Thursday, April 4, 2013

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas


At the window, a boy, a shepherd
from the field, from the night,
breathless, owl-quick over the walls
he came, saw my candle's light.
"Angels!' he says, dancing on his toes,
wild star-lit hair, face giddy, his voice
like a silver bell, "Angels!" he rings,
"And a baby. Come see. Rejoice!"
                                              t. silva 12\12

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Two Thanksgiving themed panels from my Reffie Bear comic.

(Click on panel for larger view)

(Click on panel for larger view)

Reffie Bear appears sporadically at .

Friday, November 9, 2012


MR WASHINGTON: George. Do you know who chopped down the cherry tree?

GEORGE: As I recall, Sir, the yard was pretty much a disaster when we settled here.

MR WASHINGTON: True enough, son, the landscaping on our property has been an ongoing challenge. But, even so, there was a particular cherry tree growing right here in this yard.  I enjoyed it's company this very morning,  pausing on this spot to watch the morning sunlight flicker like firey little bees buzzing through it's hive of pink blossoms. A cherry tree. The whole of it blissfully engaged in the process of producing sweet plump cherries. And, now, as you can plainly see, that very same tree has been reduced to a sad stump.

GEORGE: That does appear to be a stump, although I must submit that I am not a botanist, so as to what type or nature of stump, I cannot with surety say. And as to whether or not it is sad or glad, I also cannot know without further study.

MR WASHINGTON: It is a tree stump. A cherry tree stump. Can you not see how the grass is still glazed with cherry blossoms?

GEORGE: A worthy theory. I wouldn't argue against it, though I might still hesitate to fully embrace it.

MR WASHINGTON: Well, there isn't much tree remaining to be embraced, and yet, a cherry tree it was. Do you know who chopped it down?

GEORGE: Chopping there was. Chopping indeed. And if it was chopping, unauthorized by you, then I can assure you that I am no fan of said chopping, which there strongly appears to have been.

MR WASHINGTON: Well. It wasn't plucked, was it? It was chopped. My question to you, son: Do you know whom it was who accomplished this chopping?

GEORGE: Knowing a thing, I agree, is much preferred. If one can know a thing about a thing, then one does certainly know at least that thing. And knowing in turn makes conditions very inhospitable for doubt or  ignorance. No. I do not care for ignorance. I will not stand for it.

MR WASHINGTON: And here I stand, as yet unknowing. Son. My son. You were attendant this day. Can you, or can you not, give a name to the trespassing lumberjack who has laid waste to this cherry tree, and in so doing, robbed this family of uncounted seasons of cherry pie?

GEORGE: Sir, I am most certainly your son, and as such you are my Father. I believe this from the depths of my too human boy-heart and would climb this tree and shout the world deaf with the fact of it, were there still a tree here. As your son, know that this day does not contain within it hours enough for me to confess fully my fidelity to you, and to adequately express the passion with which I support both your right to admire trees and your inclination to enjoy pies. And the cherry tree is an honorable and beautiful  fruit bearing tree. Lovely to look at. More lovely to eat. Fie this day that has denied you both!

MR WASHINGTON: GeorgeSonIf a proper name is too lofty a reach for you, then can you at least provide some gauzy visage of a description that may, upon some ponderment, lead to a name?

GEORGE: There is something that does lead to a name. Leads if not directly to the name that gripped the axe - if, after all there was an axe. We must be careful not to leap to certainties, but to speak mainly in suppositions. Keeping our eyes on the surmise. After all, we cannot leave out an ambitious and well handled knife or spade. Anyway, a name can be approached with much earnest conjecture, and if that name is not the chopper of the tree, it may yet be the name that incited another to chop said tree in an act of proxy.


GEORGE: There is a story being told in town of a certain lad who has taken it upon himself to litter the countryside with apple seeds.


GEORGE: Apple seeds. Littering. Literally. Littering. The entire country.

MR WASHINGTON: Apple seeds?

