice, who was completely disconsolate. That doesn’t bode well for her return in less than a month to daycare, in a new room with a new set of classmates and staff. Best of all, she starts a week before the boyen start going to school. Forewarned is forearmed, they say, but I don’t see the arms coming through for us on this.

P.S. I asked Alice about why she was so excited about going to see her little friends but unhappy once she was there. She told me that “made me sad” because they “not sit couch with milk and watch Dora”. Well, I don’t see that happening at the day care anytime soon…

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Wednesday 26 July 2006

Little bits of Alice

Alice can put on bandaids all by herself. She can open the wrapper, pull off the tabs and apply it. I think it’s a sign of good development, but it doesn’t seem to be in any of the child rearing books we have as a marker. I suspect she learned from her brothers — Charles has long been able to put on bandaids and frequently the only way I know he’s cut or scraped himself is from cleaning up the empty wrapper and tabs in the bathroom.

Alice can count to two most of the time, and to three sometimes. She knows the rest of the numbers through ten but not the order.

I was reading an alphabet book to Alice and we got to ‘L’ which had “long legs” as the mnemnonic.

Dad: Alice, do you have long legs?

Alice: Yes. [pointing at her legs] One leg. Two leg. I have two leg.

Dad: Can I have one?

Alice: No. I need them to hold down my feet.

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Having run their prey to the ground…

See live action here and here.

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Tuesday 25 July 2006

How does your garden grow?

Mom’s ornamental garden is doing reasonably well this year, despite Mom’s lack of time for working on it.

An outlying flower near the front walk.

This is the main ornamental garden, looking form the south east.

A closer view from the opposite direction.

A close up of one of the many flowers.

In addition to her very gradually expanding main ornamental garden. Mom also tried a sunflower circle this year. The concept was an outer circe of short sunflowers and an inner circle of tall sunflowers. Unfortunately, only one of the inner sunflowers germinated. Mom tried a secondary planting but some vicious, despicable vermin ate them before they got big. So the tall sunflower grows alone.

It’s a very tall sunflower.

With pretty flowers

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Not quite the message we wanted to convey

I noticed that Alice’s diaper was a bit full and decided to slap a new one on her. As I cadged her upstairs, I took Inflatable Dora away from Alice and put her on the table because although Dora tries to help, she doesn’t really turn out to be a net benefit to the diaper changing process. I had to explain this to Alice, which lead to this conversation as we went up to her room:

Dad: Let’s leave Dora here to wait for you.

Alice: OK

Dad: Dora doesn’t wear a diaper because she uses the potty.

Alice: Dora use the potty?

Dad: Yes. You should use the potty too.

[Alice ponders this while Dad sets her up on the changing table. Suddenly her face brightens as Dad’s meaning becomes clear to her.]

Alice: Read books on the potty!

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Monday 24 July 2006

Corwin to the rescue

Saturday morning, Corwin found a very small turtle out on the road. I was sent out to perform a rescue. Originally I just moved him over to the grass by our mailbox, but decided that it would be better to move him over to next to the park, where there was water, trees, and much better cover.

I had originally thought he was very sick, but when I went out to move him the second time, he was much more active so I suspect it was just the shock of being on the road and / or interacting with Corwin. Corwin was very concerned about the turtle (although not enough to help me with him) and it was nice to be able to tell him the turtle had a good chance.

You can see how small the turtle is by looking at how big the blades of grass look in the picture. It must have been a very young turtle, although how it got where it was is beyond me.

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Making new friends

As of this morning, Alice is still friends with her inflatable Dora. I think it’s impressive that Dora hasn’t been Polymerized yet, but I suspect that’s just a matter of time.

After dancing with Dora at the fair, Alice had an animated conversation with Dora on the way home, until we got to McDonald’s (Dora wasn’t hungry, so we left her in the van). The toys in the happy meals were small cloth dolls of a skeleton pirate ghost. Alice thought they were extremely cute. Charles flung his away in disgust, until he noticed Alice liked them, at which point I had to stop a toy conflict. Sadly for Dora, Alice talked with her skeleton pirate ghost all the way home from McDonald’s.

The next morning, though, it was circle time and everybody was friends again (Alice, Dora, the skeleton pirate ghost and even a pirate from an earlier trip). The only sad time was when Alice hugged Dora so hard her plug popped out. I had to perform an emergency air transplant which, I am happy to say, was successful. Dora was fully restored to her pre-plug-popping state of health.

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Sunday 23 July 2006

What children are for

As I noted early last week, I was reaching the end of my creative energies in slaving away at the keyboard for this weblog, but I had a great photo weekend so even if I don’t have anything to write, I have lots of pictures to fill up space. And that’s the important thing (after all, it’s For The Children™).

P.S. Since my threats were effective, I’ll put those photographs in storage. For now.

