A New Hallelujah

So, there are a couple of things that set up this story. First, let me tell you about the Dramatic Action Music CD. In supplying Dante with music for his room, I’d made him a couple of mix CDs of classical music, pulled from a collection of classical music used in the movies. He listens to these a lot, and has definitely found gravitated towards certain tracks. Recently, as part of his fascination with Nero, he decided he wanted to make a new mix. He pulled his favorite tracks from the classical mixes, a selection of John Williams’ Star Wars music, and, for some reason, “Computer Assisted Design” by They Might Be Giants. Once he’d crafted the mix, he called it “Dramatic Action Music”, we burned it to a CD, and he’s been listening to it ever since.

That’s the first piece of setup. Here’s the second. We have some amazing friends who have sent Dante a little present in the mail, every month, since he was born. For quite a long time, this consisted of cute little gifts, chocolates, magazines, etc. However, as he’s gotten older, random stuff like that doesn’t work as well, so they proposed sending him a little money each month instead, and we of course happily and gratefully agreed. This week, he decided to cash in the accumulated stash for a Lego Friends vet clinic. I believe the “Lego Friends” line is Lego’s attempt to appeal to girls, but of course the little kitty, the animal playground, and the intriguing machinery would appeal to Dante as well. He’s also gotten a bit interested in the Friends characters, since Laura brought home a library book for him about them. Apparently the aspiring (or actual?) vet is named Mia. Her cat is named Missy, and there’s another worker at the clinic named “Aunt Sophie.”

So we ordered the kit, endured a couple of days of “Is it here yet is it here yet is it here yet is it here yet?”, and finally it arrived. Dante built the clinic and integrated it into the Lego utopia he’d already built. This gave the cat the opportunity to get stuck up in a tree, and gave Mia the opportunity to come to the rescue. While this play was happening, the Dramatic Action Music CD was on in the background, and the music it happened to be playing was the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. This juxtaposition tickled Dante, and he told the story for several days of how Mia rescued the kitty to a chorus of hallelujahs.

A while later, he got curious about the song, and googled “Hallelujah lyrics.” What he didn’t realize is that when you google “Hallelujah lyrics”, you don’t get Handel’s Messiah. Instead you get Leonard Cohen’s oft-covered song “Hallelujah.” He didn’t know the difference, and anyway the difference likely wouldn’t have made a difference to him. He was inspired by reading Cohen’s lyrics, and decided to adapt a version about Mia, the Lego veterinarian.

Friends and family, I give you the new “Hallelujah”, just as Dante typed it:

Now I’ve heard there was a secret med
That missy made, and it pleased the vet
But you don’t really care for meds, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth checkup,
the fourth complete health restore
mia instructing the baffled aunt sophie.


You felt fine but you needed x-rays
You say x-rays, dear missy?
Her x-rays were perfect,
She loved you,
but then in came a call:
“help! our puppy is sick!”
And she healed the puppy completely.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
for mia king of vets
I don’t even know the name
but she’s healed just the same
There’s a healing blaze
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
every one that mia speaks.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
and I called the heartlake vet.
“I need help!
my ‘hog* is slow!
and she put it in the ‘hog races
and now it runs as fast as lightning

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

*’hog means hedgehog

Follow-up Stories

I don’t have a lot of new stories to tell right now, but I can expand on some of the previous ones:

Everything Is Awesome

For Christmas, I was seriously thrilled to find a Lego cat set for him. (I mean really! A Lego cat! What could be more perfect for this boy?) I also ordered a pound of random Legos from one of those eBay sellers who offers random Legos by the pound. On top of that, my friend Tashi got him a set with the Ice Cream Machine from the completely awesome, totally-shoulda-been-nominated-for-Best-Picture Lego Movie. Oh, and Santa also brought the videogame version of the Lego movie.

When he got all these new Legos, he decided he wanted to mix them all together in a big box after following a couple of the recipes. He used the melange to make a bunch of his own creations, which he called “The Dragonfighters of England.” These are various brave Lego people, with various brave Lego ships, dedicated to battling the dragon who lives in our house. The dragon is furry, and cute, and fierce, and meows a lot. He is far more powerful than the Dragonfighters, so the merest sniff blows them away.

