Exploring The Creek

August 20, 2017



One night when Stephanie and David were out of town, I decided I wanted to experience a relaxing moment (or moments) being surrounded by trees next to a creek. So I took myself to Lorimer Park near me, getting there just before sunset. I explored a different part of the park than we had been to before. I found a small bridge over a side creek, underneath an archway of trees that provided the backdrop I was looking for. It was truly a beautiful place to be. I immediately took some pictures and promised to bring David and Stephanie there.


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We had a free Sunday and decided to spend a morning exploring the park. We had no idea that this section of the park existed. When I had gone a couple of days earlier, it looked like a gentle stream with a small hill nearby. When we got there in broad daylight, the small hill turned out to be a David-friendly hill, well worth wearing the hiking boots I had told Stephanie and David to leave at home. For David, the main part of this adventure was the chance to play in the creek. Luckily for him, we had remembered his water shoes.




He had a grand old time in the creek, exploring along the bank and in the water.
He tested the effects of water on rocks (makes them shiny, especially the red ones), and practiced his rock-skipping skills. He explored different pathways through the water, taking care to monitor the current and keep himself safe (by not falling in). He also took a couple of videos explaining how the creek flowed and other things he found there. It was truly just great fun to watch David explore the creek—almost as much fun as discovering a brand new place to have a family hike!




The David Tapestries

June 6, 2017
The Real David

Finding the spot to admire HIS personal tapestries

We were going up to New York to see Grandma Grace. When he heard the news, David recalled that one of his Magic Treehouse books had featured a unicorn in New York City, specifically at the Cloisters. He told us he wanted to see it. Actually, it was a series of tapestries called the Unicorn Tapestries. I therefore carefully planned time on the trip for us to stop at the Cloisters and see them. It was admittedly a bit of a challenge to make a medieval art collection David-friendly. Beyond the fact that we happened into a family festival, the Cloisters was surprisingly well suited for David (the many stairs to enter the complex helped in this regard).


The Unicorn Tapestries were everything that the Magic Treehouse had promised. In fact, there was an entire room with no less than 7 tapestries dedicated to the Unicorn story. David really enjoyed the story of the hunters and chase—but he was not as keen on the fact that the magic unicorn is killed and put on public display. He found that disappointing, but he did have me shoot some video of him narrating the story. For all of David’s anticipation of the Unicorn tapestries, the real prize was in the next room—The David Tapestry.

Joshua and David

Joshua and David? or David and Joshua? Can we do a David Joshua?

Actually it was a tapestry of Joshua and David. Joshua and David, of course, being renowned leaders of the Jewish people in ancient times. Joshua led the people after the death of Moses, and the glory of King David resonates to this day. Not to be outdone, our David Joshua is pretty beloved himself.—every day. Of course I took the opportunity to tell him that the tapestry of Joshua and David was really for him because it had 2 of his names. He was wondering if it is was really made for him, where was the last name? I could not provide a coherent answer to this question, so I had to fess up to the fact that the tapestry was really made hundreds of years before his birth.


Wonderful view

We had a really nice time at the Cloisters; it was more pleasant than I remembered from our previous trip there. Maybe the weather was a lot nicer and the gardens more in bloom. It was also fun to see a different part of Manhattan. I was able to explain to David about Manhattan schist and how this park was actually on top of a big rock that overlooked the Hudson River and the Harlem River and the Bronx.


Catching some wind on the boat

A couple of days later, we went on a boat cruise around Manhattan Island—actually, it did not make the entire circuit because the water was too high. We learned that the waters around Manhattan Island are susceptible to high and low tides. This high tide was higher than most and longer than most—and the boat’s captain decided to not risk getting his 23 foot high boat stuck under a 24 foot clearance bridge. But we saw most of the Island, including Hell’s Gate and the George Washington Bridge. David led the way for us sometimes, and took souvenir pictures and even drew a skyline on the Etch a Sketch Aunt Rhonda had brought.

Skyline by David

Skyline by David

Always something new to discover in New York.

