Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Endurance, survival, and walking Conner and Daisy in suburbia

We were in the middle of a wonderful visit from all three grandkids.  But the tension was beginning to show between Conner and Noah, between the kids and us, between us...any conbination you can make.

BUTLER:  "That would be six possible combinations."

It was showing with the kids.  Conner and Noah had stopped playing with their toys and began a war of possession.  Then Conner piled them all up in the middle of the room.

Noah protecting the red bowl
Conner eyeing the crazy man

It was showing with me.  I had surrendered to any pretense of wisely dispensing justice and discipline.  I had sunk to the level that wherever I was in the house, if I heard any sound from any source, anywhere in the house, I simply screamed, "Hey!  Noah!! Conner!!  Cut that out!!" 

Daisy had stopped barking when she saw dogs and their owners walk by and was under the bed wondering why we'd changed her name to Noaconner.  But she usually sleeps under the bed most of the time when the kids are here because she just gets overlooked in the chaos anyhow.

Daisy, by the way, is a rescue dog with PTSD.  People always say she looks cute but, although I'm fond of her, I don't need to think she's pretty.  People ask what she is and I say she's a combination of wire-haired terrier and opossum with the coloring of a hyena.

Yeah, I know...cute dog...I've heard it before.

By now, however, the constantly stratigizing Karen had come up with a win-win-win solution.  She would take Noah and Kay to Wal-Mart and I would walk the dog with Conner. 

Daisy is excited.  Conner is excited.  We start down the street with Conner running ahead, looking back and calling, "Go!  Go!  Go!

Usually, alone, my long walk with Daisy turns back after a half-mile.  But when we reach that point, Conner start to have a fit.  "Go!  Go!"   I agree to go another quarter mile to the gazebo where we sit to catch out breath.  Okay, we sit so I can catch my breath.  When we start to go back, Conner is still adament. He wants to go further.  I try to explain that the further we go the further we have to walk back.  I know he doesn't understand what I am saying, but I say it anyway.

Another quarter mile and we reach a point where it is shorter to go around the neighborhood loop.  Conner takes off running.  We walk a quarter of a mile and 100 yards and Conner suddenly stops.  His feet hurt.  His legs are tired.  He's done.  He reaches up to be carried.  

I reach down, not for him but for my cell phone to call Karen to pick us up after Wal-Mart.  Conner weighs 41 pounds.  And I'm no longer the guy who bicycled around the entire coast of Nova Scotia.  I discover that I left my cellphone on the kitchen table.  I also realizse that the temperature has dropped. It was probably still 50 degrees but we in the deep South think that is nearing absolute zero.

I take a breath, pull Conner up against my hip with one arm and start slogging.

My arm rapidly turns into Silly Putty.  I switch hips.

Then I try piggy-back.  That works better although Conner has now decided that he is completely helpless and can't hold on well so I need to hunch over and reach back to support his constantly slipping butt.  Meanwhile we are in a part of the walking trail where Daisy is rushing from left to right to scare squirrels and when she returns she always runs behind me tangling her leash so I have to pivot in circles.  People pass me and I know I look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame practicing to be a Whirling Dirvish. 

With 3/4 of a mile to go, sweating and panting, my back gives out. 

BUTLER: "Your back was sweating and panting?"

You know what I mean!  So I hold Daisy's leash between my legs, use both arms and lift Conner up to my shoulders where he sits like a circus act.  He won't hold my head for balance because it is sweaty and, in his words, "Eeeuuu."   So I clamp his legs in front of me with one arm while containing Daisy with the other.

Conner is now whining and crying that he wants to go back home.  Back home.  He can't be convinced that I know the shortest route from where we are and he thinks I am an idiot who is taking him further and further away from home.   "It's a loop," I say.

Without a clue as to the meaning of loop, he says, "Go back!":

So I explain the concept with a well known communication strategy.  I speak louder.  "It's a LOOP!"

Exhausted and tired of turning in circles, I start jerking Daisy's harness when she starts to go for a squirrel.  Conner is just crying.  My walking stride begins to look like someone in the desert about to become buzzard food.  Walkers, bicyclists, and families pass me on the walking trail now refuse to make eye contact. 

Conner decides the only part of my body that isn't eeeuuu is my ears.  He starts knocking my glasses off.   If you think that's cute, just try picking up a pair of eyeglasses on the ground with a dog in one hand and 41 pound boy balanced on your shoulders.  If we topple over, I think, I'm never getting up again.