Quick aside: Here’s how Nimbus earned his reputation as a dragon. One day Laura brought home a bag of marbles as a gift for Dante, and for whatever reason, the marbles were marketed as “Henry Hobbit” marbles. Whenever one of these would drop on the ground, Nimbus would run up from wherever he was and start batting the marble and chasing it around. As a result, Dante nicknamed him “Smaug”, and he’s been a huge hobbit-chasing enthusiast ever since then. Lucky for the hobbits, they’ve figured how how to find safe haven beneath the oven.

Anyway, after the Dragonfighters’ day was done, they were disassembled, and Dante decided to sort all his Legos by color, so that he could make some more recipes. He did that (made the cat), and this week has been building a “Lego utopia” for his people – basically a campground and a playground, along with some vehicles. There’s a tent, a tree, a grill, a pool, a boat, a slide, a sandbox, etc. Laura and I have been participating on some of these, but the passion is Dante’s all the way.

Lego Utopia

Little Nero In Filmland

The “making things with computers” energy is going into mini-movies right now. The Lego video game (and movie) has a concept called “Master Builders”, which basically means that a character gathers up a bunch of Legos into a whirlwind, then builds something cool at super-speed. Dante got interested in reproducing this effect on video with himself as the builder, so he explored a couple of ways to do that.

First, he discovered a time-lapse feature on our tablet, with an adjustable interval. It works very well to create the super-fast building effect, and he’s also taken various movies of other things too – the gathering night, parts of our house throughout the day, and of course the cat. Then he started investigating a program called Nero, which I mainly bought for CD burning long ago, but which also has a video editing component. That video editor has some speed variation effects, which can slow down or speed up a piece of video up to 10x. He tried the high speed for master-build videos, but it didn’t come out as well as the time-lapse. However, the slow speed has proven to be lots of fun. He’s made slow motion videos of Lego contraptions exploding, balls flying through the air, and of course, the cat.

I’m Making A Note Here: HUGE SUCCESS

Dante finished Portal! And when I say Dante finished it, I mean that I gave no answers, no walkthroughs, no hints. I sometimes sat in the driver’s seat, especially for those puzzles which required quick reflexes, but at all points I asked Dante what to do, and he directed me. I was the instrument at times, but the exploration, examination, and experimentation was all his. It was very cool to see. Sometimes he could solve a puzzle straight away. Sometimes he’d bang away at a puzzle for a while and then take a break from the game, only to come back later and very quickly see what needs to be done. Sometimes he’d try a few things fruitlessly, then say, “Ooh, I have an idea.” I think that was my favorite one to watch.

I’d played the game before, so I had a pretty clear sense at all points of what the correct next step was, but I restrained myself from providing that info. It’s much more satisfying and empowering, not to mention a better lesson and a better mental exercise, for him to solve it himself. He even figured out the game’s final puzzle way faster than I did when I played for the first time!

Now we’re on to Portal 2, which is even more fun than the original. I’m loving the experience of seeing the game again through his eyes, especially since the game itself is so completely entertaining. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one of its cast members turned out to be an Academy Award winner in a couple of weeks here…

Scratch Fever

A couple of years ago, Dante decided he wanted to learn more about computer programming. Now, when I learned to program, it was in BASIC, with a bit of Logo thrown in for good measure. But I guessed that in our brave new century, there are better alternatives available, and a bit of googling showed me that I was right. We found and downloaded a programming language called Scratch. Scratch was created by a group at the MIT Media Lab, with the intention of making a programming language for kids that would eliminate the frustrating syntax and compilation errors that can afflict new programmers.

