Thursday, March 25, 2010

Big News Day
A picture is worth a thousand words... here are at least thirty-four thousand words for 2102 Team Paradox, San Dieguito Academy, and NBC News in the Morning.

Go Robotics!



































Thank you Spencer and Nicole!!!
Thank you NBC!!! Thank you FIRST!!!
Thank you Team San Diego!!! Thank you SDA!!!
Thank you teachers, parents, and mentors!!!

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Friday, October 30, 2009

If there is anyone out there still wondering... we made it. Barely. And there has been some collateral damage. A hole in a wall. A lost mind (mine.) My gift to the world is that I am going to skip the details. Instead I will make this post a quick catch-up, so that if I ever want to recall what happened to the months of September and October in 2009, I can refer to this page and then shudder, and then praise God, again, that we came out as well as we did. Mostly I will grin and sigh and feel incredible, because I think the future is bright, and it's beginning right now.

1. We moved in to a beautiful home.
2. We have too much stuff. (There. I said it. I wrote it. I have to live with it. No one needs to mention it to me ever again. The end.)
3. Even the cats are here. I wonder what they will shred first...
4. Colds, flu and malaise has been our constant companion throughout the pack-move.
5. My father is a handy man. (And what I am rather poorly expressing here is the happy comfort of having the help and the extra sweet skills of someone capable and loving. He is making our lives easier, and what nicer thing can there be than that?)
6. I cannot remember the last time I picked up my camera, which is a shocking admission. Shocking.
7. I have been sewing, which is both shocking and stunning.
8. Yesterday, after loading the Odyssey to the roof and even on the roof, four times, I came home to finish two Halloween costumes.
9. The two children whose costumes were finished wound up staying home from their school parties, due to illness.
10. My mommy has been out of town, and I have been out of touch, and I cannot wait to hear from her.
11. Actually, I cannot wait for all things normal... I look forward to being rid of boxes and packing tape. I look forward to not driving between two houses, and trying to make both of them clean and safe.
12. "Normal" and "routine" are probably still a long way off, but however long it takes us to settle in, I am happy to be here.
13. Is there a happier word than "happy?"
14. I am happier than happy.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's A Brand New Day...

The entire soundtrack is buzzing through my head...

"Even in the darkness

Every color can be found

And every day of rain

Brings water flowing

To things growing in the ground"

Sweet Penny...

"I cannot believe my eyes

Is the world finally growing wise

‘Cause it seems to me

Some kind of harmony

Is on the rise"

From Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, of course. And of course if you know the whole story, you recognize I pulled out the happy lyrics.

Janece, when did you post about the initial release of this hilarious, yet heart wrenching, tale of good vs. evil? That was a good day.

Well, this brand new day comes after a fun filled night. Visitors from Chicago and Wisconsin have been filling our last days of summer with laughter and a whirl of activities, and really good Spam Musubi! Paul came out on business and to his surprise his aunt Margie was in town too. Fortunately there has been time for Paul to mix business with pleasure.

No flash... which really captures the whirl of activity. Paul, who Maria calls "Paulm," has elevated his status to favored uncle. He demonstrated enthusiasm and boundless energy when playing with Maria and Izzy. I think they all got quite a workout. On the way home, still giddy from all the excitement, Maria explained in elaborate detail all the great "... imagination Paulm did when we played." She thought it was great that he ordered food from their restaurant and gave piggy-back rides. When she realizes he's going back to Wisconsin today, I know we are going to hear an Autumn in Wisconsin Campaign from her... I would take her side.

The party was spread all over Holly and Rich's place... courtyard and backyard, watching local Little Leaguers win their first game of the Series in Pennsylvania. I even got to have a new crochet lesson from Margie... there was something for everyone. And even though we were all over the place, something did finally bring everyone together! Deanne and James brought dessert which, no surprise, was a big hit.

