Tuesday 31 July 2007


While some friends were visiting recently (which Mom is going to write up Real Soon Now), I got out the Kapla planks and started building. This re-ignited Charles’ interest in them and he started building his own tower (with no help), which he worked on until it was taller than either of the other towers.

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It's not all fun and games

Poor Erica arrived at our house yesterday to find that Charles and Alice had swim lessons this week, so she had to watch just Corwin, who spent the morning playing Total Annihilation, which Erica described as just as exciting to watch as you’d think. Even though she should have spent the time generating content for this weblog, I decided to take pity on her and let her show up early for the rest of the week so she can take the children secundus and teritius to swim instead.

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Monday 30 July 2007

Rock mining

And speaking of odd habits, here is Charles “mining rocks” in the front of the house. He’ll spend 10 or 20 minutes just banging the fiber glass rod in to the rocks covering the area like a pick axe and tell me that he’s mining rocks. The other day he gathered up a large pile of the output of his mine, but Mom made him put them all back later. The pick axe can transform in a rifle, which is useful when Charles needs to patrol the mine to keep away the bad guys.

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Alice's Wonderland

Alice has picked up a couple of odd little habits lately.

The first is that she has started referring to Mom and me by our first names, rather than “Mom” and “Dad”. Not always, but frequently. The boys never did that and Charles had to ask Alice what those names meant, as he didn’t even know.

The other is wadding up several facial tissues and then proclaiming it as a “tissue mass”. One is certainly left in a wonderland of where Alice is hearing this stuff.

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Sunday 29 July 2007

Cutting corners, and not

Our excitement this morning was Mom discovering that some had laid tracks across our front yard. They also ran over our lawn mower which we’d left out while cleaning the garage. They very narrowly missed Mom’s garden, our brick wall, and our two cars. Our best guess is that they came down the road too fast and didn’t make the corner. We could see radial skidding and a increasing curvature, which are more indicative of trying to turn than just doing a donut. There was also a bit of track left from their return to the street which curved out and back as one would expect after over compensating during the turn across the yard. Perhaps it’s mean of me, but I can’t help hoping that the car took a big hit from wiping out the lawn mower.

We reported it to the county sheriff, just so they’d have a record. The sheriff had a lot of problems finding the house and then he turned out to be one of my former high school class mates. He recognized me by sight, which tells you how much I’ve grown up since high school.

On the other hand, it’s interesting to see how Mom reacts in a crisis like not having a way to cut the grass. She’s already run out and purchased a new cordless electric mower and is busying reading the manual. The TV, no rush (we’re still TV-less) but a lawn mower — can’t be without that, even though we cut the grass yesterday. Mom wouldn’t want to be caught by any sudden, massive grass growth.

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Mom sets endurance record

Today is our 18th wedding anniversary. We went out for dinner and a movie and had a nice time. At least this time, Mom knocked off her garage cleaning early enough before departure that it wasn’t a rush. She’s back at it this morning.

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Saturday 28 July 2007

Ready for dieting

I got on Alice’s case a couple of days ago for playing with Mom’s umbrella. She immediately said, as is her habit, “sorry. I sorry, Daddy”. Just now I caught her playing with it again and again got the “sorry, I sorry Daddy”. This time, however, Alice suggested that when I put the umbrella back in the closet, I put it up on a shelf where Alice can’t reach so she doesn’t do it again.

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Octopus Boy

Corwin goes off on a big ride

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Fast rewrites her speciality

[Alice is sad at the breakfast table]

Mom: You’d be Alice’s best friend forever if you change this glass to a sippy cup.

Dad: Alice, would you like me better than Mom if I got you a sippy cup?

Alice: [nods pathetically]

Mom: Selling out for a sippy cup!

[Dad pours milk in to sippy cup and returns]

Dad: Alice, do you like me better now?

Alice: I like Mommy better.

Dad: But you said you’d like me better!

Alice: I like Mommy better. She’s nice.

Mom: But Daddy got you the sippy cuppy.

Alice: Mommy got me the sippy cup.

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Friday 27 July 2007

Dancing in the rain

It’s raining today, a warm rain with no thunder, so I convinced Alice to put on her swim suit and go play in the rain. The boys were too smart to fall for that, although Alice claims she’s having a good time. Long time readers will remember that Alice quite likes splashing in puddles and at least this way, she’s not in just her underwear. It means Erica has to stand in the rain with an umbrella, but hey — that’s the kind of sacrifice a good parent makes.

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Thursday 26 July 2007

The withdrawal symptoms start

At the end of our second day without a functioning TV, Corwin is starting to crack. Mom, taking advantage of his disturbed state, sent him in to my office to try and use one of my computer monitors as a substitute display. Haha, as if! As the one member of the household who isn’t addicted to TV, I was firm despite my desire to help because the experience will build character. Corwin, however, was so desperate that he offered a year of “good attitude” for his violin lessons. Now that’s hard core.

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Demographic penetration

Corwin has been programmed by TV advertisements to want to watch “The Simpsons Movie”, even though he’s never seen the show. He was asking about it at dinner, and I noted this fact to Mom. She countered with “but he’s seen the ‘Spider Pig’ scene on the advertisements”. Alice then piped up with “He’s not Spider Pig, he’s Harry Plopper!”.

