Mini-golf

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I think this was only the third time that Biggie’s played mini-golf. He played once with me chaperoning, at Cameron Run Park — that was teeth-gnashingly frustrating. He played once in Ocean City, NJ with his cousins — I wasn’t around for that.

This time we were at Oak Marr Rec Center, in Vienna, courtesy of one of the coupons he received from Fairfax Libraries for doing some summer reading. A nice day, a nice course — not especially fancy, but not riddled with geese poop (Cameron Run has a lot of geese).

Couple things I knew to do this time around: One, have zero to no expectations for the two-year-old. After Biggie finished with his hole, I just had JB whack the ball a few times in no particular direction and then caddy the ball over to her older brother. She was content to just see the sights and walk the course.

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Two, don’t let your boy cheat. I had to persistently nag Biggie about stopping the ball with his feet or fudging his score. I think it’s an important early lesson in integrity.

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Three, if you can, allow do-overs. No one likes his score for a hole to soar into the double digits. For the good first half of this course, we were pretty much alone, so I allowed Biggie unlimited do-overs on a hole, which helped keep his confidence and enthusiasm up. Later, when I saw company creeping up to where we were, I warned Biggie that his do-over option was about to expire. He was now comfortably in a groove, so he accepted that with aplomb.

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Four, give some strategies for dealing with frustration. Putting’s often the not-fun part of mini-golf. It’s usually nicely satisfying to get that long first stroke, but then you have to deal with a million little taps to finish off the round. We recently watched Ping Pong Summer — not wholeheartedly recommended but somewhat charming — where the protagonist was given the advice to have a “reset routine,” a little ritual to do to help oneself relax and mentally get back in the game. The first time we did mini-golf, we talked about the importance of having something like that, and this time I had to force Biggie to take a time-out and try out some deep breaths. He’s not always receptive in the moment, but I’ll usually see him try out some of my suggestions later on, and I’ve noticed that this time out on the course he seemed more patient, sanguine, and relaxed. Better scores, too.

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Five, don’t meddle too much. I made too many suggestions the first time out in Cameron Run, and that just made him edgy and take on some perfectionist tendencies. This time, I didn’t even try to be a caddy and just let him solicit advice from me if he wanted, which he didn’t. At one point, I did make a suggestion about looking at the layout strategically and using the friction of some rough patches to slow the ball down a bit. As with many things, counsel takes on more value the rarer it is.

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All in all, it was a nice way to spend an hour or so on a lovely afternoon.

Busboys and Poets

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One of my favorite places in college was Louie’s Bookstore Cafe, across the street from Peabody Conservatory. It had a nice nookie bookstore full of interesting art books in front of a coffee cafe. Go up the tight spiral staircase and you have a single tight floor of a $$$ restaurant. Couldn’t afford to buy anything often, but good crab cakes. Unfortunately, it now looks shuttered, along with a good chunk of North Charles Street. No city can break your heart like Baltimore can.

We were in the Shaw neighborhood of DC yesterday and had lunch at Busboys and Poets. I’d been meaning to go forever. Leftie bookstore + comfy couches and coffee + chi-chi restaurant. Louie’s done DC, I’m thinking.

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You can feel the energy in this place. There’s always film screenings, open mic nights, forums. (I went home and got on their email list). Everybody’s pretending to read or work on their laptops. There’s loud art on the walls. The staff was busy but not aloof nor officious; everyone was very nice to me and my kids.

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The food is not cheap, but the portions are big, and I’m glad I only ordered a burger and appetizer. Everyone left full. I was mostly left eating the coconut tofu bites by myself, but I was happy with that.

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The place was rad. I’d go back, with and without the kids. With five locations and two more in the works, BB&Ps are all over DC.

Great Falls National Park

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Yesterday was the 99th anniversary of the National Park Service, and every August 25 all national parks that aren’t already free drop their fees. On Monday I had Biggie read a Wonderopolis article on national parks. The next day, we drove to the Great Falls National Park near McLean (there’s normally a $10 fee for vehicles and $5 for individuals on foot).

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On the way we listened to a To the Best of Our Knowledge episode on national parks. Biggie was attentive to the first few segments of the show, and we talked about why there have always been controversy over conservation and the purpose of the national parks. Our discussion become a little heated as we talked about why there were proposed bills to limit the current power and future expansion of the parks. I, of course, played devil’s advocate and tried to get Biggie to see why some people did not see the parks as a sacred public good but an example of government overreach. He was able to forcefully argue against me, though.