Brownies and ice cream... grandchild magnets!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Not Whining

Last week I saw Julie and Julia and it was great. My only false step was in eating theater pop corn and not having a good dinner plan, because watching all that beautiful food and then going home to cold cereal or leftover spaghetti was... well it was just plain tragic. The movie was great because of the performers and because of the food and the whole blog connection, it was a fun escape in to kind of a familiar place, with plenty of opportunity to laugh and relate. I very much enjoyed learning about Julia Child, not the one from SNL. Do I need to say Meryl Streep was supremely good? Well, yes, she was supremely good. So was Amy Adams; she's quite capable of bringing depth to the roles she plays.

The only criticism of the movie I have read is that Julie Powell "whined." She got a little self-absorbed and in her blog she hit "publish" when her failures and personal trials were getting the best of her. None of this is kept out of the movie and some critics take issue with the weakness of the character. I could take issue with it too... it's not pretty to see a grown woman cry over aspic or torture herself over what readers think or say or don't say. It's disappointing to watch a capable woman get needy and weak and flustered and overwhelmed and... oh wait... gee... maybe she's human. Yeah, I recognize how unpleasant our my human frailties are, but nonetheless they are real. I think when we don't share those same weaknesses, when we cannot relate specifically to why a spilt aspic is cause for tears, then someone else's whining can be irritating, but the thing is we do all have weaknesses of character and we do all at some point lose perspective or need to express our frustration. And for every person that does not understand Julie Powell's crisis, there is someone that can totally relate, someone that will feel connected to the honesty of the moment.

This is not a blow-up movie with hostages or aliens, neither is it presented as a documentary about the ideal heroic figures of the last hundred years. I am not saying it is a movie above reproach, but the criticism that Julie Powell behaved like a flawed person is weak, it lacks empathy or an ability to see and accept a person in full light. And maybe it helps to understand blogging to understand the movie and the character of Julie Powell. Like Julie Powell I started blogging in 2002. We weren't the earliest pioneers, but the Blogosphere was a pretty wide open frontier in those days. Blogging is not journalism... well, it can be journalism, but most of us bloggers are telling a personal story. Blogging is new frontier in writing and it does not have the same parameters or rules, as we expect from traditional essays, magazines or short stories. Blogging can be raw and honest, it can be personal and newsy, and it can be insightful and intelligent and I could go on and on with more examples, because blogging is anything.

Because blogging is anything, there is a lot out there that will never be meaningful to me, so I don't read it. And there is a lot out there that will never be meaningful to you, so you know... don't read it. It's interesting to consider what "should" and "should not" be published in a blog. Remember there are no guidelines or definitions in this medium and though critics may decry all the "whining," there are many who embrace the open and honest conversations about the small joys, personal trials, doubts, fears, successes and reflections. I think it is interesting to see how all of this publishing and expression will get sorted out. Blogging presents a tremendous shift in our social culture and our ways of communicating. A lot of bloggers are unlocking their diaries and leaving them out on the coffee table... this is weird stuff, and some of it is very interesting. Anyone uncomfortable with vulnerability and emotions might want to be careful when navigating the Blogosphere. And I know as a blogger I am constantly feeling for the walls, for the limits of what to say and what to keep to myself, and I have hit "publish" when I was less than heroic and then regretted it because I felt whiny and wide open... but then someone says thank you or I understand and then it makes sense to be honest, to reach out and admit how human I am.

We are accustomed to getting our news and information from "real publishers," from established sources like magazines and books, but I think those sources are a bit untrustworthy... untrustworthy in the sense that their ultimate objective is to sell you something. I am the first to admit that a glossy layout from Martha Stewart makes the world seem shiny and bright, but the luster fades when I try to apply the stylized, censored, edited version to my real life. Oprah's publication is loaded with advice and pearls of wisdom, but every other page is a sales pitch for favorite things and Fall fashions and stuff to sell, and that doesn't included the actual ads, so all the feel good messages, for me, get lost in translation and ultimately I feel disconnected. I'm cool. I like buying stuff and I like to wishfully plan a beautiful meal or decorate my living room for success and aesthetics, while saving the whales, but I need other sources and resources too. I like to read about the real experiences of people, their setbacks and successes. I like to know that there is a greater possibility that what I am reading in someone's blog is true, their truth, and that I am not getting a filtered version with good lighting and heavy content editing.