GEORGE: Exactly. Apple seeds. Apparently the boy wanders about as a vagrant, unfettered by any purpose other than the casting of apple seeds onto whatever path his steps take him, not discerning whether that be a farmers field, a mayor's garden, or a pastor's churchyard.

MR WASHINGTON: And this leads us to our cherry stump, how?

GEORGE: Well, imagine the offences so sown? No one has asked this boy for apple trees, yet there he is planting wherever he pleases. Can you appreciate the concern of one finding an apple tree where one thought he had planted pumpkins, or had maybe hoped for an uninterrupted view of a lake, or even a cow?  Strawberries? Nay. Apples. Corn? Not this day. Apples. Barn? No room. Apples. Gazebo? Rest elsewhere. Apples. Cherry Tree?

MR WASHINGTON: Are you proposing that this boy's discarded apple seeds swarmed up and consumed our cherry tree?

GEORGE: Not at all. What I'm suggesting - and it is only a suggestion - I would not venture the conceit of presenting a fact - although it is a very convenient and well fitting suggestion - that this boy has by his senseless, and yes, I'll call it - cruel - his cruel carelessness, has created a resentment toward trees. A resentment that has taken it's own root and spread from county to county. A resentment that has now cast it's shadow in our own village. It would not be a stretch to conjure a farmer, who upon encountering a third or fourth, perhaps even an eighth errant apple tree, in a place where he had gone out seeking hens, or even cherries, then took up his axe and went forth like a crusader to rid the countryside of apple trees. But when he was finished with the trees, he was no longer himself. No, he had become as a human locust, pushed beyond reclamation of his reason.

MR WASHINGTON: And chopped down our cherry tree.

GEORGE: Johnny. His name is Johnny. The apple seed boy.

MR WASHINGTON: Son. Please go in and tell your mother that there will be no cherries for a while, and then come out and meet me in the woodshed.

Friday, August 17, 2012

7 Quick Takes

Taking the Conversion Diary 7 Quick Takes

1. Happy Friday. My cold bottle of Fat Tire Amber says that I could win a bike. That bike. The one on the label. Went to the web site. Who knows? Turns out, my state doesn't allow winning prizes from alcoholic prizes. The alcohol is cool. Just no prizes. 
2. Kids got invited to swim next door. Yay for them. House is soooo hot.
3. I mean really, really hot. So hot, I'm going to offer it up and get some Purgatorians into heaven.
4. Celebrating a whole week of sleeping with my CPAP. If I told you this while wearing it, it would sound like, "C-aaaahhhhh braaaaaaahhhh weaaaaaahhhh aaaaaaaahh  waaaaaaah Caaaaaaaahh PaaaaaaaahP."
5.Kids are home, hungry, and Disney has taken over the living room. The hot living room. Some Purgatorian just said, "Sweet!"
6.I didn't check Facebook for a week. It didn't miss me.
7. My Bride just suggested we take the kids out of the hot house to Denny's. Sweet.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On the Fourth Day of Christmas . . .

Of Course a Child
Of course a child, low, begotten grace
in cattle straw, naked, small, our sole reprieve.
And then, a child again, to recognize His face,
to watch for stars, hear angels, and believe.
Humbled be, as humbled He, heaven’s happy choice.
Awaken wonder. Hope anew. To manger, run. Rejoice!
                                                                  T. Silva, Dec. 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011


The National Catholic Register's Twitter account was hacked and deleted last week. A notice at the NCR web page reports the hacking incident and suggests that the NCR Twitter account may not be retrievable and will probably have to be rebuilt - one "Follow" at a time. The bulletin also draws a connection from the First Reading of the previous day, and points out that "sometimes you know you are honoring Christ by those who choose to be your enemy, and by the ways they make their opposition known."