A quarter mile from home, Conner falls asleep and slumps over the top of my head, his chin banging on the bridge of my nose. 

I've already made the decision that instead of walking around by the road, I can save myself 100 yards by cutting through the back yards of neighbors who live on the cul-de-sac.  Teenagers do it all the time but I feel like I'm trespassing.

And as the house comes into sight, my peripheral vision, blurred by sweat, thinks it sees movement at a window.  I turn and see a 10-year-old girl ducking behind a curtain and running back into a house.  I can just imagine what she is telling her mother.

"Mommy!  Mommy!  There's a wet man stumbling through our back yard!  He walking an opposum and wearing a hat made from a small boy!"

"That's nice, dear." 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Future member of the Friday Shoot-out

I don't know why my grandson Conner is so infatuated with cameras...

BUTLER: "Surely, you don't expect us to believe that, Mark.  Since he was born, he's watched you carrying your camera like it was part of your body."

Yes, I'm really not surprised.  For some time now, I have to remember to put my camera beyond his reach whenever I put it down.  Too many times, I've looked over and seen him walking around with my D-7000, trying to figure out the buttons.

Heck, even I can't figure out all the buttons!

The problem is that, at three years old, when he gets frustrated with his inability to make something work, his final solution is to throw it across the room. 

But last weekend, we discovered that he had no problem using Karen's small point and shoot Nikon.

His toy cars that he lined up in a parade

Family Shot - (odd for me to be on the other side of the lens)

And he drives his brother crazy, chasing him around the house.

Stop pointing that thing at me

 I don't have a clue what is going on here

And just so you don't think he always pays attention to the horizontal
(Although I was surprised when downloading to find fewer of these than I expected)

And he shoots what he wants...
from Karen's slippers...

...to his asthma inhaler.

And whatever is on the television gets as much attention as reality
(which is probably an accurate depiction of life)


Conner shoots brother Noah
(capturing a self-portrait in the fireplace glass)

I confess that I added a bit of cropping on that last one although all the others are straight from the camera.

And finally, I should add that he gives me a lot of work deleting the expectedly large number of completely out of focus and unidentifiable shots. The afternoon that all the above shots were taken, he put 276 photos on Karen's camera...sometimes just clicking the button for fun without even pointing it. 

BUTLER:  "I think he learned that from watching you too, Mark.  Since the advent of digital when you no longer have to pay for film, you also tend to shoot first and think later unless you are really working on something."

Click click click click...

I've given him his own folder in Photoshop although my computer, at least for now, is still off limits to the grandkids. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Friday Shootout - Motion

I come flying into the B&B studio, screeching to a stop at my computer.  But I'm not as fast as Bagman, who enters so fast that it takes a second for his clothes to catch up with him, just long enough for me to wish I hadn't been looking.  It will take a while to forget that image.

Butler, of course, enters at his normal, sedate, and precise speed.  He has already determined that blurriness is not his thing. 

BAGMAN: "Let's go let's go let's go...you can't stop!!  Move it!"  

He is really into this one, running around the room and whirling so fast that the long nasty overcoat he uses as a bathrobe keeps flying open around him making him look like a huge dark bird with a beard and a...OH GOD!  My head swivels away in a flash when I realize he's wearing nothing under it.  I vow to stare at nothing but the screen until I can get this shoot posted. 

BUTLER (calmly): "I'll be over at my desk sipping my tea if you need me."

BAGMAN (beginning to pant): "What have you got!!  (I hear him banging into the bookcase and books falling to the floor, but do not look up.)

Not much, actually, I think.  I realize that most of my shooting life, I've worked on stopping motion, on making things sharp, on capturing and freezing the moment.  I remember one shot appropriate but entirely accidental shot that fits perfectly.  I've already used it but what the heck...

"Okay.  We're done," I announce.  "That's it."

BAGMAN (flying by my desk so close and so fast that papers fly off in the backwash...which reminds me that Bagman's back probably could use a wash.  But I'm keeping my head down):  "Done?!!!  Done!!?  We're not done!! Go through the archive!"

"Too many pictures if I don't know what I'm looking for."

BAGMAN: "We can do it in a heartbeat if we really hurry!"   Bagman is so frantic that he eschews his desktop and grabs his laptop, working the keys with one hand, holding it with the other, and continuing to spin while I smile happily having finally found a place where I can use the word "eschews" in a sentence.  Butler nods approvingly.

