Thursday 30 September 2010

Can you spot the chook?

Minty fresh nesting

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Wednesday 29 September 2010


My arm after a “wug” from Charles

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Tuesday 28 September 2010

Kapla town

Kapla continues to be all the rage here at the house. Charles and Josie spent their time together today building this setup.

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Monday 27 September 2010

Patchwork reasoning

The other night at dinner, Alice was proudly pointing out my personal aversion to the sharing of bodily fluids by stating “Mom tolds us that if we take a bite of something, it’s safe from Dad because he won’t eat it”. I suggested then that Alice take a bite of herself as a protective measure but she declined. I then suggested protecting Charles but Alice didn’t go for that either.

In a not yet related incident I noted to Mom Alice’s lack of abstract analogizing. The kids have been playing the “Hey, What?” game which consists of saying “Hey, —” and having them respond “What?”. If so, then a “curse” passes to the other person. Alice ended up on the bottom end of the chain today and tried to get Mom to throw herself on the curse.

Alice: Mom, when I say “Hey”, you say “What?”.

Mom: What!

Alice: No, not now!

Mom: OK.

Alice: Hey, Mom!

Mom: Yes?

And so on for a while. I tried to get in the action

Dad: Alice, when I say “Hey”, you say “Pinch me!”

Alice: Dad, I’m trying to do something here! Mooooommm, when I say “Hey” …

Alice’s self awareness needs just a bit of work, although I haven’t succeeded so well with Corwin (Charles, as a true cynic, has a keen grasp of this, he simply doesn’t care).

This lead to today’s effort at tying Alice’s shoes, for which I was dragged away from washing dishes.

Dad: Tie her shoes? I think I’ll have a snack first. [Dad picks up Alice in preparation for chowing down]

Alice: No! Daddy!

Dad: Mmmmm. You didn’t take my advice at dinner so it’s snack time!

Alice: I licked my butt!

Dad: [putting Alice down] I don’t think that’s physically possible.

Alice: [Noticing Dad’s hands are still wet from the dishwashing] What’s that on your hands?

Dad: Monkey spit.

Alice: No. That would smell like bananas and your hands smell like lemon.

Mom: See? Abstract reasoning.

What can I say? I gave her full credit.

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Sunday 26 September 2010

Soccer Report

Corwin’s team had a much better game this time than last. I think they may have been trying to make up for the last time, playing a very good game against a much weaker opposing team. I think the final score was 8-0 even after the coach tried to detune the offense — by the end he had Corwin and another defender being the offense. But the opponents were so demoralized by then even Corwin scored a goal (his first in years).

Corwin had a good game, doing well on defense and (as noted) scoring a goal on offense. It was Corwin’s type of game until he was shifted to offense as the opponents did get it down field some but not very much. They did get close enough to require a few last moment saves. It was in some ways a mirror image of the previous game where the opponents would execute but be overwhelmed by tactical issues, taking just a little too long to set up a shot leading to being disrupted by aggressive defense.

Corwin’s team offense scored several well earned goals, a couple by low side shots through multiple defenders in to the bottom corner of the goal. Those kind of shots are almost impossible to stop, the challenge is actually kicking one. The opposing goalie was quite good, managing several impressive saves against excellent shots on goal, and doing a good job on goal kicks, getting them downfield and well positioned.

While overall the play was good, the defense was weak enough and the field so small that the passing game was somewhat lacking. Still, probably an excellent tonic, although it is a bit harsh on the opponents.

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Saturday 25 September 2010

Soccer Report

Charles’ game went well, with a final score of 3-2, thereby scoring 50% more goals in this game than in the previous two together.

The entire team seemed more energized and the quality of play was definitely better. I saw some good passing, good kicks, and some excellent drives. There was one play where the attacker drove down the side then cut along the far edge toward the goal and just as the opponents closed in he popped out a beautiful pass, out in the open and right in front of the goal. Sadly, the other attacker wasn’t quite in the right spot to take advantage of it. But, in contrast to previous games, he was in the right area rather than hanging back. Overall they did a much better job of spreading out around the opposing goal during attacks to keep up the pressure.

