The Solar System: A Preschooler’s Description

This morning, using a book about planets as a tool, I interviewed Benji about the Solar System. He has been particularly interested in planets for quite a while, so he’s learned more than your average preschooler about this (although how much he really understands is a matter of some uncertainty).

Me [Pointing to the Moon]: What’s this?
Benji: That’s the Moon.
Me: Is it a planet?
Benji: No, it a moon, it spins around the Earth [he spins himself, presumably to represent the Earth, with his hand twirling as the moon to demonstrate]
Me: Oh. What makes Earth a planet, then?
Benji: Moons go around planets [more spinning], planets go around moons.
Me: Planets go around moons? [Dang, we were doing so well!] Don’t planets go around the Sun?
Benji: Oh, yeah! Planets go around the Sun.
Me: What about the Sun? Is the Sun a planet?
Benji: No, the Sun is a big hot thing in the middle, that the planets go around. See, the yellow is hot and the blue is cold [indicates the picture on the page, where the Sun is shown on the left-hand side with a yellowish glow extending through the orbit of Mercury towards Venus, and then it fades into pale blue and then into dark indigo out around Pluto on the far right side]. This side of Mercury [towards the sun] is hot. This side cold. Venus and Mercury have no moons. Mercury too hot. Venus, the atmosphere catch any moons [?!]

Then, with no additional prompting, he added: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars all ROCK. THESE big planets, Jupiter and Saturn, GAS GIANTS. No rock, they all gas. These two is Uranus and Neptune, they ICE GIANTS, they have place to land [uses a tripod of fingers to indicate a space ship landing]. Uranus tipped over, Neptune reeeeeally far away and cold.
Me: Why is Uranus tipped over?
Benji: [long pause] I no know.
Me: Nobody knows, so that’s OK. If gas giants are all gas, are ice giants all ice?
Benji: Yes. [oops, some confusion about the composition of the ice giants!]
Me: That’s a lot of ice.
Benji: And Pluto have some little chunks of blue ice on it too.
Me: Do planets do anything for us?
Benji: One planet, Earth! It do lots for us.

That’s as far as our interview got, although Benji would willingly have kept discussing planets and the Solar System in great detail. Pretty fun stuff.

Benji in the Human Body

We have been reading Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body , and playing some at being chased by white blood cells. This morning Benji took it to another level and decided we should make a model of the human body.

Now, granted, this does look like a pile of pillows, but Benji’s model actually has:
– a brain (the lambskin),
– a heart (brown square pillow),
– lungs (yellow square pillows),
– oxygenated blood (red blanket) and deoxygenated blood (blue blanket)
– a stomach with green food in it (brown towel), and
– miscellaneous internal organs (other pillows)



We did decide to gloss over excretion and what happens to food waste. Some things we really don’t need to act out.

Sometimes I worry that our kid is getting too much science. But then I think, you can’t have too much science!

Rain Garden, Winter 2016

I haven’t mentioned our rain garden in a while. It’s still growing, and working well at keeping water out of the rest of our yard. This year I didn’t do much new outside, and that includes in the rain garden.

That said, this year I did plant an apple tree in the dry, sunny back corner. Everything I’ve read talks about how sensitive apple trees are, and how they need special soil and all this tender loving care… None of which my tree will get. However, it’s grown from a seed to more than 24″ tall under my not-so-tender loving care, so hopefully more of the same won’t kill it.

Here’s what the garden overall looks like now. It’s quite excellently boggy, and clearly a great spot for the sedges, reeds, and other grasses. I have about three varieties fighting it out right now in the main pooling area. My goal is to provide a tiny slice of a wetland in our back yard. Maybe I can find some tall reeds for some of those empty spots…




From the back side by the fence, looking through the shoots of my not-yet-dead huckleberry plant:


This is what an apple tree seedling looks like from above.

Hard to see, but my most recent addition is a young hemlock tree, which prefers wet feet and shade. I’ve planted it in the wetter area, but behind the thickest grasses and underneath some leafy plants whose species I’m forgetting at the moment, which should provide decent shade even in summer.


As with all my additions, it was free (in a former life it served as mom and dad’s living micro-Christmas tree), but I’m still hoping it survives. I like evergreen trees, and hope to get at least a couple good ones going in our yard over time, plus a maple or two. Overall, my vision for our yard is to move it as much toward native Washington environment as we can. This is our small little start.

