Archive for March, 2013
I’ve recently attained a renewed interest in my blog client
blogtool. A big part of that renewal is due to unfinished business- I’d alway meant to release it into the wild but had never taken the time to learn how to package it. I finally took that plunge a few weeks ago. Ever since, I’ve come up with a series of improvements, fine tunings and new ideas to make it a more capable tool and a better piece of software in general.
The weather has been cool here, as I guess it’s been everywhere. We even have some snow in various places throughout the yard. Despite that, where the Sun is shines bright the yard is greening up. The gardens are full of evidence that Spring isn’t far off.
A silver mound:
A bleeding heart:
Some day lillies:
Some other lillies:
The kids have been spending more time outside of late. The snow that is left they’ve been trying to melt by hosing it down. They’ve also been having fun with mud, making mudballs and the like. It makes for extra laundry for the Wife and I, but it’s nice to be sending them out.
As for the cool weather, it will come to an end soon.
Things have been heating up on both fronts since my last entry. The boy continues to use his superior physical assets to attain the prized position. The lass, in the meanwhile, has resorted to being quicker on the draw- if she’s at the car well ahead of her brother, he won’t try an all out frontal assault. My guess is he innately understands the Pyrrhic nature of such a victory.
Of the two, the boy does a better job of maintaining his composure when he loses. He betrays how deeply he wants it though with his running commentary to the effect that people younger than himself shouldn’t be allowed in the passenger seat. He also likes to poke the back of the seat.
The lass, for her part, wears her emotions on her sleeves. Well, no. Her mouth. She screams or whines or cries or some hideous combination of the three.
Heading out for errands today, it was a draw to the car. I had lagged behind because I was gathering a few things in preparation for heading out.
I must have taken longer than I thought, because the lass popped her head in the house.
“Dad, which car are we taking?”
I told her we’d take the big car, since we were going to be grocery shopping, amongst other things. The big car has the most room- otherwise it wouldn’t be the “big” car just the “light blue” car or something else mundane. As I finished up pulling things together, I had a fleeting thought: was the lass clever enough to pull a head fake?
Several seconds later, the boy poked his head in the house.
“Dad, which car are we taking?”
I couldn’t help smiling. “Why, didn’t your sister tell you?”
“Yeah, she said we’re taking the little car.”
It was all I could do not to laugh.
When I got outside, they were both struggling at the “big” car. So I walked straight over to the smaller car and got in.
The lass’ screams are still echoing throughout the countryside.
The Wife and I had agreed awhile back on our approach to the Harry Potter movies: the kids would have to read the books before we would let them see the movie. We agreed on this shortly after I had read them the first book, back when the boy was in kindergarten or 1st grade. We’re well aware there are ways our plans could get foiled but we wanted to make the effort.
With the boy having just finished the 2nd book, and now rapidly progressing through the 3rd, he was making no bones about his desire to see the movie. That was fine- he had earned it. The problem was the lass. Generally speaking, she’s going to be around when he is and thus get the opportunity to freeload off of his efforts.
We held the boy off through the past weekend until today because we realized an opportunity would present itself. The lass would be at her dance lessons for a couple of hours, during which time the boy could watch the movie.
The plan went off without a hitch, for a change. But the lass made it known she didn’t like the circumstances. When the Wife started bringing her home, the lass gave me a call to let me know they were on the way. Then, she asked what her brother was doing.
Rather than make up some kind of white lie, I opted to see how she’d handle the news. Her first response was to see if we could start the movie over again when she got home so her and Mom could see it too. When I told her “No, you can’t watch the movie yet” one of two things must have happened. Either she was completely stunned at the turn of events or she was so upset she couldn’t speak, because the phone went silent on the other end. And where the lass is anything but silent.
She finally recovered and proclaimed that the situation was “unfair.” That word again. I explained to her that it was perfectly fair. Her brother had read the book and had earned the right to watch the movie. She hadn’t read it yet, but when she did she would be allowed to watch the movie. I told her it didn’t get any more fair than that.
To her credit, she didn’t become hysterical. She just didn’t like that her brother had done something that she wouldn’t let her do as well. She even protested that she didn’t want to read the book, just see the movie. Not sure how she thought that would help her case, to be honest.
