Family: May 2003 Archives

A remarkable gift


Blogger Rachel Lucas has posted a touching tribute to her grandpa, a WWII vet who passed away last week. She tells of a remarkable gift he gave his grandchildren:

You see, Grandpa had a camcorder in the 1990s, and at family gatherings, he was always there in the background, silent, recording little snippets of our lives. What I didn't know was that he also used to have an 8 mm movie camera (sans sound) in the 1960s and 70s. Unbeknownst to me, he'd taken reels and reels of footage of my siblings and me when we were infants and toddlers.

So, late in his life, he decided to put all the footage he'd ever taken onto one VHS tape. He sat down one day and set up his 8 mm projector to play the movies on a white wall. Then he put his modern-day camcorder on a tripod and aimed it at that wall. While he played the old movies, he recorded with the camcorder. The best part is that as the silent 8 mm movies played on the wall, he narrated into the camcorder.

Read the whole thing, and have a look at Rachel's more recent entries, too.

Just back from a weekend trip to Lawrence, Kansas, to see my cousin graduate from high school. We made some stops on the way there and back to give Dad a break and let the kids run around.

On the way home tonight, we stopped for nearly two hours at Riverside Park in Independence, Kansas. Independence is a little city of about 10,000, county seat of Montgomery County. Like most Kansas county seats, it is a beautiful town, with tree-lined streets of tidy Late Victorian and Craftsman homes, a stately courthouse, and a downtown of beautifully restored commercial buildings which appear to be fully occupied.

Riverside Park sits on the north side of town, 124 acres above the banks of the Caney River, and features a small zoo, two playgrounds, an antique carousel, a lighted fountain, miniature golf, a miniature train ride, and tennis courts.

Our first stop on entering the park was the big playground near the Carousel. This is where Joe (nearly 7) wanted to spend his time. Visiting the playground is like traveling through time, starting with big metal behemoths probably built in the '50s, through '60s fiberglass bouncy horses, earth-toned climbing equipment from the '70s, up through a plastic play complex from the late '90s.

The behemoths to which I refer are old but very well maintained pieces of equipment which were designed with the assumption of a level of acceptable risk in child play which exceeds that of our safety-conscious age:

  • A 12 foot high platform, providing access to five slides -- two straight and flat, two straight but wavy, and a curly slide -- reached by two steep metal ladders. The platform has a "guard rail" about 18 inches high, just high enough to catch a grownup's feet as he falls off and ensure that he hits the ground head first. The steps of these ladders are wrought iron manifestations of the the words "FUN FUL", which I take to be the manufacturer's name. I only found one reference to such a company on the web, a photo of a merry-go-round ride called an "Ocean Wave", circa 1920. I remember something very much like that in the playground in front of Catoosa Elementary School, and I think I saw one in Seiling Park in Broken Arrow within the last 10 years (no longer there).
  • A twelve-foot high "fire tower" featuring a big hole in the floor (for a fire pole) as well as a straight slide.
  • A six-foot slide platform with metal sheets extending down either side -- the kind that will fry you like bacon on a hot summer day.
  • An antique ladder truck. A real one. Not something wooden and small with rubber bumpers over the sharp edges, not a relic fenced in and out of reach, but a real old fire truck that kids can climb all over. The steering wheel actually turns the wheels, which have real (mostly flat) tires. You can climb all the way back on the ladder. Sadly, the controls to raise, extend, and swivel the ladder have been disabled, probably by order of some safety-obsessed killjoys.
  • A spinning circle -- the kind with the raised elongated bumps at right angles for traction, and bars radiating and rising from the center, then forking out and connecting to the edge. Joe was riding it, having me spin him faster and faster. As he was spinning, and as I was pondering whether, out of appreciation for the City of Independence having the guts to keep this classic play equipment available, I would refrain from filing suit if one of my kids were injured -- as if he could read my mind, Joe launched himself off the circle. His foot was caught by one of the handholds and it seemed he might be dragged around, but the circle stopped quickly. Joe was fine, grinning. He got up, brushed off the sand (that's what they use around all the play equipment -- not hard, splintery wood chips, but nice soft sand). "I intended to do that. I thought it would be cool to jump off!"
  • Big heavy seesaws, the kind that will perform reverse traction on your spine if your partner suddenly scrams.

