Category Archives: Parenting

Use of Fields By Permit Only

 

 

 

 

SAMSUNG

Why our children have no choice but to play video games and get fat.

Saw this sign the other day on an empty playing field, one amid many empty playing fields.  It’s not the best weather, admittedly, winter dreariness.  It’s not the greatest day for ball.  But what happened to the days when kids would, on their own accord, round up their neighbors, grab their gloves, one or two decent balls with the stitches still intact and not too much scuffing on the leather, find a bat, a few plates or hats or whatever for bases, and make an afternoon of it?

Now the choices we have, as parents, are a). Being our childrens’ athletic/entertainment coordinators b). Enrolling them in expensive and often overly-structured competitive sports programs, or c). Condemning them to idleness and video games, locked safely away in our suburban distopias.

This sign made me sad.  It’s NQR.  I wish I had a cure for it.

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What Children Do When Deprived of TV/Video Games

As we come closer and closer to winter’s bad weather and the associated heartlessness of forcing the children outdoors for their daily bout of video-game and tv-free (self)-entertainment, we’ve moved into arts-and-crafts mode.

Lest this be perceived as doily-decorating, scrapbook-creating fluffiness (confessing upfront that one of our two boys spends an inordinate amount of his non-tv time cooking and/or making architectural plans on post-it notes) I present this piece of handiwork, which makes me feel much more confident that my children will be equipped to survive a coming apocalypse:

the rubberband fly-fishing bait

Note that the red thread has been woven INTO the rubberband!

Although this little beauty was almost mistaken for lint and vacuumed from our living-room floor, it is worth noting that the creator  (I suspect my older, fishing-crazy son) adhered to house rules and did not complete his masterwork.  No hooks!

As a bait, it’s a little NQR, and just a tad redneck-ish.   As a demonstration of what a 12-year old can do when unplugged for a few minutes, it’s precious.


Architectural Masterpiece on Post-It Notes

Although I certainly appreciate how far my boy has come in his artistic endeavors since the episode, earlier this summer, now known as “Offspring of Lightning and Pure Darkness,” something rather NQR about these architectural sketches remains, be it the choice of media (Post-It Notes? — come on, kid!) or the presumption of fabulous wealth certainly necessary to fulfill this lovely dream of a house, either personally or on behalf of a rather childish and bourgeois clientele if, in his mind, he has designed this home for some third party rather than for himeself.  As such, I’ll share these sketches and give my ballpark for the associated costs (though I’m no home contractor myself!), not as a way to crush his dreams but more with the mind to preserve these little images, someday to show them to him when and if he does ever build a home of his own.

First, the overview (found under the work-light of his bunkbed desk, left here exactly in situ):

What rich client wouldn’t want to see the creativity here, the artiste’s obviously taking oreintal inspiration from the trivet tile from a Moroccan souq and the cartouche of the architect’s own name, made sentimentally in 4th grade art?

Next, a slightly closer view of the work-in-progress, here focusing on the kitchen — to include vintage ‘egg chairs’ along with a marble countertop, plus a supplementary sketch, ala Frank Lloyd Wright, for the patterning of tilework — yielding up in rough estimate a very preliminary construction cost of perhaps $80,000.  Second floor layout seems to allude pleasantly to the shape of a coffee-mug, perhaps in the artiste’s thinking a way to ‘welcome the day’ with Folger’s in his cup.

Sketch of the kitchen, along with some very rough initial ‘thoughts’ on the layout of the second floor.

Next, the indoor pool with a ballpark construction cost-estimate of $200,000, including the slide from the master bedroom.

Indoor pool, with slide coming from bedroom closet (see bedroom diagram below).

Next the master bedroom, with slide to the indoor waterpool coming out of the closet, estimate for cost:  $40,000?

Bedroom: interesting features include woodwork behind bed (in the closet?) sliding doors that lead to a ‘padio,’ window overlooking indoor pool.

Next, the connection between the two levels of the house.  Looks like there is a hallway and at least one set of stairs.  Hard to assign a cost to this segment of the house, but since it must be built we can arbitrarily say, maybe, $10,000?  If the roof of the pool, shown here, is glassed-in or decorative, then maybe another $30,000 should be added.

Concept is unclear in this sketch, presumably will be thrashed out in more detail in the final blueprint.

An alternate, more costly version, including a curving stair, probably runs closer to $25,000.

