guy afternoon

April 2, 2012 Comments Off on guy afternoon

Handover day yesterday.  The girl and her mother were going dress shopping in the big city.  O has her 8th grade formal coming up in a couple of weeks.  She’s going with a girlfriend, “unless a boy asks me.”  This last phrase was spoken with a welcome lack of enthusiasm.

I told C that I owed him a big afternoon.  The girls were planning on dinner out, hours of shopping, etc.  Guys need big afternoons, too, right?  What do you really, really want to do, C?


I knew the answer, of course.  Perfect Games?  Nope.  Big City?  Nope. Bust out the totally awesome LEGO Mindstorms kit and spend the entire afternoon building a wall-sensing, home-programmed robot?  Um, yup.  C spent two hours patiently running back and forth between the assembly area (living room) and the programming center (office), putting things together, downloading his program, testing things out, and quietly assessing what was going right and what was going wrong.  After two hours, he had an actual working vehicle.  It went forward.  It hit the wall.  It backed up and thought for a second (he added a frowny face to its screen during this moment of robotic self-doubt).  Then it turned right and continued on its merry way.  It was not unimpressive.

And he wanted pizza for dinner, so Dad had a good afternoon, too.  Whole wheat crust, an extra brush of olive oil halfway through baking, not-quite-fresh basil and tomatoes for me, pepperoni for him.  And the soundtrack to the afternoon’s baking session included the gentle whirring of robotic treads, alongside the boy’s brainwaves firing at a previously unheard of rate.

And his sister?  She did OK, too.  I’m not sure how my DNA ended up producing such a good-looking kid, but there you go.



March 14, 2012 Comments Off on minne

Jeepers that’s a lot of ugly.  Or, really, a lot of uglies.

Spring break.  The schedule has worked itself out to rule against a really massive road trip, but I wanted to at least get out of town for 24 hours.  The kids had gift cards.  I needed a deep fry skimmer.  Mall of America it was.

Philosophically opposed though I may be to the idea of the world’s largest mall (which it’s not anymore, I know), MoA is a perfect 24 hours getaway.  An easy 3 hour drive, cheap motels, and everyone finds at least one store that they like.  Including me, if I’m honest.  It ends up being a spendy day out, but we can usually stop at Old Navy and stock up on clothes for the kiddos, too.

All of us, of course, agree on this one.  The kids usually just end up with a bucket full of pick-a-bricks, but there’s a fair amount of lobbying as well.  I get shown a lot of potential birthday presents.  It’s beyond fun to watch the two of them. O is done pretty quickly–she went across the mall for a coffee after half an hour.  And then we sat and chatted while C scoured the rest of the store piece by piece.  90 minutes, total, which is some kind of record.

That was the biggest stop, but we managed a complete lap of all four levels.  O picked out a nice sweater at the Gap–she liked a similar one at Banana Republic better, but we both decided that she could make do with the $30 downscale version.  C picked up a few must-haves at the prank store.  Don’t accept any gum from him in the near future.  Or borrow his pen.  And I found my deep-fry skimmer, and The Art of French Baking by Ginette Mathiot.

So after a fine evening at the local Best Western, we trekked home this morning.  It was a beautiful day outside, and I don’t think I’d shut off the car all the way before the kids were headed for the playground.  I didn’t see them until almost dinner.

Which was highlighted by this lovely strawberry tart, a la TAFB. When Mathiot said the pastry crust should be 1/8″ thick I think she really meant 1/16″.  But otherwise it was pretty outstanding.  And yep, that’s a real creme patisserie holding all the berries in place.  C’s eyes lit up when he got a spoonful of that.  “Is this ice cream?” he asked.  Nope, I told him.  But I could see where the real vanilla bean and the egg yolks confused him.  There’s some work to do, here–and the financiers didn’t exactly work–but Ginette and I are planning to spend some serious time together whisking various combinations of sugar, eggs, and flour over hot things…

lego competition–the entry

July 6, 2011 Comments Off on lego competition–the entry

In the whole history of western civilization there may not be a more carefully hand-lettered document.  C and I put together a page for his LEGO entry and I told him he was responsible for putting it in an envelope and addressing it.  Which, as you can see, he did.  If the judges aren’t moved by this attentively written envelope, they basically have no soul.