I don't think Julie Powell whined too much. She just told her whole truth, and sometimes it was less than glamorous and sometimes we wanted her to be a better person, but I think an honest person is better... better than a fictionalized, dressed up version of the truth. Not all obstacles are in a battlefield, not all battles are fought in trenches, and not all stories are tragic or meant to change the course of justice or include a huge pointed message about the will to live. Thank goodness.

All week we have been swinging from crisis to crisis and I have been less than glamorous, and I just thought I would point out that I have not posted a single whiny post. I am so proud. And yes, I do appreciate that *bragging about not whining* is almost as irritating as actually whining, but it's my blog. So there.

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Monday, June 08, 2009


About fourteen years ago I started to think about chickens. I started to recall, fondly, that when I was a child we had chickens. We also had a barn and two acres of land, so having chickens made sense. Fourteen years ago my own family was far from any farms, living in a small two bedroom house. No one thought my fond recollections of having chickens were interesting or worth pursuing. Still I could not stop thinking about chickens and really my thoughts were becoming an actual plan to get chickens. I wanted to see their ruffled feathered forms in the yard. I wanted to hear their clucks and chuckles, their cackles. Nothing could discourage or dissuade me, and there were a lot of people that wanted to discourage and dissuade me. They pointed out all of the drawbacks of raising backyard chickens, like messes and noises and smells, and messes and noises and smells. Their sermon preached and repeated the same unholy chicken trinity: Noises, messes and smells.

Naysayers. I listened to them. I heard them. I knew they were probably right, and I smiled politely, trying to reassure them that I was not about to behave rashly. But I was about to behave rashly. I was waiting for the moment to be ripe, for the impulse to mature to obsession, for the obsession to bloom in to full scale action. I was patient and determined. I was going to have chickens.

In 2000 PBS aired a program that absolutely confirmed my affliction affection for chickens. "The Natural History of Chickens" embodied the humor, the sensitivity, the practicality, the whole picture of chickens and people's history with chickens. And even though I enjoyed laughing about the "extreme" demonstrations of love and respect some people have for their feathered friends, I was also startled to realize that it was all terribly attractive. That will be me some day, I thought with some awe. I will be a crazy chicken lady. It was not a decision; it was a premonition. I remember how much I wished we could have a copy of this great film, how much I wanted to view it again and keep a copy on hand... a happy substitute for the real thing.

My day has come. I have my hen. I will have more again, when we have our own place. I do not consider myself a crazy chicken lady. Not yet. But perhaps by some people's standards I have arrived. The chickens do not come in the house. Well, not often. In fact this visit was a certain rarity, and we were amused by their curiosity, and by Benjamin's indignation.

Lady Betty Orpington makes me happy. And it's not that I think everyone should have chickens, because, really, they are noisy, messy and smelly, but what I do think everyone should have is an affinity for something in the natural world that makes them happy. Everyone should have the pleasure of connecting with a garden or a pet, with the forest or the ocean, and see it with all of its beauty and flaws, its strengths and its perils and in spite of whatever challenges it presents we should extend ourselves to foster a relationship. It strengthens my mind, body and spirit to be in the ocean or walking in the woods, and it does the same for me to hear Betty in the garden, to follow her and care for her, to learn about her.

