Religion vs. Church

This week the kids have been going to vacation bible school. We’ve never gone to church as a family, so it’s a little weird having the girls come home in the evening singing church songs and trying to memorize bible verses. It’s even weirder that they’re so excited about it.

Missus and I were both raised in the church but drifted away from it after we grew up. We both had our minds blown by a world religion professor in the freshman course we took in college. I took a more Buddhist philosophy to the meaning of life, and started calling myself an atheist after reading a couple Richard Dawkins books. Eventually I corrupted Missus, much to the chagrin of her fundamentalist father.

When I was running for office, I had to tour the churches. I actually had a quite moving moment in one of them, as it was the first time I’d attended a real church service in years. I got caught up in the moment. I had been to a Unitarian church a few times in the previous year, but this was a black church, and it was unlike anything I’d seen in a long time. I remembered the singing from my childhood and the feeling of being a part of something bigger than myself, and it was so powerful that I broke down in tears for several minutes.

I’ve got a copy of Religion for Atheists sitting on my bedside table, unread. I picked it up years ago when I was struggling with this conflict between religion and church. I lost it for a while and have been meaning to pick it back up. I’ve only read the first couple chapters, but it’s remained untouched for some time. The theme of the book is how do non-believers take the things that are good from organized religion, the community, the sense of togetherness, the rituals, and remove them from the baggage of biblical literalism. I think the Unitarians were on the right path here, but the service that I went too seemed a bit hollow, like something was missing. Maybe it was the progressive, political baggage that was subtext to what was going on in the country at the time. I’m not sure.

I started a habit of listening to Dr. Roger Ray’s Progressive Faith sermons on my podcast feed. Ray was trained as a biblical scholar, and is very frank about the historical origins of the bible. He’s not one for magical thinking, and his voice was a very welcome one during the last months of the Trump era. I haven’t listened much since my interest in politics has waned.

During the COVID lockdown we fell in with a very religious family down the street. Trump voting, gun-toting, church-going, military family from Louisiana. Not exactly who we would have picked out of a lineup to be friends with. But the kids became friends, and our families became very tight. I even got D. to start buying bitcoin. A few weeks ago, Younger decided that she wanted to go to church with her best friend, and I really wasn’t going to stop her. So she’s been going for a few weeks, and when vacation bible school came around, I was surprised that Elder wanted to go as well.

So each afternoon this week, I’ve been watching D.’s kids while he brings over the church bus, and then the kids load up and head out for a few hours. The girls are super excited when they get back, talking up how they sing songs on the bus, how there are games and the food is really good. They have some sort of points contest going on, and Elder has been trying to game it, even trying to memorize bible verses.

Now I’m not the type of secular progressive to get all tittered over my kids going to church. Missus said we both went and we turned out alright. Recently I’ve been trying to come up with some family values as part of our family business meetings. All of the constitution templates that I dug up all reference “faith in God” as one of the tenets, and such language is a non-starter to me. Trying to figure out our own values outside of religious dogma is something that I’m struggling to enumerate, if you will.

I stumbled across a meme on Twitter yesterday, it’s a quote from H.L. Mencken. “Morality is doing what is right, now matter what you are told. Religion is doing what you are told, no matter what is right.” That’s mainly what’s always bothered me about “religion”. My grandfather used his religion to justify his racism, and it was the bigotry of evangelicals during the 90’s that ultimately turned me off from it forever.

And in a somewhat amusing case of synchronicity, I was reading section in The Sovereign Individual last night describing the role of the church in guiding Europe out of the dark ages. It’s a quote from A. R. Radcliffe-Brown: “the social function of a religion is as independent of its truth or falsity.” The last paragraphs of the chapter go on to interpret the Genesis story of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden as describing the change from hunter gatherer societies to agrarian ones. There’s contrast between peaceful gathering societies who enjoy an “life of ease”, and the “paradise lost” of toiling the land, and the violence that ensued as mankind shifted to stationary farms. It’s a very convincing argument.

