Saturday 31 July 2010

Beach arrival

We got up lazily this morning at the hotel and then headed for the beach. We stopped for lunch at a Mongolian grill which was a bit lacking in decore but had some excellent food. I whipped up a couple of excellent bowls. Even Alice said “this meat is delicious”, not that she ate much of it. Charles kind of poked at his food but he’s never been a fan of that style. Alice had spent yesterday and today complaining that we hadn’t gone to McDonalds because there’s some toy there she wants. Mom was against it because Alice doesn’t even eat the food, which Alice admitted (Alice later became so desperate that she said she would eat the food if she got the toy). She had to be dragged crying in to the restaurant so her enjoying the meal was a big plus.

We arrived at the beach right on schedule and headed out to our rented condominium. It was nice, but was completely unstocked in the way of sundries, such as paper towels, salt, soap, etc. On the other hand, the view from the balcony is spectacular.

Mom ran out to the closed food store but it was packed solid with other vacationers all arriving today, plus the food store apparently schedules its restocking for the same evening. Charles had gone with her to get beach toys, primarily digging equipment. He wasn’t happy about the extended amount of time taken, but on the other hand he scored some sand building supplies.

We hit the beach for a while, the kids enjoying the waves and the sand. One nice thing about the rental is that it’s right on the beach so we can pop down and back in just a few minutes so we don’t have to commit to a long beach day or not. Mom, Charles, and Alice popped down in the evening for some night fun on the beach with flashlights. I was surprised at how many other people where doing the same — there were lights all up and down the beach.

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Friday 30 July 2010

Travel day

Today was a long travel day. We spent all day yesterday packing and cleaning so we could load up and go at a early hour. The plan actually worked and while we had planned to get moving by 9 AM, we actually were pulling out on the highway by 8 AM. And I think we didn’t forgot anything.

The big excitement of the day was driving through Charleston, West Virginia. As was entered the outskits, Charles declared “This is my town”. This was considered a good call until they spotted the state capitol building which has a gold leaf roof. Then Charles was very happy because he had something shiny. All the children started chanting “shiny, shiny shiny” to celebrate Charles’ winnage. As we wove through the local hills and trees, they would call out “I see the shiny!” whenever they caught a glimpse of the building. There was much sadness when we finally passed beyond it forever.

The other thing the kids enjoyed on the trip was singing little bits of the song Octopus’ Garden, inspired by Charles’ string band’s live performance of the song.

The kids also provided some excitement. Mom pointed out a large river as we drove over it and the kids started hooting with excitement. “Woooooo! A river Wooooo!”. I pointed a rock shortly afterwards and was rewarded with similar hoots and calls of “a rock, a rock!”. Mom was not as appreciative of the kids enthusiasm, even when they were impressed by the large number of trees in the mountains (Mom said there was a forest there but I couldn’t see it through the trees).

Mom was glad to stop for the night.

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Thursday 29 July 2010

Dinner conversation

Dad: Charles, what I really like about the fact that you had to use your fork, your bowl, and your fingers to get the corn in your mouth is that you still managed to drop some on the table.

Charles: Isn’t that one of the most wonderful things about life?

Dad: OK, that one’s going on the kidlog.

[Charles, Corwin start hooting]

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Ouch ...

While packing up for the trip, I found a fragment of light bulb glass with my foot. I thought I pulled it out but it still hurt quite a lot, so I dug around with some tweezers enough to verify there was still something embedded. It was hard to get out because it was clear glass and I couldn’t see it to grab it. But in the end I retrieved it although it’s a bit of a bother because it’s right on the ball of my foot. Should be fun for the trip.

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Wednesday 28 July 2010

Escape from camp

Charles came home from camping today. I drove out to pick him up because there had been some discussion about a potential lack of adults for helping break camp and transportation. As it turns out, there wasn’t really, but it was still nice to get Charles and his stuff home directly.

Charles seemed in good spirits, although he refused to discuss anything that went on at camp except that the water tasted “different”. I personally like the well water tang there but Charles was evasive on his gustatory evaluation of the difference. Charles seemed to have a remarkably small number of insect bits. He also managed to make it through without getting rained on, something I indicated he should be sure to point out to Corwin (which he did, twice). Corwin amended his question later because, as is frequently said, it never rains at camp, it’s just very heavy dew.

