Stand up paddling off the coast of Pawleys Island, testing a new GoPro HD camera mounted on the front of my board. This camera now sits on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, undamaged since it's waterproof. One day it will wash up on the shore of some far away country and whoever retrieves it will have a lovely 16 GB flash card with all sorts of paddling videos on it.
The fierce winds and crashing waves settled down a bit yesterday. Alex joined me in the afternoon and we surfed together on the big board. It was truly a one-of-a-kind experience. His face totally lit up when we caught a good ride and any fear he had melted away. I thought I was capturing it all on video too!
Then he looks at the back of the board and says, "Uh, Dad, where's your camera?"
Scratch one Go Pro. Ah well . . . the camera I will replace, but the images are forever lost.
Isabel is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed bundle of happy energy and delightful wonder. She is doing well in school, is a perfectionist like her big sister, plays soccer with fearless vigor, loves Star Wars like her brother, is listed under the dictionary under the word 'pink,' is mischevious, and has a laugh that makes me feel wonderfully alive.
Iz loves to draw, her imagination is vivid, and her hand is steady. She works at her own pace, and can focus for long periods of time on anything artistic. However if you are asking her to put on socks, you might have to repeat the suggestion seven times before she goes, "Oh yeah," and disappears into her room for half an hour. Afterward she will come downstairs, still sockless. If one dares ask why, you will get a creative explanation of how there are no socks to be found.
She loves to play with her brother, her best friend next door, and tag along whenever her big sister has friends over. She digs mud pies, and has a keen interest in rocks and small animals. She wants to play baseball as well as soccer next year, and is looking forward to building sandcastles on the beach and going to the mountains to play in the stream. In other words, she is very well-rounded.
She's sharp and sassy when being told to do something by anyone besides me. Her room is a whirlwind disaster of dolls and stuffed animals and clothes and books, somehow eclipsing the sheer chaotic entropy of her brother's room. She is at times sneaky and devious, having learned the loopholes in the system (third child) but she comes clean with easy grace, and nods at me with those big blue eyes and promises to be good. And I believe her every time.
I think she's the happiest creature on the planet at any given moment - unless I'm making her learn her spelling words. But now it's summer, and she is working on a fiction project with me, and there is nothing but limitless days ahead.
Kelly had a remarkable first year at Davidson International Baccalaureate Middle School. Like her brother, she completed the year with straight A's in all courses, including some subjects she'd never taken before, like Spanish and Keyboarding. She is one of three students who were 'A Honor Roll' for the entire grade level. She competed in the Science Olympiad and played Classic soccer for the full year. Her reports were sharp and well-written, her artwork was beautiful, and her work ethic was first rate. The homework load was steep—we knew that going in—but Kelly handled every assignment without my assistance, and still managed three soccer training sessions a week, plus helped me coach her little sister's team. That meant soccer five days a week for her, plus games, plus all the extracurriculars that go with having an artist dad: journaling, sketchbooks, time in the studio, and tons of extra reading.
I don't always know how to congratulate her for her continued and persistent excellence. On the one hand, I don't want to gush all the time—and quite frankly, I am blown away more often than not, so I fear that I default to the 'quietly appreciative' with knowing pats, and nods of 'well done.' On the other hand, I know a thing or two about performing at a high level without being appreciated—and I remember that feeling that getting good grades was just expected, and no longer noteworthy.
So I have tried to forge a new dynamic: quietly appreciating Kelly's hard-working approach without making too much of a fuss over every little thing, but then sprinkling in positive feedback in short intense moments where I ask her to look at me, focus on what I'm saying and then verbally acknowledge how proud I am of her on a day to day basis, whether it be remarking on a good report, or hard work at soccer, or for taking the time to really help one of her siblings with their homework. And then on a broader level, taking her aside to tell her how much I appreciate her hard work on a monthly level. And then something more elaborate on a quarter level, after report cards: a big dinner, a day out on the lake, etc. And then a year-end celebration and reward of technology, this year an iPhone, because it really is quite remarkable that she made it through this rigorous program without getting any B's. A good deal of her very smart and very competitive friends got tripped up by a stern keyboarding teacher, or an equally strict foreign language instructor.
I hope she looks back at her remarkable childhood one day and reads this blog, and all these posts, and can then grasp just how phenomenally proud I am of her.
