Ninja School!

Posted by jdg | 8:16 AM

We've been stuck inside for way too much play time lately. One day last week the kids decided they wanted to go to ninja school, so I grabbed some old t-shirts and bandannas and two fierce ninjas attended their first day of class. 

Subjects included meditation, lock-picking, scowling, stealth, grappling hooks, and the five-fingered monkey's fist of ultimate pain. Oh, and kicks:

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Go Christmas Tree Shopping

Posted by jdg | 9:52 AM

We've developed a tradition here in Detroit with respect to the annual purchase of an evergreen tree to place in our living room for our annual celebration of yule, etc. It's not quite as cool as the tradition my family had when I was a kid and we lived in the country (before the country stopped being the country and the Wal-Marts and Arbys moved in), but it's still fun. Every year a bunch of tree farmers from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan come live in trailers at the market in downtown Detroit for a few weeks until their stock is gone. On a cold night after Thanksgiving we bundle the kids up and let them run around all the trees until some Yooper has thoroughly fleeced my wallet. This year my wife heard from one fellow who said he was just trying to sell up all his trees so he could get back upstate to his newborn baby, and that fellow may have ended up with $10 more than we agreed.

My dad will inevitably show me the tree he bought in the parking lot of the Menard's that used to be a field not far from where he'd cut down trees for us, and insinuate I'm a fool for paying a yooper more than $10 for a tree. But all this is worth every cent to me.

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Munchkinland Outfitters

Posted by jdg | 6:57 AM |

The kids were invited to a Wizard of Oz themed birthday party, and the invitation said "come dressed as munchkins." The host went out of her way to inform my wife that this did not mean she should sew up costumes just for the occasion, so we raided our piles of old clothes for anything that looked munchkin-like. My son saw the funnel-hat and decided he wanted to be the tin man, so we turned him into the spawn of an unholy union between the tin woodsman and one of the more adventurous members of the lullaby league. For the girl, a costume cobbled together from her tulip time outfits worked out quite well.

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The Mud Slide, Part II

Posted by jdg | 10:24 AM | , , ,

What good would any unseasonably warm, rainy fall day be if it didn't include peeling the wet, muddy clothes off my son to toss in the washer?

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Lately, my son has been obsessed with superheroes. None specifically, but he's entranced by the idea of superpowers. We were looking at a magazine and he saw a picture of the old evangelist Dr. Irwin Moon doing his electric finger act from "The Wonders of Science," and he said, "That guy's a superhero, I want lightning fingers, too." and then he proceeded to zap me with his superhero lightning fingers.

I have a lot of ambivalence about Greenfield Village, Henry Ford's walled simulacrum of the world he destroyed. But I end up spending a lot of time there because my son loves it, and on those days that his sister has school but he doesn't we often head there. I'm not a huge fan of Thomas Edison, but I don't want my kid to grow up thinking some creationist nutter who knew how to play around with electricity is a superhero (and unfortunately Henry Ford wasn't BFFs with Nikola Tesla). So Thomas Edison would have to do as a substitute scientific superhero. In the early years of Greenfield Village, Ford moved Edison's entire R&D complex from Menlo Park, New Jersey to Detroit and recreated the interiors immaculately. I took the boy there figuring you're never too young to learn about science, especially when the science is old-timey and involves lots of cool gadgets, machines, and hundreds of bottles full of all kinds of interesting things.

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Learn to Play Soccer

Posted by jdg | 11:42 AM | , ,

The other day my daughter says to me that the boys at school asked her to play soccer with them but then told her she wasn't very good. So we grabbed a ball and headed out to the park to practice a bit. On a positive note, my daughter's confidence has returned. On a sad note, she thinks her dad is the worst goalie in the world.

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Leaf Pile!

Posted by jdg | 11:50 AM | ,

While I love the honeylocust trees that tower over our neighborhood, they make for lousy leaf piles. The other day we visited my grandfather and I noticed he had a whole lot of leaves in his yard and as a 33-year-old guy I was in a much better position to rake them up than a 90-year-old.

The kids were more than happy to scatter them again.

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I've got two kids who are not scared of scary things. That is not to say they aren't intrigued by ghosts, vampires, skeletons, and monsters. They love them. But we are able to talk about ghosts and monsters and even death and we tell elaborate "scary" stories without any of it turning into nightmare fuel. I have always been fascinated with the Mexican festivities surrounding November 2, the Day of the Dead, and how supposedly-frightening images and ideas are spoken about openly and even celebrated as part of life. So last week we visited Detroit's Mexicantown (don't worry, my dear PC-coastal readers, I was as mortified as you when I first heard it called "Mexicantown," but it's even on the signs here) to walk around and learn what we could about the holiday. The neighborhood was all decked out with skulls:

 Our first stop was La Gloria Bakery for sugar ones:

We love stopping by the bakery all year for Mexican baked goods (the churros are especially popular with the backseat crowd) and starting in mid-October they start selling these awesome little sugar skulls.

We bought a handful and some ghost cookies and walked over to Xochi's gift shop on Bagley, which as far as I can tell has the largest selection of Día de los Muertos decorations in town. The storeowner had stepped out for an hour, so we crossed the street and enjoyed a big bowl of menudo at Evie's while we waited for her to return. That's a lie: I enjoyed the tripe and the kids split a burrito. When we were done, Xochi's was open for business:

The kids' eyes widened with each step further into the store, trying to take it all in. Despite my near-constant entreaties not to touch anything, I've seen them less excited in a candy store.

[note to wife: wouldn't that fabric on the far right make a great dress for next year?]
Xochi's doesn't just have its own goods for sale, but hosts offerings and exhibitions made by local artists. Last year there was Diana Alva's offering for Frida Kahlo. This year the offerings were also very beautiful.

If I was a better blogger, I would have written down who this one was intended to honor.
The lady at Xochi's did a good job explaining the significance of everything and teaching us about the traditions. I let the kids each pick out a little statue to bring home and put on display for the Day of the Dead, next to the candy skulls and some candles. My son picked out these two little figurines (he liked the woman with the snake around her neck).

My daughter picked out this larger Catrina:

Yesterday, on Día de los Muertos, I had the kids at home all day and we sat together on the chair in front of our "offering" looking at pictures from when they were babies. This wasn't intentional, but in that chair we looked at pictures of my infant daughter in the arms of my grandmother who died five years ago. And we looked at pictures of my daughter with her Grandpa Doug, who died after a battle with cancer in 2007. We saw him in pictures from the first day he met her (just hours after she was born) to the days when she sat on his lap in the hospital during the worst of his chemotherapy. And I told Gram about him, how he never got to meet him, but how his Grandpa Doug knew he was coming. They had many questions of course, the sort of questions adults are squeamish to answer. But I tried.

And they weren't scared at all to talk about it.

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