Pinewood Derby

February 8, 2017

racer

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-cars

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.

sander-skill

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.

final-product

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.

cars-on-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
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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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For Authorized Agents Only

Trail Challenge

September 29, 2016
balancing-act

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).

sign

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.

bridge

 

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.

helmets

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!

by-creek

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.

seeking

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

marriage

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

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.

umbrella

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!

dinner

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.

fishing

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!

Shivas

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.

Book

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.

Mealtime

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.

Fans

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.

Steps

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.

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Another Mike Kaufmann assembly project

Discoveries: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

July 8, 2016

Best Mom Ever

David is always discovering new things. Over the years, we have discovered that David always finds something new in any garden or arboretum we happen to be in. This year we happened to take Mommy to Morris Arboretum for Mother’s Day and Daddy to Longwood Gardens for Father’s Day. In both places, David not only made new discoveries, he decided to make sure that he had a permanent record of them—like a field investigator.

 

Special Rock

At Morris, he carefully collected samples for his Nature Collection. Actually, it is becoming a Nature Book, to be filled with pictures of items from nature he finds in various places. More surprisingly, he even posed with some his selections for the photo opportunities. This was very shocking, considering that David rarely agrees to pictures. His nature book has (or, will have, when I print the pictures), pictures of a specially shaped rock, a root system to absorb water, a secret water cave, and a bending branch.

 

Roots

 

The discoveries continued at Longwood. Actually, that is a misnomer; David discovers something new at Longwood every time we go there. This time was no different, even though I had to plan a special route due to the heat that day. The theme of the day was Colors. I gave David my phone and he went to work. He fairly quickly took pictures of the different arrangement of colors along the Flower Walk.

 

Pink

 

He then surprised both Stephanie and myself by becoming absorbed in the organ in the Conservatory. He took an array of photos about that, also. He took the opportunity to play the sample sections they had there. He read (most of) the signs about the organs and had a grand old time experimenting with the different sounds in the samples section.

 

organ man

 

His coup de grace were the videos he made at the fountain exhibit at Longwood. They are rebuilding the fountains and the associated water systems there. There is a viewing area with information on how the fountains will be built, the kinds of nozzles and lights they will use, etc. Mr. David spontaneously decided to shoot some video of how the fountains will be rebuilt. He did not just shoot one video—he actually went through several takes because they weren’t good enough. I’ll testify that the final product is a very good representation of the Field Notes Style, a documentary record of a boy recording the cool discoveries he is making.

 

fountain by david

 

Daddy and Me

The Junior Park Ranger

April 27, 2016
Wolf Rock

He led us up the hill. 

The Junior Park Ranger insisted on leading us up the hill to Wolf Rock. He was probably a little too small to fully understand that he was leading his parents up a steep hill that featured about a 400 foot vertical rise. His parents, however, did understand exactly that. Fortunately, the parental instinct to follow the child up the hill outweighed the instinct to relax at the bottom of the hill. Following his leadership, we presently found ourselves at the top of the huge hill, with Wolf Rock in sight. We ambled over to it and enjoyed the feeling of success. Luckily, the trip down the hill was easier than the trip up the hill, mostly because we knew where we were going.

Badge

The first of hopefully many badges. 

David has absolutely loved becoming a Junior Park Ranger; he has now done it twice—once at the Philadelphia Flower Show, and once at Catoctin National Park, the site of the aforementioned Wolf Rock. The National Park Centennial was the theme of the Philadelphia Flower Show this year, and the kid’s activity was to go to the various displays (that represented various parks) and answer questions on them. The prize for answering the question was to become a Junior Park Ranger, courtesy of the Philadelphia Flower Show, accompanied by a Jr. Park Ranger badge.

Several weeks later, we happened to go hiking at Catoctin National Park Maryland. We stopped there because it looked like a good place for a hike (which it was). The very helpful park ranger told about many hikes (including Wolf Rock). Equally importantly, he told us that every national park has a Junior Park Ranger program. We were all very excited about this, especially David. So much so that we even had to go back to Catoctin Mtn. a couple of days later on the way home to turn in our completed activity book. He was officially sworn in as a Junior Park Ranger for Catoctin Mountain National Park, to the beaming pride of his parents and the applause of everyone in the visitor center at the time.

Meditations

Trailside Meditation

As a Junior Park Ranger, David has now sworn to explore the national parks, and tell his family and friends what he learns and experiences as he does so. I have already been informed by said David that he wants to expand his collection of Jr. Park Ranger badges, and to be a park ranger when he grows up (along with being a school teacher and karate teacher—notice the commonality here). As the Official Trip Planner of the family, that means I have a new job—get David (ands Stephanie) to as many National Parks as possible so David can lead us over hill and over dale on his way to getting more and more Jr. Park Ranger badges!

David is also training diligently in the leadership skills needed for these. In fact, the day after we got back from Catoctin Mountain, David was appointed, by unanimous consent, by the Or Hadash Hikers to lead them on the trails of the Andorra section of the Wissahickon. He was a great leader—I not so humbly predict that he will make a fabulous Junior Ranger for years to come—and I am looking forward to see where David leads us on his journey!

Devils Arch

Devils’ Arch display at the 2016 Philadelphia Flower Show 

Happy Birthday to Me

March 28, 2016

Jan JournalFebruary is a short month, with a resulting paucity of positive aspects to what is usually a very cold and snowy month. In most years, the saving grace of February is my birthday. In this particular February (recently past) the month had more than the expected amount of fun times. The month started off with a First Friday at Or Hadash, where I was amongst the birthday honorees. That was fun—the Rabbi Josh’s birthday poem and the birthday cake were equally good. That was shortly followed by the Car Show, ice skating, a new karate teacher, the polar vortex and maple syrup. Mixed in amongst this was a special birthday surprise designed by David and executed by Mommy and David for Daddy’s birthday. The month concluded with a really fun Maple Syrup Adventure (which had a Part 2 in early March).