Alexander completed a remarkable year in his third grade Talent Development class with Mrs. Poling. On Friday, the last day of school, he walked into the house beaming ear to ear and handed me a brown envelope with his grades inside. I opened the piece of paper and marveled at the end result of his hard work: All A's in every subject, in every quarter.
I am so proud of his dedication and focus. It's not the easiest thing in the world to be smart in third grade—it's certainly not the 'cool thing' for a boy—but he has embraced science and math, he reads voraciously, and I can almost read his lefty handwriting when I get him to slow down and space things properly.
As the second child, three years behind a sibling who is quite gifted and annoyingly smart, he could easily have just coasted on lowered expectations and accepted that no one was ever going to be as smart as Kelly seemed to be. But when I compared his EOG scores to Kelly's third grade scores, I had to pull him aside and tell him (in a very grave voice) that he had exceeded his sister's marks in both mathematics and reading comprehension, hitting 98th percentile in both.
He looked at me with his little innocent expression of wide-eyed wonder and I said in all the seriousness that I could muster, "Yes, I'm sorry son. You're smarter than Kelly."
Alex had another great soccer game Saturday. He had his second goal in two games, a left-footed blast, one-timer, off the near post. I'm really proud of how he's stepped up his focus and effort in both the pool-training and one-on-one with me. His dedication has really started to pay dividends in the matches. I also love that he still wears his Star Wars watch during the games.
Sea Serpent Relief: Update 2
Having built one 4 x 4 relief, we started the second by fabricating an identical frame. As promised, I rewarded my three assistants by fabricating three smaller frames for their own reliefs.
As the first relief was built during summer break, the beasties got to see the artistic process from the very beginning stages of design and pencil drawings, all the way through the various stages of fabrication, right up to delivery and installation of the completed work. They were integral in solving design issues, critiquing work in progress, and supplying much-needed pairs of steady hands.
I talked out loud for weeks, walking them through my thought process. Even while I was standing still and just staring at the material I tried to verbalize the various issues I was contemplating, asking questions: 'If we don't put the backing board into the frame before we weld the tabs in place on the back, then we're never going to be able to get the board into the frame - it doesn't bend, right? But if we put the wood in first and try to weld, we're going to char the board - and we have to paint the background on it, right? So how do we get the board in place and protect it from the flame and heat while we weld the securing tabs in place?"
Then I encouraged them to solve the problems, and asked further questions until they came up with a workable solution.
All three were very interested in designing their own reliefs drawing dozens of proposals, working on mockups with bits of steel and wood . And of course, they enjoyed painting and working on their stone carvings. As the oldest, Kelly had the best focus, able to shift her attention from her own design work back to the Seascape design over and over again during the course of a day. I think some days she was painting a canvas, pausing to help me, then drawing a bit, then assisting the little ones, then back to painting her canvas again - all at the same time.
During the busiest days, all three would stop their own projects to help me and we worked as a real team. Very precious days . . .
The nicest thing in the world: my three beasties are getting older, so grown up, so full of purpose and ideas and things to say, say Loudly, proclaim to the world and each other - jostling, pushing, tumbling over one another to have their voices heard - and even still, the first thing they do when they come in the front door every afternoon is call my name out, locate my whereabouts, and come give me a long hug.
Honors Math 6th
Honors Language Arts 6th
Academic Enrichment 6th
Integrated Science 6th IB Middle Years Program
Honors Social Studies 6th IB Middle Years Program
Exploratory Arts 6th
Foreign Language 6th
It's amazingly warm and blustery tonight - I have my windows open and I can hear my flag pulling at it's lanyard, the brass fittings clanging into the pole. My willow is making the most amazing sounds, the leaves dancing, the branches straining under the wind.
I had the occassion to sit back and let a wave of negative energy and pain crest and pass over me today, like holding my breath and diving beneath a crashing wave, and now I find myself almost giddy with happy appreciation for the littlest things around me.
I walked upstairs and stepped carefully over dozens of train tracks and cars and dolls and fortified positions, pots and pans, stacks of clean clothes, book bags, a painting of a Christmas tree . . . and rearranged the covers around my three children.
They all slept so peacefully, despite the rain lashing at their windows, the scrape of branches against the roof, the storm flexing it's muscles. I touched their foreheads with a kiss and walked back downstairs with a smile; blessed beyond measure.
Now the cat and I are going to re-heat Thanksgiving leftovers and have a feast, cornbread dressing, cranberries and all!! And watch movies. And stay up late.
