Another week has come and gone. It’s startling how little time it seems to take to move from Sunday to Sunday. Part of the motivation behind our recent weekend roundup posts is an attempt to be more deliberate in taking note of the contents of our lives, hoping that looking back on recent happenings might help them find a sturdier place in our memories.
As some of you know, Robbi and Alden have both gotten serious lately about Tang Soo Do, a Korean martial arts form practiced by Robbi’s Dancing With the Stars partner Mark Pagano. Saturday was the big end of year picnic and promotion ceremony. We were to eat some hot dogs in the sunshine and Robbi was to be presented with her yellow belt in recognition of her promotion to the rank of 9th gup.
When we got to the picnic, the Tang Soo Do-ers were practicing their forms.
August was stunned.
All his life, has known is mother as a loving, gentle giver of life.
Suddenly she was a nimble ninja who could break your wrist with a casual glance. The contrast was so jarring that he needed a change of scenery. So we wandered down to the water to give him some time to process.
In no time, he found a fishing pole.
And proceeded to use it.
When Alden finished practicing her forms, she came down to join us by the water.
Eventually the aforementioned hot dogs happened.
As well as some badminton. In our actual game play, the BAD was emphasized, and so I will limit the photographic illustration of this sad stretch of the day’s events to this shot of Robbi posing alluringly with her racquet. Which matches her shirt, if you hadn’t noticed.
After hot dogs, Alden conned some older kids in to giving her a tour of the swimming pool while pretending to be a queen.
Good work, if you can get it.
Later that night, to quench a sudden craving, August helped me shop for seltzer.
This is a recap of our week. I didn’t say that all of it was exciting.
On Sunday, we got up early and headed to the Baltimore Zoo. The occasion was Iris’s birthday party. Iris is now five. This, too, is startling. The last five years of Iris’s life have passed about as quickly as this week has passed, which is to say, without my even noticing.
August spent the entire party climbing up this yellow ladder. By Robbi’s count, he scaled it 31 times.
Kato spent the entire time consulting his zoo map. His goal was to see the polar bears, and yet, all he could find was the playground. It was galling. He grew increasingly agitated.
But then the cake was served, and the agitation evaporated. Cake is amazing in this way.
After the cake, we were off. To explore the zoo in style. Alden and the birthday girl set off in search of adventure.
The first stop was the tram that took us to the far end of the zoo.
Before we got to the polar bears, we took a detour into the petting zoo.
The petting was a big hit, especially with August, who almost never meets anyone shorter than he is.
He begged us to let him bring the baby goat home.
But when we said no, he contented himself with whispering sweet nothings into the ear of any goat that would listen. Apparently, goats have very low standards, so August made a lot of new friends.
Like cake, goats are awesome.
As are polar bears.
The zoo has a train. It takes you on a short loop through the trees.
Kato loves the train. I almost wished that I had made him choose between eating cake and riding on the train. It would have been fun to see the internal conflict play itself out.
As it was, he got to ride on the train and eat his cake, too.
It was that kind of day.
As I was saying, trains are great. But, apparently, I make an even better conveyance.
But perhaps not quite as good as a lion? the kids loved sitting on the lion.
I said, the kids loved sitting on the lion.
Here’s my advice. If at first the claim you want to make is refuted by the photograph, simply take more photographs. Eventually (as with the infinite monkey theorem, which states that if you give a monkey sufficient time, he will eventually write Hamlet), the exact photo you desire will come along.
I’ve been encouraging the boys to think about careers. The job market is so rough these days. I figure an early start might provide the competitive advantage they need. And so they both have been weighing their options.
Kato seems born to play the politician.
Look at that winning smile, that affirming affect. Policy bedamned! Give me a candidate who seems to have the answers.
He’s already picked his running mate. Clearly, she’s sold on the sunshine campaign.
He even has his victory stance perfected.
Too bad about the presidential minimum-age requirements.
If politics don’t pan out, Kato might consider horticulture.