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Fleeting nature of fame

Back when Alice ruled as caterpillar queen

Alice and Charles have been fighting over the hungry caterpillar toy. For some reason it’s become very popular. At one point Charles would equip it with machine guns, making it an assault caterpillar.

Personally, I favored Alice’s claim to the caterpillar, as a matter of historical continuity. However, Charles didn’t see it that way and melted down when I made that adjudication. I couldn’t let Alice have it because, according to Charles, he “didn’t have any thing else!”. I asked about the basement full of toys but it made no impression on Charles.

But time heals all obsessions and today the caterpillar lays lonely and abandoned, it’s 15 minutes all used up.

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Wednesday 25 July 2007


Our TV is failing. This means that Mom can finally buy the big LCD TV that she’s been lusting after for the last few years. She’s on the couch next to me right now, cruising the Internet for hot hunks of visual technology. No clothes, food, or Christmas presents for the kids, but they’d probably prefer that to no TV.

We’re also obviously spoiled the children. Mom tried to tease them by suggesting we’d just do without a TV until Christmas and they didn’t even blink. They knew Mom wouldn’t really do that, and miss Eric Stromer in high definition.

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Corwin, locked and loaded

Corwin made it back from his camping expedition today. They had wonderful weather for it, it really couldn’t have been better. Warm but not sweltering, bright sun, low winds, and apparently a dearth of flying bugs. Corwin said that he enjoyed the trip, although he was as usual very vague on any specifics. He did go swimming, so he must have passed the swim test.

He was sent home with a tent to clean up. He and his tent mate had managed to drop a burning marshmallow in it, in addition to the standard mud and boy filth. He worked on it in the backyard while Erica supervised (although I think she helped him while I wasn’t looking). After it dried, Mom went out to help Corwin fold it up. I ended up helping Mom while Corwin verified that the pole bag was tightly tied.

Now if we can just get all of his pins done.

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Summer's winding down

Charles confronts a long line of strongly focused opponents

Charles’ T-Ball season ended with a whimper instead of a bang. We had to miss two games because we were on vacation, and then the final game was the day after we returned and we just didn’t have the energy or organization to make it. Charles, at least, didn’t seem to notice even though he says he likes T-Ball much more than soccer. At least we were there for the team picture.

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That's not my daugher

Alice: What’s that, Daddy?

Dad: A paper folder.

Alice: What you have a paper folder for?

Dad: To hold papers.

Alice: I hate paper folders.

Dad: Why do you hate paper folders?

Alice: They make me dizzy or something.

On the other, this is my girl —

Dad: Alice, don’t touch that.

Alice: Why not?

Dad: It’s got gooey stuff on it and we don’t want to get it on you.

Alice: OK.

Dad: We want to get it on Charles!

Alice: No! That’s wrong!

Dad: It’s wrong to get the gooey stuff on Charles.

Alice: Yes, that wrong. [pause] Let’s get it on Corwin!

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Tuesday 24 July 2007

Bubble Days Are Here Again

Charles, Alice, and the Tower of Bubble

The bubble machine died a few weeks ago, but happily, …it has been replaced! Charles and Alice and I spent much of the morning playing with the bubbles out on the front porch. Yesterday, Charles went into the garage and found some fiberglass stakes, which he and Alice used to pop the bubbles. Today, we found a better use. If you hold the stick just right, it’ll catch bubbles, making a bit of a cluster. These are fun to make and throw around, but leave it to Charles to make it something bigger. What did he decide they should make? A building, of course! Not just any building, a barracks from the computer game, Rise of Legends. In no time, it was quite the bubble mountain, although its resemblance to the structure from the game wasn’t as striking as some of his other work. And yes, Alice popped it when they were done. But she asked Charles (nicely!) first.

Also, Alice has noticed that Poly likes to bite at the bubbles…so she’s been putting them on one of the stakes and trying to feed them to the dog. With mixed results.

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Gripping situation

Erica and Alice were drawing out in the kitchen the other day as I popping out to refill my coffee. Erica mentioned to me that Alice was using a “tri-grip”, which is the normal grip using three digits that most normal (i.e., right-handed) people use. Erica thought that was too advanced for Alice to be using at her age, but I defused the situation by noting that now that Alice had heard us talking about it, she wouldn’t do it anymore.

P.S. Alice can apply advanced logic when it suits her as well.

[Alice is sitting on Dad, dressed in just a pull-up diaper, after comfying him with some jumping]

Dad: I am poking you in the tummy! [poke]

Alice: I am poking you in the tummy! [poke]

Dad: I am touching your [hair] braid!

Alice: [pause] I am touching your shirt!

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Gratuitous Picture of the Day

Charles is so studly that just flexing his chest causes the towers to fall over

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Monday 23 July 2007

Pieces of Wood

The theme for the last few days has been splinters. Late last week, Charles managed to jump around on the back deck in a way that embedded large splinters deep in both his feet. I ended up having to dig around a bit to get most of them out. Naturally, Charles had put very thin splinters in, so that they couldn’t be pulled out in one chunk. Mom had to help me restrain him as he screamed and my hand cramped up from folding back his toes to get access to the injured area. Charles alternated between screaming about how much it hurt and how we shouldn’t stop and leave it in. In the end, I had to leave one piece embedded, in the hope that having opened things up enough it would get pushed out on it own. That turned out to be the right choice, as Charles took a bath immediately after and reported that the last piece had floated out. I checked and couldn’t find any remaining wood, so it seems that’s what happened.

