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Uncle Jeff Tricks

Katie-Julie-06-13-2011.jpgTricks? Oh…one of them is that I just disappeared for a week, but I’m now back, having spent five days tending small girls while their parents took a much-needed jaunt to Las Vegas for the wedding of a close friend. Carol and I kept Katie and Julie fed and entertained and (mostly) happy, which is no small feat. We have never had children. We don’t have any real kid experience, especially with girls. We spent plenty of time with our nephews at the same age 20-odd years ago, but boys are…different.

We did our best. A lot of it comes down to devising Uncle Jeff Tricks that interest them for more than a few minutes. I had some success there. Trick #1: The three of us sat on a blanket on the grass in the backyard for some time, eating pretzels. Julie evidently feared that I would starve, for each time I crunched down a pretzel she kept handing me another. Never willing to let a learning opportunity pass by, I began biting portions off the pretzels and making them into letters.

“What’s this say?” I asked Julie, holding up a suitably mutilated pretzel. (Katie is now four and a half, and has her letters down cold.)

“R!” shouted Julie, obviously delighted. I put the pretzel down. She handed me another. I nibbled off a different set of bits, and held it up.


“O!” she shouted, giggling. And so it went. Soon I had spelled their last name out in multilated pretzels. (See above.) That “E” was a bitch. I ended up eating ten or twelve before I got one that E-ified without crumbling into loose punctuation.

JulieAndPullup300Wide.jpgTrick #2: I tried to use the large population of balls in the backyard to model the Solar System. The colors were wrong, but I got the sizes in the ballpark–right down to a slightly greenish tennis-ball Moon for the Earth. Alas, before the lecture began Julie decided she wanted to play planet-soccer, and whap! Uranus got kicked down the gravity well into the bushes. To celebrate, our junior niece ran into the house and came out a minute later with a (clean, whew!) pullup on her head. This was not an Uncle Jeff trick. Really.

Trick #3 worked out a little better, especially for Katie. I poked around the edges of the yard until I found a reasonably intact maple seed from last year’s crop, and tossed it into the air. The girls had doubtless seen them spiraling down from the trees the previous fall, but hadn’t yet hit upon relaunching them. I explained that to work the seeds must be intact and complete (the squirrels eat the seeds and leave empty wings that don’t fly well) and challenged them to dig around the yard to find a special seed that flew better than all the others.

Julie was stumped, so I handed her the one I had picked up and launched several times. Katie, however, ran and got a Jewel grocery bag and spent the better part of half an hour walking around the yard, singing a song to herself while picking up any flyable maple seeds she could find and stuffing them in the bag. I’m not sure many seeds got launched, but trust me, there won’t be any new maple seedlings in the yard this year.

Katie did pick a favorite, and she’s holding it in the photo above.

Trick #4 fell flat: I tried to teach them to make grass whistles. This was a stretch, and they don’t (yet) have the manual dexterity to hold a blade of wide grass between their thumbs in such a way as to make the monumentally irritating sound that grass makes when blown on just so. Katie, frustrated, decided to simply imitate the whistles I was making with a blade of grass, and Julie soon joined in. They are excellent mimics. The two of them sat screeching along with Uncle Jeff’s blade of grass until the blade disintegrated and the two of them got bored. I imagine the neighbors were grateful that grass is as flimsy as it is.

Herding girls is hard work, and it took a day or so for the two of us to fully recuperate. I expect to be back at full vigor tomorrow, and need to be flailing at Ten Gentle Opportunities in a very big way. I’ll let you know how it goes.


  1. Jorge says:

    Try quasi- sillyputty .
    Equal parts water , white glue and a teaspoon of borax.
    A little food dye for color ,and away you go.

  2. Jim Strickland says:

    Wait until you teach them to solder and make rockets. >:)


  3. […] what is evidently a $1.50 item. I’ll bet they’re at the dollar store, and will look. A Certain Somebody has her fifth birthday coming up, and a big field behind her house to launch it from. Way better […]

  4. Try real parenting, 20+ years and you only get a break if you send them to camp. Which we did, and they learned to sail.

  5. […] space. I’m sure they didn’t completely understand what was going on, but as with all Uncle Jeff tricks they did consider it a lot of […]

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