Saturday, June 30, 2012

Idle Parents Know: Get Outside

Last week Mike revisited some information he had read in our efforts to learn how to be better parents and meet our kids’ needs. He came across material on slow parenting and literature based on Tom Hodgkinson’s work in The Idler and elsewhere. He requested Hodgkinson’s The Idle Parent from the university library through interlibrary loan (ILL is a godsend Mike has used for years for both academic and pleasure reading. Seriously: free books, CDs, DVDs, etc., and all you have to do is request them and pick them up from the service desk. Libraries are amazing!).

At first glance, a reading of the idle parent manifesto would seem incompatible with what many assume to be true about good parenting in particular and what our church teaches generally about parenting and work. However, as Mike read the book, he gleaned quite a few insights about simply letting the kids alone that make genuine sense. In fact, Mike read two of the author’s primary sources of inspiration (John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Émile, or On Education) for an educational foundations class at BYU. It doesn’t mean we will stop the road trips and other family activities, but it does mean that we’ll be sending the kids out to the yard to entertain themselves by themselves more often.  

Speaking of yards and the outdoors generally, Monday through Wednesday can only be described as perfect! Mike worked from his outdoor office, he and the kids took turns drinking a ceramic mate gourd full of iced tea made from our garden’s herbs and everyone busied themselves with important tasks such as digging and getting in water fights. Mind you, electronics and water do not mix, so the kids used their water at a safe distance. Mike poured some playground sand into a pit Landon had dug, and Landon thought that was fun.

We had visitors Monday night/Tuesday morning. Two young women from the branch stayed overnight and Hallie helped get them their last-minute items for Girls Camp. On Tuesday morning Hallie drove the girls up to a camp in Brighton. She saw some beautiful homes along the lakeshores. Now Mike wants to go see!

On Tuesday night, Hallie had a bunch of ladies over for a Thirty-One party. Thirty-One is like Tupperware for organizational items. They all seemed to have a lot of fun, and Hallie was complimented on how much charm our home has. Gotta love our craftsman style bungalow, squeaky floors and all.  

If squeaky floors were our only concern, life would be peachy. Unfortunately, on Monday night we discovered that an intermittent funny smell from the general vicinity of the sink had to do with water leaking from our old rusted garbage disposal. We held off replacing it until Wednesday, after Hallie’s party.

Mike and Landon camped in the backyard on Wednesday night. The breeze kept the day and night from getting too muggy, and the humidity waited to arrive until later on Thursday. Eliza joined the boys as they roasted marshmallows, then once she went to bed, the boys added a few more logs to the fire and watched it burn down before bedding down. They’re super tough outdoorsmen, because they don’t have sleeping pads, so they just slept in sleeping bags inside the tent on the back lawn which was not quite as soft as Mike hoped it would be. While the boys were playing in the backyard Hallie had the opportunity to escort Linda Lawson to the temple for her first time. Hallie has really loved getting to be an escort. This is her fourth time and she is honored to be asked. After the endowment she then attended the sealing of Willie and Linda in the temple for time and all eternity. What an exciting time in this couple's life. Hopefully, the boys will do marshmallows again soon so she can have some too.

Roasting special super-sized marshmallows
It's as big as a planet!

By rubbing the coals on the underside of the log, Landon created what he called "fireballs." 
Trees, moon, and power lines: Camping in the 'burbs

All this week Mike has taken Landon to gymnastics camp. He spent his days swinging on ropes into a pit full of foam cubes, doing flips and spins, jumping on the long trampoline, and participating in themed art activities. 
So fast, he's a blur!
In the mean time Mike has gone to one of the Warren public libraries. Again, Mike was struck by what a gift libraries are, what with their quiet work areas and free Internet. Honestly, libraries are amazing!

On Friday morning, all Landon’s hard play during the days and staying up late at night finally caught up with him. He could not drag himself out of bed, so we gave him a little extra time and went late to his last day of gymnastics camp. Landon started a new chore in his repertoire helping with the dishes. He rinsed the dirty dishes and helped Dad unload the clean ones from the washer. It almost didn’t even feel like work. . . .

