Category Archives: Kids

Christmas Is A Comin’

We purchased scads of stories on audio cassette tapes when our children were young. They listened to them as they drifted off to sleep. Daughter says she still has to listen to audio books before she can go to sleep.  Some of these were stories narrated by famous actors.  Meryl Streep narrated Peter Rabbit  and The Tailor of Gloucester.  Danny Glover narrated How the Leopard Got its Spots.  Jack Nicholson narrated The Elephant’s Child and How the Camel Got Its Hump.  The stories changed as the children got older, and there were crime mysteries, old time radio shows, and, finally, recordings of novels like  A Wrinkle in Time and the Lord of the Rings.  They all sit now in the basement in boxes.

In our effort to get rid of stuff, we are going to have these stories transferred to electronic files and CD’s, and give them to our children for Christmas. Our grandson is old enough now to appreciate stories. It will give us the pleasure of passing on these wonderful recordings and make space in the basement shelves.

Christmas is coming, and we are starting to plan for quiet visits with our son and his family in Brookings. Our daughter is flying to Sioux Falls for a wedding at that time, and we will see her in Brookings, too. It will be a quiet and very much appreciated time together.

What are your plans for Christmas?  What are your ideas for gifts? What stories do you think are essential for children to hear?

Salty Language Advisory – Redux

In honor of “Talk Like a Pirate Day” today, this post comes to us from the archives, gratitude to Dale Connelly.

With some sharp language-related news cutting through the air of late involving the U.S. Navy and some people standing in the road in North Carolina, I thought it would be enlightening to consult with someone I consider to be an expert in the field of salty talk, the skipper of the pirate clipper Muskellunge, Captain Billy.

I tossed some relevant press clippings into a bottle and launched it down the Mississippi through a hole in the ice near Fridley about a week ago, and much to my surprise a reply from the Captain arrived on my desk late last night, boldly dashed on a piece of damp parchment by someone using a parrot feather dipped in pomegranate juice. I deduce that it came from somewhere in the southern climes. Maybe Mendota Heights or even as far away as Cottage Grove!

Ahoy!

Many thanks fer yer question about public language an’ what is an’ what ain’t considered foul!

As Cap’n of a pirate ship, people automatically assumes I has a sharp tongue, a form of stereotypin’ which I resents. Me and me boys labors under heavy expectations from landlubbers regardin’ our manner of public discourse.

Fer instance, if’n one of me boys enters a waterfront saloon anywhere in th’ world, he ain’t taken serious until he either punches somebody’s lights out or utters at least a half dozen choice curse words in th’ local dialect. This gets t’ be a problem on account of th’ vast number of places we visits an’ all th’ different local standards fer rough talk. We ain’t scholars out here, an’ it’s quite a chore t’ keep up wi’ current foul language fashions.

Believe it or don’t, a surprising number of me boys is kind hearted souls who took t’ th’ life of piratin’ t’ get away from uncouth situations at home, an’ they ain’t much inclined to employ harsh language anyhow. They often declines shore leave, on account of th’ fact that it’s too much work to make th’ kind of impression a pirate has to make merely to get served a beer in some places.

But I caution’s ye against thinkin’ pirates is in any way refined. I prefers t’ think we’s Libertarians, language-wise. On board th’ Muskellunge there’s no rules about what a pirate can or can’t say, an’ that goes both ways. Most standard obscenities is allowed as well as any kind of precious, non-piratical sissy words like “Gosh”, “Jeepers” an’ “Swell.”

Where I draws th’ line is attitude. Me boys is not permitted t’ be mean spirited towards one another or anyone else, unless it has t’ do wi’ official pirate business, such as pillagin’ a quiet coastal town or ransackin’ a defenseless vessel.

Th’ one spoken word I never wants to hear on board th’ Muskellunge is th’ last name of that famous FAKE movie pirate, Johnny Depp. If’n one of me boys curses another with a “God Depp” or a “Depp You” or a “you’s a no good barnacle Depper,” I’ll wash his mouth out with a fruity wine cooler – a horrible insult t’ any boy what loves his grog.

Yers in love o’ th’ language,

Capt. B.