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Over the interstate overpass and through the fields

Charles is off to Grandma’s this week. He, Alice, and Mom headed out earlier to meet Grandma half way. Charles was very excited about the visit.

While getting him ready, I mentioned to Mom was a great idea his little Thomas backpack was because we could limit his toy carrying by specifying that they had to all fit in the backpack. Mom gave me one of those “do you not pay any attention to your children?” looks and stated “no, he has a separate container for his trains and, of course, his catalog folder”.

P.S. I thought about this with Alice and her backpack but if we filled that she’d tip over.

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Fair thee well

Alice struts her stuff with Dora

Yesterday we went to the county fair. It was hard getting the kids ready for departure because they were heaviy involved with the spray bottles but Mom was determined. Charles will be spending this week with Grandma and if we hadn’t gone, Charles would have missed it entirely. Despite this, Mom had to promise Charles cotton candy to convince him to go on the trip. Alice was very reluctant as well. Mom finally tricked her by mentioning that she couldn’t hear “the train song” unless she was in the van. The price for this was listening to the train song continuously all the way there and back1.

Charles arrived fixated on two things: the train ride and cotton candy. Alice had passed out and Corwin wanted to go on as many rides as possible and spend as much money as possible on the midway. We started with Charles was doing the train ride, Alice was sleeping, and Corwin was hitting the Big Slide multiple times. After the train, Charles switched to his other goal, cotton candy (which, after all, Mom had promised him). Charles ate his rapidly but he still was no match for Corwin, for whom the word “savor” does not map to concept with which he is familiar.

We did bumper cars2 and Corwin tried a couple of bigger rides that he’s done in the past. One was one of those big swinging boats, which he seemed to mostly enjoy. He also tried the single seat swings but he didn’t seem to like that much at all3.

The big event of the evening (beyond consuming mass quantities of processed suger based comestibles) was finding the midway booth that had inflatable Dora’s as prizes. I had spotted some earlier and figured it was only a matter of time before Alice did as well, so I figured we should just get it over with.

The booth contest was a small strong man device, where you had to hit the pad to slide a ring up and hit a bell. Corwin did it twice, the first time needing just a little help from the booth lady but the second time doing it on his own. The first time, we managed to persuade Corwin to do it just for his sister so he could pick the inflato-Dora (Alice already in the early stages of meltdown from seeing them but not having one). Although he was quite grudging about it, he did relent so I let him play a second time to get an inflato-sword for himself (because we never have anything like that around here). Poor Charles was left out, but Mom used a mind trick on him involving ice cream which made him forget.

Unexpectedly, Alice really like her inflato-Dora, insisting that it ride with her in her stroller and later, while waiting for Charles to finish some rides, dancing with it.

We finished, as noted, with Charles doing a few rides. Mom tried Alice on one, but as with Charles at the same age, Alice liked it until the ride started4. That was the end of Alice going on the rides but she didn’t care, she was dancing with Dora.

1 Not that it’s a bad song, but even a good song pales a bit on the tenth or so repitition in a row.

2 It looked like the fair had updated a lot of its equipment. The bumber cars seemed new and improved and several of the midway booths seem to have newer, higher technology hardware.

3 Based on his facial expressions. It being a public place, I couldn’t interrogate him properly on the spot and by the evening he had, of course, “forgotten”.

4 Although I note that Alice would go on the train with Charles, but Charles refused to do the same thing at the time.

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Saturday 22 July 2006

Spray fun

Despite our financial problems (mainly because Dad is an unemployed bum), Mom splurged on toys for the kids last time she was out shopping and bought spray bottles for the kids (surely our chidren could share a bottle, right?). The extravagance! But, I must admit that the children have been having a lot of fun with them (Erica, not so much). I guess the lesson is that sometimes you just have to spend what it takes to make the children happy.

P.S. As I was writing this, the kids were playing with the spray bottles and Alice, who apparently has it in for my laptop gave the laptop a good spray with her bottle. Luckily, I had started to close the lid the instant my peripheral vision had fired the “ALICE SIGHTED! BRACE FOR COLLISION!” signal so I was able to finish this post.

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Two out of three ain't bad

[At lunch, after Corwin’s string camp final concert that Alice slept through. Alice is jumping up and down on the seat]

Mom: Alice looks well rested.

Alice: I not rested!

Dad: You’re not rested?

Alice: No. I just jumping up and down!

[Heading home, Dad gets in to the car]

Alice: That my Daddy!

Dad: I am?

Alice: Yes. And you Charles’ Daddy too.

Dad: What about Corwin’s Daddy?

Alice: No. Corwin’s Daddy at the office [garbled, not quite sure what she said as an explanation]

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Friday 21 July 2006

Eye in the sky

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Thursday 20 July 2006

Mastering modern technology

When Mom was getting ready for her expedition to Chicago, I fired up my mapping software to print some maps for her. After printing them, I popped out of my office to show them to Mom. After she verified that the maps were suitable for her purposes and I wouldn’t be turned out as useless deadweight, she decided to prep Alice for departure.