We had baseball Saturday morning. Landon first had his pictures taken and then had his practice and game. He’s going a great job for a four year old with his batting and fielding. The coaches helped keep him and the other kids focused instead of digging in the dirt too much.

Eliza has the right idea
When we got home, Landon headed straight for the backyard for more digging in the sand. Looks like the sand pit is a great idea. Time to invest in another bag or two.

Derek and Janel and their kids joined us at the pool in the afternoon. We enticed them over with promises of Wally’s Frozen Custard which is being sold at the snack shack this year. We had perfect swimming weather and couldn’t keep the kids out of the pool, except for the mandated fifteen minutes each hour of “adult swim” (Adult swim? What the heck? We can tell stories of some decidedly adult behavior in our pool today right in front of our little ones that the couples involved should have taken indoors. Seriously. Get a room!).

We had the first of our garden’s tomatoes with dinner. After the kids went down, Hallie invited Priscilia to go see the fireworks in Grosse Pointe Farms at Sara’s house. At the pool earlier in the day, Derek observed that people spend weeks celebrating Independence Day around here. Judging by the way the fireworks shows and festivals are spread out this year, it does feel like it.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cultivating Green Thumbs

The weather started out hot and humid this week but ended pleasant and mild. As much as possible, we tried to send the kids outdoors to play. The garden is coming along. Would that Mike could say he has a green thumb. Most of what he’s trying to do is just keep the lushness planted by our home’s previous owners down to a low roar. It doesn’t look very pretty with some of the ground cover Mike is using to keep the weeds down, but the plants are starting to flower and we hope to see new fruit of the vine soon. He has just let the raspberries and mint plants grow where they please, and they have gradually moved to parts of the garden where they are easier to harvest. We have already sampled our first sweet raspberries of the season and look forward to a bumper crop this July.

We only recently figured out that our mint plants are something other than peppermint or spearmint. Now that they are just beginning to flower, Mike cut some down to dry and found that while they smell minty right when they are cut, they don’t taste quite so minty. He experimented with a couple of drying techniques, and he was able to get them to keep a fairly strong aroma, but they still did not smell quite like mint. In fact, they smelled like chocolate. So he went to the interwebs to investigate. Sure enough, there is such a thing as a chocolate mint plant! Go figure.
Eliza sampling the chocolate mint-infused mate. Landon, who did not know about the chocolate mint, said, "Dad! This tastes like chocolate!" when he tried it. Apparently he has a discriminating palate. 
While the back yard has mostly been allowed to run wild, we are trying to do some minor landscaping to the front yard with Miles’ help. Now that the roses have bloomed, Mike cut them way back in order to give them a chance to bush out and bloom again later this summer (he hopes). Miles has painted the front yard with orange spray paint to mark out where he is going to dig. Right now it doesn’t look pretty, but we hope he’ll be done by next Tuesday.  

The kids had fun helping Mike in the yard with watering the plants, sampling the berries, and cutting the mint. Landon especially enjoyed getting soaked—er, watering—with Priscilia and (later in the week) with Dad.

Makeshift shelter from Priscilia's onslaught
Trying to gain the upper hand
Apparently water-soaked shorts get heavy. 
Not all our activities this week related to the yard. Grandpa O. sent Landon a National Geographic Outdoor Explorer's pack, complete with magnifying glass, compass, and flashlights that clip on shoes. 
Landon's new favorite toy. He's been asking for a magnifying glass for a while now. Good call, Gramps! 
Eliza and Landon went to story time at the library on Wednesday, and they and Hallie joined the Moms Club for story time at Barnes and Noble on Thursday. On Friday Hallie went to Windsor, Ontario, to stock up on our Canadian staples.

Landon started T-ball Saturday. He plays for the Angels (yay, So Cal namesake!).
Ours is number 4. When asked which number he wanted, he said, "I'm 4!" That was easy.
This dirt looks so much more interesting. 

The coaches were really patient and helpful.

Seriously, check out this dirt! 

