Junior Philosopher

cimg5128The past several lunchtimes, my kids and I have been listening to Plato’s The Last Days of Socrates, with varying levels of attention. Today, my son and I had this conversation:

son: “Are both Socrates and Plato philosophers?”

me: “Yes. They are both lovers of wisdom.”

son: “I’m a lover of wisdom.”

me: “Then maybe you’re a philosopher.”

son: “But I don’t even know how to be a philosopher.”

me: “All you need to do to be a philosopher is to love wisdom and seek wisdom.”

son: “Okay.”

I might need brush up on my Socratic dialogue skills now that I have a seven-year-old philosopher in the house.

The Armful

I’m not as big a poetry person as I think I ought to be, but sometimes I come across a poem that just speaks to me. Who knew Robert Frost felt this way, too?

The Armful
by Robert Frost

For every parcel I stoop down to seize
I lose some other off my arms and knees,
And the whole pile is slipping, bottles, buns—
Extremes too hard to comprehend at once,
Yet nothing I should care to leave behind.
With all I have to hold with, hand and mind
And heart, if need be, I will do my best
To keep their building balanced at my breast.
I crouch down to prevent them as they fall;
Then sit down in the middle of them all.
I had to drop the armful in the road
And try to stack them in a better load.

This poem appears to have been first published in 1928 in the collection West-Running Brook.

Nightfall: A Gingerbread Update

Oh, dear! The gingerbread house is under attack!


Darn you, short winter days! We are at the mercy of the gingerbread vampires!

Stroller Communication



1.5 miles from home:


For those unfamiliar with the language of strollers, this is how a stroller says, “It’s time for your five-year-old to walk.”

My Spouse and I Talk About Jason Bateman

Me: Did you know that Jason Bateman was born in Salt Lake City?*

Spouse: No, I didn’t. I would not have guessed that.

Me: Me, neither. But he does have that kind of clean-cut look.

Spouse: That Salt Lake City look?

Me: Did you know that our son was born in Salt Lake City?

Spouse: Wait, what was Justin Bateman in?

Me: Jason Bateman. Justine is his sister. She was on that show…Family Ties.

Spouse: What does Justine Bateman look like?

Me: Like Jason Bateman only with long hair.**

Spouse: Was she the real tough girl?

Me: No, she was—

Spouse: Was she Tootsie?

Me: Tootie? No, that was that other show. What was that called?

Spouse: Diff’rent Strokes?

Me: No, but there was a Diff’rent Strokes tie-in. It’s the one with Charlotte Rae. You know, [singing] “You take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both and there you have—”

Spouse and Me Together: The Facts of Life!

[thumbs ups and high-fives]

Spouse: Wait, so Jason Bateman was on Facts of Life?


*Turns out I was incorrect about this. He was born in New York and moved to SLC when he was four, according to the internet. Of course, the internet is also where I got the notion that he was born in SLC. But facts aren’t really important in this particular conversation.

**Justine Bateman also doesn’t look like her brother with long hair. Well, maybe a little when they were kids, but not so much now.

An Example of my Excellent Parenting

My four-year-old learned how to button his own shirt this morning.

After dressing himself from head-to-toe 100% by himself, he was incredibly proud and came into my room to show me.

“Wow!” I said. “You really are a big boy!”

“Yeah!” he said. “I’m HUGE! Pretty soon I’ll be able to drive the car and sit in the front seat and say, ‘Shit’!”

(In my defense, we live in eastern Massachusetts. I challenge anyone to drive in eastern Mass without swearing.)

The Boston Blueberries

For my son’s fourth birthday, a friend gave him this hat:


Yesterday he and I were paying for our produce at the farm stand when the woman in line behind us said, “Hey! What does the ‘B’ on your hat stand for?”

My son—who has not yet learned to be annoyed when adults ask him questions to which they already know the answer—replied, “Blueberries!”

Ah, yes! I remember when the Boston Blueberries won the World Series in 2004! What a game that was!

This explains why he was adamant about wearing his new “B” hat when we went blueberry picking for his birthday.


Poison Ivy

Poison ivy produces urushiol to protect the pl...

Poison ivy produces urushiol to protect the plant from herbivores. In humans this chemical produces an allergic skin rash, known as urushiol-induced contact dermatitis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I put on my rubber boots and pulled latex gloves over my gardening gloves. My spouse put on the special farm-chemical elbow gloves I’d bought him, and we both donned our rain jackets and rain pants in spite of the sun shining overhead.

Sweating under our rain gear, we walked through the pachysandra looking for the characteristic “leaves of three.” Each time we found a patch of poison ivy, my spouse would follow the leaves as far as he could down the creeping vines, but every time the stem would break before he pulled up the root. Swearing softly, he crumpled the plants and put them into the plastic garbage bag I held open for him as we both tried to remember not to wipe sweat or bugs or loose hairs from our faces. We continued this until we could find no more poison ivy.

At the backyard spigot, we Tecnued everything we could, then went through the garage and tossed the lot into the washing machine. Then we washed our bare hands with Tecnu for good measure.

And now we wait.

It kind of reminds me of the early days of our relationship: Today, as back then, only time will tell if the barrier method was effective.

Summer Semantics: Pedal, Peddle, Petal

This summer, there’s one homophonous mix-up I’m really enjoying for the images it inspires: pedal boat, peddle boat, and petal boat.

Below I share my definition of each variation for your pleasure (and perhaps to help clear up some confusion):

1) Pedal Boat (also called a pedalo or a paddle boat): A boat one moves—mostly through a scum of the excrement of waterfowl—by powering a paddle wheel through of the pedaling action of one’s feet.

2) Peddle Boat: A boat from which one sells one’s wares, perhaps crustless sandwiches, fizzy drinks, or other refreshments to those who’ve overexerted themselves in their pedal/paddle boats.

3) Petal Boat: A boat made of water flowers and used only by ants or small mice to traverse the scummy pond and recover the remains of the peddle boat refreshments dropped by the pedal boat travelers.

Pedal boats are on the other side of the dock. It was a slow day, so neither peddle boats nor petal boats are visible here.

Pedal boats are on the other side of the dock. It was a slow day, so neither peddle boats nor petal boats are visible here.

What language mix-ups do you find delightful in spite of yourself? Do you, too, enjoy making up definitions? List them or link them in the comments.

Lost in Translation

My kids were in swim lessons this week. This means that every day this week, rain for shine, we schlepped to the lake for their back-to-back lessons.

Two days ago, I squared off with my body-image issues and donned a bikini, but yesterday, fall made an early appearance in New England, and we all dressed much more conservatively. It was rainy and chilly and the kids spent much of their time shivering. My son’s lesson finished early, which I realized when I saw the teacher walking across the beach with a bundled-up three-year-old on each hip. She handed my son to me, all burritoed up in his striped towel. I kissed him on his chilly cheek and asked how swim lesson went.

“We’re having a special surprise tomorrow,” he said, teeth chattering.

“Oh? Do you know what the surprise is?” I asked, snuggling him closer. I already knew that the big surprise was ice pops, but I wanted to know what he thought the surprise was.

“Yes, we’re going to swim all the way to those boobies.” I looked where he was pointing.

“Oh! You mean buoys?”

He paused for a moment, looking out at the lake with furrowed brow, then he turned to me and said slowly, “No…the teacher said ‘boobies’…”

Today I confirmed that his teacher does, in fact, know the proper pronunciation of “buoys.” And now my son does, too.