there is no Nobel Prize for motherhood

I sit in a blue canvas chair and watch my five-year-old son experiment in his field laboratory under our deck.  I used to read while Philip played outside like this, but I left my paperback inside this morning. I entertain myself by gazing into our neighbors’ yards, voyeurism made possible by our homeowners association’s decree that fences would ruin the aesthetic. At 8:00 am on Sunday, there’s not much to spy on.

Meanwhile, Philip studies surface tension and buoyancy. From his wading pool he scoops rain 0728141514water in a dish and then sprinkles dirt harvested from alongside the house on top. He drops a yellow plastic square in the cup and notes the water’s displacement. He empties the container and repeats the process. Then he does it again.

I can’t help but smile at Philip’s broad grin in response to the cause and effect. No physicist would permit himself such a display of emotion. There are no pristine white lab coats here, either. Instead, there is an endearing smudge of dirt on Philips’s cheek and two muddy prints on the seat of his pants where he wipes his hands.

Yet, there is a reason why America’s Next Top Scientist isn’t airing on cable TV:  watching this is boring. I’m tempted to run inside and grab a thriller off my bookshelf.

Just as I think this, Philip provides all the drama I need. He drops the dish and bolts toward a neighbor’s yard. I jump from the chair to chase him.

“No, Philip! This way,” I huff.

For once, he turns back toward our house. I run with him in case, as in the past, he changes his mind and his direction. There is no barrier to stop him from sprinting into the road or the lake except my heart-pounding effort to keep up.

One lap around the house sates his impulse to run. He returns to his experiments.

I should be grateful that I am back to sitting. Most days Philip is more athlete than scientist. If I’m lucky, he circles our house. If I’m not, he dashes into our neighbors’ yards, and I trespass to catch him before he gets lost or hurt.  While chasing Philip to ensure he remains safe, I’ve injured my heel. My foot is resting, but my mind is wandering.

Last week, to combat boredom and be an involved parent, I tried to assist Philip in his botany studies: pulling weeds from one spot and replanting them in another. I didn’t follow his undisclosed protocols, so my participation was rejected. Today, Philip follows similarly stringent procedures. If the ground isn’t level where he places the dish of water before adding the dirt, he dumps the container and starts over. If he hasn’t added the precise amount of dirt, he tosses the contents and begins his ritual anew. I don’t bother to help.

I resign myself to sitting in this blue canvas chair, feeling my butt grow wet as my trousers absorb the morning dew. I hear a cow moo and contemplate how quiet it is. I watch Philip cycle through his experiment. I stay on guard in case the need to run overwhelms him.

I have nothing else to do except pull weeds and tie them into bundles.


Sunday Slideshow: Summer Moon Festival

“Where the hell is that?” Peter asked.

“I don’t know. Somewhere off I-75.”

“What’s there to do at this festival?”

“It’s where Neil Armstrong was born, so . . . space stuff?”

“Let’s go.”

And that’s how we ended up driving four hours round-trip to the Armstrong Air and Space Museum so that Philip could jump in a bounce house for ten minutes.


Peter was bored on Sunday morning. He had plans for that evening, but the rest of the day was wide open. After his second deep sigh, I consulted the OhioFestivals.net schedule. Dozens of events took place around the state last weekend, but most had concluded on Saturday.

One exception was the Summer Moon Festival in Wapakoneta, Ohio.

I thought it sounded like an interesting event, but it was already after 10:00 am, and we were 130 miles away. Peter didn’t think that sounded too far, so I scrambled to get myself and Philip ready to go. In my haste I was unable to take a shower and forgot to pack snacks. I was regretting the latter as I watched Philip munch on Froot Loops that he had dumped on the back seat the weekend before. I drew the line at picking up the ones off the floor for him to eat.

We made a quick stop at McDonald’s for lunch. That’s why someone will find a Super Mario toy along I-75 South. I thought Philip was just holding it up to see if the air would move the wheels. Too late I realized he was preparing to toss it out the window.