Or competitive swimming. Now that Michael Phelps has exited the scene, Maryland needs a new aquatic sensation.
August, on the other hand, is considering animal husbandry.
Though I don’t think it’s likely he’ll stick with it. He complains of always moving away from the fires in question.
Golf is also an option.
But all of the clubs we’ve found are taller than he is.
The other day, he seemed to have found the answer. Lollipop taster.
I mean, someone has to do it, right? Otherwise, how would anyone know if they were good?
He briefly considered auto racing.
But was frustrated by restrictor plates. “I’m an all or nothing kind of guy,” we recently heard him say.
One thing we know for sure…
…competitive jump roping is not the answer.
At least, not yet.
His lack of vocational prospects has him blue.
I try to tell him that he has a few years yet, but he will not listen. “I’m basically finished,” he said. “Washed up. Just waiting for my first Social Security check to arrive.”
But then we had an idea. A great idea. A wonderful idea. What about baking?
He seems to have the curly hair needed to do the job well.
Look at the resemblance. It’s (a little too) uncanny.
He starts his apprenticeship tomorrow. I hear he’ll be on sun bun duty.
As we were leaving New York City last Sunday morning, we were driving south along the West Side (perhaps we were on Hudson)? The streets were quiet and deserted as they always are on a Sunday morning in New York.
From a distance, we saw what seemed to be a great ship at full sail, which was surprising, because even though we were near the river, it was still a few blocks distant.
We got closer and saw that the nylon sheeting had come off of a building under construction. We stopped our car in the middle of the street and just stood there for a while and saw the wind exerting its will. Like I said, there’s nothing moving in New York on a Sunday morning.
Except for the wind, of course.
It reminded me of that scene from American Beauty, where the kids watch the movie of the bag being blown about for 15 minutes. They say some wonderfully poetic things about the power of wind and what it reveals about the essence of life.
Happy belated Mother’s Day!! I hope it was a great one. Thanks to Alden and Kato being at Friendship Montessori School, this Mother’s Day has been weeks in the making.
First, there was the invitation to Mother’s Day Tea this past Thursday:
Then, there was the relentless whispering and secret-sharing that went on every day over breakfast and dinner. There was lots of excitement and stage-whispered talk about surprises. On the day of the Mother’s Day tea, I woke up to find the kids already dressed in their Teatime best:
Upon arriving at school, Alden gave me a lovely butterfly bracelet she had made and led me to the teatime circle.
Songs had been rehearsed for weeks, and were sung with alacrity by all the kids. My favorite was one in which the kids sang, “Mama, I love YOU” and pointed to their respective moms.
That might have been my favorite SONG, but I have to say my favorite part of the whole event was getting my cookie and strawberries.
I also liked looking down the row of well-dressed moms, perched cheerfully in their toddler-sized chairs with cookies and tea balanced carefully on their laps.
I think Alden’s favorite part of the event might have also been the cookie part:
Though giving me my Mother’s Day present might have also been a highlight:
We were asked not to open our presents until after leaving school, given that many of the presents looked the same and might get mixed up in the chaos. We then all convened outside on the playground for some running around and fun and photos, and Alden made me a dandelion crown.
Kato also celebrated Mother’s Day tea, and invited Annie from across the street to be his stand-in mother (she’s pretty much his stand-in mother in all other ways as well). He handed me his gift casually, on his way to the slide. I saved the presents for Mother’s Day proper.
Alden gifted me an awesome shrinky-dink pin with smiley hearts and flowers on it, and a lovely painted shell (which she subsequently asked for, to “add to her collection” – a collection of one, as far as I can tell):
Kato made an awesome stepping stone, which I plan to put in the garden in front of the house. You have no idea how many times I have trampled our curbside garden trying to get various things out of the car. It will be put to good use (Kato decided before I could grab the camera that it was way too heavy for a photo shoot).
