Saturday, May 25, 2013

So it turns out that the digital revolution has a few drawbacks, nostalgia-wise. (From The Cheesecake Truck To The End Of The Line)

Just before I got married to Sweetie, I made a mixtape to take on our honeymoon road trip to New York. The other day, I found that tape and decided to tell the story of our honeymoon through the songs on that tape. This is part 13; click here for the Table of Contents.

Here's two problems I ran into this morning.

First, I haven't actually written an entry in this ongoing series in three years.

Three years.

When my randomly-selected topic came up this morning as "Cheesecake Truck," I went back to see the last time I posted something in this series, and the last time was June 3, 2010, which seems impossibly long ago.

Impossibly long ago.  Just a quick, off-the-top-of-my-head list of all the major things that have happened since June 3, 2010 includes:

-- I almost died of bee stings.
-- I had a heart attack.
-- Mr F ran away from home
-- I ran for judge
-- I stopped running for judge.
-- I got made a partner in my law firm.
-- Mr F and Mr Bunches started school.
-- Mr F hurt his head and had to have surgery
-- The Boy started college
-- The Boy stopped college.
-- Middle finished college.
-- Middle got married

And that's just the big stuff list.  We've also gone on vacation to Florida and moved my office from downtown to the south of town and Sweetie's dad's wife died and there've been movies and dates and adventures galore.

Three years seems too short of a time to fit all those things in there.

Let alone how long it's been since we actually went on our honeymoon -- thirteen years, and I'm not even going to begin to list all the things that have happened since then, since that would amount to re-creating this blog.

I was thinking about that, actually, as it happens, yesterday afternoon, when we got back to the house from the field trip.  I took yesterday off as my Memorial Day: since Mondays off are stupid, and while Mr F and Mr Bunches and I were up at the Little Park On The Mountain I was trying to think what it was Sweetie and I had done for Memorial Day the first weekend we were married.

I was in part trying to think that because I like to look back at my life, sometimes, and see where I am and where I thought I'd be.  "And you may ask yourself," I always hear in the back of my head, at those times, "How did I get here?"

So I look back, now and then, and think "A year ago, five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago," and that's what I was doing yesterday, thinking back as I helped Mr F get up onto the slide, to what I was doing last year on Memorial Day.

Last year on Memorial Day weekend -- remember, I work every Memorial Day -- I was likely getting ready to go on the family reunion trip to Florida that would start in three weeks, and packing up my old office to get ready for the move to the new one, and breaking in my new associate and new paralegal and new law clerk, since last year at this time I for the first time in 13 years with my firm had full-time employees who worked for me, spreading the workload around.

After that, it gets a bit hazy. Memorial Day isn't the biggest holiday for me, you know?  We never really do anything to celebrate it, which was probably why I was thinking of that this week.

When Sweetie and I had our weekly budget meeting on Wednesday night, I asked her what money she wanted to request for the budget this weekend.  She decided how much she needed for groceries, and for gas, and then I made my requests for gas and for some money to use as incentives for the people who work for me -- every week one of my staffers gets a $10 Amazon gift card -- and then, before we adjourned the budget meeting for the week, Sweetie said:

"I'd like to request $50 for the weekend."

"Why?" I asked.  "What are you doing?"

"Nothing," she said, and went on:  "I don't know.  I just thought maybe we'd do something.  Go get ice cream or order pizza or something.  We never do anything for Memorial Day. So I thought we'd do something."

So I agreed we could use fifty bucks to "do something" this weekend, without knowing what we were doing and what we might want to do to celebrate Memorial Day weekend.

(So far, we have used part of that money to buy McDonald's yesterday for lunch on the way home from the field trip.  Sweetie got the cheeseburgers.  I got the "Ranch Chicken BLT" because I decided a week or two ago that I shouldn't just limit myself to McDonald's cheeseburgers, because it is possible that I am just a little bit too hooked on them, no, seriously it is, so I decided that I would not eat another cheeseburger until I had tried every other thing to eat on McDonald's menu except for the "Filet O' Fish" because that is disgusting.)

(So you can see that as my life progresses, I am also growing as a person.  I don't know if it's sad or wonderful that I live in a time when I can actually have as a personal growth device/goal "Eat every kind of sandwich at a fast food restaurant.)