The captain has a strong point that the “bad”ness of words is more a question of local custom than universal truth, and the attitude we bring to any exchange is more important that what is actually said. Given that, I do think he is a bit of a hypocrite for taking such an uncharitable attitude toward Johnny Depp.

Do you have to watch your language?

Chez Abattoir

I’m starting to feel like our animals are staging their own production of Sweeney Todd around here.

Guinevere is fast.  Really fast.  No squirrels yet but she’s way into double digits with rabbits and chipmunks.  Last week when I called her in at the end of the night, she wouldn’t come.  I looked out into the yard and saw a large furry lump that Guinevere was clearly guarding.  It looked too big to be a rabbit so I slowly made my way out.  It was a possum.  It didn’t look alive but then I remembered that old phrase “playing possum” and wondered if maybe it was really alive.  YA was out at that point and we managed to catch Guinevere and take her inside.  YA stayed in the yard (taking pictures) and within a minute the possum had raised its head and looked around.  Within 20 minutes it had moved to the very back of the yard.  In the morning, before we let the dog out, we checked and the possum was gone.  We figure that it wasn’t injured, but putting on a good show to throw the dog off.

Nimue is also on the rampage.  It’s that time of year when mice try to find a warmer spot (apparently a mouse can get in a hole that is half the size of a dime) and this year is not exception.  Like most cats, Nimue isn’t even remotely interested in the mice after she’s chased them around and then killed them, but it does mean that I’ve come downstairs in the morning to find the little lifeless bodies – several of them in the last week.  Unfortunately, when the cat gets busy during the night, the dog thinks she needs to go down to see what fun is being had without her.  Then there is barking and some mess making.  The last couple of nights, we’ve put up the gate at the top of the stairs to keep the dog from joining the mayhem.

Usually the mouse situation is a short term issue… in a couple of weeks, the mice will have found a warmer spot and the cat will stop leaving us little gifts. The backyard?  It will remain an abattoir as long as Guinevere on guard!

What’s the last musical you’ve seen?

109 in Escondido

The number one attraction on our to-do list in San Diego was the Safari Park.  I had been there about 20 years ago, but as is typical of my travels, I didn’t get a long tour – just the back of a truck to feed giraffes.  While this was a fabulous experience, I had always hoped to get back for a thorough visit.

It was a 40-minute transfer up to Escondido and we had our ride scheduled so we would get there right at opening as the website had said that it was “first come, first served”.  We didn’t need to worry – the pandemic has definitely changed people’s leisure habits – it wasn’t crowded.  In fact, as the day wore on, there were fewer and fewer visitors.

The park is like a zoo, except fewer animals with larger habitats, separated into different areas: Gorilla Forest, Condor Ridge, Elephant Valley, Tiger Trail, etc.  Due to covid-19, all the various tours by safari van and truck were cancelled, so we were faced with getting through the whole park in one day.

We started with the Tiger Trail and that’s where we met the first of the volunteers stationed around the park to answer questions.  These are my favorite people; it’s always fun to ask questions and chat about the animals and the park.  The tiger in the photo is Rakan, a two-year old Sumatran tiger.  He came to the safari park when he was five-months old from the Smithsonian Zoo, after his mother aggressively rejected him.  For the entire time we stood and talked to the volunteer, Rakan laid majestically behind very thick glass, as if it was his turn for the photo op.  YA snapped this great photo.

As the day wore on, YA started to complain about the heat.  I was quite hot as well, but I thought it was probably just all the walking around.  I had looked at the San Diego forecast that morning – high of 85.  Well, turns out that when you drive 45 minutes north of San Diego, towards the mountains and desert, the high is a bit higher.  In fact, at 2 p.m., the temperature was registering at 109.  Yikes.  And the safari park is NOT built on a flat land.  I know that for every up we had a down, but by the afternoon, it felt like all we did was climb up!  We went through a lot of diet pop and water but powered through; who knows if either of us will ever get back to the park.  The other areas we really enjoyed were Condor Ridge, Elephant Valley and Gorilla Forest.  I suppose it’s not a surprise that there were great volunteers at all those locations.

It was a great day and I don’t think either of us have ever appreciated how cool 85 degrees feels after you’ve walked all over a safari park in over 100!

What animal do you like to visit at the zoo?