Alden had also decided to make me an actual Mother’s Day card – when she makes a card, she doesn’t mess around:
This one featured me, holding a flower, with her and her friends Liza, Madeline and Mary Jane, floating in a sea of diamonds, with the occasional flower, heart, gift bag and present thrown in. The picture of Alden features a lollipop she’s just gotten from the bank. Everyone else is holding hands. We all feature belly buttons and gigantic ears with earrings. Quite a coup, if you ask me.
Our Mother’s Day outing was a trip to Turner’s Creek. We got a short but sweet hike through the woods:
Down to the beach for a picnic gourmet pizza lunch from Evergrain (THANKS, DOUG THE BAKER!!):
August refused to share and demanded his own slice:
We hadn’t planned on going for a dip, but it’s pretty hard to say no when the sun is shining and life is good.
There were some rock-throwing demonstrations:
And lessons learned:
And a whole whole lot of laughs:
Soon enough, the kids started getting cold, and demanded to be dried off and bundled up.
We headed back up the trail towards home.
I couldn’t have asked for a better Mother’s Day. And I couldn’t be a happier mama. I sure do love my babies.
And I see my own mama in all three of them.
Happy Mother’s Day, all. Even a day late, give your mamas a big hug.
We are off to New York City for the day. A quick up and down and in and out. Just a brief hiatus from the uncluttered byways of Chestertown. Yes, we have a hankering for that exotic city air, its teeming populous, and the chorus of taxi cab horns.
We should be on our way home this time tomorrow and back to small-town life as we know it by tomorrow afternoon.
Yet, we cannot discount the possibility that we will be so taken with the city that we will stay. I’ve long been curious about whether I might thrive as a hedge fund manager, and Robbi has always wanted to be a Rockette.
If we don’t return (I consider the prospect unlikely, but possible), will someone tell Doug the Baker to ship up some sun buns? And will someone please feed Oscar? And water the plants? And make our books? Oh, and raise our children as upstanding, yet independent-minded citizens?
Our kids are constantly put under the lens. The camera lens, that is. If it’s not the camera lens, it’s the iphone lens. All three kids have done some extensive documentary photography themeselves using the phone – we’ve found megabytes and megabytes of images after the phone has disappeared for a while. (I’m sure we are not alone in this).
But this week Kato got his hands on the actual camera, our Canon SLR. He started out, not surprisingly, with a photo of his co-conspirator in all things:
She upped the mug factor in photo number two:
At that point, apparently, I discovered he was using the camera:
After a few stern words about holding it carefully and a short tutorial on how to use the camera (which he obviously did not need) I set him to work taking photos – curious about what he would choose to photograph.
Apparently, the first thing one wants to record, given the opportunity, is one’s bookshelf.
Then, one’s toy airplane, which has fallen out of favor in recent times. Ah, nostalgia photography:
Then, of course, one’s backpack.
Once you’re done with the detritus on the floor, it’s a good idea to capture the state of the light fixtures:
And then the outlets, of course:
And finally, the wall anchor for a screw for a picture that is no longer hanging on the wall because various children at various stages would remove it and toss it unceremoniously to the floor:
Obviously a paean to times gone by, to the glorious olden days of unheralded triumphs over cross-stitch.
I was starting to wonder about his framing skills and lack of subjective focus. I must, frankly, admit that I was unimpressed. I considered taking the camera away from him and telling him to stop wasting his time and get back to the things he’s good at, like eating cherry tomatoes and pushing his brother to the ground.
But then he took this picture:
Which might just be my favorite picture of his sister, who most often looks at the camera with a weird plastered on semi-smile.
I suppose Kato was just exercising that skill that kids are really the best at: surprising you just after you’ve finally given up.
On Fridays, while Alden is at school, both boys spend the day at home, which makes it a good day for adventuring. Last week, Robbi painted pictures of dragons and Kato and August and I drove out to Eastern Neck Island, a beautiful little nature preserve with a number of kid-friendly trails.
One of which starts with a long wooden boardwalk.
At the end of the boardwalk is a cluster of trees. And in the cluster of trees are big black snakes.