So, for now, the situation has been dealt with. But the boy is working his way through the third book and it’s going to come up again. A parent’s work is never done.
The Spiderman them line is, of course, “with great power comes greater responsibility.” Part of the charm of the Spiderman cannon is the simple truth of that statement. I don’t think you’d find anyone who’d argue that point.
When viewed in the context of a superhero, it seems kind of funny to apply that concept to kids. But I think it’s an pithy phrase for a phase the boy seems to be going through. While he doesn’t have any emerging superpowers, he does have an emerging power that he’s becoming more and more aware of.
His physicality. He’s bigger than the majority of his friends. Not just bigger, but built differently as well. Most people that first meet him typically mistake him for someone 2 to 3 years older than he really is. Basically, he’s bigger, stronger and just as fast as most of his peers.
So he’s been going through a phase lately where getting together with his friends typically results in a friend getting roughed up a bit. In his defense, the boy isn’t doing anything differently from what his friends are doing. It’s just that the results tend to be a bit more extreme. His friend’s are the ones who go flying, get knocked down and, very occasionally, get hurt.
And therein lies the problem. The boy needs to learn that his rough housing with his friends they way they all do will more likely result in someone else getting hurt than the boy. For one, his arms are at his friend’s head level in the majority of cases. And for those cases where he isn’t, he’s just bigger than they are. The laws of physics all favor him, for the time being, in those situations.
Obviously, he doesn’t mean to hurt anyone and he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. The couple of times where he has hurt someone else (and those times have both been superficial bumps- no blood or anything major) it’s been because he lost himself in the moment and either used all his strength or his size during play. Probably like any other kid might have done.
But like I told him when we put him to bed tonight, he needs to start learning to control himself a bit more. If he doesn’t start now, he may end up hurting someone more seriously down the road. I tried to help him understand by him thinking about what might happen if I used all my strength when wrestling around with him. He seemed to respond to that idea.
I don’t expect his physical advantages to diminish either. He seems to be gifted with a fair amount of athleticism to go along with his size. That means he’s going to naturally know how to use his body in ways those less gifted won’t be able to. All of these kinds of things are great, but they come with a burden as well. He won’t be able to use them to there fullest extent while goofing around with his buddies. Right now, he thinks that means he won’t be able to have fun with his friends either. That’s incorrect. He just needs to learn how to do it with restraint.
We had parent teacher conferences over the past week over with the kids’ teachers. Both of them are doing well and there aren’t any real complaints from either teacher.
But both the Wife and I couldn’t help but notice how much the lass’ teacher loves her. I mean loves her. At one point she said she didn’t need a teacher’s assistant because she had the lass.
Meanwhile, the Wife and I are both thinking “Come over for coffee one morning…”
I’ve just uploaded blogtool v1.1.0 to pypi.
The minor release number bump is due to switching the option parser library as well as adding the ability to process information from the standard input. The
comment option has also been modified to take a couple of arguments.
I’ve added some spiffy, new web based documentation to help with getting up and running with blogtool. The documentation stuff was generated with the help of sphinx, a very cool tool that uses a different plain-text markup format that I’ll be exploring adding support for in blogtool.
This past Saturday, the boy and I spent the day at a martial arts tournament we both entered. It was the boy’s first real tournament, and my second. I participated in another one about a month ago and enjoyed it, as I suspected I would. Whether the boy was destined to enjoy his experience was, well, completely results oriented. I don’t know if that’s the norm for approaching-nine-year-olds, but it’s definitely the way the boy is wired.
There was a bit of confusion for him leading up to the event. For those of you not in the know, which I presume is a majority, there are 3 different competition formats at a MA tournament: breaking, forms and sparring. For adults, there is also a weapon’s form. I trust I don’t need to explain why there isn’t such a category for the kids.
The boy competed in all three formats for his age and belt level. The confusion arose because he had to decide what form he would perform and the type of break he wanted to perform. For both, he started out with one thing in mind and had to change it in the final week prior to competition. For the form, it was a quirk of the tournament format and for the breaking we were told the break he wanted to do wasn’t appropriate for his belt level.
The tournament itself was quite the affair. It was located in a hotel conference room with 10 different rings setup so multiple levels and ages could compete simultaneously. I can’t even begin to count how many different groups there were over the course of the day, so suffice it to say there were over 400 competitors at the event ages ranging from 6 to 50+ and belt levels ranging from beginner to grandmaster (typically 6th Dan and up). Just for a more specific taste, for men’s black belts alone there were at least 10 different competition levels.
The tournament didn’t get off to the greatest start, if you’re a kid that is. It started with a long memorial for the tournament’s founder who had passed away within the past year. Thankfully, I was separated from the boy since we had to arrange ourselves by belt level and the boy “outranks” me. At least where MA is concerned.
Despite the slow start, the boy’s division, “Red Belts 6-8 years old” was one of the first ones to compete.
Just let me state that, as a parent, an MA tournament is an experience in patience. Not just because of the waiting, but because there are tons of parents all scrambling to get into position to watch their kids compete. Unfortunately for me, the boy was in a center ring, so there was no “good” viewing area, except standing on a chair and watching from 50 feet away over everyone’s head. My attempts at video taping were thwarted on a number of occasions by interlopers wandering in front of my line of site. They seemed particularly well-timed for when the boy was up.
Despite the personal frustrations, the boy left with a 3rd in breaking and a 2nd in sparring. Based on the scores, I think the judges dinged him a bit for his form because they didn’t feel it level-appropriate. That’s not his fault, nor really his instructors. It was more a quirk of the tournament’s timing alongside his instruction schedule. If it were another month out, he’d have been fine on that score.
Even with the nice results, the boy still managed to be disappointed. His 2nd place in sparring particularly irked him. Getting 2nd meant he lost the 1st place match and he didn’t like that. He gets a pained expression on his face that’s unmistakable- all flushed and on the verge of tears, a sobbing-like type of breath pattern. As much as I’d like to help him work it out, it was probably for the best that he was on his own and forced to deal on his own. He maintained what was left of his composure for the awards ceremony, and just like that, he was done for the day.
He spent the remainder of the morning sitting in a little nook he fashioned out of all the equipment bags, reading his Harry Potter book, his medals dangling from his neck. A lot of his MA mates wondered what he was reading, and he got a lot of congratulations for his medals. Not a few parents were impressed as well, especially when they found out he wasn’t reading for a book report.
As for me, I won forms in my division, didn’t place in sparring and didn’t compete in breaking. I don’t know if the boy was watching the sparring, but I hope he did so he could see that it doesn’t have to be all doom-and-gloom when losing. (That comes later…)
The rest of the day, we spent watching the other competitors, especially the black belt levels. They were really something, particularly the sparring.
Towards the end of our day, the boy came up to me with a bag of peanut M&M’s he’d found in our lunch bag. The Wife’s doing- a little surprise for him. He wanted to share the bag with me. Who was I to refuse?
So we finished the bag, and by that time it was pretty late and time to get going. He chose Cracker Barrel as our spot to stop for dinner. He had rainbow trout for dinner and a fudge brownie. He enjoyed the fish, but not the brownie. I enjoyed the brownie.
On our ride home, he was mainly concerned with when he could watch the 2nd Harry Potter movie. He’d finished the 2nd book and started reading the 3rd one. He was disappointed he couldn’t watch it when we got home, but it was going to be too late for movies by then.
When we did arrive home, the Wife and the lass had one more surprise- “gourmet” cupcakes. They grabbed a couple of pistachio flavored cupcakes, one of his favorite. As well as mine, funny coincidence that.
The boy has already made mention of his “next” tournament. So it’s safe to assume that, even though he didn’t win, he’d enjoyed the day well enough.
That made two of us.
We’ve spent the past couple of weekends painting. It wasn’t my idea, the Wife got her 5 year-itch. Tired of old color schemes, she went to our local hardware dealer with some ideas. The fella there is good with colors and helped her pick out a scheme for the lass’ room.
She was so pleased with the job, she decided it was time to change our downstairs as well. Her buddy at the hardware store does house calls, so he paid us a visit. We returned the favor by paying him for a bunch of paint. We spend the afternoon today painting our family area.
As far as a division of labor goes, she uses the roller and I do all the cutting in with a brush. So she puts on 90% of the paint, but my job takes 90% of the time. I don’t bother taping off because I’ve done enough painting now to develop a pretty steady hand to manage all the cutting in around doors, windows, baseboard, base molding and up at the ceiling. It just takes time, that’s all. Well, in addition to the steady hand.
She’s still happy with how things are turning out, but there’s still more to go. We now have a foyer to paint and then all the way up the stairwell. As well as the stairs, which we’ll be painting the base molding the covers the edge of the steps as well and the risers. Actually, I’ll be painting all that since it’s all cutting-in work.
But the Wife is happy with things so far. And that’s a good thing.
The alternative would be more painting.
A few Summers ago, I read the first Harry Potter book to the boy and the lass. I think it took a couple of weeks to get through it. They both loved it and they both wanted me to read more of the books to them.
But that was never the intention.
The intention was to plan a seed of curiosity that would get them hooked enough so they’d want to read the subsequent books themselves. We’ve allowed them to see the 1st movie, to keep the story fresh. We haven’t let them see any of the subsequent movies. “After you read the books…” we keep telling them.
A couple years ago neither of them was ready to read a Harry Potter book. Now, the boy has been capable of reading the 2nd book for awhile and in fact started it about 4 months ago. But he would only read a few pages at a time. I suppose being “capable” and being “able” are two different things in this case.
Within the last week or so, a few things came together. One, I suspect, is his ability to concentrate has improved to the point where he can sit and pay attention to the story for an extended period of time. Two, his reading has gotten faster. And third, and arguably most important, his bit-by-bit, small chunk-at-a-time has finally yielded enough progress through the book where the story has taken hold of him. He’s past the part where all the questions are being raised and into the section where answers are coming at him fast and furious.
It’s been fun to watch, because he’s now well over half-way through the book and any spare time he has he sits down and reads. He keeps asking me and the Wife questions about what’s going on and keeps telling us “I know who opened the Chamber of Secrets.” Of course, he doesn’t know because he hasn’t finished the book, but that doesn’t stop him from thinking he’s figured it out.
Where once he talked about reading “one more page,” he now talks about reading “one more chapter.” A seed that we planted a long time ago finally seems to have germinated.
Reading this piece by Brian Beutler, I have a couple of thoughts.
One, modern day politics is a game of one-upsmanship. Both political parties believe absolutely that their preferred policies are synonymous with what’s best for the country. The result is a never-ending series of contests whereby each side is worried more about how they are perceived. What we end up with is one penny-ante, well, billion-ante, tactic after another. They disseminate their talking points through their minions and try to position themselves as the one that “care.”
Two, what they care about is power. Both the pols doing their tactical dances and their pundit minions that hang on their every move. Both sides agreed to the sequester, now neither side wants to own it. All they care about is how it’s execution affects the balance of power.
In the meantime, the rest of us are forever being jerked around by all their caring.
There are any of a myriad of way the lass annoys her older brother. The one that bothers him the most, I think, is also the one I’m most sympathetic to him regarding, but also not willing to cut him any slack over. It’s when his sister freeloads off of him.
The easiest example is meal times. Both kids are capable of pouring their own milk. But 9 times out of 10, it is the boy who gets up and takes the initiative to take care of himself. Of course, the Wife and I are quite pleased that he no longer sits there whining “What can I have to drink?” But the lass sees no reason for her to get up and pour herself some milk since her brother is already on the job. So she asks him to pour her some milk as well. Multiply that by every day, or just about, and you’ll stretch the patience of any emotionally immature 8 year-old. Which is to say, all of them.
It’s one thing when this happens every now and again, it’s another when it’s day in and day out. It’s quite clear the lass knows what she’s doing and come mealtimes has demonstrated she is quite content to sit and wait her brother out.
Now, the boy has balked at this on any number of occasions. “She NEVER pours her own drink!” he as lamented on any of a number of occasions. He’s even tried simply ignoring her.
Neither the Wife nor I let him get away with that. We are quick to remind him of how many times we have poured them milk or fixed their food without any complaints on our part. We both feel it’s the courteous and proper way to behave and, as time has gone on, he has come to accept that in this scenario being first isn’t always best. The phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” is truly apt here.
This is just one scenario, but there are others I’ve noticed where the lass benefits from the boy’s initiative. Again, in these she seems to be a serial offender. So I’ve become more sympathetic to his complaints in this regard.
There is a difference in age to be accounted for here. The boy is about 18 months older, so there is definitely a developmental difference still at their current ages.
Yet I’m loathe to make too many excuses for the lass. I think we’ve always pushed them regarding taking care of themselves and perhaps this is a sign the Wife and I have to take a little more initiative ourselves to intervene quickly.
For example, rather than waiting for the boy to take care of the drink at a meal, we need to simply request that the lass take care of pouring drinks for herself and her brother. The issue isn’t so much an issue of fairness; rather, we want to make sure that some sense of entitlement isn’t adopted by the lass.
I’ve released blogtool version 1.0.1 into the wild.
This is a bug fix version. It fixes an error in HTML output where tags like \<img> were not being properly closed. Also takes care of stray ‘&’ characters that need to be escaped.
It also fixes some bugs in the
getpost option related to converting the post HTML into it’s markdown equivalent. Nested inline elements were not properly accounted for and escaping of a number of characters was also added.
Being St. Patrick’s Day, what better way to spend it than hunting for leprechauns?
They scoured the yard for clues. They were hoping for just a glimpse of a guy with a beard or something. They kept wondering how big a leprechaun would be and if I or the Wife had ever seen one.
The boy even googled around to see if there were any “HowTo’s” for catching a leprechaun. No such luck, though he did read that they can be found in fields and woods. Oh, and apparently they’re nocturnal.
So after dinner, we trudged off to the corn field which sits behind our house. As a bonus, the field is lined by woods so their hopes were high. The lass brought along 2 lacrosse sticks and a sand-sifter to help catch the leprechaun. The boy wanted to bring some of our corned beef and cabbage dinner along with us to try and lure one out. We gently dissuaded him from that course of action. He ended up bringing along his boomerang. He was hoping he might accidentally hit it in the head and knock it over long enough for them to catch it. He figured he could practice throwing his boomerang as well since we were going to be in a big field.
They met with disappointment, though they had a grand adventure looking. They traipsed all over the field, looked in all of the nooks and crannies they could find. I had the dogs along with us, for protection.
After we got home, they talked to Grandma, who gave them another idea. She suggested that leprechauns like beer and peanuts. So before bed time, the boy set a bowl of peanuts, a can of Guinness, a pencil and the following note on our front porch:
Mr. Leprechaun can you please sign here if you axualy came.
Sincerely, The Boy
If you want to can you leave the book that is on Ultimid Scribble Nauts. If you don’t no what I’m talking about is is the book you can spell whatever noun or ajective you want.
I signed it “Thanks Laddy” and left some coins on the porch for him.
The boy got stuck on the following clue while doing a crossword this morning:
The answer was a 3-letter word ending in ‘LD’, and was obvious enough but the boy couldn’t quite figure it out. So he asked me for a hint.
I said “Grandma and Grandpa.”
He replied immediately “Oh, ‘OLD’.”
About a week ago, the Wife had some friends over for a knit night here in the house. I was… elsewhere with the boy for the night. The lass was here with the Wife and her friends. The boy and I did arrive for the final hour or so of knit night.
Apparently, the kids left a good impression because at the Wife’s knit night last night, one of her friends remarked about how well behaved the kids were. I guess that led to a discussion about parenting in general amongst them and a comment was made that consistency is a key because the Wife and I both expect similar behavior from them.
While that’s important, I don’t think that’s quite enough.
While out shepherding the boy through his martial arts classes, we stopped at a Wendy’s for dinner. We had the privilege of sitting next to a mother with her two sons. Neither of whom would listen to her, no matter how many times she threatened them with punishment. Because they would push her to that limit, and then she wouldn’t follow through.
I mention this as an anti-example of another quality a parent needs- stubbornness.
Consistency between parents is important so the kids can’t play both ends against the middle.
But stubbornness is important because a lot of the time, a parent is one-on-one, or one-on-more-than-one, with their kid, or kids, and it’s up to that parent to get them to listen. Better than threats and anger, good ol’ fashioned stubbornness gets the job done.
That’s what it takes to wait out the tantrums, the multiple requests, the dodges, the delays and whatever else happens between the first time they are asked and when they finally decide to do as they were asked. The temptation to just say “Screw it, I’ll do it myself” is overwhelming and only a stubborn individual would choose to not take that course.
It pays off over the long run. Over time, the fights get less- they never go away. At least, they haven’t yet and I don’t expect them to anytime soon. Kids learn that they might as well listen the first time around because they understand from prior experience that Mom or Dad won’t stop nagging them until it’s done.
A few weeks ago, we started allowing the lass to ride shotgun in the car. I knew that the decision would result in clashes with the boy, but that’s the price parents pay. Or something.
In truth, I expected a lot more fireworks right out of the gate. Instead, there appears to have been a feeling out process where each has tried to figure out the other’s tactics for attaining the prized shotgun seat. For instance, at the pickup line after school, the lass figured out that timing and position was everything and she could gain the seat by making sure she was closer to the front of the car than her brother. The boy, realizing this tactical advantage, adopted the strategy for his own. The boy has figured out that his sister likes her morning cartoons a little too much and thus gains the advantage by being first to get out the door in the mornings. The lass has yet to adjust.
Still, there really hadn’t been much in the way of arguments about one or the other always sitting in the passenger seat. Until the last couple of days, when the lass has begun to let her frustration’s boil over. She groused for the ride home in the car yesterday because the boy had out-dueled her for both the ride to and the ride from school.
So this morning, when I announced it was time to go, the boy was off like a, er, shot for his coat and backpack. The lass accused him of rushing “just to get the front seat.” The boy responded by taunting her, of course. I was the last one out the door by several seconds and when I looked up, I witnessed a new tactic in the Shotgun Wars.
Since the boy had been the first out the door, he was already climbing into the passenger seat for our Highlander. The lass had decided to allow fate to decide who would get shotgun this morning- she went to our other car and was climbing into the passenger seat as I started down our walk. Thus, it was up to me to decide would win this morning’s battle. A risky strategy on her part; but a clever one if I do say. Realizing she had surely lost if she climbed into the back of the Highlander, where the boy already sat, she gambled by forcing me to pick a car.
My first thought was, “Damn, I wish we had a 3rd car.” In the end, fuel economy won out this morning, and so did the lass. Much to the boy’s consternation, I’m sure you’ll be surprised to learn. His turn to grouse in the back.
I expect the boy will be asking which car they’ll be riding in tomorrow morning.
There’s a lot to agree with in this article. It was written in response to another article (which is linked in the above article) that the author mentions and I started to read but couldn’t finish because, well, I found it annoying. Another bite at the “men don’t do as much work as women around the house” apple, which doesn’t grow here.
At least, not like one might think.
The article talks about how the author divides chores in his house, it’s according to the maxim “whoever cares most wins.” Or, in the case of chores, loses because the person who cares most ends up doing the chore in question. I actually think this is pretty sage advise, but it will lead to a fair share of tiffs over who is doing what.
Marriage and kids are a long term deal, at least, that’s how it is where I come from. My Grandparents were married for 65+ years; my parents are closing in on 50 years; the Wife’s parents are also closing in on 50. That’s a lot of time to be together and it’s a lot of loads of laundry, time running the vacuum, cleaning the coffee maker, folding clothes, mowing lawns, home improvement projects, trips to school, dishes, cooking, trips to lessons, trips to games, and on and on and on.
The very nature of “chore” is that they don’t change and, for the most part, don’t go away. They also, sadly, need to be done. Now imagine doing them over the course of all those years and it becomes understandable why tempers occasionally flare. There will inevitably be stretches where the Wife or I get stuck with a run of one particular chore. It gets annoying for either of us.
But there are some chores I don’t do. The one that sticks in the Wife’s craw the most is dusting. I don’t dust because I don’t see the need to be doing it on the schedule that the Wife does, so she inevitably ends up doing it, i.e.- she cares the most.