They did this by using a “block programming” paradigm — rather than typing in commands, the Scratch programmer drags prefabricated command blocks from a staging area into a kind of “code corral” associated with a particular sprite (graphical image). Blocks can grow or shrink as needed, so you can drag new stuff into your code block and it will automatically accommodate whatever it needs to. Everything is graphical, mouse-oriented, and intuitive. It’s quite cool. It also helps that the Scratch logo, and default sprite, is a kitty. Within a few hours, 7-year-old Dante was making that kitty run around, meow, and respond to keyboard commands.

Dante’s interest in things tends to ebb and flow, and Scratch is no different. He would lay it aside for a few months, then return to it for a few days with new ideas for stuff to try, or just new motivation to poke around some more. At one point, Laura brought home a cool book from the library that rekindled his interest for a longer period. We even did a bit of Python programming over the summer, thanks to a different cool book.

Well, Scratch has enjoyed a big renaissance this fall, and this time we have Stargate to thank. Dante read the book Flipped in his literacy class, and was assigned a presentation project, to demonstrate his knowledge of the first half of the book. The teacher allowed a lot of latitude for the format of this presentation, so when Dante proposed making it in Scratch, she signed off. He ended up doing two different Scratch presentations on Flipped, one for each half of the book. These presentations featured stick figures, animation, dialogue, drawings done with a mouse, and adorability.

A few weeks later, he was assigned a larger project as a part of his social studies curriculum. They’re studying Colorado history this year, and the kids were to make a diorama depicting some early historical period of their choosing. The rubric for the assignment included showing people doing an activity, animals, plants, housing, tools, and so forth. As it happens, his literacy teacher is also his social studies teacher, which perhaps paved the way for him to propose doing a Scratch diorama instead. The teacher agreed, so he created a project called “archaic colorado” (capitalization is his arch-nemesis) in Scratch.

Wanna see it? Well, you’re in luck, because Scratch allows its users to share their projects on the web. I can’t embed it, but here’s a link to the project — click the green flag to start the presentation. It’ll loop forever, so you don’t have to stick around for the second showing. I think it came out pretty well — hope his teacher agrees. :)

Crazy Contraptions

I asked Dante what I should write about next in this blog, and he said, “I’ve written from Nimbus’s point of view, and now I think you should try your hand!” I demurred, suggesting that I don’t want his blog to turn into the cat’s blog. So I asked again what I should write about, and he said, “How about my Lego crazy action contraptions book?”

So here’s a little background. Every year, Stargate has a book fair — essentially a fundraising opportunity for the school, in which Scholastic brings a bunch of merchandise into the Stargate library, and a portion of the sale proceeds go back to the school. Most of this merch is books, though there are also a variety of gimcracks, toys, and book/toy hybrids. One of these hybrids caught Dante’s eye when he visited the book fair: a book of Lego projects which included all the Legos needed to make the projects.

Well, we always like to support the book fair, and the book cost just about what we wanted to spend, so Dante is now the proud owner of Lego Crazy Action Contraptions. It’s been a hit. The text is genuinely fun and funny, the instructions are good, and the projects are pretty cool. I came home yesterday to find him excitedly buzzing about a “No-Donkey Donkey Cart” he’d made. This is essentially a platform on wheels, with a rubber band inside, wound by a long axle. You wind it up, set it down, and the wheels turn, making the cart move. He took it apart before I could get a picture of it, but here’s a video of one being assembled with the help of a cat. Next best thing. (In fact, this guy seems to have uploaded a whole bunch of videos of his cat interacting with various projects from this very book. God bless the Internet.)

The next day he’d built a “Squeezeclaw Grabber”, and I did get photo evidence of that:

Lego grabber compressed

Here it is in its compressed form

Lego grabber extended

And here it is fully extended

Hooray for Legos! We’re also having a blast with various Lego video games — these are great because they have cooperative play modes built in, so we can play together without having to take turns or compete. Plus, although there’s plenty of battling and action, the destruction feels funny rather than violent. It’s just Legos flying apart! If anybody out there has recommendations for other cooperative games aimed at the 8-12 age bracket, I’m all ears.

