Better than the shirt off my back

My oldest just started kindergarten, and he needed some school supplies, of course. Among those supplies was a paint shirt, and the instructions said an old adult-sized shirt would be fine.

We sent him with something, but he wanted a different one his second week of school–something bigger than what we sent him initially, so that it would cover his legs too. “I want a plain shirt,” he told me. “One with no writing on it.”

Then he paused. “The shirt you have on looks good.” Read more

Creative play with boys

On Saturday morning, my wife went out for a few hours to run errands and left me home with the boys. And when she came home, I was on the living room floor building a garage out of Mega Bloks (an oversized Lego knockoff for toddlers) with them. My oldest is really, really into Cars right now (the Pixar movie, not the New Wave band), and that improvised Mega Blok garage was just about the greatest thing ever–well, maybe just all day, which in a 3-year-old’s mind, might as well be forever.

“I never would have thought to do that with boys,” my wife said.

Read more

I wanna blow bubbles!

My oldest son’s obsession is blowing bubbles. If he’s awake, it’s what he wants to do. If he doesn’t want to do something, offering to let him blow bubbles if he does that something often works.

The trouble is that an 8 ounce bottle lasts him about an hour and costs between 75 cents and a dollar. That can make for an expensive 3-day weekend, unless you make it yourself.I’ve seen a number of recipes. The recipe I tried may not be the best, but it’s better than any of the commercial formulations we’ve tried.

I took 1/4 cup of Costco dish detergent (it was what I had), 1/2 cup of water, and a tablespoon of sugar, which I stirred and poured into his used bubble bottle.

Most recipes suggest Dawn or Joy. For these purposes, I’m sure concentration matters a lot more than brand. Some recipes call for glycerin or corn syrup instead of sugar. Corn syrup and glycerin aren’t things I have any other reason to keep around, so I used sugar.

The concoction left enough room in his 8-ounce bottle to make it easier to use.

Google says a gallon of Dawn costs $15 at warehouse stores. That would make 64 refills, cutting the cost to about 25 cents a pop. I don’t remember what the Costco brand costs, but it’s probably less than that.

Carousel.

On Sunday, we took our son to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, the oldest and one of the largest–if not the largest–establishment of its kind. I didn’t really know what to expect, so I picked up a brochure and had a look.

The brochure recommended either starting or ending the day on the 4th floor, with a carousel ride.We didn’t do either, but we made our way up there eventually. I’ve only ridden on an antique carousel once, about 25 years ago. There’s a carousel built in 1890 (I looked it up) near my dad’s hometown in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

The Indianapolis carousel was built in 1917 by Gustav Dentzel, a carousel manufacturer in Philadelphia. Through a series of unfortunate events, eventually the carousel ended up being rebuilt, restored, and installed at the museum. A series of signs tells the story of this particular carousel, along with a brief history of them. Although some 5,000 carousels were built between 1880 and 1930, only about 175 of them remain.

When we arrived, the carousel was pretty much full, with a line waiting to get on. We stood off to the side and watched–both the carousel and our son. He watched the carousel, and lit up as soon as the carousel started moving and the music started playing. He started laughing, and I don’t think he took his eyes off it until it stopped moving.

At first we weren’t so sure about him riding the carousel, since he’s still so young. We definitely ruled out a ride on a moving animal, but after that reaction, not going for a ride would just be cruel.

So once it stopped moving, we got in line. Fortunately we were able to find a bench in a chariot, big enough for the three of us. He sat in the middle, his eyes huge with anticipation. I’ve never seen him sit patiently for anything before–he’s less than 20 months old–but he was perfectly willing to sit for this. After what must have seemed like an eternity to him, the carousel started moving, the colorful wooden animals started pumping up and down, and the old Wurlitzer organ started playing. It moved faster than I expected, but he wasn’t scared. He just held on and enjoyed the ride.

It must have lasted all of five minutes. But what a five minutes it was.

There’s something timeless and almost magical about those old carousels.

If you’re ever in Indianapolis, go. If there’s an authentic, pre-1930 carousel somewhere near you, go. You’ll never regret it, and they really don’t make ’em like that anymore.

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