Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or Treat

Papa took the boys all by his lonesome this year while I passed out candy and attempted to clean up some of the remaining mess from the previous night's party. He's a good boy. Who ever heard of Beggar's Night on a Sunday though?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Party

Our annual Halloween party was for the first year in many NOT a Harry Potter party. I think we'd exhausted that line. Plus we were exhausting me with the preparations and decorating, so it was easier to be simpler about it all. Well, you know, as much as I do anything simply. We maintained the tradition of starting out with families and ending with adults only.

Jonas and Lavinia spent the night and I gave the four of them a stack of library movies to stay occupied. Bastian passed out right away and Lavinia read herself to sleep while Aleks and Jonas went to sleep all cute in my bed watching Mr. Bean.

We had the usual 7 pumpkins and spent Thursday evening carving them and finishing up Bastian's robot costume.This is a Mudkip design, which Aleks insisted on. Jon found an example on the internet.
On the left is my radiation poisoned face from the lopsided white pumpkin Jon picked out. Interestingly, when we carved it, it had the smell of something between a cucumber and a honeydew melon. Also very thick seeds, which I had wanted to save to grow our own next year, but which required too much motivation in addition to what I had to get ready for the party itself.

On the right is a "creeper" from the boys' (all three of them plus several of Papa's friends) favorite new game, Minecraft. Don't ask me, I don't know. It's all pixelated.
The requisite Cyclops. There should always be a cyclops. Hence the word "requisite."
This is awesome face. Jon's creation.
Mama trying to be fancy.
Mom also always decides how to do the big pumpkin because she is a control freak. I went for a variation of a couple years back.
Bastian's finished robot costume.
The butt.
Bastian walking in the robot costume.

Bastian trying to eat in the robot costume.

Lavinia and I were both fairies.
Aleks had his costume ready for months. He's a Grim Reaper.
Tracie, Natalie, and Amy. Natalie and I made her Paul the Octopus costume.
I knew our neighbors were going to be Alice and the Mad Hatter, but we weren't informed of the twist until they showed up. The kids thought it was bizarre initially, everyone else thought it was great.
Robin playing with our excess eyeballs. Everyone had a good time with them. They were kept in a jar amongst the potions.
Me and the Unibomber.
Amalgam of many costumes parceled together as things got sillier.
Anna, in a uniquely Anna face. I love it. She thinks she looks crazy.
It was a great night. Everyone loves my parties. I throw damn good parties.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thank You Notes

With the success of William Lashua's birthday card, I thought having Aleks make drawings that I could watercolor was a fantastic way of getting thank you notes for the City Fresh volunteers. These are so amazing (if I do say so myself), I have a feeling someone will be getting a collection of blank cards for Christmas. Shhh...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rescuing the Spider

My friend Tracie called me up and asked me to come get the spider in her window sometime during the weekend. She and her brother, Steven, had shown me the spider while I was visiting during the summer. Tracie and Steven are both afraid of spiders. Especially Steven. They said this was a giant spider. When I saw it originally, I said, "yeah, the spider's big, but it's not that big." I started to lift the window to try to get it outside for them, but they would not allow it. They say they'll kill it at some point and I lecture them about it being bad luck to kill spiders (despite my atheism, I consider superstitions to be hard and fast rules).

Fast forward to today and Tracie is cleaning the house and figures that spider must be dead and she wants to get all the midges out of the sill anyway, so she'll just vacuum it all up. Problem is that the spider's still alive. She decides against vacuuming him up because he could live in the vacuum and crawl out of it and eat them all while they're sleeping. So she calls me up. She says that I have to come get the spider if I think that it's bad luck to kill them. It's become my job to rescue the spider. I keep telling people throughout the days leading up to the event that I have to go rescue a spider later on. This gives everyone pause. They all want to know if I literally mean rescue and why exactly one would want to do that. I thought everyone knew it was bad luck to kill spiders. Guess I was wrong.

A couple days later, I pack up a bag and take the boys over to visit. In my bag, I bring scissor clamps, a bug catching cup, cotton balls, and a glass jar. I borrow Tracie's rubbing alcohol and get to work. The bug catching cup looks like a pair of scissors, but with a ball on the end. The spider is crammed into a little nook though, so using them against all the flat surfaces proves difficult. I saturate a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and start chasing him all about the sill, getting him drunk and drowsy. I put the glass jar in the sill and eventually am able to chase him into it. He's really drowsy by then. We seal him up and take him home.

Meanwhile, Aleks and Bastian entertain Steven and Tracie's boyfriend Jeff with video gaming. The next day, all the neighborhood kids are over for some reason and Anna and Jonas and Lavinia stop by as well. Anna and I spy a locust in the garden while trying to catch crickets for the spider to eat, so she has me catch the locust. I make a joke about putting the locust in the jar with the spider and having a gladiator fight. Somehow, we decide this is a good idea though secretly I think we both agreed that it was inhumane and terrible. We put them together in the jar and all the children watched...

