>Almost Wordless Wednesday


St. Patrick’s Well.  {Pozzio di San Patrizio} Orvieto, Italy.

A very cool 16th Century well, huge, 175 ft deep, 45 ft. wide. Built with a double helix stairway.  
One up, one down. Early traffic planning, to say the least. 496 steps.   

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>Flying Triggers

>Catchy post title, eh? Sounds kinda “Kung Fu” or “martial arts slow motion special effects”: “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragons” no?

Maybe it is in it’s own bizarro way – in that this post is about how or IF you can bend backwards and or jump over the flying sharpened knives of flying triggers.
But this post is also about how flying itself is a trigger for our newest daughter.
Maybe I shoulda titled the post: “Crouching Mama, Hidden Triggers.

Hang on, explanation follows:

So, we’ve just come back from a once in a lifetime kinda crazed huge family vacation.
By which I mean, we are a huge family, it was a huge vacation, it is always kinda crazed…..full of rollercoaster highs and lows as well as some peaceful lazy times in the Tuscan sun.

All of this, the highs the lows the crazy loud messy spectacle of our family in general, was kind of expected….we knew to a large degree what we were getting into.  I mean, look at  us! It’s not hard to figure out and we’ve lived with us long enough to know most of the land mines, even the recurring big ones.

Except a few key ones.
The Triggers.

And as these key triggers, or this one key trigger, might be something that could give some insight into others in a similar boat (or, erm..plane…)…. I’m posting.

It took us until the end of our trip to figure it out.  Ok, me.  And honestly, I think it was a little bit of Mercy (yeah, capital M) showered down on desperate me (Thanks be to God) that it even clicked.

But, finally, something did click during another bout of inexplicable weepy meltdown and acting out by Marta….and I realized: she’s scared.  Not sick, as claimed. Not sad, as claimed.  Not angry. Scared.  Not just scared, even.
And thus her terror had triggered a cascade of trauma response: fussing, mean, weeping, grimacing, freezing out, complaining, dragging, coughing, getting sick in various ways… I’m not talking about weeks or days of this. This plays out over the course of a morning, or afternoon.

A swift collapse of a fragile house of cards.

That’s a trauma response.
Very easy to slot it into the generic kid slot of: kid behaving badly.
But that would be a mistake.
One that I’ve made often enough.

But in older child, hurt child, adoption…you cannot forget that you are dealing with a kid who has more hurt than  you can know, more fear triggers than you can realize.
It’s so easy to forget that.
And get aggravated at manipulation or another round of acting out (Yeah, see, no wonder mom awards here….).
And often it can be just those mundane but annoying things.
But then there are the times, which look identical, that the behavior has another layer or many.
And those times are the ones you need to sift through, to brace them through.
To hold on and weather it, even if it’s not fun….and just be there, with them so they can ride out that fear.
And get to the other side.
And maybe, next time…maybe, have a slightly lower fear trigger response.

Anyhow.  This particular trigger response was due to the whole travel passport thing.  As you might remember, our Marta wasn’t allowed to travel in a timely manner, due to the change in regulations regarding TB cultures.  Not only that, she had been told that we were coming to see her and then we didn’t.  And even now, that is still something that imprinted on her – despite explanations – that we didn’t show.  (Thank you very much, CDC and Homeland Security).  Thus, nowadays, if we fly, she gets very very nervous.  It manifests as illness, grief, anger….all the “fun” stuff.  If a passport is involved? Even if it’s a BLUE USA passport???? A kind of terror.  Truly, irrationally.

Yeah, I blame that whole nasty delay of ours.  I suspect if she hadn’t had such a hard time getting home, she wouldn’t be so terrified of the process of it.  But she did. And she is.  And it makes flying hard.  Exhausting for all, but most especially for her.  Tom and I {He is MUCH better than I at doing this} have to leap over the flying triggers, reach through the tears and wiping nose and tense hunched shoulders and pull her back – hang on tight to her to let her know, somehow, that she will come with us.  No matter what.

But trust is a long time coming – true trust.
So, in the meantime, we jump and bend and twist to get past the daggers of terror.  Not as gracefully as the folks in the clip above.  Not very gracefully at all.  Clumsily, stumbling, we muddle along.  Hoping for a bit of improvement next time, and a memory that “it can be easy” to replace the seared memory of it being impossible.