Now my children have put me in a bit of a moral quandary. I’m more than happy to barter with D. for childcare — it does take a village — I’m a bit more at a loss to figure out what to do here. Missus seems to have no trouble letting the girls go to church with them, but I’m not sure how I feel letting them get on the bus to go off with a bunch of strangers. One time when Elder was little, she’d been going to another church with woman from her daycare, who also babysit from time to time. I remember one day I brought her there at her request, and basically dropped her off. I remember the look on their faces when I left, explaining that I wasn’t going to stay for service. I did feel a bit guilty about it, using them for free babysitting basically.

I feel a similar guilt here, but I’m not sure that it’s warranted. D. seems to genuinely relishing taking the kids, and the kids are enjoying it, and now I feel some sort of obligation. I think a donation is warranted to help cover the cost of the food and activities that the girls have been doing. And I’ll probably get dragged in to a service tomorrow night for kids’ recital or whatever they’ve got planned for their finale. Still, I don’t plan on attending any services.

I’ve been writing this most of the morning. The kids have interrupted me several times, and I’ve been short with them because today I actually had something to write about. They’ve been fighting, and I’ve actually gotten so mad at Elder for being defiant that I’ve wanted to hit her. We’ve been having problems for the last couple days. Yesterday, while enjoying our peaceful afternoon while the kids were away, Missus remarked that we really haven’t been doing a good job as parents recently. Keeping the kids at home all week, making them do chores and letting them watch TV all the time. It’s no wonder that they are super excited about VBS and want to go. I’m not really offering them much since school was out.

Tomorrow is July 1. Elder is starting her GalileoXP summer camp, and I’ll restart daddy pre-K with Younger. Missus wants to have an adventure this weekend, but I promised to stain the deck this weekend, so I’m not sure what will happen. Missus is looking at summer camps, trying to find something for the kids to do to get them out of the house and clear the air a bit. The mood in this house is bipolar, and I’m not sure what to do about it. Just breathe, I suppose, and try to find things for the kids to do.

It’s just so hard trying to balance my desire to do deep work and spend more time with my kids. Maybe I just need to accept that what my kids need is less time with their dad.

Spring Cleaning Day

It takes a village to clean my house

Pre-COVID, we hired a woman to come and clean our house twice a month. She or her daughter-in-law would come out as a group or by themselves and spend about four hours vacuuming, dusting, sweeping and mopping, cleaning clutter, changing the beds and that kind of general housework that we couldn’t keep up with because we were too “busy”. We paid them $130 every time they came out which was much cheaper than hiring one of the professional franchise companies.

When lockdown came we weren’t comfortable having them come to our home anymore, so Missus gave them a couple months pay as severance and let them go. So for the past year we’ve gotten into a bit of a system where I would take the kids out of the house for a couple hours each weekend and Missus would do as much decluttering as possible, cleaning bathrooms and the like. No one is really happy with the arrangement, Missus because she does most of the work, and me as I think the girls should be doing more for their part to help out. Myself, I do most of the kitchen work and cooking, so I guess I feel like it’s an upstair/downstairs kind of thing.

All this talk of my early retirement has rubbed a sore spot with my wife. If we’re so rich why can’t we afford a maid, she’s remarked to me several times. So I’ve been mulling over the decision to bring back our cleaning lady.

However, I’ve been listening to the Business of Family podcast, and one of the guests was talking about allowances. Now, for the last year or two, I’ve been giving the girls an allowance, one dollar a week times their age. I read a book at the time which recommended splitting the allowance into three pots: spend, save and give. The give pot was originally for charity, but I modified it for birthday and Christmas gifts instead. I found an inexpensive app called RoosterMoney that allows me to automate the process, and I can even offer interest on the save pot. The money gets deposited in their accounts on Friday, and I give them mostly free reign with the spend money. The save pots were supposed to be for big-ticket items that I would let them choose on their birthday, but as we’ve gotten more into downsizing and financial independence, I’ve decided to show the girls the value of compound interest. The money stays in the save pot, but I’ll let them disburse the interest gained once a month if they want. Elder has over three hundred in her account, which is giving her about a dollar and a half each month.