By the time we pulled into the parking lot, Philip was ready to be out of the car. We all spotted our first stop: the inflatables on the lawn of the museum. Philip was the only one in the bounce house at first, and the other kids passed through from the bouncing area to the slide. Since there was no line to get in, we would have let Philip keep bouncing. Unfortunately, we could tell the surface was hot by the way that Philip skirted to the edges in the shade and tiptoed around. Plus, the effort made him sweat even more.

We thought we would head into the museum next. The admission price was reasonable: $8.00 for adults and Philip would have been free. As tempting as air conditioning was in the summer sun, we opted not to pay to go in. With Peter’s other plans limiting our time, we didn’t want to feel like we were rushing through.

Instead, we made our way to the tents set up near the front. One tent was dedicated to kid-friendly fun: face painting, bubbles, a Mars Rover demo, and twirly bird toys. Another tent featured educational information about NASA and space exploration. Philip’s favorite part: a floor fan. Smart boy.

By this point, I was thinking that a shower would have been pointless. We were all sweating. We decided to sit in the shade to watch the model rocket launches before heading home.

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While I don’t feel comfortable calling this a review since we only sampled a small part of the festival, I would recommend that you do what we did: mark your calendar for next year! While this year’s event was special since it honored the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the festival appears to be well-organized with something for the whole family. The annual event is co-hosted by the museum and chamber of commerce. Festivities ran from Wednesday to Sunday. Activities took place on the museum grounds as well as downtown and included races, live music, a car show, and an appearance by astronaut Sunita Williams. Based on only the possibilities, our family plans on getting an earlier start and coming prepared with snacks and sunscreen.

Stay tuned for a future Sunday Slideshow from Wapakoneta. Now you know where the hell that is.


Flipping his lid

Thank goodness it’s almost bedtime.

Spurred out of bed before dawn after my five-year-old kept me up late, I was beat by Tuesday night. I invoked a prayer of gratitude that Philip seemed on track for a decent bedtime. Per his after-bath ritual, he had read a Curious George book, kissed Peter goodnight, and went to the kitchen.

Rather than grabbing his nightcap of milk out of the fridge, Philip took a container of leftover popcorn out of the pantry. He hadn’t eaten supper with us, so I assumed he was hungry. Instead, he abandoned the bowl and commandeered the lid. I was pleased that Philip had forfeited the snack. Taking it for myself I reasoned, Wouldn’t want this to go stale, now would I?

My gluttony would soon be punished.

While I munched, Philip constructed. Using the orange lid as a base, he trimmed and decorated a fun hatpiece of paper and formed it into a cylinder.  He attached the paper crown onto the plastic brim with two pieces of tape. Then he rooted in a pile of toys until he found an object from a sculpture kit. He placed the wooden shape on the brim where it could roll around the crown. Philip had assembled a “Fully Automatic Monkey Fun Hat” a la Curious George.

fun hat 003Up to this point, Philip had only interrupted my snacking to request tape and scissors. With the chapeau complete, I assumed Philip would continue to entertain himself until bed time. Yet, just like Curious George, Philip did not want to keep this fantastic headgear for himself. No, Philip made me wear the hat. I had to wear it sitting at the desk. I had to model it standing up. He posed me in the kitchen. He adjusted my placement in the living room. He manipulated me into position in my office. He corrected my stance in his bedroom.

At first, since there wasn’t a hole for my head, I balanced the lid-hat on my noggin with both hands. When my fingers tingled from impaired circulation, I held it with one hand and then the other. Every time I made the switch, I tipped the lid-hat and jostled the orbiting object. Philip whimpered until he moved it back into its proper place.

Two hours later, the two pieces of tape were coming unstuck. I was coming unstuck, too, and leaned just like the crown. Upon seeing his lid-hat askew, Philip vocalized loudly.  I straightened up and tried to hold it flat. He whined at a higher pitch as the black object shifted. I feared a complete meltdown was imminent, one that would further delay sleep for us both.