(The decision to give up on cheeseburgers for a while is a facet of number 7 on this list of 1001 ways to improve the world.)

(There is a reason this post recalls so many other of my blogs: It's because I'm thinking about my life, which I have written many blogs about.)

But we have also agreed that probably today -- which is gray, and rainy, and cold, and miserable-ish outside but fun inside, as we've already made pancakes and cooked an egg sandwich for Sweetie and now I'm doing this -- we will go play Skee-Ball, which is fun for Mr Bunches, who wanted to do something fun, and fun for me, because the only place to play Skee-Ball is at one of the two pizza places near us, which means I'm getting pizza for lunch, which is extra-great for me because it also means that I'm having nearly a full day of pizza, because Sweetie wants, tonight, to get delivery pizza and watch the movie "Mama," which means I may be able to do 24 Hours Of Pizza, and this blog is starting to feel like a clip show, isn't it? I recommend right-clicking those links and reading them later so that while I'm having 24 Hours of Pizza, you can have 24 Hours Of Me and develop a deep and profound sympathy for Sweetie.

It seems impossible to me that 13 years ago we didn't do anything to celebrate Memorial Day, because back then I didn't work Mondays, and in fact, back then I didn't work for my firm at all.  Sweetie married a self-employed (?) lawyer who had his own office, a two-room windowless brown paneled "suite" in the basement of an office building not far off campus, about a half-mile from the law school I'd graduated from just two years earlier, and thinking back to then it also seems entirely possible that we didn't do anything to celebrate Memorial Day back then because we probably had almost no money,  at all, or if we did we were earmarking it for rent or a car payment or something.  Life as a self-employed, new lawyer doing criminal defense and divorce work sounds glamorous -- no, it actually doesn't -- but it doesn't pay well, either, or at least it doesn't if you are me and you are not very good (at the time) at getting paid well.

When we got married, I contributed, to the marriage, mostly potential.  We were married in 2000 and that year Sweetie probably earned twice what I did, which is to say, not very much, given that we already had three kids.  We lived, when we got married, in a three-bedroom apartment only about 1 1/2 miles from where we live now, but that 1 1/2 miles has stretched out over 13 years to be longer and longer and longer, until it seems now that the 1 1/2 miles could wrap to the moon and back.

The apartment was nice enough, and we spruced it up with some stuff we bought with our wedding money: the "big chair," and a rack for plants on the small balcony where we almost never sat, and some bar stools for the breakfast bar, and things like that -- things we don't really have any more, except for the plant rack, which stands on our back porch now and holds not plants, which only I ever cared about and now I don't care about having anymore, but instead the plant rack holds a few bricks and a toy plastic bulldozer that has sat outside for the last five years on the plant rack, until this year when I moved it to the back yard as a decoration.

I used to believe in having plants in the house.  Up until a few years ago, we always had at least a few plants.  I had, when we got married, a fern-like plant that was growing in a small brown cup that I'd brought back with me from Morocco years before.  The cup was painted on the inside with some black substance that was supposed to make the water cold the instant it touched it.  I don't know that it worked, in the cup, but it worked in Morocco, where you could walk around the bazaar and there were these guys, I forget what they were called, but they'd sell you a sip of cold water for a nominal price, usually maybe a dirham, which is the Moroccan unit of currency and was, at the time, equal to about a dime, so even a poor college student like me was impossibly rich in Morocco.  The water these guys sold was always ice cold, which was a miracle, in Morocco, where refrigeration was not common either as a desired thing -- cold drinks are not especially prized, there -- or as a thing that was possible.

I had, too, some other houseplants including once a nearly-10-foot tall "corn plant" that was made by cutting a piece of Sweetie's mom's plant and putting it in a big pot we bought and growing that, the plant looking remarkable to me in our living room, so big.  I would like, still, a living room full of plants and sunlight, so that I could feel like I was sitting outside without actually having to go outside, where nature is.

But over the years, the plants died, as I became busier and cared less about them and more about my job or my kids or my wife or my other hobbies, which are too numerous to count and are always being added to.  (Or not.  Yesterday, at the farm on the field trip, I saw that they sold chickens for $5.  "I have five dollars!" I told her.  "No." she told me.)

