My daughters got into an interesting discussion on the way back from their religious education classes. The Little Sister was upset that one of her friends does not care about the President. The Big Sister suggested that maybe the friend does not care for the President.

Navel Gazing

For one of her classes last year, D. wrote a paper which analyzes an effect of the self-absorption of the media, in response to one of the unfounded assertions in the class’s text, that the rise of the Internet and “thousands” of cable channels had fragmented society. She asked, “Do Our Unlimited Choices Limit Our Shared Experiences?” Her expectation was that the text would be correct. It wasn’t. We’ve been led to believe that everybody watched the popular shows, and really only a small fraction of the population did.

I find this topic fascinating, and eagerly assisted with research and editing. My experience of “pop culture” was somewhat isolated, by choice and by my parents, so I felt out of place in the Big World at college. I wonder how many people there were familiar with all of the things they’d said they were, and how many were poseurs.

(Meanwhile, I’m seriously considering stopping our DirecTV subscription and removing the television, but do not yet have the support of other members of the household. Maybe we can compromise and keep Netflix.)

Complex Sentences

Today I learned that my daughter’s 3rd grade class takes their clipboards to the school garden, and then writes something about what they observe. On Friday, they wrote one of each type of sentence. The Big Sister showed us where her teacher posts what the class writes. I expected that they would all be simple sentences, like “The sky is blue.” She wrote,

A flower fell on me while I was sitting under a tree.

I am a proud father.

Big Woman

While in Virginia for Camp Binky, I read a bunch of papers that my sister had found in Grandmother’s collection of family histories. It turns out that my father’s great-grandfather‘s mother weighed 575 pounds. My aunt has her chair. It’s five or six feet wide. My sister has her apron; it’s more like a tablecloth.

Beautiful Day

It’s a beautiful day out today. The wind chases fluffy white clouds across the sky. Leaves whisper in the breeze, counterpoint to the bullfrog’s basso. I can hear the sounds of baseball from the park.

The girls are out playing somewhere, the boys are napping upstairs, while I sit on the deck, tired, grumpy, and working.

This has gone on too long, and has to stop. I want my life back.

Requiescat in pacem, Grandmother

Mary Leta Bell Cox, 91, a resident of Valley Bend, died at home on Tuesday, May 27, 2008.

She was born Jan. 31, 1917, at Elkwater, to the late Charles Howard and Susan Ann Fretwell Bell.

She married Charles Goff “Coxie” Cox on July 23, 1938. He preceded her in death in 1998, just short of their 60th wedding anniversary.

Leta and Coxie were the parents of three children, 11 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren, all of whom survive. Leta also had a number of nieces and nephews.

Her son, Charles William Cox and wife, Mary Lou, live in Mill Gap, Va. Their children and grandchildren are Charles William Jr. and Deena Cox and Emily, Olivia, Evan and Aidan of Poughquag, N.Y.; Geoffrey G. Goff Cox and Jaden of Monterey, Va.; Mary Rebekah and Allan Hadfield and Willa Bell, Mary Bird, Charlotte and Susanna of Staunton, Va.; Judith Anne and John Bendel and Zoe Leta, Cullen, Rhea and Tessa of McDowell, Va. Another son, Robert Earl Cox and wife, Diana, live in Eighty-four, Pa. His children and grandchildren are Jill and John Washabaugh, and John, Stephanie, Eddie, Andy and Ashley of Canonsburg, Pa.; Robert E. Cox Jr. of Deep Creek, Md.; Jeff and Alicia Cox and Amelia and Olivia of Morgantown; Debbi and Chris Mauser and Kaylee, Ethan and Evan of Houston, Pa., and Ben Cox of Morgantown. A daughter, Rebecca Sue Magee and husband, Robert, live in Blacksburg, Va. Her children and grandchildren are Christy Wohlford of Richmond, Va., and Candey and Andy Grice and Katie and Drew of Strasburg, Pa. A brother, Charles Howard Bell and wife, Ethelyn, reside in Valley Bend.

Two sisters, Leah Bell Heckle Hammer and Violet “Bobbie” Bell Davies preceded her in death.