Katherine (nearly 3) was not all that interested in the playground. She wanted to ride the carousel with Mommy. And she did, probably about 15 times. When it's only a nickel a ride, you can ride 15 times. The carousel is beautifully restored, protected from the elements by a recently constructed canopy.

The train wasn't running -- it's only 25 cents -- and we didn't take time for the mini-golf course which illustrates the history of Independence (only $1 a game). We did stock up on sodas from the vending machines for the ride home -- only 50 cents a can.

The extra carousel rides and time on the playground was in lieu of a stroll through the park's Ralph Mitchell Zoo. The zoo mainly features small animals, and the centerpiece is a WPA-built monkey island, which was once home to astro-monkey Miss Abel. As recently as our last visit, three years ago, the zoo was just part of the park, accessible whenever the park was open. Now there was a tall wire fence surrounding the zoo, and they close the zoo at 8 p.m. My wife asked the lady at the carousel ticket booth what had changed. She said federal zoo regulators required the fence and the 24-hour presence of a zookeeper.

As we loaded up the car for the trip home we could hear the wild cries of the peafowl which roam the zoo grounds.

Cute baby pictures!


First baby toad of the season! The toads return to our backyard goldfish pond every year near the vernal equinox with a raucous party by the light of the full moon. Within a few days, strings of toad eggs decorate the water, and shortly thereafter, thousands of tadpoles.

It's two months later, almost a full moon, and tonight we caught this little fella. I would tell you whether it's a boy or a girl, but such activity was prohibited by my alma mater.


Meanwhile, the grown-up toads (at least 11 by Mikki's count) are having another noisy full moon party, uninhibited by MIT regulations. More cute babies will be on their way soon, it seems....


Joe reminded me of another cute baby picture I intended to post. We saw this armored little bundle of joy near his T-ball field, scuttling off the road into the tallgrass. Couldn't be more than five or six inches long, excluding the tail.


Fine Arts Day


This morning was Fine Arts Day for the "Enrichment" classes (pre-K and kindergarten) at Regent Prep School. There was a wonderful program: The pre-K children recited the Beatitudes and recited and acted out nursery rhymes. (Since it's a private school, Old King Cole was allowed to have his pipe, and seemed reluctant to give it up after his bit was done.) Both classes sang hymns, including "The Old Rugged Cross". Then the kindergarten class -- my son's class -- recited Ephesians 6:10-20 (the armor of God), recited a poem about the months of the year, interspersed with seasonal songs. Joe, our son, even got to play xylophone for one of the songs.

After the program, the parents and grandparents went to the classroom to view the children's art work. Regent has a wonderful art teacher, Mrs. Cathy Ambrose, who has a great rapport with her students and has really inspired Joe. He is ready to go to Paris and Rome tomorrow to see the Louvre and the Sistine Chapel. Art at Regent includes some free creation, but focuses on learning about the great artists and their art. They learn to notice details by doing reproductions of famous works.

Joseph was proudest of his seascape diorama, which featured a wobbegong, a kind of carpet shark found off the coast of Australia. Alas, a friend accidentally damaged one of the "sea fans" in the diorama and knocked down the fish, which had been suspended as if swimming. Joe was crushed, understandably, but what really bothered him was that the damage occurred before the other parents got to see what a great job he had done. He recovered and enjoyed the rest of the day, but we got an interesting glimpse into what motivates our boy.

Pat McGuigan visited Regent a few weeks ago; you can find his article at Tulsa Today. The school is in the midst of a capital campaign to purchase the old Children's Medical Center on I-44 for its campus. Regent is part of a national movement for classical Christian education, endowing the student with the wealth of our Western Civilization, and grounding him in a Biblical worldview. We've had to tighten our belts, but I'm thankful that God has blessed us with the means to send Joe there. Perhaps someday, a state school choice program in Oklahoma will give more children the opportunity to enjoy the advantages of a classical education.

And in sports....


Son Joe's T-ball team won 28-14, an impressive feat in a league that plays four innings, with a max of seven runs per inning. His team managed to shut the other team out in two innings by getting three putouts before they scored a run, a very rare feat in this league, where players cannot play the same infield position more than once a game. Joe, as second baseman, got an assist on one of those six putouts, scooping up the ball and tossing it to first just in the nick of time.

I guess Major League Baseball can be more exciting in some ways, but there's nothing like seeing six-year olds unexpectedly convert a ground ball into a "routine" out at first.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Family category from May 2003.

Family: June 2003 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]