Action Plan

It is time to dust off this old blog. Originally, I used this space to add to the voices of dads in the nurturing of children, an often mom-dominated environment. I also wanted something to keep me up in the practice of writing, and the blog also served to document the young lives of my children for me and those who wanted to know what was going on.

Our family dedicated two weekends to canvass in New Hampshire for Hillary Clinton and Maggie Hassan. We were partly successful. The election results, however, put many vulnerable groups in greater need of advocacy and allies. On Sunday, our family sat down to talk about what we will do to protect the things we think are important, to engage more consistently and regularly in tikkun olam (repairing the world), and to counteract the rhetoric and actions based in hate and anger.

Together, we created a list of priorities that we will search out paths for involvement:

  • Not polluting the Earth
  • Immigration
  • Education
  • Women’s Health & Reproductive Rights
  • LGBTQ rights
  • Racial Equality
  • Gun Control

This is our first step. We hope to make many more and build a community of like-minded families around us doing this work together.

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Health Club

Over this academic year, one of my biggest goals came to fruition. I was able to get five other families to join ours in delivering a health curriculum to our 1st and 2nd grade students. Yesterday was the final session out of five, and the group has come together as a community. This village is helping me be a better parent, and it is broadening Rose’s learning far more than if we had just done this work alone.

The families came from different parts of our lives, and they did not know each other at the initial parent meeting. Some families at that meeting decided that this was not what they wanted, and other families that had been interested did not have the time to commit to this endeavor. It turns out we didn’t either, but we managed to push a 9 session curriculum into 5 meetings. Interestingly, we ended up with all girls in this group even though some families with boys had been invited.

We covered bodies, feelings, families, and birth among other topics, but some of the most interesting topics came out of the anonymous question box. The initial design for the curriculum had parents and children separated, but we only did that the first time. After that we were all in the room for each session. The initial plans and vision were merely a starting point, and what we evolved fit our needs far better. It was an amazing, collaborative effort.

I modified lessons from the Our Whole Lives curriculum for K-1 students. With our children being a bit older, some of the material was no longer relevant or developmentally appropriate. The question box supplied other topics that were relevant.

Most sessions started with a review of the guidelines for how we talked as a group. We then answered question box questions. Next we dove into an OWL lesson which usually involved a short discussion, a story, and an art activity. Not every session made it through all of these things. Often, we would hang out afterwards and have dinner together. Many families have a younger sibling, and I hope we can continue this work together when they are ready.

Now that this session is over, I am so happy to have done it, but I am also surprised at how much energy went into just leading 5 sessions with a better than 1:1 ratio of adults to children. I believe and hope that the children and the parents benefited from coming together to do this; I know I have.


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Granddad Jim

This blog has been mostly dormant, but a few days ago, I lost my Dad. On these pages, I have talked of my journeys as a dad, and these journeys are so intertwined with my own Dad’s path as a father. Some things I hope to learn from, and others I hope to walk a new path. Regardless, he had an enormous impact on who I am. Here are a few pics from when Reuben was born. My parents were visiting, and Dad ended up in the hospital before Reena gave birth. This short time encapsulated so much of what he meant to me. There was his illness that lasted over two decades with its hospital visits, there was his absolute joy in his grand children, and there were the quiet conversations that we managed to have in the moments that he was available.

Dad, I miss you so much.

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The Cost of a Pony Ride

20982144758_785747a59f_z 20983244909_a8cfe38b86_zToday we went apple picking. The peaches were still in season, too, so we swiped one as we climbed up the hill to the designated apple picking area. This year, we arrived at about 9:30 or so, and we avoided the massive crowds we encountered last year. Also, being so early in the season helped, though we were concerned about holiday weekend traffic that did not show in the end.

This year, we were able to add pony rides to the ticket because they weren’t already sold out. In fact, we were the second family to get a ride, and there was no crowd. The ponies were not tired, the pony handlers were chipper, and we had finished our apple picking. Each ride amounted to two times around a small paddock. Both kids got on the ponies with less fuss than we thought might occur. The two ride attendants were wonderful at making the kids feel comfortable the whole time. Both wore pretty big smiles.

Looking just at the cost, the rides are ridiculously priced, but there are layers. The kids, who both tend to be cautious, both loved the experience and had little trepidation through the whole thing. For me it was an exercise in shushing the inner voice that wants value for money spent. And for the kids, it was another opportunity for us to model that spending money for fun, ephemeral things is ok. These things work their way into our memories and impressions and leave such a longer lasting impression that we realize.

So, the ride was priced just right. This time.

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Not a camp for dads, but a camp run by dad. I had grand visions in my head for what I would do this week with the kids with no outside schedule except for a meeting Reena and I had to attend Monday afternoon. On Sunday, I held a planning session with the kids to create a list of the possibilities. Chinatown, camping, beach, Seacoast Science Center, and much more populated the list.

18913820384_209c0c7b45_zMonday’s shortened time lent itself to taking the kids downtown to experience dumplings at Chinatown. Rose has been asking for this for months. We managed to stumble upon the same restaurant we visited a while ago and ordered what I thought would be a reasonable amount of food. Turns out their appetizers are enough to feed at least one person. We left full, happy, and with a lot of take home food.

19349895729_fc4e1a6ec8_z19540641891_39ca87bdc1_zTuesday saw us hop in the new car and drive up to the Seacoast Science Center. What a great little interpretive center about the ocean. Very doable with young children, and it is right next to some lovely rocks to clamber around. There are some nice beaches and other spots in the area, so I could easily envision a day trip up to Portsmouth to spend the day on the water there.

