A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Tag Archives: outdoors

Life as Pictures: managing the outdoors…occasionally

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I’m sure I’ve mentioned too many times my dislike of the outdoors…what more fitting post than to give myself copious accolades for any minute effort of leaving the vault of my home? It’s been a type of commitment that I would take my kids outside more, which is an exceptionally low threshold as I almost never do. Generally I feel like I’m a good parent, but in this realm I hover squarely in Mom Guilt territory, especially since I reached the maximum supplement allotment for my Vitamin D deficiency. Sure, adults in my area can’t really escape it anyway, but I’ve excelled in my inability to maintain a normal quota for almost every other adult in my state. I don’t have hard data on that assertion, but I might as well assume it to be true. While my kids still don’t spend enough time outdoors, I have to give myself some credit. When it isn’t heinously hot out, I plan on a playground or something.

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We had some visitors in early spring, and when I say “visitors,” I mean in our house. If it isn’t obvious by this image, these are rather large winged carpenter ants. This nest is close to our homestead. I noticed one day when I was tooling around on my computer in our office that the silence was suddenly disturbed. I’d heard this vibrating buzz by our window, only to discover WAY too many of these bastards virtually pouring in through a previously unknown gap in our window. This picture looks like quite a few of these gents, but what is missing from the image was the literal swarming cloud of fellows as they go off in search to skeeze out anyone in the area. I discovered them chillin’ over their nest by chance. I happened to be pulling the kids in a plastic wagon through our neighborhood…because I’m an awesome parent who takes her kids outside. We return up the driveway, and I’m just zoning out…looking at my kids who are smiling and chattering. After unbuckling the kids (The don’t actually need to be buckled…because it’s a wagon and only someone as clumsy as me would manage to get hurt riding in one, but Little Man insists…which means Warrior Queen insists.), I look up when we reach the garage. It was then that my face was brushed by these little…critters, and the kids were about to run right into it…because apparently I raised them to be oblivious to their surroundings. It took a second…too long…to realize what was happening, but then I busted out moves I never knew existed…and probably should never showcase again. I pull it together, so that I sound less crazy notifying my husband that I found the nest of ants. But, by the time he took me seriously the trauma inducing insect swarm were greatly reduced. I don’t know how it happened, but the kids didn’t notice ANY part of what had transpired…because apparently I raised them to be oblivious to their surroundings.

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Mr. Man loves himself a hose and sprinkler…pretty much anything that will spray and soak anyone or anything I don’t want to get wet.

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Just look at the curiously industrious Little Man alone with his contraption explorations! I’m sure he’s developing something weird that I don’t really understand. Often he doesn’t really tell me about his creative pursuits; they just remain one more of the countless stories in his head. What isn’t obvious is that this was during a friend’s birthday party…like a legit friend of his…not someone I’m obligated to call his friend out of guilt for having no idea or interest in who the kid actually is and their role in my son’s life. It was a nifty party, but a closed room with many bustling bodies. Warrior Queen was in her party flurry element; Mr. Man asked to go outside quite soon after the room reached capacity. It was probably the noise…it usually is. He doesn’t sweat all noise; but when he does, it’s overwhelming for him. Generally it’s predictable what noise or situations will bother him. My husband and I were pretty much on a similar countdown as soon as we entered the room. That said, I mentioned they were serving cake soon, and he returned in haste…because cake surmounts all of life’s fears.

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People (read: family) keep buying Warrior Queen dolls. We have so many variations of them, and she ignores every possible iteration…except the ones she wants me to babysit. The usual exchange is that she hands me some random doll to take care of, and has a fit when I try to give it back. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve told people she loves cars and trucks. It actually makes me a bit sad because she will look so longingly at the vehicles gifted to my son that he couldn’t care less about. His only expressed interest in them is when his sister absconds with one. He doesn’t mind sharing, but it has to be on his terms.

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Another creative play notion for Mr. Man. I don’t know what he was doing, but it consumed about twenty-five minutes.

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As a kid I did this, and it’s something that stuck. I can’t explain why, but there is something about standing by the trunk of a tree and looking up that is indescribably cool.