Statue of Liberty

One of many photos by David on the cruise around Manhattan

Details, Details, Details

May 11, 2017


Stephanie and I had the same thought—we both absolutely loved the paintings in the American Watercolor show now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. David would also, except that it would be too crowded for him. We both wanted to take him, because we figured that he would make the connections between “watercolor art” and the watercolors that he sometimes paints with. However, we were concerned that it would be way to crowded for David to see anything. Then we found out that the exhibit had extended hours to 7 pm—so back we went with David for the late shift. Luckily the crowds had gone home, and David had space to enjoy the paintings. He certainly did. In fact, he enjoyed so many paintings, I even had to start taking notes on them to record his impressions.

And give me his impressions he did. His commentary was usually oriented around the “details” of the paintings. After a while, I started asking him what kind of details, and he was generally up to the challenge—but I will let the reader judge. (I also want to record this for posterity.)

David’s observation’s as recorded by Dad

American Watercolor Exhibit, May 2017

Philadelphia Museum of Art

1. On the Ausable—James David Smiley

colors, rocks, realistic, water and nature

2. Catskill Clove in Palingville—William Rictorby Miller

trees, how fast water is rushing, rocks, little beach

(The next 4 are from the Ruskin room—painting in nature)

3. Apples and Plums, John William Hill

Apples, details, berries, grapes— real apples

4. Autumn Leaves, Eliot Robbins

Colored leaves, agree with Mommy on the details of the veins.

5. Anemones, Henry Roderick Newman

Detail flowers

6. Three Eggs, Charles Ferrari


7. Mountain View, Robert Paxson

Rocks, Trees, Branch looks like a Y

8. Sunrise New York Bay 1875, Henry Farrer

Colors and details in the boats; yellow red sunrise

9. Water Scenes in Moonlight, Henry Farrer

I like the shades of the white clouds and blue sky, and especially blue sky

10.West Nyack, New York, John William Hill

Details, flowers and grass

11. Natural Bridge, Virginia,  John Henry Hill

Rocks, canyon, water

12. Fawn’s Leap Catskills, John William Hill

Details, red clothes on the people, waterfall, water goes real fast.

13. Wasatch Range, Thomas Moran

Green grass and rocks

14. Rock Coast, William Trost Richards

layers of rocks, water moving real fast.

15. Big Springs in Yellowstone Park, Thomas Moran

Geysers, trees, see branches come out of the trees

16. Boys in a Dory/Gloucester Harbor (Winslow Homer, engraving and painting)

(no impressions recorded)

17. Coaching in New England, Albert Fitch Bellows

Pine trees, carriages, details, horses going to the city

18. Waiting for the Boats, Winslow Homer

Rocks, boats, water, polka-dotted, curtain in the water

19. Peonies in the Wind (glass)/Peonies in the Wild (painting) (both—John la Farge)

leaves, bright colors

20.Summer Afternoon Inn of William the Conqueror, F, Hopkinson Smith

Town, table, plants—green, houses just right, great tables

21. A Bridle Path in Tahiti John La Farge

black of the horse, blue of the water, green of the palm tree

22. Philae, Henry Roderick Newman

Marking on the columns

23. Divine Law Mural, PA State Capitol, Violet Oakley

Angels hold up the words

24. Old King Cole, Mayfield Parrish

details of the people

25. St. Mark’s Square Clock Tower, Maurice Pendergast

Wings of the lion, reminds me of the Magic Treehouse series

26. Muddy Alligators, John Singer Sergeant

water glinting off of the alligators

27. A Huntsman and his Dogs/Guide Carrying a Deer, Winslow Homer (watercolor and oil)

white different across the paintings, black the same

28. Garden in Nassau, Winslow Homer

Leaves drooping on palm trees

29. Man Fishing-Sargeant, Boy Fishing—Homer

preferred the man fishing as he is sitting on natural object (rock) vs man-made canoe

30. Fishing Boats Key West, Winslow Homer

Ships at Palma—Sergeant

Homer’s is more peaceful.

31. A Tent in the Rockies, John Singer Sargeant,

Sun rays coming through the tent to show things inside.

Note that over 30 paintings caught David’s eye as being noteworthy. I had another 10- 15 I had recorded notes in my phone. Some were the same as David’s;  some were the same as Stephanie’s and some were mine alone. This must have been a fabulous exhibition!


