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i am okay to go

maura @ 10:52 pm

Gus wanted to have movie night tonight, and really wanted to watch something sci-fi. Scrolling through Netflix watch instantly we came across Contact, and that’s what he chose. I think it’s PG? Maybe PG-13 — there’s a bit of language (“Mom, why did he say ‘son of a b…”), but nothing he doesn’t hear on the schoolbus every damn day, and a smidge of kissing (“Ewww!”), but otherwise it’s harmless.

Except that it’s kind of a grownup movie. We haven’t seen it in a while, and I’d forgotten about the religious discussions and the father dying and the bombing. And lots of talk talk talking. It’s kind of intense, and Gus was a bit confused sometimes.

But it’s also such a great movie and he really does seem to be into it. Who can resist Arecibo and the Very Large Array? And Jodie Foster is just so fabulous, always. The whole package makes me want to be an astronomer. Yay SETI!

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that time of year

maura @ 10:20 pm

Gus’s birthday is coming up, and this year he wants a bowling party. Absolutely! Good for everyone: we don’t have to clean the house, and Gus gets a party.

The bowling alley gave us invitations to send to his friends. Check out this blast from the past:


So awesome! We can’t figure out if they’re intentionally trying to attract the parents who love those fabulous ’70s fonts, or if these invitations have actually been around for that long.

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backwards through the megaphone

maura @ 10:39 pm

I had thought we were finished with Pokemon, but one of Gus’s pals brought a game magazine on the bus the other day, and Gus read a review of the new Pokemon game Black and White (out now in Japan, not til the spring here in the US), and now he’s hooked again.

It’s not that I hate Pokemon. I do think there are lots of great things about the game, both the video and card versions. There’s memorization — the characters have endless stats and attributes — and organization — in this case, the Pokedex, which indexes all of the creatures you find. There’s math (especially in the card game) since the basic mechanic is 2 characters battling and the one with higher hit points (which can, of course, be added to with powerups and the like) is the winner. And there’s lots of reading, too.

But I do feel like the Pokemon universe is, well, thin. And based more on accumulating stuff in the physical world than many other games. He has a giant pile of cards that he never, ever uses anymore. Indeed, the card game is much more complicated than the videogame, and when he was young enough to want the cards he couldn’t really grok the gameplay. But of course he begged for them when he was into collecting them, endlessly poring over them and strategizing trades with pals.

The videogames, too, encourage real life consumption in a way I don’t like all that much. Often multiple versions of essentially the same game are released simultaneously, and sometimes they only differ in color (e.g. Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire) and a subset of creatures. So even though you’re collecting creatures virtually, your kid will still beg for more than one version of the game.

I guess we have time to deal with this, since the new game isn’t out for a while. But I’m sad that the newfound knowledge of this game has pushed him back into the Pokeverse. His birthday is coming up — maybe one of the new games he gets will drive all those Pokethoughts right out of his head.

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field trip

maura @ 11:01 pm

Today I took the day off so I could go on a field trip with Gus’s class. This is the field trip I’ve wanted to go on forever, the one where they get to celebrate building the wigwam in the park and do all kinds of cool ancient Native American things like try to make fire with a firebow.

I had completely forgotten that I suck at field trips. I haven’t had as much free time the past couple of years as I did when Gus was younger, so I don’t really know as many of the other parents + kids as I used to. Gus tends to be not on his best behavior when I’m around in a school-like setting, alternately clingy or not listening/paying attention. I never know quite what I’m supposed to be doing, and end up standing around feeling like an awkward extra appendage, not really talking much with the other parents.

There’s also the transport issue: often they get a bus to shuttle them to and from trips, but today they couldn’t so we took 29 fourth graders on three (3!) subways to go 2.8 miles. In rush hour! By the time we got there I was already exhausted. Luckily I had forgotten to bring hot chocolate (not entirely my fault! the pre-field trip directions were unclear!), so I had to walk a couple of blocks over to Dunkin Donuts and get 2 big boxes of it. Which was a great opportunity to purchase supplemental coffee (yay!).

I was also a little bit disappointed that I couldn’t get the kids to split up into groups nicely to do the skulls, skins and tracks matching activity. They were real skulls, so I got all zooarchaeological. Some kids were into it, and some were not. Gus was able to ID the skull, skin and tracks of the beaver (big front teeth!), so that’s something.

I shouldn’t complain: we were finished early enough that I had time to hightail it up to City College to finish the last of my 2 student interviews for my research project this semester. And Gus was happy to have me there. And no one barfed in the subway station.

(When Gus was in kindergarten I went with his class on a trip to the Whitney museum on the Upper East Side, 20 kindergarteners on 2 (maybe 3?) subways! It was intense, and there was no coffee when we got there. One of his classmates barfed as we were walking through the subway station to change trains and we just had to leave it there. I felt so bad, but what could we do? The group was moving forward, and we were far from a booth with a subway employee. A friend later told me that she knows a parent who brings a small plastic bag full of cat litter on every field trip for that very reason.)