I suppose by some might expect me to say I feel guilty about this. But the fact is, I don’t. I can name chores that I take care of, like mowing the lawn or cutting cord wood, that she has no particular stake in, i.e.- she doesn’t care. Rather, I do so I get to take care of it.
I don’t have any handy statistics on how normal our situation is. I like to think we’re a fairly average, normal family so I like to think the majority of families also come up with a chore responsibility arrangement that sucks suitably for everyone involved. Including the kids, who have yet to meet any chore they care about. So, assuming we’re largely representative of how things work in families, I have a hard time believing that this complaint about the division of labor at home is the problem its proponents want us to believe.
Indeed, I don’t think it’s a problem at all. It’s simply the way things are, and it favors no one. Things need to get done and someone has to step up to do them. It isn’t sexy and it won’t get government grants for research purposes, but there it is. But, if people are going to insist on some kind of division, “whoever cares most” is the way to go.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to take the dogs out for a final time before bed.
Every now and again, a crazy idea comes together and makes for a worthwhile Den meeting. The “crazy” idea this time? To have my Bear Scouts build a bird feeder as a den project.
The Den isn’t huge- we had 9 boys today at the meeting. But anyone who knows anything about 8-year olds will admit that keeping 9 boys on the same page in the presence of particularly dangerous equipment is not a task to be taken lightly. Fortunately, I had some big help from another Dad in the Den and we got together and came up with a plan of attack to make this an attainable goal, both for the boys and ourselves.
Here’s the model we built over the weekend:
First, the overall goal of the project was for the boys to, as much as was possible for 8-year olds, build the feeder themselves. Secondary goals were to give the some experience with hand tools and the construction process in general.
After building the feeder, the other Dad and I decided to keep the cutting as simple as possible. The ends of the feeder are pentagon shaped with 30 degree and 45 degree angle cuts, so we opted to cut these out ahead of time. That left the top, both roofs pieces and the base as possibilities for the boys to cut themselves. To keep those as simple as possible, we prepped strips of wood cut to finished widths and edge bevels so the boys would only have to cut lengths off of them. So in the end, the boys had to cut out 4 pieces of wood: the base, the top, and both sides of the roof.
In addition to the pentagon shaped end pieces, we also pre-cut the plexiglass sides and some strips that are used to create the edging around the base of the feeder. We also organized the entire construction of the feeder, down to what screws where, what joints get glued, the hook for hanging the feeder, and an opening with a plexiglass lid to refill the feeder.
We never planned on them finishing the entire unit in one meeting- there were too many of them to manage and help through the cutting. Also, we felt it was a chance to show them that it takes time to build something well. The goal for today’s meeting was for all of the boys to cut out the 4 pieces required to build the feeder and to attach the edging to the base. The next meeting we would tackle the actual assembly.
The good news is I was the only one to draw any blood, and I cut myself on my own saw. It was a tiny nick, but appropriate since it isn’t a project until some blood has been spilled.
The better news is all the boys got their pieces cut today and all of them really seemed to enjoy the process. I don’t think more than a couple of them had used a hand saw before, so the other Dad and I did our best to teach them how to work a handsaw. But they all measured their own lengths of wood and generally followed directions and instruction well. Generally, we’d help them get the cut started to the point of a groove they could follow, then we’d let them finish the cut.
As a bonus, they all got to operate a pneumatic pin-nailer. In order to attach the edging to the base, we used glue for a permanent attachment, but used the nailer to hold the pieces in place while the glue set. So we instructed them in how to properly, and safely, operate the nailer. To their credit, they listened well and no one did anything crazy with the tools. I would glue and hold the piece in place and them have the boys use the nailer to pin the piece so it stayed put. They were all impressed with how “strong” the nailer was to shoot the nail in place like it did.
In all, it was a fast and hectic hour-and-a-half. We could only have 4 of them cutting at one time, so there was always someone doing something with a saw. A couple of other parents showed up a little later to help out with supervision and together we kept an eye on things and made sure that no one Scout sat too long waiting for a chance to do some work. When it was over, there was a palpable relief from all the parents involved.
But probably the best news was something I and the other Dad both overheard a couple of the boys say while in the thick of things. They said “This is a lot more fun than I thought it would be.”