Thursday, July 19, 2012


I am not a pet person.  Other than a couple days of goldfish here and there, I never had a pet when I was a kid.  My husband also made it through childhood with nary a pet.  (Two only children with no pets.  Yes, I'm sure there's much to discuss there, but we'll save that for another day.)

Since my son was very little, he has loved all things nature and animals.  For his second birthday, we gave him a blue betta fish that he named Bluefish.

Bluefish was my kind of pet--requiring minimal care.  Even for a betta, that fish required little effort.  It survived, and thrived, for years with infrequent feeding and bowl cleaning by me.  When we moved from Chicago to Rhode Island, Bluefish drove across the country with the kids and me (I drove, Bluefish rode).  He survived quite a while after that until, of course, he didn't.

That was a sad day.  I'll spare you the gory details, but it wasn't pretty.  After having bonded with the fish on our cross country trip, I was surprisingly sad to see him meet his demise and didn't know how the kids would take it.  I flushed the little guy while the kids were at school and gently broke the news to them when they got home.  After a three-second pause, my five-year-old son said, "Can we get a lizard now?" and for weeks my two-year-old daughter told everyone she encountered, "Mommy flushed Bluefish down the toilet!"

We did not get a lizard or any of the other multitude of critters they requested.  Rather quickly, however, I caved and purchased a new fish.  Since then we have had in succession Peacock, Dragon Princess, and now Blitzen.  That was all I was willing to undertake despite frequent pleas for a dog, cat, snake, lizard, or any other non-fish, because by now they are thoroughly underwhelmed by the fish.  I can't blame them, but that's its allure to me;  an underwhelming pet is my kind of pet.

Back in April, on an unseasonably sunny warm day, I took the kids, their nets, and a five-gallon bucket to a local pond.  When we had stopped at the pond to look for frogs and turtles, they had spotted tadpoles and wanted to try to catch some.  We had a free afternoon and the weather was splendid, so we ran home, put on rain boots, got their gear, and returned to the pond.

I thought they'd stay interested for 20 minutes.  We were there two hours.

They caught a lot of tadpoles.  If I had to guess, I'd say there were in excess of seventy in our bucket by the time I called it a day.

I planned to release them all.  The children had other ideas.  After several rounds of negotiation, I agreed that we could take three very small tadpoles home.  I remembered an unused tank I'd seen in a friend's garage, and she gladly loaned it to us.  I never committed to how long we would keep the tadpoles, but the kids were pretty committed.  They named them Tad, Roger and Samantha.

Tad didn't make it and is buried under the geraniums, but the other two tadpoles have provided quite the opportunity for scientific observation.  Roger is now a frog, while three months and six days after capture, Samantha is a froglet with a tail and back legs.

For the last three weeks, Roger and Samantha have been sleeping over at our friends' home while we were in and out on vacation (the same friend who loaned the tank, she's a keeper).  We brought them and Blitzen home today and cleaned their tanks, which is when I took the above photo.

Watching the tadpoles turn into frogs has been tremendously interesting, even for us adults, but it is time to release them back into the pond from which we seized them.  We are leaving again soon for another trip, and asking our friends to frog sit and hauling the tank back and forth across town is more than I wish to undertake.  The frogs are not sufficiently underwhelming to me, so they must go.  I am the one who feeds them, and I have to force the kids to help me clean the tank.  During today's tank cleaning, Roger nearly escaped, and I got a piece of glass wedged into my palm from a chip in the tank I did not know was there.  Added together, it means our days as tadpole and frog owners are coming to a close.

The kids are not going to be happy about this.  There will be much clamoring about how helpful they intend to be.  While I believe them to be sincere, I also know they will not follow through.  I'm willing to bet that, once they know I'm not changing my mind, they ask to catch more tadpoles when we go to the pond to release these little guys.  Not going to happen.  This is about as pet-friendly as I get, and I'm ready to manage only a betta fish again.  I can't even guarantee that he'll be replaced when he goes to meet his predecessors down the toilet.  What can I say?  I don't do pets.  If that makes me lacking in the parenting department, I'll bake some extra cookies to compensate.

Farewell, Roger and Samantha.  It's been nice knowing you.

Monday, July 16, 2012


As I was sitting on the pier at the lake last week, this image struck me as pretty much summing up the laid back summer-at-the-lake experience.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Old-Fashioned Fun

As a parent, it is particularly satisfying to share with your children the things that were important to your childhood.  I have been doing that for the last week, during our annual trip to our family's place on Lake Tillery in Norwood, NC.