This is older child adoption.  The part that isn’t talked about too much: the stumbling gymnastics of trying to read the body and behavior language of a child who comes with history.  It is a constant work in progress, sometimes beautiful even in the leaping…sometimes a slow waiting game for that trust and understanding to be laid down.

But here is the hope:  when Marta finally landed on our last leg of the flight home, she hurried off our little plane and stopped in the terminal. I was catching up with Gabey and saw her fling her arms out wide, and say, in a big voice with  big grin, with big relief “I LOVE America!”

So we landed with a happy relieved laugh for us all.  Home again.  Whew.

>Into the Garden

>Now that we are back from our trip, I am back to routine blogging.  Which means, you all get to read my mundane stream of consciousness….or mundane musings.  Or not.  But at any rate, I am content at home and doing the simple life here.  Or as simple as my life can get anyhow, considering. 

So, without further ado,  yes, you knew it was coming, a post about my garden.
This is the second year in a row when I got all excited about my garden, a for real bona fide actual veggie/herb/flower garden.  I had great veggies in my beautiful raised beds, made my my Tom and the big boys. I had my roses coming back in their big pots by the sunroom.  I moved my tomatoes back into big pots so I could put them in the very sunniest part of our deck (I’m gonna start calling it a ‘terrace’ after being in Italy…sounds extra lovely, doesn’t it?).

 The original garden, last  year, with proud Jon.

I had great hopes this year.
Last year we went to California to see my family and then, finally, to Ethiopia to get our Marta.
That ended up being about a month of being gone, almost.
Deadly to my garden.  Sigh.
This year I had it planned.  My nephew was gonna be my gardener. His mom is a wonderful gardener with a bountiful garden at home.  Hmm, but my nephew wasn’t quite as up with that idea as I was {Funny, he wanted to swim, and play…go figure}, plus, of course we had oh, floods followed by endless rain and then brutal heat.
Then I came home – again a month of me gone from the garden.
A sad sight indeed. 
Too sad to even take a photo.
I’ve been ignoring that sight all week in my busyness with laundry and re-entry chores – cleaning the attic for pity’s sake!
But yesterday and today, I knew.
It was time.

I got up early, because I woke up early and thought: “GET UP AND GO SALVAGE YOUR GARDEN OR AT LEAST PUT IT OUT OF IT’S MISERY AND YOURS.”

So I did.

It was a job to take on:
I had lettuce trees.

 Mine looked kinda like this, but much much taller….
like the Redwoods of bolted lettuce.

I cut em down.  Aw.
But bolted lettuce is not sweet.  Bitter.
I had to cut down my straggly woody dead basil and roses (cut those back far and hope they come back).
Weeded weeded weeded.
I tied up my tomatoes and cut off the useless suckers and such.
Refertilized my tomatoes and veggies and roses with good organic stuff; I don’t know what’s in it but it’s supposed to be the best: “Tomato-tone, Rose-tone,”…catchy,  no?
I cut off the tops of my tiny boxwood basil plants and hope they recover too.
I cut down my thick stems broccoli that got huge gray leaves but never flowered and won’t as it’s too hot.
Weeded weeded weeded .
Replanted new basil plants which cheered me up just seeing them in their happy red pots again.
I wrestled w/ the squirrel netting and finally got it into the trash bin (ding ding! I won that bout).
Cut back my knockout roses, sprayed for blight, and hope they recover, ouch ouch ouch.  Those are SOOO thorny.
Weeded weeded weeded.

Then came inside back into the cool of the early morning house and had a cup of strong coffee.
For this morning.

 And for my efforts I have eight tiny little cherry/grape tomatoes today, bursting with flavor (there were nine, yum) and the promise of more to come.

>Birth of St. John the Baptist


It’s a Solemnity!
It’s a Solemnity of a happy day: the birth of St. John the Baptist!

Now, I’ve gone over this before but a solemnity is actually a big deal feast day…not really like it sounds – solemn in the sense of sad or grim.  Rather, it’s a specially marked day to remember some of the very important figures in our faith and history.  Obviously, St. John the Baptist…he’s a biggie!