Alice, however, had meanwhile disappeared. We started a search and, acting on a hunch, I went to check my office. There was Alice, typing away on my tablet computer, busily printing out multiple copies of the driving instructions from the mapping software. I suppose this is blowback from teaching her to use the mouse.

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Wednesday 19 July 2006

Putt-putt, dear child

Daddy, can I wear this on the LPGA tour?

Corwin’s string camp has evening activities as well, which Corwin has been attending. Last night it was Putt-Putt golf. Mom was off to a parents’ meeting at the day care so I had the privilege of taking all three of the kids off to the event.

Alice was happy to go, but Charles declared that he didn’t want to play. I told him he was going anyway, but I would take along his catalog folder so he could look at those while everyone else played.

Once there, I left Corwin to the tender mercies of the camp staff while I kept an eye on Alice and Charles. Charles was happy to sit and read his catalogs but Alice insisted on golfing. I tried to help her with setting up and swinging but she angrily declared “I do it!”. Her technique consisted of putting the ball down at the tee off point, poking it at it with the putter and then carrying it over to the hole. See for yourself. For some reason, Alice consistently tried to put the ball down while holding the putter against it, which made the operation a bit more difficult than it otherwise would have been.

Alice got bored with the golfing experience after about 6 holes. Instead she took to wandering the facilities, occasionally running in to Corwin as he golfed. What Alice liked best were the fountains in the putt-putt terrain. We spent a long time looking at the fountain in the return pond and the waterfall at the start. This made it fun for Charles as well, because Charles and I were able to discuss plumbing (a subject guaranteed to perk Charles up) and how the water was moved around, not to mention use the word “pipe” in proper context.

Overall it was a fun outing for the kids. Corwin even interacted with some of the other children who were along. And Charles and Alice didn’t start whining about going home until 15 minutes or so before we left.

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Aura of possession

The latest conflict between Alice and Charles has been a plastic toy cell phone. It started Monday when Alice found the cell phone in one of the piles of abandoned toys in the basement and played with it all day. Charles noticed this and by late afternoon decided that he needed a turn with it. However, since Alice was still playing with it his request was denied which lead to some major pouting.

The next day both kids still wanted the cell phone. Sadly for Charles, Alice woke up first and reacquired possession before Charles could get a turn. MIssE tells me this was a source of conflict all day.

I was surprised that either remembered the issue the next day, but it turns out I was just off by a day as neither child has any interest in the cell phone toy today. I don’t know if Charles ever got his turn, but now that it has passed out of memory perhaps he never will.

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Tuesday 18 July 2006

Another Cute Alice Story

During the week, the children spend much of their time in the basement. While the activities range from computer games, driving trains, whapping Corwin with inflatable bats, and throwing bouncy balls all over the place, there remains one constant : Alice and her toy families.

On a typical day, Alice will find one toy (let’s say a blue car, as this was the first one this morning) and name it either the “mommy car”, “baby car”, or “daddy car”, according to its size. For a while ,she will play with the one car, but then demands to find the missing family members: “Where my blue mommy car? Where daddy car at?” Then, Alice and I will tirelessly search the basement until the proper size and color of vehicle have been found. Once all three are assembled, Alice can continue with her play. Sometimes, she’ll play will all three, but she usually just wants to make sure no one is seperated and lonely, because that would be sad.

Naturally, when the toy families reunite after a long absence, they have a lot to say to one another. Today, the conversation went like this:

Mommy car: “Hello baby blue car!”

Baby car: “Mommy car!”

Mommy car: “Um.…want a go shopping with me??”

Baby car: “Of course! I a need to get out of here first [the box of cars]. ‘Scuse me cars! ‘Scuse me! I ok, mommy car! Daddy car stay here now.”

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Road trip

The kids and I took a road trip up to the greater Chicago-land area last Saturday. We didn’t get on the road until noon, so it was a whirlwind trip.

We started with a couple hours at Brookfield Zoo. We spent most of our time in the African animals area. We saw many giraffes, wild dogs, rhinos, hippos, and okapi. However, there were quite a few pens where the animals weren’t present and had signs about the animals not being present due to inclement weather. You know it is hot out when the tropical animals cannot take it.

After the African section, we took an icee/ice cream break in the shade and the kids played on the playground equipment. Then we finished up with a tour of the penguins and watching the baboons. Alice liked the penguins a lot. The baboons were pretty active. There was a pair grooming, and a few others running about and jumping on bouncy logs.