David in front of the Diana statue, Great Hall, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Maple Syrupy

April 5, 2017


I have been enjoying my maple cream on toast combination for a couple of weeks now. Before visiting the maple syrup farm a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of maple cream before, but like so many new discoveries over the past few years, this one is also due to David. This story begins at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January.  The people at the maple syrup display mentioned that there was a Maple Syrup Weekend in mid-March. Maple syrup farms would be open for visitors; if you were lucky, you would actually be able to see them boil the maple syrup and be able to taste freshly made maple syrup.

Guess who wanted to go? David, and his parents. Truth be told, I had been hoping to go to one of these events for years. This year, given my son’s interest, I was even more highly motivated to actually find the events. I quickly found 3 such events in northern and northeastern PA. After some research, I ran down some details on the event closest to us (and easily drivable). I had a great weekend planned out—leave on Saturday afternoon, stop and hike on the Appalachian Trail  on the way up, stay overnight up there, and go Maple Syruping on Sunday. All was well until the Tuesday before, when a huge snowstorm dropped 15 inches of snow on the Appalachian Trail section I had found, and 26 inches of snow on the maple farms up there.


The hiking was out, and maybe the entire trip. I called around to the farms, and asked them if they would be open on Sunday. The general consensus was probably. One of the farmers recommended that I bring snowshoes in case my family wanted to tour the farm; little did she know we actually have snowshoes (and snowpants). I told David that we could go on Sunday as a day trip, and hopefully someone would be open to receive visitors. Sure enough, the first place we went to had not opened. Luckily the second one (Journey’s End Farm) was only a few miles away. After some effort, I was able to find this farm. I found out later in the day that they had not been able to clear the driveway to the sugarhouse until the afternoon before. Good thing I took the Subaru!

Sap Sugar DAvid

We had safely arrived—but the maple sap was not flowing and the boilers were not operating. This actually turned out to be a boon for us, because the Curtis family (the farmers) had time to speak with us in great detail about how the maple syrup process works.  The first stop was the glove warmer, and then they showed us the line where the sap comes in from the trees outside. It turns out there is all kinds of science in making maple syrup—sugar content, density, different boiling points based on elevation, etc. Miss Kristin even gave us some of the sap to taste before it got boiled down. (That sap came in really handy after our snowshoe tour—-but I digress). She and David measured the sugar content of the sap—-it came in at about 1.5% sugar. Since maple syrup is about 65% sugar, this sap had a long way to go before it became maple syrup—actually, the 40 gallons of sap had a long way to go to become the 1 gallon of syrup available for sale to maple syrup aficionados such as myself. (In the future, I might be able to upgrade myself to Maple Syrup Connoisseur….)

Syrup Tasting.jpg

Then it was time to taste some of the maple syrup made on premises. David and I had a disagreement. He noticed that the 4 jars each had different colors of syrup. Therefore each jar was different. I said the labels all said MAPLE SYRUP so of course they were all the same. Obviously. ….It will surprise no one that David was correct. It is probably not surprising that we both picked the same grade of syrup we have always liked (even though I also bought a small container of my number 2 choice).  Between the hickory syrup we got at the farm show, and half gallon I bought on site, I now have plenty of syrup for a while. And then we got to taste some maple candy and maple cream. These are made at higher boiling points than syrup, and both equally good. This is the maple cream I have been enjoying since then.


However, the day was not yet over. Since we had brought our snowshoes, we were allowed to take a snowshoe tour of the property. We went down the snow trail that a couple of the staff had happened to clear the day before, over to the bucket zone. The Bucket Zone was the area of the farm with sap buckets, and David wanted to see the buckets. He counted 32 of them. With the exception of the leading 3, he was actually pretty close to the actual number of 325 on the property. The staff was actually out checking the buckets to see if they needed to be brought in. They did not, but a couple of trees had sap running into the buckets! No bucket we saw had more than a couple of inches of sap in them—no danger of freezing and breaking. They also taught us that tap holes are set in spirals so that different holes are tapped each year and the trees can recover from year to year.


When we got back to the sugarhouse, Mr. Andy invited David to see the cool stuff upstairs. When we got up there, we saw some of the old equipment, including snowshoes and an old yoke. The yoke was a large piece of wood that lays on one’s shoulders. Each side would have a 5 gallon bucket hanging on it, and you would carry the bucket back to the sugarhouse for boiling. Since 5 + 5 = 10, and you need 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, that means you would make 4 trips to and from the trees for each gallon.

