Thursday, July 31, 2008

Project: Chalk Robots Seen From Space (or suitably high up)

Giant Park Robots Best Seen From Above

What you'll need:
  1. Box of sidewalk chalk (with plenty of both blue and pink for, um, making boy and girl robots).
  2. Lots of sidewalk/cement, the curvier the better.
  3. Bored and/or gullible children.
  4. Roofdeck.*
*Roofdeck is optional, but it's way cool to look down from way up.

Begin by getting the kids outside in the park; tell them you're going to do something really cool.  Bring fancy drinks like pink lemonade if need be.  Don't forget the camera.  You want to draw something large (and easy), so we suggest robots.  You don't have to be that old (or young) to draw big squares, triangles, circles, and whatnot.

daddy robot

What goes with Giant Robots?  A rocket, of course (which are, conveniently, also pretty easy to draw).


Think big.  That's the idea, after all.

When you're done (or at least until the pink lemonade has been exhausted), head up to the roofdeck for the payoff.

from space

I love how it looks like the blue (boy) robot is tossing the pinkish (girl) robot in the air, and we didn't intend that.

Next up?  Robots playing tennis.  And swimming.  Probably.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

There is something about California, admittedly

Okay, so Q is on to something with the liking California.  Consider the following:


On the left we see what NYC more or less looks like in July (with about 80-90% humidity, of course).  On the right:  nothing but a week of pure pleasantness in San Diego.  And the thing is, every week there looks just like this.

There's more.  My lovely wife's sister and her husband live about 10 driving minutes away from a beautiful beach that includes a playground high up on what amounts to a scenic overlook.  From the swings, Q and The Boy could watch surfers climb and then disappear into the waves.

Even more:  My lovely wife's sister and her husband live in a townhouse complex that also includes extremely nice tennis courts and a salt-water pool.  The Boy spent a lot of time hitting balls over the net and practicing on his follow through, and Q was in the water more than she was out.  And to top it all off, they lived just up the hill from where hot air balloons were launched, which meant that we could walk out the door in San Diego to find perhaps ten balloons hanging silently in the air like a flock of exotic creatures.  It made the whole world seem enchanted.

I can understand what makes southern California so attractive to so many people (and why everyone tends to move more slowly than out here).

Friday, July 25, 2008

California conversations

Are you glad to be home, guys?

The Boy:
Yes.  I mean, eventually it gets boring in California.  And I missed my friends.  And we had to take a car everywhere.
This from the child who while we were there declared:
There aren't any kids in California.
Q had, of course, a different take:
I like California better.
Us: Why?
Q: Because Ba Ngoai* likes me so much.
Us: How do you know?
Q: Because she makes me pho and gives me lots of kisses.
Us: What about all the swimming?
Q: That, too.
*Maternal grandma in Vietnamese.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

(almost) back


After nearly a week and a half in Sunny Southern California, we made it back to New York, more or less. This week we lugged ourselves back into our apartment around the time that we were supposed to eat dinner on the East Coast, but our bodies were still trained by the other ocean. We split the difference and ordered pizza.

Just through the door, Q turned to my wife and asked, "Do you have to go to work now, mom?"  And later that night, as I worked a washcloth along The Boy's back in the bath, I mentioned that I had to go back to work.  "I know," he sighed.

My lovely wife and I did indeed go back to work—the day after our return, in fact, so it's taken me a little longer to readjust, with my head being the last to arrive.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Birthday wishes for mom

Today is my lovely wife's birthday.  I won't mention her age, but I will say that for nine days she and I are the same age.  And I'm old.  (Unlike me, though, she doesn't look like it.)

This morning, even before I left for work, Q poked out of her room and came into ours.  She said that she got up early because she didn't want to miss mom's birthday.  The Boy made my wife a huge picture he had made weeks ago and (later) a fan that he decorated with drawings of cakes, candles, and presents.  Q had made several 'Q's on her fan, along with two faces close together — one for her and one for mom.

We didn't do anything fancy today to celebrate her big day, mainly because we leave for California tomorrow for an extended stay.  One of these days, we're going to have to start making her a fancy birthday cake.  I'm open to suggestions for a theme.

Fireworks, fireflies

Maybe it was the free Friday or the heavy, low clouds, but for some reason or other our neighborhood was largely empty last Fourth of July weekend.  And since the crowds around here have generally been rising with the gas prices, it was nice to have the parks and paths largely to ourselves.