The other team was also playing well and it was a close game the entire time. Charles’ team scored a goal very early, then it was tied at 1-1 but soon after that Charles’ team drove in for two more scores to make it 3-1. It seemed good but having watch the game a recovery was definitely possible. The defenses hardened and there was only one more score less than a minute from the end of the game to bring cut the margin of victory to a single goal.

Charles personally was a bit off, I think he might have been suffering from a bit of a cold. He had a few good returns and a drive or two but not really at peak performance. He missed playing the first half because he was hiding behind a tree playing in the dirt and the coach didn’t even realize he was at the game. I am not sure he would have gotten much more time as they had 16 kids show up (with only 9 on the field).

There were a number of scrums around goals on both sides, so another couple of scores for either team could have easily happened. One of Charles’ teammates drove it through right up to the goal and kicked, but the goal had managed to get herself standing right in front so it bounced off her shins after traveling less than a foot. Excellent play on the part of both girls. Charles’ team had a couple of equally close calls. Quite an exciting, well played game.

Dude, hang up and check me later. I’m gone

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Friday 24 September 2010

Charles grocery seed

One of Charles’ school projects was to build a “seed dispersal system” presumably in mimicry of normal sorts of seeds. Charles ended up building at least two very elaborate grocery bag congeries, one of which you can see here during testing (it bigger after this test).

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Thursday 23 September 2010


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Wednesday 22 September 2010

The infection spreads

Corwin has been encouraging Charles to “wug” Corwin’s friends because if you can be cruel to them, what’s the point of socializing? Poor Levi had to endure sitting in the back of the van with a wugging Charles and Corwin. He had Alice as well when we stopped for a visit at my friend’s house that evening. The one thing he got out of it was that he can unleash RachelG on Corwin as payback for his treatment by Alice. That should be fun.

Anyway, Corwin now reports that it’s starting to catch on as a fad in middle school. No actually wuggings, but lots of threats of it. When Charles heard this he exclaimed “Ho ho ho, my plan to create evil minions is working!”. Corwin pressed for further details but Charles is far to clever to reveal the details of his plans before they come to fruition. All I know is that if Charles turns the middle school in to a army of mindless wuggified zombies, he is not storing them in the house.

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Tuesday 21 September 2010

Soccer Report

Corwin had a game yesterday evening instead of practice, although it was scheduled to start at 4:30 instead of 5:30. All the music lessons are on Monday for us these days and it’s a push to get Corwin to practice on time so I expected we’d miss most of the game. However, it got off to a late start and we arrived around the start of the second quarter.

To same the game did not go well would be a bit of an understatement. The final score was 1-3 but in my view they were lucky to get off that lightly. Not only were they playing badly but the other team was in top form. The opponents had good ball handling skills and dominated in one on one encounters. Worse, they were very persistent and good at ganging up. Time and again I would see a Firewhawk winning a one on one just so another opponent could sneak up behind and take the ball. In contrast, one of Corwin’s lead attackers triped over the ball twice while trying to take it down field, another of the better players fell down while doing a free kick.

I will also note that the opponents were mostly 5th and 6th graders with a leavening of older players which just makes it more embarassing, such as when two of them took the ball in against four defenders (including Corwin) and just broke right through the middle for a score. One score was a far shot after a break away (two attackers vs. only the goalie) witht the attacker doing an awesome cross shot, running to the right and then managing to kick left against the goalie’ momentum. The other two were driven right through a crowd of defenders.

Corwin had a few good returns but he was off his game as well, as he was among the defenders in both of the driven through scores.

There will be a rematch in a week or two, hopefully they will pick up their game before then.

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Monday 20 September 2010

Charles draws from real life

Note the “Mom with laptop” in the center right.

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Sunday 19 September 2010

Developing the soap allergy

Charles is starting to get ready for being a teenager — he is developing an aversion to personal hygeine. He used to love baths and showers but now resists being sent off for a cleansing after soccer practice. It’s a bit of a pain because Corwin needs to cleanse too and both take a long time at it so it’s a good part of the evening gone from start of soccer until the boys are sort of clean. Someday, maybe, Alice will get tired of being washed by her parents and we can convert the kids’ bathroom to a shower they can use.