The only plant that didn't die is the one in my office, the one that Sweetie gave me one year and which has grown and grown, faithfully, over the years, moving to its new location in my new office, where it presides over a collection of baby toys that the boys have outgrown but which I keep in my office as decoration, and where it stands next to the three hopeful red cups of Mr Bunches Traveling Salvation Garden (Office Edition.)

So we probably didn't have much money, Sweetie and I, when we got to that first Memorial Day as a married couple 13 years ago, and we probably didn't need to do much, anyway,  as we'd have been home from our honeymoon for only a couple of weeks, anyway, the honeymoon that we'd celebrated by driving to the worst possible hotel in Cleveland ever, and then to Buffalo, and then to New York, and then to home, all backed by the soundtrack I'd prepared,

on cassette tape, which now poses a problem in listening to those songs.

Because they are on cassette tape, and therefore are at the moment completely inaccessible to me at present.

One of the things I liked about mix tapes, back when mix tapes were still something that existed, was that they could sort of freeze time, in a way, through sound. I had a technique that I used throughout law school to study.  When I'd study a given subject for an exam, I would listen to the same mix tape over and over again, using that mix tape only for that subject.  Then, the morning of the exam, I would go to the law school and just sit and relax and listen to that mixtape.  (I never studied the day of exams.  You either know it or you don't, and when I see people frantically preparing at the last minute for an exam or trial or whatever, all I can think is "Last minute 'preparation' should always be in quotations, because "last minute preparation" is a synonym for "not having prepared.")

With some of my old mix tapes, when I listen to them, I can remember biking along Lake Michigan in the summer when I was in college, or getting ready for my first jury trial, or a snowy Christmas when the kids gave me the "Jimmy Eat World" CD as a present.

And, of course, with the "Honeymoon" mixtape, I could easily conjure up almost every aspect of the trip, from singing along with the songs on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the first time we saw Times Square to the wayside where we bought some "Ohio" T-shirts on the way home, just because.

One of the reasons I started going back and writing these series -- "94" and "Cheesecake Truck" and "Vacation" and "Pole-Vaulting" (and note my restraint in not throwing up more links to those) -- was that I worry about my memory.  As I move forward, my memory doesn't grow longer, it seems to me.   It stays the same, like a kid dragging a blanket behind him.  The blanket doesn't stretch out from his bed to the stairs to the hallway to the couch.  It pulls the same length behind him, and if it brings anything of the bedroom to the couch with it, it's by chance, caught in a fold of the blanket and able to drop out at any time.

That's how I feel my memory works:  just keeping pace with me, not bothering to hold onto stuff, getting rid of things as easily as we got rid of the big chair that we bought with our wedding money, which was not easy at all, actually: it moved from the apartment to the duplex, from the duplex to our living room in our first (and still only) house we bought, then from the living room to the family room in the basement, and finally, after it got too old to even be wanted by the older kids for their apartments, after it smelled too much of old cat and mildew to salvage, it went to the garage, but soon, it will be hauled to the dump and then it will be only a memory and then someday it will only exist in pictures of the older kids when they were little, all of them piled together on the chair and smiling at a camera I hold.

That worry, that my memory can't hold everything it wants to hold, is bolstered by the fact that so much seems to happen that I want to remember or need to remember.  I have lists and reminders and two calendars and emails and post-its and more, and I have Sweetie, who is Memory, Personified -- she remembers the birthdates of nephews we have never met, nephews I don't even remember.

"We're sending a present to" some name, she'll say, and I'll ask who that is.  "It's your sister's son," she'll say.  But sometimes lately I will call Mr F by Mr Bunches' name, and vice versa, because that is what dads do, or at least what I do.

I take pictures incessantly, worried that some aspect of the trip to the beach or the trip to the mall or the trip to the McDonald's that is only a mile away will be forgotten and I won't want it to be forgotten, but it will, anyway,  replaced by some newer memory that maybe won't be as good.  I know my life keeps getting better and better, but that doesn't mean I want the older memories packed into a garage and then shuffled away.