Today it was Alice’s turn to get a splinter, once again a thin one embedded deep in her heel. I let Mom work on that one while I held the screaming Alice. Mom got part of it out but we ended by trying the bath technique again, unsuccessfully. Now we’re reduced to hoping it pops out naturally, although it seems a bit deep for that. We may need to require footwear for the deck, which would be a big annoyance, but less of one than picking out splinters.

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Sunday 22 July 2007


We sent Corwin off to Adventure Camp with his scouting group for three days (he’s due back Wednesday morning). We spent a big chunk of yesterday and this morning getting him ready, which seems a bit excessive. On the other hand, a while back I had picked up a small LED head lamp for Corwin, to use on this trip. He promptly lost it and despite sending him about the house on multiple occasions to find it, it remained lost. Until today, when Mom was picking up debris in Corwin’s room to find essential camping supplies and there it was.

And even though Corwin isn’t living right, in contrast to Corwin’s last expedition the weather this time should be almost perfect.

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Saturday 21 July 2007

Long arm

Charles and his high powered Lego™ sniper rifle

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Friday 20 July 2007

Fair season

Charles and Alice wait for a ride, tickets in hand

Today was our annual evening at the county fair. The weather, for once, was excellent. Warm but not hot, half cloudy, and low humidity.Corwin advanced his level of amusement ride tolerance, this time going on a octopus style ride(ride) solo, and later on with Mom (who took longer to recover than Corwin). Charles did the giant slide solo for the first time as well. The favorite ride was the little train, which Alice and Charles did twice.

We switched off between kiddy rides and adult rides, although everyone went on the bumper cars (multiple of which had lemon shake-ups spilled in them — why in the world would the operate let someone with a drink in?). Either we spent more time and money last year, or the prizes have been downgraded, but we ended up with only two very small and cheap prizes, a 1” diameter plush snake and a plastic dagger.

We visited the petting zoo after the rides. Corwin fed the animals the way he eats, so his cup of animal food was gone before I could blink. Charles finished his off a bit later, but Alice still had most of her cup. She very generously shared some of her reserve with Charles, so that he could do some more feeding. Alice got to pet a rabbit that was wandering about loose, which she liked.

And speaking of animals feeding, Mom held off buying cotton candy until the very end as we were walking back to the van. I thought the goats at the petting zoo were aggressive, but they had nothing on the kids attacking Mom for pieces of cotton candy.

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I went down to the basement today, to tell Erica that Mom and I were heading out for lunch. All three kids were heavily engaged in computer gaming, without interaction with each other or Erica, who was stuck watching them without a chair. I think this was the first time I have seen all three at the same time banging away independently. I have frequently seen them all clustered around the same computer, but not all active. I guess it’s an improvement over pure passivity. Still, Alice was playing the Diego jungle game, which requires actual thought to press the correct keys. Normally Erica or I would have to help Alice with it when she insisted on playing despite not being able to work the controls. And who can doubt that being able to play a side scrolling video game is important for a three year old?

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Thursday 19 July 2007

Pillowed Cage

Alice relaxes in her well lined crib

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Wednesday 18 July 2007

Structured Play

If only Charles’ need for order could be used for good

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Tuesday 17 July 2007

When I was your age

Alice has taken to saying to me, “a long time ago, when I was your age …”. For instance, back when Alice was my age, she wore pull-ups instead of underwear because she didn’t know how to use the potty.

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Monday 16 July 2007

Mission Debriefing

We made it home today. We got on the road about 9 AM EDT and were home by 4 PM CDT. Mom wanted to pick up Polynomial before arriving home, but I was not enthused about having a very happy dog in a van crowded with kids and vacation debris. Instead, we went home first and dumped everything out in to the driveway for me to transfer in to the house while home retrieved the most important dog.

Alice, Liam, and Baby

I think the vacation was a success, although I am more tired now than when we left. I think Alice made a friend in Liam. The two of them were near inseperable most of the trip. At least once Alice snuck out of her bed after being put down and went over to Liam’s. Frequently, one of them would cry if separated so they always had to sit together on transportation or at meals. Alice had some trouble remembering Liam’s name and normally just referred to him as “my friend”. However, I am informed that Liam is rather generous with his affections and has numerous other girl friends back home. I just hope that when Alice is old enough to read this, she’s not still scarred from learning the truth.

Alice grew up a bit as well. On the way out, we took drove on the Bay Bridge and Alice declared that she was very scared because we were high above the water. On the way back Alice explicitly declared that she was no longer scared of the bridge, re-assured by our earlier success despite Mom’s crazy driving.

The most amazing part of the trip was that none of the kids became sunburned. They’re all a little browner, except for Alice, who is much more thoroughly caramelized.

Charles and Corwin played some Rise of Legends while there and tried to teach Ashlyn how to play. At one point Ashlyn bothered me to get the game fired up for her, and then said “what do I do?”. I was of the opinion that if she didn’t know, she would do better to play something else. I squirmed out of it by locating Charles to instruct her. At another time, Charles was humming some music and I noted to other adults that it was the theme to Rise of Nations. Charles corrected me in a huff that it was the theme to Rise of Legends. Clearly, I should keep better track of what my children are doing. Maybe I could set up something where I could write that down, to help me remember and serve as a reference. Definitely something to look in to.