Warm November day. A cat slides a tawny shoulder across my hip as I sit on my front stoop. Her eyes tilt up and she offer her chin for a scratch. Her whiskers stretch forward, directing my fingers. I absently knead her fur and listen to her melodic purring.
The sun is bright - I try to let my eyes open and absorb the energy, but I find myself squinting and blinking. I can feel the warmth against my face. A flash memory of the beach flits across my mind and I allow my eyes to close for a long instant. I can hear the waves. I can see my children kneeling in the sand, focused so intently on their sand sculptures.
A mug of coffee is cradled on my knees and the aroma of dark-roasted beans brings me back to the present. I breathe deeply, enjoying my morning ritual. Steps, coffee, cat, sunshine.
The last of the Maple leaves have fallen from the trees, but the bright yellow Oak and deeply-crimson Japanese Maple cast a dazzling glow across the yard. I marvel at the verdant green grass, freshly-mowed and looking almost perfect. I am thankful for the rain we have received that made all the hard work aerating, seeding and fertilizing pay off. The lawn is ready for another year of rollicking wear and tear, a million kicks and throws, and tumbling bodies.
Sloth cat nudges me once, twice and then sits primly by my side, knowing that she has lost my immediate attention. We sit side by side and survey our realm. I sip my coffee.
The bricks are cold beneath my boxers. The wind stirs in the Willow branches. A hand brushes lightly against my shoulder, small fingers tapping gently.
'Do you need more coffee, dad?'
'No thank you.'
'Okay.' The hand lingers for a moment. 'Nice day.'
'Very.' My daughter walks back inside.
I smile and let the moment linger in my brain for a few precious seconds, hopefully long enough to imprint, to remember, to hold forever in my mind. I know that in a few minutes I will have enough caffeinne in my bloodstream, enough sun against my skin to fully awaken and then my mind will kick into overdrive and start rattling off lists of things to do and my voice will ring through the house and we will be Going and Doing and Moving and Creating and whoosh our day will start.
But for these last few seconds I am aware of the simplest things, the beauty of my front yard, the soft fur of my cat, the smell of good coffee, the sound of the wind in my trees. And I am deeply, eternally grateful for the presence of my children in the house behind me.
Had an amazing day. Kelly headed to SC for a soccer tournament, and I miss her. But I've enjoyed giving age-specific attention to Alex and Izzie. We made chocolate chip waffles this morning, hit a park for an hour then spent all afternoon at the new kids' museum. Football in the front yard, lamb chops, movie, now warming our backs by the fire. Happy sloths.
The kids came through the door at 4:07 with their familiar cry of, 'Daddy!' and began talking over the top of each other with a stream of statements and questions that they must have been memorizing on the bus ride. The precise rush of words and emotions tumbled over each other - Iz in particular looks away as she works her way through the last bit, as if she's concentrating very hard trying to remember all that she wanted to say - and I smile and nod, taking their heavy backpacks off their shoulders and claiming hugs, pushing bangs out of faces, and kneeling to their level to hear exactly what their getting at.
It is a rush of information and emotion that signals the beginning of my real day, the part that matters the most during the week. Yes, we were up before six am, yes we watched the dawn approach as we awaited the first school bus at 6:27, yes there was a second round of breakfast and preparation at 8:00 and a second bus pickup at 8:35, yes there was work accomplished, a house attended to, groceries purchased, leaves raked, laundry washed, and several hours of welding successfully completed, but it all feels like it was done a day or so ago. A new day begins as they come through that door.
It is now 6 hours and ten minutes later. Alex has been taken to soccer and back, a football game has been played in our front yard with many touchdowns scored. Kelly and I cooked a standing rib roast with twice baked potatoes. We steamed artichokes and I was pleased and secretly impressed that they liked them. I put an apple pie in the oven to warm as we ate dinner by the fire and watched Survivor and by the time the show was over, the girls were sprawled out on the sofas and Alex was curled in my lap.
Amy called to bid the children goodnight and I did the dishes, sliced the pie and poured myself a glass of wine. Tomorrow is a holiday - Veteran's Day - and I decided at that moment to just let them stay up late. I served them their pie and we ate on the hearth, me barely getting two bites before they had gobbled up every last crumb on their plates.