Now this also means it’s a feast day of sorts for my Jon.  You know: patron/name and so on.  No surprise then, really, that I see many overlaps in character traits between these two John’s/Jon’s.  That’s how these things seem to go.  Names somehow evolve to seem very apt.  Maybe it’s all projecting by the parents, but even so….it’s my blog and I’m the mom and I’m going with it. 

So.  Here we have a day to remember and mark: the birth of this remarkable man, the herald of Christ to come, St. John the Baptist. 

Heck, even before he was born he was jumping around and making himself known, pointing (or kicking…) toward Christ.  When Mary went to visit Elizabeth, arriving and greeting her with a big hug, John lept in Elizabeth’s womb and Elizabeth knew, deep down, that something was up.  So I’m presuming it was more than your usual kick/bump/push by the babe.  Must’a been a whopper of a flip.  Maybe a little prenatal jump for joy?  Actually yes: 

“Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed in the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” Luke 1:41-44
Ok, this painting is  
Visitation by Mariotto Albertinelli (1503) and I saw it in the Uffizi.
I LOVE this painting. I do.  

So, that’s just cool.

But, what ya gotta also think of, ok, what I think of, is that little John…he was no milquetoast.  I mean, even before he was out and squinting at the light, he was already pointing and pushing and making a bit of a ruckus.  Elizabeth, she should have sensed what was to come.  Maybe she did.  Tho, not many moms will even dare look ahead to such radical futures for their kids: heading off into the desert, scavenging for food, not wearing the nice clean linens that we got or made for them…nope, not what might have been dreamt.  But it was precisely his hardheaded radical ways that made him who he is and was.  Those very traits of fearless speaking out earned him followers and prepared the way for Christ. It was exactly like it was supposed to be.  So he got the biggest honor of all: baptizing Christ.  Whoa.  He got to take part in a miracle for all to see.  And still he was his own kind of raggedy but strong difficult stubborn self.  To the very end, even to his beheading (another vision that no mom wants to even consider, yikes).

 El Greco, you know I love his stuff….

So, for all of us, we get to think about how to be countercultural today.  How to say the truth, even if it’s hard. How to stand up for what is right, not necessarily easy.  How to stay clothed in the less than flashy skins of integrity, loyalty and humble truth.  And my Jon, he has these qualities (maybe needing some work on the humble part…he’s 18 after all….): he has deep running integrity and a radar seeking truth, he is a champion of the small and weak. 

 {Yeah, even will stand up for his sisters…go figure}

He will speak out, in the desert or in the face of the powerful.  I know he too will do great things, even if hard.  And while sometimes I might personally want to roll his head down the hall in frustration…I DO wish him a different end than that of his patron.

But today is the day to celebrate the BIRTH of St. John the Baptist, not the end.  To think of the promise that even that little baby showed and that his intuitive saintly mama knew, from the very beginning: he was special.

Happy Solemnity!

Tintoretto, 1563

>Almost Wordless Wednesday


Last day: Montepulciano 
(yeah, that Montepulciano…you crazy gals know what I’m talking about.).

 Our little town: Lucignano.  Home base, we all fell in love.
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>It’s the Dad thing

>Something about Dad’s.
Gotta love ’em.
They can make you crazy, but still, ya gotta love ’em.
Dad, Daddy, Father, Pop, Papa, Pops, Pappy even (?), Pa, Da, Abbat, Padre, Pere,….
It’s all Dad.

And there are two dads that mean the world to me, my Dad, of course, and my Tom, dad to my kiddles.
And they are the best.

First, my dad, aka Pops – on those cheery days.
I love my dad.

As dad’s are supposed to be, he was larger than life to me as a little girl.
And I suppose in many ways, he still is, because he’s still the dad…it’s a lifetime, ya know?
He’s part of many of my favorite things:
Riding horses, yakking about everything and nothing.
Sipping hot strong coffee, yakking about everything and nothing.
Reading the paper in the morning, commenting on the news and everything and nothing.
Comparing wines, and yakking about everything and nothing….
You get the idea….
I love him for his loyalty and his steadfast grit, no matter the tide,or his opinion on my choices and my opinions.

He’s my dad, forever and always and I love him.