I’ve been taking the kids out to Eastern Neck for years, since Alden was just a tiny thing, and this was my first encounter with the big black snakes. Here’s how it went down. I was carrying August and Kato was walking a bit ahead of me on the path when we heard a heavy THUMP on the ground about three feet away from us. I turned to look and saw the snake above, which had just fallen out of a tree.
The boys were stunned but calm. I let out an appropriate sound of surprise, scooped Kato up with my free arm, and got away from the snake. But after a few minutes of careful observation, it was clear that he wasn’t interested in attacking us directly, so I crept back to take the picture above. I’m guessing he was a bit winded from his fall.
I just can’t help what might have gone down had we been standing a few paces closer to the tree.
Disaster avoided, we hiked on. To the viewing platform. Supposedly for viewing birds, I’d guess, though I’ve never been to Eastern Neck when critical masses of viewable birds were present.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed the view of the wetlands, and the bay beyond.
Not far from the elevated platform is a little hut with slits cut in the walls for even more stealthy (if slightly less elevated) viewing.
We hung out on the platform for a while, convinced that the big black snake couldn’t climb up all those steps.
But eventually it was time to come back down.
When we passed by the site of “leaping big black snake incident,” the offender was no longer in sight. Most likely he was climbing another tree, I figure (though how a snake climbs a tree is a puzzle I do not care to contemplate).
As we headed back along the boardwalk, we left memories of his long black body far behind us.
It was Friday, the sun was out, and we still had hours and hours to play.
After what has been the longest, coolest, most comfortable and least sticky spring in the history of my life in Chestertown, it’s finally that time of year again – the peonies in front of the barn have bloomed!
We mark this time of year with a photo of the kids in front of the gigantic, beautiful blooms. Its a fun little marker of the time going by.
This year, 2013:
August’s first year in the mix, 2012:
Alden and Kato, 2011:
Kato’s debut, 2010:
Alden was in KC when the peonies bloomed, no photo, 2009. (In retrospect, this makes me so sad! No more spring trips, I guess.)
Alden’s first year, 2008:
If having kids has done nothing else for us, it has reminded us to stop at least once a year to smell the flowers.
Oh my. What a week it has been. I have been furiously working away on the next Bobbledy Book (check out the Bobbledy Blog to see how it’s been going) while Matthew has been doing housework, wrangling kids, and feeding me snacks to keep me fortified.
But in looking back on this past week’s photos, it appears we actually did much more than just drawing this week.
August wrestled his way into but not out of Alden’s Tang Soo Do sparring helmet:
Alden met Minnie Mouse in the slightly less Magical Kingdom of Costco:
Which, evidently, made the excursion totally worth it. The boys, on the other hand, sulked because their favorite, Donald Duck, was not in attendance:
We enjoyed another family bike ride in the late afternoon sun:
August enjoyed his first lollipop from the bank:
And Kato graduated to sitting forward in his car seat, which meant that Alden finally got her wish to sit next to August, instead of in the back row by herself (Kato is perfectly happy in the back row, because now he can watch our car’s progress on the GPS. Before, facing backwards, he only got periodic reports on it from Alden):
August also graduated, in a way – he apparently gave Matthew his first eye roll while swinging at the playground:
The weekend brought two major projects. First up was some gardening. We planted some seeds early in the week and have been dutifully watering them.
Kato believes that if he looks at the dirt through his hand binoculars, he’ll be able to see the non-existent sprouts:
The endeavor had the kids itching to do some REAL gardening, so this weekend we decided it was time to put something into Matthew’s mom’s raised beds (did you know Matthew’s mom bought a house up the street from us? Yes! We are taking over Chestertown!) Our sad little plantlings aren’t quite ready for primetime, so we headed to the Kingstown Garden Center right across the bridge. I love the garden center. It is the best. Everyone who works there is the nicest. But any of you folks out there who would ever be in the neighborhood and in need of a garden center already know that, so, ahem, back to it.
