Just A Picture

Father and son, programming together…


Valentine’s Cupcakes

What is Valentine’s Day really for, anyway? Romance? Love in general? Commercialism? For my kids, at least, it appears to be about the same thing as most holidays: sugar.

I had vague ideas of doing heart cutout cookies with icing, but let’s be honest: mini cupcakes are quicker, easier, and just as well-received by the children in the household. Plus the kids really like to help with the tedious bit of beating the frosting.



Another holiday nailed…

Kindness Rocks

Recently I made some Kindness Rocks with Mica. This project had everything I look for in A Project To Do With A Two-Year-Old. It had paint — but only a little. It had rocks. And it fit nicely within the window of a two-year-old attention span.


Mica chose pink and purple paints for the base coat. (I think she’s been influenced by popular culture.) We did the painting at Free School, and then I squirreled the stones away for a few days until I found a chance to put words on them. Any kind of art that requires fine motor control is not the sort to do with a toddler.

After that it was just a matter of placing them. I dragged all three kids out for a quick walk to the park, which we managed to squeeze in (mostly) between rain showers. The boys especially seemed to enjoy finding places for the stones. Then it started to hail and we came home.

Swim Lessons

All the kids started swim lessons this year, and I am happy to report that at least two of them seem to enjoy them. Mica is in a parent-toddler class with me. I was not worried about her enjoying the swimming — she loves the water — but she has found the structure of the class a little odd. In no other part of her life is she required to follow directions and do what everyone else is doing for no obvious reason, and she clearly finds that bizarre.

But I give her what choice I can, and she is (mostly) going along with this strange concept. She also has gotten used to the idea of being dunked under the water — more quickly than I expected. For myself, I find the structure a little annoying; I still think that little kids would benefit from maybe a few small directed activities and then lots of time to play. But I understand that my perspective on education is not mainstream.

The boys are in a semi-private lesson with an instructor at another pool. After the first lesson the instructor told me that he could definitely work with Ryan, but he wasn’t sure about Nathan. Now three weeks in, that pattern is holding. Ryan openly likes the swim lessons and has fun in them. Nathan still dislikes even going to the lessons. We’ve reached an understanding: although I’m making him attend the lessons, which clearly violates his sense of autonomy, I’ve been entirely up front about the fact that I cannot, in fact, make him learn to swim. I can hope he takes advantage of the opportunity, but I really have no greater power than that. Once he understood it in those terms, he stopped actively resisting going to the lessons. I honestly have no idea whether he’ll warm up eventually and begin to have fun.


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.


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


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


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


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.