And then, one Saturday morning, the rain stopping and the sun still not coming out, I decide to write again about my honeymoon, get a little bit more down on paper and see if I can't freeze some more memories here so I can go make some more there -- replacing, maybe, the souvenir store in Times Square where we bought The Boy a small Statue of Liberty, a Statue that last year Mr Bunches found in The Boy's old room and played with for a while -- replacing that with Skee-Ball or a trip to the airport or something -- and I find out that I can't even play the mixtape, and I can't remember what songs are on it, and now I'm stuck just generally reminiscing about things, wondering what the next song was and what memories might come out when I play it, and wondering, too, if I can convene and emergency budget meeting to free up ten bucks to go to the Dollar Store or Walgreen's and see if they don't have an old cassette-playing Walkman I could buy.  They must, right?

They must.

I can't be the only person who still has, in the back of a drawer in his old dresser underneath old postcards, a cassette tape of songs he put together to perfectly symbolize the marriage he was entering into with the love of his life, right?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

This week in unfortunate ship-repairing attempts.

We couldn't find the central mast, and how can you play without a central mast?

Tonight: We go to Plan B.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Does this story ever end? HOPEFULLY NOT. (Life With Unicorns)

Sunday afternoon, I stopped what I was doing to help a little boy get some water to build a sand castle.

I was at the park with Mr F and Mr Bunches, just messing around and wading in the water and the usual stuff and nonsense, and we walked by a woman who was posing her little baby to take pictures in the sand.  Behind her was her other son, who was probably about 2 or 3, and he was trying to build a sand castle.

"Mom," he said, "The castle won't work," and to demonstrate he tried to pour a bucket of sand into a castle.  As foretold, it did not work.

I and Mr Bunches and Mr F were at that point just wading into the water.  The mom said to the son:

"That's 'cause you need some water.  The sand has to be wet."

The boy considered that.

"Can you help me get some water?" he asked.

The kid, I mean, he was 2 or 3 but the lake there isn't actually a beach as such.  It's more a rocky coast with some boat entries on it, which was why we were only wading.  Plus it was pretty wavy and  windy, a kind of forbidding lake entry.  (The pictures on this post are from the trip to the beach, in part.)

"No," the mom told the kid.  "We don't have time.  I've got to get these pictures taken before the storm comes." And she gestured, a gesture that seemed to take in her baby and the storm and, possibly, time, and the lack of it.

I'm not judging. 

I mean, I am, but not really.  It's not my place to raise her kid, but I thought that kind of sucked, to be honest.  Here's this little kid who just needs a bucket of water and he can build a sand castle, and it would take maybe 10 seconds to do that, and instead, he's stuck in dry sand while Mom photographs the baby.

That kind of sucked.

So I said to Mr Bunches and Mr F that we would help the kid.  We went and asked if we could use his buckets.  The kid stared at me, quizzically, probably because I am a total stranger with two hyper little boys, asking to use his buckets.

"To get some water," I explained, and I handed one to Mr Bunches and Mr F and I took another one.  "We'll get the sand wet," I said, and I directed the boys to each get a pail of water and dump it on the sand near him.

The kid still seemed a little freaked out by it.  Which, okay, a total stranger just walked up, took his buckets, and then dumped water on the sand.  And not just a stranger.  Three strangers.  We were a gang, in a sense.

But then he realized what we'd done, and he said "Thanks," and we said "sure" and went to wade in the water.

Not once did Photo Mom say anything to me that I heard.  It was windy and maybe I missed it, but I never heard her say "thanks" or "Quit bugging my kid" or anything like that.  She watched us but didn't say anything at all.  Then, when she was done with her photos, she took the two kids and stood by the water a bit but didn't do much else before she left, so far as I could see.

I think what bugged me about it, first, was that it was so easy to take care of the one kid's need.  Just get him a bucket of water.  Or tell him to get a bucket of water, and if you are uncertain of his ability to do so, help him.  Carry the baby with you.  Whatever.  It's literally ten seconds.  It took us that long and I had to cope with Mr F, who wanted to dump the water on his own head.  Ten seconds and you've got Kid 1 happy and you can go back to taking your dramatic seaside photographs of Kid 2. 

I think that I am particularly sensitive to moments like that.  And I think that I was particularly particularly sensitive to moments like that Saturday, following Mr Bunches' Near-Excellent Airport Adventure, which I'll get to in a moment.

At that point in the weekend, I had spent nearly thirty-almost-consecutive hours bouncing from one activity to another, nonstop, really, except for when I slept and even then I was woken up a few times.   Sweetie had a sore throat and was sick this weekend, so while she gamely pitched in I was trying to help her by keeping the boys occupied and out of her hair, sometimes literally.  (Mr F loves her hair.)

