The Arrival of Mr. Lickums

The night before Christmas

When last we left our heroes, they were two weeks before Christmas and their son had written a massively persuasive essay to the effect of he should get a frog. Much research was done. A terrarium was purchased and ready for Christmas morning. The amphibian excitement was running hot in the household. And lo! On Christmas morning there was the empty terrarium!

Our plan was this: we really want a vivarium. There are many reasons for this:

1) it requires massively less effort to keep clean, since nature does the cleanup work instead of you (a major consideration)
2) living things and plants, and the light required for them, are a boost to the mood and create an environment that is happier and healthier
3) less stank
4) they are extremely cool. Even the word vivarium is soooooo cooooool.

First we went to Jabberwock to buy one of everything. Just kidding! We bought two of several things. Our list included:

– Drainage
– Soil
– Dinosaur eggs
– Plants
– Moss
– Light bulbs
– Three kinds of bugs (springtails, white pill bugs and crickets)
– Cricket stuff (cage, water stuff, food stuff, nutrient powder)
– Stuff for water (dechlorination, that surgical scrub stuff)
…. and a bunch of other things.

Selecting his frog buddy

Oh, and a frog.

We came home and immediately got to work on three habitats: one for crickets, one for the baby frog right now (which will later be a nicer cricket habitat) and the Vivarium. It only took an hour or two to get the temporary habitat ready.

First meeting between a boy and his frog!

Six hours and 9 shopping stops later (ok, in fairness, only two of those stops were actually vivarium related, the others were in a vain attempt to find somewhere that still sold black tapes), the vivarium is up and running. The plants will need a few weeks to get rooted before they can handle the full weight of Mr. Lickums. But I’m already of the opinion it’s pretty awesome!

Adding the springtails
The vivarium in situ

Mr. Lickums the Third

On Friday at 9:30 in the morning I got an email with a slide deck attached. This much is not unusual. As far as I can tell, half my job involves getting emails with slide decks attached. (The other half, of course, is sending such emails.) But this one was different. This one came from my 11 year old son, who definitely should have been doing something else in school.

The deck was titled “Why I Should Get a Frog“. I have my suspicions we may have entered the “persuasive essay” portion of the curriculum. Which, props to his teacher. This thing is a masterwork.

With a brevity and clarity that my work presentations can only aspire to, slide #1 got right to the point with the “ask” of the presentation:

The Frog I Want (If I am allowed to get one) is the Whites tree frog, you can find plenty of them in pet stores all around, and I believe they have them in pet smart. They are easy to handle, cute and overall funny looking.

So far, so good. I appreciate the research here, including specifics about the breed & availability desired. He expands with the reasons for the particular selection. To note: on further research everything he says here is also actually true.

Slide two gets deep into a cost analysis of the acquisition:

The Terrarium:

https://www.amazon.com/Exo-Terra-Glass-Natural-Terrarium/dp/B0041P5PBE?ref_=fsclp_pl_dp_1

Although it is $200 I won’t ask for it for Christmas instead I will use my own Money

I am not sure yet if the terrarium is cat proof but if it is not we can always make something to keep the cats out. I believe it also fits on my desk, and is the biggest terrarium I could find.

Here we see advanced level skills. The kid has already learned something it’s taken me 20 years to figure out – if you promise to bring the budget, the project is 900x more likely to happen. Now you and I both know that a) it will cost way more than $200 b) he won’t end up paying for something he requests two weeks before Christmas. He may guess #2, but he’ll discover #1. He also does a fantastic job of objection handling. In this case, by making explicit reference to our biggest objection (frog = cat toy) and then just waving it away as inconsequential. Masterful.

But in slide three, he really closes the sale.

Grey was the one who got the cats, but I have never had a chance to have a pet of my own. It would help prove my responsibility and be adorable at the same time. The cats are very old, and not that playful. I have my own money to buy the terrarium and the frog. It is the derpiest thing I have ever seen. They are easy to take care of. Also, I LOVE FROGS. (It will be named Mr. Lickums The third).

Here we invoke the principle of fairness and the desire of parents to raise responsible children. We probably didn’t need to throw shade on our two lovely cats. But then, the close man. The close. How can anyone resist “Mr. Lickums The third”? It’s impossible.

In unrelated news, we learned that the local pet store focusing on things that people have phobias about is called Jabberwock Reptiles. They may be our new best friends. Time to go learn about keeping frogs alive. And crickets. And worms. Yikes!


GREY! Don’t tell your brother! Do you want some pet crickets for Christmas?

UPDATE: I have learned that the original Mr. Lickums was a clay art project. The second Mr. Lickums was an icebreakers can that was decorated to resemble a frog. You may now resume your important activities.

Rainbows

The only picture my mom could find of the car – the station wagon in the background.

