Chess

I have played maybe a dozen games of chess in my entire life. Three of them have been in the last month, because Nathan, who frequently sees chess boards out at Free School, wanted to give it a go.

chess

Here is where we left our last game, interrupted by a sick two-year-old. I was white. This is the second time that Nathan has beat me, and while it’s true that I’m giving him a few advantages (unlimited take-backs, he always goes first, and if I see a really good move for him I’ll tell him), he has done a fair amount of the work himself. I hear him muttering things like “I could kill you there, but then you’ll kill me…”, and the other day he told me that when a knight moves it always changes the color of the square it’s on. (I had to work that out to see if it was true.)

Playing against me won’t increase his skill very quickly; I have no skill myself, so nothing really to teach him. But it’s fun. And if he keeps enjoying it, I might just sneak a peek at a beginning chess lesson at some point, to see if there are some general pointers we can both use.

It Just Keeps Coming

snow1

I can’t remember another winter like this one. Every time I turn around, snow is in the forecast.

snow2

Each time the snowfall is more impressive, and each time the boys are less interested. I don’t really understand that. For this last snow, Mica and I were just coming off a weeklong stomach bug, but we both managed to get outside — we even built a snowman to loom near our mailbox. The boys, who’d been healthy the whole time, never once suited up in snow clothes. To be fair, that didn’t preclude them taking quick trips outside. Ryan in particular padded out barefoot multiple times for balls of snow to suck on.

I think this year, though, there’s no need to take us up to the mountain for snow play. Clearly they’re already satisfied on that front.

Just A Picture

winter_bird

Taken on a recent walk with kids in the snow. One of the apple trees in the nearby abandoned orchard apparently doesn’t like to shed its apples, and has become a natural winter bird feeder.

Setting Things On Fire

Recently Ryan asked me to put hand sanitizer on my grocery list. This surprised me. It isn’t something we normally buy, and Ryan has not hitherto displayed an intense concern with hygiene. (Although to be fair, he really dislikes getting things like egg whites or flour on his hands while cooking. This can make certain tasks like making scrambled eggs challenging, as he wants to rinse his hands after every egg.)

Fortunately Ryan is very verbal, so before I could wonder too much about his request, he told me, “You can light it on fire!”

fire

It seemed that a YouTube video had demonstrated this awesome property of hand sanitizer to him. In the video, someone even dips their fingers into flaming blue goo, which I have to admit looks pretty cool. This video had changed Ryan’s perspective on hand sanitizer from “is that really a thing?” to “I must have some now!”

“Setting Things On Fire” is a significant hobby in our household. Never one to stand in the way of a hobby, I did as he asked, but bought only a tiny, travel-sized bottle. I was also relieved that his innate wariness kept him from actually putting his fingers into it when the time came.

He did spend a good amount of time occupied with a fire brick, some hand sanitizer, and matches, though.

A Much Larger Taste

That first, whimsical touch of snow that was met with such enthusiasm was followed a bit later by a much heavier snow. It was thick enough, in fact, that one of the boys’ friends was stranded in Wilsonville with her mother. The mother slept on a neighbor’s couch; Destiny lived at our house for two days.

snow1

As is typical of human nature, what was enchanting on its first appearance was less tantalizing the second time around — at least for Nathan, who at nine years old is apparently rather jaded. But Ryan and Mica were glad to venture out into the snow again. We built a small snowman, so misshapen that I didn’t bother taking a photo, although we did place it right by our mailbox for the mainman to enjoy. Ryan and Destiny went sledding in the nearby park as well. Other than snow tubing, I think that might have been the first time Ryan slid down a snowy hill. He was a bit dubious at first, but with Destiny’s example and encouragement he pushed his boundaries, and I was proud of him for doing so. Mica showed no interest; we went home to warm up.

snow2

And I learned an important lesson. I haven’t needed to deal with snow much in my life, but this time around there was actual shoveling to be done in order to have a clear path to the shop and the car. My lesson: shovel while the snow is either fresh or slushy, but don’t wait until the slush freezes. Lesson learned.

New Year’s Eve Family Meeting

We’ve pulled off our second annual New Year’s Eve family meeting. Honestly, I think I’m the only one who really cares about these — it feels so nice and like everything is wrapped up. But I served dessert at it, so everyone came.

And actually, everyone seemed to enjoy the part where we walked through the highlights of last year. I had prepared by opening up a bunch of tabs to blog posts describing fun things we’ve done, and did a little presentation to kick things off. I heard multiple variations of “Oh yeah, that was fun!” as we worked out way through.

Our list for this year is fairly short, and mostly consists of “we should do that again” items, with a few other things thrown in. (For example, we got a metal detector for Christmas, and I floated the question “where can we imagine using this?”) None of the kids are old enough to do much in the way of planning yet. At this stage, I consider us to be building the habit of the meeting more than anything.

Cards

cards1

I don’t require the kids to make Christmas cards for anyone, although I do invite them to do so. This year Mica and Nathan took me up on that and Ryan abstained. If I recall correctly, Nathan made two cards, and Mica pretty much stamped any piece of paper I put in front of her, and then, feeling herself under-challenged, took to smearing the ink directly on her face. Maybe she isn’t quite ready for stamps.

cards2

I do, however, require the kids to write (or dictate) thank-you notes. This may seem draconian of me, but once they get past their initial reluctance they actually rather enjoy it. I think it’s good not only because it’s always a good thing to thank people for their generosity, but because it forces them to reflect on that generosity in the first place, and in some small way consider the blessings they have in their lives.

cards3

I doubt they share my point of view. Maybe they’ll come around in thirty years or so. Right now it is a measure of the autonomy they enjoy in most of their lives that my declaration of a “mandatory” activity was met with voluble protests from Ryan, about how it isn’t right to force people to do things. We had quite a conversation along those lines. In the end I’m not sure I convinced him, but I did wear him down.