To calm himself, Philip rocked. As luck would have it, Philip rocked right into a cracked plastic bucket on his bedroom floor. He picked it up to dangle from his finger. Then he was inspired to hook the handle onto a plastic hanger for double the dangling delight.

With Philip distracted, I escaped to the kitchen with the lid-hat. Praying I wouldn’t upset Philip by altering his creation, I reinforced the cylinder with additional tape. I also implored please, please, please let him go to sleep. To prove my worthiness and atone for my earlier sin, I gave the rest of the popcorn to the dog.

Repairs complete, I tiptoed back to Philip’s room.  Philip was no longer imitating Curious George but laying in bed watching him.  I stashed the lid-hat in the office, turned off his light, and uttered a benediction:

Please don’t let that monkey give Philip any more ideas.


I submitted a draft of this story for critique to the yeah write summer series bronze lounge. You can read the original here. Thanks to everyone who suggested revisions. I hope you enjoy this new, improved version. 


Close encounters of the Philip kind

The library doesn’t open until 10:00 am on Saturday.

Philip and I arrived at 9:47 am.

Fortunately, there is a park behind the library, so I led Philip there. Ironically, one reason we arrived early was that I had refused Philip’s request to go outside and play at home. It had rained overnight, so the grass was wet. I didn’t want him to get messy before going to the library.


I had had the foresight to have Philip wear his rain boots. These came in handy when he stomped in every puddle he found. The best puddles were on the merry-go-rounds. There are two at this park and both are terrible. They quite low to the ground and make horrible screeching sounds as one strains to propel them. On the plus side, it took Philip quite a bit of effort to push them and he loved watching the water ripple. Hurray for heavy work and interesting visual stimuli!

I thought for sure that the worst that would happen would be Philip getting a wet butt from either the swings and slides. Nope. Philip had something even messier in mind.

Reminding me of Richard Dreyfuss sculpting Devil’s Tower National Monument but with more smiling, Philip piled and shaped sand, dirt, and other debris on a bench. My favorite part was watching him attempt to carry fistfuls of water to his construction.

By the time I made him stop, Philip had dirt up to his elbows. He had tried to clean up by wiping his hands on his pants. We made a quick trip to the bathroom to wash up before heading into the library.





Sunday Slideshow: Yesteryear Machinery Club Show

There is something reassuring about a 111-year-old Ford driving past you. If that car is still going after all these years, what’s my excuse?

I was thus inspired last Sunday when we attended the twenty-third annual Yesteryear Machinery Club Show. This year’s featured brand was Massey Ferguson/Massey Harris. Even though there were many red tractors at the event, all were welcome. We saw the green (and pink!) of John Deeres, the yellow of Minneapolis-Molines, blue Fords, and a variety of other colors. Engines and all kinds of equipment were on display. There was also a car show just getting underway when we arrived.

This is the third year that we’ve taken Philip. He definitely showed more interest in the tractors and plows this time. Of course, he was most fascinated by the pond on the grounds of the career center where the event was held. This wouldn’t have been a problem except Peter and I were both interested in an activity that took place in a pavilion near the pond: radio control tractor and truck pulls.

Peter and I are both pulling fans, but neither of us knew that scale model pulling existed. There were model trucks, tractors, and semis. There was a sled built to scale. The only thing out of proportion was the garden tractor used to prep the track. Unfortunately, this made the track uneven, and the vehicles kept crashing into the sides. We didn’t stay long since this got old quickly plus Philip kept dragging me to the pond.

On our way out, we noticed a 1930 Ford Model A Roadster. It was the same vehicle that Philip had sat in last summer at a different event. The owner was busy talking to another attendee, otherwise we would have given Philip another chance to blow the horn again. I still got a picture. You’ll find it in the slide show below.

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Linking up to the yeah write #171 weekend moonshine grid