August 2012


Dragons have started making a lot of appearances in our life. If I remember correctly, our first contact with them was in the book King Jack and the Dragon. In this book Everett learned about three young boys with swords who become brave knights to battle dragons and other monsters. Perhaps as a result, he chose to spend his own birthday money at the Renaissance Faire this year to buy a sword. Soon after that we acquired a couple other books: King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson (a gift from Gabby and Grandaddy) and another about legends of dragons from different cultures that we borrowed from the library. Lastly, we recently started watching Dragons: Riders of the Berk on Netflix and we want to see How to Train Your Dragon soon. Interestingly, some dragons are to be feared while others are protective.

In the midst of this, dragons have become one of the many characters that interacts with Everett during play. On a recent visit, Grandaddy was appointed the House Dragon, which is a high honor bestowed upon the dragon that protects our home and its inhabitants. One role of the House Dragon is to guard the downstairs while other people are upstairs sleeping. Everett has developed an occasional fear of going upstairs by himself but was able to do so if the House Dragon was standing at the bottom of the stairs.

This weekend our good friends Brad and Sarah visited us from Miami. They normally come to Milwaukee for the summer, but since baby Henry was born in June they couldn’t travel as much. Their son Eli and Everett are good friends who are about the same age. On Saturday morning the boys (Dads and sons, sans Henry) went on an adventure.
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First we rode bikes to the new playground at Hart Park where we played hide and seek, watched the train go by (5 engines on this one!) and climbed on the new rope pyramid structure.

Then we rode up the Menomonee River to Hoyt Park, over the bridge and looked around for ducks. Our last stop was a mass graveyard in a grove of trees that Chris and Everett had visited before. The two brave knights explored all the trails through the graveyard with their swords, ducks and monster tails (a plastic cobra).

As a final note, during our most recent family movie night we watched the Never Ending Story. Among other creatures this features a Luck Dragon, a new type that we had never heard of before. It also features some 1980s era music and special effects that Chris and Melissa enjoyed.

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Chris and Melissa have each commented many times that having a child makes you more aware of your own sense of mortality. This is probably for a couple of important reasons. First, there is now a small person in the world who is depending on us to keep him safe and happy. Second, this provides a new form of motivation for each of us to stay healthy and therefore available to him. These ideas are well captured in a recent story in Brain Child magazine called “Canyon” by Julie Schumacher. The story isn’t available online, but here is a quote that is (clearly) written from a woman’s perspective:

“Nothing instills fear in a person as viscerally as bearing and raising children. Seven pounds of flesh tear their way through a hole in your body: It’s as is you have expelled a crucial organ – your own heart or a lung – and unless you care for this organ and tend and protect it, it will certainly die. Not only that, it’s death will kill you. Programmed into your brain is an endless loop of a recording that a giant unseen hand switches on the moment you strap the helpless seven pound creature into a car seat and bring it home. The tape says, ‘Protect this creature above all else. You must not fail’ “.

This quote reflects a feeling that Chris has had many times since Everett was born: there is now a piece of your heart wandering around in the world. Your instinct is to protect him from all harm at all times. However, he has his own will and as time goes by is able to make more and more of his own decisions; he needs freedom to become his own person and to live up to his full potential. The balance between these feels like a precipice, and you will have no idea how close you are to the edge until you’ve gone too far.

Our feelings about mortality are not something we talk about in front of Everett. However, we note that he has recently started expressing his own thoughts on the subject.

“Dadda, I love you. I don’t want you do die. I want you to stay alive.”

“Momma, after you die will you wear this necklace so you can remember that you love me?”

We are not sure where these comments are coming from. Is he becoming aware of the mortality of his parents? Is he simply exploring new concepts that he has been exposed to? There are a couple of graveyards in the hills near our house. One is a large field and the other is a grove of trees in a prairie. They are mass graves, without any headstones. Chris and Everett have been to both of them, and Everett was especially intrigued by the one in the trees:

“Where are the bodies?”

“Can we see them?”

“Why are they buried here?”

Our guess is that Everett has become aware of the concept of dying, and has been realizing that this is something that could happen to people he cares about. We did not anticipate this would happen at such a young age.

