Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hard telling not knowing

good guy? bad guy? it's so hard to tell

"Is he a good guy or a bad guy?"

Truly, I don't know. I don't even know who HE is other than a plastic man who shoots plastic ice in the general direction of down.

But if he's anything like a person in the mortal world, he's probably a little of both.

"Maybe he's a good guy who has bad days."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mom? What did you want to be when you grew up?

singing , originally uploaded by toyfoto.

A singing fireman.


Not really.

No really? What DID you want to be?

I don't know. I guess I never really had a clear plan. I suppose I just never wanted to grow up.

It's probably a good thing. Because you didn't really grow ... I'm probably going to be taller than you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

4.15 = 112

Old Dog

How should we celebrate her Sweet Sixteen?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Nature or nurture?

shopping lethargy

This is what the "fitting room" looks like to a three-year-old who has been told to "stop peeping under doors."

I no longer wonder why men hate to shop with women.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Climate Change in Human Nature

"becoming unwrapped"

The words just spill out. Thought after thought after thought; going everywhere and nowhere. Solving nothing.

War. Disease. Unemployment. Crime. Climate Change. Disaster. Unrest. Political Upheaval. Hatred. Intolerance. All of it in our faces everywhere we turn.

People say they want less government intrusion, but I think what they really want is to stop footing the bill for some of the Rights we once called inalienable. Rename them entitlements, paint the face of recipients in dark eyeliner and give them a teenage sneer. Add a baby on an outthrust hip, and you, too, might be able to convince the world that access to health care and education and equal protections under the law were quaint, olden-day notions now made burdensome in a modern-day world.

Kindness costs. Keep saying how we can't afford it anymore, conveniently forgetting how caring in the beginning can save in the end. Keep spending millions in advertising to tell us "we're broke."

That's progress: Times change. Everything stays the same.

We may not be bound by wires anymore, but we're entangled in wireless. Vote. Don't vote. There's only two choices, and all they do is point fingers at each other. Online polls don't mean a thing, but we're happy to click the toggle button of our choice. It makes us feel vindicated. The results are immediate.

The more I try to make sense of it the more it seems to twist into something completely grotesque.

I'm not depressed, I tell myself. I'm just ... sad.

I know I shouldn't but I can't help but say it: "It all seems so pointless, really. The world isn't ever going to get any better."

Tears threaten to come as I think of my children, and the day they look around them and decide the world has lost its mooring. Will they be set off adrift?

Nothing is new. Not even this. Their childhood will be as carefree as mine was. Filled with happy memories of Christmases at home and summers by the sea. They will have disappointments. And they will pick themselves up and move on. There is no other choice. You pick a direction and go.

"Maybe you are depressed," she tells me with soft compassion.

"Or maybe I need to unplug. We all need to unplug."

But unplugging isn't the answer completely. Shutting out the outside world can't be done indefinitely. It would be like turning off the sun: sure, nothing would burn under its rays but in time there'd would be nothing left to burn.

That was yesterday when I was typing all of this out with a hammering intensity. I wasn't sure these words would ever see the back-lit glow of a computer monitor again as I committed it to the garbage dump of my drafts folder.

That's when I noticed a story from the San Francisco Chronicle about a neighborhood-spat over patio seating turned into a legal matter between a coffee shop owner and a resident who lived nearby.

The twist was that the resident, who'd sent icy, demanding messages to the shopkeeper, decided to go in person and apologize for being cold and overly harsh. Because of that small contrition, the two are working out their differences over coffee cups instead of in a court room. They are neighbors, after all.

It made me smile. It made me think there is hope. It made let go of some of the sadness I'd been holding.

And the feeling might have lasted for more than a moment ... had I not scrolled down to read the comments.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Just smile and nod

The Racket

Oh, School Photographer ...

How despised you've become.

You backgrounds are hokey, your lighting formulaic. Your three-quarter poses are always just a teeny bit off.

The smiles you elicit, time after time, make our children nearly unrecognizable.

You give us a menu of choices and then offer no substitutions. Of course then you make your own substitution and offer us the choice to fix it ... with reprints.

Oh, and your prices ... They make us cringe, and rail against you. Yet, they are cleverly concocted to ensure most of us return a check rather than the photographs.

It's just a business you're in. I know.

The ever-cheapening surprise in a Cracker Jack box.

It's not your fault.

Would these mothers and fathers of children complain if you were supplying any other product?