After the zoo, when went to Oakbrook Center, a nice outdoor mall with many high end stores where I couldn’t take the kids. There was one called Ruehl that had a pair of trendy folks standing out front, I guess to ensure that frumpy folks like us didn’t dare enter. We did go to Hanna Anderson where the kids immediately glued themselves to the train table, and I picked out some cute outfits for Charles and Alice. Of course I couldn’t actually try the outfits on the children because that would mean leaving the trains. The best I could do was kind of hold them up against the kids to see if we were in the ball park. We also stopped in Pottery Barn Kids where Charles played with the toy vaccuumm cleaner and Alice played with the doll house.

After shopping, we went to eat at Houlihans (a TGIF-like place). I was not the most crazy parent there. While I was solo with three kids, the man at the next table was also solo with three kids, and his oldest child was only 3. His kids were amazingly well behaved. The infant only lost it at the end while they were wrapping up. Apparently they are regulars there on nights when the Mom works.

Then to make sure that we were all truly exhausted, we booked down to IKEA to pick up the last piece for the hanging chair that we bought at the Mall of America a few weeks back. Since it closed later on the weekends, we even had time to look around a bit. We also picked up a plastic tape ribbon curtain. They had one on display and all three children spent a long time running through it. We set it up in the basement on Sunday and they enjoyed it there too.

Everyone passed out before we got back to the Tri-State, so it was a very quiet trip home.

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He took all my creative energies

I’m running out of material, so I decided I would do another Charles construction retrospective. If I’m still stumped later this week and certain people don’t put up the posts they promised I may have to resort to posting pictures of those certain people. You know who you are.

But enough of that, we’re off to the Charles parking lot, where Charles’ visions of vehicles are made manifest by his own hand.

This is a truck drawn by Charles. I believe it is a garbage truck, very full of garbage. Key points of interest:

  • The faithful rendering of all of the garbage balls.
  • The strap on sections at the top and top front to hold garbage that couldn’t be drawn in the main truck bed.
  • The processing facility built in to the truck (near the top).
  • The interesting shape of the ladder on the back.


A small utility vehicle. Of marginal interest itself, in the context of Charles’ oeuvre, still it a fascinating harbringer of works later works. We can see Charles is experimenting with cantilevered sections and engines. He develops these themes more fully in the next piece shown.


Here we see the same themes as the previous effort but in grander scale.

The work is a boat / airplane vehicle that can fly and land on either land or water. According to the artist, it can go in to space as well but “only a little bit, not very far”.

In the construction, we can see that Charles starts with the basic and simple long block and then elaborates on it to explore his chosen themes.

In comparison to the earlier work shown, there are a number of shifts where one can see how that works served as a prototype for this construct.

The fo’csle is reduced and its design elements moved to more central sections. In particular, note that the central bridge contains multiple levels of cantilevering as Charles fully explores that feature. The entire bridge is cantilevered, with the forward sections themselves cantilevered from that, and stacked in a double cantilever. As a final touch, the wings are brought out from here in a perpendicular style, “breaking out of the ruled line” as it were. It is this fractalness, with its similar yet distinct repititoins, that is a hallmark of Charles constructs.

The engines are another extension. Again, they are suspended but this time combine with the cantilever theme to give them space from the main body while preserving a thematic unity.

We also see the small, translucent triangular pieces are used again, this time on the fo’csle, bridge and twice at the stern, creating another array of non-identical repitition.

I think this will stand as one of Charles’ major constructs even as he moves on to other efforts.

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Monday 17 July 2006

Strung out to dry

This week Corwin is at string camp, learning to play the violin. It’s an all day camp, which means Erica is having a better week than normal. I would write some details about what Corwin is doing there, but none of my interrogation techniques have worked and Mom won’t let me do anything to his hands while he’s still in camp.

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It's all about the infrastructure, baby

Charles has been enjoying the Kapla planks. I took the picture below to record one of his efforts, but by the next day he had exceed that by quite a bit. Instead of a small building with a fence, Charles had built a airplane runway / road the same width but roughly six feet long. I can’t believe that (1) he had the patience and (2) it didn’t get Aliced.

On this work, I quite like the little “T” of uprights. I was unable to ascertain if those were decorative or served some functional purpose (such as antennas).

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Sunday 16 July 2006

Opening doors

The other week I was home alone with Alice and Poly, Mom having taken the boyen off somewhere (and Alice having stated that she wanted to “stay here” and watch Dora). I figured that with Alice zoned out on Dora and the outside doors closed because of the air conditioning, I could slip in to my office and get a bit of work done.

I coded for a bit and then decided to check on Alice. Woops, no Alice on the couch! In fact, I couldn’t find Alice anywhere in the house. I then decided to look around outside and there she was, playing in the driveway. Alice had also let Poly out to roam the neighborhood as well. It turns out that Alice is strong enough to open up the heavy glass sliding doors by herself. It is always such an … interesting experience to see your little girl growing up and able to do new things.