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We don’t go to this playground all that much, and every time I leave it I wonder why. It’s a bit further than others, but it has to be the best of the lot. It’s quite a large area for one, and completely enclosed with no gaps in the barrier. There are toilet facilities…of the portable variety, but if in a jam, it’s comforting to know it’s there.  Much of the area is shaded…and shaded in good spots; I don’t know who plans a playground, but they almost never have sufficient shade. Certainly, I’m committing to more effort of basking in sunshine, but I’m also quite fair (read: pastey). If I’m out in the sun for too long, which honestly amounts to a ten minute straight clip, I break out in a heat rash. This playground is lovely as there are a wide variety of spots to sit and chill in a reasonably cool shade. Furthermore, the play structures are amazing, and the swings a good assortment and height. The slides are eclectic, everything from a slight gentle slope to tall and swoopy. Perfect for my brave, fierce girl. I’m not a fan of an imposed wildlife litter box, but I can’t deny my children love to play in the sand. There are all kinds of toy and object distractions and a wide, beautifully carpeted grassy area that Warrior Queen often explores. And, finally, no description would be complete without noting easy parking!

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I’m probably gratuitous with my discussions of the library patio we frequent. Once again I feel obligated to note the shade factor. This small area continues to be a happy diversion while we wait the music program that Warrior Queen continues to relish. But, lately I feel like I’m more tickled by the diversion than my kids. I’ve tracked its progression throughout the fall and winter seasons…cataloging it’s deathly beauty. There are plants and flowers aplenty now, but something is particularly magical about the sunken nature of this area. I didn’t quite realize it when I was there, but gazing through photographic images I feel almost as though this place is other worldly. I won’t say it’s a bug’s view…because ick, but I think of stories and the fairy kingdoms stores are peddling. Sometimes I wonder if I would have appreciated something like this before having children, probably not. Having kids changed me in pretty profound ways, and for some things, like this patio, I can’t quite place why. Maybe I’m asked so many questions that I start anticipating where and when the next one might sprout. Maybe having small children ponder everything so simply transformed me to do the the same. Maybe there is so much crazy all the time that I seek those peaceful, privately noteworthy moments to remind me to slow myself even if it’s infinitesimal. Regardless, they are lovely images, and I can’t believe I managed both without my finger captured in the corner.

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It’s summer, and hot much of the time now…I can’t stand heat, which is a challenge to my “heading outdoors more” resolve. This fantastic splash pad and adjacent playground is pretty unbelievable. The two times we attended were too hot to appreciate all this area had to offer (An area that includes clean restrooms and easy parking!), but I witnessed enough to simply be dazzled by this park’s existence. Little Man celebrated with the water, and managed to be the only kid locating rocks to throw in a muddy puddle…to the dismay of the surrounding parents. To their credit no one said anything. Pushing mid 90s weather had me joining him under the various water sproutings as well, and as hot as it was I don’t think anyone thought twice about a crazy lady in a dress dancing under various water extravaganzas. Besides, it was the only way I could get Warrior Queen to get out of her wanderings in the sun to cool down, which was a pleasant side effect to my efforts of relieving my uncontrollable boob sweat. But, if I exited the splash pad, my fierce, brave two-year-old girl would once again immediately become absorbed by the massive tunnel slide that frightened children twice her size. Some day she will take over the world..whether it will be for good or evil has yet to be determined.

 

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Life as Pictures: colorful heart in winter

Something about this time of year is inherently dreary. But, winter has a beauty in its perpetually damp and icy death. It’s been a blurred confusion for a bit; suddenly I’ve caught a partial breath, and we are at the doorstep of spring…or at least the end of the driveway. I find March the worst of the months, as it always feels like it should be progressing quicker than it ever does. It’s a weird chilled season this year; the past two or three winter drudges had us slammed with snow well into an established false sense of security approaching February. Even with the trilogy of storms the past couple of weeks, things melt quickly this time of year as the world presses on.

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I feel an initial obligation to remove the color from some of these scenes. Isn’t that a prerequisite for attempts to pass something off as artistic? But, it’s winter; this picture from the heart of February. It’s so easy to forget that the sun shines when the air crumbles around from the heaviness. I know this these images so well. We attend the same library music class, and this is the library’s very own enclosed sunken patio. In the spring it’s sprouting with a complex collection of life and hiding book character cut-outs. I’ve always been one for textures, so while my children do their thing I survey the debris and think about nothing worth remembering.

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The almost four-year-old Little Man is a sorter, committed to arranging things…anything. He will spend endless time organizing meticulously rambling about some kind of story that makes little sense to me. Periodically he’ll communicate whatever jargon he’s created, only requiring me to nod and smile. He has this verbal crutch that I hope never vanishes, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Unexpectedly within his conversational story chatter, he will flow into a deliberately pronounced and unaffectively uttered, “He he,” or similar notation of amusement before he flows into the remaining portions of his story.