Swinging

While walking yesterday, I passed by two boys playing on a tree swing in their front yard – a big yard on a corner.  One boy would sit on the swing, pull it back and then both boys would yell “Three, Two, One”.  Then the first boy would push off in a big arc and the second boy would try to hit him with a large rubber ball.  I guess the countdown was to try to even the odds… hitting the swinging boy looked nigh on impossible.  I pretended to do a doggie clean up so I could watch them a little while longer.  They were about 10 and having a terrific time.

I know that most of us remember playing like this as kids.  One of the games that we neighborhood kids made up when I was in third/fourth grade was called “Dragoons” (yes, spelled the way we pronounced it – no memory of how we came up with this name).  As horrifying as it sounds to my adult ears, we played this after the sun went down in the summer; as soon as we saw a car approaching, we would dart across the street.  If the car lights actually illuminated you, then you had been “dragooned” and had to sit out for a bit.   It wasn’t really a game of chicken, because you were supposed to be well clear of the lights — it probably wasn’t as dangerous as it sounds although I’m pretty sure I never told my mother we were doing this.  I don’t remember any close calls that summer and truth be told, it wasn’t a busy street.

Do you recall a favorite childhood game?  Anything you made up?

Heavy Lyfting

There was some serious budgeting for the trip to San Diego with YA.  First off, the trip would not have been possible at all except for free airline tickets that I won last summer as well as all the award points that I’ve saved up at work over the past few years (they paid for the hotel and the zoo/safari park).  That left us with food and transportation.

We had an Excel spreadsheet for all of this and the transportation was the most challenging.  While the airport, the zoo and Balboa Park are all fairly closely clustered, the safari park was quite a distance.  Plus we were working with a limited selection of hotels due to the budget (I only had so many award points).  I initially just wanted to rent a car, but that got expensive fast with overnight parking as well as parking at many of the attractions we wanted to visit.  We used a website we found for approximating taxis in San Diego – not much better of a price point.

YA suggested we should just use Uber/Lyft like she did on her last trip and the initial research showed quite a bit of savings over rental cars and taxis.  But I was hesitant.  I’ve never used Uber or Lyft and it made me really nervous.  YA said she would take care of it all.

The first morning, the Lyft driver showed up at our house 10 minutes after she set it up.  Perfect.  Since that was the transfer I was the most nervous about, I could relax.  Uber/Lyft are just big software applications that hook drivers up with passengers.  More than once during the trip, we had a driver change while we were waiting; at the zoo the driver changed twice after we set up the initial request, which ended up getting up back to the hotel sooner than we had anticipated.  After doing a bit of research I figured out why it’s cheaper and why taxi associations are up in arms.  Uber/Lyft drivers are not employees – they are individual contractors and the software just puts them together with folks who want a ride.  No fleets of cars to maintain, no huge workforce to deal with employee issues, insurance, etc.  (I did this research because the day before we were to come home Uber and Lyft both announced they were going to stop service in California (that night!) due to a new law that the state has passed concerning the employee status of drivers.  Luckily within a couple of hours there was a stay granted so that Uber/Lyft can continue challenging the new law, so we were still able to arrange a transfer to the airport the next morning.

Really the only problem that I found was that both Uber and Lyft driver rely completely on GPS, unlike taxi drivers who actually do a lot of training and testing before getting their licenses.  So if the GPS is off, then the ride is off.  On our first full day, we headed up to Escondido to the Safari Park.  It’s a long haul, about 40 minutes and YA had her phone open to the Lyft app the entire time so we could track where we were along the route (apparently this is “how it’s done”).  As we approached the main entrance to the park, there was a clear turn off and a huge sign but our driver went right by it and turned left at the next driveway, which was exactly what GPS was telling him to do.  Unfortunately this was some sort of service entrance with a security gate; it took YA a couple of minutes to convince the driver to go back to the first entrance to the park.  Luckily, you pay upfront for your trip, not by the miles or the time you are actually in the car, so this kind of thing doesn’t jack up your price.

So every single one of our transfers was done by Lyft.  YA says she likes Lyft better than Uber but she can’t articulate why.  It doesn’t seem like the two companies can be that different; several of our drivers had both Lyft and Uber stickers on their windshields.  But whatever the difference, it worked out quite well for us, saved us money and I survived using a new technology.  Of course, we’ll see how it goes if I ever had to set up a Lyft on my own!