My plan is to stop giving them allowances when they turn thirteen, and allow them to start managing the save money, but I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to do yet. I’ve also been saving up $50/month for their “education” fund, which through my investing success has grown to around five figures. I figured by the time they turn thirteen I would start getting them involved in the management of the funds, and I would hand it over to them when they turn eighteen. But if bitcoin continues compounding at two hundred percent a year like it’s been doing for the next decade, then that might be a serious amount of money, and I’ll have to reconsider how I hand it off.

So the guest on this podcast said that instead of giving kids an allowance and falling into the entitlement trap, that one allows them to earn it. He didn’t advocate paying kids to keep their rooms clean, but instead give them the opportunity to earn money doing something that you were going to pay someone else to do anyways, like yard work. Now I had originally experimented with doing DadPoints through the Rooster app, but it was too cumbersome to do daily chores in it. I used it one time to make the girls earn a trampoline for the backyard, but that was the end of the DadPoints system.

So I got it into my head yesterday that I was going to pay Elder to help clean the house. She’d been begging me for some money for whatever, and I told her that she could earn up to $130 to clean the house, top-to-bottom for four hours. She got very excited, and we decided to go for it. So around 11:30 yesterday morning we got started. I made a list of every room in the house, as well as all of the tasks that need to be done. It was about three pages long. Then we got started, and set a four hour timer on the kitchen stove. She went upstairs to start on the bedrooms, and I set to work in the kitchen.

I had sent Younger out of the house to play with her adoptive family. The kids came to ask if Elder could play but I told them she was working. After a while they came back to ask, but I sent them away again. I furiously cleaned the kitchen, doing some much overdue deep cleaning. One of the girls, Younger’s age, asked if they could come in and play. No, I said, we are cleaning in here, and if you come in here you have to clean also. Okay, she said.

I wasn’t ready to have a house-full of little ones running around, so I gave them a test. Clean up the back deck and yard, and then they could come in and start on the living room. It took them a while to get that done, and by the time our timer was down to ninety minutes, I let them in.

That last hour and a half was a blur. I was trying to clean, keep Elder and my three other kids busy cleaning. Missus puttered about but mostly kept herself locked in her office watching Netflix. I threw out so much trash and pulled stuff out from under furniture that hadn’t seen the light of day in months. I even found my car keys, that had been missing for weeks, underneath he upholstered chair next to my desk. (I blame the cats.)

When the timer went off I pulled all the dollar bills out of my money jar and set down with everyone to divvied the spoils. We weren’t able to conqueror the dining room table or our main office, so we knocked the total amount down to a hundred dollars. I wound up giving the younger kids five dollars for the help they did, and gave Elder twenty-five. The rest was mine, since I did most of the work anyways.

I was actually quite impressed with how things turned out. We got most of the house clean, no small feat, Missus didn’t have to do all the work, I didn’t have to pay for a maid, and the kids got to earn a bit of extra cash. It was such a success that I went and marked the third Saturday of each month on our calendar cleaning day. I figure I’ll let them do it again in April, and see if they get better at it and can get the house even more clean.


Family business

My dad came by today. He had a hospital appointment to deal with a chronic heart condition, and I had to drop him off and pick him back up after. He dropped by a couple hours early, so I tried to fill him in on our investment partnership. He bought some BTC in 2017 and put down half the capital for the mining rig that I’ve operating for the last three years. I tried to explain to him how I doubled his money in the past six weeks on BadgerDAO: “So I know this next sentence won’t make sense, but here goes anyways; BADGER is a governance token for the Badger decentralized organization, and Digg is an elastic rebasing token that tries to follow the USD price of Bitcoin by dynamically expanding or contracting it’s monetary supply.” He just laughed.