I do not have any illusions about what she is, and I am not even opposed to roast chicken... I think that is another reason why I enjoyed filmmaker Mark Lewis' film; he demonstrated an affection for his subject without oversimplifying the complexity of the issues or forcing an agenda. The film was funny, maybe silly truthfully, it was entertainment-educational. The DVD is available now, and the program is airing on PBS this week. I cannot wait to see it again. With Betty? No, it'd be passed her bedtime.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

TI, A Drink With Jam and Bread

Irresistibly bloggable. I would have been delighted to see this in person and I am very grateful to Gretchen for sharing this spoonful of sugar... a nice perk in my day.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

We Are 5 for 5: Big Finish

A couple of days ago I was enjoying a TED link put up by Turkey Feathers... it was a great talk given by Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat, Talk, Pray fame, which reminded me that I still haven't read the book my mom sent me, but happily I found it in my sewing room, and then it reminded me that I really do love TED, which is why I have their link in my sidebar; they have such brilliant and succinct speakers, none of whom would write a sentence like this. One thing led to another and I discovered Gever Tulley and 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do. I fancied myself a brilliant Mother, because I can roughly claim that I am letting my children do all 5 dangerous things. Don't Panic: Gever Tulley uses a provocative title to illustrate a point about safety. Denying that danger exists or fearfully avoiding it, does not protect us or our children.

Gever Tulley wants to remind us that we are safer when we learn how to handle sharp objects and responsibly explore the elements, tools and heavy machinery that exist in our world. Knowledge is power, yeah? I think so, and I've written about fire and then I covered sharp things.

To illustrate my story I went through lots of photo archives looking for examples of us playing with fire, knives, and throwing things, and I tried to find good examples of us taking stuff apart and handling heavy machinery, and I have to say it's been kind of hard to find pictures. The 3 boys have knives and they use them, but I haven't taken pictures. We did have campfire

4. Deconstruct Appliances

The children are welcome to take things apart. We haven't handed over any large appliances, yet, because we repair them or trade them in, but there are several VCRs and toasters that have been disassembled in their hands. Last year Geoff and William took apart 2 broken laptops swapped parts, added new ones and then gave my mom and Geoff's grandma functioning laptops. And there was the built from the ground up computer that the boys built with their dad in early 2004. But I don't have pictures of any of this. I love to capture "everyday" life, but somehow these activities seemed so blandly everyday I missed documenting them. One of Tulley's points is that children should be encouraged to explore, and with a hands on approach learn how things work, how they are made and perhaps they will discover how to make them work better.

I decided to include the picture of Maria stringing beads... very tiny, choking hazard, hard to manipulate beads. She sat on her daddy's lap and spent 2 hours patiently and deftly slipping beads over the string and marveling at how they stacked up. Discovery and perseverance, these experiences are super valuable, and I know this because of that look. I know, it's not exactly a scientific statement, but the look is valid, it's good. When children solve problems, unravel mysteries, accomplish new tasks... they enjoy a sense of self and an awareness of their own abilities. Maria was keenly aware that she was doing a big girl activity and she was devoted to meeting the challenge and responsibility.

I love the look. I just know there are serious neuron-synapse-muscle memory-motor function-eye-hand coordination, joy things going on, and that thrills me.

And I think the outdoors can provide a similar opportunity... taking things apart and figuring-out doesn't have to be limited to manufactured, material things. When Max asked to cross the creek and climb a fallen tree, I was aware that we were trying uncharted territory, that we were risking a fall, wet clothes, mud, maybe some scrapes; I considered the weather, the depth of the creek, the current, the height of the tree, and in 3 seconds I said, "Go for it!" We ought to spend more time taking nature apart, getting dirty, sweating on a trail and crossing creeks. I am a long way from hiking the backcountry with a compass and a stick, but I am willing to get wet at low tide, try a new trail, and discover new ways of relating to the world, and finding new bridges to cross.