It's true, but I don't always like to think about it. We shouldn't be surprised when we run into opposition as we labor in the daily work of the Gospel. It is difficult to interpret the stress and discouragement with which I struggle as an ataboy pat on the back. A heavy handed, sometimes not charitable pat, but an affirmation just the same. An affirmation that I'm involved in something extraordinary, that my little corner of the local Church is making progress and faithfully carrying forward the Lord's will, especially at those times when every little thing seems to come crashing down. If it's painful, it's probably gainful.

There is definitely an abundance of joy to be found in living the Gospel. We are promised a peace that cannot be attained any other way, a peace beyond human understanding. But we should expect the cross to chafe at times. We may hear jeers instead of cheers after making a great play. We don't always have the home court advantage in this temporal journey, but we shouldn't lose heart. When big time opposition confronts us, we can take that as a big time compliment. If the other guys are double teaming us and constantly throwing fowls in our face,  we must be considered a major threat to score. And we will score, again and again.  And we'll take the free throws too, thank you.

The National Catholic Register suggests that we be ready to Follow them anew when they return to Twitter, and to encourage our friends to Follow as well. I will, and I'd recommend that you do so, even if you didn't before. The National Catholic Register is a great Catholic presence in the abundant fields of social media. They may get hacked again. They will get up again. Jesus already modeled this for us. Pick up the cross and walk on. Oh, and say some prayers for the hackers while you're getting back to your feet.  Jesus would "Like" that.

Friday, February 4, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different . . .

I've been lagging in the written word of late, but still spending time in creative endeavors. This is a comic I'm pitching to run weekly or monthly on an intranet web site that I'm creating for work. The site is intended to be an online option for our customers problem resolutions.. The trick with the comic is to be funny with an IS/IT theme without making light of our customers problems or our response. I've always enjoyed writing. The drawing is more of a guilty hobby, I call it "Fun with Inkscape."

I've also been producing a comic and blog for my kid's school, Our Lady of Refuge in Long Beach. Go Bears! You can check out the adventures of Reffie Bear and friends HERE.

Still progressing on two novels in whatever spare time I can find. Haven't written any new music this year, but did get an opportunity to play. Spending most time and energy in the center ring of husband\fatherhood parishioner.  St. Expeditus, pray for us.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Wow. Talk about getting birthday presents from your rich uncle. Three Kings show up who hadn't even been included in the Evite. Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh. Can you imagine the discussion between Joseph and Mary as they were still peeking through the window to see who was knocking?

"Camels. They have camels."
"We can't feed all of those camels."
"Has to be the wrong house. Is that tall one wearing a crown?"
"He is. And the little one in back, the one having trouble dismounting. Wait! There's a third, just come round the cistern."
"Kings? Three kings?"
"Cleopus and his Mary are out talking to them now. I hope he doesn't anger them."
"Here. Hold the baby."
"Why? What are you going to do?"
"We have to offer them something. Give the baby to Cleopus and go and draw some water."
"OK. But we're not going to feed the camels. They're knocking again."
"Hurry now. You know, angels came to see him. Why not kings?"
"The angels didn't show up with hungry camels. Look - now they're into the figs!"

As humble as He arrived, and as humble as He lived, the world just couldn't help but take notice. The homage of the foreign kings, and later the palm strewn cheers of the fickle multitude. Alleluia. Hosanna. Come Lord Jesus. Come indeed. Receive the shabbily rewrapped return of Your own merit as gift from us.

This Advent, my two older children came to my wife and I asking what work they could do around the house. They wanted to earn money so that they could buy us Christmas presents. (The youngest is a November baby, and proudly invests her surplus birthday money.) When they were younger, they would just take items from around the house and wrap them. The truth is, the gift is always the act of letting them be the giver.

That's how it is with God. Everything we offer Him, every sacrifice or talent we place before Him, already belongs to Him. He humors us, encourages us to mimic His act of giving, to be the givers, so that we can approach Him, stand right beside those travelling kings from afar, and lay down our gifts. We repurpose the blessings He has given us and set them back before Him. Bright shiny possesions that we were allowed to take as our own just so that we could give them back. A skipped meal or the Sistine Chapel, they are all simply lumpy clay nic nacs with our names scratched into the belly. None should boast or be ashamed. All should give. Like the boy whose small offering of bread and fish fed a multitude. He might of thought afterwords, "Wow. Did I do that?" No. But God does it with us. In us, through us. Let's us play a part.