My rule with the boys these days is kind of a simple one.  I have tried over the course of their 6 3/4 years to interact with them on a variety of levels, and sometimes they want me around and sometimes they don't, but mostly they do, and when they do want me around, I want to be there for them, for a variety of reasons, ranging from

A.  They are my kids to
B.   I once worried that they would never be able to tell me they wanted to do something with me.

Here is a true story:

I was in a locker room at the health club one time.  I was changing and getting ready to go running, or something. I don't remember what I was doing there.  What I do remember is that there was a dad with his kid there, a dad with a kid who was telling the dad about a videogame.  And this kid was going on and on and on, really working it.

You know and I know and we all know that that's kind of a boring talk, right?


So I kind of see where this guy was coming from.

Except he says to the kid, in a neutral but sharp tone:

"Does this story ever end?"

So I kind of see where this guy was coming from.

But then, consider what I had spent the night before that doing.

The night before that, I had sat in a hallway with Mr F, who was pretty young then.  One of the books I had read on autism said that to get kids to start talking, you show them something they like -- a toy, or a treat, or something -- and get them to say the name of the thing, then give it to them.  Then you take it from them and have them say the name again.  Then you give it to them.

If that sounds mean, maybe it is.  But it's more tough love, I think.  It's like teaching a regular kid the names of the things he likes by showing them, but you have to do it over and over and over, until the kid, in this case, Mr F, makes the connection that a sound means a thing.

And so I had spent an hour -- an hour -- sitting in a hallway holding a little plastic horse that Mr F liked, and saying horse to him, and showing him the horse, and having him try to say it, and tapping his mouth lightly to show him where he should talk, and putting my mouth right up against his cheek so he could feel my lips move and the air come out, and making him face my lips so he could see me.

"Horse," I said, over and over and over and over.

For an hour.

In that entire time, Mr F never said anything.  Not a sound.  Sometimes, he didn't even seem to realize I was there.  Other times, he regarded me with a curious look, as if he wondered why I was getting so into this horse.  Mostly, he just looked at the horse.

So when that dad said "Does this story ever end?" I wanted to grab him and shake him by the shoulders and ask him how he'd feel if the story never began in the first place.

That mom on the beach, that dad in the locker room -- even me, before Mr F and Mr Bunches were born -- we all take for granted that kids talk and interact and ask for us to wet down their sand or tell us boring neverending stories about their videogames.  I once spent an entire car ride with the older kids telling us all their favorite jokes from the television show "Smart Guy," with each sentence beginning "And then one time, on Smart Guy..." and I'm sure that in the past I've wished for a break, for the kid to stop talking, for a moment to just finish the paragraph or whatever.

But I don't really, anymore.  Now, more often than not, I try as hard as I can to not do that.  I'm not perfect -- I will still sometimes say "Let me just finish this" as I'm doing something like writing a story or watching a movie, but 99% of the time, when Mr F or Mr Bunches wants to do something with me, I hop to it and respond to them.

I don't always let them do it -- sometimes I have to say no, if only for economic reasons, like when Mr Bunches repeatedly suggests that we go to 'Toys For Us,' his aptly-malapropised version of the store's name.  But I do respond to them, as quickly as I can, and as often as I can.

Which leads me to being in the midst of what eventually was nearly 48 hours of nonstop playing with the boys.  From Saturday at 6:15, when Mr Bunches woke up and announced it was "good morning!" and asked me to "big tickle" him on the floor through the trip to my office, where they got to play with the tape, to the free golf course where we golfed four holes, more or less, to the airport and so on and so forth, each time the boys asked me to do something -- Mr Bunches by asking, Mr F by gesturing -- I tried to do it.

Because there had been a time, of course, when I worried that they never would.  It was not so hard to remember hearing, not so many years ago, that they were autistic and wondering if they would ever talk, let alone request that we do things with them.  I can clearly remember lying to their doctor about how many words they used, claiming that each boy used about 20 words at their 2-year checkup when  it would have been a stretch to say they spoke 10 between them.  And I can remember why I lied: because I wanted to hope that they would get those 20 words, and would use them to interact with us the way all our other kids had.