The girls came with me to pick him up, and we stopped by Cold Stone for a treat before heading back to the house. I’ve been giving them a lot of leash lately, trying to reduce my own stress level. My dad seemed overbearing when I was younger, and I seemed to be emulating his authoritarian parenting style. I’ve been working on Elder’s application for GalileoXP, and the more thought I’ve been giving to unschooling them, the more I’m letting go. I used to limit their screen time to an hour a day and try to control their schedules, but I’m just letting go. As long as they keep up with their chores, then I’m fine with them watching TV all day. We’re still fighting, but I think things are improving.

If I really wanted them to stop watching TV, then I’d cancel the Netflix and Disney+ subscriptions. The point is that I shouldn’t have to. I need to find alternatives that they enjoy more. I’m hoping I can get her enrolled in Galileo and she’ll latch onto something that she enjoys more than watching sitcoms. I figure it’ll take a few weeks for them to adjust to this new way of doing things. I’m still prompting them for outside time and for Elder to sign onto school when it’s time, but they’re starting to understand that as long as they do what’s expected of them, they’re mostly free to do what they want. Which was the main lesson my dad tried to teach me growing up.

I was telling Dad about my plans for early retirement and Elder’s unschooling, and he just laughed. Missus walked into the room and rolled her eyes at me and they both had a laugh at my expense, which is fine. I’m the dreamer in the family. Luckily for them.

I’ve promised to talk about how I’m teaching the girls about money, but that’s going to have to wait for another post of it’s own. Elder is thinking like an entrepreneur already, which is great. Today she actually cooked lunch for her and Younger without prompting, which blew Missus’s mind. It was just baked beans, green beans and a marshmallow for dessert, but you know, baby steps.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of a “family office” and have been giving thought to having a family business, and generational wealth. Twenty one million BTC divided by seven billion people is … several orders of magnitude less than what I have right now. As long as don’t do anything stupid and can hold on to what I have, then our family should be secure for generations. I found a podcast that focuses on multi-generational wealth, and one of them focused on the business of family. Apparently people actually draft up family constitutions to govern how families operate and after looking at a template for one, I thought it was a great idea. I told Missus I wanted to start monthly family meetings next week.

Thoughts on work and family

Work, or rather my job, has been taking up entirely too much of my mental power lately, and I am operating at my limit. My limit. I’m basically running myself ragged at this point. I’ve already been responsible for taking care of the kids from the time they wake up at seven in the morning till the time my wife gets off work at five o’clock, and managing my work responsibilities, and now I’ve got the added responsibility of overseeing an employee. I feel like I’ve got another child.

I’m not quite as overwhelmed as I have been in the past as I’m doing a lot better at limiting my workload, but it’s damn near impossible to take care of the girls and work at the same time during the day. I’m just going to start taking every other Friday off.

I had a pretty heated argument with my boss today about things. We’ve been together for eight years this winter, so like any married couple we’ve learned how to fight with each other. I basically abdicated responsibility for this employee several years ago after attempting on several occasions to manage him, but each time found him unable to follow my directions. I don’t know if I’ve become a better leader or if he’s become more focused, but I feel like we’ve turned a corner in the two weeks since he’s been reporting to me.

There are definitely more tools at my disposal this time. I’m basically using Microsoft Planner — a kanban board — to limit his work in progress, and have been micromanaging the shit out of him this entire time. I don’t trust his judgement. He’s been managing two separate business segments and has had absolutely zero accountability. And my boss wants to complain about him taking advantage of us, while it’s been his failure to hold him accountable that has gotten us to where we are now. The employee has been put on part time work, and we’ve brought in an HR representative to put him on notice. So yea, he’s focused now.

I think the real difference between this time and the last attempts I’ve made at managing this employee is that I’ve gotten Boss out of the way. We’re not giving conflicting, or changing priorities. If something goes on the board, it gets finished. Done. Done. Done. It seems like we’ve been operating in a state of constant anxiety, where everything is urgent and important, and today I actually felt somewhat relaxed in that I didn’t feel the need to follow up with this employee every two hours.