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Sunday 15 July 2007

The long way home

An SR-71 … sweet … oh, and some kids who wandered in to the frame

Today was primarily a travel day, as we broke camp to start the long trek home. Mom decided that while we didn’t have time to stop, we could at least drive around the city a bit and see some famous buildings. I tried to plot a good route, but I messed up while providing directions and we crossed the Potomac on the wrong bridge. Still, I was able (despite the doubters) to get us back on track without a major detour. We passed by the Pentagon, the Jefferson Memorial, then back across the Mall for the Washington Monument. We tried to see the White House as well, but it seems that enough area has been closed off that it can’t be seen without parking and walking. While Mom was pointing out all of this, the kids were complaining about not enough milk, asking what DVD they could play, or doing rude things to themselves that we don’t allow even in the car. The educational value was therefore somewhat suspect.

After our wild gyre about the city, we rolled out to Dulles Airport and the National Air and Space Museum. This is housed in a small building attached to a huge hangar in which is an astonishing variety of flying machinery. I thought it was fun to show the kids real instances of some of the model airplanes they have, but it was unclear how interesting they found it. Charles, for instance, seemed to be more interested in the architectural infrastructure in the stairways than the actual displays. And the gift shop, which he asked about multiple times.

My favorite part, though, was taking pictures of one of the airplanes when my eye glasses came apart. They had been smashed underfoot last year during vacation and living on borrowed time since then. The screw fell on the ground and I spent time looking for it, but couldn’t find it. Some nice gentleman saw me looking, looked some himself, and unbelievably found it. Still, I didn’t have the tools for even a temporary fix, but I had planned ahead and had some contacts in the car which didn’t work so well, but well enough (I think my eyes are now too old for contacts).

In the end, we visited the gift shop and wasted much money on trinkets for Mom, plus some toys for the kids and essential memorabilia for Dad. Both the boys got model airplanes which, despite my predictions, did not both get broken before we arrived home (Charles’ lasted until the next Wednesday). Alice got a space suited teddy bear, which evaporated, unlamented, during the unpacking of the van. Mom got a patch for her purse which reads VSVN. Charles later named his plane, a B-29 model, “Mr. Bomby”. He wouldn’t tell me why the plane got to be a “Mister”. Perhaps it was because of the stress of acquisition. I left Charles pick out any airplane he wanted. Then I let Corwin do so, after which Charles immediately wanted to trade in his airplane for one exactly the same as Corwin’s. I refused to allow that, knowing how it would end, and Charles melted down right there in the store. Maybe having learned a bit from the ice cream problem, Charles eventually decided to pick out a different plane, as long as he was assured that while his model was smaller than Corwin’s, the actual plane represented was larger than Corwin’s.

Mom’s favorite exhibit was a large room at the top of a seven story tower with floor to 20 foot ceiling windows. The museum sits directly south of Dulles airport between two of the runways, so departing planes fly right by the tower. You can easily see planes lined up to take off, with a departure every couple of minutes. The kids thought it was cool for about 3 minutes, but Mom made everyone stay for much longer while she watched the planes.

To pay her back for this, everyone but Mom spent a lot of time looking at the actual mothership model used in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The model builders put a lot of hidden objects that can’t be seen in the movie on the model, such as an R2-D2, a TIE fighter, a cemetery, and a couple of Cesna airplanes. We spent a lot of time looking for these, all of which we found, but there are supposed to be a number of other ones we never spotted.

Still, we had reservations at a hotel a bit closer to home so we had to depart mid-afternoon for a warm up drive to the big drive tomorrow. We drove to south west Pennsylvania, encountering some serious weather on the way. At several points it was raining so hard that even with the wind shield wipers going full blast they had no effect. Mom wanted to stop but there weren’t any good exits and stopping on the Interstate seemed even less safe than pushing on. Still, thanks to my extreme navigational skills, we made it safely to our destination.

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Saturday 14 July 2007

Capitolizing on vacation

Corwin takes a close look at the Washington Monument, which is smaller than he had been lead to believe

The morning was consumed in preparing for departure. We’re reasonably sure that all of the kids ended up in the correct cars, and none were left in the house, but frankly we didn’t check that carefully. We all had spares.

After leaving the shore, we drove over to Washington D.C., which was just a short detour off our return route home. I should probably ask for product placement fees, but we stayed at a downtown Embassy Suites which was just a few blocks away from the federal downtown area. The hotel let us check in early, which provided parking, so we were all set for a forced march to the National Mall which, as we understood, would infuse our children with a sense of history and our nation just from contact.

The walk down to the Mall wasn’t bad, it was only hot and humid, not hideously oppressive. It was about 5 blocks to the METRO station, after which we rode in air conditioned comfort and checked another box in the Charle’s transportation bingo. The main issue was that the word “Mall” made the boyen think we were going shopping, which they like even less than educational expeditions.

