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April 22, 2012

Ivory Dog, Emerald Lawn

This is a good time of year for Ophelia, beauty-wise. When we walk in the morning, I like to admire the contrast of her still-full winter coat against the new lush grass. I also wish I was a better photographer, but the following may give you an idea.
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April 14, 2012

The Best Playground Ever (Nature!)

A couple of years ago, Rebecca Mead wrote an article for the New Yorker about new play ground design. (You can find a summary here if you're not a subscriber.) In the article, she and other smart people criticized the current design of municipal playgrounds as too safe, too similar, and too boring. As a parent of two small children, I had to agree with the criticism. Every playground around here consists of some variation on a couple of platforms, some sand, and a few slides designed to prevent a child from sliding too fast, if at all (Henry especially tends to get stuck midway down). A few parks have something as fun as a tire swing. When we try to play a game of tag or hide-and-seek, our efforts at fun quickly grind down because there's nowhere to run or hide.

I'm especially sensitive to this because I grew up across the street from an awesome playground. The playground at Hillcrest Elementary School in Brookings, SD was built (no doubt at considerable public expense) when I was in first grade. It consisted of a forty-foot-square structure of platforms and monkeybars made of wood, ropes, and car tires. There were eight rows of monkeybars and rings, and a couple of the monkeybars were designed to be missing bars, so as to increase one's chance of falling. There were two tire swings. There was a central square pit that was criss-crossed with tight ropes placed at intervals that would allow an agile child to jump from rope to rope and ensure that a clumsy child would get hooked on one and tumble to the bottom. Tag on this structure was epic. During my elementary career I learned multiple escape routes from every location, many of them involving leaping, swinging, and landing precariously. It was the playground equivalent of the obstacle course from American Gladiator.

Needless to say, a kid or two fell and broke their wrist every month, increasing as the cold made the metal slippery and the sand rock-hard. (In retrospect, this may partially explain why the Brookings Bobcats of my cohort were such crap at sports involving throwing and catching.)

Well, times have changed, and playgrounds like that have been disassembled, and brightly colored plastic playpens have been erected in their place. So, on a boring Saturday morning, what's a parent to do? Why go to the local Devonian fossil bed/flood plain/pile of craggy rocks and broken concrete and let 'em scramble around like maniacs!
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April 5, 2012

What Is Pink?

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For Henry, on the occasion of his third birthday, a little something from Christina Rossetti ...

What is pink? A rose is pink
By the fountain's brink.
What is red? A poppy's red
In its barley bed.
What is blue? The sky is blue
Where the clouds float through.
What is white? A swan is white
Sailing in the light.
What is yellow? Pears are yellow,
Rich and ripe and mellow.
What is green? The grass is green,
With small flowers between.
What is violet? Clouds are violet
In the summer twilight.
What is orange? Why, an orange,
Just an orange!

April 3, 2012

Hangin' at the Hangar

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In lieu of napping while the carpet cleaners refreshed our sandy carpets, Hal and I joined the Kindergarten classes at the Iowa City Airport.

It was awesome.

We saw the University of Iowa jets, a Piper Cub (circa 1937), a classmate's dad's airplane, and a bunch of helicopters, including the air care helicopter that works with the hospital!

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This pilot-kid-man-instructor-guy said to Henry, after Henry peered into his cockpit, said, "So, you gonna be a pilot?!?" Can I really? YEAH, man!

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I've always been in awe of the flight nurses who walk around the hospital in their snazzy black jumpsuits, studded with hemostats and IV cannulas. They own an air of competence, respect, and honor. Today, we got to peek inside their "report room" and take a walk in their shoes (cop a seat in their chair).

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It was totally worth skipping nap to tag-along. Joel and I entertained a half hour fantasy about getting a little airplane ourselves, but then ... Nah, we're really more of a canoeing type of people. It's fun to dream, though.

It was an awesome field trip.

April 1, 2012

Je t'embrasse

Dear Kelli, Charles, Owen, & Eloise,

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Thank you for the charming visit.

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We loved sharing our lives with you. And we loved receiving tangible bites of yours, courtesy of Charles's homemade bread (which we are still savoring).

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We loved seeing our hand-me-downs on clever, new people.

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And we loved sharing this last weekend with you. Thank you for visiting.

Je t'embrasse,

Aimee, Joel, Adelaide & Henry.