Category Archives: activities


A New Bed

We finished putting together the new, triangular raised bed. First we marked around the bed to see where we had to dig. Last time, we just put the bed on top of the ground, and everything that was growing there just pushed right up through the foot of soil to compete with what we tried to grow. This time, we scraped off the top layer of soil, grass, and weeds to hopefully cut back on this. After filling three old recycle bins of soil, we had a triangular hole in the ground into which we placed the bed frame. The next part, I did while the kids blew bubbles and played with chalk. I
moved the compost from our two composters into the frame. It was a stinky job as some of it had not fully broken down. I then dumped some bags of topsoil on and we all worked on spreading it around over the compost. That was enough for one day, so we covered the frame with deer netting to keep off the squirrels and other animals that like to dig in the dirt.

The next day, we worked on creating the poles that will hold up the netting and allow us to access the garden while keeping varmints out. My daughter helped cut the PVC pipes to length, but I did the gluing up. That glue and primer are pretty toxic stuff. We then all worked on measuring, cutting, and attaching the netting to the frame structure, and by the end of the day, we had a new bed ready for our lettuce when it gets big enough to plant outside. We also planted my daughter’s bean plant that she started at school.

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Book Project

My daughter is home from school today. Her flu ended up resulting in pink eye, so she is with me. Not sick enough to warrant watching movies all day, she decided to create her own alphabet book. This idea is wholly her own and occurred as I worked on some projects in my office. She stuck to it and finished with a great deal of pride in her product. She wanted to copy it and share it with all of her classmates tomorrow when she returns to school. With that audience in mind, and her teacher as well, I decided to introduce the idea of feedback. I showed her the many revisions of the game I have been designing and talked about how I work on it and then go to a group where people let me know what they like and what could be improved. We then went through her book, and I helped her correct a few reversed letters and spellings that were phonetically correct but not right. It was a great way to revisit a few spelling rules such as vcv and ay. When we tried to copy the book, the copier couldn’t see the crayon and pencil work. This afforded the opportunity to talk about prototyping. I showed her the box of prototypes for my game and how they had changed over time. Knowing the problem getting her book copied, I suggested that she create a new one in pencil which she would go over in pen after we had a chance to look it over and make revisions. Initially, this was a bit daunting, but then she jumped into the project and is diligently and happily working hard on it.

Yesterday, I participated in the Learning Creative Learning online session by MIT media lab. Many if the ideas batted around were made concrete in this activity. Play can be hard and fun at the same time, intrinsic passion for projects come when they are from within, and much more.

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Free Art, It Should Be Free

Growing up in St. Louis, I assumed all major public resources like zoos, art museums, science centers and the like were free. It was a shock to the system when I learned that not only are they not free, but in many cases are fairly expensive. In Boston, this is the case, and memberships to these institutions is usually worthwhile if one takes a family there more than once. It always rankles my political senses when I have to pay for these resources rather than having the collective tax base shoulder the burden. I would rather pay the admission and more in taxes to cover the costs for all families to have access to cultural resources. We do this with libraries, but we don’t uniformly or even commonly do this with other institutions.

Thus, I was excited when I saw that the Museum of Fine Art was free on MLK Day. I didn’t quite get the kids out the door early, so we arrived on the train about 11:00 when the line stretching out the door wrapped around the front of the building and down the side street. Given that my son was probably going to wet his pants before we were able to enter the building, I decided to head to a nearby restaurant, hit the bathroom, and eat some lunch. After lunch, the line was shorter and moving quickly.

We entered the building, got our free tickets, checked the bag and coats, and then headed out to see art. I think we were able to see a part of each major collection while we were there. My daughter loved the stained glass, and my son was taken by the lion-headed Egyptian statue. Both loved going through the huge red-beaded doorway that an artist had made in reflection on blood and AIDS. I didn’t go into a description of the disease, but I did talk about blood and medicine. All-in-all, several millennia of art crammed into a couple of hours was an excellent way to spend the day, and it was free.

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A Cart, A Market, and a Whole Lot of Snow

Saturday was an adventure day. My wife needed the head space to get some work done, so I took the kids out in the late morning. The rain quickly turned to a mix of rain and snow as we walked to catch the bus. At our local hardware store, I finally got a wheeled shopping back, and it was immediately wonderful. The days of being able to stick everything under the stroller are gone, but the need to transport stuff hasn’t. Thus with two walking kids, the wheeled bag is a great invention. We chose a bright orange one.

We then hopped on the T and headed downtown. After a short leg on a second train, we made our way to Faneuil Hall to have lunch. The place was packed, but we managed to score a table quickly and munched down our homemade meal while thick snow fell and accumulated on the trees and rooves. Already, I had taken my potty-training son to the bathroom two times with no results, and I was getting a bit nervous about the next leg of the journey. We tried again after lunch with no better luck.

We walked to Haymarket which is an open air produce market open on Fridays and Saturdays. The vendors buy up close-to-expiration goods from the warehouses before their new deliveries come in. They then turn around and sell mounds of produce for well less than half the cost of a supermarket. We loaded up our new rolling cart with veggies, fruit, and even a nice piece of fish. It was really fun darting through the gaps between tents where small snow swirls formed.

The train ride home was fine with my son trying to nod off. Finally we made it to the T stop where I knew he would need to take a break, but there was a homeless man sleeping in the stall. We tried to make it above ground to a store nearby, but he finally let loose his bladder on the escalator. We then had a quick changing session in the Au Bon Pain nearby before heading home. I hadn’t brought socks, so he walked home with bare feet in his rain boots. That was not comfortable.

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A Walk in the Woods

Sunday had a plan, but that was put out of its short, miserable life by my son’s 5:20 AM wake-up call. I stumbled downstairs with him, got him his breakfast, and slumped over on the couch. Usually, he finishes his food and heads off to the playroom for some solitary play. Today, however, he needed to check in every five minutes or so, and this lead to a tortuous half waking and half sleeping several hours until I tapped out and had my wife take over at 8:00. This was earlier than she had wanted to get up, so we were both grumbly about the day. Our plan to go to a community event around 10:00 seemed still reachable, but my wife decided not to wake me. She then headed off to get some work done after I woke up, and I was left with a sunny, warmish day to figure out. After I had a very late breakfast, we packed a picnic lunch and drove to a nearby park that is big enough to hike but conveniently right next to the highway. It is certainly not the wilderness, but there are trees, moss, boulders, and all the trappings of nature. The kids loved the hike and the picnic. 

We had fun looking for white blazes on trees and rocks so that we would stay on the trail.

Where we stopped to have lunch.

A small pond with ice on the bottom.

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Unfortunately, my view of my daughter was mostly obscured throughout the concert by the assistant.

My daughter participates weekly in a chorus, and this weekend, she performed in a concert with that chorus. The usual introductions were made, and then the mayor took the podium to say the usual bit about how important children are. This, however, is more meaningful than most politicians introducing a show because his children are also part of the chorus as are a school board member and a Massachusetts Teacher’s Union official. I guess this is the place to be for political connections. I think my daughter just loves singing and performing for an audience.

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Resolution to do less

In this new year, I have resolved to blog a bit less. I kept up the daily blogging for two years, and I think I have gotten what I needed from that stretch of time. I am not stopping, but I am scaling it back. I now hope to put up one or two a week. Perhaps that means they will be a little better thought out, but I’m not sure of that either.

Happy New Year!

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