The house was built by my grandparents, and my dad spent his childhood coming here.  When I was growing up, we came down every July 4th for a busy week full of great-aunts, great-uncles, grandparents, and multiple cousins.  It was an incredibly fun happy chaos, especially for an only child like myself. 

Keeping with tradition, I bring my two kids for a week every summer.  It's a lot quieter than it was in my youth--most of the time it is only the kids, me, my parents, the cousin of my dad's generation who lives next door, and an occasional visit from my grandmother and other family members.  While it is quiet, much remains the same.

The motorized water vehicles have more horsepower and the things we tow behind them have improved in quality, but we still do basically the same thing.  We swim, we water ski, we ride the inner tube and the jet ski. I hop on the boat every time it leaves the dock.  The kids wear nothing but a bathing suit and pajamas the entire week and essentially live in their life jackets.   

Yesterday, I posted photos of the kids on the rope swing and riding the inner tube.  A friend commented what good old-fashioned fun we appeared to be having.  She is completely correct.  It's not the Tuscan countryside and it's not zip-lining through the jungles of Costa Rica.  We are in a small house (recently improved by my parents, but still very simple), in a podunk town on a lake no one but locals have ever heard of, but it is fun.  Great fun. This summer, at age eight, my eldest learned to water ski in the very same place I learned to ski when I was seven.  I taught my kids the great thrill of magnet fishing--dragging a large magnet on a rope along the bottom of the lake, searching for "treasure" dropped off the pier.  We made homemade ice cream--peach, of course, the only kind we've always made.

The lake house.

It has been a great trip.  Tomorrow, I return to reality, where my mom isn't cooking my meals and doing my laundry, and my dad isn't hanging out with my kids at 6 a.m. and delivering a cocktail to me at 5 p.m.  There are not many people or much variety at the lake, so after a week, we are ready to return home to our lives and our stuff.  Tomorrow night, I'll need to pack lunches for camp and on Monday, I'll need to catch up on exercise and yard work. But for this past week, I've gotten to share with my kids a life that I love and activities I enjoyed when I was their age.  Sitting on our pier here, looking out the cove, is my happy place.  I love it, and I love sharing it with the next generation.  Thanks, Mom and Dad, for making it happen again for my kids.

My happy place.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fireworks Shirt Update

In case you were thinking of trying this at home, here's the post-washing photo of the fireworks (Sharpie tie dye) T-shirt.

Before washing, I reread the original blog instructions.  The author indicated she'd had less luck with Sharpies, which we used, than with other permanent markers.  There were also several comments from readers who said that nearly all the color, except for the marker dots, had washed out.  Not wanting sad kids, in an abundance of caution, I:

1.  ironed the shirt
2.  put it through two High cycles in the dryer; then
3.  washed it on Gentle in cold.

I don't know if that was overkill, but the color stayed fairly well, and the small people are happy.  Therefore, I am happy.

[Please pardon the poor quality iPhone photo.  The camera was packed for a trip, and once something is packed it does not come out until we reach our destination.  And, until the next iteration of the iPhone is released, I'm trudging along with my trusty 3G. Poor, poor pitiful me.]

Saturday, July 7, 2012


When it comes to kids and crafts, it's always hit or miss.  For the life of me, I can never tell what is going to keep their interest.  That's why, after today's runaway success at a friend's house, I thought I'd share this one.  I take no credit for the idea (from the Internet), the decision to give a go (my friend's) or the result (totally the kids').  I just took some photos.

The original instruction can be found here at Mom's Crafty Space.  We had two eight-year-olds and two five-year-olds, and three of them kept at this for longer than I ever could have hoped (the first worked a fairly long time but finished more quickly and went to read).  Other than frequent admonitions to keep the permanent markers away from their clothes, we didn't intervene.  Most interesting to me was that, unlike many kid creations, these were beautiful and very cool.  I think they will wear their creations frequently and proudly.

You need:  a white T-shirt, colored Sharpies, an eye dropper and rubbing alcohol, plus whatever you feel is necessary to protect your table and kids' clothing from permanent marker.  You can check out the detailed instructions at the above link, but basically:

Draw dots in a circular pattern.

Or any other pattern you prefer.

Including words, if you're so inclined.

Drop rubbing alcohol on the design until the marker spreads to make the pattern you desire.

We have not washed ours yet.  The instructions say to iron the shirts first to set the marker.  I'm still looking for the iron and need to remember how it works, but if there are any problems, I'll let you know.  I'd probably better get on that, because the kids are anxious to wear their new pieces of artwork.

What a day--a successful craft that required no ideas, execution or clean-up by me.  It's good to have crafty friends.