In other news, Dante is thrilled that Thanksgiving Break is finally here — he gets next week off school. He and Laura have decided that this week will be “Frozen Dead Turkey Guy Days”, modeled after the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival that takes place annually in a nearby mountain town. Events so far have included:

  • The Turkey Leg Toss: Throwing a plastic turkey leg at a set of targets for points.
  • Creation of Fruitants: Dante has a set of wooden fruit pieces held together with velcro, which we recombined into fruit mutants, sworn to protect and feed a world that hates & fears them
  • Targeting The Turkeys: Dante drew a turkey and a turkey leg in Google Drawings, printed them out, and set them on our living room floor. Then we took a bunch of plastic food up to the top of our skywalk (we have kind of a bridge running across our upper level, looking down on the living room shopping mall-style), and we dropped the food onto the pictures. The rules were that hitting the turkey was worth 50 points, but hitting the turkey leg incurred a -25 point penalty. (Or a 25 point penalty, if you want to be pedantic about it.) Of course, this is Dante, so the rules got more complicated after that, as they do.

Oh, and for a school assignment to write a story, he wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure story about Nimbus! His initial draft was very fun but a bit woolly, so now we’re working on tightening it up for a final draft, due after Thanksgiving. Okay, I guess that sort of counts as cat news. So now that I’ve breached the barrier anyway, here’s a video of Nimbus in our bathtub:

Nimbus Snowdrop

I swear this blog will be about Dante again soon, but there’s a thread still hanging from the previous posts: the cat’s name! So let me wrap that up with a little summary written by Laura:

Introducing our sweet kitten, and his new name — Nimbus Snowdrop Wilson. We chose the name “Nimbus” because:

  • nimbus means: the type of cloud that yields precipitation, either snow or rain (and our kitten has white fur on his chest and face that looks like snow softly falling)
  • nimbus also means: a scientific term for a halo, a circle of white in the sky which is an optical phenomenon produced by ice crystals; also, nimbus means an artistic representation of a halo, or a ring of light, surrounding a person in artwork (and we adopted our kitten from the shelter, Angels with Paws, so the halo imagery is pertinent)
  • more generally, nimbus also means: the cloud, aura, or atmosphere surrounding a person or thing (and our kitten brings a lovely, sweet presence to our home)
  • also, a cumulonimbus cloud is a tall cloud mass with darkness on its sides and lower portion, along with high cottony white parts (and our kitten has dark tabby stripes and swirls, in addition to his fluffy white front and paws)
  • besides, a cumulonimbus cloud can bring thunder (and our kitten has a sonorous, rumbly purr)
  • and yes, the nimbus 2000 is a flying broom in the Harry Potter series

And we chose “Snowdrop” for his middle name because:

  • the snowdrop is a beautiful, small, white flower, with petals that generally hang down (all four of our kitten´s paws are soft white, and he often sits with his two front paws placed neatly together – so they look quite like the petals of a beautiful little snowdrop flower)
  • snowdrops are one of the first flowers to bloom in spring; they may look rather delicate, but in fact they are rather hardy plants, often poking up and blooming despite the snow remaining on the ground (and our kitten was born in March to a mama cat who needed to be helped by the shelter)

Any questions? :)

New Room, Pictures, and Video

t.k. here. Today my humans introduced me to a new room, which is a bigger expansion of the Room. I thought it would be a new big room, but instead it just makes the Room even bigger! Did I tell you how big it was?

Well, anyway, here are some pictures. Here’s me:


Here’s an extreme close-up of my face:


Here’s my smallest owner petting me:


Finally, last but most, here’s the video:

Once again, more blog posts coming soon. Bye!

[This blog post brought to you by Dante channeling t.k.]

Cat Dancer

Hello. It’s t.k., our new cat here. I would like to tell you about something. What happened is I was in Angels With Paws, a cat shelter, for a long while. And then, I got taken home by people. Apparently “home” is a room… the BIGGEST room I have ever seen in my WHOLE LIFE! In fact, they just added a new part and made it EVEN bigger. That’s for another post.

But anyway. I think it’s fun, but the humans think it’s naughty, to scratch on the new king bed, although I just got a thing called a scratching post that’s nice to scratch on too, and I’m slowly transitioning. I also like to walk across my humans’ heads every two hours in the night and wake them up. But the best part is the toys.