Any new technology that you’ve survived recently?  Or that is driving you crazy?

The Great Pepper Mystery

Husband and I started six varieties of peppers from seed this year.  We started two sweet red peppers (Spanish Giants and Ajvarskis) and two hot chilis (Joe Parker, a New Mexico Hatch type red chili, and Chimayo, a smaller, hotter, New Mexico red Chili). We also started some Habaneros and Thai chilis for our son

We labeled them and were careful to not mix them up.  When we planted, I was certain that all the Joe Parkers were given to my secretary,  as we decided at the last minute we didn’t want them. The Thai chilis and one Habanero went to our son, and all the rest, (17 in total) went into our garden. Or so we thought. Imagine my surprise  when son sent photos of the alleged Habanero that looked long and slender like a Joe Parker. Two of what I thought were Chimayos also turned out to be Joe Parkers, and now we can’t tell the difference between the Spanish Giants and the Ajvarskis, as their tags got all mixed up when we planted. The header photo shows what I think are, from left to right a Spanish Giant, an Ajvarski, and  Chimayo. (The latter are quite easy to discern.)

Husband tried to do a taste test between two big peppers,  but they tasted similar. I decided the only way to solve this mystery is to not start any Joe Parkers next year. I should add that the peppers I gave my secretary were doing well until we had a wind storm and a big tree crashed on top of her garden.

What mystery, ancient or modern, would you like to solve?

Behavior Modification

Our son texted us earlier this week to tell us that our two year old grandson said  “Mommy, put on your listening ears and give me some goldfish crackers.”  Son wrote “He’s using our weapons against us!”

I thought it was pretty funny, and told our son it only meant that grandson was understanding what they were telling him and doing some pretty creative problem solving as well

What do you think are the most effective forms of discipline or behavior management? How have you tried to change others’ behavior, either at home or in the workplace?  Include pets.

Birthday Art

Last week was my birthday.  I learned a long time ago that I don’t want to wait around to have friends/family bring celebration to me; if I want a particular celebration, then I just make it happen.  I came to this revelation after wasband #1 and I split up.  It was Valentine’s Day and I was feeling sorry for myself so I went out and bought myself a small bouquet of flowers, some heart-shaped balloons and a couple of pink frosted donuts with sprinkles (one for me, one for the dog).  I had also scored a big box from the new tv of the neighbors (Katy Scarlett loved to sit in big boxes and then eventually destroy them) which I decorated with red and pink markers for her.  Turned out to be a great day and a great lesson for myself.

This is not to say that I don’t love what friends/family do for me – I think when folks think of me it means MORE to me because I am self-sufficient in the “celebrate me” arena.  This year I had an especially nice surprise.  While I was out walking the dog that morning, the little girls next door (Margot and Matilda) came over and did chalk decorations all over my sidewalk.  I’m sure they had help from their parents, but the rainbows and butterflies were clearly Margot’s inspiration.  It was so touching – it’s still there a week later although getting a little faded from folks walking on it and the couple of rain sprinkles.  It was the best birthday wish I got this year!

Do you have a favorite neighbor?  Or a not-favorite one?

Identifying Marks

Daughter told me that when she was at a farmers market in Tacoma last Saturday, she ran into another graduate of Concordia  College.  (I and both our children graduated from there). I asked her if she knew the person. Daughter said no, but the woman recognized her Concordia ring and identified her as a Cobber. As you can see from the header photo, it is a pretty plain ring and not all that easy to spot on someone else’s hand.

The College magazine is full of stories of Cobbers encountering  other Cobbers in odd places, always identifying each other by their rings. “Marlys Swensrud (’64) was surprized to meet up with Lars Lindstrom (’88) on a bird watching trip in Cyprus last August”.  You would think all we alums do is stare at people’s hands hoping to find a fellow graduate.  It isn’t even that the ring tells much about what sort of people we are, only that we have a shared experience of a certain place.  I think that if I wanted to let people know about me by wearing something symbolic, it would be small ceramic pins in the shape of a pie or a garden hoe, or perhaps a Welsh Terrier.

What symbol would you wear to let people know about you?  What do you think are some symbols that could identify us as Baboons?