Sloth cat inspected the proceedings and decided that Kelly's spot was the warmest, and the pair of them drifted off to sleep. Izzie asked for a story and I pulled out the Roald Dahl Treasury and read several poems aloud.
As I finished the Flying Cow I realized that everyone was asleep and letting them stay up late was more for my benefit than theirs - just having their warm presence in the Great Room is nice. The college football game flickers silently in the background, the fire is dying down to a warm glow, and I have taken a moment to write here.
Tomorrow we will take the boat out and explore the lake and I will wade out into the cold water and look for smooth stones while they build in the thick, wet sand on a newly-discovered island. These are the thoughts that will guide me to sleep tonight after I carry each of them to their beds.
KK's foot is officially healed. Successful visit to Orthopedist followed by the requisite visit to the bakery (double-chocolate brownie) and coffee shop (hot chocolate). We knocked homework out then played football. She was so excited to be able to run around - huge grin on her face.
Do you remember Minority Report? Do you remember the computers without keyboards or input devices? How John Anderton would swipe his hand across empty air to manipulate images and access information? Gesture-based computer interfaces. Identity-detecting cameras. A really good story idea from Philip K. Dick. The tech involved is no longer science-fiction, it's now built into a toy which rests in my living room.
Last night I had the most amazing experience with my children. I picked up Iz's big birthday present: a Kinect for our Xbox360. I plugged it in, pushed back all the furniture, loaded the first game and then sat back in amazement as my little girl learned to train a baby tiger with nothing but her hands and body movements. I watched my son play soccer without a ball or controller. I watched KK Monster *try* to learn some new dance moves. Then I asked if I could try, and I most certainly *did* learn some new dance moves. Then the darn thing played back a Real World video of my efforts - time compressed - and I laughed about as hard as I have in five years.
The Kinect not only senses, measures, and sees two players at once, but also takes pictures and video as your playing to show you after you complete each level in each game.
During the Adventure game, I kept swapping in different kids for each ride down a log flume, or zero-gravity bubble pop challenge - and each time, the little icon in the top right or left of the screen would flash for three seconds as it recognized a new participant and then it would switch the avatar to reflect the proper person. After a few hours it had learned who was who and could swap the players for us, without me having to do anything.
It's the most amazing piece of technology I've ever seen. The whole slender apparatus tilts to see as much of the players as possible. When you lie on the floor to teach the tiger to "play dead" it tilts down. When I step in to run hurdles, it tilts up.
The Kinect sensor contains an RGB camera and a depth sensor to track your movement. It measures the positioning of 48 key joints in your anatomy and by tracking the movements of these joints, it can work out exactly what position your body is in. What's more, it sees in 3D by overlaying the input from the RGB camera with the depth sensor. And it recognizes voice commands. Nothing like saying, "Sit!" in a stern voice and having a lion cub and my son sit down instantly.
We played from 4:30 to 9:30 barely even noticing the passage of time. I stuck some pizzas in the oven and sent them off to bed without doing any homework for the first time all year. It was that immersive.
If I can figure out how to download the short clip of me dancing I'll upload it here and then *you* can have the best laugh you've had in ages.
The beach is one of the most joyful places on Earth for me as a father. I've been bringing my kids to the South Carolina beaches since they were born.
June, July and August are sacred months where my beasties are home from school with no schedules, no routines. Just lots of free time with me and a chance to create adventures both large and small.
We get to the beach several times a summer and end up building three of four epic sandcastles. I love working with the sand. The children have fed off that passion and learning how to carve towers has become a rite of passage in our family.
We build the castles just below the high tide line, so that we get to watch the waves take back our creations as the day ends.
All the beasties got on the bus for the first day of school and I watched it pull away, waving to the little faces pressed up against the windows. I listened to it turn onto the next street and strained to hear it laboring up the hill. And then there was silence.
I walked back up the empty street, through the empty yard and into the empty house. Everything was still and silent. I closed the door and stood for a long time in the front hall. Not a sound.
All the rooms are clean. The closets organized. The kitchen cabinets cleared out. The laundry room spotless. All the clothes are washed and all the art is hung on the walls. Soccer gear is in the bags awaiting practice tonight. The fridge is clean and fully stocked. The patio has been scoured and the yard is freshly clipped.
There is nothing that needs doing, no obscure task I can set myself to that will distract from the sudden departure of the three babbling voices and happy cacophony that follows the pounding of little feet rushing around the house.