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Tuesday 27 July 2010

The Horde

Mom keeps some milkweeds in the front area to feed monarch butterfly caterpillars. Last week she discovered some undesired quests. It was a mini-horde of tiny little caterpillars. The horde in the picture is only half — the other side of the leaf has just as many. Mom decided that, as guests, the caterpillars should be invited to meet with the chickens. Unfortunately they were not as capable of clinging to the leaf as Mom thought and most of them fell off. Mom tried to catch them in a bucket but she used one that was handy and had water in the bottom. So the chickens only got to meet a few live caterpillars, who didn’t last long under the beaks.

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Monday 26 July 2010

Writing time

We have been pushing Corwin to do a better job on his Boy Scout troop’s website, since he’s the WebMaster. The latest extra task loaded on him was dealing with pictures. I haven’t yet tried to get him to edit the pictures, we’re still at the “editorial discretion” phase where he avoids uploading the really bad or redundant pictures. Corwin was not thrilled with this but such is the life of a hard working scout. Now we just have to get him to produce the content that can use the pictures.

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Sunday 25 July 2010

Camped again

Today we sent Charles off to Cub Scout Adventure Camp, a 4 day / 3 night camp at the local Boy Scout camp area. It will be his first camping experience without his own parents, with five other boys from the pack.

I drove out with Charles to help him set up. I had him start helping me with the tent but they had to go off for the swim test so I finished it up for him. Charles just did the “beginner” level, although he told me afterwards he should have tried for the next level up, because failing that just means getting a beginner rank. He had some problems because we forgot to pack his goggles which he normally wears. As a result his normal style of ducking his head every other stroke or so was not very successful, since he ended up stopping every third or fourth stroke to clear his eyes. I suggested he learn a style that didn’t involve head immersion but Charles didn’t see the point.

That was it for me, so I left Charles in the capable hands of the scout counselor who was in charge of their campsite. He promised he would do all he could to help Charles survive. I told him to not worry too much, as I had taken some pictures before I left, even though they were pictures in which Charles made funny faces, somehow not anticipating that I would actually show them to anyone else, or even download them from the camera.

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Saturday 24 July 2010

Fly boy

We had a very busy day today, plus I am way behind on some work stuff, but the rocket club had a launch and Corwin was very insistent on getting out to fly some of the rockets he’s built. So off we went, taking along Corwin’s Quark and “Spootnik” which is basically a 4 inch Styrofoam ball with 4 sticks in it.

Things went well. Corwin flew his Quark three times, once a ¼A and twice on ½A. I suggested going to a full A motor but he was already having trouble keeping it in sight despite its garish neon paint. The ground was damp from rain and so the Quark nicely lawn darted every time1, albeit undamaged.

The Sputnik did well, with a good flight.

I tried a couple of my rockets with success, although the first one landed near the creek. Although the nose cone was literally danging over the water, the shock cord hung up on the cattails, it was not actually in the water so I count it as a good landing. I had to wait out in to ankle deep mud to get it back but such is the life of a model rocketeer. Much worse than the mud were the lacerations from the cattails.

1 The Quark is a “tumble recovery” rocket, which means it is so light that there’s no parachute or streamer, it just falls out of the sky.

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Live Sparky

Charles finished up his week at Bowdacious camp with several concerts. The others were for special groups so we attended the one today which was open to the general public and the very last. It was good and Charles actually played on almost all of the songs in which he had a part. He even did some percussion in a small group as a result of taking the percussion class during the week.

Charles, as far as we can tell, which isn’t very, enjoyed his Music Theory class as well. We were told that he had done well in it, which based on the tone and effusion, was unexpected. I wonder if he remembers anything from it.

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Friday 23 July 2010

Benefits of learning

Mom is still working on having Alice learn how to ride a bike. There was a burst of interest earlier this summer but after some injuries (Alice doesn’t like to wear shoes and so scrapes her foot badly basically every time). Since then Alice has been content with the tag-along (which is sufficiently geared that Alice can help bike — Mom says that on one recent trip Alice was doing most of the work for a while).

However, Mom is nothing if not devious. She let the boyen go off to the local grocery store on their bikes to get some slushies. Alice was not permitted because Mom and I had to work and she couldn’t ride a bike. She was very upset about it, almost enough to try the bike again. But Mom is also patient. Hopefully a seed has been planted.