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One of the many ways that Melissa takes care of us is by cooking almost every day. She chooses recipes from a select set of cookbooks, and from a couple of binders filled with scraps of paper containing some of her (and our) favorites that she has collected over many years. These recipes constitute “The Rotation”, which means dishes that are fit for the Butsons to eat. Melissa is adventurous but chooses recipes very carefully, and as a result rejections are rare. Much more common are cases where dishes that initially sounded quite strange (Moroccan cinnamon chicken or quinoa kale chard fritters come to mind) turned out to be among our favorites. One recent culinary experiment that was especially delicious has since been christened “cuffins” or “mookies”, depending on who you ask. Basically these consist of cookie dough baked in muffin pans with a chunk of caramel in the middle. They are dangerously delicious. I’ll post a picture as soon as someone bakes me another batch of them and I get a chance to photograph one before they are all gone. I’m also broadcasting the aroma using the new Smell-O-Vision feature on our website. Everett has taken an interest in cooking as well. He slides his chair from the dining room to the kitchen and stands on it while helping Melissa. The two of them have made several batches of cuffins, most recently to repay the Halligan family for the jungle gym in the back yard.

As a final related note I will add that Everett seems to love stinky cheese almost as much as we do. We attribute this to his early formative experiences in Switzerland and the fact that he was indirectly eating all kinds of cheeses (via breast milk) whether he liked them or not. He really enjoys Roquefort,
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which is Grandaddy’s favorite cheese and was the name of his cat when he was a boy. Everett does not yet know about the kerfuffle between the US and France over the cheese: it seems that in the final hours of his presidency George Bush chose to create new problems rather than address any of the numerous, staggeringly large ones he had already caused. To be honest, bringing this to Everett’s attention seems unnecessary.

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The “why” phase that toddlers go through is well known to parents. The questions that come in subsequent phases seem more specific and less predictable. A few recent examples:

Does counting go on forever?

How do you say cattywampus in French?

What is liberty?

A few days ago Everett got hold of Chris’ iPhone and started asking Siri questions:

Why are me and Dada in the car together?

Why is the earth covered in trees?

His language abilities can now stop us in our tracks. We recently asked him why he had done something we did not approve of and he replied “I learned this behavior from you and Dad.” How are we supposed to respond to that?!?

Everett has a dramatic flair when the time is right. One night at dinner he changed his mind after he told us he was done eating and the food was gone. “My heart is broken because you and Dada didn’t leave any pizza for me.” We want him to know that we take his feelings seriously, but at times like this it’s hard not to laugh.

Lastly, Chris found some bits from a couple years ago that never made it into a blog post. The nice thing about them is that they reflect good reviews for us as parents. Everett started telling Melissa “I missed you the whole time” after days he spent days at daycare or with a babysitter while she worked on her dissertation.  And a couple times he patted Chris on the arm, looked him in the eyes and said “Good, good, Daddy” and “”Fun Daddy“.

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Family Visit

We have had family visiting for the last few days: Cress, Amanda, Matt, Katy and Trinity. It’s been a fun visit, and it’s a completely different dynamic in the house with Trinity and Everett. They spend long periods of time together and Everett is clearly less interested in being around the adults when she is here. They spent a lot of time in the backyard in the fort and on the swings (once Chris got them setup and anchored).
It’s rained a bit recently and the toad (or one of his descendants) has returned to the area between the compost bin and the spigot behind the house, which provided some additional entertainment.

The days have gone by quickly, as they always seem to do when children are involved. Generally we can manage one or two activities per day. Chris was working while everyone was in town so rejoined them for the evening activities. On Wednesday night we went to Cafe Hollander for dinner. It was a stretch to fit everyone into Cress’ new minivan (a.k.a. The Movie Car), so Chris took Trinity and Everett on the Bakfiets. Trinity seemed to enjoy the bike quite a bit, and Everett enjoyed having a companion. Plus, Chris was able to get a bit of a workout while riding, so it worked out well for everyone. On Thursday everyone went to the State Fair while Chris was at work.
It rained most of the day and was the smallest crowd we have ever seen for this annual event. After Chris got home from work all of us returned to visit the House of Moo
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and to try some new fair foods for dinner. Melissa had a Door County Fish Boil and Chris had fish and chips. Everett ate deep fried cheese on a stick followed by cotton candy (oh, how far we have wandered from the ideals we had as new parents!).

Everett also got to try milking a (plastic, life-sized) cow.