The first waves of a neap tide are filling up the moat. Some of my towers have already fallen as I have pushed the design limitation of my building material. Alex has a carving tool in his hand and a grin on his face.
I have poured myself a vodka tonic at this point. The kids have decided which tower they are living in - there is always a competition at the end to see which tower will last the longest. We are watching the slow destruction of our work. Many people stop to ask questions, admire the work, take pictures and comment on the design.
Isabel and Alex happily stomp through the deep moat I have dug around a pyramidal sandcastle. The sand from the moat is used to create the mound of sand. Layers of the mound are drenched in water and packed down by hand.
I left one side of the design "flat" with beach so that I would have access to the top of the mound where the towers are just beginning to be poured. Steps leading into the moat have not been carved yet.
Seascape Project: Update 9
The night-time view of the Seascape Relief. This is a taste of things to come . . .
The simplest ideas are sometimes the very hardest to pull off. True inspiration feels like discovery, as if you're not really thinking of an idea but simply uncovering it bit by bit. When someone asks you how you came up with it, you hesitate because you can't point to one event that served as the genesis. You have that blissful internal moment that feels like lightning erupting in your heart where you realize, "Wow, I really did come up with this by myself."
You can't point to a specific artist or work that you drew inspiration from, or think of a special trip where you saw some amazing architecture or visited some museum, or even think of some piece of music that drew you away from the constricting bonds of reality.
You think of what an amazing feeling it is to be experiencing something so raw and full of potential as a moment of inspiration and while you search for the right thing to say and feel like a dozen seconds have gone by you realize it's only been a moment. Half a beat later you smile and shrug, unsure of how to explain what you are only just coming to discover within yourself.
This idea - this almost childishly simply sketch - has captured my spirit this summer. It has galvanized my energy and become a driving force in our lives here. The children have not only learned the rhythm and routine of design and creation, and the hard work that goes along with seeing a project through step by step, but have also become an integral part of the process. Kelly in particular has been an amazing assistant. While Alexander and Isabel prefer to create on their own, Kelly will stay focused for hours at a time and set her own desires to build aside to assist in tackling the problems we are facing in the seascape project.
And while I really had no plans to turn this summer into an intense artistic workshop - much less tackle a project that would consume our time and energy on this level - this idea, this inspiration, has demanded just that. And after burying so many vital things for so many years, this was one idea that seemed to demand attention.
Plus it seemed deceptively simple enough that I thought I could just knock it out quickly. I guess it's a good thing that I'm a terrible judge of just how long something will take, or just how hard it will be. I mean, who would choose to be a stay-at-home parent if they really knew ahead of time . . .
I know I still would, but I also know I'm a stubborn bastard who has discovered that love is an all-powerful driving force. It's just nice to have a complementary inspiration that is propelling me into new and fascinating places as an artist at the same time.
But I digress. This idea seemed so simple. Build a relief incorporating what I know with one or two medias that I'm unfamiliar with. Just a little steel and some lights, perhaps a bit of painting. What could be so hard?
It has been amazingly difficult to execute. I have stubbornly refused to look anywhere for help. Perhaps naively, I have not wished to be influenced by another artist's work - even if it meant solving design issues. No short-cuts, no other influences. The piece might be a catastrophic waste of time and energy, or worse, simply be mundane, but it would be all my doing.
Knowing that I wanted to figure this out for myself, I haven't rushed into the parts that I didn't understand. All the things I had no idea how I could pull off I just let simmer in the back of my subconscious mind as I enjoyed traveling with my beasties. I attacked the parts that I knew how to build - a steel frame was the first thing I constructed - and then step by step I've worked on the rest.
True inspiration drives you mad if you don't figure out a way to bring it to life. Every idea I've had in this project has led to a puzzle. Figuring out the engineering has become a process of discovery.
I have fallen into a lovely routine where I sleep in the mornings, then have coffee and let the dream-state slowly evaporate from my system as the kids play games and read books in their pajamas. The cat stretches out on the wood floors in a state of fluffy grace, giving off the impression that she might never move again.
I work in the studio for 4 to 6 hours, assisted by Kelly and sometimes mixing in other art projects for the younger two. We tackle the design issues step by step. I think out loud, so that Kelly can follow along as I grimace and scowl and carry on. We sweat a lot - it's amazingly hot and humid here. We take breaks to have snacks and play baseball. We ride bikes.