We had a wonderful time at the Journey’s End maple sugarhouse. To top it off, they recommended for dinner the same Indian restaurant that we had noticed on the way up!  When we left that morning, we had no real idea what would happen—but we had a great and tasty adventure that afternoon!

More fun pictures from our trip to Journey’s End Farm

All Learning

Everyone learned about the making of maple syrup.


I had to climb this ladder to check out what was in the boiler.


It was OK to leave the bucket out–not much sap ran today.


Pinewood Derby

February 8, 2017


After much trepidation on his father’s part, David’s car raced successfully in the annual Pinewood Derby at his Cub Scout pack. “Success” is being defined as a car that stayed on the track and finished the race. I became petrified when I first saw the block of wood which was supposed to morph into a racing car. I was getting more and more worried as I heard the presenters talk about drilling the axles, removing the burrs, lessening the wheel resistance, allowable vertical clearances, and optimal strategies for adding weight to the car so it was more stable.


Some of the finished products (David’s on the right).


Transforming blocks of wood into anything is not in my skill set, so this was a major problem. Luckily, there were a couple of Dads in the pack who very much had woodworking in their skill sets. They brought in a couple of special saws and David’s wood block was magically cut into the respectable design that David had drawn. Even better, my neighbor (whose son is also in the pack) has an extensive tool shop, offered to have David and I over to work on the cars, and  knew all about drilling the axles. I had had visions of picking the wrong drill bit and splitting my son’s prospective car into pieces with incompetent drilling. The offer to go next door was gratefully accepted.


Sanding it smooth, just like a pro.

We were able to work on the sander (I had helpfully brought sandpaper) and my neighbor cut out the divot in the bottom to allow for more weight. He also had some pieces that worked as weights. The last step at my neighbor’s garage was to pop the wheels on after the drill press did its work. I was able to do that. Suddenly, almost miraculously, the car was ready for painting. I knew I could handle working with David on that.

We happened to take the car to the regular Scout meeting. There was a scale there, and I got the official information that the car exceeded the 5 ounce weight limit—by .15 oz. That is correct, there was a potential disqualification situation; however, this problem was well within my abilities to solve. I simply had to remove some of the glue, take out the heaviest of the weights, and then the car was ready for painting. I took a chance and assumed I had taken out enough weight.


Designed and painted by David

Fortunately, we had some arts and crafts paint in the house. I took those, gave David his smock and the chance to get to work. He had the two layer design all planned out. The first layer was green. That was easy, so he painted the car green. He actually did the painting. The next day Mommy was home, so he was able to paint the second layer of the design. This part included various (ninja) symbols of and for himself. When he paint dried, we had success! The car was painted and it ran! That is, it ran along the ground, which was no guarantee that it would run on the real track.


The NinjaMobile is Ready to Race!

I knew that if I got to the hall the night before, I could discreetly test the car to make sure it ran on the actual track and passed inspection. (Pinewood Derby cars are weighed and must pass a vertical clearance check). Fortunately, the NinjaMobile weighted in at 4.65 ounces, under the legal limit. (The NinjaMobile was renamed from “David’s Car” on the advice of a friend who told me that each car needed a cool name—which David provided). I was admittedly a bit concerned about the whole vertical clearance issue. I was not sure if the car had the necessary 3/8 inch clearance. When I had measured it, I got 2/8….and 2 is less than 3, so I may have had a problem. The problem was averted when the timing crew needed a fourth car to test the timing system. The NinjaMobile ran down the track—I guess it had enough vertical clearance! Unfortunately for us, David’s car did not win any of his heats. The NinjaMobile competed well, and only lost by a matter of seconds! He was disappointed about that; I was just happy it ran all four times and got to the finish line!

Thanksgiving 2016

December 4, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016 Decorations by David

Our Thanksgiving holiday for 2016 started out with David passing his yellow belt promotion test in Karate. It continued the next day with a wonderful Thanksgiving meal planned by David, and continued with a fun trip to Center City Philadelphia that weekend to see Odd Squad Live. Since Odd Squad is one of David’s favorite TV shows, it was a pleasure to see how thoroughly he enjoyed the performance. At the end of the show, they made all the kids in the audience official Odd Squad agents, which thrilled David to no end.