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Thursday 22 July 2010




Steely-Eyed Charles!

Because that’s how we roll here

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Wednesday 21 July 2010

Magic 2011

As a reward for the boys, I pre-ordered some Magic: The Gathering cards for the Magic 2011 release so they could finally have card libraries and decks themselves. I got them each a “variety pack” which is a set of the 5 pre-constructed decks, a Fat Pack, and a box of booster packs. They were both quite excited but managed to draw out the fun by not opening everything in the first 15 minutes. I tortured Corwin by not explaining what a Fat Pack was, pointing out that he had one so he could just open it and find out. Why spoil the surprise? I got one for myself as well, so I could have something nice and not worry about the boys destroying it (they can destroy their own copies now!).

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Tuesday 20 July 2010

Building Summer

Because Charles and Josie were having so much fun building this summer, I obtained another box of Kapla for Charles. I dropped it off to him, then decided to check in a couple of hours later to see if he’d played with it. He had already used the entire box in a construction (the bridge below).

Expanded Lego™ Fleet

Fancy bridges

Towers too (with help from Josie)

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Monday 19 July 2010

Bowdacious Camp

Charles is spending his days this week at Bowdacious String Camp. Mom tells me that there are only 3 cellos (including Charles) this year so he won’t be able to able quite as well. He is also the only person in his Music Theory class, which should prove interesting. Charles decided to take it on his own, Mom had nothing to do with it.

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Sunday 18 July 2010

Gearing up

Mom went out with Charles today to get a new bike for Charles. We have been on a couple of bike trips lately where Charles had a hard time because his bike didn’t have any gears. We would get cruising (Alice on her tag-along) and poor Charles would have to pedal at a furious pace and still not keep up. Charles himself was lukewarm about the idea. I thought he would understand it immediately, given his time spent in driving games but Mom still had to explain the concept to him.

Charles ended up with a bike very similar to Corwin, with 21 gears (3×7). The sit is set very low because Mom was persuaded to get the 26” version instead of the 24” we had planned. The shiftting is done by rotating dials on the handle bars. Charles seems pleased with his new bike so maybe we’ll be able to do more family biking without worrying about reducing family size.

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Saturday 17 July 2010

Corwin's back from camp

Our elder boy was returned to us today from his week long camping experience. Oddly, his first request was for a shower. I didn’t ask whether he had had any at camp because I didn’t want to know. Corwin also noted that he had done better at camp by not asking to escape early, which I think is a good sign. He admitted that the experience was “one step above tolerable”.

Corwin signed up for full days of merit badge work. One he didn’t quite make was Shotgun. He started out well but fell three hits short of achieving the required accuracy (which is 48% hits on clay pigeons). I told him “there’s next year!” which was a mixed message apparently.

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Friday 16 July 2010


Mom has started to let the chickens out of their cage for some free ranging. She likes to sit and watch them as they peck about the yard. Polynomial finds it puzzling and interesting. The chickens are becoming used to her, although they still flee from Alice (which makes Alice a nice “fence”). Poly has demonstrated a bit of a herding instinct but not enough to be useful.

The chickens tend to be very social and won’t tolerate being separated from the flock for very long which also makes herding them easier. One of the chickens roosted in the pine tree for a bit but gave it up when the separation was too much.

How can I sniff those butts without getting feathers in my nose?

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Thursday 15 July 2010

They're baaack

Mom headed out today to pick up Charles and Alice from Grandma’s house. It seems that Grandma’s strategy this time was just like Mom’s, straight up bribery. Alice had five new Barbie dolls, only three of which came home. Charles got a new Lego™ tanker truck. Meanwhile, Charles’ potty manager bribe had arrived and was waiting on the kitchen table. It’s the first thing Charles asked about when he arrived home. By evening it was built.

Of course, I must acknowledge that Mom bribed her kids with their own money, which is a nice technique when you can get away with it.

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Wednesday 14 July 2010

With an arrow

Mom and I went out to see Corwin at his camp. Normally Mom gets to stay home but this time Charles and Alice were off at Grandma’s and Corwin was going to get inducted in to the Order of the Arrow which is a Boy Scout honor and service group. Now he’s off to the ordeal which is required on incoming members. Hopefully he’ll survive.