So, let us go then. Travel afar or near. Bearing gifts. Write a song. Call a friend. Visit a shut in. Feed the hungry. Paint a chapel. Or maybe sit down and pound out a really cool drum beat, and offer that to God. Parum pa pum pum.

Favorite Donut of 2010

You can dip 'em, dunk 'em, bring a box into work and share 'em, but when you wear one, you get my vote.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Keep It Real

Bonas Brothers find afterlife gigs not quite as fulfilling . . .

Monday, August 16, 2010

Feast of the Assumption

Good Shepherd Shelter

In His poem, Birches, Robert Frost wonders if it might be nice to leave the stress and labor of this life, this weary earth, and climb up a forest birch tree towards an uncertain heaven. But he builds in an escape clause. When the climber in the poem reaches the thin treetop, the tree dips, giving him a playful return back to the forest floor.

I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Saint Paul spoke about being torn between his longing to be completely with God, and his passion to continue his ministry within the imperfect temporal world.
Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would be a positive gain. On the other hand again, if to be alive in the body gives me an opportunity for fruitful work, I do not know which I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and to be with Christ, and this is by far the stronger desire- and yet for your sake to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need. (Phillipians 1:22-24)
The Feast of the Assumption reminds us that we will, in a way, eventually get to have it both ways. Heaven does not wait for our soul alone, but for our physical body as well.
If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished" (1 Cor. 15:13–18).
It is comforting to know, that no matter how inconceivably wonderful heaven will be, it will in fact be familiar. God will be familiar. We were made in His image for life with Him in heaven. When we at long last arrive on heavens shore, we will not be strangers there. We will be home.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hear Ted?

Saw this window while making a lunch time visit in Holy Spirit Church. Trying to figure out which Ted I should be hearing. Hmmmm. Quick - to Google.

Could this be a plug for Ted Nugent's appearance next week on Fox News Network's new show Money Rocks, or simply a shout out to the career and musical legacy of the loud rocker? I think not and not. Ted Haggard is still sorry, but otherwise seems to be moving on with his ministry/career. Ted Williams frozen head isn't saying anything. I'll put him in the not likely having anything new to "hear" column along with Roosevelt and Kennedy. Ted Turner? Well - this was a church window.

Then it occurred to me - Saint Theodore! Yeah, that's the ticket. I pointed my keyboard towards this mystery saint only to find out that there were quite a lot of Saint Theodore's. Monks, martyrs, bishops, martyrs, soldiers, and more martyrs. I read of Saint Theodore I and Saint Theodore II. Also Saints Theodore of Cantbury and Bologna, Cyrene, Egypt, Studites and Sykeon. And of course, Saint Theodore's of Tabenna, Tarsus, Pausilippus, Pavia, Stratelates, Antioch and Trichinas. Oh, and St. Theodore the Sacrist.

Holy, courageous, inspiring, often tragic, and yet ultimately victorious men. Still, I did not come upon any direct quotes from any of them to "hear." Then I found St. Theodore Guerin, the newest of the Sainted Theodore's, also known as Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. Yes - no Theodora, yet still a lady. Mother Theodore Guerin was beatified by John Paul II in 2008, and as it turns out, is very much quoted. What follows are a few of my favorites, and definitely worth "hearing." For more on this awesome Nun and Foundress, visit the internet home of the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods.

Regarding the Eucharist:

“Send your heart a thousand times a day to adore our Lord really and truly present in the Holy Sacrament.”

