Monthly Archives: March 2011

Baahstin and fish in cages

The fambly and I just drove back from Boston (picture free) where we visited some old friends. I really like visiting cities nowadays, whether big or small, but I’m glad to get out of them after two or three days. I am a bumpkin. I walk around with big eyes and look up at the veryverytall or buildings. I go to museums and attractions. I happily fail to dress like a city person. In only one way do I attempt to seem at all cool — I try not to look at maps while walking around. Otherwise, I am impressed by everything; I want to visit every single museum, gallery, and restaurant and maybe also eat all the pastries in the entire city. I am saddened to find this is not possible.

Last time I was in Boston, over ten years ago, I wanted to visit the aquarium but didn’t have the money. This time, though nobody in the family was very enthusiastic about it, I insisted that we go, dammit.

I don’t care for zoos but I stomach it and take my kids to them anyway because I feel that they have some serious value even though they I also feel they are by their nature ethically questionable. Brad doesn’t care for zoos and refuses to visit them entirely, but he came to the aquarium with us. There were some harbor seals in a tank that seemed pretty bored and it made me uncomfortable to look at them (I looked anyway and showed them to the kids). Aside from those, there were no aquatic mammals, I don’t think. There were a lot of penguins and a few sea turtles and some various invertebrates and lots and lots of fish, of course. I found that most of the other animals’ presence in captivity didn’t really bother me, even when I thought about it and tried to convince myself for a bit to let it bother me. I guess I am prejudiced in favor of mammals. I have tentative qualms on the penguins because they seem expressive and curious. But they didn’t seem bored. They seemed to be interacting with each other or not, as they wished. Many of them swam about energetically (not like the seals, which were just monotonously and seemingly-neurotically swimming end-to-end in the tank.) The penguins appeared fine to my untrained eye, so I am not overly qualmy about them. But my total lack of qualm on the reptiles, amphibians, fish, and various invertebrates interests me in a detached-feeling way. Are they really  unperturbed by captivity? Or do I just not relate to them well enough to see it? I can’t see myself worrying about the psychological state of a sea urchin or sea cucumber. Should a shark be different? A poison tree frog? A lion fish? A shrimp? I do not have confident answers, and I have thought of them many a time before. I mostly go by the complexity of the nervous system, but then there’s also the ability of an animal to somehow display reaction to captivity (or any conditions or stimuli), and that’s where my confidence and the available information fail me. I must admit subjectivity when I decide that it’s a-okay to have a turtle live in a clean and spacious tank but maybe not so much an otter (not present at the New England Aquarium, but on display at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, NY, where I also take my kids.)

Anyway, I’ll put those thought away and say that now I’ve (qualmlessly) seen sea dragons and cuttlefish and can die happy. Love you, Boston! Now please pardon while I get the hell away from you.

Let’s wrap up with a teen- and aquarium-inspired cinquain*, modern style:


leafy wet

ripple body ripple

hideous attractive plant-animal




*If I share this at writing club I will change the last word to “drift” so as to conceal the mocking. I promised a death connection in my cinquains online. I’d bet anything that some teenager, somewhere, if writing a poem about a sea dragon, would incorporate death in there, even in a little cinquain.


Writing club for teens

You might be tempted to think that this post’s title is somehow metaphorical. I am certainly tempted that way. However, it is as literal as can be. Today was the first day of the after-school writing club I’ve started at the local school for grades 6-12.

I was nervous. I am not a teacher, and have no desire to be such. I don’t like explaining things to people, generally. I don’t get a big kick out seeing people “get it” (unless we’re talking about spinning. I do, in fact, get a huge ass kick out of that. But we’re not talking about spinning.) I don’t generally have a lot of patience. Come to think of it, that probably makes me a really bad parent. But let’s not go onto that tangent, ‘kay?

I volunteered for this. I thought of the whole thing. I talked it up at P.T.O. meetings. I was stoked. So when I felt like balking these past couple of weeks, I really just couldn’t. I was stuck. Tied by my own enthusiasm for the idea of being someone who I am not, only not on stage where nobody can really interact with me. In a room with a bunch of stranger kids who may or may not want to be there and may or may not hate me. And without any adult supervision to make sure I don’t accidentally say anything that rates as super-inappropriate-I-should-be-banned-from-all-future-interaction-with-students.

There’s another problem with me running a teen writing club. I don’t write. Not in the sense that teens write, anyway. I mean, I write this blog occasionally. But I am really a poseur with creative writing– such an one that I write it that way instead of just “poser.” I used to not even read poetry, really, until I met Brad, and then I only started to barely read poetry.

But here’s the moral at the end of the story: it was fun. They all wrote today; they all shared. They were obnoxious, but only in very amusing ways. I had to work hard to not just hang out with them, but direct the group toward writing. I look forward to next week. And I hope all of them decide to share their work at the Coffee House event we’re putting together in May. At least for the sake of getting free coffee. Because what could be more fun than posing as a writing mentor for a bunch of teens? Getting a bunch of teens all caffeinated on a Friday night!

I think I shall start writing cinquains and posting them on Facebook. Maybe they can all be about death, just like teen writing.Yup. It’s a plan.

Ice show before it gets just too old

OK, here’s video proof that H skated in the ice show. He complained every single night that we had a lesson that he didn’t want to go. I don’t know if he’ll do it again next year (he claims that he loves only skiing now). So this might be it.

It’s long. If you’re a grandparent or something and you’re going to watch the whole thing, then he’s in a blue coat with yellow bands at the sleeves and epaulets, and an orange headband. If you would like to spend slightly less time, just look at 2:08. That’s his solo on-skate glide trick. He did a good job!