ANd then we have the other big dad in my life, the “pardner dad,” {I can say “pardner”, because we both grew up out west. It’s in our blood.} my Tom.

He’s such a great dad; such a great partner in raising this tribe.
He pulls up the slack when I am a slacker.
He pulls me up out of the indigo when I fall into the blues.
He can make me and/or the kids pound the table in laughter, so funny.
He is steadfast and sure, a rock to my rollercoaster of passion and mood, good or bad.
He loves his kids to distraction.
He is easily distracted by fun new adventures and toys, to their delight and my sometime consternation.
He is a born teacher, to my delight and to their sometime consternation.
His love and gift for music has carried into his children, all of them, in one way or another…enriching all of our lives.
He works far too hard and carries too many burdens; and without complaint, though he sometimes does daydream about moving to islands….
He is an adventurer, but stays close to home and it’s needs regardless, tamping down that wanderlust and craving for new thrills.
He is strong inside and out, steady and sure, kinder than me and a softie on the inside.His girls totally pegged that, right away.
His boys don’t always believe it.
But he is.
He’s the dad.
He will go to the ends of the earth for his children, and has.
He’s the dad, and we all love him so, and are so grateful for him.
I love this man, the dad of this clan.

So, I want to wish them both, and every single other dad out there, a very Happy Father’s Day!
You all deserve some kudos for a very tough, long, hard wonderful job.  
And a big thank you.
Happy Father’s Day!

>Another Day Older, Again!


{Reposted w/ current tweaks from two years ago…
because I’m traveling and it’s my birthday and so I’m taking the easy way out}
Today is my birthday. I am 48.
I had always naively entertained the idea that I would age “gracefully”….
Whatever that meant…


Now of course, I have come to realize the truth: I have never done anything gracefully and won’t be able to do this so either.
Rather, I will do it like I do most things: clumsily, boring all around me with my vanity and driven controlling ways and opinions and ideas. And at the same time I will go kicking and griping over the cliffs of the inevitable decline and collapse of my body.

I will never be elegant and chic.

I will have very gray hair turning all too quickly to white.
I will have a thickening body being remapped with wrinkles and sags.
I will have spots from too many days in the sun.
I have my mother’s hands.

Middle age is no picnic.

Yet, despite my clumsy ways and self, I have a richly woven tapestry of a life – surrounded by so many that I love so dearly. I have the strength in my arms to hold eight children. I have the arms to hug so many others for missing moms and try to let them know that a mom loves them and it feels like this. I have been able to find niches in my heart for many here and others I have even recently met in Africa, ones I won’t see again but who will stay with me.
All that is worth every gray hair, every wrinkle, sag, and spot.

I used to be bothered by looking at my hands and seeing my mother’s. It was, somehow, shocking. But oddly enough, not anymore. They are mine. They are hers.
They’ll do.

I never used to tell folks when it was my birthday, although I’ve always told my age. Somehow it didn’t seem like I should mention it. But, then, I decided that sets a bad example for my kids. As I tell my children, birthdays are for celebrating! And so not to be a hypocrite (at least this time)….I’ve said it. And tonight I will have some red wine and a piece of tiramisu or icy lemoncello and kiss all my children and husband. And while the kid’s bdays and my husband’s are ever so much more fun….I am very grateful for mine.

>Sacred Hearts

> You know, I always get a little chuckle out of the biker tattoos and punk or rockabilly co-opting of the Sacred Heart image.  Some might well gasp in shock or tsk tsk…but really, I think it’s kind of a flipped, inside joke.

I mean, I know it’s supposed to be, in many tho maybe not all cases,  radical and all… and a way of thumbing their punk biker noses at organized religion or God or whatever.  But to me, it’s a little joke on them.  Because I really am  not sure  you can walk around wearing a Sacred Heart image without it somehow, in teeny tiny ways, rubbing off on you.  God’s funny like that.  He’s got a great sense of humor….look at my family, look at me!  Jesus, I would guess, is fine with a biker having a tattoo of His sacred heart…at least He’s there, right? Isn’t it a little bit like a small boy writing “Mama” on  his arm with a sharpie and then going in and being a out of control little rebel?  It’s that natural conflict that we all have.  These tough punkers or bikers seem to be much the same.  Can you say “arrested development?”  I can.  {Ok, now I am sure a fleet of rough tough bikers will want to come rumbling through my yard….please.  Have a sense of humor, life is short!}