The things I’d found out, the way that Boss and this employee had been operating, frankly boggled my mind. So much of what had been allowed was completely unacceptable, and I’ve managed to turn things around pretty quickly.

My own projects however, have been put on hold, mainly from exhaustion, and the absence of the time needed for me to do the deep work needed to get things done.

The kids have compounded things this week as well. I’ve been forced to shift how I deal with their academics. I usually let them work on their school at the same time, either independently while I get stuff done or while taking turns. Since I’ve been using RemNote’s spaced repetition with them, I’ve had to be more hands on, so I’ve been letting one of them take a turn watching a show while I work with the other one. We haven’t been doing a lot lately, but I really need to sit down with both of them or they’ll get frustrated and complain that something is too hard. So sitting with them and working it out together seems to calm things down a bit and allow me to really work with them on something.

I think I may be helping Elder a bit too much with her math. I’ve been drilling her on vocabulary lately, but I’m not really happy with her math skills. She still counts a lot, even for basic things like 8-2, so I’m going to be adding some more flash cards to her routine. I even write a short program to generate the cards needed.

# Addition
x = range(1,10)
y = x 
for i in x:
  for j in y:

# Output
1 + 1 :: 2
1 + 2 :: 3
9 + 8 :: 17
9 + 9 :: 18

Changing this for subtraction and multiplication is trivial.

Beyond that though, she’s still flying through some of the questions on the Khan Academy tests, mixing up addition and subtraction, and I should probably let her make more wrong answers.

Still, I’m mostly happy with the way things have been going, even though there’s been some behavioral problems. I’m still being my usual hard-ass self, but they are being creative and playing, and most importantly, not watching a lot of TV.

Tomorrow though, I’m turning off my desk phone, closing my email and messaging apps, and I’m not checking anything until after lunch. I have got to get some project work done, and I want to take the kids to the beach.

The weekend starts early tomorrow.

The Orchid blooms

purple moth orchids in bloom

A rare morning of peace

It’s a quarter to seven this morning, I was woken from a strange dream by Younger a bit before six and went back to sleep to try and gain another few minutes of sleep, or perhaps part of me wanted to return to the dream world. All I remember is some treacherous surveillance AI trying to steal children. I remember searching for something in a lost in a vast field of snow, and lastly, some scene in a small, dark, grimy garage, working on mechanical equipment with two other individuals before pounding into some Swans-like driving hardcore music. I can take nothing from it.

Missus finished reading Atomic Habits last night, she’s really impressed by the book. I spent yesterday evening writing and only managed an hour on my WordPress project. The two of us wound up talking well past eleven, mostly concerned with what to do about the schools given how we are well in the midst of a second wave. As was predicted, this one is way worse than the first, but at least at this venture the grocery stores have toilet paper. Our stores aren’t where they need to be if we are to be locked down, but our state continues to fall in the number of cases, and has drifted from the top ten down to number fifteen or so.

There is no way that we can foresee sending our children back to school. Not even for two days a week, which is likely. Missus just purchased pre-school supplies to make sure Younger learns her letters, and I’ve recently sat down with Elder to draw up a plan for her to complete third grade math and her other studies. We’re still figuring out how to track things on our Kanban board, moving stickers around on the wall, and figuring out the best way to get things done.

We’re expecting some friends this weekend, the Gs. We befriended them by happenstance several years ago while Elder and their daughter M. were in pre-school together. We kept running into them weekend mornings at Target and started hanging out. We discovered that we enjoyed a shared interest in board games and good beer, and hung out often over the years until G. got transferred to Florida. His station is up now and they moved back to the area two weeks ago, and this will be the second time we’ve seen them in close to four years. My first batch of homebrew IPA will be ready this Friday, and I am looking forward to cracking the first bottle with him this weekend.

