Tag Archives: Play

2014—A Summary of My Year in Facebook Photos


March 24 snow

Swing in back yard near the end of March. Winter month this year.

I’ve seen many Facebook friends post their “year in review,” with a heading that goes something like “2014 was a great year, thanks for being part of it.”

Of course, as part of the Facebook user base, I’ve seen my own year in review that Facebook prepared, but I’ve not posted it for others to see because I didn’t choose those images.

But, still, thanks for being part of 2014 anyway, if you in any way chose to interact with me and shared any good thoughts or energy. However, if I am to sum up 2014 and look ahead to 2015, what would I say?

2014 was a year of transitions. Jon and Nalena finished the Peace Corps and are in the UK even as I write this, on to some time in Portugal. She is in graduate school in Pennsylvania studying human-computer interaction or world domination or something, and he is along for the ride and doing various projects. Nina finished her tenure as a social worker in Omaha, and was off in fall to Baltimore and law school. Ben graduated from Iowa State, but stayed there to pursue a combined master’s and PhD math program.

I wish them all the best in their new adventures. While it didn’t change my life right away, graduate school nonetheless opened to door to the life I live now, and I hope it does the same for all of you.

In professional terms, 2014 was mixed. The newspaper at Mount Mercy, which I guided to a weekly publication some years ago, is again now published every other week. I hope that it can thus become more multi-media and web oriented, but our moves in that direction have been tentative, so far. Well, if more than a decade of college teaching has taught me one thing, it’s that change is usually not easy nor swift.

But this was also the year I coordinated a fall semester World War I remembrance event, which brought lots of communication attention and people to campus. That was nice.

It’s also the year that I’ve branched out, just a bit. Besides starting to learn to play the piano, I’ve also begun writing a media column in a regional weekly newspaper, The Corridor Business Journal. I hope some of you have seen my monthly missive, which began in November and continues in 2015.

Anyway, what were the major events of 2014, tracked partly the trail of images I posted on Facebook?

January—sometime in the previous year, Amelia had discovered scissors. After a cutting incident in February of this year, where she apparently decided her short hair was not short enough, throughout the rest of 2014 a truce prevailed—she agreed not to use scissors to cut her own hair, if her mom agreed to regularly take her to have her hair cut at a salon. (Katy reports this kind of dialogue ensued: Hair cutter at salon attempts small-talk with Amelia. “Do you like princesses?” “No, I like fish.”) The truce has held, so far, but we hide all scissors whenever Amelia is around.

Amelia in January--sporting the short hair she insists upon. And remember. She sin't into princesses. She likes fish.

Amelia in January–sporting the short hair she insists upon. And remember. She is not into princesses. She likes fish.

Nikayla and Amelia are super heroes in January.

Nikayla and Amelia are super heroes in January.

February—winter is cold and snowy, so a lot of indoor play is in order. Hide-and-seek is an ever popular game, but only for the older grandchildren. It seems to be around age 3 or so when the whole idea suddenly becomes attractive and the child has an idea of what the game is about.

Tristan in February

Tristan’s reaction in February to being “found’ during hide-and-seek.

It's hard to believe when playing with the little girl today, but in February Relena was a baby just learning to walk.

It’s hard to believe when playing with the little girl today, but in February Relena was a baby just learning to walk.

March–it was around this time that I began to take piano lessons. Progress has been slow, but I’m an old dog learning lots of new tricks. I can slowly read music now. This was a very cold March, almost a second February, but by the end of the month was finally getting warm enough to play outside and visit parks, which was nice.

By March 30, the cold March was finally giving way to spring. Flying kites at C Avenue Park.

By March 30, the cold March was finally giving way to spring. Flying kites at C Avenue Park.

April—spring semester, as it always does, is getting into chaos. But the weather is turning nice—finally the world in Iowa is greening up and blooming. Audrey and I take some joint bike rides, a nice trend of 2014, although I doubt I’ll ever talk her into RAGBRAI. Well, maybe a day of it, we shall see.

Audrey and I ready for an April 11 bike ride.

Audrey and I ready for an April 11 bike ride.

April 21--the long winter is now well gone, spring at Mount Mercy campus.

April 21–the long winter is now well gone, spring at Mount Mercy campus.

May—Graduation, a bittersweet time—time to say farewell to some talented students. We had a nice Sheller family picnic and began to enjoy more “normal” warm weather. I still haven’t replaced a dead crab apple tree in a back garden. The Hawthorne tree in front is declared dead and replaced by a new redbud tree. Transitions begin as I think it was near the end of the month where Nina joined us for the time between her job and starting law school.