“Toys” are little things that are so fun to play with! Here’s a list of some toys:

  • There’s this little thing that my humans hold and then it shines a red dot on the ground, which is so fun to chase! I can run pretty fast. Videos coming soon, and so are pictures.
  • And there’s also this rainbow-colored toy, which is also very fun to chase around.
  • There is also this green string with a butterfly on the end of it, which is pretty cool.

But my favorite one of all is something called a “Cat Dancer.” It’s basically some sticks on a string, which my humans have lots of fun games with, like the “circle run,” where my human moves my cat dancer all around and around in circles and I chase it until I get dizzy! Or I catch it. And there’s the “high jump,” in which my owners hold my cat dancer up high and then I make an amazing leap and for some reason my smallest owner imitates it. And last but not least, there’s another function of the cat dancer: the “cat-apult”, in which my human curls it up and drags it and I chase it until suddenly it springs around all over the place and I get confused, but then I chase it some more.

Alright, that’s the end of this post. More posts are coming soon! Bye!

[This post brought to you by Dante, channeling t.k.]

Cat Last

Before Dante was born, the ruler of our house was a cat named Random. We got Random from a shelter in 1996, after a bitter February cold snap. They said they picked him up on an extremely cold night, living on the street. He was a Manx tabby, meaning he had just a couple of tail vertebrae, resulting in a little stub that would still wave around expressively at times. Laura and I are both definitely cat people, especially her — when we were first dating I mentioned that I thought I might be a little bit allergic to cats, and she turned on me and said, deadly serious, “Don’t make me choose.” My allergy is quite mild — as long as I keep fur out of my face for the most part, I’m good — so we adopted Random shortly after we got married, and loved him.


Dante’s arrival was quite an adjustment for Random, as you might imagine. Suddenly here was this creature — loud, unpredictable, and full of peculiar scents — commanding so much of the attention that used to go to him. We still made an effort to spend time with Random, and when baby Dante was sleeping, Random would often come and have a lovefest with us, but still, things had changed forever. Add to that the fact that Dante was utterly fascinated with Random, a doomed love that was unrequited from the start. Random was reasonably patient with Dante, but babies and cats just generally do not mix, or at least they didn’t in our house, and all the waving, noise-making, and enticement in the world on Dante’s side did not change this immutable fact.

Meanwhile, one day Laura noticed what looked like a skin reaction after Dante had touched some peanut butter, so we took him in to get some blood tests for peanut allergies. In the process, we tested for a variety of other common allergens, and came up positive on a total of three: peanuts, eggs, and cats. The peanut one we could handle well enough, and the egg one he got over in a couple of years time. The cat one, however, was tough. Suddenly it seemed as though something was going to make Laura choose, especially after the allergist advised us to get rid of our cat. Even at the time, this struck me as a very allergy-centric response. There was no way we were going to get rid of our cat if we could possibly make it work, especially since we had all been living together already with very little sign of problems. So we kept things clean, and kept hair away from Dante, and everything was fine. I’m sure it helped that Random himself avoided Dante assiduously most of the time.

We lost Random in October 2009. He had cancer in his jawbone, and by the time he was diagnosed there was no treatment that would have left him with reasonable quality of life. Dante was 4 years old at the time, old enough to understand what death meant on a basic level, but too young to really process it. What was true about him then, as now, is that he takes losses very hard, and always seeks some solution to them. Anytime a toy breaks or can’t be found, he becomes deeply distraught and begins immediately announcing plans about how it can be repaired or replaced. Random couldn’t be repaired, and we weren’t ready to bring a new cat into our lives right away. I remember Dante taking in this information and still looking for solutions. “I could pretend to be him!” he offered.