I haven’t been waking up as early as I like, the girls are coming downstairs before I’ve managed to finish writing these entries. This morning was remarkable, as Elder came right down stairs and starting doing her school work right away, doing Khans Academy, and ReadTheory all in one block. She also did the dishwasher and snuggled me on the couch to keep warm, and clung to me lovingly when I went into the kitchen to help her sister unload the silverware. It’s very rare for her to act in such a way, and remarked that she must have gotten a lot or rest last night. (I read her to sleep with Wired magazine, which put her right out). I called upstairs to Missus that our little orchid was blooming.

The Duck Pond

green grass near body of water during daytime

The girls take a safari to collect minnows.

Yesterday was as close to ideal as I can imagine. I’m still having problems with the wifi at one client site, but yesterday was mostly free of unplanned work. My WordPress client is happy with the project summary I wrote, and I spent some flow time last night moving things from my dev workstation into the staging site. Things should start moving from here.

I’m having a hard time with the workflow around WordPress development as it relates to continuous development. Mostly that the sites aren’t easily reproducible from one environment to the next, or rather that they don’t sync well from a version control standpoint. Since most of the content, and a lot of the configuration is in SQL, it makes syncing things rather hard when changes are made between different environments. I might just be complaining for the fact that I have to replicate a lot of work for failing to plan this out up front. C’est la vie. It’s not too much work, I should have it up to speed in a few more hours, then I work on completing the rest of the project, and hopefully be able to stay in sync with the client.

I’ve also passed a bit of a milestone with my exercise activity, and have passed one hundred pushups in a day. I’ve gotten into the habit of doing three sets a day: first thing in the morning when I’m waiting for my tea to heat up, before I sit down to eat lunch, and before I get into bed for the last time to read. When I started a month ago, I could hardly do twenty at a time, but now I’m doing over thirty in the morning and managed my age, forty one, the last two nights. I suppose I’ll keep going until I can do a hundred in a go, but will likely need some kind of sheet to track my progress. I also have a task on my personal kanban to get a pull up bar installed somewhere so that I can start working on that. I’ve never been able to do more than a couple at any point in my life, so getting to twenty would be a great accomplishment.

Late this morning, I sent the girls outside for some fresh air and play, and they promptly hopped on their bikes and ran off down the street to where our quarantine family lives. They came back a while later with E., a year older than Younger, and K., who stays with her grandparents during the day and is slightly older than Elder. They played in the backyard, and I put out some drinks and made PB&J sandwiches for their lunch. At some point a bit later I noticed E. playing in the backyard by herself, and stepped out to figure out where the other girls were at.

Our street is near the end of a mostly quiet cul de sac. At the very end, between two houses is a small pond, separated from the river from a small, low embankment. We often take walks to the duck pond, as we call it, either for walks or, when they were younger and unable to venture farther, bike rides. There’s a small wooden post fence at the sidewalk the pond, and I’ve always reinforced that the kids are free to come to the duck pond, but are never to go on or past the fence.

A few days ago, my wife, trying to urge the girls’ sense of discovery, bought a couple of backyard discovery kits for the girls: binoculars, hand-powered flashlight, compass and magnifying glass. She tempted to prime them with books about bugs and birds. We had been outside earlier in the day with them, and I had been encouraging them to birdwatch, which was nearly impossible with the cheap binoculars, which seemed to be wholly ineffective.

So her I am, stepping onto the front porch and scanning the street, to K., Elder, and Younger, riding back toward the house, the two older girls with beach buckets hung over a handlebar on their bikes. I was not amused, but tried to play it cool.

The buckets were full of water, along with a dozen or so small minnows. I was upset, but didn’t let out a temper. I chided them for going to the pond, reiterated that they were not to go past the fence again. Elder confessed innocence, saying that K. had been the one to cross the fence. Being more amused than angry, I let them keep the minnows, interested to know what they were going to do with them.

I decided that it was my parental duty to inform K.’s grandmother what had happened, so I walked down the street, in the opposite direction from the pond, to tell her. The woman had been in the neighborhood for decades, had raised K.’s mother in the same house, and her granddaughter knew better, she told me. I thanked her and left and walked back to my house, to find the kids in the backyard with the hose, filling water into a small toddler pool into which they had put the minnows. “What do minnows eat?” they asked me, as I went on to explain what algae was. In hindsight of what happened after I probably should have known better.