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Saturday 18 September 2010

Soccer Report

Charles had soccer game today. The team definitely did a lot better than the previous game, both individually and as a team. Charles was certainly much more in to the game, doing an excellent job defending and helping out on the offense. Charles even saved the goalie a couple of times with a well done and well timed boot. He didn’t

The team actually scored a goal which is their only one so far. The other team scored as well leaving it a 1-1 tie. Charles team almost scored a second goal but it was called back because the quarter had ended just before the kick. Charles was a bit disappointed about that.

Charles was only able to play 2 quarters because 15 players showed up for the game and only 9 go on the field at a time.

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Friday 17 September 2010

Gratuitous Picture of the Day

Mom says, “make sure you get a picture of Alice’s gap”.

There ya go!

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Thursday 16 September 2010

Industrial repair

Another recent Mom project has been fixing our clothes washer. It is a front loader and therefore has three baffles that help agitate the clothes. One of these came off recently. While Mom was investigating solutions another one came off and only was was not working very well. Examining the baffles we noted that each had tables that slid in slots in the main drum with a screw to hold it in place. We had a repair guy come over to check it out and he said that he would have to disassemble most of the machine to get at the outside of the drum to work on the screws. That would have added up to some serious labor charges.

Mom did some more network based investigation and discovered that you don’t have to take the washer apart very much. The engineers did a good job by arranging the soap intake hose connector to come off easily and the hole it uses to match up with the baffle screw locations almost perfectly. One need merely put in the baffle, rotate the drum a bit. Mom ordered the parts off the Internet (who charge $4 / screw but still way less than the repair estimate). Once all the parts arrived it was a simple matter to re-attach the baffles. We hope it works, although as Mom found out the manufacturer had not put the screws in at the factory so the baffles were never locked down.

For my part, I was “hefty guy” because the unit stacks with the dryer which I had to (with some help from Mom) lower and lift to move it on and off the washer. At least Mom has finally found a use for me.

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Wednesday 15 September 2010


Charles came home the other day, very proud of the fact that he had written a very long answer to a question on an in class assignment, so long he had to turn the paper over and keep going. He tried to tell us what it was about, but it sounded like “tee churt” but it wasn’t “teacher” or “T-shirt”. Charles became very upset that we couldn’t understand and refused to spell it out for us. He’s a bit sensitive because of his earlier speech problems which weren’t helped by getting braces.

Later, however, after he had snack, he wrote it down for me. It turned out to be T-Chart which is a two column listing of for and against reasons for some thing. I encouraged Charles to use his inner pirate to get more “Arrrgh!” in to the word.

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Tuesday 14 September 2010

Flushing time away

An ongoing saga in the house has been toilet problems. Last year we had to replace the downstairs one entirely because it had leaked and rotted out some of the floor boards. For the last 4 or 5 months the parental toilet has not been sealing correctly all the time. The problem was the flush lever had come loose enough from the handle to catch the flap and hold it open. A tiny wiggle of the handle would cause it to drop. Mom and I had basically just gotten used to waiting a bit then wiggling it to finish. Unfortunately we would not always remember (and the kids, never) so the toilet could be left running for hours at a time. But finally I broke down for no apparently reason and got a new flush handle assembly and put it in. Problem solved, although we’re still struggly to overcome the now instinctual impulse to wait after flushing.

This inspired Mom to work on the kids’ toilet which has been misbehaving, although not as severely. Basiscally it was just taking a very long time to fill (5-10 minutes). Mom got a new float for it but in the process of installing it the lever arm broke. We thought we could just get a replacement but it turns out our toilets are weird. Parts have been very hard to find. It took almost two weeks before we finally cobbled together enough different kits to actually fix it. I don’t know if it’s any better than when we started but at least it works again. The kids were undetered by the lack of flushing. I am not convinced that previously unflushed debris detered them. Mom or I would, every day or two, let the tank fill, stopping by hand, to get it flushed. Mornings were fun because the boys take very long times in the bathroom so created a bigger bottle neck to preparing for school.

We’re getting back to normal now, although we’ve still banished Corwin to the downstairs bathroom in the morning because he has an extra 20 minutes or so to get ready. It was a whole lot of time flushed away in the end.

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Monday 13 September 2010

Holy rockets!