One of the perks of the Garden Center is getting to pull around a wagon to collect your wares. Of course, if you’re going to be at the Garden Center pulling around a wagon, you may as well dress for it.
There was a little bit of a kerfuffle when I told them that we were only going to take one wagon. After a heated discussion, Alden won out by convincing Kato he could be her co-pilot (every princess needs a co-pilot). Being co-pilot apparently means that you get to steer. You can see Kato takes his job very seriously:
We filled our wagon with some choice plants (tomatoes, cukes, peppers, a couple flowers for Alden, and an artichoke plant. I can’t wait to kill them all) and headed back to the counter to pay.
The counter had all kinds of pamphlets on it about dog food and cat food and plants and whatnot. Typical garden center things. Oh, and it also had a basket full of cat.
What cat? Oh, that cat.
We got the plants loaded into the car. Iggy was unimpressed – or maybe just uninterested. I think she was actually slightly worried about that cat, which was just in a basket, behind two wide-open doors. Any minute that cat could decide to jump up and scratch Iggy’s eyes out. It’s best to stay on the alert. Which is pretty much how Iggy views everything.
Shopping done, we headed over to Matthew’s mom’s to start planting. But first I had to mow the lawn. While I was dumping out grass clippings, I noticed some sort of conspiracy happening on the porch.
I spent the rest of the afternoon warily looking over my shoulder, expecting the worst. Iggy looked at me and said, “I know! That damn cat! I haven’t had a moment’s peace since we left the store.”
Once the lawn was mowed, it was time to do some planting. Alden decided that since she was dressed the part, she may as well act the part.
Luckily, this princess wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty after bossing everyone else around for a bit.
Kato’s job was to put the markers in.
He is especially excited about his Lemon Boy tomatoes, which he expects will bear lemon-flavored fruits by tomorrow.
I’m looking forward to killing those as well.
So, that was project number one. I have noticed, on several occasions, that there are a couple of rabbits that like to hang out in the back of Matthew’s mom’s yard. I expect that if I don’t kill all of our new little plant babies, those rabbits probably will. We’ll keep you posted.
The second project was installing the kids’ new mailbox. They have been getting the occasional piece of mail, but since we usually check the mail while they’re at school and then just toss it on the table and forget it, some of their mail has been getting lost under laundry or dinner or any number of things that also get tossed on the table. So, we thought it might be useful (and fun) for them to have their own mailbox.
First, we had to hammer in some wallboard anchors. Kato went first.
Alden quickly learned that it’s much better to stand idly by if your maniacal baby brother insists on hammering in your wallboard anchor.
Just wait till he’s done, and then carefully fetch the power drill to screw in your screw while he wanders back and forth with the hammer cackling.
Once both screws were in, the mailbox was ready to hang.
Kato was quite disappointed to discover that the mailbox didn’t come out of the shipping box with mail already in it.
I sent them to their room to count to twenty three times, which gave me enough time to dig through the heaps of mail on the table to seed the new mailbox.
There was some bickering about who got the mail that was addressed to them both, and we settled on letting Alden open it:
if Kato got to pull it out of the envelope and see what it was first:
An invite to a party! To Iris’s party!
The kids ran out to the mailbox to check to see if there were any more parties coming their way.
So – our second major project of the weekend got two enthusiastic thumbs up. Amazingly nobody got anything smashed while August staggered around with the hammer. There were two screws to put in, so Alden and Kato each felt some ownership for the project. But though it has been a wild success so far, I must admit it’s getting a little tiring with Alden and Kato jumping up every five seconds to rush out to their mailbox to see if they’ve gotten any more mail. It took them an extra ten minutes to eat dinner, what with all the running back and forth.
Believe it or not, we also went to a party on Saturday night that involved a moon bounce and people throwing sledge hammers. But that adventure deserves its own post, so stay tuned.
Iggy, for her part, continues to have concerns about the wayward basket cat. She spent the rest of the weekend hiding behind her very menacing bear hat, hoping for the best.