Luckily for our moral sense of well-being, nothing happened. The spider and locust seemed mostly terrified of one another and tried very desperately to stay on opposite sides of the jar. Then Jon came home and rescued them both by tossing them in the flower bed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Papa the Goon

Dating back to the late 1980s, it's been a serious tradition in my family to grow massive amounts of basil and harvest them just before the first frost for a day of pesto making. This is very serious business. Originally we would just make the occasional batch and would have to purchase basil. Then, we started growing it because it grows very easily and heartily from seed, which is cheap. Then, we realized that pesto freezes quite nicely. So we started growing more. The year I was 16, we grew two full 12-foot rows of basil. After I left home, Lilly once planted four rows of basil. They couldn't even harvest it all. I remember Jim once commenting that we had enough pesto in the freezer to have one container a week through June.

We're giving the family of origin a run for its money. Jon was up til nearly 6 a.m. processing all this.
I spent $33 on pine nuts. We use pine nuts instead of walnuts because they are the appropriate nut to use. Also, he is a goon.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cheesy Ghosts!

Aleks insisted I get this children's food magazine when we were at Whole Foods one day. I have no idea what he was interested in as he never makes food. It must have been the Halloween theme. The cupcakes were all very cool and there was a recipe for fruit leather which was not very good, but which inspired me and I cobbled together a recipe from it and the internet. Then I burnt the fruit leather and promptly made all my City Fresh buds go in on a dehydrator with me. But alack, this post is about ghosts.

For some reason, Jon noticed the rag and decided ghosts looked simple and awesome and made them also very much not according to the exact recipe. He made his own dough and used different eye and mouth bits. The kids still thought he was the bestest dad in the whole world for it. Cuz he is.

Also note the hippie decor.

Cleveland: You Gotta be Tough

I've come to the conclusion that historians are either OCD, Asberger's savants or (and I may just be building my own escape hatch) people at peace with total chaos. At bottom, we organize information. Often this information is scattered throughout thousands of books, diaries, newspapers, corporate earning reports, morgue statistics, a half-buried oil pipeline that now houses a chipmunk colony, and, well, you get the idea. In fact, visualizing the sources that comprise a single history, which is to say a single argument or idea, is quite a burden in itself. Flip to the bibliography and you will be able to recreate the journey of five, or say, ten years in a single afternoon. Although you might be able to stack these documents into a tidy pile on your kitchen table by following the bibliography and maxing out your library card, the historian's journey is far less efficient.

Any event, even one as modest as this post, makes an impression in the historical record that immediately begins to vanish like a footprint in river mud. Most, and I mean 99.9999999% of human history has completely vanished from memory and record. Think about that next time you snuggle up with a text that promises the "History" of anything. Honest historians have turned downright biblical in describing their pessimism of discovering any big "T" Truth. They argue that the profession, even at its best, can only hope to view the past "through a glass darkly." I prefer to get, in the tradition of Carl Sagan, downright cosmic. Each event, whether a battle, a kiss, or a butterfly fart, is a miracle for it represents the only time in which all the variables exist in a single place at once. With every passing second the fates of nations push a battle front one way or another, time alters lovers' relationships, and the fickle wind blows our butterfly flatulence to distant lands. How much of the evidence can we hope to reassemble in front of our body's sensory apparatus from any event in the distant past? 1%? .01%? .000000000000001%?

I have been on a quest these past five years to view as much of the detritus left in the wake of the Standard Oil Company that is humanly possible. Even with an organization as anal about record keeping as a corporation and characters as self-congratulatory as John D. Rockefeller I have had to battle the cruelty of Time. Yeah, I'm personifying Time as the Greeks would have done (Chronos). I imagine her as a mischievous teenage girl, but no matter. She swallowed up nearly all the company's records from their California business during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. She laughed as the US Supreme Court shattered the company into 34 separate corporations, splintering their records along the way as each company was swallowed by another that, at times, cared very little about preserving the history of its new "property," as I have been informed by the head archivist at British Petroleum concerning the whereabouts of the quite substantial Standard Oil of Indiana's (aka Amoco) records. Each scrap of the past I do find, therefore, represents a small but satisfying victory over this petulant mistress.

This past Wednesday, to make this long story short, I struck a virtual vein of evidentiary gold. Forty-five reels of microfilm of the Chicago Tribune from the 19th century had been shipped to my library here at Case Western Reserve University from my Alma Mater in Columbus and, over the course of eight hours, I pulled 25 pages of notes out of the nether. Likely enough material, with a few other documents I already have, for an entire chapter of my dissertation. Serious fucking business. I didn't eat, didn't visit the bathroom, hardly blinked, I served as a translator and recorder and captured all of this on my laptop. But as I was working on my last reel and the last rays of sunlight were vanishing over the horizon I began to feel a growing anxiety. I realized that much of my work and certainly the hours worth of notes from the previous weeks was contained within the memory of my laptop and NOWHERE else. Why hadn't I backed up this info?