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The almost two-year-old Warrior Queen idolizes her brother in between the times when she dramatically attempts to get him into trouble. She’s a slick one. It’s hard to say what she’s envisioning during these kinds of above musings. Sometimes it’s an attempt to be an asshole by wrecking something her brother built and loves. Sometimes she wants to take part in something her brother created…adding her piece to be closer to him. In this case she’s moments from adding a stone of her own. It’s something of an interesting note about my son. For all of his care and deliberations to have things just so, he’s never particularly disturbed when something he’s spent a good deal of time on is altered or destroyed entirely. He’s not a particularly anxious kid. It’s almost as though the monument is not as important as the process. Sometimes he rebuilds, sometimes not. Sometimes he sits aside and watches the enjoyment on his little sister’s face as she stomps around in a chaotic blur of destruction. When her task is complete, he’ll rise and begin some other activity. At times it’s reading or “building pipes.” On other occasions it’s destroying our sofa by flinging pillows throughout the room despite my consistent ardent pleas for him to desist.

 

I suppose winter is one more span of time, but my life consists of minutia after minutia that I could easily forget before moving onto the next bit of nothing. Little Man notices everything; remembers everything. If I assert that an event will happen at a designated time and say nothing more, Mr. Man will note the task the very second it comes to pass. I suspect Warrior Queen is similar. She often stares, taking everything in. Her speech is developing as it should, unlike her brother’s at a similar age. Some day her thoughts will become clearer. But, until that day her brother will fill any silence with blustering cacophony of sound.

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My son loves color, I guess. We’ve been frequenting the same eating establishment of late because the cost of food in comparable to anywhere else I’d take them, and the eating area was designed to entertain children. I’ve even managed a solid five minutes of conversation with friends before someone darts off to look at cakes or something. Perhaps it lowers the credibility of my disposition, but looking at food is a bit like porn to me. And, don’t get me started on cakes! When my son was old enough and capable of stringing complex sentences together, he began to rattle off a favored statement of mine in grocery stores, “Let’s go visit the cakes!” Fortunately, my son likes studying all kinds of things, the above flowers have become a preoccupation for him. Every week, sometimes more, he has to stop and examine them, asking me for my favorite assortment. Sadly the last visit had some of the arrangements looking a bit sorry. But, it’s still the rare bright color in winter…even if somewhat artificial in its design.

 

I mentioned Little Man’s structures and garages. Warrior Queen enjoys the same towers. Sometimes I can tell she misses her brother when he is at school for those two mornings a week, as she will inquire for me to build similar structures that my son presses on infinite building loops. Otherwise her default is to stack balanced blocks, holding her breath with wide eyes and smiling open mouth as she places bricks almost beyond her reach. I hope to hold the delight stretched across her face when the tower doesn’t topple, to keep that memory during moments I’m trying to escape.

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Sometimes they work together. Mr. Man expands out while Warrior Queen builds up. Often they hand each other parts, and my fierce sprite of a girl is quick to utter a garbled, “Thank you,” even when she offered the gift.

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Aside from the portion housing books, my husband and I have virtually abandoned replacing toys on the shelves; opting for the stylish cardboard boxes we’ve managed to bring home from a grocery store. I suspect we are perpetuating this catastrophe because the kids can’t find anything, but by the end of the day I’m too tired to care. In the random box it goes! And, sure enough come morning, Little Man dumps out each and every box for no other purpose than for shits and giggles. Warrior Queen, however, enters the room on an explicit recovery mission for an envisioned car or truck originally gifted to her brother that he only cares about when he sees she wants it. My feisty girl has her process. She retrieves and jams on a blue fishing cap so that it obstructs most of her vision. Then she hunts for and drapes each and every haphazardly beaded necklace her brother made in school before he can notice the theft. Finally, she adorns her small, expressive hands with my bright, fuzzy socks. The remaining morning routine she spends clutching a chosen stuffed animal or car. I watch with great care so I can note her preferred toy for the day. It will be the best chance I have changing her diaper without a foot to my throat.

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Returning to a relatively warm winter day on a desolate, mostly colorless patio, Warrior Queen only has eyes for her brother…attempting to see the world how he sees it. Most of the time his goal is to preserve the world for her as he believes it should be.

Life as Pictures: holiday weekend edition

I went into Thanksgiving this year knowing it would be harder than most years, but I don’t want to immortalize what will inevitably be an undercurrent for a long time still. Leading up to the holiday I toyed more seriously with the idea of walking our town’s charity 5K with the kids. This is a tradition I hope to start in the coming years; each year I inch closer to taking the plunge. I don’t get my hold-up; I can walk a 5K easily, and the kids would be fine. I suppose it was a bit helter skelter this year; too much going on. I emailed the group organizing the race a couple days prior with some key questions…some more of a barrier than others. Although it seems I can just show up with my motley crew, there was a brief note of the course description that had me wonder if I could maneuver a stroller. It’s a turkey trot, so I probably could; but I read into the lack of response as a sign that this year would not be the year. And, really, I was already feeling overwhelmed as the weeks blurred by. Generally, when I feel stuck in angsty ruts, I create a new task for myself that allows me lift others in some way. This approach definitely improves my sprits to varying degrees, but at some point adding more tasks to manage is exclusively madness destined to be withheld until a better time. I experienced an irrational amount of guilt declining; life is short and unpredictable, and a bunch of what ifs flood in…What if I never have the opportunity again…madness.