We arrived at the Mall in time for lunch, which we took in the Old Post Office which was, oddly, an indoor mall. It had airport level security, which seemed just a bit odd to us, as how could you hijack a shopping mall with box cutters? I suppose they wanted to feel as important like the real buildings

After fortifying ourselves with grub, we ventured forth on to the historic ground. We saw the Capitol Building, the White House, the Reflecting Pool,and the Lincoln Memorial from a distance. We then toured the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the Mall until it closed. Alice thought it was OK, the boyen thought it was wonderful.

After we got booted, Mom tried to get the kids to visit some other historic site, but Alice had spotted a carousel on the Mall and whined until Mom gave in and off we went. Mom initially rode on it with Alice because we figured Alice would melt down without parental support, but instead Alice cried until Mom left and she was able to ride all by herself. We then bought some ice cream from the attached snack shop, except for Charles. He declared that he didn’t like any of hte pre-packaged items for sale, so we didn’t buy any, after which he collapsed in abject misery because he had no ice cream. Naturally, by this time the shop had closed so Charles ended up getting nothing. It’s not clear he learned anything from this.

Everything was closing, so we wandered over to the Washington Monument. We couldn’t go inside, but we could see the outside as closely as we liked, and watch the planes landing at the nearby airport. In time, though, the childrens’ historical awareness glands filled up and we subwayed back to the hotel, where, being in the down town area of DC filled with a fabulous variety of restaurants with a world spanning cuisine, we had a pepperoni pizza in the hotel restaurant. Historical absorption wears out the same mental muscles as cultural absorption.

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Friday 13 July 2007

Life's a Beach, Day Seven

Ghost crab

Today was our last day at the beach. We tried to get an early start but, haha, kids. You know how that goes. On the other hand, although Charles told us when we arrived that he was at beach “just for the sand”, he did end up playing in the waves quite a bit, much more than he had on previous days. In fact, he managed to be a bit scary in how far he would go out in the surf since he can’t swim. We hadn’t watched him particularly carefully on earlier outings because he wouldn’t go in the water. As usual, it was a mixed blessing when a child discovers that he likes to do something new.

Alice and Liam also had a lot of fun in the surf. They became convinced for some reason that jumping while a wave was coming in was required or made them safe. Their explanations of their activities left a bit to be desired in comprehensibility.

We retired mid afternoon for some left overs of the previous two days of eating out and to play some Magic: The Gathering.

The evening activity was the Ghost Crab Saunter, a walk in the dark on the beach looking for crabs that only come out at night. I think everyone enjoyed it, although Charles and I spent a lot of time searching without seeing any crabs. Eventually we ended up a long way down the beach and started trudging back when one of the park guides found us (he didn’t say, but presumably to prevent us from wandering off and leaving our bodies as biological waste on the beach). About that time, I found some holes which were clearly crab dens, but no crabs. There were crab tracks. I asked the guide about it, but he was dubious. I, however, had a disappointed Charles so I was willing to grasp at any forlorn hope and decided to just follow the tracks to see if they were really crab tracks. We had to go about 20 or 30 meters (a serious hike for a small crab), but at the end of the tracks we found a crab, one of the bigger ones that was found. Charles was very impressed and excited. Corwin, who had been with us originally, had wandered off by then and missed out. Poor Mom had become mired down with a melting Alice, but at least that provided a clear beacon to regroup as we headed back to the parking lot.

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Thursday 12 July 2007

Life's a Beach, Day Six

A cormorant achieves take off velocity

Today was boat day. Charles, of course, was in favor of any activity that would let him expand his check list of transportation systems used, and LeAnn and Scott wanted some sort of educational experience. Therefore we took a bay tour on a pontoon boat, observing much wild life, both inside and outside the boat.

We had a nice sack lunch at some park benches. The parents spent much of their time trying to convince the kids to not fall in the harbor. Charles and I took some time to walk over to a “boat hotel” that is part of the marina at the harbor. This was a large building where boats were put in to layers of slips. Charles liked that idea, but he liked the big machinery needed to get the boats in and out of the hotel even better. One was a huge forklift and the other a motorized frame with two flexible strips in the middle to raise and lower boats from the water. Charles and I also were able to talk to a boater who was putting a catamaran in the water.

The next stop was over to a beach on the bayside for further learning. While waiting, the kids headed out in to the bay. It turns out that the bay really is very shallow — I don’t know if anyone managed to get to a spot that was over their head. There were a lot of sand bars enabling someone to be a hundred meters out yet in water that barely covered their feet. It seemed like a great place to introduce young kids to the ocean, with basically no waves, warm water, and very shallow.

Eventually one of the park people showed up for the learning experience, which was dredging parts of the bay and seeing what was captured. A wading pool was set up to keep the critters from expiring immediately. Eventually they had quite a number of crabs and jelly fish, along with some normal minnow looking fish. The kids seemed to have a good time, even Alice carried one of the jelly fish from the net to the pool and Charles helped out with the seining.

There were a couple of odd fish that the lovely park host Laura decided to take back with her in order to find out what they actually were. After that, someone located a live horseshoe crab (there were at least dead ones laying around the beach area) and everyone went out to see it. One of the kids remarked that it seemed upset, which sure as heck doesn’t surprise me.

For dinner, we went to Crabber’s Cove which was nice. Mom had whole steamed crabs. I stole one of the from her, which reminded me of why I don’t order whole crabs very often. The kids apparently ate well, as they ordered deserts but couldn’t finish them. I am not sure I have ever seen that happen before. And despite seeming to have everything go much quicker than the previous night, we were still late and exhausted getting back to the house.