More MMU flowers, on May 2.

More MMU flowers, on May 2.

Dinos line up at sandbox to celebrate Mother's Day, 2014.

Dinos line up at sandbox to celebrate Mother’s Day, 2014.

Maddy and Tom, two very talented students who graduated in May form MMU. Both were editors on the student newspaper.

Maddy and Tom, two very talented students who graduated in May form MMU. Both were editors on the student newspaper.

May 24 Sheller family picnic , organized by Nichole Ose while her sister Barbara initiates the series of UK visitors we enjoyed in 2014.

May 24 Sheller family picnic , organized by Nichole Ose while her sister Barbara initiates the series of UK visitors we enjoyed in 2014.

June—we take pleasure in a visit by our oldest daughter and her daughters. I don’t recall that we “did” that much, but hanging at home and enjoying their company seemed quite a treat, a highlight of the year. Also in June, Cate and I ride the Raccoon River Ride with Brigid and Eldon—and since Francis was in the shop, I rode that 100-mile, two-day ride on The Beast. Cate saw, and I photographed, a monarch caterpillar, and that prompted a project later this year, where I collected milkweed seed and scattered some in my gardens. We’ll see if any come up in 2015.

Relena, already looking more grown up, ready for her first bike ride on my bike's toddler seat.

Relena, already looking more grown up, ready for her first bike ride on my bike’s toddler seat.

June 115--Raccoon River Ride. Eldon's bike has a custom-made "pod" which holds lots and also improves airflow around the trike.

June 15–Raccoon River Ride. Eldon’s bike has a custom-made “pod” which holds lots and also improves airflow around the trike.

Baby Monarch seen on ride--Cate pointed it out.

Baby Monarch seen on ride–Cate pointed it out.

June 24--visitors from the East. Juliet and Amanda from Norwich, England.

June 24–visitors from the East. Juliet and Amanda from Norwich, England.

June 27--Elizabeth and Juliet enjoy some water play on the back deck.

June 27–Elizabeth and Juliet enjoy some water play on the back deck.

July—early in the month, we bid farewell to the Moscous, who are back to Norwich. Skype is a good tool for touching base several times a month, but there’s no doubt it’s great to see people in person. This is RAGBRAI month, and the ride this year is sometimes a challenge, with one of the worst rainstorms I’ve seen on the ride (fortunately on a morning when I had a driving shift).

July 2--some smiles shortly before return to England.

July 2–some smiles shortly before return to England.

July 20--Team Joe is about to start RAGBRAI.

July 20–Team Joe is about to start RAGBRAI.

July 20--the Roccas on the road during the first afternoon of RAGBRAI.

July 20–the Roccas on the road during the first afternoon of RAGBRAI.

July 22--Cate and I tackle the excess sweet corn problem.

July 22–Cate and I tackle the excess sweet corn problem.

August—Nina is off to Baltimore. Katy and Wyatt kindly volunteer to move her there, which means some extended play time with grandchildren. School starts at MMU, and the WWI series also kicks off and proves, right from the start, to be popular.

Reading on deck Aug. 9.

Reading on deck Aug. 9.

September—Nalena and Jon come home for a quick weekend trip to attend a wedding. She has already started graduate school, and is busy with homework. Well do I remember those days! My life now can get very busy—and in academia, as a professor, I still feel like I’m in that campus rat race at times, but frankly, I don’t miss the stress of being a graduate student.

Grandparents Day at Novak School, where Tristan is in preschool. He shows us how to play with LEGOS

Sept. 9–Grandparents Day at Novak School, where Tristan is in preschool. He shows us how to play with LEGOS

Sept. 19--Nikaya seem to be helping Nalena with some graduate school homework.

Sept. 19–Nikaya seem to be helping Nalena with some graduate school homework.

October—we do a breast cancer walk with a niece, and we attend the wedding of one of Nina’s close friends. Brittany and Steve Hoover have a very nice ceremony at a celebration barn near Solon, and Audrey is treated as a featured guest, escorted in and seated in the front row, as the official stand-in for Nina. During fall break, we visit Ben in Ames and have a lovely bike ride there, too.

Oct. 5, Niece Marina takes selfie with Audrey at start of Especially for You breast cancer walk.

Oct. 5, Niece Marina takes selfie with Audrey at start of Especially for You breast cancer walk.

Oct. 10--Audrey dances with groom at wedding.

Oct. 10–Audrey dances with groom at Steve Hoover at his and Brittany’s wedding.