The New Yellow Belt!

While it was fun to see David get so excited about Odd Squad, it was awesome to see David pass his promotion test. It was actually not about karate per se, it was about fitness. The workout they put the kids through was easily the equal to any adult workout. I can personally testify to this because I occasionally go to the Thursday cardio class there, and I recognized all of the exercises the kids had to do.  All of the exercises David had ever showed us from karate class, appeared in the promotion test. He was rightfully very proud of his achievement. I do not know if I could have done that workout.


Creative Designer: David

The next morning was Thanksgiving. David had carefully planned the menu and the table decorations for Thanksgiving dinner. Admittedly, he needed Mommy’s help to execute his vision, but the creative inspiration was completely his. The menu consisted of Roasted Butternut Squash with Parmesan, Mashed Potatoes, and Roasted Brussels with Sweet Potatoes. Mama was the Head Chief, my role was Assistant Chopper. Dessert was Apple Pie for me, Pumpkin Pie for David (Mama likes both).  We enjoyed a great family meal, surrounded by our son’s decorations. We were all very thankful indeed— for each other, friends, community—and I threw in the replacement washing machine we had received a month before. (There is a reason why I had liked something on Facebook about providing clean clothes to needy kids—those with no laundry machine in the house, when ours broke twice—I understood).


Official Odd Squad Agents

A couple days later, we took David down to see Odd Squad Live. We had a grand time, and David enjoyed it also. We even found a functional phone booth after the show. While in Center City, we came across a “maze” which was actually a display of the 30-something gardens in the Philadelphia region. Then we came back home in order to taste some fabulous mushroom soup that Stephanie debuted that evening. The soup has already announced an encore appearance, much to the delight of Daddy and David.


Wintergarden Maze featuring 30 nearby gardens and arboreta.

All too soon, the Monday after Thanksgiving rolled around, and we had to go back to school and work.


For Authorized Agents Only

Trail Challenge

September 29, 2016

On the Blue Trail at Green Lane Park

David has far exceeded the requirements for the Montgomery County Trail Challenge. He proved that a couple of weeks ago by leading his parents on a fairly challenging 3 mile hike over the hills and dales of Green Lane Park in the upper reaches of Montgomery County. But I get ahead of myself in mentioning this particular hike. David actually had to explore 5 other trails in the county to complete the Challenge and get his medal (Secret: His parents had to take him to the trails, so we explored them also).


One down, 4 to go!

We had come across the Trail Challenge in July. It is actually a program of the county’s health department to encourage use of the numerous walking/biking trails in the county. I did not realize that I lived so close to so many wonderful trails, with nice long paths for hiking and biking and just plain walking. Truth be told, the Green Lane Park hike noted above was actually NOT for a medal,. However, it qualified as a “challenging hike with hills I can climb with my Golden Boots” (DJZ, September 17th, 2016). Most of the trails that we did were walking/biking trails; the first one we did (Cynwyd Heritage) went over an old rail bridge over the Schuylkill River and expressway in Philadelphia. Maybe I’ll have to take David back there because it had a serious hill to bike up.



Then Stephanie and David explored the 202 Parkway Trail, which is really a bike trail next to a new road near Doylestown. It is actually far more pleasant as a bicycle than as a pedestrian walkway. The big family winner trail in the Challenge is the Pennypack Trail, which is a newly extended rail-trail next to Lorimer Park. Not only did Stephanie and David walk on this trail, they also discovered several “secret trails: Secret Trails Number 1 and Secret Trail Number 2. We went back later, and then David discovered Secret Trail Number 3. David and I then went back another time, and he biked nearly a full 5 miles (out and back) on the Pennypack Trail.

This trail challenge was a great excuse for me to take David out biking on other trails, also. One really hot day, I decide to take David out to King of Prussia, which has 2 trails nearby (Chester Valley and Perkiomen). This was one of those 90+ degree days with oppressive humidity. It felt like over 100 degrees out! So we had be efficient in our trail exploring, especially the first one in the sun. I cleverly scheduled the second trail to be in the shade.