One of the activities that has been taking a lot of time for me this last couple of months is a rocket project for the church. In early August the youth pastor approached me about doing something a little non-traditional for “Rally Day”, which marks the switch from the summer schedule to normal schedule and the start of Sunday School. His idea was that we would have the kids build, decorate, then fly rockets rather than releasing balloons as they have done in the past (but apparently is now considered a Bad Thing). As always, suffering from more enthusiasm than self preservation, I agreed.

As more details emerged, it became clear that having the kids build the rockets was a fantasy — we would be lucky to have time to decorate and launch. So I ended up building most of them, with Corwin helping out. In the end I built 5 “Avion”: rockets, 5 FunBirds, and 10 spool rockets. Corwin built 5 Spootniks, which are styrofoam balls with four sticks. This consumed quite a bit of my spare time over the next month and a half, including having to do several test flights to verify that things would work on the big day.

But eventually launch day arrived. Naturally I had a very full day on Saturday, with soccer games and visits so I wasn’t able to get home until 10:30 from picking up the launch equipment. I still managed to arrive at the church by 8 AM and start setting up. Corwin came along to help with things in general and I had one other adult from the church help with the actual launch. The youth pastor had roped off a well chosen section of the parking lot even earlier so we had half grass and half asphalt which wasn’t the best but better than in the street.

At 9AM the kids were turned loose on the rockets to decorate them, from ages 3 up to 15 or 16. The spools were used for the younger set, Spootniks and FunBirds for intermediate, and Avions for the eldest. The Spootniks got a light coat of gold spray paint and that actually looks good on them. The lack of coverage makes it look sparkly.

Some of the decorations were quite interesting, especially on the Spootniks, one of which looked like the Eiffel Tower. We were able to get every decorated rocket in the air, setting up racks but launching one at a time. The Spootniks and Avions flew on 1/2A6-2, the spools on A8-3, and the FunBirds on C11. Even on a C, a FunBird gets up in the sky.

I have no launch pictures because, as the only club member, I was locked in to LCO duties.

We had only a few rocket losses — 2 spools lost on impact (on grass! disappointing), one FunBird (asphalt impact, although a couple others survived it), and two Spootniks (launch rod hang, lots of melting, although not so bad we couldn’t put another motor in and fly it, the other the deployment blew the top of the sphere off). Almost all the rockets landed in the grass, due to the low wind, small motors, and a lot of luck. I was persuaded, at the end, to put A8-3 in two of the Avions which puts the rocket a good ways up. One landed across the street in the verge and the other right in the middle of Prospect. I was unenthused by that but everyone else thought it was great. I had pre-positioned adults so no kids ran out after them at least. We had one Spootnik in a tree, although it fell out on its own later, and one on the roof. We did not hit a single car.

The kids and adults seemed to enjoy it, counting down with me for each launch.

The only accident we had was almost nailing a women sitting on a bench with an engine. She was setting well back but the Spootnik tilted just the right way and the motor seemed to have an extra strong deployment charge so it shot out and hit the bench right beside her, still smoking. She jumped up, calmed herself, and then watched the rest of the launch from inside the church.

A few pictures.

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Sunday 12 September 2010

The young girl as an artist

Alice has started working with clay. Here are two of her earlier works.

“Duck in Pond”

“Girl with Ball”

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Saturday 11 September 2010

Soccer Report

Two games today, one for Charles and one for Corwin.

Charles’ game was in the morning. I thought we were running late but Charles was only the second player to arrive. I thought that despite having a large team they would be playing short. But by game time they had 12 players or so, enough for 3 substitutes.

The team played well I thought but did not do a good job at finishing attacks or playing defense. Charles was goalie the first half. He was scored on once. The other play broke through and was able to run in from basically midfield unopposed. Charles tried to set up for him but he managed to kick sideways and still get it in the goal. It’s not a good sign when a goalie has no supporting defenders at all. During the second half the goalie was switched out and gave up three goals, one of those by error but the other two break away plays the goalie had little chance of stopping.

There didn’t seem to be any really poor players, it seems it’s primarily a lack of team play. Although it’s still the case at this age that just one or two really good players can make an entire team dominant.