A few minutes after I went back inside, Elder came in the house. I asked her what her sister was doing, and when she replied that she didn’t know I immediately opened the door to the garage to find Younger flying off on her bike in the direction of the duck pond. I called her back, this time letting my anger known that she was going back down to the duck pond by herself, after I had just forbidden her to so. “But K. is down there,” she sobbed back. I pointed her inside, put on my hat and sandals and started walking to the pond. About halfway there, I saw K. coming back on her bike. I think she saw me and actually crossed the street to avoid me. I crossed and called her to a stop.

I confronted her, as carefully as I could. In her hands she was carrying a small plastic seedling container, filled with greenish pond water. “You went back over there after I told you not to. You better go talk to your grandmother and tell her what you did.” She hustled off.

After the first incident, I had been mulling over what action to take, and had actually looked up the names of the property owners on either side of the pond. Our city has online property records, so it’s a trivial thing to do. The pond seemed to be jointly owned by both of them, only one of whom was familiar to me. I grabbed two business cards, a small notebook, and took off down to pay them a visit. The last thing I wanted was an incident with my kids and my neighbors. The kids already thought they owned the street, I didn’t want them thinking they could just break the rules like this. Plus, I thought there might be a way to let them explore the pond with supervision if I asked.

It turns out I was right. I caught one of the owners outside and explained the situation, handing him my card and asking him to please let me know if he ever caught the girls out there without supervision again. He was understanding, both of the risk and that kids are kids. That said, I asked, would he be opposed to me going over there with the kids if they were supervised. He did not, so I thanked him and went to knock on the door of the other neighbor. After introducing myself and explaining, he wondered if I had been the man throwing a rod in the lake a few days ago. I assured him no. “I told him not to bother,” he said, since there were no fish in the pond. He then added that they were getting ready to stock the pond with some catfish very soon.

“Well if that is an invitation, sir,” I said, “then I may gladly take you up on that offer.” Thanking him, I left and walked back, past my house, on to tell E.’s father and K.’s grandmother. Before I got there, I spotted my neighbor, F., an older gentleman, who had lost two fingers cleaning up ordnance in Germany after the close of WWII. “F., do you fish?” “Not anymore,” he replied, pointing out that he still had some rods in his garage. I told him about the pond and asked if he had one to spare. He led me into the garage and gave me a small freshwater rod, which he agreed to accept ten dollars for. Laying it aside, I went and knocked on K’s grandmother’s door for the second time.

I explained that she had disobeyed again, but that the situation had been handled, that I had spoken with and cleared things up with the neighbors. Also that I was planning on making some time in the next few days to let them properly explore the water with supervision, but that if they were caught there unsupervised I was going to have to separate them for some time. We parted, and I walked home again, stopping to pick up my new rod on the way.

“I have some good news,” I told the four girls as I walked into the back yard, holding the pole over my shoulder. I found them dipping their toes into the minnow-filled pool, now with bits of grass leaves and dirt for good measure. I told them I had permission to take them to the pond, that there were soon to be fish in it, and, pointing the rod at them, that I had just secured a the means with which to do it. Elder could not have been happier, having been asking me for weeks to go fishing. I again admonished K. for disobeying, me for the second time, having learned from her grandmother that she had no spoken to her, and told her to go home and talk to her. She claimed that she had told her grandfather, but I was not about to get into the middle of a debate and sent her home to sort the issue out.

I retold the story at least two more times this afternoon, once to E.’s father, who was excited to try his hand at fishing himself, and with Missus, who alternated between concern and amusement as I told her about our new minnow farm. I pointed out that this was only a logical result of her attempts to stimulate the girls’ curiosity by buying them safari kits, to which we both shared a good laugh.

Now all I have to do is learn how to fish in the next few weeks.