All ready to go onto the Chester Valley Trail!

David did an awesome job! On the first trail, he got over his fear of going downhill and rode up some small hills. He worked really hard (even harder than I thought— I realized after the ride that his bicycle seat was too low!). We then went to the other shady trail for a very short ride, basically from the parking lot we used a half mile to the sign we needed to get to and then back, plus some bonus ride time in the shade. David loved it so much, I had to take him back there the next day for a longer ride!


Can I come back here?

After the super hot day, we had done the required 5 trails. I submitted the paper work and we shortly received the medals in the mail. David was very excited about this. He decided that since he was the inspiration for this, he should keep the medals in his room.

A few weeks later, I noticed that David’s hiking boots were difficult to get on. We went to REI to check out what was going on, and he needed new boots. We were also looking for a backpack for him. As it happens, a friend of ours was in the store, and her son had outgrown his old backpack, He was kind enough to allow it to be given to David (Yay, Oliver) When we picked up the pack, Oliver invited David to play chess with him and his sister.


Where I can go with my new boots and new backpack!

David demanded to go hiking immediately, Both parents were exhausted after having help David find Secret Trail Number 4 in Lorimer Park the day before—-but we roused ourselves and we took him to Larimer again to climb the big rock and walk for a while. David feels awesome in his new backpack and (golden) boots, as he calls them. He is now demanding “challenging hikes” with hills for his “golden boots”. Apparently, flat trails won’t do it for him. I am pleased to report that the Green Lane Park hike was David’s longest: 3 miles and 2 hours. Yay David (and Yay Parents!—just because!).

A Virtuoso Performance

September 13, 2016


Yes, it is true. I married a Girl Scout. When she was a kid, she really WAS a Girl Scout. Stephanie has obviously remembered the camping skills that she learned there. This was amply demonstrated with a virtuoso performance on our recent camping trip with some friends of ours. David and Stephanie planned the whole thing. I basically drove one of the cars full of stuff and provided another set of almost-competent hands. Stephanie provided the knowledge and David provided the menu and schedule of activities. Oh, I provided the ability to hustle David into the shower after a very hot and humid day.

The planning began during the week, when she and David starting collecting things for the trip. Soon enough a pile began to grow in the living room. It got bigger and bigger. In response to the possibility of rain, Stephanie purchased a canopy we could put up. I thought this was a fine idea, as was the new air mattress. The night before, Stephanie prepared what are called silver purses. If she could find a way for us to have salmon burgers while camping, fine with me. Come Saturday morning, we put everything into two cars and off we went. We got there just as the sun was beginning to beat down upon our campsite.


Building the Canopy

We fairly efficiently put up the canopy and then got the tent together. I thought it felt like an oven inside. We did open up the ventilation, but given the 90 plus degree weather and humidity to match, that did not really do much good. Soon enough our friends came; we had some lunch and went off to go canoeing. We did that for a while and came back. Stephanie set the charcoal in the fire pit and began to make dinner while I took David off to the shower house. We were accompanied by the first drops of rain, which was my worst nightmare. Camping in the rain and I do not get along. As the shower progressed, I heard the rain getting stronger— I thought.


After the rain, recreating the dinner save.

After David’s shower, we opened the bath house door to a steady rain! It had slowed down enough to go out back to the campground. Then I found out what Stephanie had been doing in our absence—saving dinner! How, one can ask, can one keep a campfire dinner going in a rainstorm. Ah! I answer—you do not know Stephanie. She realized that the fire was actually not a fire, just some hot charcoals. Therefore, she was able to guard the hot charcoals with the silver purses amongst them during the rainstorm. She literally stood over them with an umbrella—It was safe enough because there was no actual fire—just a lot of hot air. This gambit kept the charcoals dry, and we were able to enjoy our dinners! Stephanie saved dinner—and the canopy she bought saved the camping trip because some of the table underneath was dry also!