The show also had a really fascinating segment about the role of Buffalo soldiers as temporary protectors and stewards of Sequoia National Park — and the historical reasons why African-Americans have avoided the national parks in particular and wilderness areas in general. Of course, at the Visitor’s Center, I saw this:

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I highly recommend dropping by the Visitor’s Center. You can ask one of the rangers for a Junior Rangers Activity pamphlet (you can also download it off the web site and print it out). Biggie didn’t really do much of it, but it gave us an overview of the park, a suggested route, and background information, which helped make the day more meaningful.

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We saw lots of flora and fauna, of course, and Biggie pointed out how the moss was much more lush on the north side of trees.

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We also saw plenty of “potholes,” and we talked about how the rocks gave us clues to how water and ice helped form this valley of the Potomac river.

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JB was in her stroller, and we mostly traveled along the Potawmack Canal trail. We were able to see ruins of the old canal and get explanations of how the gates, locks, and holding basins of a canal worked. Biggie already knew some of this, having read about the Panama Canal, but he was excited to see some of these mechanisms in person.

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Although the stroller made the River Trail pretty much out of the question, we ditched it for a little while to have a picnic on an outcrop, the highlight of the trip.

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We spotted a kayaker on the Potomac, and Biggie and I had a discussion about why he was staying close to the shore while traveling upstream. Later on, Biggie said he spotted him getting rescued by some rangers.

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JB fell asleep on our walk back, and Biggie spent a little time touring the mini-museum inside the Visitor’s Center. It was a full and eventful day, and when we got home, I threw everything into the laundry, made them take baths, and checked them all over for ticks.

More photos of the trip

Sunday Catechism: Represent

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Q: What does the second commandment forbid?

A: The second commandment forbids our worshiping God with images or in any other way not established in His word.

Protestants have taken Roman Catholics to task with this commandment, arguing that statues of the saints and the Virgin Mary count as idols, and Muslims have, likewise, argued that Christians constantly make images of God and the Son of God, while their religion strictly forbids such heresy. Again, though, I think a proper reading of this commandment goes much deeper, for it forbids distorting our understanding of Him, especially and specifically truncating who He is through limiting frameworks or metaphors.

And yet, again, we constantly do this; we cannot help but doing this. We understand God through what we know; our very capacity for abstraction essentially works through metaphors. We think of God as a tyrant, a father, a clockmaker, an artist, a shepherd, a lion, a friend, and so on, and so on. None of these can really encapsulate all that God is, and it is only through the redemptive grace of our salvation can we hope to obey.

That said, some paradigms are truer than others, are even endorsed in Scripture, and we need to be rigorous about how our conceptions and preconceptions conform to what we find revealed in the Word. We need to beware, for example, of adopting a kind of prosperity gospel and thinking of God as Santa Claus or a karmic vending machine. Or live in constant self-flagellation because we only see Him as a stern judge or a demanding parent. Or abuse our freedom because we think of Jesus as the ultimate hippie. We need to be sure that when we worship, we worship the right God — and that as we worship, we open ourselves up to an encounter with Him that will challenge our trapped minds.

Moreover, this commandment invites us to listen to our children intently and take seriously what they say. They will tell us how they understand God, and we need to be on hand to enrich and correct that understanding. Alas, their understanding of God will inevitably be informed by our own example as the primary authority in their lives. We are His ambassadors to our families and to the world, His chosen shadows; we must take care in how we are shaped.

Goings On

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I’m finding it harder recently to find the time/energy to hunker down and write, but it’s not for a lack of topics. Here’s a couple of things we’ve been doing:

  • playing an iPad game about logic and argumentation
  • reading about the Presidential elections
  • buying new Pokemon
  • watching the Disney animated Peter Pan movie and reading an article about Peter Pan in the New York Review of Books
  • taking a trip to the Hirshhorn
  • reading about Arthurian legends
  • reading Howl’s Moving Castle and watching the Miyazaki movie based on it
  • starting photography lessons
  • meeting other homeschoolers in weekly playground playdates
  • building string-and-straw polyhedra kickballs
  • starting Watership Down as bedtime reading
  • trying to catch a glimpse of the Perseids meteor shower
  • playing with perler beads
  • writing letters to friends
  • learning and playing board games
  • checking out storytimes and activities at libraries
  • taking piano lessons
  • learning vocabulary and practicing reading in Korean
  • reading the news through News-o-Matic (iPad app)

Are there any of these you’re curious about?