P.S. Alice can’t work the locks yet, but based on prior experience I don’t expect that to stymy her for much longer.

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The future's so bright I gotta wear shades

Charles screens out anything that would distract from his catalogs

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Saturday 15 July 2006

He seemed a bit lumpy to me

Corwin finally finds purpose as a couch accessory

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Friday 14 July 2006

Club Alice

Alice has been doing more dancing than usual lately. For a while she was dancing at the front door and watching herself in the big mirrors on the closet. More recently, however, she’s turned the sunroom in to her personal dance floor. Sometimes she just dances and other times she has a parent fire up the Laurie Berkner to set the mood. You can see her inovative style for yourself. Sadly, I am the only one who will dance with her (now and then) even though it’s good exercise.

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Sonic wall

Better to have dinner here than hear Charles eat

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Thursday 13 July 2006

It's all mine

[Alice is enjoying the refigerator magnets]

Alice: [holds up magnet] That me, Daddy!

Dad: Yes it is.

Alice: I playing with sand!

Dad: Are you playing with sand?

Alice: Yeah.

[Alice goes back to the refigerator for other magnets]

Dad: Are you just the cutest little monkey in the whole world?

Alice: Yeah.

[Alice selects another magnet]

Alice: That my Charles!

Mom: Your Charles? Isn’t that Mommy’s Charles?

Alice: No. That my Charles.

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Two subjects in our feral child recovery program
They are being re-acclimatized to civilization after their time in the wild

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Bed sweating

It’s the middle of July. It’s hot outside, even in the evening. We have the air conditioning on but we we keep it set high.


Charles will still pick out long sleeve shirts and long pants to wear. I don’t worry about it anymore, since he never complains about being overdressed. Alice will generally wear something lighter, although (in a blatant demostration of socially re-enforced favoritism) Mom lets Alice wear skirts but not Charles. Moreover, both Alice and Charles frequently wear full length flannel night clothes. This on babies that create puddles of sweat during a nap dressed in nothing but a diaper. But my motto is, “no whining, no problem!”

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Wednesday 12 July 2006

Capture and release

Some wild animals I caught, before transporting them to a safe location

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Bilingual baby

Alice got stuck the other day and started calling out “¡ayudame! ¡ayudame!”. A bit too much Dora, perhaps. She’s so hard to understand now, I don’t think I would ever manage with my rusty Spanish.

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Perhaps a bit over-clever

The fancy media remote I got for Mom for Christmas is now mostly Polymerized. Some unnamed nine year old boy left it down last night and Poly used it as a chew toy for the second time and it’s not looking good (although it still works). But I still think thatif Mom wanted an upgade, she should have just told me rather than doing the whole dog thing.

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Tuesday 11 July 2006

Nanny state

I found out today that when Alice wants to sit on the couch and watch Dora with Erica, Alice says “sit on the couch with me, Eh-Kah”, unless Alice is in a demanding mood in which case she says “sit on the couch with me now, Eh-Kah”. I was just stunned. Mom and I only get prefunctory a “sit couch!”, but Erica gets a complete sentence! Maybe a certain little Princess will find someone shorting her a bit on her milk in the future.

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Wagon trained

Charles plays with the wagon on a regular basis now. He can pull it by himself, even with a passenger. In fact, he can pull it about as fast as he can run. Admittedly, Charles is not exactly a paragon of speed in the running department, but the wagon seems to help because it makes him hold his arms down instead of doing the upright fluttering thing. See it for yourself.

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Monday 10 July 2006

Gratuitous Picture of the Day

Alice assumes her favorite walking position

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Sunday 09 July 2006

Chalken aftermath

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Getting fancy

Here are a couple of videos (here and here) of Charles enjoying our new pool. The first one features chalk as well.

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Smarter than your average cat

As Polynomial has gotten bigger, her initial fear of POset has diminished. Poset is fully clawed and so has the means for enforcing some personal space. What I found most interesting is that Poly wants to chase Poset (because that’s what dogs do). However, Poset has put a stop to that by simple expedient of not running. When Poly comes over in a chasing mood, Poset just hunches back and keeps a wary eye on Poly, but doesn’t move. Poly rapidly becomes bored with a non-moving chase target and wanders off. Poset then continues on with her many cat related tasks.

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Saturday 08 July 2006

First mouse

I finally managed to convince Alice to try using the mouse this evening. Charles was unavailable to work the Dora game, and Daddy was being difficult, so Alice was reduced to interacting directly with the computer. I had to help her with the movement, but the first time she clicked the mouse and something happened she was so happy she bounced up and down in the rolling chair. Sadly, it didn’t take too many cicks before the work aspect kicked in, but in the end I think there is some hope that Alice will be willing to get her hands dirty with the mouse in the future. I still need to work on the whole cursor positioning issue, that the mouse button is not a magic “do what I want now” button. That will be one of those little life disappointments that parents are there to explain.