By now the rain had stopped, but the water had done its damage—except to the areas of the campsite Stephanie had cleverly covered with either a canopy or an umbrella (and the inside the tent was also dry, but one would expect a Mike Kaufmann approved tent to easily handle a 10-15 minute rainstorm). We enjoyed our dinner, and got the kids off to bed, eventually. Later on we crawled into the tent. The next morning was actually the best part of the trip for me—just hanging around the campsite in the crisp morning air, enjoying a fine breakfast created—-yep by Stephanie (with David’s menu planning assistance). I did offer to help, and I may have even been useful.


After a fishing expedition (where David learned to cast, taught by the friend we had camped with) and lunch, we broke camp. We loaded up the cars and took the caravan around the corner (to the extent such a phenomenon can exist in a State Park) to the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. David was able to do the activities required for another Junior Ranger badge; Stephanie and I were able to learn about how the area was a major producer of iron for decades in the 1800s. While the Hopewell NHS was a nice coda to the weekend, the most memorable event of the weekend had to be Mom saving dinner from the rain. Yay Mom!


August 28, 2016

ZaydeDavid has many ways to make me gape in awe, but how he handled the passing of Zayde probably tops them all. Fortunately, Zadye (aka Mike Kaufmann) lived just long enough to give David the gift of a connection with his grandfather. Considering that my father died before David was born, Zayde was David’s only hope for a grandfather experience. David has that memory.

While Mike was very sick and after school ended, Stephanie took David up to Connecticut for the explicit purpose of saying goodbye. This trip was inspired by reports and photos of Mike being very close to death. But something happened on the way to goodbye. Zayde got a little better! How do I know this? I see the pictures of David and Zayde, and Zayde’s face had color, he was expressive—way  more than a week earlier. And Zayde held on for the full week until David and Stephanie got back.

We think that David literally breathed some more days of life into Zayde. As way of explanation, while pretty much all of Dad’s body functions had deteriorated, his mind and awareness most assuredly were fully intact. He knew full well when David was in the room —and when he wasn’t. He would ask for David when David was not in the room with him. He was fully able to appreciate David showing him the videos and pictures he shot on the recent trips to Morris Arboretum and Longwood Gardens. David and he watched TV and ate together and held hands sometimes also.

When Zayde died, David was very sad (we were also, but this is about David, not us). He had lost his buddy, as far as he was concerned. To hear David tell it, they ate together, watched TV together, held hands, etc. The several days that David was able to be there absolutely cemented a relationship and memories.

Part 2.


We told David that Zayde had passed away earlier in the afternoon. The next morning, Rabbi Josh came over to speak with us and David about it. He carefully explained about what was going to happen at the funeral, the piling of dirt, the kaddish, etc. David paid rapt attention. I was in awe of the whole scene—the level of communication between them is exceptionally high. (David and Rabbi Josh have a special relationship anyway. This discussion was an indication of that.). Stephanie decided that she wanted to have a shiva service at our house after we got back from the funeral and shivas up in Connecticut.

After Rabbi Josh left, I took David on a not-so-impromptu Daddy adventure downtown (I wanted to pick up my convention volunteer credentials). While we were down there, David saw Liberty Place, where I had taken him to see the city from above back in December. He wanted to go up, so we did. He proceeded to shoot some explanatory “Facts of Philadelphia” video from the top.  The next day, Monday, we took the drive up to Long Island to the funeral, scheduled for Tuesday.

At the funeral, David was not happy that he could not see, being the shortest of the family. So I moved him to a spot where he could see. He simply sat there, not moving, but absorbing. He perked up when the rabbi announced the putting a shovelful of dirt on the grave. Somewhat unnecessarily, I asked “Would you like to put a shovelful of dirt on?” David had already perked up, so the answer was an emphatic yes. We got in line, and took our turn. After the service, there was still plenty of dirt left over, so David (along with his cousin Branden) wanted to help put the rest of the dirt on the grave. David wanted to be sure Zayde had a good blanket for his trip to heaven. Additionally, Stephanie wanted to say hello to the other family that is in the cemetery plot; David helped her put some stones on those graves.

By the next day, Wednesday, David had essentially not moved for over 2 days, so he had to move. So we took him hiking to a trail with a waterfall supposedly at the end of the trail. We did get to the sign for Small Falls or Big Falls. Big Falls were further away, so David picked those. He took the opportunity to shoot a video from the top of the falls. (I am growing to like these videos). We got back and went over to Alan and Melinda’s house for the shiva service. I took David back and put him to bed so Stephanie could hang out with the family who had arrived.