The year was 1981, and my seat in the blue-with-wooden-panel station wagon was on brown plastic booster seat that would get sweaty in the sultry summer heat. There was no AC in “The Bluebird”. My parents, sister and I were just back from four years spent in the heart of Africa – Zaire – where they’d helped build a hydroelectric dam and run a regional hospital. I had never lived in the US before, and found Atlanta astonishing through the eyes of a two or three year old. The music playing on the tape deck was a “Maranatha Praise” album. And on the window where I could see it from my back seat, my parents had put a translucent sticker of a rainbow.

I loved that rainbow, and the way the light shined through it. I loved rainbows. I have always loved colors and the shifting iridescence of light. And that rainbow had a story for the tiny girl in the back seat. It was the story of Noah and the Ark. The impression Noah and the Ark has left on our culture is as a nursery decoration theme, with the boat and the animals and the rainbow. The full story is so much darker – it’s hard to believe that a cheerful nursery decoration is possible. The story is of Noah is one of the oldest recorded in human history. It lurks back in oral traditions in the millennia before humans learned to write our stories for each other.

Just a few chapters in Genesis after God created the world in seven days, he regretted it. “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created – and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground – for I regret that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:5-8)

The righteousness of Noah and the mercy of God spared the human species and all life on Earth. God told Noah to build an ark and bring the animals with him. The waters covered the earth for 150 days killing every thing and every one that lived upon it. But Noah’s family and his livestock survived. And when Noah and his flock of people and animals emerged from the Ark, they righteously worshiped God and God made a promise in return. “I have set my rainbow in the clouds and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” (Genesis 9:13-15)

The story of the rainbow is of God hating the violence of humans and looking to destroy it – but of seeing something in us worth saving. Christians see it as a story of repentence, trust and a new start. And it’s a story of God’s promise to us (although I was always slightly freaked out as a kid at just how only one specific method of wiping out human life was removed – all the others are apparently still on the table). Historians think it might have its roots in a flood that we find in the archaeological record.

A picture of Boston Pride parade
Boston Pride parade

Today I still love rainbows. But on this June Saturday, they carry a second meaning to me. On the first truly glorious weekend of the summer, we worked our way into Boston to celebrate with many rainbow-adorned people. Once again the symbol of hope has risen in colors. I’ve never gone to a Pride parade before, mostly because I’m straight. I have been unsure what is supporting vs. where you are co-opting. But this year I have a reason to be there.

I found the absolute perfect shirt for this Pride celebration. It’s a picture of a momma bear hugging tight a rainbow baby bear. Grey walked through the common with a bracelet his friend made in pink, blue and purple – the bisexual colors.

Sporting Pride gear
Proud mom

We had an awesome time on one of the most glorious days I’ve seen in a long time. Boston Common was beautiful, and full of joyful happy people sporting signs and shirts and flag with words of love, welcome and joy. On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots Boston Common was full of people openly and cheerfully celebrating. The parade was awesome, and included retirement homes, churches, school groups, banks, black & hispanic groups, costumed participants (Cos Players), political officials and aspirants and lots of short men and tall women. There was only cheering and whistling and joyful sounds to be heard. As we walked away from the tumult of the Common, my sons both told me that they were really happy we’d come. Thane asked if we could come again next year!

I’m really glad where we live in a world that remembers how to be joyful. I’m glad that the rainbow is still a sign of hope. It’s a sign that we are repenting from the violence of our past, and the harm we have done to our sisters and brothers. I looked out on that rainbow-clad crowd and had to think that on a beautiful day like this one, God must be glad that he made us, and glad he let us hang around.

My beloved bi son

NOTE: Grey read and approved this post!

Baby’s first tattoo

Steven

I was at work the other day when I got the near-traditional 2:30 pm text or call. Someone wants to go home early, or wants to know what’s for dinner or… who knows. But many afternoons I hear from my kids.

The text:

Ma
Ma
Maaaa
https://inkbox.com/products/0-5-ounce-freehand-shading-ink
Buy this for me please
I mean with my money
Like
I’m spending 13 on it

I clicked through the link, my brain still 98% occupied with the work I was then being paid to do.

.5 oz freehand shading ink

WHAT THE HECK?

Suddenly 100% of my brain is locked on “13 year old asking for tattoo ink”.

When I pressed for details, his schema emerged more sound than I’d feared. The ink could be used – like henna – to create non-permanent drawn on tattoos. He has a friend who’s really an excellent artist who would be doing the work. He’d put it on his calf. Yes, I could see a picture of it first. Yes, he remembers that his principal does not understand geek culture references and it was going to be something that could not be misinterpreted. No, he promised no skin would be pierced during this process.

So Saturday I dropped him and his (gulp) tattoo ink off at his friends house and picked him up a few hours later. “It takes 24 to 48 hours to show”.