A second beer that tasted nothing like its predecessor would surely be rejected with more venom, no?

Amateurs. So what they take better pictures?

You have something they don't.

You are selling the school experience in all its Look-this-way-and-Smile awkwardness.

You are selling photographs that will come back to haunt people.

You are selling the stuff of blackmail.

Don't ever change.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Seems like an eternity ago ...

March snow (not even a week ago)

but it has been not more than a week.

Monday, March 21, 2011

No really ... it IS spring.

angry birds

The birds are back ...

And it's snowing.

Welcome back, spring.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Just in case you were wondering ...

This is essentially the reason why photos swimming around in the flickrverse are heavy on her brother lately:

and reason no. 2

I am the official photographer of Overshot Your Welcome.

There's other stuff I haven't been talking about much.

For instance ...

THE PARENT TRAP Who's big idea was it to design a gift holiday around St. Patrick's Day? Isn't it enough to believe a boy kidnapped from England and sold into slavery grew up to drive the snakes out of Ireland? Now you hook the kids into making intricate traps to capture little green imaginary creatures, who once cornered will leave a gift?

Guess how I found out?

parent trap

She made a trap. And checked it hourly.

Also ...

EGYPT * LIBYA * NEW ZEALAND * JAPAN I am sending my best agnostic prayers your way.

WISCONSIN? THAT'S THE CAPITAL OF MINNEAPOLIS, RIGHT? Oh, education in this country is the target of much scorn. I know we need to work harder to energize students and prepare them a world we can't even comprehend. But I can't help but wonder why millionaires are picking on school teachers. To me one group eviscerating the collective power of another isn't the answer for society. In fact, it seems a little like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

SMALLER IS BIGGER, THOUGH. Consolidating districts, sharing superintendents, administrative staff? That's OK in my book.

LAST IN, FIRST OUT I have to say this is tougher for me. Experience should count, and it should be weighed heavily. That's not to say that I think "bad" teachers should be protected. But I just don't think during a layoff is the time to be punitive. Performance-based reductions should be continuously handled through evaluation. If that was happening, last in first out would be fair. Eventually all these young teachers grow older, too.

NEW YORK TIMES' ONLINE SUBSCRIPTION ANNOUNCEMENT: Wow. Not exactly the "paywall" people had predicted. But to my limited mind it seems pretty brilliant. Although there are several ways to trick the system, the system is really set up to make sure those who have been benefiting the most from having free news to aggregate (socially speaking, anyway) will be asked to pony up. If you are really "benefiting" from the downward trend of the news business I'm guessing $15 a month isn't too much of an uphill climb.

BUT WHAT DO I KNOW? I don't have a crystal ball, either. I'm just interested to see how all this turns out in the end. And really? I'm hoping for a time in the near future when we can laugh about some of this stuff.

Including this:

reason no. 1

Thursday, March 17, 2011

We're serious about St. Patrick's Day

Today I had planned to iPhone in a snap of our local snow sculptor's latest creation but ...

alien being

Well ... I'm a sucker for alien invasions, too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's officially Spring!


Batboy garb has returned to the chagrin of the still-needed winter coat.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Saving wildlife by minimizing encounters with Angry Birds


While we were visiting family near Boston this weekend, we happened upon the most interesting sight: sixteen wild turkeys foraging for food in the backyard.

We were just returning from breakfast when a line of these birds started slowly walking through the snow to a place near the patio furniture under a makeshift bird feeder.

We walked a little nearer, making sure to keep enough distance between us and the potentially territorial flock. They watched us with the same caution but kept on rooting around for something to eat.

It made me think of all the close encounters with birds I've had over the years.

haunted bird house

Once, when I was a teenager, I'd heard what sounded like a truck's horn coming from our vegetable garden. When it drowned out the Pink Floyd playing loudly on my bedroom stereo, curiosity got the better of me and I went to investigate.

At first I didn't know what it was wading through the tomato plants. A turkey? No. A peacock? Maybe ... but it was huge ... a brown and it didn't really sound anything like the peacocks the lady across the road was raising. I'd never seen one up close, but they always sounded like they were crowing for "help" when their voices carried over the road. This one sounded like it could use an oil change.

When I turned to walk back to the house this great beast of a bird followed me.

I walked faster.

It started to fly. It flew past me, crashed into the house and clawed all the way down the siding until it landed on the ground with a thud. Immediately it righted itself and turned in my direction.