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Two in one

[Corwin is laying on the couch]

Alice: I want to lay on the couch.

Corwin: Too bad, I’m already on the couch.

Dad: Alice could lay on the other couch or lay on Corwin.

Alice: No.

Dad: Why not?

Alice: Corwin is not comfy.

Dad: Why isn’t Corwin comfy?

Alice: I not jump on him a lot.

Dad: Dad is comfy because you’ve jumped on him a lot?

Alice: Yes.

Dad: So if you jumped on Corwin a lot now, he’d become comfy?

Corwin:OK, Alice can have the couch.

[Alice and Dad begin their occupation of the disputed couch. Then Liam arrives]

Alice: This is my dad. He’s ebil.

Dad: I thought you said I was comfy!

Alice: You’re ebil and comfy.

[Time passes]

Alice: I love you.

Dad: Really? I thought I was ebil.

Alice: You nice now.

Dad: Why?

Alice: Because you have a nice shirt on.

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Wednesday 11 July 2007

Life's a Beach, Day Five

Having been burned a bit too much by the sun, we decided to do a non-beach day. Mom decided that meant tennis,so she dragooned Corwin, Scott, and Ashlyn in to going with her. I was sent off with Charles and Alie to try out the pool. That was fine. The pool was shallow enough for Charles to wander about in it (even if he had to bounce on his feet to stay up sometimes). For Alice, I found a way to wrap two water noodles around her that stayed on for extended periods, kept her floating nicely, and let her paddle around on her own. I just had to hang out near by in case the noodles came off.

After pooling around, we went back for lunch, and then out for the big expedition of the day, seeing the current Harry Potter movie. It was a 45 minute drive, the last half of which we spent telling Alice that she could hold her bladder as she mewled “I have to potty!”. As you’d expect, she held out until we were pulling in the parking lot, at which point she wet herself a litte bit. Mom decided she wasn’t too soaked to leave outside to dry. Once in the theater Mom used her girly mental communication skills to get the damp Alice to sit on Dad. I didn’t get soaked too bad until Alice indicated that her original wetting was just a prelude to the deluge. I managed to get her off my lap before I was completely soaked, and luckily we were far enough forward that the rest went on to tiles instead of carpet. I then evacuated the wounded for drying outside, with a stop at the bathroom where Alice finally got to say “there’s no more pee in me”.

Eventually, the movie was over and we were re-united with the rest of the family. We then tried to go a restaurant in the same strip mall and discovered the joys of trying to seat 14 during normal dinner hours. In the end, though, we were fed and heading home in a little less than 3 hours. This left everyone so tired that we canceled the all-night 70s revival disco / rave party and just went to bed.

While driving home, we passed a place selling illuminated palm trees which look very cool in the dark. Alice said they were “polka dot trees”. Mom still said “no, we are not getting any of those”.

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Tuesday 10 July 2007

Life's a Beach, Day Four

Charles and Alice build castles in the sand

Another beach day. This time we tried a state park beach, which was quite a bit less crowded. The weather was a bit iffy, with a high of only 78°F and a water temperature of 73°F. Ashlyn and Gwyneth only swam a little bit before their lack of any body fat rendered them shivering masses of exhausted flesh on the beach. Their cousins left shortly afterwards to keep the girl gang together. We stayed on because all of the children seemed to be having an excellent time — Corwin out in the waves, giving the life guards ulcers, Charles and Alice creating beach hazards.

We had to leave the water twice due to harsh conditions of wind and fog. Apparently at such times the life guards can’t watch the beach, so everyone is rousted. What was amazing to me was how fast my eye glass lens would fog up with sea salt from the mist in the air. Within less than ten minutes I could no longer tell if it was foggy or it was my lenses.

Charles had a melt down at one point when he discovered the effect of a rising tide on sand castles. Mom eventually calmed him down. Alice spent a little bit of time playing in just the edge of the surf, but wasn’t willing to go out in the waves even when being held. The little ones also found lots of tiny crabs while digging in the sand. I tried doing some building myself but couldn’t bring myself to keep hitting the crabs with the shovel.

Our family didn’t get back to the house until 3 or so, and everyone was so tired that we had a quiet evening with naps. We didn’t even break out any glow stuff.

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Monday 09 July 2007

Life's a Beach, Day Three

Corwin, wave rider

The morning was slow again. Charles got up early so that he could play Rise of Nations before there we told him he had to interact with the other children. However, I let him play on after that because he was teaching Ashlyn how to play. It was so sweet.

After a long period of gradually emerging consciousness, we went back to the ocean and stayed until mid-afternoon. Alice and Charles had more fun with the actual water this time. Charles in particular had much fun jumping in and out of the surf. It was double fun day because Charles and I stopped on the way through the beach front shops and picked him up a big sand shovel. Much digging followed from that action. At the end of the day I had make Charles fill in a couple of holes that were deep enough to be navigation hazards.

Alice spent her time helping Charles, hanging out with Mom near surf line, and dancing in the sand.