(Well, maybe not exactly the way our other kids had.  It would be fine, for example, if they didn't borrow money or go through the surly part of the teen years.  But, given where they came from, it would be fine if they did that stuff, too.)

They don't always want my input, and so what I do is I try to take breaks around them.  If they are happy and doing their own thing and don't need me involved, I try to use that time to do whatever it is I want to do - -getting my free time during their free time, trying to do the chores when the playing is done, rather than the other way around.  For years, for example, I've come home, eaten dinner, and then cleaned up, and then played with the boys.

But I realized recently that the cleanup can wait (something that sort of drives Sweetie batty, but she agrees with me on the principle of the thing) and the boys can't.  So if we're done with dinner and Mr F wants me to swing him

-- "Push," he said, clear as a bell the other day, and so I pushed him in his swing until he got bored --

then I leave the dishes on the counter and swing him.

Sometimes that means that two whole weekend days go by in a whirlwind and I don't get much of a break and I'm at work on Monday dazed and confused and tired but honestly, that's a better weekend than I could have imagined.  Sometimes that means that they don't want much to do with me and I spend a lot of time reading or watching movies.  It all balances out.

So I'm more sensitive, I think, to people -- including me, as I said, in the past, I'm sure I've done this -- ignoring their kids or putting them off when they shouldn't be put off.  I'm not saying I have to drop work and go home at 3 when the boys get home.  I'm saying that things that don't need to be done can wait, often, until the kids, who need things now, are taken care of.  It's one thing to say "Hey, we've got to do this mortgage refinance, so give me a second here," as I did to the boys yesterday, but it's another, entirely, to put them off for something that's just entertainment.

I mean, Saturday afternoon, Mr Bunches asked me if I wanted to play with him, and at the time, I was reading Wonderella.  I said "sure," and hopped up to play, because when you've spent thousands of hours and thousands of dollars trying to get your son to be able to ask you to play a game with him, it'd be a darn shame to then have him actually ask and you don't respond the right way.

But this weekend, I think I was more attuned to responding the right way because someone else, entirely, responded the right-est way possible to Mr Bunches, who has yet to learn (and I hope he never does) that the world isn't his playground.  I hope he never has to learn that, because thus far, the world magically opens up for Mr Bunches, who has learned (as Mr F is learning) that virtually anything can be his merely for the trying.

Recently, Mr Bunches looked up and saw a jet contrail that he mistook for a rocket.  I let him think it was a rocket, because you can see a jet any old time, but how often do you see a rocket?  We had this conversation:

Mr Bunches:  It's a rocket.
Me:  Yep.
Mr Bunches:  It's going to Saturn.
Me:  Is it?
Mr Bunches: Yes. It's going to Saturn.  With astronauts.
 Me: That's exciting.
Mr Bunches:  Can I be an astronaut?
Me:  Do you want to go on a rocket to Saturn?
Mr Bunches: *nods.*
Me: You have to go to school, and then you will be an astronaut after you go to school long enough.

When we got home, Mr Bunches told Sweetie that he was going to go to school to be an astronaut.

The message I want, and Sweetie wants, to send to Mr F and Mr Bunches is that the world is theirs and all they have to do is ask, and to facilitate that, we have to, as often as we can and as much as makes sense, make sure that when they do ask, they do get the world.

It's easy, because they ask for so little.  They don't -- Mr Bunches' occasional shopping binges on dinosaurs aside -- ask for very much in the way of toys.  They want us to play games with them (the latest is re-enacting the scene where the lawyer gets stung in the butt during Bee Movie) and they want us to tickle them and they want us to make them macaroni and cheese and they want us to let them ride on our shoulders, or they want to go throw rocks in the river or walk around the yard with a hose, and those are all easy enough things to do, if you remember that there was a time you thought they'd never ask to do those kinds of things, so you don't mind very much when they want to "help" you put in the air conditioner by carving a hole in the downstairs wall with a screwdriver.

(Don't tell Sweetie.)

They ask for so little in part because they don't know how, often, to ask for stuff, but they are getting better at it, as they come to realize that interacting with us, with people, is the way to get to do things they want to do, which brings us to the airport, and one of the nicest men I've ever met.

Mr Bunches loves airplanes, and on the way back from gofling and McDonald's on Saturday, he asked if we could go to the airport near Middleton and look at the planes.