Another (competing?) concept for the stairs between the two levels of the house, this one more expensive and showing some antebellum influences. Architect’s shorthand for “Bird’s I” amusing. . .

Next, the rather boxy but efficient layout of the complete first floor.  Discounting the cost of the kitchen and the pool (which were figured above) the remainder of this probably comes to another $250,000 in construction and design costs.

Complete diagram for first level of the house: tennis/basketball court, pool, kitchen, and a rather open-concept living area testify to the owner’s enthusiasm for Sport.

Finally, and blurrily (whether it was laughter on the part of the photographer or sudden furtiveness at the sound of approaching steps outside the architect’s door, I can offer no valid excuse for taking such a poor photo) the living room.  Given its rather empty and square construction, this one portion of the building project probably does not require a separate cost estimate, although I strongly suspect that a large flatscreen TV is intended to remedy the architect’s childhood bitterness at always having owned the smallest and oldest TV on the block.

The least ‘clear’ of the early sketches for this building project, a close-up on the quadrant of the lower-level designated to serve as ‘living room.’

TOTAL COST ESTIMATE FOR CONSTRUCTION:  $355,000 – $500,000 depending on improvements to the lot, municiple fees, etc.

TOTAL VALUE PRESERVED FOR (FUTURE) ARCHITECTURAL CAREER:  Priceless, baby.


Chocolate Paradise with Animatronic Cows

Ahhh, lovely chocolate themepark place, how I adore thee.

Visiting a theme park, any theme park, something is bound to go wrong.  Too much humanity crowds into too small a space, adrenaline levels rise, people eat bad food, glucose levels spike, trends in wearing identical matched clothing magnify bodily imperfections to frightening levels (whether Youth Group Smiley-Face t-shirts or double velour sequened sweatsuits).

Yet the trip my family took to Hershey Park was almost perfect.  We tasted chocolate, dark, darker, milk, spiced = yum.  We bought chocolate.  We sipped hot coco.  We made our own candy bars.  Double yum.

Candy being specially made-to-order for us at the ‘Make a Bar’ attraction.

Chocolate actually flows through this pipe: I need one of these!

And then we took the little indoor tramcar ride through what we thought would be the machine-shop workings of the ‘real’ Hershey’s plant.  We wanted to see the Kit-Kats and other delicacies in their moment of nugaty, carmely, chocolatey birth.

Wrong.

Cow butts. Weird.

What we got instead were singing animatronic cows, sometimes (oddly enough) with their swishing, dusty butts turned toward us, all amid a flashing frenzy of lights, a Willy-Wonka-Meets-Ann-of-Green-Gables abomination from which all of us (but especially my stout and very nearly manly sons) fled as quick as the seatbelts and lapbars unclicked at the end of the ride.

Go there.  They’ve built it.  See it for yourselves.  And certainly build a candy bar of your own choosing.  But beware the cows.

Scary Dancing Cows . . . not sure if this shows up as a movie, but try to click on it. Animatronics just BOTHER me.


You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me!

Why, why, why on earth do KIDS need a Pottery Barn?

Not only is the concept just wacky (what do they care about 100-thread count Egyptian cotton bedsheets?) but I actually witnessed, just after taking this photo, a five year-old boy emerge with his mother, sobbing, begging — begging! — to be allowed to stay and play.  This does not bode well for the future masculinity of our American society.  And, with all the starving KIDS in the world, I just wish that some of these parents looked beyong their own noses to do something, anything, better with their dollars.

Gag me with a spoon (or some overpriced but teensy-weensy furniture).


Offspring of Lightning and Pure Darkness

So, my ten year old son asked me to take him to the local library last week to get some ‘how to draw’ books.  He chose five:

“Wildlife Sketching”
“Drawing Life in Motion”
“How to Improve at Drawing”
“Drawing Birds,”

. . . and, with a little nudge from me, “Michaelangelo and His Drawings.”
(The proud parent never knows when his well-timed hint might cause latent genius to flower.)

We returned with books in hand and my boy immediately locked himself in his room for the better part of a day, working away feverishly, burning through several pencils, scattering eraser dust and crumpled printer paper all around him like some sort of gigantic nest.

The product of all this work?  A couple of nice sketches of robins, a rabbit or two in motion, a deer, a bit of birch forest, an attempt at a hand (with no noticeable Sistine influence) and, in true NQR fashion, this lovely gem . . .