Then we tackle whatever that night has to offer. Soccer or dinner or whatever day of the week it is. We relax and I see everyone off to bed. Then I pour myself a glass of wine and wander back into the studio. I look at everything from a fresh vantage. I take my time and try to discover the piece as if it was new to me: I pick over little pieces of metal, I fuss with tiny flaws, I yank off pieces of steel and set to totally reworking them. I experiment. I take risks. I work until deep into the early hours. And then I collapse in bed.
Tonight, I wandered into the dark studio and turned on a switch and this is what I saw.
There are still clamps in place and some bricks holding down bits of steel that are bonding together through chemical epoxy, but I believe that tomorrow I will be finished. I will continue leading you along the process of discovery and posting updates in the time-line, but I couldn't help but share this moment as it happened in my life. I have almost achieved success with my simple little idea.
I am flying over the Atlantic Ocean. My daughter is sitting beside me. She turned eleven years old four days ago. She is reading a book about cat warriors. I am drinking a vodka tonic and reading the first novel I have opened since my last trip to Vegas five months ago. I have bought a dozen books in the interim. I have even gone so far as to read ten pages of several, but I have never actually been able to focus enough to lose myself in another world, another author's vision. The distractions of pain, of worry, always cause the wheels inside my head to turn, my concentration dims, my imagination flutters and I shut the book. I usually pause with the spine of the book in my lap and take a deep breath. It saddens me.
Today my book lies open on page thirty-eight. This is a good sign. A rebirth. I am pausing to pour the second half of my mini bottle over the slick ice cubes. A splash of tonic and a quick swirl of the red stir stick. I am savoring the moment of reading, of allowing myself to relax - and the grace to heal in the process - the same way I savor the taste and effect of the drink.
I have no plans on this trip to do anything other than swim through the reefs and further the education and experience of my children. However, I suspect that this trip will hold much more.
The last time we visited Elbow Cay, KK was 8, Zander 5, and Iz 3. Now they are 11, 8 and 6 respectively. I will be interesting to watch the differences in their level of bravery on the open water and under it. I expect their level of exploration and inquisitiveness will have grown.
KK was fearless last trip. That will not change. Zander will hopefully dive into the ocean with vigor and enthusiasm - he first put his head under the water with mask and snorkel on his last day of the '07 trip.Izzie is fearless and I expect she will take to snorkeling immediately.
I am so proud of my children and so relaxed and happy to be sharing this adventure with them. I is a joy to have this unfettered time with them - no schedules, no school, no deadlines or worries - and their presence is comforting and life-affirming. I exist to pass on my particular skills and insights to them, to help them learn to read people and situations, how to manage fear and desire, how to use the resources they have in ways that help them grow far beyond the basic raw materials they have been given. I want to teach them how to learn, instill a love of change and growth inside them, and encourage them to dream big - and make it happen.
I could not ask for better travel companions.
They are now getting excited about the green water and reefs visible beneath the airplane. I am going to sip my drink and return o the sweet indulgence of a good novel.
I thought I had things pretty well set up yesterday for the arrival of my beasties at 4:00. It was the first day in weeks that we didn't have a baseball practice, or a soccer practice, or a softball practice, or an Academy training session, or technical training, or a softball game, or a baseball game, or a soccer game, or an open house and I wanted to take full advantage of an afternoon at the Sloth Castle. The weather is glorious, the flowers are blooming, the birds are cavorting all over the bird bath and feeders and being in the front yard is about the nicest place in the world.
I went for my run, doing the long loop out around the village and back and then began my CrossFit training. In between rounds I began setting up the Art Deck for some Challenge Projects. To keep the beasties on their toes and pushing forward in different disciplines, I give them each a challenge project for the week. This week Kelly is working on her Mindstorms robotics and designing a new robot. Alex is reading "The Most Dangerous Book for Boys" and working on mastering paper airplane design and construction. And Isabel is using the Kapla blocks to build more complex and daring buildings - specifically I wanted her to design and build a structure taller than herself.
I had already gotten to the store and picked up rib eyes, salad fixings, smashed potatoes - the works - so we wouldn't have to leave the house again. So as I finished my fourth round of Sumo Deadlift KB Pulls etc. I found myself drenched in sweat, the house all set for the kids, and nothing to do but fill out the chalkboard with the day's plan and soak in a tub for ten minutes before the bus dropped them off.
