Friday 31 December 2010

Sibling bonding

Apart from this, the main thing the kids did together over break was play Super Mario Galaxy 2. The sequel features much more control for the second player, enough that the kids actually fought over who got to be player two. Alice did play as player one for a bit but switched back to wanting to be only player two after that. Corwin has “won” the game, although he’s still working through the “post season” levels.

Alice’s first time playing as player one

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Builder, Baker

Grandma gave us three ginger bread house kits at Christmas. Corwin assembled one and it was quite a challenge for him. But after a couple of days of effort, there it is. Corwin’s only question after finishing this task was “can I eat it now?”.

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Thursday 30 December 2010

Charles' Least Unpleasant

Charles hasn’t really demonstrated a strong preference for one toy, except perhaps the Totoro hat

I did ask Charles “what was the least unpleasant thing about Christmas so far?” because, as we all know, Charles never actually enjoys anything, he simply suffers less from the oppression of reality at times. Charles promptly answered “Mom!” which I found surprising and Mom endearing. Until Charles realized I had qualified “unpleasant” with “least” at which point he tried to take it back. Unfortunately for him, the permanency of the Internet means he will never escape this post about his response. I told you it wasn’t over Charles!

Now, this was technically a birthday present, but I would say it’s the one thing he’s spent the most time with over break.

Remote controlled Lego Train

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Corwin's Favorite Toy

Bucky Balls

Corwin looked so cute with this that we’ve started calling him Bling Bling Boy. I will also note that I am the only one in the family to have re-assembled the Bucky Balls in to the original cube.

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Alice's Favorite Toy

American Girl Lanie

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Wednesday 29 December 2010

Sled on!

We hadn’t been taking advantage of the nice snow cover the last few days so the day before I talk Laurie that we would head out for some early morning sledding today. It was pressing because the rest of the week had rain and temperatures up in to the 50s predicted giving us a “use it or lose it” situation. I wanted to go early to have more slope to ourselves and because it might be raining by afternoon.

I got the kids up and we were on the slopes by 8:15. Even Mom and Alice came along (a bit later). Laurie and daughter Grace arrived as well and we all had fun. The slopes were pretty fast — the kids had to be careful on the north side to not slide out in to the street, although the bushes stopped them a time or two. I stayed on the south side mostly because there’s no road there. The sledding was so good that we were actually starting to get near the building there which, if you’re familiar with the layout, is a long way downslope. I tried to get some more video of Charles taking the jump but he wouldn’t go. I tried it myself with the saucer, getting some good air and landing it. When I first touched down I thought “wow, this is going to be some wipe out” but through mad skilz and superbly trained reactions, I kept it together.

Mom tried the zipfy and after a couple of runs was able to go zipping around with it. I tried it a few times but couldn’t get my steering to work. It may be that I’m just too heavy for it (I’m near the weight limit). We had a problem with the long (purple) sled. Grace and Alice tried to use it but it would turn very strongly to right for no apparent reason. Alice just learned to like flipping the sled around and continuing on backwards.

Near the end of the morning we had a couple of accidents. Laurie convinced me to try to the ramp again on an inflatable. I decided to try and video tape it on the way down. This lead to only having one hand on the grip and spinning badly just before hitting the ramp. As a result I got some good air and then landed right on my hip bone. It was quite painful although I managed to walk back up to the top on my own, which I hope indicates nothing actually broken. Shortly after this Charles managed to run in to a tree at the bottom of the hill and had some difficulty standing. I had to make a painful run down the hill with the long sled for medivac but, as I should have anticipated, as soon as I arrived ready to rescue my boy, he recovered enough to stand and walk out on his own, and was completely restored by the walk to the car. He was well enough to admit to “59 seconds” of fun (as Charles never has a full minute of fun).

I was not, but I continued to hope that some level of ambulation meant no serious injury. Mom even forced let me walk Polynomial right after we got home to help speed my recovery. I don’t think she was snickering at my evident difficulties, she must have just had a dry throat.

Grace, Alice, and Charles trudge up for another run

Grace gets big air

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Tuesday 28 December 2010

Out of the house

Mom, Charles, and Alice went ice skating today at the local ice rink. Charles struggled a bit and Alice was grumpy, until Mom noticed the rink had “skaters”, which are like walkers except they are used on the ice to help an ice skater stay upright. With this advanced technology, Mom was able to get Alice back out on the ice.

Corwin and I lazed about. I was recovering from a foot injury I got chasing Polynomial around the house. Corwin was just lazy or something. I’m not sure. I did make him go outside in the evening for some pyrotechnics.