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Wild, wild, life

Jacob came over to visit yesterday. On the way from exiling him back to his house, Corwin and I saw a young fox hanging out at the sign at the entrance to the subdivision. I slowed down to look, but the fox wasn’t spooked until another car came by (at which point it ran across the road right in front it, but didn’t get hit). I think Mom is rooting for the foxes to eat the rabbits who eat her garden (Mom is currently suffering from the predations of the Mystery Animal, which likes iatris but not lettuce).

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Variant materials

Charles and Alice have been experimenting with wet chalk as a creative medium. Initially they disovered it because they like to throw things in the water. Noticing that wet chalk writes much easier and puts down a thicker layer of color, the kids frequently prefer it now. Their work now resembles oil points, with the addition of noticeable texture to the pure coloring.

Not that the kids don’t work with regular, dry chalk as well. This morning Alice and I were out and she started drawing with the chalk. I tried to impress her by showing that I could draw chalk lines with my feet, but I forgotten how prehensile toddlers feat are and Alice was able to rapidly duplicate my feat with her feet.

Later on, Alice told me that she wanted to play with the hose. After I arranged it for her, she sprayed the front porch for just a little bit and then announced “that enough, Daddy”. I was a bit puzzled until I realized that what Alice wanted was just enough water to wet the chalk as she drew with it. Of course, she also sat down in the water and chalk, because it just wouldn’t be Alice art without a mess.

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Gratuitous Picture of the Day

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Friday 07 July 2006

Out at the Movies

Corwin, Charles, Alice, and I took off the other afternoon to see the movie, Cars. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. Even Corwin wanted to have a post-movie conversation/critique. When we walked into the theatre lobby, everyone caught a strong whiff of the popcorn. Alice immediately exclaimed, “I want popcorn! Alice popcorn!” Corwin attempted to sneak away into the game room, but his plans were foiled by quick ticket-buying skills. Charles obviously knows how to play the game, because he stuck tight to the person with the money. When it came to pick concessions, Corwin took his time, carefully contemplating the candy selection. Alice made it clear that she was not going to change her mind, as she chanted “Alice popcorn! pleas??” over and over and over (and over) until she had the bag in her clutches. Charles stood in front of the counter and stared at the popcorn machine and “combo meal” board until everyone had their selection:

Erica: Charles, do you know what you’d like?

Charles: No, I do not know. What do they have here?

Erica: Um…here’s what they have “points to stuff”…

Charles: Do they have popcorn here?

Erica: Indeed, they do.

Charles: I will have popcorn.

During the movie, Charles became completely still (having eaten his popcorn very quickly) and was one with the movie. Alice sat in my lap, ate some popcorn for the first 30 minutes, squirmed for an hour and fifteen minutes, then fell asleep for the final minutes of the movie (now she’ll never know how it ends). Corwin helped Alice eat her popcorn, laughed like a maniac, squirmed almost as much as Alice and, of course, covered his ears during any lengthy or “touching” dialogue.

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[Charles is taking a bath after swimming in the pond]

Dad: Hey, here’s some doggie shampoo! Should I try it out on you?

Charles: No!

Dad: Why not?

Charles: I not a doggie!

Dad: You’re not? Who told you that?

Charles: Erica.

Dad: Erica told you that?

Charles: Yes. Today. In the basement.

[Dad grabs one of the Crayola Bath Gel crayons]

Dad: Hey, I could draw on you with this!

Charles: Noooo!

Dad: I could draw a Charles on you!

Charles: Noooo! [with major thrashing]

Apparently it’s not just chalk drawings that are the problem.

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Backpack, backpack

Alice thinks pictures are better if you can see a tongue

While out shopping the other day, Alice discovered this Dora backpack. She has always liked Charles’ Thomas rolling backpack, so when she saw a Dora backpack that was also rolling luggage, Mom had to buy it for her. It’s a double backpack, the real one plus Dora’s Backpack and Map.

Although it’s a tad big, Alice will walk around with it. We will see how she likes it once we load it down for a trip (I suspect she’ll wear it in the stroller).

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Thou shalt have no chalken images

Over the long Independence Day weekend, Erica was off partying like the wild college student she is. At one point, in order to fill up the time until she returned, I took the kids outside to play with chalk. After a bit, Alice asked me to draw a picture of her, so I drew the standard Alice face icon. I decided it would be showing too much favoritism to draw just Alice, so I drew a Charles face icon as well.

Just as he doesn’t like me to take his picture, Charles also does not like me to draw him (or even write his name). Therefore Charles got his own chalk and scribbled out the Charles icon. Naturally I drew another one, which Charles also crossed out. At this point, unaccountably, Corwin noticed what was happening around him and decided that if drawing Charles icons annoyed Charles, he wanted a piece of the action. Soon we were outpacing Charles’ ability to cross out his images.