Fourth of July means fireworks, of course (which we watched in the rain again this year), but it also means Wimbledon, which means that we watch and play a lot of tennis, including nearly all of the endless but remarkable Federer v. Nadal match.  We encourage The Boy and Q to participate in the rather excellent basketball and soccer programs offered by the Parks Department, but The Boy especially finds these sports underwhelming.  Instead, for some reason he favors the Country Club Sports — namely golf and tennis.  Ask him to go out and kick a ball on the grass, and he's suddenly tired; propose tossing him a tennis ball for him to return, and he immediately fetches his sneakers and talks incessantly about how he's good at following through and hitting the ball on his racquet's "sweet spot."  My lovely wife and I love tennis ourselves, so we happily spent much of the weekend lobbing balls to his forehand and dodging what he sent back.  He's not bad actually and getting better all the time.  Q can actually hit a ball or two herself, but, only 3, she quickly wants to swing or soak herself in the park fountains.  That's good stuff, too.

Saturday we spent with our good friends.  We rented a Prius for the day (a surprisingly good car, by the way), and headed out to northern New Jersey for barbequed meats and swimming and great conversation.  These friends that we've known since my wife's law-school days have three kids, and their son, the oldest, is The Boy's idol.  The two of them got to talk and do "boy stuff," which seemed important because Q likes to hang out with our friends' two daughters, both a little older than Q.  So there was talk of princesses and tea sets and gymnastics, and the boys therefore had things against which to be boys.  And my lovely wife and I had an uninterrupted chance to be adults.

Sunday night, just after we put the long weekend and Q and The Boy to bed, I went out for milk at the local Duane Reade.  On my way there through Teardrop park, I caught a pop of light right off a bush beside a bench, and then another higher up along a tree.  And then another, and another.  It was a lush night, warm with gauzy air, and fireflies had come out to enjoy it.  I caught one, and brought it back in cupped hands to the kids' bedroom.  Q was already in deep sleep unfortunately, but The Boy was very awake so he and I went back out to the park.

Outside in the thick night, we wandered the park while the fireflies entertained us.  The Boy, excited by these odd little bugs, took to theory:  "I think they make light because they like light, and at night there aren't many lights, so they have to make their own."  I can remember thinking nearly the same thing too many years ago as I stood in the grass of my grandmother's house in Gypsum, Kansas, likewise astonished by the blinking beetles that hung in the air by what seemed like the thousands, pretending to be stars.

I hope that your 4th was as memorable.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

School Daze: Rumor Edition

The saga continues.  Sort of.  As I mentioned recently, The Boy's prospective Kindergarten (PS 89) faces severe overcrowding next year and the years to follow, and this space squeeze has triggered a fair amount of interest and activism in our neighborhood.  The Manhattan Borough President, Scott M. Stringer, has come down to hear grievances, and possible solutions have been tossed around.

In my last School Daze post, I recounted the proposal that trailers be brought in to house all those extra five-year-olds.  At the time I wondered where they would put the things, given the hyper-development that's occurred around here over the past few years.  Still, better to have trailers than to have lessons in the stairwells.

Well, rumor has it that trailers won't be arriving anytime soon.  According to a friend of ours from the building (and someone who's pretty active in this school fight), PS 89 can't bring in trailers because they're too expensive given the short-term needs.  So in other words, the City doesn't really consider trailers a short-term solution, but neither are they long-term, obviously.

I'm just thinking out loud here, but perhaps the City needs to flex a little more institutional muscle.  An ugly high rise just across the West Side Highway from us was allowed to exist on the condition that it dedicate space to an annex for PS 234, the other highly regarded elementary school down by us (and also bursting at its proverbial seams, even with this addition).  Why not demand that the building going up across the street from PS 89 house similar space?  No doubt contracts have already been signed and whatnot, but the City could offer further incentives (carrot) or deny permits (stick) to make that happen.  Or perhaps they could commandeer the new public library branch going into a luxury condo building directly across from ours.  For recess they could fall out the door and across the street to the large playground.

In any event, we're back where we were:  We now hear that the industrious folks at PS 89 have managed to find enough corners for the incoming 6 classes of Kindergartners, but they have no idea what to do with the following year's kids and those who'll continue on.

Anyone got any good ideas?  The City sure doesn't seem to have any.