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Monday 27 December 2010

How the boys spent winter break

Chartoro plays Plants vs. Zombies

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Sunday 26 December 2010

Sunday Drive and Dinner

Today’s big adventure was traveling up north to a small town to meet with Aunt Debbie, Uncle TJ, Cousin Tara and her family (husband Josh, Brady, Avery), and a few other relatives of Mom. We met at a restaurant there and managed to not completely trash it with the kids, even though Alice had a melt down at the bar.

Afterwards we tried to walk over to a candy store that Mom thought she had spotted (“How Sweet It Is”) but it turned out to be (1) a vintage clothing store and (2) closed. We ended up at a coffee shop that was open and had some treats there before heading back home for some serious gaming.

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Saturday 25 December 2010

Pre-Boxing Day

Christmas morning. The kids got up at a reasonable hour, although I slept in a bit and didn’t get down until the kids had already gone threw their stocking presents like chocolate through a dog. After a bit of breakfast it was on to the main event. First was the contest to spot the pickle ornament

which took a while, even though I could see it while standing at the other end of the room. Mom had to resort to providing hints. Eventually Corwin managed to locate it.

We had quite the pile of presents this year but nevertheless the kids managed to get through them all.

Most of them were popular, although Alice complained of getting a book. “What can I do with a book?” she asked plaintively. Parental suggestions of “read it!” did nothing to mollify her. Alice also got a Totoro hat which she also didn’t much care for and let Charles wear (more on that in later posts).

After a bit of rest from opening, Grandma and GrandPa arrived and we let the kids open the presents from them, while they opened presents Alice had purchased from a local charity. We ate a large Christmas dinner and then relaxed for the rest of the day while the kids played with some of their presents.

P.S. I will note that we had a turkey and this was the first time I had to carve the turkey. Due to my superior natural talent, no fingers were lost in the process.Boo-yeah!

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Friday 24 December 2010

The spirit of Christmas Eve

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Thursday 23 December 2010

From the mouth of a child

[Corwin is playing XBox]

Dad: I want an XBox!

Mom: No.

Alice: Daddy! Are you going to get a TV in your room so you can play XBox there?

Dad: Hmmm, that’s a thought.

Alice: You could play XBox while you’re in your bed!

Mom: That is not going to happen.

Alice: [giggles] [to Dad] High Five!

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Boy Humor

First Boy: I have a joke. There are three guys in a bathroom —

Other Boys: [laughter]

The first boy tried to go on, but his audience was laughing too hard.

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Wednesday 22 December 2010

Backup Christmas Tree

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Tuesday 21 December 2010

Peace in our dinner time?

At dinner, Charles wanted some Sunny D but refered to it as “Wunny Wee”. I refused to give in to his phonemic abuse and when to get myself some food from the stove. When I returned, Charles had a full glass of Sunny D.

Dad: Mom, did you give in and give him some Sunny D?

Mom: He poured it himself.

Dad: This isn’t over, Charles. This … is … not … over!

Charles: For Christmas, I want a treaty.

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Monday 20 December 2010

Guinea Poop Cannon

Alice had one the G-Piggies on the chaise. She moved on to another activity and put the guinea pig away without, of course, cleaning up after it. I brought her back to clean up the bits of guinea poop spread about the room. I had to point out various remnants because Alice was constitutionally incapable of noticing them (plus telling her to use a tissue instead of her fingers). Looking at the dispersal I asked ‘What did you do, fling the guinea pig around the room emitting poop?”. Mom laughed out loud at this, saying she had a vision of a Alice wielding a guinea pig poop cannon, squeezing off rapid fire pellets. Now that vision haunts me as well …

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Sunday 19 December 2010

Sibling Rivalry

On the other hand, Mom had signed up Corwin and Charles for acolyting and communion helper, which they argued about. Corwin eventually prevailed to become the acolyte because, it being the Sunday before Christmas, there were four extra candles he could set on fire. How disappointed he must have been when he discovered that three of them were lit surreptitiously before the ceremony as if they had been burning since last Sunday.

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Sibling bonding

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Saturday 18 December 2010

Birthday, Day Two

To finish up Charles’ birthday we went out sledding. Mom had sort of planned on that but around 7 AM the boys’ alarm clock started beeping so Mom went in to turn it off. However, she managed to set it to “blare” and woke all the little munchkins up. So she made waffles. I was roused as well and told to take the boys sledding. It turned out to be a very nice nmorning for it and the boys had a lot of fun. They were still going strong when I hauled them back so they’d be at the house when their parents came by to pick them up. Of course, Charles and Josie managed to hurt themselves. Charles started when Josie poked him in the eye with a sled trying to get it out of the van. Apparently it wasn’t a minor bump as Charles was in pain and tearing up for quite a while aftewards, although I couldn’t see any damage. I told him to just start sledding as there wasn’t much else to do about it and the physical activity would do him good. After about 20 minutes or so he seemed fully recovered.

Josie managed to get a good knock on the head during a sled jump. Three of them went down in the long sled over a ramp, got some air, and spilled on impact. From what they said, Josie’s head hit Patrick’s and (unsurprisingly to me by then) Patrick wasn’t even fased while Josie was down for the count. Eventually he, too, was able to get himself back up and walking around. He and Charles spent quite a bit of time working on building the ramp after that, although both did a few more runs before it was time to head home.

Charles and crew do a three boy jump

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Friday 17 December 2010

Double Digit Birthday

Charles’ birthday party is tonight (and on in to tomorrow). He’s having three other boys over for a sleep over. Once they arrived, I took them out bowling. Corwin went along. Mom and Alice dropped by for a bit, then took Corwin away after h finished bowling. I had the four young boys bowl on one lane while Corwin and I bowled on another. I tried to convince one boy to actually roll the ball down the lane rather than shot putting it but was unsuccessful. I worked on Corwin to throw the bowl straight rather than swinging it around his leg. I didn’t succeed at that either. To achieve a trifecta, I didn’t bowl very well either. On the other hand, Josie got a number of spares and another boy actually got two strikes in a row. So it was a good night for the boys, who seemed to have a very good time. Then we went back to get some pizza, eat it, have cake, and let the boys run wild until midnight. They played some game that involved Alice as a malefactor who had to be captured and interogated. Alice said the worst part is that she exercised so much she ended up sweating. Eventually the boys put themselves to bed around midnight and I could go to bed myself. Mom, Alice, and Corwin had long since left me to monitor the rowdies.

Charles gets a spare

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Thursday 16 December 2010

Practice makes perfect

[Alice is talking to Mom, who is on the couch. Dad walks by and pinches Alice]

Dad: Ha ha, I got Alice!

Alice: No you didn’t.

Dad: I pinched your butt!

Alice: That wasn’t a real pinch. You just did this [demonstrates on her posterior].

Dad: Oh, I see. Could you tell me what, exactly, I should do differently to succeed next time?

Alice: Hmmm. Pinch harder. Like this [demonstrates on her posterior again].

Dad: Harder, huh. Interesting.

Alice: Not too much harder.

Dad: Hmmm. Perhaps I should practice on Mom —

Mom: Stay away from my butt!

Dad: — and you could show me how to improve. You like to help Dad, right?

Alice: Yes. [giggles]

Mom: Stay away from my butt!

Alice: [to Dad] Mom’s kind of bossy sometimes.

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Wednesday 15 December 2010


Yesterday evening Corwin, Charles, and I went off to help out with a Boy Scout project which involved repackaging food from huge pallets to individual bags. While it was primarily a Corwin project, I was recruited to help out and at that point figured Charles could contribute as well.

The basic system was to have people walk in a big circle around the pallets, picking up units from each one as they went by, then tying and dropping off the bags in a large box. The staffer who set us up recommended having people at the pallets to open / restock which I thought was a bit much, but once the group got moving it was all a person could do to keep just a couple of stacks ready for repacking. Corwin and I walked and packed, which Charles helped out with pallet management. It was actually a bit of a work out, walking rapidly and carrying the food bags. We had to leave early for Cub Scouts but in the hour or so we were there we filled past the brim two large boxes a couple of meters square and a meter high and were working on a couple more in back of those. People tried carrying various numbers of bags per cycle (some up to four) but I found having two worked best — enough to be more efficient without excessive weight or losing track of which bags units from a pallet had gone in to (many items were one each, so it was very easy to grab two and drop one in each bag — more than two was noticeably more challenging).

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Tuesday 14 December 2010

It's all relative

Corwin got his “career guidance” test results back this week. It turns out that he should be either an engineer or a farmer. Farming is in his blood so I recommended going with that, especially next summer.

I was told that many of the kids got a “social work” as one of their results.

Mom: You get “social work” if you don’t hate people. In my day that would have been “secretarial service”.

Dad: I didn’t get social work.

Corwin: So you’re nice to us kids even though you hate people?

Dad: I don’t really think of you as “people”.

Corwin & Charles: Yay!

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Monday 13 December 2010

Alice's Dance of Victory

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Sunday 12 December 2010

Annual Nativity

Today was the annual Christmas play of the Nativity for Sunday school. Charles was a donkey again. Alice was supposed to be a barnyard animal but despite practicing for a month or two she didn’t want to do it because other younger kids were also playing animals. I pointed out some older kids who were but Alice still refused. We tried to make her a sheep because she was wearing a fake fur lined dress but after going out for the last practice she took off her sheep head band and wouldn’t go back. Eventually I coerced her in to being a chicken (because chickens are cool and there was only one other chicken, a boy even older than Charles). Once on stage she did well, although really her (and Charles’) part was essentially being part of a crowd and singing.

But that wasn’t enough for Mom. The service was started with the Chime Squad playing, including Mom, Corwin, and Charles. Then the service and the Christmas play. Then Alice played a solo, followed by Charles, and Corwin playing a duet for the offeretory. I tried to get some video of that but had issues with the camera and didn’t manage to get a recording. I did manage to get a bit of the Chime Squad on chip although I almost missed that too.

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Saturday 11 December 2010


It’s getting busy at the end of the year. This morning Charles had a Cub Scout outing to learn about making pizza. A local Domino’s Pizza let them come in to the back and each make their own pizza. Charles actually enjoyed himself and really enjoyed having pizza for breakfast.

Almost immediately after that Charles was off to perform in a concert with his string group. Because of this he had to skip Sunday School practice (the big event is tomorrow).

We also had to have our oven fixed. It failed last week and we finally got someone one to work on it today. It was one small resistor, less than a dollar in parts, but almost $200 in labor costs because they had to take both ovens out to get to the repair site. We had no choice — it was so bad that even I noticed the lack of a microwave.

In the evening Boyen and I went to the local Candlestick Lane lighting and hung out at Josh’s house for a while afterwards. Charles ended up spending most of his time trying to extort $5 out of some of the other parents. At one point we offered him $5 if we could shave his head but he wouldn’t. He did offer to let one parent throw a dozen eggs at him for $5, although I helped him out as a concern parent by raising that to 50¢ an egg.

Attendance seemed a bit down, perhaps because it was cold and raining. When we left the roads had become glazed which made for some fun driving. They were so slick in places that we had trouble walking back to the car. The silver lining was that the boys actually began to understand that automobile transportation was not 100% risk free.

While we did that, Mom took Alice to see Tangled which she suspected that boys would not appreciate. I don’t know how that turned out, although Mom did bring Alice back so it couldn’t have been too bad.

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Friday 10 December 2010

Little reindeer girl

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Thursday 09 December 2010

Debt planning

[Alice opens a snack bar]

Alice: Wow, mine has M&M’s on it!

Dad: You know, Alice, you can determine that before you open it.

Alice: I can’t.

Charles: I can.

Dad: Charles, perhaps you should help Alice with that. For a small fee.

Charles: Yes. A small fee. Alice, I can identify those for you for $50.

Alice: Do you even think I have $50?

Charles: No, but you can get debt.

Alice: I don’t have a debt!

Charles: Not yet …

Dad: You get debt as you go through life. Charles, are you planning on keeping Alice from ever paying off her debt?

Charles: Yes.

Dad: [to Mom] Your son is planning how to keep his sister in debt bondage.

Mom: That’s sibling affection.

Dad: Yes, he will be close to Alice for the rest of their lives. Oh, Charles, on your invitations you should put in tiny print “There may be a small departure fee”.

Charles: Fees!

Dad: Is that the kind of advice you look for from your father?

Charles: Yes!

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Wednesday 08 December 2010

A career path opens up

Charles is planning on having a birthday party sleep over. As part of this, Mom offered him some pre-printed invitation cards but Charles disdainfully rejected them in favor of making his own invitations in his own inexplicable Charles style. “Our own little Martha Stewart!” I remarked to Mom, which lead to think of what kind of show Charles could have … something like ‘Design Explosives!” in which Charles would carefully mix exotic ingredients to get just the perfect little shaped charge. “Now, this oxidizer is something I get special from Peru. It adds just the right touch to the burn and has a delightful little after-bang. For the shape I have selected this hand crafted mold from Japan that I found in a little boutique on my last trip …”

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Tuesday 07 December 2010

Duck walk

A video by Corwin of the Peabody ducks

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Monday 06 December 2010

The Bobylon Project

I was bugging Charles one day to write something so he wouldn’t pester me quite so much and this is what he ended up drawing out, the Bobylon Project, a joint venture between the “Bobs”, the DNRC, and various humans. Apparently various leaders from Hogwarts also participated. I am sure it will be a major movie event sometime in the future.