Just out of curiosity, I look at the properties of my Image Studio data and my mouth drops open (quickly of course, so that my teeth blur with the movement.  According to my computer, in my photofiles, I have 18,485 files in 263 folders!   I know that lots of them are duplicates and saved originals, but that is insane!!  I shout, "Bagman!  You'll never scratch the surface!"

BAGMAN: "Done!"  And photos start appearing faster than ever before on my computer screen.

Heavy-handed photoshopping - not sure why I even saved it
(saving everything is probably why I have 18,485 files)

More heavy-handed photoshopping

"I told you, Baggie, that we didn't have much camera blur stuff.  This is all just stuff we were playing around with.  I liked the orignal better although it never really grabbed me."

A modern sculpture that seemed out of place
in the courtyard of the Vatican Museum

BAGMAN: "Stop talking and move, dammit!! 

Thomas with his light saber a few Christmases ago

Gull feeding - I originally discarded this BECAUSE of the blur

More blurry gull stuff

Feeding frenzy over bread in water

All of a sudden the computer screen goes blank.  Well, not actually blank. It just stops doing anything.  The stillness is shocking.  Gathering my courage, I look up. 

Bagman has passed out cold, lying on his back in the middle of the B&B studio floor, his trenchcoat, unfortunately, open.

I hit the post button and look over at Butler who has finished his tea and is dabbing the corner of his mouth with a napkin.  "Do you think we should cover him up before we leave?" I ask.

Butler just looks at me and rolls his eyes upward.  He and I leave quickly, turning out the lights as we go. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Changing a diaper is like calf roping

A few weeks ago, that similarity came to me when the two Velcro tabs stuck in place over Kay's tummy and I had the strange desire to throw my fists in the air and wait for my time to be announced then go pick up my hat and slap the dust off against my jeans.

Before going further, I feel a need to make the disclaimer that I think changing a baby's diaper is more humane than roping a calf...and unfortunately less entertaining.

Maybe.  But maybe not.  In this period of decline in the Rise and Fall of Washington, when Fear Factor, Iron Chef, and Most Eligible Bachelor can achieve viewership, why not the World Championship of Baby Changing.   I can hear the announcer now.

"Next out of the chute we're going to see Baby Oil Mark, who hails from New England but came through the amateur circuit in South Carolina.  He's one of the few grandfathers here, going up against this season's rowdy crowd of young dudes.  This time he's drawn Snow Angel Kay, a four-month-old who's recently developed some slick moves that can easily hurt his time.

"And he's off!  He moves across the living-room, neatly avoiding the coffee table, scoops up Snow Angel who is still young enough to need her head stabilized, a factor that has confounded several veteran changers recently.

"Look how neatly Baby Oil flips her down on the mat the fingers of his right hand working the snaps even before he slides his left hand from under her head.  Seven snaps and the suit is open and slipped up to the small of her back!  Eleven seconds!  He's two seconds behind the current leader.

"Thumbs flick open the Velcro straps and the old diaper slides right out, cleanly.

"He's lucky this time.  He dropped to 17th place in last year's finals when the baby he drew, Fecal Fran, threw him with a large number two. 

"Wow!  What's he doing?  What confidence!  He's rolling the old diaper and sealing it up with the Velcro straps to make a neat little contained package.  He's dropped another second by doing that but should gain some back with style points.

"New diaper out and under with a single flip, redness touched up with baby cream, and a dab of talcum.

"Now she's fighting back, however!  She just missed kicking off Baby Oil's glasses.  Look at her legs and arms fly in her famous snow angel pattern. Unphased, he times his move back in grabbing both legs with one hand, letting one of the legs go, flying outward and before Snow Angel can bring it back, he's flipped the diaper up and over to her stomach. 

"It's perfectly aligned.  That's one of Baby Oil's advantages, planning the fit to save adjustment time.  Many of the new hotshots on the circuit haven't mastered that yet.  He plants it on Snow Angel's stomach, now able to ignore the wheeling arms and legs, pulls up one tab, then two...jumps back and throws both fists in the air!

"One minute and sixteen seconds!  It's not a record, but enough to put him in first place!  The crowd is going wild...at least the older folks sitting on the ends of the rows nearest the restrooms.

"Okay.  After he dusts off his hat, we'll see if we can get Baby Oil up in the booth for an interview.  But first a word from Graco Strollers, who always remind us not to fold up the stroller with the baby still in it."

Yee Haw!


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Friday Hometown Shootout - Hearts

BAGMAN (Whining):  "Come on, guys!  We're men! We don't do hearts!"

BUTLER: "You testosterone is showing, Baggie.  It's just an assignment.  Go with it."

I had just entered the B&B studio and felt a pang of guilt because I kind of agreed with Bagman.  I'm not a huge fan of frilliness although we have a fair amount around the house -- none acquired by me.  To be truthful, I wasn't sure whether we had things with hearts on them or not but suspected that I'd find some if I looked.  "Maybe I'll just go around the house and see if I find anything," I said, "and post just it to keep up my participation level."

BAGMAN: "Wuss."

BUTLER: "Or you might find a heart shape in some abstract?"

BAGMAN: "Like this one?"

BUTLER:  "With all those rounded shapes there's bound to be a heart shape somewhere."

So we looked for a long time, inverted the photo, and tried everything but we could fnd no heart shapes at all.  It was just a heartless picture.

BAGMAN: "Or we could show a real heart!"

I cringed at the thought of how we might acquire a real heart.

BAGMAN: "Or something at looks like a real heart."

"Hmmm," I said wisely.  "I'll just go and see what I can find around the house."

And, of course, they were everywhere.  Maybe not quite everywhere.  But there were enough to surprise me since I had never noticed any of them before, probably because I'm...as Bagman says...a man.

There were hearts on the wall

There were hearts carved into shelves

There were hearts on a throw that Karen had just found in a yard sale.

Our cat, Bill, was lying on a quilt that had hearts (and stars) on it.
He wasn't overjoyed at being wakened.

Kay's new rattle was hearty
Although the handle is oddly designed to frustrate
any baby's attempt to hold it.

And Kay's pacifier had a heart on it. 

And there were others, but I had grown tired of the game after awhile and went back downstairs.

BUTLER: "How did you do?"

"Well, I discovered that I haven't taken a major role in the interior design of our home," I replied. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bagman's Navy Base Pictures

Since the boys and me are communicating more, I stopped down to the studio just to chat and see if they had any ideas about the Friday shoot.

BUTLER: "Come on, Mark.  It's 'the boys and I.'  Subject, not object."

I nod politely...or maybe I should say "me nod politely".   And I look over at Bagman.  He just glares back.

BAGMAN: "Don't try and stop me!! Go away!!"

BUTLER (leaning over and explaining quietly):  He's upset about the Navy Base Blogs.  We did the houses and then you told the hawk story...

"Against my will," I remined him. 

BUTLER: "It doesn't matter.  Bagman just feels left out because he had been working on some pictures from that day as well and we were ignoring him."

"But we need to work on hearts for Friday," I whisper back.

BAGMAN: "I heard that!  And I'm posting my genius art first!! 

"Did we really take that many different pictures at the Navy Base?" I ask Butler.

BUTLER: "You know you don't get out much and when you did, you kind of went trigger happy."

BAGMAN:  "Stop talking or I won't have room for my pictures.

We both shut up and leave the post to him.


BAGMAN: "Well I didn't really plan it this way.  I just like the spikey things on the navy ships that are dry-humped at the Deyton's Shipyard at the base."

BUTLER:  "That's dry-docked, Baggie.

BAGMAN: "Shut up.  So I shot it even though it was directly into the sun.

BAGMAN: "And since Mark is always upstairs playing with that baby, diapers and bottles and things,
I used his Photoshop.  DON'T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT!  I CAN USE IT IF I WANT!  And I cropped it and made a black and white.

BAGMAN:  "And then I...well, I don't know exactly what I did.  I just pushed buttons.  Real artists can't be expected to know what they're doing!  DON'T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT!"

BAGMAN: "And I did this one."

BAGMAN: "And this one."

BAGMAN: "And this one.   So there!  Ha!  Call the Museum of Modern Art!"


BUTLER: "That last one would look a little like Max Ernst if you put some color behind it and added some transparency."

BAGMAN:  "Critics!  I hate critics!  Leave me be, you curs!  Don't mess with genius!"

"They're fine, Bagman,"  I say, politely.  "Go ahead and post them."

BUTLER (Leaning close and whispering in my ear):  "I wonder where he learned the word 'curs'."

Monday, February 13, 2012

More on the Navy Base...and, okay, the hawk

I'm about to go to sleep and the phone rings.

BUTLER: "Aren't you going to do the blog about the hawk?"

I'm befuddled.  First of all, it is the first time that Butler has ever called me.  Secondly, when I'm about to go to sleep, I'm sometimes already asleep -- the line between waking and sleeping if very fuzzy for me.

"I wasn't planning on doing any more blogs this week until Friday," I say.  "By the way, how did you get my number."

BUTLER: "Dumb question, Mark.  I live in your head.  Anyhow, you mentioned it in your last blog and Heidi said she couldn't wait."

So I schlep downstairs, vaguely wondering about the word "schlep."   Butler already has the computer warmed up.

Okay.  So here it is.  I went to the Navy Base originally to shoot the sculpture exhibit they put up every year, although why they do it in February, I'll never know.  It wasn't very good.  I only shot one of the sculptures.

It didn't compare with the permanent sculptures they have there:



And then I saw a hawk fly into a tree.  I grabbed my telephoto lens and...you know, this really isn't that entertaining a story.

BUTLER: "Just tell it.  You can't renege on a promise."

Okay, okay...so I walked around the tree and couldn't find it.   There was also a city worker there whose job was either to supervise the folks who were edging the walkways or...

...to sit all day in his electric cart texting on his cellphone.   At least he never moved for the entire time I was there.  But, in case one of his supervisors ever reads this blog, his customer service skills were wonderful.  You can't tell it from this shot but he had a killer smile and a great sense of humor.

I asked him if he saw a hawk and he said there were several hawks that nested in the trees around that area.  He said they drove the squirrels crazy.  So I looked harder and found it. 

It was so visible, I don't know how I missed it the first time.  Then...aw phooey...I don't know how to make this story halfway interesting.

BAGMAN (entering the room, rubbing his eyes):  "Just listen to Butler and tell it, post it, and go back to bed.  You're keeping me up too!"

Anyhow, since I had some time on my hand and the light was good, I decided that I really wanted a shot of the hawk flying.  After all, the hawk had to fly sometime.  I set the camera for high speed multiple shots and sat down on a bench, pointed the camera at the hawk, and waited.

...and waited

...and waited.

At one point I said to the city worker, "He's got to fly sometime, doesn't he."

The guy gave that big toothy grin that doesn't show up in the one picture I took of him and said, "They can be very patient."

"Not as patient as me!" I said.  The guy just laughed and went back to texting or playing a game or whatever he was doing.

After awhile, my arms got tired.  I switched positions.  I thought about putting down the camera but decided that I'd miss the takeoff...beautiful hawk wings just beginning to unfurl in the warm sun.  So I kept the camera pointed at it.

Eventually I put down the camera, held it at the ready and just stared.  My neck was getting sore.  But I kept staring at the hawk.  When it did take off, it would make a beautiful picture. 

Then I quit staring at the hawk. 

Then I took another picture.  (Actually I had already taken twenty pictures already but they were all the same with slight differences of head position). 

At least he was awake.  After ten more minutes, I considered throwing something at the stupid bird!  Another ten minutes and I decided that I would never be a true nature photographer.  I stood up and started to walk away.

The guy in the golf cart called, "I told you they were patient."

I figured that he was an expert on patience since he had not moved in the golf cart the entire time and showed no inclination to do so now. 

"I'll be back!" I shouted, shaking my fist at the hawk.  "Next time I'll bring my own squirrels!"

The guy in the cart laughed and waved.  I went back to my car and put my camera and tripod in the trunk.  And, of course, as I closed the trunk, the hawk swooped over my car and up into another tree. 

The hawk was laughing as loudly as the guy in the cart.

Can I go to bed now?

BUTLER: "Be my guest.  And thanks.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Rank really does have its priviledges

BAGMAN: "I don't wanna go home yet!  I don't wanna go home yet!"

BUTLER: "Come on, Mark.  Bagman is right.  At least this time.  We're out.  The lighting is good.  Give us a little more time."

The three of us had just dropped off the grandchildren and had some time.  So we had gone over to the old Navy Base in North Charleston to see the annual sculpture show which had been very disappointing although we did spend some time stalking a hawk for a future blog.  So I acquiesced and drove further back into the old semi-abandoned Navy Base.

They say that Charleston has had two major disasters in recent times.  Hurricane Hugo (the mention of which still makes people run for cover) and the closing of the Navy Base.

Driving into what used to be the residential area of the Navy Base we discovered that all housing in the military is not equal. 

The majority of navy personnel lived in typical barracks.

Junior officers had it a bit better

Some of these are now being rehabed
for affordable housing

Senior officers
had it
considerably better.

And then there was...

The Base Commander

BAGMAN:  "Tough life."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Friday Shootout - Scavenger Hunt (Metal, Wood, Rock)


In the historic downtown area of Charleston there are still some original cobblestone streets dating back to the Civil War.  


Near Shem Creek (where there are some great places to eat shrimp) in Mount Pleasant there are some wooden walkways that have been placed over the marsh so people can walk out for the view and to work up an appetite.  I suppose I could also use this for metal since the Ravenel Bridge is in the background but I want to use another for metal.


The Ravenel Bridge going into Mount Pleasant.  This bridge was built five or six years ago to replace the two scary old bridges from Mount Pleasant to Charleston.  It was named for Arthur Ravenel, the State Senator who arranged for the money to build it.  Charleston is one of those crazy political places that names things for people who are still alive.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tenting tonight and babysitting grandchildren

"We're tenting tonight on the old camp-ground
Give us a song to cheer
Our weary hearts, a song of home
And friends we love so dear.

Tenting tonight, tenting tonight
Tenting on the old camp-ground."
                                        Walter Kittridge, 1863


Back when I was younger, I used to love tromping off into the White Mountains of New Hampshire and spend several days in a tent.  

Now I prefer the nearest hotel.  More precisely, my body demands it.  Heck, I have enough difficulty getting out of bed in the morning.  It is an exercise of moaning, stretching, groaning, stumbling, and, yes, occasionally using bad language.

The last time I went camping was in 2006 on a three-day adventure with my son (before grandchildren) in the Marion National Forest. 

While the traditional male bonding element was wonderful, I also learned a few things on that trip.
  1. Planet Earth is covered with ground that has hardened considerably in the last 35 years.
  2. Foam rubber mats for sleeping on this ground are completely overrated and basically useless.
  3. Brian and I both roll around in our sleep more than either of us knew previously.
  4. Watching sleeplessly through a crack in the tent for any signs of dawn only makes the sun laugh and slow down in its orbit.
  5. Never burn all your firewood the night before bedding down because it will be too chilly to go and find some the next morning -- plus it will be covered with dew.
  6. Dew does not burn.
Although we had planned three (maybe even four days) of adventure, shortly after discovering items 5 and 6, we began talking about Karen's pancakes and fresh brewed coffee and we were back home by 10:00 a.m.

Camping aside, the last time I was in a tent was this Christmas.  We bought the grandchildren a small, inexpensive tent that they could play in. 

They loved it!

They ran around and crawled and wrestled in it.

By the time Christmas dinner was over, they had pretty much destroyed it. 

Which brings us to Monday of this week. 

Since I am now retired, I am identified as the only person without a job.  This apparently means that I have nothing to do and am always available to watch the kids. Don't get me wrong.  I love grandparenting but these boys are a handful and 4-month old Kay is a bit demanding in her own way. 
Up until Monday I had never been truly challenged since either:

  1. Karen was always home when we had all three or
  2. I would only have Kay OR the boys BUT never all three together.
Monday was the Super Diggy Grandfather Challenge!

After the initial diaper changing (I dispensed with neatness and left diapers wherever they fell) and breakfast feeding (cheerios and orange peels all over the livingroom floor), I began the entertainment phase.  

The boys had already figured out that I couldn't be in three places at once and were sacking the house like true crusaders.  And in some closet where I had forgotten it, they pulled out the unerectable Christmas tent and presented it.  There were no flexible poles with the tent because they under a pile on my desk waiting for a duck tape experiment which is already doomed to failure. 

Faced with the tragedy of not getting their way, the boys employed their most effective tactic -- crying combined with ear-splitting screams.   Kay joined in but only because her diaper was wet.   Again.

If necessity is the mother of invention, parental panic is the father.   And so I joined the crusading Huns and we sacked the garage.  We came away with our loot -- rope and the oversized tarp.

We converted the playroom upstairs.

We even had a picnic lunch under the tent -- but I hope their parents don't see this blog and realize that lunch consisted of bowls of candy.  But, hey!  I was outnumbered as you can tell by Conner's conquering smile.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon praying that I wouldn't get a call from a realtor who had a client that wanted to see our house.