Landon has had a hard time going to sleep once he goes to bed lately. On Sunday, this meant that Hallie decided to take him to see the fireworks. Lucky! 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Treats for Dad and the Gang

We didn’t take many photos this week. On Monday, Hallie and the kids went to Greenfield Village with Brenda (a newly-moved in member of our branch) and some of the moms from the mom’s club. Landon made a pinwheel, saw a puppet show, and got to ride the carousel for free. They didn’t let a little rain dampen their fun. Mike took Eliza to the doctor to find out what was ailing Eliza (it wasn’t just teething). Apparently she had a virus and was on the mend.

Mike took the missionaries to their transfer meeting on Tuesday. While we lost a hard-working elder, we have received back into one of our areas another missionary who started his mission here in another one of our areas. We have gotten to the point where we are starting to forget the  names of some of the elders who served a few years back, but we remember many many faces and fun stories. It helps when they friend us on Facebook once they finish!

Landon’s hair finally grew out enough that we could give him a haircut on Wednesday to clean things up.
Nothing complements a haircut like a Slurpee!
On Thursday, Hallie, Landon, Megan, and Henry all went for a visit to the Lake St. Clair Metropark (AKA Metro Beach), one of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks. Mike and Eliza stayed home just to be sure Eliza wasn’t contagious. Rather than just sit around with her, however, Mike took her outside while he cut back some of the overgrown plants in the front yard. We’ve been wanting to spruce up the front yard, and we even went so far as to get an estimate from a landscaper. As Mike was working, Miles came by, and Mike gave him the chance to make a bid of his own. Miles, a high school freshman, has been working hard to get a lawn care business going. We admire his work ethic.

School got out this week both here and in California. Our nephew Haydn graduated from elementary school, and Miles’ sister Gabi graduated from high school.

Hallie tried her best to keep Mike’s Father’s Day gifts a secret, but Mike saw one of his gifts when they went to the hardware store on Friday to buy some mulch for the yard. Mike’s gifts this year came with themes: Hacker Dad with The Geek Dad’s Guide to Weekend Fun and Sugru hacking putty on the one hand and Outdoor Fun Dad with a bike rack and annual pass to the Metroparks on the other.
Mike used the putty to hack the broken handle on the dryer filter. He used the leftovers to make a little mold from a Lego brick. Maybe we'll make chocolate bricks! 
Hallie ended up giving Mike some of his gifts early, and Mike set to work Friday and Saturday using the Sugru to help reinstall the bracket to the flagpole that fell last year in a storm. It took more than the putty to finally make things work, but in the end the bracket and flag were both secure by Saturday.
We've let the roses grow long. Just look at the pretty flowers and the secure flag bracket, OK?
On Saturday morning we went to the farmers market and a garage sale. We found a cool Snoopy Sno-cone machine and a bike helmet for Eliza. 
We found out later that both kids' helmets are the same size. Yes! We'll use Eliza's for years (or until Hallie finds a more girly one). 
We also painted a fourth Adirondack chair. Hallie primed the pieces earlier in the day. While she and Landon went to Isaac’s birthday party, Mike painted the chairs a gum drop purple that matched the Mackinac Island lilacs. After the kids went to bed, Mike and Hallie assembled the chair. Now we have all four ready to enjoy on the front porch!  

Target had a deal on shoes for little girls on the Internet. Hallie had a hard time deciding which pair she liked best. Mike's mom suggested she get them all. So, that's what Hallie did. Thanks, Sue!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Routines, Neighbors, Teething, and Temple Blessings

We’ve settled back into more of a routine this week. Landon started individual gymnastics on Monday. The class gives him a chance to reach a bit more than he has in his group class. He watched a pre-Olympics track meet, and we hope he gets inspired by the athletes in all the different sports he sees to find something he really enjoys. We can’t wait for London 2012!

Speaking of things we can't wait for . . . .