I started to walk to the front yard. Again it followed me until it saw one of two young maple trees planted there. Another brief flight past me, this landing more successful. Of course the tree, though it fared better than the siding, looked lopsided now as the bird weighed the limb it had claimed to just a few inches from the ground.

I was so stunned by this odd fauna in our suburban landscape I didn't really think about its sharp claws that had dug ruts into the house, or about haw dangerous such a bird could be to a stupid human like me.

I just stood there and gawked.

My dad called the lady who lived across the thoroughfare and told her he thought one of her birds had wandered over.

He laughed for years at her initial response: "What makes you think it's my peacock?"

And how he had to describe the beaked behemoth weighing down our maple tree before she'd take him for anything but a crank.

"Oh, that's Charlie," she said, recognizing I-don't-know-what.

She sent one of her sons over, a big man, who arrived with thick gloves and a cage. He reminded me of Jim Fowler from Mutual Omaha's Wild Kingdom as he grappled with the bird while we all watched. A few squawks and feathers later, Charlie was on his way home.


Now one domesticated bird off on walkabout isn't really the same as finding nature in your backyard. But it's something that could leave a lasting impression, and spur a fascination for ornithology.

And since this week is National Wildlife Week, I'd thought I'd celebrate by joining The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Citizen Science NestWatch program.

It's fascinating stuff.

For instance:

Nest peepers should only check nests once or twice a week to minimize disturbance, and avoid checking on nests during the early morning hours and at or after dusk. They should also avoid the nest during inclement weather or when the birds are nearly fledgling.

Nest watchers need to be careful of tipping off predators making sure they are not followed by neighborhood cats or blue jays and crows. They should also vary their routes to and from the nest, making a continual loop. (Animals aren't stupid).

Of course that's just the tip of what there is to learn.

I can't wait to uncover the most confounding of close encounters with nesting ...

Why do the phoebes (and last year the chickadees) build their nests right above the loudest and most used door in the house?

Then they declare war in the form of swooping dives and well-positioned poop drops.

Perhaps they are the true inspiration for Angry Birds.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Like static electricity and balloons ...


I do believe there's a special kind of attraction between grandfathers and grandsons.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Talking to one's self


"Let's have a race.

"Ready. Set. Gooooooooooooooooo!"

"Whoa, hold y'er horses there Lightening McQueen. What race?"

"Who can eat the fastest ... ooooh yeah! Race! Race! Race!"

"Not a good idea, bud. You could choke if you eat too fast. You have to take your time, enjoy your food. You have to chew carefully and then maybe take a drink of water and then ... "

"I win!"

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Always on the clock


He'd been thinking about it for years ... weighing the pros and cons ... but he finally decided it was a necessary evil.

He bought a punch clock to track the hours he and his employees work.

With its adroit accounting of time, this mechanical menace is intended to streamline payroll ... not shave hours from paychecks.

That's how he explained it as I squinted my eyes toward the news.

It isn't a popular device.

His employees are smiling tightly and shrugging their shoulders, but it's not something that the psyche easily dismisses.

"Em had a dream about you," he told me recently.

"Really? About me?"

"Yes. ... She dreamed you started working with us and you designed this amazingly beautiful time card."

"Time card?"

"Yeah ... she hates the whole time clock thing but said they way you designed the cards made it somewhat easier to accept."

I stood there for a while ...

In awe of this news.

"You mean to tell me YOU instituted a punch clock and I'M get the blame in her dreams?"

"Awesome, huh?"

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Radius Vector, personified


It was late. We were on our way out the door. Papa had remembered he didn't bring the boy's backpack in from his car after they'd arrived from the baby sitter's house. This is usually the case when the grandparents are the intermediary link between day care and the end of the work day.

He went to retrieve it as I wrestled my talkative tot into his car seat.

He wasn't gone for more than a minute when the boy had decided he'd left without saying 'Goodbye.'

"I'm. Never. Going. To. See. Him. Again," he stammered as I tried to reassure him that that he would be back and he would be bearing a familiar red nylon bag filled with toys ...

Before I could finished, Papa was there saying proper farewells.

As I eased the car out of the driveway I saw my dad lope back toward his car. The boy was looking ahead, where he'd expected to see his grandfather waving in the glare of headlights.

"Did you hit papa?" his little voice chirped from the back, a little more assured than distressed.

"What?" I responded, not quite understanding what he was saying.