5. Break The DMCA- Drive A Car

Years ago, again in Mexico, I let my boys drive our Big Blue Whale. No takers. I repeated the offer when we returned in 2003, and they were still not interested. Our family land in Mexico is ideal for underage driving... most days there is zero traffic and there are plenty of wide open, even cow-free, spaces. My boys have internalized values and a strong sense of right from wrong. They keep me honest and sometimes they say, "No." I love it when they say no, when they show their own resolve and willingness to express their internalized values. They have driven tractors and Alex tried his Grandpa Corm's riding mower, but they declined underage driving. Maybe this is why I am so comfortable about letting them do the 5 Dangerous Things... maybe it's because they instinctually want to be careful and safe, and I agree with Jennifer, that when we take away the mystery, then the allure-the unknown attraction is diminished.

Eva left an interesting comment on the first post, and she asks, "but do you think there (are) things in life everyone would be wise to be afraid of? like drugs, for one. or is fear inappropriate even here?" Yes, we are wise to be fearful or aware, respectful. Bungee jumping, driving under the influence of alcohol, sexu@l promiscuity, feeding bears, texting while driving... there are a lot of things that people choose to do that can have very dangerous consequences, that have risks not just to the one trying a behavior, but to others as well. Drunk driving and bear feeding are not included in my list of dangerous things I let my children try. The risks are too great. I find that often times risky behaviors that are not worth pursuing have a natural way of weeding themselves out... let the bears feed themselves and never operate anything when your senses are impaired, because it is a foolish thing to do. Period. Other things are tempting or alluring when they are not understood. I am not afraid of drugs, but I have no interest in using drugs. I know they have good and bad effects, but on careful consideration, I believe the risks far outweigh the benefits. I could not limit myself to, "Just say no," when discussing drugs with my children, not as they mature and have an ability to reason, to be curious. Neither will I act as though they are free to experiment or imply that I am cool with whatever. I will not hesitate to show them what happens to cr@ck addicts, or calculate for them the cost of a smoking habit. At some point they will have to make choices and when that time comes, I hope they are educated, informed, and sure enough of their own beliefs and convictions that they will say No to those risks that jeopardize their dignity, health and intelligence. I agree, Eva, we can learn respect without fear, and I hope you can find a safe, comfortable opportunity to learn to start a fire...

This has been fun and interesting to ponder, and it has all been especially meaningful and interesting because of your comments. So, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Maybe the 6th dangerous thing would be "Saying what you think, out loud."

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

We Are 5 for 5: Part 2

5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do.
I wondered where we would stand, how our list of dangerous things would compare with Gever Tulley's list of dangerous things and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised. My first post on this topic covered fire. I really feel like I put myself in the line of fire, so to speak, by admitting that I let very young children hold hot sticks and burn leaves, but I think it's important to create an environment for safe danger, for careful risks. We learn when we go outside of our comfort zone, by experiencing physical actions and objects, so we know hot from cold, sharp from dull. I am not trying to preach... it's more like being defensive, because I believe in my methods, but I know some people will think I am nuts. I really cannot fathom parenting without carefully, rationally, attentively providing real life experiences for my children, and real life can be dangerous.

2. Own a Pocketknife

Knives are sharp. Good knives are very sharp. I have never met a single person who has not cut themselves. Young, old, expert, novice... who has not cut themselves? Even just a little bit. Hopefully not fatally. I worked in a bakery and cut myself at least twice when slicing bagels. Geoff worked in fast food and did nasty things while prepping food and cooking burgers... you don't even want to know. But before he was injuring himself in a professional setting he was a kid with knives and Exacto tools and he cut himself then too.

Hold on. Funny story: When my brothers and I were little squirts, we got to buy pocket knives in Mexico and they were mostly a novelty because they were ridiculously small. Closed, the knives were not bigger than 1"... they were seriously tiny and really kind of cute and we loved them. One day we were visiting the mall and the knife cutlery store was advertising free sharpening for all pocket knives. Cool! We stepped in to the very professional boutique, with the samurai swords, katana and coats of arms on the walls and presented the clerk with our pocketknives. He scoffed. He ridiculed and scoffed some more. He was so mocking and dismissive about our knives that he refused to sharpen them, but we insisted. He said they could not be sharpened, because they were 'just toys' and as he was saying this he opened one up and to demonstrate their toyness he dragged his thumb across the 1/2" blade. He would have done less damage if he had not dragged so much of his thumb, so vigorously, but he was evidently not that clever. He slit his thumb wide open and sent us away with one duller, bloody little knife. Incidentally, we never hurt ourselves with those knives.