Regarding the human quality and simplicity to Mother Theodore’s perception of God

[God] shares our miserable dwelling with us. He remains with us day and night. Yes, while you are peacefully sleeping Jesus is watching over you.” “The spirit of faith consists in doing our actions for God, in His presence, to look upon all events of life as directed by Him.”

Very cool indeed. I'm glad I decided to "Hear-Ted." Thanks window.

Friday, June 4, 2010

National Donut Day

It's National Donut Day! Time to string lights on the Donut Tree, sing Donut Carols, head outside to the yard to see if the Donut Bunny hid any Donut Holes, and check the news to see if Dunxsutawney Daryll saw his shadow when he climbed out of his pink box.

Rings, bars, filled, or simply the hole - get ye to a donut. There are a lot to choose from: Crullers, Vanities, Comfits, Fritters, Long Johns, Boston cream doughnuts, Potato doughnuts, Sour cream doughnuts, Simball, Olicook, Olykoecks, Bear claws, Elephant Ears, Yum Yums, Fasnachts, Frying Saucers, Bear sign (cowboy slang for ring doughnuts) and Johnnycakes. My personal favorite: the apple fritter. Bought my last one right down the street at Yum Yum Donuts. Nothing on their site regarding free donuts, but maybe your local one is celebrating the big day. FREE DONUTS are out there today - if you're reading this in real time. Friday, June 4, 2010. Check out Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts for more info on their observance of National Donut Day.

I have decided to honor National Donut Day by re-running my original blog post which kind of explains why I named this blog "Will There Be Donuts?" in the first place. Happy National Donut Day!


Will There Be Donuts?

I remember one Sunday morning a few years back, my wife and I were hurriedly buckling the kids into the minivan trying to beat the start time for the next Mass at St. Convenience's. St Convenience is any parish other than your usual parish that has a mass time which most closely fits an altered Sunday itinerary. You either slept in late because of a pretty good Saturday night, or you're going in early so that you can squeeze in an all day event immediately afterwards. Basically minimum requirement triaging. I don't remember the specific reason for that Sunday morning, but I do remember explaining the change in our schedule to our youngest as I buckled her into her carseat. She had only one question.

"Will there be doughnuts?"

"Oh no!" I thought, "The carrot has been taken from the stick - and she knows." I also remember making the attempt to ease her disappointment with a little preschool catechesis, and I think I remember not being very successful.

It wasn't her fault. She had a very good right to be disappointed, because it really wasn't about the donuts. This particular daughter usually orphaned her donut after a single bite and ran off to be busy with the real attraction of coffee hour. Being in the moment of community. Outside voices inside (with an outside option on most days.) Running, weaving through the maze of chairs and tables, giddy laughing, untethered. Finding friends, or making some. The happy buzz of dozens of voices speaking at once, as one.

At mass, we the collected, the unsorted assembly, are called to be one. We are called to communion. We are called to become one body. In the Eucharist, we become that one body. Even though we rush in from so many different points of view and states of grace, our God re images us into one harmonious people. Is it wrong then, to want to take this gift from the politeness of our pews and not immediately disperse it to the parking lot? Isn't it a good thing to commit twenty more minutes for a kind of second communion, to spend time actually in communion with the other human faces of our Lord's Eucharistic presence? I mean, most of the people we worship with and share the miracle with, never get past a hand shaking relationship with us. Head nods and smiles and parking lot waves.

We should let the kids run a bit. They've been (mostly) quiet for an hour. We could have a cup of coffee and maybe a refill. Find out how George's surgery went. Hear about Tom and Joy's vacation. Get an update on the Smith's kids, and their kid's kids. Welcome the stranger. Listen to the aged. Share stories. Plan plans. Dream dreams. Grow together.

Donuts can be a very good thing. Maple bars. Old fashioned. Jelly filled. Come on people. Let there be donuts.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Rumbly In My Tumbly

Here I come again, running to God like a kid with a handful of sweaty quarters and a sweet tooth. Hit the knees.

"Father, Son, Holy Spirit. God, I need a (FILL IN BLANK.)"