I drew a robot on the board to match Kelly's cool red robot and listed our plans which they love to read and check off as we do them. I briefly surveyed my handiwork: there were extra tables and chairs set up in three work stations, the books were set, fried chicken and grapes were set out for their snack, lemonade for them to sip on, and then I slipped into the tub.
Toward the end of the afternoon, projects going strong, I asked Kelly to go marinate the steaks and told her I'd go clean the grill. I turned on the gas and clicked the lighter to find . . . no gas. Okay, so we *are* going to have to leave the house. No problem, quick trip to Lowe's to swap out gas cylinders. We load up and head out.
It is nearly impossible to walk into Lowe's without seeing a half dozen things I really need. We pick up a new float and rubber gasket for Moaning Myrtle (the toilet in my bathroom) some ant spray, and then pause to look at a product called "Snake Be Gone."
We laughed at Snake Be Gone. This was a classic mistake. "Who would ever need a bag of Snake Be Gone?" we wondered aloud. Yes, I know . . . we are just heaping on the mistakes here. We finish snagging another three or four items, the kids go climb on the riding lawn mowers while I wait for the checkout girl to unlock the cylinder locker, and then we head home.
Isabel was the first one to report, "Dada, there's a snake under the piano."
Now, my first instinct was to crinkle my face and look at her carefully. This is the girl who puts one of the cat's play mice in my loafer *every single night of her life.* This is the pink princess who serves me soup with my rolly-eyed fake monster eyeball in it and cackles with glee. I'm trying to remember if we have a rubber snake and whether she is teasing me.
"Is it moving?"
I'm not a fan of snakes. This is a huge understatement. Snakes are right up there with jellyfish in my list of favorite animals in the world. Not to mention this is my second snake of this young Spring. The lake house had a snake in my bedroom. That was bad enough.
Kelly fetched me a shovel, Alex brought me a broom and I swept Mr. Snake up into a bucket, took him back to the pond on the golf course and let him go making a mental note to never, ever laugh at strange products I see at the hardware store.
The gods are always listening.
My little one was thrilled when I finally finished the last round of sanding and lacquering her shelves. All her treasured things have made their way out of the boxes and baskets. All her dolls are proudly displayed in the doll cabinet and all the stuffed animals have a home on the shelves. Her desk is full of etch-a-sketch tablets, a cash register, Mazie Mouse, Elmo, a treasure box, puzzle clock, and her sketch books.
Doll beds are tucked under the desk, and a secondary desk slides out to give her more room to keep puzzles going when she's not quite finished, or to have a tea party.
The doll cabinet was once used by her mother and has been refurbished and painted a deeper glossy shade of pink to go with the pink ceiling, walls. It is lit from within and looks really pretty at night.
There are strings of glass square beads that hang in her doorway that tinkle nicely when she comes and goes. They are a very good indicator of what she is up to when I am downstairs.
Her bed fits in nicely with the natural wood feel, and the whole room has a rosy glow to it.
My youngest beastie has wanted a pink room for a year now. "Daddy when are you going to paint my room?" gets asked several times a week. "Daddy I want a rainbow, with none of the boring colors, when you paint my room."
Over the Christmas break, we moved everything out of her room except the steel lamp and got to work. First the ceiling, then the walls, then the doll cabinet and the trim. I will be building a built in desk and floor to ceiling cabinets on the wall facing the window.This picture was taken standing in the doorway looking toward the south-facing window. The ceiling is now a very pale matte pink, the wall is a slightly darker shade of eggshell paint, the doll cabinet is a darker shade of semi-gloss pink, and the wall on the right is the original white. The mural will be painted on the white wall.
The steel sculpture is a lamp I built for my eldest daughter when she was an infant. It is a lamp designed to hang over her hangs over a crib, . Four halogen lights shine down through a plexiglass panel that has thousands of different colored marbles. I got the idea after walking through Chiluly's "Persian Ceiling" exhibit. As I walked beneath his glass sculptures which were suspended overhead, I thought it would be a great way to stimulate brain development.
The sculpture now stands in the spot where my youngest daughter's bed will be placed. She is very attached to it.
This is the wall where the mural will be painted. I painted murals on all four walls of my oldest daughter's room.
This space was originally designed to be a second closet in the bedroom, but I had the general contractor leave it as usable floor space. The desk will span the full 28 x 76 inches with shelves going to the 9 foot ceiling.