“Will it get there on time?” he wondered.

“When’s the deadline?”

“The end of August.”

“I think so.”


happy birthday, c!

March 25, 2011 Comments Off on happy birthday, c!

There’s a happy kid.  C turns 11 today, and we had the first of several present-opening sessions over pancakes this morning.  (I had exactly 3/4 cup of buttermilk left–it was like destiny called).  Pretty good haul already: Legos from Grandparents L and (left) from Uncle C.  Uncle C outdid himself this year.  I told him that Nephew C was obsessed with Hero Factory stuff, and he scanned Amazon and asked which action figures the boy had.  “No idea,” I told him.  “A bunch of them, mostly mixed together.”  So Uncle C said no worries, he’d just buy something bigger.  As you can see, the nephew was pleased.

Every birthday we tell less and less edited stories of their actual birth days.  C knows that K woke me up at 7:00 saying she was ready to roll, and that I rolled over and asked if I had time to make coffee.  Not really the best response, apparently.  And he knows that he pooped on the way out, leading to a slightly frantic airway cleaning and a really good story (the technical term is “miconium aspiration,” but to an eleven year old “breathing in your own poop” sounds a lot better).

I’m getting them both books this year that meant something to me at their ages.  C gets Stan Lee’s “How to Draw Comics.”  I remember something similar as a kid, though it wasn’t nearly this elaborate.  I told him we could try to figure some of them out together, sort of a pre-Rome sketching course.  He was totally into this, and I suspect he’ll take over my drawing board downstairs at some point.  And he’ll need those skills if he does become a video game designer.  So it’s not nostalgia, it’s a career investment.

We’ve usually had to make sure the girl was out of the freaking house when C got presents, but she handled this morning pretty well.  Hey, she got pancakes, right?  And even though she wanted the Harry Potter Lego game that Mom and Dad got him, she knows that she gets to play it, because it takes two.  The sibling rivalry seems to be gentler these days, even now that they’re only “one year” apart for two months.

Of course the best present for either of them is the six hour drive this afternoon to pick up K.  I have to clean the bejeezus out of the house now, so I guess this is probably the last solo DC post, at least for a while.  I think I’m still cooking next week, though, while K reacclimatizes.  The kids and I have discussed a week-long festival of dinner, featuring the greatest hits (or at least the most sure-fire hits) of the last three months.  So no big wrap up.  Just, you know, Legos and Stan Lee.  And pancakes.

jollyball and just jollying around

March 15, 2011 § 2 Comments

The Museum of Science and Industry may be the greatest 20 acres or so of stuff on the planet.  OK, scratch that, it’s second to the Exploratorium in San Francisco.  Still, it’s another of our favorite stops in the Big City.

They redid the entrance a few years ago, so you come in from an underground parking garage through the bowels of the place.  It’s not as impressive as the stairs, but at the top of the escalators is…Jollyball.  A giant pinball machine made of junk that the sculptor found around Switzerland that takes a large stainless steel ball on a tour of the (admittedly not very huge) country.  Every trip to MSI we’ve watched a few rounds, and pick up something new every time.  Oh, look the ball’s drunk when he’s walking out of the tavern!  This time we had the added excitement of a real live mouse running across the floor in the middle of the show.

Sunday was just a jolly around the Loop.  K and I could walk the city for a whole day and not really do anything, but we always seem to forget that for the kids just being downtown isn’t that big a deal.  So as we’re walking up N. Michigan Avenue and noticing that the kids are clearly on another forced march, I saw a couple of LEGO shopping bags coming the other way.  I pulled out the iPhone as discretely as I could and showed K the results.  “Yup,” she said, and we successfully guided the kiddos into LEGO paradise.  Not too badly damaging, either.  C wanted the $400 Death Star (down from the $600 version he saw a year ago), but settled for some Ninjago.  O got some LEGO Kingdom stuff, and I picked up a seriously bad-assed LEGO Boba Fett keychain.  C wanted the giant MechaGodzilla there behind him, but took ‘no’ for an answer.  Thank goodness.

And, as we’ve learned, there is no afternoon jaunt complete without the obligatory coffee and pastry stop.  This is a fine mood elevator for all concerned…

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