Quarter. Quarter. Quarter. F4.

My prayer life is often a little heavy on prayers of petition and a little light on the other forms of prayer: blessing, thanksgiving, intercession, and praise. It's not that I disregard the other forms, it's just that when I'm navigating a particularly tough stretch of road, some of the other forms don't spontaneously manifest themselves within the situation as naturally as a good desperate priority 1 petition. Driving in fog. In the dark. Low on fuel. Crisis tends to draw one away from theological considerations, and more towards the basic, "Get me there, Lord. Just get me there. Hail Mary, full of grace . . ."

A side note about that rough stretch of road - it's a long stretch. One thing that I've learned is that one crisis always seems to replace another. We are always in need, totally dependant on our God. The Catechism teaches us "that every need can become the object of petition." Our needs tend to get our attention, like the arm waving school kid who sits right in front of the teacher. They also tend to mess with our subconscious thoughts, like the posse flanked bully stealthily punching bellies in the hallway between classes.

Needs. Needs. Needs. Love. Health. Forgiveness. Stature. Victory. Safety. Less fog. Missing car keys. A Snickers Bar.

I'm sure that God understands that the noisy demands of any given moment heavily influence the time we spend with him, steering us more towards being a friend in need than a friend indeed.

Fear. Pain. Loneliness. Sorrow. Anger. Envy. These are the hungers that drive our spiritual appetite. Our indicators that we have a need. We get a rumbly in the tumbly and it's time for something sweet. This isn't just metaphorical, either. Stress or heartache can easily create the need for an actual Kit Kat bar or a cold pint of Ben & Jerry's. So off we go, quarters in hand, to visit God's Vending Machine.

"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God." Phillipians 4:6

Paul's admonition to petition with confidence, with thanksgiving built into our asking, allows us to blend our asking prayer with a prayer of thanksgiving. Multitasking with a single prayer. Isn't God great? Hey. Now we're praising too.

Visualizing God's generous presence among us as a vending machine also gives image to a problem we can bring to our prayer requests. The rows of brightly wrapped candies illustrate our wants, not our needs. The object or condition we desire is our own personal answer to our problem, a definitive condition linked to our petition, telling God instead of asking. I believe that if God installed prayer petition snack machines in the back of our Churches, there would only be one button. It would read: A1 - Thy Will Be Done. God already knows what we need before we even press the button. (Matthew 6:8) We are experts at knowing THAT we need. Not always on WHAT we need.

Also, God's vending machine wouldn't require any quarters, and it would always be in perfect working order. If we push the button with chocolate on our mind and a carrot drops into the bin, we should count it all joy, and make like a hungry rabbit. If nothing were to drop, we shouldn't kick the machine, but thank God for the generous invitation to fast, or realize that the snack was delivered to someone even hungrier. Hey - now we're doing intercessory prayer!

Forgiveness. Joy. Healing. Conversion. Companionship. Love. Eternal life. Found keys. Clear roads. A Snickers Bar. Wow! There's some really nice stuff in that vending machine. Press the button.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I Got It!

" I got it!"


"Watch it!"

Three boys and one fly ball. A collision of intent. The result: a missed catch and grass stains on the Sunday pants. The problem wasn't in the fit of the gloves, or in the eyes of the catchers. The problem wasn't even the uncomfortable Sunday clothes. The problem was the intent. Instead of intending that the ball be caught, each boy intended passionately to be the one catching the ball. Great passion badly played.

How often do I find myself making this rookie error in my daily life? Doing things my way. Failing to communicate. Unwilling to yield my opinion. Measuring the big wins by personal gains. Wondering why everyone isn't on the same page - my page.

Luckily, our God is an awesome coach. I can hear Him calling patiently from the dugout, His arms pressed against the chain link. "Ok guys. Let's talk to each other out there."

Sometimes life puts us in right field to watch some other teammate suck up all the action and glory at shortstop. Other times we're in right field praying the big lefty will pull to left field. Accumulating personal gain and avoiding personal pain. Mine!