Life Now

It’s now the middle of January, and I’m finally getting around to writing again. We’ve got some things on our plate that are interesting or difficult:

  • Looking for a new preschool for Benji. His preschool closes at the end of the year, and right now is the season to look for new preschools for next year. I still kind of can’t believe you have to do this almost a year in advance, but there it is. We found two or three places we’re interested in, and I’m trusting one of those will work out.
  • At my work, we’re implementing some new software stuff I’m pretty excited about. One thing is a sharing/sync/cloud backup service called Box, which has a ton of features for businesses, including FINRA compliance. We also are just implementing some financial planning software called MoneyGuidePro, which greatly strengthens our company’s financial planning services for clients. I am actually pretty interested in learning more about these two tools, and I’m getting to spend some time on learning about them.
  • Ian’s work, meanwhile, has all sorts of excitement that we’re hoping will come to nothing, but which may result in substantial upheaval.

Meanwhile, Benji continues to grow into an imaginative, silly, intellectual boy who loves jokes and silly things, and develops strong opinions, which he doesn’t hesitate to share with us. His favorite toys are Thomas trains (preferably combined with playdough; he’s always asking us to make playdough covers for his trains) and Matchbox cars, watching short YouTube videos with Ian and then acting out what they watched with his own toys. He also likes playing with other kids, and we’re getting to know a new friend at church, Pastor Travis’s son Will, who is just Benji’s age.

Lastly, I’m not much of a New Year’s Resolution-type person; I more buy into the idea of evaluating and making changes on a more frequent basis. Especially with having a kid, just when you think you have a system or routine that works… it doesn’t work anymore, because your kid has grown up a little bit. Anyway, I did start thinking some about what I’d like to do better this coming year, and the thing I want to focus most on is not comparing myself to others. At preschool, it’s so easy to compare my kid (he can’t button buttons yet and most of the other kids can! Aaaah!) or myself (the moms all seem so put-together and with it, and drive such nice cars, I feel like a church mouse among lab rats); and, of course, in cycling just the act of riding with other people is a comparison (am I faster? Am I slower? He climbed way faster than me, but I had better endurance over the whole ride; he rode more miles than me/climbed more feet than me, so I need to do more).

But my observation has been that whenever I compare myself, one of two things happens: Either I get arrogant, because I think I’m better than the person I compare to; or I feel horrible about myself, because I think I’m not as good. Comparison just naturally leads to judging, and judging is best left to God. Certainly I can’t do it without nastiness of one sort or another resulting. So my goal this year is to work on accepting people for where they’re at, including myself. I’ll do what I can do, and accept the rest as where I’m at. It’s good and healthy to set goals and want to improve, so I’m fine with comparing my past self to my present self; but I’m going to try to get away from comparing myself to outside things or people.

It’s a start.

Doodle Portfolio

I think I mentioned before I’ve been doing some doodling. Well, actually, by “some” I mean a fair amount, because I was doing it as a Christmas present for my chosen sister, Rachel. That is also why I didn’t mention the extent of my efforts, until she received my present. Now that’s out in the open, I wanted to share images of all my doodles to date. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them — they keep building up — but, hey, here they are (beneath the fold). If you like coloring and want larger/higher quality images of these to print and color, let me know. I’d be happy to share; also, I can always scan again with better color resolution.

A couple comments: They’re scanned in greyscale, which is why they’re kind of dull, but I did them all on nice paper with a fountain pen and permanent, archival black ink. After a while I got a drawing board and a T-square (still hanging around from my technical drawing class in high school!), which improved the straightness of my lines substantially, as you may notice, but I try to have fewer straight-edge lines and more freehand lines. Images are displayed in no particular order, but you can see I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about suns, moons, trees, clouds, and rain. Perhaps because I’ve always been interested in weather, these things pretty much never bore me to draw.

Why am I doing this? In part, as I mentioned, as a gift. But also because when I passed my Series 65 test, I needed something to calm my mind that was totally different from reading or the kind of thinking I’d been doing. I find this kind of doodling is something I can do while listening to the radio or talking with a friend (as long as they don’t mind my lack of eye contact), and it feels calming and meditative. I never know what’s going to come out when I start; sometimes I have a plan, but often I don’t. I just start with a blank sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 paper and see what happens. I always try to just embrace and incorporate any errors (the black ink means there’s no undoing once I put the nib onto the paper), finding some way to redeem the mistake rather than fretting over it, because nothing in life is perfect, and I might as well accept that with my doodling as with the rest of life.

A lot of these look nicer on the page because the edge of the paper adds the sense of white space. I’ve been learning as I go what kind of balance of busy detail vs. white space feels right. Many of them are a little too busy, but then part of what I find soothing is drawing in this tiny space, many repeated but not identical elements, so that’s definitely not going away.

This window one is my favorite. I dredged some of my technical drawing skills back up and I like the straight line/curved line contrast as well as the content contrast.
Sun & Moon through Window

Pictures beneath here: Continue reading Doodle Portfolio

Dulcius Ex Asperis