And really, even punk   hipster mamas can carry their babes in these “rockabilly punk slings”, see just below…I’m not even sure what to make of that!  Good or no? Hmmmm, good, really….but too few really understand so the public at large will think you’ve gone punk if  you cart your kiddo around in this.  But the really hardcore Catholics might give you a big high five!  What’s a mom to do??  Ha! And speaking of moms…tomorrow we could, maybe, look at some fun co-opts of pop culture and Mary, talk about conflicted children! Folks can’t stop splashing her around…but she’s cool, or, as the youngsters say, “chill” (they say that right?), because we old moms know that just like with celebs, any publicity is good publicity.  (To a degree…there IS blasphemy and sacrilege, but this is a happy post so we won’t go there this time.)

Anyhow, today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, June is the month of the Sacred Heart. {I lifted this part of this post, shamelessly, from a prior post on this solemnity, because of the travel thing, so cut me some slack ok!? Thanks!}  This is an old devotion, a private devotion and one that helps any day, every, day be more mindful. Read all about it here. It helps transform our mundane regular daily grind into something bigger than ourselves – and instead offers our mere efforts to Christ as a way of showing we love Him, despite ourselves and our habitual selfish nature. And it’s not just this month, it can be done year ’round, of course.

When I make this offering in the morning, somehow it helps my days. It doesn’t make them smoother, it doesn’t make them all jolly…but it makes even those “terrible horrible no good very bad days” into something more. It’s a comfort. Oddly, I am often more out of sorts when I forget this prayer to start the day. It’s like resting my head on His chest for a moment before I hop on the whirlwind of the day and try to lasso it.

So, yeah, it’s another Catholic post. It’s an uber Catholic post, really. Meaning, it’s one that might seem strange to those not familiar with it all (though I don’t mind explaining or questions either, I can take it!). It’s one of those old Catholic devotions, but it’s a goody. And if any of you are having days that are way stressed or out of sorts, I’d suggest giving it a go if you wonder… because really, what’s the risk? A little comfort? A little extra grace in the day? What’s not to like about that?

 Odilon Redon, The Sacred Heart
Heck, maybe you’ll want to get a radical tattoo…but because devotion to the heart of Jesus IS so cool, AND so radical, that you’d be hip to be square!  Who knew?

>Corpus Christi


{I posted this last  year but want to repost, since I”m traveling..and if I get it together to post fresh, well, great, and if not, I still want to mark this important day. }
painting by Paul Gauguin
It’s the feast of Corpus Christi: the Body of Christ.
It’s one of the greatest Mysteries of the faith, capital “M” mystery again…one of those that boggle and baffle the mind. One of those you belief or you don’t. Period.
I do.

It’s the Eucharist. The body of Christ. It’s a gift, a sacrament, it’s utterly holy and sacred and, at the same time, the most intimate thing on earth.

I can’t do this justice of course. To read more about this, with historical support, go here.
To read a good piece on how to bring together your mind, heart and senses on this, go here.

All I know is that I like thinking about connections a lot. You know that. I like that whole connected relational brought together linked adopted bonded sense in (my) life. I see it so many places that it gives me chills if I stop to think about it. And that is what I find to the utmost, mindblowing, heart zinging way in the sacrament of Communion and the Eucharist: the most intimate connection and unity that can be. Ever – in this world. And I yearn for it and reach for it and I sink into it with relief and gratitude and wallowing comfort and gratitude.
And I don’t understand it with my mind.
But my heart and soul know it’s more real than anything else.
John 6

>Anthropol….oh gee!


Recently, I had the task privilege of chaperoning a school field trip for my Little Man. 
Happpily for us all, a little mini-anthropological study evolved out of that sunny day at the zoo. 
Who knew?  They call anthropological studies “fieldwork,” this is “fieldtrip work.” Read on…

It was a kindergarten class field trip, and in a fit of guilty zeal I signed up as a parent chaperone.  Now, I know better.  I do. I’m an old hand at the mom world. But I was struck with guilt as I have been swamped with special needs issues and such all year, so I signed up and watched the calendar with dread anticipation. 