Oct. 17--fine fall day in Ames--bike ride is followed by dinner with Kate Hunter and Ben Sheller.

Oct. 17–fine fall day in Ames–bike ride is followed by dinner with Kate Hunter and Ben Sheller.

Oct. 25--visited pumpkin farm with Theresa and her kids, here two of Katy's kids make some noise.

Oct. 25–visited pumpkin farm with Theresa and her kids, here two of Katy’s kids make some noise.

November—a nephew, Matt Schultz, gets married near Des Moines, continuing the nuptial theme of the fall. Audrey and I introduce Theresa to Zombie Burgers in Des Moines. Jon and Nalena manage to make it home for Thanksgiving, and we enjoy both a traditional turkey dinner and a spicy, slow-cooked pork dish.

Nov. 23--Ben and Audrey visit Shirley.

Nov. 23–Ben and Audrey visit Shirley.

Nov. 29, wedding near Des Moines.

Nov. 29, wedding near Des Moines.

Nov. 30--Jon and Nalena at mall in Des Moines on morning after wedding.

Nov. 30–Jon and Nalena at mall in Des Moines on morning after wedding.

December—Christmas finds the family celebrating on two continents. Nina travels to England for the season, and Jon and Nalena make a stop there before heading to Portugal. Early in 2015, Audrey will be in England too in January, but it remains to be seen if she can manage to meet Amanda and the girls. Nikayla performs in her First Grade holiday concert. The last surviving brother of my mother died at the end of November, and in early December, we attend his funeral in Illinois. On the last day of the year, we have a big outing to the Children’s Museum, followed by a sleepover party for Katy’s four children.

Dec. 4--Nikayla in Wilkins Elementary School Holiday Concert.

Dec. 4–Nikayla in Wilkins Elementary School Holiday Concert.

Dec. 6--O'Mahoney family picture at Uncle Jim's funeral. My mom is on the right.

Dec. 6–O’Mahoney family picture at Uncle Jim’s funeral. My mom is on the right.

Dec. 13--Chris and Michelle and Audrey visit Shirley.

Dec. 13–Chris and Michelle and Audrey visit Shirley.

Amelia gets the last word. She is at the Children's Museum on Dec. 31, 2014. She knows what she is doing, she ordered me back into a room so she could set up the photo.

Amelia gets the last word. She is at the Children’s Museum on Dec. 31, 2014. She knows what she is doing, she ordered me back into a room so she could set up the photo.

Well, it is fun to look back on 2014. Much happened in our little corner of the world. It took me longer than it should to write this post—I thought I would have it done before the New Year’s Eve party, and here it is Jan. 2 as I wrap it up.

Maybe I should have let the Facebook robots handle it. But it was also nice to actively look back.

What will 2015 bring? Well, we know one thing for sure.

A new season of Downtown Abbey!

Good luck to all of you, especially family members who have started new adventures—may you find the path that you are on leads you to a good place. For any who mourned a loss in 2014, I hope time heals. For those who in 2014 started a new chapter or a new family, best wishes and good luck in 2015 and beyond.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

In Which The Lady Rides Tree Try Tree


Tristan enjoys a game of "horse" with me. My dad--and oldest sister--used to play this with me when I was  young.

Tristan enjoys a game of “horse” with me. My dad–and oldest sister–used to play this with me when I was young.

I was thinking about child development the other day, because I was lecturing about language in class, and it occurred to me that I have six grandchildren and two more on the way—and only a few have entered their “biographic memory” phase of life.

At ages 4 and 3, Nikalya and Elizabeth are having some experiences that they will later look back and reflect on. It’s hard to tell with Tristan—but he’s old enough that he might, for example, later in life recall riding with me on my bicycle.

As for Amelia, Juliet and our youngest grandson? None has reached the age of 2, yet, and while it’s possible some dim impression of their lives now might persist, for the most part their internal lifelong biography hasn’t even entered the introduction area, let alone chapter 1.

Not that they don’t remember. They just don’t remember in that narrative way which will let them later reflect on events. They clearly know those around them. The three know many words. Amelia, last time she had a sleepover at our house, woke up at 3 a.m. and demonstrated, over and over, to the chagrin of Audrey, that she knows substantial snatches of the “ABC” song.

Anyway, one of my early preschool memories, which must have been from when I was around 3, was of a simple game my dad used to play with us, and that I played with my kids and now play with my grandchildren. Amelia calls it “tree, try, tree,” and will crawl into my lap, fix me with her Queen Amelia gaze, and command, in her cute little girl voice, “tree, try, tree!”