The end result isn’t so bad, for a first time tattoo artist and recipient. I think the design is pretty decent. Perhaps some different shading choices could be made. But I’ve seen worse – and some of those permanent.

For a first tattoo, it’s not so bad. May they all be so easily outlived if no longer wanted!


If you’d gotten a real tattoo at 13, what would currently be forever marked on your body? Would you be glad you got it, or are you glad you waited/didn’t make that decision at 13? Steven Universe is a great show, but it’s unclear whether it will last the test of time!

Grey turns 13

It seems like just a few days ago that I was taking pictures like this:

Grey’s 0th birthday

But somehow, I now find myself hosting the 13th birthday party I’ve thrown for my eldest son. That’s right, folks, he was born 14 years ago. My son is officially a teenager. I’m sorry. I know many of you remember reading about how incredibly late his arrival was. Yes, I’ve been blogging before he was born. You read about baby Grey, and listened to me anticipating his firsts (most of which came early – having a kid walk at 7 months SOUNDS great until you have a 7 month old who can walk and then it sounds awful). You remember the cute early mispronunciations.

I realized last night that when I was pregnant with Grey, phones did not have applications. Only teenagers texted. And when we wanted the internet, we booted up computers. Whoa.

On this advent of his teenagerness, I wanted to take a moment and remember the little kid, I used to have. In honor of that, I’ve pulled together an album of pictures from all Grey’s birthdays. I have to admit that our cake game has definitely fallen in recent years.

Daycare birthday

1st birthday
Grey had two – one at daycare with Abuela, and then one we hosted with our friends to celebrate having survived a year of parenting.
Here’s what I wrote at the time. The incredible blue of his Grover cake frosting led to a blue-tinged boy for a while.

Grey’s 2nd birthday

2nd birthday
This year featured Spongebob on the birthday cake. It seems like another world when he loved Spongebob. I remember he had this ‘fridge magnet that played music & he liked to dance to at this age. I was starting to move from short form to longer form writing, and have a pretty comprehensive 2nd birthday writeup.

Grey’s 3rd birthday

3rd birthday
This is the first one I wrote on this blog platform. I was heavily pregnant with his younger brother at the time of this birthday. It’s also the first time we see Lincoln make an appearance. Lincoln will be in pretty much every birthday party from this point forward.

I’m four, mom.

4th birthday
I did not actually write a birthday update, but this anecdote update is a pretty fun overview of what Grey was like as a 4 year old. He already knew the fine art of flattery! We were still in Spongebob, with a Gary the snail cake.

Grey’s 5th birthday

5th birthday
Ha! It’s pretty funny to see me thinking that a five year old was Very Grown Up. Eight years later my son is pretty much my height, and a bass.

Lined up for pinata by age

6th birthday
This was the first year that Grey was in school! My writeup indicates it was also the beginning of role-playing and Pokemon.

CHUCK E CHEESE!

7th birthday
Apparently seven was all about the Legos. You never actually outgrow Legos, but they have definitely diminished in their importance over time. We did this one at Chuck E. Cheese, at his request. I’ve never returned to that place since.

Birthday dinner at Kyotoya

8th birthday
The 8th birthday party was pretty epic. A handful of friends were invited to Canobie Lake Park, then we had sushi for dinner (he’s liked sushi for a long time) and then home for Minecraft cake. I’m apparently full of disbelief every birthday that my little guy could be so very big!

All six Lego kids. These guys are Lego fanatics.

9th birthday
I think this year was a combined birthday party for both boys in the then-newly-opened Lego adventure. Then we came home & did Mentos and Coke in the back yard. I’m writing this year from a room away from a collection of near-teen boys, and every third word out of their mouths is STILL “dude”.

Sunday after soccer

10th birthday
It’s also kind of crazy to watch how my living room has changed through the years, along with my son. Laser tag that year! Also, I bought cans of Reddi-whip and let the kids pour it directly into their mouths. Because that’s what he wanted.

The sleepover-type birthday

11th birthday
Grey’s 11th birthday is a lot like his 13th is currently shaping up as, except that there are two computers and two XBoxes all linked together. Grey still makes cake often.

Nearly identical to this year

12th birthday
I didn’t write a “Grey is 12” post last year. I’m not sure why not – my blogging velocity is way slower now than it used to be. I’m not really writing a “this is Grey” post this year. He reads all my posts, and there are many things he considers to “cringey” to allow to post.

But I’ll tell you this – I deeply proud of my 13 year old. He’s turning into a person I respect, and one that I really enjoy spending time with. Some things I thought I saw when he was little haven’t come to pass, but other things have remained true about my son. His deep empathy, his old-soulness, his articulateness and unexpected kindnesses… all those seem to be things that have remained true.