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Tuesday 13 July 2010

Defeated but not broken

Josie: [singing] Chimpanzee riding on a Segway! Chimpanzee riding on a Segway!1

Charles:[singing] Cucumber pooping on a Segway!

Mom: Charles, no. That’s not appropriate.

Charles: Well too bad! Now it is.

Mom: No, it’s still not appropriate.

Charles: [to Josie] Dang, she’s good! [to Mom] I’ll get you next time!


Alice: This is home made macaroni and cheese. Made by Mom, with looooovvvve.

Charles: Oh right, like she would have that.

1 See here if you dare.

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Monday 12 July 2010


Due to Mom’s pestering, I cleaned up the banner and side images to be from no earlier than 2008. I definitely need to start accumulating more of those so I am not so desperate for variety that I have to reach back multiple years.

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Two more down …

… Charles and Alice were exiled to Grandma’s house this morning until Thursday evening. I thought Mom and I could have a date or two but we’re still so fully scheduled we could only manage a quick trip to the local sandwich shop late this evening.

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Sunday 11 July 2010

Corwin is off …

… to Boy Scout camp for a week. Mom seemed to think he was upbeat about going, but he told he it was only to get in to the Order of the Arrow and he didn’t plan on going next year. We’ll see about that.

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Saturday 10 July 2010

Acting appropriately

We were in the sun room with some guests when Corwin decided to start hitting things with an edging strip of the foam mats on which Alice practices her acrobatics. It made a rather loud sound and Corwin tried it out on me. It created a barely noticeable sting so I didn’t pay much attention, although after a bit I tried it out myself on Corwin, then on Charles. Charles started screaming and struggling to escape from the strikes. I paused and pointed out that Corwin, the boy who yells in pain before I make physical contact, didn’t even flinch. Charles says “OK” and no longer has any concerns. So apparently the actual physical experience wasn’t the important thing. He just needed to be told that it didn’t hurt.

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Thanks for the bulletin

[Dinner conversation. Suddenly Alice has a great insight]

Alice: Daddy, when you were young you were thinner.

[Dad is near tears at Alice’s awe inspiring insight in to the aging process]

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Friday 09 July 2010

Straight up bribery

After a week with only a couple of mornings where Alice didn’t wake up in urine soaked sheets, Mom decided to try explicit bribery. Alice had been admiring a particular castle with prince and princess toy which Mom found on sale at a local store. Alice was promised that she could use her Christmas / birthday money to buy the toy if she went an entire week without any containment failures.

A few days later Mom noticed that Charles was helping Alice, acting as her “potty manager”. Mom thought that was sweet until she also discovered that Charles had convinced Alice that what Alice really wanted was a Lego™ airplane about which he had been pestering Mom. I thought it was that Alice liked her brother and was willing to be cooperative, Mom’s view was Alice was just easily confused by a smooth talker like Charles.

Today marked the one week goal and Mom let Alice and Charles both buy the objects of their dreams, which have finally wiped out the piles of cash from relatives they had been accumulating. The Lego™ kit had to be ordered online so Alice got her toy first. It had to be assembled. Normally this would have to be done by a parent but Charles got the project started immediately and had it finished by the end of the evening, despite some frustration (I only had to help with one window which didn’t fit as well as the others).

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Thursday 08 July 2010

Road trip!

Mom got the idea (over the weekend I think) of taking a road trip down to the City Museum with the whole family. That’s what we did yesterday. Her plan was to get us on the road by 6 AM. We came close, pulling out of the driveway at 6:30.

We had an almost pleasant trip. It got better once the kids were zoned out watching Castle in the Sky on the DVD player. Alice had insisted on watching it and naturally had misplaced the DVD the night before (because she wanted to watch it then) and was whiny and frantic in the morning when she couldn’t find it. Charles eventually came through, finding it in the music room (we decided to not inquire too long in why it would have been there).

We arrived at the City Museum a little before 10 and got started.

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Wednesday 07 July 2010

Gratuitious Picture of the Day

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Tuesday 06 July 2010

Wug wug Charles

Charles has become overly hugful lately. I have tried to redirect him by noting how lonely Mom is when she’s not being hugged but that has had limited success. Direct complaints were defused by Charles renaming his activity “wugging” and eventually “McWuggets” as in “Here, Dad, your order of McWuggets!”. He is so obsessed he will even wug his sister (but not any non-consanguineous females).