She has a cousin who is about her age. Although the tree-try-tree game, which I’ll call “horse” from now on, is properly done with two knees, the cousins are small enough that each fit comfortably on one knee, so they discovered today that they could have a two-person version of horse from grandpa, which they loved. Maybe it didn’t help that Tristan was sitting on my shoulders at the time, but, to be honest, the grandpa horse got a bit worn.

Anyway, this particular activity requires a small child (or two)—big enough to sit up comfortably on your knees facing you. Have said toddler or child face you, tell them to hang on, and take his or her hands with yours.

Then, you bounce your heels up and down in unison, and repeat this rhyme:

“This is the way the lady rides, tree, try, tree. Tree, try, tree, try, tree-try-tree.” Naturally, you’re bouncing in rhythm to the syllables.

Next, exaggerated the bounce a little, slow the pace, and make your knees go up and down in opposition rather that unison. Hang on tight to little hands as the child sways back and forth. While doing this, chant:

“This is the way the farmer rides, hobeldy hoy, hobeldy hoy, hobeldy, hobeldy, hobelty hoy.”

Finally, bounce your knees up and down vigorously and increase the frequency so that the child feels like he or she is racing. And state, in a slightly increased volume at a quicker pace in time to the quicker bounces:

“This is the way the young man rides, clippety clop, clippety clop, clippety, clippety, clippety clop.”

Of course, you want to be careful. You don’t want to jar the child too much with your gallop, and you want to pay attention should they start to “head bob” because you want to avoid an accidental chin punch. But, with six kids and numerous grandchildren, I don’t recollect any injuries associated with this game of “horse.” Of course, it’s both slightly sexist and disparaging to farmers, which makes it interesting that it came to me from my dad, who fathered six girls (and one boy) and whose family history included some farming. Anyway, the fact that it’s a very old game, at least in my experience, is part of the charm.

The two-toddler versions only requires that you swing your knees back and forth and use your hands to sway the kids side to side for the farmer ride. Other than making sure each kids has a tight grip with two hands on one of your hands, the lady and young man can ride as usual. The middle ride is not exactly the official farmer hobbeldy hoy, but both Amelia and her cousin were satisfied.

Tristan, at age 3, only rode solo—but he enjoyed the ride, too.

Jan 20 update: On Facebook, my sisters pointed out that my father’s final verse was: “This is the way the gentleman rides, gallop-a-trot, gallop-a-trot, gallop-a, gallop-a, gallop-a-trot.” I stand, or sit, corrected.

Jan. 24 update: I tried to use the “gallop-a-trot” line when giving a grandson a “horse” ride the other day.  The result was a near riot. To my spouse and children, what I was doing was “wrong.” Clearly, in my family, the “young man” will always ride “clippety-clop.”  Somehow, there is a case study here in how a folk game and a folk rhyme evolve. Too bad, gentlemen, in the new century you don’t to gallop or ride at all. At least the ladies are still around.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Heading Down the Big Slide


The big slide

Lizzie starting on a ride down the big slide on the hill at a park in Norwich, England.

I don’t recall the name of the park, but it was in Columbia, Missouri. When Audrey and I were in graduate school, now and then one of us would end up having to spend some time with the kids in Columbia, or we would meet for a picnic lunch, and this park was a favorite place.

It had a small lake, but that wasn’t the park’s true attraction. It also had a tall play hill. A slide with three chutes had been built into the hill, the longest chute going from the summit down into a sandy play area at the bottom.

I thought of that park today in Norwich. We spend part of the day at several different parks, the final one being a quite neighborhood play area with a slide built on a hillside.

The advantage of this design is you can have a pretty steep slide, but also not have it far from the ground, since if follows the slope of a hill.

This particular slide had a paved area beside it, and besides riding the slide, Lizzie liked to pick pine cones and sticks and send them tumbling down the area beside the slide.

Slides are an interesting plaything. They are a test of children’s climbing ability and their bravery. Kids learn early how to go down, sometimes on their tummy before they learn to sit.

There was a young English girl at the park today, a bit younger than Lizzie, I think. She watched Lizzie going down the slide, and it took some time before she was ready to go down herself.

But, eventually, she did. And she liked it. Like so many fun things in life, slides appear more scary than they are.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Boy Who Loves Snow


Tristan at stream

Tristan enjoyed seeing water in Dry Creek under the C Avenue bridge. "Walk Water" was the phrase of the day.

Had a great day with Mr. T, as you can tell. He’s quite the outdoorsman, or outdoorsboy.