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he’s crafty

maura @ 9:54 pm

Okay, I know it’s a cop out to post a photo on day 7, but I’ve got a bunch of stuff I want to finish up before bed tonight and unfortunately a lengthy blag post isn’t one of them.

Instead, take a look at what Gus made today:


It’s a waddle dee from the Kirby videogames. More specifically it’s from the new game which is called Kirby’s Epic Yarn. All of the characters are outlined in yarn and the background is all fabricy — it’s really pretty. He’s in the obsessive mode he sometimes gets into and is utterly unable to want to do anything other than watch videos on YouTube of folks playing this video game. (Except when he’s reading those Gahoole owly books, which he’s also totally into.) And today he spent a couple of hours sewing little characters from the game, like this guy.

His birthday’s in a couple of weeks and doubtless he’ll get the game. Here’s hoping he hasn’t burned out on it by then.

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questions & answers

maura @ 9:30 pm

Q: What’s going on around here? Why so quiet lately?

A: Oh, you know, the usual: work, research, chores, weekend bike rides + park visits, fencing (now with mask + glove!), homework, last-minute costume prep, etc.

A: Also, the unusual:

– The bathroom renovation, which has really been much less stressful than it could be (and also mad props to J for acquiring most of the needfuls, including tile, which is very heavy). I haven’t been in there in a while, but I hear things are progressing swimmingly. Right now there’s a hi-tech plastic sheet spanning the hallway in front of the bathroom door from floor to ceiling, with a long red zipper for entry and exit. So CDC!

– Gus’s prehistoric technology studies at school are in full effect. Yesterday was one of the wigwam field trips, and Jonathan helped the kids make fire. (Fire! Fire!) Also I got a slate pendant necklace that Gus had drilled a hole in with a stick, bringing this month’s homemade necklace haul up to 2 — yay!

– So I am on a team that got a very very big grant at work which is very very exciting. My responsibilities have shifted somewhat, though, and I am still getting my bearings time-wise. Which is a complicated way to say that I am very very busy.

Q: Are the cats freaked out by the bathroom renovation?

A: The big one kind of is, and spends lots of time sitting on Jonathan’s lap during the day. The little one could care less.

Q: Have you quit Twitter and/or Facebook?

A: No! See above about the busy. Mostly succeeding in keeping up w/Twitter these days, but can’t really seem to find time to look at Facebook more than a couple of times a week. But our library has a Facebook now so you should be our fan!

Q: What is Gus planning to be for Halloween?

A: Well originally he wanted to be a bat. And we looked all over the internets for a costume only to find that it’s apparently pretty easy to make one with an old black umbrella. So I brought my spare umbrella home from work to sacrifice it, but then in true Gus fashion he changed his mind, and now he’s going as the grim reaper. Which I think is kind of spooky for him these days, but what do I know? Maybe he just wants the scythe. He’s going to a Halloween party before the trick or treating on Sunday afternoon, so maybe we’ll go have a grownup halloweenniversary lunch or somesuch.

Q: Is minute 2:13 in “Leaders of Men” still your favorite part of any Joy Division song ever?

A: Yes.

Q: Are you sad now that Mad Men is over?

A: Sort of. I do miss it, but it’s nice to be caught up on the other TV. House has been decent this season, though Fringe is disappointing. It’s just so *flimsy* with the dual universe storylines. Jonathan keeps saying that they are spreading their story butter too thin across the toast of the show. Also we got a new toaster oven, which performs well enough but has an annoying digital readout (power vampire!) and makes a beeping noise when it’s finished toasting that is much too close to the standard smoke detector noise around these parts. Which is sort of funny given that excessive toasting could in theory set off the smoke detector.

Q: Are you tired? Right now? Because you’re getting a little loopy with that progression from TV to toast, is all I’m saying.

A: Right again! Gold star for you! But you’ll have to wait for it, I’ve got some work to do right now.

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daydreamers please wake up

maura @ 9:10 pm

This year Gus’s school camping trip was moved up to the fall, so we are in the midst of both the read-a-thon (to raise money for the trip) and the no-screens time (this year it’s 12 looooong days!). It’s kind of bummer timing because Gus + Jonathan were really getting into playing Minecraft and Gus + I have been playing Professor Layton & the Curious Village, but it’s not the end of the world, I guess.

Mostly things have been fine in no-videogame land, though I can’t say that I’m any more fond of it now than I was last year. We’ve had plenty to do this weekend: fencing, Apple Fest at his school, brunch w/a pal, seeing the stick houses at the gardens, going for a bike ride, and (of course) reading. It was perfect weather this weekend, too — all breezy and sunny and fresh. So nice to be wearing sweaters again!