Corwin had a big day. He started out depressed because he had some kind of rash on his stomach and arms. My theory is that it was a combination of abrasion from body surfing combined with swimming in a chlorinated pool without showering afterwards. After I told him that it wouldn’t get much worse if he went out, as long as he showered afterwards. He ended up wearing his shirt and spent most of the rest of the time out in the waves, until he was so tired that I had to wade out and haul him back in to keep him near to the shore and out of the forbidden zone. He would claim “I can go faster without help” but when I let go, he’d go under. After ten or so minutes of sitting out, he was back in action.

We left soon after that, without anyone getting serious sunburn. Mom was the worst, so naturally she blames me for not putting enough sunscreen on her back. However, I managed to get my sunscreen on without any help. So clearly, it’s not a problem with my quality of work. The only plausible explanation is some sort of sun screen repulsive field in her skin. Or sabotage by some dark force.

This evening was fun for me, at least. The gang was getting ready for bed, except for Alice who had passed out earlier while under the care of Gwyneth. I needed to burn up some of my glow stick stock, because I’m not allowed to buy more until the current supplies are consumed. So I seeded Liam with a glow stick and told him to go tell the rest of the kids “look what I have and you don’t!”. This set off a man hunt where a rabid pack of children were hunting me. I hid behind the door in the other parent’s bedroom upstairs because kids are generally very bad about thinking to look there. Ashlyn actually went in to the bathroom whose door faces the bedroom door and failed to find me, either via my reflection in the bathroom mirror or just turning her head a tiny bit more while leaving. The kids then checked the closet, one of the commenting “yeah, but wouldn’t it be freaky if he had been there and had jumped out at us yelling ‘boo!’?”. Well. I am not one to overlook a good suggestion, whatever the source. A few moments later, it occurred to Gwyneth to check behind the door, at which point naturally I jumped out and said “boo!”. I was rewarded with screams of terror from the entire girl gang. Ah, how sweet it was!

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Sunday 08 July 2007

Life's a Beach, Day Two

We’re taking it a bit easier this year. We woke up slowly this morning — Mom let me sleep in until 8:00! Even more amazingly, there was still coffee left when I came down.

Alice’s first ocean experience

After hanging out for a while we went off to the beach. That was a bit of a chore, because the house isn’t on the shore, so we have to take a shuttle1 van from here to the ocean. To do that, we needed to get guest passes. And to do that, we needed to visit the central office for the neighborhood. Scott and I had to walk down there three times. Once last night, to find out that they didn’t have any of the guest badges available, the second time to be told that we needed the rental agreement. But third time’s the charm!

We spent the time waiting for the van slathering sun screen on the children, so the wait didn’t seem bad. The trip was short but while walking down the boardwalk to the beach we found a store selling boogie boards. We stopped in to buy some for the kids, having made the decision to buy them on site rather than pack them in the car.

The kids all had fun. It was Alice’s very first time at an ocean beach. She was excited to go in until she got hit with her first wave and decided that maybe she wasn’t mistress of the waters. As parents, we thought that a healthy but not obsessive concern about waves was a good thing. Mom and I ended up spending a lot of time holding her hand in the surf, which Alice thought was a lot of fun.

Charles has been to an ocean before, but he was too young to remember, so in some sense this is his first time as well. He played in the water a bit, choosing to spend most of his time playing in the sand building stuff.

Corwin had a blast playing in the waves and with Ashlyn and Gwyneth. Corwin did a lot of wave riding on his boogie board. I was worried about him a bit, standing with Alice on the shore and watching Corwin with his near-drowning swim style struggling to get back up beach to avoid getting swept away from our base camp by the strong cross current from the waves.

We saw a pod of dolphins out a ways from shore, probably 100 meters or so, close enough that there was no doubt what they were. It was hard to tell precisely, but I think there were 5 or 6 at least. We found out later that dolphins aren’t uncommon in the area and sometimes come in the bay, although that’s rare as the bay is very shallow and larger swimming creatures don’t like the combination of that and tides.

After Alice and Liam started having some melt down problems we headed back for lunch, and then some pool time for the kids (because they weren’t sufficiently water logged yet).

It doesn’t look like picture taking will be as thorough this time out. The beach is a hostile place for a camera. I ended up using just the little camera today, because even though I had the big camera the situation didn’t work out for using it (primarily because I had interact with wet, sandy children). On the other hand, one good day of shooting should cover the vacation, so there’s still hope for a successful trip.

1 Of course, it was all worth it because Charles quite like taking the shuttle bus. Charles was able to sample a wide variety of transportation before the week was over.

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Saturday 07 July 2007

We're there!

After a couple of days on the road, we made it to our destination. While we have managed to cure our children from asking “are we there yet?” by intensive applications of sarcasm, now Corwin and Charles ask “how long till we get there?” and Alice asks “where are we?”.

My favorite bits are when Alice starts making some noise that bothers Charles (at one point, it was clapping). Charles breaks down in frustration, at which point I tell him to just ignore Alice, or accept that she won’t do what he wants. He looks at me with those big blue eyes, filled with abject misery, and says “I can’t! I can’t do that!”. Someday, perhaps.

The house is nice. There are separate rooms for all of the adult couples. The older kids are all staying in one big room with 4 beds and a couple of fold out couches. Liam and Alice are staying in a room with two twin beds attached via a bathroom to our room. I had originally thought to segregate our boys there from the girl swarm, but LeAnn and Scott decided it would work better to segregate by age.