On Friday night we cooked chicken on the grill and enjoyed sitting on the patio with a bonfire for a few hours. Saturday during the day we went to the Milwaukee Air and Water Show,
and then to the new Biergarten in Estabrook Park.
There are two great things about this place. First, it’s about as close to a european beer garden as you are going to get in the US. Everyone got a half liter of German beer along with pretzels and Obatzter. These were the best pretzels we have had in the states, and we have never actually seen Obatzter outside of Bavaria. In the afternoon we worked in the yard a bit and had Balistreries pizza and salad for dinner.
On Sunday morning everyone left for Cincinnati while Chris stayed home. It is now around 5pm and eerily quiet in the house. Could be an opportunity to catch up on some old blog entries…

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Tosa Night Out 2012

Last night was the annual Tosa’s Night Out. We think this is the fourth time we have attended, but it’s the first time that Everett could independently participate in just about everything at the festival including the firehose and the inflatable slides.

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He also completed the entire flashlight walk without assistance (on a related subject we note that strollers are becoming a distant memory – if we need to transport him somewhere it is either by car or bike). There were volunteers giving out all sorts of neat stuff along the walk to keep the kids motivated: light sticks, frisbees, water bottles, free ice cream coupons, etc. Fireworks were at 9:30 and we decided to keep him up and watch them from Hart Park rather than the field behind our house. Everett was doing great but at approximately 9:29pm he starting coming unglued due to tiredness. He told us that he wanted to watch from the field behind our house and that the fireworks were ruined. We were just about to pack up and ride home when there was a flash and a loud boom from the first fireworks launch. This shocked him a bit. He instantly forgot about how the fireworks were ruined and instead sat down and watched the show.

Bedtime for him was about 10pm after we washed the remnants an outdoor summer festival off his feet.
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After Everett went to bed things were quiet for a while until Cress, Amanda, Matt, Katy and Trinity arrived about 11:30pm. They had driven up to visit us for a few days and go to the Wisconsin State Fair. Once everyone unpacked and got settled we put Trinity in bed with Everett for the night, which in retrospect might have been a strategic error. Soon we heard Everett talking, then giggling, then stomping around, and then a bunch of other noises but few indications that either of them were anywhere near sleep. This went on for some time until Trinity went to sleep downstairs and Everett finally went to sleep about 4am. Naturally he got up at 7am like he always does. We appealed to the Parental God of Logic & Reasonableness to intervene but this didn’t work out in our favor. Rough night.

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The Bakfiets has been a fantastic addition to our family. It is essentially a second car that has allowed us to transport a kid and all manner of household items on a regular basis over the last 2+ years. Fortunately, the two babies that are on the way should help Chris retroactively justify our purchase of the Bakfiets to begin with. The only downside to owning it is that as a result of the deluxe accommodations, Everett has almost no interest in learning to ride a bike. Everett and Chris are currently trying to address this by spending 10 minutes a day practicing.

To get to Wauwatosa Village from our house you have to go either over or around the intervening hill. When we bike home from the Village, Everett gets to decide if we should go the hill route or the extra-bridges route (so named because we cross the Menomonee River twice and Honey Creek once). Once on the way over the hill, Chris started describing it by saying that it had sharp pointy teeth, a quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the knights encounter the Rabbit of Caerbannog. Everett thought this was pretty funny, so he started asking “What else?!?” Chris went on to say that the hill was big and mean and hairy and had bad breath and all kinds of other mean nasty ugly things (a la Arlo Guthrie when he describes his new friends from Whitehall Street in New York City). Everett took it from there. It seems natural for him to embellish things from time to time for dramatic effect.

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Chris was traveling this week and head to leave by 7am on his birthday. As a result we celebrated his birthday tonight (Friday). Birthday dinner was Montgomery ribs and Graeter’s ice cream, both treats that were sent from Cincinnati by Cress and Amanda.
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For family movie night we watched Charlotte’s Web while we were eating. It’s been a long time since Melissa or Chris read the book and neither of us has seen the movie, so there are some details we forgot. One theme of the movie is the search for words and the delight in finding them, which is certainly a common theme in our family. Chris and Melissa had some early bonding experiences over the Oxford English Dictionary. Everett fearlessly explores the use of new words, and his latest behavior in this area is making lists of synonyms. The most recent addition is a list of words that mean talkative (garrulous, loquacious, gregarious, etc). As I have pointed out in previous blog entries we are still waiting for him to learn the meaning of the word irony.

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