I Fit

David had made it very clear that he wanted to go ice skating this winter. When I had a chance the first weekend in February I made it a point to take him. He was very excited to feel the skates on his feet, and excited that his Daddy was going to teach him how to skate. He assumed Daddy actually knew how to skate—not necessarily a safe assumption. I did remember enough, and he picked it up enough so that he did not have to hold onto the wall the entire time. I was impressed. From the rink by City Hall we walked to the Auto Show. I was looking for potential replacements for my trusty Subaru (in case it gets less trusty). David enjoyed climbing in and out of the cars.

Karate Teacher

The 2 highlights of the month had to be David’s first Saturday as a karate helper, and the birthday surprise he planned for me (with Mom’s help). At karate one day, he asked Stephanie if he could help teach the 3 year old class on Saturdays (at 8:30 am, an important detail). It is the class just before his current one. The karate people were OK with it, and he was ecstatic to do it. I took him for his first Saturday to help—and the look of pride on his face was wonderful to see. I was very proud of him. It is worth sacrificing lazy Saturday mornings to see this.

The birthday cake was a great surprise. David designed a birthday cake for me, and he and Mom baked it. The design had to be just so. He had, I found out after the fact, been planning this since mid-January, as evidenced by his January Journal. The design consisted of elements from one of his dinosaur / jungle scenes he had made up. It sure served double duty!

Cake Designer

The month ended with a really fun Maple Syrup Adventure. This featured a short hike along the Wissahickon Creek near Ambler. We found out about different types of trees in the area, and saw a maple tree being tapped. The sap ran, and we saw a man boiling it down (lots of maple sap needed for maple syrup!). David evan got a chance to test out drilling a tree, We had some yummy syrup and a waffle after the tour.

 

Tree Drilling

Drilling the Tap into the Tree

In true David fashion, he then began to lead us on a hike. When we got to the main creek crossing, made of stones he also wanted to lead us across that! A couple of weeks later, we went to a different maple syrup program at Jenkins Arboretum. We tasted birch and hickory syrup, as well as various maple syrups. Not surprisingly, David charmed the staff there. So much so that they let him read the slides as part of the presentation. A public speaker to be!

Wissahickon

 

PS:

A surprise bonus was a Polar Vortex adventure Stephanie and I had during February. Bubble sent us away for a night, so we headed North into the Polar Vortex. We happened across an Ice Festival in Northampton, Massachusetts, and enjoyed the 0 degree temperatures, actually, -6 if you believe the car thermometer.

Ice Festival

Polar Vortext

Self Explanatory

The Temporary Snow Resort

February 2, 2016
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Snow!

The blizzard of 2016 brought the snow that David had been hoping for. It was more than enough for those of us lucky enough to dig out of it. Luckily, before I started to dig, David designed a fort for himself. His initial concept was an igloo. I told him that I was not educated in igloo construction, so he would have to settle for a fort instead. He did, with some reluctance as well as an insistence that said fort include a tunnel he could navigate through if needed. He had even written up a little plan for the snow-digger (me) to follow.

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Under Construction

I made it a point to take the snow from the patio and put it into essentially 2 facing semi-circles. As I built it higher, David dug out a section in between the walls to be the middle of his fort. We threw the snow so that a side access way was created. The next and last step was to build the tunnel. The front wall was high enough so that I could dig out a tunnel with plenty of snow on top to support it (by not falling in). With some cooperation from David, we  now had a tunnel that he could use as a secret entrance to his fort (so no villains could get in).

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Side Access to Snow Fort

The fort was the main attraction of David’s Snow Resort. The resort also featured a couple of sledding runs. The first one was constructed from the Big Mountain of Snow by the Street. This one had the benefit of being where the Township had plowed the snow onto. So it was nice and high. I told David he could climb the mountain as long as he came down away from the concrete in the driveway and the street. So he decided to run his sled down the lawn side of the mountain. We have dubbed that track—Lawnside.

Closer to the fort, there were always piles of snow. As on the Big Mountain of Snow by the Street, David (and his friend Jack) took their sleds down the lawn side of the snow. By the time I got there, they had made 2 tracks—Track Outrageous and Track Radical. Soon enough, these merged into a longer Track Awesome (sauce). Stephanie and I had to keep adding snow to the end of the Track Awesome to smooth the ride.  How did we parents morph into resort assistants, anyway?

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The following weekend, we explored a whole other section of the resort—a.k.a. the backyard. It was covered with about 8-10 inches of snow—perfect for a nice round of snowshoeing and snow angel making. David led us on various paths around the backyard, including what used to be 3 foot snowdrifts. These had shrunk to about a foot or snow. David also requested and received a snowball fight. Sometimes you do indeed get what you ask for.

thumb_WP_20160130_010_1024As an extra bonus, having nothing to do with David’s Snow Resort, we also got a surprise winter walk at Valley Forge National Park. I had not planned to go out there. However, we were in that area, so I thought it would be fun to see the snow-covered hills. David decided we needed to get out of the car and walk around for a while. That was a good idea. When the shoveled path ran out, David had a different idea—follow the crunched snow path—regardless of the fact that we were in sneakers! We let him lead for a little bit in the crushed snow, and then it was time to turn around and head to dinner and then back home.

From the blizzard of January 2016, David got a fort, a tunnel, snowball fights, and 3 sled runs. I got—a bunch of digging—followed by a  great time with my son!

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Photo by David

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Oops, forgot the boots!