Since then, we’ve been pretty circumspect about getting a new cat. Just because Dante didn’t react very much to Random doesn’t mean he wouldn’t react to a new cat, and in fact we have seen him react from time to time when we’d bring him to the houses of cat-owning friends. The reactions aren’t huge, and certainly are far from life-threatening, but he’d eventually get sniffly, sneezy, and puffy. The last thing we’d want to do is introduce a problem into Dante’s environment, or place ourselves in a situation where we really would have to get rid of our cat to avoid endangering our kid.

And yet. Laura is a born cat owner, and desperately missed having a feline friend around the house. Dante, in the meantime, had become obsessed with cats. True to his 4-year-old word, he was constantly pretending to be a cat or a kitten, and had begun pressing harder and harder for us to adopt a cat. “Even if it makes me allergic, it would be so worth it,” was his recurring line of argument.

Researcher Laura got on the case, checking out how to be a cat owner even if you have a cat allergy. She learned the allergy mechanism and the specific allergen, which is a protein called Fel d 1 present in their saliva. She found lists of breeds who produced less of this protein, and various traits associated with lower allergen levels. She learned about what kinds of products, habits, etc. can lessen risks of a reaction. She also explained the situation to his pediatrician, who said, “Look. I’m allergic to cats and dogs, and we have two cats and three dogs. I just pop a Claritin if I’m having an issue, and everything’s fine. If you want to get a cat, go ahead and get a cat. Watch for major reactions, and keep your Epi-Pen handy in case of emergency, but otherwise you can just manage it with Claritin.”

Thus reassured, we then all had a conversation about it. We agreed that we were willing to give it a try, and decided that we wanted to definitely adpot from a shelter rather than a breeder. We hoped we could get a kitten, so Laura put herself on some email alert lists for kittens in some of the less-allergenic breeds, including Manx, Siberian, and Russian Blue.

That was a couple of months ago. She hadn’t heard much of anything, and we were starting to think we’d just need to look for traits instead of breeds, but on Thursday the 28th, she suddenly got a message that a nearby shelter had two five-month-old Siberian/Tabby kittens available. She called me at work, and we decided to head out there. (Comically, this was the same day we were having a new bed delivered — when it rains it pours.) I was coming from work, so they beat me there by about a half hour. When I got there, I saw this little kitten sitting in Dante’s lap, purring up a storm. The cat never stopped purring the whole time it was with us, passed from Dante to Laura to me as we talked with the shelter about the various details.

Reader, we married him. Or rather, we adopted him. It was instant love from the time that purr started. We brought him home, and he’s now living in our bedroom — they advise keeping new adoptees in a small area at first before introducing them to the rest of the house. No names yet — the shelter had named him “Socks”, but we’ll likely choose a different name. Creativity is flowing in this area, and lots of candidates are bubbling around. Just as we called Dante “t.b” before he was born, standing for “the baby,” we’re currently calling the kitten “t.k.”

The point is, we have a cat in our lives again. And it is wonderful.


Hip Hip Ouray!

Last week, we took a family vacation. We’d done day trips before, and the occasional overnight, but this is the first time we traveled far from home and stayed there for an extended period. We drove to Ouray, Colorado (pronounced YOO-ray, much to our surprise), and stayed 3 nights there in a vacation rental condo. Laura and I have both lived here for decades, and always heard about how beautiful Ouray is, but never quite made it there — it’s about a 6-hour drive from Denver.

Well, the place lived up to its reputation for beauty. It’s nestled in a small valley with dramatic mountains all around, and all day long there’s the most incredible play of light on those mountains. Different parts get spotlit as the clouds shift and change, so that one moment you’re seeing a stand of trees outlined in dazzling clarity, then a little while later it might be a cliff face, or an outcropping, or one of the rivers that flow into and through town.

In fact, one of those rivers flowed directly past our condo, which worked out great for Dante. See, when Dante was littler, Laura would take him on day trips to the mountains, and the way she enticed him to be excited about the outdoors was with the promise that he would get to throw things into water. They would always find a river, a lake, a stream, or what have you, and then scout up a bunch of rocks and sticks, which Dante would delightedly toss into the water, reveling in the splashing and floating.