Charles seemed a little off to me, running somewhat but not really getting in to the action. I didn’t get many action shots for him, and once I saw him defer to an opponent which is just wrong. I am also going to work on not flinching or ducking when balls come his way. Use the body, block the shot! Charles did have some good saves as goalie and defender, and a couple of nice attack runs. He had one major collision with a teammate when both of them tried to kick the same ball.

Sadly, though, the end was a 0-4 loss.

Corwin’s game was in the afternoon over in Farmer City. Both teams played well, although I have to give the edge to the opponents despite the final 1-1 tie score. They did a much better job of defense swarming around the goal. I don’t think I saw even one really break away attack from Corwin’s team and it seemed much more that the opponents got people to the goal rather than no fast breaks. Corwin’s team played much more forward, even on defense. There, though, they were not getting in to the goal box all that well. However, the one score they had was on a setup. One player took a good shot but the opposing goalie managed to jump far enough to bounce it off his hands. It rolled over toward the edge and another player was there to pop it in for the one score.

The opposing score was on a break away where, due to lack of defense in depth, the goalie came out to block the play but didn’t quite stop the ball. The only people in the goalie box were two opponents who easily drove it in for the score.

Corwin did better than expected but not as well as hoped. He was willing to run, did better at playing strategically, and had a number of good saves and returns.

Memorable moments included one of Corwin’s teammates doing a nice stop and, while surveying to see where to go, literally tripped over the ball and fell down, leaving it for the opponents to take on the attack. There was one series of headers, it must have been four or five, with a couple of bounces and kick interspersed, that took the ball down for an attack by Corwin’s team. And Corwin’s team’s goalie ran out once to stop another attack but went past the goalie box and blocked with his hand. The other team got a free kick from right outside the box (effectively a penalty kick) but kicked badly so it wasn’t really close.

The younger siblings had a lot of fun with an apple tree growing next to the field which was heavy with ripe apples, many of which were not insect nibbled at all. I had one myself, it was quite tasty.

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Friday 10 September 2010

Chicken run

Mom has decided the chicken coop is a bit small for 5 grown chickens. She has been trying to decide how to address that problem. Her first attempt was to get some plastic chicken mesh and some stakes and set up a small chicken recreation area next to the coop. Unfortunately all the store had was three foot mesh, while Mom wanted four foot. But life is for experimenting and the three foot version was used. Mom set it all up on Wednesday morning.

The result was not all Mom had hoped. Within 30 minutes or so, three of the chickens had escaped. This constituted a critical mass in that with more chickens out than in, there was no incentive to hang out near the coop. I managed to get one back so we had at least a majority inside. I did this at the price of hitting my forehead on sharp metal tines at the edge of the coop fencing, leaving a nice row of bleeding wounds across my forehead.

Mom tried to chase down the other two, eventually aided by the neighbor in whose yard the chickens like to explore. They retrieved one but the last evaded their efforts. Mom then had to leave for her class.

I tried looking myself, despite having wounded my forehead while retrieving the first chicken. After one sweep, I decided that perhaps the chicken had wandered far so I went down to the park and swept back from there to drive the chicken back to our yard. I also tried to track down any clucking noises I heard, flushing two pheasants out of their nests but not finding a chicken. On the fourth sweep I spotted the target, nestled down in an abandoned split rail fence. Despite being apparently brightly colored, in the shade on leafy debris, she was remarkably hard to spot. Her crouching down between the rails didn’t help. It was downhill from there — I gradually herded her back to our yard, then chased her around the chicken zone. After one loop, I undid the gate because Mom had locked the other four in the coop. I planned to do one more loop with the very likely result of the chicken going in the gate and me closing it behind. But the chicken didn’t run as hard and I was able to grab her and stuff her in the coop.

Now Mom owes me big.

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Thursday 09 September 2010

The Mod Pair

Alice and Alexis cruising

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Corwin managed to break his braces. I suspect it is because he frequently fiddles with them and the internal rubber bands attach thereto. Enough bending and the wire that holds things in place breaks. A few hours later he broke the rest of his upper braces. His timing was good as he got a reduced brace weekend out of the deal. Even worse, he was close enough to the end that orthodontist said it wasn’t worth putting the rubber band elements back in, therefore Corwin could stop wearing rubber bands. Not teaching him good lessons. Fortunately Charles doesn’t seem to have caught on.