Mike, Landon, and Eliza (in the kangaroo seat) rode down to the park and back (about a three mile round trip) with play time at the park in between. Landon even made some new friends (students from a local elementary school on an end-of-year picnic). The round trip is a bit too far for Landon’s little legs, so we look forward to when school will be out so we can ride to the school’s playground instead. He’s a trooper to try. After his long ride, Hallie, Sara, a couple of friends from the branch, and all the kids went down to Detroit’s Riverwalk.

We received word from Sunny Days Preschool that Landon will start attending in the fall. We’ll hold off on full-day kindergarten until next year unless we finally guts up and do half-day online.

On Wednesday and Thursday people from Lowe’s came over and built a privacy fence surrounding our new next-door neighbors’ property. Mike was concerned that it would rob his garden of sunlight, but it looks like that for now it will not. From the time the neighbors mentioned they would be building the fence, Mike has kept hearing lines from Frost’s “Mending Wall” in his head: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” Oh, well. “‘Good fences make good neighbors,’” right? Hmm. Mike watched the builders nearly run roughshod over his garden before stepping outside and letting them know the people living on our side of the fence were watching. It’s amazing how much more careful and polite people will be when they know they have witnesses.

Mike read that wet shredded newspapers retard weed growth. They also make the garden look ugly. In the background can be seen the start of the vertical portion that was completed on the garden side on Thursday morning. 

Speaking of neighbors, our downstairs neighbors from the other next-door let us know they will be moving. This is sad. We can't begrudge them the choice to do what they feel is best for their family (many flats around here, theirs included, have prehistoric plumbing and interiors), and we wish them well. 

We got passport applications sent off so the kids can travel with us internationally. Once we get the passports, we’ll have to get some trips under their belts!

Eliza discovered peanut butter and Nutella. We think she approves.

Hallie pulled over to the side of the freeway on the way home from Landon’s Wednesday gymnastics class to catch this double rainbow: 

Eliza has started showing us that she is learning the English language. For instance, she knows the word for prayer:

She also now says Dada and Mama with increasing frequency. She can tell us when she wants a bottle, and she gets excited when she sees doggies and the water by the Lake St. Clair as we drive by. Eliza has had a fever for the last couple of days. Her back teeth are coming in, and her gums are swollen and tender. It got bad enough for her Thursday night into Friday that we considered taking her to the doctor. During the day however, in spite of her fever and mouth pain, she generally keeps chugging along. She’s more crabby and clingy. Poor little girl!

Landon has asked Hallie repeatedly to come riding with the rest of us, and she finally relented on Thursday. We went on a nice little tour of the neighborhood! Can we hope this is a sign of more two-wheeled family excursions to come?

Sara and Hallie spent Friday morning celebrating their birthdays by going to out to breakfast, to Sam’s Club, and to a garden nursery for hanging plants. After getting some writing done, Mike entertained the kids outside in the afternoon.

Eliza also showed us another new word she has learned:

We then went with Janel and Rylee to Montieth Elementary’s Ice Cream Social to close out Rylee’s school year.
Maybe the frozen custard soothes her swollen gums!
Saturday began with the second straight week of hearty pancakes and real maple syrup. Our new family tradition was inspired by Recess Monkey’s song “Flapjacks” on Kids Place Live that reminded Mike of the many Saturday mornings his mom fixed pancakes, waffles, and occasionally even crepes (ooh, lah, lah!). With the pancakes, we finally have an excuse to break out and use up that Vermont maple syrup we bought last Christmas on our road trip to Nova Scotia.

Mike looked after grumpy Eliza while Hallie took Landon to Lowe’s to get a monkey-powered airplane inspired by the Madagascar movies (can’t do anything without a promotional tie-in anymore, it seems). Landon joined Mike later. Mike spent the time Eliza was asleep installing mini-blinds, getting help looking after Landon from Katelyn. Thanks, Katelyn!

Meanwhile, Hallie and Priscilia went to the temple for Priscilia to receive her own endowment. Several members from the branch came out to support her. We’re happy and proud of her for the preparation she has made to be a source of spiritual and emotional strength for her children. Her fondest wish is to be able to be with them in Montreal, and she knows that she needs to have that sacred power that comes from attending the temple in order to help her children move forward in their lives.