So what to do? Banish all sharp things? No scissors, no pins? With some possible exceptions, I think children can be trusted to learn that sharp things must be used with care and respect. I think adults can take the time to instruct and observe, and facilitate opportunities to teach children how to use all kinds of tools, including knives and scissors. Maria has been sitting beside me and cutting fabric since she was 3 years old... no cuts. She has been loading and unloading the pincushion since she was 2 years old... not more than 2 pokes. And when we were camping at El Capitan State Beach 2 years ago, I let her help chop the veggies. When Max was 3, and showed an interest I taught him how to hold a knife and sat with him while he worked. He loved peeling and chopping garlic. LOVED it. I taught William. I taught Alex. They keep their fingers out of the way. They know to be attentive and patient. They know to use the right tool for the job. A dull dinner knife can do a lot more damage than a sharp paring knife; if the knife cannot slice efficiently it will slip and do damage. Sharp knives work.

I have to admit, this one, owning pocketknives got me in to trouble. It was 4 years ago when Alex says, "I was walking down the street when all of a sudden a bunch of Ninjas flipped out and tried to kill me, but then we realized that we were equally matched and we went our separate ways" and in the melee he cut something, a little bit. We cannot remember what he cut (finger?) I vividly recall how mad the doctor was, at me. Alex needed a tetanus shot, but no stitches or butterfly bandages. And apparently I needed a parenting lecture from the peds doctor about children and pocketknives. She told me to 'take the knife from him and to never let children play with knives and that if I didn't take it away he was sure to get cut again or worse.' She was very mad at me, very finger wagging-incredulous, you bad mother mad. He was almost 11 years old, extremely responsible and well-behaved, not in the least bit stupid, reckless, blind, ignorant, or self destructive. I imagined this small cut, the memory of it and all it entailed would make a suitable and instructive impression, so that I need not ever worry about his next cut. And, there will be a next cut, because we use tools.

3. Throw A Spear

I am claiming this on a technicality. We do not have spears, but if we did, we would totally throw them. We do have bows and arrows and I think the danger/learning opportunity is comparable to spear throwing. When we were Jolly Green Rancheros, living on our 2 acres of El Rancho goodness, I bought the boys a bow and arrows. 3 boys: 1 bow... a safe ratio, when the only target will be a straw bale. Hand-eye coordination... when I Googled this I mostly found articles on improving the connection between what we see and how we can physically control and guide our movements. I recall from university courses and reading about child development, language acquisition, and fine motor development... hand-eye coordination is important. Gever Tulley goes in to some of the specifics about how throwing things strengthens coordination, improves 3-D and structural problem solving. Brain stuff working in conjunction with body stuff... it's good stuff!

We never once had a single bad incident with the bow and arrows. Alex took great interest in the activity and it led to a deeper appreciation for Medieval history, a subject he is very well read on, and it greatly improved his coordination and visual acuity. I wonder if target practice with the bow and arrows is what gave him such remarkable skills in rendering his ideas into elaborate and detailed designs and illustrations... yeah, I think so. Max also embraced the activity and he spent hours a day practicing when we moved to the Treehouse. He had to develop strength and coordination to manage the sizable bow. He had to overcome the frustration of not being as skilled as his brothers, and he worked very hard to successfully close the gap. Somewhere in our garage is a book that Max made, papers stapled together, and it is full of numbers... hundreds and hundreds of numbers and tallies, reflecting Max's scorekeeping. He's a numbers guy. He logged every score made on their homemade targets, so that bow and arrow time was physical and academic for Max.