The gospel is a team sport. Every player counts. We're not all pitchers. We're not all big hitters. But we are all needed. Each one of us has a position to play that is vital to the team. Sometimes the season can seem endless. There are a lot of games to play, and each single game is critical. The whole season can be won or lost in an afternoon. But we are a great team and we do have an awesome coach. All He expects from us is that we show up dressed to play, keep our head in the game, our eyes on the ball, play the best game we can, and always play as a team.
Don't look now, but all those saints and angels in the bleachers just started doing the wave. Batter up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Jupiter Has Gas

No. Really. It does. Jupiter is a gas giant. My third grader thinks that is hilarious. The word gas is stop-the-world funny at her age. For me, the word is more of a painful metaphor than a humorous one. Gas equals discomfort of the belly or the wallet, depending on whether I'm thinking of indigestion or the price of a fillup at the pump.

But when you're eight years old, or around that age, gas is comedy. And Jupiter being a gas giant can bring you to tears. I mean, really. Could you imagine bunking with Jupiter at camp?

Our youngest child recently had her long awaited turn with the third grade planet project. Basically, the teacher has the children draw planets from a hat, and then they skip home with the single sheet of instructions (rules) that will guide the child in discovering the wonders of our amazing solar system by building a desktop sized model of their chosen planet. This would be the third planet to be born on our dining room table in as many years. One of the pluses of having children in three consecutive grades is that you start to get good at parenting the projects. You become a veteran, you’ve had field experience. You’ve made some mistakes, but you’ve learned from them.

Planet number one at our house was basically a soccer sized Styrofoam ball smothered in a thick coat of paper glue to prevent the finishing coat of red paint from eating the planet. Polar ice caps were added with white Play-Doh. The planet sat upon a small black circular stand borrowed from a shelved astronomy kit. Planet number two the following year utilized the same stand, but substituted a friendlier brush-on paint that wouldn't consume the planet. The twist with this model was a light feature that my middle child dreamed up herself. The planet would glow with beautiful light, accomplished by placing a small battery powered LED light in the stand that would shine up and into the hollowed out Styrofoam ball. Have you ever hollowed out a soccer sized Styrofoam ball? Neither has my daughter. Dad got to empty the Styrofoam pumpkin, due to the requirement of sharp, steel and pointy things. Messy, messy, messy.

With the arrival of planet number three, Dad thought he pretty much had this down. Different name, different color, but basically a painted ball on a stand. I knew which store and which aisle to hit. I still had the stand. I was even prepared to talk down any suggested light features. But child number three dances to a different drummer. She was totally prepared to recreate the entire process, to switch up the media. It was a new day, a new planet, and a new vision was called for. So I let her imagination run with her spindly legs down row after row of that craft store. We considered new and wonderful options to the beloved Styrofoam. We looked at wood: blocks, dowels, and boards. We considered clay and clay-like products. Some which never hardened. Some which hardened overnight. Some which only hardened when you baked it like a tray of chocolate chip cookies. We browsed, touched, held, weighed, and even dropped a few things. After more than an hour of discussing, debating, dreaming, re-debating, and finally deciding, we left the store with a bagged Styrofoam ball, assorted colors of paint (Jupiter is striped) and a thick black poster board which would replace the old-school black circular stand of the previous two planets.

So, with minimal parental assistance, Jupiter came to be, red spots and all, completed by bedtime and set on a counter to dry. Jupiter, bolted into still life orbit over a poster board night of paint-dotted stars. Jupiter, the gas giant.

"Hey Jupiter. Did you enjoy those beans?"

"If Jupiter had a finger, would you pull it?"

It's true. Learning about the solar system can be fun and even funny, if you let your third grade sense of humor out for a long overdue play date. You should have heard the jokes last year when our middle child was talked into trading Venus away for Uranus. It really is a pretty planet. It’s also pretty funny.