Do ten year-old artists go through a ‘black’ period?

The brushstrokes are nice, though I’m not sure whether the pronounced black splotches under Night Fury‘s wings(?) are some sort of black webbing or armpit hair.


Soft Drink Wars

Just a quick NQR chime-in on the soft drink debate that’s currently raging in New York City (see article on the recent hearing where Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to limit soda sizes to 16oz in the city is debated).

Personally we’ve taken to ordering kids’ meals when we’re traveling and don’t otherwise have our normal range of options for healthy eating (or at least obtaining healthy portion sizes).  The fries in a kids’ meal are the same size now days as LARGE fries when we were kids.  The burgers are portion-sized, rather than 1000+ calorie behemoths.  And the sodas are in the 8 – 12oz range.  This says alot about America, and American gluttony, that the cheapest and most available sources of food are too large, too sugary, and too fat.  Unlike much of the rest of the world, where the poorer classes are subjected to starvation-level poverty, in America food is an almost unavoidable excess unless you’re rich enough (ala Angelina Jolie) to hire a private cook and nutritionist.

Here’s proof (from what has been, over time, one of our more favored and frequented fast food joints) on the explosion in size of soft drinks.  A REGULAR soda (regular!) came across the counter to me barely large enough to fit in my hand.  The fine print in the lower right corner of the cup reveals its size:  30oz.  It’s stupid big.  And it lends credence to what doctors are saying about these soft drinks, that they’re addictive.  How else can anyone explain drinking, in one sitting, an amount of soda that is equal to half the normal intake of water someone needs during a day?

I say to Mayor Bloomberg:  “Good work.”  If someone has a problem with a 16oz size soda, let them purchase two (or four, if they want the equivalent of a modern ‘large’).

Giant cup of sugar (or worse: corn syrup!)

 


Sleep Fishing

This image qualifies as the opposite of “Not Quite Right.”  It’s 100% right, what life should be like everyday.

Taken in the Boundary Waters, a canoe-only wilderness on the border of Minnesota and Canada.  My 12-year old had paddled 13 miles and then fished, almost non-stop, for the rest of the day.  Late afternoon, beautifully calm skies and waters, the fishing ‘action’ had drifted off and so, too, had he.  He’s completely asleep in this photo, though he’s holding his fishing pole cupped in both hands and though the bobber drifts on the mirror-flat surface of the lake.  A fish even bit at one point, pulling and jiggling the bobber beneath the surface.  He continued to sleep and then, at last, after about 20 minutes, startled awake, completely unaware of where he was!  How strange it must have been for him to wake from a dream into the very place of his dreams.

My 12-year old, in paradise.


Fugcikles

Grocery list from my refrigerator, addition in bold courtesy my 9-yr old.

Although it’s certainly NQR, without looking at the previous, empty box from the freezer I must admit I had trouble spelling this one too!

Nice try, son, but you’re not taking home the blue-ribbon at the spelling bee this week.


How to Make Ruins Fun

After touring a large number of sites in the Middle East, many not much more than a ‘significant’ pile of rock their father identified along some barren stretch of highway, my two children, boys ages 9 and 11, had this to say:  “Just because it’s old, dad, doesn’t mean it’s interesting.”

So, how, as a parent (and an enthusiast of archeology and other ‘old’ stuff) could I keep them interested?

For this, I stumbled on a wonderful recipe and will share it now with all other like-minded parents who face the challenge of touring citadels and other crumbly things while keeping children in tow.

First, take one pile of old stones, like, for instance:

Amphitheater at Tlos, Turkey.

Next, add one small (but hopefully very quick and wily) lizard.

The Lizard.

Then, applying the wisdom of age and keen observation, father (or other parent), will notice lizard, take excellent close-up photo for later use in blog entry, then steathily indicate its presence to bored progeny.

The speedy little bugger hid behind the crumbled ruins of some nice Roman stairs.

Bake for 35 minutes, during which time father might enjoy, at his leisure and without harassment, the majesty of associated ruins and the gorgeous backdrop of nearby Turkish mountains.  Children scamper after lizard.

Scamper, scamper.

End result?  A rather NQR sort of entertainment, but happy kids and happy dad.

Younger son, 'permitted' to hold the Lizard by his brother. NOTE: this photo was actually taken at the Jerash ruins in Jordan. The Tlos lizard conducted a successful evasion. Nevertheless, the principle remains unerringly valid.