Part 3.


After going back to Philadelphia, I did manage to accomplish the miracle of getting the house cleaned in time for the shiva a few days later. I am still not sure how that happened, but it was nice to know that we can have a clean house. Stephanie and David arrived home on Sunday. Sure enough, on Monday night a monster thunderstorm showed up precisely on time for the shiva service. We had 25 people, I would guess.

David had some special requests for the shiva service. He wanted to cover Mr. Bear with a blanket to symbolize Zayde’s casket being covered with dirt at the funeral. Rabbi Josh was able to work this into the ceremony. It was really very moving to see Mr. Bear there in his blanket. David also spoke a little bit about how much Zayde meant to him. Truth be told, Mike lived just long enough for David to spend some extended time with him before he passed. During this time, they became buddies—TV buddies, eating buddies, video buddies. They both were very much aware of the presence of the other.

As a result, David has a very strong sense of having had a relationship with his Zayde, and felt a strong feeling of loss. He spoke about that, also. This was no mere 6 year old speaking. This was child fully ahead of his years speaking.

The shiva has been over for several weeks, and David is still dealing with his sense of loss. He thinks about Zayde every day (I asked, and he told me). We have been trying to get him (and us, particularly Stephanie) back into regular life—swim lessons, karate, and some hiking and a little bit of biking. He is doing so good at swimming, he will be able to teach me how to swim—but that will be a topic for a later post if he is successful.

The House Mike Could Have Built

August 16, 2016

Soon after we got the sad news of the passing of my father in law (Mike Kaufmann), I took a look around the house, noticing the numerous improvements he had made to it. Every time he and my mother in law would visit us, his request was for a house project to do. This was actually challenging for me, because I try to think about my house as little as possible. In deference to my father in law, I did try to come up with something each time he visited. Of course, that did not prevent him from suggesting improvements on his own.

I should known this would happen when I became a not exactly motivated intern (their word) at the Kaufmann Brothers Repair and Building School before Stephanie and I were married. If you have never heard of this institution, it had a short lived life—one session, immediately after Stephanie and I announced our engagement to the Kaufmann relatives in Orlando (at the time) Three of the four Kaufmann brothers were there, and they immediately decided that the newest member of the family needed to know how to do some repairs. Let’s just say that this soon proved to be more than a little ambitious, given that I could barely hammer in a nail and my future father in law had a tool shop filling a 2-car garage.

HandrailsHowever, once I bought the house, I had ample (unwanted) opportunities to do house projects. After I was married, I was frequently joined by my father in law. He often found things he wanted to fix, like the handrail to the downstairs. Apparently the codes had changed in the 40 years the house was built. He raised it to fix that problem. Speaking of stairs, he also installed the baby gate for us at the top of the stairs. Standing at the top of the stairs, I can look left and up That string hanging down is for the attic stairs, Installed by Guess Who? (Hint, not me). For that matter, while he was at it, Guess Who also installed the extra light in the hallway.


Feel that breeze upstairs? It must be from one of the additional fans that Mike installed. I actually helped on this project, but I am not sure what I actually did.  I was told that I was helpful. I do remember being up in the attic as he was trying to figure out the spaghetti wiring otherwise known as our electrical system. This was BD—Before David. This is very fortunate, because those wires are now buried behind David’s baby stuff somewhere.


Going outside, I can take a look at that shed. That was a Kaufmann family production Dad and son (aka Mike and Alan) put that up. I did haul the 30 + bags of concrete and got the concrete mixer that some friends were able to figure out how to use for the foundation. Then the Kaufmanns came and built the shed. On top of the hill is a second garden; that was a joint production of myself and my father in law (6-7 years after the Kaufmann Brothers Repair and Building School session).

In the back corner of the yard is the final project I remember Mike doing, but this time in his role as Zayde to David. I had the idea to buy a backyard composter. What i did not realize was that it had 192 pieces to actually install it, One of those “some assembly” things. Luckily, I was out of the house that day; but David and Zayde were around. They put it together—192 pieces? At 500, it may have been a problem, but 192? Easy for those guys.



Another Mike Kaufmann assembly project