Yesterday Gus spent a long time working with sculpey. And here’s what he made:


My kid is awesome.

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you make your little ways

maura @ 9:36 pm

All week I felt like there were lots of things to blag about, but then this weekend Gus has been sick and the resulting time slowdown has meant that all will to write has evaporated. And now I’m annoyed at myself for not having taken better advantage of the lying-around-on-the-sofa time (or maybe that’s just a case of Sunday Nightis).

I was going to do a cathartic post to try and get my frustration with this year’s schoolbus situation out of my system. Short version: because they’ve added another school to the route, the morning ride is 1 hr 15 min to get to his school that’s 2 miles from our house. Which doesn’t seem to bug Gus much, thankfully, but I still find it maddening (while acknowledging how lucky we are to have a schoolbus at all).

Then I thought maybe I should blag about how we spent last night thinking about whether to buy a small house + land in Vermont (not that we were looking — the link swam through my twitterstream). But that’s really not all that interesting, either. In the end it was about a 4 hour “hmm, maybe…” run of thinking about the house. It’s just too far and I can’t see how we would go there very often. Though it is, funnily enough, only about 40 miles from my dad’s house.

And now I’ve just spent 15 minutes looking at the Catskills version of Craigslist, looking for land that we could build a tiny house on (not that we have the time or $ for this anyway). I’m not looking to leave the BK, but we do have such a nice time whenever we get to travel to green foresty mountainy lakey places, and I miss the occasional nature, esp. in the fall, which is such a lovely time for nature.

But now it is time for Mad Men — we’re almost done w/season 3. And we are *not* moving to Ossining.

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new year

maura @ 12:06 pm

Tomorrow Gus starts 4th (!) grade. Really school started last week, but since they only had one day (Wednesday), tomorrow feels more like the real start. He’s pretty happy to be back in school: one of his best friends is in his class this year, and he loves riding the schoolbus with his pals from our neighborhood. The 4th graders get to do lots of awesome stuff like go to camp for 2 nights (again) and build a Lenape wigwam in Prospect Park with a Native American Technology Specialist. He’s going to have a ball.

Fourth grade was my favorite year of school, hands down. For that year (and for half of 3rd grade) I went to a smallish Montessori school — I think there were maybe 10 or 15 of us in the 4-6 grade unit. We had a huge open classroom and lots of interesting stuff to work on. We got the blue sheet with our work for the week on Monday, and once we finished the work we could essentially choose what we wanted to do. I was kind of obsessed with geography in 4th grade so I spent lots of my free time with atlases and globes learning countries and capitals, drawing flags, and labeling photocopied maps. Or I would park myself in our small library and read.

Fourth grade was also when we lived in my favorite of all of my childhood houses. It was a twin but pretty big even so, with 3 floors and a basement and a wrap-around porch (which I used to drive my remote-controlled car off of) and a pretty little Japanese maple tree in the front yard. My sibs + I slept on the 3rd floor, and my bedroom was really long and narrow. The closet was all the way at the dark end of the room (near the wall that was shared w/the house next door) and I remember being absolutely certain that that side of the room was somewhat evil, what with the darkness and the closet. Maybe I just read too many Narnia stories.

One of the coolest things about that house was that it had front stairs–which went up from the entrance hall next to the living room–as well as back stairs–which were sort of tucked into the back corner of the kitchen. Both stairs met at about the same place on the second floor, and if you were chasing someone (or being chased) you could run up the front stairs down the back stairs and (slam!) out the back door into the yard. Or the reverse, onto the front porch.

The neighborhood we lived in (in suburban Philadelphia) was great too. We could walk or ride bikes to parks, playgrounds and the little commercial district in the town. My mom sent me out to the little grocery store to pick up milk, and I walked to piano lessons, friends’ houses, and girl scout meetings. I guess we do the same with Gus here, in many ways, though he’s still less independent than I was at his age. We do send him to the corner store to pick up milk, but we don’t let him cross streets by himself yet — he’s not very tall, and the cars drive really fast in our neighborhood because our streets are so wide. I can’t quite decide when he’ll be old enough to go to the park with friends + no adults. Maybe next year.

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still here…

maura @ 10:13 pm

…but so veryverybusy. The Fall semester (and the class I’m teaching) started last Thursday (13 students this semester, yay!). Gus’s school doesn’t start until next Wednesday, and even then it’s only 1 day back before they’re off for 2 days for Rosh Hashanah. I keep meaning to blag at night, but by the time chores + bedtime are finished it’s late–Gus is still on his summer schedule even if I’m not–and all I want to do is watch season 1 of Mad Men (which we finally started watching last weekend) and go to sleep.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Bye!

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