Upon arrival at the school for the trip, after tanking up with gas for my car and a redeye (Espresso, c’mon people!) for me, we were handed car seats and names of our charges. Anthony’s teacher, “the saint” (otherwise known as Ms. Thompson), assigned me “the good ones,” by which I mean, my Anthony and two of his buddies who are nice little boys.  Lucky me!  So with a renewed bounce in my step, I strapped them all into the my big ol’ car and followed the chaperone caravan to the zoo. 

And so it began.
The day’s renewed primer on six year old boys. 
It’s easy to brush off the behavior of one energetic, ok, kinda wild, six year old boy as just a high spirited lad. When you have three of them in your car, giddy with the anticipation of lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!), then you realize, they are something of a species in and of themselves. 

I had forgotten just how fixated six year old boys are on “pee” and “poop” and how just the very words can make a boy fall right out of his seat guffawing, belt and all.  Or how it’s fun to experiment with how many variants you can find for bodily functions.  Or how those bodily functions can be turned into countless jokes, simply by appending them to passing sights.  “Look, the clouds are peeing!”  Insert maniacal laughter here.  Six  year old boys don’t need music, or polite chat, they only need a forum for relentless scatological jokes. A moving car with a captive parent and a participatory audience is ideal.   Best to make a note of that, moms.  Happily, however, the variety and creativity with which they apply this focus speaks well for their imagination and breadth of alert cognitive engagement.  Right?  Right.

On a cautionary note, I will point out that any field trip mom’s worst nightmare is when one of the assigned children (who you do not know well, or at all) clutches his pants about halfway through a 45 minute freeway only drive to the destination, and says, loudly, with some urgency, “Gee I wish I wasn’t having diarrhea.”  Not what a driving mom wants to hear.  Happily, with some encouragement, the boy made it to the park, successfully, and was able to make use of their facilities….often.  But that is why they have them and thus we field trip moms are happy those facilities are in place.  {Note to Nashville Zoo: more facilities in the upper and lower sections of the park would be most helpful rather than the center main facilities.  Your main patrons are children.  These are little kids we are talking about, their bladders are the size of peanuts.}  

 But I digress.  Taking a small group of boys to the zoo is an opportunity to watch a drag race, up close and personal, but instead of flashy loud cars you have flashy loud boys.  And oh, these six year old boys are fast!  As soon as we lined up to enter the zoo, they were revving their engines, through the turnstile and they were off! 
Zoom, “We wanna see the alligators!” “Ooh, look, cool look at their mouth!
Zoom! “We wanna see the monkeys!” “I see them up there, what’s  next?!
Zoom! “Let’s go find the tigers!!” “WOW, look at him, what’s next!?”  and so on. 
By the time the chaperone, myself, caught up with the boys (And really, I have a very fast walking pace, so this was impressive) they were burning rubber of their tennies, racing to the next animal.  I think I had time to say a whole sentence one time, “Oh, wow, look at that tiger, how beautiful!” before I was coughing on the clouds of dust kicked up by their run.  Thus, we saw the entire zoo in a zippy loud 45 minutes, thus allowing for ample time on the amazing playground and many trips to the restrooms.  We even got to see parts all over again, for good measure, after lunch and before our second trip to hang at the playground. 

This rapid mode of sightseeing at the zoo may be frowned upon by some.  However, it has a certain charm of efficiency and leaves no room for boredom, thus matching the attention spans of most six year old boys.  It can be summed up by the term: expedient.  Six year old boys are nothing if not expedient.  Watching meerkats for more than 30 seconds is not expedient.  Waiting for lorikeets to drink out of your cup of liquid gold, also known as sugar syrup, is not expedient.  They snooze, they loose, those birds must find another source…. perhaps the middle school girls who just received three sugar syrup cups shoved into her hands as the boys exit, off to race to the next thing. 

Finally, it can be surmised from observation that a six year old boy is most content, or rather, utterly overjoyed to spend the bulk of his time at the zoo playing on the large playground.  Running, racing, jumping, climbing, laughing, shouting, hooting, growling and roaring in the playground is the fullest expression of the nature of a six year old boy.  

One  might even decide that the giant zoo playground is the well crafted exhibit and ideal habitat for the underrated species more commonly known as “six year old boy.”