What was boring into my confidence wasn't concern that I might, by accident, spill water on my keyboard or drop my laptop on the way to my car but a realization that I was about to walk outside into a world that has become something akin Mad Max beyond Thunderdome. Earlier that day, the charter one bank on campus that shares a building with Starbucks had been held up for the THIRD day in a row. In the past years the security updates I get via my campus email have been a litany of horrors from rape at Wade Lagoon, a beatdown in the middle of Mayfield, and countless stick-ups for pocket change and cellphones. I made it to my car, walking faster than normal out of Kelvin Smith Library and down East boulevard, and told my friends over a beer later that night that I was completely prepared to run or fight in the event I was robbed. My life's work was worth such a risk after all I had put into it. Such is the desperation of a graduate student. They thought I was either lying or insane and recommended several ways of making my data redundant. If you think I'm mad, when I got home later that night I found this sitting in my inbox:


Case Western Reserve University Police and Security Services

Location of Incident: Kelvin Smith Library & East Blvd near Bellflower Rd.

Date of incident: October 13, 2010

Time of Incident: 10:47pm

Incident Description: While walking near the east side of the Kelvin Smith Library, a student reported he was approached by a male who demanded he turn over his property of value. The student advised the male that he didn't have any property to turn over and then fled. The suspect then ran through Freiberger Field towards the intersection of East Blvd. and Bellflower Rd. where he encountered another student. The suspect demanded the second student turn over his property of value and after receiving a small amount of cash and a cellphone, walked northbound on East Blvd. attempting to leave the area.

Additional Information: During both incidents the suspect motioned to the victims that he had a gun underneath his outer clothing, however, no weapon was seen. Case Western Reserve University Police and University Circle Police toured the area and located a suspect matching the description provided. The suspect was positively identified by one of the victims and was in possession of the stolen items. He was subsequently arrested by Case Western Reserve University Police for two counts of robbery.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Waitin' on the Veggie Truck

Before I could get all my newly-inherited City Fresh manager crap* out of the car, Aleks had joined Chauncy and Natalie to wait for Josh's arrival curbside. It was cute when I walked up.

*I am now the new manager of the City Fresh Coventry stop, which requires that I be responsible for the things that go wrong next year. Woah boy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Autumnal Texture

Part of creating an ideal childhood is embedding the surroundings with the right textures which suggest an ambient calm and peace which instills the child with appropriately joyful and loving memories. This of course leads to an adult child who is balanced, well-adjusted, compassionate, kind, and who seeks out work that is meaningful and which benefits all sentient life. The materials used to do so must be from nature and exhibited in muted but bright and sunny colors. Thus, I place flowers which we grow in our garden and apples from the farm in glass and handmade ceramic containers on the table at which my children eat and strew boxed macaroni and cheese and bits of filth and goo and drop all manner of edibles beneath for the ants to eat.
It gives me something to meditate on so I don't wring their precious necks when they've been screeching for too long.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Saturday Afternooning

Natalie had some time before work and we had some time because, well, we usually do, so we decided to make a trip to Horseshoe Park to take a walk. It was lovely. Jon had to run out to buy post-it flags for all the intense reading he's doing these days, so we brought him along than sent him on his way. He sat in the car reading for the remainder of our walk. The weather was lovely for mid-October and the boys got to run off lots of steam and look at weird pods and bugs and all manner of things that they normally explore out in the world.

Afterward, Natalie went off to work and we went out for pizza. The boys watched through a glass window as many pies were made. One of the line cooks repeatedly threw ingredients at the glass, which made them laugh hysterically. Jon and I had nice quiet downtime without having to make dinner or rush anything.
Later, I went out with friends and the boys all went to Target for Pokémon cards, I believe (there's a bit of an obsession developing around these parts).

All around, a lovely day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pickin' Pumpkins

We met our friend's Heather and Joe out for picking out pumpkins one fine Friday afternoon. I think Wednesday afternoon is best because no one else is there, but alas, schedules would not allow it. It was still far less crowded at the fruit farm than on Saturdays. I didn't get photos of both children with the pumpkins because Jon came along for the first time in several years and wouldn't allow it. Jon splains why we must hurry up and get home to the roast he's put in the oven, lest the house burns down somehow. He also got a very lopsided white pumpkin, not to my particular taste. Additionally, he did not take the many necessary minutes I prefer to ensure the seven different pumpkins we always buy were of several different sizes and shapes. They all seemed mostly round. Ah well, I must release myself from the burden of an expectation of perfection, mustn't I? What better place to start than right here. Breathe...
The boys got some donuts and Heather calmed Jon down a bit so we could relax.
We decided to go for a walk even to let the boys (Aleks, Bastian, and Joe) all run off some necessary energy. We could see all the way to the lake. I always like that.

Jon remained secretly displeased that the roast might be busy burning the house down.
Aleks was very released from any burden.
Bastian attacked Heather.
I cultivated joy and zen.
The house did not burn down. We bought 7 pumpkins. The biggest this year was 46 pounds.