Charles responded to our drawing aggression by getting a broom wet and sweeping over the Charles icon, which turns out to erase them quite effectively. In the end, Charles destroyed all of the Charles icons, although with a couple of Alice icons as collateral damage.

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Thursday 06 July 2006

Dancing on air

I dancing, Daddy!

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Catalog of sorrows

As part of Charles’ fascination with junk mail and catalogs, Mom makes sure to give him any age appropriate catalogs that show up. To stay in at least the running for favored parent, I tried giving Charles some of my junk mail, but when he ripped it open, he discovered the absence of anything that could be peeled and stuck. He declared “there nothing good in here!” and left me with the scattered shreds of my failure to provide as a parent.

The latest adventure involved a toy catalog, which Charles spent much time looking at. We naturally took it with us when we went to see the parade, but Mom left the catalog containing bag behind in our rush to depart (a rush necessitated by Charles whining “I tie-wahrd — when we going home?”). When this was discovered, Charles was reduced to a lip quivering basket case. Mom eventually found another catalog for him, to which he gradually warmed. Charles liked it so much that when Erica took the gang to play mini-golf, Charles refused to play. He wanted to sit with his catalog so that it didn’t get lost.

The new catalog is a Lego™ catalog and as a result, Charles has a new object of material desire, the Lego™ Passenger Train. I asked Charles about the plane he wanted and how that related to the train. Charles patiently explained that “you can get lots of stuff for your birthday” and therefore it would be no problem to get both.

With having to pay for both items, I got off easy. Erica had to endure another day of being excited to hear about the train.

P.S. I called Laurie’s parents’ house and verified that they had the bag with the catalog. Laurie’s mom told me to assure Charles that they had the catalog, the catalog was safe, and it would soon be returned to him. When I relayed this to Charles, he looked up at me, a bit cautious to avoid any cruel disappointments, and asked “the catalog is safe?”. Yes, I told him. He gave me a weak smile, clearly thinking “I’ll believe that when the catalog is once again properly in my hands”.

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Wednesday 05 July 2006

Corwin enjoys his first smoke bombs

Corwin makes it up close and personal

Last Sunday, we went out and got what passes for fireworks in these parts. I picked up some smoke bombs because I thought the boys might like them and we had never set any off. Alice immediately latched on to them and declared them as hers. She clutched them all the way back and whenever the discussion touched upon them, she would announce “those mine!”.

Alice was generous enough to let me set the smoke bombs off for Corwin, who thought they were very fun. I even let Corwin light a couple himself.

Poly had to be sent inside, as she naturally wanted to eat the smoke bombs, even while they were spewing smoke.

Charles and Alice watch from the sidelines

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Light in the sky

We took in the Independence Day fireworks last night. For the first time, I packed up Mom’s garden wagon for the trip (it fits just right in the back of the van) and things were much easier because Mom doesn’t have to carry anything and this reduces the complaints about the massive collection of equipment I like to take (*all* of which is necessary for a successful outing).

Our arrival was a bit later than usual, which reduced the selection of viewing locations but did avoid the long wait involving lines at the bouncy houses and trips to the potty. Alice fell asleep right as the fireworks started, but the boyen enjoyed them, especially Corwin. It was an almost continuous display for 20 minutes or so with a lot of very interesting effects. A good show.

I took my usual collection of photon emitters, except this year I packed the 12” glow sticks for the kids. As soon as I got those out and fired up for the spawn, some other kids came over, cash in hand, to buy stuff. I had to explain that I wasn’t selling, but I was happy to hand out stuff. All but one of the kids left at that point (things clearly being unworthy if free) but one little girl about 7 stayed and asked what all I had. I offered her a red, white, and blue glow rope but she just said “I already have one of those” and left. That left a mark.

The girl showed up again a few minutes later and I was able to give her a red and a blue 6” glowsticks, which partially recovered my aura of being hip and with it.

P.S. Erica was back today and she was also at the fireworks. She told me she took 753 pictures, which was yet another blow to my poor, eroded ego, as I took only 647.

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Charles and Dada

The drain in question

As we walk to the pond and back, we see the storm drains which have recently had a message added, which reads “Dump No Waste — Drains to Rivers”. Almost every time, Charles will point at one and ask “what does that say”? The last time we went, the conversation when like this:

Charles: What that say?

Dad: “Drains to Rivers”

Charles: Why does it say that?

Dad: Because it drains to the river.

Charles: The water flows down and gets pumped through pipes to the river?

Dad: No pumps, it just flows.

Charles: [ponders that for a minute] Ducks float on the pond.

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Tuesday 04 July 2006

Happy Independence Day

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Boy blather

Rocket fetching boy

Mom made waffles this morning. Corwin helped and Mom let him solo on the electric mixer.