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Sunday 05 December 2010

Brutal sledding

Corwin, Charles and I went out sledding today, after the big snow fall yesterday. Alice stayed behind with Mom, which was probably a good thing as it was kind of tough weather. It wasn’t very cold (-5deg;C or so) but there was quite a bit of wind. Even with all the snow there were some bare patches. I did some patching but the boys didn’t like me using the sleds as carriers. I definitely should have brought a snow shovel. We had some good runs, although Corwin built a ramp and couldn’t actually hit it on his way down. I suggested that he observe his normal path and build it there but that was too much planning and/or work for him.

We shifted sides after a bit and found another ramp someone else had built. Corwin and Charles both managed to hit this one, although Corwin tended to flip over. Charles in contrast got some good air several times. I tried building it up but that initially didn’t help as the loose snow robbed them of momentum. I think it would worked out in the long run but Corwin had soaked both his sets of gloves by then so we headed home.

Listen for Charles laughing like a maniac when he loses control of his sled in the wind.

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Tree out

We went out to get a Christmas tree yesterday. Corwin escaped the task because he was at the Lego Robotics.

The local forestry group has a weekend where they sell trees 24 hours a day. It’s been uncommonly cold and windy with lots of snow so that takes some serious dedication.

Normally it takes us a long time to pick out a tree but either we got lucky or went early enough and we found a very nice one in just a few minutes. We took it back and strapped it to the top of the van. While hauling it back, Charles started throwing snow balls. I had to carry the tree so I wasn’t able to respond effectively. Once I had the tree on the roof I grabbed Charles and dropped him in the snow to discourage incoming while Mom and I tied it down. The technique was ineffective, so I grabbed him by the back of the coat and his underwear, dropped him face first in the snow, and then put half a handfull of snow inside his underwear. This managed to slow him for, oh, ten seconds almost. When I asked about the snow in his underpants, he claimed it was just Dad being helpful by preventing him from overheating from his exertions.

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Saturday 04 December 2010

Lego Robotics Contest

Corwin had his Lego™ Robotics contest today, starting at 8AM and lasting until 5:30PM. It did not go well for his team, although Corwin didn’t seem particularly stressed out about it. The lead up to it had focused on “team building” rather than technical proficiency which resulted in Corwin’s group not actually succeeding at any of the challenges. From what Corwin told us, the software group in the team hadn’t even tested their software on the actual robot before the contest because the “hardware” side hadn’t been willing to share the robot. Mom had tried to convince Corwin to test out his code on the Lego™ robotics hardware we have at home (which, as far as we know is identical to the school hardware) but that was too much work or something.

After Mom and I were done with other events during the day we went over to pick up Corwin. The original plan was that I would do that but Mom and Charles finished earlier than they had planned. The four of us (sans Corwin) he hung out for a while but the event ran late so I was left alone to wait for Corwin. I waited up in the “home room” that had been assigned to his group but Corwin, unlike everyone else in his group, didn’t return there after the closing ceremony. He wandered around and then called me on cell phone. Twice.

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Charles had a cello recital today. The sponsoring organization has gone to a system of monthly recitals, to which the various students sign up (as opposed to previously when each instructor had to make arrangements independently). Last month was apparently very long but just a small set of kids signed up for December so Charles was in and out quickly. I had to be elsewhere but Mom said Charles played very well.

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Alice and I went to The Nutcracker ballet put on by local youth ballet groups. I think Alice liked it although she asked if we could go home during the intermission between acts I and II. Her big thrill was being able to wear her “fancy shoes”: while watching the ballet. This was the first time Alice or I had been to seen the ballet in any form.

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Friday 03 December 2010

The price of sibling support

Alice: I want a snack.

Dad: A snack? That a great idea! [picks up Charles]. Can I take a big bite of of his butt for snack?

Alice: If I say “yes”, do I get a Daddy Point?

Dad: You’d sell out your own brother for a Daddy Point?

Alice: Yes!

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Thursday 02 December 2010

Charles, unplugged and unloved

Dad: … and if did that, would you like me kind of sort of like me a little bit?

Mom: Maybe.

Charles: Wow! Mom can have love?

Dad: I said “like”, not “love”.

Charles: Still, that’s amazing for Mom.

Mom: Charles! You were such a cute little toddler, with your blue eyes and little bunny hat.

Dad: Where did it all go wrong, Charles?

Charles: I think I lost my love plug.

Mom: Love plug?

Charles: Yes, and all the love drained out. Mom didn’t put it in tightly enough.

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Wednesday 01 December 2010


We have decided that Corwin is old enough to read the Amber series because he is named after the main character. He’s reading it out of a large omnibus but I found a couple of copies of the original paperbacks, which have wonderful blurbs on the back. Corwin was particularly taken with the text from The Hand of Oberon which reads in part ” … lead by the super human Lord Corwin …”. For some reason that appealed to him.

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