So now, the boy is simply obsessed with throwing rocks and sticks into water whenever we’re out of the city. Anytime we drive past a lake, or a river, or anything, he’ll say, “I want to throw rocks into that!” We generally have to ration out the splash activities so that we’re not stopping every 5 feet. This time, though, he could throw rocks from our balcony, and they’d land in a river! He made trip after trip to gather rocks from the surrounding area, haul them up to the condo balcony, and hurl them into the water. He would also often share his spoils, generously offering Laura and I some prime stones to throw.


He’s similar with playgrounds — anytime we drive by one, he’ll say, “We should go to that playground sometime!” In fact, as we drove through Gunnison on the way to Ouray, he saw an awesome one with a really tall slide, and immediately was lobbying us to bring him to it. My approach was to say, “Yes, that may happen sometime!” As in, sometime in his lifetime. Open to the possibility, but not promising anything. Well, thanks to clever Laura, we timed our trip home so that we ate our lunch in Gunnison, right next to that playground.

Side story from that playground trip: part of the equipment there was some tunnels that all led into a kind of “bubble” structure, with a clear dome on top. Dante went in there and Laura, standing outside, heard this exchange between Dante and a kid inside the bubble, who was probably something like 6 years old:

KID: [to Dante] You can’t come in here!
DANTE: [taken aback] Why not?
KID: Because this is for boys only!
DANTE: Well, first, I can come in here, because I am a boy, but if you’re going to exclude people on the basis of gender, I don’t want anything to do with this anyway.

And then he turned and left. That’s my boy. Nevermind that this kid was unlikely to follow the anti-discrimination argument, especially the way it was phrased — Dante just said his piece and moved on. Made us smile and shake our heads at the same time.

Also, he is constantly mistaken for a girl, but this does not bother him in the least, and I suspect he kinda likes it. We were playing Apples To Apples Junior that weekend — a game in which you try to find the best fit for an adjective from a handful of random noun cards — and the adjective to match was “perfect.” Laura played “egg” (playing off the “nature’s perfect food” advertising they’ve sometimes had), I played “brains” (which was roundly shouted down by the other similarly imperfect-brained people in the room — hey, it was the best of a bad hand), and Dante played “long hair.” The judge awarded him the point.

Anyway, back to Ouray. Dante’s room had 3 beds in it — a full-size bed and bunk beds. He was so excited by the range of possibilities for sleeping arrangements. He rolled a die to decide which one he’d sleep in first — top bunk was the winner! So he slept there the first night, bottom bunk the next, and full bed the last. He was very excited to show us all the features of the various beds, and their various pros and cons.

He brought a bunch of Star Wars action figures on our vacation, which really reminded me of myself on family vacations when I was his age. I’d always bring a bunch of those guys along so they could see the sights and have adventures in exciting new landscapes. In fact, it may have brought back memories for them too, because Dante’s Star Wars action figures are my old ones, preserved from my own childhood and handed down to him, Darth Vader carrying case and all.


We took day trips during the days, visiting the breathtaking Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park, and the equally astounding Box Cañon Falls Park in Ouray itself. Having visited and loved Mammoth Cave a couple of years ago, these unbelievably majestic rock formations really did it for me. Dante’s reaction was a bit more muted, which was not a big surprise — swooning over gorgeous landscapes seems like more of a grownup thing. Also, the Falls are loud, and we’d forgotten his headphones for that outing. Oh well, it was awesome anyway.

Our condo was also within walking distance of the Ouray Hot Springs, so we visited there a few times, soaking in the mineral pools. In the same facility there was a pool given over to turtles and fish, ranging from tiny to quite large. You could buy little pellets to feed them, so we bought some and let Dante give the marine life a feast. He watched them and we watched him.

As we returned home, we stopped at the top of Monarch Pass, which has a great kitschy gift shop and a ski-lift tram to the top of Monarch Ridge. We rode the tram to the top and looked around at all the peaks we could see. Dante was fine with the view and all, but really dug the tram. He also got into the spirit of having his picture taken.


All in all, a really fun vacation. And now we know we can do it. I wonder what we’ll do next year?