Self-preservation aside, there is a simple fact heading into any day with no outing; Little Man NEEDS to exit our home in some fashion sometime during the morning, or anyone in a vague radius will want to rip their face off experiencing his destructive enthusiasm. I needed some fresh air too before cooking, so as a lowly duo, we set out for a walk around the neighborhood; and it was perfect.

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It’s a fairly large neighborhood for the area…many families in various stages of children. As a child nowhere remotely close to this area, I remember kids outside all the time; but maybe not. I often expect more bustle for some inexplicable reason. It was a quiet morning on the early side before a food-for-all; I’m not sure why I expected more kids around. Maybe because it’s one of the last remaining tolerably warmer days a few wisps above freezing. November is my favorite month; this year that sentiment virtually escaped me even as I tried to remind myself of that paltry fact. But, starting down our street a ways with some of the color still contrasting with a clear sky, I took a deep breath, filling my chest with a month’s worth of brisk fresh air at a glorious time of year.

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This is supposed to be a drainage ditch, but over the years the surrounding woods began reclaiming it…probably not a good thing in terms of flooding. I don’t have a single iota of how these structures function, but I’m fairly certain it’s not for little men to find fantastic sticks purposed for whacking dried plant debris.

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Eventually Mr. Man returned to me…jarring me out of my thoughts that were separate from his hushed leaf crunching and imaginative chattering. I couldn’t see him, but his sounds were reminiscent of fantasy stories depicting the whispers of small, winged pixies out to do mischief on those who trespass. When he emerged from the woods, he was so proud of his stick that stretched beyond his height. It was, in fact, a very good stick that merited Mr. Man’s chosen adjective for the day. From his first waking hours, dazzling things were “delightful” to him.

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The end of the stick. We were barely acquainted, yet it felt like family…entertaining my son for a whole ten minutes. It didn’t even have the opportunity to destroy something or injure someone before I would snatch it mid power struggle. Be well and at peace, dear stick.

 

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What is it about children who are perpetual furnaces? Little Man kept his hat on for twenty minutes before asking me to hold it for him. He refused it until I explained that his ears were bright red. He allowed me to jam it back on, which prompted periodic commentary about red ears and the need for hats.

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My husband is usually the one to take Little Man outside. I’m not sure what they do; usually I’m told in some form, but I often don’t pay attention. My son had a great time; end of story for me.

We kept walking. I used to distance run before injuries became more of a rule than they should otherwise be. I knew the terrain; Mr. Man eventually did not. We were embarking in an area where roosters can be heard from the road…because people in my town love their fresh eggs…or whatever. Why does any suburbanite willfully choose to house chickens? But, chickens are a top fav of Mr. Man, and the journey did not disappoint.

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A boy and his puddle, although this sucker should really be called a lake. Eventually I managed to move Little Man along, priding myself that he refrained from stomping through it like I asked.

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He didn’t romp through this one either, maybe because the surface ice was more distracting than the liquid underneath. I’ve leaned with Mr. Man that things are a progression. Rocks broke through the solid surface of this particular puddle. Copious questions about the physics of ice…and frozen pipes in the event that water remains in them through the winter…because my son is curious about pretty much everything. Smaller, more shallow future puddles tested his body weight before we continued on our journey. As we walked he continued to prattle on about pipes…water heaters…steam pistons…all things I have no clue about, but apparently he does.

Eventually the lure of puddle storming became too much for my three-and-a-half-year-old. For the last bit of our walk he was soaked, but to his credit he did not complain. That said, things were no longer “delightful.” Our traipsing was an hour-and-a-half, and, wet socks and shoes aside with a smattering of annoyed reprimands on my part, was still absolutely perfect. The memory didn’t even diminish when I realized on our driveway that I dropped his hat somewhere along the way. Well, immediately the memory was diminished, but looking through the pictures after my shower, I returned to the realm of “absolutely perfect.”

The Thanksgiving meal ran uneventfully; I figured it would. By the evening I was formulating the game plan for the following day. We live in close proximity to various farms and wildlife preserves. I saw news of a festival of sorts at one farm that we’ve attended on the rare occasion. It’s pricey by itself, and claiming the drastically reduced tickets housed at our local library is a pain. But, the “Black Friday” deal for the morning had me sold predicting a nice day to be outdoors.