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Monday 05 July 2010

Gratuitious Picture of the Day

If you look with an open mind, you can see two smiley face fireworks, one in the upper left and the other in the lower right, in orange. They’re both a bit tilted but otherwise not too hard to spot.

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Sunday 04 July 2010

Enjoying Independence Day

We had a big today for Independence Day. Mom decided that Charles should participate in the Youth Run held before the parade. Mom had thought she might do the 5K adult run but managed to set herself up as a reader for church so she would have an excuse. Charles ran well, running the entire way, and coming in third. At the end he was in a close race with another boy who tried to keep ahead by repeatedly crossing over and into Charles. The first time seemed accidental but after 3 or 4 repeats it was clearly a tactic. Charles, however, had kept a reserve and so was able to burst pass for a better finish. He got a nice ribbon, which they were handing out to the first 30 or so finishers. Charles was forced to fill in the event data on the other side and resisted the temptation to simply write in “first”. Mom was thrilled because Charles ran with a couple of cute girls most of the way although, once the end was in sight, they were abandoned in Charles’ drive for victory.

We headed home after that but immediately set out again, this time on bikes, because Charles and Corwin were in the Scout float (which was the third one in the parade, presumably in honor of Charles’ stunning victory in the morning). The kids rode bikes, and I walked along. The weather was warm but not stifling and reasonably pleasant until we were hit by a sudden rain storm a little over half way through. It only lasted 10 minutes or so but featured some very heavy rain. The marching band behind us was forced to flee for shelter to protect their instruments, although they came back out when it backed off to a light drizzle. We, being Scouts, forged on regardless and were cheered by the crowd that remained.

At the end I had hoped to catch a ride back to the start but the boys wanted to find some Scout sponsored snacks so I ended up having to walk back to get my bike. Mom thought that was fine, I needed the exercise. While walking back to find Mom, Corwin was greeted by at least two different girls of his age, both of whom he tried to ignore. For one of them I had to physically restrain him so that the greeting could proceed. The girl commented “Corwin, you can’t ignore me and walk away just because I said ‘hi’!”.

The evening was for fireworks. It was a good show (I took a few pictures) and the kids were only somewhat ill-behaved. Best of all Mom tried a different exit strategy and got us home in much less time than previous years.

Charles starts off strong

Charles with the inevitable admirers

Biking in the parade

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Saturday 03 July 2010

ISYM Finale

Today’s big event was Corwin’s concert at the end of his ISYM camp. Corwin played well despite forgetting to bring his chin rest. We arrived early but the audience was already mostly there, watching the practice. This at least made it easy to get some action shots of Corwin before the real event. Corwin was envious of the harpist, who is a girl at the church, because she managed to be right in the middle hidden by her harp and music stands so that no one could take pictures of her.

We hung out on campus for a while afterwards while Mom and Corwin went off on some ill defined errand. I stalked Charles and Alice for pictures while Grandma waited patiently and pretended we were related to other people. The errand might have been about pictures because earlier we had this conversation —

Mom: We need to remember to picture up the ISYM pictures.

Dad: Where are those?

Mom: I am not sure. Surely Corwin knows.

Mom & Dad: Hahahahahaha!

Mom: I will ask some staffer when we get there.

I took a nap after that then Mom rousted us all for a round of mini-golf. Charles did not do well and nearly broke down a couple of times, even after I helped him with his putting (quite successfully but it didn’t seem to stick). I managed to tie Corwin (with Mom a couple of strokes back) but I suspect that was my last moment of glory before being eclipsed.

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Friday 02 July 2010


Zina and her sisters have been running a half day once a week day camp for young children. The turnout hasn’t been quite as much as they had hoped — Alice and Charles are really the only regulars although some weeks there are other children. Zina’s mom was lamenting that to me the other day when I dropped off Alice and Charles, but on the other hand it did mean her girls had at least one afternoon a week outside and without electronic entertainment so it wasn’t a complete loss.

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Thursday 01 July 2010

Berry time

The raspberries have been coming in very strongly. Mom was forced to make raspberry jam because, due to the fact that only she and Alice will voluntarily eat raspberries, she had far too many left over. I have been encouraging Mara and her sisters to come over and eat them but that hasn’t yielded much fruit results.

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