Sep 192012

There’s a particular 3 year old who loves to come in to my office and inspect the ‘machines’ I have.  He checks to make sure the calculator, adding machine, computer mouse, bicycle pump and leaf blower are all in their places.  We talk about who they belong to and what they are for and if he can ‘have’ them.  He usually leaves my office with the calculator in hand, but, sometimes, he gets to play with the leaf blower.  These are VERY special days.


The first time I watched him with the leaf blower, I was struck by how he used it. Instead of asking to plug it in or flipping the power switch, he pulled an invisible starter cord over and over again. It suddenly became very clear: even though the leaf blower in his hands had no starter cord, he had seen one being started that way and that had become part of his script for using a leaf blower.

The power of observation is strong with this one.

  I know from talking with his parents that this little guy is obsessed with their gardener.  He watches him intently and takes note of every thing he does.

I wonder if that gardener is aware that he is an example, that his actions are being studied and mimicked.

“Be imitators” the Bible says.  No need to tell kids.  They got this.

This brings up two questions: Who is imitating you?  Who are you imitating?

 Posted by at 20:46
Sep 062012

We loaded up and headed to the ‘bu for Labor Day weekend.  Nine preteen girls, seven moms, and two dads with adventurous souls and a bit of camping chutzpah.

Malibu Creek State Park is scrub camping unless you get one of the shady spots, which we didn’t.  We did score a spot pretty close to the bathrooms though.  It’s all relative.

Here’s where I cut out the boring bits and serve up just the highlights.

It was really windy when we arrived so it was hard to put up the tents.

mary smaller   

The girls got creative.

We got all the tents up in time to take a walk to the ‘rock pool’, a naturally formed pool in Malibu Creek surrounded by vertical volcanic cliffs. It was the location for some scenes in Swiss Family Robinson, Planet of the Apes, and a few Tarzan movies. 



The girls braved the slime and waded right in.  They quickly discovered that flip-flops float and were virtually worthless against the muck.


Everyone swam and explored both above and below the water. My kid discovered great treasure when she dug up an old shoe from the bottom of the pool.  It had started to decompose and was full of rich black sludge.  She was in heaven investigating how being under water had changed the properties of the shoe.

As the sun pulled the curtain on our swim, we walked back to camp for a scrumptious spaghetti dinner. At the ‘campfire’ that night, the girls were treated to a live animal presentation put on by Wildworks.  They enjoyed meeting a skunk, barn owl, and many other local animals along with an African Serval that had been surrendered at a local shelter as a kitten.  The girls lingered long after the talk was over to pet the dogs that accompany the more exotic animals.

On our way back for the traditional s’mores, one of the moms discovered a tarantula in the path.  Apparently they are native to Southern California and males are often seen wandering in search of females in the fall!tarantulacroppedsmall.jpg

We managed to get a decent night’s sleep and woke to the summer sun blaring down on us.  (I got to share someone’s air mattress.  Sh!  I know that’s cheating.)  After a leisurely breakfast, the girls decided to spend the morning ‘relaxing’ while a group of mom’s took off to explore the campground. On our ramblings, we discovered that some people bring their entire kitchen camping with them, California King Snakes are constrictors and REI trains their employees at Malibu Creek. The highlight was watching a lone coyote yip at an open field as if it’s life depended on the amount of noise it could make. Being city folk, we assumed it was injured or protecting it’s young.  As we passed by at a safe distance, it abruptly quit and trotted off towards the park entrance. So much for our theories.

Lunch was perhaps our most thrilling adventure of the trip. The girls had constructed “Buddy Burners” out of upended coffee cans using tuna cans filled with wax and cardboard for fuel.  They cooked amazing grilled cheese sandwiches on them and then started a batch of brownies and some chocolate chip cookies.  



We had to abandon the project mid-stream since the hot wax began flowing down the wooden picnic benches carrying the flames with it.  

 bench crop

A little quick thinking saved the bench, but the dessert idea was abandoned.





We headed off to Zuma Beach where the girls challenged the power of the waves and gladly lost every time. They soon retired to the sand where they buried a few brave souls.




Needless to say, showers were the first order of business when they returned to camp. Another good(?) nights’ sleep and a Starbucks’ run brought us to the end of a wonderful weekend.



 Posted by at 18:26