Katy said that when he learned he was going to spend part of the day with his “Joe,” he immediately assumed he would be going for a bike ride. I don’t think he was too disappointed that we didn’t fit a bike ride in, after all. We got to sled, walk around in snow (or be carried sometimes, but only he was carried), watch water flow by in the steam, toss snowballs (actually, only he tossed, I served as target) and in general just enjoy a fine winter day together.

We played as Audrey and Nikayla shopped, then met them for lunch at Burger King (mostly due to nice indoor play area) and, after reading several books, took a 2 hour nap.

Almost the perfect day. If we had been able to ride a bike, that would have made it perfect.  Some photos of Nikayla in her new dresses below, more photos on Facebook.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Last Day Fun from Lizzie


Well, man she didn’t have a dreadful flight, and she’s back in the UK, not the USSR.

Miss Lizzie (and her mom Amanda) were fun to have for a few August weeks, and it seemed too soon that they were gone. But we’ve heard that the return journey went well—which, considering some of their travel sagas, is a refreshing change.

But, Amanda should write about the journey.

I’ll write about play time. As Amanda packed, I encouraged Miss Elizabeth Ava to come to the backyard.

I didn’t have to encourage very much. Our back deck and backyard both seem to be pretty grandchild attractive.

Of all the grandchildren, Nikayla is the most active “swinger.” Both Lizzie and her contemporary cousin Tristan like to swing, but they don’t have the swing fever that Nikayla has and had a year ago when she was their age.

For some reason, though, on this last U.S. morning, Lizzie was dizzy for swinging and started to giggle. I decided to videotape her as I pushed her, and, as you can see on the video, she suddenly got more serious. Have to be more careful when the camera is on you, I guess.

Next, Lizzie invented the running game. It consisted of running round the slide unit of the swing set, and doing a happy yell or scream when you passed through the swings. The main rule is that after each orbit, you have to stop and look meaningfully at any nearby grandparent, whom you expect to do the same before you repeat.

It was just interesting to see this little girl create a sequence of behavior that had to be shared and repeated.

Lizzie invented a second circuit shortly thereafter. It involved climbing the hill from lower to upper yard, descending the stairs and then running down the hill. Again, it was repeated often, but only after she had me do the circuit, too. That’s the version of the running game that I caught on video.

I note, as usual, that there are some bad typos on the captions and credit of this video. I have not perfected the art of copyediting in video editing software—I guess I just don’t see the letters well enough in Movie Maker. Well the miracle is that I get anything at all done in that awkward, goofy program, I guess.

Anyway, glad you made it back home, Amanda and Lizzie. Your dad and granddad misses you already. I’ll be anxious for spring break to come this year when Audrey and I can make our journey to Norwich.

And, totally unrelated aside to completely break the emotional mood, here is a link to some other cool yard images I’ve captured recently.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Lizzie Does Her Happy Dance


Mr. T

Mr. T at a park having total fun.

My 21-month-old granddaughter Elizabeth is visiting from England, and it has given me plenty of opportunity to observe young children at play.

While she’s here, Lizzie has had several opportunities to play with Nikayla, age 3, and Tristan, who is one month younger than Lizzie.

Lizzie tunes into female relatives and plays a lot with Nikayla when she can. Not that she snubs Tristan—in fact, Tristan is an initiator of many activities, some of which can get the dynamic duo into some trouble.

It was Tristan who taught Lizzie the joy of tossing balls or other random objects off of the back deck.

Yesterday, when the kids painted a big cardboard box, it was Tristan who started to paint his own torso like an old Celtic warrior. Before long, all three kids were painting themselves and each other, and we had to put the paints away and get the kiddle pool out to de-hue them.

The under 3 set doesn’t have a lot of patience or focus, so we switch activities during play a lot. But, the young kids take simple joy in things. Swinging is definitely cool, as is scooping sand or climbing slides.

Grandkids at play

Grankids at play in the park. Swinging is often cool.

It’s easy for a young child to relax and “be” with little planning. These young ones don’t require a Wii or Ninetendo to stay engaged and happy. They are “physical” players, testing how fast they can run, what they can climb, how brave they can be on the high twisty slides.

More power to them. That kind of play, unplanned, unstructured and totally fun, is the best and the kind that we all need to try to hold onto. It’s not 16 we should hold onto as long as we can, it’s 16 months.

And when Lizzie really enjoys something, she’ll squeal with delight and do a quick jig. The Lizzie happy dance, which is totally fun for her and for any observing adults.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized