February 2013

Snow Day

We are now in the depths of winter. A glacier has formed in our front yard as a result of the mixture of snow, rain and wide temperature fluctuations over the last few weeks. It grows and recedes, but remains slippery and very difficult to walk over. On really cold days we build fires in the fireplace. Chris has been pretty diligent about keeping our woodpile stocked with seasoned wood, and he has developed a system for cutting, splitting, aging and storing wood without power tools (he uses a splitting maul and a 100 year old Disston cross-cut saw). He thought he had a pretty good system in place until he saw a recent New York Times article about firewood in Norway. The article describes a 12 hour TV show that was inspired by a recent best selling book in Norway, Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood and the Soul of Wood-Burning. Sadly, the book is written in Norwegian and does not appear to be available outside Scandinavia, even if it is a best-seller. I guess we’ll have to go there to find out more. The article makes it clear that Norwegians have strong feelings about whether firewood should be stored with the bark side facing up or down. Could this be the kind of issue that rends families?

On a related subject, today was Everett’s first snow day. We received a phone call at about 5:45am from the school superintendent saying that school was cancelled as a result of about 10 inches of extremely wet, heavy snow which left the roads a mess. For Everett this meant two things: 1. iPad in the morning (it’s not allowed on school days); 2. Tromping around in the snow instead of school.
Snow days are a rare events here, so it’s unusual that Everett would experience one during his first year. And they don’t have the same charm for parents that they do for children. Instead, school cancellations set off a chain of events that most parents have no choice but to accommodate. But it’s also fun: Chris rode the Pugsley home from work through the hills and along the river north of his work (it took close to an hour to go about 4 miles). It provided reinforcing material for the igloo, and was a great reason for Everett to go outside for extended periods during his recent playdates.

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Everett’s energy level seems to keep going up. It is a fantastic experience to be around someone who is so full of life and has such a sense of wonder about the world. At the same time, this degree of exuberance can be exhausting at times for his parents. He literally does not seem to stop moving from the moment he wakes up until he falls asleep. Even when he is standing during a conversation he moves his hips in a circle and says “I’m stirring my body”.

Everett still wakes up almost exactly at 7am every morning, no matter how tired he is or how late he went to bed the night before. Yesterday he had a full day starting with his final drama class in the morning. Chris couldn’t attend, but Everett came home afterward with his graduation certificate, held it up and proudly announced “Here’s my sarcophagus!” Next was a birthday party for one of his classmates. From there we went straight to the Pettit Ice Center for ice skating with the Y-tribe. He has only been ice skating once in his life and that was a couple years ago with Chris. This time he and Chris skated slowly around the ice while Everett got used to the skates. When we started out Chris held him up by his armpits, which was kind of exhausting, but Everett really worked hard and progressed to the point where Chris held one of his hands and by the time we left he was skating by himself.
Afterward all of us went to Cranky Al’s for pizza, and he went to sleep about an hour after bedtime.

The next day was on the warm side, but there is still some snow on the ground and it was perfect for packing so we decided to try to build an igloo. This turned out to be a challenge because usually when the two of us are outside to together in the snow we just tromp around and do whatever he wants: sledding, hiking, climbing snow piles, digging snow caves, tracking rabbits and other animals, etc. Today was different in that Chris had a goal to build the igloo before it got dark. It went ok, but Everett didn’t seem to fully grasp Chris’ level of intensity for this task, and Chris was getting increasingly frustrated with Everett for not getting out of the way fast enough, knocking down walls, etc. At one point Everett was cutting the walls with a saw and Chris got intensely irritated and decided to call it a day. At this point Everett was crying and Chris expressed disappointment that we couldn’t finish and that the walls kept getting damaged. Everett said “I feel like you don’t love me when you say that.” It’s not the outcome we were hoping for, and it was a reminder for Chris about the risks of setting overly ambitious goals during playtime. Chris reassured Everett that he is always loved and noted that his feelings of regret were intensified by the fact that earlier in the day Everett told him that he is the best Dad in the galaxy. It was a rough ending for the afternoon, but by bedtime we had patched things up. The next day we finished the igloo after Chris came home from work.
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On a lighter note, here are some recent things we have heard from Everett:

“Do platypuses need to breathe?”

“Do dogs get pregnant?”
Melissa: “Yes”
“How does the baby dog get inside the Momma?”

“Hey guys. Did you know that I can communicate with bats?”

Funniest thing Chris has ever heard in church: “Please don’t put the tiger in your pants, ok?

Funniest things Chris has heard at home: this is a tie between 1) the times when Melissa or Everett ask for some quiet; 2) the time recently when Everett told Chris to “Bring it down a notch” with regard to roughhousing.

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Secret Codes

Everett really enjoys playing with the iPad. No surprise there – he has been using it for a couple years and it supplies an almost endless variety of games and books. He likes it so much that we have had to set ground rules about it such as: no iPad before school in the morning; limited screen time each day including iPad and television.

One iPad app that Chris recently downloaded and became obsessed with for a couple days was Mystery Lighthouse. It’s a nouveau-retro adventure game that lacks interactive graphics or fancy transitions between pages. In fact, there is hardly anything that moves in the game. Rather, it’s a mystery adventure that you have to solve using clues and objects you find along the way. For those of you who are old enough to recall Infocom, these are essentially the same types of games but with a series of still shots for each scene. Anyway, around the time Chris solved the game he noted that Everett might enjoy it someday. What he didn’t anticipate was that someday is now. Chris downloaded Spooky Manor by the same authors, and Everett became equally obsessed with it. To him the game was filled with secret codes that he found great delight in solving (these codes are somewhat similar to the type that existed in the adventure game Myst). For example (spoiler alert), you have to find the hammer to smash the vase to get the key to open the door to Lord Theodore’s studio. Then you have to paint a statue to free his ghost to get to the video game, which you have to successfully play to get a token to play the gramophone to listen to the sequence of sounds that have to be reproduced on the piano in the music room to open a secret door. You get the idea. After Spooky Manor I showed him Mystery Lighthouse and then we downloaded Mystery Lighthouse 2. Sadly, we have now solved all of these adventures, and they appear to be all of the games from this developer that are appropriate for a child. Other suggestions are welcome.

Everett has been on the lookout for secret codes ever since we started playing these games. And at times when we can’t find any, his imagination is more than capable of identifying places where they might be in our everyday life.

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Sometimes being at home with Everett is like being on the set of a musical. He sings constantly, recites lines from movies and acts them out. Recently he has expressed a lot of interest in pirates, which has been reinforced by the pirate costume he received for Christmas and the pirate exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum. The latter featured the Whydah, a pirate ship that sank off Cape Cod in 1717 and was recently located. A fair amount of treasure and other artifacts were recovered and are now part of a traveling exhibit which we thoroughly enjoyed. It explained a lot about pirates that we didn’t know, including the contrast between their reputation as ruthless outlaws and the apparently democratic way in which they ran their ships and freed slaves. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in the exhibit, and there were several live pirates with swords who were present to enforce the rules, so we didn’t try our luck. The only photo we have is Everett and Mom at the front of the museum.
Everett has become even more interested in pirates since seeing the exhibit.
He often wears his costume, and recently made a map of treasure that is buried in our house. “Instead of an X, we’ll mark it with a Y, so no one will ever find it!”
Chris was wondering how pirates felt about roughhousing. Not surprisingly, they seem to like it as much as anyone else. This prompted Chris to ask “When is it not roughhousing time?” Everett provided the most accurate answer we can imagine: “After roughhousing.” After one recent roughhousing session Chris remarked “I feel like I’m training someone who is going to defeat me one day.” Melissa responded “I think you just summarized parenting in a nutshell.”

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