We miss having a yard big and safe enough for the bow and arrow. We look forward to being some place where we can take aim at a bulls-eye or straw bale, pull back on the string and hit the spot we aim for. I know from personal experience that hitting what we aim for is deeply satisfying. And, now that I have thought about it, I think we might see about making some spears.

Coming up:

4. Deconstruct Appliances
5. Break The DMCA- Drive A Car

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

We Are 5 for 5

5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do.
Is this alarming? I wondered where we would stand, how our list of dangerous things would compare with Gever Tulley's list of dangerous things and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised. It's not that I relish the idea of implicating myself as a careless, reckless, negligent parent. On the contrary, incorporating these 5 dangerous things in to our lives, I believe, demonstrates our careful, rational, attentive parenting skills.

1. Play With Fire
It's primal. It's the gathering place. It's practical. Fire is good. As a grown-up I have never hesitated to build a backyard campfire... in a sandpit, in a tin can. I remember when I was about 10 years old my mother observed that I could not light a match and she made me learn. She really had to make me do it, because I had a fear of fire and heat and getting burned and I would not light a match. I think I was crying and protesting, but she broke through my fear and gave me a skill. It was a beautiful exchange of ignorance and anxiety, for knowledge and ability. I offer that same opportunity to my children as soon as they seek it. I do not withhold fire and they do not glorify it or fear it. They understand its virtues and its risks.

And they understand that I will let them experiment with fire and test it, under supervision. So, when we went camping Maria could not resist cooking the onions she chopped (see Dangerous thing #2) in the candle. She could feel the heat, and she observed that she needed a tool to extend her reach and she learned that candles have a weak flame, easily snuffed out by too many onions. The worst result of this experiment was a delayed dinner, because I was by her side and ready to intervene.

Fire takes patience. It takes practice and fire needs our full attention. Patience, practice, and full attention are also very helpful in raising children. I keep my expectations high and my patience higher. I accept that there will be injuries and there will be messes. Lots and lots of messes. I consider messes a certain indicator of intelligence and creativity. I consider cleaning messes a certain indicator of training, intelligence and maturity. I tend to value creativity more than training, but there is room for practice in all areas.

I wish I had photographs of the first trip I made with the boys to El Valle, Mexico. It was in February of 2001... so, William was almost 10, Alex was 6 and Max was 2. It was on this adventure to the remotest corner of Sonora that the boys fell in love with fire. We cooked with fire, we warmed the house and water with fire. We played with fire. Yes. I know "play" sounds so irresponsible and wrong. Playing with fire rocks. Too often we think that play is trivial and that it minimizes responsibility. Play is the work of explorers, of learners, and work is the play of the inspired, the motivated. We can play and work and it can be both responsible and fun.

They observed the open fire where we were cooking meals, they watched their bisabuelo keep the fire lit for the water heater, and they became aware of this element as a tool and a resource, and a source of something to do in a place where there was no television, bookstore, theme parks, toy chests, or playgrounds. So they gathered wood and kindling to help keep the cooking fire going. Then they burned sticks and observed the transference of heat from wood to sticks, from coals to leaves, from stones to fingertips... and they learned about burns to skin... sufficiently to avoid serious injury.

An element of danger is present everywhere and I cannot see the point of avoiding experiences for the sake of avoiding pain, confusion or disorder. They learned, not from a book or cartoons, about what fire is and what it can do and why it matters and how it can behave. There is sufficient evidence that this kind of learning is hugely beneficial and lasting. Also, they learned that I trust them... I trust their intelligence and ability to gather information, I trust their judgement and sense of responsibility and fairness, I trust their intuition to act in accordance with sound principles... these are not experiences to be acquired from any book or video.

Coming up:

2. Own A Pocketknife
3. Throw A Spear
4. Deconstruct Appliances
5. Break The DMCA- Drive A Car

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