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What nightmares are made of. How can ANYONE in their right mind gaze upon these animals who are clearly plotting human demise and think, “Now, that’s a fantastic pet!”?
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I don’t care how clever his proposed names are, it’s all fun and games until one of those little bastards pecks at his finger.

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I should probably be embarrassed by this, but I always assumed cows were a certain size. This bad boy…girl(?) was enormous, and I simply was not expecting it. It wasn’t just the height that had me, everything about this animal was massive. I never pictured cows on the scale of a schnauzer or anything, but I figured I could at least look one in the eye. As is, I was tushie level, so you know where I made a point to stand…I need no help in the poop exposure department, and my kids could easily give this heifer a run for her money.

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Warrior Queen was in a constant state of “go” throughout this entire journey…not unusual during outings, but she was particularly exuberant on this beautiful fall day among the animals and open landscape.

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It’s funny, Warrior Queen is like her brother on this front; she’s usually pretty indifferent to animals. I’m starting to figure that I have something to do with it. Try not to judge me.

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My parents were delighted that the eighteen-month-old Warrior Queen was saying, “Moo,” while visiting the cows…until literally EVERY animal was saying, “Moo.”

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The remaining pieces of the weekend were an unremarkable fizzle, but even unremarkable states of parenthood are a blur. It’s comforting for me knowing that as I trod through the frenzied days leading to and stretching through this particular weekend, I will have the imperfect kindness of my memory’s reflections…and a few scampering cherub photos buried with my olfactory recollection of these specific late autumn days…complimented by truly horrifying chickens.

Life as Pictures

Staying home is a weird dichotomy. So much seems to be a state of killing time for the next…whatever. But, visibly buried within the constant shuffle are noteworthy mundane moments.

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A favorite playground because it’s entirely enclosed…with swings. It also happens to be in a good location for killing a few extra minutes before we need to be this place or that. Now that Warrior Queen is VERY mobile, Mr. Man can indulge in the swings until his heart’s content (read: Mommy becomes too tired to continue), and Warrior Queen can climb and drunken gorilla walk aimlessly without the risk of some kind of sudden death or destruction. This time of year the lovely outside days are in the final limp into winter, but, boy, are they perfect; and I say that as someone who finds excuses to stay indoors.

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The finger in the shot adds a certain quaint artsy purposefully amateurish quality, don’t you think?

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The library we frequent. It has a sunken patio, completely enclosed. My kids like roaming the small area looking at the various critters while I sit and ponder the meaning of life…or time my next chocolate fix that minimizes me having to share my sash…whatevs.

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There are amazing details with this area. I’m not a fan of outdoors and there are entirely too many bees…because flowers, but there are all these eye catching attractions and book characters hidden in spots. Little Man derives great joy from noting each character and every book we own that contains each one. We’ve shared some amusing anecdotes about the storylines of his favorites, and how it relates to his life. My son is quite amusing with his imagination, and he certainly did not inherit his memory from me.

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There are details of wear in this small often seldomly used area. I appreciate the imperfections. Maybe it’s because they are signs of a special place well loved.

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This is my default view of Warrior Queen at all times when we are in public. If I blink, she’s gone…and likely achieved climbing on the object with the highest elevation in any given location.

 

Having small children pushes me to notice…appreciate small wonders because for my kids everything is such a very big wonder. Over time random things take on a sentimental value. It’s strange because the vision itself is not necessarily something that is a monument to a special or lovely event. Maybe it’s because the image holds some kind of beauty for me, and it represents every other beautiful moment the location holds…even if I’ve forgotten some of the details.

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This is a silly merry-go-round…small and lackluster in my eyes. I can’t explain why even a three-and-a-half-year-old Mr. Man feels compelled to visit this very structure. I almost never purchase ride, but we reliably visit this area for the children to climb upon before they reluctantly move on. Periodically music will suddenly play among a chorus of bright lights, as though a phantom of sorts spontaneously selects to freak-out unsuspecting children. Initially it will give Little Man a fright before he gives a cautiously delighted smile.

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One special me and Mr. Man day I took him for a ride on this larger version and much more impressive merry-go-round. I don’t know what I expected. I don’t think he was particularly sure how he felt about the movement. He selected the dizzy tea cup, and certainly enjoyed making it spin…much to my chagrin. But, the color and detail of this particular object holds how I look at our times in this particular outing. Even though my kids are mostly indifferent to this carousel, I feel a loving ache every time it’s in site. Something indescribable about it has become a symbol of sorts.

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