"YOU. HIT. PAPA!" He repeated.

"I didn't hit papa. He didn't go into the house, he went back to his car," I replied, pointing out of the window toward a white puff of hair bouncing along the road.

"Oh," He said, relieved. "'Cause I love that ol' Pop."

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Love and other vegetables

paleantologists at the rice table

Dear Champ,

One of your teachers at the Marilla Cuthbert Academy for Unspeakably Charming Children pulled me aside today and told me this story:

She'd been trying to drum up enthusiasm for vegetables among the ranks, asking each kid about their favorites and hoping to plant a seed that might just grow into some leafy green love.

"I love cucumbers. Don't you love cucumbers?"

When she got to you, you turned the question back: "Do you like children?"

"Of course I like children," was her reply. "Just not in my salad."

Roll on the floor laughing, she said, was your response.

I believe her.

I also believe you might rather eat children than salad.

Love and "No, there's no Chocolate until AFTER you eat your dinner,"


Monday, March 07, 2011

Calling in reinforcement ...

where's the cat?

What else is there to do after you've chased the cat under the bed?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Where I Live

why i'm always late

It's been a while since I've really trolled around on flickr. Oh, I go there quite a bit to store photos and check in on my favorite photographers. But I'm not a tourist anymore, looking carefully at all the places I may never see in person.

So many things these days take turns pulling my attentions in different directions. It's strange to think the baby days - when little someones were entirely dependent on me for survival - were the ones that afforded me the most time for myself. Mostly I just did my own thing as someone napped in a sling and another someone slept in a stroller.

I knew it would be this way.

I knew once they were ready for school everything would change. I knew with school buses, homework, school functions and extra curricular activities it wouldn't be just us anymore, going with the flow.

It would be us against the current, trying to keep up. Scrambling every second.

Yesterday I surfed back into a favorite place, just for a few moments really but long enough to remember what it looked like and to miss it like an old apartment.

The cracks in the walls are still there, but someone's installed a new carpet and painted some rooms. You don't quite see yourself fitting easily back into the space what with all your new baggage ...

But, ah ... to be back ... and to remember ...

I'm a little tempted to try and pull together something for the latest project, Where I Live.

UPDATE Here I am.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Telephone game

I came home last night to find Ittybit brimming with excitement, holding out a familiar piece of paper with new and unfamiliar autographs.

She'd been reticent to go to her after school program (though usually once she's there she's reluctant to leave) and unable to pinpoint why.

"It's no fun. There are bullies. No one plays with me. I can't get to the craft table soon enough. I just sit there. And. Wait."

We don't want to minimize her concerns, but there's just no way around it ... and, like her favorite book of late, she'll just have to go through it.

In an effort to get her past the moment of dread, I offered a suggestion: "You know, we need kids to help us with the parade dragon for the People's Parade. ... Maybe, if you take the drawing with you, you can explain what it is we're doing and recruit volunteers."

She liked that. (We don't call her The Art Director for nothing.) And I can really picture her flitting from student to student trying to gain their interest. We've been there before, too.

Of course, I hadn't expected to turn over the drawing she'd circulated and find names neatly listed next to phone numbers.

Numbers like 555-1234.

"When should we call them?" she wondered. "A month before? A week?"

Next Tuesday in Never sprang to mind, but I knew I'd need to put it more delicately.

"Honey, these are phony phone numbers. We can't call these. My guess is you asked some kids who didn't want to say "No" but didn't want to get a phone call either."

"Are you sure?" she asked with a wry little smile. "Would someone really give a little kid like me a phony phone number?" she said squinting at the numbers.

"There's too many patterns, most real numbers don't go in such clear order," I explained and showed her a listing from the phone book.

She just shrugged her shoulders and walked off. Their loss. They won't get any of the dragon cookies she's planning to bake for the crew.

My shoulders weren't as relaxed as I wondered aloud if I should have mentioned the deception. I could have just as easily asked her about all the kids we know well, who'd actually LIKE to be in the parade.

"I think it's best to tell her the truth. She'll find out anyway. Better she find out from you."

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Parsing threes

the road 166/365

His oldest little friend in the world (besides his sister) just turned three and it's blowing his wee mind.

Because, as you and he both know, he "IS FREE!"

And if he is three, and she is three, the universe may stop spinning and things could get broken.

So. ... In order to make the distinction between his "free" and her "free" The Champ feels the need offer the following disclosure:

"I'm wearing underwear."