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Wednesday 08 September 2010


Today’s ordeal was generated from Corwin’s merit badge attempt. He has been working on the Emergency Preparedness for quite a while, even going to a special event just for that a couple of weeks ago, with another scheduled for this Saturday. One of the tasks was to prepare a survive cache for the family. Among the items selected were Spam and kipper snacks neither of which the children had previously tasted. They all wanted to try it out, the Spam tried straight from the can and fried. Corwin and Charles liked the Spam, and all three liked the kipper snacks. Mom thought the Spam went better with backed beans. I think I like my Spam straight, not fried. I have long been a fan of kipper snacks, but it looks like I will be sharing them in the future.

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Tuesday 07 September 2010


Alice now has a favorite shoe brand. Mom took her shopping for shoes and Alice had to have Nike shoes. Mom brought this up at dinner, and Alice exclaimed “That’s my favorite brand of shoe!”. Corwin was flabbergasted. I am not sure Corwin could even name a shoe brand, much less have a favorite one. But Alice has been precocious about shoes for a long time.

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Monday 06 September 2010

Limited freedom

Mom’s new chicken related project is providing them with a better run. She’s been moving the chicken coop around but now that the chickens are full grown they destroy the grass faster than Mom can move the sled.

Therefore Mom is trying to able to fence off a portion of the yard which is large enough for the chickens to get some more roaming and has expendable grass. Her first attempt is posts and plastic chicken mesh. Unfortunately she could only find the three foot variety instead of the four foot. We will see how well that works out.

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Sunday 05 September 2010

The past is always behind us

The big activity over the weekend was Mom’s XX High School reunion (yes, Mom graduated from High School, don’t believe the rumours). On Friday Mom went out to a bar for a pre-reunion reunion, Mom only lets me out in public with her in limited amounts so I was left home with the kids. On Saturday we went to a tour of the High School, given by the superintendent who was, when Mom was in High School, the biology teacher. It was interesting to walk the old halls which were in part the same and in other parts very renovated. The superindentent referred to the oldest part as “the 26” because it was built in 1926. The main hall there was the exactly the same (except for more class pictures on the wall) but other parts had been moved, or extended, or redone with audio / visual equipment rather than rotary slide projectors.

Back in my day, Mimi helped out a lot with the band, particularly the flags and the rifles for marching band. Quite a number of former schoolmates would say “hi, nice to see you — how’s your Mom?”. Even Uncle Evil’s old girlfriend Laura C. did that, although she did get around to asking about Uncle Evil as well. Just to be polite.

In the evening Mom let me go with her to the actual re-union which had an OK turnout (Mom said less than the bar the previous night, although a number of different people at each).

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Saturday 04 September 2010

Quotidian Notes

I think we had Saturday, I just don’t remember much of it. I spent it mostly working, although we did pop out for some errands. The boys each got a new computer game (Spore: Galactic Adventures and Sins of a Solar Empire Collection) and Alice got some new shoes.

But enough of that! You want to see

Alice in a bunny suit!

Charles’ mind controlling Big Blue Eyes!

No rockets — I am not feeling that generous today.

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Friday 03 September 2010

Paying back teacher

We went to the ice cream social at the primary school yesterday. We met Charles’ teacher again — he has the same one he had in second grade. I told him that since he had helped create the current Charles, he could suffer with it for another school year. He laughed nervously. We met Alice’s teacher. Alice is in a combined 1st / kindergarten class. It has 10 1st graders of whom 7 are girls, which Alice quite likes. I feel sorry for the boys, though.

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Thursday 02 September 2010

Modern Language

I found out today that the modern version of “the fish that got away” is “the game that I forgot to save”. Josie was playing some game on the computer and Charles says “I had a really good setup in that but I forgot to save it”. Yeah, I’m sure that’s it.

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Wednesday 01 September 2010

Is it over?

Alice had a little meltdown today with Alexis. I had told the two of them to stay out of the boys room but Alexis went in and was playing with Charles Lego™ airplane which made Charles very upset, especially when a few of the pieces fell off from play. I took it back and told them to stay out of the boys room again, but Alice noticed a piece missing and freaked out. As far as I could tell, she was very mad at Alexis for taking Charles’ airplane, although Charles was over it. I had to send Alexis home and Alice to nap.

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