Wednesday was supposed to feature thunderstorms, so I planned a day of getting house work done and building a robot. We started organizing the kids’ playroom and only got as far as sorting out their bins. Much more work to do there, but the main part that they have to curate is done. In the afternoon we selected the Mbot out of a few choices of robots to build. 18913882614_590ab4acd3_z19536434075_b3b19accb2_z19529711282_7c0128d0ce_zYes, I am a geek dad. The Mbot was a recent Kickstarter that allows the kids to build the robot, control it with a remote, program it with Scratch, and more. For a 7 and 4 year old with adult guidance, the build was easy enough to be feasible but challenging enough to be interesting. There were a few issues with the overall good directions that probably were addressed online. We were going to program the Mbot on Thursday, but we still haven’t done that.

Thursday ended up being a yardwork and more housework day. The morning was mostly filled with tackling the yard to make it a bit more presentable and running all the loads of dishes and laundry that had piled up.

19403969599_aab4b9c9b4_z19564300156_3b934987c9_z 19402477268_c8094691cb_zFriday was the great adventure of visiting a Boston Harbor Island. Due to timing and facilities, I chose to get tickets to visit Georges Island. It was a good first island to visit in the harbor. There is a direct ferry to it and one other, and there is a big old fort there that is fun to explore. We caught a 10:00 ferry to the island and wore our raincoats for a bit of warmth in the chilly morning. By the time we arrived, it had become sunny and warm. We spent the day exploring cool, dark rooms inside and walking the hot ramparts above. When we left on a 3:00 boat, we were hot, happy, and tired.


Did I do all the journaling and other things I wanted to accomplish? Not in the slightest. In the end, I think the kids had a wonderful experience, and so did I.

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A Hike

Friday evening, we drove up to a lodge operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club and joined quite a few families for a night there and a hike in the morning. We didn’t make it in time for the hike Friday afternoon, but the next day’s hike was a lovely 1.5 miles in and back to a pretty waterfall. The four of us slept in the same room for the first time ever. The hike took us through some woods following the course of the river. At the waterfall’s base, there was a lovely, small swimming hole. The water’s temperature was a bit bracing, but walking around in the shallows revealed waterbugs with fascinating shadows, small fish, mica flakes in the rocks that glistened, and much more. Rose slowly became more tolerant of the cold water and spent some time exploring these wonders. Both kids were great on the hike in and back, and they were pretty wiped out on the way home


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New Routine

Out of desperation, new routines are born. Two nights ago I was in the middle of another solo parenting dinner, bath, bed evening. There have been a fair number of these recently as Reena’s work has been a bit intense. I got them through the dinner and bath part earlier than usual and just couldn’t deal with almost an hour of very loud singing of the same songs, making the same noises, and general irritability at each other and the world that is the hallmark of those minutes before crashing.

So I put them to bed ridiculously early, told them that they could read in their own beds without taking to each other (which I am sure they ignored), and that they could go to sleep when they were tired.

It worked. They stayed upstairs instead of coming down five times like the night before when I put them to bed at the correct time. They not only stayed up all evening, they even slept in the next morning!

This is night three of the new routine. Last night I did the same thing, and tonight, they are in bed closer to their normal time with permission to read. We shall see how this evolves, but for now it is a wonderful change.

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I’m Board

This morning, we took the Tball gear to the park and ended up playing with various friends. After errands in the early afternoon, we stopped in as a family and got frozen yogurt. Then, I played games with my kids. This is something I have looked forward to for a long time. We started with Monster Factory, one of their favorites and easy to play. We then played another tile placement game called Castles of Caragaba, a game designed by one of my friends, and we finished with a couple of rounds of Yardmaster Express. What a great day!

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Starting to Click

16762430898_7aed8f52ef_kThe bins of Legos, Lincoln Logs, blocks, and other construction toys have been used lightly over time. Probably the train tracks have gotten the most play. However, Reuben has suddenly decided that building is his thing, and out came the Legos. We worked together to build a spaceship out of the pieces that my grandmother gave me for a birthday when I was not much older than Reuben is now. It is so much fun to see the 70’s lego pieces rise again.

Both kids are beginning to be able to play more interesting games, as well. We just dug into Monster Factory, and the kids loved it!16330066253_66ab049ead_k (1)

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It’s Snow Fun

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Rose and I managed to get some sledding in earlier during this winter of snow. Reuben, however, was inside suffering from what seemed to be an unending cold. Finally, he was ready to venture out, and he needed to with an excess of energy to burn. We spent a while in the back yard making our “igloo” and tunnel. I saw a documentary a while ago that showed igloo builders using a simple flat saw to make the blocks from the snow, so I grabbed a saw and tried it out. Clearly, we do not have subarctic conditions here even though people complain that we do. The snow is not the same. However, once the top foot and a half was removed, the bottom foot of snow was quite serviceable. I found this out as I made the igloo, so there are several layers made of much more crumbly snow. I had to mound up snow around it so the walls would not fall outward. Hopefully this next snowfall will help cement the thing together.

The other thing we did was make a “tunnel.” While the igloo had not top, the tunnel had no exit. It was really a small space scraped out of the snow for Reuben to back into. He loved it, though, and I sure got a workout building these two things. Reuben helped and was so excited to finally have an igloo and a tunnel just like in his book, Blizzard.

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