Mrs. Cox was a beautician in Valley Bend for many years, operating Leta’s Beauty Shop prior to her retirement. She was a member of the Beverly Presbyterian Church, John Hart Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution and a former member of Randolph Chapter No. 74 Order of the Eastern Star.

At the request of the deceased, her remains will be cremated. A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 7, at the Beverly Presbyterian Church with Jo Ann Glasser and William Cox officiating. Memorial contributions may be made to the Randolph County Historical Society, Box 1164, Elkins, W.Va. 26241 or the Beverly Presbyterian Church, Beverly, W.Va. 26253 in memory of Mrs. Cox. The Tomblyn Funeral Home of Elkins is in charge of the arrangements for Mary Leta Bell Cox. Condolences may be expressed to the family at [from The Inter-Mountain].

Roam Where You Want To

We walked to the Memorial Day parade this morning. That was fun, though the posted speed limit on Beekman-Poughquag Road should be lowered by about 10 to 15 mph. We had a good time at the parade. The kids didn’t pay much attention to the speechifying afterwards — too busy playing with their friends. All Smoked Up was there, so I had a pulled pork sandwich.

But I got to thinking, how far do kids normally walk? Today we walked about 1.5 miles from our house to town hall, and back. At DisneyWorld we probably walked a good 15 miles per day, at least. It takes a little longer, about 30 minutes instead of 5, though with 4 kids a 5 minute jaunt rapidly turns into a 30 minute expedition.

I ran across “How Children Lost the Right to Roam in Four Generations,” via Free Range Kids, which had this neat map showing the different ranges that four generations roamed when they were eight years old. The great-grandfather walked six miles on his own. The grandfather walked one. The mother walked a half, and the son walks 300 yards, barely. That’s a shame.

I have a brother, so I was never truly alone. But I recall when I was a wee tot, before we moved to Ohio when I was five, that we’d walk down the farm lane to the pond to go swimming. It was just a short walk. (I can’t quite locate it for certain on this map, but if my guess is correct it was only 1100 feet.) In Ohio, we went alone to the woods to hunt for stuff, to the park to play ball, to the newstand for comics, over to our friends’ houses, and to the pool with our friends — we had to go with them; they were members. From one house, we roamed this range.

By the time we left town, our range had expanded. We were older, and had bicycles.

Would we let our kids roam that far? Maybe when they are older. Maybe by then the roads between our house and their grandmother’s will have sidewalks, and a speed limit lower than a superhighway’s. And then they can bike the three miles on their own.

Child Safety Latches

A design flaw in this child safety latch increases the likelihood that your child will open the cabinet, retrieve the Windex®, and drink it. Or, in our case, wash the floor.

The flaw? The installation of the latch requires precision. If the hook does not catch exactly on the loop, the door will open. The more reliable design is this latch, where the hook catches on a stop instead of a loop. There is more tolerance of error in the installation, and, because of that, the latch is less likely to become worthless over time.

New Maid

We have a new maid. His name is Jerry. He’s an iRobot Roomba 4105. Right now he’s cleaning the family room.

We’ve noted several idiosyncrasies. He prefers rooms without much furniture, or other floor-level decoration. He has trouble over metallic vent covers. He trapped himself on our dining room rug: it is mostly dark, except for a 2″ band of a light color; I think he thought he was about to fall over the stairs. He gets stuck under rocking chairs. And he doesn’t leave a nice, even pattern on the carpet. (That drives me nuts.) But he cleans well.

I’m not sure yet whether the preparation necessary for his cleaning takes more work than doing it myself, but I am sure that I would use a different pattern, and I wouldn’t take an hour a room.

Mad Scientists’ Club

Who wouldn’t want to be a member?

The Bigger Sister is reading well beyond what the schools expect of her, so at the library the other day, I went looking for some books that I remembered from when I was around her age. Specifically, I looked for The Mad Scientists’ Club. They have one copy in the Mid-Hudson Library System, over at Union Vale, so we’ll get it on inter-library loan.

Then just now, after reading about the re-printing of Mr. Pine’s Purple House, I visited the site of the publisher, Purple House Press.

The Mad Scientists are back in print! And there’re more!