Seven years

We were tired




Three and a half.


Four and a half.


Five plus some and all of us.


Six and a half.




Mystery birthday party in eleven easy steps

H likes to read Hardy Boys books. I hate them because they are silly and simple and sexist*, and yet too hard for him to understand more than about half. But no matter; he loves them. So he requested a mystery-themed birthday party this year. We had pin the mustache on the detective, a mystery ring toss, and the case of the missing birthday candles. I am documenting how this last game went because it was a pain in the butt to create and also because there were suprisingly slim its when I googled for ideas. Maybe my google-fu was weak that day, but maybe if someone else is in the same boat I was in a week or so ago, this will be helpful, while boring to most anyone else. However, all the rest of my computer time is being used up right now trying to understand public sector unions and what’s going on in WI, so this will have to do.

A relevant bit of information before reading the process outlined below: H believes fervently in leprechauns, more fervently than he believes in Santa. I have not encouraged this, but he is wholely convinced that I’ve never seen one because they are just so darn conniving.

1. Discover mid-party that the candles are missing. Loudly accuse all the birthday guests of stealing them. Listen to their pathetic protestations of innocence. Corral them in the bedroom and be a little menacing about it.

2. Take mugshots of all guests. Later, print them and give them to their parents/guardians. This will make you look like a super awesome, on-top-of-things, over-achiever parent, meaning slacker parents will hate you and over-achieving parents will want to be your friend. Before planning this step, consider whether or not you’d like to have that status.

3. Discover a verse on a card near the scene of the crime. Sheepishly admit your mistake in falsely accusing the children.  Don’t worry! This whole process teaches the children about injustice, a valuable lesson! Read the clue:

I’ve taken your candles,
so you can’t have your cake
unless you follow the clues
back to where H—- awakes.

4. While step three is happening, have someone go to the bedroom and dump out pre-prepared balloons, two of which contain the next clue in the form of a rolled-up piece of paper.

5. The children will go the bedroom and figure out after an absurdly long time and some hints that they need to burst the balloons. They will read this:

Ouch, you popped me
I’m going to bawl
The next clue is where we keep
the batteries in the hall.

6. Then they’ll ransack the hall closet and cabinet until they find your egg beater with a big tag on it reading “Take me home.”

7. They will go into the kitchen looking for where the egg beater belongs. Fortunately, H is the only one who knows, exactly, so he gets to contribute here. In the drawer where it goes, there is a card with a photo of the globe, but distorted to be stretched very very long and thin. Once the kids figure out what it is, they will

8. Run to the globe, which someone will need to get down for them or else you will have children scaling your living room bookcases. In an envelope stuck to the globe is a puzzle. They will sit on the floor to assemble it and discover it’s  a picture of a fireplace.

9. If you are not me, you may have the forethought to clean out the fireplace before the day of the party. If you are me, you will need to vacuum the living room as an afterthought. In the fireplace is a close-up picture of the wall clock. Mine wasn’t close-up enough to be hard. Curses!

10. The children will go to the clock and someone will need to beat them there to prevent the glass and metal clock from being torn right off the wall. They will read a clue taped to the back of the clock. While they are doing this, you should really remember to go to H’s room and slip the final verse and the candles under H’s pillow.  Should you forget to do so, you may need your SO to physically hold the children back after they read:

Look in a place that is under your head, and that would be in a nice cozy bed.

11. After you place the candles and final verse, the children will be released by your SO and stampede into the bedroom to locate the hidden items:

Your birthday’s in March
When the leprechauns play,
so I just stopped by early
to say happy birthday!

Then you may eat the cake, as per usual procedure.

*Note to self: check out a Trixie Belden book for H. Still silly, but less with the sexism.

Winter break

Last week was mid-winter break for H’s school. So I promptly got sick with the flu and had the fun misery of being sick, the misery of having a two-year-old yell at me for being sick and unable to cater to his every whim, and the guilt of ruining H’s school vacation by being lame.

So we tried to make up for it this weekend, by which time I was mostly better. He’ll be SEVEN this week! We partied early.

Then yesterday we went skiing. I’ve gone once before, around 15 years ago. It was a total disaster, and something I never wanted to do again. But I don’t want my kids to miss the opportunity to learn to ski before adulthood and risk the same experience as me, so off we went to Big Tupper.

Big Tupper is a great resort. It’s small. It got shut down years ago and the people of Tupper got together and re-opened it last year. They run it — all on volunteer labor. I believe they are hoping that a business takes it on now that it’s re-opened, but I’m not sure. For now, it’s a lovely family ski place, and it’s insanely cheap. Cheap enough that we could afford lift passes, equipment rentals, and 1.5 hours of private lessons for each of us and could swing it again any good weekends that are left in the season.

When I got to the top of the mountain, though, I still panicked and fell down every time I possibly found the opportunity. I’m going to go back, though. I’m going to learn to ski without panicking. And I better do it soon, because then I need to take H down the big hill. He’s in love with skiing. I am shocked, I tell you, but pleased.

But first, the ice show is this weekend. I’ve made all 19-bazillion little Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band-inspired jackets and all that remains is for the 19-bazillion children in my group to go out and skate without falling down. Too much. Video pending.

Unrelated pictures from November, mainly from our Thanksgiving trip to Philadelphia and environs:

Big boots

Rainbow Falls, back when we could see the ground

One must start learning baseball stats early to get the necessary edge

That bell is not as interesting as I've always always always expected it to be.

Glee! With famous dead people.

C discovers electricity