We were the first family to arrive. About an hour after we got there, LeAnn and Scott’s family arrived. I helped unpack, which provided the information that Ashlyn and Gwyneth had some deviltry planned. I was clued in by their shouts at their dad “don’t let him see the special stuff!”. It turned out later that the “special stuff” was a set of small pump water guns, with which they ambushed me. However, being full of age and treachery I prevailed over their youth and skill. I think Ashlyn was a bit put out at that, especially after she escalated to using the hose directly, only to find that fixed weapons are no match for an agile trooper with a man-portable weapon.

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Friday 06 July 2007

Big Coast Adventure

We’re off on our Big Adventure to the east coast for a week. We’re spending the morning packing and hopefully will be hitting the road early in the afternoon. This means that I will probably be too distracted to post during that time.

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Thursday 05 July 2007


Charles’ Homeworld Fleet, consisting of a Heavy Cruiser, a Carrier, and two Destroyers. Note that even though Charles used different arrangement of blocks for the two Destroyers, the actual size and shape are identical. Absolutely identical.

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Wednesday 04 July 2007

Don't rain on our parade

The magnificent trophy

Today’s big event was the Independence Day parade. This year, I finally remembered to get Corwin in with his scouting pack to be part of the parade. Mom, Charles, and Alice were content to remain spectators. Luckily, the weather wasn’t too bad so I didn’t have to deal with Corwin complaining of heat stroke part way through. He made it the whole way without any … externally provided motivation.

The basic set up was a trailer behind a van, with the older kids (including Corwin) on bikes. Several parents and I walked behind to catch any stragglers. It was very over cast, which kept the heat down but we did get a short sprinkle right as we were finishing. Not enough to get anyone wet. What got people wet were the soaker crew in the crowd.

The oddest thing is that our float won second place overall for “Best Float”. I wonder if the other floats won in other areas (“Best Equestrian”, etc.) and we were the only ones left for generic flotage. I mean, we had a trailer with some hay bails in it and bunting on the side. Not the stuff of massive visual impact. Still, we got a trophy which made the kids all very excited.

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Gratuitous Picture of the Day

Charles brings it in from center field

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Tuesday 03 July 2007

Alice and the sock puppet

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Monday 02 July 2007

Little imagination

[Erica and Alice are painting]

Alice: This one is an alien.

Erica: Is it one that sucks out your brain?

Alice: Yes.

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Our little penguin

Charles in the penguin costume he made at Vacation Bible School

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In Memoriam

We lost Big Dora today. Alice and Charles had been playing a game which apparently involved some very rough interrogation techniques on Big Dora, who remained silent despite everything the two of them could do. I have to say I am amazed that she lasted almost an entire year without getting Poly-merized or Aliced long since.

Posted by Dad at 11:42 AM | Comments (1) | Trackbacks – Ping URL


[Dad lays down on the couch for a nap. Alice sits on him]

Dad: Why do you like sitting on Daddy?

Alice: [silence]

Dad: Is Daddy comfy?

Alice: Yes.

Dad: More comfy than Mom?

Alice: Yes.

Dad: [to Mom] Boo-yah! [to Alice] Why is Daddy more comfy?

Alice: You have a nice shirt, with flames on it. I want to watch Dora.

Dad: I want to take a nap. [Dad starts snoring]

Alice: [drops a pile-driver on Dad]

Dad: Ooof!!

Alice: That woke you up!

Mom: Alice, don’t break Daddy.

Alice: I not breaking Daddy, I just jumping on him.

Mom: You might hurt Daddy.

Alice: No, I being careful! [Alice stands up, grips the top of the couch with her hands, and starts jumping in place as high and fast as she can]

Sometime in the future, Alice will tell her boyfriend “I want to jump your bones”, after which he’ll lay down on the couch and get a rather unpleasant surprise. Then this will all have been worthwhile.

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Sunday 01 July 2007

Rocket Boy

Corwin’s very first launch

From some where a few weeks ago, Corwin obtained a model rocket kit (for an Estes Astro). We had tried building rockets last year but fizzled out. With kit in hand, Corwin started bugging me again about it. Because the annual rocket club launch was fast approaching I decided to try and get one done in time for that.

I made Corwin work on both the old kit that had been moldering in my basement workshop room for most of a year and the new one. The old one turned out to be too complex to get ready in time, but the new one was prepped with a minimalist paint scheme in time for the big day.

I left early to get set up. The rest of the family showed up after lunch, when it was time for Corwin to get his first launch in. That went well with a lot of help from me, a very nice flight. Corwin was encourage by this, getting in two more launches with much less help from Dad. Charles stayed to watch this, while Mom and Alice headed out for some shopping.

Corwin was sufficiently excited his experience he wanted to know if we could go to the next club launch. I wonder if he’s enthused enough to work on the rockets between launches.

I had a good day, with 6 launches and no failures. There was a decent turn out of non-club people to watch and a very steady stream of launches. Charles and Alice liked the rockets, despite the noise.

My wooden rockets were popular, a number of people stopped by to ask about them. I managed to get one in the air for an excellent flight.

The only downside was that Corwin stepped on one of my rockets and snapped off a fin. This was particularly annoying since I had been asking Corwin to stop pacing continuously around inches from my rockets.

In honor of all this, here’s a flashback to 1999 and Corwin’s fondness for model rockets

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