I have switched Corwin from HomeWorld to StarCraft, which is a simpler, two dimensional game. He seems to be picking it up better, although he’s also trying out BattleZone. I think he’s looking for a game that’s sufficiently easy to play.

Corwin does get involved in the story lines. I remember when I was first playing HomeWorld and Corwin was watching. At one point the story was releated that the side I was playing was exiled from their home planet to a remote part of the galaxy. Corwin, who was about 3 or 4 at the time, was reduced to tears wih sympathy for the exiles. These days he has become concerned about the fate of a character from StarCraft. You find out what happens by comnpleting missions in the game. Corwin wanted to know what happened next, so I told him he would have to complete the next mission. He said he couldn’t wait and pestered me the next day about it, until I gave in and did the mission for him so he coud see it for himself. I was hoping he would have been motivated to learn how to play well enough to win, but he decided it would be easier to get me to do it. Perhaps he’s more suited for covert operations than straight military.

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Monday 03 July 2006

A visit from our Laurie Godmother

Laurie and her clan are in town this week and came over this afternoon for a dip in our fabulous pond, the one with the beach and and the sand toys1. It was Noah’s first time in natural water. Despite Laurie’s organic nature, she had apparently neglected to take Noah in to organic water. I was so happy to be able to help out in this regard.

Laurie also had her sister and her family along as well, so that we had the Three Girl Gang assembled, if only for a couple of hours.

The Three Girl Gang: Ella, Grace, Alice

1 Others who visit may be permitted to enjoy the pond as well, if they are sufficiently chic.

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Lessons in hygiene

[Alice decides to engage Dad in conversation]

Alice: I poopy!

Dad: Let me check … [Dad checks the diaper] … you’re not poopy.

Alice: I just peeing Daddy!

Dad: Oh. You’re not poopy?

Alice: I not poopy. [in a peppy voice] Mommy clean my butt!

I suppose that when you’re two, there are a limited number of conversational topics with which one is familiar.

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Sunday 02 July 2006

Do not take a picture with that thing!

He said, while getting his own camera ready

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It must be built in

As noted previously, Alice likes to play games at the Dora website. Most of the time I can get Charles to play with her (i.e., actually play the game while Alice watches, as Alicre refuses to even touch the mouse). The problem with this is that Alice likes to linger on certain parts of the game that are not of much interest to Charles. All of them involve dressing Dora in various outfits. In the “Dora House” game, you can find Dora’s closet and select various clothes in it to put on Dora. Alice is happy to do this for tens of minutes at a time. In sympathy with Charles, ten minutes is a looooong time to spend selecting various elements of only 10 different four-piece outfits, especially if Alice’s only indication of what to wear is “dat one!” with a finger pointing at the screen from 2 feet away on a girl who doesn’t distinguish between yellow and purple.

I noticed this myself recenty one time. Charles had cleverly made himself scarce when Alice was taken with a Dora gaming mood leaving me to take his place. Alice and I played one of the story lines which involved Dora going off on a spaceship. Naturally, Dora and Boots had to dress up in space suits. I should have seen that coming. I would have been happy to just pick a color and suit them up, but Alice had very strong ideas about proper attire for space travel and would break down in tears if I put the wrong ensemble on the characters. Even at that, she still switched a couple of times after she decided orange made Dora look fat or something and white just did not go with Boot’s fur.

I can see Mom’s dreams of clothes shopping with Alice already burning like last year’s tree cuttings.

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Saturday 01 July 2006

Dad's one special day of the year

Green Rage 4 (PML 4” AMRAAM) on an H180

Today was Daddy activity day. I had the GARLO annual rocket launch to attend.

It was a good launch, althought just on the edge of being too windy. Sadly, I messed up my camera work and didn’t really get any good pictures. I forgot one camera (Mom brought it to me later, but most of the good opportunities were gone by then). And I had the metering messed up for the first half of the day, during which I would otherwise have had some excellent shots.

Corwin came out with me to the launch and stayed the entire time. He was very patient and cooperative, even going out to fetch a rocket for me. I must help him build something to launch next year.

In the evening, right after I returned from the launch, Mom and I headed out to attend my 25th high school class reunion. It was more pleasant than I anticipated and I actually was a bit bummed that we had to leave relatively early to rescue the babysitter from our children.

We had Lauren (Allison’s older sister, one of the Kirsten crew) over to babysit. It was her first outing, which didn’t turn out as a disaster so perhaps she will do it again. Her mom was very excited about it, though. Lauren is a bit young, so we arranged to arrive back before bedtime and not overload her with an extended child care experience (even though she’s been through a class on babysitting — gosh, I never got to have a class before I was sent out to babysit for the neighbors).

Now I’m very tired, but I had to do some photo editing (during which I discovered the results of my poor technique) before I went to bed.

Tomorrow, it will be Graceland at the house.

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