Middleton's airport is tiny, just one of those places that small planes can land and take off, hobbyists, mostly, I assume, private pilots with their own Cessnas or whatever.  It's only about four miles from our house and lately we've taken to driving up there and getting out to look and see if any planes are nearby, if any take off or land.  So I said, sure, we could go there, and when we got there, we were surprised to see that there were about 10 planes all near the spot where the public can watch.  Mr Bunches was superexcited, and ran up to the fence while I got Mr F out of the car.

There were two men standing inside the fence, on the runways, near the planes, and Mr Bunches saw them talking.

"Hey! Hey guys! Hey guys!" he yelled at them, over and over.

I have seen Mr Bunches do this numerous times to people who catch his eye -- kids, other adults, the mailman, whoever.  Mr Bunches is always up to talking to people who are doing (or are near) interesting things.

Mostly, those people ignore him, even other kids.  We've been working with him on how to actually approach other kids to play with them, because he has a hard time doing that.  He knows how to ask us to play with him, but hasn't translated that to other people yet.

So when he was yelling "Hey, hey guys!" at these two guys, I figured they'd just ignore him, too, but they turned to him and said hi.

"It's an airplane!" Mr Bunches said, pointing to the nearest plane excitedly.

"It sure is," said one man.

"I like airplanes," said Mr Bunches.

"Do you want to see it?" asked the man.

Mr Bunches practically osmosised himself through the fence, he was so excited.  The man opened up the gate and let us in and Mr Bunches all but hugged the first plane he saw, as the man was showing him the tail and the wings, and then, the man said:

"Would you like to sit inside it?"

By then, Mr F and I were out by the plane, too, Mr F eyeing it nervously, and the guy introduced himself to me and said that he was there with the local EAA Chapter and they'd just had a "young eagles" morning to introduce kids to airplanes.

He also had helped Mr Bunches into the cockpit of the plane and was showing him the controls.

As he did that and as we talked, the man then said "If you'd like, I can take the three of you up for a flight.  I've got a four-seater over there."

I'd have loved to have simply strapped us all into a small plane and gone flying, but there were logistical hurdles to that, the most important of which being that Mr F wouldn't go near the plane.  Because Sweetie was at home, I couldn't leave Mr F on the ground and I couldn't let Mr Bunches go up alone.  As excited as he was and as much as he loves airplanes, I couldn't be assured that he would like flying, and I worried that if he panicked up there, our pilot friend wouldn't be able to handle him and the airplane, especially as he didn't know Mr Bunches the way I did.

So I thanked him and over Mr Bunches' protests declined the flight that day.

And the man said:

"We're doing another one, I think, in July.  Bring him by and we'll take him up then," at which Mr Bunches lit up. He doesn't understand time, really, but he does understand when his dad says
"We'll come back then and go flying."

And he was as happy as a kid can be.

The man showed us around the other planes, explaining things about them to us and letting  Mr Bunches see inside the planes, and generally being a nice guy who went out of his way to spend nearly an hour with three total strangers, for no reason whatsoever other than, I'm guessing, he was a nice guy.

So it was at the end of an exhausting weekend in which Mr F and Mr Bunches never really let up, at all -- on the go constantly, wanting to do stuff constantly, playing and jumping and hosefighting and spilling their cheese puffs and "helping" me get a copy of my office key made and otherwise running me ragged -- that I ended up at the shoreline of Lake Mendota, with two little boys of my own who had convinced me, as tired as I was, to take them to the park and the lake and let them wade into the water for a while.

I didn't take very much convincing, to be fair.  Mr Bunches said "Want to go to the park?" and I put down my Kindle and said "Sure," with as little of a sigh as I could muster.  I was really tired, and had spent the morning playing hose fight and then playing trains and then putting in the air conditioners and then going to the grocery store and then playing chase and then I was on my way to the park, where we walked along the river to the lake and I was holding Mr F's hand to keep him from slipping into the water too fast,

and through all of that, I heard the little boy ask if his mom would help him get some water to wet down the sand to make a sand castle.

A man had, the day before, promised to actually help Mr Bunches fly.

How could I not help that kid make a castle?

How can you not help every kid make a castle, as often as they want?

Picture of the Day